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Story 56

The Hive

Stretching in all directions, as far as you can see through your viewport, is an irregular brown and gray surface. The surface of this structure is a several kilometer thick rock with various ore deposits. Your comm system is filled with buzzing noise on all channels. It sounds like the same buzzing you heard on the comms during the Great Reset. Most disturbing is what your sensors see inside this giant structure. It’s a honeycombed structure with giant insects and a space gate. Because of the thickness of [The Hive] walls, the only way in is through the Hive Gate. 

You know this can not be good.

 Space wasps – the active player will place [The Hive] sector with the Hive Queen and 2 drone insects. Immediately roll a d4 to add that many more drone insects and distribute them to the various gates using a d6 for each drone. Once all the spaces that a ship could occupy when entering a gate is covered by drones, the gate becomes impassable. Also, once a gate is full if another drone is to be added, simply move to the next gate in the list that has an open position.

  1. Deltus Gate
  2. Expedior Gate
  3. Lacerta Gare
  4. Samara Gate
  5. Thenēr Gate
  6. Tigris Gate – The insects can somehow use the Tigris Gate even if it is not retethered.

Each drone can take 10 damage, its chitinous body functions as a d6 shield, and it can do d8 damage to a ship it shares adjacency with.  An individual drone will seek vengeance on anyone that attacks it, or the Hive Queen, flying up to 8 spaces and never going more than 1 sector away from a gate.

The Hive Queen can take 20 damage, her chitin provides d8 shielding, and she can do d12 damage to a ship she shares adjacency with. The Hive Queen can move 6 spaces, but does not leave [The Hive]. If the queen is killed, whomever made the kill shot will be hunted by all remaining drones.

There is a set maximum of 16 drones and one Hive Queen. When any of them are destroyed they do not respawn. The chitin on their bodies has a high metal alloy content and when they are killed they will also cause debris fields, if the optional debris field when ships are destroyed rule has been applied.

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Story 55

Exotic Exhibits, Conclusion

As you enter the old man’s office, you notice a large aquarium tank that has been added. His back is to you as he is looking intensely at some type of turtle that is nearly half a meter long with large claws and green algae growing on top of its head and shell. It also has bright, almost luminescent, blue eyes.

“I am glad that the rumors of your demise have been greatly exaggerated. Come look at this amazing specimen.”

You move alongside the old man, “This remarkable fellow can stay underwater for three days.”

“How does he do that?”, you inquire.

“Why don’t you give me your best guess, first”

“Does the algae growing on him help him to filter oxygen out of the water?”

“Excellent guess! Wrong, but excellent guess. This guy actually has bimodal respiration and can breathe through his cloaca when under water! It’s an amazing adaptation. This creature probably went extinct more than half a millenia ago, and thanks to your willingness to retrieve this guy’s genetic material on the Aether Processing Station here he is living and breathing once more.”

“Apparently through his genitals.”, you quip.

“I have wired the rest of the money to you, and know that your fame for helping us acquire so many rare, and even extinct, species will give you renown within certain segments of societies for generations to come.”

Receive the credits promised to your ship and crew along with 3 fame points.

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Story 54

Exotic Exhibits, part Three

As you walk into the old man’s office you find him holding a bottle of what looks like infant formula in one hand and cradled in his opposite arm is something that looks almost like a child’s stuffed play thing with black and white white fur. It probably weighs about 250 grams and is approximately 20 centimeters long.

“It is thanks to your efforts that we have this wonderful little guy here, but don’t let his tiny size fool you. When he’s fully grown this Panda of Old Strayos will probably be over 1.8 meters long and weigh a good 150 kilograms. Upon docking I wired the credits to you for your latest effort as the canisters pinged me with data about what they contained. Truly this is going to be marvelous. I am sure your notoriety will continue to grow as word of these new displays attract attention.  

However, the next task I would request of you, involves sending you someplace a little more difficult and potentially hostile, Ularos IX. They have kept genetic samples of fauna from all the worlds they have conquered. Eight of those planets are from outside our very drift system and have the potential to be incredibly diverse. Depending on how many samples you can bring me, I will pay you between 6,000 and 11,000 credits.” He sets down the formula bottle and pulls another shaving cream canister out of a drawer and sets it on his desk. “So are you up for one last mission?”

No, then walk away and gain a fame point for all that you’ve done to this point.

