Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fragments – Session 5: What Ever Happened to the Acojah?

Session 5 happened Friday, November 4, 2011, and was the last session of this story arc.

This campaign uses the Hero System, 5th Edition, with much Traveller material grafted on.  I am making use of the Hero Traveller books published by ComStar Games.  Sadly, these books went out of print when Mongoose Publishing purchased the rights to produce all things Traveller.  Mongoose is doing good things, so no hate mail.

The Company:
Maxwell Sloan (male human, communications and sensors specialist)
Cyrano Steel (male Lante, computer systems specialist)
Braddock Grar, Lector (male Low Waldi, archivist)

The Crew:
Echo Salazar, Ship’s Captain (female human)
Ted Yahn, Ship’s Navigator (male human)
Albertha Trufin, Ship’s Engineer (female human)
Dr. Quinton Picknell, Ship’s Doctor (male human)

Maresfield Trade Representative:
Deadra Pagenkopf, Maresfield Trade Liaison (female human)

The Passengers:
Brother Kurts of the Order of the Sacre Illuminae
Sister Gunita of the Order of the Sacre Illuminae

Week 7, Day 5:
While the away team was making contact with the locals, Deadra Pagenkopf took the time to go through the Acojah records taken from the dead ship (see Session 4, Part 2 for details).  At the morning briefing, she informed everyone that the Acojah ship had been carrying escaping Acojan colonists in its cargo bay when the nuke hit it.

This led to discussions on whether or not any Acojah might still be alive on Krakatoa.  While Grar and Max had been able to determine there were sentients on the planet (loosely speaking), they had not checked to see if they were all humans.  This would require smaller search areas for any chance of success.  Brother Kurts was asked to perform a planetary survey to determine which areas would be best to search.  [They were bemoaning the lack of a planetologist in the ship’s crew until I pointed out that Brother Kurts was a planetologist – that’s why he came with them.  They had forgotten that.]  The survey would take a day to perform and Brother Kurts promised a preliminary report the next day.

Week 7, Day 6:
After spending the previous day (and much of the night) performing a quick survey of Krakatoa, looking for habitable areas that might house Acojah, a very tired but pleased Brother Kurts made his report.  He reported five areas that were habitable and large enough to support viable populations and three areas that were possibly habitable but sub-optimal (either desert, downwind from an active volcanic region, or barely large enough for a sustainable population).  Each of these areas is isolated from the others by volcanic badlands.  He was able to locate seven large-scale strip mines in the volcanic regions.  Finally, he also located five irradiated crates located in one of the otherwise habitable zones.

Based on Brother Kurts’s findings, the PCs decided that one of the mines near(-ish) to a crater might be a good place for Acojan refugees to hide and concentrated mind scans in that area.  They found no sentient minds in the area.  Concentrating the ship’s sensors on the nearby radioactive crater, they could detect the ruins of a city.  Brother Kurts estimates that, based on the levels of radiation still present and the size of the crater, the weapon used was either a poorly made home-made bomb or a purposely-made dirty bomb.  He leaned towards it being a dirty bomb.

Suspecting that there were no living Acojah left on Krakatoa, the PCs shifted their focus to a different mine and decided to go down and investigate, hoping for some sort of surviving records.  Parallel to this effort, an additional salvage run on the Acojan ship was made.  [This moved PCs whose players were not at the game off stage.]  With Oscar taking the Iron Pig and the captain not wanting to risk the ship’s boat (with the only fuel scoop the ship has), the investigating away team took an air/raft down from orbit.  As the vacc suits also provide radiation protection, this did not bother the PCs.  They also took one of the repaired security bots from Guruphon Station and Grar established a mind link with Sister Gunita.

It was a long, elevator-like trip down.

Once on the surface, Grar landed the air/raft adjacent to a small cluster of buildings near the edge of the strip mine, on one of the highest terraces of the mine.  In the distance, they could see an immense excavator (example).  It was inert, but it made the PCs wary.  Of the buildings they were near, one was obviously a holding area for ore, one was three stories tall and had windows on the upper floors, and one was much taller and larger but had no windows.  All of the buildings showed signs of receiving weapons fire in the past and the windowed building had (empty) sandbag emplacements around the doors.  The PCs decided to investigate this building first.

This building seemed to have been used as a barracks, but was re-purposed from something else.  The outer walls of the building were quite thick and made of a strong form of concrete.  The inner corridors showed signs of combat, with a scattering of bullet marks.  The ground-floor rooms were large (possibly conference rooms?) and had been converted to barracks.  The next two floors seemed to have been offices originally, but were converted to individual quarters or gun positions, probably machine guns of some sort based on the occasional cartridge shells found.  Based on the anti-Acojah graffiti found all over, the PCs surmised that the human populace had held out here against Acojah attackers.

The roof held two sand-bagged anti-aircraft positions (minus the weapons now).  Looking around from the roof, the PCs noticed what was likely the wreckage of a downed aircraft and made note of it for later investigation.  They also verified the excavator was still where they last saw it and still immobile.

Having finished their investigation of what was likely the administration building for the strip mine, they headed over to the next building, expecting it to be a smelter of some sort.  There were three immense doors on the front side of the building (facing the admin building), one of which is not quite closed.  Looking around carefully before opening it any further, Grar locates a tripwire connected to an explosive charge wrapped in ball bearings.  He disabled the trip wire and inspected the explosive charge.  The charge had degraded to the point where it might fizzle at best.  Checking further, Grar found booby traps on the other two doors as well.

