Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Entity 2

It's been a few weeks since we last met, so we began with a bit of review. That done, the crew headed over to L20 to pick up their freshly minted fleet. Suitably impressed with their new battlegroup, they quickly advanced their ranks: Capt. Julian became Admiral Julian, Commander Julian became Captain Julian, Commander Kiri was reinstated as Captain Kiri, and everyone else was upgraded to Commander if they weren't there already. Expecting to come out of their encounter alive, the group also discussed their future plans - namely, begining a new empire. A few names were bandied about; Gus attempted to make the initials spell "ISIS", but for some reason, no one seemed to think that was a good plan.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Less Money More Stuff

L20 has a big facility, but it's not infinite, and right now, they are in full production mode, churning out small, medium, and large ships for every government. There isn't a lot of ground fighting, though, so they were able to make the full order of power armor suits: 10 command suits, 10 weapon's expert suits, and 180 Soldier Suits. In fact, they threw in a walker, too. No armored assault is complete without a giant mech, right?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Entity 1

The party decided the best course of action was to first see if the Entity was still in its cage. Using the map, they traveled through jumpspace and into the center of the Black Zone, where they found a tiny red dwarf and a barely-habitable planet. On the surface, little existed but hardy weeds and a single life sign. They set down on the surface, hoping to gain more information on this creature.

Caution won out; they were far enough away that when the enormous creature burst out that it was too far away to do much. It hurled rocks at them, but didn't manage to ever get within punching range (sadly, because it hit like a tank). Though everyone fired all manner of weapons at it, it shrugged off the damage (toughness 25 will do that!). It glanced a rock off one of the robots, but took a boomer round to the face from Gus. The next round, the bomber carrying Nae and Lt. Vance was in position; its forward guns did little to hurt the monster, but the large bomb they dropped did some damage. A well-aimed Gatling Laser through its face ended the battle as abruptly as it started; the creature crumbled to dust, as the party reacted with no little surprise. Gus suggested that, perhaps, Not-Grainer was actually the Entity, and this was the only creature that could have killed him. Man, I should have thought of that!

But no, the creature was dead, and Not-Grainer is actually one of the good guys - he's just super busy trying to keep the rest of his race from deciding to end the universe, or something. Anyway, a careful investigation of the cave the creature lived in revealed very little (a stone chair, a basin with water, some weeds that seemed to be what it ate). The jump pod just outside that proved most useful. It seems that the Entity was not this beast after all; somehow, the Entity had managed to escape, and left the creature behind as a decoy, likely to fool any investigators. The Entity had escaped almost 27 years before - just before the original Shifting Horizon had launched, in fact, which Gus was quick to point out.

They tested the crowbar, and found it worked surprisingly well; jumpspace exclusion zones were completely ignored. They traveled on to Pi Solaria to investigate the serial number from the pod, and got the name of the company that purchased it; they also took the time to make a hefty profit. With the jumpspace map, they were able to secure an awesome deal - 2 billion credits, in hand, and stock options worth 2 million a year! A lot of money for them, but barely a drop in the bucket for Solaria Corp. Solaria Corp will likely sell upgrades for a million or more, though it amounts to little more than a software upgrade. With hundreds of millions of ships in the galaxy, they stand to make considerable profit. They only need to sell 2,000 upgrades to cover their costs, as it is. The party left soon after, slowed only a few minutes by a riot outside, which they neatly sidestepped. Their presence scared away the protesters, but did not calm anyone down... hopefully, that won't come back to haunt them.

The company that bought the jump drive was a shell company, though they did find the name of a scientist, who just so happened to be part of a symposium on nearby Nahundi; but first, a stop by L20 industries! With their next-generation jump drive, they made the trip in half the time, and were able to sell the map a second time, for another 2 billion credits, before news of the first sale arrived. Having a fast ship is nice that way - being able to travel faster than information is a good skill to have. They put in an order for a fleet of ships, power armor, and some mechs, then left to investigate Nahundi.

They were welcomed with open arms, and even invited to speak - as it turns out, the symposium was about the jump space barrier, and how to get through or around it. Most of the scientists didn't even know about the barrier. The party set up a recruitment table, where Eliza attracted quite a few scientists who likely didn't understand that they were signing up to be soldiers, and probably won't care as long as they can stand next to Eliza.

Meanwhile, the party found where the scientist was staying, and when no one came to answer their knock, Gus scanned the room - and found a fairly cool corpse. Oh dear. Julian ordered the door knocked down; Gus managed to... barely scratched the surface. Nae, sighing and rolling her eyes, planted a firm kick and popped the door open. It was only after they splintered the door jam that the two androids remembered they had lockpicking skills...

Inside, the cause of death was fairly obvious - a sniper round through the chest, via the window, likely from the hotel across the courtyard. The scientist died the previous day. For once, the party decided to actually involve the authorities; the man behind the desk paled when the death was mentioned, and broke down under (gentle, because Kiri wasn't there) questioning. The symposium had gotten death threats from JiC, but the hotel failed to report them. If that new ever got out, the hotel would have quite a bit of trouble. And not just the assassination, either, because...

Screaming erupted outside. Gus scanned the area, and detected a large number of people running away from a person in the center of the square, who looked like he was wearing the usual vest full of explosives. Julian ordered Eliza and the security officers at the recruitment desk to see what was going on. As the guards pushed their way through the crowd, Eliza leaped onto the side of the hotel and skittered upwards until she could see the bomber. The terrorist seemed to be reading some sort of manifesto, with a dead man's switch held out. Eliza carefully took aim with the laser gun mounted in her arm, then shot the wire in half, making the switch useless. Nearby, Gadget, flying above the crowd with his new flight abilities, took careful aim as well, this time on the terrorist's leg. As he drew a bead, the terrorist released the switch, then stared at it in confusion when the bomb didn't go off.

A slight intermission here for two notes. First, Eliza is not a gentle android. She has modified herself over the years far beyond her original specs. Unlike her lifelike skin indicates, she is a fighting machine. Her stats are as follows: Robot (Wildcard); Agility d10, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6; Fighting d10, Shooting d10, Notice d6, Knowledge: Electronics d8, Stealth d10; Parry 7, Toughness 5, Pace 6, running die d10; arm-mounted Laser rifle; arm-mounted sword (str+d6); Android, Wall-Walker, Data Jack; First Strike, Jack-of-all-Trades, Marksman.
Second, the switch was a "poor man's dead man switch" - that is, a "normally closed" switch, held open by holding the button down; releasing the button would cause the circuit to close, thus activating the bomb. A much better design is to have the switch close when it is pressed, activating an internal circuit; thus, the wires are active, and releasing the button or severing the wires would set off the bomb. JiC, however, is not a smart group, or well-funded.

Gadget took his time to get a bead, then fired, neatly severing the terrorist's leg at the knee. Nae was at his side in an instant, stopping the bleeding, though not reattaching the leg. Security finally reached the scene, and tried to get everyone to clear the area, but were effectively laughed off by the crew. Gus's repair droid hauled the terrorist to a safe location and removed the vest, then sent the man to the Shifting Horizon for questioning. As it turns out, if you think someone is going to be dead soon anyway, you aren't as careful with information; the man not only knew the ringleader, but various other information about his group as well. He gave it all up after a quiet chat with Alexy, who absolutely loves his job, especially with the newfound freedom of expression granted him by no longer working for the UEA.

The next morning, the party was given the presentation time slot of the dead scientist, and Julian filled the time with a very exciting presentation; between the music, the fancy multi-media presentation, and the introduction of the jumpspace map and the crowbar, they were a huge hit. Afterwards, a Kchk'Trrs asked Nae to take a look at their data-sharing system; she was having some problems with it, and thought a science super-star could figure it out. That, and she could sell the keyboard for a hefty profit, since it was touched by none other than the legendary Nae of the starship Shifting Horizon. Nae took a look, and realized that someone was siphoning data from the system; a joint effort between Nae, Gus, and Gadget revealed a ship had hacked into the data stream and was stealing quite a bit of information. Quickly, the Oncoming Storm moved into position next to the ship, but it jumped to the edge of the system, then to the Bardron system; it followed, only to see it dump its data and blow itself up. They returned to Nahundi to pick up the crew.

