Fellow role-players, here is my update for Session 5c.28 of the “Vortextelecom space opera campaign, which met via Skype on Sunday, 17 March 2013. We’ve been using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures / Mindjammer, Bulldogs, and an online dice roller.

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but environmental degradation, population pressures, and internecine conflict persist. The rediscovery of mystical abilities and open and official First Contact with galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Can heroes rise to the challenges?

“Vortex” Team 5c (3) Player Character rosters: Crew of the refitted experimental scout ship Blackbird:

  • Lt. Sebastian Growlick” [Bruce K., secondary ]-male Felinoid “Synth” (“Uplifted” lion), elite soldier and acting commander of the refitted Blackbird
  • Tela” [Sara F., secondary ]-female Tharian (gargoyle-like alien), escapee from the Encegulans (slug-like slavers), fond of humans; engineer with boyfriend Kedar
  • Tariq Asrad Saladin” [Beruk A., secondary ]-male Terran “near-human” (mutant) wanderer with a past, investigator
  • Lord Wallace Tubbington” [Josh C., secondary ]-male Olvar (arboreal, mammal-like alien) swashbuckler and diplomat for the Kharvamid Alliance
  • Lt. Brun Bearhammer” [Geoff C., secondary ]-male Martian Ursoid “Synth” (“Uplifted” bear), former wrestler, pilot
  • Sgt. Nathan A. Jessup” [Byron V.O., secondary ]-male Terran human, gung-ho member of the North American Aerospace Marine Corps
  • Enkidu Aristheon” [Dexter V.H., secondary/absent ]-male Seranen (pale empathic humanoid alien) exile, wilderness survival expert curious about Terrans and the Zarkonian threat; with sphinx-like companion Glaucon

Crew of the yacht Pina Colada:*

  • Capt. Jasmine” [Sara F., primary ]-female Martian Felinoid “Synth” (“Uplifted” tiger), former pit fighter and crewmember of the Appomattox, now captain of the Pina Colada searching for a homeworld for her people
  • Hector Chavez” [Beruk A., primary ]-male Terran human, former spy and crewmember on the Appomattox, cautious engineer and communications expert
  • Chris McKee /Agent Prometheus” [Josh C., primary ]-male Terran human, former assassin for the eugenicists at Black Box Security Co., sniper and seeker aboard the Blackbird and Pina Colada
  • Orion Starchaser” [Geoff C., primary ]-male Pomuyan (blue telepathic humanoid alien), irrepressible mystic and thrill-seeking galactic hitchhiker
  • Dr. Srinu Pahul” [Byron V.O., primary ]-male Terran “near-human” (genetically modified) xenobiologist, curious and confident planetary patriot; with robots MEGAN and PEPE
  • Lt.Cmdr. Kevin Reese” [Bruce K., primary ]-male Terran “near-human” (cyborg), former Interplanetary Patrol officer and member of the Blackbird and Dauntless crews; defender of the homeworld
  • Chiron” [Dexter V.H., primary/absent ]-male (secretly android) pilot, assigned to assess and protect humanity

See other records for the previous crews of the Blackbird, Appomattox, and Gryphon.

“19 to 21 July 2195 A.D./C.E. or 1 Terran Galactic Era:” After the Pina Colada delivered items stolen from the Vatican Museums to the United Ecumenical Movement near Mars, the Blackbird turned over some of the smuggled cargo to the Ilokar, flagship of a Union of Solar Nations (U.S.N.) battle group in the Asteroid Belt.

Lt.Cmdr. Kevin Reese learned that the Dauntless, Crazy Horse, and Sovereign, three ships in his homeworld security task force, had gone missing in the vicinity of Wolf 359. “Terra’s Pride” sets out to investigate.

Lt.Cmdr. Reese, who has swapped ships with Lt. Sebastian Growlick, explains the search and retrieval mission to the crew of the Blackbird. Also in the cockpit, pilot Lt. Brun Bearhammer becomes more accustomed to his symbiotic link to the experimental scout ship.

