18. "HULL"

    This adventure lasted all but two hours...It was another one based solely on a picture.

    The Van picks up an anomalous signal in their subspace radio gear.  They trace it to a battered metallic shell floating in space.  The ship is extremely radioactive and the Van crew decides that is must be destroyed after they finish their scan.  The vessel ID is unknown but measures more than a kilometer across.  Embedded in the shell are fragments of another vessel.  Somehow, their computer came up with a match.  Instead of matching it with a known craft, the computer matched the fragments with the vessel they were asked to inspect by TGS a month earlier.  Both craft are about the same age, highly saturated with Radioactivity.  Neither ship registered fully on radar, leading the PCS to think that a millennia ago, a mid-space collision had occurred.  Space must have been cramped back then.  With nothing left to learn, the shell is destroyed.


    Rio gets a personal communiqué from Jacob Phillips, an old friend from Storren.  The signal is garbled.

    "Rio, this is Jacob.  Something is terribly wrong.  A deal has gone down bad.  Its the Grubs.  They are after me.  I need your help.  Not much time...left.  I'm on Storren.  Same address. <An Explosion> Dammit!  Last word!!!  The Eudomaen!!  Its called the Eudomaen <Two gunshots>--"

    It wasn't that Rio tried to convince the others to go.  Being the pilot, he just flew their without permission.  They land at one of the desert bases in the Badlands, Stromgren.  The base looks somewhat like Mos Eisly spaceport.  Off in the distance, they can see the dark shadow of the Dagtal Swamps.  RIo knows where his friend is.  A small inlet apartment, ground level.  When they arrive, they find it in shambles.  Everything is overturned.  The computer is encoded.  Once Max breaks into the system, they discover most of the memory is blanked.  One files titles "Project Spartacus" is left untouched...

     Project Spartacus was put forth in 2720 after the discovery of wetwear technology encoding information into RNA like a human cell.   The only prototypes constructed for this was the (34) Eudomaen.   Designed primarily for defense and protection, the Eudomaen is self- repairing, capable of recharging it's storage batteries from just about any power grid including the Sun.  (N) The Eudomaen's strength lies  in it's multi faceted combat systems.  Equipped with neuraily activated weaponry and sensors, the Eudomaen has the choice of  Artificially controlling six auxiliary craft and has the further choice of  using 15 primary weapon pods and 6 auxiliary pods.  Weapon  systems include:  6 Dual Arm (2) Mounted Beam Guns, 10 Rapid- Fire Pulse Cannons on Turrets, four fold-out missile packs, and a  Rapid Acceleration Armor Piercing Electromagnetic Rail-Cannon.  (H)  The armor consists of dual plated, reinforced, polyurethane  plastisteel in an inter-changeable honeycomb arrangement capable of  regenerating itself after an encounter is concluded.  The Neural (23)  Sensor Interface system is competent of anticipating a pilots actions,  giving rise to increased maneuverability and targeting capacity.  The  33rd Series (MIN) BioComp system is designed for optimum (15)  Combat Effectiveness, suggesting more profitable ways of solving combat encounters with the least amount of energy." (SEC)

   Arrrrgh!!!  It took two hours--TWO HOURS--for the group to find the hidden message in that file.  Max points out right away about the strange words and numbers in "()" in the file but Bjron goes and says, "Oh it's probably nothing." and I privately slap myself in the head and everyone else wonders what to do next when the answer was right in front of them.  THey knew there was something in the message but couldn't figure it out...Finally...    When Max finally brought it up a second time, Bjorn realized his mistake and confirmed Max's thoughts.
    MAX:  "But you said it wasn't important."
    BJORN:  "What the hell do I know.  I'm an idiot"
    Just to confirm, Max's player is female... :)  Rio also really showed off some great characterization as he immediately played like he knew ever nick and crevice of the town.  Even thought the player was never there, the characters spent years there.  Rio made up stuff about people and places and I made sure everything he said was real.

    Max determined the message contains coordinates (34N, 2H, 23MIN, 15 SEC) coordinates inside of the Dagtal swamps, about three days away.   The have to go in using Rio's old Swamper and not the Van because spotting something in the swamps from the air is impossible because of the 1200 foot canopy.  Massive iron deposits makes navigation difficult.  Besides, all radioactive drives are illegal to fly over the swamps because they are a registered preserve.  Rio has to buy a mine detector first.  That proves easy using his contacts but it still costs the group $250 000.  They enter the swamps.

    The next three days of adventures took a while to do because of the image of a massive vehicle going through a swamp that would make Dagobah look like mud puddle.  Rio became even more committed in his experience.  Of course, everyone else plays naive, not knowing the dangers of the Dagtal swamps.  Rio got in some great one-liners this session.

    The Mines rise and the Swamper navigates through.  A day passes.  The group's insistence of leaving the Swamper prompts Rio to say, "Don't make me turn on the child-locks people!"   One night, Bjorn hears a sound from outside and ventures to investigate.  He is soon attacked by landsharks.  When Rio gets him back indoors, he locks the door and announces, "I cannot stress this enough.  Never leave the fucking Swamper!"
    The next day, the Swamper barely makes it out of quicksand and then gets into a head-on collision with another Swamper driven by two old friends of Rio's, Bert and Ernie (yes, got a laugh).  Then, finally, the PCs find a body tied on a tree.  An old acquaintance of Rio's...more like a competitor...The Swamper has just entered Grub territory.  They find a ravaged Swamper.  A pilot inside is dead.  Contract papers inside are signed by Jacob Phillips with the same coordinates the Players have.  However, Jesse trips an explosive and everyone dives out in time before the Swamper incinerates.  Then they hit a mine later and a great bit of suspense occurs when Finland goes near the surface to repair the damage and more monsters attack.  That night, very large shadows move about behind the windows...only Rio gets any real sleep.
    Finally....they arrive at the coordinates.  They find a pure white tear-drop shaped object 75 feet long, wedged in the air.  The tree canopy broke its fall.  There is no way in.  Somehow, Max triggers something and they hear a low humm.  Then company arrives.  The Grubs have been following them.  Four Swampers surround them, including an old enemy of Rio's, known only as Forrester.   But before anyone can do anything, a massive light appears above, blinding them all.  Bjorn barely makes out the bottom of a white spacecraft. When the light fades, the pod and ship are gone...and the grubs are pissed.
    One of the biggest action scenes in the history of the game occurs.  There is a great chase with the Swampers.  Two Grubs come alongside the PCs.  They nudge each other, one gets thrown into a tree and gets destroyed.  The PCs' Swamper comes around when seeing they are heading for a minefield, one Grub can't turn in time and gets thrown into the field, blowing to pieces.  Max and Bjorn fire from the top hatches while Rio drives like he has never driven before.  As they head back in the same direction, they forget about the other two Swamper.  They collide head onn with Forrester's Swamper.  Rio, not being belted in, is blown through his window and soars towards the other windshield of the enemy Swamper.  Thinking with his head, he shoots out the window and takes out the driver, but not Forrester and they start fighting...course, no one is driving either Swamper.  Max gains control of their Swamper and manages to break free from the two vehicles in their death waltz around the Swamp.  They are thrown over a massive root and go airborne, diving onto the other Grub and both go underwater.  Forrester and Rio fight.  When Max broke the two Swamper free, the two get thrown onto the hood of Forrester's Swamper, still out of control.  The final fight occurs when the Swamper hits a huge tree and gets hung up on a branch.  Rio and Forrester fall down under Swamper, barely inches away from one of those huge spinning barrels (see picture above) that move the craft.  Rio even pushes Forrestal up, rubbing his back on the barrel.  Each second that passes bring the Swamper inches off its branch.  They fight under still, oblivious.  The music builds, and Rio throws Forrestal under the barrel and dives away as the branch breaks and the Swamper comes down, grinding the main bad guy to mulch.
    Rio swims away, apparently alone in the Swamp...until the PCs Swamper rises up from under the deep. intact.  Confused about what happened to the ship, and knowing that reinforcements may be on the way, they decide to beat a hasty retreat out of swamps....

    "Leviathan" was the music of choice here.  Everyone was really into the very extended action sequence.  The jewel was the final fight between Rio and the main bad guy under a 1 tone Swamper wheel.  The actual fight took about twenty minutes to play out but it seemed quicker.  The most imaginative was when Rio was soaring through the air and found himself heading for the windshield of another Swamper.  He takes out a gun and shoots out the window.  This secured Rio as an equal action star to Bjorn.  Don't worry Bjorn, you would get your chance soon...  This was mostly a Rio adventure, something that had been lacking in episodes revolving around Heather, Max, or Bjorn.  It would not be the last.

    In one of his only acts of kindness, Sapphire tell Rio that all communication on Grove has been lost.  Since Rio has a friend there, he thought he might like to know.  Of course, being who they are, the Van decides to break the quarantine on Eden Colony on Grove to find out why.  At least Rio asked this time.  The nearest relief for the colony is six months away.  Grove is over 3000 parsecs away.
    A week later, Rio receives a communication from his friend.  He looks stoneed and delusional.  The comm quickly gets cut off.  The remaining trip takes forever.  Grove has two colonies on either side of the planet.  Rio's friend is at Base Alpha.  Beta is the other one.  The planet is beautiful.  Jesse makes a joke that they should have a picnic before they leave.  Almost every plant bears some form of fruit.  Max quickly snatches and devours one.

