Tag Archives: space opera

Interstellar review

On Saturday, 15 November 2014, I met Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. for a matinee of Interstellar at the Jordan's IMAX theater in Framingham, Mass. We liked the relationship-focused highbrow science fiction film.


Interstellar follows Cooper, an astronaut turned farmer in an unspecified near future in which human spaceflight has faltered because of the urgency of feeding billions amid severe ecological degradation.

Widower Cooper's son Tom is content to become a farmer, but his restlessness is mirrored in his daughter Murph. Despite being science-minded in an era focused on mere survival, Murph claims that a poltergeist is trying to send her messages.

An errant surveillance drone leads Cooper and his children to a secret NASA base, where his former colleague Prof. Brand and his daughter are working on sending a second wave of explorers through a newly discovered wormhole near Saturn to find inhabitable planets.

Aware of the relativistic effects of faster-than-light interstellar travel, Cooper gets his father Donald's blessing and reluctantly leaves with the younger Brand and a small crew to try to save humanity….

Interstellar poster

Christopher Nolan's latest SF movie


The cast of Interstellar is uniformly solid, with several actors from past Christopher Nolan productions. Matthew McConaughey is grounded as Cooper, despite the talk of imminent Armageddon, wormholes, and love and gravity transcending the dimension of time.

John Lithgow and Michael Caine are Cooper's father figures as Donald and Prof. Brand, respectively. Anne Hathaway is emotional but strong as the younger Brand, and Mackenzie Foy plays a young Murph (named after Murphy's Law — "Whatever can happen, will").

As more time passes on Earth while the subjective time of the astronauts is shorter, the adult Murph is played by Jessica Chastain, and Casey Affleck is the older Tom. Murph and Tom react in different ways to their father's absence. Matt Damon plays Dr. Mann, "the best of us" and part of the first wave sent through the wormhole.

Bill Irwin is also noteworthy as the voice of TARS, a former military robot among those retasked with helping the laconic Cooper's mission. He brings a sense of snarky humor and potential menace to the proceedings, referring directly to HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Christopher Nolan's meticulous style is similar to that of 2001's Stanley Kubrick or Prometheus' Ridley Scott. He's more comfortable with high-concept speculative fiction in movies such as Inception, Duncan Jones' Moon, or Rian Johnson's Looper than with the emotional content of Steven Spielberg's best.

Viewers waiting for action and suspense have to wait a while before the three-hour-long movie gets to it, and the parallels between Coop and Murph and Prof. Brand and his daughter are pretty obvious. When Donald or Prof. Brand fulminate on the human condition and our need to explore the universe, it's clear that's what Nolan thinks.

Still, even if I agree with the sentiment and understand some of the underlying science, I'd rather he spent less time explaining and more time engaging the audience. Overall, Nolan handles his cast and the narrative jumps in time well, but Interstellar feels more technical than passionate, and he's unlikely to persuade any who might disagree.


Nolan's true strength is with creating a believable universe. As with last year's excellent Gravity, space travel is shown to be difficult, dangerous, and ultimately worthwhile. The psychedelic imagery during the wormhole travel is mercifully brief.

The visualization of "Gargantua," a black hole around which some potential homeworlds orbit, is excellent. Any good science fiction movie should show us something we haven't seen or maybe even haven't imagined before. Much of the science is sound, and the distant planets reminded me of some documentaries about hazardous arctic exploration.

Sure, one could quibble with the environmental science, the description of gravitic propulsion, and the late appearance of O'Neill cylinders in the movie, but I was glad to see this movie on an IMAX screen with a full house. As other reviewers have noted, like Big Hero 6, some of the best parts of Interstellar are when it shows people using science to try to solve problems or mysteries.


As with Inception and many recent action movie trailers, Interstellar had the booming "bwong, bwong" sound to underscore important moments. I could have done without that, but I have to admit that the IMAX theater's "rumble seats" were nice for the scenes when Cooper and company were flying by the seats of their pants.

There is no music quite as memorable as "Thus Spake Zarathustra" from 2001 or Vangelis' themes in Blade Runner. As in Gravity, I liked the absence of sound during some of the space scenes.


I liked Interstellar more than Elysium and about the same as Contact, to refer to two Jodi Foster SF movies. It's definitely part of a wave of more serious speculative fiction, providing a nice balance to the explosions of Star Trek: Into Darkness or comedy of Space Station 76 while I wait for the next cyclical revival of classic space opera.

I'd give Interstellar, which is rated PG-13 for some violence, a 7.5 to 8 out of 10, three and a half out of five stars, or a B+. I think that some critics were overly harsh, but I'm also more of an SF buff than the general audience.

Speaking of which, I'm still enjoying Jonathan Nolan's cyber-dystopian Person of Interest on television, and I'm cautiously optimistic about his adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation for HBO. Also, it is with some sadness that I note the passing of Glen Larson, who created the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and many of the other genre TV shows I grew up on.

"Star Trek: Restoration" Episode 2 — Driving the wedge

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for our second Star Trek session, which I hosted in Waltham, Mass., during Byron V.O.’s visit on Saturday, 28 June 2014:

“Space, the final frontier. Our starship’s mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Almost four decades after the Enterprise-E fought the Borg and Remans [Nemesis], among others, the United Federation of Planets (U.F.P.) and other interstellar states in the Alpha Quadrant are slowly recovering from wars and ecological disasters. A refitted vessel takes a new crew on its first missions of defense, diplomacy, and exploration….

