“Vortex: Terra’s Pride” Update 5c.46 — Return to Ruhema

Fellow role-players, here is my update for Session 5c.46 of the Vortex telecom space opera campaign, which met via Skype on Sunday, 22 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 autumn 2013:

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 theAppomattox, 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/absent]-male (secretly android) pilot, assigned to assess and protect humanity

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

“10 to 12 September 2195 A.D./C.E. or 1 Terran Galactic Era:” While the Blackbird, Dauntless, and other ships in the Ranger Corps task force caught up with three slower-than-light colony ships, the Pina Colada traveled to Van Maanen’s Star.

The explorers visited Ruhema, the innermost satellite of Absolom, one of two gas giants in that solar system. Following up on the Blackbird’previous visit, they confirmed that it was no moon, but a huge Precursor machine! However, persistent power drains forced the away team back into orbit.

Precursor device
Mechanical moon

Cmdr. Jasmine recommends that any away team spend only an hour at a time on Ruhema. The “Uplifted” tiger also orders more specific scans of the device’s interior to find a control center.

Hector Chavez determines that the sphere is mostly composed of common elements, such as silicon and iron, with traces of rarer or synthetic substances. The engineer concludes that the Precursors most likely used local materials.

Orion Starchaser is eager to re-enter Ruhema through a proper entrance, rather than a mining shaft created by later interolopers such as Aquarian colonists. Lord Wallace Tubbington III suggests somehow moving the moon closer toVan Maanen’s Star so that it can recharge.

Billy “Hawkeye” James checks to see whether the Pina Colada could tow the object, but the refitted yacht doesn’t have the capability. Dr. Srinu Pahul scans for life signs.

Pilot Chiron stays with the Pina Colada in orbit as Jasmine takes the Dragonfly back to the artificial moon’s surface. The drop ship lands near a protrusion that hasn’t been disturbed in millennia. The landing party leaves the Tiger Hawk Sandstorm ground-effect vehicle in its bay and walks out in vacc suits.

Hector scans the archway and finds a manual override not designed for human hands. Mischievous Orion brandishes a crowbar but then joins Billy in trying to open the locked door with technopsi.

After amateur archaeologist Dr. Pahul realizes that the arch is just the top half of a portal, mighty Jasmine leads Lord Tubbington and Hawkeye in clearing rubble from the entrance. The junior medic also spots potential security countermeasures and warns his companions to stand clear of them.

Jasmine and Hector check the vacc suits’ power levels, which are dropping because of an as-yet-unexplained drain. Srinu points out the similarity between the portal and the jump gate that the Blackbird’former crew activated near Oasis Station.

Orion finds a key of sorts — a rhythm encoded on the arch. He taps on the ground with his crowbar, and the ancient aperture opens. The group soon finds itself speeding into the machinery on an elevator with force-field windows.

The psions direct the turbolift to go to a control node, which they find near the hollow core of Ruhema. Orion identifies control panels in the alien room and establishes a telepathic link with Hawkeye.

Dr. Pahul and Lord Tubbington look at the blinking holographic displays and recognize some of the functions they describe. Scientist Srinu sees environmental controls, and Wallace believes the satellite has industrial rather than military intent.

Cautious Hector takes detailed recordings, and Jasmine reminds her companions to look for a way to stop the energy drain. Orion calls up a manual and is nearly overwhelmed by images. Rookie Hawkeye submits a query for power control.

Srinu concludes that although the interface is sophisticated, Ruhema does not host a true A.I. (artificial intelligence). Wallace narrows down the satellite’s potential purposes to a mobile factory, a facility to collect solar energy for passing ships, a signal-boosting interstellar relay station, and a force-field generator.

As Orion checks the moon’s batteries, he is inadvertently drained of some psychic energy himself. Hawkeye finds propulsion and personnel logs, and blacks out. While the human is unable to translate them, he explains that he saw the walking stick builders maneuver Ruhema to safety when Van Maanen’s Star went nova.

The pre-ascension Precursors apparently intended to return but never did, Hawkeye says. Dr. Pahul searches for any inventory of manufactured goods but finds none. Wallace, however, discovers schematics for efficient Transit (faster-than-light) drives.

The energy drain could also provide protection against the nanites (microscopic robots) emitted by Zarkonian probes, Hector says. He and Wallace continuing examining controls to find a way to stop the seepage — or extend it. The Terrans hope that Ruhema could prove useful to defending the refugee fleet from the Zarkonian Armada.

Orion and Hawkeye switch Ruhema to a standby mode, with their suits at 55%. Wallace studies records to verify that the nova was natural and not a side-effect of the device’s use. Jasmine asks her crewmates if they can find a way to change the artifact’s orbit around Van Maanen’s Star.

Orion finds possible plans for force-field generators, and Srinu isn’t sure if life support can be reactivated. Hector finds attitude controls and suggests recharging the team’s vacc suits. Cmdr. Jasmine orders the away team to head back to the surface.

Now that they have figured out Ruhema’s inner workings, the explorers can rest and recharge their gear before returning to move the mechanical moon….

I’m impressed by the progress the Pina Colada’s crew made in solving the riddle of Ruhema! I look forward to wrapping up your missions in the next few weeks, as well as to Geoff’s FATE Accelerated Edition superhero one-shot and the upcoming “Vanished LandsA New Dawn” Asian-style fantasy campaign.

In the meantime, I’ll see some of you at upcoming “Star Wars: Dark Times” and “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus” sessions.

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