I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.
– Clark (The Thing, 1982)
The crew decided they needed to deal with the illnesses plaguing them before they took on the challenges of the Drift rock. The akata had infected Star Crusher and Switch with the Void Death affliction. The decision was a risky one. Even with medical care, if the infected failed their saving throws they would quickly slide down the death spiral of the affliction track. However, they trusted in Nuil’s medical skills and the crew hunkered down for the time it would take their allies to recover. Nuil masterfully treated their ailments (providing bonuses to their saving throws) and the dice gods showed them favor. By the third day of rest, the crew was 100% and ready to explore the Drift Rock.
GM Note: I made a small mistake while handling Ryder’s exposure to medium levels of radiation during the last session. He needed to fail an additional saving throw to acquire the radiation sickness affliction. With this in mind, I opted to declare he succeeded on the second saving throw and had not contracted the affliction. 🙂
While his allies recovered, Cypher explored the data he had recovered from the Acreon’s main computer. He found the Acreon crew list.
Captain Dallas (male human)
Executive Officer Kane (male human)
Engineer Parker (male ysoki)
Navigator Lambert (female lashunta)
Warrant Officer Drez (male vesk)
Star Crusher decided to use Canary, the yellow-colored Witness drone he had modified, to do as much exploration as he could before the crew endangered themselves. Before he sent the drone out the airlock, he did some quick modifications to its code which would instruct the drone to turn around and return to the Acreon if it lost contact.
Up close the Drift Rock was strangely free of the usual wear and tear seen on normal asteroids. On the far side of the rock, they also found a large section had been sheered off, an unnaturally clean cut. Along the flat plane, there were two square openings which looked like tunnels leading into the asteroid. They began to speculate perhaps the asteroid was part of a larger structure or someone had built a structure within it. Canary located the hidden entrance noted by Captain Dallas and ventured inside. A short distance into the asteroid, the crew lost contact with the drone and it returned a few minutes later. Star Crusher’s extra protocols proved quite beneficial.
With nothing else to gain, the crew space walked down the cables connecting the Acreon to the Drift Rock.
They opted to enter the asteroid through the same route as the lost crew of the Acreon. The hidden entrance revealed a tunnel leading deep into the rock and after several hundred feet, they found the first survivor from the Hardscrabble Collective. Warrant Officer Drez floated in a nexus where the tunnel split into two tunnels leading in different directions. Nuil crept up to examine the unconscious vesk and was startled when Drez suddenly woke up. The vesk warrior was ready for a fight but cooler heads prevailed. The crew explained they had been sent to investigate what happened on the Acreon and to rescue any survivors. Drez questioned whether they had been sent by Astral Excavations and was content to hear they had been employed by Gevalarsk Nor, a neutral third party.
Drez had superficial injuries and a quick exam by Nuil indicated he was not infected by Void Death. They explained Void Death to the vesk but he did not fully comprehend what he was being told. Drez recounted how Captain Dallas had also been injured but had not transformed into an undead creature although his other crewmates had succumbed to madness before they disappeared. Running low on oxygen and supplies, Drez decided to continue on with the crew.
Interlude: Warrant Officer Dresnos “Drez” Honorscale
The Honorscale clan were mighty warriors but they fell to their enemies in the arena of politics and every member of the clan quickly found themselves ostracized by the Veskarium. When the Swarm attacked the Known Worlds, the Veskarium signed a tenuous ceasefire agreement with the Pact Worlds. An outcast, Drez saw no reason to remain with the Veskarium and he caught the first shuttle heading to Absalom Station. Among the aliens of the Pact Worlds, he found himself even more alone and it was a long time before he found his home with the Hardscrabble Collective. The Collective valued skills and work ethic over all else and the vesk warrior quickly proved he had both. When Astral Excavations offered an especially lucrative contract for survey work in dangerous territory, Captain Dallas insisted he have the best crew for the job and Drez was recruited to join the crew of the Acreon.
The work was hard and the hours were long. It took Captain Dallas’ crew nine months to finish their assignment. The database of survey data was immensely valuable and Captain Dallas estimated it was probably worth millions, if not billions, of credits to Astral Excavations.
While travelling through the Drift, they came across the Drift Rock. Initial scans picked up valuable metals and minerals and several noqal deposits on the surface of the asteroid. Dallas sent a small team to the asteroid who recovered the noqal nodes which they did not realize were actually akata cocoons. Further scans revealed a hidden cave entrance on the asteroid.
