Tonight we spent a Quiet Year (by Avery Alder) on the generation ship Grooveline after the destruction caused by the comet Jackal crashed into the ship and destroyed part of our food stores and threatening our oxygen supply. Although our bank of display panels can provide us with almost any information we need, we have lost any knowledge of how to navigate the ship and the automated systems have taken us off course. We are losing any faith that we’ll ever reach our destination and a faction on board are advocating we fly into the trio of black holes our sensors detect in the distance. As we begin our year aboard, the sensors detect a possibly inhabitable planet ahead and salvageable space debris just behind us. The population are torn on whether we should try for the former or the latter, but a group begins a project to take control of the ships steering mechanism so we can veer toward the planet.
While that project is progressing a young boy, who should have been asleep with the other children in the hibernation chambers, returns to the main deck from the ships innards with a previously unknown repair droid by his side. We plant a vegetable garden in the arboretum to supplement the food stores, and certify a cadre of people on operating the AutoDoc so we can improve medical care. The crew are too busy to do more than note when we pass a beautiful nebula, and Keily-Mae leads a group of rebellious teens in a naked, circular dance ritual, but no one seems to mind or care about their transgression. The steering project fails, possibly due to sabotage as a navigation cable broke or was cut, and the ship continues on its original course.
On the memorial deck, where we honor and remember the deceased, a gravestone has been desecrated, and we discover near the communal sleeping chamber a mysterious machine that would, if functioning, allow multi-colored lights to shine through the floor and reflect off a multi-faceted mirrored globe. But the biggest news is that a small shuttle docks with our ship, a shuttle that contains a single alien life form, the humanoid Borthus. As the engineers begin to repair the navigation cables to make another try at diverting our course, a group begins advocating for procreation with the alien in order to diversify our gene pool. As more Borthusians arrive, inter-species dating ensues and our people are much less lonely. Our attempts to discover whose memorial was desecrated reveals that the Jackal strike destroyed some considerable portion of our data banks as well as the food stores, but our engineers are able to catalog the extent of what is missing, and to modify the oxygen scrubbers to extend the longevity of the our current supply.
The boy and his robot take control of the ship, the droid plugging into the system and override any security and demand that the children be released from cryogenic sleep, but they are not taken seriously and mostly ignored by the crew as we didn’t have much control of the ship before. In order to facilitate the commingling of the species, the communal sleeping quarters are redesigned into a series of pods that can easily accommodate two or three in privacy. Edna, the last crew member with any direct knowledge of our origin who often shared the stories her grandmother had told her of Earth, dies from what the medics claim was murder. People are spending more and more time in the new sleeping quarters and it isn’t long before Bellah is impregnated and an image of a black hole begins to form on her belly. Sadly, her friend Lillian disappears, vanishing before our very eyes.
The space debris seems to break apart and shards of dangerous junk come hurtling toward the ship. The disco light machine is destroyed when the repair teams begin to argue about the best way to use the machine once it is repaired. However, another team, working on developing a manual steering mechanism tied directly to the ships engines are successful in getting their contraption installed, but not before Neil, the strongest among us, is killed in a steering accident. Imagine our shock when another comet strikes the front of the ship and destroys our bank of display panels, cutting us off from our information datastore. Not long after, a group of religious zealots calling themselves the Parish arrive and begin trying to convince the Borthusians to abandon us and return to celibacy before marriage. Hastily assembling a makeshift machine, the engineers are able to scoop up the incoming space debris and use the icy substance as raw material to improve the air quality. Our oxygen deficiency is addressed at last.
Now that we have met most of our needs, we decide it’s time to retake control of the ship and forcibly remove and deactivate the robot giving the boy nominal control. As we begin deciding what to do with our newfound control and ability to direct the ship, the memorial desecrators are caught when some of the scientific progressives are found trying to destroy another memorial in order to free us from the tyranny of the past. In response the community broadens the memorial to include not only lost people but lost projects and endeavors. Bellah is examined by our medical team, and the ultrasound shows an image of the nebula passed earlier to the consternation of all. The Parish curse us as fornicators and lost causes and abandon our ship, but a functional disco machine is discovered and the community uses it to celebrate the Parish’s departure. But then the Frost Shepherds reveal themselves as the source of the comets that continue to buffet the ship when they send a killer comet to destroy us before we can approach their dominion.
