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Story 63

Did he survive?

Dr. Arken steps out of his bio lab looking exhausted while being escorted by two of his robot minions.

“So Doc, how did it go?”

“Your friend survived but to call it difficult would be an understatement. Your officer will likely be back to his pre-Volomin attitude in less than a stand. As soon as he wakes up in recovery my minions can help him board your ship.”

Gain 2 Fame Points for taking extreme measures to save one of your own crew members. You may take any actions you choose this round. 

If you borrowed money for this procedure, keep track of how much you borrowed and after this round you will have three rounds to pay Merv Arken back, or there will be a bounty equivalent to what you borrowed and the Rep Omen will also try to obtain the bounty.

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Story 62

Experimental Surgery

As you approach the space lab, you send Dr Arken a hail. When he accepts, you give him the rundown of what your comm officer’s situation is. He invites you to dock and lets you know that some of his robot minions will escort you to his bio lab.

After you dock and disembark from the ship, the crew, accompanied by Merv Arken’s robot minions, wend their way to the bio lab. The air nearly hums with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Dr. Arken stands at the entrance, wearing a white lab coat stained with unidentifiable substances. His third eye in the middle of his forehead is moving back and forth rapidly as if reading something, and the viscous liquid in the dome containing his electrobrain is churning more rapidly then even when you hailed him. He greets the crew with a crooked smile and gestures for them to enter.

The bio lab is a maze of advanced medical equipment, surrounded by screens displaying complex data and diagrams. Dr. Arken takes a seat at his workstation, typing furiously on the keyboard while muttering to himself.

“So let me get this straight. You want me to create a procedure for removing highly specialized nanobots that can regularly cross the blood brain barrier, and because there are no available animal subjects, the first time I attempt this will be on a sentient being.”

You blink a couple of times, “Well, when you put it like that, it does sound ridiculous, but,” you continue, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

“As long as you recognize this for the long shot that it is, then I’ll do it, but I’m asking for 10,000 credits, regardless of the final outcome.”

You long blink at him. There are space vessels that cost less, but you know this is the best course of action.

Dr Arken continues, “If you don’t have the full sum immediately available, I can give you three stands after the procedure to finish procuring the funds. If, however, you don’t manage to pay me back, I’ll put a bounty on your collective heads so large that even the bald man might set the Rep Omen on you.

What do you do?

  • Do you decide the cost is too great and just walk your comm officer out an airlock (Story 59)?
  • Do you try to get either black market drugs (Story 60) or counterfeit drugs (Story 61)?
  • Do you decide to follow through with this experimental procedure? , wait till the beginning of next round, then read/listen to Story 63?
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Story 61

Counterfeiters

Upon landing on Kei, it hardly takes any time to find a group selling counterfeit Volomin. Soon you and your Comm officer find yourselves in a conference room. Sitting across from you is a salesman in nice business attire. 

“We always knew that the guys we had performing corporate espionage at STARKe pharmaceuticals would pay off. They gave us detailed information on how STARKe created their various nanoparticles and now we use a very similar means for creating them here. We are set to be a long term supplier of Volomin; however, it will always have a limited market as there are no new Volomin patients. We are set to sell you enough drug that every two stands costs 1,000 credits or a full stanyear for 5,000 credits.”

You speak up, “That seems a little higher than I expected.”

“This is a high end market, the only counter offer I would be allowed to provide is that you have your comm officer come work for us. These guys on Volomin are always happy and we build it into their contract that as long as they work as our employees part of their pay is specifically used to provide them with Volomin.”

If you buy some Volomin, keep track of how much time you have till your comm officer runs out of Volomin. This does not preclude you from making a one time purchase at Smuggler’s Den (Story 60), future purchases here, or eventual surgery with Merv Arken (Story 62).

If you choose to let your comm officer become an employee of this drug cartel, you may choose to do so and this story arc ends here.

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Story 60

Black Market Drugs

“All the people on this stuff seem kind of creepy. Always happy and smiling even when they walk into a room and see this lot.” He waves his hand at all the guys he’s got working for him. All of them have tattoos, loose clothing, various blades, and a whole lot of firearms. “I’ll be glad when we’re done selling out of this stuff. I can sell you 3 stands worth for 1,000 credits, 6 stands for 2,000 credits, and well you can do the math from there. There’s a lot of demand for this stuff, and once it’s gone we won’t be getting anymore since STARKe went belly up.”

