“Vortex: the Gryphon” Update 5c.14-17: Belters and breakups

Fellow role-players, here is my update for Sessions 5c.14 to 17 of the “Vortex: the Gryphontelecom space opera campaign, which met via Skype on Sundays in November 2012. We’ve been using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, and an online dice roller.

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 autumn 2012:

  • Hector Chavez [Beruk A.]-male Latin American Terran human, former spy and communications expert/engineer of the Appomattox and Gryphon 
  • 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” 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 
  • 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
  • Jax [Robin H.]-male human from the Asteroid Belt, vain space pirate and pilot of the Slipstream and Gryphon 
  • Jim Delaney” [Robert A.S./absent]-male Terran “near-human” gambler and psi

Belters and breaking up

Terran colony in the Asteroid Belt
Terran colonists in the Asteroid Belt

8 April to 8 May 2195 A.D./C.E. or 1 Terran Galactic Era:” After meeting at New Gdansk in Earth orbit and visiting the Mars Confederacy, the crew of the Gryphon got involved in intrigues around Mars before heading to the Jovian Commonwealth.

The yacht then traveled from Jupiter’s moons to New Kansas, Jax’s home colony in the Asteroid Belt. Hector Chavez, Jasmine, and Jax visit the pilot’s family, who turn out to be prosperous merchants. Jax’s real name is Eugene Plaf, and his parents are Beauford and Martha.

Jax is surprised to find wealthy groupie Cassandra with his parents. She apparently learned his whereabouts from friend Bonnie Kawagura in the Jovian system. Engineer Hector is more interested in acquiring enhancements for the ship.

Still paranoid after various encounters on Mars, sniper Chris McKee stays aboard the Gryphon with Dr. Srinu Pahul, Orion Starchaser, and Darcy. Orion telepathically senses a familiar presence nearby.

In space dock, another blue-furred alien named Vovéstomósanéhe asks to come aboard to help his student find enlightenment. Chris grants permission but calls the others back to the ship. Orion isn’t thrilled to see his exasperated mentor, and Jax is even less pleased to be around two extraterrestrial mystics.

Jasmine and Darcy catch up on rest, while Dr. Pahul tinkers with his robots MEGAN and PEPE. Hector and Chris contact trader Wilfred about military-grade gear. Orion and Vovéstomósanéhe go to train in the Gryphon‘s swimming pool.

Jax hangs out at a dive bar with Cassandra and learns that the Black Pearl II, an infamous pirate ship, has been in a firefight nearby [apologies to Pirates of the Caribbean]. Jax hopes to take control of a larger vessel and build his reputation as the “best damn space pilot in the galaxy.”

Srinu plans to deliver his report on the threat of Zarkonian probes to the Union of Solar Nations (U.S.N.). He later tells Hector and Chris that he has heard that the U.S.N. has had a falling out with Black Box Security Co. and that Sen. Francis Xavier Joseph is a Belter civilian friendly to the military and intelligence services.

Hector also learns from onetime rival Annamaria Balzana that the Musashi battle group is stationed in the Asteroid Belt and is commanded by Adm. Raul Xinshang. Jax’s associates may not want to deal with the navy, but others aboard the Gryphon may want to.

Sometime later, Hector, Chris, and Srinu meet with Beuford and Wilfred in New Kansas. Over glasses of vodka, they discuss trading favors for technology. Hector and Chris agree to find out about potential U.S.N. buyers in return for armored space suits [which can absorb up to 3 consequences each].

Dr. Pahul can’t afford the autodoc he wants, so he turns his attention to a replacement surgery theater that can be ejected in an escape pod. Srinu had used a previous version to examine the nanites (microscopic robots) emitted by the Zurmiz Krott/Harbingers of the Righteous Order of Submission.

Hector reminds Srinu of related investigations into mysterious murders near Jupiter and of Chris’ desire to catch up with slower-than-light generation ships headed in the direction of Zarkonian-controlled space.

Darcy tells Jasmine that he needs time to himself to explore and help the Synth Liberation Front. The “Uplifted” tiger is upset, but she lets her boyfriend leave. Orion takes a break from his martial arts practice to console Jasmine. He also recommends that she go after Darcy to make sure he knows what he’s doing.

Jax stays at the “Soggy Bottom” pub late until barkeep Leonard ejects him [apologies to O Brother, Where Art Thou?]. In an alley, Jax runs into a crewman he recognizes from the Satan’s Strumpet who tried to board the Gryphon back at Jupiter. The pirate draws a khukri, but Jax readies a rifle.

The spacemen are joined by three more toughs, who escort Jax to Capt. Vijay Bhaghwandra. After some pleasantries and posturing, the captain offers Jax a cargo to smuggle from the Asteroid Belt to Earth, since the Satan’s Strumpet is still being repaired. Jax agrees to a share of the profits.

Jasmine enlists the aid of her crewmates in searching for Darcy. The Synth gets a whiff of reptilian scent at a turbolift, possibly from Martian crocolisks or alien Ru’ulok. The group follows the trail to a crowded lounge, where they learn that wayward Darcy is about to board a transport leaving the Sol system!

Hector hacks into the station’s systems to delay departures from Dock 7, while Srinu claims a medical quarantine to apprehend Darcy. The humans also find a bug on him, so Hector hacks the computers of the Anaconda.

The former spy studies the ship’s passenger manifests and finds entries for Darcy and Kraythor, a notable Ru’ulok (heavy-gravity reptilian alien) among the “Takers.” Hector also plants a virus in the Anaconda‘s systems.

Hitchhiker Orion happily studies the Terrans in the lounge as Jasmine tells Darcy that he’s free to go, just not with Ru’ulok pirates. Chris warns the Felinoid to beware of alien slavers such as the slug-like Encegulans. On the Slipstream, Jax recognizes the heavily armored and damaged Black Pearl II float by.