Sensing the life force of the Acreon crew, the akata hatched and attacked. Captain Dallas ordered the atmosphere to be evacuated but this had no effect on the creatures. Fearing for the safety of his crew, he programmed the ship to continue to journey to Absalom Station, gathered what supplies they could, and abandoned the Acreon for the hidden cave on Drift Rock. The akata viciously attacked the crew as they fled but Drez managed to drive back the creatures allowing his crewmates to escape. No one escaped unscathed.
Much to Drez’s dismay, Captain Dallas wounds were grievous and he died within hours of reaching the Drift Rock. Days passed and Drez’s crewmates began to suffer some unknown illness. Madness overtook them one by one and they began to disappear into the dark tunnels leading from the cave deep into the Drift Rock. Drez tried to keep the crew together but his efforts proved futile and he soon found himself alone. Peeking outside the cave, he could see Absalom Station and the Armada in the far distance but no one seemed to come for them. Days upon days passed and he began to fear no one would come to their rescue.
The crew moved through the tunnels which opened into a circular chamber (D2). In the middle of the room floated a corpse which Drez knew to the be Captain Dallas. Nuil examined the body but could not determine if the captain had been infected with Void Death. Some of the crew wanted to destroy the corpse but Drez would not allow them to do so. They opted to bind the corpse like the dead goblin they had found on the Acreon.
In the next cavern (D3), they finally came face to face with the fate of anyone who succumbed to Void Death. A grey and blue-skinned zombie with a long, purplish tongue leered at them from the darkness. The lone Void Zombie did not stand a chance against the crew. They quickly surrounded it and destroyed it. Drez was beside himself but seeing his crewmate face to face, he could not deny the effects of Void Death. Not knowing if Captain Dallas would suffer the same fate, the vesk backtracked and smashed the head of his captain’s corpse.
Beyond D3, the crew found the strange, metallic walls of the inner structure of the Drift Rock. Much to their surprise, they discovered tech in the walls which restored normal gravity while they were in the hallway.
At first, they thought the next chamber (D4) was empty until they were attacked by an ethereal ghost (Drift Dead) which resembled a spacefarer but not one of the crewmembers of the Acreon. Ryder was caught off-guard on the front lines of the fight and an aura of confusion surrounding the Drift Dead overtook him. He took his baton and tried to break his own arm with it. Switch also became confused and began to babble incoherently. The ghost screamed for them to leave and attacked Drez, draining his strength with its attacks. Nuil became confused as well and began smashing her own face with her azimuth pistol. Switch managed to break free of the confusion and the crew quickly destroyed the Drift Dead.
GM’s Note: The Drift Dead was ethereal (50% miss chance on attacks) but the dice favored the players. They were not so lucky with their saving throws versus confusion. In the end, they did more damage to themselves than the Drift Dead did.
The crew decided to search the tunnels leading north out of D4 and after thousands of feet, they found they sheer exterior cut they found earlier on the outside of the Drift Rock.
Backtracking, they moved into a much larger chamber (D5) to the south of D3 and D4 and were attacked by the remaining two crewmembers of the Acreon which had also been transformed into Void Zombies. By now, Drez had gone numb to the horror of his crewmates and led the charge against them. Better to destroy them than let their souls linger and be transformed into more akata.
With the threat contained, the crew noticed a door leading south out of the cavern. The door was electronically sealed but Cypher and Nuil quickly hacked through the door’s controls. Through the door, they found more of the structure which continued to elude them and ventured east into D8 where they spotted a faint glow of light. There they found an ancient looking bank of computers.
Cypher attempted to access the computers but accidentally electrocuted himself. The malfunctioning computers electrocuted himself doing enough damage to take him from full hit points and stamina to zero hit points. Nuil leapt into action, treated his wounds, and stabilized him. He was administered a healing serum and took some time to catch his breath (aka spend resolve and restore his stamina).
Star Crusher examined the computers and disabled the short circuit which had caused Cypher harm. Despite this, they still had difficulty accessing the terminals. The core code used a language none of them was familiar with at first. Examining it closely, Nuil realized she was looking at the ancient language of the Maltur, the race which had genetically created the lamerta. Applying her cultural knowledge, the crew managed to access the system and learned the Drift Rock was part of a much larger structure and they were at one of many terminals which could control the larger structure. They downloaded the remaining data for further examination later and continued to explore.
Passing through two more sets of doors, they found themselves standing in a dark hangar bay staring at a Sanjaval Vagabond medium explorer starship.
Switch yelled, “I call dibs!” The sound echoed through the hangar and an incredible roar responded.
We ended the session on a cliffhanger. When next we play the crew will face whatever terror is hiding in the hangar bay. They also have a few other spots to explore in the Drift Rock (if they want to) and then we will proceed to the second module of the Dead Suns campaign.