Tela keeps busy with robotic assistant Dr. Bucket and boyfriend Kedar in engineering. Tariq Asrad Saladin and Enkidu Aristheon check medical and survival supplies. They also review Dr. Srinu Pahul’s notes on the Zurmiz Krott, biomechanical probes of the approaching Zarkonian Armada.

Chris McKee, who has temporarily changed places with Lord Wallace Tubbington III on the refitted yacht Pina Colada, joins Sgt. Nathan A. Jessup in readying armored space suits and weapons.

The Blackbird approaches Wolf 359, a red dwarf star with no inhabitable planets. Capt. Evander Scofield of the Korelev had told Kevin that the Dauntless was last seen near that system. Lt.Cmdr. Reese acknowledges Cmdr. Guillermo Ortiz at the U.S.N. orbital outpost but decides against visiting it.

Tela uses the Blackbird ’s scanners to detect traces of the Dauntless leading away from Wolf 359. Lt. Bearhammer and Dr. Bucket lay in a course to intercept. Mr. McKee asks about trying to hail the missing corvette, but Kevin decides against long-distance attempts at communication.

Worlds-weary Tariq begins research into the Blackbird ’s level of sentience, and Brun expertly drops the ship out of Transit (faster-than-light travel) and maneuvers behind the Dauntless. Enkidu attends to his animal companion Glaucon.

Bold Kevin hails the sister ship, but there is only an automated reply. Tela’s optimism is dashed when she detects no life signs and minimal life support. Cautious Chris borrows an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) gun from Tela, and Tariq grabs the Bow of Indra. Nate and Kevin ready concussion grenades and the chain Coif of Egg Shen.

Brun docks the Blackbird to the Dauntless at an amidship airlock. Lt.Cmdr. Reese leads the away team of Sgt. Jessup, Mr. McKee, and Mr. Saladin, leaving Lt. Bearhammer, Tela, Enkidu, Kedar, and Dr. Bucket to monitor their progress.

The squad passes through an airlock and finds empty barracks. Tariq detects cold air but recommends against opening helmets and risking exposure to unknown pathogens. Chris and Nate look for signs of battle or Zurmiz Krott but find none.

The explorers pass through a long corridor leading toward the bridge. Brun scans for hostile nanites (microscopic robots) and for any approaching vessels. Tela and Enkidu tap into the corvette’s systems and reactivate its lights and artificial gravity.

Space marines Nate and Chris use manual overrides to open the hatch to the bridge, which is similarly empty. They do notice that some of the control panels appear to have been smashed by human fists. Kevin views the logs of Capt. Helena Cain, a former colleague who appears increasingly disheveled.

Capt. Cain says that some of her crew has begun acting strangely and that she had tried confining people to their quarters. A later entry shows communications officer Lt. Harry Takahari Jr., who says that the captain had gone down to engineering to try to maintain control.

The last log entry is by Delphine (“Uplifted” cetacean) astrogator Lt. Wynona Smoketrail, who had once raced Aughest-vor. She says that most of the crew is incapacitated or worse and that the ship should be quarantined. Kevin swears.

The away team’s investigations are interrupted when Brun notices a person in a space suit drifting alongside the Dauntless. Tariq volunteers to retrieve him, but Kevin and Nate are reluctant to let their only medic go.

Tela asks cheerful Dr. Bucket to bring the astronaut to the Marauder-class ship rather than the Blackbird for further study. In the meantime, Tariq goes to another compartment to manually remove the flight recorder (a.k.a. “black box”).

With remote help from Brun, Nate and Chris check gunnery records. They find that beam weapons were fired into a gas cloud, to no apparent effect. Lt.Cmdr. Reese takes Sgt. Jessup and Mr. McKee to check out the lower decks while Tariq examines the flight recorder and waits for Dr. Bucket.

Tela detects movement, despite the absence of heat signatures. Kevin asks her to reactivate internal cameras, and he recognizes Olvar (arboreal, mammal-like alien) science officer Dr. Mulan Neverland, Lt. Jamie Segars, and four other crew members sitting in the brig.

