Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Seven Worlds #6.1 - Chrysalis


The Resistance attempts a daring rescue
Campaign Diary

When the crew returned to GCP they found the whole planet in a state of heightened anxiety. Three more systems have fallen to the Grens in the interim, and ships have returned from Hirceptus with the news that the entire system appear to have been abandoned. Every ship in the system was now on standby for civilian evacuation. Reunited with Jet and the Hassel-Hoffa brothers, the crew planned their next step.

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They decided to send the body parts of the Gren they had killed to Earth, where hopefully they will be useful to the UC scientists in coming up with weapons which can stop them. But before they could leave, they were visited by Vlaw, a pirate whose life they had saved fifteen years ago.

Vlaw had heard about the disappearance of the Serrans from Hirceptus, and had a story which he thought would be helpful to the crew.

Six months ago, Vlaw and his crew ambushed and disabled a small freighter leaving Hirceptus. When they boarded the vessel, they found more than a hundred Serrans inside the cargo hold, all dead with a single blaster wound to the head. There were the usual supplies needed for the passengers, but no valuables. They found the captain and pilot inside the bridge, dead in the similar fashion, and each with a single blaster by their side. The ship's computer was in the process of deleting its data, but Vlaw's crew managed to stop the process before the destination was erased from the drive.

The destination was a place called Koskara, a name not known to Vlaw or his crew, and its co-ordinates indicated it was somewhere deep in the Dead Zone.

Vlaw sold the freighter, and proposed they went to Koskara to discover what was there, but his crew, spooked by what they saw onboard the ship, refused. Over the succeeding months Vlaw and his crew had a run of bad luck, and one by one his crew left him, which led to him having to haul cargo for a living. Now, he offered to give the co-ordinates to the crew.

Just then, an announcement summoned all the teamsters to the guild's lobby. The crew joined the hundreds of teamsters on standby, and when all were gathered, the face of the president of GCP appeared on the screen in the lobby.

The president informed the teamsters that the Grens had just been detected entering the system; there were more than thirty bioships in the invasion fleet - three times more than any previous flee. Every military and systems (non-hyperspace capable) ship had been scrambled to try to delay them. There was now nothing to prevent the teamsters from leaving GCP, but she appealed to each of them to respond to the acquisition call and leave in the pre-arranged order, carrying as many civilians as they could. The announcement for the civilians to report to the spaceport for evacuation, she added, would be made fifteen minutes.

There was silence when the address ended. Each man knew that even with all the ships on GCP, they could not hope to evacuate a fraction of a percent of the half-billion souls on the planet.

The silence was broken by Kumra, who ordered the crew of the Magpie to their stations, and for Vlaw to take the Gren body parts and Lamar to Earth. James would not leave with them, and declared that he would not leave except on the last ship that leaves the planet.

The ground crew at the spaceport eyed our heroes with contempt as they made ready to leave without taking any civilians, but Kumra was resolute in his belief that their quest was too important to risk the Magpie being caught by the Grens. The Magpie made it to the edge of the gravity well just when the Grens started bombarding GCP, and Nick entered the co-ordinates for Koskara...

A week later, the Magpie emerged from hyperspace to find itself at a red dwarf surrounded by five icy planets. A scan revealed a Telenet satellite orbiting the third planet. They knew they were on the right track now.

Nick piloted the Magpie towards the third planet, but when they were an hour away they detected several ships moving towards them: Serran warships! There was no way the Magpie could outrun or fight them, so the crew surrendered and the Magpie was boarded by Serran marines. Leading the party was Admiral Karragan, who did nothing to hide his hatred for the crew for their role in he events that led to the persecution of his race fifteen years before, nor his glee at finally getting his hands on them.

Nick, Kumra, AJ, and Jet were bound, drugged, and had their minds probed by the Serrans, while RB pretended to shut himself down. After several hours, satisfied that they had learned all that they needed, the Serran marines prepared to execute the crew... but were interrupted by a communication from the planet: Coban, now the governor of the Serran colony of Koskara, ordered the crew to be brought to the surface.

Although obviously unhappy with the order, Admiral Karragan gave the command for the crew to be brought to the colony. As they descended to the surface on a transport shuttle, the crew could see that Koskara was an 'eyeball planet': the planet was tidally-locked to its sun, such that one side always faced the sun while the other side received no light; most of the planet was covered in ice, with the exception of a round sea on the side facing the sun. In the midst of this blue sea was a continent covered with plants with dark red leaves, such that it gave the whole planet an appearance of an eyeball with blue iris and a dark pupil. As the shuttle got closer, the crew could see a city made up of several huge interconnected domes had been built at the edge on the continent.

Still groggy from the drugs in their system, our crew were marched out of the spaceport by one of its side entrances. The artificial lighting in the dome indicated that it was early morning in the colony.

Suddenly, each of the crew (with the exception of RB) heard a voice inside their head: get down!

Nick, AJ, Kumra, and Jet dropped to the ground. A split second later something across the street from them exploded, taking out half of the marines guarding the crew. Simultaneously, two cars swerved into view, and four Serrans emerged from them and began shooting at the marines.

