Paperclips and Berserkers

In our previous session of Deepnight Revelation, the scout ship Out of Options had managed to get along side a large asteroid heading towards one of the Erline planets. The Out of Options had managed to dodge the large mass driver guns on the surface of the asteroid, performing a perfectly calculated suicide burn to come to a stop near an airlock.

Prior to the session, I had thought about how I wanted to do this. The adventure as written is a bit more shooty shooty than how I ended up running it. There is more expectation of combat between the Travellers’ ship and the asteroid weapon, plus the drones onboard the asteroid are expected to be more of a threat. In the end, I decided to go for a more theatre of the mind adventure, with the Travellers exploring and finding things out, rather than fighting their way through to the core.

With their ship safely snuggled out of reach of the weapon systems, they did a deep scan and some of the crew moved out onto the surface. There were robots moving around on the surface of the asteroid – they looked like mechanical beetles, fashioned vaguely in the form of an Erline. Behind the airlock was a deep shaft that headed down towards the core of the asteroid. There were several open spaces beneath the surface, some of which had machinery of a sorts. There was also a drive system, plus signs of a nuclear fission reactor.

The construction that was on the surface was of various ages. It looked like it had been here for thousands of years, though parts had been replaced over this time period. The robots were scanning the Out of Options, but decided that it wasn’t a threat. I had decided that unless the Travellers did something to harm the robots or the asteroid, then the robots would leave them alone. The players did discuss trying to disable some of the guns, but eventually decided against it. This was probably a good choice.

Dr Rusasa

Four of the crew – Siona, Shiiguma, Dr Rusasa and Aema decided to head into the asteroid. The other four stay behind aboard the ship to monitor things from there. At this point I was also wondering what to do with Amelie Kaliguuan. She was the representative of the Deepnight corporation, who had been sent along to keep an eye on things, and to make sure that corporate interests were being observed. Whilst the Imperium representative has been useful as a diplomat, I haven’t found much of a use for Amelie. I had some vague ideas for this away mission, which was why she had sort of forced herself upon the crew, but as it turns out none of them really came to fruition.

The airlock was simple to open, so they squeezed through into a narrow shaft. There was no appreciable gravity here, so they just floated ‘downwards’ towards the core. Coming up the shaft was one of the robots. They kept to the edge of the shaft and let it go past.

Eventually they came to the first of the open areas. It seemed to be a store room, full of spare parts and machines for building more spare parts from raw materials.

Further down the shaft was a larger open area, and robots were moving what looked like a probe out of it. There were other probes in partially built conditions, as well as what looked like more delicate machinery. The Travellers decided to leave this room alone for now, and continued towards the central core.

The control core of the asteroid wasn’t designed for organic beings. It was automated, and had been for many thousands of years. There were signs of ancient terminals, but they had long since been disconnected. Everything was in vacuum and zero-gravity, plus there was radiation leaking into here from the nearby reactor. Nothing that their vacc suits couldn’t handle though.

Now they had access to the control centre of the asteroid though, and after some rewiring, figuring out the communication protocols and feeding it through the translators that they already had, they started to figure out what the purpose of the asteroid was.

The technology was definitely Erline – there were obvious signs of that all around, plus the computers were similar to the ten thousand year old ones that they had discovered previously. This asteroid was a small factory, capable of repairing itself and flying between worlds at slower than light speeds. It had been built by an older asteroid factory about seven thousand years ago. These weren’t paperclip machines though – endlessly building copies of themselves until there was nothing else left. The programming that they had been given made them more like berserkers, designed to seek out and destroy life bearing worlds.

They also found an ‘AZ-5’ switch that would perform an emergency shutdown of the fission reactor, but they decided (maybe wisely) not to press that button.

The asteroid was programmed to seek out technological worlds and interdict them until they had been proven to be clean of some ‘threat’. The latter seemed to require the use of the drones that were being built, and seemed to be a biological check – but details of that would need to be obtained from the probes themselves.

So the crew managed to change the target of the asteroid to another world in the system, then headed back to the probe manufacturing room. Taking a closer look, they spotted the refrigeration pods, where biological samples were being grown. Dr Rusasa took a look a careful look at them – they were effectively culture dishes designed to react when certain biological chemicals came into contact with them. There was a similarity with the DNA of the fungus Entity which was the entire reason for the Deepnight mission.

Carefully sealing up some samples, they headed back to the Out of Options, and did some more careful analysis in the lab there. It was definitely designed to react to the Entity. However, it was very sensitive, and would likely give a false positive result one time in three.

The Out of Options headed back to Ikutybe, and met with the planetary governor of the Erline there. They explained what they’d found – that the asteroid seemed to have been created by the Erline long ago, to seek out and destroy an infection. They had been designed to protect the Erline race, but for whatever reason had ended up almost destroying it. Though, if the Entity had been able to spread, then maybe that would have been an even worse result.

Dr Rusasa is wanting at this stage to head to the original Erline homeworld of Erline. It is a single jump away, and might be the source of the infection.

Samuel Penn

1 Response