“Vortex” Update 5b.21 — Duct tales

Interplanetary transport
Space truck

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5b.21 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 2 met on Monday, 3 October 2011, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, Diaspora, and Limitless Horizons.

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but ecological degradation and internecine conflicts persist. Open and official First Contact with Galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Will heroes rise to the challenges?

A band of grifters and near-humans retrieved dangerous samples from a battlefield north of Karachi and the Ghanki undersea station. It stole starship engines from a lunar base and an orbital city and was involved in medical disasters in the Venusian colonies. After finding a dimensionally displaced derelict, the team made inquiries into its cargo amid religious turmoil on Titan….

>>FATE 3e “Vortex” Team 2 (5b), crew of the Appomattox:

-“Gabriel Adams” [Paul J.]-male North American Terran near-human with telepathy, courier and pilot

-“Hector Chavez” [Beruk A.]-male Latin American Terran human, “burned” operative and communications expert

-“ARTHERR” [Greg D.C.]-Advanced Resonance Theoretical Heuristic Exploration and Research Robot created by megacorp Vimeco

-“Jasmine” [Sara F.] female Martian Felinoid (Synth, “Uplifted” tiger), former professional pit fighter

-“Mr. Richmond Garrett” [Dave S.C./absent]-male Southern American Terran human, space snake-oil salesman and social climber

-“Dr. Dieter Klein” [Rich L./absent]-male European Terran human, semi-retired physician, altruist and thrill seeker

-“Nero Bartholomew” [Non-Player Character]-male Terran human, former owner of the “Fortune’s Fool,” ship’s cook

-“Averki ‘Deep Dish’ Dyashenko” [N.P.C.]-male reptilian Synth (genetically engineered humanoid), onetime Venusian miner

>>”15 to 18 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” The crew of the Appomattox delays its mysterious mission to bring Vatican artifacts to Epsilon Eridani. Instead, the group continues its investigation into the murder of fundamentalist preacher Hugh Doyle at Eclipse Station near Saturn.

Hector Chavez hacks into the space station‘s security to review surveillance recordings. The onetime spy traces the movements of smuggler Adrian Valentin, who bought a generator from the Mukhtadi brothers that could have been used to kill Doyle.

Valentin, who also contacted Doyle with increasing frequency before his death, brought the generator to a docking bay. However, construction there interfered with the cameras. ARTHERR checks personnel files of the work crews and finds that chief Ignatz Maroni and several “Synth” (synthetic humanoid) laborers were on duty.

Jasmine brings a box of coffee to a construction site, where she meets rude Maroni, as well as Felinoid (“Uplifted” panther) Rosario Tamuz and Ursoid (“Uplifted” bear) Prini Vonchadry. Rosario [N.P.C./Greg] recognizes the former wrestler, who was banned from the ring after inadvertently killing a competitor. She and taciturn Prini [N.P.C./Beruk] invite Jasmine to join them for drinks after the strenuous job.

Capt. Gabriel Adams continues trying to persuade gynoids Tanya and Galia to help him conduct a heist of the Lucky Garden Casino. Rather than face angry medics or preachers again, Mr. Richmond Garrett stays aboard the Appomattox, attended by Nero Bartholomew and Averki “Deep Dish” Dyashenko.

Comparing notes aboard their yacht, ARTHERR reminds Hector that Archbishop Javier Fuentes had asked them to investigate the crime on behalf of the United Ecumenical Movement, which Doyle was no fan of. The investigators also learn that the itinerant preacher had offended local gambler Rev. Winston Jones by trying to have his followers take over Eclipse Station’s chapel.

Apparently, Doyle had orchestrated similar moves on other colonies in the outer Sol system. Using a Bible cipher, the spewer of fire-and-brimstone speeches directed his faithful to crowd out “the sinners and those lesser than Man” — referring to Synths, including artificial intelligences/robots and “Uplifted” animals.

Hector and ARTHERR view footage from after Valentin left the docking bay and before Doyle’s death. They see the smuggler enter the Ringtown Diner, where he talks with Louise Reinhagen, the widow of an Oromax megacorp executive killed in the Hephaestus Stadium disaster near Venus.

By reading their lips, ARTHERR is able to reconstruct some of the conversation between Doyle’s former supporters. Just as magnate Esteban Bakafret had helped provide the preacher transportation, so had Reinhagen given him financial support. The robot confirms suspicions of a blackmail plot leading to Doyle’s murder, but more evidence is needed.

Rosario and Prini take Jasmine through increasingly cluttered back corridors of the station in orbit around Titan. The tiger-woman is surprised to find a squatters’ camp, where the Synths can relax away from overseer eyes. Chim (“Uplifted” chimpanzee) mechanic Faisal Batar smokes another cigar.

Rosario asks Jasmine about her wrestling career and says that she wishes she had killed intolerant Doyle. Prini grunts in agreement. When Jasmine mentions the ritualistic aspects of the slaying, Rosario expounds on a theory that a Synth worshipping “dark gods” is responsible.

Prini observes that Melita Veturia, a Canid (“Uplifted” canine) supporter of the Synth Liberation Front on Mars and another suspect, wouldn’t mind eliminating a hatemonger, but disembowelment and pentagrams aren’t her style.

