Posted on

Story 93

Hidden Room

As you explore further, you stumble upon a hidden room tucked away in the depths of the factory. Inside, you find a dusty terminal flickering to life as you power it on. Lines of code flash across the screen, revealing fragments of intricate algorithms and complex neural networks.

With bated breath, you realize that this is where the heart of the AI research was conducted. This forgotten corner of the factory holds the key to unlocking the mysteries of HAL’s advanced artificial intelligence systems. As you delve deeper into the terminal, you uncover hidden files detailing the development of groundbreaking neural interfaces and cutting-edge machine learning algorithms.

The more you read, the more you realize the magnitude of the technological achievements made within these walls. It becomes apparent that HAL Industries was light-years ahead of its time, pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible in AI and robotics.

Just as you finish copying over the data that contains the missing components needed for Charles Truman and Dr. Merv Arken’s project, a faint noise startles you from your concentration. You shove the data fob into your pocket. Listening intently the sounds grow louder and more distinct. The whole factory sounds like it is turning on and the computer screen changes to show a glowing red circle. Invisible speakers intone, “Sorry Dave, I can’t allow you to do that.”

You can hear heavy machinery coming towards the door. You tap your comm, “I need a bar tender’s exit.”

“Sorry Dave, you’re not going anywhere.”

As the sounds of heavy machinery grows louder, you also hear the whine of your ship’s engines. Reacting quickly, you drop to the ground as two laser beams blast a hole through the wall, sending debris and dust flying. Without hesitation, you jump up and sprint towards your ship. You dive through the newly created opening into the open air lock, which is still cycling as you frantically tap on your communicator again. “Lay ions, we need to get out of here fast!”

Place the HAL marker on the Trans-Human Project goal card. Your next stop for this goal is the Trans-Human Project in Neo-Vostock.

When you arrive at the Trans-Human Project in the Neo-Vostock sector, listen to/read Story 88.

Posted on

Story 90

Union Negotiations

As your ship approaches the Kiln, you receive a hale. Your comm officer opens the channel and on your screen appears the notorious thick necked bald man.

“Welcome to the Kiln, I’ve been expecting your arrival. Meet me in my private office on the lower deck as soon as you dock.”

As you enter his office, you notice a nice topiary in the corner. You turn to greet your host, but he looks right past you and your crew.

“Welcome, Dr Truman. It’s good to see that your experiment was a success.”

The robotic version of Dr Truman enters the room and shakes his hand, “We’ve spoken before, or at least my biological counterpart and you have, but it’s nice to finally meet in person, or maybe that’s person to robot.”

“Agreed, but I would like to get down to brass tacks and start our negotiations for manufacturing and labor.”

As they start negotiating in earnest, you realize your part is done. Place the union game token on your Goal card for the Trans-Human Project. Earn the fame points from your card and draw three mission cards to see what you get paid for completing this goal.

0 blue mission cards, you earn 5,000 credits

1 blue mission card, you earn 6,000 credits

2 blue mission cards, you earn 7,000 credits

3 blue mission cards, you earn 9,000 credits

Posted on

Story 89

The Chassis

The stars streak past the windows of your ship as you hurtle through the darkness of space towards your destination. After what seems like an eternity, you finally arrive at the research outpost where Dr. Merv Arken is conducting his experiments. The station looms large in front of you, a metallic behemoth with more weapons than a military installation. This is not a likely destination for protestors as Dr. Arken would be quick to gas them all and have his robot minions simply load them into escape pods and hit the eject button.

You guide your ship into the designated docking port, and are met by a group of his robotic minions as you disembark from your ship. They lead you through a series of twisting corridors towards one of Dr. Arken’s labs.

Dr. Arken himself is waiting for you, surrounded by holographic displays and complex machinery. The light from one of the displays glints off of the transparent dome that encases his brain. The eye in the middle of his forehead looks up at you and your crew while his other two eyes stay fixated on whatever he is working on.

A smile creases his face, “Welcome, welcome! I’ve been expecting you. Dr Truman tells me that you have the source code from HAL and that you had the rather harrowing experience obtaining the crystal from the Trans-Human Project.”