Player Characters for Gene D.’s “Star Trek: Restoration” space opera scenario, using D20 Prime DirectiveFATE 3e Starblazer Adventures, Mindjammer 2e, Bulldogs, and house rules, summer 2014:

  • “Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Kyerak” [Bruce K.]-half-Vulcan with a temper, in the U.S.S. Rotha’s command division
  • “Lt. Orzzek Kalifa” [Byron V.O.]-male Andorian (blue-skinned humanoid with white hair and antennae), assertive science officer
  • “Froot” [Rich C.G.]-male Ferengi (short, large-eared extraterrestrial) merchant and negotiator, DaiMon and owner of the trade vessel Love’s Latinum Lost
  • “Kimbal Tegan” [Beruk A.]-male Trill (long-lived symbiont), operations specialist aboard the Love’s Latinum Lost
  • “Lt. Jarric Jameson” [Dexter V.H./absent]-male genetically modified human colonist (former Maquis) communications and wilderness survival expert aboard the Rotha
  • “Lt. Mari Killu” [Sara F./absent]-female Caitian (felinoid) security/tactical officer
  • “Lt. Boran’ Gorir” [Josh C./absent]-male Jem’Hadar (bio-engineered Dominion soldier), aggressive envoy/engineer

Previously, in “Star Trek: Restoration,” the U.S.S. Rotha was assigned to bring representatives of the Klingon Empire home through the Neutral Zone. However, several crew members were murdered, and junior officers were forced to subdue a Gorn and an Orion. In addition, the junior officers uncovered an Undine disguised with a holo-emitter.

“Stardate 95248.01 (2 April 2418):” Two Valdore -class Romulan warbirds decloak, and Capt. Andelina Nobatu brings the U.S.S.Rotha to yellow alert. Lt. Kyerak and Lt. Orzzek Kalifa race to the bridge. The Vulcan takes the helm from En. Brandon Marks, and the Andorian sits at an auxiliary science station to process scan results for Edosian Lt. K’dex.

The rest of the Rotha ‘s 900 Starfleet personnel ready for battle. Lt. Jarrick Jameson and Lt. Mari Killu prepare to repel potential boarders, and Lt. Boran’ Gorir diverts energy to shields. Tensions are high as Subcommander Vurik of the Varguille demands that Capt. Nobatu hand over the Klingon emissaries, the Orion D’naar and the Gorn “Hands of Giblets.”

The Terran human captain successfully asks for some time and has a quick conference with her bridge crew. Kyerak recommends patience, impressing first officer Cmdr. Nasami Wahid.

Kalifa notes that Romulan cloaking technology has continued to advance in reaction to Federation sensors, but he believes he can compensate when acquiring targets for photon torpedoes.

The meeting is interrupted when another vessel drops out of warp. A small Ferengi trader hails the assembled ships. DaiMon Froot quickly assesses the standoff and offers the Love’s Latinum Lost as a neutral meeting place for negotiations.

Despite the Ferengi’s insulting tone, Capt. Nobatu and Subcommander Vurik agree to send representatives. On the way to a transporter room, Lt. Kyerak stops by the “Starlight Lounge” to pick up some Andorian ale from Bolian bartender Mr. Vallcin. Lt. Kalifa asks holographic chief medical officer “Dr. Jones” for autopsy results on the Undine.

DaiMon Froot offers beetle snuff to Kyerak upon his arrival and introduces his colleague, Kimbal Tegan, a laid-back Trill. Kalifa is skeptical of the newcomers’ claim that they just happened to be passing through the Neutral Zone.

Subcommander Miral Gaius and Lt. Koval Solius beam over from the Romulan warbirds. They claim that the U.F.P. has been working with Klingon spies to further undermine the Rihannsu Empire.

Froot notes that according to the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, “Peace is good for business, but war is even better.” Still, he manages to keep the Starfleet and Romulan delegates from coming to blows.

Mr. Kyerak manages to shrug off Lt. Solius’ insults about his half-Vulcan heritage and explains that the Rotha was indeed bringing passengers to Q’onos, but an incident with a would-be assassin led to the Orion and Gorn being wounded and placed in protective custody.

Subcommander Gaius offers to escort the Federation starship through the Neutral Zone. Confident Lt. Kalifa begins devising a plan to distract and outmaneuver the grim Romulans. Tegan notes that traveling together presents opportunities for all.

Capt. Nobatu and Subcommander Vurik cautiously concur, and the four ships head toward Klingon space. Froot gives Kyerak and Kalifa a Tribble, and Tegan celebrates and irritates by hacking into subspace channels and broadcasting old Earth music.

Back on the Rotha, Lt. Kalifa gives the Tribble to Lt. K’dex to put into stasis. Lt. Kyerak asks Cmdr. Wahid and chief of security Pierre McDonnough for permission to interrogate the prisoners, but they warn him to avoid unnecessary force.

Kyerak brings Lt. Artemis Borellis, a Betazed counselor, to the brig. He and Orzzek question green-skinned D’naar and reptilian Hands of Giblets separately. The Orion pirate claims ignorance and is not intimidated by the Starfleet officers.

The Gorn, however, admits that the Klingons and Romulans have been working together on a stealth weapon, possibly the Undine itself. Lt. Borellis observes that it’s possible the delegation included the Undine as a spy without the full awareness of even the Klingons.