Jasmine manages to refrain from drinking more alcohol from the makeshift still. Rosario recalls seeing an “Uplifted” octopus with a cargo lifter around the time that Valentin passed through the docking bay. Jasmine excuses herself to return to her ship, as Prini talks about her encounter with the infamous pit fighter on various social media.

With Jasmine’s information, Hector runs another video search and finds footage of the Octopoid leaving an access tunnel between the docking bay and the site of Doyle’s murder. The away team goes to the Jeffries tube, and ARTHERR wheels himself in, scraping the white medical paint off one side.

The exploration droid finds a wider area in the passage where the octo-assassin could have assembled the field generator and battery used to restrain Doyle. Shortly thereafter, however, ARTHERR triggers a laser mesh that wily Hector crawls in to help disable. Burly Jasmine holds a rope, and Gabriel arrives to assist.

Undaunted, ARTHERR continues forward and is ejected as the duct swivels and shoots him out of Eclipse Station! He uses maneuvering thrusters to re-enter, as acrobatic Gabriel easily hangs on and Hector retrieves the industrial laser emitters.

Gabriel easily evades another trap — saw blades spiraling down the tube. The burglar loses part of one of Richmond’s fancy jackets. ARTHERR slides along the blade and is undamaged, and Hector and Jasmine go to meet them back at the crime scene.

They conclude that after Valentin procured the equipment and gave the order, the Octopoid could have suspended itself from the ceiling and used the generator to trap Doyle, who had been lured to the back passage somehow. Now that the means and possible motives have been established, the investigators want to confirm all the responsible parties.

After some debate, the team decides to question Ms. Reinhagen. Gabriel pilots the Appomattox down to the moon’s surface, while Hector calls with a blackmail counteroffer. The burned op tells Reinhagen that he knows she met with Valentin and talked about Doyle’s death before it happened. The wealthy widow initially denies everything.

Capt. Adams talks his way past an android butler and into a luxurious dome in New Syria. The psionic detective talks with Reinhagen, who says that Valentin was blackmailing her (not Doyle, as originally supposed) for an improper relationship with the preacher. She had threatened to go public with her support of Doyle and his teachings, somehow provoking Valentin to order the hit.

Jasmine returns to the Lucky Garden Casino to talk with Erta Garza, a Delphine (“Uplifted” dolphin) astrogator she had previously invited to join the Appomattox‘s crew. Not only does Erta know an Octopoid in Eclipse Station, but she also introduces Jasmine to him!

Kolidari, co-owner of the casino, relaxes in a pool/hot tub with the Delphine and curious Felinoid. (Using a voder, Kolidari sounds like archaic-era actor Sean Connery.) He brushes off any implications about Doyle and says that Jasmine should come and work for him rather than the other way around.

Even Gabriel’s underworld experience is of limited help as he tries to untangle the web of smuggling, illicit affairs, religious factions, and Synth activism around Doyle’s murder. He and Richmond’s plan to rob the casino is made more complicated by Kolidari‘s involvement.

Jasmine and Hector are less interested in a potential heist than in getting in touch with people back on Mars and Earth. ARTHERR reminds them that whatever they do, it will have to be done quickly, because the leaked Ru’ulok (heavy gravity reptilian alien) faster-than-light plans will soon allow the authorities and others to reach them in a matter of days….

Dave, I’m sorry that you missed our latest game. Paul and Beruk, remember to let me know about your availability for the Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Lands” telecom fantasy game this coming Sunday. I met with Brian and Bruce’s friend Rich G., who’ll be joining us at next Monday’s “Vortex” Team 1 session. Have a good week, -Gene

“Vortex” Update 5b.20 — Saturnian sleuths/home on the range

Titan orbital station
Station near Titan, Saturn

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5b.20 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 2 met on Monday, 19 September 2011, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, Diaspora, and Limitless Horizons.

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but ecological degradation and internecine conflicts persist. Open and official First Contact with Galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Will heroes rise to the challenges?

A band of grifters and near-humans retrieved dangerous samples from a battlefield north of Karachi and the Ghanki undersea station. It stole starship engines from a lunar base and an orbital city and was involved in medical disasters in the Venusian colonies. After finding a dimensionally displaced derelict, the team made inquiries into its cargo amid religious turmoil on Titan….

>>FATE 3e “Vortex” Team 2 (5b), crew of the Appomattox:

-“Gabriel Adams” [Paul J.]-male North American Terran near-human with telepathy, courier and pilot

-“Hector Chavez” [Beruk A.]-male Latin American Terran human, “burned” operative and communications expert

-“ARTHERR” [Greg D.C.]-Advanced Resonance Theoretical Heuristic Exploration and Research Robot created by megacorp Vimeco

-“Jasmine” [Sara F.] female Martian Felinoid (Synth, “Uplifted” tiger), former professional pit fighter

-“Mr. Richmond Garrett” [Dave S.C.]-male Southern American Terran human, space snake-oil salesman and social climber

-“Dr. Dieter Klein” [Rich L./absent]-male European Terran human, semi-retired physician, altruist and thrill seeker

-“Nero Bartholomew” [Non-Player Character]-male Terran human, former owner of the “Fortune’s Fool,” ship’s cook

-“Averki ‘Deep Dish’ Dyashenko” [N.P.C.]-male reptilian Synth (genetically engineered humanoid), onetime Venusian miner

>>”11 to 14 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” At the request of Archbishop Javier Fuentes, the group investigates the murder of fundamentalist preacher Hugh Doyle. Hector Chavez pilots the Appomattox from Titan to Eclipse Station in orbit around Saturn.