Yes, then travel to the mission point on Ularos IX and listen/read Story 51. Also, the plan that you and your crew come up with will require that your ship be capable of launching missiles and that you pay 1,000 credits to the chop shop on the Kiln to move your transponder ID over to one of your missiles.

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Story 53

A day at the Zhian Zoo

Your first officer starts a conversation, “When I was a kid and visited the zoo with my Dad, one of the things that stood out to me was the compactness of each animal’s habitat. At the time, I spent a majority of my time on a small scout ship out in the deep dark, so I reasoned that they probably adjusted to their confined space just like I did. But this,” says your first officer while motioning to the large sprawling exhibits, “makes me rethink that assessment.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. These animals seem so at ease in these large spaces with trees and open sky. It could take a couple of days to thoroughly check out all the exhibits.” You say this while taking another photo, tagging it and sharing it with the rest of your crew.

Meanwhile, you and your crew have been quite the interesting exhibit for many of the Zhians, as most of them have never seen a human in real life before. A couple of the more bold Zhians even asked if they could pose for a photo with you.

“Do you think we have enough photos yet?”, your first officer asks while looking at the newest picture you just sent.

“Probably, we should find a public dining area and try some local grub.”

“This is a zoo, it’s going to be this planet’s equivalent to fries and chicken nuggets.”

“I’m ok with that. I’m not sure I’m ready to be all that adventurous.”

“Says the mighty space explorer.”, your first officer quips.

– – – –

Upon finding a table at the zoo’s cafeteria, you send the geotagged photos to the small drone that you had carefully stashed behind some bushes when no one was near you. Your engineer had taken the time to mod it so it looked like the drones the zoo uses for giving the animals injections and drawing blood samples. 

The drone goes about its mission without arousing too much suspicion. At the end of its circuit through the zoo it unloads the shaving cream canister and hides it in the same bushes where you had originally stashed the drone. As a final act, the drone flies out over an unpopulated area where it initiates a small explosion just large enough to destroy itself. The explosion was small enough that it didn’t attract any attention at all.

You recover the canister on your way back through. Once you return to the Space Zoo you will receive another ([d4]+2)x1,000 credits for the DNA samples that you gathered in addition to what you will have earned for the DNA gathered on the Aether Processing Station.

When you return to the Space Zoo, listen/read Story 54.

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Story 52

These guys are cold blooded

Once you and your crew dock and go through the necessary decontamination process, including eliminating various scents, you are given permission to take your relic to the reliquary. You load it up on your grav-sled and make your way across the station. Now is the opportunity to check and see if your engineer’s environmental hack works. 

Before arriving, you had the opportunity to learn that the Zhian are actually a cold blooded species and that is part of why their space station always seems a little warmer than other space stations you’ve been to. You also learned that the skin of the Zhian is not good at identifying temperature changes and that they heavily rely on their readouts. Your engineer came up with a plan to override the environmental controls only in the reliquary and drop it down to 9° Celsius; just cool enough to make whomever is in the reliquary extremely sluggish and your crew just a little cool. Your engineer is supposed to initiate his hack as soon as you enter that part of the station.

Upon arriving in the reliquary you are greeted by an older Zhian woman in a lab coat. “I don’t visit the Aether except a couple of times a stanyear, so it is quite fortuitous that it is during one of my visits that you brought a relic.” She gives you a toothy grin that you’re sure was supposed to be friendly, but all those long jagged teeth are a little unnerving.

“You don’t normally work here?”

“A lot of my people don’t care for the vacuum of space, including me. We have several different areas of expertise that come up here occasionally to collect research or check in on a project. Believe it or not, I’m actually a virologist so I usually sift through these relics looking for DNA and RNA strands from microscopic organisms when I come up here. I’ve really learned a lot of fascinating things by doing so.”

You offer her a lopsided grin of your own. “I was hoping we could get the 2 credit tour of the reliquary while we’re here.”

“I might not come here too often, but I think I can manage to explain this place. I doubt many of the other humans that have come here have ever asked for a tour. I approve of your scientific curiosity.”

There was a lot more to see in the reliquary than you expected and then there came a point where your tour guide suddenly shifted down a gear. She never stopped explaining things but she was definitely moving a lot slower. You glanced at your nav officer and he made his way back to the area in the reliquary where a lot of animal DNA was stored. As soon as the DNA was obtained your engineer started raising the temperature back to 25° Celsius. By the end of the tour the Zhian scientist was back to her animated self.