The officers report to the captain, who agrees that driving a wedge between the two Federation foes is better than allowing them to collaborate with the Undine. Lt. Kalifa asks Froot if it would be possible for the Love’s Latinum Lost to broadcast an Undine bio signal to the Klingons and say that the Romulans have somehow lost control of their mission.

There is an awkward moment when Cmdr. Wahid recognizes fellow Trill Tegan from a past life. After some discussion, the Ferengi trader and Starfleet crew devise another plan. As they and the Romulans approach Camp Khitomer, Vor’cha-class battle cruisers decloak.

Capt. Nobatu tells Cmdr. Korral that a routine scan detected the Undine, who was then killed. She tells the Klingon commander that D’naar and Hands of Giblets had sent a message to unknown recipients before they were incarcerated.

DaiMon Froot jumps in to say that the Love’s Latinum Lost intercepted a message between the Romulans and the Cardassian Union. Already incensed over the failure of the diplomatic mission, Korral berates Subcommander Vurik for the perceived betrayal.

The Klingon cruisers begin firing on the Romulan ships, and theRotha takes advantage of the skirmish to make evasive maneuvers and head back toward Federation space. It takes only light damage. Engineer Lt.Cmdr. Akira Gorou extends the refitted Ambassador-class Rotha’s warp bubble and shields to bring theLove’s Latinum Lost along.

At Starbase 24, Capt. Nobatu recommends the Love’s Latinum Lostfor upgrades. Froot thanks the captain, who he says “is not bad for a hooman female.” Kimbal avoids Nasami, and Orzzek makes sure that the Orion and Gorn prisoners are safely transferred.

Cmdr. Wahid meets privately with Lt. Kyerak. She offers him a covert mission to a lost Federation colony. The planet has devolved technologically, and according to the Prime Directive, its inhabitants must be left alone until proper First Contact is made.

However, Nasami says, other interstellar states have no such reluctance about exploiting more primitive worlds. She asks Kyerak to take a small squad undercover to find and “eliminate” any outside interference. The executive officer gives him a day to consider.

In the Rotha’s Starlight Lounge, Kyerak asks Kalifa, Froot, and Kimbal to join him. Kalifa agrees with the necessity of the mission but is uncomfortable with the idea of terminating any opposition and not talking with the captain.

Froot readily agrees to help bring the team to the nonaligned system as an itinerant merchant. Kimbal, who recalls a past life as a Starfleet officer, is surprised at the covert and potentially lethal nature of the mission. He agrees to come along to keep an eye on rogue Federation factions.

Kyerak tells Cmdr. Wahid that he accepts and that he hopes for a promotion. The U.F.P. agents and neutral traders begin preparing aliases and gear….

I hope that those of you who role-played in this scenario enjoyed it as much as I did hosting and running it! Thanks again to all who participated in this and the “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Expedition” session, as well as dinner at Fiorella’s for Byron’s visit.

This year’s Creation Star Trek convention in Boston was indeed inspirational. I look forward to continuing the voyages of the crew of the U.S.S. Rotha sometime, and live long and prosper….

"Star Wars: Dark Times" Session 5 — Tram to trouble

Fellow role-players, here are Jason's and my notes for Session 5 of his space opera scenario, which Brian W. hosted on Monday, 11 November 2013, in Newton, Mass.:

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away — the Galactic Republic has been replaced by a ruthless empire, and the Jedi, once guardians of peace, are now hunted fugitives. In the Unknown Regions, at the edge of explored space, a few Jedi and their allies hope to survive and continue the fight for justice….

Player Character roster for Jason E.R.'s "Star Wars: Dark Times" miniseries, using Savage Worlds, autumn 2013:

  • "Ekafti Acomar" [Gene D.]-female Rhinnalian human Jedi consular, older diplomat with many contacts but few remaining friends
  • "Garolos Banku Nuruolos — Garos" [Beruk A.]-male Chiss (blue-skinned humanoid) ex-Jedi, gambler and owner of the light freighter "Lucky Strike"
  • "Oong Bak" [Brian W.]-male Duros (gray-skinned humanoid) honorable and talented mechanic
  • "Ari Sundar" [Sara F.]-female Ssi-ruu (raptor-like reptile) military medic, outcast from a species intruding upon the galaxy
  • "Thayne Highlander" [Bruce K.]-male human Jedi padawan close to knighthood, 19 years old; saw master killed by Order 66
  • "Tark Agros" [Brian S.]-male Bakuran human pilot and noble, mildly delusional hotshot
  • "Tharg Thargsson" [Rich C.G.]-male Gamorrean scoundrel and bounty hunter with connections to the Black Sun syndicate
  • "Max Power" (MX-PR) [Rich C.G.]-male protocol droid with secret combat subroutine, ordered to protect Jedi (overrode Order 66); killed by Sith Bela Trepada on Bakura

“From the journals of Ekafti Acomar, 19 B.B.Y. (before the Battle of Yavin):” The crew and passengers of the Lucky Strike had attended a garden party on Bakura, where I hoped to continue the diplomatic work I had begun for the old Republic. However, we were brutally reminded of how the galaxy has become an even more dangerous place.

Droid MX-PR, “Max,” sacrificed himself protecting recent padawan Thayne Highlander and me from Bela-Trepada, a powerful Sith and twisted copy of me. B-1E4, another protocol droid, had left Princess Tethys of Chandrila, another clone.