After spending a few days casing the Lucky Garden Casino for a potential heist, Capt. Gabriel Adams contacts “fixer” Lillian Morrissey back on Earth for information about smugglers in the outer Sol system. In addition to researching the cargo of artifacts from the Vatican Museums, Gabriel believes that the colonial underworld must know something about Doyle.

ARTHERR, Hector, and Jasmine go to station security to ask for permission to examine the crime scene and Doyle’s corpse. Capt. Garzan Cisneros reluctantly agrees, noting that the Brotherhood of Illumination is no friend to the United Ecumenical Movement (U.E.M.) in New Quebec on Titan. The local lawman sends Lieut. Yasmin Al-Ghuj to escort them.

Mr. Richmond Garrett returns to Eclipse Station’s infirmary, where he is greeted warmly by patients who remember his faith-healing rallies. The “real” Dr. Garrett isn’t too happy to see the snake-oil salesman, but he is distracted enough to allow ARTHERR and company to more closely examine Doyle’s body.

They find that the spewer of fire-and-brimstone speeches was eviscerated with a vibroknife and that he seemed to offer little resistance. Jasmine feels guilty, because she had saved Doyle from electrocution, only for him to be killed sometime later. The toxicology report mentions that he had taken stimulants.

The adventuring party briefly regroups at the Appomattox and informs Nero Bartholomew and Averki “Deep Dish” Dyashenko to expect more potential “Synth” (nonhuman engineered) crewmembers, including Delphine (“Uplifted” dolphin) astrogator Erta Garza and gynoids Tanya and Galia.

Gabriel learns of some of Doyle’s wealthy patrons, including transportation magnate Esteban Bakafret, industrial smuggler Adrian Valentin, and Louise Reinhagen, whose husband, an Oromax megacorp executive, was killed in the Hephaestus Stadium disaster near Venus.

At the murder scene, former spy Hector reviews gaps in the security recordings of a back corridor, and ARTHERR examines the blood-encrusted deck plating. The robot eventually deduces that Doyle was probably held down with electromagnetic or gravitic restraints.

Tiger-woman Jasmine, who is afraid that her fellow Synths are responsible for splaying the man’s intestines, is relieved not to smell any signs of them. She does, however, detect candles, a rare commodity on an enclosed station and an aspect of a ritual killing.

While searching Doyle’s quarters under the watchful eye of Lt. Al-Ghuj, Jasmine, Hector, and ARTHERR find a Bible whose marked verses could be used as an encryption key. They cross-reference it with various messages and shipping records.

Underworld courier Gabriel radios his companions about Doyle’s patrons and the Mukhdadi brothers, local provisioners. Gabriel talks with Amir Mukhtadi, who explains that Doyle used his popularity to get free transport and lodging around the outer Sol system.

Gabriel theorizes that Doyle might also have been working with local preacher and gambler Rev. Winston Jones because they both arrived to disrupt Richmond’s rally at the station chapel. Richmond talks separately with Faisal Batar, a stogie-smoking Chim (“Uplifted” chimpanzee) who hints that Canid (canine “Synth”) Melita Veturia has ordered cases of weapons for rebels on Mars.

Meanwhile, Hector and ARTHERR hack into Doyle’s correspondence and the Mukhtadi’s databases. They find that Valentin and Veturia ordered machine parts and generators that could have been used in the hatemonger’s murder. Bakafret and Reinhagen made an increasing number of calls to Doyle in the days before his death. Is blackmail behind the ritual slaying?

Hector contacts his onetime handler Max to check official records for similar crimes, while Gabriel tries to learn more about Valentin, still wondering who would want to smuggle Vatican relics to Epsilon Eridani. ARTHERR, posing as a mere drone, reluctantly disengages from the Mukhtadi computers.

Although Veturia is a suspect, Jasmine doesn’t think the Synth Liberation Front on Mars would have anything to gain from killing Doyle. Richmond goes with Hassan Mukhtadi to a secret firing range — on the outside of Eclipse Station!

As Saturn’s bright rings loom in front of them, the two men try various firearms. Richmond temporarily trades the blunderbuss he retrieved from the Dawn’s Retreat for military surplus gear, including a tripod-mounted rail gun, a grenade launcher, and a gyroc pistol. Hassan discovers that the blunderbuss fires an electromagnetic pulse resembling ball lightning.

Back at the Appomattox, Gabriel says he believes that Bakafret, Valentin, and Reinhagen are somehow responsible for Doyle’s death, even if their exact motives are still a mystery. ARTHERR concurs, adding that while the U.E.M. might have the means for a ritual murder, it has little motive for creating a martyr. Gambler Rev. Jones, who is known to resent any intrusion by other clergy, didn’t have the necessary generators.

