31st January 2021
It's a Sunday and I'm logged into Meet on PC.
Time for the 2nd and concluding part of Those Dark Places' introductory adventure run by Matt.
Location: Argent III.
Doris and Cyrox were standing just on the inside of one of Argent III's ancillary airlocks. They had removed their helmets after confirming the air was breathable.
They were staring down an arrow-straight fairly long corridor that soon melted into the gloom. Argent class ships were big.
They called out, no reply came.
The extremely dim lighting was tinted with a slight green hue; non-critical emergency lighting.
After stripping out of their cumbersome EVA suits and stowing them away in an alcove, Doris and Cyrox cautiously proceeded down the unpainted metal-grey corridor.
In the silence their suit's underboots seemed to clank against the steel decking thunderously no matter how lightly they walked.
It took them a minute to realise that as well as silence, there was no subtle vibration to be felt through the floor.
They looked at each other.
"Perhaps the powerplant is offline," offered Doris?
Continuing on, they spotted mould growing in the top corners of the corridor, they knew it was a sign of moisture rising and accumulating along the ceiling and probably indicated prolonged faults of some type in life-support.
Things were not looking promising.
The corridor ended at a closed steel door in a wall, it was the only way on. Cyrox took a deep breath and opened the door.
As the door cracked open the pair of them were immediately flooded with horrific smell; a mix of rot, urine and crap, it gave them the urge to retch, they gagged for a few moments, their faces screwed in shock but they held on to the contents of their stomachs.
It took a few moments for them to get their breathing under control and proceed.
There was no light coming through the narrow opening they had left open.
Opening the door wider, they shone flashlights through. It was dark and the lights showed years of smeared results of years of neglect on the walls, the room was filled with filthy old looking barrels, of every shape and size?
Doris and Cyrox had no idea what the room's original use was for?
No one was in the room, there was one other door out. Safe to enter.
Entering and sweeping their flashlights over the room, at the all the barrels, they saw the original colours had long faded, stained now with thickly caked layers of dripped filth and grime, some were empty, others contained brownish water. Pipes and tubes ran from barrel to barrel, moving material from one to another.
Cyrox had a cursory examination and it looked like a rudimentary waste recycling system. Water reclamation to be precise.
It looked still in use, Cyrox wondered what had happened to the original systems? Was this in use? Were their survivors? Why hadn't they seem someone yet?
One other item caught Cyrox's eye, something was plugged into the system, something new that was not brown or caked in crap and looked relatively clean and well maintained.
He found and checked it's serial number, it matched codes from the decommissioned station?
Something had definitely happened there and somehow continued here.
There was only one way onward, Doris and Cyrox took it.
A featureless steel panelled corridor took them into a large and lengthy room, again unlit except this time, for some small strangely shaped bright spots of golden light near the floor. The room was filled with rows of large rounded, flattened cylindrical shapes.
This room seemed also empty, but Doris and Cyrox could hear a sound akin to a gently simmering pan on a hob?
Once inside, it took Doris and Cyrox a moment to realize that the cylinders were century old long-sleep pods. Over a hundred of them, enough here for the entire crew. They were mostly dark and looked inactive, except for a few, in a cluster together that were emitting the spots of light.
Doris and Cyrox searched the pods. None of them contained any people, alive or otherwise. The pods themselves looked completely inactive, jabbing some of the controls got no response, dead, no power was coming to the pods.
They carefully went over and investigated the lit pods. These pods were open and the light was coming from a series of what looked like some sort of portable heat lamps that had been set up inside the the open pods and were connected to wall sockets. There was at least some power in the Argent III.
The pods' sleeping areas had been filled with plants - fruit mostly, heat lamps were being used to grow them.
Along one of the long walls was a recessed alcove draped in shadow, it likely would have contained some sort of control panels for managing the pods and was definitely the source of the faint simmering.
Doris and Cyrox moved round to it, flashlights banishing shadows, as they got closer, they were inundated with a sickly sweet smell.
The alcove contained a vat, thin wisps of steam were curling upwards from the simmering and bubbling yellow liquid within.
Looking closer, Doris and Cyrox would see some dark, undulating, curving shapes just beneath the seething surface. They went closer.
They reeled back in revulsion. The vat was packed with layers of limbs and body parts, not dismembered or amputated but whole and undamaged.
After a cautious examination, it looked like this was the part of an outdated cloning process, one that hadn't been used for decades and was now outlawed.
