Science Fiction 2400 Cosmic Highway - Restless Encounter
#1
Video 
Some months back I started soloing a simple, three-page, micro-, low-sci-fi RPG, called 2400, specifically the “Cosmic Highway” module.

Info on the system is here if you're interested.



Character

Captain Collin Acker
Gender: Male
Race: Human
Origin: Downsider (Planet-side origin. Grew up in northern USA on Canadian border. Worked on both Earth and moon bases.)

Description:
Age 52
5' 9"
189 lbs

Crew Attire:
Racing Firesuit

Skills:
Persuasion (d8)
Intimidation (d8)
Shooting (d10)
Reading People (d8)

Items:
Commlink
Battle Armor (can break 3x) - 2 creds

Ship
Name: "Restless"
Ship Systems:
  • COMMS: Hail nearby ships and relay communications with away teams
  • CRAFTS: Escape pod fits 4, emits tachyon distress beacon.
  • EQUIPMENT: Includes vac suits for the entire crew. (UPGRADE Armory - Bulky rifles, stun batons)
  • HULL ARMOR: Break harmlessly for defense.
  • JUMP DRIVE: Required for interstellar travel.
  • SENSORS: Discern between large objects in nearby space.
  • SPACES: Includes bridge, cargo hold, barracks, galley, life support.
  • SUB-LIGHT DRIVE: Suitable for slow burn in space.
  • WEAPONS: Standard defense turrets are only useful for deflecting asteroids and torpedoes.

Other Crew
- Pilot: Iyer (male)
- Doctor: Black (male)
- Engineer: Haak (female)

Crew Patch:
Flaming Rocket

Crew Attire:
Faded racing firesuit

==

Do we have more than just the 4 of us?

(Unlikely | 3[d10]) No

8 = 8[d20]

Current Job Info
Roll d6 to try to find a job. Spend ₡1 to re-roll.
1–2 Nothing. Roll on “Ship problems.”
3–4 Found a job, but roll on “Ship problems.”
5–6 Choose between 2 jobs.

6 = 6[d6]

Ooo nice. Choose between two jobs.
Rolling on job chart:

8 = 8[d20]

6 = 6[d20]

(8) Mine a certain asteroid for mysterious ore

(6) Investigate inexplicably abandoned station

I'll choose the second one. Sounds interesting.

8 = 8[d20]

Location:
Draugr, low-G pulsar planet, odd structures

Does the planet have an atmosphere?
(Unlikely | 4[d10]) No

1 = 1[d20]

Twists:
Bonus if you get it done quietly


There you go! Next, on to the game. Enjoy!
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#2
(Trying something new. First person narrative in all its glory.)

Chapter 1
Hell, this old girl stinks--like someone puked oil, fuel, and last week’s space burrito all over her bulkheads. Come to think of it, she looks about that nasty too. But so what? I fondly rub my hand along one of the metal panels. She’s my ship! Well, mostly... still gotta cross the last hurdle of payments.

Stretching, I’m dimly aware that some of that stench is probably my unwashed body.

Uneventful jump to location?
(Likely | 8[d10]) Yes

Is the station surrounded by debris?
(Somewhat Likely | 3[d10]) No

The jump to Draugr took about as long as could be expected. And that was long. There isn’t much you can do to eek more speed out of that type of journey, short of dumping a helluva lot of creds into one of those super sexy jump drives--and even then for the really long flights, you still went into the cold sleep--just for not as long. And bein’ in a freezer doesn’t stop you from smellin’ like a frigid ice corpse, fresh out of the grave when you get reconstituted.

It probably woulda helped had I showered. But hell, there was too much to do! Systems checks. Diagnostics. Not to mention the seemingly endless list of repairs. In fact, I’m tapping a recalcitrant display before me with my stubby finger on the blocky terminal. It flickers and horizontal lines appear across the screen, like some ancient CRT on the fritz. Then it winks out and goes black. I feel a migraine coming on.

“My display console on the bridge is acting up again, Haak,” I say into the comms.

Is Haak cheerful?
(Somewhat Unlikely | 10[d10]) Yes, and...

Is she young?
(50/50 | 6[d10]) Yes, but...

