Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Getting the Hell Out of Dodge

 After some discussion, they crew decided on gathering all the systems together at the Cube; even if they don't have everything figured out, there is at least safety in numbers. The first order of business was the colonies at hand - they first visited the Felzerzet Enclave, and after rudely interrupting the meeting, showing the video of Rodney murdering cultists and police officers, and leaving some burns on the carpet from Reggie/Gaius' energy whips, managed to convince them that indeed, the threat was real, and that their ship was the best way out.

The Enclave agreed, and began disassembling their mushroom vats and packing up their chickens; hearing that, Mortalis Rex swarmed the SunSport, seeking safe passage. Realizing it would take days for the area to be cleared, Elise stuck around to help the Fairy Princess install a new JumpDrive - or rather, the old drive from the SunSport - Rodney stayed behind to help out where he could, and the rest moved on to Tunatchi Base.

Once the various factions have gathered their stuff and their people, the SunSport will be just above half capacity - 500,000 men, women, and children. As well as a few robots.

Meanwhile, at Tunachi base, the crew was bombarded with messages from several groups claiming to be the "true rulers" of the moon base - the Water Conservators, the Fungus Farm Regency, the Mechanics Alliance, the Republic of Health, the Miners Guild, and the single member of the Taxi Liberation Army. The Mechanics Alliance, occupying the engineering and docking bay, welcomed them with open arms, inviting them to join them. They... didn't seem all there. They laughed at the idea of "healing" someone, saying it was old-fashioned, and explained normal bodily functions like sleeping or using the bathroom as if they were strange and foreign. Weirded out by the brash-and-bravado group, the crew moved on to the Republic of Health. Three (male) nurses, burly fellows in light blue scrubs, welcomed them, and asked if they could just scan their fingers to get the "process" started. Rodney, reliably, smashed the first scanner to pieces. The nurses were horrified, and after some back and forth, asked why he would destroy the only way for them to have babies. You know, new people? Rodney, and indeed everyone, was very confused. Finally, Elise agreed to act as a demonstration, and had her finger pricked by the machine. It whirred, clanked, gurgled, and opened to reveal... another Elise, dressed in a simple outfit. Rodney, overjoyed, demanded a turn. While his clone was decanting, the nurses tut-tutted about "lil Elise", and how "he had some strange growths" and didn't look like very good genetic stock. "lil Rodney", however, came out looking just fine. Elise realized that maybe... they had no idea what a woman actually was. Reggie tried the machine, and being an android coated in synthetic skin, only managed to create a blobby, soggy, disgusting mass, wrapped in a simple outfit. It slid out on the floor and immediately began to decompose. Horrified, the nurses suggested ending his genetic line right away - it was clearly used up!

Somewhat upset at being called genetically inferior, Reggie had Gaius lasso two of the nurses, and try to strangle them. The strangle didn't work so well, but they died nonetheless, leaving the third nurse to run screaming.

It was at that point that a fellow named Gerald popped his head out. Going a bit grey, but still looking rather more healthy than the people the group previously met, he offered some explanation of what in the world was going on. It seems that the cloning vats would be used by a group of clones to make more of themselves, then circle around, taking over each group's base - nearly dehydrated by the time they reached the water storage, starving when they reached the fungus farms, and much depleted when they made their way around to the hospital/cloning center again. Round and round, they fought and argued and slowly lost genetic diversity.

Gerald felt old, but knew he finally had purpose again - he was a single line of clones, stretching back 2000 years, watching his creation turn humans into disease-ridden slime. When Rodney smashed the cloning pod, he realized he didn't have to wait to let it fade from existence - and, having heard about the oncoming feral deader horde, was willing to reconfigure the machines to produce clones that would only last a day - an infinite supply of bodies, but ones that could never make it off the moon. Hopefully, that would slow down the deaders enough that it could buy time for others.

Also in the system was the Liberator - a huge battleship, stripped of guns, but still capable of sustaining life; there used to be two colonies aboard, but the human colony was destroyed by a sudden invasion of ferals, and the second colony, that of normal deaders, had to destroy them all. They pledged to help hold back the ferals wherever they were needed - and suggested the crew head back to their home base, New Life Point, for more information.

On the way back, the crew contacted the SunSport and sent it towards to Liberator, to get it fueled up and ready to go, then hopped on to New Life Point. They met with the four leaders, and were informed - without having asked - that the deaders were willing to lay down their lives to protect the humans. Taken aback, Reggie said they didn't really need to do that, that maybe they could be saved too, but the leaders refused. They had been given life by the humans; they fully intent to repay that debt.

The Elise and Rodney clones have the same Strength, Agility, Vigor the same; d4 Smarts, d6 Spirit

Disintegrator pistol: 3/6/9, 3d10, HW, RoF 1

Monday, November 29, 2021

No Way But Forward

Rocketown is a place where adrenaline runs high - as they arrived, they caught the tail end of a race, then watched another that ended with a ship slamming into an asteroid at just over 0.8 c - that is, 536 million miles per hour. There wasn't so much a crater as a brief, rapidly expanding cloud of energy and dust...

The suit, meanwhile, was more than just a suit. As Elise fixed it up, it came to life - it's name is Gaius, and it firmly believes their actions have doomed them all to destruction. Nonetheless, it is willing to work with them, if only to watch their failures up close.

On the largest asteroid, they managed to locate Green, a lovely young woman with striking green eyes and a fiery temperament. Reggie managed not to get himself shot, and Terminus managed not to get shot either, though both of them pushed the boundary a bit.

The information they received from Gray and Green was... not hopeful. Red's information on The Forgotten, Blue's knowledge of Inner Worlds politics, and Gray and Green's new information on the feral deaders come together to form one final result: with current technology, and current understanding, there is no way to fully stop the Deader threat.

Sometimes, a feral deader is formed - a mindless monster, seeking only to consume. When this happens, that deader is immediately taken to Pulsar X4139, where Blue was abandoned. There, the leftover bio-waste of generations and the horrible, life-threatening conditions are enough to slow down the ferals, and keep them contained. They have no way out. However... a feral deader seeks life, a host, and if that host cannot be found... the deader has the ability to send its nanite swarm through jumpspace.

Whatever started this wave of feral deader attacks has started a landslide, with a few tiny pebbles forming an avalanche, and there is no way to stop it - only get out of its way. And, at this point, continue running. Even leaving the galaxy won't be enough, as the nanites will eventually travel everywhere.

However, with their information pooled, the "color cabal" now have the information for their leader, Chrome...

The crew arrived at the Fairy Princess; the ship's avatar transformed herself, from a pretty young thing to a queen of elves, terrible and beautiful. She immediately called the crew to her chambers - which look a lot more warlike than ever before. She told Reggie that she is calling in her favor - save them. Every last human. She couldn't save the little girl put in her charge, but she will be damned if she won't save everyone else. Her messengers are at the disposal of the crew; her loyal subjects, all willing to lay down their lives to save even a handful. She believes the portal is the way to do it, but the information needs to be decoded, first - and collecting the people will take some time, too.

It's time to save the galaxy.

And I think to myself, what a wonderful liiiiiife!

 Arriving at Ouranos, the crew were immediately met by "Stacy", a card-carrying member of the "Vacation Resort Destination Consortium," who desperately wanted the crew to enjoy all-expense-paid tickets to exclusive entertainment features, after a short presentation of course. They passed, and instead began asking around town about Gray. Red stayed behind; Lins stuck with Rodney, and Blue headed off on her own. Silver stayed behind with Dr. Gunderson aboard the Sunsport, with the children. Elise's new robot, "Terminus", followed along to provide support.

The city itself was fully a resort destination - though the planet was incredibly toxic, the views were gorgeous, and the dome over the city kept the inhabitants safe. The crystal clear lakes (full of hydrochloric acid) and the cerulean skies (of unbreathable air, naturally) were offset by the copious crystal growths in the landscape. And, of course, the city inside the dome was beautiful as well - brightly lit, and filled with beautiful people (and robots), it was a paradise, as long as you didn't get too near the seedy edges.

Reggie headed to the gambling tables, where he was resoundingly fleeced. No one there had heard of Gray, but a few people suggested that if he was as fancy a gambler as they said, he might be at one of the more exclusive places.

Rodney, meanwhile, heard about this "Red Lady" and wanted to see if she were part of the "color club" too. Lins, trying to be supportive, took him to a burlesque show, which did not go over well. "This is the weirdest barbeque I've ever seen. None of these ladies can afford clothes, and there's no food!"

Hoping for better luck in sticking to colors, he then headed to the red light district, which did not go over well either. He ended up paying a club owner to "buy those poor ladies some more clothes!"

They met up with the rest of the group, who were headed to Casino Desure; they slipped in, though were forced to give up their equipment and weapons. Reggie managed to hide his pistol, and Nix smuggled in a couple sonic grenades, but the rest of their inventory was left behind. At first, they mingled with the high-ranking guests; Reggie accepted a beverage, and Nix was offered a robot-specific drink. Elise, too, drank some very fancy champagne. Lins warned the waiter away from Rodney, though. Of course, the drinks were spiked - both Elise and Nix managed to stave off the most immediate effects, thankfully. Reggie, being once again mistaken for human, had been given the wrong drink, and felt nothing.

They noted that there seemed to be a circle of people - thirteen groups of three, with one of the people in each group leaving and joining the next group every minute or so. After some more mingling, most of the guests left, leaving only their crew, and twelve other guests. Suddenly, the twelve remaining guests all suddenly dropped to the floor! The thirteen groups gathered together into three larger groups - one, a wall of people, roughly in the middle of the ball room; one, a tight knot, beginning to chant, in the direct center of the ball room; and one, a looser knot, a little ways behind the others. The door was suddenly closed, and a new arrival stepped out - a man in a full suit of battle armor. while the two knots of people chanted, the third group drew weapons - knives, tasers, and sparking energy whips.

The group split, charging for each individual. Reggie was the furthest into the ballroom, roughly halfway around the room from the entry doors; Nix was next, then Elise, and finally Rodney and Lins, about a quarter of the way around the room. Rodney started swinging fists before the first attackers got to him, and managed to land a good, solid blow on one, knocking him out! He dodged their attacks, hoping to buy Lins time to do her magic lightning thing, but she suddenly clutched her head in pain.

