The Sentinel

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The Deepnight Revelation has reached Pytheas sector, and the system of Uwas Major 3211. Refuelling was easy, and there was another nascent civilisation here on the third world, which seemed to have reached a technology of industry and steam power.

The players had seemed interested in this world at the end of the previous session when I mentioned that it looked like a steampunk world with apes, so what was going to be a quick describe and leave I decided to turn into something a bit more complicated. I wasn’t quite sure what though. I had decided that the apes were actual Homo descendants, seeded from Terra, but wasn’t sure how to make it interesting beyond that.

One of the random descriptions for the inner moon of the main gas giant gave me some inspiration.

The world of Uwas Major VI/a is a icy world with a subterranean ocean of liquid water. The surface is covered in a light snow, though it isn’t certain where this originated from.

The moon Uwas Major VI/a

So there was something on the moons that was generating water vapour from somewhere, which could be natural or artificial. I played around with some ideas for a natural cycle – radioactives in the core of another moon. These would sink down, until they became close enough together to begin a fission reaction. This would generate heat, melt and boil the water ice, which would distribute the elements around the planet and halt the reaction.

I wasn’t certain this was sensible though, so went for a more artificial solution in the end. I realise this is again similar to another SciFi work, though it wasn’t entirely deliberate this time. Plus it’s at least a different author.

The Sex Thing was sent to the main world to investigate it, along with a couple of smaller scout ships. In the meantime, unusual surface material was discovered on one of the moons of the gas giant, so the Deepnight stayed behind to aid in the investigation here.

The inner moon was an icy Europan type of moon. It had a liquid water ocean, and its surface was covered with a light dusting of seemingly fresh snow. However, there was no outgassing from the ocean that could account for this. One of the outer moons an Enceladusian world, with geysers of water vapour, but they weren’t being ejected far enough to reach the inner moon. The scientists were interested in finding out what was causing the snow on the inner moon.

Uwas Major III

The third planet of the system was a warm garden world, with a wide ocean spanning the equator. Two continents straddled the poles, and most of the civilised cities were found along the coasts. Probes sent down to the world discovered that the inhabitants looked like apes, but they had a steam-tech style of technology. They had a primitive form of radio communication, a type of morse code that seemed to be based on Oynprith the language of the Droyne.

Back on the moons of the gas giant, it looked like the outer moon had in its past generated much larger water plumes that had covered all the other moons. There were signs of Uranium and Thorium amongst the snow, and a number of unusually dense masses near the outer moon’s core.

It was then that a signal was received – broadcast from within the moon’s core. It seemed to be a simple repeating pattern, a series of primes. The Deepnight responded with the next primes in the sequence, and another more complex pattern was started.

Back at the planet, their tiny ‘insect’ drones had recorded pictures of eight sided stones in the libraries of the great cities. Some of the text was Oynprith, and there were markings which seemed to be simple guides to maths and logic.

The Sex Thing was eventually spotted, and news of a new ‘comet’ in orbit began to spread across the world. There were no world governments here. The largest organisations seemed to be along family lines. The largest communities were those that an individual could control directly – a few hundred people at most. The radio transmissions talked about the ‘stone leavers’ having returned.

A Uwasian

So it was time to land and visit. They called for Lord Sivas, their Imperium diplomat, to lead the mission, and they headed down towards the planet. Kip, their avian alien, was also with them. Her first expedition to another world.

They were greeted by a large festival on the beach, with the locals dressed in their fine costumes, and a couple of airships hovering over head. It turned out that Oynprith was the language of the academics on this world, and so the Traveller’s translation software had no trouble helping everyone communicate.

The Travellers were initially heralded as the Stone Leavers, but they corrected the locals about that. The initial meeting was friendly, and continued to be over the course of their visit. There were eight stones here – octohedrons made of a strange metal (bonded superdense), covered in writing. The stones hadn’t shown up on the scout’s surface scans, and it turned out that they were somehow hidden from orbital observations.

Meanwhile, back at the Jovian moons, the pattern sequences were getting more complicated, and it was becoming harder to solve the patterns. As they struggled with the most recent one, there was a disturbance near the core of the outer moon, and it seemed to be increasing in radioactivity.

One player mentioned a Day in the Strife, a Babylon 5 episode where answering the questions of an alien technology was the wrong thing to do. I had considered that as an idea, but discarded it as probably not fun. The device on the moon had been waiting for the not-quite-humans on the planet to come and find it, and it would give up its secrets as long as those it was communicating with could prove that they came from the planet.

The final patterns required codes that were on the stones. Since the not-quite-humans were willing to share the information that was written on the stones, the Deepnight scientists finally solved the final riddles.

A larger stone, that had been buried near the moon’s core, made its way to the surface, revealing more scientific knowledge. Some of this seemed to be basic jump technology, but other parts seemed to talk about things that the Travellers were not familiar with.

There was much copying of information, and also telling the Uwasians where the stone was – but they didn’t give them the details. They would have to discover that for themselves.

Genetic analysis of the Uwasians showed that they were from Terra – taken probably around 300,000 years ago. They had followed their own path of evolution, with the help of the stones to guide them.

The next question raised by the players was whether there were any other stones at the nearby systems. That was something I hadn’t considered, but it was an interesting idea. They will talk about that next session, and try and figure out which systems are most likely to hold further clues. That should give me time to discover the answer. I’ll also need to figure out what high technology of the Ancients is on the stone. Maybe the crew can decipher it, maybe not. It might help them in their fight against the Entity.

I was quite happy with this session. There were two linked chains of events going on. Though the events on the moons was handled entirely by NPCs, the players got some input into it. I had expected this system to be less eventful initially, but it was an upbeat stopover that has probably improved the morale of the crew, and given them plenty to think about.

Samuel Penn

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