By comparison to the captain... I’ll say she’s in her early to thirties.

“I got it on my to-do list, Cap,” Haak says, her voice annoyingly cheerful over the scratchy comms--so cheerful in fact it makes me wince like coming out of a bad hangover.“With about a dozen other things!” she continues. “But don’t worry. I’ll get her done!”

“Haak sounds cheerful,” Iyer says, stating the obvious, as he slides his lanky form into the pilot seat and scratches his thinning curly black hair.

“She’s always cheerful,” I grunt. “That’s the problem.”

But Haak can’t help it. It’s just the way she is. She’s our engineer, and the only time she’s happy is when something needs to be fixed. It’s when something isn’t broken and everything is running smoothly that she starts to turn into a real pain in the proverbial backside and sees gloom around every corner.

Depending on your point of view, you could say it’s a good thing that she’s usually cheerful. Personally, I’d rather have her throttle down down the cheer if it meant I had a ship that didn’t threaten to give up the ghost any minute.

I try to work out the kink in my back, stretching again.

“Geez Cap, put your arms down!” Iyer calls out, waving his hand in front of his nose. “Those sweat stains are the size of Jupiter’s eye.”

I raise my arms higher on my racing firesuit just to mess with him, and stare at him. After a moment we both grin. Damn, but Iyer’s gettin’ uglier and older every year, just like me.

And our crew attire hasn’t aged all that well either. The once bright-red color of the racing firesuit has faded to a dusty rust-colored gray. The flame decals still hold flecks of orange--if you squint and imagine fire. We all hate and love the suits. They’re us. We won them fair and square beating out Rasher’s crew on the Raven ten years ago--the first job we had with Restless. So, even if they look like they were dragged out from yesterday’s privy, they’re a symbol, a mascot. But they’re more than that, they are in truth firesuits, and they’ll save your life when actual flames break out on Restless. It’s happened before and I swear it’ll happen again. But we’ll be prepared when it does.

Iyer’s is a good friend. He been flyin’ with me for a decade now, and I swear the man’s lower half is the pilot chair. He’s that good and has saved Restless and our lives more than I care to admit.

“How’s Restless feelin’ Iyer?” I ask as I mentally tick off the system checks we’ve already run since we thawed from the cold sleep.

He leans his lankly form forward, twists his ball cap around so it’s backwards--he thinks it makes him look younger. Iyer taps on his blocky console. “She’s respondin’ like my last lover...Reluctantly. Engines seem to kick in a heartbeat after you’d expect. I think she’s slowin’ up.”

Iyer and I go way back. We’ve been hauling freight and doing odd jobs since we were teens. After fifteen years, I finally saved enough for a down payment on my own ship. I’m still makin’ payments on her, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel finally. Been doing odd trucking jobs on Restless for over a decade now. She’s a bucket of bolts, but she’s MY bucket of bolts!

“Ain’t we all,” I mutter, as I notice my reflection in the small display. Just turned fifty-two a week ago. Hell, I DID need a shower. Maybe the water would wash away the wrinkles and turn my graying hair a younger shade of black.

I rub my hand over the gray stubble on my chin. I needed a shave too. At least I stay fit or try to. The grav unit on the ship and the constant work help with that, though the cold sleep threatens to undo forward progress everytime we travel the black between stars.

“Coordinates, Cap? We in the right spot?”

I tap the display again and it flickers to life, dies, then flickers to life again. With a sigh, I key in the secret coordinates my mysterious employer had given me, and I pull up the pale colored dot that blinks in front of me.

“Right on target. I tap a button, and the nav screen reappears on a larger console where we could both see. “That’s pulsar PSR J1300+1240.” I know that a pulsar is a dying neutron star but this is the first time I’ve been to a system where I can actually see it. Through the thick bridge glass that started to fog up, an eerie blue light flickers, casting odd shadows. “Also known as the Lich system.” 

I stand up and wipe away some of the fog from the glass with my sleeve. I need to get Haak on the environmental control unit too. Another thing to add to the repair list.

“Lich. huh? Sounds dark and cold and ominous,” Iyer says, a frown creasing his face. “Mysterious. Like our employer.”