Doris and Cyrox had a brief discussion, why were they growing clone limbs? Why were they needed? Had these limbs been grown to eat? What had happened here?
It had gone from not promising to outright horrific.
There was one other door out of the long-sleep chamber.
They followed the dark corridor and it went to another door. Beyond the door led into another unlit room, Doris and Cyrox swept their flashlights across the darkness, it was fairly open, seemed semi-circular and almost domed.
The room looked like it may have been the bridge, at least it may have been at some time in the past. Command consoles, wall panels, seating, all stripped away and seemingly random random junk had now replaced it, littering the barely recognisable room.
What once were the viewports had been wielded shut with the salvaged panelling. The room's now exposed reinforcing struts rose up from the floor and up along what would have been cavities in the walls to curve and congregate in the centre of the ceiling like the vaulted arches of some metallic cathedral. A place of bizarre holy sanctity.
Further investigation revealed half cleared and uncleaned crockery was scattered across a number of old crates looking like they were used as makeshift tables.
There were makeshift sleeping cots here too, at least fifteen of them and with the requisite filthily stained bedding.
People had lived here and looking at the evidence, still did.
Doris and Cyrox began discussing how to proceed when they both jumped at the sound of gasping breath.
Instinctively, the pair of them shone their flashlights in the same direction, at a box pressed up against one of the support struts.
The box was small, about one metre across, open fronted but barred. The lights lit up a woman's face inside, pale and distraught.
An equally pale and thin, scarred and scabbed arm came through the bar, reaching out.
"Please be real," a raspy, quiet voice. "Please be real.".
"We have to get out.".
It wasn't too hard to remove the bars. The woman crawled out tentatively, swaying as she stood. Slowly she stretched, joints distinctly clicking as she did so.
She introduced herself as Manuela: One of the missing crew from the station.
"We were wrapping up our decommissioning job when they came aboard through the airlock, they were thin and strangely white-skinned," said Manuela, continuing. "They attacked us, Killed Williams and took Batiste and me prisoner. After that they started searching through our gear, looking for food I think. Then they took us, what they wanted and used our shuttle to get here, I've been locked up ever since.".
The crew questioned Manuela and asked if she knew what was going on?
Manuela said she thought the skinny white people were very strange, when they looked worried they would have good vibes and stand still humming with their eyes closed hoping things would get better.
They seemed to have no language and communicated in grunts. Manuela believed that they must've been descendants of the original crew, several generations removed.
They knew nothing about the engines or powerplant and were using Batiste to try and repair them. The ship's powerplant had developed a fault sometime ago and now had a radiation leak. This had led to widespread mutations among them.
When they sent Batiste back to rest, he said that he's probably already dead from exposure.
When asked about her injured arm, Manuela visibly shook and took a deep breath. She explained that they took chunks of flesh out of her to clone, which was something they understood. The cloned body parts were used as food. Manuela had to breathe deeply for a moment
Manuela then urged the crew to leave, they had been here too long, they needed to leave. Doris and Cyrox agreed, but there was a problem.
There were now three people, but only two EVA suits. If there were any suits aboard the Argent III, they would have to go hunting for them and hope they were still usable
The crew asked if they could reach the shuttle. Manuela was doubtful, it was on the far side of the ship and would probably mean encountering the inhabitants.
The crew did come up with another plan.
Along with Manuela, the crew followed their footsteps back to the airlock. They advanced every step of the way warily through the darkness. With only flashlights to show the route.
They listened carefully along the way too, they shouldn't encounter anyone, unless they had missed a door?
After what seemed like hours, they were back at the airlock, they contacted Big Ounce who was back on The Icarus. They told him that he needed to get some weapons out of the secured locker, suit up, grab a spare suit and get over.
Luckily Ounce was The Icarus' security officer and had access to the secured locker, hastily he grabbed some taser pistols, a spare suit and his own suit.
Suiting up alone was a cumbersome process but eventually Ounce was done.
The walk to the Argent III's airlock wasn't too long but it was intense and made Ounce sweat.
At the airlock it was a long fifteen minutes for Doris, Manuela and Cyrox to wait. One then the other suited up again.
As time passed they could hear periodic, distant faint grunts and cries echoing down through the silent chambers.
Something was up?
Eventually Ounce arrived at the airlock, both doors were sealed and he got aboard the Argent III.
Once out, he handed the suit to Manuela and taser pistols to Doris and Cyrox.