You can tell by his disinterested demeanor that he is not looking to negotiate. This is clearly a take it or leave it scenario. Purchase as much or as little Volomin as you want/can afford and keep track of how much time you have till your comm officer runs out of Volomin.

You can still try to get counterfeit Volomin from Kei (Story 61) or have experimental surgery performed by Merv Arken (Story 62).

If you run out of Volomin for your comm officer, listen to/read Story 59.

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Story 59

The Drift System’s Freezer

As he is bleeding and convulsing, you have a more than reasonable fear of becoming a host to his nanobots. You put on one of the bulky hard suits and you have to override the ship’s safeties to eject your comm officer out the airlock.

For failing to protect your own crew you lose a fame point, and you are more than a little sad at the loss.

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Story 58

Bankruptcy

In a move that has sent shock waves across the various stock markets throughout the Drift System, STARKe Pharmaceuticals has declared bankruptcy after numerous lawsuits were filed against them related to two drugs that they’ve been developing, Zylol and Volomin. 

Effective immediately, they are ceasing production of all their medications and laying off tens of thousands of employees.

As you read this article on your tablet, you suddenly realize the potentially catastrophic results this could have on your comm officer. You better talk to him about this and weigh what your options are.

Just as you are getting ready to set your tablet down, your comm officer comes strolling into the galley.

“Morning Captain, is there any coffee on?”

You look up from the article, still processing the dire news. You glance at your comm officer, noticing the carefree expression on his face, unaware of the impending crisis.

“Morning, Lieutenant,” you reply with a forced smile. “There’s coffee in the pot, help yourself.”

The comm officer pours himself a cup and joins the Captain at the table. Sensing something off in the Captain’s demeanor, he furrows his brow and asks, “Is everything alright? You seem a bit… preoccupied.”

You hesitate for a moment before deciding to share the news with your officer. You hand over your tablet, pointing to the article about STARKe Pharmaceuticals’ bankruptcy.

As he reads through the article, his eyes widen with realization. He sets down his coffee abruptly. “This is bad,” he mutters under his breath. “The craziest part is that the Volomin has been working so well for me, that even this doesn’t seem to get me down despite the dire implications.”

“How dire are the implications?”, you ask.

“Did you see any of the commercials promoting this therapy?”

You simply nod in the affirmative.

“Well, at the end of all the commercials, they always have someone reading very rapidly all the potential side effects. The last thing it says is, ‘and in extremely rare cases… death.’ Apparently, this occurs when patients start skipping doses. The nanobots that have been injected can’t be removed and they are on the hunt for the nanoparticles contained in Volomin. In another three stands, when I run out of Volomin, the nanoparticles are going to start burrowing into various tissues and organs throughout my body trying to find those nanoparticles that are no longer there.”

“Let’s gather the rest of the crew and see what options we have.”

You and your comm officer quickly locate the rest of the crew and explain the situation to them. The atmosphere in the room becomes tense as everyone absorbs the magnitude of the crisis. Thoughts race through your mind as you try to consider what options are available.

Your comm officer speaks up, “If I die, you should probably just space me to ensure that the nanobots don’t try to find a new host.”

“I’m glad you want to protect the rest of us, but I want some options that don’t require you to end up on the wrong end of an air lock.”, is your response.

Your navigator speaks up, “Could the auto-doc remove the nanobots?”

Your comm officer responds, “Unfortunately, no. Even if we trusted the auto-doc for hemoperfusion, which I don’t, it wouldn’t be able to identify the nanobots.”

Your engineer speaks up, “So the auto-doc couldn’t do it, but how about a surgeon or a hematologist?”

You speak up, “These nanobots are going to be difficult to get at as they spend much of their time in the brain. A surgeon that would try this would also have to be a mad scientist to even attempt to pull this off.”

“So Merv Arken.”, is your engineer’s response.

“Maybe, what are some other options?”

Your navigator snaps his fingers, “When they shut down they must have had some Volomin in production, and I bet credits to croissants that those have made their way to Smuggler’s Den.”

This time your first officer speaks up, “Kei.”

“Go on.”

“The planet Kei is the largest source of counterfeit drugs in the Drift System. If they haven’t been making it already, they will be now.”

The comm officer speaks up, “I do like being on Volomin, but black market and counterfeit drugs sound expensive.”

Your engineer pipes up, “It probably will be expensive, but hiring a mad scientist to perform experimental surgery is probably the opposite of cheap.”