    What started at a Rio adventure turned into a Max adventure because of one little fruit.  The base was copied somewhat from "Aliens" with dark corridors damaged and barricaded from unknown and hidden enemies none can find.  This adventure was designed purely to harness the skills of Max's PC's psychology skills.

    In the base, they find a massacre.  One man has impaled himself on a sharpened tripod.  One woman site beside a wall with a large burn mark on her head.  A flare gun is held in her hand.  One man has cut his wrists.  The last one has a piece of fruit in his hand.  Another victim is strapped in a cross formation on the door.  Two groups of three people have barricaded both parts of a hallway wielding fashioned weapons.  Other victims include the odd hangings--two men have shot each other with spearguns.  The computer is totaled and the log is gone.  Rio finds his friend, still alive in a closet.  He has suffered a psychological break and is unresponsive.  Gears attempts to fix the computer system.  Max starts to hear voices.  Bjorn discovers that the food storage at the station is totally burned out.  It carried all the externally transported food.  Bryce checks out the medbay and finds the local doctor with a scalpel in his neck.  Smashed samples are scattered everywhere.  The arboretum was running experiments on the planet's vegetation.  Somehow the planet has successfully adapted a massive ecosystem without any animals.  There are experiments being run on the soil, the water, and the vegetation.

    The investigation starts.  Max starts to see things.  He keeps it to himself.  The power system is on backup.  The doctor starts to rummage through the wrecked medbay.  Jesse and Bjorn work on cleaning up the bodies.  Finland gets the communication system working and are immediatly contacted by Station Beta.  They see a man's face staring at the screen with a blank look while another man behind him operates a crane like assembly.  The crane goes through the mans head, into the screen, cutting it off.  Soon, before the Van can get to the other base, a ship is picked up from the Beta Station.  It won't answer to radio.  It lists, tumbles, and then crashes...right into Alpha Base.  Everyone just manages to escape before the base is destroyed.  Night Falls as the station continues to burn.  All that's left is the almost impenetrable shell made of an inflammable material.

    Gears discovers in the residue of the logs that the food supply transported in every six months was burned out two months ago.  Heather decides to abandon Alpha Station for Beta.  There may be more evidence there since the Doc lost all of his when Alpha went up.  Max then starts to loose it and and runs into the jungle.  Rio and Bjorn pursue and manage to subdue him.  The Van investigates Beta station.  Its in better condition but most of the people are missing.  Bryce finally locates the microbe in the fruit that causes people to loose psychological stability.  It is everywhere:  In the soil, plants, even the water supply.  When Alpha station lost their food supply, they probably shared Beta's until they thought the local vegetation was safe.  They must have missed something.  Most of Beta survived but the few survivors ran off in a Cutlass.  the Van decides to pursue the craft to find out if the crew is okay.  The Cutlass speeds off and eventually crash lands on an asrteroid.  The sole survivor, Rio's friend, is taken to Skybase.

    Just before this adventure started, I threw in a random plot point where the PCs found a stowaway on board.  A little boy was on board and the ship detected the change in mass before entering Transit.  They found the kid and promised to take him back despite his objections. Despite what I thought, no one on board has the "Motherly" instinct.  They threw the kid in cryo and he remained there...they eventually forgot and he stayed on board the spare capsule for months.

   The sides are little off scenes that I three in so the Pcs can track what other elements of the story are doing.

    A huge desert spans in every direction.  A Cobb rests on the surface.  Bodies are strewn in the corridors.  The Bridge seems to have power.  We hear a calm voice asking "Where is the Vanderov?"
   "I don't know!!" Screams a man.  We don't see their faces.  Lightning streaks everywhere, shorting out the bridge.  The victim screams and falls down, his eyes burned out.
    "I'm sorry Mr. Carter.  I guess you were right."  The other man walks away as the all the circuitry blows on the bridge.  Outside, the airlock opens.  The man reaches the edge and tumbles off.  He tosses end over end, four stories above the ground and amazingly enough, lands on his feet with only a light thump.  The man walks away.  On a hill, hundreds of feet away, the man stops.  We see slick hair and a back trenchcoat. We see his face.  He makes the sign of the cross and when he puts his hands together at the end, the Cobb incinerates.  The windows explode and the ship is hulled.  The man walks away.

    Once again, I get my idea beaten.  I had this idea mulling over for a while, based on a seldom read issue of GI Joe: Special Missions...please no jokes.  Some time later, the movie Executive Decision came out.  Oh well.  I wasn't planning on doing anything with this story anyway.

    Max is contacted by a friend who says Nicole Holt has been injured severely.  The Van was nearby a TGS Spaceport where the christening of the newest Starblade is about to take place.  Max decides to use TGS's offer and get a free lift out of the system while the Van moves on.  This is a very momentous flight from an Authority starport to a Bloc one.  There is even a camera crew present.  Max and Heather say good-bye to Max and the flight leaves.  A janitor alerts Bjron to something in the utility room...the dead camera crew.
    Max sits in first class.  The News crew interviews several of the passengers at the flight crew of the newest Skyblade in the fleet.   Everyone is wined and dined exquisitely.
    "How long will the flight take?"  The female report asks.
    "Planet Tower, in Bloc Space. 48 hours."
    <Jockingly> "And...who exactly is in charge here?"
    <Jockingly>  "Ahhh...Well...I am."
   "Heh...<Serious> Not anymore."
    A gun is brandished from inside the camera and the female reporter kills the pilot and a steward behind him.  Everyone screams and shout.  The other newsmen pull their weapons and quickly take control.  Max stays cool.
    "We're secure here."  The woman says.
    "Everyone is ready...including Roger."  Comes a male voice..  The woman turns to the other man.
   "Wesson, secure the cockpit.  Roger's coming out front." Wesson leaves the bridge.  The divider parts and a new man enters.  He is totally covered by C-50 explosives.  It is al wired into a push-button in his right hand.  It is depressed.  The woman speaks:
    "Everyone, this is Roger.  Roger is very sick    He's got less than six weeks on is ticker.  So Roger aint got nothing to lose.  he has fifty pounds of C-60 plastic explosive strapped around his waist...and its all wired to a "Dead-Man's Switch" in his right hand.  Everything is copacetic as long as he keeps the button depressed.  But if he lets's go for any reason, instant karma."  She then kicks over a chess table.
    "Stop playing that puerile game...and listen....listen to people with guns.  You are all going to go down in history!"
   "Listen, Lady."  The chess player says, "I was already going to be part of history before you highjacked this flight."
    Outside, a group of TMA cutlasses start to follow the spaceliner.
    Bjron and Heather have already alerted TGS.  Security didn't check the cameras themselves.
    "Apparently, the martian chess team is on that flight.  That includes seventeen year old prodigy from Planetia, Carlisle Anderson."  The security officer also explains that the only transmission they got from the flight is a group calling themselves "The Hand of the Fourth International" were going to exact revenge on the overpowering governments for the destruction of the commonwealth.
    Bjron is itching over the name, having heard it somewhere before.  Meanwhile, a mothballed Kobyashi is being prepared to intercept the vessel the next time it re-fuels.  Bjron figures out the Fourth International is a PX/Sports/Military Surplus store he visited earlier.  The damn place is in the phone book.
    Back on the flight, Max stays silent, unnagressive.  The female terrorist (jane) picks up the radio, "Commander, we are secured, the flight has been altered"
    "Very Good."  The commander comes in.  It is Jeffrey Silverman. "Hi Max, long time no see."
    Bjorn and the TGS security force find themselves in a shoot out at the Fourth International.  Guns blaze as the doors open.  One large woman packs a .50 cal weapon.  Bjorn uses tazers to subdue a prisoner.  Of course, tazers freeze up the nerves, causing the muscles to clinch, firing off the remaining rounds.
    Max and Jeff did know each other.  In fact, Max used to be part of the old Commonwealth terrorist group, The Hand, now disbanded.  When that happened, Max vanished into the woodwork to start a new life.  Jeff, apparently, kept the movement alive.  He apologizes to Max for lying to him to get him on the flight but he wanted to face him.  He wanted Max to come back.

    Max enjoyed stories that had role-playing over dice rolls.  So, in another adventure played for the character, Max just talked.  It took several hours but it still worked, as two sides of a coin which used to be on the same side clash wits.  The "B" plot with Bjorn became more memorable, however, because of the extensive amount of gunplay involved.  This adventure was later nicknamed, "Bjorn Kills lots of Terrorists."

