Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another Sun Rises - A Cypher*Space Campaign - Session 5


Past Session Logs


Ontology


"All the elements in your body were forged many many millions of years ago in the heart of a faraway star that exploded and died.  That explosion scattered those elements across the desolations of deep space.  After so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets.  And on and on it went.  The elements came together and burst apart, forming shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings.  Until, eventually, they came together to make you.  You are unique in the universe."

- The Doctor, Rings of Akhaten, Doctor Who


*     *     *

Four years.


Having already spent a quarter-million years in a time-dilation augmented stasis, the new command crew of the Argos III figured that another four turns of their old sun was a drop in the bucket.  Reports from GAIA revealed that their starship’s five-hundred meter long engineering module was last seen in the vicinity of "Crimson a", nearest planet to the system’s cool red dwarf star, orbiting at one astronomical unit.  Crimson b, the Argos III’s current location, orbited at over sixteen astronomical units, and it would require a four year maneuver to reach Crimson a.  After waking a skeleton crew to perform the necessary repairs, without letting them know any key details of their predicament yet, the mission commander ordered his team to return to stasis.  The new mission of this command crew was simple: leave the Crimson system as fast as possible.

When the command crew of the Argos III awoke, they had a lot of information to process.  GAIA had the team of four decanted when they were about a month out from Crimson a.


Dr. Bruce ExeterHard-Boiled* Savant who Works Medical Miracles, played by Andy
Dr. Game Dijkstra, Learned Savant who Talks to Machines, played by Matt
Karl Travers, Graceful Trooper who Operates Undercover played by Marc
Evart Crymouth, Stealthy Operative who Adapts to Any Environment played by Jeremy

*Hard-Boiled is out of Wits Alone, by Ryan Chaddock Games



Crimson a, a planet with a mass equivalent to fourteen earths, was orbited by two objects: Crimson a1 and Object X:
  • Crimson a1: a rocky moon made of iron and nickel, similar in size and composition to Mercury.
  • Object X: a 25 meter wide anomaly with a highly elliptical orbit, with a mass of 80 million kilograms (thus unusually massive).

The Argos III had other craft aboard, besides the Remora, that could be used as reconnaissance drones, including seventy-two Sparrowhawk scouts and eighteen Morgan XL shuttles.  Commander Crymouth had GAIA send all of the Sparrowhawks ahead, so that they would encounter Crimson a and Crimson a1 and hopefully send back information about the missing engineering module.  Cautious of Object X’s peculiar composition and origin, the drones would leave the anomaly alone.

Doctor Exeter and Commander Crymouth arranged a plan to wake the remaining crew of one-hundred and fifty five and give them the "bad news" about the Argos III’s location, and the proper date.  To help offset the crew’s discomfort at hearing the information, the commander ordered that only small groups attend the meetings, and then spend time with the ship’s psychiatrist and comfort dogs if need be.  Each Q&A session started the same, with Commander Crymouth carefully easing the crewmembers into reality:

"Here’s the deal: during the course of our initially planned stasis, our ship came across a singularity, which had the unfortunate effect of throwing us… off course.  So when you look out the window, you’ll have a view of the Milky Way Galaxy that no human has ever seen.  So… upside."

Initially there was a growing discontent between the colonial miners and the Terracorp employees, as well as the disgruntled IAAU staff, but Karl Travers was able to step in and control the roughnecks of the bunch.  For their plan to work, the entire crew needed to remain together.

As the Argos III began its encounter of Crimson a the command crew instructed GAIA to enter into a high orbit around Crimson a1.  This was fortunate for the crew of the Argos III, as the drones would discover the Engineering section in a tight orbit around the planet’s metallic moon.  But two choices lay before the team: bring the Argos III to the engineering section, or using a shuttle craft take a crew to engineering and use its thrusters to bring it back to the Argos III.  Commander Crymouth chose the second option, and picked his elite team (Dr. Exeter, Dr. Dijkstra, and Mr. Travers) to accompany him on this away mission.

When the crew arrived at the engineering section, they found it completely powered down.  After docking, Dr. Exeter did a scan of the craft with his medical gauntlet and found a mass of organic material, twenty by ten by twenty feet inside the engineering command compartment.  Although this gave the commander some pause, he still lit his flashlight an entered the chamber.  On the far side of the long, cylindrical command compartment was a massive stack of dead, frozen humans.  Dr. Dijkstra, Dr. Exeter, and Mr. Travers entered the chamber and started scouting about.  Dr. Dijkstra could get the engineering section of the ship operational in about ninety minutes, while Dr. Exeter could scan the bodies and find out what happened.  The medical doctor guessed (correctly upon examination) that this this the abducted crew of the Argos III, and that each one died of malnourishment before they were stacked and froze.