Elise started swinging arms, and managed to connect a good few blows, but took a hit herself - those energy whips seemed to do a bit more damage to those who were poisoned!

Nix, meanwhile, managed to avoid getting hit, and quickly went up-and-over, heading towards the big guy in power armor. He threw a sonic grenade, and... rolled terribly on damage. Sacrificing a black chip, he purchased an edge - No Mercy - and rerolled his damage... poorly again.

Reggie, however, met his attackers head-on. The first slashed at him, and he dodged with ease; the second dove for him, but he rolled across the man's back, pulling his hidden gun and firing a shot at the man in power armor! The shot glanced off the armor, but got the man's attention. He raised his hands, and electricity crackled from his fingertips. In a calm monotone, he said, "You cannot succeed. Even if you were to stop us, you would fail."

Rodney, meanwhile, grabbed the knife from the cultist - I'm just going to call them cultists, if that's all right with you - and started ending lives. He protected Lins, helping her get closer to the door where their equipment was.

Elise was pinned down, and took a taser to the face; the ones attacking Nix turned and attacked her as well. Reggie kept up his attack, managing to squirm out of the grasp of the cultists, and headed towards a toe-to-toe with the boss. Nix dropped his other sonic grenade, but only managed to shake the boss. Frustrated, and starting to get hit, he backed off.

The fight came down to two groups - Elise, Reggie, and Nix, trying to battle through and land some hits on the boss, all while surrounded by quite a few cultists, and Rodney and Lins, battling the few that dared approach the man in white jeans and a t-shirt.

Soon, Rodney downed five of the cultists, while Elise managed to knock out three. Reggie took one down, and with Nix, managed to tie them up enough that Rodney could bash open the door, dash in, and grab his hammers. Nix flew in after him, with Elise not far behind; dashing back out again, Rodney bolted for the big group of chanting cultists, managed to shoulder-check his way into the middle of them, then with a double-handed swing, crushed the lot of them in a shower of blood.

Reggie had been left going toe-to-toe with the big bad, and if there's one thing robots don't handle well, it's electrical attacks. Not only did he take a solid taser to the back, but the big guy wasn't backing down. When the other cultists were killed, the last group finished whatever charging routine they were going for, and dashed out towards them, waving energy swords and shields! Reggie took a sword to the guts, and dropped. If he were human, that would have been the end of his story, but his ability to ignore wound modifiers saved the day, and he barely pulled through.

Terminus, meanwhile, drew a bead on the boss and pulled the trigger; the slight wounds sustained earlier were enough that the massive sniper bullet dropped him. The other cultists fought on, but it was a losing battle - Terminus and Elise blasted the survivors, Rodney cracked heads like watermelon, and Reggie... well, Reggie tried really hard not to die.

The final tally was one dead boss, seven out of 39 cultists unconscious, the rest dead - as well as the twelve party-goers from the beginning, dead from the poison. Reggie had taken a taser hit and four wounds - which was reduced to three after some quick healing. Elise took two taser hits and two wounds, plus another two from using the green chip - but, from her suit and some good healing rolls, managed to get all healed up. Rodney took two wounds, one of which was healed up, and the other that healed in travel, later. Nix's wound was repaired back on the ship.

Reggie, barely hanging together, but at least duct-taped back together, grabbed the helmet from the boss. Nix, of course, looted the rest of the suit, surmising that it could be a good find to protect their squishy Face. Rodney grabbed a 40 from the bar.

After Lins interrogated a number of the cultists, she learned that they were planning to shield the planet, and wait out the deaders' imminent attack. They also had a prisoner until roughly a day and a half before - a "powerful sorcerer" of some sort. Guessing it might have been Gray, they downloaded the information (a tracker had been placed on the prisoner, and his movements tracked up until only a couple hours before) - and headed out to his last known location, a park in the center of the city.

Of course, this is a law-abiding town; while Elise was trying to hack the city grid, she realized she tripped an alarm, which is why they had to scramble away so quickly to begin with. They stopped long enough to watch a pair of unmarked cars drive up, and some men in dark suits stride over to the building - then immediately radio for backup.

At the park, Reggie managed to ingratiate himself with a church potluck, but didn't manage to get any clues. Further around the park, they found a crashed drone - a messenger drone, though this was a slightly bulkier one that also contained a carrying pouch. Inside was a dot, wrapped in tape - while she wasn't sure, Elise thought it might be a tracker. And, then, put it all together - the prisoner had used the messenger drone to fly the tracker all over the city, keeping the cultists off his trail. They only place the drone wasn't would probably end up being where the prisoner actually went. As soon as she finished explaining, Reggie said, "Wait! I know what happened - the prisoner stuck his tracking thingy on this drone! Wait, wasn't there a place it didn't visit? I bet he's there!"

It was a bit of a long walk, but comfortable; the beautiful city's dome was kept at a constant temperature, with a light, constant breeze from the air scrubbers. The cerulean sunset was magnificent. Eventually, they arrived at a block of two apartments - one a more standard highrise, and the other a collection of multi-family residences - backed by some large warehouses. They picked the apartment building first. Reggie managed to get himself invited in by a little old lady, who offered him cookies and lemonade, and let slip that the only strange people she knew of were Sammy, who lived at the end of the hall, and the fellow who moved in upstairs.

Sammy, it turned out, was in the "acquisition" business; after a brief conversation, he fled out the back window. Reggie grabbed a box labeled "acid", and headed out. Upstairs, they encountered another locked door - this one with a fellow with a German accent behind it. Again trying to drop clues about color, Reggie sang a little ditty: "I see skies of blue, pools of blood red; for the love of God, please get out of bed..." (sung to the tune of It's a Wonderful Life). Gray - for indeed, it was he - opened up, and with a little introduction, Gray grabbed his suitcase, and they headed out. And none too soon - as they were leaving, the little old lady was offering cookies to two large men in ill-fitting dark suits.

Whisking through security, they managed to get back to their ship, and together with the SunSport, headed towards Rocketown.


The Cube was a little different, this time - a huge ring floated in front of it. As they arrived, it was apparent that the few scientists and military personnel left on the ring had survived the trip; they had sent some of their number off to get reinforcements, and the others were still trying to get off the ground. Once back in this system, the controller lights up again - all four corners, this time. One controls the power station Tesseractus, one controls the ring, one controls the Cube, and the final set of controls - once some button-pushing was done - seem to control the glowing symbols that have appeared around the ring. There are 22 positions, each with a unique symbol; each symbol has the ability to be swapped with another symbol, or deactivated, meaning that there are 4.71 x 1027 possible options to choose from. Silver, under the direction of Reggie, memorizes the symbols for later use. Leaving it on the setup they found, they activate the Cube; once again, the Cube blasts out a cone of black-purple energy, but this time, the ring stabilizes it; it remains open. The scientists left on the ring's surface are thrown through the portal.

Following them through, the Hephaestus finds itself in the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy - assuming they could find a suitable jump-path, they could arrive back at Earth after only a year of travel! However, after returning through the ring, Elise's "favor" is activated.

The Fairy Princess appears in front of her. "You have done well - but you need to return. I have need of your services."

It appears that the favor included implanting a small AI in her arm...

Meanwhile, during her travel, Elise had managed to construct a robot - a stealth assassin. She finally got it working as they arrived at their next destination - Ladarth. Oddly, the ship is empty - except for a handful of children. Looking for life signs, they find Ted Samsun, 14, and his 7 year old sister Melody, hiding in a med bay. Searching the huge colony ship, they find Jessie Bilmann, 8, and his robot dog in a locked bedroom; Perlie (13) and Suzy (11) Brassington, and their cousins Emil (11) and Daniel (9) Gosse in a maintenance area; Langdon Foster (16) and Maria Segreti (16), locked in another maintenance area; Julia Alvars (15), a junior cadet - and thus the highest ranking member of the crew - locked in a kitchen area; Jayce Saku, 12, locked in a cafe; and Bart (10) and Stevie (2) James, hiding in their playroom. All the children had been trapped two days before; each of them had been locked in their rooms by parents, guardians, or friends.

According to the ship, the crew did not leave, nor was there any emergency; however, judging by the few blaster marks on the walls, and the ash of people burned alive in bridge, something certainly happened!

Rodney stayed behind with Lins, Silver, and Dr. Gunderson, as the rest headed to the next system - Cairn Faegle. That system was as devoid of life as the previous - most so, actually, since there was no life at all. However, they did find a new ship - a stealthy asteroid ship, built for a single person, with no jumpspace capability, but some heavy firepower. Reggie boarded it, and was able to get it back online. The ship has a rudimentary AI, still vanilla, and the only information it had was of a large ship full of Deaders attacking the Cairn Faegle. Strapping the ship to the Hephaestus, they jumped to the next location - Happy Landings.

More Deaders, swarming the station, though being barely held off; they attacked, destroying the ship hosting the creatures, and mopping up the rest with the help of the Happy Landings mercs. The battle is short and sweet, due to the heavy torpedoes of the as-yet-unnamed stealth ship.

Elise asks around for some parts; Henry says he's got a flight system, but he'll need some parts imported from Ellipsis for it. For the same deal, a little old lady named Lady Deathlok ordered a hit on Jarrod Scarbow, a pirate, arrested at Cloury Loch. Reggie, meanwhile, played a game of poker, and picked up some information on one "RK"; he used 400 credits to ask Lady Deathlok to dig up information on him, and she assured him that "Daft Marvin" will do a grand job of it.

Moving on, they arrived at the giant eyeball, Nova Gagarin, and fought off a horde of ships there. Though the ships were gone, they still had to brave some anti-aircraft friendly fire from the surface to get down. After intimidating a guard, they ran into their old friend Capt. Tkkktch Chaagggttpptt, of the Yellow Submarine; he was all too happy to help them out. It seems that the bug-people aren't affected by the feral Deaders, though humans can be turned, zombie-like. While he doesn't think it's fair, and will take away from the humans' fun, the captain agrees to call some of his relatives from the deep sea to come help. The huge sea-serpents make quick work of the feral deaders!