    Jeff explains that this mission will change the face of the territory.  He won't explain why.  Bjorn and Heather acquire the base's mothballed Kobyashi, the only craft that can catch up to the Starblade.  The Starblade, Flight 515 is going to land on Osborne for re-fueling.  The Kobyashi will beat them there.  Bjorn takes the fat woman with him.
    The Starblade, now with TMA military escort, lands at Osborne's massive docking center.  The Starblade never lands, but just floats docked with the docking arms, completely stable with its Grav Pods.  The door opens and Wesson appears with a gun to the Stewardess.  He demands fuel.  The exposed bridge stretches from the Blade to the Tower.  Carlisle Anderson utters to Jeff, "I don't get it man.  I've played out every scenario in my chess games.  You come out loosing in every one."  Jeff looks at Jane.  Carlisle continues, "There's not a place in the territory you can walk away from this ship free.  There's nothing gained unless--"
   "Unless?  UNLESS!?"  Snaps Jane as she shoves the barrel of her gun is his face, "You're one smart kid.  Too smart for you own damn good!"  Roger comes from behind...
   "Oh,  he's smart.  But I bet Mr. Smart Ass can't figure out how he expects to get rescued with me holding the trigger.  Think you're smart, huh?  Commandos could storm the plane when we stop for fuel but if they shoot me, I'll let go.  You'll be flying through space without a ship."
    Bjorn scales across one of the massive fueling cables a 1/4 mile above the ground to the Starblade.  He enters through one of the access ports.  Heather gets the important information from the prisoner.  The new heading of the Starblade will take it into the heart of the Bloc's military district, heading right for the military testing beds of the Berganofsky Colony.  The group is a splinter faction from the Hand which was crushed years earlier.  This is a suicide mission.  They are planning on crashing the Starbalde into the warhead depot there.  There are rumors that the depots there contain biochemical, biological, metogenic and nuclear weapons.  The crash would wipe out everything on the planet and more or less thrust the Blob back into the 22nd century, military-wise.  The Commander and the vice would escape on one of the shuttle busses, leaving the remaining members to secure and make sure the ship hits.  One terminally ill man has 50lbs of c-59 strapped to his chest wired to a dead-man's switch.  That will only increase the devastation upon impact.
    Wesson is about to pull the waitress back as the fuel starts filling up as Roger comes in behind him.
    "Shoot her, Wesson."
    "There's no need."
    "So she dies a little sooner than the rest.  What's the different?"
    "I knew it!" She snaps, "You plan to kill us all!" She spits in Wesson's face.
    "Do I have to do everything myself?"  Mutters Roger as he shoots the Steward.  Everybody screams as the woman falls off the bridge and down to the surface.  The ship breaks off the moorings and pulls away.

   More of that "Executive Decision" stuff but please remember, this episode predated "ED" by more then six months.  Even the military escort showed  up.  Soon, bits of Air Force One will surface.  Oh well, the whole idea was taken from a comic book anyway.

    Bjorn searches around the massive array of corridors in the lower decks of the Starblade.  He takes out two terrorists without breaking a sweat.  In space, the Starblade zips along, escorted by five cutlasses...then six Bloc Warhawks arrive alongside.  The Cutlasses radio home, "Alpha Base, this is Romeo Leader.  We've been flanked by a squad of Fastcore Warhawks."
    "Attention TGS Flight 515, " Starts the Warhawk Commander, "You are entering restricted Bloc Space!  Alter course to heading 235-112.  This applies to Authority Spacecraft as well."
    "Negative on that, Warhawk Leader.  We will stand by to insure the safety of Authority passengers on board!"
    "I repeat.  Alter course to bearing 235-112.  Berganofsky is a restricted area."
    Wesson, on the Starblade bridge, screams, "And that's just the reason we're going there!  If they try to shoot us down, they'll have to dogfight the TMA."
    Meenwhile, Jeff and Max talk about the motives of his actions.  Jeff is surprised Max has abandoned his roots but Max insists there is something more important both personally and in the big picture.    Max is not convinced.  Jeff is disappointed.  Jeff adds that if he doesn't, Max will die with all the others when the ship collides with the depot at Berganofsky.
    Bjorn has been moving up the decks.  He got into a pretty severe fistfight with a big thug but eventually cuts himself through the bottom of the bathroom.  He drills a eyehole to view the room.  He then sets up an Alphatech Sentry Gun and locks the door.  He sets it to manual fire and crawls under the decks.  He drills up underneath a seat in the first class, right under a chess board.  Bjorn takes out Jane first.  He then tazers Roger who convulses on the floor.  When Wesson runs back from the bridge, Bjorn fires the Sentry, vaporizing the terrorist.  Jeff stands to fight but Jeff stops him, gunfire reigns, blowing a hole in the site of the hull,  Everyone screams.  Roger flies out and explodes.  Jeff and Max fight each other, Max saves Jeff's life as the Emergency doors seal the hole.  The flight is diverted...
    "Warhawk Leader!  You have firing authorization!  Proceed with mission."
    "No need, Fastcore Command.  Flight 515 has altered course."

    The Van in on Mars, selling off a wreck to the Mars War Museam.  They are contacted by another man who claims to be a messenger.  His name is Jaffey.  He is another contact from the Shop.  Like Saphire, he works with the outer rings to make sure they orbit the true cause.  The only difference is that Jaffey has little tolerance for ethics or morals.  Jaffey is usually based on Mars but will appear when he believes Sapphire is not rated on more difficult tasks.  He says that he knows the Sapphire has kept a loose leash on the Can but that will change.  The Van cannot be left to do what they want.  However, as a piece offering, he will allow everything to remain as they were.  He also explains that they will keep the Van's break in Eden's quarantine a secret.  The PCs walk away thinking that this meeting was more of an announcement from inside the Shop like someone was ruffling feathers.
    The enigmatic man from before (played by Christopher Walken) walks unto the Tower from the base the Van just left and into the Director's Office.  The Director stands up.  "Hey, that door was locked."
    "Yes, it was.  I need to know where than Vanderov is headed."
    "I don't know."
    "You can find out."
    "I'm sorry I can't do that."
    "I want to find where it is going."
    "I can't do that."
    "Yes you can or else I will tell your wife about the lover on Futana..."
    "Carol, right...Don't make me ask again."
    In the Tower, the Director tells the man where the van is going...
    "I need a ship."

The Van is traveling between locations when they pick up a distress call...a basic SOS.  The trace it to an uncharted nebula.  The enter, unknown of the dangers.  They discover a drifting squad of 12 piranhas orbiting around a rotted out junked spacecraft.  Barely inside the nebula, the Van looses all power.  Life support goes off line.  The temperature starts to drop.  Lights go out.  Thrusters don't even activate.  Emergency batteries won't supply the power. The wreck has lights on.  The EVA suits work but at half power and dropping.
    Heather, Max, and Bjorn investigate the unknown craft.  It has no identity but does have operating solar panels.  Even though they are working at full power, only enough light is leftover to work a few lights.  Finland succesfully transports one of the panels and wires it into the life support of the Van, slowing the degradation of systems.

    Little bit of strange, rude humor.  While the other PCs were out, Rio and Brooklyn stayed behind and had fun in the lounge with zero-gravity.  They goofed of a bit and it got more and more serious.  Finally, they ended up having a little intimate encounter in zero-G.  They never talked about it since and no other characters (or Players) knew about it.  We handled it by handing notes off.  I asked Rio to roll his DEX skill.  He wrote back, "I made it by 8."  I responded with a note that told him the result,  "YOU MADE IT BY 8!!"  The other players were confused as to why Rio was laughing so hard.

    They decide to shut everything else off.  The gas around their ship dissipates a little.  The gas is filled with energy-absorbing particles that go into feast whenever energy comes into contact.  They have never dissipated because of the energy around the wreck.  Heather's plan involves setting up one of the FUSION missiles to make a tremendous explosion around the Wreck.  This causes a dissipation in the field and the Van pulls out, riding the concussion wave of the explosion.  They use towing cables to pull three of the Piranhas out as well.  The explosion take out the remaining ships.    The Piranhas date from before the war and are in mint condition.  They sell for a good price on the market.  It puts the Van back in the black...

    The PCs are stops at a perimeter station by a man.  He claims to be Jonathan Pyre, a Rigger inspecter.   He boards and presents the crew with legal documents.  Heather knows that her ship has not been approved for some time and now is as good a time as ever.  They are long overdue.

  YIKES!  The players all saw the previous "Sides" but the characters did not, so it was a major creep when they see this man face-to-face.  the Players are terrified but can't show it in their characters.  They tried to remain unbiased.  All the PCs enjoyed the surprise and how the adventure was played so neutrally.  I didn't try to make him eccentric or evil in anyway...he was just doing his job.  They do get a bit creeped out later though.  This adventure marked the introduction of Gabriel Stewart.  He popped up just before this adventure started.  The characters discover a floating craft invisible to radar and with a concept of technology far beyond their grasp.  The pilot claims to be a pilot from the Vendetta, but when it vanished...decades ago.  Gabriel was suspended for so long.  Of course, he decides to stay.

