I know it has been nearly two years since I last posted something, but real life issues always seemed to interfere too much to get something done. However, I am hoping to get a chance to work through some of the backlog of material I’ve come up with in the next few months. So to start off with we have the first 12 or 13 sessions from the Shadowed Galaxy campaign. There should be a grand total of five of these with the remaining four coming in the next few weeks.
Session 00 – 05/13/2016
Well, my attempt to head to Earth after my latest mission turned into a complete bust. I got held up in medical once I arrived at the spaceport. Apparently whatever had turned me into this vampire was sufficient grounds to hold me on quarantine and from landing on Earth. Their diagnosis was that I had been infected with a spacefield weapon, they think. And to top it all off I had a robot that smelled like he was rotting inside that armor of his and someone with the last name Van Helsing escort me back from Titan for examination. Whatever, at least I could have run of the Isolation Zone until I decided what to do next.
At least it looked like work was available to those willing to perform it. The Fendahlr Colony had recently dropped out of contact, which needed to be investigated. There had been a report of the Idoleran (a research vessel) found embedded in an ice planetoid out in the Kuiper Belt. It was lost about thirty years ago. Elervas had been broadcasting a ward-off signal. There’s only a small group of humans there, although there was a native race as well. On a somewhat larger scale, Dolrina is trying to deal with a fairly standard “zombie” outbreak. More, if less highly specialized, troops are on the way now, but there’s always room for specialists on such missions. Plus there was the usual assortment of old ruins to be investigated, but there were always plenty of those. As it stood, Fendahl was scheduled for a mission and a follow-up. At the moment, Elervas was just getting a checking-up on.
All of those required resources exceeding mine to follow up on. Which meant either sitting here twiddling my thumbs for who knows how long or attaching myself to a larger team in hopes of earning some more cash and scavenging equipment. At least that was one bit of good news in all of this: being in the Earth System meant prices were a lot lower than elsewhere and thus my earnings so far translated into a substantial fund. Perhaps I can purchase that new model dropship I’ve been eyeing.
It did look like Van Helsing and Leeroy were collecting a team to deal with the Elervas job. Since they seemed to be at least halfway competent and well-funded, I decided to throw my name in with them for the time being. Civilians frequently need protection against primitive locals and are willing to pay handsomely for it. Well, best to get that new dropship ordered and arrange details for pickup enroute to Elervas.
As we loaded up to head to Elervas, we found at least three of the six subspace drones were carrying warn-off messages and the local emergency beacon was in the same mode. An attack by the locals appeared to be at least part of the problem, but the speed with which the locals broke into the facility was odd. It should have taken a stone and wood tool using tribe much longer to batter their way in thus leaving plenty of time for the civilians to record some details of what was going on. No such detail was recorded though.
Session 01 – 05/20/2016
Arriving in orbit around Elervas, we found the ward-off beacon was still transmitting the same basic amount of non-information that the subspace probes were. We did at least find five more radio signals on the planet though. Three were low-powered transceivers that were intermittently active in bursts, probably hand-held devices then. There was a personal implant transmitter transmitting a distress signal. And finally some sort of source generating spark-gap bursts with no apparent pattern. That possibly was some really basic electrical machinery.
The transceivers were to the northeast of the colony’s location in some rugged terrain. The spark-grap stuff was coming from a location about 100 kilometers to the west of the colony, and the personal distress signal was 24 kilometers to the southeast. No major heat sources were evident though which indicated that the colony’s fusion system was either too deeply buried or was offline. Telescopic observations were similarly non-informative as they showed the area badly damaged but not much in the way of detail. This probably meant we’d need to descend into the lower atmosphere at the very least to get more detail if not actually land.
Given that we likely we dealing with an Idiotic weapon infestation of some sort, I didn’t want to alert the locals to our presence for as long as possible. Ergo, I suggested night overflights of the regions in question. From the available data, it looked like the locals could not perceive red light and weren’t particularly good at seeing dim lights compared to humans. Ergo, it looked like a night overflight with a mounted red spotlight would suffice to evade local detection, highlight difficult to see details, and alert any human survivors to our presence so that they might attempt to signal us.
Annoyingly, the ship’s cook MT (or whatever he/she/it is) was questioning why I would want such a thing. At least Van Helsing and Leeroy seemed to appreciate the idea and went to work rigging something up. We were also finally beginning to get topographical information regarding the locations of the signals detected thus far. The colony itself was situated in a plains environment, the transceivers were in a rugged hilly terrain, the personal implant transmitter was in a swampy biome, and the spark gap stuff appeared to be in more plains. Also on a helpful note the doctor elected to help mix up some tear/allergen gas that would be effective against the locals but not ourselves.
With everything prepared, we loaded up the dropship and descended to about 300 meters above ground level. First off we scouted the area around the personal implant transmitter. The area was covered in wetland forest that was rather dense. From the look of things, something broke though the canopy relatively recently about 45 meters from the signal. At first I was wondering if this was a crash site of a shuttle or some other small craft that fled the attack of the colony, but a further evaluation of the landing site seemed to indicate a controlled landing and clearing of a landing site. However we were now close enough to get some clear readings on that transponder. Looked like who this was now was quite dead given the lack of a heartbeat.
Oh well, best to collect what information we can. The prospector, the doctor Mason, Leeroy, and Van Helsing all elected to drop out of the dropship while I circled the area in case a rapid evac was necessary. From what I heard over the radio as the others investigated, it sounded like this was one Ardel Jones doing some sample collecting before he got attacked by some sort of informational spear weapon from an unknown source. Further examination revealed that Ardel was likely held in stasis by whatever that weapon was. Whatever it was, it was apparently too advanced for the locals to have made recently.
Something about all of this was setting off alarms on an instinctive level for me though. Nothing was showing up on sensors, but I got the distinct impression that while this spear (or whatever it was) was minor in the grand scheme of things, something else was out there that knew how to build such things, control them, and was VERY dangerous. Already my fingers were positioning themselves over the weapons controls in case something made itself known. The reports from below of churning pillars of mud and water erupting out of the swamp lashing out with waves, blasts, and tentacles of muck only reinforced my opinion of the matter.
Urging everyone to return to the dropship if they didn’t want to be left behind, they all scurried back. The prospector though continued to display a number of highly weird informational talents for a human to possess. Oh well, at least she was showing up on an instinctive level as an “incompatible natural hazard” than “enemy”. Once everyone was back aboard, I hit the thrusters hard to lift us back to a reasonably safe altitude.
From there orders came down from Van Helsing to investigate the main colony compound next. A flyover from 300 meters gave us more detail on the damage to the compound. There were both native and human corpses, but not enough to account for the forty or fifty that should have been here. Whatever caused the damage though utilized mainly physical force to do it. Whatever did this likely had support of native auxillaries and was incredibly fast. Most of the damage seemed to focus on the dorms, whatever this was, it was after people. The backup archives seemed undamaged at least. Thermal scans revealed four natives hiding under cover though. While the natives seemed to show no signs of being hostile prior to this incident, it was quite evident that they were now. Someone had probably stumbled upon their War Gods I imagine.
This time Van Helsing, Leeroy, and Mason elected to be dropped on the surface to try to get to the backup archive. Their attempts to sneak into the compound though were cut short as Leeroy did something to attract attention and got skewered by a pair of locals charging him with spears. Given how quickly he went down as a result, either Leeroy’s construction was a lot more fragile than I suspected or those I really need to avoid those pointy sticks at all costs.
Oh well, at least it looked like Van Helsing and Mason managed to get to cover and then inside the compound before the locals had time to respond. Now that they were inside, they were able to get access to the backup system and get a replay of the events leading up to the destruction of the compound. From what the records showed, a Dr Mellius was investigating a site to the west and some time thereafter something humanoid came back with some of the locals and proceeded to tear up the place capturing everyone it could. Given that whatever it was appeared to be Informational based, the fact that the local precursor server was primarily psychic suggested this thing was not native in origin.
Now the question gets to be if I am going to be asked to help kill it and whether I will get additional pay for doing so.
Session 02 – 05/27/2016
I continued to circle the area around the ruined colony scanning for potential threats as I waited for Van Helsing and Mason to finish getting access to the colony’s backups. Thus far we’ve yet to see any indication of substantial anti-air abilities amongst the locals. At least I should be relatively safe up here against the natives armed with spears and what appeared to be somewhat limited psychic abilities. At least I thought that was the case until I started getting really odd indications from the sensors that wind speeds were rapidly increasing as was electrical activity in the cloud layer.
Strange, I don’t recall any indication that a storm front was moving in. The lightning would be annoying but manageable since this was an aircraft. The bigger issue was the rapidly increasing wind speeds and the gusty nature of those winds. Straight hurricane winds I could readily cope with by increasing thrust, but these bursts of wind in semi-random directions was liable to overwhelm my abilities to keep this craft from hitting something. Really odd thing about this was the lack of any precipitation. Probably an informational attack then and one with a lot of power to work with.
