“Vortex: the Gryphon” Update 5c.6, 7 — Canyon chase and special deliveries

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Sessions 5c.6 and 7 of my “Vortexspace opera campaign, which we played via Skype and an online dice roller on Sunday, 12 and 19 August 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.]-male Indian Terran “near-human” (bioengineered) xenobiologist, shadowed by scandal and confident in survival skills
  • Jim Delaney” [Robert A.S.]-male Terran “near-human” gambler and psi
Canyons of Mars
Valles Marineris

>>”4 to 10 March to 2195 A.D./C.E. or 1 Terran Galactic Era:” After a shootout at the Red Butterfly Casino in Hellas Park, capital of the Mars Confederacy, the crew of the Gryphon regroups.

Hector Chavez examines a helmet taken from one of the Canids (“Uplifted” canines) and confirms that their gear was better than their tactics. The burned op gives the helmet to Jasmine and Darcy and wonders about who backed the failed robbery.

Jasmine is still annoyed with Jax for his comments about the low status of “Synths” (synthetic humanoids). Fortunately for the hotshot pilot, he is away preparing for an informal canyon race without his companions’ knowledge.

Tiger folk Jasmine and Darcy remind their companions of Garth (“Uplifted” gorilla) Olun Gor’s request for help finding fellow members of the Synth Liberation Front at the United Ecumenical Movement’s temples on the moon Phobos.

Since “nothing good can happen on Mars,” Chris McKee is eager to leave the red planet. The sniper spends time with Asdann Fre’vel, a Gustrall (antlered, orange-furred, raptor-like flightless avian alien) guard at the Hadriaca Paterna terraforming station. They talk about hunting, weapons, and the U.E.M.

Orion Starchaser brings Jim Delaney back to the ship, then goes to watch scientist Taka Shimuza release hardy animals from the terraforming facility into the wild. Dr. Srinu Pahul returns from picking up servant robots and looks into the medical supply needs of the U.E.M. temples as a possible way in.

A day at the races

At Valles Marineris, a network of ravines larger than Earth’s Grand Canyon, Jax meets fellow racers, including the following:

  • Lenore” [Sara/Non-Player Character]-female Delphine (“Uplifted” dolphin) pilot with a custom hover sled decorated with a wave and tailfins
  • Lt. Bruce Weyland” [Josh/N.P.C.]-male Terran human, naval officer with the Union of Solar Nations (formerly the United Earth Authority), driving a dune buggy with jet-assist jumping
  • Kajor” [Geoff/N.P.C.]-male Ru’ulok (heavy gravity reptilian alien) pirate with a fake beard, riding a robotic pterodactyl
  • Lt. Kobe Han” [Byron V.O./N.P.C.]-male human Terran sniper with an ultralight ornithopter resembling a bird of prey

A Gustrall [Beruk/N.P.C.] monitors cameras and obstacles and radios reports to spectators. Jax and Kajor take an early lead into the canyons, followed by Lenore, Lt. Han, and Lt. Weyland. Kobe flies to the rim of the rocky walls in an effort to catch an updraft or tailwind.

At “Shredder’s Corner,” Jax expertly squeezes his borrowed hoverbike around a narrow turn, while Lenore calmly traverses the course. Bruce, Kobe, and Kajor are forced to slow down in their larger vehicles.

The trail then forks, with the longer path leading across a dry river bed and a shortcut going onto a rocky plateau. Lenore picks the wadi but falls behind, allowing Lt. Weyland to catch up a little. Kajor pulls ahead on the riverbed, closely followed by Jax, as Lt. Han hits a crosswind.

Flashy Kobe and ruthless Kajor covertly shoot at boulders to hinder their competition, but the Gustrall excitedly observes that “Jax to the max is taking it all the way!”

The racers encounter an area obscured by a dust cloud, forcing them to rely on instinct. Lenore and Kajor maintain their lead, as Bruce slows down. Jax pulls behind Kobe.

At a network of caverns, Jax easily avoids stalactites and stalagmites to pull ahead. Lt. Weyland follows close behind. Kajor scrapes a wing but manages to right himself. Lt. Han makes a corkscrew maneuver and damages his ‘thopter. Lenore doesn’t get lost, but her wide hover sled also gets battered.

A “land whale” belching lava lumbers between the racers and the cave’s exit. Jax guns his motor and rides over the alien transplant. The monster snaps one of Kobe’s wings, and his craft goes down and explodes.

Merciless Kajor shoots at the behemoth and squeaks by, as Bruce’s all-terrain vehicle gets trashed. Lenore almost makes it out unscathed, but the land whale clips her sled, which crashes just outside the cave. The soldiers hope to rescue their mates from the dragon-like creature.

Kajor manages to cross the finish line first, and Jax is the only other racer whose vehicle is mostly intact. The Gustrall, Lt. Max Tevis, and other spectators congratulate the Ru’ulok. Jax accompanies them to a bar near Fort Olympus Mons and later gives Jasmine a bottle of champagne that he got at the party as a peace offering.

Special deliveries

The next morning, Hector says that the team needs to have shared objectives beyond delivering its current cargo and getting off of Mars. He recommends getting a “letter of marque” to be able to both protect Terran interests and seek profit.

Orion hands out feathers from the Martian fauna and says he doesn’t know of any potential patrons. However, the blue alien was asked to contribute to a galactic encyclopedia.