Meanwhile, medic Ari Sundar and pilot Tark Agros confronted Tolovo Nathu, yet another clone of mine whom we had been tracking on behalf of Bal Grainer, a Rodian bookie and associate of ex-Jedi Garolos Banku Nuruolos.

We staggered back to our hosts, since the party had been disrupted by vehicles flying overhead. Oong Bak attended to Thayne’s and my injuries, while Tark asked Bakuran head of state Grina Arden for other medical assistance. Princess Tethys seemed as oblivious as ever.

Ari and Tark sensed movement in the trumpet flower garden, where they saw droids hunting on behalf of an unnamed master. The droids sensed Tethys, as well as traces of Tolovo (who had gotten away), Bela, and me, so there was no mistaking whom they were looking for.

Garos shared with us an Imperial transmission that had beenintercepted weeks ago. Imperial scouts had learned that the Chiss Ascendancy (Garos’ home space) included twice as many worlds than it claimed, and they requested military support.

In combination with the list that we had obtained of surviving Jedi — and Jedi clones — being hunted, it was clear that the Chiss were competing with Palpatine’s new order to gain control over or eliminate me and my peers.

We added the Chiss to our growing list of enemies, including the empire, the Sith, Bakuran cloners and arms dealers, Krevaaki zealots, and Ssi-ruuk invaders. We also believed that the Hutts and Black Sun criminal syndicate were responsible for a virus that had shut down most computer networks.

But first, we had to deal with more immediate concerns. Tark talked with weapons designer Juris Keel, who agreed to take Garos, Thayne, and me to Salis D’aar, the Bakuran capital. On the way, however, a Mind Read determined that Keel wasn’t thinking about getting us to a hospital.

Instead, I had a vision of the Bakuran human sitting in a room full of Separatist droids watching video of Thayne and his late master Shin-wu Sorotai fighting. Garos and Thayne subdued and restrained Keel, who was working with the insectoid Verpine, as well as supposedly against the “droid menace.”

We took Keel’s speeder back to the rest of our crew at the Lucky Strike ’s landing pad. Oong, Ari, and Tark had repelled an attack droid and confiscated its stun blades, which Garos discovered could be tuned to be short force blades.

Garos also found a Gamorrean enforcer for Bel Grainer waiting for us at the pad. Through a mix of bargaining and traded insults, we persuaded burly Tharg Thargsson not to attack us in return for information about Tolovo.

While Oong easily repaired our ship, he was unable to do the same for Max. Sharp-eyed Ari spotted a restraining bolt on Keel. The Duros removed it, incapacitating the android, which was nearly indistinguishable from a human. How many of the people on Bakura were droids or clones, and whom did they serve?

Tark asked his racing buddy Roviden Belden to help us get into the “Lesser Grace” spaceport, an exclusive retreat for Bakura’s elite. We hoped to rest there and devise a plan to fight the Sith and shut down the cloning operations.

We were interrupted when a group of Mandalorians found us. Foxdi Zess and two armored troopers had Tolovo with them, but she was badly wounded. Foxdi explained that my clone had sought out the mercenary Brotherhood, which was composed of clones of soldiers from the Mandalorian Death Watch (enemies of the Jedi) as well as the Grand Army of the Republic.

Tolovo offered a Kaminoan vaccine against a Separatist virus that would extend the clones’ lifespans. Unfortunately for her, the Brotherhood had been taken over by Griz Starfire. Thayne was surprised to hear the name of the clone trooper (Clone Commander Starfire) who had turned on Shin-wu.

Garos realized that it was Griz who had offered to sell Shin-wu’s light saber to Bal Grainer. Even though we called off our deal with the Rodian, we were able to persuade Tharg to continue working with us. Bal Grainer also noted that Chandrila hadn’t been a monarchy for 25,000 years, calling into question Princess Tethys’ story.

We agreed to help Zess sneak into Gesco City to rescue deposed leader Calo Zythor. A failed colony, this far northern base of the Brotherhood was protected by ray shielding, so we ultimately decided on a maglev subtram to get through. Thayne was anxious to recover his master’s weapon.

The Bakuran authorities set a reward for the missing Juris Keel, so I asked Tharg call Capt. Blaine Harris to tell him that Keel could be found near Gesco City. I hoped to set the military police against the Brotherhood and slip in during the confusion.

We left two Mandalorians to guard Princess Tethys and a weak Tolovo at the Lucky Strike. Mechanic Oong and pilot Tark took the front car of the automated train. I meditated and sensed that Bela-Trapada (who was on the Chiss list) was at Gesco City. More bad news.

Thayne used telekinesis to send a guard probe away, but Tark noticed something ahead on the scanner just as we reached the shielded base. A Mandalorian clone riding a Basilisk war droid blocked our path. Bakuran Tark shot out the train’s controls, as the rest of us headed to the windows.

The Basilisk’s shockwave cannon destroyed the front of the subtram as we jumped out. Duros Oong and Gamorrean Tharg swung down the same rope, and Chiss Garos jumped to a maglev ring. Tark and “our” Mandalorians flew around with their jetpacks, but one perished. I activated Force Cloak and slid down dispensed liquid cable.

Thayne swung to the roof of a falling train car, and Ssi-ruu Ari slipped until she grabbed the ring. Foxdi shot at the Basilisk. I sought shelter among the rocks. Tark descended to cover, and Ari and Garos clung to the collapsing ring support.