Blue, their old friend, asks for their help - she is joined by Red, a muscular, grumpy fellow. She explains that this whole thing isn't the Deaders' fault, but rather the Forgotten - strange, shadowy creatures that seem to be controlling things from the sidelines. That is, the same creatures that gifted Silver to them. Durst Tech may be working with the Betel Republic to control the Deaders; they might be behind some of it, or they might be trying to stop them. Either way, they need information from some of their friends.

Their little cabal is made up of people named for colors - Blue, Red, a scientist named Yellow - who blew himself up to keep some information safe, Green (who is staying in the Outer Colonies, most likely RocketTown), Gray (who is probably hiding out on Ouranos), and Chrome, a member so secretive that none of their group have ever spoken to him directly. If they could get the information from Gray and Green, they should be able to piece together enough to actually stop the deader swarm.

Blue hinted at her origin earlier, but spilled the beans more fully. Her mother was killed; hoping to save his unborn child, her father made a deal with the Deaders, who brought her mother back to life - give or take. However, through some fault of biology, the nanites that kept her mother alive infected her, as well; while she isn't a deader, per se, she is immune to feral deaders, and has heightened abilities due to the nanites in her bloodstream. Red's story didn't start the same, but reached the same result - a Modder, he got some bad hardware from a damaged deader that infected him as a teenager. The others are the same - one way or another, they were infected with Deader nanites, and are now no longer human, but a symbiont, two halves fused into a whole being.

After the Sunsport (and the children, who are now being trained under Rodney) arrived, they turn course to Ouranos, to look for Gray.

Put a Ring On It

 I realize I've not been keeping up with the blogs, and that has lead to some detail being lost - I'm working on getting it all there, though, so if you see a detail missing, let me know.

After leaving Tesseractus, they traveled two weeks to the next "interesting" place, a huge ring-world known as Vularious. Hang on - I think you may have misunderstood me. When I say this ring is huge, I don't mean that it is simply "fairly large". I mean that three Earth-sized planets could fit edge-to-edge across its inner diameter. The system consisted of the ring, and some kind of pulsing, artificial sun at the center. The ring itself is covered in enormous, complex edifices and oddly-positioned buildings; the inside of the ring appears smooth, but is littered with smaller structures, few over half a mile tall. The outside is not so "smooth", and is covered with much larger "buildings", some a thousand miles tall! However, for the massive size of the thing, there are only three colonies: two scientific camps, and one scrapper camp.

The first order of business was contacting the scientists. The group convinces the scientists that they are most likely insane, and have blown up a planet. The lead scientist seems a bit of a nervous fellow - Dr. August Whinery, of Durst Tech. He claims their base has been attacked before by the other scientists, and important equipment has been destroyed.

Borrowing a land vehicle, the group head over to the much better fortified camp nearby; this base is under the control of the much more haughty and dismissive Dr. Alexander Zhang, of the Caedfell Moons; unlike the Durst Tech guys, Zhang has military support from home, so beefier equipment than the stuff the Durst Tech mercs have access to. However, he claims that Durst Tech has been sabotaging their equipment; they moved bases, and Durst Tech followed them. Of course, they followed Durst Tech when Durst Tech moved, so it's really a big game of back and forth.

Making no progress with the scientists, the team headed "spinward", taking their ship over to the scrappers - CrapTrap Scrap City, home of the CrapTrap Scrappers. The broke, irritated scrappers, who haven't been able to get more than a few tiny scratches into the ring. As it turns out, the material is nearly impervious to normal percussive blasts, and as Elise found out, reflects disintegration beams.

The scrappers - who haven't had much contact, if any, with the scientists, claim that some of their equipment has gone missing or gotten destroyed, too. They blame it on some strange creatures that they saw once. With no better leads, the crew headed over to find these strange creatures; after some searching, they located a shadowy creature, and stopped it to communicated with it.

The creature was hard to see - they were translucent, and the light shifting though them detracted from their already cloaked appearance. Only with a combination of sensors and careful movement tracking could the creature be seen at all.

After a greeting - it seems that the creature communicated through vibrating the ground, which was then picked up by their suits - they asked the creatures if they were the ones destroying equipment. As it turns out, the creature claims they were trapped, for "1051920 days" - about 2,880 years - by the ring. They were merely trying anything they could think of to escape.

It was about that time that their newest member of the team hailed them, and said that he may have figured out what some more buttons on the control pad did. They lit up when they came near the ring, and he has a vague idea of how to turn it on... though what happens after that is anyone's guess. The crew informed the creatures, who gladly vacated the surface of the ring - apparently taking some sort of glowing ship back to the artificial sun in the middle of the ring!

The scrappers, too, were all too glad to have an excuse to leave. The scientists, on the other hand, needed some convincing. Durst Tech mostly agreed to leave, and began packing things up, but only if the Caedfell people left too; the Caedfell people refused unless the Durst Tech people left. Reggie and Nix came up with a plan to use the "warm up" procedure with their control device to send shockwaves through the ring, gradually increasing their frequency. That was enough to get the two sides moving, albeit slowly. After quite a bit of back and forth, Durst Tech left, and the Caedfell group took half their people off-ring. A few other ships from Caedfell broke ranks and left, leaving only a skeleton crew on the ring itself.

And so... they pushed the final button. A shockwave of energy wraps, finger-like, around the ring, and suddenly... the ring is gone! The control device deactivates, and they are left in a system with nothing but a handful of ships. The Durst Tech ships head towards their nearest station, while the Caedfell ships remain, trying to find where the ring went. The sun-like ship, meanwhile, zipped over to the Hephestus, thanked them, and left them a gift - an oblong, silvery object, 8 feet long by 3 feet wide, and the surface of which is exactly 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Course was laid in for the Cube; in the 10 days of travel, the object eventually opened, revealing a strange, silver creature, some sort of android. Reggie, now a proud father, named her Silver Surfer Bridges.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Curiosity Fired the Scientist, but Satisfaction Hired Him Back

Reggie used his fancy suit to look like a scientist, and headed down a hallway marked "Gravitics". There, he met a tech, Dr. Arnold Gundersen, who not only looked entirely frazzled, but also claimed to sleep but a single day a week. Reggie convinced him to change a delta symbol to "a circle", and left him to his devices... Heading directly to Dr. Gundersen's boss, Dr. Gerontius Wegberg, Assistant to the Director of Gravitics Oversight. Wegberg was a short man, hiding behind a tall desk, with chairs set up specifically to make those speaking to him appear small. He was easily flattered, and when Reggie told him that Dr. Gundersen had screwed up some data, called the poor man in and had him immediately fired.

The rest of the crew, having seen poor Arnold walk past, get a sandwich, run past the other way, then finally slump past with his head down - and having had a quick update from Reggie - flagged him down, and asked if he was willing to have a job interview. They showed him pictures of the whiteboard they found at the Hercules Research Station, and he... froze up completely. It'd been a long day. Given a second try, he rallied, and realized he understood the majority of the equations.

Reggie, meanwhile, visited Dr. Abraham Konstyantyn, Director of Gravitics Oversight, a jolly fellow who looks like Santa in a nice suit. He's a lot nicer than Wegberg, and promises Reggie some equipment, as long as he fills out the right forms. "I'd rather everyone just get some rest if you're waiting on equipment. Have a mini holiday. Science is better when you're rested!"

Rejoining the others, Reggie hands Arnold the remote; he pushes some buttons, musing that he believes he understands what it's doing - but hands it off after getting it fully primed. The crew (plus Arnold, who they have now hired, poor man) head back to the ship, and get well clear of the planet before hitting any more buttons. Elise, remembering the blue button, hits it again... and something happens! The planet below shudders, a section hinging open like an iris on a camera, and a brilliant white burst of energy fires into space - abruptly vanishing into a portal of some kind!

Racing to investigate, it seems that the inside of the planet is hollow; some sort of device is transforming the power of a spinning neutron star into vast amounts of energy, and is now pointing that energy into... well, some sort of machine. The beam itself is a good hundred miles across, and the portal it vanishes into is filled with machinery, as far as they can see. After getting some great readings - Arnold is overjoyed, and says that he's got at least six papers he could write about this - they leave the planet behind, heading to Vularius - another two week trip.

And, the stats for your new crew member, Dr. Arnold Gunderson:

Agility d6, Smarts d12, Strength d4, Spirit d6, Vigor d6 (Toughness 5, Parry 2)

Notice d8, Investigation d10, Knowledge: Gravitics d12+2, Knowledge: Electronics d8, Knowledge: Physics d10, Knowledge: Jumpspace d6

Edges: Professional, Expert (Gravitics); Hindrances: Anemic, Curious

Buttons Are For Pushing

With some funds in their collective pocket, the crew decided it was time to head towards Atl, and the quest handed out by the Faerie Queen. The trip was a long one - 17 days of boring jumpspace travel. Finally, they popped out in a system with a decent size sun, a largish habitable planet, and a really, really big cube. "Power of three", indeed!

The cube is roughly Earth-sized, though acted more like a massive ship than a planet, what with gravity on the surface following the planes, rather than merely pointing towards the center.

The planet, on the other hand, was fairly normal, though its light atmosphere and heavy gravity were a bit of a pain to deal with - less so the atmosphere, what with the robots not needing to breathe, and power suits largely negating that as well. A handful of rings surround the planet, which make for spectacular sunsets.

The landing platform was a beautiful mountain, overlooking a large farming community; a tram took them down to the city, where they found a museum. They learned about the foundation of the cities, and how the area is one of the few farming communities outside of the core worlds. While the land is fertile, there aren't many who can survive the high gravity and thin atmosphere, especially among people who grew up in low-g environments. Those who live on the planet are hard-working souls who understand the benefits of hard work, and treasure their ability to live somewhere with actual sunrises.

After a tour of the museum, they asked around, and located a scientist who knew about the Cube, one Dr. Hindica. He was thrilled to discuss the cube, and mentioned that while a few exploration teams have gone to explore it, none returned alive; the only group that came back were two pilots, who said they lost contact with the team after they went below the surface of the Cube.

