28th November 2020
It's a cold Saturday night in lockdown and I'm in my living room, logged on to Skype.
Matakishi's new campaign using the 'Wired Neon City' rules begins tonight.
Wired Neon Cities
Since lockdown 2 is still in full effect, we're still playing over Skype. This means that we're looking for another minimalist RPG that's easy to manage over video chat.
After a discussion, we've decided on a cyberpunk game.
For the game we've chosen Wired Neon City. The game is basically a hack of In Darkest Warrens and has mostly identical rules.
The magic rules have been removed and replaced with rules for augmentations and hacking, making this iteration of the rules slightly more complicated, that's not saying much though.
Characters choose from 6 classes and have 4 stats.
All actions are rolled against these stats by rolling a single six sided die. The higher the roll, the better.
There's not much more to add.
You can read about our adventures in In Darkest Warrens here.
Welcome to Neon City
Bill Harkleroad: Played by Mark.
A man with smooth moves, a smooth face and an even smoother voice. Didn't so much Kiss The Blarney Stone as bought it breakfast in the morning. A tailored suit and designer shades are deadly weapons in this operator's hands.
Koko: Played Michaela.
This greaser girl knows her way round a 3/8 wrench, or a fuel injection manifold, or a titanium transmission synchromesh or a... well you get the idea. If it's got moving parts, she can make it purr, climb or land on its feet.
N. 'Nox' Fluke: Played by Giro.
Doesn't talk about why he was disowned by a family with a (dis)reputable name. Lives one day at a time on his data-slab skills. The City of Electric Dreams may be his home, but the GLOWNET is his universe.
Trigger Mortis: Played by Kevin.
Cold-hearted and dead-eyed, Trigger always keeps one had close to the hilt of his carbon-folded nano-edged street-katana. As the name suggests, he's quick to solve problems in a very fast and very cutting manner.
The aircon had to work overtime pumping recycled stale air back into the over-packed elevated tram, a dull throbbing hum against the rattling carriage.
Once a point of pride in The City of Electric Dreams, now an outdated and overworked, graffiti painted testament to her decay.
It was mid-morning, rush hour had ended and the tidal wave of cheap suit wearing wage-monkeys had washed into their cubes. Only the malcontent, transients, gangers, unemployable and bargain hunters rode the tram.
Which were we? Take your pick.
The tram rolled into Shibuya-cho and stopped at our destination; Dogenzaka Hill. A shopping district with a schizophrenic personality, the gleaming, exclusive Chou-Nata Corporation Mall was stacked with high end designer boutiques that contrasted with the bustling street level family run shops and market stalls.
Somewhat unhappily; we now appreciated the tram's aircon, upon exiting the station unrelenting heat slapped us in the face like a gleeful, laughing street thug.
The surging crowd pulled us on to a block filled with street vendors loudly hawking their wares or blaring out throbbing music. Steamy open air food joints plying their noodles or burritos or pizza-slices.
But the colourful sights, sound and smells couldn't quite hide the boarded windows and faded façades in the background, or the overflowing trash cans on the street level.
Neon City in a nutshell.
Anywhere else we might've looked out of place, under this heat with our suspiciously bulging jackets, threadbare clothes and worn boots. In Neon City however, the well-to-do fashionista paid double to try and look this authentic.
One block over was Alison, our contact in the Chou-Nata Corporation Mall who owned one of the high end boutiques called Aisle 10.
Aisle 10 was a draw for the movers and the shakers, the great and the good, Alison's eye for the latest trends allowed her to rub shoulders with the most exclusive clientèle.
Meanwhile, her ear kept her in the loop, Aisle 10 drew in rumours and stories just as much as it did the fashion conscious. This made her a good source of work for people like us.
Aisle 10 was only half a block away when everything took a turn for the unexpected.
Our attention was drawn to a well dressed Chinese woman, she had come running out an old style antique shop. She was screaming, frantically looking up and down the street and shouting in Mandarin.
Bill knew the language and tried to calm her down but she kept frantically talking through her running mascara.
Bill turned to us and said it was her daughter, her daughter was gone, kidnapped!
Turns out her name was Xue Mi-Wu and she ran the antique shop; Xue's Antiques. Talking through Bill, she explained that twelve year old Woo Woo had been kidnapped only minutes ago.
She brandished a piece paper, a note left behind by the kidnapper. Bill looked at it and handed it over to us.
It was Russian and said 'Payback's a bitch - Vissi'.
Vissi was Mi-Wu's husband, they had divorced four years ago and Mi-Wu had gotten custody of Woo Woo. It looked like a pretty straightforward case of parental disgruntlement.
Time was ticking though, we needed to get on the trail of the kidnapper.
We got lucky, a small crowd had gathered around the commotion and a local had spotted Woo Woo being bundled into an air-cab by a particularly large suited man. The local had caught it all on his Kuaijing optic recorder, he ran through the footage and got us the air cab's license number - 7635685.
Neon City's air cab companies all still used lo-tech radio transmitters to move data and comms to their cab fleet and there was a transmitter tower close by.
Breaking into it was child's play, we now had access to their data relays.
I hard-wired my Nonohiki 212-4a heuristic data-slab into their system and jacked in. It was simple to clone one of their SysID's and access their database. 7635685 had just dropped their ride off on Chuo Street.
It was a short tram ride to Chuo Street, there was no time to lose.
Chuo Street was another schizophrenic shopping district. The upper district was home to Neon City's thriving music retail centre. It was also home to most of the city's augmentation clinics.
Meanwhile the gloomy lower level was mostly given over to love hotels, massage parlours and brothels.
It was the lower level for us! Sunlight barely penetrated this low into Neon City, placing it into an unending dimness, Rentacops rarely came this deep and it was a good place to avoid watching eyes, most joints had hired muscle watching their doors.
This part of Chou Street bustled, but in a strangely quiet way. Business was always busy, but no one announced their trade, no one needed to and avoiding eye contact was de rigueur on Chuo Street.
Checking around, no one looked anything like the suited man and there was definitely no twelve year old round here.
Further along Chuo Street was the only thing that caught our eye: a rustic looking mom-and-pop Russian eatery called The Potato Palace, a slim lead but our only one.
We scoped the joint out, deliveries were being made down a dimly lit unmaintained alley way. It was a possibly way in but in the end we decided on a different approach.
Strictly speaking, Neon City's municipal responsibilities lay with corporations that ran the city. Reality told a different story, they only cared when was profit involved, which is where we came in.
The Potato Palace was designed to look like a little bit of home - if you were Russian - but there was no disguising the cheap knock-off that it was. Bill strode in and loudly proclaimed that he was from The Department of Safety and Health and was here for an unannounced inspection.
Seconds later a nervous man came bustling out of some door. He told Bill that they were paid up for the month.
Bill was playing hardball and didn't miss a beat. He didn't care Bill told the nervous man, he also explained that I was here for a tax assessment.
Bill was on his A-game, the proprietor suspected nothing and gave me unfettered access to their computer.
As Bill distracted the staff with a flurry of imagined regulations, I sifted through their internal security footage, nothing, no one matching the description had come into The Potato Palace.
It was time to think laterally; I looked through all today's orders. Their last order was a delivery for five adult meals and one child meal, to room sixty-five in a nearby hotel; less than thirty minutes ago.
Another slim lead but what choice did we have? If this was correct; at least we knew that we had five targets on the sixth floor.
The hotel itself was fairly nondescript for Chuo Street, a good place to hide out - provided you didn't leave behind a sloppy paper trail.
A direct intervention was out of the question, we didn't know who these players operated for and we were outnumbered.
A quick check revealed a functional fire escape in the alley at the rear of the hotel, a way in?
Kevin was a Ngumatadi drone owned by Koko, a Ruoinha MKII spy-model to be precise, about the size of a box of matches.
Koko grabbed her control pad and powered Kevin up. With a jab at her slab, Kevin effortlessly buzzed upwards with the stealth of a housefly.
In a few moments Kevin was peering through the grime and dirt smeared window to room sixty-five from outside.
There were five adults and one child crammed inside a room too small for them, it was obvious they weren't there for long.
The men were large and clearly roided up, smartly dressed in Desullo suits and brandishing Prosya 7.62mm Kirzak rifles, they stunk of corporate security.
The girl matched the description of Woo Woo.
Koko fed the images to me, I ran facial recognition and we got a hit on one of them. They worked security for Oshin Amalgamated, out of their branch in the London Arcology. The question was why were they here, kidnapping a girl?
Somehow these corporate enforcers were linked to Vissi. It was time to look into Vissi.
Jacking into my data-slab, I flowed into the GLOWNET, a kaleidoscopic ocean of undulating data opened up before me, washed over me and pulled me into its currents. We became inseparable, where I ended and it began, no longer existed.
It was time to plunge deep.
Vissi Goneva, it turns out was a low-level exec at Oshin Amalgamated in London. It looked like he was misappropriating corporate assets for his own personal interest.
Still deeper I went and turned my focus on Oshin Amalgamated.
We knew they enforcers would be leaving soon. The return to London would be by air, so they would have to appear on a flight manifest somewhere. I hacked into the air transport providers and found nothing.
I did find a logged flight plan that listed a Oshin private jet arriving in Neon City yesterday.
Still not enough, so I turned to Oshin's own corporate servers.
These kinds of servers were well defended. But even the toughest rock can be overcome by the pounding ocean.
It took effort but I got in and I was floating there, in their data banks.
According to Vissi's emails, the enforcers were in Neon City on some sort of counter-hacking operation.
Before I could look any further into it, I detected a change in the data flow. Was some other user was prowling the server? I got my answer soon enough, the server was calling out a high priority alarm and their systems beginning to trace all users.
They didn't know I was there, but out there in the real world in a few moments they would begin tracing me. Time to exit.
Pulling the headjack plug from my brain was like pulling the plug from an old time bathtub. The data flow distorted and twisted into a whirling mess that drained away into darkness. I was out.
At almost the same time, as Koko watched, one of the goons in the hotel room got a phone call. A couple of gestures and four of them filed out of the room, their Kirzaks tucked under their drab khaki raincoats.
One enforcer had been left with Woo Woo. Trigger knew an advantage when one jumped up and down in front of him and stormed up the fire escape.
A call from Koko confirmed what I suspected. I stepped into the shadowy corner alley and watched. I had been traced to the vicinity of a GLOWNET access node and the corporate goons were coming my way. With their bulging overcoats, the four massive thugs strode into the street, looking left and right and searching for any camera that overlooked the street. If they got the data, it would be a couple of minutes before they possibly identified me.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel room, its window spider-webbed for a millisecond before bursting inward in a hundred jagged fragments as Trigger dived through boots first, katana in hand!
As the fragments bounced of the hotel room floor Trigger struck the enforcer, who stumbled backwards under the blow but stayed on his feet.
Levelling his rifle, the enforcer tagged Trigger with a before he could close on the Russian. Trigger ignored the pained and pounced.
On the street, it was time for me to move. It was badly timed though, while one of the enforcers searched footage, the remaining three were watching up and down the alley, then if only for the briefest moment I met the gaze of one of the brutish enforcers, it was enough.
As he called for his colleagues, I sprinted for the other end of the alley. there was only a couple of seconds lead as I bounded out and ducked behind a gaggle of tourists gawking at distractions provided by Chuo Street.
The enforcers streamed out looking left and right, I stayed low and mobile, those giant goons could never blend into a crowd on the city's street level like I could, so I managed to slip away.
Trigger was now locked in hand-to-hand combat. As they exchanged blows, Trigger landed a couple of hard knocks on the enforcer, but the man just kept on coming.
Eventually though, Trigger put his opponent down for the count. He was left leaning on his katana, fighting for breath and gripping his injuries, the man had been a pro.
Like most good things in Neon City, time was a luxury that Trigger couldn't afford. He grabbed wide-eyed Woo Woo and ran.
We all converged on a busy corner on Chuo Street. From there we fled into Neon City's underbelly. Economic downturn and automation had left swathes of the lower city abandoned and derelict, particularly the old industrial districts.
This part of Neon City was populated with decaying empty warehouses, gutted manufacturing plants as well as trashed offices and shops.
There was also a transient population who made their homes here, the most marginalised and those who had slipped through Neon City's wide cracks and of course criminals of every variety.
Luckily there was room enough for everybody in the underbelly!
After we had holed up in a out-of-the-way safe spot we made a secure call to Xue Mi-Wu and instructed her to meet up with us.
Soon mother and daughter were tearfully reunited.
Xue Mi-Wu couldn't pay us anything substantial, instead she gifted us a lacquered wooden box made of stained cherry wood and inlaid with gold trim.
Inside, sitting on red silk lining was a Chinese Dragon Gun, it was an antique Xue Mi-Wu informed us, but even so a formidable sidearm.
Xue Mi-Wu thanked us and we went our separate ways.
Noon had come and gone in Neon City by the time we got to Aisle 10 and hard as it was to believe, the day's heat was beginning to subside.
Inside the Chou-Nata Corporation Mall, the well regulated climate control kept if cool. As inane music piped through the mall, we traipsed along the smoothly polished imitation marble floor and past the glass-fronted shops filled with opulent goods. We could palpably feel the sideways glances of the mall's up-market patrons and rentaguards on us.