Your options seem to be:

  • Sending your comm officer on a space walk without an EV suit if you can’t help him before he runs out of Volomin. After three more rounds if there is no Volomin or surgeries performed, listen to/read Story 59.
  • Going to Smuggler’s Den to negotiate for some black market drugs. If you travel to Smuggler’s Den, listen to/read Story 60.
  • Visiting Kei to get some counterfeit Volomin, which is also likely a temporary fix, but is less likely to run out of supply compared to the black market. If you go to Kei, listen to/read Story 61.
  • Figuring out how to possibly come up with the necessary credits to see if Merv Arken will try and operate on your comm officer. If you go to Merv’s Missiles or Arken’s Arsenal, listen to/read Story 62.
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Story 23

Volomin

While docked in a starport, your usually grumpy comm officer seemed excited to go stretch his legs this morning. While grabbing some coffee from your galley you turn on the holo projector to catch some local news.

“…but despite the protest being broken up by the police, no major injuries were reported. In other news STARKe Pharmaceuticals, one of our sponsors, is running a large scale study on a new medication they’re developing called Volomin. Let’s take a moment and watch the ad they’ve created before interviewing one of the lead researchers.”

The projection fades out and cuts to a commercial with two women at a restaurant. The first woman says, “So Joe just got a promotion and the kids are doing good in school, why do you look so wistful?”

Woman two looks down at her plate while pushing around some noodles with a fork. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I just have a hard time being happy.”

A business man arrives at the table with a tweed jacket and perfectly white teeth, “Do you have unexplained periods of depression, general unhappiness, space affective disorder, or other common mood disorders. Volomin could be the answer. Ask your doctor if you are eligible for the current Volomin trial. Volomin from STARKe Pharmaceuticals. Making you better than you really are.”

The scenes cuts away to show the woman having fun with children at a playground while a handsome man, presumably her husband, looks on and a rapid speaking voice over starts talking, “Possible side effects may include depression, general discomfort, headaches, blurred or distorted vision, loss of balance, dry mouth, numbness, periodontal disease, lockjaw, tremors, heart palpitations, varicose veins, liver damage, kidney failure, loss of taste, loss of smell, loss of sight, early Alzheimer’s, cardiac arrest, and in extremely rare cases… death. Volomin. Making you better than you really are.”

The commercial fades out and the news studio reappears with a news anchor and a gentleman in a lab coat. 

“So Dr Spiel, how does Volomin work?”

“So initially you would be injected, most likely by your PCP, with the Volomin Nanobots, but that is a one time procedure. And then you would need to take a once a day capsule simply called Volomin. The Volomin contains a special nanoparticle that, on its own, has a hard time crossing the blood brain barrier and finding the specific receptors it needs to attach to. The nanobots from the one time injection identify our specially patented nanoparticle once it is absorbed from your GI tract into your bloodstream to carry it across the BBB and deposit it at the appropriate receptors, and if the nanobots find other chemicals associated with negative emotions in those positions it removes them to give preference to our new nanoparticles.”

The anchor chimes in, “That sounds fascinating and a little scary manipulating neurochemicals.”

“Nonsense, people manipulate their neurochemistry all the time, like when they eat chocolate…”

You turn off the holo vid projector while leaving the galley and think to yourself, ‘Who would try such a thing, especially while it is still in trial?’.

You go about the rest of your day taking care of ship business. That evening there’s a knock at your hull door. You check your video feed and see it’s your comm officer returned. You pop the hatch and he strolls in while whistling a jaunty little song. You think to yourself, ‘I didn’t even know that he could whistle.’

“So what’s up that you’re in such a good mood?”, you ask with a smile.

“I just started a trial for Volomin to try and improve my mood. I really thought that I had become such a downer that it would just be a matter of time till you would want to space me.”

“You haven’t been that bad, but isn’t that drug still in trials? How are you going to get additional fills while we gallivant around the Drift System?”

Your comm officer excitedly explains, “They are looking to gain approval for Space Affective Disorder, which means they need studies in spacers as well. They’ve given me 6 stands worth of the medication with the expectation that it should get general approval for several mood disorders in the next 2-3 stands and that then gives them time to get it distributed to various planets throughout the Drift System before I run out. In the meantime they’ve contracted with various labs to do blood draws whenever we land on a planet.”

“This is the most up beat I’ve ever seen you, so I hope it all works out like you hope.”

In 3 rounds read/listen to Story 58