Ounce and Cyrox stood guard, tightly gripping their tasers as Doris spent the time required to help Manuela into a suit.
As they kept lookout, Ounce and Cyrox saw something materialise out of the gloom. Slender and pale with thin wispy hair and riddled with sores, tumours and growths, it was one of the inhabitants.
He stopped dead when he spotted the crew, his grotesque, barely human face went slack with shock, he then began to scream, turning to run.
In that moment of hesitation, he had allowed Ounce and Cyrox to get a bead on him and open fire. Ounce managed to land a shot and he crashed to the ground instantly unconscious.
The two of them kept their pistols raised at the corridor, their eyes peeled and their breathing steady.
No one else came.
The wait was agonising, eventually Manuela was safely in her suit and they all backed into the airlock, closing the inner doors.
A minute and all the air had been evacuated, the outer door silently slid open and they were out.
The crew carried Manuela across the hull of the mute giant ship back to The Icarus over EVA and arrived without mishap.
Once inside, Ounce and Cyrox hurried to the bridge, stripping and discarding their suits like so much trash off along the way. They waisted no time powering up all systems and began a burn at the earliest opportunity.
No one wanted to hang around.
Having plotted the return course to Titan, The Icarus burned as hard as safety tolerances permitted for the next three days.
All the time the crew kept an eye out on the rear cameras and view ports, watching as Argent III and Viduus III silently shrank away, merging into a single white dot in the blackness.
They knew Argent III didn't have propulsion and couldn't follow.... even so....
During the three days, they also tended to Manuela's health and wrote their reports to Cambridge Wallace, they wouldn't get a salvage bonus but it was someone else's headache now.
Then it was time for the long-sleep back to Titan.
24th January 2021
It's Sunday and I'm logged on to Meet on my PC, in the living room.
Matt is running the introductory adventure for Those Dark Places.
Those Dark Places
From what I've seen about Those Dark Places, it's a fairly rules-lite Industrial sci-fi RPG, which means it's default setting is sort where activities in space are everyday and commonplace but also impractical and possibly downright dangerous. Not a utopian paradise nor a dystopian nightmare.
The rules are pretty straightforward, each character has four attributes, something I've seen a lot of in recent games. A value of 1,2 3 or 4 is assigned to each attribute.
Additionally, each character has a primary and secondary crew position, these things like Helm, Medical Officer, Engineer, Science Officer, strangely it makes the game feel a bit like Star Trek?
Each character has a Pressure Bonus and a Pressure Level.
Tasks are attempted by rolling a single six sided die and adding a pertinent attribute to the roll, if a characters primary crew position is also pertinent, add a further +2, if there secondary crew position is relevant add +1 instead.
Target numbers range from 6-8.
Players will be called upon to make pressure rolls, these are done by rolling a die and adding their Pressure Bonus, if the result is 10 or higher, it's all good.
Less than 10 and they fill in a box on the Pressure Level track. Bad thing can happen when these boxes are filled.
There are some other rules, for combat and whatever, but that's the gist of it.
The default setting has the PCs signing with a vast impersonal space-faring corporation looking to make a fortune from mining or exploiting the resources on other planets.
The pay is lucrative but PCs start by having signed on for a 25 year contract, they'll only be paid at the end - once all expenses have been deducted. It's not as long as it seems; there is no faster-than-light travel here and all long distance travel is done via hibernation or long sleep as the game calls it.
Time passed in long sleep counts has time worked, thus a 6 month long sleep is 6 months off the contract.
I guess characters either make it to their 25th year or they don't!
Big Ounce: Played by Josh
Doris Sine: Played by Vicky.
Cyrox Calwin: Played by Giro.
Location : Icarus
The Icarus was a clumsy inelegant but effective workhorse of a spacecraft and so were the new three-person crew. All freshly signed up with Cambridge Wallace Incorporated for twenty five years.
The crew had been putting The Icarus and themselves through their paces after the latest refit when orders came through from Cambridge Wallace.
The Icarus was to proceed to planet Viduus III, upon arrival the ship was to pick up three passengers and their cargo from the decommissioned space station which was scheduled for demolition and then return them here.
The crew would earn performance based bonus if the orders were completed in one hundred and seventy days.
Cambridge Wallace had wrapped up their mining operation at Viduus III, the three remaining engineers had spent the last few months dismantling the station and now needed a ride home.