    Gabriel leaves and trails beyond the sensor range, an easy job for the Raven prototype he flies.  Pyre examines everything.  He is sensible, examining the supplies of the Medical Bay and Engineering.  He authorizes modifications done to the ship and even lets the numerous weapon packages slip because of the spotless record of the security officer as well as the high standing Rio has in the Authority credit bureau.  Max's past is thankfully well buried.
    But then he starts interviewing the crew.  At first they are questions about training and requirements of the position and then get more and more personal, like Pyre had read all of the crews diaries before arriving.  Rio gets openly hostile.  Heather, a bit weirded out, answers honestly and without hesitation.  With Rio, Pyre says that a dark past needs to be faced.  He hands Rio a strange "sliver"-shaped rock with a hole and a string...a necklace.
    Pyre then wishes the crew good luck and tell them to be careful. "Don't give in to Love.  It never works....oh...and tell Gabriel that no one is looking for him"

    He leaves and nothing happens.  Half the crew were expecting a fight.  Instead, the adventure left everyone slightly confused.  How did he know so much?  Max jokingly called him, "The Man Who Knew Too Much."  And yes, the rock given to Rio is a Lodestone, taken very obviously from "Elfquest."  It does serve a purpose beyond the fact that its a natural magnet.

    The PCs recover a massive iceberg from the rings of a distant planet.  It has a high purity rate and could fetch a nice price.  They latch onto it and head to the nearest Berg Park.  However, the Berg Park has been completely gutted and all the ice stolen.  One survivor claims to hearing an explosion but that was it.  Soon, a merchant vessel arrives from a lesser known colony in the Packard System.  The crew claims to need Ice badly.  There are only two Berg parks within a month distance, this was one of them.  They have serious ecological problem that is evaporating their ocean.  This occurs when the 4th planet (the colony), comes near the 3rd planet and switch positions.  The side-effect is increased temperature and storm activity.  This lasted for three months every 400 years.  They need water but can't seem to find any.  Their merchant ship doesn't have enough fuel to go to the deep space parks and it would be too late anyway.
    The PCs do some careful prodding and discover from Saphire that the Packard colony is a huge source of Uranium Ore that the colony owns the rights to.  The moment the colony folds, the rights are up for grabs.  The Van decides to pick up the Merchant crew and speed to the Second Park.  Arriving there, they find it gone as well.  They track one of the missing Bergs.  They find is adrift.  Some one was towing it but was attacked and destroyed by Raiders.  The Van tried to hook not the already moored rock but just after towing it, are attacked by a group of Rippers.

    This fight was cool.  Talk about expensive though for a TV show.  :)  Rio and Bjorn are fighting on the surface of the berg in 1/8 gravity while Gabriel does some major fighting work around and through the ice.  Rio even has a sequence where he fights on one of the towing cables.  When it snaps, some poor bad guy gets whipped in half.  Ewww.   Cool visuals, I'm sure.

    The Berg is recovered and the Van speeds to Packard.  A group of Rippers are stealing ice and harboring it.  They are actually transporting it to an underground base on the Colony planet itself.  Searching through one of the wrecks, they recover a log and find the account information.  Apparently, five more Ripper vessels have been hired out by an unknown group.   The Van heads to Packard to release the storehoused water.

    That last sentence seems small but it took about an hour to do as the Van with Rio piloting completed some of the most detailed action sequences ever.  A whole hollowed out mountain was filled with water.  The Van not only fought in the dried riverbeds as deep as the Grand Canyon but in the underground caverns as well.  They fight tooth and nail and break the reservoir, spraying millions of gallons of water in the beds.

   How unfortunate that Gabriel missed the next session, which saw his fighter in combat...and boy, did it kick ass.  Gabriel would not fight again for several weeks of play.  Poor guy...


   Yeah, this game actually had a warning on it.  It was a two parter that tested myself as a GM and tested the skills of all the Players involved.  Gabriel was still fitting in so he didn't get much involved but the adventure proved disturbing for Rio, Max, and Heather most of all.  I used a story loosely based on a short story by Harlan Ellison.  The adventure was a success even though nobody ever mentioned it since.  The characters consider it almost like a dream and most are not sure it ever happened, like they shut it out of their minds as being too traumatizing.

    The PCs arrive at Esque to drop the kid they have had in cryo for the past four months.  Being a very lush planet, and the fact that their ship suddenly has a broken temperature controller, the crew decide to go camping.  Rio invested some of the Van's newly acquired funds into a new Crawler, fuel, weapons, a luxury car and two daeglow Hummers (Blue and Yellow).  They drive the two vehicles into the forest after receiving a warning that some people have been vanishing near the Somunus Chasm.
    They reach the chasm but see nothing.  There is a small wooden suspension bridge but see a much larger metal one further down.  They decide to cross there.  But when they arrive, the bridge is gone.  That night, Rio gets majorly creeped out by a dream he has (see later).  As a result, he decides to sleep underneath car.  The next day, everyone decides to head back.  Bjorn however, decides to walk onto the bridge.....bridge?.  The metal suspension bridge has returned.  It melts seemingly into the rock at the edge.  The strangest part of the metal bridge is the fact that it only goes half way across the chasm before stopping dead.  There are no other supports.  Rio's hand passes through into nothing and then is dragged across the other side.  Heather, Jesse, and Max follow.  Bjorn, Gabriel, and the others decide to stay behind.  They step across the threshold and see a forest of pipe and steel.  An organic mechanical fortress.
    The hallways are totally dark and damp.  The PCs meet Rio and explore since going backwards doesn't seem to take them back.  There are redundancies everywhere.  Multiple rooms for water and reactors and food storage (all fuly packed).  They find a trail of blood (with chunky bits) which leads to an organ on the body.  The characters get understandably nervous.  The PCs get tired but are scared to go to bed in the dark corridors of this towering city of black.  They decide to set up watch and sleep in the damp corridor.  That night, Rio hears screams.  He follows them to an intersection and sees a metal shape down a corridor.  It sounds like fingernails across a chalkboard.  He fires and it vanishes.  When he follows, he finds a metal appendage leading to a bloody table saw.

       Several key devices were used to make this game more effective.  One was the extensive use or H.R.. Giger images, especially from his book "New York City" which I just happen to own.  The other was my recently acquired soundtrack to the movie "Hardware".  I also used some from Goldsmith's "Alien".  "Hardware" was the jewel.  I even slightly lifted the design of the Mark 13 as the basis for my machines of terror.

    The whole planet seems to be a massive automated complex whose use is long forgotten.  It seems to be automated, though.  The next, day, the group continues to find a way back to their home.  As they move, the external lights through windows are replaced by red lights that fade in and out.  One room they enter is filled with gruesome imagery.  A torture chamber filled with many horrible instruments filled with blood.  No bodies.  Wires run everywhere that lead to these devices.  Saws, needles, iron maidens.  They stumble upon another room but this one isn't empty.  Some bodies have been attached seemingly for years...the bodies have long since merged with the devices.  The brains of the victims are mush.  One bloated body doesn't even half a head...just a fat body sitting in its own feces with wires leading leading into the wall.  One just has a head with wires feeding energy, a permanent smile on the victims face.  The people all seem to be alive though.   Some limbs merge into instruments that torture them.  The limbs jerk back and forth.  Some people cannot talk because of their state of mind...others have bitten off their own tongues long ago (Spotting "Sloth" from SE7EN would not have been a surprise).  One of these men has a present day Fastcore uniform on.  Heather sees that all the wires from the wall seem to write and convulse right out of the bodies.  Either info was being fed into them or info was being fed out.

    I was having the crew roll morale checks to see if any would fail.  Who failed the most would freak out the most.  It seemed Max was happy loosing (being a psychology major in real life).  I pushed the envelope, watching the grimaces on the faces of the PCs increase.  Things no one would see other than in an R-Rated film (or Friday night on FOX).  I took some of the visual pain from an issue of Alien: Labyrinth which showed off some gruesome imagery.

    They approach a round, domed hatch on the floor of another featureless room.  They open and a bloated man with no arms legs floats to the surface of a yellow liquid filled with bugs.  He opens his eyes, alive.  Max totally looses it and runs out of the room.  Rio torches the room.  They PCs back away from that room, to the door of another.  The door opens and a man with a Fastcore uniform falls out of the room.  He is missing a hand is filled with gashes and lacerations.  He seems cohesive but terrified and in obvious pain.  The jump takes back the PCs.  The man falls.  Before Heather moves to the man, a robotic arm grabs him on the leg.  A massive sickle drives down on the man's back.  Both metal limbs pull the man back into the room.  The door closes shut before anyone can help him.  They then a calm, soothing voice around them, "Mind your turn please."

    I decided way ahead of time that AI (the name of the computer) would be voiced by Anthony Hopkins.  I think he has the right mellow persona.  AI was the name of the maniacal computer in the story, "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream", the story I based this episode on.