The crew once more heard the voice telling them to get into the car, and they were happy to oblige. Quickly taking down the remaining marines, the crew bundled into the cars.

Their rescuers drove out of the spaceport dome into the adjoining Central dome. They stopped next to a large park in the centre of the dome, and continued on foot into the wooded interior of the park. As they entered the treeline, the crew heard two more explosions from behind them - the cars had been blown up to cover their trail.

The rescuers led the crew down a drainage hatch into the drainage tunnels below. After a long walk through the branching tunnels, they finally ended by in a small room, where their wounds were tended to.

When our heroes had had a breather, a tall Serran entered the room, and the rescuers left silently, leaving him alone with the crew.

The Serran introduced himself as Gyan Rosling, leader of the Resistance. He told the crew that his men had rescued the crew at great risk to themselves and the organisation on the advice of someone he trusted, and asked the crew for news of the war between the UC and the Tazanian Empire. He became confused when the crew replied that the war had been interrupted by the appearance of the Grens. In the exchange that followed, it became clear that the Serrans on Koskara had not been told the truth about what had happened in the past months.

Koskara, Gyan explained, was a secret colony founded by Amahrius as a refuge for the Serran race in case there ever was another wave of persecution of their people. The money required for this undertaking had come from the Serran Brotherhood, which had been richly rewarded for their help in negotiating treaties and contracts all across the galaxy, and the investments they had made with the money; the Serrans, as it turned out, were more adept at mind control than they had led the other races to believe, and the Serran Brotherhood had a controlling stake in Telenet through a number of conglomerates!

For years, Amahrius and the members of his council - Coban (now governor of Koskara), Karragan (Admiral and head of the military), and Dr Oren (head of the Science Department which oversee all the technology required for the building and maintaining of the colony) - had secretly moved Serrans from all across the galaxy to Koskara.

In the weeks following the assassination of the Tazanian ambassador, this process had accelerated, as the council feared that the Serrans would once more be targeted as the resulting war progressed. At the same time, communication with the outside world was banned (on account of the risk of the colony being discovered), and the new arrivals now had their memories wiped before they were allowed into the colony.

This turn of events led many Serrans to question the actions and intentions of the Council, and slowly, a Resistance group began to form. Over the months, the members of the Resistance uncovered more and more secrets that were not known to the public: there were sections of the Science Dome which were off limits to all but a few scientists, and there were indications that all adults in the colony had at some time reported to the Science Dome, but had their memory of the episode locked inside their brains.

When news of the crew's arrival and capture reached Resistance members in the military, Lindsay, who had arrived at Koskara several months ago and since joined the Resistance, convinced Gyan that they would have vital information which would shed light on what was really going on.

The crew now shared what they had learned over the past few months, and together they began to theorise what had happened. Amahrius, they now believed, engineered a war between the UC and the Tazanian Empire by assassinating the Tazanian ambassador with mind-controlled UC troopers. He then unleashed a bio-engineered species upon both sides' fleets, while simultaneously shutting down the Telenet to cripple their communications and prevent co-ordinated defence against the Grens. His goal, it seemed, was the destruction of the other races of the galaxy.

But there were still unanswered questions. How did the Serrans manage to create the Grens? And by what means did Amahrius expect to defeat the Grens once the UC and Tazanian Empire had been destroyed?

There was only one place they could find the answers, the crew decided: the Science Dome.

Gyan Rosling decided that the time had come: with their daring rescue of the crew, it would not be long before the Council start a colony-wide search for them and the Resistance - this was the time to strike. While the military was occupied searching the colony, the Resistance would storm the Central Command building in the Council Dome and capture Governor Coban and the communications facilities, and broadcast the truth about what had happened. Simultaneously, the crew would enter the Science Dome via the drainage tunnels that led from the agricultural research section, capture Dr Oren, and find out what he had been hiding from the public.

Gyan assigned Sera, a young Serran woman who worked in the agricultural research section to act as guide for the crew, passed them some home-made blasters, bade them good luck, and gave the orders for the Resistance to mobilise.

The revolt had begun.

Prepping and Running the Game

The campaign dairy covers the first half of session six of the campaign.

Much of the session was based on module 6 in the Seven Worlds series, and involved a lot of rail-roading, which my players were kind enough to go along.

For the first part of the session I tried to give the players a grimmer view of the reality of what the galaxy faced by putting them in the path of a Gren invasion. I was hoping the choice between leaving at once or waiting to take on some civilians would be a difficult one for them, but Kumra was resolute.

The moment that the players decided to go to Koskara, the game was basically on rails until the point they met with the Resistance leader. However, I imagine the players felt vindicated once they were able to piece together who was behind all the happenings in the past five sessions - AJ's player had in session one speculated that the assassins were under some form of mind-control, but the idea did not find support from the other players.

The players seemed genuinely looking forward to payback once they realised that their old mate Amahrius had fooled them - even though the character was played by me as an NPC throughout the campaign. This was a great moment for me as a GM, as I have been looking forward to this for over a year now.

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