I informed Van Helsing and Mason that if they wanted a ride, they’d best do it now because I was prioritizing my own safety over their’s if the chose was to be made. That got them scrambling back to the ship for pickup. I didn’t want to risk a full landing for pickup though for obvious reasons and elected to hover as best as I could manage while they climbed aboard. Attempts to harpoon Leeroy’s “lifeless” body and reel it in were unsuccessful, but Tori was able to assist Mason and Van Helsing to get into the ship. With them aboard, I hammered the thrust hard to get us above the cloud layer. That probably flattened or knocked unconscious the others aboard by the acceleration but that at least got us out of the most immediate danger.
The information from the database, while enlightening about the colony’s final moments and bits about the local culture, did not prove especially useful in determining what exactly we were dealing with beyond poorly translated legends and myths. Part of me was hoping that Van Helsing would just elect to cut our losses, determine that there weren’t much of any survivors left, return to Earth and pay me.
Unfortunately, it didn’t look like things were going to go that way. The next objective given was to recon into the rugged terrain to the northeast where we had been detecting intermittent use of transceivers. An overflight there revealed a number of camps of locals in terrain that seemed quite unsuitable for their anatomy. If I had to wager, I would say that these were locals fleeing the appearance of the informational entity that had attacked the colony. Probably weren’t hostile then unless they were now associating humans with informational horrors.
This promptly led to the discussion of who should go down and try to talk to them. I was not an option for a number of reasons, but the one I chose to vocalize was the fact I was flying the ship. Eventually they decided on the robot (new body manufactured in orbit apparently) that smelled of intensely rotting flesh to head negotiations. Needless to say, I think it is becoming quite evident that my new employers are idiots. Oh well, worst case I suppose I might kill them all if they get too insane and simply fly back to the Earth system where I’ll say I was the only survivor.
Introductions didn’t go over very well as it appeared that the locals have an even more overt reaction to the smell than we did. Not that I am surprised since they asked him to remove the armor that I suspect was bottling much of that stench. Why the others thought it was a good idea to send the rotting robot as an ambassador I couldn’t fathom. Oh well, once we got a audio/visual communications setup going, it was easier for the locals to talk to it as opposed to Leeroy.
We eventually found out that there were six survivors from the colonists amongst the various local tribes. The locals were also claiming that this information entity was some sort of ancient War God or something that they’ve seen before. Well, I guess that means this mission can be labelled a success on some level at least. This began prompts that the next step should be with regards to how we handle the War God. I was partial to using rocks from orbit in his general area to simply make a mess of the place and likely kill him, but the others were partial to using paint guns to nullify his informational abilities and armor. Looked like I was being asked to take the brunt of this in the dropship.
At least it looks like the War God is going to be using a primitive generator to generate lightning attacks that aren’t going to be very effective against a flying machine.
Session 03 – 06/03/2016
I wasn’t real keen on all the modifications the others were making to the dropship by adding a lot of pyrotechnics to the outer hull that would go off when hit with an electrical discharge. Part of me was wondering if we were going overboard with the paint gun idea though. Of course, given the warnings blaring in my head about how powerful and dangerous the War God was supposed to be, I was concerned this whole idea was ill-conceived to start with. Nonetheless, being at the helm of the dropship during the battle with the largest guns and thickest armor was probably the safest place to be. Worst case, I could just take off for orbit, dock with the prospector ship, and head back to Earth.
Further consultation with the locals on how they dealt with the War Gods seemed to indicate that they typically gathered their forces, had a hero eliminate the major informational defenses, and then rushed the thing with sheer numbers (that’s if overwhelming numbers didn’t work at first). Given that they insisted that this had worked in the past, I could only presume that the War Gods were individually highly formidable but not relatively omnipotent. Still, given the unknown level of psychic abilities amongst the locals, I wouldn’t put it past the War Gods to easily be a threat to a heavily armed tactical team either.
This particular War God the locals thought was an Earthmaster (whatever the hell that meant). They expected special weapons, weird devices, armor, fortifications, armed slaves, and considerable physical power. The slaves were likely to be sacrificed on some strange alter for unknown purposes if left alone too long. Any rescued slaves were likely to require some sort of a journey into the Dreamtime or whatever the hell that phrase was supposed to translate to in order to regain their consciousness/minds/souls (another phrase that wasn’t clear).
Scans from orbit and a few high altitude flyovers revealed the fortifications to be a mess of earthen works that would have been at home during the Trojan War. Given the probable presence of long-range attacks and the power to rebuild and reinforce the defenses as needed, I was figuring even an aerial assault was going to be prohibitive. I figured it was a matter of fact that the whole area was criss-crossed with tunnels whose entrances were hidden by the fortifications. I know the initial plan was to storm the place while relying on our superior equipment and firepower to simply overwhelm the defenses, but the presumably extensive underground tunnel system and the fact that this War God could manipulate masses of earth made me extremely leery of entering an enclosed space with it. Nor was it likely to want to come out and fight us head on.
I was willing to attempt a surface assault after nightfall at least to see if it was stupid enough to try and assault us out in the open. However, I had a sneaking suspicion that the plan was quickly going to devolve into us retreating and bombarding the place from orbit. Ten to twenty kiloton explosions hitting the place in rapid succession should generate sufficient shockwaves to either collapse the tunnel system on top of the War God or bury it under so much rubble that it would take weeks or months to dig itself out. Oh well, if the others want to recruit some of the locals to help us attempt an assault, who am I to complain?
Needless to say things did not go as hoped. The locals were able to draw off much of the garrison easily enough, but the War God refused to come out to face us. Tori immediately (and without what I considered fair warning) immediately openned fire upon the fortifications with the prospector ship’s mass driver. Personally, I had been hoping to drop a rock or three on the place for a bit more oomph with each shot instead of this effort that only managed to damage the landscaping. Sigh, this just makes our job harder then. I was all for simply packing it up and leaving things for the locals to deal with, but Van Helsing insisted we attempted an assault in the tunnels.
I still thought it suicidal, but wasn’t likely to get paid unless Van Helsing returned alive. So into the tunnels we went following the drive shaft of the crude watermill/generator contraption we found. The first pair of guards or technicians went down readily enough with sufficient application of paint, as did several more we encountered before finally arriving at the chamber where the War God was directing things. There were a distressing number of slaves in the room with the thing and already my instincts were telling me that this was not a creature/thing to take lightly. Still, it didn’t look like we were noticed yet on our ledge above the chamber.
Rapid consultation between us decided that one of us needed to serve as a distraction to lure the slaves away while the others assaulted the War God directly. Since I was the one most likely able to maintain a lead on any pursuit, I was chosen to be the distraction. Leaping down from the ledge, I fired multiple grenade rounds at the weird runic circle in the room thus destroying it. Landing in the midst of the carnage and destruction I had just wrought, I flared all of my powers in a dramatic show of intimidation as I held one of the unconscious slaves in one hand and roared at the War God in a show of strength.
Despite the bandaged appearance, it was all too easy to note the thing recoil in shock at my presence. Nice to know that I wasn’t the only one here with instincts indicating dangerous monsters present.
It foolishly attempted to use some sort of wind attack to slam me into the wall that I easily sidestepped. Taking my prize (the unconscious slave) with me, I stormed out of the room into one of the adjacent rooms at random. That got a significant majority of the slaves to follow me, but they were quite unable to keep up with my superhuman speed and agility. Recognizing the fool’s game in running around tunnels I had way of knowing which deadended or not, I took the first opportunity to present itself when my pursuers lost line of sight to hide on the ceiling and disguise my “perch” with an illusion of more rock. Predictably, my pursuers kept running down the tunnels beneath me thinking I was still on the run. Once they were out of sight again, I dropped down and returned back to the main chamber to assist in the battle against the War God.
By the time I got back, the War God was on fire and losing the battle badly. A few more grenades finished it off handily as it dissolved into a pile a burning bones and ashes. While this didn’t permanently kill it (since it presumably resided primarily on the Informational Plane), it certainly ended the immediate threat. After that it was a simple job to retrieve unconscious bodies, snack on them a bit to replenish my reserves, and haul them back up to the surface for treatment. From the look of things, this is a lot more successfully rescued “hostages” and thus a bonus to our final penalty.
Session 04 – 06/10/2016
While the locals were able to treat the now mindless slaves, they were of no help against the victims with the ethereal spears imbedded in their chests. Neither was anyone else amongst the colonists or our group able to do anything about it. So we were left with no choice but to return to Earth with them in cryo-stasis and hope there was a specialist there that could deal with it. At least the trip was uneventful, although we got confined to the quarantine zones again once we arrived.
While the others worked on getting us paid and hiring a specialist to help with the colonists in cryo-stasis, I decided to grab something to eat (away from Leeroy’s stench) while I reviewed what missions were available.
-The Idoleran (a research vessel) was still out there stuck in the Kuiper Belt with no one biting.
-The Fendahlr Colony was still out of contact, but a mercenary group had elected to respond. No word had been received from the mercenary group though in the meantime.
-Dolrina’s zombie outbreak was slowly coming under control according to the reports, but isolated pockets of resistance were holding out.
-Hansworth Biogenics had a new line of modified canines that they’d like field-tested, and were willing to pay rather a lot for someone to take them into the Alvitha Labyrinth. From what I recalled, the Alvitha Labyrinth was an underground complex on Mars that has never been properly explored with a few reports of various nasty sea creature like things that resulted in numerous personnel losses.