“We could exchange war stories with you, but I would rather hear about the robotic chassis you’ve been developing for this project.” you reply.

Dr Arken’s excitement is evident as he steps away from his displays, “This project has been more thrilling than even when I was working on a SARS vaccine. It challenges me to think beyond traditional human limitations and appearance. I quickly realized that if I tried to create something too human-like it would only result in uncanny valley syndrome.”

You can’t help but find it ironic coming from someone with a transparent dome over their brain and part of their nose missing, but you push the thought aside and continue listening.

“So instead, I’ve been working on a robotic body that looks completely robotic. I’ve also taken into account people’s irrational fears of robots taking over, so I’ve placed physical limitations on these bodies to make them more relatable and easy to adjust to. I designed the chassis with an understanding of how the crystal matrix will interface, but now I need to integrate AI from HAL to interpret its encoded memories and sensations.”

Your crew listens intently as Dr. Arken outlines his plans for this integration process. The AI from HAL will act as a bridge between the crystal matrix and the robotic chassis, translating its complex data into actionable commands for the body to execute.

After easily snapping the crystal matrix into place, Dr. Arken begins reviewing the AI code at an impressive speed. He makes a few adjustments and fixes any error flags that appear as he ports the code onto his hardware. After several hours of intense work, a crooked grin spreads across his face. With a final keystroke, the robotic chassis jerks to life, its movements hesitant and uncoordinated at first.

Dr. Arken studies each twitch and tremor of the machine closely. Gradually, the body’s movements become more fluid and natural, responding to the impulses from the crystal matrix with ease.

As the AI from HAL synchronizes with the robotic chassis, a faint hum fills the lab, indicating a seamless connection between the encoded memories and physical actions of the robot. You watch in amazement as it takes its first steps, growing more confident with each passing moment.

The robot turns its attention to Dr. Arken and says in a familiar voice, “Merv, I think congratulations are in order. Our experiment seems to be a success.”

“Thank you, Charles,” replies Dr. Arken with pride. “It looks like your crystal matrix is functioning perfectly.” He then turns to you and your crew. “Allow me to re-introduce you to Dr. Charles Truman, version 2.0.”

“It looks like our next step is to figure out mass production. Let’s talk to a certain bald man on the Kiln” espouses Robot Truman.

Place the robot token on your Goal card. Your next destination is the Kiln.

When you arrive at the Kiln, listen to/read Story 90.

Posted on

Story 88

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.

Posted on

Story 87

The HAL Data

As soon as you arrive on Lunari, you start scouring through all the data archives. However, each one seems to be missing crucial pages of information about the patents and there is no trace of any source code either. You come to the conclusion that your best bet is to locate their old factory and search for answers there instead. However, when you look into the whereabouts of the factory, you discover that it has not been sold or demolished like you expected. Instead, a trust fund has been set up to cover its property taxes indefinitely. This is a new concept to you, but it means that the building still stands.

You arrive at HAL industries and see that the once-bustling factory now stands silent and abandoned. As you cautiously step inside, you are greeted by a wave of dust and debris that dances in the sunlight filtering through the broken windows. The air is thick with the scent of rust and neglect, a stark contrast to the cutting-edge technology that once thrived within these walls.

You make your way through the maze of deserted corridors, passing by remnants of robotic prototypes and discarded circuit boards. It’s clear that this place was once a hub of innovation and progress, but now it lies frozen in time, a relic of a bygone era.

Draw 3 mission cards and if three of them are blue read/listen to Story 93. If less than three of them are blue, keep track of how many you have acquired. You must gain three of them before moving on to Story 93. If you have successfully completed any Research Missions or Detective Missions, you may immediately draw three more cards for each one that you have successfully completed. If need be, next round you may draw three additional cards and add the number of blue colored Mission cards to your total.

Posted on

Story 32

Trans-Human Project, part II

“Now, on Xia Galactic News, our top story focuses on Azure,” announces the news anchor. The scene switches to a crowded hospital ward with numerous patients restrained by medical equipment. “With a population of over 6 billion, Azure was on the brink of disaster until a cure for SARS-39 was discovered. However, the planet now faces a new challenge as nearly five percent of its citizens have developed a condition being referred to as lock-in after exposure to the virus. This new ailment causes irreversible paralysis of all voluntary muscles, though brain scans show that these individuals are still mentally active. Researchers are desperately searching for a solution to this issue.”