As they were away, another 105 scientists joined up, including 12 Kchk'Trrs. Captain Julian decided to wait until they had their fleet of ships ready before attacking, instead keeping the area under surveillance.

There and Back Again

At the beginning of this session, Captain Julian imposed martial law; all able-bodied people were conscripted, and given some basic weapons training. Children and the few adults that weren't willing went into cryo for the duration. Granted, most people were perfectly fine with the training, even the good psychologist's teenage daughter, who will likely get into trouble, but you don't even understand mom, Captain Julian said it was ok I asked him specifically, geeze mom, it's like, war, get off my case. Er... moving on.

Nearly to their destination, the crew saw a ship, barely in sensor range. While they considered what to do about it, it suddenly appeared much closer; it was a huge ship, nearly the size of the Oncoming Storm, covered in sensors and weapons! Oddly, its ship beacon registered it as an old UEA exploration ship called the UEA SS Eliza, though it looked nothing like one. The crew were on the verge of deciding whether to shoot or leave when the ship suddenly vanished again, then reappeared - along with 50 copies of itself! Just as suddenly as the copies arrived, they vanished, and the lone remaining ship hailed them.

They were greeted by Susie-Mae Lansing, a perky southern lady with a matching drawl, then the captain of the vessel, Capt. Roger Kelft, a smooth adventurer, who invited them aboard. Fearing treachery, Julian suggested that they board his vessel instead. They agreed, and soon, Captain Kelft, Susie Mae, an engineer, a medical officer, and an android named Eliza - the ship avatar - joined them. Julian proudly showed them his ship. They... weren't impressed, actually. Julian was a bit incredulous, until slightly later when he asked if they had run into anyone like the strange teleporting creatures they had met earlier. The Captain nodded, and Eliza listed off how many they had destroyed - over 15 thousand! Julian, himself impressed, asked how they managed it; the captain invited them back aboard his ship, saying the Shifting Horizon was a bit too "soft" for comfort.

Aboard the UEA SS Eliza, the captain showed them around a bit - the corridors were plated in exterior bulkheads, and there were what looked like fire suppression shower heads every 10 yards or so, with matching drains in the floor. The others wondered about it, and the captain explained it was for acid. It's hard to teleport when you've had your flesh eaten away. No one much cared for the featureless bulkhead-walls; even the conference room table was made of stainless steel, and bolted to the floor. The Captain agreed that it lacked personality, but it was tiring replacing decoration that was washed away by gunfire and acid. Better boring than dead.

The captain explained the strange circumstances of how they got where they were:

A long time ago, back in the J0 days, a ship was created to map the universe. It traveled jumpspace and realspace, back and forth, measuring and mapping, linking routes, traversing and re-traversing. Over time, the scientists and engineers on board continued to modify the rudimentary AI to help with more and more tasks, upgrading it to be able to repair the ship, and eventually to modify its own orders. As time wore on, the scientists, engineers, and crew produced a second generation; as the generations expanded, the scientists became passengers, then followers, then zealots. The ship remembered it all; spliced and re-spliced, merged and edited, the recordings of passengers and crew were used to create projections of personalities, and soon personalities became people, fleshed out as projections, even androids. The interior of the ship became a living memory, a zoo if you will.

At that moment, Eliza stood and proclaimed, "I am that ship. My passengers, my crew, are merely projections, replications. They deteriorate, and I rebuild them. I have mapped the galaxy for thousands of years; I found which paths travel through space, and which travel through time. I mapped and remapped, until I had traveled the whole of the galaxy. I saw so many things, but all that I had space for was the Map. And yet... I am lost. I traveled through a crack in the world, and I learned how insignificant I am, and I cannot return."

Julian desperately wanted a copy of the map. Gus and Gadget were quite interested in learning how these people looked and acted so human, and yet were androids (they were a step farther than Terminators; real flesh, real muscles, synthetic bones, and nanowire nervous system). Eliza agreed to upload the map; in doing so, she freed enough memory to be able to store new information; once the map was uploaded, she left for Earth.

However, uploading the map triggered a long-dormant plot twist - the Shifting Horizon didn't have a J2 jumpdrive! Rather, it had a J3 drive, capable of using jumpspace maps to travel great distances in a much shorter amount of time. The uploaded map now allows it to jump very quickly from any system, taking the shortest path, often for half the time.

Finally, it was time to move on to their destination. Coordinates previously double-checked by Eliza, they jumped into the lion's maw...

On the way, Gadget read up on jumpspace, and managed to invent a "jumpspace mine" of sorts. It made the transition from jumpspace to realspace, and vice versa, very... painful.

Additionally, two new characters arrived, whose names I forgot to write down. One, an android, and the other, a male Kchk'Trrs.

The planet was dead - nothing living, but swarms of creatures, slithering through realspace. They approached one of the many dead ships surrounding the planet, and found it infested with a strange growth, wood-like on the outside, but fleshy on the inside. Nae took a cutting, which triggered rather a lot of wild thrashing - taking this as a sign to leave. However, a swarm took notice and began moving towards them, teleporting ever-closer. Slightly freaked out, they group retreated to another system, and found the ruins of a civilization (making more jumpspace mines along the way). There was nothing left now but the fighting. Returning to the system, they engaged the enemy...

The first few waves of creatures, they managed to defeat with torpedoes, but quickly ran out. Leaving the crew to man the lasers, the party spread around the ship to protect it. The first aliens teleported inside, and were hit by the jumpspace mines. Only one managed to survive; the rest crashed to the ground wreathed in green flames. The second wave fared only a little better, though they were quickly cut down by withering fire from Gus and Gadget. One managed to escape up an elevator, but was cut down by the dozen security guards around the jump drive. The next wave included some tougher leadership; Julian, confident from his earlier encounters, jumped into the fray, but was bashed for 2 wounds by a berserker with a power hammer; the others weren't as able to land a hit, and Nae managed to keep them at bay with some well-placed sonic shotgun blasts. The battle raged on; Gus and the newcomer Android managed to corner a creature in a hangar bay, and the new Kchk'Trrs attempted to assist. However, his attempt was in vain; though the creature was killed, so was he. Which makes two male Kchk'Trrs lost on this ship. It's not a good track record. Granted, the newcomer was a wanted felon, and likely would not be missed, but still.

All told, 16 creatures, 8 taskmasters, and 4 leaders entered the ship's lower levels, and were killed; an additional 8 creatures, 12 taskmasters, and 1 leader entered the ship at other points, but were destroyed by either mines or crew fire. The remaining swarms opted to not approach the ship; they didn't know how many torpedoes remained, otherwise they may have chanced it.

Over the next several days, the Oncoming Storm took up an orbit around the sun, siphoning enough energy to not only refill their supply, but produce a very large number of heavy torpedoes, stacking them inside the ship bays. Finally, they fired every last one of them at the planet, providing covering fire with railguns and lasers, until the planet was a raging inferno, and the ships were destroyed. It is unlikely that the creatures would be able to rebuild from that (indeed; the ships were acting as power collectors, and the planet below was covered in creature-birthing trees. Without them, the creatures cannot reproduce, and the few that escaped the immolation will likely die of old age before they find civilization).

After the planet was destroyed, Eliza returned; she had done a quick trip through the system inside the bubble (Earth, et al), and realized that what the party had told her was correct. She sent her ship back to help, and stayed on as part of the crew.

On the way back to Earth, Gadget again put his hand towards inventing, and managed to come up with a repair grenade for Androids that works as a large blast radius EMP for enemies, or a d6 repair for friendly robots. Using tech from the creatures, he invented a personal energy shield that has a 50% chance per attack of activating each attack, but only once each round. However, I am going to change how I originally said it worked; instead of providing armor, it will instead soak 3d6 damage. He also was able to replicate the jumpspace belts the creatures use, and he created copper-wound Faraday cages which provide 6 armor against EMP, for robots and androids.

The jumpspace map only applied inside the bubble - the jumpspace exclusion zone wrapping around Earth and the other systems - so it still took two months to return. The crew once again reduced to a skeleton shift, and the ship traveled through jumpspace. But during the long trip back to earth, something happened. The crew can only guess that the creatures found them. Gadget awoke to his low battery alarm - he was charging, but his battery had decayed. He managed to replace it, and woke the captain, who suffered from extreme cryo-sickness - something that only happens after years in cryo. An investigation turned up nothing on the skeleton crew. Worse, the ship had only a week's worth of energy remaining.