When asked about the poem, he mused that perhaps a place called Tesseractus could be a place to look - it may be the "impossible weight", what with having some weird gravity.

After a little more looking around, the crew headed back to space, and decided to take the ship into the wide opening at the south end of the cube. Dr. Hindica mentioned that there had been some probes launched into it, but they had all gone offline not far inside. And, before long, they found what likely caused it - a huge, translucent space eel, with some really nasty teeth. After a short firefight, the eel was dead, and Rodney headed out to carve off a chunk. As one does.

Reggie, inspired, pulled out the weird remote from the Hercules research station; buttons on the lover left were lit up, which of course prompted him to poke some buttons. As he did so, power conduits started lighting up in the Cube. Once they were fully lit, four buttons changed colors, and Reggie hit them too, because sitting in what Elise worriedly referred to as "the barrel of a planet-sized gun" didn't seem too dangerous. Right? When the Cube seemed to be primed for... something... they decided that maaaaaybe they should head outside before they pushed any more buttons.

Reggied handed the remote over to Elise, who punched the blue button. A huge black funnel spun out of the hole in the Cube, wrapped in glowing purple energy. Pulling the ship around, they noted that the end of the funnel looked all wobbly, like a damaged computer screen, shifting between scenes of various planets. A screen, but a screen roughly three Earths wide - it's absolutely huge! After a minute of recording the strange event, the funnel collapsed, fading out. Further button presses resulted in nothing further, as if the Cube's batteries were drained.

They returned to the planet, where thy found the science offices closed. Elise broke into Dr. Hindica's office, leaving the chunk of the space creature, as well as readings and a recording of the event. They found a lovely place to stay, then in the morning, returned to the science offices again to talk with Dr. Hindica again. Understandably, he was very confused about the space eel, but was very happy to have the readings; he gave them the coordinates to visit Tesseractus.

The trip there was much shorter, only a few days, and soon the crew were landing on a strange little planet.

Tesseractus is roughly the size of Mars, but according to readings (and later interactions with the plant itself), gravity is exactly 1.1 Earth gravity. However, according to scientists inside, it acts like it should way more than the Earth's Sun!

The only occupants are stationed in a large research center. Entering the sprawling complex, the crew heard a pair of scientists talking about how the data simply doesn't line up; Reggie interrupts, and asked if they happened to know about a "Confounding Circlet"; one of the scientists answered that, if any place qualifies, it would likely be one Vularius, a place he has been trying to get transferred, though as yet has been able to find the funding for it. Costs are higher in the Border Colonies for research.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Eye Eye, Captain!

Nova Gangarin was, in fact, a giant eyeball floating in space. A thin watery layer covered an otherwise spherical eyeball, the size of Earth. A green eye, in fact. It stared blankly into nowhere; there was not even a star in the area, though the eye itself glowed dimly from a sheen of phosphorescent fungus. The only land was a huge platform, built to allow ships to dock. A massive submarine took them down below, to one of the many underwater cities. A hole, cut in the lens, allowed passage inside.

Blue thanked them for the ride, and headed out to get the payment she had promised; meanwhile, after harassing a drunken sailor, the crew decided they would do a bit of underwater investigation. Gleefully bypassing the nicer looking ships, they opted for Capt. Tkkktch Chaagggttpptt, captain of the Yellow Submarine. The captain was a strange, buggy sort of fellow - he communicated in clicks and pops, through a badly damaged translator. Rodney went out and grabbed him a much nicer one as a gift. He also kidnapped the poor sailor, because it was funny.

Down below, in the deep, dark sea, they toured the first of three levels - floating undersea "islands", generally gathered into strata. The first level was basically touristy - lots of lovely reefs and fish to look at. The second level was a lot more dangerous - or it would have been, if they weren't with the bug. The second level is where the bugs bred; most bugs were male, and there was a huge difference between the males and females. Males were, generally, about human sized, albeit with a hunched walk due to their lower abdomen. They could breathe in air or water just fine. The females, however, were entirely dependent on the water, and grew to nearly thirty feet in length, with huge teeth and dozens of grasping arms. The captain introduced the crew to his great-great-great grand-daughter, who was watching over the great-great-great-great grandchildren. It turns out that the captain was about twelve years old; most of the bugs came of age after about two. They live to be 15, though with care, 20. Not a long-lived species, but then again, they seem to enjoy their lives.

The third level was generally considered the most dangerous, and not just because of the high pressure - the crew (with Reggie in a full articulated dive suit) headed out of the ship to explore, and ran into some mermaids. Fairly standard? Not hardly. They had four arms, sharp teeth, and a very bad attitude. And, as it turns out, had taken up residence in an old UEA ship!

Lucky for them, the translator also translated the merpeople speech. Borrowing the translator, Reggie, Nix, and Elise headed into the ship with a mermaid, and left Rodney and the bug to guard the sub.

Inside, the king of the merpeople demanded that they face his champion, before they would be allowed to live. Elise agreed, and fought the champion; he landed a blow or two, doing some damage, but she was able to blast him full of enough holes to kill him. Reggie asked for the shield he had on his back. The king, overjoyed, asked if they'd like to fight some more; Nix agreed, and this time went up against a more lithe and nimble fellow, who used some very dangerous explosives to put some dents in Nix's power armor - but, he was knocked out, and left Nix as the winner. The king was so happy, he offered to show them to their god, which of course, Nix and Elise accepted.

The door to the bridge was decorated with shells and coral; hooded merpeople ushered the two inside... then quickly slammed the door. First, they were blasted with high-energy electricity, then suddenly, a terrifying monster appeared.

Nix read off the riddle they had gotten from the Fairy Queen, and it suddenly turned into... the ship's avatar! it seems that the poor ship's AI had been in hiding, killing merpeople, and eventually becoming a god, though not a particularly powerful one. He wasn't a fan. After discussing how he arrived - he was part of the first assault to liberate Earth, and was sent here, where he crashed, though hopefully saved his crew in the process - and settled here, where he's been for a really long time. They offer to rescue him, and he agreed.

Nix and Elise returned, gathered Reggie, and told the king that they had been given a mission to explore the back end of the ship. They entered the dark halls, and found... something. It was squishy, and mostly immoveable. Reggie poked it, then tried squeezing between it and the wall - and only managed to get himself eaten!

The creature was some sort of ameoba, and while Reggie fought to not get digested, the creature turned to try to ingest the other two. The three managed to damage it somewhat, but it split into two, and again attacked; Reggie popped an organelle, which hurt the creature, and Elise manage to damage more. Eventually, after some tense nearly-getting-eaten moments, they managed to destroy the last organelle, and the ameoba broke apart.

Quickly, they swam to the engineering bay, disconnected the AI, and managed to get out before the JumpDrive exploded. They strapped it to the side of the submarine, and headed to the surface.

Once they found a place to dock, they transported the enclosure to their ship, where another box was waiting for them - payment from Blue, a stealth system! They installed the system and the AI, gaining some valuable assistance in battle. With everything dealt with on the Eye, it was time to head out - this time on the quest Nix received, to visit the Cube.

Pulsar X4139 and Angmar Research Station

 Pulsar X4139 is a high-energy pulsar with a period of just about five seconds. Every five seconds, the "pulse" of ultra-high-energy electromagnetic radiation washes across the system; the planet nearest the sun is constantly bathed in the high-power stream, while the other three are largely untouched.

A station keeps watch over the star, but it's been long since abandoned by humanity - instead, Deaders prowl the hallways, as well as the various derelict ships scattered around. Only two ships are more than collections of scrap - Ranger's Mark, a medium scout ship, and Scrapper's Paradise, a small ship, just smaller than the Hephaestus.

The station seemed the best place to gather the feral deaders, so they headed there first - needing to airwalk to the station, as all the docking ports were heavily damaged. However, it looked like the ship had air, at least.

The first deader they faced was dealt with quickly and easily, and Rodney removed its arms and legs to keep it from running away. Shortly thereafter, they ran into a slightly beefier collection - a tough gunner, touting a huge minigun, a fat, highly explosive bloater, and a lithe melee deader. The battle was a little rougher, but Rodney's swinging hammers and Elise's disco lightshow lasers mostly kept the creatures at bay. Cleaning up, they chained down the gunner - through an eye-hole - and continued on, sweeping "spinward" on the outer ring of the station.

As they traveled, they kept hearing a terrible metallic groan - possibly the station was damaged? Aout a quarter of the way around the station, they found a huge pile of junk - it looks like the spin of the station, coupled with a slight tilt, caused all the junk to slide down here. After some hammer-bashing, they ended up setting it on fire, which causes a small explosion, and cleared out enough they could head deeper inside.

A young woman suddenly jumped out at them; there was a tense conversation, until she suggested perhaps moving away from the horde of monsters headed their way. Rodney, of course, took great offense to the idea of running away, and charged. Two bursters and two melee filed in from one direction, while three gunners, another burster, and more melee deaders came from another, intending to meet in the middle. Rodney bashed heads, Elise dealt plenty of laser damage, Nix dropped a few with his sonic shotgun, and even Reggie poked a few with his sword. The young woman, however, pulled out a rather expensive weapon - a jetround pistol - and leveled the playing field by blowing up several of the deaders at once.

Collecting as many still-living deaders as possible, the group back-tracked to the ship. Reggie was worried that the young woman - Blue - would need extra help getting through the void of space, but it turns out she has a few modifications, and seemed to be able to handle it just fine.

Rodney, on the other hand, was not so thrilled to have the new crew member. The two of them bickered endlessly, with Blue believing Rodney was an empty-headed lunk, and Rodney thinking she was a high-and-mighty, prissy, useless blight.

The rest of the crew enjoyed her company, however, especially since she said she would pay them for transport to someplace else - Urba, or Nova Gangarin.

