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
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
24th October 2020
Saturday has arrived once more and I'm sitting in my living room, logged on to Skype.
It's time for Matakishi's new campaign, using the 'Lasers & Feelings' rules.
Lasers & Feelings
As far as light RPGs go, this is a pretty light one at only 1 page in length.
The rules are simple, all characters have only 1 stat.
All actions are divided into 2 types of actions.
If a player rolls exactly on the stat value, they get a special result called Laser Feelings.
So if a character has a high stat, they are more logical. A lower stat means they are more emotional.
Lasers & Feelings is a scifi RPG designed to loosely emulate the theme and style of Star Trek and this is reflected in traits. Characters are defined by 2 traits which have a sci-fi feel to them.
Finally, characters gain a motivation, includes traits such as solve mysteries, shoot bad guys and so on.
The players also get a spaceship that has 2 traits and 1 weakness.
And that's it, the players are ready to go.
The GM is encouraged to only loosely define an adventure (Or mission.) and let the players define some elements of the plot and run with it.
Lasers & Feelings uses an elegant concept to define characters. hopefully this will lead to interesting encounters and narratives.
Space, the ultimate boundary.
The crew Of The Infinite Badger.
Chuck Comet (Of the spaceways): Played by Kevin.
A loudmouth, cocksure, hotshot pilot.
Bridge position: Helm.
Dr Summ Thin: Played by Mark.
A savvy doctor with an insatiable urge to solve the unknown.
Bridge position: Sensors & shields.
LISA (Laser Incision Safety Apparatus): Played by Michaela.
The Consortium's first android doctor, LISA is trial program to evaluate the effectiveness of robotic doctors.
Bridge position: Medical bay & damage control.
Zaber Fluke: Played by Giro.
An intrepid explorer who seeks out knowledge of the quadrant. Latest in the long distinguished line of Fluke explorers and businessmen.
Bridge position: Weapons & diplomacy.
Ensign Felix the space cat: Played by Felix.
Seems to spend all of this time curled up asleep on the captain's chair.
Bridge position: See above.
CS Infinite Badger: The Consortium's newest, most advanced Raptor class scoutship. Outfitted with bleeding edge engines and sensors, has a crew compliment of six.
Zaber Fluke: Mission specialist - Explorer first class.
Explorer's Log 01: Astrodate 21.2010.24.
A day ago, the CS Infinite Badger, having passed it's final inspection had it's maiden flight.
The sleek white dart-shaped scoutship smoothly slid out of the star dock and hung in Earth's orbit for a few moments, her pristine hull gleaming in the sunlight.
Captain Darcy was keen to see what the Infinite Badger could do and once clear of the star dock ordered Chuck to accelerate to maximum warp. Over the next few seconds the build up in energy was almost palpable as the engine's quiet hum intensified. Then we were away, the Earth seemed to shrink away as the stars streaked past.
The Infinite Badger continued at warp speed for a while until a cascade of readouts on Chuck's console changed from green to red and the ship had to drop out of warp. Ship diagnostics were showing a discrepancy in the engine output efficiently.
The Doc said the ship's scanners revealed that we had stopped in Sector seventeen had also logged the Infinite Badger passing through a barely detectable strange energy field whilst at warp?
We turned to Captain Darcy and were shocked to see that his was stiffly sat in his chair, unmoving and blankly staring into nothingness.
LISA immediately went over to him and scanned him with her eptacorder. She turned to us and said he was not presenting any signs of consciousness. Without delay we moved Captain Darcy into a medical pod.
LISA ran a more extensive scan on the captain from the pod, it revealed that in Captain Darcy's brain the synaptic neurons were firing electrons in an irregular pattern. There seemed to be no cause for this, LISA believed that this was some sort of psychic event?
Was it possible the strange energy field had damaged both the engine and Captain Darcy's brain?
Before we could investigate, a warning tone pinged out of the Doc's console. The proximity warning had been triggered. The Doc quickly went over the readouts, it seemed to him that the sensors had picked up a number of unusual energy outputs, possibly from some sort of battle?
The Doc ran a sensor sweep, it confirmed that there was indeed a battle under way close by. The results indicated that a single larger ship was engaging numerous smaller ships.
Then the Doc warned us that several of the smaller vessels had broken off their attack and were now bearing down on us! He quickly put the shields up.
I turned to my own console and broadcast a multi-frequency message, "We mean no harm and come in peace,". It appeared to work, the ships changed heading and moved back towards the large ship.