I used Hear My Thoughts to tell Garos where to find a line, and he kissed Ari for luck as they swung down. Foxdi was hurled into a nearby cliff, and Tharg caught her. Tark and Ari hit the droid-riding sentry, but Garos’ shots didn’t penetrate its armor.

Ever cautious, Oong hid behind a different rock from me. I usedBattle Mind to help Thayne, who blasted the clone, dropping him 100 feet. Tharg frenzied and finished him off with his vibro axe. Ari took the trooper’s pistol and attended to Foxdi’s wounds.

Tharg was going to throw the Mandalorian over his shoulder, but Ari was a more careful bearer. We walked through the empty subtram station, and Foxdi directed us toward the Brotherhood’s headquarters. We saw an Imperial shuttle and prepared for another battle.

On a balcony overlooking a broad plaza, we saw a group of people in Mandalorian armor, no doubt members of the clone Brotherhood. They were facing off with a robed Sith and her guards. My clone Bela-Trapada was negotiating with usurper Griz Starfire over the light saber of fallen Jedi master Shin-wu Sorotai.

We knew we were outnumbered, and we needed to get past the two factions to release Calo Zythor. I recommended a diversion. Garos ran ahead and threw a grenade, blowing up four Mandalorians. He and I ran toward the holding cells.

Tharg started jogging, and Tark shot two more guards. Oong ran for cover beneath the catwalks, and Ari and Foxdi ran forward, dodging Mandalorian fire.

Impetuous Thayne shot at Griz. I’ll have to remind him that revenge is not the Jedi way. Even though she nearly killed me, I have to admit a bit of disappointment when Bela and her force pike-wielding entourage left the scene with Shin-wu’s light saber.

Griz drew a darksaber (once owned by Pre Viszla, the head of Death Watch or Kyr’tsad) and jumped down to face us. Ari shot at him with a heavy blaster, but Griz still hurt Thayne and Tharg. Garos wounded Griz, and Tharg grabbed Oong and killed a Mandalorian on the way.

Oong shook off his injury, and I managed to hit Griz with my light saber. Tark shot another Mandalorian clone, and Thayne defeated Griz. Now all we had to do was find Calo and get out without getting caught in more crossfire….

"Vortex: Terra's Pride" Update 5c.48 — Rescue at the rendezvous

Fellow role-players, here is my update for Session 5c.48 of the Vortex telecom space opera campaign, which met via Skype on Sunday, 6 October 2013. We’ve been using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures /MindjammerBulldogs, and an online dice roller.

In one future, humanity has started to overcome ecological challenges at the time of open and official First Contact with galactic societies. However, internecine war and the Zarkonian Armada devastate Earth and its colonies. A few million refugees, aided by some aliens, flee into deep space. Will heroes arise among them?

FATE 3e “Vortex: Terra’s Pride” (Team 3/5c) telecom Player Characters, as of autumn 2013:

Acting crew of the experimental scout ship Blackbird:

  • Capt. Kevin Reese” [Bruce K.]-male Terran “near-human” (cyborg), former Interplanetary Patrol officer and commander of a Terran Ranger Corps task force, including the corvette Dauntless
  • Cmdr. Tela” [Sara F.]-female Tharian (gargoyle-like alien), escapee from the Encegulans (slug-like slavers), fond of humans; engineer with boyfriend Kedar and robot Dr. Bucket
  • Chris McKee/Agent Prometheus” [Josh C.]-male Terran human, former assassin for the eugenicists at Black Box Security Co., sniper and seeker
  • Tariq Asrad Saladin” [Beruk A.]-male Terran “near-human” (mutant) wanderer with a past, investigator
  • Enkidu Aristheon” [Dexter V.H.]-male Seranen (pale empathic humanoid alien) exile, wilderness survival expert curious about Terrans and the Zarkonian threat; with sphinx-like companion Glaucon

Crew of the refitted space yacht Pina Colada and other ships:

  • Capt. Jasmine” [Sara F.]-female Martian Felinoid “Synth” (“Uplifted” tiger), former pit fighter and crewmember of the Appomattox, searching for a homeworld for her people; with boyfriend Darcy
  • Hector Chavez” [Beruk A.]-male Terran human, former spy and crewmember on the Appomattox, cautious engineer and communications expert
  • Lord Wallace Tubbington III” [Josh C.]-male Olvar (arboreal, mammal-like alien) swashbuckler and diplomat for the Kharvamid Alliance
  • Chiron” [Dexter V.H.]-male (secretly android) pilot, assigned to assess and protect humanity
  • Orion Starchaser” [Geoff C.]-male Pomuyan (blue telepathic humanoid alien), irrepressible mystic and thrill-seeking galactic hitchhiker; departed for deep space
  • Lt.Cmdr. Sebastian Growlick” [Bruce K.]-male Felinoid “Synth” (“Uplifted” lion), elite soldier, killed attacking the Zarkonian Armada with the frigate Crazy Horse
  • Cmdr. (Dr.) Srinu Pahul” [Byron V.O.]-male Terran “near-human” (genetically modified) xenobiologist, curious and planetary patriot; with robot PEPE and nurse Kala Sunitha Ciela on the frigate Sovereign
  • Lt.Cmdr. (Dr.) Billy ‘Hawkeye’ James [Bruce K.]-male Terran “near-human” (cyborg technopsi) frontier medic and gambler; traveling with Sovereign as part of the Ilokar battle group escorting a fleet of Terran refugees

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

“21 September to 5 October 2195 A.D./C.E. or 1 Terran Galactic Era:” The acting crew members of thePina Colada had met representatives of Aquarian colonists and moved Ruhema, a Precursor satellite, closer to Van Maanen’s Star to recharge. They also debated whether to stay to study the Precursor device or continue exploring.