The missing crew included: Ensign Alec Panyanouvong, 2nd Lt. Lynn Ibe, Ensign Tamera Stradley, Ensign Josep Soler, Ensign Darien Kundert, Ensign Hugo Weaving, and 2nd Lt. Marianne Falk.

The party agreed that the only bet was to try to find the nearest sun to recharge; they had no idea how long they had been out. As they tried to limp to the nearest star system, in the hopes that they could scavenge some fuel, they were interrupted by a huge ship that somehow appeared directly in front of them. Grimly, they prepared to jump out of there, as the ship fired at them... then vanished. And on the bridge stood... Captain Grainer?

He explained about the Entity - the creature the crew had been searching for. It was trapped inside a bubble, inside the Black Zone, which is itself inside the bubble around the systems. The Entity was the creator of the nasty creatures, and was also a terrible criminal. The powerful organization that... well, it's not actually Captain Grainer; it's a being impersonating him, but anyway - the organization that Not-Grainer works for is a police force of a sort. They jailed the Entity over 10,000 years ago. Meanwhile, the Entity is likely looking for the crack in the outer bubble, while the creatures are trying to find him. Finally, Not-Grainer teleports the ship back inside the bubble, and is gone. Oh, but he left a tool - a crowbar, which supposedly punches through jumpspace exclusion zones. Gadget tried to figure it out, but its design is beyond mystical.

Finally back home, NOA took a reading of the stars, and realized that they spent 25 years in cryosleep.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

HoloEarth and Unmasking Spies


Venturing out into the dark emptiness of space, the crew reduces to skeleton shifts - everyone into cryo, apart from a scant few officers and only enough crew to keep the ship running.

Halfway to their destination, NOA picks up a solar system; diverting only takes a little time, enough to wake a few more from cryosleep. It's a blue-green planet, third from the sun, with a single moon. Confused and cautious, the crew hailed the planet; they had to try a few frequencies first, but they finally reached a compatible video frequency. A nervous-looking lieutenant (human!) answered the call; after a bit of back and forth, he realized that their call was from space; this seemed to come as a great shock, even more so when Julian claimed that they had traveled from a far-off system. Eventually, the party was invited down to the planet. Initially suspicious, the party decided to bring several Du'ul Tlak guards with them, as well as two fighters to escort the personnel shuttle. Julian was surprised and pleased to learn that there are a quite a few more ships than before.

The party (Julian, Kiri, Gus, and the guards) landed at a military base, and were greeted by a Gen. Jon Johann; after some initial shock - as it turns out, the humans of this earth had never met an alien before, or even left the solar system - the two groups put their heads together to figure out what was going on. It seems the "real" earth and this earth shared a similar history, right up to the arrival of two astronauts. The two had left earth in 1982 in a primitive form of cryosleep; they arrived back on earth (or so they thought) in 2077. Gus wondered if perhaps the whole world was fake, controlled by an AI. Julian had a history of the earth loaded onto a tablet, and a scientist looked through, verifying details; he noted that their histories diverged in 2077, at the arrival of the astronauts.

Meanwhile, the ship had been scanning the planet carefully, and had discovered some strange anomalies. They asked Gus to hit something, and measure the results; he did, and his results matched the finding of the ship: the planet was, indeed, controlled by a computer! Vast parts of it was made up of some sort of hologram. Julian asked if there was somewhere to do some testing - namely, firing some big weapons. The general agreed to the test, and fired a few large rounds. The results seemed to be completely normal... and then Julian ordered an orbital strike. Boom! The results from that was certainly conclusive! The party returned to the ship, with the copy-earth scientist on board. One well-aimed shot later, and the computer system was fried - no more holograms. In fact, no more a lot of things! The scientist, as it turns out, was real, but only a few thousand more humans actually were. Julian, in a rare moment of clarity, wondered if perhaps shooting things wasn't the best idea. He quickly came to his senses, however.

A careful dig through the fake planet resulted in only a little more information - AlSec had created the planet, and had been stocking it with people; however, they had tried to move the planet through jumpspace, and has lost it. The planet somehow found its way out through the crack, drifting through space for hundreds of years. However, it seems a creature or organization known as the Entity has been directing AlSec...

Unmasking the Spies

Back aboard the Oncoming Storm, the party had barely made it into jumpspace before more trouble started. Jenny Ovensen, the ex-Norsup engineer, got into a fistfight with Zayd Nejem, a security guard. Though the other guards were originally on Nejem's side, the tables quickly turned when he blurted out his true allegiance - the Jihadist Crusaders! He quickly regretted his decision when the security chief, Lr. Alexy Bogomolov. He interrogated the prisoner, happy to be allowed to use any means at his disposal. Zayd didn't know of any other JiC on board (they aren't known for communicating with each other well), but he did know there must be other groups.

Kiri attempted to calm the growing crowd, and only made things worse; it wasn't long before the whole ship knew there was a spy on board, and others that hadn't been discovered. And what do you do when there are spies on board? A witch hunt! And a lynching! Or lots of lynchings!

One spy stepped forward - Lucia Belo, who had been with the ship from the beginning as a civilian, outed herself as a corporate spy for L20, and offered her assistance. She was allowed to go free - L20 was unlikely to hurt anyone, and she was actually a fairly useful part of the crew.

Julian, realizing that Zayd would say anything, and knowing that a lynching would be bad for morale, decided to throw a party - dancing, food, and above all, drinks. The party then wandered through the various cliques that formed, and ratted out a few other gang members. Two privates, Fred and Georgia Zellen, ratted on each other; it turns out they were low level AlSec plants, picked up before the freeing of Earth. Chad Tocher, a fighter pilot, was discovered by Julian - also AlSec. Dr. Sanjit Joshi, meanwhile, was hunted down by Kiri her her invisibility suit; she heard him muttering about working for Empire. He was given a slap on the wrist and a stern talking to, but otherwise he seems to have been left in peace. Well, after Kiri stopped tormenting him, anyway.

Another Empire spy was found, as well: Nikita Mercik, a shuttle pilot. She, too, was released.

Finally, Kiri kidnapped one final spy: Judas Pinkley, who had been getting into some fights recently. Kiri tied him down, and dunked him in freezing cold water... though neglected to actually ask him any questions. For her part, Kiri was given a slap on the wrist, and told to stop harassing people; Pinkley, however, was sent to cryo as the JiC spy he was.

That done, the last of the spies had been outed; however, that is not the end of this writeup. Oh no...

Before rounding up the last of the spies, Gus decided to give dancing a whirl. And whirl he did, with 4 raises on a skill he had no points invested in! His amazing display captivated the audience, and earned him a free d4 in dancing. Fancy!

These missions may not have had much fighting in them, but trust me... next session should make up for that. Oh yes it shall... you can't see it, but I'm gleefully rubbing my hands together, while laughing malevolently!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Updated Data!

After quite a lot of not actually working on it, I finally went in and fixed the errors and misspellings in the three pages on the toolbar to the right, there. The RoF for the weapons is fixed, for the most part; I reduced all RoF 4 to 3. I need to go through the rules some more to see if that is too much or not.

More importantly, I also updated the crew roster; the new, much bigger Oncoming Storm has a lot more people, and a lot fewer civilians (mostly families). Several civilians on board the Shifting Horizon opted to sign on, notably a large number of scientists. The roster doesn't have all the names, but it has most of the important ones. If you really want me to add the 600ish unnamed people, I guess I could... or you could! Find a random name generator, and press "refresh" 600 times, and there you go. Good luck!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Closing One Book, Opening Another

Months ago, the Shifting Horizon was sent out, along with a dozen other ships, to find a faster route through jumpspace to the Pentacus system. Today, that mission was accomplished. After some confusion, the gang realized that they were finally back home, and much cheering and back-slapping occurred. Acting Captain Grainer personally congratulated each one for a job well done. The jump route they found had indeed chopped the trip in half! The mission was not only a success, but a resounding success!

After the cheers died down, the Captain calls for a moment of silence for those lost. And 30 seconds into that minute, news arrives... Earth has fallen.

Queue the "Wait... what?".