After a moment’s hesitation, Kevin opens the door to the brig, flanked by Chris and Nate, who have drawn weapons. The Dauntless officers wear blank expressions and step forward in unison.

Kevin tries to close the door, but the zombiefied crew is upon him. Chris fires the EMP gun, causing one person to move spasmodically. Nate fires his laser pistol, as Kevin backs away.

The insensate mob claws at Chris’ space suit, and the sniper switches to a Ru’ulok (heavy-gravity reptilian alien) disruptor. He burns a hole in an undead astronaut with a laser, but that barely slows it down, as sparks course through its chest.

Nate pulls out titanium rods and applies his martial arts training for close combat, knocking down a crewman. Kevin unleashes a devastating barrage with his gyroc pistol, blasting the leg off another, which continues crawling forward.

The Terran trio falls back toward the turbolift. Dr. Bucket is attacked by the person in the space suit, so Tela orders him back to the Blackbird. Brun sees the launch bay of the Dauntless opening and warns the away team. Tela manages to reverse bay doors. Tariq grabs the black box and heads to the forward airlock near the bridge.

After Chris and Kevin are pummeled by more zombies, Nate covers their retreat, dislocating the limbs of his opponents. Kevin asks Tela to open all airlocks to evacuate the ship, but the cold and vacuum don’t slow down the reanimated crew.

Mystic Tariq happens to be at the right place, at the right time and manages to saunter past two spacemen and one crippled cyborg unnoticed.

Tharian Tela detects more motion from sickbay and the lower decks, as sailors, pilots, and marines try to get to the away team. Dr. Philips, a Pomuyan or blue alien telepath of the same species as Orion Starchaser, is among them.

Brun sees crew crowded by the Dauntless ’ portholes and sends a message to the Pina Colada asking Capt. Jasmine to hurry and catch up. Tela checks in with Lt.Cmdr. Reese via intercom, as the sounds of bodies slamming into hatches echo through the ship.

Humans Kevin, Nate, and Chris get into a turbolift, but it gets stuck halfway to the bridge. Tela diagnoses the problem and says it’s mechanical rather than electrical. As a shambling horde approaches from below, Lt.Cmdr. Reese and Sgt. Jessup throw concussion grenades. They and Mr. Reese then begin climbing.

Ursoid Brun would rather wade into battle, but he undocks and brings the Blackbird around to the Dauntless ’ forward airlock. Tariq agrees that evacuation is a higher priority than getting organic samples.

Tela manages to get the turbolift unstuck, and Kevin, Nate, and Chris evade grasping hands and rejoin Tariq. With a mighty shout, Nate breaks a zombie’s neck before reboarding the Blackbird, which immediately disengages.

Tariq asks Brun to come around so that they can retrieve Dr. Bucket’s space-suited former foe. Kevin asks Tela to reseal all airlocks on the Dauntless to prevent any spread of infection. Brun also deactivates the ship’s flight controls, in case any of the crew are somehow still able to pilot it.

Kedar [+2 Computers] double-checks the Blackbird ‘s systems, while Dr. Bucket analyzes the flight recorder that Tariq retrieved. The crewman in the space suit is Specialist Donar Kievich. Tariq examines him in a sealed-off chamber and concludes that he isn’t infected by Zurmiz Krott nanites. Unfortunately, Kievich can’t be revived.

The so-called black box reveals that the outbreak happened shortly after the Dauntless parted ways with the Crazy Horse and Sovereign, so they may not be affected. The corvette did encounter a cloud with strange energy readings, and Lt.Cmdr. Reese sends a warning back to Earth.

Tariq and Tela analyze Dr. Philips’ journal in the hope of finding a clue or countermeasure. Chris suggests that the ship be scuttled, but Kevin notes that it’s too important to the defense of the Sol system and that they should wait for the scientists aboard the Pina Colada….

I’m sorry that I missed Jason E.R.’s “Barsoomian Adventures: the Tenth Ray of Mars” planetary romance game again last night — how did it go? Weather permitting, I look forward to resuming the “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus” fantasy campaign next Monday. Later, -Gene