Aisle 10 was a classy joint, too classy for us, which is why Alison led us to her office.
As always, she was good for putting work our way.
Binary Johnny was looking for protection on a job.
Big game at the Ramen Ritz needed security.
The statue at the Shrine of the Street Goddess had been stolen.
We talked amongst ourselves and decided to check out the shrine.
Alison told us that we needed to contact Max Zu, he ran an eatery close by.
Following Alison's directions took up into Dogenzaka Hill's retail district and past a small park; one of the few green areas this low in the city.
Max's place was close by, the exterior decorated in cheerful, garish colours. A soy bun makes the meal fun was printed in large letters across the frontage.
We met with Max, turned out Max was a bit of a big deal in the community here, he gave us the low down. The statue at the shrine was importance and represented some kind of a lucky charm for the residents and all of the local small retailers, none of them were happy that the statue was gone. They were clubbing together to put up a reward for its return, two hundred bits and steadily increasing.
Max told us that the shrine was in the centre of the park.
We went and checked it out. The park was an oasis of calm in a industrial desert of concrete and glass, a tiny respite from the grind and the noise of city. The little park was well maintained and somehow the gangs and hooligans were kept out of the park, maybe there was something to this lucky statue.
Small clusters of people took advantage of the grassy patches and were sprawled out under a rarefied sun as buskers plied their trade.
Small paved paths criss-crossed the park and converged in the centre where there was a plinth and some sort of Buddhist monks in white and orange were begging.
After strolling up, Bill dropped a couple of bits into a monk's begging bowl, in return the monk happily handed Bill a little ceramic pot labelled White Lotus Liniment in gratitude. The monk explained that once it was applied to the skin it strengthened the body and spirit in other words the monk said, it made you invincible!
Bill could barely hide his incredulity, but the insistent monk urged Bill to hit him. Bill didn't take up the offer, Trigger on the other did, he knew how to use his fists and swung hard at the monk, the monk took the shot and was unmoved.
Impressed, Trigger readily accepted a pot of the liniment from the smiling monk and eagerly slavered it on.
Turning to the plinth, it was clear that it had once housed a smallish statue of some sort, small enough to be easily stolen.
The plinth had been vandalised with graffiti; a purple kaiju head. It was the tag of a street gang called Poison Jam.
When people gave up giving-a-damn in Neon City, they sometimes joined a street gang and began their personal downward spiralling journey into a nihilistic dead end. Dead being the operative term.
The upper echelon's of the city were left untroubled by street gangs, heavy rentacop presence and security networks quickly laid the smackdown on gangs getting ideas above their station.
But street level was another story, street gangs freely roamed the busy streets, indiscriminately meting out ultra-violence, indulging in any criminal activity that piqued their interest and rubbing one another out.
Poison Jam was one of these gangs, word was that they'd staked a claim in Kogane-cho and operated of the Sewage Facility.
Getting to them would be a tall order and it was late in the day.
We switched up instead; Alison had told us Binary Johnny was looking for muscle. I'd heard of him, a hacker and netrunner with a sick rep who liked to play hard and fast.
Going back to Alison, she gave us a burn-phone to contact Johnny once-only.
Let's Bet, You Betcha! was where Johnny told us to go. A quick trip to another part of the hill.
No surprise; Let's Bet turned out to be a tacky looking gambling den and a busy and noisy one too. The décor was faded and peeling in parts, the floor was grimy and hadn't seen cleaning in a while. Meanwhile the surly staff sat back, paying little attention to anything other than absorbing content from their media-slabs. Players gambled at cheap tables equipped with custom data-terminals.
Whilst sizing the place up, we heard someone whispering at us.
Sat in a corner was a young skinny man, he wore a world war two aviator's cap and goggles. He was jacked into a data-slab which in turn was jacked into a gambling terminal. It had to be Binary Johnny.
After exchanging pleasantries, Johnny told us that he was shaking down a mark over the GLOWNET and needed protection for ten minutes. Johnny was willing to pay forty large for this ten minutes work.
He didn't need to say anything else, we knew what to expect.
Johnny jacked in and zoned out. I knew that glazed look, he was now drenched in the GLOWNET.
Meanwhile, we set ourselves up at a table between Johnny and the shop's front door with our safeties off.
Outside, Kevin was buzzing around left and right, running a small patrol loop above the front door.
Five minutes into the hack and Koko got a ping from Kevin. Four unknowns were making a move for the door carrying hardware.
They were seconds away but we were ready when the flimsy front door bucked and almost folded in two as it leapt it's hinges and crashed into the gamblers.
Even before the screaming and shouting had begun, our table was flipped and we'd unloaded at our attackers, except for Trigger who'd leapt in with his katana.
Despite the swarm of hot lead that had flown at them, the attackers were still up! Then we clocked them; the Russian enforcers from Chuo Street and they'd clocked us too!
This must have been the hack they were here to shut down. Johnny was hacking Oshin.
Chaos erupted throughout the room in a cacophony of yelling. The staff were nowhere to be seen and the patrons were stampeding over each other to get to the rear door, it was locked and wasn't budging.
We were caught in a stand up fire-fight with the Russians, they weren't going down easy but then, neither were we. Trigger had taken a hit and shaken it off, the White Lotus Liniment had done its stuff.
Since we were at a seedy gambling joint in the bowels of Neon City, it made sense that everyone here would be carrying. The customers all wanted out, the back door was locked and the enforcers stood between them and the only way out. Result; the customers all began indiscriminately firing at the Russians.
Suddenly, Johnny was jacked out and up! He told us to cover him and headed straight for the back door. He busted out a key card swished it across a box next to the door and was out of Let's Bet.
Things had started going our way, we'd taken down two of the enforcers and they were smart enough to know when they were up against it. They lobbed a couple of grenades into room and dragged their fallen colleagues out. It wasn't a good time to hang around, the back door was still half open so we chased Johnny.
The door went to a corridor and stairs, we felt the building shake and heard the explosion behind us. The stairs led down and out. We met up with Johnny a block away from the carnage at Let's Bet.
It was all good he told us and handed over a burn-card with with a code for a once-off payment of forty thousand bits, a good haul for ten minutes of mad crazy danger.
As we split with Johnny, we could hear two-tones approaching Let's Bet and quickened our pace.
It was becoming dark when we left Johnny and when darkness fell in The City of Electric Dreams, so did the rain. Neon burned brighter in the dark and the rain, but somehow sleazier?
Constant corporate abuse of the ecosystem and the stratosphere had led the creation of an inexplicable torturous micro climate that hung over the city like an ecological sword of Damocles. So when day gave over to night in Neon City, the oppressive heat gave over to the downpours.... and more heat!
Dim, unreliable silver-white street lights lit our way to a cash terminal. We punched in the code, it swallowed the card and spat out the cash.
This being Neon City, withdrawing this much cash attracted unwanted attention even in miserable weather.
None of the gathered general lowlife wanted to make a move though, we were packing hardware and were still bloodied from the rumble that went down at Let's Bet.
There was a moment that we all silently stood unmoving, watching each other and letting rivulets of rainwater pour down us.
Then the crowd parted and some bad-news gangers swaggered in. We smelled them before we caught their colours; Poison Jam and they weren't in the mood the mess around, which suited us fine.
Street thugs weren't in the same league as corporate goons and we put them out the picture pretty quick, but one them managed to stick Trigger with a knife.
Trigger was in a bad way for a while, he'd been poisoned, now we knew where their name game from.
Once Trigger's head had cleared, it was time to go shopping! We had ten grand apiece and we were still Dogenzaka Hill, where the shops never shut.
For myself I bought a black leather Verskeit long coat, not the most fashionable but a classic, it had layers of kevlar interweaved with ceramic plates, it even had an armoured little interior pocket for my data-slab.
For personal protection I got a pair of .45 acp Xiuzholi 'Blockbreaker' pistols with adaptive triggers and finished in matte black.
The night was still young by the time our shopping was done.
Alison had told us about one last job that we could hit up if we were lucky.
Big Game was a gambling tourney that rolled up in the Ramen Ritz hotel on a regular basis and pulled in every chancer in town. They needed muscle tonght, two bodyguarding gigs in one day? Why not?
The Ramen Ritz was as respectable as it got at street level in Dogenzaka Hill. The elaborate façade with it's fake arched square columns was pretty much free of graffiti. A pair of doormen in Oltrante tuxedos flanked the entrance doors, and a third greeted vistors as they scoped people out with the tactical assessment software in their Kuaijing Maoshi shades.
As we were talking to the third door man, we were distracted by the tortured squeal of brakes as a tram pulled in at the stop a way down the street.
A smart but slightly rough looking man in a suit stepped off with a hot girl on each arm, too hot to be normal dates.
Lingering around the tram stop were some Poison Jam thugs, we hadn't spotted them until they cold cocked the guy. The girls screamed and flinched as the thugs went for their victim's pockets, at the same time ran at them.
Seeing us coming, the Poison Jam gangers ran for it. We fired off a few rounds at them and gave chase but they hopped aboard a tram and gave us the slip.
Going back to the guy, we saw the hot girls helping him to his feet and fussing over him. I guess the muggers hadn't got his cash!
He thanked us profusely and introduced himself as Vlegei Kreshoma, he wanted to hire us as protection and would pay us at the end of the night.
It was the work we were looking for, so we said yes.
Inside Big Game it was pretty posh, no two ways about it.
Some high-ceilinged conference hall had been given over to the event and was decked out in pricey fittings, glitzy lighting and a thick carpet. There were blackjack and craps tables, as well as roulette wheels.
The restaurant area had been turned into a smart looking cocktail lounge
Staff cheerfully attended the tables and well suited guards roamed the hall. Well dressed gamblers filled the hall with their expensive suits and gowns. Some of them sat intently at particular tables and other flitted from one to another.
Vlegei was the intense kind of gambler and concentrated on it all night, I'm sure that he didn't remember to blink or breathe in all that time.
We made ourselves as inconspicuous as possible and watched and waited.
Every game has and end and Big Game was no different. Hours later Vlegei stalked away from the blackjack table with slumped shoulders. We noticed that he no longer had the hot girls hanging on his arms, it was a bad sign.
Vlegei admitted that he had gotten cleaned out and couldn't pay us until later. He gave us his business card and said he was good for it. He then went on his way, there was little we could, other than remember to ask for payment up front next time.
After this we asked around about Vlegei and one of the doormen told us he was a regular at Big Game and a well known gambler about town, mostly known for losing and losing big! He liked to play for big stakes and occasionally got a big-time win too.
Finally the doorman told us that not matter how much Vlegei lost or how badly, he always came back with more cash to burn. Well at least that boded well for us.
Night was coming to an end and it had been a long day. I could feel the sandpaper behind my eyeballs. We had made a small step into getting out of Neon City, but it was time to hit the sack and see what tomorrow held?
21st November 2020
It's Saturday again and I'm sitting in front of Skype in the living room.
It's time for the concluding part of Matakishi's Lasers & Feelings campaign.
Space, the ultimate boundary.
Zaber Fluke: Mission specialist - Explorer first class.
Explorer's Final Log: Astrodate 21.2011.21.
Location: Aboard Infinite Badger, Sector 13.
The Infinite Badger had just resumed a patrol of Sector Thirteen when red lights flashed across the Doc's console.
Incoming call from Consortium Command, Priority: Alpha!
The Doc opened a channel and the flaxen haired, pudgy faced visage of Admiral Pfeffel Montague filled the viewscreen.
It was very unusual for an admiral to directly contact a small scout ship such as The Infinite Badger? Before we could offer any pleasantries, Admiral Montague barked orders at us, his curiously irritating voice blaring over our speaker system.
“Captain Stanley George Arkwright has disobeyed his orders and is taking his ship, the CS Britannia into M.A.E. space. You must stop him and return him, his ship and his crew to the Consortium where he will stand trial for his actions.”
With that, the admiral killed the channel and vanished from the viewscreen.
Well, that was that. It was highly irregular and vague, but an order it was.
The Malevolent Askreeti Empire bordered the edges of Consortium space, they were an aggressive and warlike warrior race.
Numerous violent exchanges between The Consortium and The Malevolent Askreeti Empire had led to the creation of an uneasy peace treaty between the two and for the most part, they stayed at arm's length. Few people in The Consortium had ever seen an Askreeti and we did not number among them.
Now it seemed, we were on a trajectory course for an intergalactic incident with them.
The Britannia was a capital ship and also a formidable weapon. If Captain Arkwright willed it, The Britannia could wreak immense damage on any number of unaware Askreeti targets.
As Chuck plotted a course for Askreeti, the Doc checked The Consorium database for information on Arkwright. Perhaps it would provide an insight into his actions and why he had done what he did?
Stanley George Arkwright was an experienced and decorated officer, well known for his bravery and competence which had resulted in the command of the Britannia being given over to him.
The Doc tried accessing Arkwright's last set of orders, but they were sealed by the admiralty.
It wasn't much to go on, but there was no time to tarry.
Chuck powered the engines up and took us to maximum warp.
Before long the Doc picked up the signal from a Consortium distress beacon, flashing away on his console, then another and then another!
There was a whole cluster of distress signals spreading out ahead of us.
Dropping out of warp, we found ourselves close to the M.A.E border. We scanned the region. There were over a dozen Consortium lifeboats drifting here in relatively close proximity to each other.