When the Gryphon‘s crew decides against attacking a large frigate, Jax makes a counteroffer of a “milk run” to Earth. The others agree on the condition of meeting Capt. Bhaghwandra themselves.

At the Satan’s Strumpet — reregistered as the “Mellow Cutter” — Jax, Hector, Chris, Jasmine, and Darcy learn of the sizable payment they’d receive for smuggling “Jovian kumquats” to Earth. Capt. Bhaghwandra says that they’re to deliver the cargo to Col. Pyotr Tsilovich, a rising star in Slavic League, at the Baikonur Spaceport. Hector later checks references with his former handler Max on Earth.

Jax makes preparations to take the cargo in a ship-to-ship transfer away from New Kansas. Hector learns from Annamaria that his former companions from the Appomattox have regained faster-than-light capability and are likely heading after the Vatican treasure hidden near Epsilon Eridani.

Jasmine keeps watch after Darcy leaves, while Jax tells his parents and Cassandra that he’ll return soon. When the Gryphon is hailed by Lt. Clark Faddil of the Interplanetary Patrol ship Pinkerton as it passes, Chris decides to disguise himself as a neohippie.

During the zero-G container transfer, Chris recognizes one of the men from the Satan’s Strumpet as Timothy Dugan, a former colleague at Black Box Security Co. The sniper isn’t happy to find Dugan trying to stow away on the Gryphon so that he can report back to Earth.

Hector talks Jax out of shooting Dugan, whom Chris hopes to rehabilitate as he was by the crew of the Blackbird. “Agent Prometheus” puts Dugan in the brig and asks Dr. Pahul and Orion to remove the conditioning left by the eugenicists at Black Box. Vovéstomósanéhe also agrees to help. Jasmine guards Dugan, as Srinu prepares to operate to remove his cybernetic implants.

Sometime after leaving the Satan’s Strumpet and New Kansas, Orion and Hector decide to investigate the cargo. Scans indicate that it’s denser and requires more power than mere refrigeration of Jovian kumquats.

The boxes contain heavily shielded spheres of alien technology with an external interface for Terrans. They are zero-point explosives, more powerful than thermonuclear bombs! Hector, Srinu, and Chris are horrified to be bringing weapons of mass destruction back to factionalized Earth.

The crew and passengers on the Gryphon notice a shift in its artificial gravity and inertial dampeners. Rather than take a Terran day to smuggle the goods, Jax has taken the ship out of the ecliptic plane and jumped through faster-than-light Transit, cutting the travel time to mere hours!

Surprised, Hector locks down the yacht’s controls and informs his companions that they’re in Earth orbit. He had hoped to study the zero-point devices and question Dugan further. Jax puts on a space suit and heads to the cargo bay, as do Chris, Orion, and Vovestomosanehe.

In the cargo bay, Jasmine asks Jax what he’s doing. The Belter pilot tells the onetime wrestler that he wants to make sure that delivery and payment occur without further interference. Chris arrives and shoots at Jax for a second time!

Tiger-woman Jasmine steps between her shipmates, while Orion helps deflect the blast. Hector takes the gun from Chris and asks him to stand down. Srinu goes to the empty bridge, sees the scuffle on internal monitors, and orders MEGAN to ready stunning strobe lights and anesthetizing gas.

Jax is furious to be shot at again by Chris, and burly Jasmine yells at everyone to stop fighting. Hector suggests that Jasmine be nominal captain. Jax heads to the hangar bay, while the others prevent Chris from following. Orion talks with Dugan but is initially unable to determine whether his allegiances have turned from Black Box.

Hector releases the launch controls, allowing Jax to leave in the Slipstream. Srinu asks Jasmine to take control of the Gryphon‘s guns, since he doesn’t trust Chris (who is also worried about Dugan) not to fire. Dr. Pahul also scans the ships for loose nanites, since the Zurmiz Krott could induce insanity in Terrans, but he finds none.

Cmdr. Alfonso Balaz of the U.E.V. Steel Sanguinis hails the Gryphon and asks to come aboard because of reports of smuggling. Capt. Jasmine and company realize that Jax has told Interplanetary Patrol about their cargo and prisoner, but they reluctantly grant permission.

Chris, Orion, and Vovestomosanehe go to the pool/hydroponics garden. At Dr. Pahul’s instruction, MEGAN knocks out Dugan with an injection. Hector goes to the cargo bay to watch the officers’ inspection. Jax brings the Slipstream about, cornering the Gryphon.

Cmdr. Balaz and his assistants scan the cargo and unconscious Dugan. At Hector and Jasmine’s request, Srinu, Orion, and Vovestomosanehe lead the patrolmen to the Gryphon‘s conference room and erase their short-term memories with a combination of drugs and psionics.

Jasmine escorts the groggy officers back to the Steel Sanguinis, and Chris goes to the turret. Hector undocks, and Dr. Pahul returns to the bridge. Orion uses his telepathy to distract Jax as Srinu takes the Gryphon on a blind Transit jump to the edge of the Sol system.

Although they have escaped Interplanetary Patrol scrutiny and various pirates, the explorers aboard the Gryphon still have a hot cargo and need to report to various authorities on Earth….

While “Jim Delaney,” “Jax,” and “Darcy” have left, there are still lots of adventures for the Gryphon in the “Vortex” universe. See my other posts regarding advancement (7 aspects, 30 skill points, and 10 refresh).

I look forward to seeing most of our group virtually tonight, as well as to continuing Josh’s “A New Beginning: Mystic Adventures in the ‘Big D‘” and my face-to-face “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus” games. -Gene

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