I nod. The star gives off a pale white light tinged with a mixture between violet, sapphire, and the shades of night.

“I don’t care if they are mysterious. If we play our cards right, we’ll be making double our usual haul.” I don’t say it, but something about all this has me on edge as well. But I have a good poker face. “Our target is here,” I tap another display and the console shifts, but none too smoothly as it chunks in shades of monochromatic green and zooms in with a groan. “It’s a dead planet, closest to the star, about twice the size of Earth’s moon, named Draugr. The other two planets in system are Poltergeist and Phobetor.”

“Pleasant...” Iyer says.

Draugr... It’s an apt name, I decide, as I peer out the glass at the pulsar flickering in its death throws. Before kicking on the jump drive and lying down for the cold sleep, I had looked up Draugr on the ship’s onboard library.

I explain to Iyer how according to old Norse legend, a Draugr was a reanimated corpse from some old burial mound. They possessed inhuman strength, were ugly as hell, and stank like Restless’s head when it backed up.

I spot my reflection, and notice how my own special flavor of unwashed stink wafts around me, like some invisible noxious cloud, I consider how the Draugr’s description actually resembles myself coming out of the cold sleep--I mean, aside from the inhuman strength, the other characteristics still apply. Damn I’m ugly. I give a sigh at lost youth and lean back, scratching at my grey-splotched beard. At 5’ 9” I’m shorter than most, and a little on the stocky side. I played hockey back in high school and had been pretty damn good, if my wall of trophies back home meant anything. But I was no superman.

“Well, baby, let's see what you got for me today,” Iyer says in a decidedly too-familiar tone. She’s my girl, not his.

The sublight engines lurch to life as Iylers flicks some switches and pulls on the controls. I grip a console for balance as the lurch threatens to knock me off my feet.

There’s a crash of tools from the deck below us and some swearing over the comm. “I’d appreciate a little advance notice before you do that!” Haak grumbles.

“Ah, cool your jets, Haak,” Iyer smiles lazily at the comm mic on the dash, even though there’s no video feed. There’s just the scratchy audio of Haaks grunting as she tries to work loose some rusted bolt somewhere.

As the local star had us in its gravitational pull, the jump drive had kicked off, and the thawing process had begun. It takes a few hours to completely defrost, but everyone should be completely thawed out by now. I hate the cold sleep, though. What if the computer has a glitch, and I end up with all my fluids in a permanent frozen state, drifting for years on end through the endless night until the ship runs out of power, a permanent frozen corpse. So, I decide to gratefully accept my odorous self as proof positive that I’m still alive.

“Take us in system, Iylers,” I say as I head for the hatch. “When we reach Draugr’s orbit, give me a holler. I’m going to catch a shower.”

“Don’t scrub off all your innate grime, Captain,” Haak smirks. I can’t see her face, but I can tell she’s smirking. Her cheerful voice takes on an extra cheery edge when she smirks, and all that extra cheer is practically oozing out of the comms. “That’s our drinking water, and recyclers are still offline.”

“Then get ‘em up and running or get used to Acker-flavored water,” I call back. “I’m showering.”

“Might be ‘Acker’-id tasting...” Iyer grins. “Get it?”

I give him one of those longsuffering looks and head for the head.
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#3
Chapter 2
A shower and some grub in you can do wonders, even if the grub tastes like a stale half-reconstituted crap biscuit. At least the shower was hot... a little too hot actually. It gets that way when the ship’s sublights are cooking, and some of the enviro units are on the blink. I only got mildly scalded, though Black will still probably make me rub that smelly cream all over.

At least the heat worked that kink in my back, and I’m in a freshly laundered racing firesuit. They still stank, but it had a fresh stink. I’m checking over the list of repairs Haak managed to complete when Black stomps onto the bridge, a glowering thunderhead brewing on his young face, his racing suit looks like it’s been ironed.

Whatever.

“Hiya Black,” Iyer grins.

Black, our onboard ship medic, ignores him. He is relatively new. He’s only done two jobs with us, and I can tell right now he’s not happy about something.

Why not?
Perfectly / Lonely

“Captain,” he says in that clipped British tone that makes him sound ultra elite. “I thought you said you had downloaded all in-system e-messages before leaving Earth!”