Cyrox plotted a course to Viduus III on the nav-systems, the computer calculated that the trip would eighty-one days to get there, a roundtrip would give the crew a margin of error of eight days.
Seventy eight days later and the automated long-sleep capsules started to bring the crew back to consciousness, warning lights were flashing and wake-up alarms chirping. With much effort the crew dragged themselves out of their pods.
Recovery from long-sleep was quick but tended to be disorientating and nauseating.
A couple of hours later and the crew were on the bridge.
A lot of green lights were winking away on the dashboard, all systems looked nominal.
The Icarus was less than seventy-two hours out from the station and deceleration was well underway. Everything was on schedule.
The Icarus was also now close enough to communicate with the station. A message was transmitted, but even taking into account the delay, there was no answer.
A check of the on-board systems showed no errors, the station must have received the message.
Even aboard a large ship, life was cramped and it was hard for the crew to not get in each other's faces over the next few days. Little consideration and space were given over to crew needs. Other than Ship Operations, there was a communal eating area and each crewmate had some personal storage and space, that was it.
Outside of Ops and personal spaces, the entire ship only ever seemed half lit, it was also fairly dark and dismal,
For the crew, it was nothing new.
During the remaining three days the crew put out regular transmissions directed at the station but on every occasion; there was no reply.
Three days passed and what was a bright speck in an endless sea of specks had grown until it dominated the scene out of a view port.
The station looked like a colossal skeleton, silently hanging in the sky against the backdrop of Viduus III.
The engineers had been busy stripping it down.
Big Ounce was adjusting the The Icarus' velocity and trajectory, putting the ship into a synchronous orbit with the station.
There still had not been any answering call from the station, it was worrying the crew. The corporate handbook had no regulations for this, the crew were on their own.
As the station loomed large, Cyrox ran a thermal scan, heat signatures were showing up and there was a definite heat-bloom that was the profile of an active power generator. Cyrox knew that it would be enough for life support.
Ounce was closing in and making the final imperceptibly delicate adjustments, a few minutes later and The Icarus and the station were aligned.
It was a simple matter to extend The Icarus' umbilical to the station's airlock, then the two were connected.
The decision was made to send Doris and Ounce over to the station. Doris was the ship's medical officer and Ounce had received security training.
They went out of The Icarus' airlock, the span between The Icarus and the station had no artificial gravity, so Doris and Ounce had to float over. When they got into the airlock, the station's gravity tugged them back down to the floor.
Once the outer door was closed, they punched in the commands to open the inner door. There was a hiss as the airlock equalised with the station and the doors slid open into the gloom.
The room ahead was unlit other than a small winking light, a minimal amount of starlight was streaming through the station's view ports.
Doris and Ounce flicked their flashlights on.
They found themselves looking at a grotty looking squarish steel-walled room, there were three ways out, but two of them had been wielded shut.
This was standard procedure for engineers when they stripped a station down. The sealed doors would only lead out into space now. Eventually the engineers would have stripped as much as they could and were now down to a minimal amount of inhabitable space.
Doris and Ounce shouted out their arrival, no answer came. It was quiet and when they went in and played their flashlights over the room, they could hear their boots creak. There were three messy looking cots and the winking light was coming from a food dispenser.
In one corner was a grimy looking makeshift shower unit had been set up, upon closer inspection, it also doubled as a toilet!
A number of storage crates had been stacked up to the ceiling in another corner. Several had been tipped over and possibly looked damaged?
It was starting to look like there were signs of a struggle. They spotted a dark spot on the steel floor. Looking closer they realised it was some sort of stain, further inspection revealed that it was dried blood. Shining their flashlights, Doris and Ounce spotted several stands of hair mingled in with the blood.
Doris looked at the blood, it seemed at least one week old, there was a large amount too, possibly from more than one person
They shouted out again and waited, still no answer.
Cautiously, they continued their search. The damaged crates had been violently ripped open, it looked like they once contained food supplies.
The other undamaged crates appeared to contain equipment or engineering gear.
Next to one of the cots was notebook - a journal to be precise.
Doris skimmed the journal; it belonged to Batiste and mostly ambled on about their work, the writings indicated that he was the ranking officer here, the other two were Manuela and Williams.
Back aboard The Icarus, a proximity alarm began ringing? Cyrox had been slumped in a chair listening to the chatter from the others on the station, he wheeled over to the navigation console.
