Since the previous session of our Deepnight Revelation game, it’s been a busy week. Trying to get some figures painted for a game, and a couple of evenings spent trying to number crunch a couple of armies on top of work meant I hadn’t had much time for planning. So this week needed something relatively light thrown in. I’m generally several star systems ahead in the plot, but I was falling behind so wanted to slow things down.
The previous session had seen the discovery of a large school of space whales, and the Deepnight left that system behind, arriving at Egepke 2009 of Diamond Scatter sector. It was a simple refuel, followed by a jump. Or at least that was the plan.
Ten seconds before the jump initiated, the ship’s main computer went offline. The two backups quickly negotiated which one was taking over, and the jump sequence was picked up with only a minor interruption. The XO quickly cancelled the jump though, just in case.
Why had the computer failed? It turned out that it had been given a manual shutdown instruction from one of the terminals in the computer operations department. The instruction had come from the user Jason Moss, or at least someone using his identity.
Sending security down to secure the terminal (and Moss if he was there), he was found asleep at the terminal with a broken glass of orange juice on the floor. He seemed to be heavily sedated, so they called for a medic to figure out what had happened.
Initially it looked like he had been drugged. Cameras were positioned to watch entrance to the room, but they had been disabled – and it appears they had been disabled some weeks ago. The command to switch them off had been made by Aimee Sackoff, a junior computer technician, who was promptly taken in for questioning.
This was a simple whodunnit that I’d decided to throw in. The ship has been away from home for about six years now, and not all of the crew are handling the long mission as well as others. Switching off the computer just before jump was unlikely to cause an issue – the ship has three computers, and either of the other two was capable (and did) kick in and take over as soon as the first failed. It was theoretically possible for a misjump to occur if things had happened at the right time, but this hadn’t been a great way of destroying the ship if that had been the plan.
Jason Moss claimed that he had been at his terminal when he came over drowsy and fell asleep. He had stepped away from the console for a few minutes for a break, and had left his drink there, so it’s possible that someone had slipped drugs into it.
Further security checks showed that security timeouts on login sessions had been increased some time ago – by Moss. He had also been given a course of sleeping pills some time ago when he was complaining of not being able to sleep. His personnel records showed that his performance had been somewhat erratic over the last few months, and had been reprimanded for his behaviour towards his team.
Gradually piecing things together, it was discovered that he had drugged himself, but tried to make it look like someone else had done it. He had shutdown the computer himself after taking the sedatives but before falling asleep. He’d used the the increased terminal timeouts to run actions as other users when they had been out of the room and had forgotten to lock their terminals manually.
Finally getting him to confess, with a bit of bad/good cop action from Khadashi and Zanobia, it turned out that he was stressed out and homesick. He had not sought to destroy the ship, but had wanted to make the ship seem unreliable, hoping for the mission being abandoned. It had been a couple of years since he’d got off the ship, and he was missing his home on New Colchis. He had barely been socialising with anyone for the last few months as well.
It was decided that he was genuinely ill, suffering from depression and needed help. All his admin privileges were removed, and an attempt would be made to get him socialising again. There was also the option of putting him in cold sleep if other options didn’t work.
Just in case, one of the computers was completely wiped and re-installed clean, a process which took almost a week. It was successful, and then the clean instance was used to clone across to the other two computer instances.
After that, they could continue their journey, eventually reaching the system of Ytih Ocin a couple of jumps later. It was a system which seemed high in gamma radiation, though refuelling wasn’t a problem and was completed quickly. Further scanning of the system located the source of the gamma radiation to a world about 15AU from the star. It seemed to be a small terrestrial world, about 10,000km in diameter. It wasn’t a stellar remnant, but was given off radiation.
This was obviously of interest, so the Deepnight made the 5½ day trip out to the world to investigate.
The world seemed mostly silicates, with a trace atmosphere of mostly hydrogen. It had a rotation period of about 20 hours, and was on a highly elliptical orbit that was about 20° from the ecliptic, indicating that it was probably a captured world from outside the system. The ‘front’ of the world was warmer than the ‘rear’, with the surface cooling as the planet rotated. The temperature difference wasn’t massive, and not affected by the pair of red dwarf stars at the core of the system. The gamma radiation was coming from the planet’s front facing hemisphere though. The world seemed smooth, with no visible craters or mountains.
After some discussion by the players, one of the crew, Dr Margret Aboline who was head of the space sciences department, requested that she wanted to try something. A small probe was sent round to the front of the world, as far from the Deepnight as possible but still visible. As it entered the trace atmosphere, it started to detect huge amounts of radiation, began to heat up and then failed.
It broke apart before reaching the surface, and then there was a stream of huge nuclear scale explosions.
The world was made of antimatter. Not just anti-hydrogen, but a full range of anti-matter elements.
This was an interesting, and unique, find. But not one that the ship was really equipped to investigate safely. Possible the Ancients had done something really stupid, or maybe it was natural. It was decided to rename the system as “Lure”, since it would make for a good trap.
Given the instability of the planet’s orbit, it was estimated that within a hundred thousand years it would probably hit one of the inner planets, or the asteroid belt. That would make for a considerable light show, but the Deepnight wasn’t planning on being here when it happened.