-The Dercalt Corporation has located what appears to be an alien research station in fairly close orbit around a black hole. They wanted it boarded and investigated (and blown up if needed). Interestingly, the contract specified that they were willing to pay according to Earth-Time rather than per exploration time.
-Another colony had become minimally responsive. What reports there were seemed to indicate that the colonists had suddenly developed a desire for the rest of the universe to go away.
All of them looked to be paying decently for the risk involved. I figured I’d let Van Helsing decide where to go next until he proves my presumptions of his general competency incorrect. In the meantime, it looked like Van Helsing and the others had hired a number of specialists to join our team and help with any Imaginal issues.
-An artificer named Salah al-Din Karam who specialized in being able to construct various “gadgets” that could be used for specific imaginal purposes. However, his gadgets all suffered from some flaw or disadvantage of some sort.
-A dabbler named Jamilah Dutcher that had a knack for disrupting various imaginal effects at touch range.
-A seer named Marika Kaspersen that had a nasty habit of sleep-prognosticating that resulted in obsessions with going to weird (and seemingly random) locations. Often by storming the bridge at gunpoint.
-An individual with a weird talent named Gus Richards that could transform between a physically weak but powerful psychic and a immensely strong but stupid brute.
-A detection specialist named Wentworth Boucher that had a knack for divinations and understanding it with an unusually broad range of detections available.
It was also decided that we were going to the Fendahlr Colony to see what was going on. What information we did have indicated that there planet ad a native sapient species at one point that seems to have gone extinct with the last ice age. There wasn’t much in the way of ruins but that could have been due to the seemingly coastal nature of their species and the fact that the planet nearly had become an ice ball with the last ice age. A number of food caches had been found though that dated as recently as only a few centuries ago.
The mercenary group that had responded first was noted mainly for doing snatch-and-run rescue/salvage operations. They were considered reasonably good at fast rescues, but quite useless on investigations. According to the reports, they were also decently well armed. This suggested either they were trapped on the planet or that something unusual had managed to overwhelm them in fairly short order.
Arriving in orbit, we found no mothership in orbit which lined up with what we had heard about them foolishly using only a single ship on their missions. There weren’t any radio signals coming from the surface that we could detect either. The satellites in orbit had logs indicating a burst of activity some months ago that then terminated shortly thereafter. No transcripts were available though as the satellites are only relays not data storage units. Surface scans showed signs of native settlement/ruin foundations that seemed to be remarkably intact for having been under an ice sheet for millennia. Some of the more recently exposed ones showed signs of differential melting like they had experienced a localized heat wave. At least two of those showed signs of having been disturbed since being uncovered. A third near some sort of crater showed signs of a substantial heat source that had been active even underneath the glacier judging from the meltwater erosion patterns.
The colony’s estimated population of five thousand was spread across six settlements on the southern continent near the equator. Five of those settlements were on the smaller side of things while the sixth one was a larger port facility. Not much sign of any damage from orbit, but there were also few signs of activity. For the most part the various facilities looked abandoned. As for the mercenary ship, it was probably the scattered metallic debris down around the port. No sign of what destroyed it though. It didn’t help any that the sheer amount of volcanic dust and ash in the atmosphere was interferring badly with radio communications either. There were some systems that still seemed to be functional amongst the settlements, but it was all local stuff and seemingly automated.
Part of me was getting concerned that we were dealing with some sort of weird technology that could disrupt conventional technology. If that was true, then it was exceedingly dangerous to head planetside. It would be nice if we had an unmanned probe we could send down to verify things like that, but unfortunately we don’t have one. No choice but to do a low-altitude recon using the dropship. Wentworth Boucher did warn us that according to his divinations while a flyover at 300 meters was safe enough, dropping down to 30 meters was potentially dangerous enough to possibly kill us, even if it wasn’t too likely.
Sigh, no indication on WHAT the threat was though. The fact we were doing this in broad daylight was annoying though. The tinted cockpit windows on the dropship limited the issues with me burning, but I didn’t like to consider my chances if I got stuck on ground level in a firefight in the middle of the day with only my armor and helmet keeping me from catching fire. That would be…. unpleasant.
According to the others, there was a surprising amount of psychic energy running about the surface of the planet. More psychic energy than a planet down to only moderate sized sea life should really be able to sustain. At least part of it was focused on some of the newly uncovered areas. According to the experts in our group, it was also way too variegated than just human life would produce. Then there were the odd trails of dents in spots with a really massive set around the spaceport although all of those start and end quite abruptly. There was some radio traffic under the ash clouds even, but it was sporadic and low-powered. What we could pick up from that was from survivors that were hiding mostly inland and currently grounded. From the sound of it, they set up emergency beacons while a bit torn about not attracting attention versus the need to send at least some information. There may have been survivors around the towns too, but it wasn’t immediately clear. No signs of bodies strewn about which was odd given the lack of local predators or scavengers that could reasonably be expected to pick things clean.
Blast, if I had to guess, we were dealing with a sapient race or biosphere (or ghosts I suppose) that was probably taking possession of the colonists after some event took place that acted as a catalyst. That meant encountering any of the infected colonists or whatever was infecting them (if it could be seen at all) was a far riskier proposition than a simple matter of firepower would suggest. Of course, that was supposing any of this supposition was correct at all. We needed more information and the only way to learn that was to find survivors or encounter whatever got the colonists. Personally, I’d prefer to learn from the colonists what we are dealing with as opposed to finding out the hard way.
With the others in agreement, we headed inland towards one of the presumed larger collections of survivors. The experts said that the psychic energy levels were significantly lower the further we moved inland. At the strongest beacon we found a trio of heavy atmospheric transports. From what I recalled, this model (more or less a flying box) was banned on more heavily populated worlds for using brute force fusion thrusters that generated ridiculous amounts of noise, light pollution, damaging landing fields, and excessive heat dumping. According to the beacon, we had here about 15 crew and 112 passengers that had been picked up at the last minute. No activity was immediately apparent though.
Flying in closer did get an automated response from the flight control computers giving anti-collision and anti-thruster hazards, a query about identification, non-hostile system response, and an attempt to summon the current command staff. It then proceeded to request medical assistance and current information. Querying the computer, it looked like the crew and passengers were in hibernation-suspension. The commanding officer left the system set to evade if anything hostile approached, and was only getting up every week or so for a quick snack and check on the system. He looked to be set to wake up in three days, however he was not responding to the message buzzer.
No choice I guess but to land and search the place. I landed us on a rocky granite outcropping that looked to be the most stable landform around. Disembarking, I took point (making sure to cover my head helmet and that my armor covered the rest of my skin) as we headed towards the lead ship. Getting the door open was easy enough and there were no immediate signs of hostiles. Entering the ship, it definitely appeared that the colonists had done a lot of work. From what we could tell, someone on board was a fairly strong psychic given that inducing this level of stasis normally called for a LOT of equipment or some moderate equipment and someone with some good skills. Given that this looked to be psychically induced, there was probably someone on board that had space emergency training. It would probably take several days to wake everyone, but as long as the ship systems held up and no one was allowed to actually freeze, almost everyone should survive.
The commander we found in one of the cabins in his own stasis trance. This one was self-induced and had a time limit on it. Looked like the automated call buzzer wasn’t sufficient to wake him under these circumstances. Supplies were limited however. It looked like we only had aboard these vessels sufficient supplies to keep everyone going for a couple weeks if we went light on the rations. The cargo was of processed metal, but difficult to determine which metal readily. Apparently no one had dumped it when the emergency broke out. The ships were all showing signs of minor damage on the hulls. Looked like impacts for the most part with some corrosives or energy thrown in for good measure. Probably weapons fire from whatever got the main colony if not the colonists themselves.
I was quickly forming the opinion that until we had more information for what we were dealing with, we needed to start considering plans for evacuating everyone here back to Earth. Our ship couldn’t carry everyone normally, but given some legwork we could probably start packing everyone like sardines in an air-tight box extension that snugly fits inside the warp field. The colonists probably won’t be happy to find themselves waking up on Earth, but that was better than ending up dead or worse.
Now to see about waking someone up safely so we can find out what the hell happened here.
Session 05 – 06/17/2016
It didn’t take long for Mason to wake up the commander. He was pleased to see that a rescue team had arrived. It was quickly decided that any debriefing needed to occur in the air before we attracted too much attention to this location. Taking off, the commander started giving details on what he knew had happened. It looked like things started to go downhill when the pack ice around the southern edges of the continent (or at least near the settlements) started to break up. Shortly thereafter rumors started of things seen out of the corners of eyes. Investigations turned up nothing however. The ships were enroute back to the settlements with a load of metals when things went to hell. Reports of shooting and the settlements under siege from a wide variety of scaly monsters that went after everyone while targetting energy sources first.
The ships picked up refugees, but there wasn’t anywhere left to go and the creatures appeared to be good at finding hiding places. Given that the things only appeared after the ice broke up, the decision was made to retreat inland to try and wait it all out. After that, they put everyone into deep hibernation to conserve food, put everything on low power, and hoped that would be enough to elude detection of whatever the creatures were long enough for rescue to arrive. The plan worked, but I had concerns about how long that would actually last. More importantly we needed to find if there were any more survivors and what exactly type of menace we were dealing with here. Sitting here wasn’t going to answer those questions though. With that in mind we started scans of the other distress beacons we were picking up while the rest of the crew on the prospector made arrangements to evacuate who we could. At least there was quite a bit of processed iron to work with.
