Tag Archives: space opera

"Star Trek: Restoration" Episode 5 — Gift of the Ferengi

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for our fifth “Star Trek” session, which we played at Drew S.’s place in Needham, Mass., on Monday, 9 March 2015:

“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.”

About 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 are slowly recoveringfrom 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 Directive, FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures, Bulldogs, and Mindjammer 2e, plus house rulesObsidian Portal, Skype, and the Rolz.org online dice roller, as of spring 2015:

  • “Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Kyerak” [Bruce K.]-male half-Vulcan with a temper, in the U.S.S. Rotha ’s command division
  • Chief Ravi Chandler" [Brian W.]-male Altairian human, non-commissioned officer and transporter expert assigned to aid Lt. Kyerak’s mission
  • “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
  • “Tau” [Drew S.]-male Ferengi, medic aboard the Love’s Latinum Lost

Absent:

  • “Lt. Jarric Jameson” [Dexter V.H.]-male genetically modified human colonist (former Maquis) communications and wilderness survival expert
  • “Lt. Orzzek Kalifa” [Byron V.O.]-male Andorian (blue-skinned humanoid with white hair and antennae), assertive science officer
  • “Lt. Mari Killu” [Sara F.]-female Caitian (felinoid) security/tactical officer
  • “Lt. Boran’ Gorir” [Josh C.]-male Jem’Hadar (Dominion soldier), aggressive envoy/engineer

Previously, in “Star Trek: Restoration,” the U.S.S. Rotha uncovered an Undine infiltrator during a diplomatic mission and faced off against Romulan and Klingon ships in the Neutral Zone. Some junior officers then accepted a covert mission to investigate offworld interference in a former member of the United Federation of Planets.

“Stardate 95248.047 (15 April 2418):” At Alpha Tauri III in the Aldebaran system, the away team joined Ferengi traders and defeated a Romulan spy in the science station of Nar Instel. The crew also found a rogue Federation scientist in the militaristic state of Irdrant.

A landing party beams down to the sprawling agricultural community of Folkhar. Most of the Starfleet lieutenants stay behind in orbit on the Love’s Latinum Lost to watch prisoners Dr. Sarlic Pramantha and Illiana Drah’el.

Tau offers Ravi a tip, but the human transporter chief declines the Ferengi medic’s gold-pressed latinum. DaiMon Froot leads the way into a dusty town, while Kimbal covertly scans for anomalous subspace transmissions. Lt. Kyerak notices that most of the inhabitants are human.

A blue-skinned Andorian rancher riding a horse draws the newcomers’ attention. Lissan th’Zerath isn’t interested in Kyerak, Froot, or Tau’s overtures, but she directs them to a general store.

Populous Folkhar has regressed technologically even more than other Aldebaranian nations, with draft animals, labor-intensive farming, and relatively few power tools. The explorers walk by a wainwright’s shop, where a Klingon and his son warily watch them while repairing carts.

The "Ancient West"

Frontier town

The infiltrators follow Lissan’s directions to Tellarite Bol Kerv Shaloo. Froot happily negotiates with the porcine provisioner, who collects items from the colony’s past as an interstellar crossroads. The Ferengi captain trades an inoperative comm badge for a Klingon sash, which he adds to his crown and fancy cane.

Kimbal and Tau conceal tricorders as they look for transmissions that would violate Starfleet’s noninterference Prime Directive. Shaloo mentions that he recently traded fine tools to the Klingons, even though they don’t need them.

Back at the wainwright, Tau learns that young Kolad is eager to please customers and his father, Kurgh, son of Kulam. Kyerak and Kimball talk to the gruff widower, who years to be in contact with other Klingons.

Their conversation is cut short when Froot pulls a Tribble from under his robes, getting the outlanders thrown out. The group then walks to the mayor’s office. Maria Conchitez says that her people are tired of fighting with Irdrant and seems disgusted when Froot drops some jewelry with circuitry.

As the Starfleet personnel and their Ferengi companions leave Conchitez, Ravi notices a man hanging around her office. Darius Littlefeather says little and returns to his farm. The away team heads to the ranch of Lissan th’Zerath, whom Froot found to be suspicious.

The Andorian catches the interlopers snooping around her barn, and Froot knocks her out and ties her up. Tau makes sure that Lissan is OK, but Ravi and Trill Kimbal find no subspace radio. The party rushes back into town.

They run into Littlefeather, whom Kyerak puts to sleep after conducting a mind meld to see if the mayor is responsible for the unauthorized radio. The half-Vulcan learns that Darius is in love with Maria, but little else.

Froot wants to return to Bol Kerv Shaloo’s shop, but the others determine that the Klingons are their most likely suspects. Kimball and Tau corner Kolad, while Kyerak and Ravi question tense Kurgh.

The lonely mechanic eventually admits that he has cobbled together a subspace transmitter. The Starfleet officers are relieved when Kurgh says that he hasn’t heard back from the Klingon Empire, but he adds that he has received a mysterious response, which Kimbal records.

Kimbal and Ravi tell Kurgh that his radio could draw attention from Irdrant. He shuts it down, and they take key components. Kyerak and Froot talk with Mayor Conchitez, who asks them to help open trade between Folkhar and Irdrant.

Froot notes that they are wanted by the authorities in industrial Irdrant. Kyerak later contacts Huang Peipei, director of the Nar Instel science station, to mediate and help reunite the colonists of Alpha Tauri III.

The team beams back up to the Love’s Latinum Lost and makes a rendezvous with the U.S.S. Rotha at Deep Space K-7. Lt. Kyerak reports to Capt. Andelina Nobatu, who is pleased that his team was able to defeat Tal Shi’ar agent Stuvek, arrest Dr. Pramantha, and convince Kurgh to cease subspace transmissions with limited bloodshed or violation of the Prime Directive.

Ambassador-class refit

Refitted starship

Loyal Kyerak tries to defend Cmdr. Nasami Wahid’s harsh orders to “eliminate” any offworld interference, but Capt. Nobatu reprimands her Trill first officer. Froot is skeptical that Starfleet can live up to its lofty ideals and recommends covertly reaching out to its former colonists in the Aldebaran system.

Chief Chandler requests reassignment from away missions because he doesn’t like having primitive slugthrowers drawn on him. Kimbal supervises the remaining refits to the Ferengi vessel promised for its assistance.

Tau says farewell to the Federation citizens as they return to their ship, but Capt. Nobatu invites the Love’s Latinum Lost to come along into deep space as the Rotha explores the source of the unidentified signals detected by Kurgh….

I hope that everyone enjoyed the conclusion of this story arc! Remember that your characters have attained Level 4, and we can upload them to Obsidian Portal.

In the meantime, I look forward to our next sessions for Dexter’s D&D5e “Land of Lost Souls,” Jason’s “Channel 37,” and my “Vanished Lands!” Remember to check the Google and Yahoo message boards for our discussions of upcoming games. Live long and prosper….

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.

Plot

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

Cast

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.

Direction

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.

Cinematography

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.

Soundtrack

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.

Rating

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.