    The service robots of this town were recalled and modified into forces of terror.  They are four feet tall, thick, and have a normal set of arms but stumpy legs.  It also has a variety of additional limbs with saws, needles, and so forth.  The city's computer, AI, has no form of external stimuli, and has long since gone insane.  It has no forms of appendages other than its service robots.  Its only form of Stimuli is putting hapless victims that enter through the "Bridge" it created into a permanent state of agony and then feed of those intense sensations.  AI needs it for reason's long forgotten

    Another room the PCs enter is a large room where AI puts the bodies used up.  The stench is unbearable and Heather is forced to leave first, the shock too much for her.  The bodies were twenty feet tall and in several stages of decomposition.  Some are still alive.  They have been connected to the wall and are slowly being digested into the organic city.  A very slow process.

    They enter another room and it closes behind them.  One of the robots attacks them.  Its smooth, chrome body is covered in blood.  The PCs destroy the unit.  A survivor drops from an air duct above.  Kim Woodring has been here for only a few days.  Her clothes are ripped and covered in a variety of substances.  Her hair is all mashed together.  She escaped and had been hiding ever since.  She has yet to find her boyfriend.  She leads the group to the only place she has never seen the minions go.  The most disturbing of all, all the bloated bodies here have no heads.  The wires leads from the neck are wired in the wall.  She thinks she knows where her boyfriend is but the room is guarded.  He has already gone through principle conditioning but may still be saved.  She shows the PCs Principle Conditioning.  Its basically an assembly line where people are fed into a room and their heads are drilled in with a laser.  Kim thinks her boyfriend is one level below.

    The crew crawls through the air ducts.  The drop down and hit a hallway.  The room is guarded by a massive hydraulic door with two robots.  They break through and find chains but no people.  Everyone drops, drained.  The hear AI saying, "I wanted to tell you Kim, I really did.  I just didn't want to ruin the surprise."  The PCs finally get to see the city out through a massive window...
    A robot attacks and is blown out the window.  The room is a thousand feet up.  The wind is harsh.  Kim says that the bridge exit and entrance and in two different areas.  No one has found the way out.  She is convinced it is near AI central processor.  They look in the distance see and a dome a mile away.  Kim is demoralized.  The group convinces her to join up.  The robot blown out the windows grabs her and pulls her out of the building.  She grabs the edge.  The robot is destroyed.  Heather dives after Kim as she looses her grip.  Kim falls to her death.

    Even though a tragedy, this scene had some humor to it.  Heather pulls her cable, drops it to the ground and snaps "Tie this onto something."  She then jumps out, with the rope still unattached.  Rio and Max quickly tie the rope not onto one of the chains before the cable ran out.   The cable could extend by the way.  More of the influence from "Hardware" with the robots and the action sequences.  No one had seen this film.  I considered it fair game.  The 1st session ended after the next paragraph.

    The group starts to head down the levels.  They use the crawl ducts.  Jesse falls through one of the plates and slides down several stories.  Rio immediately goes after her.  He has trouble finding her.  She starts moving towards him.  When they final meet, a robot grabs her legs and pulls her away down the crawl-duct.  AI says, "Sorry for the inconvenience Riordin.  I could say she won't suffer but we know that is incorrect.  You may join her if you wish."

    Rio turns around and heads back up the level to principle conditioning.  The group follows.  They break into the room just as Jesse's head goes under the laser.  The stop the machine and dispatch a handful of robots there.  However, Max gets hit with one of the Robot's needles and experiences a major psychotic break.  He freaks out and starts hallucinating.  Luckily the crew gets him under control.  (Poor Max does it again)..AI says, "That's bad sportsmanship.  You just can't let the other guy win, can you?"  Max snaps out of it slowly, but no matter what happens, they want to bring AI down.  Even when it offers a way out, they decide to hunt across the buildings and through the planetscape to the AI dome.

   They spend a day and a night walking across the dark metropolis.  They enter the main building and push through wave after wave of sentries to a large room secured by massive double doors.  Inside, they see many large tubes running into a central cylinder.  AI pleads with the PCs to just go and forget this place.  The cylinder opens up, revealing human brain tissue.  Max cuts every single by one.  AI nerves are severed from the city, making it incapable of receiving stimulus.  They are about to leave when Rio turns around and smashes the brain to pulp.  When the town goes dead, a transmission appears of an old man:

    "Good day.  My name is Doctor Paul Church.  I present to you, the self - evolving computer, AI.  It is my hope that AI will benefit the people of this colony.  It is AI's purpose to relive the populace of all hardships.  In this time of need, perhaps we can finally have a place we can truly call home.  In the future, people will look here as the Eden we all strived to find.  Thank You, and enjoy what the future hold.  AI...will come one"

    The characters walk through the exit and appear back on Esque.  Bjorn and Gabriel meet the others.  They ask what happened...they never answered...never...

    Poor Gabriel had to sit out the last session because he missed the first one.  He just sat through the atrocities and was rather happy he never had to go through it.  There was some controversy near the end as to who was going to do the final "snap" and beat AI to a pulp.  I used a very momentous score from Hardware as the machine was destroyed...all in slo-mo of course.  When I thought back, I should have had Max  snap but I resorted to just having everyone roll their Intelligence and offering penalties for those traumatized the most.  Heather, Max, and Rio all rolled and Rio lost....big time.  He went back and just totaled the machine.  No PC ever talked about that adventure in detail ever again...

    Rio dreams this dream while he was sleeping underneath the vehicle in the previous adventure:
    He find himself in the Van's lounge.  There is a Jac-O-Latern and other Halloween Parifinaelia around the room.  The man identified earlier as Jonathan Pyre is here.   He walks around the room.
    "Why Halloween."  He prances down from the bar to the couches where Rio was standing.  "Terrible day.  What a day?  What a day?  First your computer turns off.  Your wolf  painting jumps off the wall, it attacks you, without provocation.  Then your mother calls.  The toilet explodes.  Your computer erased itself when it turned off.  The duck you're cooking is trying to tell you how to live your like and things are just getting worse...Look at the world.  What do you see, Rio?  Everything is in shades of gray.  There is such a thing as black and white."
    Rio doesn't under stand.  He tries asking Pyre some questions.  Pyre just looks at him dazed until finally...
    "GET UP!"  Get up!  I'm cooking!  I'm cooking.  I'm on a roll.  What's the matter with you.  BOOM!  I'm trying to make sense here!"
    Rio gets more and more confused and it doesn't get any better.
    "You don't think I know what you're thinking, but I do know what you're thinking.  You just don't know what I'm thinking.  That's why he thinks what he thinks.  He thinks he's right.  I didn't think he was.  I needed to make sure I knew what he though.  And you know he's right...Try and pay attention."
    Rio doesn't say much.  He just looks at Pyre blankly.
    "Well, obviously, I am not getting my point across and I cannot be more's about your life...You're thinking "I wanna wake want to kill me." That's why he though what he thought.  You have the ability of both brutal violence and sensitive kindness....Don't be so stubborn."
    Heather hears Rio talking in his sleep.  She traces his voice to under the Hummer.
    "I don't think I like this!  Get out!  Away!  Get away!  Out!  Get out!  Get away!  Why me?  What have I done?  Why am I here?  This is no good.  I can't do this."
   "Do yo believe in God?"  Pyre asks Rio.
    "No."  he respond.
    "Wee why not.  Don't you think there is some force that makes sure everything runs as their supposed to?  He makes sure light moves at the same speed.  He makes sure that for every reaction, there is an equally and opposite reaction.  If you can believe it for a minute, maybe he needs points of reference.  Like the outer edges of the Universe, light and dark, or absolute zero and the speed of light.  Hyperspace and the lack of all dimension.  If these rules apply, then maybe this applies to some other extent.  With me so far?"
    Rio shakes his head, "I guess."  Pyre snaps his fingers in front of Rio and claps.
    "Maybe there is a constant force on either side of the spectrum we live on.  If there is pure good, then there holds the capacity for pure evil."
    Heather and Max now sit around Rio, trying to wake him up as he still mumbles, "I had enough.  I give up.  I want to go home.  I can't wake up.  Can't we talk this over?  Are you old?  Go to hell.  I can't get out of this.  You're probing my mind.  I'll kill you.  I'll kill you."
    "And if there is evil and good, " Pyre continues in the dream, "pushing at each other, then God must have though of a barrier..."  He then raises Rio's lodestone...  "that keeps both sides in check.  He will find you."
    Rio screams, "I can't wake up!"  And bolts upright

   Well this was strange.  It was just a dream, right?  Right after this, the PCs broke the threshold of the Bridge to start that very unusual adventure.  None of the PCs had seen "Communion", the movie that influenced this dream.  It was about alien abductions and hypnotic regression and I was quoting what people have said in these regressions.