We communicated with the lifeboats and discovered that they contained crew from The Britannia?
The highest ranking officer explained to us what had happened.
Captain Arkwright had gone mad!
The Britiannia had received orders from Consortium Command; head out to The Arcturian Nebula and survey the region.
The Arcturian Nebula was a vast gaseous region of space seventeen million light-years across and populated with formative stars.
The Britannia had arrived into the sector and begun the survey when the ship was attacked!
Colossal space-faring psychic creatures known as Arcturian warp-spiders had attacked The Britannia, hidden in dense pockets of gas, they had emerged and ambushed the ship.
Warp-spiders are powerful enough to bite holes out a ship's hull! Before they were defeated or driven away by phaser fire, they managed to damage the ship and eat several members of crew; including Ensign Annabel Truscott.
Other than being eaten by them, Arcturian warp-spiders posed another lethal psychic risk: When a warp-spider's alien psyche interacts with a human mind via it's latent psychic ability, it has a chance of stressing the human mind, causing a psychotic break.
This might cause someone to become paranoid, irrational, lose any sense of wrong or right and potentially hallucinate.
It was estimated that about half of The Britannia's crew had been afflicted with this. Including the captain and three of the senior officers.
This had taken an even worse toll on Captain Arkwright, Ensign Truscott had been in a relationship with him.
The captain and the first officer had concocted a plan: By using Void Crystals they could travel back in time and save Ensign Truscott and the lost crew.
One of the science officers in the lifeboats confirmed that it was theoretically possible to time travel if the plotithium crystals in a Consortium ship's warp drive were replaced with Void Crystals.
This was a problem and a serious one too. Time travel violated Consortium Protocols and would result in a court-martial.
Not to mention the serious risk that time travel entailed, particularly time travel that potentially involved interacting with a person's own timeline.
There was only one known place where Captain Arkwright could acquire Void Crystals; the caverns of Κ Fourteen.
Κ Fourteen was located deep in M.A.E space, it had once been the Askreeti home-world, but a cosmic event had left it sterilised and uninhabitable. Now abandoned, the Askreeti only ever travelled to K Fourteen on pilgrimages to the Void Crystal caverns, which for them was a holy site.
Captain Arkwright's plan had caused a rift in the crew, attempting to change time was a direct violation of Consortium Protocol. Crew that had been afflicted by the warp-spider's psychic attack had sided with the captain, whilst the rest of the crew were against it.
Very quickly matters had deteriorated almost to the point of open confrontation and mutiny.
Eventually the captain's faction made their move and took the rest of the crew prisoner. These prisoners were herded into lifeboats and launched into space as the The Britannia continued on its course to K Fourteen.
Now that we knew that The Britannia would be heading for K Fourteen, there was no time to lose.
We spoke with the crew in the lifeboats, they had about forty-eight hours of life-support remaining. We tried opening a channel to Consortium Command, but got no response?
We couldn't raise Consortium Command to send another ship out and we couldn't leave the crew in the lifeboats. There was only one solution; we beamed all of them across to The Infinite Badger.
The situation was less than ideal, The Infinite Badger was a scout-ship and we had just transported eighty-five people over! It was noisy and crowded to say the least, but we diverted power to life-support and made do.
Chuck had punched in the coordinates to K Fourteen and we were about to resume warp-speed into M.A.E. space when a series of alarms triggered on the Doc's sensor display.
Three Askreeti death-boats had just uncloaked.
Askreeti death-boats were large capital ships, somehow squat and ugly, but built for battle. Any one of these death-boats possessed considerably more fire power than The Infinite Badger and we were surrounded by three of them!
The Askreeti were hailing us, Doc opened a channel. The viewscreen continued to show the forward tactical view and harsh, guttural voice barked out of the audio system.
The Askreeti demanded that we immediately surrender after crossing into M.A.E. space.
It was a precarious position to be in: We could not hope to outrun them for long and their weapons would destroy us even quicker! There was but one desperate strategy we could try.
I responded to their ultimatum, explaining that we were not actually in Askreeti territory.
They muted the channel and there was a short pause? Then one of the death-boats locked on to The Infinite Badger with a tractor beam. The three Askreeti ships turned about and headed for Askreeti space - with us in tow!
Despite being trapped, it had bought us a little time. Programming at a frantic pace, the Doc managed to crack their security codes and gain access to their systems. Then working surreptitiously, he instructed the tractor beam to disengage from The Infinite Badger but whilst still issuing out a reading that confirmed our capture.
Chuck engaged maximum warp. It took a very short period of time for the M.A.E. ships to realise the tractor beam readings were false and they gave chase.
The Infinite Badger shook violently as all the power that could be spared was routed to the warp engines, the quiet discrete hum had become a low rumbling roar.
Even so, the death-boats were closing on us quickly.
Doc scanned the region, looking for anything that might provide us with some sort of advantage. The only thing close by was an asteroid field.
Fortunately we reached the asteroid field before the Askreeti reached us and Chuck plunged us in. He weaved, dodged and corkscrewed The Infinite Badger around the asteroids with such ferocity that we were flung from side-to-side in our seats on the bridge!
Behind us, the Askreeti were blasting asteroids to dust and heading directly towards us.
Chuck took us into a dense patch of asteroids and hid us amongst the rocks. He had been ignoring a swathe of flashing and winking lights spread across his console, looking down he saw that the engines were critically low on Plotithium and were in a bad way.
As we waited, we began working on a way out if this. The Infinite Badger's transponder code was cloned on to our shuttle and jettisoned out into space. If we were lucky, it might fool the Askreeti.
Lady luck would not be with us though and they soon saw through the deception.
Meanwhile, we had another plan that required repurposing the ship's scanner array. Normally this would have taken hours, but we had just acquired eighty-five extra crew mates, some of whom were scientists and engineers!
As soon as the work was done, we used the array to emit a quantum pulse at the M.A.E. ships. At this range, their shields could not protect them, the pulse caused the magnetic fields around their engines to momentarily collapse and put their warp inducers out of alignment.
Realigning the warp inducers would take them a minute or two. A minute or two in which they would have no mainline power and no shields.
This was our chance, we couldn't afford to waste it.
Even though we were dangerously low on energy, Chuck powered the shunt drive to maximum and banked us round the Askreeti ships, bringing their engines into sight.
I fired all of our phasers at them and they were just about destroyed. They were out of the fight.
Next we hoped to kill two birds with one stone. It was a risky strategy, but we targeted their plotithium reserves with our transporter and beamed them aboard The Infinite Badger.
There was a chance that they would become too unstable when rematerialised, but it worked. Not only was the second ship left adrift, our own supplies had been replenished!
Now we turned to the third and final ship, ready to deal with it...
Everything changed, The Infinite Badger seemed to lurch like a leaf in a storm, alarms rang, warning lights flashed, power relays overloaded and exploded.
We were unceremoniously hurled to the deck and on the viewscreen; the universe span like some vast cosmic Catherine wheel consisting of a billion sparks.
LISA clambered back to her station and reported the engines were offline. There was only one word for the damaged they had suffered; catastrophic.
We had no propulsion and the ship was on emergency power.
As we were dealing with the first two Askreeti ships, The third had managed to bring their phasers online, somehow rerouteing power.
They had attacked us with terrifying effectiveness, our shields buckled and collapsed under the onslaught and the engines had been disabled.
There was nothing we could do but drift and wait, soon enough they would bring their engines online.
LISA came up with one last desperate move that might help. She had kept the Alien Brain Worm specimen that we had caught on our second mission for research.
Now she transported the container to the bridge of the Askreeti ship, maybe it would distract them or cause them trouble.
Releasing an Alien Brain Worm was a risky tactic and we had no idea if it would work or not. Or indeed the long term consequences of such an action.
What we did know was that a few minutes later, a tractor beam latched on to us and pulled us through some docking doors, aboard the capital ships and into a shuttle bay or cargo hold.
Once our ship was secured by the Askreeti, we could feel that their ship had gone to warp.
After inspecting our engines, we calculated that even with the extra help available it would take days to repair them.
The Askreeti had erected some sort of dampening field around The Infinite Badger, it interfered with all attempts to transmit any kind of energy. our phasers were neutralised and offline, we could not connect to the Askreeti computer systems, we couldn't even open a channel with them.
Furthermore, our sensor readings indicated that all the air in the hold had been evacuated and outside there was only a vacuum.
Luckily for us, the Askreeti had not taken our Vacc-Suits into account. We were able to freely exit our ship and explore the cargo hold.
Apart from The Infinite Badger, this hold was almost entirely empty.
Until we returned air to the hold, we could not leave. Opening the doors would expose other parts of the ship to this vacuum, no doubt triggering alarms throughout the ship.
Instead we explored the hold. Against a bulkhead was some sort of computer console, perhaps it might have the environmental controls we needed? The Doc thoroughly inspected it, he had familiarised himself with Askreeti technology as best he could earlier, but without the aid of a Consortium computer interface, it wasn't enough to make sense of the console.
The only other feature we discovered were the emitters projecting the dampening field that was blanketing our ship.
We blasted them with our phasepistols, hopefully the crew wouldn't notice the fault.
It was crude but effective, we returned to our ship and our systems had become functional. We scanned the interior of the ship, there were in excess of two hundred and fifty Askreeti life-signs aboard. Outnumbered at least three-to-one, a direct assault on them was out of the question.
Instead we opted to cut the snake's head off.
It was a bold move, but our best option: Six of us beamed directly to the Askreeti bridge and attacked.
It was our first look at the Askreeti; they looked entirely humanoid, but they all wore strange pieces of headgear that gave them the appearance of having fake ridged foreheads?
They were caught completely unaware, barely reacting quick enough to get to their feet before we hit them. As we were stunning them with our phaser fire, a second team of six security officers beamed in, very soon the twelve of us had control of the bridge.
Now we had to move quickly, we interfaced their bridge computers with ours and took control: First we locked out all other ship controls located anywhere else aboard the death-boat. Secondly, we sealed the bridge, no one could get in. Finally we tricked their computer into thinking a hull breach had occurred, this triggered an emergency safety response as all the bulkhead doors and airlocks automatically locked themselves. This left the crew dispersed and isolated throughout the ship.
We had control of the ship.
We also had the means to travel in M.A.E. space without raising suspicion. We set course for K Fourteen.
The journey had been short and uninterrupted, we dropped out of warp close to the K Fourteen.
Orbiting the planet was The Britannia, she was battle worn and clearly damaged. The magnified image on our viewscreen displayed the warp-spider attacks which had ripped through both the primary and secondary hulls in three locations.
Sensor readings indicated human life-signs aboard and a number of Askreeti life-signs on the planet surface directly below. The readings also revealed and a complex warren of tunnels and caverns beneath the surface.
Moments later, The Britannia raised its shields, all they could see was an Askreeti ship.
We ordered the crew aboard The Infinite Badger to transmit Consortium authorisation codes to The Britannia. They responded by launching attacks at us.
Their phaser shots damaged our shields and shook the ship.
We were forced to counterattack.
Luckily, as a Consortium crew, we were aware of any vulnerabilities in Consortium capital ships: A few precise phaser shots and we had disabled their shield generators. We had their attention now!
This time we had The Infinite Badger open a visual channel to The Britannia. We told them that this ship was under Consortium command and that we had come to help.
It was true, we had come to provide help. Although perhaps not in the way they entirely expected.
The Britannia's crew seemed to accept this, without their shields they knew that they were at our tender mercies. An enemy would attack now, not talk.
After some more dialogue, a truce was established and we all stood down. We inquired after the captain and they explained he had transported to the surface and was searching for Void Crystals, they then supplied us with his arrival coordinates. We beamed down.
The surface of K Fourteen was barren and rocky, eerily silent and completely lacking in any kind of fauna and flora. We turned our eyes upwards, the sky above us had a strange hue to its colour. Reports had told us that the protective upper atmosphere had been stripped away, saturating K Fourteen in deadly solar radiation, forcing the Askreeti to abandon their former home world.
The lower atmosphere remained breathable, but without photosynthesis the oxygen levels would eventually decay. Regardless; we couldn't risk lingering on the surface too long.
What we encountered next was a shocking sight.
The Askreeti pilgrims here, all of them, had been killed. Our eptacorder scans indicated that these deaths had been caused by Consortium phasers.
We scanned for and found the entrance into the underground network. As we drew closer we encountered various man-made structures. There seemed to be some sort of small commercial or retail district located here surrounding the entrance that most likely served the passing pilgrims.
All the staff within these shops were dead too, also killed by Consortium phasers.
The tunnels were twisting and uneven as they wound their way between caves. Our eptacorders revealed human life-signs approximately eight hundred metres away and within the underground labyrinth.
As we advanced on the position, we heard them before we saw them or more accurately we heard their phasers!
Captain Arkwright and his team did not notice us when we reached the cave they were occupying. They were focused on cutting Void Crystals out of the cave walls and floor with their phasers.
We took a moment to watch them and assess the situation.
Captain Arkwright was accompanied by an alien first officer, a little Russian officer and an angry Japanese officer. There were also two security crew, six in total.
Stepping out, we stunned them.
LISA ran a diagnosis scan on the six of them whilst they were unconscious. It revealed that parts of their brain had become damaged by some sort of infection.