Jasmine acknowledges that Veturia had the equipment and may have disliked Doyle’s statements that “God gave man dominion over all creatures,” but neither she nor any potential followers was at the scene. ARTHERR points out that a robot or remote-controlled device could still have committed the crime.

Other than getting into the good graces of Archbishop Fuentes, Richmond doesn’t care about solving the murder. Hector transmits the party’s findings to the U.E.M., and ARTHERR and Richmond say they’re ready to deliver the Vatican art to unknown recipients at Epsilon Eridani.

Gabriel still plans to rob the Lucky Garden Casino, but Jasmine disapproves. Hector observes that some authorities can connect their crew with the plague on Venus, stolen starship engines, and now the faith healing near Saturn. While waiting for prospective “Synth” crewmembers to come aboard, the gang debates its next moves….

Note that I won’t be running any games on Sept. 25 and 26. Since Beruk and Brian can’t make certain dates, I’ll need to hear back from the rest of you before determining which “Vortexteam will meet on which Monday nights in October. Jason, let us know your one-shot plans. The Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Lands” fantasy telecom group hopes to resume on Oct. 9. Stay in touch, -Gene

“Vortex” Update 5b.19 — On a mission from God?

Fictional Starfleet chaplains' logo
Infinite diversity in infinite combinations

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5b.19 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 2 met on Monday, 29 August 2011, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, Diaspora, and Limitless Horizons.

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but ecological degradation and internecine conflicts persist. Open and official First Contact with Galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Will heroes rise to the challenges?

After encountering robotic probes, regional warlords, and other horrors in an old battlefield and the Ghanki undersea station, a band of grifters and near-humans escaped to the Shepard 2 orbital city. It conducted a successful heist in the Lunar Free State and was involved in medical disasters in the Venusian colonies before returning to Earth to steal a faster-than-light drive…..

>>FATE 3e “Vortex” Team 2 (5b), crew of the “Appomattox:”

-“ARTHERR” [Greg D.C.]-Advanced Resonance Theoretical Heuristic Exploration and Research Robot created by megacorp Vimeco

-“Jasmine” [Sara F.] female Martian Felinoid (Synth, “Uplifted” tiger), former professional pit fighter

-“Mr. Richmond Garrett” [Dave S.C.]-male Southern American Terran human, space snake-oil salesman and social climber

-“Gabriel Adams” [Paul J./absent]-male North American Terran near-human with telepathy, courier and pilot

-“Hector Chavez” [Beruk A./absent]-male Latin American Terran human, “burned” operative and communications expert

-“Dr. Dieter Klein” [Rich L./absent]-male European Terran human, semi-retired physician, altruist and thrill seeker

-“Nero Bartholomew” [Non-Player Character]-male Terran human, former owner of the “Fortune’s Fool,” ship’s cook

-“Averki ‘Deep Dish’ Dyashenko” [N.P.C.]-male reptilian Synth (genetically engineered humanoid), onetime Venusian miner

>>”8 to 10 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” Sometime after delivering the Dawn’s Retreat to the United Earth Authority, the crew of the Appomattox arrived at Saturn’s moon Titan. At the Eclipse Station infirmary, Mr. Richmond Garrett had posed as a faith healer with help from ARTHERR, who had tapped a medical database. They and Jasmine then conducted an impromptu rally at the local chapel.

Still in beta, ARTHERR scans the crowd for marks, such as people with mild or terminal illnesses not treatable by the infirmary. Jasmine, who had asked Delphine (“Uplifted” dolphin) astrogator Erta Garza to join her crew, tries to suppress her disapproval of Richmond’s latest scam.

Despite his ignorance of theology, Mr. Garrett eagerly lays hands on Marcus Schlager, a hunched miner unable to receive lung transplants. The space snake-oil salesman also convinces Camille Dubois, a well-preserved madam from the orbital casino, that her bad luck in needing organ replacements can be reversed if she gets boyfriend Howard to commit to holy matrimony.

Meanwhile, Capt. Gabriel Adams talks with gynoids Tanya and Galia in an attempt to get them to join the Appomattox crew and plan a heist of the Lucky Garden Casino. Hector Chavez monitors communications from the yacht and reminds his companions of their appointment at the United Ecumenical Movement (U.E.M.) offices in New Quebec.

Gabriel and Hector still don’t trust the cargo that Richmond accepted from fixer Ramon Sanchez [Josh H./Greg/Non-Player Character]. The Appomattox is supposed to take items from the Vatican Museums to an unknown recipient in the Epsilon Eridani system. (Several parsecs from there, the Blackbird escapes an ambush at Cetus Eridani.)

Mr. Garrett — not to be confused any longer with Dr. Garrett — uses the placebo effect to “cure” hypochondriac Halil Torralua, who promptly disrobes before the crowd in a new bid for attention. The spiritual revival meeting begins to break up as the sheriff and people in dark suits arrive.