E-messages are electronic audio and text messages. They’re the lifeline of any spacer on the job. The connection to what was really important: to home, to family...to sports results...

“I did,” I say and tap a command to open the logs.

“There are no personal messages on file, Captain” Black says.

“Hell,” I mutter. “Haak!” I call on the comms. “Is the CPU screwin’ us over again?”

“No more than usual,” she calls cheerfully.

“Missing the missus, already are we?” Iyer winks at Black, “Not that I blame you. She is quite the looker. But you did just get out of cold sleep.”

While Iyer was correct, it wasn’t the right thing to say to Black who was in no mood for idle banter.

Black and Mrs. Black had tied the knot only a couple of weeks before we had shipped out, and Black, nearly half my age, had all the propensities of a love-sick Romeo at this stage in his relationship with his wife.

I myself had never married. Sure I had some close calls. But ship life--runnin’ the shipping lanes--isn’t easy on family life, and I cared too much for myself to put me through that special kind of hell. I’d seen too many other space cowboys end up with ruined homes. No sense following suit.

Black didn’t say anything so Iyer continues talking. “Did you bring any pictures of her? You never didn’t invite me to your wedding you know.”

“There was a simple reason for that,” Black shoots back. “I didn’t want you there!”

“Aww. Now I feel bad,” Iyer says with another grin. “Did you bring a picture of her at least? ‘Cause a man can only stand so much ugly in the deep reaches of space. No offence, Cap.”

“Stow it, Iyer.” I turn to Black. The kid is decidedly unhappy and looks like he’s going to pop one in Iyer’s eye. “I don’t know what to tell you, kid, I chose ‘Receive Messages’--you can see it on the log here.”

He stared at the log then grunted in response, turning away. “It’s going to be a long trip,” he says, falling into a nearby chair and sliding to a slouch. He gives a small groan as he fiddles with a silver cigarette lighter, etched with some fancy script, flipping the lid open and closed and open and closed.

It sets my teeth on edge, but I let it slide. I can be patient. Sometimes anyway.

I turn my attention back to the missing messages.

I wonder... I tap another command and bring up the messages. And there it was, a single message from an unknown sender. Why was it the only one? I jam a key down on the keyboard, and as it opens and the text begins scrolling rapidly across my screen. My frown deepens as I read:

SECURITY ALERT: EYES ONLY MESSAGE FOR YOUR AND YOUR CREW. ANY OUTSIDE DISSEMINATION WILL HAVE CONSEQUENCES.

PAYMENT: COMPLETE THE MISSION QUIETLY AND YOU’LL RECEIVE THE AGREED-UPON PAYMENT.

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE: INVESTIGATE STATION PANDORA. LOCATE DATA TAPES. CREW HAVE INEXPLICABLY CEASED COMMUNICATIONS. SEND ENCRYPTED COMMS OF ANY INFORMATION IN TIGHT-BEAM BURST TO THIS ADDRESS.

My eyes scan the long number that follows. Then I noticed the next line.

SECONDARY OBJECTIVE: RECOVER AND RETURN ANY LOST CREW FOR INTERROGATION AND YOU WILL RECEIVE TRIPLE THE PRICE.

I give a low whistle. Triple the price! That would pay off my other debts and finish the final payments on Restless. I needed those credits.

I decided to add that in because it’s an extra challenge and seems like something their employer would be willing to pay. Right?
(Likely | 6[d10]) Yes

That’s what I thought.

Is the station in orbit?
(50/50 | 1[d10]) No, and...

Is it a research/science station?
(Somewhat Likely | 7[d10]) Yes

STATION IS LOCATED DEEP WITHIN THE PLANET’S CRUST AT THESE COORDINATES.

“Did they do it?” Black asks looming over my shoulder, still glowering.

“Did who do what?”

“Our employers. Did they tamper with our personal messages? Why is that message the only one listed?”

“Dunno. Maybe,” I respond. “This message wasn’t in the system before we left Earth. They did say they’d give us more info enroute. The message must’ve come through now that we’re in system. Don’t look so unhappy, we stand a good chance of making triple our usual amount.”

“Triple?” Iyer gives a victory shout. “Now that is what I’m talking about!”