The rest of the “Terra’s Pride” task force arrives, and the command crews of the ships meet to discuss their plans. Capt. Jasmine, Hector Chavez, and Lord Wallace Tubbington III agree to stay with the refitted yacht Pina Colada to study the ancient device and aid resistance to the Zarkonian Imperium.

Dr. Srinu Pahul and Billy “Hawkeye” James say their medical expertise is most needed among the refugees fleeing the Sol system. They prepare to go with the frigate Sovereign and patrol ship Tigress.

Capt. Kevin Reese expresses his desire to continue exploring the galaxy with the Blackbird and corvette Dauntless. Lt.Cmdr. Tela and Lt.Cmdr. Brun Bearhammer want to stay with their scout ship, and Lt. Nathan A. “Jellybean” Jessup hopes to retain his Raptor II-class aerospace fighter.

Kevin orders that the drop ship Dragonfly and ground-effect vehicle Tiger Hawk Sandstorm be kept in the Blackbird's landing bay, if room can be found for Nate’s craft. Chris McKee and Tariq Asrad Saladin note that the Blackbird also offers opportunities for diplomacy and trade.

Orion Starchaser announces his intention to continue wandering, away from the Zarkonian Armada and the Terran fleets. The Aquarians (amphibious humanoids) or other aliens should be able to help the Pomuyan, responds Capt. Reese.

The Blackbird, Dauntless, Sovereign, and Tigress head to Delta Pavonis to rendezvous with the Ilokar battle group. As they emerge from Transit (faster-than-light travel), the ships receive a distress call. Apparently, pursuers have caught up with the human and “Synths” fleeing the Sol system.

U.S.N.V. Roger Young

The Terran heavy destroyer Ilokar

Capt. Reese calls battle stations and has the Blackbird lead a counterattack. Lt.Cmdr. Tela activates the experimental Olvar (arboreal, mammal-like alien) vessel’s cloaking device. The Tharian engineer isn’t happy to see an Encegulan (slug-like slaver) destroyer.

Lt.Cmdr. Bearhammer deftly pilots the Blackbird into the fray, as a Zarkonian carrier disgorges numerous fighters and Zurmiz Krott (biomechanical probes). Mr. McKee aims beam weapons from his gunner’s nest. “Jellybean” climbs into his “Raptor” to join the Ilokar’s squadrons defending about 1,000 civilian vehicles.

Mr. Saladin raises telepathic defenses, as enemy swarms attack the heavy destroyer Ilokar and other military escorts. Kevin boldly orders that a zero-point device be loaded on a torpedo. Chris swiftly destroys one of the gun emplacements guarding a Zarkonian launch bay.

Despite ursine Brun’s maneuvering, Tela’s EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapon fails to affect the carrier, which inflicts heavy damage on the Ilokar. The Encegulans fire on the Babieca, and Nate is luckier than one Raptor pilot, who meets a fiery end thanks to Zarkonian lasers.

Former Interplanetary Patrol officer Kevin radios Lt. Clark Faddil aboard the Pinkerton to warn the Terran fleet to move away. Tela resets controls on the Dauntless to enable Blackbird gunner Chris to guide the modified missile.

Space marine Nate leads a Raptor squadron to clear a path for the missile, destroying several fighters. Brun spins the Blackbird around to retreat, as Chris sends the zero-point torpedo at the Zarkonian carrier, annihilating it and most of the enemy ships in a massive blast.

After the remaining foes are mopped up, the Ilokar command crew welcomes members of “Terra’s Pride” aboard. Adm. Jacques Pons and his first officer Capt. Jamie Jeppsen thank Capt. Reese and company for coming to their rescue.

Tela recognizes Lt. Hedy, a “Synth” (gynoid) engineer whom she helped in making Ceres Station Transit-capable. Dr. Pahul compares scientific notes with Dr. Brett Carson, who took custody of stolen Vatican relics.

Chris catches up with Sgt. Jane Walthrop, a fellow sniper with whom “Agent Prometheus” once served at Fort Olympus Mons in the Mars Confederacy. Brun shares astrogation data with Delphine (“Uplifted” dolphin) Lt.Cmdr. Kanuha.

Capt. Evander Scofield, commander of the Korelev, explains to Kevin that Capt. Karzan Laseme was the leader of the Zarkonians attacking the Ilokar. En. Chewitel Elba, a Felinoid (“Uplifted” panther), tells Tariq that the colony ships FirebrandNova Aquarius, and Faithful Starlight should join the refugee fleet soon.

Capt. Reese briefs Adm. Pons on the findings of the expedition to Van Maanen’s Star. The admiral approves use of the factory moon to create Transit drives for Aquarian and Terran refugees, as well as to emit an energy-draining field to block the Zarkonian Armada. The Union of Solar Nations officers agree to send the Blackbird back to the Pina Colada with personnel and supplies.

Adm. Pons also promotes members of Kevin’s crew, including Jasmine to captain, Tela and Brun to commander, and Nate and Billy to lieutenant commander. Kevin, Srinu, and Wallace retain their existing commissions, and Chris, Orion, Hector, and Tariq remain as civilians.