The scene then shifts to a researcher in a white lab coat, who explains, “Those affected by lock-in remain fully conscious but unable to move or react to external stimuli.”

As the newsroom segment returns, the anchor mentions, “We’ll be taking a brief pause for our sponsors, but stay tuned to hear the Super Class Glocken scores when we come back from break.”

Before the commercial rolls, you turn off the holo projector. As you ponder why this problem seems specific to Azure, Charles Truman from the Trans-Human Project contacts you through a tight beam communication.

“Based on my current line of work, I may have a potential solution to assist the countless individuals struggling with Lock-in. My research aims to transfer human consciousness into a crystalline matrix and create a mechanical body for it. While my progress in transferring thoughts and memories to the matrix has been promising, I still have years of development left before the matrix can fully integrate with a chassis. In my original timeline, this was not an urgent issue, but circumstances have changed and I must accept that there are others with more experience in high-end robotics. I have reached out to Dr. Merv Arken, who has successfully created various robotic minions, but we both agree that something crucial is missing – an interface that allows the matrix to control the physical actions of the chassis. This task is far more complicated than our animal trials thus far. We need an advanced AI to bridge the gap between the brain’s desires when contained in a crystal matrix and the actions of the chassis being developed by Dr. Arken based on my research. There used to be a company called HAL, which focused on advanced AI for robotics and starships. Unfortunately, they went defunct years ago and their owners and researchers seem to have disappeared. However, we suspect that much of their valuable research is buried in archives on Lunari. We need you to retrieve this data while I work on etching a consciousness onto a crystal matrix. Once you have both the crystal matrix and the AI data, take them to either Merv’s Missiles or Arken’s Arsenal for integration into the chassis. Then, we will need to quickly increase production capacity beyond what Dr. Arken and I are capable of handling alone. This will involve negotiating with a manufacturing union, so we would like you to go to the Kiln and help us facilitate these discussions with a union boss.”

If the active player accepts this task (and yes, they could be any species) hand them a new [Goal] card titled Trans-Human Project for them to track their progress. The first location they need to travel to in order to accomplish this goal is the Mission Point on Lunari.

Upon arriving at the mission Point on Lunari, read/ listen to Story 87.

Posted on

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 news 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 the 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 your status phase.

Posted on

Story 64

It’s called a canine

As soon as you managed to dock with the mine the various miners and their families immediately queued up to start cramming themselves into your airlock. You find that they can come in six at a time this way. As the inner door of the airlock pops open, after the outer door has cycled shut again, you can smell the smoke that has permeated their clothes. The first group is mostly children, apparently they prioritized the kids. The children look a little frightened and you notice that one is carrying a small floppy eared animal that looks injured. You don’t have time to do anything other than herd them into the ship so you can start cycling the airlocks again. Soon you have 22 guests crammed onto your ship. You find someone that looks like they might nominally be in charge of the mining station.

“So what’s the plan from here?”

“The clearly tired and worn out man responds, “I’ve got an engineer and an able bodied boot third in there. They have the EV soft suits on so they can have a little more range of motion, even if soft suits contain less air than the hard suits. They’re going to shut off the O2 reserves so they can suffocate the fire finally and remove the damaged fuse actor. We have a smaller generator that they’re going to set-up and connect to a solar array that is on the surface of our mine. Also, once they can get to the equipment back behind the fuse actor they’ll flush out the carbon monoxide with nitrogen, then change out the air scrubber cartridges and water filters before turning the oxygen reserves back on.”

“How long will all that take?”

“They have it all planned out and expect they’ll need 5 hours. Because everything is always harder than you expect, I think we should give them 6 hours. In the meantime, all of us will be packed in here like cargo. I know this is hard on your ship’s air scrubbers but we are grateful. We all would have died if you hadn’t shown up soon. As is, we lost six people during the initial explosion. The watchstander was by the fuse actor and the family that was birthed in a section with an adjoining wall to the reactor were also caught in the explosion.”

