Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Seven Worlds #4 - Broken Circle

Campaign Diary

The Magpie dropped out of hyperspace at the Tazanian system of Uppulu, where the crew were detained by the military. But once their identities were verified and their account of the battle corroborated by the civilians on the ships that fled Tabari, the data on the aliens they have received from the UC fleet were received with much gratitude, and they were permitted to return to the Neutral Zone.

Due to the Telenet crash, news of the battle had just preceded the crew's arrival at GCP. It turned out that about half of the ships in the second wave of the UC fleet managed to withdraw before being engaged by the aliens, although the commander chose to fight to the last with those in the first wave.

For a while the crew were divided on what their next move should be: to try to access one of the Telenet satellites to learn why the system crashed, to try to learn more about the aliens, or to continue their search for Lamar. Eventually they decided that Lamar's disappearance must have been linked with the crashing of the Telenet, and Jet, Nick, AJ and Kumra decided to return to Earth to deliver the data their have on the aliens to the UC, and to try to pick up Lamar's tracks again.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Arriving at Earth, they learned that news had arrived the UC had declared a unilateral ceasefire, and had moved all their ships out of the Neutral Zone. They were met at the spaceport by the UC miliatry, and invited to the Defence Department to debrief the UC Undersecretary for Defence; during the debrief, the crew coined a name for these aliens: Gren - short for Grendel, whom Beowulf fought.

Leaving the UC HQ, Nick and Kumra used their connections in the criminal world to track down Monty 'the mover', an 'independent operator' in Boston who specialised in helping people obtain new identities and go off-world. With some aggressive persuasion from Kumra, Monty revealed that he did indeed help Lamar switch his implanted ID chip and help him get on a transport, but in exchange for the information, he wanted the crew to get him off-world; Telenet, he revealed, had sent some hired help to try to get the information off him, and he knew it would be unwise to remain on Earth once they realised he had knowledge of Lamar's whereabouts.

The next day the crew met Monty, now with a new identity, at the spaceport. Lamar, he told them, had assumed the identity of one Antoine Novak, and had asked to the taken to StarMart at Wotan V, a place familiar to our crew. StarMart was a 'truck stop' that orbited Wotan V, a gas giant, and was a pit stop for ships making the 'Catalian Run', a route that went through an uninhabited stretch of the galaxy.

Arriving at StarMart, they learned that two more Tazanian systems had fallen to the Grens. The attacks were similar: the Gren ships dropped out of hyperspace barely two hours from the systems, leaving little time for the people to escape.

Jet attempted to hack into StarMart's database to pick up Lamar's trail, but the laptop Hassel-Hoffa gave him crashed, forcing him to use a shared terminal at an internet cafe. Here he was luckier, and found that Antoine Novak had arrived at StarMart as Monty had said, and had soon left the station on PEC-2, a transport ship based at Harris Station, which was the station that mined Helium from the atmosphere of Wotan V, in the company of one Mr Ogden, the Chief Engineer of Harris Station; what is more, Ogden was at that moment on StarMart!

The crew found out the berth the PEC-2 was docked at, and staked it out. Sure enough, they soon saw Ogden walking to the ship. Nick noticed that Ogden was being trailed by a man in a helmet and a droid. The crew acted nonchalant and let Ogden pass them, but when the man saw Nick, he turned to the droid, grabbed hold of its arms, and pulled on them - the droid's forearms were a pair of disguised blaster pistols, and they hid another pair of pistols that were attached to his arms!

The man and the droid started shooting at Nick and AJ, who charged at their attackers. Kumra grabbed Ogden and pulled him into a side corridor, and asked Jet to keep him safe, before charging into the the fight too. Jet told the confused Ogden that they were there to help him, and convinced him to open the door to his ship, and then rushed in to grab the blaster pistol that was kept in the cockpit (carried as standard against pirate attacks), but when he returned the fight was almost over. Despite being unarmed, AJ and Nick managed to disarm the man, while Kumra managed to break off both of the droid's arms. Sensing imminent defeat, the man ducked out of the fight, and pressed a button on the console on his forearm: the droid began to emit a beeping sound...

The crew dived for cover as the droid exploded; AJ and Kumra were unharmed, but Nick took a shrapnel in his chest, and the man had vanished.

The crew returned to the Magpie, and followed Ogden back to Harris Station, some four hours away on the other side of Wotan V. Here, they finally met Lamar Hassel-Hoffa. Lamar recognised the crew, and related his story to them:

A few months ago, while checking the codes he wrote for the next upgrade for Telenet, Lamar noticed some strange codes which he had not written. They seemed to be for a parallel transmitting system which he did not know about. When he questioned his employers, he was told that they were by a second team working on redundancy and business continuity, and asked to focus on his part of the work only. When his brother James called him regarding the strange signal recorded on the footage from the Beowulf a few weeks later, he decided to look into the codes again, and found additional lines that triggered a 'suicide sequence' that would wipe the codes on all Telenet satellites simultaneously, while leaving the parallel transmitting system intact. Curious as to its purpose, he decided to add more commands to the code, such that the data trail for the activation of the suicide sequence would be sent to him. Then, on a hunch, he hacked into his personnel files, and found that he had been scheduled for 'termination' by the company. Unwilling to wait to find out what 'termination' meant exactly, he decided to go off-world, and managed to find refuge as a chemical engineer at Harris Station with his old classmate Ogden.

Due to the crash of Telenet, Lamar had only just managed to access the data that he programmed to be sent to him, and by a process of triangulation, he was able to determine that the source of the signal that initiated the suicide sequence came from Hirceptus, home planet of Amahrius of the Serran Brotherhood.

Before the crew could make sense of the revelation, they were interrupted by Ogden: two fast ships of the type favoured by pirates had just 'crested' Wotan V and come into the sensors of Harris Station, and they were closing quickly...

Prepping and Running the Game

Broken Circle is actually the 4th module in the Seven Worlds campaign, but I felt that it would fit better as the third module we played.

The module involved the crew investigating a report of the sighting of Lamar at a space station, and them picking up his trail and finding him at a Helium mining station.

I kept the basic structure of the module, but allowed the players to decide what they wanted to do after the events of the last session. As a back-up I planned to have another teamster send Jet a photo of someone who looked like Hassel-Hoffa (Lamar) taken at a bar on StarMart, and have the PCs investigate, but I prefer the path they took.

I planned for there to be two fights: one with the bounty hunter and his droid at the bar, and a follow-up running battle as the two try to get to Harris Station before the Magpie.

I had expected the crew to do so old-fashioned police leg work and speak with people and try to find Lamar, but of course they would try some electronic sleuthing instead. As it turned out Jet's player failed to make the roll four times (burning three Bennies in the process), and I ruled that the state-of-the-art laptop that he had requested crashed. This may have consequences downstream, as the breakdown of communications and the chaos that would follow as the Grens destroy more worlds will mean finding gear and parts will become harder.

And speaking of Grens - I asked the players to come up with a name for the aliens (named Devourers in Seven Worlds), and it took them several minutes of brainstorming before they came up with Grendel. I think that's a pretty cool and evocative name.

Next week should see the return of another character from our previous campaign, so stay tuned!

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