“Don’t celebrate yet,” I stand up and pick at the racing suit as if that’d make it ride more comfortably in my crevices. “We still got the job to do.” I key the comms again. “Haaks, get up here, and tell me you got the comms working at least!”
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#4
Chapter 3
On the fourth day after arriving in system, we finally slip into a low orbit around Draughr. The planet looms cold and dark, rotating slowly in its flickering shell of gloomy light, a dead sphere of stone, devoid of life.

Black, the medic, sits at a station on the bridge. His sullen mood has deepened, and he only talks when spoken to.

Haaks has managed to complete an impressive amount of work, but her mood is starting to lose some of its cheer. She needn’t worry though. Something is bound to break sooner or later. She’s over in one corner of the bridge, splicing some cables to the lights.

Iyer taps his foot and hand in time to an ancient rock song from the 1980s. He has his headset on, but the volume is up loud enough that I can almost make out the words. That was over four hundred years ago! But he insists it’s still the best. There’s no accounting for some peoples’ tastes.

“Black, on our next orbit on the dark side, scan these coordinates,” I press a button, and the station’s coordinates appear on his console. He doesn’t acknowledge me. “Black!”

“Hmm?”

“Did you hear me?”

“Oh. Right,” he says and sits up a little straighter. He starts up the scanning software.

Minutes go by, and soon we pass into the dark side of the small planet. The main overhead lights suddenly cut off.

“Sorry,” Haak says. “Just rewiring these old connections.”

Do they receive a distress signal from the station?
(50/50 | 8[d10]) Yes

Interestingly / Tranquil

Loudly / Mundane

Frighteningly / Lame

Can they figure out what’s really going on from the message?
(Unlikely | 2[d10]) No

Any useful clues or info?
(50/50 | 9[d10]) Yes

Trust / Extravagance

Yieldingly / Military

“Captain,” Black sits up and holds his earpiece closer to his ear. “I’m getting a distress message. It’s coming in on all frequencies.”

The only light comes from the flickering and blinking lights from buttons. The green-tinted monochrome screens light up our faces like some unholy corpse candle.

“Great. Put it up so we can all hear.”

After a few key presses, a static-garbled message scratches and claws its way through to the bridge. In between the hisses and popping sound, typical in a bad connection, I can make out a woman’s voice with a vague Australian accent:

“--an anyone hear this? This is Dr. Curran of Pandora Station, transmitting on all frequencies! Dr. Rochfefort said the previous messages never sent after all! Long range comms are down.

“Rochefort barely made it back. He’s seriously hurt and has lost a lot of blood. I don’t think he’ll make it. We’ve...uh...tranquilized Dr. Muller when he started...<garbled static>....This whole mess started as an experiment with ...<garbled static>... We knew it would capture the interest of the scientific community at large! But it’s all gone frighteningly awry! I cannot stress enough how dangerous...<garbled static>....Dr. Pai is looking at the data and schematics again to see if we missed anything.

The ambient noise of the recorded broadcast sounds tinnier now and the Doc sounds breathing is labored. I lean closer to the speaker to try and hear every word.

“We’re no longer in the main compound but are sheltering in the military’s garage where they keep the ...<garbled static>.... But the ...<garbled static>... were damaged in the quake! We’ve been here for three days now. Oxygen and water levels running dangerously low. We’re going to have to make some uncomfortable decisions soon. <long pause> What have we done? Our hubris has brought this about! Our own extravagant trust in our oh so vaunted science! <long pause>

“Is anyone out there or am I just speaking to myself? Please send help!”

Any other messages?
(Unlikely | 2[d10]) No

Any background noises in the recording?
(Unlikely | 1[d10]) No, and...

The message ends. Everyone sits in stunned silence on the bridge, holding their breaths.

This job was going to be far different from hauling a load of freight from point A to point B. This was, at minimum, an investigation and possible rescue mission in the wake of some dangerous science experiment.

Then the message loops and starts to play again.

“No other messages, sir,” Black says.

“Turn it off,” I say quietly, and he does so. For a moment we listen to each other breathe.

“Open a channel to Pandora Station.”