Karl Travers was just standing around minding his business like any good starship trooper would when he looked over at Dr. Exeter and Dr. Dijkstra.  Dr. Exeter was removing the tongue of one of the dead humans, while Dr. Dijkstra kept joking about "frozen dinners" when Mr. Travers lost it…

… and by "it" we are referring to coffee, orange juice, a single mini-bagel with apple butter, two scrambled eggs, three pieces of turkey-sausage, hashed brown potatoes, and extra ketchup.

Since Mr. Travers was wearing a full soft e-suit, the contents of his stomach filled his helmet, and the trooper had to return to the Morgan XL shuttle to get cleaned up.  It took a few minutes, and a few mints, to get himself back together, but when the trooper looked outside, his nausea faded away, and terror filled his mind.  Object X was now a bright, glowing star off in the distance.

Commander Crymouth, Dr. Exeter, and Dr. Dijkstra all returned to the shuttle and took a look at the display.  Object X left its orbit around Crimson a, and was bound for Crimson a1, steaming ahead at a fraction of the speed of light.  With only thirty minutes until Object X would encounter the engineering section, Commander Crymouth ordered his nearby Sparrowhawks to "intercept and harry" the anomaly, but not to discharge any weapons.

"I’m not interested in declaring a war on something that can ignite a sun."

When the Sparrowhawks did little to disturb the Object’s trajectory, the command crew started to brainstorm a way to communicate.  Radio signals had no effect, so the crew aimed flashes of light in the direction of Object X, in the sequence of prime numbers.  Initially this seemed to have no effect on the miniature star, and the team was about to try something else when Mr. Travers came up with the idea to have GAIA interpret the object’s own light emissions for incredibly small variances.

Brilliant!

The object was indeed returning the flashes, but in incredibly rapid pulses that could never be distinguished by the human eye.  When the object arrived, it shone brighter than the sun, and would’ve blinded the crew if not for the filters on the cockpit windows.  Mr. Travers had undocked from engineering, and now the shuttle was "face-to-face" with the anomaly, which was now mimicking all of the human vessel’s movements.  Dr. Dijkstra then instructed more and more advanced patterns to be "flashed" back to the anomaly, and a dialogue of mathematics began.

It was now clear that Object X was some kind of extra-terrestrial craft, but the "biology" of these "extra-terrestrial biological entities" (EBE’s) was an absolute mystery.  The creatures, and their vessels, were just energy, and as they moved, they burned their own "mass".  Using the patterns of light, Dr. Dijkstra was able to work out a "Rosetta Stone."  To determine distance, Dr. Dijkstra compared the Crimson star system’s stellar and planetary radii.  To determine objects, the EBE’s used the masses of the same, as well as those of the humans aboard the shuttle to denote members of the crew.  It seemed like the EBE’s believed all human crew to be returned, and considered the dead crew in the engineering section to "count."  There was no way for the command crew to explain life or death to these EBE’s, the concept was not only alien, but there was no way to discuss it by using just mass and distance.  The EBE's must have been curious about the new life forms they encountered, but their inability to communicate with the abductees caused the accidental deaths. 

It was like a child trying to care for his first ant-colony.  

The EBE's began giving instructions to the crew of the shuttle.  Coordinates were relayed for a high orbit around Crimson a, and given their near godlike power, Commander Crymouth made it so.  Taking the shuttle back to the Argos III, the commander had GAIA follow the EBE's direction.  The command crew noted that the EBE's "vessel" was towing the engineering section out towards the same position, so Commander Crymouth instructed his crew to perform docking maneuvers.  While the two parts of the ship connected, however, something incredibly luminous and brilliant appeared.  Crimson a1 "ignited", turning into a small, white star that lit up space around the large planet.  It was no moon at all, but instead an incredibly massive EBE command vessel.  

Communication continued, as it became more and more apparent that these incredibly advanced entities wanted to atone for what they had done.  

