Last time we looked at the Evening Star, we finished an inventory of the cargo holds and the dangers and strangeness inside them. Today, we’ll look at the systems at the ‘bottom’ of the ship, where all the hardware for the control systems and the ship’s ion drive are housed.
Among the first things players will notice once they turn their attention to anything related to long-range communication, navigation, or any sensors on the outside of the ship is that they’re all locked off from the mesh network; gaping holes can be detected where the systems should be hooked up, but anyone wanting access will have to squeeze into the crawlspaces in the base of the ship and access them via hardpoint.
Just getting into the crawlspaces is a harrowing experience; if the players have encountered any of the strange events elsewhere aboard the ship, they’ll need to make a Will x2 check just to open the hatch, as the infestation reworked it into a twisted fractal pattern that, while harmless by itself, evokes the rippling nanotech mold found elsewhere aboard the ship. Failing the check causes 1d10 Stress, while passing it inflicts 1 unless the MoS is +30 or better.
Once down in the crawlspaces – a tight fit for a splicer or other regular-size human morph, somewhat more tolerable for a neotenic – the PCs need to navigate areas that have obviously been skewed and bent out of their original alignment, either by damage or by the contortions of the infestation; every system they want to access requires a check using Fray, Acrobatics, or Freefall to avoid getting stuck or being hurt on damaged surfaces for 1d10/2 points of damage.
Long-range communication and the farcasting system used to transmit egos to and from the ship will probably be high on the players’ list of systems to check, and the result is rather bad news; approximately fifteen minutes before the players woke up, while they were in the process of being instantiated, something blew the long-range high-gain antennae off the ship; if someone decides to volunteer to go outside and inspect the damage, they find a crater blown in the hull plating, as if something dense and high-velocity struck in just the right place to destroy any hope of fixing the situation.
Which, if they check the blocked-off system logs, is exactly what happened; a text message is waiting from an anonymous source. “To the poor bastards reading this, I can only say that I’m sorry. When I stole your egos from cold storage in a 9Lives facility, I knew I was sentencing you to a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but I had to grab what I could for this emergency. Hopefully you have the skills needed for what you need to do, because otherwise Luna is screwed. The ship you’re on is the Evening Star, a bulk cargo vessel that went missing during the Fall. It showed back up just recently, and it’s pretty clearly infected with TITAN tech. Right now, it’s on a collision course for Nectar, and it’s moving fast enough that even if they try to intercept or blow it off, it – or the debris of the wreckage – will hail down across the lunar surface.”
“What you poor bastards got sent to the ship for, just before one of my colleagues blew the antennae into kibble, is to take control of the driver system and angle it so it’ll miss Luna and hopefully keep going out into the void – or, if you’ve got some crazy-good astrogation expert with you by some fluke of luck, maybe plot a course to send it sundiving, since we can clear out people from that area before it plunges down. If you amange it, and if you’re not infected, you can launch yourselves out the airlock; we’ll be monitoring it, and if we see you after the ship course changes we’ll retrieve you. Afraid you’ll have to join us after that, but at least you’ll have proven your chops on a nasty mission.” The sender, of course, is a Firewall operative; they chose to send total unknowns in because, without any intel on how infected the ship is, they couldn’t justify risking seasoned members with solid knowledge of Firewall’s workings on the mission.
Astrogation systems are still functional, but badly glitched and corrupted; attempts to access them without first making Programming checks to patch the damage automatically inflicts 1d10 Stress on the user, as they seem to be staring into a yawning void hungrily reaching for them. After fixing the software, anyone can make relevant checks – Astrophysics, Pilot Spacecraft, and whatever else the GM deems reasonable – to try to plot a new course for the ship that will simply miss Luna (+30 bonus to the skill check), miss Luna and head for the edge of the solar system (base), or loop around on a trajectory that ends with it taking a nosedive into the heart of the Sun to be atomized (-30 penalty to the skill check).
Actually entering the course is a more involved task, as the AI systems that previously handled navigation are now thoroughly corrupted and virus-riddled, requiring a seriously difficult Programming check to try to repair (-30 penalty to the check). Alternately, the systems can be disconnected entirely, either by using Infosec to isolate the command system or by physically destroying the systems in question. Doing so allows for the engine to be adjusted manually, requiring Hardware checks to carefully alter each thruster and control vent to put the ship on the new course.
Of course, if the players want, they can instead try something like inserting the ship into an Earth orbit or Lunar orbit, either of which is likely to get them barraged by high-yield plasma warheads that vaporize the ship and everyone aboard as the ultimates keeping watch find their trigger fingers overly itchy and decide to do something about it.
Once the ship is diverted, the players have a choice – live as long as they can aboard the ship and hope none of the horrors consume them (a vain hope) or they can space themselves, trusting the available vacsuits to keep them alive long enough to be picked up. The latter option, if taken, inflicts an automatic 1d10 Stress as they tumble into the void with no certainty of rescue.
When rescue does come, it takes the form of a high-speed dart that comes barreling in with a mercurial AGI on board with orders to retrieve their stacks. The AGI isn’t likely to be particularly careful about the retrieval, as it needs to get their stacks into a shielded container in case they’re infected and vaporize what’s left of their morphs to ensure the exsurgent virus is contained.
From there, the players are likely to wake up in a Firewall simulspace, their Stress and traumas soothed away by psychosurgery, and given the choice of deletion or survival as Firewall agents under new identities.
And that wraps up Wakeful. I hope you’ve enjoyed it!