EP: Wakeful, Part Three

Today, we’ll look at the current state of the Evening Star and where the messages the players found come into play.

First and most importantly, four of the six water tanks that protect the habitable section of the ship are empty; both of the Beta tanks have simply been drained over time to keep the atmosphere sufficiently oxygenated and to apply microbursts of hydrogen gas to course-correct as the ship has swung in a slow orbit around the Earth on autopilot. Alpha tank #1, directly behind the resleeving section, has a more serious problem – the outer hull of the tank has been fractured, leading to the water bleeding out and slowly sublimating into the void when the ship has swung into the sunlit side of the orbit. Beta tank #2 has it worse, however – the material of the tank has been infected with rogue nanoswarms that have turned it into a churning soup of water and pseudo-organic nanite slime. The tank’s structural integrity is significantly weakened, and the infested slime has spent a few years slowly oozing through the inner wall of the vessel; the exercise room adjacent to the tank has layers of melted-looking metallic encrustations covering the outer wall. Anyone who viewed the XP clip of the EVA crew member sampling the metallic mold on the hull will recognize similar traits between the XP clip and the encrustations. Those who failed the Will check become aware of a subtle pattern in the encrustations that they’ll feel compelled to approach and try to trace by hand; if not prevented from doing so, they’ll need to make a Dur x2 check to see if they become infected by the exsurgent virus strain present.

The resleeving lab where the players start is reasonably intact, with a basic desktop cornucopia machine that was kept off the ship’s mesh to avoid it being reset from being jailbroken. It can fab up simple items like clothing and weapons without moving parts in a matter of minutes; more complex items like firearms or ammunition will take at least an hour to fab up. Anyone who failed the Will check related to the picture of corpses and bloody-hued globs of nutrient gel will experience a deep sense of dread as long as they remain in the resleeving room, taking 1 Stress every ten minutes. If they accumulate enough for a temporary derangement, they become convinced that the globs are actually animate, trying to squirm through the air toward them, bearing some horrific alien plague in them. They need to make Ref  x3 checks every minute they remain inside to avoid the globules; each degree of failure indicates that they take 1 Stress as they collide with bubbles of crimson goo.

The science lab is an absolute disaster, looking as if a firefight broke out inside, with equipment blown to pieces and left floating free. Some of the debris is crusty brown-black blobs, dried blood from the three corpses that have settled into the corners of the room, desiccation and the soft impacts of objects over the years having rendered them into vaguely humanoid shapes of crumbling tissue. Medical skills can reveal that one of the corpses appears to have died due to soaking up a great deal of small-arms fire, well in excess of what should have been needed to kill it. An MoS of 30 or better reveals certain disturbing traits, requiring a Will x3 check to avoid taking 1d10/2 Stress as the corpse’s claw-like fingertips, signs of accelerated regeneration at the site of some of the bullet wounds, and jaw full of jagged fangs indicate a decidedly inhuman transformation arrested halfway through the process.

The habitation ring is home to little more than alarming messages painted on the walls in a mixture of blood and other, fouler substances, all long since dried and dessicated. A recurring theme in the messages suggests that the crew was hearing something in the walls, that the evacuees were turning feral, and that the void of space was screaming. Any player who accessed the XP of speaker-distorted screaming will begin to hear a soft sound in the background, which evades their direct attention; for the rest of their time on the ship, they suffer one Stress every hour that they’re awake as the sound slowly resolves into a distant wailing noise somewhere outside the hull of the ship, interspersed with occasional scratching from something outside against the outer hull.

One of the single-room habitation modules in the Gamma section is jammed shut; accessing the door’s programming directly via the maintenance port will permit a Programming check to reset the software, and a Hardware check of an appropriate nature can be made to find the archaic-looking hard reset toggle. Opening the door releases a sickly-sweet aroma into the rest of the ship; anyone with a medical or biological sciences skill will recognize the smell of ongoing rot. The room itself is a wreck like the rest of the hab modules, but the ‘roof’ of the room has the woman from the piloting and astrophysics clip fused to it by rippling waves of metallic mold. She appears dead to most, but anyone who viewed the XP will see her breathing slowly and feel a strong urge to free her. Coming into contact with the mold requires a Dur x2 check to avoid becoming fused to the contact point, requiring the removal of the offending body part to get free. Worse, at the contact, everyone will see the woman’s eyes open, her irises dilated to the point of being nearly all pupil, and start screaming with an atonal voice that sounds like the shriek of a modem handshake. Anyone hearing this needs to make a Cog+Int+Will check to avoid becoming infected with a memetic version of the exsurgent virus.

The bottom segment of the crew quarters contains the remains of the ship’s fabbers, a roiling ball of ever-shifting nanites that seem to be caught in a war against one another, as well as the broken-open wreckage of the crew lockers, with the personal effects strewn across the space and slowly tumbling. One anomalous item is a deformed skull, looking as if it belonged to a person with an unusually large cranium; a matching set of holes suggests that it was shot by a high-velocity kinetic weapon, probably resulting in it expiring. Anyone who touches it will need to make a Som x3 check to keep control as the ship suddenly seems to lurch around them as their muscles start spasming and throwing them around for the next half-minute or so. Close examination of the skull with the remaining lab equipment will show that it appears to be artificial, with heavy amounts of carbon nanofiber strung through it to reinforce it; the muscle spasms appear, after examination, to be triggered by the skull’s unusual patterns of electrical conductivity.

The AR/VR chamber is home to a bedlam of virtual nightmare. Psychosurgically butchered versions of the ship’s crew exist in a dismal half-life, instantiated in a simulspace that depicts an endless labyrinth of scorching hot sulfurous stone corridors choked with scalding hot air, foul clouds of steam and smoke, and an AI in the form of a mocking, tormenting imp that endlessly harasses its specific victim. There are periodic intrusions through the stone of anachronistic fragments of the ship itself; the comms antenna is a common one, although it has the flexibility of a tentacle and lashes out at anyone close to it. None of the crew are coherent or salvagable, unfortunately.

Next time, we’ll venture outside the crew area into the cargo holds and the maintenance area, and perhaps see what became of the refugees from the Fall itself!

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EP: Wakeful, Part Three

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