Chris doesn’t think that a charter is needed, and Agent Prometheus says he knows a potential backer from dealings with the mining operation on Tyche. Srinu is most interested in the threat that the Zarkonian Armada poses to the Sol system.

Jasmine and Darcy say their top priority is to find three missing Synths on Phobos. Hector reminds his crewmates that they must soon deliver the terraforming machinery in their hold. The engineer also wants to make sure that enhancements to the Gryphon are done properly and quietly.

Jim, who is still shaken from the casino firefight, declines Hector’s offer to be the “face,” or front man. The gambler explains that he has learned that the recipient of their cargo is William Durstan, a local pit stop magnate. Jim then goes back to Hellas Park, avoiding associates in New Shanghai.

Jax prefers paying gigs over helping the Synths on Phobos, and is curious about Maria Chan, a potential mark building a space yacht in orbit. Orion says he would be content to continue sightseeing on Mars.

At Hector’s request, Dr. Pahul examines the feasibility of using the terraforming gear to accelerate the creation of Earthlike conditions in a Martian cave. The doctor states that the expensive equipment could be used in that way.

Rather than take the Gryphon to the drop site, Srinu and Hector rent an aerodyne from Uruk Services. Jasmine and Darcy go with them as muscle — laborers and guards. They all take along extra guns and grenades.

Chris goes ahead of the others and sets up a sniper’s nest, even though “wheelman” Jax doesn’t think it’s necessary. Jax lands the Slipstream a discreet distance away and keeps communications channels open. Orion wanders the Martian outback.

Two aerodynes eventually arrive, and several four-armed robots emerge. Space-suited Durstan asks to inspect the cargo of terraforming equipment. He then instructs the droids to bring forward cases of cred sticks and ship parts in return.

Hector warily eyes one robot holding a remote control, but it’s to a cargo lifter rather than explosives. Srinu talks with Durstan, asking what his commercial interest would be in terraforming, a process that should take generations. The businessman tacitly confirms that he plans to make a smaller area habitable.

Chris watches the transaction through his rifle scope, and Jax claims that his companions are being needlessly paranoid. Jasmine and Darcy transfer the cargo without incident. Durstan says that Green Gongen wants to avoid sabotage by the Rust Coalition, and Srinu is impressed by the depth of his technical knowledge.

Hector asks Durstan to contact him if he ever needs similar discreet deliveries in the future. The Martian signals to the human pilots of his aerodynes to prepare for takeoff, and the smugglers breathe sighs of relief.

Temple precincts

Back at the Gryphon, furred Jasmine explains that Olun Gor believes that three of his fellow revolutionaries are being held against their will in the U.E.M.’s temples on Phobos (Mars’ other moon, Deimos, is at the top of a space elevator):

  • Andrei Dyashenko, a male reptilian “Synth” and brother of Jasmine’s onetime crewmate Averki “Deep Dish” Dyashenko
  • Zara, a female Garth and girlfriend of Olun Gor
  • Meson, a male Tauroid (bioengineered bull)

Jax opens a bottle of alcohol, while Hector and Dr. Pahul talk about forging credentials. Jasmine and Darcy reluctantly agree to stay on the ship during the initial round of scouting. Jax then takes the Slipstream to Mars orbit, where the infiltrators see the landing and docking areas of the hollowed-out moon.

Orion, whose species is mostly unknown to humans, doesn’t bother with a disguise. Chris is not surprised to see that many of the locals are armed, but he is less sure about the varied tourists and robed clergy visiting the complex.

Srinu poses as “Dr. Prabhakar Swapan Mullur,” an Indian doctor from Oxford, and Hector is disguised as lab director “Nino Tancredo Bolivar.” They are greeted by Brother Valerius, a Christian monk.

Brother Valerius explains that the United Ecumenical Movement was formed in reaction to massacres in the Middle East back on Earth. U.E.M. chaplains serve alongside U.S.N. troops, and it is also involved in disaster relief, medical care, and archaeological research. “Dr. Mullur” is curious about that last item and requests library access.

Meanwhile, seekers Orion and Chris chat with a Zhang Hu, a Buddhist monk, and Itzik Yevel, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi. Orion talks about the nature of existence and gets a yarmulke, and Chris engages in theological debate with Cliff Conyers, a Mormon. They also admire holographic stained glass and shrines of multiple religions peacefully coexisting in close proximity.

Brother Valerius takes “Prabhakar” and “Nino” to a room with database terminals as well as rare hardcopy books and other historical relics. Srinu looks for evidence of contact between Earthlings and extraterrestrials centuries before recent official First Contact and finds references to the “Vanished Lands.”

Hector manages to hack into U.E.M. systems and obtains passcodes as well as the floor plan of a research level where the Synths are likely being held. Brother Valerius comes back to tell the researchers that they have an appointment with Sister Philippa to visit the biomedical laboratories tomorrow.

The crew of the Gryphon reconvenes to compare notes and get ready to find the missing Synths without fighting U.E.M. security or interplanetary pilgrims….

Please note that each of your Player Characters should now have a total of 27 skill ranks, and your ship has gained one skill slot and one stunt slot to reflect new equipment earned. Update your P.C. records on Obsidian Portal, and let me know about any changes.

Also, let me know if any of you won’t be available for games in the coming weekends. The face-to-face groups have been having difficulty getting quorum to launch the latest “Vanished Lands” fantasy party and Josh’s FATE 3e Dresden Files game. In the meantime, take it easy, -Gene

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