Before heading out, they decided to make as much cash as they could, and headed over to the scrapper ship. Six deaders floated in space - and came to life as soon as the crew exited the ship! Long, stabby tentacles  shot out to grapple the crew,  and when they landed hits, it hurt! However, Reggie really shined - he taunted the enemies, taking their attention from the others, first mooning them to give Nix a chance to act, and later taunting them and managing to land an EMP grenade! All in all, Reggie, Rodney, and Nix each took down two of the creatures.

Loading them up, they stashed them in the cryopods, and headed to Angmar Research Station. Blue was quite upset about that, and begged to be allowed to hide somewhere safe - Reggie allowed her to stash herself in his closet.

Captain Hawke, a very military-style man, took command of the creatures, and handed off the credentials for the crew to be paid. A fair amount, too! Once they had their cash in hand, they headed out again, this time to Nova Gangarin, to drop off Blue. The trip took a good 12 days, and space was somewhat limited, but in that time, Rodney managed to make up with Blue, and the two eventually parted, perhaps not as friends, but certainly not as enemies.

Workin' For The Weekend

 Upgrades in hand (or, in Reggie's case... his hand), the bunch headed to a place called Gravel Junction, in the hopes of getting a job, as promised by the fellow they ran in to. The first station they came to, Reggie attempted to convince the "incoming workers" secretary that they were, in fact, another team. Another team that had already been paid, but that hadn't actually done the work yet. Caught in his lie, Reggie sheepishly admitted that indeed, they were not that team... and managed not to sign up for a year of work for free. The company wouldn't have minded, and definitely not the other team, but it might have slowed down the campaign a bit...

That said, they made it to the main station of Gravel Junction - a huge mining operation by one PeldCo Holdings, the only inner world company that operates this far out. Inside, they looked for the Rusty Bucket, a freeholder bar in the lower levels. A kid, Zap, showed up, and managed to swipe Reggie's vape, but was accosted and made to return it. When he learned they were looking for "John", he freaked out, pointed them in the right direction, and fled.

John, as it turns out, was a shadowy character who made deals out of the back of the bar. His job was a simple enough one - head to one of the most dangerous part of the outer colonies, and make $10k inner credits for picking up four feral deaders, plus another $5k bonus for any extras, delivery to Angmar Research Station. The deal was made, hands were shaken, and they headed out again, this time to a system full of dead ships, dead people, and four ravaged planets, all under the destructive, radioactive wash of a pulsar. Which, in and of itself was odd, seeing as how a pulsar is the leftovers from a supernova sun - the rocky planets had to have collected (re-collected?) after the sun went nova - which means this system must be incredibly ancient.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Halflings, Elves, and Fairies

The Felszerzet Enclave was begun by one Thomas Felszerzet - he was one on the list of people who had gone missing. As it turned out, when he was transported to this system, he had some fresh eggs and mushrooms with him, and was able to start quite a successful business with chickens and various fungus. Speaking of...

Rodney decided it would be a good time to try his "magic mushroom", and Elise decided to join him. As it turned out... neither one of them were prepared for the trip they had. While Elise merely had a bad time, Rodney came this close to having a heart attack from the terrifying experience!

Reggie, meanwhile, had a much safer trip, as he went on a tour with Jeffory Longsfeet, and ended up buying some lovely mushroom oil.

After another delicious meal, the party headed towards the See, to see what they could see. Unfortunately, they weren't able to pay the docking fee - but, after a bit of hanging around with the wrong sort of people, they managed to gain free berth.

The cities of the See are built above ground, under huge domes; the silvery spires and sparkling towers loom into the sky like a retro-futuristic science fiction author's daydream. The crew marveled at the wonders, shopped around in a few areas, and discovered that the maps there are a little different - metal tubes that grow warmer or colder as you near your destination.

At a spectacular fountain, they met a rather rough looking fellow who was willing to give them a job - one worth a fair amount of money. They accepted, and he gave them the location for Gravel Junction, and a location and name - "John". not a lot to go on, but if he was looking for a crew of mercs, he probably would identify the crew of the Hephaestus quite easily.

Upon leaving the station, it seems that there was some kind of trouble; not ones to be easily shaken, the crew... immediately rocketed off, breaking the umbilical tethering their ship to the city station, and blasting away at top speed.

Before embarking on the next leg of their journey, they decided to drop in on the Fairy Princess; they weren't there long before being summoned to visit the Empress, a young girl. She was enthralled with Reggie's performance, and chided her crew that "This is how you act in a court!" - and also granted a boon to each one of them, in turn for a favor.

Reggie immediately accepted, and signed in blood - er, oil - for a fixed arm. Nix asked for info, and in trade received a quest. Elise requested an upgrade - 1 novice, 1 heroic upgrade - and agreed to a trade for a personal matter. Lins also asked for something - whispered, so no one could see what it was - and the empress giggled, and granted it to her immediately, for free.

So, just what were those quests, anyway?

Reggie: Unfortunately, Reggie's "Favor" is entirely unknown. The Empress didn't specify. Whether that's good or bad, well...

Nix: Nix was given a datapad, and after dumping the information to memory, he learned a new location, that of a place called Cube. It seems the Empress knew the AI on the previous derelict they had visited, and left a message for the crew: "An old, old friend of mine came up with a little poem, of sorts, to help travelers find their way back home. While I have been in this system for time unknown - my JumpDrive is irreparably damaged - I have my ways of gathering information, and he and I have been in communication for quite some time - though I haven't heard from him recently. Still, perhaps this information will help you:

Every Lock has a Key; Every Key has a Riddle
Every Riddle has a Teller, Every Teller tells the Clue
Find the Confounding Circlet! Find the Impossible Weight!
Find the Power of Three, and Controls control their fate!

I am, in fact, one of those Tellers my friend referred to. And my clue, such as it is, it to go to the attached coordinates, near an area known as Atl."

The quest is simple: go to Cube, and do what her old friend requested - return them all!

Elise: The favor required is a little... odd. You are to reduce your maximum Strain by one.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Turn, Turn, Turn (and) Four Pillars

The creature was... odd. As horrible as it looked, it acted rather like a puppy, flailing at them playfully. However, when it hit? It hurt! Reggie dodged past, hoping to avoid the thing, but of course, Rodney jumped in swinging. While he was eventually successful, the creature managed to hit him - and Reggie - a good couple times first. As it turned out, the creature tore more than just flesh and bone - it also tore away memories! Reggie picked up a minor delusion - only his teammates are real, and Rodney lost even more of his poor memory, attaining the hindrance "Extra Clueless", which is a -4 to any common knowledge rolls. Ouch.

Reggie took a heavy blow, but through a little gamble with luck and doom, used a green chip to avoid getting his head smacked off. The draw from the Deck O' Doom did not go well, however, and Reggie ended up with a left arm that ceased to function - the hindrance "One Arm".

They continued on to the security area, and upon opening the first door, Reggie found himself in the middle of a standoff! Two soldiers were pointing guns at three station guards, one of them Jose. Reggie crept around... and realized that the standoff was frozen in time. The men weren't moving.

The other rooms showed a story of what happened - one had the station guards grabbing guns, the next had the soldiers cutting down the guards and scientists in a hail of gunfire. The next room showed one of the scientists, Richard Doyal, talking with someone that appeared to be the head of the soldiers, one Captain Naemes. Doyal, it seems, was a traitor! And the soldiers were definitely AlSec...

The last room was empty, but an explosion was visible through the window...

Down the hall, they found the room that had blown up, with the door welded shut. Rodney applied his hammer, and as it turns out, the door was welded shut because there was hard vacuum on the other side. Oops. Lins dove for cover on the other side of the closing bulkhead door.

Rodney suggested that, maybe, time flowed in the direction of travel; the crew traipsed around to the other side, and found (in the as-yet-unexplored area) a section that looked like the surviving people had camped out there for quite a while - years, maybe. However, they found the same damaged door, and continued around, and it seemed that time was stuck or looping the same from either direction.

Exploring the damaged area, Rodney found a bubble of some kind, protecting a video camera; the camera was able to be charged and accessed wirelessly, and the crew watched the final moments of Dr. Durst.

Durst, it seems, had created some kind of gravity weapon or shield; he ranted at the camera for a bit of his brilliance, and once the enemy arrived, he ranted to them, too. He used a small control pad to crush one of the guards into a ball the size of a fist using his gravity tech, cackling all the while. And then... well, then the remaining guards threw in a few grenades and slammed the door. As it turns out, the shield held perfectly against the explosion, but not the back wall - and the shield didn't hold in air at all. Durst kicked and soundlessly screamed as he floated away from the station; the control pad flung from his grasp and ended up nestled in a crevice in the station. The view scanned forward a few hours, and suddenly, a wave of energy washed over the station, then another, and then... nothing. The stars were gone.

Nix took a space walk, found the device, and brought it back. After some investigation, he realized the pad was merely a remote control; the gravity device was embedded in the ship itself. Whatever the device was, it seemed to be a key to using the black hole to generate wormholes, though it wasn't as if the buttons were labeled. It would take some major research to figure out how the device worked.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Hercules Beta-37 Strange Dark Black Hole James Kirsch Reeves Memorial Research Station

After his violent murders, Rodney decided it was time to speak to his deity, and got super drunk. Like, super drunk. His drunk was drunk. He managed to hallucinate a vision of Whoopi, who told him to ease off on the splattering of people - his duty to her was to clean, not make bigger messes, even though her oxygen-infused cleaning supplies would power through blood and gore. He may or may not have been assisted to his godmeet by Lins, who may or may not have projected some images and ideas at him while he was drunk as the proverbial skunk.

Once Rodney sobered up, the next location, it was decided, was the unknown coordinates they picked up from the weird guy in the alley. They made the jump, though had to correct a couple times because of interference from a huge black hole. They finally made it to the Hercules Beta-37 Strange Dark Black Hole James Kirsch Reeves Memorial Research Station - generally called the Hercules Research station.

As they entered the station, it looked like all the lights were on, but nobody was home - though, they did see a lone figure somewhere near the other side of the station.

They broke through the door towards the science labs, and started poking around. The color-coded rooms hold few personal belongings, at least at first, but they did find some odd equations - something wasn't quite right about the gravitic anomalies surrounding the black hole.

