Tappity Tap

The moon around Kskatk IV wasn’t so much a moon, but a captured asteroid. At the end of our previous session, I wasn’t sure whether there was anything more to it than that. As the Deepnight Revelation’s sensors scanned the rock though, they realised that there was something definitely odd about it. The density was all off, with some regions inside being of higher density than would be expected. Plus, there was a large crater at one end.

So it was time for an expedition, with an away team taking out the 60r pinnace the Special Snowflake. Zanobia and Khadashi went along as the player characters, and they were accompanied by Trennance, Dr Nekuna and Professor Maalegme.

It was a 1.5 day flight to the moon. Once they got closer in, more detailed scanning discovered some sort of structure several kilometres down beneath the surface. The large crater was directly above this, and turned out to be more a hole than a crater. Steep sided walls went down several kilometres, showing signs of excessive heating.

There was radiation here, possible signature of a weapon or drive that had been used about 5-7 thousand years ago. There were some Erline devices on the walls of the crater, but these were relatively recent. Whatever it was, the Erline had been here scavenging in the past couple of hundred years.

Going down as far as they could, there was a definite reaction drive here, and beneath that an ancient fission reactor. It had been melting the rock and throwing it out as exhaust, though wasn’t capable of much more than 20km/s delta vee. Enough to significantly change the orbit of the rock given enough time.

The crew knew that there had been a big Event about twelve thousand years ago, which had involved the dropping of rocks on things. Apparently this was still going on about five thousand years ago. Maybe it had been built by the original Erline civilisation, but the technology looked different. It didn’t have the delicate over engineering of the Erline. The big drive system had been crudely 3D printed, engineered to be as simple as possible.

Their Erline escorts didn’t know much about it. There knew it was a relic from the old times that had been salvaged when the Erline had first returned to space. What it had been originally though they didn’t know. Maybe a weapon, maybe it was something to be used in terraforming. The scientists back on Zahline might know, but none of the Erline escorting the Deepnight were experts.

After much player discussion over what it could be (a generation ship? a weapon? something built by the Erline or someone else? maybe the Erline built something and the software went wrong? were there still hostile neighbours that the Erline hadn’t mentioned or didn’t know about?), it was time to jump on to Zahline.

Zahline III

Zahline had become one of the major colony worlds of the Erline after their homeworld had been destroyed. With a population over three billion, it had a class C starport and a TL 10 technology base. Still primitive by Imperium standards, but it was the most advanced society the Deepnight crew had encountered for a long time. It was a small world. Warm and wet, with one tiny icy region in the north but mostly dry grassy plains and forests.

There were a lot of ships in orbit – not just Erline, but also Tenipal and a few Sovreigndom ships as well. The arrival of the Deepnight caused a massive amount of activity. By now, the Erline had been forewarned, and they started putting out messages welcoming their new ‘friends and allies’ who were here to trade with the Erline. A rather one sided view of things, but spin is important for politicians even when they are small blue beetles.

It was then that the Deepnight was pinged by active targeting radar from the Sovreigndom craft. It was dropped after a few seconds, but the Deepnight sent a passive aggressive question to them asking if they had a problem. There was no response.

One of the Tenipal ships sent a polite request for a meeting:

“If it is of no trouble, then we would be honoured if you would grant us a meeting to discuss future relationships”

The Deepnight was happy to agree to that. They also started sorting out a trip down to the planet’s surface, and organising how they could make use of the somewhat simplistic starport services here to give their ship a bit of an overhaul.

It was then that the Sovreigndom ship responded, but it was not to apologise:

“There is a requirement to discuss with leader of Deepnight. Our maker of trade will arrive at your ship 08:00 tomorrow to meet with leader.”

The ship’s diplomat, Lord Sivas, suggested that they matched the characteristics of a Type 15B society according to Imperium classifications. They would play at aggressive bullies and keep on asking for more unless there was push back. So a reply was sent accepting, but giving very precise and overly complicated instructions on how to approach the ship and dock.

The XO made a comment that it would be useful to be able to hack into their computer systems, so one of the bridge crew made it her task to do so. After a short <tappity> <tap> she had access to their internal ship’s computers. Hacking systems so many tech levels down the scale wasn’t that hard.

The Sovreigndom ship only had a few of the Erline species, most of the crew seemed to be subservient Tenipal. A bit more investigation came up with their naval deployment records (probably a few months out of date) and access to their weapon and IFF systems.

The next morning, the Sovreigndoms sent a shuttle across. It began to follow the instructions, then skipped a step. They were instructed very clearly not to do that, and from that point on they were complient.

After docking with the Deepnight, the Sovreigndom ambassador exited their shuttle, flanked by a couple of ‘guards’ and some Tenipal servants. He introduced himself as Master-Of-Ship, and did so in a slightly more subservient manner than their previous interactions. Lord Sivas welcomed them aboard, but with a careful choice of words which made it very clear who was boss.

For this session, I made quite heavy use of NPCs to get things done and ‘solve problems’. I find it a difficult balance between letting the players have agency, and not ignoring the fact that they have several hundred highly skilled crew members at their disposal.

Lord Sivas made a good Diplomacy check, so I used him to allow the players to get an upper hand on the Sovreigndoms without too much effort. It’s sort of his job to do this, so it made sense. It also helps bring the NPCs into the fore now and again. I probably need to give a name to the computer hacker as well, so she can be the go to person for this sort of thing. Since I did use the <tappity> <tap> signature of the Bastard Operator From Hell when describing her actions, this might not be an entirely good thing.

Samuel Penn

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