The Deepnight Revelation reaches Demnan in the Incognita Citerior sector, and as it began refuelling at the gas giant, it performed its usual scan of the system. Transponder signals for two of the advanced scout ships were there – the Varikuur and the Black Orchid, though there were no signs of the Silver Nemesis.
The transponders for the two ships were somewhat weak, as if they were running on emergency power, and neither ship responded to hails from the Deepnight. Something was wrong.
So after a long time, the Deepnight had reached its rendezvous point, and as written in the official adventure, this was meant to be a pretty straightforward meet up, have a bit of a party, grab supplies and head off into uncharted space. I decided to complicate things by having the Varikuur and its supply ship run into trouble at Demnan.
A small crew took the scout ship Out of Context Problem in towards the planet. The Varikuur was in a 1,000km altitude orbit, with the Black Orchid up to around 5,000km. In a lower orbit there were signs of debris which had by now spread out in a ring. Given the debris was in an orbit of only a few hundred kilometres, it can’t have been there long.
Both ships were powered down, though the Black Orchid showed signs of heat in the bridge area. As the scout approached the planet, they picked up a transponder signal from the planet as it came over the horizon. It was signalling the location of a small settlement, though there was little sign of any other activity.
The Travellers first area of investigation was the debris field, which showed signs of several small craft, missiles and bits of corpses. By now, a deeper scan of the Varikuur showed that all its missile turrets were empty – someone had fired a large salvo and not reloaded. Other than that, there was no sign of exterior damage on either vessel at this stage.
They picked up the odd bit of corpse, which turned out to be human with no signs of infection by the Entity. This was their main worry – the ships had become infected by the Entity, and there had been an attempt to wipe out the infection. Either that, or there were undead Aslan again.
The Out of Context Problem did a close flyby of the Varikuur, noticing that the docking bays were open and empty. There were some signs of small arms damage within the bays themselves, and the airlock closest to the bridge was fully open.
Initially, they got Shinzaro to send in a remote drone to explore the ship. It made its way along the corridors, all open to space, and reached the bridge without incident. There was no sign of damage, but most of the bridge had been shutdown. A single console still had power – a communications console which had a message ready to play on it. The lack of atmosphere here meant the drone couldn’t just prod a play button, so they needed to send in some crew.
Khadashi and one of the security guards headed in. It was an opportunity to bring in some of the rules from the new High Guard (maybe they’re in the old rules but I’ve never noticed them), and pointed out that wearing a full battledress and carrying a big laser rifle in the confined spaces of ship corridors would be clumsy and give penalties. He persisted anyway, but took a cutlass and pistol as well.
Plugging into the ships console, he was able to take a copy of the recording and play it back.
This is Engineering Team Lead Alii Silashji to the Deepnight Revelation. This is an emergency transmission. Do not believe any other transmissions, even if they appear to come from myself or the other crew members of the Varikuur or Black Orchid. I have disabled this ship as best I can and killed most of the others.
The world below is dangerous. Alien doppelgangers have replaced the crew and have taken over the camp. They are not to be trusted. Kill us all.— Engineering Team Lead Alii Silashji
There was a second person lurking in the background of the video – someone in a vacc suit with a medical symbol on it, and a name tag of Dr Chambler.
So things had gone bad here. The computer systems had been wiped, but Khadashi went looking for the backups down in engineering. Zanobia decided to come aboard at this stage, and went down to the medical bays to see what could be found there.
In engineering, somebody had disabled the jump and manoeuvre drives with well placed explosives, but they were able to retrieve data backups.
In the medical bay, there were bodies which had been killed with small arms fire and bladed weapons, and looked like they had been autopsied. Though electronic records had been wiped, there were some printouts still around, including a couple of x-rays of someone’s leg. They were labelled as Erpuu Rasaami #1 and Erpuu Rasammi #2, both with date stamps showing they had been taken within a few minutes of each other. One had bolts through the bones – presumably the results of an accident earlier in life. The other didn’t.
They took what evidence they could and headed back to the Deepnight.
A more detailed examination of the bodies showed that there were no signs of entity infection, and they appeared to all intents and purposes to be human. They had picked up some personal data pads, one of which had a weak enough password on it to gain access to some information.
It appeared that the scouting parting had arrived here and setup camp, calling the main continent Paradise. The third ship, Silver Nemesis, had suffered a jump drive failure about six months prior to arrival, so the crew had all been crammed into the remaining two ships and were really desperate to get out and down to the planet.
There were some rumours of human natives being seen outside the camp, but no evidence until someone took a video of Alii Silashji having sex with several of the crew, and it was broadly shared amongst the crew. Then messages reprimanding people for sharing such videos, and talk of it being faked anyway because she had been aboard the ship at the time.
Then more evidence of duplicates of crew members turning up. They looked exactly the same, but had no clothing or equipment, but a full set of memories. Then there were lock downs enforced, and little information after that.
The next port of call was the Black Orchid, where deep sensor scans showed that there was one person aboard it, up near the bridge area. Kirk and Khadashi led the mission – this time the airlocks were sealed and there was atmosphere aboard the ship. Inside the airlock, there was a body – that of Dr Chambler. He had been shot in the face plate at close range.
The cargo holds still seemed to be full of supplies, and as they approached the bridge area they were stopped by a blast of gunfire.
It missed, wildly, either due to incompetence or by design. But it got everyone’s attention.
A voice called out demanding to know who they were, and a brief conversation followed. She identified herself as Alii Siashji, possibly last survivor of the mission. She threw her carbine out into the corridor, then stepped out holding a pistol at her head.
She said that she had been waiting for the Deepnight to turn up, but that she couldn’t trust them, and they couldn’t trust her. Whatever was down on the planet had the ability to take on the form of specific humans, and also knew their memories. They look like us. They know what we know.
Some had got aboard the ships, and started disabling them to stop us from leaving. The crew (the real crew) began to lose interest in the mission, and just wanted to go down to the planet to partake in hedonistic pursuits. A mission had been planned to take back control by force, by someone on the Varikuur destroyed the shuttles with a missile volley.
A final fight took out everyone apart from herself and Dr Chambler, and then they’d disabled the Varikuur as best they could and came here – where she then shot the doctor.
She had no idea what the doppelgangers were, where they’d come from or what they wanted, but they seemed dangerous to the mission, and nobody down on the planet could be trusted. Neither could she. She didn’t even know if she was the real Alii or not. Then she shot herself.