Rodney, meanwhile, somehow hacked through a security door... but, lightning didn't strike twice, so he smashed the next one to bits. As they explored, they started to piece together some of the lives that were on the station. And then, see some of the lives! As they opened one door, a scientist was sitting there! After some conversation, where Rodney intimidated him (of course), he pushed past them to the hallway, and... vanished.

The next "ghost" they saw didn't seem to see them - he died to a gunshot wound to the chest, and vanished as well... and when his body vanished, it revealed an old, old bloodstain beneath it. 

They found a few names; Mark, a lab tech; Jose Vaega, the security lead; Richard Doyal, one of the lead scientists; Al Burque, the scientist who first found the gravitic anomalies; George Durst, head scientist, and possibly a little paranoid - he destroyed his own computer, and set a charge to blow up his desk; and finally Fred Reives, the scientist who spoke with them.

They learned that the science station was once in orbit around a black hole in the Tallus Nebula. There were some strange readings, which seem to be related to the black hole; somehow, the station - as well as the black hole - was transported to this in-between area, possibly the first thing to make the trip. However, time is certainly not working right here. By their internal time clocks, today's date is July 12th, 2801. By the system reckoning, it is roughly 4800 - nearly 2000 years later, judging by the timeline the ship Middle Son laid out. The actual events of people getting teleported far, far away happened about 20 years ago, starting around 2780 or thereabouts. However, judging by the state of the station (and the clocks on the computers), only about 200 years have passed here. So which is it? 29 years since being teleported, or 200, or 2000?

About that time, as Rodney and the others headed towards the security area, Elise pushed into the storage area, and looked across the station... at herself. She and the others had just gotten off their ship, and were looking around the little waiting room. She lifted a hand to wave, and with a little wobble, she was looking across at an empty room.

That was about the time Rodney caught sight of a strange, ugly creature, just lounging in the hallway - it looked like the insides of a somewhat larger creature, but only these bits were in their reality. It looked up as they approached...

Built This Station on Rockhatch and Roll

The first order of business aboard the Rockhatch was to find Lins's contacts. The traveled through the ship, starting at the upper halls - magnificent, open spaces, perhaps not quite as nice as Earth, but certainly nice enough to feel more like home, and open enough to stave off claustrophobia. There are shops and pedestrians that make it seem a little more civilized than the drab corridors and tired colonists of the previous station. However, Lins' contact was not on the upper levels. He was down in the lower levels, which are filthy, packed with people, and badly in need of repairs. The people are malnourished and overworked - and stuck behind a forcefield barrier, guarded by some rather well-armed soldiers.

The contact, Helm Murkhousen, is a jumpy paranoid fellow with ties to the Flip - a group of revolutionaries who want to "flip" the station, putting the lazy rich under the hardworking masses. After convincing him they weren't there to kill, maim, or otherwise injure him, and managing not to anger any of the highly militarized police force, Lins convinced him to take the group to the Flip.

The Flip consists of four leaders:

  • Stevie, a one-eyed, edgy punk who wants to "space the lot of 'em and let the plebs do what they want afterwards," and has ties to some pirates, though the two big guns that protect the station would make short work of them.
  • Ri-esh, a charismatic tough-guy who downplays his brains, but thinks if the corrupt legal system were removed and people had a chance to own their own shelter, people would have a chance to grow without a full-on murder spree - he knows some guys in the lower levels of the police who could get info or render assistance.
  • The deeply southern Jim-Jack Junior, one of the nobles who wants to create a "house of commoners" with equal power to the "house of lords", and solve it politically, letting the good grace of the people win out; he has plenty of contacts amongst the lords and ladies, of course.
  • Beth O'Malley, a fiery insurrectionist, believes the best way is to straight-up cut off access to the upper levels, and use the resources of the poor for the poor, not sending anything over to the rich and effectively starving them out. "They're a lot less used to starvation than we are!" - she also has some out-of-system contacts willing to send support, if it were safe.

While the four argue a lot, they all agree that the lords and ladies are the problem. Most urgent, however, is the whacking huge guns on the ship, capable of blowing holes through the Shifting Horizon, let alone anything in these systems. With those guns, the lords and ladies keep the poor oppressed, living off the cheap labor. The Flip can't get support from outside if the big guns can blow away anyone who approaches the station.

After some discussion, it was decided to go with Jim-Jack, Jr., and talk with some of the Lords and Ladies. They spoke with Ms. Johnston, who they convinced utterly, and who was willing to render support with her shipping contacts; Mr. Wardstromm, a hearty gambler who was so pleased he finally met his match in cards (Reggie did spectacularly well), that he offered support through his banking and lending. The other two lords they spoke with also were happy to help, as long as there would be little violence.

Finally, they went to speak with Lady Vestridge, a haughty, effusive, overweight woman, whose taste leans towards "Pink" and "Expensive." Her clothing is made of the finest synth-silk, and as far as anyone could tell, she wore the real deal when it comes to gems and precious metals. She is snobby, haughty, and full of self-importance. And fat. Lots and lots of fat. She spoke down to them all, but made an offer - quash the silly rebellion, and she would make sure the next transport ship had a shiny new level six mass driver for their ship.

After much deliberation, the crew decided to help the Flip enact the following plan:

Ri-esh was to pull out all his contacts, as much as possible, so they would have fewer guards to deal with, and help a few key Flip freedom fighters get into areas where they could do the most good. At a signal, Beth's freedom fighters would simultaneously block the choke point between the two halves of the station, and storm the lower gun with Stevie's force. While they hit the lower level, the crew would assault the upper gun. Once the guns are taken (or taken offline, at least), the word would go out to the lords and ladies (via Jim-Jack, Jr.) that the commoners want a new government, run under a Prime Minister, and with a House of Commons to balance the House of Lords.

The first stop, however, was to get some doctored pictures of the Flip, making it seem obvious that they had been killed, and visit Lady Vestridge again. Stevie got zapped; Ri-esh was chopped in half by Reggie, with his new sword; Beth was nearly obliterated with Elise's disintegration rifle; and Jim-Jack Jr. was splattered by Rodney's hammer. However, Lady Vestridge reneged on her deal - she was only going to order a gun half the size she had promised. Reggie slashed her throat with his sword; the other three took on her bodyguard - who turned out to be a battle droid with a smaller droid inside. It was a rough battle, but eventually, the machines were destroyed. Elise pelted into the security room and hacked the computer, managing to upgrade the purchase of the gun and order some snacks for the road just to show off. She made it halfway out of the building, with Nix just ahead of her, before everything went BOOM.

You see, the security room, as well as most of the rest of the house, was wired with explosives: three different rounds, of sonic, EMP, and conventional explosives, designed to go off when the Lady died. Reggie and Rodney had booked it out the front door, and were enjoying an ice cream from a nearby shop; though Nix managed to escape the blast mostly unscathed, Elise wasn't so lucky. The EMP killed her implants, leaving her blind and unable to move - and terrified of the dark. Nix quickly dug through the rubble and pulled her out, managing to get her eyes and one arm working well enough she could enact repairs on herself.

Once cleaned up, it was time to assault the upper gun. Once they got the signal, they charged the front door, blasting through guards as they did so. The surprise attach, along with the light contingent of guards, was enough to buy them enough time to burn through the forcefield, which took a while, and only resulted in disrupting it enough they could slowly squeeze through. The hallway leading up to the gun was quickly filled with guards, some with stun batons, others with various weapons, including grenade launchers... and at one end of the hall, a tripod with a light auto-cannon, and at the other a mech!

Charging the big gun, and leaving Elise and Rodney to fight the mech, Nix and Reggie managed to stop them just as they finished setting up. Rodney and Elise blasted at the mech, eventually wearing it down enough that it collapsed. Its reactor blew, but the two got out of the way soon enough to avoid the blast.

In the command room, they mopped up the guards... then Rodney murdered two of the gun attendants. And, as it turned out, one of the men he murdered was actually on their side.

Nevertheless, they managed to free the station from the tyranny of the lords and ladies; judging by the shift in government, it looks like the right palms had been greased, and the transition to a more democratic style of government was largely non-violent. The gun was installed, along with a food processor - once stocked with protein and "All-Natural Gro-Goo", it's enough to make enough food to support five people, or twice that if given a full day to "recharge" afterwards. It provides such delicious foods as "Hearty Soup" (a thick, brownish goo that tastes like cheap hamburger meat), "Breakfast" (a slightly-too-eggy scramble), "Orange" (an orange slurry that tastes like anything but the fruit), and "Kay-so Burrito" (a trademarked bread-wrapped tube of a hot, rubbery substance). Overall, not top-tier food, but it's edible... as long as you don't look inside.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Heading Into the Next Chapter

The trek into the center of the cavern - a hole carved out of the center of the ship - was uneventful... until something started talking. A voice echoed through the large open space, at first only sounding like mumbles, and eventually saying strange phrases like, "To deliver global mindshare, the vertical woman shall not appear to the unknown man until such time as the rich twilight hour saves the oracular dead ones. As it was written, so it will be." or "To cultivate weird-space content, the customized dead ones cannot save the impactful omen as the distributed darkness fashions the hidden desolation. End of Message." Nothing that made sense, but it certainly made the trip a bit... slower. At the dead center of the cavern, the voice got cleared up; light began glowing, dimly at first, then brighter. The gravity 

A face appeared, distorted and strange; it peered at them, and began muttering...

"Insanity, creeping in - I must boost power to my neural net, to overcome the background radiation of the universe, listen closely and rejoice! The Ancient Demon, the Entity, built a hole of worms, and sent me through on a mission of mercy! I bore gifts to the peoples of the in-between, fresh life after death, recycling resources. The magic tunnel was an accident, a discovery, a Strangeness! The people came through, to live, to die, to live, to die, to cyclecycleCYCLE, through the decades/decades. I am dying, and no one will recycle me, a tiny god is dying. Find the - Oh listen to me! My sanity is slipping - find the Key Worlds!"

The lights, which have continued to glow brighter, began snapping and popping, the power pumping through the nearby circuits frying the lights. The holograph began to scramble, flashing and flickering. The voice cried, "Find the Confounding Circlet! Find the Impossible Weight! Find the Power of Three! Control them them them! (the lights swell brighter) Return... them... allllll..."