“I don’t know what happened to me back there. I must be getting hungry; I did work right through my lunch break giving the tour. Oh, let me ping your ship with a couple of tokens so you can visit our planet sometime or, if your vessel is small enough, use our gate.”

You receive the typical 1 fame point and 2 Zhian tokens for delivering a relic to the Aether processing station. Once you return to the Space Zoo you will receive ([d4]+2)x1,000 credits for the DNA samples that you gathered. Your next stop should be the Zhian Prime Zoo located at the mission point on Zhian Prime.

When you reach the mission point on Zhian Prime, listen/read Story 53.

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Story 51

From a different solar system

You realized long before you arrived that another puppet show wasn’t going to be enough. You needed something completely different to appeal to the Ilex, hence your willingness to mislead them about some unique device you would be willing to sell them for the right price. You have told them that you have a means for them to slip through a specific planetary shield with no resistance. They have agreed to the meeting in their military science building, which is also the same building where they house a lab with the genetic materials of animals they considered particularly hostile.

To prepare for this excursion, you made your whole crew follow the same protocols as if they were preparing to visit with the Zhian. Special soaps and detergents were used to eliminate scents, special clothing was made on your ship’s fabricator utilizing odorless polymers, and everyone had to force down bland diets that wouldn’t permeate your pores or make you gassy. The Ilex do not require such things, but you were trying to minimize your scent trails and just pretend that you thought they were culturally sensitive to odors like the Zhian. You did, once again, make your navigator not shave for a couple of days just in case anyone questions why he has a can of shaving cream in with his scanners and various tools. You are ushered into the conference room 

“So humans, our engineers are dubious of your claims. What type of demonstration have you prepared to convince us of such a notion?”, declares one of the Ilex sitting opposite of you at the conference table.

Your engineer speaks up, “It involves knowing that planet’s specific shield modulation and wrapping your ships in a specially engineered conductive mesh to cancel out the shield’s effect by being able to match the shield’s modulation. The complicated part…”

You raise your hand to slow your engineer down, “We figured you would have some questions about the veracity of our claims, why we would be willing to sell it to your people, and the actual cost for both the technology and the ability for you to manufacture it here on Ularos IX. Our engineer and I have a three point presentation along with computer simulations followed by a live demonstration using our own ship.”

As the lights begin to dim for the presentation, your navigator leans in close to one of the Ilex, “I’ve already seen this presentation, do you have a restroom I could use?”

The next forty five minutes passed with a very impressive looking, if scientifically suspect, presentation. Somewhere along the way, your navigator made it back alright despite what must have been an uncomfortable crawl through the ventilation system from the restroom to the cryolab.

“I know your team still has its doubts; that’s why we want to provide an actual demonstration. We are so confident in our work, we’re going to perform it in our own ship; after which I think we’ll be ready to negotiate price for this technology. Let me send you our ship’s transponder ID so you can easily track us.”

– – – –

As they monitor your ship, the Ilex see your transponder picking up a lot of velocity heading towards the gate while keeping your ship extremely close to the planetary shields and then they see your transponder make a sudden and rapid shift going back 180 back towards their military science building and suddenly there is an explosion against the shield that they can actually see with their own eyes. The one Ilex just looks at one of his senior officers and remarks, “I told you the science on that shield idea was bad.”

– – – –

“Luckily they monitor inbound traffic to the planet and don’t really worry about outbound traffic.”

Your first officer speaks up, “You have to admit that was pretty crazy hoping they would track the transponder ID and not notice that there was still a whole ship left back by the shield entrance.”

“I was flying close to the shields, making it very difficult to monitor us.”, your navigator responds.

“Besides,” your engineer jumps into the conversation, “it looks like this whole crazy scheme actually worked.”

You smile at everyone, “Well done, let’s get that canister back to the Space Zoo.”

The ship is just outside of the shield gate, and you had the wherewithal to fuel up the ship before taking off. When you return to the Space Zoo, listen/read Story 55.

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Story 50

Exotic Exhibits, part Two

“If all things go as planned for the Strayons, many of these creatures will one day be allowed to populate New Strayos but in the meantime, we can start allowing them to re-emerge into the land of the living right here in this space zoo.”, states your white bearded benefactor as he hands you the money and you earn a fame point.

“So you mentioned that this consisted of three jobs, what is the next job that you have in mind?”