This week we played Juggernaut by Jason Morningstar in which we portrayed a group working for the US government about to test and unveil the computational prediction machine Juggernaut. The day is 3 July 1950, shortly after the start of the Korean War. We had the full cast of characters: Dr. Chandrakar the engineering expert who built the machine, Dr. Takahashi the mathematician who created the theoretical framework supporting the machine, Dr. Dorflinger the practical programmer of the machine, Brasseau the politician determined to use the machine for his own advantage, Major Vandermeer the military man in charge of the project, and Simms the cryptic representative of an agency he will not reveal.
The first runs of the machine brought us predictions about our day, things that would happen to us in the computation bunker, then made a prediction about the progress of the war—when the Chinese would get involved—but most predictions stayed tied to our lives and our day. We were confused, disappointed, and dismissive of its triviality. But if the intelligence on the Chinese were true, could we use it to win the war?
We decided to test the accuracy of the machines predictions. All the predictions for today came true. Was the machine making them come true? Were these merely self-fulfilling prophecies? More importantly, was it possible to resist the prediction and change the future or was it preordained once the machine spat out the card? Dr. Takahashi postulated that the gibberish seen on some cards was an indication of the uncertainty around the prediction. Others thought it nonsense from start to finish, but acted strangely when they pulled a card that struck at them personally, and people began refusing to share certain cards. Our tests and experiments with resisting the predictions were failures. Apparently, the future is not in flux.
The Defense Department ordered Major Vandermeer to shut the project down and confiscate the machine, and once the security protocols were lifted, Simms and Vandermeer dismissed the scientists and proceeded implementing their orders.
Tonight we played The Final Girl by Bret Gillan as an enclave of vampires hiding in the Old West, preying on travelers, a force of nature in the high sierra. In introductions, we meet Pamela the quiet predator, Josephus the cranky old prospector, and Chip the seductive chicken thief planning their next hunt. Chip advocates for hitting the chicken coops, but Pamela is looking for bigger game. In the next scene we see Wick the vain sheep herder, Wallace the kindly cattle hand, and Viola the teenage sharpshooter arguing about whose animals get to graze which hill, and whether among the livestock is the right place for target practice. And in the final preliminary, Van Duck the limber lumberjack visits Lilith the whip-smart brothel madam at Bessy the grizzled barkeep’s saloon. After several drinks of alcohol and being certified clean of STDs, Van Duck finally orders a mug of blood and downs the aperitif before going in to see Lilith’s vampiric girls.
In first blood, a mysterious man in a duster and wide-brimmed black hat leads a mob to trap Thomas the noble gunfighter between a bevy of crosses so he can easily stake him and haul his carcass away; then, they surround and burn down the building that Eliza the powerful vampire matriarch has entered. Next, Señor Duster visits Wallace the cowhand and Wick the shepherd in the hills tending their animals and stakes Wallace through the heart before he even realizes what is happening. Viola takes her guns further into the hills and encounters Josephus in the process of foreswearing prospecting forever after a lifetime of failure. He gleefully tosses his tools in the air for the girl to shoot when a pair of lawmen arrive and begin asking questions that lead one to fire a stake from a crossbow into Josephus. When Pamela visits Bessy at the saloon and pays retail for the O-negative blood she supplies the saloon with, the pair get to talking about Bessy’s need for a creative outlet when the same lawmen arrive. Pamela tries misdirection as prelude to feasting on one, but the other stakes her from behind as she moves on his partner. The coward!