When Black does so and nods at me, I speak into the mic. “Pandora Station, this is Captain Ackers of the Restless. We’ve received your distress call. What’s your current situation?”

Any answer?
(Unlikely | 5[d10]) No

I repeat my query a couple more times. Still no answer.

“What’s going on, Captain?” Haaks asks from her darkened corner, sitting amidst a pile of dark snake-like cables, a small pen light in one hand.

I ignore her and turn to Black. “Package up that call and send it to our employers. Tight beam burst as directed.”

As Black obeys and starts the transmission sequence, I say to the group, “We’re going down there. Everyone, suit up.” Then I turn to Iyer, “Find us a landing spot near those coordinates.”
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#5
Chapter 4
What is the immediate area where Iyer sets down Restless?

Deliberately / Good
Wildly / Smelly
Foolishly / Fat

The rocky terrain juts up below us in wild massive twisting ribboned wave-like formations. At one time, these mountains must’ve been hollowed out by eons of time by wind and weather when an atmosphere had at one point molded these lands. This was long before the star had gone supernova and washed the planet’s surface in superheated plasma, burning away the atmosphere, and turning the star into a wasted ghost of its former self.

Restless, like some overweight mechanical whale, settles heavily on one of those wave-like formations, but the rock is too thin and buckles under her landing gears, great slabs of rock falling down slowly, picking up speed to crash on the surface below. Restless starts to slip through, it’s hull grinding against the jagged edges of the rock hole it had made.

“Watch it!” I shout.


I’ll have Iyer make a roll for this. The risk is that the ship could take damage if it falls through the hole.

We don’t have stats for him, but we’ll do that now.

Skills:
Piloting (d12), Navigation (d8), Spacewalk (d8)
Origin: Spacer
With my three skill upgrades, I increased his piloting twice to get the d12 maximum. Pilots get the shuttle or drive upgrade to the main ship. I’ll choose a drive upgrade which means we get Maneuvering thrusters. That gives an extra d6 on piloting rolls that involve evading something.

Let’s see... other upgrades from the rest of the crew:
Black, the Doctor gets to add the Medical Bay upgrade on the Restless.
Haak, the Engineer gets to add a Sensors or Drive upgrade. I’ll choose the Planetary Survey upgrade to sensors.

Okay, we’ll create up the other characters’ stats as we need them

Here’s Iyer's piloting roll with the extra d6 for the maneuvering thrusters:
4 = 4[d12]
5 = 5[d6]
A 5+ is a success

Iyer curses, and the engines flare to life again, lifting Restless up. I grip my console to avoid getting tossed about as Iyer compensates.

I don’t much like my ship getting scratched, and I give Iyer the look. But she’s a tough old girl and has endured much worse over the years.

Iyer uses an external camera of dubious resolution to peer onto the surface of the dark planet. The white landing lights spill across the wave and down into the hole we’re hovering over.

“Sorry Cap. I thought that was the ground. My bad.”

“Try not to break my ship,” I lean back a little in my chair. “Use the planetary sensors. This is what we got them for.”

“Oh...right.” he taps on his console and a rough 3D terrain model starts chunking into view on the computer screen. “There, he points at the screen. It looks like there’s a fabricated landing pad, under that wave of rock, a quarter mile away.”

I nod to him.

“Heading for it now.”

Any lights around the pad?
(Unlikely | 3[d10]) No

He pilots the ship through the ribboned wave of rock, and lands it gently onto a darkened flat prefab landing pad. Dust kicked up from the thrusters spills up into the sky, obscuring the view from the bridge.

Is there any light from the dead star at the moment?
(50/50 | 4[d10]) No

Do they see anything unusual on the landing pad itself?
(Unlikely | 1[d10]) No, and...

“See?” Iyer says, holding up his hands. “I still got the touch” And he kisses the tops of his closed fists.

Haak rolls her eyes.

As the engines cut off, and the rumble underfoot settles into the dull hum of the ship’s internal electrical current, I turn to Ivyrs. “Stay with the ship for now. We might need you to relocate her, I’d like you to be on hand here just in case.”

“Sure thing, Cap. You all have fun exploring the strange and dark mysterious planet where scientists of dubious morals have unleashed some unholy creation. I really and truly don’t mind staying here. Not at all. Especially with that new crate of whisky I brought, and--”

“No drinking, you hear me?”