Capt. Reese requests that the Dauntless join the Blackbird in forward scouting, but Cmdr. Bearhammer and Mr. McKee argue in favor of fewer ships. Adm. Pons initially denies Kevin’s request but asks him to stay in charge of the Ranger Corps task force.

Cmdr. Tela helps Cmdr. Samantha Astin with repairs to the Ilokar and other ships. She also requests that boyfriend Kedar be transferred to join her and robot Dr. Bucket on the Blackbird. Cautious Tariq checks security records of the refugee fleet to see if he recognizes anyone.

Chris notes that it has been just over a year since he first met extraterrestrials under attack from Terra Prime terrorists at the Rio de Janeiro “beanstalk” (space elevator). He warns Cmdr. Alfonso Balaz of the Steel Sanguinis to beware of Ru’ulok (heavy gravity reptilian pirates) such as those at Beta Canum Venaticorum.

Dr. Pahul sends robot PEPE to get supplies and takes nurse Kala Sunitha Ciela for a romantic walk in an arboretum on one of the colony vessels. Lt.Cmdr. Jessup informs signal officer Sgt. Amarna Morales that her former assignment, theManitou, is among the surviving ships.

Nate later joins Brun, Kevin, Chris, and Hawkeye in search of a bar and a card game among the humans fleeing the Zarkonian devastation of Earth….

I hope that everyone enjoyed the “Vortex” space opera, which we’ve been playing since 2010 (and I’ve been running on and off for 30 years)! I look forward to someday continuing our adventures, but in the meantime, we’ll be working on characters for the “Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” Asian-style fantasy telecom game next Sunday.

Geoff now plans to run his street-level superhero scenario (using FATE Accelerated Edition ) on Oct. 20. I also look forward to seeing some of you at upcoming “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus” and Jason E.R.’s “Star Wars: Dark Times” face-to-face sessions.

"Vortex: Terra's Pride" Session 5c.47 — Moving a moon

Fellow role-players, here is my update for Session 5c.47 of the Vortex telecom space opera campaign, which met via Skype on Sunday, 29 September 2013. We’ve been using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/MindjammerBulldogs, and an online dice roller.

In one future, humanity has started to overcome ecological challenges at the time of open and official First Contact with galactic societies. However, internecine war and the Zarkonian Armada devastate Earth and its colonies. A few million refugees, aided by some aliens, flee into deep space. Will heroes arise among them?

FATE 3e “Vortex: Terra’s Pride” (Team 3/5c) telecom Player Characters, as of autumn 2013:

Acting crew of the refitted yacht Pina Colada:

  • Cmdr. Jasmine” [Sara F., primary]-female Martian Felinoid “Synth” (“Uplifted” tiger), former pit fighter and crewmember of the Appomattox, searching for a homeworld for her people
  • Hector Chavez” [Beruk A., primary]-male Terran human, former spy and crewmember on theAppomattox, cautious engineer and communications expert
  • Dr. Srinu Pahul” [Byron V.O., primary]-male Terran “near-human” (genetically modified) xenobiologist, curious and planetary patriot; with robot PEPE
  • Orion Starchaser” [Geoff C., primary]-male Pomuyan (blue telepathic humanoid alien), irrepressible mystic and thrill-seeking galactic hitchhiker
  • Billy ‘Hawkeye’ James [Bruce K., secondary]-male Terran “near-human” (cyborg technopsi) frontier medic and gambler, recently re-enlisted with the Union of Solar Nations
  • Lord Wallace Tubbington III” [Josh C., secondary]-male Olvar (arboreal, mammal-like alien) swashbuckler and diplomat for the Kharvamid Alliance
  • Chiron” [Dexter V.H., primary/absent]-male (secretly android) pilot, assigned to assess and protect humanity

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

“16 to 20 September 2195 A.D./C.E. or 1 Terran Galactic Era:” Following up on a visit by the Blackbird to Van Maanen’s Star, the crew of the Pina Colada visited Ruhema, the innermost satellite of gas giant Absolom. Itencountered abandoned mining operations and a strange energy drain.

An away team determined that the moon was in fact a Precursor device capable of synthesizing Transit (faster-than-light) drives and energy-draining force fields. Cmdr. Jasmine orders the landing party back to the Pina Colada for rest and recharge before trying to move Ruhema closer to its star for reactivation.

Artificial satellite

A machine moon

The feline captain asks her crew for ideas regarding restarting the ancient satellite. Hector Chavez worries that security systems may be reactivated. The onetime spy recommends using the orbital factory to assist resistance against the Zarkonian invaders.

Dr. Srinu Pahul says that Ruhema’s ability to extend its energy-draining field could help defend the refugees fleeing the Sol system. Lord Wallace Tubbington III suggests bringing Terrans back behind enemy lines to seek shelter around Van Maanen’s Star.

Orion Starchaser agrees to help pilot the machine moon, and Billy “Hawkeye” James points out that it could be used to relay interstellar messages. Chiron notes that Ruhema is not capable of faster-than-light travel itself, but it could produce advanced Transit drives.

Jasmine approves changing the massive satellite’s orbit, with its potential uses still to be determined. Hector devises small remote drones to map Ruhema’s innards, and Orion and Hawkeye coordinate on technopsi controls.

The Pina Colada is hailed by the Slippery Shlarp , an Aquarian vessel. After some discussion, Jasmine allows three of the amphibious humanoids come aboard the refitted space yacht. Lord Tubbington and company go to greet them.