LISA speculated that this had been caused by their psychic encounter with the warp-spiders.
There was no known treatment LISA explained, the situation looked grim.
Unknown to the rest of us however, was how deep LISA's fascination with the Alien Brain Worms went.
During our missions, not only had she been intensively studying the one we had taken captive, she had taken cells from it and produced tiny clones to research a potential medical use for them!
LISA had been reprogramming their DNA, this would allow them to be used in targeted brain eating. This could be used to remove the infected brain cells and allow victim's to revert to normal. LISA explained that in the case of these psychic attacks, only unused parts of the brain would be removed, leaving the patient unharmed.
She had even been carrying them around for a situation such as this.
It was a dangerous, untried procedure.... But it might just work!
LISA reprogrammed some of the micro Alien Brain Worms to target the infected parts of Captain Arkwright's brain and inserted them into his mouth.
It didn't take too long for them to do their work, they then crawled out of his ears and LISA collected them up.
We revived the captain, according to LISA's assessment, he was now no longer afflicted by a psychotic break. The treatment had worked.
After curing the other five, we explained to Captain Arkwright that we had to return to Consortium space.
What occurred next, took us by surprise.
Captain Arkwright and his first officer still wanted to rescue Ensign Truscott and the other crew. It was a horrible way to go said Captain Arkwright.
We discussed the matter with them and the first officer said they had a plan that would work.
If the victims were rescued the moment before they were eaten by the void-spiders, The Britannia's crew would think they were dead.
The timeline would not be altered, the behaviour of the crew of The Britannia would be the same.
The first officer explained that our timing would have to be precise, however we would have access to The Brittannia's exact logs on the encounter to guide us.
Finally the first officer told us that we would have to remain hidden from The Britannia at all times as we did this.
The plan was sound, we had to admit and we would be able to save people. After some consideration we agreed to help.
For the next two days, we were all very busy.
The crew of The Britannia were all given LISA's treatment and recovered successfully.
The engines on The Infinite Badger had to be repaired and reconfigured to fit the Void Crystals. Then we had to reprogram the navigational systems to handle the additional time dimension in coordinates.
Finally, the Askreeti crew that we had captured were transported in scattered groups across K Fourteen. By the time they managed to call in reinforcements, we would be gone.
Everything was ready now, The Britannia's first officer would accompany us we headed into the unknown.
Chuck gently took The Infinite Badger out of the holding bay in the Askreeti ship and moved off.
When we were far away enough, we ran a final diagnostic of now was a Transwarp Time Drive, all systems were nominal.
Chuck punched in spacetime coordinates and as he engaged the drive we heard the engines hum into life. On the viewscreen we watched as the universe seemingly buckled and contorted, twisting and stretching itself into spiralling time vortex.
Chuck piloted through the vortex. Or was the vortex moving through us?
It was impossible to say, but soon enough the vortex aruptly melted away and we were left hanging in normal space.
Flashing lights and a warning alarm on Chuck's console told us that the engines had suffered damage during the time jump. We might be unable to make the jump back to the future.
A stellar scan revealed that we were indeed in the Arcturian Nebula, we headed towards the coordinates that The Britannia would have its encounter.
An abundant number of dense gas clouds were dotted around the area, we took The Infinite Badger into the thickest one and waited.
The doc remodulated our scanning and transporter beams so they wouldn't be picked up by The Brittannia.
Soon our sensors picked up the approaching ship, they also picked up void-spiders zeroing in on The Britannia.
We had to sit back and watch, change nothing.
The warp-spiders were of truly monstrous proportion with shapeless bloated torsos and long limbs that undulating weirdly to propel them through the clouds and towards the ship.
The first warp-spider latched on to the hull, we beamed Ensign Truscott aboard - she was safe.
Another attack from a warp-spider, by now the crew of The Britannia were responding to the attack, we detected weapon systems being activated and powering up. We beamed three crewmen aboard from the compromised crew quarters.
As the warp-spiders mounted their third attack, phasers blasts were striking at them. A warp-spider had avoided the shots and was attacking the engineering deck. We transported two engineers safely aboard.
We had successfully rescued everybody that was lost in the encounter. Without delay, Chuck engaged the transwarp time drive for the return journey. We had to hope they worked.
As the engines were powering up, the Doc picked up that we had been briefly scanned during our departure!
A few moments after entering the time vortex, The Infinite Badger began to shake alarmingly. Chuck's console was reporting a litany of errors in the drive systems, he ignored them all and pushed on.
We emerged from the time vortex just as the engines shut down. We had returned to spacetime close to The Britannia. Our engines were once again wrecked, we had no propulsion and were adrift, The Britannia used their tractor beam to pull us in.
The Britannia's first officer quickly beamed back to his ship and deleted the computer log of The Infinite Badger having ever been scanned. The timeline seemed undamaged by our temporal excursion.
We had prevented a major incursion into Askreeti space and a major incident from occurring.
We had also saved the six crewmen from a grisly fate.
Captain Arkwright was content to return to Consortium Command for court martial, having accepted the consequences of his actions.
End of Explorer's Final Log.
Explorer's Final Log: Addendum.
For the return to Earth, The Infinite Badger was being towed by The Britannia's tractor beam.
During the journey, we received a message from Consortium Command; when we arrived at Earth, a medical team would take Captain Darcy into care and assess the potential of using LISA's treatment.
Due to constant engine failures, The Infinite Badger would be decommissioned and unless something else came up; it looked like we would then be reassigned to positions aboard other ships in the Consortium fleet.
It just remains for me to say:
Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.
Medical Log 5
Pilots Log (final)
Science Officer's Log: Season Finale
While Lasers & Feelings is truly a minimalist RPG with only 1 character stat! Sometimes it felt a little fuzzy on which side of the stat to use. Apart from that the game played well and we had fun.
We were all on the same page and easily recognised and were familiar with the game's source of inspiration.
Lasers & Feelings is a game that's a little tongue-in-cheek, which is how we took it. Actually it's pretty much how we take all RPGS, which also helped
The game keeps certain elements fairly vague and allows PCs to flesh them out. It serves to create a shared sense of depth between the players, keeps things moving along and can make life easier for the GM.
There's no character progression - which is understandable, PCs are meant to be overachievers anyway, without much room for improvement. This makes Lasers & Feelings great for one-shots, episodic play and short campaigns.
Quick to learn, play and GM. With us playing over Skype for the time being, it suited our current play style very well.
14th November 2020
Saturday night, at home, in the living room and logged into Skype.
This means it's time for the next part of Matakishi's Lasers & Feelings campaign.
Space, the ultimate boundary.
Zaber Fluke: Mission specialist - Explorer first class.
Explorer's Log 04: Astrodate 21.2011.14.
Location: Aboard Infinite Badger, Sector 13.
The Infinite Badger had just received orders from Consortium Command: Travel to Sector Thirteen and investigate reported sightings of The Clara Pandy, this was reputed to be the ship of the late space-pirate Red Betty.
We responded to Command and informed them that The Clara Pandy had been destroyed in Sector Seventy Six.
Consortium Command confirmed and repeated the orders.
We set off at maximum warp.
Our orders instructed us to head to the location of the sightings, which was the planet ΑΔΔ in Sector Thirteen.
Our database indicated that ΑΔΔ was a planet in Consortium space that had been colonised. The records also showed that colonisation rights had actually been leased out by The Consortium.
Thus ΑΔΔ had attracted a variety traders, explorers, farmers and businessmen, all looking to make their fortune.
There were also a number of scientists on ΑΔΔ who were investigating what was described as ancient catacombs of unknown alien origin.
Soon enough we dropped out of warp and Chuck put us into orbit. Our scans of ΑΔΔ showed that it was a mostly unpopulated planet. The colony consisted of a spaceport, town and fair number of farms that extended out from the settlement.
After receiving our landing rights we touched down safely, then we were taxied into our parking bay.
This happened to be right next to The Clara Pandy! As clear as day, we could see it was definitely a pirate ship and definitely Red Betty's ship. Somehow it had survived the destruction of the pirate fleet in Sector seventy Six and was now here?
The first thing we did was scan it for Alien Brain Worms, the results came back with zero readings. There was no way into the ship, no doubt it had counter measures against intrusion.
Next, we went and found someone in an official capacity and asked to see whoever was in charge here.
We were directed to the Port Commander in his office. He was a cheerful sort and seemed quite happy to deal with us when we identified ourselves as members of the Consortium (Although the uniforms probably gave it away.)
We explained that were tracking space-pirates and he seemed quite surprised by what we had told him and said that he had seen no pirates.
When we explained that there was a pirate ship in his parking bays, he was genuinely shocked! We couldn't help but notice that it was practically visible from his office window?
He provided us with some more information, the ship had landed three days ago and the entire crew had left. We asked the commander if anybody else had seen something?
It didn't take him long to communicate this out to his staff and one of the ground crew was sent over to us.
He had witnessed The Clara Pandy's crew leaving and described them as a motley, suspicious looking bunch, except for their leader. She was, by his account a stately woman with an eyepatch who strode with purpose.
This had to be Red Betty. He went on to tell us that they had headed for town.
We instructed the commander to impound The Clara Pandy and he was happy to comply.
We had our lead and our next step to follow, it was time to go into the town.
To no one's surprise, the town was a bit rough and seedy looking, with it's equally grimy and gaudy looking shopfronts, trash-filled alleys and moping drunks who eyed us speculatively
It was the kind of place that served the indulgent needs of passing travellers and other spaceport users.
The farmers would avoid the town, being be mostly self-sufficient and only journeying in for vital supplies and even then, not too often.
From here we had to decide where the space pirates had gone?
Again to absolutely no one's surprise: Chuck turned to us and said, "I know a place," with a wink.
It turns out the place he knew was a bar called The Scarlet Star. A noisy liquor joint, dimly lit to hide its shady, smoky cubicles and lack of a proper cleaning schedule.
Bright, garish and oscillating lights swam over scantly clad women in raised cages; they gyrated and danced to the rhythmic noise that passed as music and blared out of a tortured sound system set to max, it pumped out so much bass that we could feel it tickling our internal organs.
Chuck made straight for the bar and we saw that the barman and he exchanged greetings.
"This is Glenn," introduced Chuck, forced to raise his over the repetitive thumping songs.
Glenn told us that Red Betty and her crew had been in The Scarlet Star two days ago. Considering that they were space-pirates well known for their excesses, they were unusually quiet, almost subdued.
Red Betty had been looking for an explorer called Lester and Glenn had told her where to find him. Lester lived in a small farming settlement outside of the town.
Glenn explained that Lester was a known as an acquirer of antiquities or a tomb robber.
Armed with the address that Glenn had provided us, we left the clutter and bustle of the town behind. Above us was the open sky and stretching towards the horizon was the mostly flat green farmlands that fed the colony.
After a little walking we reached Lester's quiet little settlement. We found his home to be empty. Unsurprisingly, his door was locked. The Doc was is no mood to mess around it seemed and broke the lock open.
Inside it was a little messy and disorganised, a large swathe of artefacts were dotted throughout the home. A significant proportion of those were skulls.
No ordinary skulls though, they did not match any race known to us. LISA and the Doc were sure of it.
Searching the apartment revealed some scruffy hand-drawn maps that seemed to mark out several excavations, no doubt targets for Lester's looting.
We noticed that there were no excavating tools or equipment in the apartment. It was easy to put two-and-two together and figure out Lester had gone off somewhere with his gear. The question was: Where and were the pirates with him?
Lastly, using our eptacorders we scanned the unknown skulls, the results showed trace deposits of some sort of unique crystalline substance in all of the skulls. It was completely unknown to us, nothing in our databases resembled it.
We had something to work with now and a plan.
Returning to The Infinite Badger, we fired up our shuttle and took it out.
Chuck took the shuttle up two kilometres, the spaceport and town shrank away to a tiny dot ringed by a sea of green.
To one side the farmlands were bordered by an expansive forest and on the other was a range of barren, rocky mountains.
We reasoned that it seemed more likely that excavations would be found in mountains, so we flew that way.
The shuttle made easy work of the kilometres and soon we were hovering over the mountain range.
Using the shuttle's sensors we scanned the mountains for the unique crystal material we had found in the skulls.
There was a faint signal, we followed it down.
The mountainside showed signs of a recent geological disturbance - a cliff face had collapsed, revealing a cave mouth. According to the shuttle's sensors, the opening had a diameter of ten metres.
It looked like a good place to start, but we decided to continue searching. Further up the mountain slope there had been another geological subsidence, it had exposed another hole. this was a much smaller opening and a vertical shaft that led directly downwards. A visual scan revealed a set of stairs that descended.
The smaller entrance was clearly manmade, but to reach it we would have to land the shuttle in the foothills and trek up the mountain. The large opening was wide enough to fly the shuttle through.
We opted for the large opening.
Carefully Chuck took us in, flicking on the shuttle's external lights, they lit a peculiar looking chamber, partially natural and partially manmade. There was no one in the cave.
After landing and brandishing our eptacorders, we took a look around.
We quickly found a extinguished campfire, people had been here and recently too.
The cave was supported by several ancient looking stone columns. The walls were decorated with illustrations that looked akin to ideograms.