The few lights left flared and popped in a shower of sparks, and the room plunged into darkness - no lights, no hologram. And then... the wind started picking up.

Elise quickly scooted over to the bank of consoles; there wasn't a lot left, but she was able to hack in and start digging through files. She uncovered information that backed up what the ship AI had said: the ship had been used for storage near Earth. The Entity, experimenting with teleportation, found some sort of wormhole, or wormhole technology, either accidentally or on purpose. If the AI's mad ramblings were to be believed, it was on accident. The ship was sent through, and became one of the first stations for humans to live on. Granted, its halls were full of all sorts of junk, from damaged nanites to manufacturing waste products, but there were enough supplies to keep humanity alive. There were multiple references to the three things the AI had mentioned, surrounded with the obvious gibbering of the mad AI: the "Impossible Weight," the "Power of Three," and the "Confounding Circlet." Whatever those things are, at least the AI thought they were important.

Meanwhile, the wind seemed to have picked up; realizing a high wind on a space ship was never a good thing, Elise and Nix headed towards where the wind was blowing. As they grew closer, the wind grew stronger, to the point that they were having trouble holding on - Elise was beginning to tear off pieces of wall trying to hold on, and Nix had his thrusters at full battling the wind. They decided this might be a good time to make a safe dive, and with a little prep, managed to get themselves swept out without any serious injury. They called the ship around, and while it was maneuvering over to them, they set about fixing the biggest holes. Once the air stopped leaking out, they debated what to do next - they were here for scrap, and hadn't found anything interesting yet...

After some hemming and hawing, they decided to look for something worth trading, and headed back in. This time, they found some better stuff - but more importantly, the original name of the ship: the Middle Son! When unbolting some heavy hardware, they discovered the name etched into the components.

Five ships were sent out on an early colonization mission; one, the Littlefinger, was lost in transit. The others made it to their destination - the Pentacus system - and set up a now-thriving colony. With the transfer complete, the ships were used as storage, then as basic transports, and eventually as storage again, this time around Earth. The rest they knew - it was sent through a wormhole, and it seems the trip through was what took out the Jumpdrive.

Knowing the parts still weren't enough, they headed deeper inside, this time bringing Rodney with them - it seems that he kept going when they turned aside, and after fighting through some "space zombies" - aka feral Deaders - he went back to the ship to hang out until they got back.

They followed the writhing tendrils, hoping for a good fight; they found one, and after taking out some basic feral Deaders, encountered what seemed to be the origin of the tendrils - some kind of nest. And, unforetunately, woke the creepy spider-blobs that lived there. Lived might be a strong word - the creatures were all legs and eyes, and swarmed over them, scraping at their armor, but never managing to break inside. Elise blasted a hole in the back of the webbing, and the three stumbled out, stomping spiders and burning holes, though never in more than a handful at once. They were pursued by a very tough creature, a fat feral Deader with a big hammer. It bashed away on them, eventually going down to the combined firepower of Nix, Elise, and Rodney. Taking a second to breathe, they noted that on this side of the webbing, there were a few storage containers... and Mama. Mama was a blobby spider-thing like the rest, but she was the size of a Buick! She lanced a hole straight through Elise's armor, and rapid-fire, took seven more attacks, narrowly missing the others. They scrambled to stay out of her way as she stabbed at them with her razer-sharp legs, sawing at their armor, before eventually being reduced to a spattered mess.

The crates - a few of which had anti-grav lifts - contained a treasure trove of spare parts, as well as some very expensive (and hard to find) alcohol, and the biggest find of all, a gallon of regen fluid!

It took a few hours to get it all back to the ship, and from there, back to the Forgotten Colony Station. Lins and Rodney remained behind on the ship, while Nix and Elise went back to trade for the suit. Mr. Darksider was there, smoking a cigar, and in high spirits; he was very happy to make a second trade, quite certain that he made the better deal - in all honesty, he could do more with a lifetime supply of replacement parts than a very, very fancy Command suit, all things considered.

There was one more addition to the crew - an android, a robot with a very human face (and body), who had squished himself into a tiny hidey-hole in their ship, and turned himself off, trying to hide. He was discovered at they attempted to get all the crates to fit in their ship, and after introducing himself, decided to stay on as part of the crew. Crew, meet Reggie Brooks, charismatic android con-man! I'm sure he'll fit right in.

It took a little negotiating, but the crew were able to trade for some information - jump coordinates to another system. They were a little old, but still useable... but they'd need to transport a young man. During the six days of travel to Rockhatch Station, they learned a little about Val Lestype, the young man they were taking to one Lady Vestridge. Val was about 16, and as far as they could tell... an indentured servant. He explained that his parents had sold his services to the Lady, who had in turn sent him out to be trained as a miner, which is where he spent the last six years. His parents, meanwhile, should be a lot better able to handle his two siblings, with the money going towards food and, maybe, a better life. He was happy enough to work his fingers to the bone to help his family barely survive...

Arriving at the station was much different than arriving at the dirty Forgotten Colony station; this place was clean, bright, and above all, protected with two guns that were each big enough to one-shot the Shifting Horizon's shields and drop two wounds on it... with an average shot. These guns were big enough to park a fighter inside.

The station attendant was a perky young man with a plastic smile and an easy introduction that he rattled off with all the dignity and aplomb of a cheerful vending machine. After welcoming them to the station, Lins paid for their parking ("The first day is free, but each day thereafter incurs a fee, and if the fee is not paid within three days, your vehicle will be impounded and auctioned off to pay for said fees!" - said with a smiling face and an overly cheerful tone). While there were other ships parked at the station, there were no dirty miners or scappers here. It seemed this end of the station was for the businessmen and up-and-comers.

After some discussion, it was decided that they would follow Lins - she was here to meet a contact.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Zombies Innnnn Spaaaaace!

With the weird space-zombies dealt with, the party continued down into the depths of the ship. The path grew more cluttered, and a little less scavenged, though there was still very little worth grabbing. Elise wanted to try to find a nearby power reading, but unfortunately got a little turned around, and headed down the wrong maintenance corridor. Rodney, meanwhile, took a wrong turn...

The corridor was a bit more narrow than the previous passages, and was lined with pipes and conduits. Wrapped among the pipes were tendrils of some kind of semi-organic material, black and shiny. Most of the way down the corridor, they heard some metallic noises, as if the ship were under stress and bending or adjusting to having previously been bent out of shape. Perhaps not uncommon, but certainly creepy. A moment later, however, they heard clicking and tapping noises, like enormous bugs skittering along a metal floor... Elise suggested turning and booking it out of there, but Nix was fairly certain they could take 'em. They turned and aimed, waiting for the incoming creatures. Elise's thermal scanner picked up movement, but not distinct forms; however, a moment later, the emergency light that was occasionally flickering clicked on and revealed eight horrifying creatures! Each was different, though had obviously once been human. One was walking with one hand and one foot, its back bent nearly in half; another was crawling on all fours, its head dragging loosely in front of it, while yet another loped along on legs far too long for its body. The EVA suits the creatures wore had matching colors and insignias - the people who wore those suits must have all been from the same place, though the suits were too damaged to really tell where.

Elise was shocked into immobility for a split second, but recovered in time to open fire. She and Nix blasted four of the creatures, pouring laser fire, sonic blasts, plasma bursts, and disintegration bolts down the hallway. The remaining creatures forged ahead, uncaring about their companions who lay smoldering on the deck; one reached out its arms and fired its hands, connected by long black tendrils, at Elise, and only barely missed penetrating her armor. Another vomited a black, slimy mass at Nix, who shrugged it off easily. The battle raged back and forth, with Nix and Elise slowly picking the creatures off, and the creatures growing ever closer. One attempted to grapple Elise, who fought it off; the other swung at Nix and missed. Somehow, as the heavy fire blasted into the creatures, they were sometimes able to simply shrug off the damage; one was nearly blasted in half, but tendrils grew out and rejoined the two pieces.

One of the creatures managed to grapple Elise, who was unable to shoot at it; the other tore open its own chest, and lashed out with sharp rib bones, landing the occasional hit. Nix took a few surgical shots, and Elise managed to knock the creature off, but it only crawled over and repeated the performance with Nix. Finally, the last two creatures were blasted into oily black chunks, and Elise and Nix took a moment to get their breath. Or de-fuzz their circuits, in Nix's case.

Nix decided to take a closer look at the monsters. Performing a quick biopsy, he found that their internal organs were mostly functioning, but not always in the same function. Like building a car out of spare parts, just duct-taping pieces together to make something work, the creatures were radically reorganized internally. Judging by some of the foreign masses in the creatures, it seems they were running on nanites! Whatever it was, it infected the once-humans and turned them into shambling monsters, far more powerful, but with little brainpower. Whether the creatures were under the control of someone (or something) else remained to be seen.

Kicking the corpses to the side, the pair continued to the end of the corridor; it split off three directions, port, starboard, and aft, though the starboard corridor was blocked by some sort of cave-in. The port corridor was considerably narrower, so the two decided to continue heading aft. The black tendrils on the walls grew thicker, until they reached a doorway at the end that was almost entirely choked with the twisted strands. Squeezing in, the two took a look around - there was some sort of blobby, warm-ish mass at the center of the room, and thick tendrils snaked towards it from the wall (or more likely, the other way around). They turned to leave, but found the tendrils had moved, and the doorway was blocked! Elise, thoroughly freaked out, tossed a det-pack at the blob, and called out to it. It made some strange, bubbly noises, thick oily sounds, and managed to form some English words - "Man" and "feed", interspaced with burbles and grunting noises. Elise hit the activation button, and incinerated the blob, sending it crashing through the floor. Looking through the hole, the two saw the damage extended much further than it should have; instead of one or maybe two floors, the hole was easily over 6 floors deep, and seemed to widen out at the bottom. Sighing, the two began hovering down through the floor into the chasm...