Long range detectors had picked up something new several thousand kilometres away. A computer calculation determined it was orbiting Viduus III and had just come round into detection range.
The orbit was at a slightly faster velocity than the station and in about twenty hours; whatever it was, it would catch up with the station.
Cyrox activated manual camera controls and swivelled one in the direction of the object. Pushing the camera to higher and higher magnifications, he sat up in surprise when he found what he was looking for!
The object was a spaceship of some sort, with careful application of the controls, Cyrox managed to get the ship's name.
He had to search the database to find anything about it.
The ship was Argent III. It had been part of the Argent Class, a fleet of 4 large ships with a crew compliment of over one hundred each that were designed for long term deep space exploration.
The fleet had been launched over a century ago. They had returned from their mission decades late,r having been recalled. All returned except Argent III, which had gone missing, its fate unknown.
As regulations required, Cyrox messaged the Argent III, no reply came. Another one he thought.
It was likely that all the crew would be dead after this time and the Argent III probably represented a significant value to whoever owned it, they might pay a big reward if correctly salvaged.
Aboard the station, Doris and Ounce went into the only exit. It was another unlit squarish steel room. This one was filled with rows and rows of more stacked crates.
They searched the room with their flashlights, they was no other exit, nor were there any bodies.
None of the crates here looked damaged or opened, but an inspection of the steel floor showed numerous long scuff marks, crates had been dragged out of the room.
There was nothing particularly different about these crates.
There was nothing more to be learned here.
Doris and Ounce returned to The Icarus, the crew discussed their next move.
It had to be the Argent III, the station was a dead end.
The umbilical was detached and retracted.
Ounce then adjusted the ship's velocity and orbital altitude, slowing The Icarus and allowing the Argent III make ground.
The crew again sent out messages and again no reply came.
For a few hours they watched out a viewport as the Argent III grew in size, speculating on what they would find.
It was a vast ship, perhaps a kilometre long and it easily dwarfed The Icarus - almost menacingly as the distance between the two lessened. Argent III was a museum piece and it obvious that it's design as well as it antennae and exterior arrays were all outdated.
Sweeping Argent III with cameras revealed that it had taken a quite a battering. It's hull was pock-marked with numerous dents and there was visible damage. The decades had left Argent III worse for the wear.
Argent III was also dark, a further inspection of the hull showed the ship's view ports were all sealed from the inside with steel plates?
It also showed a small shuttle docked with an airlock, they saw the shuttle was a much more modern design. The crew surmised that it came from the station
Cyrox ran another thermal scan, heat signatures were faint and fluctuating, there was no steady heat-bloom of a nominally functional power source. It was impossible to say what condition life-support was in.
As Argent III drew closer, Ounce began changing trajectory again, gently putting The Icarus into synchronous orbit with the Argent III.
Once this was done, the crew realised they had a problem, the shuttle was docked with the airlock, they couldn't use the umbilical to get aboard.
Cyrox pulled up Argent III's schematics from the the database. On the far side of Argent III was a ancillary airlock, the crew could probably gain access that way.
This meant going on an untethered extravehicular action excursion.
Ounce wasn't too fond of this and volunteered to remain aboard The Icarus.
Doris and Cyrox suited up and ran safety checks each other's EVA kit, the gear that would propel them on their kit. Everything was good to go.
They lumbered into the airlock and entered the black, empty silence of space. The only noise was their on breath and squawk of comms chatter.
It was a short journey to the other airlock but each metre that took them further from The Icarus was a metre further into potential danger and the unknown.
Argent III and Viduus III filled their view, the ship was below them and behind loomed the planet.
During training, they had been taught to focus on the task at hand, to remain clam and not look at the millions of kilometres of nothing above them but the urge to stare into oblivion could be irresistible.
Doris and Cyrox spent couple of minutes skimming over the Argent III's uneven hull until they reached the other side and manoeuvred to the airlock.
The external controls looked old but there was still some familiarity about them and luckily it was easy to decipher what-was-what whilst hanging there. Soon enough the door slid open they were were inside and Argent III's gravity asserted itself.
They checked the intermediate controls, these were more complex, there were various environmental readouts - even the font used on the screen was an outdated one!
Eventually though, they managed to close the out door and pressurise the airlock. Then they opened the inner door.
The suit readouts indicated that the air was safe, with a click and hiss, they removed their helmets.
It was time to go into Argent III.
Reading, writing, playing and painting are the things that I do.