They depicted people of some kind presenting glowing gems to a crystal headed robed figure, the figure looked very large in comparison to the people.
Next we discovered an alcove, on the ground something was dimly reflecting our lights. Clearing away sand, we found something that looked similar to a transporter pad. It could not be activated, there was no apparent power source and no control console, a scan did not reveal anything either.
There were two ways out of this cave. A passageway and a set of manmade steps that wound their way downwards.
Before leaving we scanned for life-signs. The results displayed multiple different life-signs and signals from all around. The readings made no sense, Doc theorised that the cave interfered with results.
The scans had provided us with no help, we had to decide which exit to take. We knew that we were looking for catacombs and they tended to be underground, so we took the stairs down.
The stairs wound their way down to one end of a tunnel. In the glare of our flashlights it was clear that the tunnel was manmade and there was a door at the far end. As we moved on we also noticed that where tunnel walls met the floor, they had eroded in some way?
The door ahead had no handle or lock, neither did the wall it was set in.
Cautiously we approached it, when we got close enough it was apparent that some sort of sensor had been triggered as the door opened with a swish.
We went through.
Beyond the auto-door was another corridor, the floor gleamed curiously in our flashlights. It was flooded and it appeared that the flooding went on for the entire length of the passageway. On closer inspection the water was only a few centimetres deep.
Our flashlights could not penetrate the seemingly dark water and there was no way to tell if the tunnel floor dipped or the water got deeper.
Upon entering the corridor, the door swished shut behind us. We turned back to it and it seemed to be non-responsive for a moment before opening again. There was no telling the age of these doors right now, we wedged it open.
Our eptacorders told us that there were small aquatic lifeforms present in the water. After after activating the motion detectors in our eptacorders we slowly splashed forward along the corridor, tightly gripping our phasepistols as the eptacorders pinged.
Further along the water began to deepen, we also discovered it was uncomfortably cold. It continued to deepen until it reached our knees, still we pressed on and soon the water level began to drop again. By the time we were at the next door it was back to being only a few centimetres deep again.
This door opened into a rectangular room, we could two other ways out, left and right. Shallow flooding was also present in this area.
As we began examining the room, we heard noise.
Instantly we all fell silent: From one of the tunnels we could hear the recognisable sound of splashing footsteps, distorted undecipherable voices were reverberating along the tunnel. People were coming down the passageway!
If it was Red Betty and her crew, it was likely to end in a firefight. Quietly we moved into the corners and extinguished our lights.
The splashing continued in the dark until they reached the room, whoever they were, they were making do without light!
We flicked out flashlights on and were surprised by what we saw.
This was no pirate crew, caught in our lights were three strangely tall individuals.
They stood over two metres in height, their bodies looked artificial and constructed of some sort of plastic compound and something like brass. Strangest of all were their heads; sitting on the shoulders of each one was a skull!
Each skull was different in some way, in size or species or some other manner.
They stood still, silently observing us with their inscrutable gaping black eye sockets.
My Consortium training kicked in and I greeted them with the First Contact Directive.
"We mean you no harm, we come in peace. Please take us to your leaders," I said.
There was no response for a moment, then our omni-translators were forced to earn their keep.
"ARISE, TOIL, REJOICE," boomed their voices, echoing in the dark, flooded room.
I spoke to them again, asking them to elaborate?
They repeated the same phrase again, only louder and two of them began rubbing the walls?
Before we could even begin to fathom what they were doing, a sonorous wail filled the room, coming from somewhere deeper within and so loud that we could almost feel the mountain vibrate. It rose in volume as to almost become painful before it mercifully faded off.
Once the wail had stopped, the three mysterious creatures moved off at a pace down the other corridor. It was an effort for us to keep up with their long loping strides and we nearly lost them when an auto-door slid shut behind them. It took several attempts to trigger the sensor and we were forced to sprint to catch them as they turned down a corridor.
They kept moving and we kept following, they went down various corridors until they encountered and ascended some steps, once again we had trouble with the sensor and it too several attempts to trigger.
The door opened into an unusual chamber.
It was clearly an artificially room that had been constructed in exactly cubic proportions and was forty metres to a side.
At the centre of the room was a massive black cube, also with exactly cubic proportions and twenty metres across each face.
There was something indescribably unsettling about staring at the cube, it was somehow black than black and uniformly lacked features across all of its faces. The light from our flashlights did not reflect off of it at all and was seemingly swallowed by the cube.
Scanning it with our eptacorders was useless, they did not detect the existence of the cube at all!
It was as if that part of space was occupied by nothing.
Our position was closest to one corner and we could see some sort of scaffolding or frame had been constructed around the cube.
From where we were it seemed that steps had been built at all four corners, these led up to a walkway just above the top of the cube that exactly followed the perimeter of the cube's top face.
As we observed the black cube, we heard voices from round the other side of it? We also heard the unmistakable sound of a clinking chisel chipping away at something, possibly rock?
The two creatures had disappeared from sight, no doubt they had gone round one side of the cube.
Instead of going round the cube to confront whoever was there, we decided to climb the frame and see if we could get a more advantageous view point from the high ground.
We climbed the steps at the south-east corner and when we got up to the walkway we could see that something had happened to part of the frame.
The walkway along the northern edge had been entirely removed and repurposed to form a walkway to the centre of the cube's top face from the western walkway
At the end of this walkway, at the centre of the cube's top face was a gigantic skull, protruding from the temples were a pair of curling ram's horns. The skull measured at two metres across!
We had no idea what this represented.
This was not the time to try and solve this mystery though, instead we quietly moved along the walkway to the north-west corner of the cube.
Cautiously we peered over the cube's edge. Red Betty was there, along with thirteen pirates. She was standing around whilst they were digging into the ground, clearly searching for something. Accompanying them was someone who was obviously not a pirate, it was Lester we surmised.
Close by were the three creatures were lying sprawled on the ground unmoving.
The pirates seemed to be moving strangely, it made us suspicious, something was wrong? We scanned them and the results showed that they were all infested with Alien Brain Worms - all except for Lester!
As we continued watching, the black cube began emitting a tremendous howl, so intense that we felt ourselves beginning to vibrate.
Wincing from noise, we were surprised when suddenly, twisting bolts of lightning flickered out from the cube. The pirates dived for cover, but one was too slow, a flailing tendril of electricity struck him squarely and he was atomised.
Then as abruptly as the lightning had began, it ended
Luckily none of us had been hit.
In the moments that the lightning appeared, our eptacorders had unexpectantly began flashing and pinging. Checking them revealed that this lightning seemed to be composed of the same type of energy our eptacorders emitted when performing a scan. Except in the case of the lightning, that energy was massively amplified.
It not take the pirates very long to recover and resume digging. It was decided that whatever they were digging, it would not be a good idea to allow them to acquire it.
Since they were mostly gathered round the north-west corner of the cube, we decided to split up and catch them in a crossfire.
Chuck and LISA went to the south-west corner while the Doc and I went to the north-east corner.
As we were moving towards our spots, Lester spotted Chuck and LISA moving into position.
Chuck raised an index finger to his lips indicating be quiet, but Lester was too shocked by what he saw. In desperation LISA stunned him with her phasepistol and Lester collapsed, incredibly none of the pirates noticed, entirely focussed on their digging!
Once we were in position, we ambushed the pirates!
We were forced to set our phasepistols to the VFD setting as infested victims could shrug off stun shots.
Chuck and LISA shot at the pirates and several went down, the others ducked round the north side of the cube - right into more phaser fire from Doc and I. We managed to hit a few more, but the remaining pirates reached for their own phasepistols!
I saw a pirate levelling his phase pistol in my direction, before he could open fire I desperately hurled myself behind the east side of the cube. losing my footing on some loose gravel as I did....
....Multicoloured patterns of light swam before my eyes, strangely contorting, swirling and merging into unceasingly undulating shapes. a mesmerising luminated dance floating before me.
Time passed and the colours settled into into a trio of blurred columns.
After what seemed like the passing of an aeon that I knew was only actually a moment, the three columns seemed to squirm into focus. LISA, Chuck and the Doc were standing over me, half silhouetted against sunlight shining in from outside the cave mouth, they were staring at me intently?
LISA told me not to move.
I tried moving; when I tried to sit up my muscles ached and my limbs felt numb? I was lying on the ground, something uncomfortable under my back?
LISA explained that I had taken a grazing brush from a phaser shot that had been set to VFD and it had stunned me.
The mission was now over and soon we would be returning to The Infinite Badger. The crew filled me in on what had transpired since I can become senseless
After the first exchange of phaser fire, both the Doc and I had been stunned.
Red Betty, realising it was a trap, had sprinted down an adjoining tunnel.
Chuck dealt with the remaining pirates and LISA chased Red Betty.
LISA relentlessly pursued Red Betty, who not possibly outrun her. LISA quickly caught up with the pirate captain and made good use of her Laser Incision function. She used the medical apparatus to stab Red Betty through the head, penetrating the skull and killing the Alien Brain Worm nested within.
With one stroke, both the Alien Brain Worm and Red Betty were dead.
Chuck in the meantime, was dealing with the remaining Alien Brain Worms, phaser blasts were enough to deal with space pirates, but the parasitic worms needing dealing with separately when they emerged from their victims' bodies.
It was now when the cube emitted yet another painfully loud howl; the time between these howls was decreasing. As before, jagged bolts of lightning flashed out from the cube, one of them struck my unconscious form and I disappeared!
LISA returned just as Chuck finished off the last of the worms by kicking it at the cube, the Alien Brain Worm vanished as it struck the cube?
Once the Doc and Lester were revived, they all moved away from the black cube.
The crew spoke with the tomb robber and he explained that Red Betty had found him at his home and forced him to lead the space pirates here. Lester added that while he was gathering his gear for the journey, the pirate's had become distracted for a moment. He took the opportunity to send out a warning message to Consortium Command.
Lester then went on to explain as much about the catacombs that he had learnt in his studies.
The black cube was some sort of power source for the reactor that powered the ancient city that was located on the surface of ΑΔΔ long ago.
According to Lester, the original inhabitants of ΑΔΔ were mostly described as some sort of nonconformist flower children who had lived close to the sea and settled along the shoreline. It was said that they could wield magic, control dragons and that they were known as The Coastal Wizards.
The Coastal Wizards were said to live lives of ease; the plastic and brass creatures we had earlier encountered were an ancient autonomous slave race who served The Coastal Wizards and were known as The Gaxygyarg.
According to Lester; the wall art we had seen earlier seemed to depict the mysterious crystals we found inside skulls at Lester's home.
When a Coastal Wizards died, their crystalline brains would eventually become precious stones that were donated to and used by the giant figure.
Finally Lester surmised that the massive skull on top of the black cube might have belonged some other inhabitant here? Maybe a Coastal Wizard, or the giant in the wall-art?
When we asked Lester what Red Betty was looking for, he told the crew she was searching for the black cube's the controller. With it, she could control Gaxygyargs, Red Betty would then have the power to conquer ΑΔΔ and even other planets.
As the crew were contemplating their move and what had occurred to me they felt a presence behind them?
Turning around, they saw an individual who was nearly two-and-a-half metres tall and dressed in robes?
He introduced himself as Korm The Adept.
Korm explained to the crew that he was here to regain control of the black cube.
The crew asked him what he knew about the cube and in particular about the lightning discharges? Korm told them that anyone who was hit by the lightning may have been teleported or disintegrated! Korm went on to say that if someone is disintegrated, a fine dusty residue is left behind hanging in the air and slowly floats to the ground. If someone was teleported away, they would vanish with a pop.
The crew realised that I had been teleported somewhere? Korm said that I would have been sent to one of numerous transporter pads location throughout the underground complex.
The crew scanned for my life-signs and found me in the cave that we had first entered the catacombs, close to our shuttle.
The crew asked what else Korm might know about the cube. He became evasive, but did admit to the crew that he served The Master as his apprentice and finally he rather ominously added that his master would be reborn.
The crew and Lester left Korm to it and returned to the cave mouth where they found and revived me. We returned Lester to his home and returned to The Infinite Badger.
Leaving the Clara Pandy in the custody of the port authorities here, we blasted off into space.
The mystery of Red Betty and The Clara Pandy had been solved.
The threat of the Alien Brain Worms had finally been bought to an end.
End of Explorer's Log 04.
Medical Log 4
Pilot's Log #4
Science Officer’s Log 4
7th November 2020
Saturday night is here, I'm at home and logged into Skype in the living room.
This means it's time for the next mission in Matakishi's Lasers & Feelings campaign.
Space, the ultimate boundary.
Zaber Fluke: Mission specialist - Explorer first class.
Explorer's Log 03: Astrodate 21.2011.07.
Location: Aboard Infinite Badger, Sector 11.
The Infinite Badger had been assigned to survey Sector Eleven. We had barely begun our mission when a red light flashed up on the Doc's console.
It was a mayday, Consortium ships were under attack in the Σ System from Zorgon the Conqueror! It looked like we were the closest ship, so Chuck punched the coordinates into his console and jumped to maximum warp.
Doc searched our database for information about the Σ System: His search flashed up several warning alerts; the Σ System was located close to a black hole! Ships travelling through or close to the system would be likely to experience gravimetric distortions.
