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Story 88

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The Crystalline Matrix

As you approach Neo-Vostock, the massive research station of the Trans-Human Project comes into view, its metallic exterior gleaming under the refracting light of all the nearby ice.

As you finish docking your ship at the designated port, you find the docking area crowded with a large group of protestors. You send Dr Truman a quick message before disembarking from your vessel. As you step onto the station you find yourself surrounded by a sea of angry faces. Their voices rise in unison as they chant slogans against the Tran-Human Project. The signs they hold are filled with derogatory messages directed towards Truman and his research team. Some read “Crystals have no souls” or “Truman is not God”. You can feel dozens of the gazes from the crowd turn towards you and your crew. To prevent a scene you join in with their chants and slowly work your way through the crowd towards the security detail guarding the lab entrance. When you get to the security team you quickly flash them your credentials and before anyone in the crowd has time to react, you find yourself being ushered into the research area.

Inside you find quite the juxtaposition to what you just saw out in the docking area. The research area is a hive of activity. Scientists and technicians bustle about, focused on their work despite the tension in the air. You navigate through the labyrinthine corridors until you reach Dr. Charles Truman’s private lab where you are greeted by Truman’s assistant, Dr Nora Maxwell-Granger.

“That was a good idea signaling us your intention to try and blend in with the protestors. Obviously, we got your message to the security team.”, Nora comments, completely bypassing a more traditional salutation.

“Thanks, but why do you even have a bunch of protesters just outside your labs?”, you question.

“Apparently, a well funded religious sect thought we were playing god by wanting to move the minds of all those people suffering from Lock-in to crystal matrices. This would somehow strip them from their soul.”, Dr Maxwell-Granger explains.

While Nora was speaking, Dr Truman had also made his way over to the group, “I completely dismiss their arguments as I believe that our souls are an ineffable part of our thoughts and reflected in our actions. Hopefully the Creator finds my attempts to save millions of people on Azure an acceptable offering.” He pauses, and then continues, “Follow me, I want to show you what you’ll be transporting.” You follow him further back in his lab and you see some sort of machine using a laser to etch a green crystal. The crystal glows softly as it spins within the intricate machinery, beams of light dancing around it in a mesmerizing display. Dr. Truman gestures towards the crystal, “This is the culmination of years of research and innovation, the key to unlocking a new era of possibilities.”

“It’s amazing to think that a lifetime of thoughts, memories, and sensations could be captured inside that crystal.”, you muse aloud.

Nora chimes in, “What’s more impressive is to realize that our own memories sometimes grow hazy with age, but this will preserve them in crystal clarity. No more forgetting where you left your keys or when your anniversary is.”

“This sounds like the lead-in to some sort of dystopian future. Robots that never age and have better memory than the humans they were spawned from.”, you respond.

Truman clears his throat, “Our goal is not to replace humanity, but to enhance it. Imagine a society where those suffering from debilitating illnesses or injuries can live on within these crystalline matrices, free from physical limitations. It’s about preserving the essence of who we are and giving individuals a chance to continue their journey in a new form. In this particular case it is to save the millions of people suffering from Lock-in.”

The laser finishes etching the crystal and retracts, revealing a green light on the front of the cabinet. “It appears to be finished,” Dr. Maxwell-Granger announces, carefully placing the crystal onto a hexagonal platform. She then activates an electrostatic barrier around it before placing it inside a metal briefcase. “This is the version we want Dr. Arken to work with, so I’m taking extra precautions in how we package it for transport.”

Dr Truman hands you a data fob, saying, “You’ll need this as well; it contains an explanation of how the data crystals function and schematics for the equipment we used to create it.”

“With the protestors in the docking area, how are we supposed to get back to our ship to get off this station?”, you ask.

“You and your crew have repeatedly shown your resourcefulness, I was hoping you had an idea.”, is Truman’s response.

Your engineer speaks up, “I have an idea, but no one is going to like it and it’s going to require some equipment from this station.”

“Go on.”, you encourage your engineer.

Your engineer tells everyone his idea and you find yourself nodding along as he lays it out.

Sudden blaring alarms pierce the air, and an automated voice echoes through the speakers, warning of a breach in the docking bay and urging all nonessential personnel to evacuate immediately. The message is repeated in multiple languages to ensure everyone understands. Slowly but surely, the bay empties out as protestors and workers alike scramble to get to safety. Some ships initiate emergency launch to disengage from the station, but the bay remains intact. As gravity plates shut down and the handful of remaining people begin floating, you and your team rush out of the labs wearing mag-boots provided by the maintenance crew. Dodging floating objects, you make your way to your own vessel and urgently prepare for an emergency launch as well.

Draw three mission cards.

0 red cards mean that the other ships fire at you for 1d12 damage. You may use shields to offset damage and you gain a 3,000 credit bounty. You do get away.

1 red card means that the other ships fire at you for 1d8 damage. You may use shields to offset damage and you gain a 2,000 credit bounty. You do get away.

2 red cards mean that the other ships fire at you for 1d6 damage. You may use shields to offset damage and you gain a 1,000 credit bounty. You do get away.

3 red cards mean that you successfully get away undetected.

If any successful Smuggler Missions have previously been accomplished you may choose to try and redraw three cards from the Mission’s deck to try and obtain a more favorable outcome. 

The bounty is being offered by the same church that sponsored the protestors and does not require you to gain outlaw status. Add the small crystal matrix token to your Goal card, your next stop is Merv’s Missiles or Arken’s Arsenal.

When you arrive at Merv’s Missiles or Arken’s Arsenal, listen to/read Story 89.