One of the newcomers angrily quotes scripture and says that the false prophets will be punished. A canine Synth (genetically engineered humanoid) readily agrees, even as Jasmine tries to engage the angry man in conversation. Richmond slips into the crowd to get away from the constabulary and protesters.

ARTHERR finds some construction debris and shoots out a light fixture, but mighty Jasmine saves the zealot by shoving him out of the way. Capt. Garzan Cisneros and Lt. Yasmin Al-Ghuj order the crowd to disperse, as Rev. Winston Jones arrives from the casino and closes the chapel doors.

Hugh Doyle thanks Jasmine for saving him from possible electrocution, and he invites her to join a Brotherhood of Illumination protest against the U.E.M. presence in New Quebec. Richmond and company later regroup at their ship.

Hector pilots the Appomattox from Eclipse Station to Titan‘s methane-shrouded surface. ARTHERR does some research on Archbishop Javier Fuentes and learns that the Roman Catholic chaplain served alongside U.E.A. troops during the Second Interplanetary War. The robot explains to Jasmine that it occurred about 30 (Terran) years ago between megacorporations and Martian colonists, including Synths.

Richmond dons the captain’s coat with brass buttons, gold braid, and epaulets that he took from the Dawn’s Retreat and orders crewmen Nero Bartholomew and Averki “Deep Dish” Dyashenko to clean his cabin.

Still unsure why the U.E.M. has reassigned so many personnel to the Sol system’s outer colonies, ARTHERR, Jasmine, and Richmond find its outpost in domed New Quebec. Acolytes explain that monks will conduct a thorough brain probe, and Mr. Garrett balks.

As an alternative, Sister Indrani Bhai introduces the visitors to Mother Superior Magdelena de la Cruz. The matronly cleric offers Richmond a rare mint julep, which he later realizes was poisoned with some relaxant. ARTHERR, sensing that something is amiss, vacuums and emits a high-pitched sound as distractions.

The Southern gentleman parries most of the nun’s questions about his stint as surgeon general of the Venusian colonies during a plague and the disaster at Kardikea Stadium. With help from his droid and Tiger-woman friends, Richmond manages to convince Mother Superior de la Cruz of his improving morals with circumstantial evidence.

The trio then goes to the wood-paneled office of Archbishop Fuentes. The Jesuit-trained eminence remains skeptical of Richmond’s newfound piety, but he asks the Appomattox crew to volunteer to aid the outer colonies anyway.

Jasmine asks about the U.E.M.’s stance on Synths, and the priest replies that after the Second Interplanetary War and First Contact with aliens, the church has accepted that nonhumans may have souls and are free to worship as they see fit. He also apologizes for Shifu Nurdin Subaja’s previous insensitivity.

ARTHERR notices items in the room, such as silver crucifixes, a marble baptismal font full of holy water, worn space armor, a jar of salt from the Sea of Galilee, linen shrouds, and a leather-bound copy of the Malleus Maleficarum. He compares them against the ship’s manifest but finds no matches.

Richmond expresses interest in the artifacts, and Archbishop Fuentes explains that some people find foci of worship helpful, while others meditate in different ways. The soldier of God explains that, after the destruction of holy sites on Earth, religious leaders agreed to focus on their commonalities (and humanity’s nascent psionic abilities, notes Gabriel remotely). However, as Rev. Jones and Mr. Doyle demonstrate, not everyone wants to be under “the big tent,” he says.

ARTHERR is confused because his theory that the U.E.M. wants the cargo planted far from Earth to convert more Terrans and aliens isn’t supported by the archbishop’s statements. Jasmine records images for Hector, and Richmond recalls some of the horrors encountered near Karachi.

Sister Indrani interrupts with news from Eclipse Station: Hugh Doyle has been found murdered, his intestines splayed out in a pentagram. The archbishop expresses regret, because even though the preacher was no friend to the U.E.M., anyone who would harm him or try to create a martyr doesn’t serve the divine will. Fuentes asks the Appomattox away team to return to the station to investigate…

Paul and Beruk, we missed you at this week’s game! Please let me know when either of you will be available for upcoming sessions of “Vortex” or the Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Landstelecom fantasy group. In the meantime, “Vortex” Team 1 is scheduled to meet next on Monday, 12 September 2011, followed by Team 2 on Sept. 19. Have a good Labor Day weekend! -Gene

“Vortex” Update 5b.18 — Miracles on Titan

Interior of Starwind-class pleasure yacht
The "Appomattox"

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5b.18 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 2 met on Monday, 15 August 2011, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, Diaspora, and Limitless Horizons.

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but ecological degradation and internecine conflicts persist. Open and official First Contact with Galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Will heroes rise to the challenges?

After encountering robotic probes, regional warlords, and other horrors in an old battlefield and the Ghanki undersea station, a band of grifters and near-humans escaped to the Shepard 2 orbital city. It conducted a successful heist in the Lunar Free State and was involved in medical disasters in the Venusian colonies before returning to Earth to steal a faster-than-light drive…..