The system was also in neutral space, which meant it was out of Consortium jurisdiction but also unclaimed. Records showed that a Consortium scientific research camp had been built on the planetoid Σ Twelve several years ago. It's purpose was to research something the database called a Quantum Tunnel? It did not elaborate upon it any further.
Reaching our destination, we dropped out of warp fairly close to Σ Twelve. A quick scan revealed a small Consortium defence force that indeed was under attack.
They were returning fire whilst being strafed and harried by assailants in a wing of fast-moving red and black small starfighters known rather derisively as Scabs (Because of their colour!).
Little was known about Scab ships, they had been encountered at the edge of Consortium space on occasion without much success. Other than that; nothing.
I opened a wide-band channel to the Scab ships, ordering them to immediately desist from attacking Consortium ships and withdraw.
It appeared to have some effect, the Scab fighters held off and quickly we received a response from what must have been their commander. We were told that we were not in Consortium space and had no right to be here.
In my reply I stated that The Consortium had received no official claim for any part of the Σ System, The Consortium had as much right to be here as anybody and had arrived first.
The commander belligerently stated that it was claimed by Zorgon the Conqueror and that he would soon arrive here. Nevertheless they retreated out of weapon range and hung there, no doubt continually scanning us. Even though The Infinite Badger was no warship, the Scab ships were no match for both it and the defence force.
As with the Scab ships, little was known about the Zorgon the Conqueror since he resided beyond Consortium territory, although his title left little to debate regarding his motives!
We communicated this to Consortium Command and they advised us that they would send support; but it would not arrive in the system for at least 24 hours.
We spoke with the defence force and fortunately they did not report any significant damage or losses.
We inquired about the research project on Σ Twelve, the captain of the defence force explained that the scientists working there tended to keep tight-lipped about it and grew resentful or angry when they were contacted.
Finally we were warned that landing on the planetoid could involve some risk, in it's position it was close to the black hole's event horizon and it was slowly but inextricably being pulled into the black hole. One day this pull would overcome the Σ Star's gravity well and Σ Twelve would begin it's irreversible, endless descent into the cosmic black maw.
The captain informed us that he kept the defence force some way from Σ Twelve.
They had intercepted the Scabs before they had gotten close to the planetoid
Keeping the captain's warning in mind, we decided to investigate the situation on Σ Twelve.
The Doc kept an eye on his sensor readings whilst we approached Σ Twelve. As we closed in on the planetoid, he started picking up distortions in the gravity ahead.
A scan revealed that Σ Twelve was a lifeless rocky mass, zero bio-mass readings and zero breathable atmosphere.
The scan also revealed a series of manmade structures clustered together, within were human life-signs; the research team.
Further away from the research camp was another structure, it was emitting a strange energy signature that disrupted any scan results we tried to acquire from it. It had to be the Quantum Tunnel.
Warily, Chuck maneuvered us into orbit above the camp, he had to heavily compensate for the gravitational shear that The Infinite Badger was experiencing.
From our position, we hailed the research camp. A reply came from someone who identified themselves as Doctor Zebulon, chief scientist for this mission.
The viewscreen showed an individual enclosed in a environmental suit. The domed helmet showed a contorted reflection of the doctor's environment and bristled with autonomous cameras that seemed to constantly adjust their positioning and refocus their lenses.
Behind the mirrored helmet we heard an undeniably irritated voice demanding to know who we were and why we had disturbed them?
We tried to explain that the defence force above had been subjected to an attack and that we, as the only reinforcement close to the system had responded. now we were in the process of assessing Σ Twelve's security.
Doctor Zebulon interrupted us and told us he didn't care and we should just do our jobs!
He then rudely closed the channel.
That was that!
Our scans had revealed nothing dangerous or hostile either on the planetoid or this part of the star system, so we waited.
We didn't have to wait for long.
Only a few minutes later the Doc's console picked by a wide-band distress signal; originating from the research camp. Doctor Zebulon appeared on the viewscreen again, this time the mirrored visor was raised and he was in the habitat. His face filled the screen and the fear on it was easy to read. He was frantically shouting that the camp was under attack! Why weren't we doing anything about it?
Who were they? How was it that they were able to get past our sensors?
We ran another scan of the camp, the sensors were picking up a horde of moving signals surrounding it, they did not register as life-signs and they appeared to be pouring out of the Quantum Tunnel.
We could do nothing from orbit.
Despite the risks, we had to reach the surface.
Chuck took The Infinite Badger down, fighting the black hole's pernicious influence all the way. The gravimetric distortions twisted, flowed and eddied, like the ship was caught in the swirling current of some invisible violent river.
In spite of this, we landed safely within sight of the research camp. A series of linked white bubble tents surrounded by strange naked people?
Beyond that was the Quantum Tunnel. From orbit it was impossible to appreciate the scale of it. An enormous vertical stone ring, seventy metres in diameter and emanating from the centre was an undulating silver-white glow. The humanoids were still streaming out of it, a number of them had noticed The Infinite Badger and were heading our way.
From the surface we could get a clear visual scan of the humanoids. They looked strange, in LISA's opinion they had the appearance of being corpses. It explained their lack of life-signs. They also appeared to have been augmented by cybernetic components of some, this might have explained how they managed to operate in the lack of any atmosphere.
For the lack of a better name; they were cyber-zombies.
We tried communicating with them and connecting with their cybernetics, but it did not yield any success.
By now they had reached The Infinite Badger and were scrambling over the ship, futilely attempting to claw their way in.
We theorised that since they had electronic components, they might be susceptible to a electromagnetic pulse.
While the Doc worked on the pulse, Chuck and I exited the ship and clambered on to the hull.
We fired our phasepistol's at the cyber-zombies, even at the VFD setting, they had no effect.
It was not too hard for the Doc to modulate the ship's emitters to create one, he just had to make sure that it did not target the camp.
He fired it a pulse; it too had no discernible effect.
A number of the cyber-zombies had collapsed and ceased moving, it seemed that they could not survive without an atmosphere indefinitely. LISA had been observing their behaviour and she suspected that the augmentations were designed to compensate for some sort of biological deficiency or limitation.
We had not managed to find a way to defeat the cyber-zombies, it seemed apparent that eventually they would all die, but that would not help the scientists right now..
The only option left was to transport them aboard. The Doc scanned the camp and found seven life-signs. He beamed them into the ship, They were all wearing environmental suits.
Doctor Zebulon stepped forward, removed his helmet and breathed deeply. He turned to the other six and informed them that the air was breathable.
LISA ran a full medical scan on the seven of them. They appeared to be in good health and no signs of abnormality were detected.
The camp's compliment of scientists had consisted of one hundred and twelve scientists. Now only seven remained...
When asked Doctor Zebulon explained that the research team had been going about their normal business when news had reached them from the defence force of an impending attack from space!
Soon after that The Infinite Badger arrived in orbit.
As they then continued working normally, the cyber-zombies had appeared and attacked.
Doctor Zebulon also admitted that this was not a new occurrence. In the past, on occasion other entities or things had come through the tunnel but they had quickly died due to the lack of atmosphere.
We asked him what the Quantum Tunnel was exactly. He told that it was a way to travel through space, time or even other realities or dimensions or any combination of the above. The team had sent a number of probes through the tunnel, but every time data had successfully streamed back, it was always indecipherable and the probes themselves never returned.
The structure was large enough to potentially allow The Infinite Badger to pass through it. It would certainly be an interesting exploration.
The option was discussed, none of the scientists were keen on it. There were too many variables and a return journey might not be viable.
In the end, the idea was shelved.
In his report, Doctor Zebulon had also told us that the cyber-zombies had appeared just after we had scanned the Quantum Tunnel's stone ring. We were curious about this.
The Quantum Tunnel was now dormant again. We scanned it a second time.
The Quantum Tunnel was triggered, the eerie silver-white glow materialised again. Our hypotheses was correct; a direct scan of the ring could somehow activated it.
A few moments later, silhouetted shapes came tumbling out of the light. A scan revealed that they were human.
Immediately we beamed them aboard our ship, but it was already too late, they had already died.
LISA performed a cursory examination They had no signs of dental or other surgery and no technology, their clothing was of indeterminate origin. They were from Earth's past, but it would take some through investigation to find out more.
At this time we received a hail from the defence force above.
Zorgon the Conqueror had entered the system.
The defence force captain informed us that they were no match for Zorgon's ship and would retreat to a safe distance.
The Doc performed a scan; two ships were approaching.
One was some sort of battlecruiser, no doubt Zorgon's ship. The other was vast, it identified as a planetary excavator, a mining ship capable of scooping millions of tonnes of rock and soil from a planet at a time.
Before we have the chance to plan a course of action, we were raked by phaser fire from the cruiser; although the damage was negligible.
I opened a channel and hailed the cruiser and then larger than life, Zorgon the Conqueror himself appeared, filling our viewscreen.
Zorgon the Conqueror was some sort of large, green, tentacled life-form, on his bulbous head sat a protective glass environmental helmet and through it he leered at us with his one gigantic eye.
He blinked and called us puny humans! Zorgon claimed the Quantum Tunnel for himself.
I responded, stating that The Consortium laid equal claim and perhaps we should find a way to share the artefact.
Zorgon paused, seemingly considering the proposition, then he said he might see how it prove beneficial. Had the proposal worked... or was it an act?
Zorgon went on to admit that even if we shared the Quantum Tunnel, he would retain possession of it and use it to conquer all of time and space.
We said we'd get back to him and closed the channel.
LISA stated that the Quantum Tunnel was too dangerous to allow into Zorgon's or anyone's hand. It had to be destroyed. We all agreed.
We discussed matters and quickly came up with a plan.
Then we turned to the surviving scientists and explained that we intended to put the Quantum Tunnel out of everybody's reach and their mission would be at an end.
Most of the surviving scientists were not unduly upset by this, Doctor Ermintrude the botanist, Doctor Margot the biologist and Doctor Douglas Pollux a nutritionist explained that had never had anything to do on the mission for all the years they had been here and were glad to see the back of it!
By now, the excavator was heading for Σ Twelve's surface, there was no time left and we launched The infinite Badger.
Chuck had to fight the black hole's pull to escape the planetoid, but soon were were safely back in orbit and watched as the excavator descended to the Quantum Tunnel and proceeded to gouge a massive chunk land surrounding the Quantum Tunnel out of Σ Twelve.
Once finished with its task, the excavator began its lumbering return journey carrying its prize. The Doc ran a small scan of the ship's hull and found a suitable spot. Doc then remodulated the transporter's beam frequency to mimic a typical telemetry data stream.
Next Lisa went to the transporter pad and the Doc transported her over to the spot in the excavator's hull he had discovered, this would go undetected by any of Zorgon's forces or scans.
Unfortunately, Doc's calculations had not accurately predicted the strength of the black hole's pull and thus he had not fully compensated for this when targeting the transporter beam.
After rematerializing, LISA found herself in an unexpected location on the hull. Luckily it was not an insurmountable problem, LISA cautiously traversed the hull until she found a hatch and entered.
From there it was simple for LISA to hack into the bridge's flight controls. We then waited until the excavator was well away from Σ Twelve.
The plan called for LISA to remotely lock out the bridge, put the excavator on to autopilot and instruct it to fly into the black hole.
As the excavator moved further away from Σ Twelve, it's trajectory took it closer to Zorgon's cruiser. Lisa realised that she could kill two birds with one stone.
LISA waited until the excavator it had put itself into formation with the battlecruiser, then she struck!
Locking the bridge out, LISA remotely took control of the excavator! There was some confusion about the navigational numbers required, but corrections were made and LISA managed to nudged the excavator closer to the cruiser.
The huge mining ship was equipped with an array of mechanical arms and limbs designed to facilitate more efficient mining, LISA used the mechanical limbs to grip the cruiser, then she fired the engines and sent the excavator on it's journey to the black hole - along with cruiser in tow.
Quickly, Doc beamed LISA back to The Infinite Badger.
Even though Zorgon's crew were caught off guard, it took them only a few moments to realise what was happening, that's when we saw the battlecruiser's thrusters fire up and begin pushing against the excavator's own thrust.
Further our from Σ Twelve, the wing of Scab ships had powered up and had begun accelerating towards us.
The cruiser and the excavator were beginning to slow and soon would reverse direction, we couldn't allow this to happen.
Chuck bought The Infinite Badger's shunt drive online and brought us round accelerating towards the pair of ships.
The Doc ran a scan of the battlecruisers power systems and fed the data to my console.
Looking at the readout I managed to identify a critical juncture power layout for their drive. I fired a proton torpedo and we watched as the gleaming missile streaked towards the battlecruiser.
The battlecruiser's crew must have been fully focused on reversing their direction as their shields did not prevent the torpedo from scoring a precise hit.
There was an explosion and the cruiser's engines, flickered, stuttered and died, the pair of ships began picking up speed again as they headed towards the black hole.
A warning pinged on the Doc's console, he was picking up a ship dropping out of warp close by.
It was a Consortium capital ship, shields up and weapons hot; it was ready for a fight!
The ship fired a full array of phaser shots at the Scab ships, quickly finishing them off and a spread of torpedoes at the cruiser.
The capital ship's captain was cheerfully smiling when his bright face appeared on our viewscreen.
"Glad to help," he exclaimed.
Next he asked if the scientists wanted to transfer aboard for a return to Earth?