At a distance Chuck followed the same vector as the small ships until we closed in on the battle. He recognised the large ship, it belonged to The Crab-men of ΓΡ Six, a hostile, xenophobic and isolationist race who were incredibly protective of their own territory.
The smaller ships were attacking its weak points for massive damage!
It was so damaged, that it was moving under normal propulsion instead of it's usual unique sideways drive.
Chuck took the Infinite Badger in closer and positioned the ship on the other side of the crab ship, safely away from the fighting.
Once again the Doc's console pinged a warning tone. An additional number of the smaller vessels had dropped out of warp at the edge of the system and were fast approaching the battle.
They were travelling in two squadrons, each squadron consisted of six ships that were moving in a hexagonal formation.
By now we had recognised the smaller ships, the were part of the mysterious Hive Armada, they had only ever been encountered at the very furthest reach of Consortium space.
The Hive Armada were a race of insectoids. They were of an indeterminate origin, whose home planet was unknown. It was said that they travelled the galaxy aboard Queenships.
Supposedly a Queenship was the size of a small moon and capable of stripping a planet of all its resources.
No one in the Consortium had ever seen a Queenship.
We briefly discussed a strategy amongst us and decided we should present ourselves as a neutral faction and try and broker a ceasefire between them.
I opened a channel to the Crab-men ship and the image a large crab-man filled the bridge's main viewscreen. Behind him, his bridge looked wrecked, there were injured crewmen sprawled on the floor, sparks and flames licked the console, instrumentation was burnt out and cabling hung from the ceiling.
He introduced himself as Shell-Lord Xxbzitzxx, he seemed quite belligerent until a small explosion on his bridge changed his mind and he asked for our help.
We replied and said that we would try and organise a meeting with the Hive Armada aboard the Infinite Badger.
Next I opened a channel to the Hive Armada. One of the ships responded. This time the view screen was filled with the visage of a single insect-like creature. Unlike the bridge of the crab-man ship, there was instead only a cockpit and it was tiny, even though there was a sole occupant, it still looked cramped.
The insectoid introduced himself as Expenditure 718694. After a brief conversation, he agreed to come aboard the Infinite Badger for mediation.
A meeting had been set up.
Shell-Lord Xxbzitzxx was transported aboard. The viewscreen had not done his size justice. He was huge, large enough to fill a small room. It took some effort, but we managed to get him to the conference room.
Expenditure 718694 had refused to transport our to the ship. Instead we allowed him to dock his ship at our shuttle bay.
The Hive Armada ship looked curiously like some sort of maggot! We had come into the shuttle bay to welcome Expenditure 718694 aboard.
Rather disgustingly, the maggot ship split open and a strange fluid spilled out, oozing all over the floor. Expenditure 718694 emerged from the ship, standing up and covered in fluid.
He clicked a greeting to us and waved his antennae about.
He was fascinated with the ship and used the antennae to prod and probe the floor and bulkheads as we escorted him to the conference room. He even prodded LISA, no doubt also leaving a chemical trail behind him.
Once we were all in the conference room, 'pleasantries' were exchanged and the meeting began.
We asked Expenditure 718694 why the Hive Armada had come into the Crab-men's system.
He explained that they had been looking for a lost Queenship for the last six thousand, five hundred years. Their most recent long distance scans indicated that the Crab-men were living on the Queenship; ΓΡ Six was the dormant Queenship.
Expenditure 718694 explained that they were here to remove the Crab-men from the Queenship.
We turned to Shell-Lord Xxbzitzxx for a reply, but there was no answer, he was not responsive?
Shell-Lord Xxbzitzxx was dead! LISA scanned him with her Eptacorder; the analysis revealed that he had been killed by a virulent nerve agent. She examined his body and found a tiny puncture wound in the soft flesh between his shell plates.
It had to be Expenditure 718694, we went to confront him but he had disappeared from the conference room?
There was a small hole in the bulkhead, somehow the insectoid had managed to create and squeeze through it. Now he was at large somewhere on the ship.
LISA ran to the shuttle bay in case he was trying to escape.
The rest of us rushed to the bridge, Doc ran an internal sensor sweep. Expenditure 718694 was in the engine room.
Meanwhile, at the shuttle bay, the maggot ship had some produced some kind of tendrils, they were slowly snaking out and attempting to infest the Infinite Badger's internal systems.