“Is there anything we can help you with?”

“You are already doing so much, but If you can spare any part of your oxygen reserve and if you have a spare energy rod, it would go a long way in our recovery efforts till new supplies and replacement parts can be shipped in.”

You simply respond, “I’ll check our reserves and see what we can do.”

As you’re walking away to check on what supplies you can spare you see a man on one knee talking to the kid that is still carrying the injured animal.

“Son, you probably should have left it on the mine.”

“But Dad, she would have died when they shut off the oxygen. We already lost Uncle Jack, I don’t want to lose his pet too.”

“But son, it’s injured and isn’t likely to recover.”

You decide to join the discussion, “Maybe I can help. What kind of animal is it?”

The kid looks up hopefully, “It’s a canine, and it’s real smart. Uncle Jack was teaching it all kinds of tricks.” With that the kid hands you the animal to see. You carefully take her into your arms and she pushes her nuzzle into the crook of your elbow. Despite all the lacerations and what feels like broken ribs she sighs contentedly while being held by you.

The kid excitedly says, “She likes you.”

“It’s probably my animal magnetism.” Then you continue, “Maybe our auto-doc can help her, but it will probably take a lot more than 6 hours to heal her in one of those.”

“If you can save her, you can keep her. I would miss her but at least her tail would be wagging with excitement again.”

You can see the kid’s dad looks visibly relieved to have this resolved.

You decide to head to the auto-doc and set the canine in there before checking on how much supplies you can spare.

– – – –

A few hours later, you check in at the auto-doc and you see the readings are bad. You can probably keep this canine alive for a while, two maybe three stands, but her injuries are so bad that she can’t possibly recover. You have an idea, but you need to finish helping the mining crew first.

You gain 1 fame point for coming to the rescue of the mining colony, and if you have an energy rod that you choose to give them, gain an additional fame point. You now have an injured animal that is not likely to survive. You have to decide if you want to visit the Trans-Human Project. If you do choose to go that route, you need to be there at the end of three rounds from now. If you get there in time, read/listen to Story 65.

Posted on

Story 25

Mining accident

The emergency function on every ships’ comm system clicks on, “Mayday, mayday, mayday. Our mining colony has just had a near catastrophic event with an unexpected explosion that has taken out our main fusion reactor and depleted much of our air. We are running on battery back-ups and due to damage, we don’t have a way of sealing off the fire from the explosion. We’re not sure what will kill us first, lack of oxygen, carbon monoxide poisoning, or the slow loss of temperature as our mine will eventually want to reach the ambient temperature of the space surrounding us. We estimate that we have about a stand till we will all die. If a ship can provide temporary refuge for our small crew we could correct a lot of problems very quickly, and buy ourselves some time till we get new supplies and equipment sent. Our mining operation does house families, so children are also in danger. Please help.”

Any ship that can reach the mission point for the affected mine within the next round could try to save these people.

Roll a d4 to determine the affected mine:

1-2 = Red Gulch [Asteroid]
3-4 = Outpost 338 [Asteroid]

If anyone arrives at the affected mining point on time, please read/listen to Story 64.

Posted on

Story 24

Trans-Human Project, part I

Everyone receives an incoming comm, “This is Dr Charles Truman making a broad general request to the spacer community. I’m doing research on transferring memories to a crystal matrix and I’m looking for animal test subjects. These test subjects need to meet three criteria to meet both my research needs and to make a reasonable attempt at ensuring that this portion of the project is managed in an ethical manner. First, these animals need to be generally friendly towards humans and other sentient beings. This would most likely make them a pet. Second, these animals need to have had something, be it accident or genetic in nature, that has caused them to be in a position of imminent demise that is not likely to be reversible. Lastly, these animals must have brain scans and readings that show no cognitive decline. There is no financial reward for this. The pay off is that the creature will have its memories and thoughts retained and the help you’ll be providing for my research on the Trans-Human Project.

If you come across an animal that meets these criteria, please bring it to my research lab at Neo Vostock. Thank you.”

Place the Trans-Human Project token on the mission point on the Neo Vostock [Ice Asteroid] Sector. The Mission Point is still accessible and functions as normal for various Missions.