    Rio's second dream.  He's sleeping on the Van after the last adventure when he finds himself in the lounge of the Van.  A Christmas tree is in the corner.  He sees a female co-host often seen in all those game shows.  She never talks.  Rio can't seem to talk or move.  He feels mellow though...hey...its a dream.  He looks around the room.  Decorations are everywhere.
   "Why Christmas, "  says Pyre as he appears, "Its not like its around the corner."  Pyre wears a Tuxedo and a top hat.  He brandishes a wand in his right hand.  The lady follows him around.  He opens the hat.
   "I'm gonna cast a spell"  he waves the want over the hat. "This has to cook though.  I'm going to say a few things..." his voice gradually becomes more inhuman, with a growl and an unnatural reverse echo "...First, I'd like to say "Season's Greetings" and then I'd like to say keep your hand on the table at all times."  he laughs..."Boo." His voice goes back to normal.  He starts imitating Rio. "I wanna go home.  Please let me go.  Are you old?  You're probing my mind.  I'll kill you!  Can't we talk this over?  I can't wake up.  You who you are.  I am the dreamer.  You....are the dream....look."  He points behind Rio...Rio turns around and sees a slumped figure beside him.  The image is blurry.  Its arms can be seen.  It is scaly and brown.  It stands up.  It is very inhuman.  I lizard-man of sorts, eight feet tall with a long vertebrae, from the tail up straight to the neck which bends down to the socket-jointed head.  Its head is like that of a snake except its mouth is more human, flattened snout, and total stereoscopic vision.  Thin four-foot arms and legs.
   "That's a puzzle, " says Pyre.  Rio turns back to face Pyre. "Like a chinese box.  You open it up.  There's another one inside, there's another one inside, another one inside--You're never...gonna be aloud to see what's behind it all, okay.  So...just get that clear.  There are secrets that his Universe holds that you cannot even begin to comprehend.  People and forces will try to stop you...but don't worry...You won't live to see it."

    It started...nor Rio or anyone else would see that creature again for the rest of the game.  It would have appeared earlier in the next season.  Rio somewhat knew what it was.  A name would be mentioned later that he would skillfully attach to this figure.  He never told anyone what he saw in his dream so no one else would be aware of it.  It was another "Communion" rip-off anyway.  :)

    This adventure was also basically the same as many that was based on a picture...that pic has yet to be scanned and uploaded.

    In a side scene, a Vandal is towing a large cargo module.  The Pilot is sleeping in the cockpit while another has headphones.  An alarm goes off as four minnows start to fire.  The man wakes up as the other rips off the headphones.
    "Dammit, Vandermeer wants his cargo back."
    "No way.  His loss.  He shouldn't have left it with only one guard."
    The Vandal fires a few shots but takes more from the swarming ships.  Before the crew believes their death was in hand, the four Minnows are destroyed by a shadowed vessel.
    "What the hell is that?"  One pilot asked.  The ship passes overhead.  It is huge...and white...
    "Beats me but I guess he's on our side."  The white vessel turns back and takes out the Vandal.  The attacker flies away, leaving the cargo behind.
    "ANN....Frequency 2." is the simple message the Van gets a short time later.  They don't recognize the voice.  The Authority News Network comes online saying four ships were destroyed off Storren, making it the fifteenth ship destroyed in that area in as many weeks.  24 hours later, they get another message, "It happened again...a Whale smuggling narcotics to Stasco from Storren.  It suffered a reactor leak and exploded...or what it an asteroid hit?"
    Rio feels someone is trying to tell him something.  He convinces the others to leave for Storren.  Near the system, they receive an eccentric SOS from Cowboy.  Has has a Snark modified for speed and cargo space.  The Van reaches him.  No damage to the Snark, but lots of surrounding debris.    Cowboy is friendly.  He was attacked by a squad of Stingrays but before he could defend himself, they were all destroyed.  Cowboys's cargo was simple farming equipment and seedlings for Bracken's World.  He just made a routine drop at Storren.
   Heather, curious, tries to contact Saphire but receives no response.  Rio decides to call Preacher, a contact he trusts a bit more.  Preacher decides to meet him over Storren.  Preacher comes over to meet the crew.  He has been here for some time, following something he cannot identify.  Whatever this thing is, it has single-handedly stopped all Jacker and Ripper attacks while simultaneously stopping the smuggling trade in the system.  As Preacher walks through the cargo decks of the Van, he sees the Raven and says, "Hey, the Raven.  How the hell did you get your hands on the first of the Viper prototypes?" This gets Gabriel's attention and he and Preacher start talking.  He knows that the Raven was the first in a secret project to make an Authority and Bloc Hybrid ship.  They made four others.  One of each unique design.  They were all too expensive to produce.  He never heard of the project was canceled.  This brought on one interesting question from Gabriel
   "If this project was supposed to hybridize Bloc and Authority technology, why was it being developed during the war?"  They didn't sign an alliance for another few years.  This would be like Russia and USA sharing technology during the Cold War.  Preacher warns though that keeping the Raven onboard is like asking for trouble.  If Fastcore of the TMA ever found that this ship was onboard...their lives would be meaningless...the Van would be hunted to the corners of the Universe.  Imagine what would happen if this got out.  Back on subject, Preacher says these attacks are only caused by one ship...but he doesn't know how.  Somehow this thing hides out of sight in the system.  It seems to vanish from existence.
    The three connected ships rattle as two gunships attack.  Preacher claims they are bounty hunters always gunning for him.  Both ships take extensive damage but before they can even engage their opponents, both attacks are destroyed.  The unknown vessel appears overhead and soon vanishes.  The Vandal and Crab remain to repair their ship.  Soon, the system is overrun my military ships.  The Van crosses paths with both TMA and Bloc vessels on the hunt.  They even encounter a Hive Penatrator which is less nice.  Soon, that Penatrator is reported destroyed, the largest kill suffered by the unknown Raider.  The Van limps to Storren to repair its engines.  On planet, they are contacted by Jaffey, here for reasons never explained.  He comes on board and sits on the holotable smugly.  He says that Saphire doesn't think this should involve the PCs but he believes differently.  This ship is a threat and is trying to accomplish something.  He also adds to Max that the prison shuttle carrying Jeff and some others vanished.  They found the ship yesterday, no on was on board.  After he leaves, the Van gets another strange communiqué,  "Putting your trust in groups is dangerous.  Watch out for the One."

    The first problem I had with this adventure was its jumping storyline.  There was very little enthusiasm from the Players to continue the adventure.  Rio thought this had something to do with his friend, Jacob Phillips, who was the man he was looking for in "Retribution."  Course, it was, but he didn't know that yet.  Jaffey was initially supposed to be this "yin" to Sapphire's "yang", saying that maybe Preacher was right and the Shop is not all good and looking out for the Van's interest.  Cowboy, initially designed to being a recurring character in this and other adventures, didn't work out, and he never appeared again.  I wanted to base his character on Doc Holiday from "Tombstone."  The wavering storyline had Preacher, Jaffey, Sapphire and others popping up now and then.  The Van just wasn't really sure why they were even here.  Maybe Sapphire was right.  Maybe this didn't involve them... The "One" mentioned would not be explained until the 3rd season premier.

    A general emergency hail comes across when the Van is still in orbit around Storren.
    "Warning!  The unknown raider has been spotted.  It's phasing ability is disabled and it is moving fast.  It is heading past Storren towards Esque.  All ships must clear out of the way.  Don't take him on yourself."  The coordinates specified is almost right by the Van.  Seconds later, the ship flies by them, followed by a Behemoth and 2 Nebula Class Missile Platforms.  The Van joins the pursuit and quickly outflies the capital ships.  They approach an Asteroid Cluster and the unknown ship flies into it.  The Van gets a clear view now.  It stretches a mile across and is pearl white.  It is streamlined and rounded.  It looks like a a ship formed from space itself.  No a spaceliner, beautiful.  It vanishes into the field.  They almost fly into a Smilgasig coming the other way to cut them off.  They never saw the ship.  All the ships gather.  Nothing.  It just vanished.  The vessels decide to part and try to see if they can intercept the vessel.  When the Smilgasig is left alone, it bends and morphs into the white vessel and drifts away.
    The Van is later ambushed by a Hive ship attacking every ship nearby, looking for the white vessel.  The Van defends itself but the enemy is destroyed way too easily.  The Van receives a transmission, "Do you believe in us?"  The voice from before...but now Rio finds it oddly familiar.  He answers, "Yes."

   "Look behind you."  The Van turns around and sees the vessel, and lettering across the side, "Eudomaen."  They are allowed inside a beautiful white smooth domed bay.  The Eudomaen then phases out.  The Van crew sees about thirty men in strange uniforms.  The Captain welcomes them all.  The Eudomaen is a ship from the future that uses a fold vortex as its power...a technology derived from wormholes and the cloaking system on the Eldridge.  On its maiden flight, the drive went unstable and it went back in time.  They don't want this strange ship falling in the hands of the wrong people.  They have taken it upon themselves to make the future a better place.  They believe that if the Hive forces, which center around Storren a lot, are fragmented or destroyed, an event that occurs later might not occur or may swing the other side to win.  They don't explain what it is.
    One man steps forward when hearing Rio's voice.  It is Jacob Phillips.  He and Rio talk a long time about the past and the present.  He went into the Dagtal Swamps and found the pod.  He escaped the swamp but was picked up the the Eudomaen.  The pod was an escape mechanism and they needed Jacob Phillips to find it...but he couldn't locate it from the air but luckily he had a trace on the code disc he knew Rio would he just followed them.
    Before anyone can get cosey, a massive fleet of five Penatrators and a Smilgasig surround the vessel.  It is unclear how they could locate the Eudomaen.  Jacob tells Rio to leave and the Eudomaen will make sure they escape.  It seems these guys don't want prisoners.  The Eudomaen will fight until the Van can get out.  The Van pulls out and is pursued by one of the Penatrators.  The back door opens revealing the Raven.  The Raven launches a barrage of missiles and vaporizes the vessel.  The door closes.  The Eudomaen gets surrounded.  It sends out a transmission to the is Jacob...
    "It looks like we're not going to be able to get out of this.  The leap drive was damaged.  It won't function.  Don't come back.  As I said, it looks like these folks don't want to take prisoners.  This ship can take a beating.  We can fight until the end.  Don't worry...there is no way they can salvage this ship.  It was designed that way....Last word...beware of the Evolution..."  The Van sees a barrage of fire and a massive explosion...then nothing.  The Van escapes.  The Van is demoralized.  Max plops himself behind the Holotable...and finds the tracer Jaffey placed.

