“Vortex: Terra’s Pride” Update 5c.45 — the “Faithful Starlight”

Fellow role-players, here is my update for Session 5c.45 of the Vortex telecom space opera campaign, which met via Skype on Sunday, 15 September 2013. We’ve been using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/MindjammerBulldogs, and an online dice roller.

In one future, humanity has started to overcome ecological challenges at the time of open and official First Contact with galactic societies. However, internecine war and the Zarkonian Armada devastate Earth and its colonies. A few million refugees, aided by some aliens, flee into deep space. Will heroes arise among them?

FATE 3e “Vortex: Terra’s Pride” (Team 3/5c) telecom Player Characters, as of summer 2013:

Acting crew of the scout ship Blackbird and corvette Dauntless:

  • Capt. Kevin Reese” [Bruce K., primary]-male Terran “near-human” (cyborg), former Interplanetary Patrol officer and leader of the “Terra’s Pride” homeworld security task force
  • Lt.Cmdr. Tela” [Sara F., secondary]-female Tharian (gargoyle-like alien), escapee from the Encegulans (slug-like slavers), fond of humans; engineer with boyfriend Kedar
  • Lt.Cmdr. Brun Bearhammer” [Geoff C., secondary]-male Martian Ursoid “Synth” (“Uplifted” bear), former wrestler, pilot
  • Tariq Asrad Saladin” [Beruk A., secondary]-male Terran “near-human” (mutant) wanderer with a past, investigator
  • Chris McKee /Agent Prometheus” [Josh C., primary]-male Terran human, former assassin for the eugenicists at Black Box Security Co., sniper and seeker

“11 to 15 September 2195 A.D./C.E. or 1 Terran Galactic Era:” After defeating a squadron of Zarkonian fighters near Altair, part of the Terran Ranger Corps task force escorts the slower-than-light colony ship Faithful Starlight to shelter in an asteroid belt.

The Blackbird and Dauntless send an away team to the generation vessel, as the Sovereign and Tigress make repairs and keep watch for more enemy ships. Lt.Cmdr. Brun Bearhammer stays aboard the Blackbird to coordinate.

Capt. Kevin Reese pilots a Morgan-class shuttle, and Tariq Asrad Saladin scans for crew members infected by nanites (microscopic robots). Lt.Cmdr. Tela brings Dr. Bucket to present data to the colonists, as Lt. Nathan A. Jessup and Chris McKee check their sidearms.

Lama Vishal Pratik, commander of the Faithful Starlight, and Rabbi Irene Gimbel, communications officer, greet their visitors. Capt. Reese makes introductions, and the humans are pleased to meet Tharian Tela, their first extraterrestrial.

Slower-than-light colony ship
The third generation colony ship

The group goes to the main bridge, a round garden-like chamber with tastefully distributed seats and display panels. Lt. Jessup and Mr. McKee observe that some of the robed crew members are likely armed and armored.

Mr. Saladin is surprised to learn that there are 30,000 inhabitants, more than on either of the previous colony ships visited. Kevin informs the Faithful Starlight’s commanders of the Zarkonian invasion of the Sol system. He also recommends that the ship heads to rendezvous with the refugee fleet.

Lama Pratik calmly but promptly asks Imam Yasmine Nawaz to install a Transit (faster-than-light) drive with help from Tela and Dr. Bucket. Tariq senses Rabbi Gimbel communicating with personnel telepathically.

Brother Dwight Van readily agrees to review security measures with Nate and Chris. Pundit Elliott Hsiao, a planetologist and musician, requests astrogational data from Brun, who is scanning for Zurmiz Krott (biomechanical probes).

Prelate Lucy Ying, the Faithful Starlight’s first officer, quickly tells Kevin how her ancestors fled religious wars on Earth and struggled to overcome their differences during their first few decades in deep space.

Houngan Sunil Foreman, the laid-back chief medical officer, shares epidemiological data with Tariq. Sister Dao Desc Wei and Alejandra Darjaniv explain how their life-support systems are strained by population pressures. Kevin reassures them that other colony ships should be able to help.

Tela’s reputation as a miracle worker continues to spread as she adds containment mechanisms to the Faithful Starlight’s fusion generators and deploys the Transit drive with cyborg Imam Nawaz, Dr. Bucket, and Nate.

As they walk through crowded corridors, Nate and Chris see that the religious communities are well-mixed, perhaps providing a model for other Terran refugees. Bro. Van worries about submitting to military command, but Chris says that a fair amount of autonomy is likely.

Nate offers to take his battered Raptor II-class aerospace fighter for an external examination of the Faithful Starlight, but Brun helps by using the Blackbird ’s more advanced scanners. The ursine officer also watches for the Zarkonian carrier that recently passed through the Altair system.

A Zurmiz Krott probe (also known as a “Harbinger of the Righteous Order of Submission”) approaches, and Rabbi Irene coordinates a psionic defense. Unfortunately, Brun is caught in the middle and suffers a headache because he is linked to the Blackbird as pilot.

The rabbi apologizes and explains her techniques to Kevin, Tariq, and Nate, who say that they could be useful to the Terran fleet. Meanwhile, Chris takes Bro. Dwight via shuttle to his quarters to share some modern firearms.