We had four more possible significant signals of survivors to check up on with another eighty to ninety less likely signals from our low passes over settlements, but no way to be sure if that was interference or damaged equipment running on automatic. The first location was on the edge of a volcanic caldera where it looked like a small flyer had landed. Idiots probably didn’t realize the danger presented by poisonous volcanic gases their location posed. Ground inspection found eleven dead and one survivor in need of serious medical attention.
Second location was devoid of survivors for a different reason. Here it looked like the ship had been ripped apart into pieces somehow. Connecting to the computer (such as it was given the damage) showed that the ship had been attacked by several creatures nearly 2.5 meters tall. The fact that these creatures were able to rip through the ship’s hull with their bare hands was more than a bit alarming though. The creatures went after the active personnel first before taking out the sleepers. what little remains we found were torn to shreds. Strangely, we didn’t find any sign that the bodies were consumed despite the mess generated. I would have thought this level of dismemberment was a sign of predatory action on some level.
Van Helsing suddenly gave the warning that she was detecting three powerful psychic presences approaching rapidly. We immediately started scrambling to get back to the dropship. I got there first and started rapidly firing up the engines for takeoff. Van Helsing made it aboard fine but Mason was momentarily blocked by a vaguely amphibious creature with two arms, two legs, four tentacles, and fins that he managed to vault over before getting into the ship. With everyone aboard I hit the thrusters hard for quick ascent but rapidly noticed we had a “passenger” on the outer hull trying to force entry. From the sound of groaning metal, I figured the hull wasn’t going to hold for long. We needed to get rid of this thing fast before it got inside and did real damage.
None of the ship’s weapons could reach that section of the hull (usually good reason for that under normal circumstances) and none of the others on board were proving to be of much use in the matter either. Ergo, time for the direct approach. Sighting a nearby and relatively flat rock face, I accelerated the ship hard as a flew to pursue a high proximity flyby of the rock face hoping to use the stone to abrasively sandpaper away our new annoyance. Sadly I got the angle and distance wrong (probably due to our stowaway’s rending of the armor plating) and probably took a bit more of the armor plating off than I had initially wanted. Still a loss of armor plating and some minor holes in the hull were minor compared to having one of those creatures on board considering it would probably take seriously heavy weapons fire to kill.
For good measure I brought the ship around and fired a pair of missiles at its location. If that didn’t kill it, it was surely buried under the ensuing landslide. Meanwhile Mason and Van Helsing were making themselves useful in patching holes in the hull so we would be spaceworthy again. Probably best to eliminate the two remaining creatures before they could carry word of our presence and possibly our past movements back to wherever they had come from. With that in mind I started firing the guns and missiles at the two creatures with distressingly little effect considering the level of armaments I had specifically requested this ship be equipped with. At least one seemingly retreated by melting/merging/phasing into the ice sheet while the other seemed intent on attacking us despite my possession of the tactical advantage given our altitude.
Which became really annoying when that one suddenly showed up on the outside of the cockpit window looking right at me. Even with superhuman speed and jumping ability, that thing shouldn’t have been able to do jump up a hundred meters without my own superhuman reflexes catching it. Damned thing must have teleported then somehow. I briefly toyed with the idea of letting the thing smash its way in so that I could rip out its throat, but the cockpit window was going to be a pain to replace afterwards. Simply sending the craft into a tight corkscrew in an attempt to fling it off was likely to do similar amounts of damage given the presumed grip strength this thing had. Best bet was to limit its means of action while still changing the situation to one where I lived and it didn’t. Time to head for orbit.
Given the damage to the ship’s hull already done, I didn’t want to risk full acceleration. The fact the g-forces that would have involved would likely have killed the others on board too was incidental in my opinion. Nicely, this did mean the creature was now having to expend most of its effort to stupidly hold on to the hull against slipping off. Annoyingly though, this did not to preclude it using what I could only presume was a line-of-sight psychic attack to forcibly boil off the water from my body. It quickly became a battle of attrition between my less-than-human physiology and that thing’s inability to breathe the rapidly depleting oxygen content of its surroundings. Hopefully, even if I “died”, the ship’s dead-man’s switch would cause the autopilot to take over and level out the flight trajectory thus allowing the prospector ship to recover us.
Luckily it died glued to the windshield before I could black out from the continual water loss. Needless to say, even with Mason’s attempts at healing weren’t helping me recover quickly despite the liters of water I was drinking. As soon as we docked with the prospector ship I immediately went to medical and grabbed several bags of blood to partake of. I didn’t really care that Van Helsing and the others found my eating habits disturbing. They’re who hired me knowing what I am and if they can’t deal with my special nutritional needs then they may encounter some unpleasant circumstances should they try to force the issue.
Turning my attention back to the dropship, I found that a section of the armor had been sheared off and attempts to pry the creature off the windshield were proving fruitless. Oh well, this is why we purchase lots of spare parts. Diagnostics also showed a distressing number of faults on the drive system. Inspecting that, I found that a number of components were entirely gone as if they had simply been torn out or ceased to exist and a number of support struts were brittle and cracked. Only reason the system remained functional was the sheer number of redundant systems and components. Blasted creatures were probably flinging parts into hyperspace or subspace in order to try and make us crash. More parts to pull from spares for installation then.
Meanwhile the others had been investigating the remains (such as they were). From their report the creature was apparently adapted for underwater existence, probably amphibious. Obviously intelligent, although how intelligent was debatable. Several combat adaptions, apparently used the tentacles to grab and restrain and claws for close combat. The fins and webbing were severely damaged, but there was enough left to say “good at swimming”. A few bits of crude metalwork are embedded here and there, probably not natural. The Skeletal structure was robust, and supplemented by scaly natural armor, but the tentacles are an obvious anomaly; they looked almost like they’re adapted from another creature entirely. There was a network of air bladders, apparently capable of adjusting for neutral buoyancy at a wide variety of depths.
It did NOT seem like a tool maker, but did seem to have some. There may be multiple intelligent species or variant forms on this one. It had higher than human psychic potential, apparently focused on militaristic applications. Given the impracticality of such a specialization as a general thing, likely either trained or a caste power. Cold-blooded, but fairly rapid metabolism regardless, we didn’t have the equipment to analyze enzyme structures, but they either operated efficiently at lower temperatures than the human setup or their psychic abilities play a roll. Traces of “antifreeze” compounds in what is left of the blood that were protein-based, either internally produced or injected. Not enough of the internal organs left to say which. Too much damage to say if some of it is artificial.
Not really enough information to inform us on immediately effective counters though. Still, we needed to investigate the remaining major site and the remains of the settlements for survivors. A quick high altitude flyby of the fourth site was curious given the lack of anything but snow, ice, and rock despite the area being a source of a number of radio signals. A lower altitude hover did reveal a good deal of camouflage netting around the area. Definitely seemed to be human in origin compared to what little we’ve seen of what the natives produce. Probably some sort of imaginal totems shielding the place against sensors. Soon enough we got a set of humans waving us down. Landing, we found them pleased to see us, and were informed that there were nearly two hundred survivors hiding here. Looking at probably only 6% of the colony had survived this long, maybe 10% if we were lucky.
Sadly, while these people seemed to have found ways to avoid detection from the creatures, they hadn’t been able to make effective use of that beyond supply raids and rescuing the occassional survivor. Apparently whatever imaginal ward they were using had severe limits on what it could hide. Nor did it look like they had much more information in the way of what these creatures were or how to combat them. Powered weapons and vehicles quickly became useless in the wake of the creatures’ ability to make parts decay or simply vanish. Apparently all this is believed to have started when a colonist shot one of the first physical manifestations of whatever these things were doing when they weren’t corporeal.
At the very least we were exceeding our capacity for the prospector ship to move everyone back to Earth even if we made new storage units to attach to the ship. So the decision was made to send the prospector ship back to Earth where it could request a larger ship be sent to facilitate evacuation. In the meantime, the bulk of the team was to remain behind, help guard the survivors, search for more survivors, and then possibly recon for further information on these creatures. Perhaps that might entail investigating that copper mine they seem to have opened up. Although I suspected that the bulk of the natives’ civilization was to be found under the ocean where we had very little means of investigating. Not that I was feeling particularly inclined to enter an environment that greater favored the locals over me despite even my superhuman abilities.
Best to see who else (if anyone) has survived this long.
Session 06 – 06/24/2016
I was against doing too much recon from the air simply because of the risk of alerting the locals to our presence and thereby risking further damage to our only current means of escape from this planet (even if it is just further inland, to orbit, or to a moon I suppose). Meanwhile Tori was making weird complaints about the damage my ship had sustained during the last battle and attempting to explain that to some “shipping board”. Considering that repairs were already complete and the ship was in a far better state than her’s, I wasn’t sure where this complaint was coming from. Of course, it didn’t really matter in the end: my ship, my piloting, and my problem to deal with if and when it came up.