The scientists seemed very eager to leave The Infinite Badger? They were almost scrambling over each other to reach the transporter pads, they must have very much missed their homes!
With that done, the capital ship warped out of the system and were alone.
Almost alone that is, we watched as the battlecruiser and excavator had entered the black hole's event horizon and began their irreversible, infinite journey into oblivion. Time itself could escape the grasp of a black hole and from our perspective, it would seem as if the two ships would slow down to nothing and take forever to reach the centre of the singularity.
Whilst the Quantum Tunnel had not been destroyed, it was in a place no one could reach.
End of Explorer's Log 03.
Medical Log 3
Pilots log #3
Science Officer's Log 3
1st November 2020
It's Sunday lunchtime and we're round Vicky's for one last in-person RPG session before Lockdown 2 comes into effect.
It's time for a late-start in the next part of Ares' Star Wars campaign.
Location: Kijimi City.
M/8' clambered to his feet, his tactical-assessment subroutine informed him that any damage that his blaster might inflict on the star ship would be negligible. Instead the subroutine instructed him to target the thruster exhaust port. M/8 fired his shot and hit his target, part of the exhaust system appeared to had taken damage.
Chrisy set his blaster to stun and fired at the force-user, the shot glanced off the force-user in the shoulder, he didn't seem too bothered by it.
Suddenly Chrisy lurched and felt a peculiar tugging sensation? Chrisy frantically growled and scratched his head as he was pulled off his feet, into the air and towards the force-user. He tried to prepare for an attack on the force-user as he drrew closer.
"Give me the baby!" The force-user shouted at Robin as she tried to make good her escape.
The Mandalorian was back up now and chasing after Robin.
M/8's danger-assessment subroutine reorganised his priorities. M/8 now targeted the Mandalorian, he fired a shot at the bounty hunter. He was unfazed, his armour had absorbed the blast.
The Mandalorian was much faster than Robin and in a few long strides had caught up. He tackled her and she, Wilfred and the Mandalorian crashed on to the icy ground.
The force-user flicked his hand and the Mandalorian abruptly jerked backwards off of Robin.
M/8's tactical-assessment subroutine calculated that the Mandalorian would be vulnerable for a few moments and instructed M/8 to fire at him again. It was a good shot and landed a solid hit on the Mandalorian who slumped to the ground, motionless.
As Chrisy was flying through the air, the realisation dawned on him the he was not being pulled by the force-user! Someone from within the ship was doing it?
Chrisy growled and scratched his head, flailing his other arm uselessly, entirely missing his attack on the force-user (Who was further than arm's length away from Chrisy) as he shot past and into the ship.
At that moment Utri and Pell, along with Madak came on to the scene and into view; just in time to see Chrisy go flying into the ship!
Chrisy hit the deck with a thud and saw that there was a band of children here, had they pulled him in?
Utri and Pell approached the force-user peacefully.
"Hmm," said Pell to everybody. "Stop what you're doing and stop.".
Pell asked the force-user why he was doing this, he explained that he believed that Wilfred would not be safe with the crew.
Pell asked the force-user if this matter could be settled peacefully, Utri - being a politician agreed.
The rest of the crew began to gather.
The force-user asked the crew to come into his ship, but Pell was suspicious and asked if the parlay could be held on more neutral ground. The force-user refused, the crew eventually agreed to go aboard, along with Madak who was demanding to see his daughter.
Upon entry into the ship, the crew were reunited with a bemused Chrisy, who looked at them, shrugged, growled and scratched his head. The crew were also surprised to find the ship occupied by children?
The crew counted fifteen children of varying ages up to about fifteen years old. As he also came aboard, the force-user explained that he had rescued these children from all over The Empire.
He admitted to us that he once used to be a typical Jedi, but surviving the war, the purge and the being hunted by The Empire had altered his perspective.
Now he travelled The Empire, looking for children with special talents. Recruiting them and training them to use those talents to the best of their ability.
The force-user then refused to elaborate any further. Unwilling to reveal the location of the planet the he planned to take them to, unwilling even to reveal his name to the crew.
Madak was still demanding to see his daughter, he could not see he among the children here. He seemed to be getting very stressed, the crew noticed his hand was dangerously close to the blaster holster on his belt.
The force-user seemed to relent, he explained that Madak's daughter; Tarla was in another room, he allowed the girl come out, father and daughter were both happy to see each other. The force-user invited them to go into the other room for some private conversation.
Once Madak and Tarla had left, the crew asked the force-user why he kept Tarla away from her father? He explained that it was necessary to keep children isolated away from their parents during training.
Try as the crew might, they could not convince the force-user to part with any more information.
After a few minutes, Madak and Tarla returned and the negotiations began in earnest.
The crew refused to hand over Wilfred to the force-user for training unless they were allowed to accompanied him. The force-user agreed to this, but when the crew explained that they would follow the force-user's space ship in their own ship, The Vengeful Runner, he became unhappy.
The force-user would not allow us to bring our ship, it would have to remain here.
This was of course not acceptable to the crew, being taken to an unknown planet and forced to leave their own star ship behind would put them in danger of being stranded. It was too much of a risk and the crew could not accept these terms.
Meanwhile, Madak also refused to allow his daughter to go with the force-user unaccompanied, his family would have to go with them, he said. The force-user shook his head and rejected this, he would not allow families to be with his students during their training; it was too distracting.
The negotiations continued for a while, but no satisfactory conclusion was reached. The force-user was too evasive and untrusting to be trustworthy himself.
There was no deal, the crew announced and prepared to leave with Wilfred.
Robin and Chrisy both noticed various meaningful glances between the force-user and one of the older girls, they also noticed that she appeared to be wearing a lightsabre!
The force-user stated that he would not allow us to leave with either Wilfred or Tarla: The air became thick with silent tension, muscles stiffened, postures changed and eyes narrowed.
There was a fleeting moment of still, quiet, calmness in the ship, a calmness that could not last as people started reaching for weapons!
31st October 2020
It's Saturday and it's Halloween, there are no trick-or-treaters so I'm in the living room, logged into Skype.
It's time for the next part of Matakishi's Lasers & Feelings campaign.
Space, the ultimate boundary.
Zaber Fluke: Mission specialist - Explorer first class.
Explorer's Log 02: Astrodate 21.2010.31.
Location: Aboard Infinite Badger, Sector 76.
Upon receiving orders from Consortium Command: We had spent the past two weeks uneventfully patrolling the Ο System in Sector 76 and futilely searching for infamous space pirate; Red Betty.
There were only two inhabited planets in the system, Ο Five and Ο Six. The system was relatively quiet. The only space traffic of note involved commercial trade between these two planets.
We had however heard a rumour that the Pirate Base was located on the outlying planetoid; Ο Nine.
It had been an interminably long two weeks and the only event of note was when a warning light winked into existence on Chuck's console. He informed us unsurprisingly, that the power banks had dropped to twenty percent of capacity. We needed Plotithium to recharge the energy banks.
Chuck set course for Ο Six, closest of the two planets.
As we closed in, Doc picked up a ship coming from the surface. It was on an intercept course.
We were hailed once we reached communication range.
The sight of a well maintained ship's bridge appeared on the viewscreen. In the captain's chair sat a slim, young man in a pristine, perfectly fitting military uniform. He smiled and introduced himself as Captain Quentin Craddock of the Ο Defence Force Ship Valiant. The captain asked us to state our business?
This required some tact, neither planet in this system was a member of The Consortium and strictly speaking; we had no authority here. Conversely, neither planet was antagonistic to The Consortium either.
We explained to Captain Craddock that we had been travelling through the more remote parts of the system, hunting the space pirate Red Betty and now we needed to resupply.
Craddock allowed himself a small smirk. "There're no pirates here," he said. "We defeated them, chased them out of the system and send them packing.".
Behind him, we heard his crew enthusiastically applauding him!
It may have been a smug boast, but there was no denying it; we had not found any firm evidence of pirate activity.
Even so, that didn't stop us having some uneasy suspicion of the man through. His crew did not have the air of the seasoned campaigners that might be required to drive off hardened pirates?
Craddock then granted us landing rights and wished us an enjoyable visit to Ο Six.
It was a typical star port for an unaligned world, dotted with various freighters and busy with workers, ground crew and immigration staff cheerfully dispensing extensive paperwork that required completing.
The surrounding neighbourhood was populated with shops that sold everything a space farer might need, as well as numerous drinking establishments with their lurid, fluorescently lit flashing name signs and seedy exteriors. Typical of dens of inequity found at star ports all across known space.
To no one's surprise, Chuck said that he knew a good watering hole here called The Sly Owl. Chuck explained that he still owed the landlord, Derek Owl some creds and hoped to avoid him.
Inside The Sly Owl it was dimly lit with weak, dirty yellow lights and a pall of suspiciously thick brown smoke stubbornly clung to the well stained ceiling.
As we entered, the staff cheered and waved welcomingly at Chuck. Chuck furtively looked for Derek, who fortuitously was no where to be seen.
We looked around, despite the time of day it was a lively place. The bar was noisy and filled with mixture of star port workers, independent pilots and space crews.
Several women of low moral fibre or negotiable affection also prowled the room.
All in all; a good place to hear gossip.
Our attention was drawn to one man sitting apart from everyone else, dressed in a dishevelled flight suit and looking mournfully into his drink, he was playing with a handful of creds.
A local told us he was Jacaranda Jones, he was widely considered to be the unluckiest pilot on Ο Six!
He was the very last person to be robbed by Red Betty before Captain Craddock drove her out of the system.
This piqued our interest, we were not entirely satisfied with Captain Craddock's telling of events.
It wasn't too hard to strike up a conversation with the man and hear his tale of woe.
Jacaranda earnt a living as a trader transporting goods between Ο Six and Five. On this particular trip that he was carrying a consignment of wine and some unexamined alien artefacts he'd gotten from a trader from the Ω System when Red Betty struck.
Jacaranda was terrified of course, Red Betty had a fearsome reputation of leaving no one alive! Except of course he had lived. Perhaps he had, despite his reputation caught a lucky break?
He went on to tell us that the pirates had cut into his hold and taken nearly everything and he was facing financial ruin. He pointed to the creds on the table and said this was all the money he had.
To make matters worse, it was looking more and more likely that his insurance company was not going to pay out due to some Act of Piracy clause in their contract.
Perhaps his reputation for bad luck was well founded!
Jacaranda told us his freighter could be found in the star port, its name was Belongs With You.
It was easy to find, one thing you could say about Jacaranda's ship was that it was one-of-a-kind.
Belongs With You was by far the most ramshackle, cobbled-together, downright-dangerous, haphazard freighter we had ever seen. The word 'freighter' applied here very loosely. As part of The Consortium, we were not used to seeing this sort of dilapidated wreck of a spacecraft.
The freighter mostly consisted of a massive corrugated steel shipping container that had been modified to make it space worthy: At one end of the container were a series of engines, thrusters and boosters. At the other end, was a makeshift barely habitable cabin.
How did Jacaranda manage to keep it flying? Love?
One side of the container had clearly been holed, the surrounding surface area had been blackened by blast damage and scarred with laser fire.
Doc scanned the breach in the container's wall with his eptacorder. The findings were consistent with damage caused by laser cutters.
We played our flashlights across the darkened interior, the container seemed empty except for for some detritus in one corner. It was a small amount of material that looked like some kind of broken, thick egg shell?
Curiously, it did not register on the eptacorders as any sort of material or bio-matter?
Back at The Sly Owl, we asked Jacaranda some questions. He told us that the eggs were part of the alien artefacts he was carrying.
Jacaranda described the artefacts as; spherical and about the size of a beach ball, they hummed soothingly and were slightly translucent. If held up to a bright light source, something could be seen inside?
He had no idea if they actually contained anything.
Jacaranda theorised that when the pirates were robbing him, they must have damaged one of the spheres, they took all the remaining artefacts, save for two of the spheres which they must have missed.
There were two intact spheres left? We asked Jacaranda where they were?
He explained that he had sold them to the landlord a couple of days ago.
We knew that Derek Owl was nowhere to be seen.
The barman was an acquaintance of Chuck's and friendly enough. He told us that he had not seen Derek for the last two days. Finally he told us that Derek resided in the apartment above the bar.
We headed upstairs, there were no guest rooms in The Sly Owl, the only door here had to go into Derek's apartment.
After knocking on the door we waited, there was no answer. We were concerned and couldn't leave matters like this.
LISA's surgical programming gave her a light touch and she managed to pick the lock.
Inside it was a fairly standard, well appointed apartment. We had entered into a open living space, with a sitting/entertainment area and a kitchen area - along with a dining table. It looked like a mess though, furniture was tipped over and personal possessions scattered across the damp floor, there must've been a leak somewhere.
From the edge of the room, we shouted out our presence, as before, there was no reply.
Next, we scanned the apartment, the results were confusing?
The eptacorders were registering a single life-sign from an adjacent room, it intermittently read this as human, but occasionally it would flick over to reading as an unknown signal?
The eptacorders could not could provide a clear result, they seemed to be all functioning in acceptable parameters, there must've been some sort of external ambient condition affecting them.
The adjacent room turned out to be a bedroom, what we found inside was quite surprising: On the bed lay a naked woman!