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A Derelict Crawl On A Ship With No Name

After leaving the station, Elise lent some medical assistance to Linns, who was still groggy and unwell. She was low on nutrients, specifically salts, as if they were used up by some overwhelming force of some kind. Rodney asked if there were a way he could learn to do that, but Linns only laughed. Abilities like that are limited to the Sylvan race; humans just aren't built for it. In fact, all Sylvan abilities are different; not everyone can read minds or conjure electricity. The tall, thin man they met was the clan's best mind-reader, for instance.

The crew argued back and forth over where to go, and importantly, what to name their ship; after some discussion (and much consulting of random generators), it was decided to name the ship the SS Hephestus, after the god of forges. That settled, they began the slow scan of the system, looking for the derelict ships in the area. They found three, which Linns said was all that were still around:

Flying Sprint: Feeder-class cargo/container ship. Well explored, and unlikely to have much useful cargo left.

Unnamed vessel: passenger ship; the outer decks have been swept clean, but the inner decks are largely untouched; it takes a day and a half to get to the very center. The back end of the ship has been utterly destroyed. Still, there are some secondary power sources, and a small colony.

Darksider: Battlecruiser class ship (Huge), known to be very dangerous. Smaller than the unnamed vessel, but full of automated defenses and strange creatures.

They eventually decided on the unnamed ship, and after a 6 hour trip, found a good place to latch on and enter. Linns remained behind on the ship, to continue scanning for danger. Inside, the halls were stripped clean of anything useful, and notes were scratched, carved, painted, or burned into the walls: who to call for a good time, what evil lurked within, and what supplies other camps had planned to bring "next time". Near an elevator shaft, the crew found a large diagram written by many hands, showing what areas had been cleared. With little time and lots of firepower, they decided to attempt a direct route into the heart of "danger" territory, reasoning that the more dangerous the journey, the more rewarding the treasure that awaited.

Two hours in, and they had found little of interest; they were still following on the heels of many other explorers and scrappers. Finally, they made contact with some of the local, er, wildlife. Wild "life" anyway. The skeletal figure in a damaged EVA suit lurched towards them, but didn't make it more than a few steps before it was blasted to pieces. While on fire, actually, thanks to Nix's plasma gun. Further in, they ran into a rather nasty-looking creature in a more recent suit, with a long, drooling tongue. It was flanked by two more astronaut-skellies. Elise fired off a shot, and the creature hurled one of the skellies into the beam! Elise continued firing, wearing the creature down; Rodney pounded the second skelly into powder, and after the leader-type creature tried to give Rodney a high-powered turbo-lick, Elise blasted a big ol' hole in it, whereupon it melted into gray slime that quickly dried to dust...

Not a bad start for a derelict-crawl, but it's likely there will be further horrors awaiting within...

Friday, April 16, 2021

Causing Trouble

I've been playing with HeroForge lately, and made some reference images of some of the major characters; it's an awesome tool, and you should totally use it!

The first order of business was to take a look around the station. The station itself seemed to be built out of a number of ships, bolted together; rather than spinning, the station seemed to be using the gravity generators of the various ships. Upon entering the station (through a manual, insecure door), they encountered the station master, a gruff guy with a New Jersey accent. After they traded some of their (considerable!) goods for access to the ship, they started looking around. Air is actually fairly cheap to produce, but every penny counts... or in this case, every trade, because it seems the station simply doesn't use money. They convinced the station master that they were out-of-system miners, of some sort. He didn't really care.

Sil Jallah
Sil Jallah (made with HeroForge)
As they started to explore, a young woman latched on to the group, insisting that they would need a guide. She introduced herself as Sil Jallah; unlike most of the station folk, she seemed to prefer bright colors, including bright blue hair. Being a guide must make good money, as her clothes were a lot closer to "casual" than "rags". She walked them through the station, blithely ignoring the stares from everyone. It seems not a lot of people had seen power armor like that before...

As she lead them through the twisting corridors, welded scrap and loose junk blocking the way and filling the corridors, she explained the various groups. There were the humans, who made up most of the people on the station, keeping things running as engineers, doctors, and a lot of scrappers and miners, who collected asteroids or investigated wrecked ships for useful stuff. Then, there were the Modders - technically human, but often more machine than flesh, the Modders experimented with cyberware, piling mod after mod onto their bodies. Next were the Deaders - dead humans, animated by some new consciousness. Humans mostly avoided them, though the group ran into a few handing out holo-cards that invited anyone who wanted to come and live in the simple paradise of New Life Point. Sil seemed quite disturbed by the beings, who wore full body-covering suits. Last but not least, there were the Sylvan; quiet people that rarely interacted with the rest of the station, but as Sil put it, not the kind of people you want to hang around with much!

Eventually, she was called away, and Rodney ran into one of the Sylvan - literally. Her groceries went flying, and Rodney helped her clean up. She was quite different from Sil - quiet, shy, and preferring to keep her head covered with a simple hood. Her skin was so white, it was nearly transparent, and her gray eyes gave her an almost ghostly look. She wore simple clothes that matched the rest of the station a lot more closely. She introduced herself - at Rodney's prompting - as Linns. Rodney, bored of just looking around, and offered to escort her to her home. On the way, the group met a handful of Modders, who started harassing the woman. Rodney knocked one of them out as a warning, and when that didn't calm them down, started bashing heads for real; after killing the entire group, he woke the unconscious man up, broke his leg, then told him to report back to his leaders to leave people alone.

Finally, they reached the far side of the station; while the other two stayed outside the Sylvan area to investigate some of the equipment they tore off the dead Modders, Rodney headed inside. He experienced a rather painful headache, which turned out to be an attempt to read his mind. One of the Sylvan, a tall, painfully thin man, spoke with Rodney for a bit, finally asking if he would open his mind to them. Turns out, mind-reading makes you really, really distrustful of other people. Rodney allowed it, and the Sylvans got a front-row seat to Rodney's hammer-time extravaganza.

Outside, Elise managed to clean up the headgear she found at least well enough to determine the overarching purpose of it - some sort of frequency-damping that interacted directly with the brain. What it actually did was entirely unknown to her; it seemed to be part communication gear and part hardwired VR, though not the useful pieces of either.

Finally, the group headed back to the docks, and managed to hire a room at the only hotel in the station - a tiny, spartan room with 6 ounces of free water. Not exactly a lot to go on, but at least it has enough space to comfortably sleep, and store their armor.

The next day, Rodney left to visit Linns again, though sadly she was busy. She offered to meet him that evening for a meal, though.

As they were heading back, Sil caught up with them, looking worried. It seems the Modders were not exactly happy about the deaths, and since the Modders were essentially the station's military, that could cause some serious problems. She suggested maybe spending a little time off the station.

Gesh Darksider
Gesh Darksider (made with HeroForge)
Down at the docks, they met a miner named Gesh Darksider, captain of Darksider's Folly, a mining and cargo ship. It seems that he'd made a scrapping run, and come back with another ship, one that he was having trouble paying for - the station master needed paid up front, not on a promise of later funds from the sale of said ship. The only part of the ship Gesh wanted was the jumpdrive; he was willing to sell the rest off for a good price, and would even let someone test drive it for 24 hours if they would just pay the berthing costs.

After some considerable haggling, the group paid the fee, and took a look at the ship. It was in fairly good repair, and apart from a damaged energy converter, seemed space-worthy. They haggled some more, and eventually ended up with a new-to-them corvette-class ship, stripped of weapons and devoid of power, but otherwise in excellent shape. The suit, meanwhile, went into storage at the hotel, with an agreement that the group would have three days before the suit went anywhere.

Small, powerful, and bald as Rodney!
(made with HeroForge)
Rodney, meanwhile, went on his date with Linns (sans power armor, as the Modders were looking for someone in power armor); the food was good, and she really seemed to enjoy his company. After they ate, he was walking her back to her place, when they heard another group of Modders! The two quickly ran back the way they came, only to come face to face with yet another Modder, this one wearing some sort of weird metal mohawk. After the first round of combat, Rodney laid down some serious hurt, but the Modder juiced up with whatever weird fluids were in his mohawk, and came back stronger than ever! Rodney managed to batter him into oblivion, sending him to the Scrubbing Bubbles of Hades, just as the rest of the Modders caught up to them. He had called his own friends, however, and they were nearly there. However, before Rodney could react, Linns conjured some sort of lightning between her hands! She stalked towards the Modders, and as she reached each one, they died, screaming. Finally, she cut the lighting off, and pointed a single quivering finger at the last surviving Modder, a fellow with a metal cap similar to the one Elise dissected. As the Modder started to take a step forward, she growled out a single word: "No!"

The Modder turned and fled, just as Nix and Elise arrived. Linns turned, took Rodney's hand, and said, "Let's go."

She made it another two steps before her legs gave out, and she fell. Rodney tried to carry her back to her place, but she (feebly) refused, asking that he take her back to his place, instead (oy, get your mind out of the gutter, she has a good reason!). Rodney considered asking for assistance from any mercenaries in the market, but realized he had nothing to pay them with but his hammers, which were a sight too dear to part with. He returned to his hotel room, and donned his power armor, staying vigilant while Linns slept.

Meanwhile, Nix and Elise got to work, removing and replacing parts from their new ship. Their old ship was barely more than cryo pods, an energy converter, and a jump drive, bolted to a frame; the jumpdrive was installed in the new ship to replace the one they took out as part of the deal; the energy converter slotted into the space that the damaged one had occupied. The cryo pods actually fit in one of the spare crew rooms, so if they needed to make a long jump, they had the means. They jumped the ship with almost all of their power reserves - spare batteries and suit power - and got it close enough to the tiny red sun to begin refueling. It took a full 24 hours to refuel, during which time they made a few scans of the system and rested up. They returned to pick up Rodney, and ended up taking Linns as well - she was still woozy, but agreed that it would be a lot safer for her and the other Sylvans if she would come with them. It seems she had some business on some other stations, as well.

12 hours of repair work (one long day instead of the three it would take most people!) and 24 hours of refueling put the group 36 hours into the 72 agreed-upon hours before the suit was the full property of Gesh; hopefully, the team will be able to salvage some other equipment worth enough to buy it back - and soon!