From the look of things, we had six possible locations to scout out: four were by the sea where they had been exploiting for access to food and appeared to have suffered the worst of the damage, the port was also pretty smashed up with the damage focused on the center of town, and then there was a small mining settlement showing relatively little major damage. I advocated against flying into the midst of the settlements and instead suggested that we land some ways out, set the autopilot to take off and fly around at a decent altitude, and then be programmed to land after a set amount of time had passed to pick us up again. Part of me suspected that the dropship was going to prove more a liability than an asset in trying to scout while evading detection anyways. There was some debate over the exact timeframe to set the autopilot to wait, but we eventually settled on eight hours. That was the supposed duration of the talismans’ ability to hide us from detection, although I was more than a bit dubious about how effective those things were going to be.
I leaned towards scouting out the mining settlement first given that the damage there seemed minimal compared to the rest. That probably meant a higher chance of survivors. MT started complaining about our lack of planning, but I figured that since the ship’s cook had yet to volunteer anything of value during all of this it was all probably projection and whining for his having ended up in this situation. Can’t say that any of that was at all my problem.
Approaching the settlement on foot, it was obviously not very large. The place was situated on a spur of mountains that reached into the sea as a series of islands. From the look of things, it appeared that the locals had figured out doorknobs given the relative lack of destruction about the place. The various house computers were still active, but in standby/backup power mode. Didn’t seem to be anything for it except to get closer and hope the computers had some clues stashed away that could help us search for survivors.
Meanwhile, I cracked open the visor on my helmet to let me get better access to the smells of the place. There were a few reasonably fresh scent trails of humans to be found, a number of old alien odors I didn’t recognize, and the smell of old blood about. On top of that was the smell of rotting food. Following the scents of humans from downwind of the town did reveal that a number of the alien scents seemed to start and stop abruptly. Probably further evidence of their ability to teleport again in my opinion. Which was going to make attempts avoid any patrols difficult given that the blasted creatures could in theory teleport right on top of us. This was far from what I could consider ideal.
From what I could tell, a small squad of the aliens came through the place frequently, but an equally small group of humans was sneaking about semi-regularly. Most of the human trails seemed to originate higher in the mountains while the alien ones came from the direction of the sea. According to the others, the teleportation origin points seemed to indicate that a large amount of energy was being expended at those locations. Supposedly the areas were prepared or attuned somehow. I figured it was humans being used to sacrifices to power the things, but the others said it didn’t feel like that.
Oddly enough, the damage around here seemed surprisingly methodical. It looked like the aliens were prepared for small arms fire by avoiding line of sight and such. Odd for a species (or multiple species) that looked like it preferred “charge and grab” tactics given the lack of ranged attacks beyond mental powers. Either these things were learning by observation of humans, or they were somehow acquiring this knowledge from their human captives somehow. Could they possibly be absorbing the knowledge from the humans they captured or killed? Oh well, I was about to bark at the others that we needed to keep moving towards the mountains to avoid getting ambushed when I noted the wind carried the fresh scent of a number of the aliens.
Damn it all to Hell. I informed the others and started shoving some of the slower moving ones into hiding positions while they brought up camera feeds to try and track our latest arrivals. From what I could tell, they were starting a methodical sweep of the area starting from a few ridges over. Probably likely that they were going to sweep the whole area in my mind. At least the blasted things didn’t seem as nimble at climbing, weren’t very fast, and demonstrated a distinct lack of agility especially compared to humans. We probably had five to ten minutes before we were found at most. We needed to keep distance between us and head towards the mountains if we were going to hope to avoid a confrontation. Another point in our favor at least was that these things didn’t seem to have much of a sense of smell on land or else the humans that have been scavenging around would have been hunted down weeks ago.
We were moving up into the mountains when we were finally spotted by the aliens whereupon they sent a squad of four moving (with periodic teleports) our direction. I suggested finding a defensible position, although I wasn’t entirely sure what constituted defensible against an enemy that can teleport right into the midst of us. Regardless, I pulled out my rifle and prepared to let loose a series of grenades at the aliens once hostilities commenced. At least this got us a good look at the teleporting ability in action. Whatever it was, it was short range, required line of sight, and had some sort of a recovery time. Longer range seemed to require more power buildup and a correlating recovery time. Minimum recovery time was twenty to thirty seconds it seemed.
As I was about to squeeze the trigger as the aliens entered weapons range, I heard the others arguing about trying to open contact. I was about to shout at them that they needed to decide quickly when suddenly Van Helsing threw a ridiculous hat contraption onto Mason’s head and I could only presume that Mason began to try to do something telepathically. Meanwhile I got a chance to see the aliens’ weapons and gear from much closer as they came to an abrupt halt still some hundred meters distant. Looked like they were carrying bundles of seaweed, balls of what I could only presume was some sort of jelly, and crude bronze knives. From the look of things, I would wager it was standard issue equipment given the consistency between them all.
I could only guess they had paused their ascent after us either out of confusion or a desire to acquiesce to our request to talk. Mason wasn’t being entirely clear on his translations though. He did note a general feeling of impatience and irritation regarding us, but also a desire that we be captured quietly without causing injuries to their people. He claimed at least to have established a temporary truce while negotiations took place. He thinks.
Three hours of waiting later, the negotiator for the aliens arrived stomping out of the sea. Unfortunately, this thing easily was in the skyscraper category for size and could probably give Godzilla a run for his money. Except this thing was a mass of tentacles and lots of eyes on some of those tentacles. Thankfully it wasn’t radioactive at least. On the other hand, I was fairly sure there wasn’t sufficient firepower available on this planet to kill that thing if we had to unless it happened to be covered in extremely flammable slime. It had to have some weird sort of augmentation given the fact that gravity hadn’t ripped it open like a giant water balloon filled with giblets. I have to wonder if the old writer Lovecraft had been picking up psychic emanations from this thing or something like it when he started writing too.
We did find out that this… thing did not approve of “minor menaces” such as myself. I’d feel insulted if I wasn’t facing a creature that easily outweighed a battleship. On the whole (such as it was), the thing seemed to consider humans as visitors, infestation, burglars, accidents, a good chance at getting some more recent data on nearby interstellar problems, things to insert into random memories of fancy jellyfish, research opportunities, creatures who do not know what is good for them, brave creatures who still dare to travel and colonize, mysterious entities using incomprehensible forces that are really hard to detect, creatures that need more seaweed with air bladders in it, unfortunately cripples who have to make do with hands instead of adding specialized tentacles, and a couple of dozen other things, ranging from the highly complimentary to the highly annoyed. There was an underlying irritation perhaps best expressed as “you started it” though. Probably referring to the colonists firing the first shot though.
Mason managed to get across that it was a misunderstanding, at least we think so. Still, it looks like we’re going to get paid for this effort and survive long enough for that to happen.
Session 07 – 07/01/2016
The trip back to Earth was uneventful save for the occassional bit of trouble due to the prospector ship’s lack of what I would call reasonable maintenance. The cook didn’t seem to appreciate my concern over the current state of repair though. Why he gave a damn about my lack of “respect” for the “captain” was beyond me. He needs to learn that I only take orders from Van Helsing and that is if I am continuing to get paid. No promise of pay and all bets are off.
On Earth there was considerable surprise at our discovery of a more-or-less functional alien civilization, even if it was aquatic. From what I could gather, the bulk of the surprise stemmed from our making more-or-less peaceful contact with it. Unfortunately, this meant a great deal of reports, details, and debriefings were requested of us. And that meant more effort had to be expended on my part to at least pretend to be human. On the plus side of things, this did mean we were getting a substantially improved pay for this mission. Can’t really argue with that. Although the fame we seemed to have acquired as part of this mission was more than a bit concerning.
Not much had changed regarding the missions available the last time around although new ones were now on the listing too. Of course there were more ruins to be explored. A set of military prototypes that were being testing in one of the more dangerous areas of Poictisome (one of the more populous worlds) was up for retrieval. The Martian town of Iobvan was being besieged by giant (as in dog to horse sized) insects and were finding it really annoying although they were mostly handling it by staying in some of the older and thus more robust housing. A prospector ship had reported a major deposit of Isolite Crystal on one of the fringe worlds that was being defended by insurgents. Given the lack of a colony on that world, I had to question the choice of the word “insurgent” on that one. According to the others, Isolite Crystal was an aberrant material known for its use in photon storage systems and for its rather extreme ability to distort the path of light.
To me the best idea seemed to be to do the missions in the Sol System in fairly rapid succession as a means to build up some quick cash and resources. That meant taking on the Idoleran research vessel out in the Kuiper Belt followed by the two Mars missions of testing the modified canines in the Alvitha Labyrinth and assisting Iobvan with their bug problem. The others quickly agreed with this assessment and preparations were made to head to the Idoleran.
From what we knew, the Idoleran was researching anomalous ice accumulations with high-density cores, surveying for interstellar thermal paths (a theory about detecting FTL routes), collecting samples for bioanalysis (testing panspermia theories or possibly just how common contamination from earlier civilizations and species was), and resource-surveying for a bunch of “nutcases” who felt that colonizing ice asteroids and mining them for fusion was a better route than colonizing planets. Personally, I figured colonizing comets and asteroids was a saner plan than the already proven disasterous track record with other planets. I found it highly unlikely that there was Idiot contamination on EVERY Kuiper and Oort Cloud body in this system and elsewhere. The fact that there amount of sunlight out here amounts to little more than bright starlight helped my assessment too. The counterargument was that when something goes wrong, you had a greater chance of living long enough to fix things on a planet than you did on a snowball out in the depths of the solar system. I figured this would be offset at least by the sheer number of installations and colonies that could be set up. Oh well.