>>FATE 3e “Vortex” Team 2 (5b), crew of the “Appomattox:”

-“Gabriel Adams” [Paul J.]-male North American Terran near-human with telepathy, courier and pilot

-“ARTHERR” [Greg D.C.]-Advanced Resonance Theoretical Heuristic Exploration and Research Robot created by megacorp Vimeco

-“Jasmine” [Sara F.] female Martian Felinoid (Synth, “Uplifted” tiger), former professional pit fighter

-“Dr. Richmond Garrett” [Dave S.C.]-male Southern American Terran human, space snake-oil salesman and social climber

-“Hector Chavez” [Beruk A./absent]-male Latin American Terran human, “burned” operative and communications expert

-“Dr. Dieter Klein” [Rich L./absent]-male European Terran human, semi-retired physician, altruist and thrill seeker

-“Nero Bartholomew” [Non-Player Character]-male Terran human, former owner of the “Fortune’s Fool,” ship’s cook

-“Averki ‘Deep Dish’ Dyashenko” [N.P.C.]-male reptilian Synth (genetically engineered humanoid), onetime Venusian miner

>>”4 to 7 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” After delivering the Dawn’s Retreat, a vessel believed to be from an alternate universe, to the United Earth Authority, the crew of the Appomattox discusses its next moves while in Earth orbit.

Capt. Gabriel Adams says he wants to learn more about why “fixer” Ramon Sanchez [Josh H./Greg/N.P.C.] arranged for art from the Vatican Museum to be smuggled to Epsilon Eridani. ARTHERR estimates that it will take a few weeks for other Terrans to use the plans for faster-than-light drives stolen from the Ru’ulok (reptilian heavy-gravity aliens), about the same amount of time it would take for the Appomattox to go to Epsilon Eridani.

The robot adds that a proper home should be found for the artifacts, “for the good of all mankind!” Hector Chavez is also suspicious of Sanchez and notes that SRE (Systemes de Recuperation Executif) repossession agents are still looking for the ship in near-Earth space.

Jasmine tells Averki “Deep Dish” Dyashenko that she’s tired of sneaking around and stealing things, but Dr. Richmond Garrett is determined to fulfill his mission for Sanchez, or at least find a higher bid for the relics. ARTHERR notes that Gordon Wong, a rogue artificial intelligence with the Xox Memes, had observed that the United Ecumenical Movement recently reassigned numerous chaplains to the outer Sol system. Perhaps one of them could help, he suggests.

Gabriel has heard that the U.E.M. is looking for humans with psychic abilities. The underworld courier sets a course for Titan, a colonized moon of Saturn. ARTHERR and Hector examine grenades and install missiles stolen from the Star Shark. Jasmine looks forward to finding fellow “Synths” (genetically engineered beings) in the outer colonies.

With ARTHERR’s help, Richmond orders a ministry to become “the revered Dr. Garrett,” despite his complete ignorance of religion. He orders chef Nero Bartholomew to burn an image of the Virgin Mary on some bread, so that he can “find Cheebus” on “miracle toast.” The grifters vacuum-seal the sandwich and put it on a silver platter.

Capt. Adams passes Europa near Jupiter and docks the Appomattox at Eclipse Station in orbit around Titan, which is itself in orbit around Saturn. (The Blackbird visited the orbital habitat just a few weeks earlier.) ARTHERR contacts the U.E.M., which sends two people to inspect the supposed miracle.

At the Ringtown Diner, Jasmine and Dr. Garrett are happy to order real meat with their meals. ARTHERR flirts with the robotic waitress, and Gabriel leaves for the Lucky Garden Casino. Yellow-robed Shifu Nurdin Subaja and space armored Sister Indrani Bhai soon join them.

Shifu Nurdin interrogates Richmond and yarmulke-wearing ARTHERR. Sister Indrani takes an interest in Jasmine, who resembles a Rakshasa. When Nurdin makes an offhandedly disparaging remark about Synths to Richmond, Jasmine angrily douses the cleric with her milkshake and storms out. Indrani follows her into the crowded corridors and invites her and all sentient beings to join her faith.

Meanwhile, at the Lucky Garden Casino, Gabriel is accosted by the attractive Tanya and Galia. He wins a few hands at poker and inquires about local high rollers such as Rev. Winston Jones. Once the telepath realizes that the women are in fact free-willed androids, Gabriel is initially put off but invites them to join the Appomattox‘s crew.

Humbled, Shifu Nurdin listens to Dr. Garrett confess how the toast helped him turn from his sinful ways. In return for the platter, he reluctantly agrees to help the onetime snake-oil salesman obtain an audience with Archbishop Javier Fuentes in New Quebec on Titan‘s surface.

To build his reputation as a holy man, Richmond goes with ARTHERR to the infirmary, where they talk to the beings waiting for appointments. They conduct triage, identifying elderly patients with more money than hope of successful treatment. However, Dr. Martha Curtis soon asks for Dr. Garrett’s help with an urgent head injury!

Jasmine goes to the casino, where she chats with “Uplifted” Chim Faisal and Delphine astrogator Erta Garza. The bioengineered bonobo flirts unsuccessfully with the Tiger Woman wrestler, and Gabriel tells Jasmine to invite Erta to join the crew as backup to Richmond and Deep Dish.

