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!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Book III: The Derelicts

Once repaired, it was an easy jump forward 780 years, to the crew's "present day", and from there a walk in the park to get back to Earth. But not just any Earth - their Earth! Somehow, in the jump from the other galaxy, they managed to bump back into their own universe as well.

The ship was immediately placed in drydock, and the numerous repairs it needed were finally put in place. The blue apes returned to their world, which had been saved in this timeline; the Russian crew caught up with their counterparts here, who had been rescued 20 years sooner. The O.G. crew, meanwhile, were approached by Eliza - and not the hologram Eliza, but Empress Eliza Tarvis, wife of Emperor Julian Tarvis! She came with a new mission; the crew showed itself reliable, and able to deal with what she called "Strange Space".

Years before, leading up to the Battle for Earth, the Entity had been testing its long-range teleporter technology on the people of Earth - only half the planet survived. Most of the rest were found on a dead planet near Bardron, where they had been teleported to suffocate. However, after long, careful investigation, it was found that there existed a third group that had been transported to a location far outside the galaxy. Any galaxy, actually. The crew were being recruited to rescue those missing, if indeed there were any survivors.

After a very long time spent carefully purchasing equipment, power armor, and other supplies, they were taken to the launch site, a dark, quiet corner of the galaxy, with the straightest shot via jumpspace to the otherwise unknown location. Their ship was little more than a storage compartment and a collection of cryopods bolted onto a jump drive; no weapons, no armor, and no backups. The more mass the ship took with it, the less likely it would survive the trip...

The destination was very, very far away. As Eliza explained it, it existed in a place known as Strange Space; while jumpspace and realspace have a stable, long-term connection, Strange Space exists as a buffer between parallel universes, a battery of sorts that pulls energy from one universe and pushes it into another, like a coil of wire energizing itself as a magnet to push away another magnet. Strange Space is a kind of limbo, a world between worlds, where the immense power of an entire universe is sapped away to feed the demands of the rest of the omniverse.

Parallel worlds aren't merely copies stretching into the distance, each slightly different than the other; rather, they are a little more like stations on a radio dial. A strong station will overwhelm a weaker station, and each station has bands, like echoes, copies fading out beside it. If you tune in to one of these bands instead of the main station, you'll hear a weak duplicate of the original, faint but present. Every tiny modification to the radio dial will make the sound sharper or weaker. In the same way, while living life in our universe, everything comes in clear - the laws of physics apply, and the static of the Void is blithely overpowered. But if you dial into a "parallel world", you'll get a copy, or nothing but the Void, or maybe - if you go far enough - into another universe entirely.

Strange Space is a universe a little too close to the Void for comfort, where wisps of reality keep everyone just sane enough to know that there has to be something more than this, somewhere out there...

Unfortunately, no one knows more than theory. While special jump-pods have been sent, and fundamental jumpspace laws mean their arrival can be detected, no one can figure out where they go after that. They never come back.

It may be a one-way mission, but the end goal is to bring back the lost people of Earth.

The trip was quick, at least in the eyes of the crew; it took months, but the time passed in an instant due to cryo. They finally arrived in a dead space - no stars, no lights, except a dim glimmer far in the distance. When they piloted up to the lights, they found a hacked-together space station, built out of junk and multiple ships stitched together. A sign by the airlock read, "Forgotten Colony Station"...