Igloo on a comet

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We’ve had a couple of weeks off from our Traveller game due to holidays and work, so we had to do a bit of a recap to remind ourselves where things where. I’d wanted to ensure that the entire group was around for this, for reasons that may become clear to anyone who has read the Deepnight Legacy adventure, from which I’m taking some plot points. In the previous session, the crew had jumped into the Anundarluu nebula to investigate the comet DSB-7483 that was the source of the infection that had taken out the Deepnight Endeavour.

One of my players started off by mentioning that he’d run the maths on the ‘whale song’ that they had heard whilst in jump space, and after taking into account their velocity whilst in Jump, worked out what type of stellar mass would generate gravitational waves that would be shifted to cause such an effect.

I do love my players sometimes (Jump space doesn’t quite ‘work like that’, but it was an interesting result).

There were two cometary bodies that they had come to investigate, a main body which was about 700km across, and a much smaller 20km diameter companion (DSB-7483/2), both tidally locked to each other. The main body had icy ‘fingers’ growing up from the surface towards the companion.

Relative height map of cometary bodies

Though the fingers had been seen before, they now seemed significantly longer. There were two ships down on the main body – one which was identified as the Widdershin’s Explorer, the original scout ship from Deepnight Endeavour, and the second was of an unusual alien design – a mirrored hull consisting of three spheres connected by tubes which Dr Juuma Rusasa recognised as being similar to some other ships from the Ancients period.

On the smaller body, there was some sort of construction near the ‘underside’ facing the main body. Having modelled the objects in Blender, it was possible to show the players a 3D model so they could see all sides of the binary pair.

There was a fair amount of discussion about how best to go about exploring the two bodies – both between the players, and also with the NPCs. Previously, I had tried to prepare some simple personalities for the NPC crew of the scout ship I Mean It This Time, so that I could play them consistently, and hopefully make it easier for me to be a bit more forceful with them in discussions, rather than having them just sitting in the background. So I wrote up the following notes on the crew:

Captain Sidgamda Niaghuvi (Captain/Pilot)
Experienced, tries to give the impression that he’s seen it all before. Generally calm under pressure, but secretly gets really excited about strange stuff. His crew understand his passion (especially Juuma).
Speech: A calm, reasoned voice.

Dr Juuma Rusasa (Scientist/Xenobiologist)
Tends to be passionate and excitable. She always wants to go in and have a look at things, though isn’t foolhardy about it. Is very deeply emotionally involved with both Sidgamda and Emam, the three have been together the longest.
Speech: Often excited, talks quickly.

Dr Emam Nekuna (Scientist/Physicist/Computers)
Tends to have a high opinion of himself, which is normally correct. Tends to be the most cautious of them all, and can be selfish. However, has reasonable charisma to hide it. Has relations with Juuma and Maia, not so much the others. Likes to wind up Dukidar, which does piss of Juuma.
Speech: Slightly posh, tends to talk up his skills. Tries to be a charmer.

Dukidar Rinidba (Engineer)
Joined a couple of years ago and the youngest member, he has a relationship with most of the rest of the crew except for Emam. Mostly interested in Maia though – probably because she’s nearest his age. Dislikes Emam, and avoids parties when he gets involved.
Speech: Tends to be quiet, only speaks up when he’s certain.

Maia Arrich (Mechanic/EVA)
Most recent member, she gets on well with Emam and Dukidar and has a close relationship with both, and really wishes the two would get on. She is attentive to others, but really likes being “outside” and by herself.
Speech: Perky goth, often cheerful. Can quickly switch to “I’m working” mode though.

Some of the above I think I managed to get across – and the players are already treating Dr Nekuna as if he was Baltar from Battlestar Galactica, so his various suggestions that would leave him on board whilst others went down to do the dangerous work was quickly noticed.

After they did life scans of the bodies, I put it to the player running the crew’s medic whether or not life sensors would detect people in cold sleep. She decided not, so their life scans didn’t pick up anything on the surface except for some ‘indeterminate’ results due to large amounts of organic matter (organic as in carbon compounds, not living necessarily living things).

There was reasonable hesitation about whether to go down and explore, but it was decided that if they wanted to get some actual data, then they’d need to. Simply flying a probe around to pick up any samples in orbit wasn’t going to get them enough information. They decided that Khadashi, Maia, Alfred and Shinzaro were going to go down to the smaller body first and investigate what was on the surface there. It seemed the safe of the two options.

Alfred tried a Psi scan, and didn’t pick up much except for a uneasy feeling about the smaller object.

So the next day the It’s A Sex Thing got to within 10km of the small body, and the four of them did an EVA excursion out to it (the gravity on both bodies is so tiny, that the zero-g thrusters on their suits is enough to get around). The construction is an igloo, about five metres in diameter, with some form of metallic airlock fitted to it. The ground around looks like it has been used to dig up material to build the walls from.

They took samples from the untouched surface and the outside of the igloo itself, and determined that there was no detectable signs of biological matter from the entity here. It also seemed that the loose snow from the surface of the body had been melted and compacted , probably with some sort of plasma torch – similar to what they had brought down with them. The obvious conclusion was that this had been built by the crew of the scout expedition.

The surface of the comet was covered in a layer of matter picked up from the comet over the course of the time it has been out here. And so had the igloo. According to the measurements they took, the igloo has been here for at least 100,000 years.

Maia did a scan of the whole igloo, which upset Khadashi who insisted that the plan had been only to come down, grab some samples, and head back. Getting close up video of the whole outside of the structure (including the airlock, which looked like a portable thing) didn’t come under that. Neither did deep scans, which picked up some sort of frozen tunnel leading down, and some higher density objects several metres between the surface feature.

Unknown to anyone else, Alfred used clairvoyance to look inside, and ‘saw’ some metallic boxes, as well as carvings on the inside wall of the place. Some of the carvings looked vaguely Droyne, but he wasn’t able to recognise them beyond that.

Having taking the samples, they headed back to the ship for a de-contamination bath of ultra-violet and to before a full scan of the samples. The samples really did appear to be uninfected. and Zanobia confirmed the age of the construction.

That seemed like a good place to stop things, before a second trip down to the comet is done. It’s now 1107-038, and they have a planned date to leave of 043, or 050 at the very latest.

Samuel Penn

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