The inside of the tall (5-6 stories equivalent) building was mostly made up of smelting and processing equipment (making this a mill), with catwalks and equipment on suspended tracks still filling the upper area.  This front area took up two-thirds of the front of the building.  In the back could be seen rolling doors blocking off three smaller areas.  There was a heavy layer of dust and/or bird droppings on everything.

Investigating the machinery in the front area, the PCs worked out that the machinery was designed for sorting out types of ore, for processing iron ore, and for milling iron into steel.  Checking the back area to the right, they found the machinery damaged but not irreparably so.  The equipment seems to have been stopped mid-process.  Grar and Cyrano jury-rigged a crane to safely lower the six-foot tall cup it still had suspended.  The cup was found to be mostly full of gold.  Several characters did a happy dance at this point.

[At this point my notes ran out, so the rest is from memory.]

With this indicator that the back areas were processing areas for valuable metals, the PCs eagerly moved to the center area to see what it processed.  They instead found the center area mostly destroyed and full of mine tailings.  Confused by this, they exited the building and circled around to the back side.  There they found a large shipping container [think four times as large as a modern shipping container in all dimensions] standing on its end, partially embedded into the back of the building.  Looking away from the building, they could see other piles of mine tailings in strange, low rises.  It occurred to the PCs that someone had been dive bombing the mill, using cargo containers full of tailings as kinetic bombs.  When the last one hit the building but failed to destroy it (or even really damage most of it), they must have stopped.  Or got shot down (thinking about the downed flyer spotted from the roof of the admin building).

Returning to the interior of the building, the PCs checked the last back chamber.  This room was more damaged than the first one, but not as completely damaged as the middle one, which had taken a mostly direct hit from the tailings bomb.  The smelting cup in this area was on the floor, partially crushing some other machinery.  Inside was metal, filling about half the cup.  After some quick field testing (Max is a field geologist, among other things), it was determined to be Berynium, approximately 1.5 cubic meters (50 cubic feet) of it!  [Another happy dance may have happened here.]

With two sources of precious metals located, the PCs decided to finish searching the mill, locating the offices.  These were on a raised platform with a commanding view of the main work area.  The walkway around the offices had solid sides instead of just railings and seemed to have hardpoints for mounting weapons.  Climbing the stairs to the office platform, the PCs noticed that the single entrance area was heavily bullet-ridden.  The two rooms that made up the offices themselves were heavily vandalized and shot up.  One room appeared to have been a conference room with a large table, now on its side and full of bullet holes and the skeletal remains of a humanoid sophont, minus its head, slumped in front of it.  The walls and scraps of things mounted on the walls were covered in anti-Acojah graffiti.  The other room was an office with storage cabinets, all looted.  Looking through the wreckage of the storage cabinets, Grar located two data crystals in the bottom, under the lowest drawer.  There was nothing else of interest here.

Grar used his mind link with Sister Gunita to request that the Iron Pig fly down to the surface and pick up the gold and Berynium the away team had located (it was too large and much too heavy for the air/raft to lift).  While the away team waited for the Iron Pig to arrive, they investigated the downed flyer.  The wreckage showed signs of being burned long ago and was now mostly overgrown with grasses.  In the remains of the cockpit were skeletal remains, which Max’s medical training allowed him to identify as Acojan.  Eventually the Iron Pig arrived with gear to pull the cups holding the metals out of the mill, a multi-hour process.  The Iron Pig returned to the ship very late in the day and everyone retired for the evening, tired but much wealthier.

Week 7, Day 7:
After a good night’s sleep, the two data crystals were checked for the presence of the VIRUS (they were clean) and then the data was reviewed.  The first crystal contained HR records of the mine prior to the Crash, covering a period of eight years.  The second was in Acojan and covered the running of the mine some time after the Crash was known to have happened, covering a period of six years, starting after the seizure of the mine and ending roughly 70 years prior to the present.  The Acojah records clearly stated that the human workers were now slaves.

With the materials secured from the planet and possible evidence of a hostile power operating after the Crash, the PCs decided it was time to head back to Maresfield and report what they had discovered.  Captain Salazar was given the order to make for the nearest jump point and make jump to Caraturth.  She gladly set the crew to doing just that.

Week 8, Day 7:
The Just Lucky arrived in Caraturth system and made for the nearest gas giant to start re-fueling operations.  Once those were complete, the Just Lucky headed to Caraturth.  There they landed Brother Kurts and Sister Gunita, picking up a small delegation in their place.  They also provided the Order a copy of all the data they collected in Krakatoa.  At the end of the day they left Caraturth and (reaching a jump point) jumped to Maresfield system.

Week 9, Day 7:
The Just Lucky arrived in Maresfield.

*End of Session 5*

[By the end of the exploration of the mill offices, it was getting late, so we just kind of hand-waved the trip back to Maresfield.  This was also the last session of the campaign, or at least this part of it.  I needed time off as a GM to work on some other writing projects and just had to step away from running a weekly game to do so.  In several months I will resume running, possibly returning to the Fragments campaign, but several years down the timeline.

I think one of the mistakes I made with this campaign was running what should have been a long-term exploration game in the short time I was still willing to run.  I should have had a definite storyline ready for the players to interact with rather than putting together a sandbox campaign.  I should have also run a more standard background rather than a “picking up the pieces again” background.  Running an adventure happening during the Crash with the PCs trying to get to some sort of haven as the VIRUS wreaks havoc in the background would have been better suited to the time I had available.  Then running the Fragments campaign after my hiatus would have had extra meaning for the players.  Something to thinks about.]

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