LISA put her surgical programming to good use and with her phasepistol, cut the tendrils off, separating to the two ships.
Back at the bridge, now that Expenditure 718694 had been located, the Doc, Chuck and I hastily made our way to engineering. As we headed there, I set my phasepistol to the VFD setting, which was its maximum setting.
When we reached the engine room we saw that Expenditure 718694 had been interfering with the ship's engines and damaging the systems.
Panels had been open, a mishmash of disconnected circuitry and wiring had been scattered across the floor. Warning lights were blinking furiously and we could see readouts flashing error. He was actually holding a control module as we entered.
I fired at him, it was a lucky shot that struck him perfectly. He was instantly vaporised, not even dust remained! The control module dropped to the floor undamaged.
Expenditure 718694 had been expended!
This was no time to gloat though, the situation was critical. both representatives who had been sent to the Infinite Badger to negotiate peace were now dead!
All of us returned to the bridge.
I opened a channel to the Crab-man ship and explained that their Shell-Lord had been killed by the insectoid, they did not take it well.
They immediately opened fire on us. In response the Hive Armada ships also opened fire on us. We were at risk of being caught in a crossfire!
Hesitation was a luxury we could not afford. Chuck powered up the engines and headed for the Hive Armada ships. The Doc and LISA headed down to engineering to see if they could affect repairs on the sabotaged systems.
At the same time the Crab-man ship split into two. The shell was left behind whilst the crab-creature that was inside it fled in a sideway vector, clearly it's sideways drive was functional.
Chuck weaved and corkscrewed the Infinite Badger through the flotilla of Hive Armada ships and myriad array phaser blasts, whooping as he did so and hoping that some of the Crab-men phaser blasts might hit the flotilla.
One hexagonal squadron of ships chased the Crab-men, another chased us. The final squadron only had five ships and was hanging motionlessly in space. Expenditure 718694 had been part of that squadron. This was curious.
From my console I performed a tactical scan of our pursuers and identified the lead ship. I had a hunch I was about to try.
The Hive Armada ships fired at us, but with just six of them, their damage was negligible. I concentrated all of my firepower on to the lead ship, it was easily destroyed. The other five ships powered down and appeared to become dormant.
My hunch was correct, the squadron acted as some sort of linked entity, when the lead ship was destroyed, the others would become leaderless.
Victory too, was a luxury we could not afford though. Chuck warned us that the engine's power levels were critically depleted.
The engines were powered by Plotithium and the Doc scanned the system to see if there were any nearby sources we could mine.
ΓΡ Six was the only source of Plotithium in the system.
This meant in order to refuel, we had to head towards the home planet of the hostile and xenophobic Crab-men that was also on the cusp of being invaded by another hostile force.
Chuck brought the Infinite Badger around and poured it on, we began following the Hive Armada ships that were following the Crab-men ship!
We noticed that the five dormant ships that been left behind were now part of the pursuit. They had reconfigured their formation into a pentagon, they must have assigned one of the ships as a new lead ship. It seemed that the squadrons had a redundancy system to manage the loss of the lead ship.
A quick scan of the ships behind us had confirmed that they too had reconfigured into a pentagonal same.
Destroying a lead ship only disabled them for a short time, still it was useful information to know.
As we gave chase and attacked the pursuing Hive Armada ships, managing to destroy one of the squadrons.
We were nearing ΓΡ Six now and could see that they had launched planetary defences which made short work of the remaining squadron.
Whilst this was happening Chuck decreased speed and we held back. Chuck then put the Infinite Badger on a indirect approach vector for ΓΡ Six which took us around to the planet, away from the battle and out of direct scan range.
As the planet began to fill our viewscreen, Chuck commented on how it did not look spherical or even ovoid. Chuck said that to him its shape looked like that of a curled up insect of some kind?
The approach vector had brought us to the planet's nightside, just before we began entry into the atmosphere, Doc ran a scan on the surface.
We were looking for a remote or unpopulated region of ΓΡ Six that also contained a supply of Plotithium.
We were in luck, there was a definite source of Plotithium, but it was located close to an outlying Crab-man settlement.
We landed the Infinite Badger about five kilometres away from the source in small secluded valley filled with weird vegetation and foliage.
The ship's energy reserves were now almost entirely depleted and certainly not enough to escape ΓΡ Six's gravity well.
Doc also explained to us that there might not be enough power to use the transporters twice, we might be walking back!