The rest of the room was in disarray, equally untidy as the living space.
The naked woman sat up and smiled at me.
I took a deep breath, gripped phasepistol tightly and scanned her with my eptacorder. Glancing down at the result, I saw the readout flickering erratically between human and unknown.
The woman slid off the bed and on to all fours. Keeping her eyes squarely on me, she began slinking closer, except something was off, something was wrong with her movement?
I told her to get back, but she ignored it, saying nothing. She got closer then lunged forward as if to give me a kiss!
I shot my phasepistol at her, it was set to stun (The TWRS setting.) and it knocked her back. She was however, still conscious!
She regained her balance and came at me again! Frantically, I put my phasepistol up a notch to the TWH setting and shot her again.
The blast sent her crashing against the far wall and she crumpled into a heap on to the floor, unmoving.
This was not the end of it: Her mouth opened and some colossal, slick grey worm came slithering out.
Chuck leapt forward and hit it with a stun shot from his phasepistol, the creature was knocked sideways, but immediately made for the Doc.
It immediately coiled itself one of the Doc's legs, climbing up to try and get to god only knows where!
The doc was staring at it in confusion. Was this real, or what it some sort of mental relapse?
LISA, unfazed and cool headed as always, had grabbed a large plastic kitchen container and some cooking tongs. She managed to skilfully extricate the wriggling worm and secured it in the container.
After getting our breath back, we looked at the worm creature, took a scan of it and remotely fed the data into The Infinite Badger's Xeno-Wiki database.
We got a hit, it was a Vermis Eorum Cerebrum Aliena, also known as VECA Or more colloquially Alien Brain Worm!
Now we had a better idea what we were dealing with.
The database told us that the Alien Brain Worm targets an orifice on the victim's body and then once inside, it would travel to the brain, consume it, then replace it. The worm then controlled the body's functions.
Finally, the Alien Brain Worm could reproduce in about two days.
Derek had disappeared about two days ago... We nervously looked around the room, hand on phasepistol. WE realised we could not see him? What had happened to Derek?
We began cautiously searching the apartment, who knew what might be lurking.
The woman was dead, LISA scanned the body and informed us that ninety eight percent of her brain matter was missing!
Next, we noticed that water was seeping from under a door, this was the source of the dampness. A scan revealed beyond that door was another dead body missing it's brain. Inside the room was a bathroom, the body of a man was half sprawled across the ground, his head stuffed into the toilet.
It was Derek Owl, Chuck told us.
Killed by an Alien Brain Worm, which was nowhere to be seen?
Chuck went over to Derek's computer, he told us we had going to look for some evidence of what had transpired. It was a fairly basic system and its encryption was no match for the cutting edge Information Technology of The Consortium.
Meanwhile we searched the apartment and found the remains of more thick egg shells.
I went over to Chuck and noticed that he was smiling subtly and seemed to be editing some of Derek's financial records? Chuck said he was being just being thorough with Derek's data.
Whatever Chuck was doing must have paid off! After a little while Chuck said that he might have found something. There was a record of financial transaction with a pizza delivery joint last night.
We searched the recycling compartment and managed to recover pizza delivery packaging, Derek had ordered food in last night.
We realised that this could be about to get a lot worse.
We communicated with the local authorities and explained the gravity of the situation to them. They said they'd send a top man to deal with it.
Whilst we waited, we constructed a timeline of events.
- Jacaranda was robbed by Red Betty's pirates. At least one egg was opened at that time, we had to assume that at least one person in the pirate crew was infected.
- Jacaranda sold two eggs to Derek Owl, he and the unknown woman were infected. We have captured one Alien Brain Worm, there was at least one unaccounted for.
- Derek had close contact with someone when the food was delivered. We had to assume that they were also infected.
Soon after this, the top man arrives - Captain Quentin Craddock! He explained that since we were part of The Consortium, the authorities felt it was best that he dealt with the matter.
We explained the situation to him, but he seemed disinterested and appeared to only half listen, poking around the apartment and blithely opening draws and cupboards; luckily nothing was lurking with them!
Once the Captain realised that it was Jacaranda Jones who had bought the Alien Brain Worms to Ο Six, he got on his communicator and ordered Jones arrested. He also ordered his men to impound and destroy Jones' ship the Belongs With You.
Well in seemed, Jacaranda Jones' run of bad luck was continuing.
With that, Craddock turned to us, smiled and politely thanked us for our assistance!
"Case Closed," he announced cheerfully.
The pirates were no longer in the system and as far as he was concerned did not see any problem with that.
He did not realise the potential threat of Derek's contact with pizza delivery person either.
After that, he made his exit!
Even though Ο Six was not part of The Consortium, it was left to us to follow the lead.
Derek's financial records gave us the name of the pizza delivery joint and we easily found it.
We went in the shop's frontage and spoke with the receptionist, luckily our uniforms gave us an air of authority and he happily complied with our polite requests.
When asked who had made the delivery to Derek's address last night, the receptionist told us that it had been Fred.
The receptionist said he was impressed with Fred, usually he was an average employee. Since last night however, he was a changed man: His work rate had dramatically increased and he had decided to do a double-shift over night.
The receptionist told us that Fred must have made thirty or forty deliveries in that time.
Each of these deliveries represented a potential infection. This was going to become unmanageable.
We asked the receptionist where Fred was? Out on a delivery, came the reply.
So we waited.
It didn't take too long before we saw through the frontage window, a hover-moped appear, it pulled up and parked outside.
Now that we knew what we were looking for, we had calibrated our eptacorders to filter out the conflicting life signs. We scanned the rider as he dismounted, the results now clearly showed a pair of overlaid life signs, one human, the other Alien Brain Worm.
The rider came in and we pulled out our phasepistols, the receptionist yelped and ducked behind his counter.
"Fred," We said, more of a statement then a query.
He realised that we were on to him, but before he could react, we phasered him, then phasered the Alien Brain Worm when it slivered out. It was too late for poor Fred, Fred was dead, his brain consumed.
The receptionist slowly raised his head above the counter, glancing left and right.
Turning to him, we ordered him to give us the list of all the addresses that Fred had made deliveries to in the last planetary rotation.
He was too confused and disorientated to do anything but give us the list.
Then we contacted Captain Craddock again and explained the events that had occurred and passed the list on to him.
He seemed genuinely grateful, going on to explain that planetary law enforcement was not his area of expertise.
Craddock then said he would pull in as many people as needed to investigate all the addresses.
We left Captain Craddock to it, we had one more lead to follow.
The Infinite Badger's power banks had been recharged and necessary supplies restocked. Upon our arrival, Chuck blasted us out into space.
We knew that the space pirates had been infected with Alien Brain Worms, it probably explained why they left Jacaranda alive - so he could carry the remaining eggs to infect more people!
Chuck set course for Ο Nine and accelerated to maximum velocity, the ship hummed as Ο Six shrank away to become another shining spot in the inky void behind us. Soon enough we streaked past Ο Seven's and then Ο Eight's orbit.
As we closed in on Ο Nine, the Doc executed a long range scan on the planetoid ahead.
The results showed that Ο Nine was a rocky world with a harsh climate that was surrounded by a highly concentrated radiation belt.
The Doc informed us that even at full power, The Infinite Badger's shields would not protect us from the radiation exposure.
Without having a working radiation map we could not easily pass through belt to Ο Nine.
The only way to proceed was very slowly, so that's what we did.
The Doc was hunched over his console, unblinkingly glaring at it like some oversized bird of prey, constantly tracking the paths and currents of the radiation belt and feeding that data to Chuck.
Admirably, Chuck managed to restrain himself from trying to fly through the belt at maximum thrust. Instead he gingerly eased The Infinite Badger through the invisible but deadly obstacles ahead. We even managed to avoid any scans.
It took some time, but the radiation belt was eventually behind us and we had maneuvered into orbit around the barren, grey Ο Nine.
The Doc's scan revealed a single large structure within the planet. The pirates had carved their base into the actual planetoid.
Chuck positioned the ship in geosynchronous orbit above the pirate base and the Doc carried out numerous scans.
There were no life signs here, neither human nor Alien Brain Worm.
There were no high yield energy signatures here either, this meant that there were no spaceships at the base and a visual scan showed empty docks.
The entire population had abandoned the base in all the ships. We suspected the worse - that the everyone here had been infected and had taken to their ships to spread it even further.
Now we had only one chance to find them. Doc told us that when the entire pirate fleet had departed, they would have left a faint ion trail through space.
We backtracked out of the radiation belt into safe space and scanned for the ion trail. Doc managed to find it and we followed. The Doc calculated a projection for the trail that showed us where the fleet was headed.
At the edge of Consortium territory was the Federation of Allied Intelligences. A loose conglomerate of various humanoid planets, united in their violent, warmongering ways. Whilst they bordered Consortium space, they were not aggressive towards us and kept their distance
They did however take security very seriously and patrolled their borders with Star Dreadnoughts, massive warships with fearsome destructive capability.
The infected pirate fleet was headed directly at Federation space.
At maximum warp, we followed - luckily our recently recharged power banks were were functioning nominally.
For two days we kept up the chase; then at the very extremes of the long range scans, Doc picked up a couple of warp engine signals.
Three hours later and the entire pirate fleet has come into scan range. Frigates, warships, merchant ships, container ships and shuttles all served to make up this irregular motly fleet.
Beyond this fleet at what now was the extreme range of our sensors was another ship; it was being pursued by the pirate fleet.
Our scanning revealed it was a Federation Star Dreadnought.
The dreadnought had picked up our scan and LISA hailed them.
Our viewscreen flicked over from the pirate fleet to displaying an officer on a ship's bridge.
He was thickset man with a stern scowl and a harsh, humourless looking demeanour.
He wore an ornate, overly decorated militaristic uniform, festooned with epaulets, sashes, elaborate buttons and decorated with a number of highly polished medals. There was so much glinting metal that it caused erroneous lens flare errors to trigger on our viewscreen.
He bluntly introduced himself as The Bellicose High Lord Sebastian, Captain of The Federation Star Dreadnought Nostalgia for Infinity and demanded to know our business.
LISA tried to warn him: "You're in danger," she said.
Rudely, the captain cut LISA short and told her that he was confident that this pathetic rabble of ships presented no threat to his dreadnought.
LISA once tried to warn him that he had no idea of what was the real threat.
Once again, he cut LISA off. Grandly proclaiming he could easily defeat them. With that he closed the channel down.
That was that!
As the pirates drew closer to the dreadnought, we hung back and observed.
Soon a battle was underway.
The pirate fleet had split up into two irregular flight wings and flanked the dreadnought as they approached. Then they powered up and went straight at the Nostalgia for Infinity, attacking with maximum firepower from two opposing vectors, forcing the dreadnought to split its own firepower between two flanks.
Even so, as the two groups of pirate ships charged directly at the dreadnought, they were no match for its shields and armaments. Very quickly the pirates starting taking losses, their ships would go tumbling off at some tangent, out of control, spilling wreckage and crew into the void or be outright destroyed in blazing explosions.
The pirate fleet would not last long against the Nostalgia for Infinity.
But this was not the end of the battle.
Diligently, we had been scanning the entire confrontation and discovered the pirate's tactics.
Unbeknown to anybody else, when the pirate fleet had split into two, a tiny third group had also split off. Consisting of a handful of the pirates' smallest shuttles, they would not be considered a threat by scans and with their lighting systems turned off, they were almost invisible against the inky black vacuum of space.
Only the Doc's thorough scanning had showed that they were headed directly for the dreadnought from a third vector. Not only that, they were not firing any kind of weaponry and were instead making for the docks.
The entire pirate fleet was sacrificing itself to give the shuttles a chance to infect the Federation ship. That alone would be an immense threat, but with the dreadnought, they could travel back to Federation space to infect even more victims.
We had to stop this and quickly.
To get the shuttles into our weapons range before they docked would mean flying directly between the two warring factions!
Chuck gave whoop, he was happy now and in his element! Pushing the engines to full power, he plunged into the churn of battle: Dodging between swarms of uncoordinated, buzzing pirate ships and weaving through erratic unpredictable phaser blasts.
We knew that the Nostalgia for Infinity would indiscriminately target anything that it considered a threat and that included us! The pirates were also firing wildly at the massive dreadnought and we risked being caught in the crossfire.
The Doc watched his sensors like a hawk, successfully predicting and reading the ebb and flow of battle, diverting power to whatever shields need them. The Infinite Badger only took a few hits from the intensive crossfire and they only shook the ship, unable to penetrate the shields.
When we cleared the thick of battle, I targeted the shuttles as they were closing with the dreadnought. There wasn't much time, but my spread of phase shots all hit the mark.
The shuttles were small and instantly destroyed by the phaser fire. The debris went tumbling into space or harmlessly bouncing off the Nostalgia for Infinity's shields.
Chuck bought us round and took us out of the battle's vicinity.
We watched at a distance as the dreadnought systematically eradicated the remaining pirate ships and without any communication, continued on it's way.
It was unlikely that they ever realised the risk they had been in.
Regardless: The Federation was safe, the Alien Brain worms were defeated and the pirates were no longer a threat.
End of Explorer's Log 02.
Medical Log 2
Pilots Log #2
Science Officer's Log 2
Reading, writing, playing and painting are the things that I do.