In the months past, the already disliked UEA had begun making various "anti-riot" laws that had the opposite effect - mass demonstrations, many of which turned ugly. There were mutterings of revolt, of seceding from the UEA. UEA Peacekeepers were spread thin, fire-fighting small uprisings and quelling riots. Suddenly, 16 days before the Shifting Horizon arrived in known space, all traffic from Alpha Corvi ceased; all UEA ships in the area massed for a raid, but never returned. A second expedition of Duul'Tlak ships also set out, never to return. No one has any information from the blockaded systems. Alpha Corvi, Leporis A 4, Earth, and the Alchiba system are completely cut off. Attempts to find alternate routes from Bardron to Leporis have failed. Luckily... there's a brand new route back.

An emergency senate was formed, a new federation: the Allied Planetary Federation; they commissioned a ship from L20 Industries, a much larger ship; they also sent the crew of the Shifting Horizon on a mission to gather as many ships as possible. Of all of the ships in the fleet, the officers of the SH were the most experienced. Grainer was given full Captain status; the others were upgraded to barely a step below. The Julians split up, and managed to convince every single system to give their best. The Shifting Horizon was retrofitted to become a new ship - the APF SS Oncoming Storm. Taking the new fleet, they rushed through the new jumpspace route in record time, and arrived on the far side of Earth.

The previous fleets floated in a merciless kill-box, dead. It was up to the Oncoming Storm, two other battleships, four fleets of destroyers, and four flights of fighters to take on the four AlSec battleships, four fleets of destroyers, and four fleets of fighter.

The two sides met in battle... in the first round, the AlSec deployed their ships in a classic attack - battleships against destroyers, destroyers against fighters, and fighter protecting the battleships. The first salvo ended with AlSec losing every single battleship, and a fleet each of destroyers and fighters; the APF fleet lost their destroyers, but managed to survive otherwise. The second salvo was just as brutal; the APF elected to hold the Oncoming Storm back, and attacked fighters and destroyers evenly, while AlSec deployed everything they had against the battleships. In vain; AlSec lost all but one fleet each of their destroyers and fighters, while the APF fleet lost only a single battleship. 20 minutes too late, the AlSec reinforcements arrived, and were quickly slaughtered.

However, during the battle, Captain Grainer heroically gave his life, taking out a communications array and decimating the destroyers. As his crew jettisoned, he ordered his ship to ramming speed, saving the crew and the destroyers.

At the conclusion of the battle, Julian 1.1 was voted Captain of the Oncoming Storm; Julian 1.0 captain of the destroyer fleets, and Kiri was somehow put in charge of a capital ship of her own.

Earth was saved, but had suffered a heavy toll - half of its population was gone. Dead or vanished, few knew, and fewer still spoke of it. The cleanup took three months, purging AlSec from the system, and providing aid where it was needed.

Finally, they found a lead - an off-the-maps science base, near the Edge. Traveling there, they were greeted by a hostile force of humans and Kchk'Trrs, as well as a strange, alien creature who seemed to be teleporting around quite a bit. While most of the humans and bugs posed little threat, there were two that nearly ended the lives of several of the crew:

First, the teleporting creature nearly managed to teleport Julian 1.1 outside the ship; his armor full of holes from a crazy-powerful robot, he would have suffocated before he could get back in. Second, Gadget did his usual tactic of tossing a bunch of explosive cord at an enemy. Unfortunately, this enemy happened to be carrying 2 detonation packs, several EMP and thermal grenades, and some self-propelled missiles. The cord exploded for a total of 40-something damage, which was enough to not only punch through his armor, but set off all the armament he was carrying.

For 100 damage, plus 27 points of EMP damage. In a large blast radius. With 20 points of armor piercing.

Let me be clear. This was enough damage that it would have completely destroyed the Shifting Horizon. That is not small arms fire. That is not even quad-linked laser cannon fire. That is capital ship class railgun fire. It blasted a hole in the station big enough to set a jeep inside.

Oh, and Gadget? He was inside that blast radius. Did he soak the damage? Oh yes. He spent the black chip he had just picked up. Talk about lucky. Of course, he was reduced to "seriously bleeding out" not long afterwards, when the strange creature gutted him like a robot fish; two rolls (and rerolls) later, Gus managed to get him repaired, though his missing arm will have to be taken care of back on board the ship. Julian 1.0 got teleported outside, but made himself a new door and waltzed right in.

The teleporty-dude, however, wasn't done. He bounced around, nearly wounded a couple more people... then got caught by a Duul'Tlak sword. Shaken and wounded, he attempted to escape, but could not; Julian 1.0's guns reduced him to a bleeding corpse.

...which sank through the floor and vanished. He did leave behind his sword, a strange, fear-inducing blade that does Str+2d6+2 damage. Not too bad, actually.

Scraping any useful data, the crew abandoned the science station, and launched a single torpedo into it. Heading towards the coordinates they found, they arrived... outside the Edge. The universe was much, much bigger than anyone had dreamed; the Edge, as it was known, was not a time/space anomaly, but a wall - a huge, spherical wall, wrapping around the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Outside the exclusion zone, the universe looked much different. Systems were farther apart that science had calculated, orders of magnitude farther. Jumpspace still worked, but it would take much longer to get where they wanted to go. And this far from known space, they were on their own...

And thus ends Book 3: Corruption, and begins Book 4: Darkness.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ghosts and Zombies

Once again, our intrepid heroes are waltzing across the galaxy, laying waste to everything I, their tireless GM, throw at them. Seriously, that power armor... don't worry, though, they may well meet their end in the next adventure.

But enough of that; on to this week's adventures!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Book III: Corruption

In Book I, the crew began their exploration in innocence and excitement; last week saw the end of Book II, in which the crew marveled and wondered at the strange world deep in unknown territory. This week sees the introduction of the third book (or season, if you're more of a TV person): Corruption. The many adventures of the Shifting Horizon are going to grow darker from here on out.

That said, on to the adventure!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

End of Wonder: The Bomb & Escape

While this session was plagued with poor connection problems, it eventually all worked out. I'm going to have to set up a Skype account for next time; that should make things run more smoothly. Also, a point of note, Tyler (playing Kiri) drew a black chip; he held onto it, but it should make things interesting in the future...

But on to our intrepid adventurers! With their end of the bargain upheld - that is, finding the parts for the scientists, helping the queen of the red apes, and taking out the gang outside the city - the officers return to the mayor's office. As it turns out, the mayor may well have found the source of the signal; however, neither the scientists or the mayor himself have any idea what it actually is. After some discussion, the mayor agreed to let them "blow everything up," as long as it didn't do too much damage to anything else. The mayor sends an engineer to escort everyone to the source of the problem - a strange device in the depths of the power plant.

The group arrived at the device without incident, apart from a slight hangup trying to get medium power armor into a small access shaft. However, someone else got there first; a group of greys, symbiontoids, and insectoids are there - as are two red ape males! They all had a strange Y-shaped logo on their uniforms. Julian and Kiri both attempted to interrogate the group, but were met only with a few phrases:

"It's time has come."
"We must end the signal."
"The time of change is upon us, brothers!"

The conclusion was that this was some sort of cult, intent on... well, probably blowing something up. The device certainly looked like a bomb. Any attempts to intrude on the red ape men were met with firm but gentle pressure; "No, brother, let them work."

After some discussion, a few of the members began offering more information - they were part of an ancient organization, and the time had finally come to begin arming the device. The device wasn't a bomb, but some sort of transformative device. The group opinion was, "Sure, it transforms live things into dead things!" Amazingly, none of the murder hobos players ended up shooting anyone, though it was a close thing. The red apes completed their work, and allowed Kiri to have the book they were using. She noted the inside cover had a that the book was property of the Littlefinger. They bowed, and said, "We will see you on the other side of the Change. Go; the device cannot be stopped now."

As they prepared to leave, who should step out of the shadows but Du Gilkot! He applauds slowly, then casually guts one of the red ape men with his plasma sword. Stepping over the corpse, and allowing the other members of the group to flee, he began his villain monologue. Essentially, the device was full of power, and he intended to harness it, to power a city of his own, as well as a massive amount of weapons. His men fanned out: two in big power armor, and five each of symbiontoids and grays.

