Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Book 2: Wonder; Chapter 1: Highs and Lows

And so begins the second book of their adventures, cunningly placed at the end of the semester!

After all the excitement with the murder, the Captain decided to hand over command to Commander Grains, and entered cryo. No one seemed to be terribly upset. With the prisoners also in cryo, the Commander made the executive decision to thaw another officer: Kiri Haeri, a survival expert. Hopefully, her expertise will keep the away missions a little safer. The android, meanwhile, bought himself a few upgrades, including a size increase, and Frosty purchased a repair droid to help him out.

Meanwhile, the main goal was still to find the location of that signal. After another day or two in jumpspace, the crew found the planet of origin, and went into orbit. Scans revealed it to be full of life, with habitable oceans and landmasses, breathable air, and Earth-like gravity. The four other planets in the system are all rocky, Earth-sized planets, but barren. They seem to have great mineral deposits, however, which could be valuable.

While the crew were scanning for a source of the signal, there was a tremendous sound - a horrible screech, driven by radio waves so powerful that metal objects spark! Lights flicker, power surges and fades, and alarms go off all over the ship! Gus the Android was knocked offline, and the engineer was knocked unconscious (those cybernetics can be dangerous!). NOA made it, but only barely; he warns that the ship's orbit is beginning to decay! Whether they like it or not, the ship is going to land on that planet... or maybe in it.

The Crash

Unfortunately, with Frosty the engineer unconscious, precious seconds tick by; the ship freefalls for a round before he came to, but he quickly got to work, restoring power. The pilot, Tina Fey, easily managed to correct course to enter the atmosphere without burning up, though the delay caused its own problems - the thrusters were malfunctioning. The Frosty continued his repairs, managing to correct that problem, as Tina located a suitable landing spot and began to slow the decent - though not as successfully as she might have liked. Frosty didn't have time to repair the life support before the ship came in for a none-too-soft landing...

Due to good rolling and great skills, the crew managed to escape with 40 arbitrary-damage-points, which resulted in moderate damage and injury, but no casualties. Except one. The only crew to be injured was Kiri, with a single wound. The rest of the crew and passengers suffered a total of 18 minor and major injuries, spread evenly between the two.

However, the damage to the ship was extensive, and worse, something was draining the power! The acting captain ordered a full inspection of the ship; Frosty found he could not overcome the energy drain, while Tina found a problem... a bear-sized tiger ape had escaped from the science lab cryo, and was loose on the ship! Worse, she found the Captain had gone to pieces... literally. A medical kit on the wall had come loose during the crash and smashed through his cryo pod, leaving him very much dead.

Julian, his mind on security, headed for the jeep to do some recon, and located the likely exit path of the beast. He and Kiri tracked it to the jungle.


Meanwhile, K'Aps (whose player is graduating, and thus, sadly, leaving) decided this was prime time to pull off his primary mission: killing Frosty Flame. As people are helped out of the ship, and supplies are quickly gathered and removed, he goes on the hunt... with the stealthy training of his people, he stabs Frosty in the back, then shoots him full of holes. If not for some lucky vigor rolls, Frosty would have died then and there; as it was, he was bleeding out. He managed to drag himself away as his newly-purchased repair droid leaped to his defense. Frosty was dropped again as he climbed the stairs, losing an arm this time, but again his auto-doc and high rolls kept him alive. The repair droid tried to grapple with K'Aps, but was unsuccessful; K'Aps, on the other hand, managed to shove it to the ground and climb the stairs after Frosty, just as Kiri wandered into engineering. She chased K'Aps, both arriving just as Frosty managed to close a bulkhead door. K'Aps brushed her off. With nothing incriminating at hand (she missed the arm, and I missed a good opportunity for a pun), she left in search of something more survival-y to do. Frosty, running out of options, took the elevator to the second floor, then headed for the exterior stairs, K'Aps hot on his heels on the emergency ladder by the elevator. Finally, Frosty's luck ran out. Heavily damaged and missing an arm, the climb down was too much - he fell to the ground below, unconscious. K'Aps took aim at the prone target and put several more holes into him... Frosty was dead. Gus the Android, hearing the fight, arrived just in time to see K'Aps assassinate the bug; K'Aps immediately surrendered, and the android took him into custody.