“Aww c’mon Cap, just a little tumbler--”

“No,” I say flatly. There’s a time and season to all things the good book says. I haven’t read much of it, but it is in the ship’s on-board tapes, and I do remember that passage. “When this job is done, we can get drunk together.”

Iyer gives a theatrical sigh but nods, leaning back in the pilot chair and gives a dismissive wave. “Fine. Have fun,” he says.

Haak, Black, and me climb or slide down ladders to the lowest level where the external ramp is. I press a button and the external ramp jolts down into place. Just inside the exit, they look at me.

We had all suited up in our vac suits before making the final descent to Draghur.

Over my own vac suit, I had strapped on my scarred and scored battle armor--only an armored vest, but hey, it’s something. Some day, I’ll get one of those full-body hardsuits when I can afford it. Earth’s space marines look mean as hell in those things. Sure they’re bulky and heavy, but so what? Having an extra half inch of armored polymer all over those flimsy vac suits would make me breathe easier anytime I stepped out of an airlock--literally if it stopped a puncture from ripping my suit open. For now, my armored vest would have to do.

Did anyone else purchase personal armor?
(50/50 | 1[d10]) No, and...

“We don’t know what happened here, so we’re going in armed just in case.” I pull open the armory’s metal door. It squeaks on rusty hinges. I hand out the sleek black rifles and some extra magazines to each crew member. I had spent a hefty bit of cash on them. I sure as hell hope we never have to use them. But insurance is like that.

“Helmets on. Comms check everyone.”

Everyone checks in, including Iyer.

“Reading you loud and clear Cap,” he drawls, and I bet he has his legs up on the console.

That out of the way, we do the remaining final checks on each other's vac suits, checking hoses and seams for any leaks. We look like a bunch of misfit-hooligans, bulky rifles askew, miscellaneous gear attached to belts and packs. We’ve had the rifles a while now, and at least we all know the basics.

“Move your freakin’ barrel out of my face Haak,” Black says and shoves her barrel aside until it points toward the floor of the ship.

“Sorry,” she says.

Well, I hope we know the basics.

“Once we go outside, look for a way into the science facility,” I say. My voice always sounds a bit hollow to me, inside my suit. “Bases built under the surface like this are bound to have some external hatch close to the landing pad.”

We all step into the airlock, and the door behind us slides shut. I slap the transfer button and the air is cycled back into the ship. Then the exterior door releases, and the door splits open. Vestigates of oxygen hiss out of the airlock, and I guess if you had a microscope, you’d see that the moisture in that air becomes miniscule shards of ice that spill out into the cold dark of space.

I take the lead and move down the under-belly ramp, the bright underside lights give the surface a washed out color.

There’s something thrilling about stepping onto a new planet; the explorer inside of me cries out in a mixture of terrified joy. I love the experience of discovery, but at the same time I hate having all that empty space around me with no external atmosphere, compliments of my very first space walk where I got a small suit puncture and watched my precious air slowly bleed away. I’ll feel better once we’re inside Pandora Station with functioning O2 tanks, ventilation, and air scrubbers.

“Lights on,” I say and flick on my suit’s external helmet lights. One of my lights flickers a bit but finally blinks on a steady light. Dust wisps up around our feet and falls down slowly. The bulk of Restless surrounds us, and we walk out, our rifles at the ready.

We spread out looking for the hatch.

Do they find the hatch?
(Likely | 8[d10]) Yes

“Over here!” Haak calls out.

Is the Hatch in good shape?
(50/50 | 8[d10]) Yes

Is it locked?
(Likely | 10[d10]) Yes, and...

“Great,” I say as I draw near. It seems undamaged. I look up and see between the ribboned wave-like alien formations, a band of glittering stars. “Let’s get it open.”

She presses the open button, but nothing happens.

She frowns and pulls out a tool from her belt, flicks it on and moves it slowly over the hatch’s surface. Readings flickered onto the small scanner, and a small 3D model began forming showing the internal mechanism within the door.