Capt. Reese tells Lama Pratik and Prelate Ying that they have more harmonious passengers and crew than the scientist castes on the Firebrand or the megacorp factions on the Nova Aquarius. He then sends a message to Col. Shan Gray informing his superior that free humanity has grown by several thousand more.

As the Faithful Starlight goes to join the Firebrand, the Nova Aquarius, and the Ilokar battle group headed toward Oasis Station, the “Terra’s Pride” task force sets a course for Van Maanen’s Star, where the Pina Colada went to examine Precursor relics.

Acting crew of the refitted yacht Pina Colada:

  • Cmdr. Jasmine” [Sara F., primary]-female Martian Felinoid “Synth” (“Uplifted” tiger), former pit fighter and crewmember of the Appomattox, searching for a homeworld for her people
  • Hector Chavez” [Beruk A., primary]-male Terran human, former spy and crewmember on the Appomattox, cautious engineer and communications expert
  • Dr. Srinu Pahul” [Byron V.O., primary]-male Terran “near-human” (genetically modified) xenobiologist, curious and planetary patriot; with robot PEPE
  • Orion Starchaser” [Geoff C., primary]-male Pomuyan (blue telepathic humanoid alien), irrepressible mystic and thrill-seeking galactic hitchhiker
  • Billy ‘Hawkeye’ James [Bruce K., secondary]-male Terran “near-human” (cyborg technopsi) frontier medic and gambler, recently re-enlisted with the Union of Solar Nations
  • Lord Wallace Tubbington III” [Josh C., secondary]-male Olvar (arboreal, mammal-like alien) swashbuckler and diplomat for the Kharvamid Alliance
  • Chiron” [Dexter V.H., primary ]-male (secretly android) pilot, assigned to assess and protect humanity

See other records for the previous crews of the Blackbird, Appomattox, and Gryphon.

Meanwhile, the Pina Colada had entered that solar system around the same time that the rest of the task force had encountered the Nova Aquarius. Cmdr. Jasmine orders scans.

Pilot Chiron reports that the white dwarf has two gas-giant planets, Absolom and Methuselah. The outer planet, Methuselah, has two moons, Whistler’s Mother, an iceball, and Dorian Gray, home to descendants of stranded Aquarian miners.

Lord Wallace Tubbington III explains that nearly a Terran year ago, the Morifaiwet/Blackbird had negotiated a settlement between the city-state of Albahaven and the more pious Corvell Unity.

Wallace and Orion Starchaser express interest in contacting the Salvorain settlers. Dr. Srinu Pahul and Billy “Hawkeye” James recommend against any hails. Jasmine decides to do so only after checking abandoned mining operations.

The Pina Colada passes rocky Ezekiel and frigid Elric, Absolom’s outer moons. Hector Chavez notes the presence of a buoy claiming Ruhema, the innermost satellite, for Aughest-vor’s [Jason E.R.] holding company OPM-Pharsmor. Chris McKee had expressed interest in searching for “sun killers” for the fight against the Zarkonian Armada.

Cmdr. Jasmine boards the Dragonfly drop ship to Ruhema with Dr. Pahul, Orion, Lord Tubbington, and Billy. Hector and Chiron stay with the Pina Colada. The apparently lifeless moon is covered with dust and piles of slag.

Hawkeye drives the Tiger Hawk Sandstorm ground-effect vehicle to the previous site. The explorers find a tunnel entrance and a half-sunken piece of drilling equipment. Srinu monitors for power fluctuations based on warnings of previous energy drains.

As the away team debates what to do, impatient Orion walks into the tunnel. The Pomuyan wanderer sees the slag give way to machinery all around and realizes that Ruhema is no moon — it’s some sort of giant device! Jasmine and the others follow.

Srinu and Hawkeye try to apply their archaeological expertise, but there are no obvious labels or controls. Telepaths Orion and Hawkeye sense a hum. Orion shouts, “Wake up!” and throws a rock but receives no response.

The spelunkers suspect that Ruhema’s controls are psionic when Orion points and their magnetic boots shift in a few centimeters one direction. However, the power levels of the team’s space suits drop to 75%, then 40%. Jasmine orders a retreat after venturing 200 meters beneath the surface.

Hawkeye struggles to restart the Tiger Hawk Sandstorm, and Jasmine must also contend with power drains to get the Dragonfly to lift off. Back in orbit, Srinu suggests scanning for a main bridge rather than a site of later scavenger operations.

Wallace and Chriron point out that given Ruhema’s hunger for energy, it’s possible that it was sated and fully operational back before Van Maanen’s Star became a white dwarf. That would put the Precursor device’s age in the millions, if not billions, of Earth years.

The Pina Colada resumes scanning Ruhema from orbit, as Cmdr. Jasmine sets time limits for future away missions….

I look forward to wrapping up the current chapter of our space opera, as well as Geoff’s upcoming FATE Accelerated Edition superhero one-shot and the “Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” telecom campaign (using the AD&D1 Oriental Adventures and the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game).

In the meantime, remember to make sure that your Player Character records reflect the current total of 40 skill points. I’ll see most of you online this coming Sunday, Sept. 22, or at Jason E.R.’s “Star Wars: Dark Times” session (using Savage Worldsat Rich C.G.’s place on Monday.

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