Selora is a Salvorain, a descendant of miners stranded on Dorian Gray, the innermost moon of gas giant Methuselah, so named by the crew of the scout ship Blackbird. She is an adviser to Queen Shulis of the religious Corvell Unity.

Col. Bijar is a Salvorain aide to Gen. Qualish of the technocratic city-state of Albahaven. Delegate Porl is an Aquarian envoy sent to restore contact between the long-lost colonists and the rest of their people.

Wallace takes a gift of foodstuffs and takes the visitors to the swimming pool, which is festooned with plant life. Col. Bijar scans the pool, while Dr. Pahul examines the gift. Selora explains that the Aquarians have also lost their homeworld to the Zarkonian Imperium, and Orion offers his sympathy.

Col. Bijar and Cmdr. Jasmine chat about chains of command, and Hector covertly jams the Ministry of Observation’s continued scans from the bridge with Chiron. Wallace stands at the edge of the pool and learns from Porl that, like Ambassador Plorb at Oasis Station, he is looking for refugee aid.

Orion determines that none of the Salvorain is telepathic, although Selora does mention a Polarian water shaper named Gursh. Wallace asks Porl for assistance in moving and operating Ruhema, and Col. Bijar recommends himself and scientist Palangir.

The Salvorain also trade some information about the crustacean Zarkonians with the humans and their Olvar and Pomuyan allies. Lord Wallace invokes the Kharvamid Alliance, and while his homeworld is far, he invites the Aquarians to join the Terrans who have escaped the Zarkonian tyranny.

Hawkeye and Srinu are initially wary of the Aquarians, who they fear might contest a claim to Ruhema, but they soon realize that the aliens’ plight is similar to their own. Hector remains alert.

The Slippery Shlorp returns to Dorian Gray to pick up technicians. Jasmine later pilots the drop ship Dragonfly back to Ruhema’s surface. It carries ground vehicles such as hovercycles. Chiron stays with the Pina Colada in orbit.

Hector scans the Precursor device’s functionality, while Dr. Pahul checks for life-support capacity. Lord Tubbington explains the findings so far to Col. Bijar, Palangir, and other Salvorain. The away team takes a turbolift to a command center.

Hawkeye and Orion psionically link to gradually move the moon, which leaves Absolom to get closer to Van Maanen’s Star. Both the Terrans and Aquarians are pleased that the device, which is millions of years old, moves as gracefully as it does.

As Ruhema settles into a new orbit and begins to recharge, Chiron reports that the Pina Colada has detected incoming ships at the edge of the solar system. Hector, Hawkeye, and Srinu begin preparing for a fight, but Jasmine tells them to wait for the ships to be identified.

Capt. Phlegg, a plesiosaur-like Cetaran, greets the Pina Colada and Slippery Shlarp. He says that Delegate Plorb had asked for help relocating the Salvorain colonists — even before the Terrans arrived — so he has brought a pod of ships.

Wallace checks the Blackbird’s logs and confirms that the Cetarans are yet another amphibious species that poses little threat to humanity. The Pina Colada ’s command crew resumes its debate over what to do next.

Hector recommends using the factory moon to create Transit drives to help the Salvorain relocate. The engineer would also prefer to spend more time studying the device and possible manufacturing plans.

While Srinu agrees that Ruhema should be restarted as soon as possible, the doctor says he’d prefer to travel with the bulk of the Terran refugees and help “improve humanity.” By contrast, Wallace believes that Van Maanen’s Star could be a good base from which to build resistance on Earth against the Zarkonians.

Orion likes the idea of studying the Precursor moon more, while Hawkeye would rather explore behind enemy lines to learn about the Zarkonian Armada. The medic also expresses interest in scouting ahead of the Terran fleet to find new worlds and allies.

Cmdr. Jasmine misses her boyfriend Darcy and also wants to continue traveling. In the short term, she agrees with the idea of building FTL drives for the Salvorain, as well as then extending Ruhema’s energy-draining field. In the longer term, the crew agrees that more research and a stronger resistance are needed.

Jasmine a message to the rest of the “Terra’s Pride” Ranger Corps task force to rendezvous at Van Maanen’s Star rather than with the Ilokar battle group, which is headed to Oasis Station by way of Delta Pavonis.

Meanwhile, the Blackbird, Dauntless, Sovereign, and Tigress intercept a signal from the Pirate’s Paean, a small freighter and one of the last ships to escape the Zarkonian invasion of the Sol system.

Capt. Burnett confirms that billions of humans have perished in nuclear exchanges on Earth and the destruction of orbital colonies. Slug-like Encegulans have enslaved many of the survivors, and the Zarkonian Imperium has begun xenoforming (alien terraforming) of Earth and Mars.

“Chris McKee” [Josh] is disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be a way to quickly defeat the enemy, but “Capt. Kevin Reese” [Bruce] and “Lt. Nathan A. Jessup” [Byron] vow to help the rag-tag fleets in their struggle to survive and, someday, to retake their homeworlds….

It’s always cool to see what teamwork can accomplish, and I look forward to wrapping up our current “Vortex”adventures! Let me know if any of you have questions as the “Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” Asian-style fantasy campaign approaches.

In the meantime, it was good to see some of you at this week’s “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus” game, and I’ll see some of you at Jason E.R.’s “Star Wars: Dark Times” session next week. Geoff’s street-level superhero scenario, using FATE Accelerated Editionis tentatively scheduled for Sunday, 13 October 2013.