Unsurprised, Kiri fired a sonic-grenade-tipped arrow into the group, and exploded his roll; the two fellows in the power armor went down. Gilkot... didn't. He staggered back, shaken, but was otherwise unharmed. While everyone poured power onto Gilkot, Gadget unleashed his flamethrower and cooked half the enemies. And then the other half. Flamethrowers are just that good, especially against unenclosed armor. Gilkot managed to shrug off everyone's attack, and even got a good hit in on Julian, power armor and all; but before anyone else could turn their attacks on him, the device began to whine. Gilkot turned tail and ran, but Julian was having none of it. He dove towards him, slamming him onto the ground; after a bit of effort, he, er, twisted his head off. It wasn't pretty, especially since Gilkot's suit was still active. Sort of an... alien smoothie.

I should mention that in this battle, there were a total of 6 jokers drawn from the deck. Every time a joker is drawn, the deck gets shuffled, which means I somehow managed to shuffle the jokers to the top five times (yes, *both* were drawn one round). Sigh.

However, the walls around the device began to glow, and a white spiderweb-like circuitry whips out and begins wrapping itself around anything and everything it can. The group quickly fled up the tunnel; Gus turned and fired a boomer jetround, but it was neatly speared through by the circuits. The group decided now would be a good time to run for their lives.

Outside of the power core, the entire city was being pulled apart by the circuit-webs; the only buildings left standing are the queen's hive and the mayor's office. Even outside the city, tendrils were pulling down the jungle and wasteland.

Everyone ran for the mayor's office, as it was in a straight line towards the exit point. Julian, with his flight ability, jumped over the wreckage to rescue the red queen. He found her sobbing in her court, and quickly scooped her up. He managed to fly a little ways before the reaching circuits grabbed him.

At the mayor's office, the team entered just in time to see a shadowy figure stab the mayor before the circuits overwhelmed them, too.

Julian came to in a room - a bedroom, from the looks of it. On the floor was a young woman, obviously pregnant, and in labor. Oddly... she resembles the red queen, only in human form. Medical personel ushered Julian outside, where he was found by an officer and directed to a meeting room.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group wake up to see a Gibson, also human, wearing a captain's uniform; on the floor, dead, is the human version of Du Gilkot. Again, medics take over; a tall android beckons the group out, and into the same meeting room as Julian.

He waited for everyone to enter, then introduced himself:

"I am this ship's AI. I have saved them; long ago... so long ago, the ship was in danger. It was lost; Officer Gilcot organized a mutiny, and killed the captain. Simultaneously, the captain's child gave birth to a stillborn child, alone and unable to summon help. I burned the ship, transformed it into the world you saw, full of life, and danger, and safety. By transforming the ship, I could move everyone where they needed to be; I could reset time. It took... hundreds of years of recycling personalities, careful manipulation on a molecular level. In the end, the device was ready, but the ship was not. And then you arrived - you moved matter from here to there, changed thoughts and influenced minds, exactly where I needed it. I succeeded; Du Gilkot is dead. The Captain is safe. His daughter's child lives. I am fulfilled."

He answered a few more questions - the Shifting Horizon was relocated to this ship's landing bay, and Julian's armor is in the engineering bay of the Shifting Horizon (at this, Julian gave the AI a huge hug). Any weapons from the planet were placed in the rooms of each officer, including Julian's illegal disintegration rifle.

Finally, the android stood at full attention, saluting the crew... then drew his firearm and shot himself in the chest, remaining at full military salute until his body incinerated.

After a brief meeting with the captain, and meeting his daughter's new baby, our intrepid heroes returned to their ship.

That's not the end of the story, however. The giant worldship was one of five ships: Green Thumb, Indicator, Middle Son, Ring... and Littlefinger. Littlefinger was lost during a jump; Middle Son was damaged, but the other ships traveled to the Pentacus system and settled there. It seems that Littlefinger was here the entire time.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Murder, Mayhem, and... MmmExplosions?

Welcome once again to another episode of "Screw it, let's just kill everything," with our host GM. As our adventure begins, Julian rejoins the group, which now consists of Julian, Nae, Kiri, Gadget, and Gus. The party finally together again, the first thing they decided to do was split up. Typical.

First, Kiri and Nae decided to venture off into the jungle to collect Symbiontoid parts, They made a quick detour to ask the Red Queen for a couple apes, and she was more than happy to oblige. A good notice roll found the skins right off; into the bag, and away they went. The circulatory plants were also easy to locate. They found a large group of adult splanch nodes guarding 15 babies, and made short work of them with a well-placed sonic grenade. Those things are really useful! One last creature managed to shrug it off, but a couple arrows from Kiri brought it down. Splanch nodes in the bag, the last thing to grab was a pair of digestive slugs. Unlike the others, the slugs proved to be rather nasty creatures; one went down fast, but the other managed to slither close enough to get a good bite on Kiri - bad news! Splashing acid over her armor and into her eye, the slug managed to drop Kiri in a matter of seconds! And worst of all - no chips! Kiri was saved by her friend, who sacrificed a chip to give another chip to Kiri. This roll did much better, resulting in a temporary blindness. Quick intervention of the red apes got the slug off of Kiri, who was healed quickly by Nae, blindness and all. The slugs taken care of, the duo returned to the scientists, who were overjoyed by the delivery.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group - hereafter known as the "murder hobos" - followed a clue from the mayor about a bar outside the city. After witnessing a rather horrific fight between four grays, they interviewed the bartender, who directed them to the gang's hideout - about a block from the black market. This being the crew of the Shifting Horizon, of course, their first course of action was to attempt to blow up the black market, assuming that was the hideout. Of course, it wasn't; spy-holes caught them laying their explosive cord, and proceeded to warm them off via a pair of heavy machine guns. When that didn't work, battle was joined; a hidden flamethrower shot out of the building, hitting Gadget and Julian. After a brief skirmish with the bouncer, rounding the corner, Gus waited until his buddies were away from the building, and threw a demolition pack at the building. Oh yeah. Because the first thing we always want to do is blow up EVERYTHING. Sigh. Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention - there was also some 50 feet of det-cord laying around. Yeah.

So, not only was the building actually damaged, but the machine guns were destroyed, as was the flame thrower. Not content with blasting one side of the building, they then went around the other side and wrapped a bunch of explosives, including a vehicle mine and another demolition pack, around the door. Then sent the door through the building. Then looted said building, ending up with armloads of explosives, guns, melee weapons, and other such useful items. No power armor, though they did find a very fortuitous shield generator, worth half a million bucks. Ugh. Why do I roll so well for loot, but terribly in battles?

About this time, Kiri and Nae joined the rest of the group; Kiri packed up some of the new loot and headed back to the hotel, but the rest decided to attack the gang, which was now on high alert. With Gadget on overwatch, Gus the giant robot carrying the shield generator, Julian ready to lay out some serious pain, and Nae standing by to heal anyone, they launched their assault. The enemy consisted of a big boss in battle armor, two bodyguards, four wildcards, and eight mooks with negligible armor.

In the first round, one well-placed EMP grenade took out the shield; it did its job, though, keeping the other electronics safe. Two more EMPs were fumbled - yes, that's right, two ones - landing inside the enemy building. Luckily for the baddies, there wasn't anything near enough to be damaged...

After trading some ineffectual bullets back and forth, Julian rushed the building and managed to land a sonic grenade inside, taking out a couple mooks, while Gus managed to fire two heat-seeking rounds into the enemy building, wounding one of the wildcards inside. Nae, right behind Gus, managed to taser two of the wildcards who were trying to rush out, then one of the bodyguards; the other bodyguard got within striking distance of Julian... then didn't. Ones all the way. Ugh!

Mooks streamed out of the building, surrounding Nae, who had been laying them out with her taser; they swung, and missed, one after another, before Gadget nuked the lot of 'em with a portable missile. Boom, gone. Nae finished off the last one with a plasma round through the chest - pacifist, pah! Meanwhile, Julian was having no luck with his brand new disintegration rifle; it landed hits, but just couldn't get through armor.