Arriving in orbit of the planetoid, it appeared to be over seventy kilometers in diameter with a surface gravity of 0.01 G and an icy surface. What information existed in the archives suggested a substantial rocky core with warmer spots and traces of outgassing, but not much of either. Although warm was probably relative when dealing with temperatures that would still freeze nitrogen into ice. From what we could see, it looked like the crew of the Idoleran had embedded and frozen their ship into the ice. Apparently their idea was to use the ship as an airtight base of operations that accessed a pressurized tunnel they dug deeper into the iceball. This seemed like an extravagent effort to go through considering they buried the ship thirty meters down.
Presumably they weren’t so stupid as to completely seal themselves in. There should be an airlock of some sort that pokes through the ice so we didn’t have to tunnel into their ship. Sensors scans did eventually find the airlock, along with data that suggested the ship was quiet. It looked like the fusion systems were idling and producing a ship temperature of -20 Celsius. Sensors also confirmed the presence of a rocky core suggesting that the ball had originated closer towards the sun before being ejected this far out somehow. The others said the place was a few degrees warmer than it should have been.
We finally found the airlock. Looked to be locally fabricated and rather crude too. Not much room besides enough space to send one person at a time through. Leeroy volunteered to experience an explosive decompression accident first. Unfortunately, he was unable to fit without substantial disassembly, which then necessitated some of us following him in to reassemble him. Which ultimately meant that Van Helsing, Mason, and I all entered the tunnels to scout the place and reassemble Leeroy. Temperature was below -30 Celsius, there was a faint humming sound, the air was breathable, but with detectable contamination with ammonia and other volatile contaminants. The floor was obvious ice, and looked to have been sprinkled with ground up rock to provide traction.
Lights revealed weird and seemingly random patterns tracing through the ice via refractions and reflections. The ship itself seemed to be mostly undamaged at least. Typical sounds of humming and dripping water were echoing through the tunnel as one might expect, but the sound of bells or clanking metal was seemingly out of place. I could obviously smell ammonia and other contaminants in the air such as alcohol and sulfur compounds, however the smell of burnt insulation, smoke, chemical explosives, and frozen blood spoke of a disaster having played out here. Part of me was willing to bet the scientists had killed themselves mishandling the explosives, although the others didn’t think that likely.
Mason found some biochemical analysis gear and was trying to see what he could learn from that. He did say that the scientists found the place oddly rich in organics, thus implying an energy source to feed things and signs of bacterial activity deeper in the snowball. Meanwhile I found the airlock to the ship and decided to probe inside to see if there were any clues as to what happened. Inside, the ship was warmer, but still only just barely above freezing. Someone had gone to town painting the place with the most insane abstract art I’ve seen.
Ignoring that for the time being, I focused on tracking down the crew. I did find several at least, or what was left of them. One on the bridge was most a dehydrated husk with signs of flash burns and several broken bones. Another in the crew quarters was another dehydrated corpse with little damage to the body, but quite a bit done to the room near the door. One was frozen solid in another room that was slightly below freezing for some reason. Another died in her sleep via unknown means (although I suspect a life support system failure). In Engineering, one was cut in half then dried out in a very messy fashion while another was at station with a bunch of wires wrapped around the various bones. The whole ship reeked of old death and dried up food.
The fusion plant was still running at a fairly decent power level with more being used than was obvious based on what I could tell was running. It seemed well-maintained and was extracting fuel from the hydrogen in the ice outside despite what should have been decades of lack of maintenance. Needless to say, I found all of this highly suspect. Computer logs of the crews’ last days seemed to confirm that the crew were all killed in freak equipment malfunctions in rapid succession. This ruled out the more mundane biological causes like a disease or whatnot. Bacteria, even nominally weird ones, usually don’t cause such deliberate equipment failures. And that didn’t even begin to touch on maintaining the fusion system. Ergo, my theory was leaning towards something like nanites or some sort of computer virus.
It looks like before the final disaster, the crew had discovered a concentration of near-pure metals including some heavy elements. It was warmer than the rest of the snowball, probably due to radioactive decay. It was also at the center of the biochemical and biological signatures, and was fairly near the surface. Their efforts to dig down to it ran into a layer of much harder than usual ice (never explained) with strange striations. When they broke through that, they found the inside even warmer than originally detected (although still below freezing). Things seem to go fine for the next few days before the walls started changing colors and then things went incoherent as people began to die in weird “accidents”.
As if on cue, as I began entertaining thoughts on computer viruses and nanites, Leeroy began to complain of a headache in both of his “heads”. Given that zombie robots or whatever the hell he was shouldn’t be able to experience headaches, I suspected that he got infected with whatever took over the ship’s systems. The others began to disarm him (both here and the main body on the prospector ship) and I directed them to start disconnecting computer control to all systems that could be shut off or run in manual if needed. At least we should be better prepared for whatever is going on than the crew were.
Session 08 – 07/08/2016
As we took controls offline, minor systems began to shutdown. At which point a cascade of black motes which seemed to “glitter” with darkness began pouring out of the engine spaces. And the ship began shaking a bit. To make things more ominous, there were sounds of ice cracking, a dimming of the light, the temperature was dropping rapidly.
Sigh, we were probably dealing with a nanotech swarm or something equally weird that had managed to take control of the ship’s computers. Flamethrowers and EMP’s might be best for combating this, although I think it might be better to withdraw from the ship where the computer has machinery to use against us. Unfortunately, that meant getting outside as quickly as possible and it looked like whatever this was appeared to be intent on attacking us.
Cables and other connectors were snaking through the air towards us, presumably held up by the magnetic gravity simulation system. There was also a selection of floating cleaning supplies added to the mix and the main power feeds that had been snaking deeper into the comet. On top of all of this, the magnetic gravity was getting quite erratic. Van Helsing shot at the cleaning supplies with the flamethrower, which meant the air quality degraded rapidly to the point that sealed air supplies would be needed for those concerned with such issues. At least the tool handles and roomba failed to elicit much of any damage with their pathetic attempts at attacking us. The fact that they were all burning though was quite another matter as that hurt significantly more than the impacts of the plastic itself.
To add to our issues, whatever was attacking us was now flinging furniture, maintenance tools, and other heavy objects at us in an attempt to kill us. Making our way to the airlock, we found ourselves increasingly troubled by the attacks aimed at us. Van Helsing was flailing uselessly at blocking the attacks with the crumbling remains of the roomba. Sighing in frustration, I opened one of the nearby cabinets, tore the door of the hinges, and handed it to her to use as a more effective shield as I tore off another for myself. That neatly helped in blocking the bulk of the attacks on us or at least limiting the damage caused.
Unfortunately, Mason informed us that the ship’s anti-personnel weapons were trained on the airlock we were hoping to exit from. Not feeling our chances of handling the anti-personnel weapons were especially good, we needed to find another means of egress from the ship. Given that all the other airlocks I was aware of all led directly to walls of ice or more anti-personnel weapons, we needed to make a hole in the hull if we hoped to get out. Luckily, this is one of the reasons I always carry a few extra clips of grenades with me. Pulling out a few clips, I started rigging them up as an impromptu remotely activated explosive device. Sadly, focusing on this inadvertently led to me getting impaled by a number of screwdrivers, pliers, and other tools in the back. Painfully annoying, but not nearly as bad as it would of been if I had been human.
To make matters worse, after I had set the charge we started getting attacked by electrical cables carrying a serious current. This made retreating to a section of the ship better protected from the explosion I was hoping to make even more difficult.Only insulator I could find nearby though was the carpeting. Van Helsing was struggling to cut out a piece using a knife when I threw him aside, dug my claws into the carpet, and simply tore off a large piece using brute strength. Then it proved a simple enough matter to grab the cables using the carpeting and then tearing the cables out with a bit of strength and leverage. Once the immediate threat of attacks was neutralized for a moment, I then directed Van Helsing to hide behind a bulkhead as I detonated the grenade clips.
That neatly made a hole in the hull in a location the anti-personnel guns couldn’t reach. Why a science vessel from that era felt the need for such things was not entirely clear to me though. Mason was already attempting to use his telekinetic abilities to dismantle one of the guns, meanwhile Leeroy’s “corpse” was apparently attempting to get free of some crude bindings in an attempt to presumably kill us. Emptying a clip of rifle rounds into it neatly stopped that menace from manifesting at least. That just left trying to get outside the ice ball without the science ship shooting at us. It didn’t help matters that much of the equipment I had was now malfunctioning. This included the commlinks that allowed us to talk to the prospector ship.
At least Mason was able to still talk to the prospector ship and inform us that the crew were attempting to use the communication laser to drill to our position so we didn’t have to attempt to use the existing tunnel to escape. That neatly sucked us out into space as the interior was suddenly exposed to vacuum. I had no doubt we had all reached escape velocity by this point. My suit was no longer airtight, which would have been annoying except for the fact that I was drying out fast. Becoming dessicated was going to present a much larger problem to remaining functional much longer. Mason eventually caught up with me and stuffed me into stasis and an rescue air bubble.