Is the power going to the hatch?
(50/50 | 2[d10]) No

“It’s locked,” Haak says. “And there’s no power flowing to this sector of the station. We’ll have to cut our way through the hatch or find some other way in.”

“Start on it. Meanwhile, Black and I will see if there’s a faster way in.”

She nods and pulls out a portable laser cutter from her toolbelt. It’ll still be slow going, but it beats a handsaw by a light year.

Are they able to quickly find another way in?
(Very Unlikely | 1[d10]) No, and...

We look about, but the only human-made structures we see above ground are the hatch, the landing pad, and a communications relay that communicates with high orbit satellites.

Is there any debris on the surface?
(50/50 | 9[d10]) Yes

Activity / Military

Freely / Lonely

Is it spent weaponry?
(50/50 | 8[d10]) Yes

small arms?
(50/50 | 6[d10]) Yes, but...

But not only that.

Did they see any comms satellites when they were coming into orbit?
(50/50 | 5[d10]) No, but...

Is it for long range comms:
(50/50 | 6[d10]) Yes, but...

But it’s non functional--Of course, that’s what the woman said in the message...

Something glints in my helmet’s light as my helmet sweeps the ground. I kneel in the dust and finger several brass tubes. Shell casings from a small-caliber weapon. I also see a few larger brass shells as well. They’re from some kind of grenade launcher.

What the hell was the military doing here? Or was it from some foreign or rogue power seeking whatever business secrets Pandora Station had found?

I let the shells fall and stand up.

I look at the communications tower and see it’s half collapsed. Not only that but... it looks like it took a round or two by some large explosion. From that grenade launcher maybe?

“Iyer,” I call on the comms. “I want you to do an active sensor ping. See if our scanners pick up any other ships.

“On it,” he replies over the scratchy comms.

I think back on our approach to the planet. Sensors had picked up some space debris when we first came into orbit, but that’s not unusual when someone is building a base. A lot of garbage gets tossed into orbit. In this case, our scanners had seen spent rockets, spent fuel cells, large boost modules for all the prefab stuff that got layed down.

Do the sensors pick up anything?
(50/50 | 5[d10]) No, but...

Not a ship but some energy readings of some sort.

“Nothing out there Cap--well no ship.”

“No detectable ship,” I add with a frown and look up at the ruined comms tower.

“Right. But--hold on...” His voice trails off and I hear him tapping on the keyboard. “No ship, but I am getting some energy readings.”

“From where? On the planet?”

(50/50 | 6[d10]) Yes, but...

From the base?
(50/50 | 4[d10]) No

“Yes, but not from Pandora Station.”

“Pinpoint it.”

Is it nearby?
(Somewhat Likely | 9[d10]) Yes

What’s the terrain like there? He’ll use the planetary scanner.

Crazily / Tranquil

Bleakly / Simple

Roughly / Delightful

I’m getting, rough, crazy, bleak--maybe a terrain feature that is awe inspiring (delightful). I still don’t have a good idea what he’s seeing...

“It’s nearby. It should be just over those mountains Cap. I’m pulling up terrain analysis collected from our landing.” The minutes dripped by and I sear I can feel myself getting older.

“Any time, Iyer,” I say.

“Wait a sec-- That can’t be right...” he doesn’t hear me.

I can hear him tapping some into his keyboard, and I can tell he’s growing excited.

“Talk to me, Iyer.”

“It’s...son of a-- You gotta see this! It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen...”

“Send it to my comlink.”

He does, and after another agonizing wait, I see what looks like a massive stone sphere. It’s half buried under the planetary crust. The size of it makes me want to sit down and I reach out for Black to steady myself.

Black looks over at me and gasps.

It made the largest superdome on earth look like a child’s toy. Either it erupted from under the crust, or crashed with it. It looks like it’s made of stone, and the surface appears to be rough, scarred, cracked and pockmarked. But it is a perfect sphere.

“Haak...” My mouth feels dry and I swallow hard. “Change of plans... Back to the Restless.”

Here’s what I had rolled up:
I clicked Setting...
Setting is renegade sphere involving alien artifact and feudal pod.

Is humanity currently in contact with alien races?
(Unlikely | 2[d10]) No

Well, not publicly I guess. Who knows what’s going on here?
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