Beneath the Ice
We’ve had a couple of weeks break from the adventure due to lack of players, but the whole group was back together for this session, which was good. We’ll be down a player next session as well though, which means I need to decide whether to continue without them, or skip another session.
In the previous session, the crew had performed an external exploration of the igloo on the DSB-7483/B, the small cometary moonlet around the main cometary body DSB-7483 within the Anundarluu nebula. Whilst the scout ship I Mean It This Time stayed some distance away, most of the crew of the It’s A Sex Thing had gone down to take samples and explore the outside of the igloo.
From the samples they’d taken, they’d discovered that it was at least a 100,000 years old, but there was no signs of contamination from the Deepnight Entity. A calirvoyance scan of the interior had shown some basic equipment boxes, and some writing on the inner wall of the igloo (though this information had been kept to the group’s Psion).
The second expedition down to the surface aimed to cut through the wall, and take a look inside. The scout had performed a deep scan, and located what looked like a frozen column of ice directly beneath the igloo, which went down several metres to a point where there were some buried objects.
Again, I tried to give some agency to the NPCs, by giving them desires on what they wanted out of the exploration. Dr Nekuna wanted samples from the airlock, and Dr Rusasa had the idea of the deep scan because she wanted to know what was below the igloo in the ice.
Kadashi cut through the wall of the igloo with a warm torch (it’s not as if a mixture of methane, ammonia and water ice needs much to get through it) so they could take samples from the inside, and then when they’d determined that it was safe, they cut a larger hole and went inside.
It was mostly empty, except for some survival gear, a patch in the middle which had a different consistency, and some writing on the wall. It was Droyne, which none of the characters understood, but Zanobia started to run it through translators back on the ship. It struggles a bit, but manages to make sense of some of the symbols:
Imperative – To Go – To Sacrifice – Genesis – SignalSome of the Droyne symbols
The message also had a telepathic component to it – and out of them Shinzaro found that she was somehow sensitive to the telepathic component, and got a partial vision of a humanoid winged creature writing the message – as well as a feeling a mix of emotions – amongst them fear and despair.
Alfred notices footprints on the ground inside the igloo – a couple of pairs of booted prints, plus also what looks like unbooted prints, which are four toed. Two pairs go up to the melted section in the centre, and don’t leave. Since they’d had some more time, I decided to let Zanobia get a bit more information from the message.
In the place beyond everything lies the extinction of all life.Partial translation of the Droyne message
After removing all the equipment they’ve found back to the ship in case they need to run away quickly, they carefully melt down through the ice to the objects beneath. There are traces of chemicals in the ice – fuel or explosives – and eventually they get down to the first object, which looks like a vac suited figure, heavily burned and then frozen.
At that point Zanobia decides to risk leaving the ship and doing the work herself, since she’s the only one with only archaeology experience. That was somewhat surprising because normally Zanobia refuses to ever go anywhere which might be dangerous, but good to know that it interested her enough to want to leave the safety of the ship.
In the end they pull up three blocks of ice with frozen figures – one in a vac suit, one mostly out of a vac suit, and the third in pieces. All look like they could be Droyne, though the first two seem to be heavily infected with the Deepnight Entity. The sequence of events they put together (which is pretty accurate) is that the third one dug a hole and lured the other two down it, at which point they set off some thermal charge which deep fried everyone.
The night there was discussion about what they wanted to do next, and though nobody really wanted to risk going down to the main comet, they decided that they needed to do something if they were to obtain much more information. They left it to Trennance and Dukidar to jury rig a probe to try and explore the alien ship, adding a flamer to it so it could decontaminate itself if it picked up any infection (they called it the killi-death-bot, though I preferred the term thermally enhanced exploration probe so that’s what the NPCs called it). I’d also reminded them that they had a time limit, since the fuel tanker was going to leave on day 058, so they pretty much had to be ready to leave by 050 by the latest if they were to be jumping back in time.
The two of them spent the ‘night’ doing this, whilst the others got some sleep. This time I remembered to roll for dreams (a feature of the nebula, not the comet), and a couple of them had
Kadashi woke to remembering standing over a pit and looking down forever.
Shinzaro had a pleasant dream of flying along twisting currents, towards a single bright point of warmth.
They sent the probe down to the alien ship, where a set of lights (now defunct) had been setup around it. The ship consisted of three mirrored spheres, connected by six hexagonal tubes. The largest sphere was the central one, the smallest was at the front and the rearmost sphere had what looked like drive systems. It was mostly intact, through icy growths had reached up around it to envelope it. There was a hole at the front of the middle section.
So they sent the probe in, and it got an image of a large spacious area with ‘pods’ arranged in sets of six, dead electronics and lots of twisting ‘vines’ and ‘webs’ of organic matter. There was some signs of part of it having been burned, and various canisters were piled up in places.
As the probe moved further into the ship, the link to it went dead. 30 seconds later, it backed out and the link was re-established. Whatever the hull was made of, it was blocking the remote link to the probe.
Since the two mechanics were now sleeping, they got Dr Nekuna to look at rigging up a mesh network, and in the meantime they sent the probe over to the Whiddershins Explorer, the scout ship from the Deepnight Endeavour. It was also covered in icy tendrils, mostly around the rear, and had been partially crushed – though not enough to make a hole through the hull.
The bridge windows were frosted over, but a bit of applied heat demisted them (and possibly re-activated some of the entity, but they don’t know that yet) allowing them to look inside. There was a corpse there, partially burned but also heavily infected with the entity and ‘rooted’ to the floor. There were also bullet damage around the bridge, so someone had tried using firearms.
The players are concerned that putting anything down on the surface will cause the entity to awaken and immediately begin growing – but Dr Nekuna points out that the logs from the rescue mission didn’t mention anything about the scout ship being consumed in tendrils, so that must have taken weeks to happen.
There was a risk in this session that the players would decide not to explore as much as they could, but they’re finding ways to investigate. Being safe is one thing, but if they’re too risk-adverse then they’re not going to find out anything interesting. Checking my notes whilst writing this, I noticed I missed some details, but I think I’ll leave those in case they explore in person, since I do want to encourage a bit more risk taking. It’s not that I want to punish them for being safe, or spring nasty surprises on them if they do take risks, but I find it less interesting if all they do is sit back on the ship and send probes out to explore. There will be limits to what they can achieve if they do this. I’m glad that they did in-person exploration of the igloo, and I kept that relatively safe.
The entity is present here in large quantities, but apart from a brief moment of wakefulness a few years ago, it’s been mostly dormant for several hundred thousand years. It’s not going to suddenly spring into activity with no warning. I want to encourage them to explore for themselves, reward that with more information and also reward their careful planning by not springing nasty surprises on them without giving plenty of warning.