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.
Reading, writing, playing and painting are the things that I do.