    ...And boy were they pissed!  First of all, I had this cool morphing sound from "Sleepwalkers" as metal was bending and the ship morphed from one shape to another.  Then we had this final resolution from "Retribution" which closed that episode off.   And poor, poor Gabriel.  He missed out on "Waterfall" when his ship finally saw action.  He simple opened the Van's launch bay and fired off a salvo.  The Raven never even took off.  The door closed and he left the craft.  Simple and neat.  I think he still felt proud.

    The PCs make contact with Sapphire and demand a meeting.  They don't know how to contact Jaffey so Saphire is the lucky one.  He is arriving on Storren.  The Van is pissed.  They walk in aggressive and armed.  Heather stands front.  Rio and Gabriel have their hands on the bulges under their jackets.  Their guns, folks.   Heather asks Sapphire directly if he knew about what Jaffey was doing.  Sapphire responds by saying he gave the order...  Heather doesn't even need to look at the others.  She steps forward.  She says the Van is out.  They no longer wish any communication with the Shop.  Their relationship is over.  She starts to walk out.  Sapphire grabs her arm.
    "You ignorant girl.  Do you all think you just pout and say you don't want to play anymore.  Who the hell do you think you are dealing with.  Haven't you heard anything I have ever tried to say. "
    "We're out!  We're through!"
    "There is no out!!  Don't you understand?  There is no OUT!!"

    I didn't realize until later that if I had waited a few seconds longer until my next speach, than the PCs would have shot Saphire dead.

    "You have no idea what we have done for you.  Without our protection, you would be dead.  We have kept the bounties, the investigations off your back.  Mr. McKinnon, the Union could easily extrapolate the outstanding warrant for your arrest on Storren.  They could confiscate your shares for the benefit of the family of poor Senator Lambert.  Your location could be leaks to officer Jargon.  Mr. Bryce, the cap placed on your psyche profile could be lifted.  What would happen to your medical standing then.  I heard you are wanted for bribery charges back on Esque Miss Taylor.  What about the Raven, Mr. Stewart.  What would happen if Fastcore or the TMA knew you were alive.  Jack Devlin is considered a convict Miss Peterson.  Handing over a Manta to the Death's Head?  Shant we forget Mr. Steele's dabbling in terrorism.  Your turned Jeff in.  He must be angry.
    "And if they can't go after you, maybe they'll go after your friends...maybe family.  I'm sure they could make Walker's death an accident.  The same can be said about Nikki Holt.  O'Shaunessy could have a heart attack as could Dr. West.  They could go after your Uncle and Aunt, Max.  Your parents, Rio, still living on Sydney if I remember....your sister to.  Miles gray could be beaten to death in the psyche ward....
    "Oh, it wouldn't be us that would do this, but the Union has the same connections we have.  We have just stopped them from getting their hands on this information.  But if you want to be on your have six months.  Try it out.
    "We do what we do out of convenience.  You will do the job, you will live your life.  Your could be shot.  Torn to pieces.  Your wives made ugly.  Your houses burned to the ground.  Your boyfriend's gutted.  In a month, that might just happen.  You don't make the deals, I make the deals...and you're in...until we say otherwise..."
    "Welll...we've said everything that needs to be said, Haven't we...See you in six months...Good day..."  He turns and leaves.  Total silence...
        In deep space, the Smilgasig that destroyed the Eudomaen cruises through space...followed by five...not four, Penatrators.

    As GMs, we all know how Pcs love to get the last word in.  It is a universal rule.  For the first time in the history of Role Playing, the Van crew said nothing.  Sapphire just walks out...It wasn't until sometime later Rio uttered, "I think we just got the brush."  It was a speech I was waiting to rant for some time...It ended a mis-stepped adventure on a high note.

    I needed an adventure which showed the PCs the type of life they are going to have without the Shop's protection.  This adventure was inserted for that purpose.

    Rio learns that his stocks have been frozen and for some reason can't extract any funds.  A few days later, the Van receives an SOS from a damaged Cobb.  They approach it.  Max's terrorist acquaintance from "Best Defense", Jeff have captured the ship.  They take Bjorn and Jesse at the air-lock first and move quickly to the bridge.   The burst onto it.  Rio hops into the crawlspace and escapes.  Max and Jeff don't talk.  The leader of the terrorists isn't Jeff but a man named Tark.  Jeff believes they have been sent by the Union to capture the Van and bring it back to its computer banks can by dissected and the crew interrogated.
    Engineering and the Cargo Bay are guarded.  Rio searches through the ducts but can't find the others.  They ahave been locked in the cryosleep chamber.  The bad guys are armed with Gyrocs and Heavy Armor.  Tark goes to the Cargo bay and sees the Skipray and the Raven...quite the bonus.  Tark's right hand man, Craus sets S-6 explosive around the ship and wires it to a detonator on the bridge.  Craus calls it insurance.  Jeff objects but Tark speaks up, "Just in case we're intercepted before we reach our destination."
    There are 20 terrorists total.  Tark orders the ship to Faust.  Jeff says, "We were supposed to go to Esque."
    "That was the plan.  One changed it."
    "I thought we were just taking the ship to there anything I was also left out of."
    "You know all that you should.  We're rendezvousing with the freighter.  We are taking the ship...we're just taking it Faust...We're going to have to make room.  I'm taking those toys in the hanger with us."
    Rio makes it to the Cargo bay, four stories above the ground.  He scales across the roof, trying to get this his Swamper, folded and hoisted from the roof.  The weapon's locker had been sealed.  Rio needs a gun.  The Swamper is more heavily armed than the USS Nimitz.  He gathers a small arsenal and tries to make it back to the opening.  However, he drops one of his rifles.  In slo-mo the gun drops to the ground.  Rio slowly pulls out his pistol while grabbing on for dear life with his legs.  He hangs down from rafters by his legs.  The gun bangs on the ground.  The four guards there look up.  Rio takes out two guards and flips up through the duct as a barrage of gunfire hails upwards.  The duct he was in is rittled with bullets.
   "Ha, Haaa!!  Got him!!"  Says one guard...Rio pops up from the opening and shoots the other two guards.
   "Nope."  Reinforcements run in, but Rio is gone.

    "Rio kills lots of terrorists"  It was a random check who would be the hero.  Rio won...I thought it was going to be Max.  He had fun with the action scenes.  Thank God he had those weapons in the Swamper.

    "Plot course for the Freighter.  We should hit in an hour.  Set an auxiliary waypoint for the center of the Faust TMA shipyards." Tark says.
    "Was that part of the deal?"  Jeff asks.
    "All along...we erase everything.  These people no longer exist.  The reactor scrams...the explosives blow and we take out have the TMA's military potential along with it.  And the Shop floats the blame."
    "They all die..."
    "You knew that.  Don't elude yourself.  Tell the men to look for anything they want to take with them...Its all going down the crapper anyway."
    Men grab alcohol, drugs, guns, and heirlooms.  Jeff walks past them....a little depressed.  He makes it to the cryosleep chamber.  Inside, the door rustles a bit and opens.  Jeff greets Max.  The guards are out at his feet.  The other PCs trust jeff as long as they can throw him.  Gabriel was all ready to throw him in the room to rot.  Max refuses that to happen.  They decide to hit the Hanger.  They grab weapons from the locker first.  At one point, Bjorn grabs hold of the Crawler and drives around, running over bad guys.   Rio drops the Swamper from the roof, crushing a terrorist.
   Tark hears of the firefight.  He orders Crause to blow the S-6 in the Hanger.  The explosion, blows the Raven around and takes out the Crawler.  Severely pissed, the Crew head for Engineering.  They can't get control of the engines because of wired explosives set to the bridge but do circumvent the weapons and blow the freighter rendezvousing with the Van.  Tark pushes the ship full power to Faust...20 minutes away.  The crew head to the Bridge and Tark and Crause are eliminated.  The bombs are set to blow but thankfully, with only seconds to spare, Max dismarms the explosive.  The Van pulls away from Faust and escapes.  Jeff knows he is on the run now.  He is dropped off at Breaker's yard...