At the infirmary, Dr. Garrett scrubs in and enters the operating theater, with ARTHERR posing as his remote-controlled medical assistant. The droid downloads medical data and conducts surgery, relaying instructions for Richmond to “order” him and Dr. Curtis to execute. After several tense moments, the physicians and fakes manage to save the patient, even as the real Dr. Garrett arrives!

Richmond pretends to faint and later explains that he was “moved by the divine” to assist Dr. Curtis, even without any true expertise. ARTHERR broadcasts the successful surgery through local news media, turning the colonists in the waiting room and student observers into witnesses to Richmond’s “miracle.” The actual Dr. Garrett, who is aware of the former Venusian surgeon general, begrudgingly escorts Richmond from the infirmary to the disused station chapel.

At an impromptu faith-healing rally, Sr. Indrani tells ARTHERR that the performance in the infirmary has moved Richmond up in the queue of appointments with the archbishop. He will receive them at the U.E.M.’s offices in New Quebec. The crew of the Appomattox resolves not to reveal that it has the Vatican art but to inquire discreetly about the church’s shift in personnel to the outer colonies, security breaches, and possible destinations for the precious cargo (such as Epsilon Eridani).

Gabriel begins planning a casino heist, hoping to use Jasmine and her fellow Synths, while Hector monitors communications surrounding Richmond’s revived reputation. The team prepares for its audience with the archbishop…

After our July hiatus because of travel, it was good to see everyone in Team 2! We’ll have a few more scheduling interruptions in the next few months, but I’m also looking forward to continuing the adventures in the Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Landstelecom game and “Vortex” Team 1! Be seeing you, -Gene

“Vortex” Update 5b.17 — the “Dawn’s Retreat”

Steampunk space vessel
Steampunk battleship

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5b.17 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 2 met on Monday, 27 June 2011, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Diaspora, and Limitless Horizons.

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but ecological degradation and internecine conflicts persist. Open and official First Contact with Galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Will heroes rise to the challenges?

After encountering robotic probes, regional warlords, and other horrors in an old battlefield and the Ghanki undersea station, a band of grifters and near-humans escaped to the Shepard 2 orbital city. It conducted a successful heist in the Lunar Free State and was involved in medical disasters in the Venusian colonies before returning to Earth to steal a faster-than-light drive…..

>>FATE 3e “Vortex” Team 2 (5b), crew of the “Appomattox:”

-“Hector Chavez” [Beruk A.]-male Latin American Terran human, “burned” operative and communications expert

-“ARTHERR” [Greg D.C.]-Advanced Resonance Theoretical Heuristic Exploration and Research Robot created by megacorp Vimeco

-“Jasmine” [Sara F.] female Martian Felinoid (Synth, “Uplifted” tiger), former professional pit fighter

-“Dr. Richmond Garrett” [Dave S.C.]-male Southern American Terran human, space snake-oil salesman and social climber

-“Gabriel Adams” [Paul J./absent]-male North American Terran near-human with telepathy, courier and pilot

-“Dr. Dieter Klein” [Rich L./absent]-male European Terran human, semi-retired physician, altruist and thrill seeker

-“Nero Bartholomew” [Non-Player Character]-male Terran human, former owner of the “Fortune’s Fool,” ship’s cook

-“Averki ‘Deep Dish’ Dyashenko” [N.P.C.]-male reptilian Synth (genetically engineered humanoid), onetime Venusian miner

>>”1 to 3 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” After stealing a Ru’ulok (heavy-gravity reptilian alien) Transit drive from the Star Shark, the crew of the Appomattox went to the edge of the Sol system, where it found a derelict warship. The Dawn’s Retreat was apparently of Terran design, but it contained strange controls and a telepathic entity in its reactor.

Gabriel translates for his companions before the being, who thinks she’s human, establishes psionic contact directly with the away team. She identifies herself as “Dawn,” a soldier and the ship’s “prime motivator.” Dawn again asks the interlopers if they can help her get home to Earth, which they confirm is relatively close.

Hector and ARTHERR eventually find power couplings and open them, restoring power. Although it takes her a while to understand that she’s disembodied, Dawn is then able to accompany individual crew members as they explore her vessel.

The derelict’s gauges, levers, and hatches resemble those of a Terran submarine from the 19th or early 20th century, but it has artificial gravity and life support at least the equal of the Appomattox, which has alien components.

Jasmine goes to the crew quarters, which are empty, except for unused space suits. The Dawn’s Retreat also still has all of its escape pods, so the boarders and Dawn are unsure of where the crew went. She recalls a scouting mission into space held by “the Alliance,” supposedly the enemy of her empire.

Dr. Garrett finds ornate uniforms and a large bed with wrought-iron posts in the captain’s cabin. He tries on a wool greatcoat and admires himself in the mirror until Hector comes to find the ship’s log, a nautical-style paper book.

Gabriel returns to the Appomattox to maneuver and look out for other salvage crews. ARTHERR goes to engineering and drills a hole in the floor for a core sample. Beneath a steel veneer is a spongy semi-organic material containing carbon nanofibers. Later testing reveals that it can act as an insulator or conduct energy, alter its gravitic profile, and regenerate!

