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.