   I used the "real-time" counter again with the explosives.  The crew still don't trust Jeff and never really will.  Max considers him redeemed.  Rio got into a lot of gun work and footwork.  Basically, just a Die Hard rip-off.

    The crew is on Breakers Yard.  They hear about a new Casino opening up for Riggers called, "All Dressed Up."  It is orientated to riggers.  It has leads for sale.  Huge ships dangle from the roof.  One of them is the new Calypso Cargo Skiff, the newest Mule design and the first from Consolidated Aerospace.  Rio is tempted to buy one of the six prototypes immediatly...he settles for just buying up some stock in ConAer.  This new mule design looks like a seller.  They all have a good time and leave none richer but none poorer.  They walk down the busy street a night.  Jesse screams and the group turns around.  They see her dangling two feet from the ground, hoisted by the shoulder by the man they recognize as Jonathan Pyre, "Don't came any closer."  He says calmly, "...all except Riordin."  Gabriel walks around slowly, readying his weapon but Pyre seems to anticipate.  People slowly move aside.  Jesse opens her cane, revealing a sword and impales Pyre through the stomach.  She drops and hobbles to Max who pulls her away.  Pyre bleeds from his wound profusely.  Bjorn, Rio, and Gabriel shoot Pyre down.  People scream and dart away from the falling man.  He struggles to the ground.   A cop arrives and bears a weapon on the PCs.
   "What's going on here?"  He snaps.  Pyre stands up behind the cop.  The cop turns around...
   "Hold it!"  Pyre walks towards him.  "Don't move!" The cop orders.  Pyre grabs the cop.  The cop shoots him four times.  Pyre falls.  The cop approaches.  Pyre stands up and throws him fifty feet.  The cop hits the third level of a building and falls.  Totally terrified, the PCs run for the Van.  They make it but Pyre walks in front of their path, perfectly healed, without a stain.  "I think we should talk."
   "Who are you?  What do you want?!"  Heather shouts.
   "Please try and listen.  Look behind you."  Pyre says.  They look behind cautiously and sees a blood and bullet ridden Pyre walking towards them without even a limp.  The crew look back at the fresh Pyre in front of them, "I think we really should talk." he says

    This session ended right there...with a total sense of confusion on everyone's faces...well...except Gabriel.  He had this nagging feeling that there were two of them.  Strange since I was not exactly sure of that myself.  At first, it was only going to be one bad guy with an erratic personality.  It wasn't until the "The Inspection" that I decided to split them up into two different people.  The whole idea was based around singling one character out and gifting them with mild psychic abilities that would prove more usual as the campaign rolled on.  At first, it was supposed to be a religious character that only was in the game for about eight sessions...after that, it got bumped to Rio.  It was a great twist to a session.  I also thought the adventure was a bit too much like "The Prophecy" even though I had not seen the movie until just before I did "The Inspection."  I altered the game a bit as a result.  I did use the image of Walken from the commercials though because I thought he just looked cool.

    The PCs lock out the bay and run into the Launch center, across the street and into a huge, almost abandoned apartment building.  The hatch is closed so the Van cannot escape.  There, Rio turns and faces Pyre and demands the truth...Pyre, even though seemingly non-threatening, does retort.
    "Please don't threaten me.  I watched civilizations die.  I witnessed the death of Christ, the fall of Rome, the atrocities at Auswitz, the assassination of Presidents, and the apocalypse itself.  So don't think you can stand there and threaten me."
    Outside, the wounded twin, turns around and sees a cop with his gun brandished.  The twin smiles.
    The good twin confirms that HE is Jonathan Pyre...the other is Nicholas Love.  Pyre was the one who came aboard and contacted Rio in the first dream.  Love contacted Rio in the other one.  Dream-walking is often confusing but it was the only way to communicate.
    The group rises up 50 floors up the building, into an uncompleted portion of the massive unnamed building.  The building still rises another 50 floors.  It starts to rain.  Love and Pyre had been searching for Rio for years.
   "Rio, do you remember what I asked you in your dream?  Look at the world...what do you see, Rio.  Everything is in shades of gray.  What you probably don't know is that there is such a thing as black and white.  Don't you think there is some force that makes sure everything runs as their supposed to?  It makes sure light moves at the same speed.  It makes sure that for every reaction, there is an equally opposite reaction.  If you can just believe it for a minute, maybe this God needs points of reference, like the  the outer edges of the Universe, light and dark, or absolute zero and the speed of light.  We live on.  If there is pure good, then there holds the capacity for pure evil.  They push each other, against a barrier that keeps both sides in check...You have that barrier Rio."
    Rio holds up the lodestone.  Pyre shakes his head...
    "No, No, No...this is just a lens...a way to focus so I could reach you.  Its in you.  You are the barrier....pure neutrality.  Am I making sense now?  Love can't kill you because then it would go into someone else.  He wants to take this from you...unfortunetly, its somewhat embedded in your soul.  If he takes it, then he can defeat me.  You see, no matte how much power he accumulates, he can never become more powerful than I.  We can be destroyed, we have often come very close to destroying each other.  But we can never succeed.  I have destroyed his body on more than one occasion.  He destroyed mine once.  No matte what happens, we just come back.  If he can turn the balance, then he can kill me and Love will to speak...There is only one force that can kill, Rio.  Love can find me very easily...the only thing I can think of it that I try to defeat him hear, which will give you time to escape.  You don't have the power to defeat him since it would take too long for your abilities to surface."
    The PCs seemed very wasted with this information.  Pyre smiles, which somehow lifts their spirits, "I know secrets no one else can comprehend.  Oh, I wish I could tell you.  About 700 years ago, both Love and I met together in the only time we never fought, and we made a promise that certain secrets must be kept secret.  For the first time, we actually agreed on something...All that I know I have learned over the years.  I am not just born with it.  I know al about you because I made it a note to know.  Sapphire's block was good but not that good.  Good enough for Face and whom he works for.  Patience is the greatest virtue we have.  I wasn't positive it was you.  I had suspected for years but wasn't quite sure.  Love discovered about you before I did.  I found you first to see if you were really what Love thinks you are.  He's right."
    Pyre stands up.  "I will try to stop him.  You must go now....Get out of here!  Don't get brave.  He does have the capacity to, and will, kill all of you..."
    The Van crew tries to escape.  They make it to a cable that takes it to the other building across the street.  The Elevator isn't working and Love is coming up the stairs.   They go to the roof, in the rain, and try to make it across, 100 stories above the ground.  Only one can move across at a time.  Love appears on the roof with Jesse's sword as everyone has gone across, except for Rio, of course.  He watches Love and Pyre fight it out, lightening and energy flies every.  Love throws Pyre onto the floor, then throws him in the air, to the wall.  Pyre fights back, by pushing Love through a wall.  Love's thrown back.  He grabs the sword and impales Pyre through the back.  Pyre turns around, the sword still through him.  He picks up and throws Love off the building.  He grabs an antennae and flies back into the building, several stories below.  Pyre falls.  Rio helps him...It will take long for to regenerate and protect him.  Maybe there is another option.  Pyre can give Rio his life energy.  For a short time, he will have the same abilities as may give him the defense in order to defeat him.  Pyre transfers his Soul to Rio.  Pyre's eyes go white and he dies.  Love reach back to the roof.  Rio and him fight as before.  They toss each other aside and RIo climbs up the skeleton of the building.  Love reaches him and starts to drain his life and he slowly pushes Rio to the edge of the building.  Rio grabs Love and does the same.  A barrage of energy flies out (Highlander anyone?)  and the building explodes.  The other PCs try to make it back up.
    Rio holds Love over the edge.  Love gasps his last breath and his eyes go white.  Rio drops the body.  It falls 100 stories and goes through a car...very dead...this time permanently.  Rio's abilities go back to normal.  The crew meets up with him...a little confused but okay.  They leave together.  Rio stops and looks back at Pyre's body.  He waves his hand and Pyre's body combustes...Rio walks away...

    Deep space....We hear Pyre's voice:
    "The secrets people tell.  The horrors that are kept.  Are there explanations for what happens in that Universe?  Are we so centralized that we cannot live with the realization that some secrets must never be found.  But as long as their is a secret to be found, one will always strive to know the truth.  But for every secret found, the Universe will pose two more to confound the masses.  Only when the Universe is complete, can mankind find solace in what it has discovered."
    A large red supergiant star...
    "We have just begun the longer with a guide, those fates for something more must find the truth...but the right truth.  The Universe is a circle...everything must return to its origin.  Answers have been given.  Now...its has just gotten worse..."
    There is a flash right by the star...electricity forms around a sphere of light...
    "All must return to its origin...mankinf must find themselves before learning who they are...the Universe has one supreme ability of keeping its secrets for all time.  They are there...waiting to be found.  Every once and a while...the Universe tempts as with a clue.  it is our choice to follow or nor...if not...the Universe will never forgive..."
    Several large pieces of metal move from the sphere...the sphere vanishes.  The fragments pass has a word one it...
    "We live as we dream....alone..."