The instrumentation had reported that the atmosphere was breathable, so we prepared for a hike back to the Infinite badger.
The transporter beam put us a half a kilometre outside the settlement. It was dark and the shell like buildings were lit, it had an active population.
Our eptacorders pointed in the direction of the Plotithium source. Cautiously we crept over the night shrouded strange landscape until we reached it without mishap.
Extracting the plotithium was simple and before long we had enough to fill the Infinite Badger's energy banks.
We contacted the ship and luckily, there was enough power to transport us back.
Repowering the ship's energy banks would take some time, in the meantime Doc scanned the space above us. Because we were on the surface, the scan had limited range. Even so, Doc could tell that there was some ongoing prolonged battle in progress. ΓΡ Six was under attack from Hive Armada ships.
The situation had left us several unanswered questions. Could it be possible that this planet really was Queenship, or a giant insect? Expenditure 718694 had told us that their Queenship had gone missing six millennia ago, it was impossible for an entire planetary evolution to occur in such a short timeframe!
We needed more information.
LISA and the Doc went to the captured maggot ship. They ran a full diagnostic and thoroughly examined it. They learnt a lot, including how the Hive Armada communicated, issued commands and their operating frequencies.
Up above, the battle still raged, more and more Hive Armada ships were warping into the system. As each wave was destroyed, more were appearing.
By now the Infinite Badger was ready. Chuck ran a ship wide check on his console and a row of green lights winked into existence; all critical systems were nominal.
Powering up the engines, Chuck took us out of the atmosphere and into orbit and managed to avoid their planetary scans in the process.
As we left ΓΡ Six, Doc scanned it again, performing a deep scan beneath the planet's layers of topsoil and sediment, looking for biomaterial, looking for evidence.
The result was shocking. He had detected a massive hollow structure comprised cocoon-like material; within some sort of massive bio-tissue was metamorphizing!
It was true, this was or had been the Queenship that the Hive Amada was looking for. Now it was becoming... something else?
We sat in orbit, trying to decide our next step and see if there was anyway of settling this peacefully when a warning alarm pinged on the Doc's console.
The gravimetric sensors had detected a change to the star system's gravity map, there was a small but sharp spike in mass? A large mass had inexplicably appeared at the edge of the star system, large enough to subtly distort the local gravity field.
It could only be a Queenship.
There was a risk that events would overtake us, we had to do something and soon!
Now that Doc had an understanding of the Hive Armada's communications hierarchy, he cloned it and issued orders the attacking Hive Armada squadron's to fall back. This gave us some breathing space.
Next we opened a channel to the Queenship and tried to reason with them. We were not meeting with any success, they could not be dissuaded from their task of removing all life from the surface of ΓΡ Six.
The Doc did learn something though, something important. He believed that they had a different perception of time to us.
The Doc believed that when Expenditure 718694 had told us they had been searching for the Queenship for over six thousand years, he meant something different. The Hive Armada did not calculate time as we did. Expenditure 718694 had not been referring to solar years, instead he had been referring to cosmic years!
A cosmic year was over two hundred million solar Earth years, the Hive Armada had been searching for billions of years.
We came up with a plan, it was desperate, but we had no other choice. It had to work.
Once again we communicated with the Hive Armada. Instead of trying to get them to halt their attack, we instead asked them to delay it!
If they delayed their attack by a single day according to how they calculated the passage of time, it would be hundreds of years as we calculated it.
We waited for their reply, they agreed to our terms; they would wait a single day at the edge of the system before resuming their advance.
We communicated with The Consortium headquarters and they agreed to help the Crab-men relocate to a suitably isolated new uninhabited world where they could continue their isolationist existence: Matters were now in the hands of The Consortium central command. The Crab-men might lose their homeworld, but they were saved.
End of Explorer's Log 01.
Explorer's Log 01: Addendum.
Before we left the system and began our exploration mission, we managed to contact Hive Armada again.
Now that hostilities had ceased they were willing to communicate with us.
They told us that the Queenships had been separated and for all this time they had searching the galaxy, seeking out this Queenship to celebrate her rebirth as a giant beautiful space butterfly!
When the celebrations were complete, she would be reborn and use her massive antennae to open a wormhole to lead the Hive Armada to their new home in a distant uninhabited galaxy.
Medical Log 1
Pilot’s log entry
Science Officer’s Log
Reading, writing, playing and painting are the things that I do.