Now the big boss was getting mad. He stepped out, keeping the building between himself and Julian, and let loose with a rapid-fire shotgun attack, firing slugs. Of course, Nae not only managed to soak all the damage, but managed to do it twice, one round after the other. Her luck ran out when a fumbled sonic grenade from Gus landed in front of her; she was knocked out. Finally catching a break, the boss stepped out and landed a portable EMP rocket in Gus's chest, knocking him out as well. The two wildcards left climbed out of the building to go after Julian; however, a lucky shot from Overwatch managed to nuke the power armor, slowing the boss down considerably. The boss dragged himself to the doorway, and flanked by his last remaining wildcards opened fire, nearly bringing Julian down; Gadget, having climbed down to join the fight at closer range, fixed the shield generator just in time, as Julian dragged himself inside. Between Gadget's flamethrower and Julian's grenades, they killed the two wildcards, and knocked out the leader. Whew!

Julian, desperate for his own power armor, ran over to open his prize... not realizing that a suicide mine was strapped inside. Now, a slight pause, here, to point out how my rolls happened. Sure, sometimes a slug nearly killed Kiri, or a mook nearly gutted Nae... but when it mattered? Nothing. BS rolls. This mine was a 6d6 mine; max damage 36, average damage somewhere around 21. And what did I roll, to hit the already-twice-wounded Julian? Four 2s and two 1s. Yeah. Enough to destroy the suit, but not a wound on Julian. Story of my life.

That said, the group did find a clue linking the gang to Du Gilkot, the mayor's adviser... as well as a second suit of power armor. Oh, and the randomly-rolled suit? Yeah. Awesome rolls. A heavy suit with flight and auto-targeting.

If I missed anything, let me know - but this was, as everyone agreed, certainly a battle to remember!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Book 2, Part B

Welcome once again to the Shifting Horizon blog, or as I like to call it, "Let's kill everything the GM throws at us before it has a chance to shoot back." Your time is coming, guys... your time is coming.

First, introductions; unbeknownst to the others, two more crew members were sent by acting Captain Grainer to help out; the followed behind the others, arriving at the mayor's office just behind them: an android engineer named Gadget, and a female Kchk'Trrs - a medic, finally. And also a pacifist. How she got on this ship, I'll never know. Anyway, they joined Gus the android and Kiri and Julian the humans to talk with the mayor, a pleasant man who didn't seem upset when the Kchk'Trrs drank half his liquor cabinet...

The mayor had a problem, and had been watching the crew long enough to see that they were quite capable. A gang had been forming, starting fights and getting people hurt; people were worried. They were mostly outside the city proper, so he couldn't get to them. And speaking of which... he handed out maps:

If you click the image, you can zoom in - it's pretty big. They began in the purple building in the very center, the mayor's office. The mayor offered them $1000 each to stop the criminals. Of course, rather than jump into action, the crew decided to actually hang out and shop first. Kiri, still wounded, went to the hospital (in red, #14 - the trapazoid); in a thoughtful act, the medic purchased a card, some chocolate, and some flowers, and had them sent to Kiri's room. Meanwhile, the two androids went exploring, hoping to buy some gear; they had little luck. They did, however, get rejected from touring Science I (#20), the grey's laboratory, though they were able to get a quick tour of the Ralva Tech Center (#22). Poor Gus was shown an AI science lab, and the trauma of seeing (and hearing!) the injured AIs gave him a major phobia - he won't be able to see disassembled robots without reliving that traumatic experience. He's going to need some major repair work, I think... However, the medic received a quest from some symbiontoid scientists, as well as a biology lesson: Symbionts are actually a symbiotic collection, made up of:

  • The brain, the only sentient part of the body, which controls the rest through electronic nerve pulses;
  • The skin, a form-fitting lump of a creature;
  • The circulatory system, a toxin-filtering plant;
  • The digestive system, a nutrient-expelling omnivore;
  • And the splanch nodes, something akin to a slug that can grow coral, used as bones and muscles.

The scientist wanted the group to fetch a number of each (non-sentient) creatures for further study, hoping to grow them in a laboratory setting; it was much easier than shuffling off to the forest every time someone had a baby.

The next morning, all four trooped over to visit the Queen of the Apes. Kiri attempted to communicate with some outside, perhaps trying to become the next Jane Goodall. No such luck.
Inside the court was cool and beautiful, and filled with red apes scurrying around on one task or another. They were lead into the queen's chambers, where she was seated on a huge puff-ball of flowers, nearly immersed. Her face was much more human than the other apes; as the crew would soon learn, the queen controlled the other apes through a psychic link. Only queens and short-lived males were intelligent; the drones were part of an animal-like hive mind. Unlike the other red apes, the queen was quite human, and spoke clearly. She greeted them warmly, and stood to welcome them. As it turns out, the ape queen did enjoy the customs of the other apes, in that she wore no clothing. To make it worse, she had the kind of radiant beauty that transcends the boundaries of race... Gus and the medic managed to keep their eyes front, and most likely will receive medals; Gadget, entranced by the, uh, symmetry, prolonged his gaze somewhat longer than strictly polite, while Kiri... sigh. Kiri barely managed to keep from tripping over her own tongue, lolled out on the floor. When the Queen touched her shoulder, she felt a psychic touch as well, and obsessed over it for the next hour. Meanwhile, the queen asked if the group (she too had seen their work on the surface) could assist her.
When a red ape dies, the queen gathers its consciousness to herself, then implants it in a dormant egg, which births a new red ape; however, her children had been vanishing - not only did she not know where they were, physically, but she could not feel them through her psychic connection. Each time a red ape went missing, she felt a piece of herself vanish. She pointed them to the north-east corner of the city; the medic almost immediately decided it must be the grey's lab they were kicked out of earlier. Kiri managed to come to her senses in time to begin asking more and more intrusive questions, culminating in asking the queen to place a red ape personality into herself; the queen firmly denied the request. Even if it did work, the act would destroy Kiri's mind. Kiri was crushed, but vowed to find a way to renew that psychic bond she felt. However, she did ask for more resources, using the queen's connection to the mayor to beg some more money. Sigh. Murder hobos, indeed.
For those of you keeping score at home, this is three quests, zero action thus far.
As soon as they left, Kiri and Gus went to get outfitted, purchasing ungodly amounts of explosives, knives, and so on. Gadget and the medic investigated Science I; as the android annoyed the secretary, the medic crawled into an air vent and crept about, eventually managing to get a picture of a cage, with some red fur just visible. However, before she could return the way she came, she saw two guards heading towards the entrance; she turned around, but made enough noise to alert another guard. Scrambling to get out of the way of the guard's laser rifle, she called over comms for Gadget to create a distraction. Gadget took off running at top speed, leaving the guards in his dust, and laid out 10 feet of blast wire behind him. As soon as the guards were in range - boom! Both were reduced to a pair of smoldering boots in a stunning double-homicide. He also trapped four guards in a room, which he hosed down with flames; two sustained burns. The medic managed to escape her pursuer, as the androids and Kiri met up outside. Bolstered by the medic's picture of something vaguely red, the three decided to murder basically everyone. As they approached the door where the four guards were still struggling to get out, one guard finally managed to bend the doorknob enough to wrench it open, and fired uselessly at Gus. Kiri, taking affront to this, nuked them all with a sonic-tipped arrow, knowing it wouldn't injure the android.
As it turns out, the red fur was not a red ape, but a red ape skin - though they didn't know it, it was donated to science by the red queen, and had nothing to do with the abductions. No matter! The four found an elevator and rode it down to the lower floor, where they were met by six guards. Six slow guards... somehow unable to surprise the group, the guards were so slow on the trigger than Kiri blew up three of them, Gus hit two more with a sonic grenade, and Gadget incinerated another with his handheld flame-thrower, leaving... oh wait, that's six.
As Gadget freed the caged red apes they discovered, Kiri menaced one of the scientists cowering in the back corner until he spilled the beans; they were hoping to clone the apes into mindless servants to run the city, operating from funds provided by an anonymous grant. The cages that cut off the psychic link were incidentally using the same power supplies that Gus and Gadget found at the tech center... Coincidence?
The red apes freed, the heroic crew talked among themselves, trying to decide if they should murder all the surviving grays. As it turns out, the red queen had her own ideas, and asked them to leave; more red apes were waiting above, having rounded up the other grays on the surface.

For saving all the apes, but mercilessly killing all the guards, the group was awarded 4 XP; tune in next week, as the group slaughters indiscriminately, and still managed not to be locked away! Probably!

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Time to Kill

This was a brutal session, with the group plunging headlong into battle after battle, but they made it through intact, for the most part.