In addition, Dawn expresses surprise and pain while chatting with Jasmine. She is unable to communicate with the robot, even though the Synth wrestler explains that she, too, is an artificial sentience.

Richmond claims a blunderbuss and an exotic-looking sword from the “prime stargazer’s” cabin, and the snake-oil salesman orders Nero Bartholomew and Averki “Deep Dish” Dyashenko to help bring the four-poster bed to the Appomattox. Dawn objects but is ignored.

Hector makes recordings with his handheld device, relaying images to ARTHERR and Capt. Adams for translation from Esperanto. Apparently, each handwritten entry of the ship’s log begins routinely before reverting to placeholder text. The “chirurgeon’s” bay has a similar medical log.

On the bridge, Hector asks Dawn about the dates of her travel. She says that she left Earth on “5724” and that the current year is reckoned as “5955,” leading ARTHERR to conclude that the living ship somehow traveled through time or from a parallel dimension!

ARTHERR studies an orrery on the bridge and finds that Sol is not at its center. After correcting his calculations, the probe droid learns that Dawn’s destination was LP 656-38 (also known as LHS 1723 or Gliese J3323), a variable red dwarf star about 17 light-years from Earth, beyond Epsilon Eridani.

Dawn explains that her ship picked up some scouts to return to the “world city,” established by Sulla many centuries ago (in her time). In the galley, Jasmine and company find tins of potted meat, but she declines tasting them. ARTHERR tests the food and ambient dust and finds that they are made of similar semi-organic secretions. He theorizes that the ship generates a crew that it then disposes of.

Former spy Hector checks the scouts’ bunks and armory and finds more antique-style clothing, firearms, and journals. By waiting for a log entry, the group sees ink appear on a page, probably generated by the crewless ship. Gabriel notes that while the Dawn’s Retreat has been near the Sol system for months (of Terran time), it hasn’t been disturbed until now.

ARTHERR’s radiocarbon dating from the core samples and reactor indicates that the derelict is subjectively 300 years old, but even with time dilation, for it to have returned from LP 636-38, it would have had to have left Earth long before humans had developed space flight.

Jasmine examines the cannons of the Dawn’s Retreat, which are simple chemically propelled projectiles. ARTHERR is surprised when Dawn recognizes the name of the “Harbinger of the Order of Submission,” a dangerous alien probe encountered in an old battlefield north of Karachi. She says that in addition to avoiding hostile “Martians,” her orders were to not engage the Harbinger in combat.

Dr. Garrett looks for more items of potential value, and Hector and ARTHERR learn that the Dawn’s Retreat was aided in interstellar travel by “jump gates,” which propelled it like a blown bubble. This is also different from conventional faster-than-light Transit that Terrans have only recently acquired.

Pilot Gabriel takes the Appomattox to the location where the ship would have returned to normal space but finds no gravitational anomalies. Jasmine assures Dawn that no harm will come to her and that she should help the United Earth Authority (U.E.A.).

The crew reconvenes aboard the Appomattox to debate what to do next. Gabriel and Hector don’t trust “Ramon Sanchez” [Josh H./Greg/Non-Player Character], a Lisbon-based fixer who arranged for Richmond to smuggle Vatican relics to Epsilon Eridani, about 11 light-years from Earth.

ARTHERR and Jasmine first want to bring Dawn and her displaced derelict to the proper authorities. If the ship is of alien origin, its creators are unknown. Richmond would prefer to auction them off to the highest bidder, but he is outvoted.

Gabriel extends the Appomattox‘s grapple to the Dawn’s Retreat, and ARTHERR asks that the ship’s effective mass be negated once they’ve disembarked. Hector monitors communications, and Jasmine tries to explain to Dawn that even though she’s not returning to her own world, she’ll be home. The two ships return to near-Earth space.

Dr. Garret covertly contacts Gorvek Beezo, a Ru’ulok trader, who gives the grifter the name of guild member Talak Avex in return for the coordinates of the Dawn’s Retreat. Meanwhile, Hector recounts his adventures to onetime handler Max, while ARTHERR calls Adm. Wei Sihong, to whom he had given several dangerous samples in the past.

The Vimeco robot tells the space navy officer about Dawn and says that she could help the U.E.A. counter the Harbinger, which it is still trying to study. Adm. Wei agrees, and he dispatches the U.E.V. Ajax to rendezvous with the Appomattox.

Tiger-woman Jasmine sends messages to her lover, Darsil, and the Synth United Front on Mars. Dawn bids farewell to her new acquaintances. The Dawn’s Retreat follows the Ajax toward Earth. Hector later learns that Ru’ulok pirates aboard the Star Shark attacked but were defeated by the U.E.A. cruiser. Capt. Droata escaped, swearing vengeance for her second humiliation at the hands of humans.

ARTHERR and Hector keep their samples for later analysis. While its crew still debates, the Appomattox sets a course for Epsilon Eridani….

Paul and Rich, we missed you at the last regular FATE 3e “Vortex” session before our summer hiatus! The Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Lands” telecom fantasy group is also taking a break. In the meantime, stay in touch on the Yahoo message board, and I hope to see some of you at movies or other gatherings before our next game! -Gene