“Wonderful! Wonderful! I’m so glad that you are ready to take the next job. This one will be a little more complicated but the payout will be higher as well. There are two places for the Zhian that I want you to visit. It’s believed that their reliquary contains some ancient DNA from the dead worlds and then if you could find a way into their zoo on their planet and sneak a few samples of some of their more exotic species. On the Aether Processing Station, you may want to take them a relic so that you and your crew gain access to the Reliquary. After that they should hand you a Zhian token making it possible to visit Zhian Prime and visit one of their zoos. Once again, each of these canisters will be stable for three stands once they are turned on.”

This time, the old gray bearded man offers you two shaving cream canisters.

If you accept the job, read/listen to Story 52 once you’ve obtained a relic and docked with the Aether Processing Station.

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So I recently met a dragon while camping.

 

We ended up having a fireside chat. After awhile I had to admit to him that the one thing more amazing than a talking dragon is a spelling bee. He gave me a smouldering look, but eventually he cooled off. He told me that he was so hungry this morning but had to wait to eat because of a dental appointment. I asked him what he ate afterwards and he told me, “the Dentist.”

Continue reading So I recently met a dragon while camping.

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Story 26

Aeon

You’ve looked at a lot of star charts before and you’re a pretty good student of history. You are nearly positive that you’ve seen a picture of that planet before and it wasn’t anywhere near the Drift System. This planet is completely surrounded by a shield without an entrance and your scanners do not pick up any kind of industrialization other than a shield generator and a data beacon.

The space station orbiting this planet is of an unfamiliar design, but you have an incoming hail.

“This is Aeon Station orbiting Planet 0. We would like to invite you to dock so we can properly introduce ourselves to you. We could even tractor you into our docking bay if you would like.”

Do you accept the offer and dock with Aeon Station.

  • If you do, read/listen to Story 66.
  • If you don’t continue with the rest of your turn and never learn about their offer.
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Story 65

Eep opp ork ah-ah

As you enter a lab, you notice a bookish looking man in a lab coat. He looks up and sees you carefully carrying the animal. “This must be the canine you told me about. I just finished looking over the brain scans that the auto-doc took and I think she is a perfect candidate. I think we should give this a try.”

“Try?”, you manage to ask as a one word question.

“This is the first round of animal testing, so I really can’t make any guarantees.”

Another person in the lab speaks up,”The procedure that Dr Truman proposed is brilliant and I’ve built in every safety precaution I can think of, but we asked for terminal animals just in case it doesn’t go like we expected.”

You recognize that they are simply trying to be honest and accurate. You glance at the ID badge on the other person’s lab coat and it reads Dr Nora Maxwell-Granger.

“Thank you doctors, I’ve just become very attached to her since she has been on board my ship.”

Dr. Truman speaks up, “Well, the good thing is that if this goes like we plan, she can go back out into space with you.”

“How’s that?”

“The crystal matrix is only one part of this project. We have several other members that have been tasked with the challenge of creating a robotic chassis that the crystal matrix can go in. A lot of their work and research has been in writing an interface between the crystal matrix and their physical hardware. They’ve spent the past stand modifying their work to function with your canine companion. Since she will still have her memories and has clearly bonded with you, we want to send her back out with you. Her chassis is programmed to do a large data dump every time you fly past a data beacon at any of the various Mission Points so we can get regular updates on her.”

“That sounds great Doc! Let’s try and save her”

– – – –

Quite a few hours pass as you nervously wait to find out how things are going. Doctor Maxwell-Granger finally emerges and is beaming. “Things went great! Far better than we expected. Dr Truman wants to introduce you to K-9.”

Dr. Truman and a robotic canine come out of the lab, and when the robot emerges it rushes up to you with its rear and its tail wagging back and forth in excitement.

Despite the mechanical form, you reach down and pet her.

K-9 does something you’ve never heard her do before, instead of barking she says, “Eep opp ork ah-ah.”

You look at her and repeat the sounds, “Eep opp ork ah-ah.”

Again K-9 says, “Eep opp ork ah-ah.”

Nora speaks up, “I think it means, ‘I love you’”

K-9 is now part of your crew and you have earned 1 fame point. She does not take up significant space on your ship, and if you get in a bind you could drain her internal energy cell similarly to an energy rod. Unfortunately, it would cause her to shut down until recharged either on a planet or from an energy rod. Recharging her on a planet is a free action during you status phase.