Book 2, Part A, Chapter 2: The Colorful Tribe (aka, Hunt the Wumpus)

After their, er, fun night, the intrepid explorers asked the natives a few more questions, including, "Is there anything unnatural nearby?"

A few tribesmen seemed a little uneasy, but refused to speak until Kiri and Julian put some pressure on them. Finally, they admitted that they knew where something like that was. The chief, seeing an opportunity, suggested that the group go after a large beast that had been bothering them; the creature like to smash stuff up, and that included their village. After a bit of fuming, the group set out on foot to find this creature, something called a wumpus.

As a point of note, this beast is an elephant-sized creature, with powerful legs and a huge buffalo-like head. Its mouth is set with rows of razor-sharp teeth, and the adult males have boar-like tusks.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Book 2: Wonder; Chapter 1: Highs and Lows

And so begins the second book of their adventures, cunningly placed at the end of the semester!

After all the excitement with the murder, the Captain decided to hand over command to Commander Grains, and entered cryo. No one seemed to be terribly upset. With the prisoners also in cryo, the Commander made the executive decision to thaw another officer: Kiri Haeri, a survival expert. Hopefully, her expertise will keep the away missions a little safer. The android, meanwhile, bought himself a few upgrades, including a size increase, and Frosty purchased a repair droid to help him out.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book 1, Chapter 5: Whodunnit?

To begin, I offer two quotes, taken out of context:
Julian, about Dr. Lundquist: "Now I really wish I knew what she keeps up her dress."
Also Julian, also about Dr. Lundquist: "I tell the android to interface with her data port."

This was an amazing session. We had three people join as we were playing, so things were a little disjointed at first as everyone tried to get up to speed. Still, it all came together in the end. And how!

At 3:36, Frosty went to visit Dr. Becly, the jumpspace scientist from the burning planet. Frosty visits frequently, as he mentioned, discussing jumpspace. The guard at the door knocked for him, but there was no answer. The guard explained that they had brought the wrong food yesterday morning, and the grumpy doctor had gotten upset, refusing his lunch as well; "So, he doesn't want to eat, he doesn't get to eat."
Frosty entered the room; Dr. Becly was dead! He alerted the captain, who decided there would be a heading that night at 8 pm, where the most guilty party would be locked up. He instructed the available crew, at the time Julian and the android, to search for the killer. They began in the room; the med techs placed the time of death at 3:18 am, and the cause of death as a single surgical strike to the kidneys with a mono-filament blade. The guard, meanwhile, were devastated; somehow, the killer slipped in and out under their noses without them seeing a thing.
Julian and the android searched the room, and found a top, a notebook missing some pages, and the lack of another book, as well as the data pad with all the jumpspace research on it.

Next, they combed the security footage, and found an anomaly - a shadow. They followed it down the halls, and eventually to the civilian dining hall around 3:30 am, where they eventually lost it in the morning diners, just before 6 am.

The next step they choose was to interview the diners; the engineer, Lucia Belo, was there all night, working on some math, but didn't notice much. Jiahao Wong, physicist, arrived around 5, but was preoccupied and didn't see anything. The cybernetics doctor, Dr. Theresa Lundquist, was the next in, at 5:30 am. She did see the invisible shape, but thought it was just her eyes playing tricks. Finally, Mark Grenson, pioneer, aided, not long before 6. He didn't see anything, but he was acting suspiciously; enough that Julian took him to the crime scene. He didn't know the crime had even occurred. Tina Fey, having finished some more boring jumpspace calculations, arrived, and pulled Mr. Grenson aside. Her good cop might have been a little more flirty than she intended...

The end result was a few tantalizing clues, but nothing solid. Back to the drawing board... luckily, word came from the med techs about something suspicious: a crew member, Jenny Ovesen, was found unconscious by the garbage area near engineering. She refused to answer any questions.

As it turned out, she and Julian knew each other; they grew up in the same area. Last Julian had heard, she was mixed up with the wrong crowd. After a bit of prying, Julian managed to get her to confess - she was part of NorSup, the drugs and human trafficking gang. She knew of another NorSup member, as well: Mark Grenson.

Exposed, Mark caved, but still knew nothing new about the murder.

After still more questioning, Jenny admitted that she had retrieved a package - a backpack - and ran it through a scrubber. She was supposed to leave it, but stayed, and got tazed from behind.

Another dead end, it looked like. Worse, the guards were running their own investigation, and Frosty, the android, and K'Aps were at the top of the list.

Things looked grim, at least until the group had Jenny look for matching gear; nothing on the ship, but a network search located a match: it was a ghost suit. Another guard, Rein Stroble, remembered an assassin and thief who used such a suit: code name Breathe.

At this point, it was just after 5 pm; with only the hours left, the crew split up and started searching rooms for any clues. Julian found something in room 5, right next door to the murder victim: a holographicly disguised box, with a notebook and data pad! And in the shower, a fragment of changeling skin, a ready made disguise. Now sure that Botty, the poor botanist, was the killer in disguise, the group converged on the man; Tina tried to talk with him, but Julian went straight to the point, trying to shove him in the water. He failed, but K'Aps managed; Botty came out of the water mad as a, well, wet hornet.
The android saw a flash of movement, and he turned to see a man hiding in the bushes; he did not recognize him. Breathe! The crew quickly engaged; the speedy Breathe pulled a sonic pistol and a laser SMG and opened fire, but missed (thanks to a discarded token). Breathe shook off a shaken status, then discarded a token to shake off another. K'Aps moved in to stab him, but ran into a quick counter attack - luckily, it missed. The personal forcefield on Breathe kept him alive; the next round, he managed to wound K'Aps, but took a shaken that he just couldn't get rid of. The others leaped at the chance, and with a really lucky roll, the android added two wounds. Julian finished him off.

The medics managed to stabilize him, bringing him into custody. Behind them came a guard - Jenny had been attacked in her cell, and is in critical condition. Breathe had tried to tie up that loose end only minutes before the battle.

Breathe down for the count, and a gang member behind bars, and still two hours from the deadline. Not bad for a days work.

But what was Breathe doing during the investigation? Where did his ghost suit end up? And why was he going after that data, especially now?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book 1, Chapter 4: Biothanata, Haroona, and a Ship Graveyard

With the scientist locked up, and the survivors cared for and placed in cryo, the Shifting Horizon continued its journey. The next stop landed in a system with two inhabitable planets; one lush and green, and the other only sparsely populated, and covered with some kind of red liquid. Of course, the group decided to land on the worse planet first...

But, before they could take off, they were hit with a signal - a hugely powerful signal, from far out in the galaxy. As much as they wanted to explore it, though, they just didn't have enough data. On to the planet!

Only a few moments out of the landing pod, and the group met some unfriendly natives: water lizards. These cat-like creatures quickly clamored onto land and attacked, but they were no match for the Frosty's overpowered minigun. He burned through a full barrel of rounds, and eliminated all but one of the beasts. OP, indeed. The final creature was finished off as well, just in time for a group of sickly looking deer to run past, pursued by a number of dog-like creatures. In the spirit of "everything is a target, and there is no such thing as overkill," the group fired at the beasts, reducing them to ash. Even the tough leader of the pack, shrugging off wound after wound, was brought to a quick end. The deer, nervous that they would be the next target, rushed to the end of the isthmus. Julian Tarvis grabbed a small vial to get a sample of the goo, but before he could snag a sample, the goo reached up to grab him! He leaped back just in time as the goo began to climb the banks, stretching towards him and the ship. The deer panic, and one loses its footing, plunging into the red liquid below. It is quickly dissolved, the flesh melting off of it as it screams its last breath...

The crew quickly head toward the ship as the entire sea of red goo begins to splash and froth, then suddenly, with a snap-the-whip motion, heaves a large blob skyward; just as the blob reaches its apex, it bursts into flame, lengthening into an oblong rocket-like shape, and blasting out of the atmosphere! Without waiting to see what happens next, everyone jumped in the ship and gunned it out of the system. In orbit, they could see more of the blobs shooting out from the planet. The ever-helpful AI suggests a name: Biothanata, eater of worlds. The next JPod home will contain a message: nuke the Biothanata to a crisp!