Hoping to somehow return to Earth, Dr. Dijkstra tried relaying his team's intent.  The projected location of Earth was transmitted back to the EBE’s, as well as measurements that showed a plotted trajectory.  The command crew was not entirely excited at the prospect of travelling nearly a quarter-million light years at a third the speed of light, since time dilation at .3c was a mere 6%, and their own stasis pods would probably not last that long.  Dr. Exeter thought up the idea of sharing the masses of elements that would make up organic materials, with the idea that maybe anther suitable world could be found.  The EBE’s shared locations in the Large Magellanic Cloud that could be a possible destination, as well as the necessary trajectory around Crimson for a gravity assist.

The EBE’s then made their own offer.  They began referring to the mass of the Shkadov thruster, and the trajectory to Earth.  For whatever reasons these entities could possess, they were willing to spend countless years in space moving the entire star system closer to Earth.  Commander Crymouth agreed to this plan, with his team’s consent, and began instructing the rest of the crew.

Using the amazing technologies of the EBE’s, Crimson b was relocated closer to Crimson, so that the heat from the star could warm the planet and create an environment more suitable for habitation.  Commander Crymouth gave everyone in the crew an option: use the Argos III and Crimson a as ark-ships while the vessels travelled across the stars for countless years, or enter the stasis pods, and hope that the EBE’s could sustain the hibernation for a long period of time.  Most of the crew chose the former, but for Commander Crymouth, Dr. Exeter, Dr. Dijkstra, and Mr. Travers, Earth was their hearts’ desire.  Closing their eyes, the four men went into a deep, deep sleep, as the Shkadov Thruster slowly propelled the Crimson star system across the void between the Small Magellanic Cloud and the Milky Way towards home.

*     *     *

Glyquorg was sitting alone on a hill near the great, multi-legged city of Nihliesh, at the very edge of civilization where the Steadfast met the Beyond.  The Exiled Jack had lost a dear, dear companion recently, and to put his mind at ease the now severely mutated man would walk out towards the snowy dunes and just look up into the sky.  Glyquorg was sure that each shining gem above his head told its own story, and this was a comfort.  No matter what would happen in his life, the universe would still move on, an ever changing constant.  Except for the planets that the Jack’s eyes could see, very little in the night sky would change night after night.  But on this particular night, there was… something… that seemed out of place.

In an old and familiar constellation, a new star now shined.  Although faint and barely visible to the unaided human eye, Glyquorg knew that this strange red jewel was not there on previous nights.  The Exiled Jack leaned back and sighed…


"I wonder what stories you have to share, little star."



Quotes



"So you're proposing that we invent the GAIA positioning system?" - Marc liked the Sparrowhawk Drone Relay idea.


Marc - "Don't you get nerd on me!" 
Matt - "That's Doctor Dijkstra's job!" 

"Because A1 is how orbits are done!" - Marc knows hid cosmos-diments.

Marc - "We need to warm up a fresh batch of redshirts first." 
Jim - "Break out the 'dies' focus." 

"Yeah… stasis pods have a lifespan of… forever." - Dr. Exeter had a lot of fake faith in technology.

"I'm glad we didn't heat this room up." - Matt referring to the giant block of frozen humans.  

"You guys, we don't have a food problem anymore." - Matt referring to the giant block of frozen humans.  

"So you're saying its 'Chinese'?  It's one big block of lo mein.  The most advanced lo mein ever created." - I don't remember when I said this last night… but I did.  I think I was referring to the "great-EBE"


Oh My Stars!



In addition to my usual "thank you's", I again want to thank my amazing cast of players for this game.  Marc, Matt, Andy, Jeremy, I'm so happy we were able to try doing this series of adventures.  Thanks for putting up with the twists, turns, and twisty-turns, as I spun a yarn that started out survival-horror, transitioned to sci-fi mystery, and ended with a plausible interaction with a hyper-advanced civilization!

*     *     *

The rules for Another Sun Rises are based on Monte Cook Games' Numenera and The Strange, incredible RPG's in their own right, both of which I am absolutely in love with. 

I will continue to share a link back to 0-hr art & technology.  Ryan Wolfe is a terrific artist, and I used his designs for the Remora, Argos III, and a few more.  All of his ships are available at DriveThruRPG, so I'd suggest you take a look if you are starting your own campaign in space!  

To build the Crimson star system, I used Universe Sandbox, a space simulator that allows you to create entire planetary systems and toy with everything from mass to orbital velocity.  You can pick up this amazing program on Steam, or check them out on their own website here.