Awaking on the prospector ship later, all of my injuries were healed although all of my equipment had been removed and destroyed to prevent spreading the contamination of whatever this thing was. At least digging another tunnel with the laser and using it send our divination expert in so she could try to learn what exactly we were dealing with. What she was able to determine was that we were dealing with two different “artifacts” here. One was apparently an informational technology spaceship trapped deep in the ice. Meanwile, the other was a spacefield/microtech entity or entities (strangely related to vampires like myself in some ways) that had somehow infected the informational ship. The crew were able to isolate and quarantine the infection using some sort of binding or sealing spell, but had to abandon the ship in the process. Some long period of time later, the science vessel we were investigating stumbled upon the place, got infected as well, and the entire crew was lost in the process.
A potentially functional (or at least well-preserved) informational ship was going to be worth quite a bit of money for discovering. Still, I felt it best if we ensured that the science ship’s power and drive systems were sufficiently damaged to ensure that this infection didn’t try to leave and possibly reach Earth, Mars or any other major world before a serious team could get here to clean out the place. Unfortunately, that meant going back in.
Session 09 – 07/15/2016
While we prepared another go at this, we did receive some news from the inner solar system. It looked like a mining operation in Saturn’s rings were facing an issue with many of the workers disappearing without much of a trace. Perhaps we could swing by there and investigate after we finish here and deal with the misssions on Mars first.
Currently I was advocating that we use the laser system Leeroy set up to drill a hole through the ice and and science ship’s fusion reactor in hopes of ensuring the thing was stranded and starved of power it could use to try to do something untoward to either us or any follow-up missions. Given that the fusion plant was also the main propulsion system, that ensured we had good chances of killing two birds with one stone.
Unfortunately, the diviner informed us that the laser was unlikely to work against this enemy. Kinetic impact or an explosion had much better chances though. That meant getting closer though, and thereby risking the thing throwing off spores or whatever out into space that could inflict more chaos on whatever they landed on. Best way I could think of to minimize that was to make a long and winding tunnel that would absorb and dissipate that energy before it had a chance to exit the ice ball. The laser could make a tunnel easily enough, but lasers unfortunately only travelled in straight lines. Mirrors could help with that though.
Luckily we had some mirrors stashed away. So I grabbed one of the spare spacesuits and performed an eva to place the mirrors and guide the laser to drill out our tunnel. This process took days to accomplish, but eventually we were able to make a zig-zag gradually widening tunnel. Unfortunately, this still left us with a gap of tens of meters between the end of the tunnel and the hull of the science ship. Unfortunately, this gap made it possible for the science ship to potentially shoot at us if we attempted to disable it.
This prompted Van Helsing and MT proceeded to bring rockets launchers down the tunnel to assist me in shooting at the science ship. Properly armed, we then kicked out the remaining ice in the way and proceeded to open fire. Immediately I could see that there had been a few changes in the cavern. Looked like there had been some very odd attempts at repairs. Whatever was doing the patching appeared to have no idea how an Earth-style ship was supposed to be assembled.
My shot took out a plasma projector while Van Helsing managed to ricochet a rocket off a number of surfaces before hitting another missile launcher in the midst of repairs, thus causing it to fire a missile into the back of the science ship. It looked like the drive system was venting which was a good sign, however we were now facing a number of missiles coming at us. One shot hit the wall and scattered tons of ice in a hail of debris which bounced around and ricocheting everywhere. The other missile made a bee-line straight for the tunnel we were occupying.
I barely managed to dodge the missile itself, but the subsequent explosion and hail of shrapnel and ice did not help matters. Much worse was the shrapnel hitting the mirrors and unleashing an explosion of silver plated glass everywhere. The missile and ice fragments were bad enough, but the silver plated glass made a number of burning wounds that weren’t going to heal on their own. At least I was still mobile, Van Helsing was unconscious and MT was also injured badly. As we made our way back to the ship, Mason met us and helped stabilize Van Helsing.
It looked like the prospector ship had come under attack from missiles somehow. One of the cargo bays was exposed to vacuum and there was some general damage, but nothing catastrophic. We were going to have to decontaminate the ship and our equipment again and possibly stop over at a shipyard for repairs, but otherwise the damage was limited. Unfortunately, the mission objective of disabling the fusion reactor and thruster systems was a failure. Van Helsing thought he might have damaged the thruster, but there was not a lot of evidence to support a critical disabling of the engine.
Oh well, at least we have valuable information on an informational ship to sell and it looks like we might have crippled the science ship for the time being. Whether our employers can take advantage of that remains to be seen. Still, this mission should turn a hefty profit. I just find it highly annoying that an entity (entities?) possessing a science ship should prove to be this major a threat to me.
Session 10 – 07/22/2016
Selling information about the informational ship to the authorities did turn a tidy profit. This in combination with our reward for first contact with a functional alien civilization did mean we had quite a substantial amount of funds to our names. The bulk of mine went towards purchasing upgrades for the dropship including the main drive system. Replacing the equipment I had lost during the mission to that science ship was a much cheaper matter relatively. Plus since it looked like we might be going bug hunting on Mars next, I procured a hand held minigun that should prove useful in dealing with swarms of insects.
Arrving in orbit around Mars, we started receiving data on what we were facing. It looked like the insect problem was a new thing and not a periodic thing the locals had to deal with. The insects themselves were typical Earth types that had been imported during the terraforming process. Except now those insects were the size of large dogs or horses. Apparently 30-40 of the things popped up everyday according to the reports. The selection was rather random too: beetles, wasps, moths, butterflies, ants, and other insects. They didn’t seem to break into places very often, but at least one family got eaten despite being in a shelter.
This at least suggested this wasn’t just an anthill that dug into something weird. There was also no obvious sign of tactics or intelligent purpose to their actions. This suggested a food source or a water supply had been contaminated. I suppose it was also possible that a terraforming lab went rogue. The labs said that the insects were a direct scale-up which should not work at all. Even the cells were bigger now. No clear indications on whether there was a hard limit on how many of these things were running around. There just wasn’t enough food, water, and oxygen to be supporting creatures of this size. Probably some weird informational or spacefield effect in play here.
Locally, Iobvan was a mining town that focused on crystals and small deposits of exotic metals. It was built around a terraforming station where most of the population was now sheltering. We really needed to learn more about the extent of the area affected or at least how widespread the insects were. Towards that end, a plan was made to make flybys of the area and have someone fire radio tags at the insects coated with epoxy gel to adhere to the exoskeletons. I helped pilot the dropship for that while the one of the others shot at insects. Meanwhile Mason and Leeroy both were investigating the corpses of insects for clues as to what was going on.
This definitely wasn’t microtronic, biotech, psychic or informational. That left only spacefields as a possible option. That suggested we were dealing with a projection effect as opposed to insects that really were the size of a horse. That neatly explained why MT’s attempts to cook one failed to produce anything beyond boiled water. Divinations seemed to agree with that assessment. Strange thing was, that should be showing anomalous heat or cold signatures.
Tracking efforts were at least turning up some useful data after a few days. Most important piece of data was that the giant insects appeared to be centered on an region with a radius of seven kilometers. Beyond that it appeared that the insects shed the trackers. More likely in my opinion that the insects shrank back to normal size beyond that range and thereby either the tracker fell off or it squashed the still attached but now much smaller bug.
Unfortunately, any further investigation was interrupted by the sounds of shouting and screaming from the halls. Checking on that, it looked like a giant centipede had entered the facility somehow. Given that the blasted thing nearly filled the corridor, and the fact that it currently chasing some fleeing colonists, trying to stop it from eating the colonists was going to be difficult with them in the way. It was easily over a meter in width and over two meters tall standing on its legs. Shooting through the colonists to hit the centipedes is probably going to get frowned upon.
Leeroy rectified the problem by leaping into the jaws (mandibles?) of the centipede so it would focus on eating him first. Mason closed the blast doors to help trap the thing, and Van Helsing started pulling out gallons of pesticide that I don’t recall him ever having in his possession earlier. I stood back trying to stay out of the way and ready to intervene in case this counter-assault didn’t work. Shortly after an exchange of blows, the centipede exploded and then imploded in a shower of pesticide.
With the immediate threat out of the way, things turned to figuring out how the centipede got inside. We did eventually trace the trail of torn up carpeting to a cold spot that seemingly was torn up out of nowhere. This suggested that a random centipede was spontaneously super-sized in the middle of the hallway. This unfortunately meant that to properly defend the colony, we’d have to prevent all insects from entering the premises whether they were normal sized or not. That vastly complicated any sort of defense plan.
More survey work eventually revealed that the area experiencing this issue was an ovoid with two major axi. One was near an exotic metal deposit that’s been being mined, the other near one of the original resources that was supporting the town – a much larger operation producing aberrant crystals. No apparent weird anomalies during mining operations were recorded when the giant insects started appearing though. Nothing about the two substances suggested that they could be the direct cause of this either. The aberrant crystal was a variant on graphene that made thin sheets of rigid or flexible material depending on whether an AC or DC current was run through it. The exotic metal was a weird form of copper that was used in stardrives because it could help with containing and focusing the negative energy spark needed for warp to operate.