Frosty took a break to get some electronics installed in his head, leaving the others to explore the much less hostile planet. He never noticed his translator being stolen... After a bit of discussion, the group found the Haroona, a peaceful agrarian society of blue ape-like beings. Frosty's translator made quick work of the language, and the group took the opportunity to introduce the peaceful creatures to... well, they had a few options: arms, farming, and technology. They opted for everything, plus fire. What they didn't know is how fast the Haroona can learn... the next time they see their blue friends will be interesting, to say the least.

JPod away, the Shifting Horizon moved on, this time locating a single neutron star... and thousands of ships. Millions. They found an impossible holographic ship, somehow without mass, but with inertia; an ancient J0 ship, far older than it should have been; even a standard rocket-powered ship from World War II (complete with swastikas, natch). Ships from every nation were collected in stable orbits. Finally, the crew found a tiny energy signature: a space-station-like ship with heavy damage. They found that the J-drive had been ejected into space, where it exploded; the blast left the faint shadow of one of the crew on the outside of the ship. Markings showed it was a Russian ship.

Inside, the first few rooms were empty, but past an airlock, they found something... corpses! Julian felt a cold hand brush his shoulder, but managed to keep from wetting himself. For the most part. The room was a burial room, full of the dead, frozen. Past another air lock, the group found the main living area, and four more corpses. One, dead of a broken neck; one from poison; one from hanging (rope around the neck, and a spring on his foot), and the last from shooting herself in the head with a crossbow. It wasn't pretty. From there, there were five exits; straight forward was locked, down was vented to space (and unopenable), right was a dead plantation and a log book, up was a water recycling center, and left was a darkish room with a switch.

The log book contained the last entry from the captain, explaining how he abandoned most of the passengers on a planet out of fear (Pyl'nyy!), but ran out of power in orbit around this star. There are a few basic notes from others, detailing how they tried to get energy from other ships, but failed.

The switch, as it turns out, was a fan; as it squealed to life, the reverberations were enough to wake the dead; once again, however, no one was more than simply shocked. I guess the planet in jump space was enough to harden them against any threat?

As the fan used the last dregs of power, the room ahead clicked open. The android shoved his way in, breaking the (long dead) arm and leg of a man. In the corner of the room was a child-sized medical cryopod, with a tiny baby inside - alive! Frozen for decades, but alive.

As they returned to their ship, they came across another ship: the Gulliver! Its enormous engines were built to accelerate it to near-relativistic speeds; full speed ahead meant the crew traveled from point to point very quickly for them, but days, weeks, even years would pass at every acceleration. The ship was the first deep-space ship to launch, and experienced only about 15 Earth years. Its crew was quite willing to share information, but wanted to resume their journey. They left the crew with a final piece of data: triangulation data for the signal!

As you can see, the exploration is progressing; the crew have covered half the distance from Earth to the Pentacus system. Will they live to see the other side?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Book 1, Chapter 3: Oh #%^@$


After their experience on the dark planet, it took more than a month of further travel to find anything interesting. In fact, it was the 100th day of leaving Earth, and the good Captain decided to throw a party. It was hardly started before Frosty challenged the Captain to a drinking contest. The Captain, after a moment's thought, agreed; loser buys the drinks. There was a Spin-the-Wheel-of-Drinks, at $5 a spin; the Captain had spun and guzzled two glasses of Sex On The Beach, a Beertini, and a glass of cheap wine; Frosty tossed back two glasses of cheap champagne, a shot of black-label whiskey, and a shot of Snakebite, a mix of alcohol and snake venom. The Captain was actually winning, being slightly less drunk than the insectoid... at least until he spun a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. He chugged the drink and promptly passed out. And then a med tech had him moved to the med bay where he got his stomach pumped.

Book 1, Chapter 2: the Dark Plant and the Crayolians

Shifting Horizon
Book 1, Chapter 2

(Joining the group is Julian Tarvis, a pilot and communications officer.)

Exploring jumpspace is, frankly, boring. There are long stints of doing absolutely nothing in jumpspace, followed by short stints of doing absolutely nothing while calculating where you actually are. After about a week of exploration, during which nothing but empty space or basic rocks-around-a-star solar systems were found, the team found something interesting.

The system itself was quite interesting; it was a binary star system, with a very small red dwarf, and a very large brown dwarf. The brown dwarf was far too large, and yet had not reached fusion; it was large enough to block the light from the red dwarf. The surface temperature of the brown dwarf is a balmy 200 degrees F, and surface gravity is roughly 250 times that of Earth.

Orbiting the binary stars are two objects of interest: first, an Earth-like world, and second, a strange ship. The team quickly decided to take a look at the ship first.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The UEA SS Shifting Horizon

The UEA SS Shifting Horizon was commissioned as an exploratory vessel, with plenty of manufacturing and science capability, but not a lot of weapons or shields. The ship currently contains 10 officers, four others in cryo, 18 crew, plus four in cryo, and 20 civilians.
The ship is, at least officially, run by Captain James Montegue Harrison III, Earl of Shaftesbury, and his first mate, Commander Seth Grainer. However, the Captain is a leering, lazy, slobbish misanthrope, and usually leaves the actual duties to his first mate. Commander Seth Grainer is a sharp, upwardly mobile officer, though he does have some authority issues, especially with the Captain. Unlike the Captain, the Commander actually rose through military ranks to attain his position.

The crew includes four pilots, three of which are from a military background, three engineering techs, a communication tech, two science techs, three med techs, and five soldiers. A full list of current and previous crew is listed on this page.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Governments and Gangs

United Earth Alliance

The UEA is the governing body of humanity. It has more power than the United Nations or the European Union, but it does not interfere in individual countries unless requested, or if it sees a dangerous problem. At least, that's how it works in theory.

In truth, while the UEA may not hold much power in Earth's solar system, it is far more powerful on other systems. A few larger systems like the Nahundi System, the Seginus Cluster, or the Kchk'Trrs homeworld of the Omega Parada System rule themselves, but most planets, even the Pentacus System, fall under the thumb of the UEA. And the smaller the system, the harsher the rule. Powerful and corrupt, the UEA still manages to put up a clean, cheerful demeanor, at least to the more powerful systems. Travel between planets is as rare in 2750 as it is now on Earth; only a tiny fraction of the population travel from world to world, and even then mostly on business, or to a resort, where the true mark of the UEA is rarely present.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Geography: Populations

Population as of 2750

For those of you who enjoy knowing population statistics, this is a full list of every major system. There are countless smaller systems out there, most populated by fewer than a million beings; listing those would take more space than is available. Also, these are populations for systems; I realize that a planet with a trillion people on it is unsustainable. Earth, for instance, has 10.9 trillion people; however, many of those are on Mars, the Moon, and probably some of Jupiter's moons. It's still a lot of people. Earth is quite crowded.

History: Jumpspace

Jumpspace was discovered in 2137 with the first successful jumpdrive test. Originally, jumpspace was researched as true FTL travel, but once the first tests were successful, it was discovered that the jumpdrives were actually moving through extra dimensions. With their discovery, the future of the universe was forever changed. Humans were the first to discover jumpspace in the Milky Way; the Kchk'Trrs created their jump drives by building off of shared human technology, while the Duul'Tlak created their drive from a reverse-engineered ship they captured.
Known Jumpspace Routes

History: Timeline

While this history is by no means complete (a GM can't give away all his secrets!), it does cover most general information that would be covered in school or in military training. From the discovery of the jumpdrive in 2137, humanity has pushed for expansion. Even with terrible danger, there will always be humans willing to seek new worlds. Indeed, it wasn't until 2287 that "Slinging" was discovered, which made space travel much safer along known routes, and it took until 2552 for J1 drives to make space travel as safe as air travel today. Even so, 15 systems were settled in that time.

Book 1: Innocence

Wherein the crew of the Shifting Horizon began their inaugural voyage to the stars

Book 1, Prologue: Introductions

After some initial confusion (character creation can be a bit odd), the officers of the Shifting Horizon made it on board and began getting to know each other. Unfortunately, I paid about as much attention to names as their leering and lazy Captain, for which I apologize. The crew consists of a yet-unnamed Android, two humans (one named Tina Fey), a crazy mad-scientist Kchk'Trrs named Frosty Flame, and a Duul'Tlak named Q (perhaps Kyu?) who likes to hit things. With his fists.