The Jungle

That adventure complete, Julian, Tina, the Android, and Kiri went exploring. While the ship had come to rest in a wide grassland, there was a nearby jungle; inside, Kiri tracked the tiger ape down... they found it dead, ripped apart. It wasn't a pretty sight. They headed back to camp. Tina helped start a fire by shooting a branch with her laser; the android also tried to help by rubbing two sticks together. He was... unsuccessful. That evening, no one but Tina and the android slept well (though the Android was technically just charging). In the morning, acting-captain Grainer sent them on a mission to find the location of the energy drain and disable it. They also discovered something ate some of the food, but seemed unworried. NPCs can take care of themselves, right?

The group noticed something odd about the area. Julian could hear a machine-like hum, but for all his searching, couldn't find where it was coming from. Tina realized the landscape seemed artificial somehow, like a video game map; terrain just didn't line up the way it should. The android felt at home, somehow, as if the area were a well-oiled machine. Kiri, finally, felt that the jungle wasn't following the right patterns; the plants and animals somehow weren't behaving as jungle life should. Belongings in hand, they headed out to explore.

The first native life they encountered was a small group of black butterflies, flitting prettily over the corpse of the tiger-ape they discovered earlier. They decided to stay away - a wise decision. Tina, however, picked a black flower, wrapping it in her blanket. Lucky for her, she didn't end up poisoned... the various black creatures in this forest are nasty indeed.

Soon, they ran into a pod of black crustaceans, eight nasty beasties with thick shells and huge claws. Had they ran into them on foot, it may have gone much differently, but at it was, they were in the jeep. Between their lasers and the jeep's heavy machine guns, they made short work of the creatures, though not before the black crabs knocked a few holes in the jeep!

The Colorful Tribe

Still exploring, they came across an odd sight - civilization! Or something like it, anyway. A village of strange, colorful creatures; they have four eyes in a line across their face, and four arms and legs arranged in a box-like shape. Their hair was a technicolor mop, and their skin color varied to all colors of the rainbow. After a bit of discussion, the team entered the village through the only way in - a flat bridge across a wide stream. Luckily, Frosty had purchased everyone learning translators, and after a bit of discussion, the group managed to attain at least conversational grasp of what the creatures were saying. They asked about the jungle; the creatures made it clear that black = bad. Any plants or animals colored black tended to be poisonous and/or venomous meat-eaters, with infravision or another form of blind-sight. They offered the group to stay; Julian was cautious, but the rest were glad of a safe place to sleep. Kiri tried the food wholeheartedly, and Tina tested it a bit, but Julian was having none of it. And then came the festivities... the chief, a burly fellow, tossed a beautiful multi-colored log onto the fire. The fumes were... intoxicating. Julian, having removed himself from the party, stayed back. The android, of course, was immune, but the two women... not so much. Tina merely felt ill, and after emptying her stomach (taste the rainbow... again), found an empty hut and went to bed. Kiri, though, managed a perfect storm of random rolls. Oh, the sorts of rolls we GMs dream of...

When Julian went looking for her, he found her in a well-decorated tent, sleeping soundly next to one of the tribesmen, and wearing... well, the closest she could come to a wedding veil. Awakened, she groggily recalled the events of the night before... dancing... eating... and proposing to one of the tribesmen, a fellow named Qunah, using a large grape-like fruit as an engagement ring, telling him she wanted to share a custom of her people with him. Thankfully, she fell asleep before... well, anything else. As she hurriedly dressed to leave, the tribesman took her hands and looked deep in her eyes. "Here, too, we have a custom, like yours... after we get wasted, we like to go sleep it off, too! How similar our cultures!"

Yeah. Remember, folks, what happens in the colorful tribe, stays in the colorful tribe!

Tune in next time for the next exciting chapter of Shifting Horizon!

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