At least the operation around the copper pit was associated with the smaller radius of the ovoid of effect. Unfortunately, to get more information we were probably going to have to go to the mining sites and investigate directly. Which may mean more crawling around narrow tunnels filled with giant insects that could potentially overwhelm or trap us. Lovely.
Session 11 – 07/29/2016
Landing outside the main mineshaft, I told the dropship to hover around the area until we signaled it to come pick us up. It was decided I would enter first while everyone else followed and Leeroy covered the rear. The low gravity and construction of the mineshaft (lots of supports and occasional piece of sheet metal) left me fairly confident that a reasonable amount of weapons fire wasn’t likely to collapse the tunnel in on us, but I was concerned about getting cornered and trapped in these narrow and winding corridors. Outside the entrance it looked like a giant anthill was in progress here. Giant ants were occasionally popping out of the ground to drop some piece of dirt or rubbish on the anthill entrance. Every once in a while though, they’d leave some rocks on a smaller pile about a hundred meters away from the main entrance.
According to the science types, the rocks in the separate pile had a lot of inclusions of the crystals that the had been digging previously. While interesting, I wasn’t sure I understood the importance of this fact considering that it didn’t look like the ants were actually using the crystals for anything beyond building a pile. The others got in touch with an entomologist who confirmed that ordinary ants do not sort crystals from dirt. The general guess was that the ants were being controlled via a psychic effect of some sort. It probably didn’t have a lot of control though and mainly could only influence what basic instincts were activated when, but then that probably made some things simpler too.
Of course, NOW they want to use Mason’s abilities to ride some ants down into the anthill so they don’t have to walk. I was rather vocal in my opinion of how poor an idea this was. All we needed was for a bunch of ants in our midst to shake off Mason’s control in the middle of a combat situation to really make a mess of things. Unfortunately the others were insistent on pursuing this nonsense. I steadfastly refused to participate except to walk along as an escort.
It did look like whatever was generating the control effect was centered on an area near the break room the miners had set up at some point. That meant we probably needed to focus our efforts on that area. At least the ants were ignoring our presence as we entered the anthill. Unfortunately, four massive beetles were now blocking our way. The beetles beat us to the punch as they immediately went after Leeroy first. I responded by opening fire on the nearest beetle with the mini-gun. That knocked out great chunks of chitin and flesh from the lead beetle as it was pushed back futher into the tunnel. The others were already engaging the three remaining beetles as the one I fired on attempted to charge me again. Blasted invertebrates and their more modular body layout.
My second burst of gunfire at that beetle sawed it in half as Mason managed to detonate another one with insecticide. Unfortunately, a third beetle charged me and managed to pin me against the wall with its mandibles. The uncomfortable crunching of armor and bone was more than enough indication to me that this was a bad position to be in. Luckily I had sufficient leverage to wedge the muzzle of the mini-gun into the mouth of the beetle and pulled the trigger to unleash around barrage of gunfire. That forced it to let me go as it was thrown against the opposing wall where subsequent gunfire put it down. The final beetle fell moments later to the efforts of the others.
My injuries were slowly regenerating and Mason was assisting the others in healing. Approaching the breakroom, we found it to be fairly crude in construction with thin, cheap cushions, boxes of snacks stacked in one corner, a coffee machine, a stockpile of drinks, and some other basic conveniences. The walls were heat treated vitrified rock, which made the room stable enough to actually be used as a break room. There was definitely something around here that wasn’t normal or registering to typical senses. Possibly coming from behind the north wall where it looked like a bunch of normal sized ants were crawling out of crack.
And I was drafted into digging into the wall. Eventually, I found a crystal cylinder about five meters long, a half meter in diameter, and made of the same type of crystal that was being mined here. Probably self-repairing given access to sufficent raw materials too. The general speculation was that it was a probe of some sort designed to land, release insects, and then psychically control them to dig up valuable minerals and metals. Already the others were chattering excitedly about reverse engineering this technology and using it for low cost mining operations elsewhere. Personally, I figured the odds of humans successfully reverse engineering this thing and making functional copies was rather low. Besides, we still had to get out of here with this thing first.
Session 12 – 08/12/2016
We were at the end of a dead end in an underground tunnel, next to a device that transformed insects into giant killing machines, and surrounded by a bunch of giant ants that were no doubt coming to the defense of the artifact. This was not my idea of a good idea. Putting up barricades was a stalling tactic at best given the bite strength of those ants and how crumbly the walls of the cavern were. Estimates placed us about twenty-five meters underground. I moved the vending machine to block the entrance way as the others began piling loose rock around it. Leeroy’s suggestion was to give me a shovel and ask that I start digging an upward slanting tunnel while they piled the dirt and rock I dug out behind us to further block the tunnel.
I was not exactly happy with being relegated to manual labor, but my speed, strength and stamina likely exceeded everyone else’s by a significant margin. I just wasn’t sure how well I would compete against an army of ants attempting to dig into our tunnel. Unfortunately, my ears told me that the ants were gaining on me rapidly despite my efforts. It probably did not help matters that the others were simply just piling the rubble I was generating. Leeroy “helpfully” decided to start spraying plasma around to try and fuse the rubble together into a sort of makeshift stone wall. I was not entirely sure of the effectiveness of this strategy, but I was getting annoyed about the wisps of plasma that were coming a bit too close to me for comfort.
Even my stamina was beginning to fail by the time we reached the surface after eighteen hours. I was hungry enough to make a real mess of a civilian population if I didn’t get blood soon. Our tunneling pursuers were twenty to thirty minutes behind us, but on the surface we were immediately surrounded by several ants. The others immediately unloaded with various implements of destruction upon the ants surrounding us. I used the time they were providing to establish a remote linkup with the dropship and began piloting it remotely.
Bringing the dropship in for a low hover, I activated the weapons systems and began firing ordnance at the insects surrounding us. Between the various concentrations of massed firepower, we were able to successfully beat off or kill the various waves of attackers. I instructed the dropship to pick up the artifact as the others started climbing aboard. Once onboard myself, I started the dropship climbing to an upper atmosphere altitude where insects were unlikely to fly up to us at. I didn’t want to risk orbit just yet in case something on board was supersized and started a hull breach necessitating an emergency landing somewhere.
Once we were satisfied that nothing else was going to appear and kill us, I went to orbit and docked with the prospector ship. I paid little heed to the others as I headed to the medical bay as soon as we docked as I raided the blood stores onboard. That took far more blood to satisfy my thirst than I’ve felt in a long time too. If Mason chooses to complain about the mess and the depletion of his blood stores, he can find someone that cares.
By the time I got back to the others, they had more or less confirmed what we already knew: this was a space probe of some sort that landed and used insects to perform mining operations. What recognizable tech there was appeared to be psychic and not too far advanced from what was state-of-the-art for humans. MT was keen on trying to reverse engineer it so that we could make more of these things. I personally had serious doubts that humans could ever control the necessary spacefield components, let alone produce them. At least the others decided to hand the blasted thing over to a lab to study instead of playing with it themselves.
Next came up the topic of where to go next. One proposal was to go after wherever it was those crystals came from that gave Tori her powers. I was of the opinion that me being near more of those things was a bad idea from the start. Another proposal was to continue on to the Labyrinth as initially planned. Most agreed this was a potentially profitable mission, but no one felt especially driven to complete the mission as some sort of imperative. Only other option that seemed to gain any sort of traction was the one to investigate the bizarre series of fatal accidents occurring out in the rings of Saturn. Strangely enough, Van Helsing ultimately ended up deciding we would investigate the accidents in the rings of Saturn.
Once we arrived, it looked like the bulk of the mining operation was for exotic aberrant materials imbedded in the moonlets with export of primordial ice for rich clientel to use in drinks as a profitable side business. I enjoy a rich lifestyle as much as the next person, but the level of contaminants in that ice had to be high in toxic chemicals like ammonia and methane was risking a serious lawsuit from an idiot with more money than sense. Oh well, not my problem and I am not being paid to do anything about it.
Oh well, turning our attention to the deaths, we learned most of them occurred during transit. The sheer number of accidental deaths was easily an order of magnitude higher this year than each of the previous four years. And that wasn’t including the death of three accident investigators. To me this screamed “foul play” of some sort as random bad luck was hard to believe to that extent. I suppose it was possible that the local water supply had been massively tainted with lead recently and thus all the deaths were from people who had lost half their IQ to lead poisoning, but much of the infrastructure out here needed to support life would have given up the ghost in that case. The cold harsh realities of space were not very forgiving about lax maintenance or sloppy adherence to procedures.
Ergo, something external was probably in play here.
Sabotage was hard to rationalize though given the sheer number of victims and how spread out they were. Still, almost any other explanation was nigh impossible to fit the facts given the sheer variances in the types of equipment failures, locations, and people involved. MT insisted it had to be focused unluck, but my theory was that we were dealing with another vampire that was using these “accidents” to dispose of the bodies and then moving from location to location to keep their activities hard to track. Attempts at analyzing traffic and “who was where when” to try to correlate if certain people where always nearby when accidents occurred quickly ran into a mess of variables that failed to elucidate any meaningful patterns especially if we had to consider the possibility of a group being involved. At least Leeroy helpfully suggested we look into what the other investigators had found.