Elsewhere, Chip has led Van Duck into a chicken coop outside a human farmhouse. Señor Duster makes a witty remark before dropping holy water from holes in the coop’s ceiling, but in a flurry of feathers, Chip slips away from the carnage. Duster drops into the coop and tries to stake Von Duck, but he limbers away with a twist and a backwards somersault. Finally, Duster takes an atomizer of holy water to Chip’s beautiful face and brings the vampire down. Meanwhile, one of the posse of lawmen brings a sick sheep to see Nick, the gentle horse & cattle doctor, who is busy tending the sick turtle of Lilith, the brothel keeper. Although both are humans who happen to live among us vampires, the lawman is flustered and appalled at our permissive attitude toward the undead, and empties his revolver in the small vet’s shed. Although the first five bullets are wasted, he eventually manages to hit Nick and bring another of us down. At the saloon, Van Duck is arguing with Bessy about whether he should get free services when a hail of crossbow bolts come flying in and brings down the lumberjack.
After their harrowing escapes, Viola meets Wick at his ranch to begin discussing how they can counter-attack against the forces hunting them when Señor Duster pulls himself up from their well and begins a series of outlandish flailing and failing attacks—throwing a wooden shuriken at Viola, firing a crossbow at Wick, trying to squeeze holy water from a dry waterskin on Viola, tripping as he charges toward Wick—until finally he rushes Viola with his duster removed and wraps her up, surrounding her with the pattern of crosses in the coat’s liner, burning her to crisp. Bessy and Lilith have abandoned the saloon and hidden themselves in the loft of a barn, thinking they’re safe when crossbow bolts strike above their heads, missing them. The posse down below try throwing a lit stick of dynamite into the loft, but Bessie bats it away with the first draft of the play she’s written. But the same lawman tosses the candle he lit the dynamite with through the loft window and the hay immediately catches fire and engulfs Lilith.
Bessy and Wick are running away, taking off through the wilderness to escape their tormentors, but arguing about how best to get away: should they separate? Señor Duster arrives on a wagon promising this will be the end for them. He comes after Wick with a stake, but can’t get close enough to use it because of all the sheep. When he tries his atomizer on Bessy, she knocks it from his hand with her play manuscript. He tries for Wick again, this time running across the sheets backs, but they’re too unreliable a platform and he falls. He throws another wooden shuriken at Bessy but it embeds in her manuscript. He picks himself up and grabs the lantern from his wagon, tossing it in the air at Wick, shooting it so the oil and flame fall on the vamp and set him alight. As he turns to face Bessy, she leaps the full distance between them and buries her fangs in his throat, ending his life and the threat, for now.
Now the scene shifts forward to the present day when two playwright students discuss the legend of a Bessy who haunts their MFA program, supposedly stalking and killing any student who becomes too pretentious. One laughs off the whole legend but when he returns home, Bessy visits him that night and teaches him how wrong he is.
Tonight we played our GM-less version of Lasers & Feelings by John Harper with a crew more concerned with using its newfound freedom from Captain Darcy (held in stasis in a medical pod after succumbing to the mysterious psychic entity Something Else) than strictly following orders.
Our nimble, well-armed Raptor is crewed by savvy pilot and intergalactic party-maven Veronica Carl, sexy Z-Tube star turned self-trained doctor Dirk Dorian, support android and chief engineer Mech 226, maverick scientist with a degree in general science Dr. Nick, and strait-laced and order-maintaining alien soldier Athaar. We each had our personal goals, but word came from Consortium Command that we needed to investigate the recent behavior of the Hive Armada. Given the inefficiencies introduced in the Raptor’s systems by Veronica’s extensive modifications when entering the ship into Pimp-My-Ride competitions, we had to refuel before we could make for Hive space, so headed for the planet Gondola-on-Fire in the Nebula E67 system.
When we land at Gondola-on-Fire, we’re confronted by a humanitarian crisis as planet-wide volcanic activity has left the population devastated and in desperate need of medical attention. We send a recovery team out to secure two things: the quantum plasma we need to fuel the ship and the alcohol that Dr. Dorian has requested (for medicinal purposes). Mech, Veronica, and Dr. Nick take the shuttle Talon and follow the signals for plasma toward a warehouse in the ruins of a village near a volcano where they encounter a hoard of fire zombies and decide to capture one to determine if they are a native or invasive species. Dr. Nick tries to hook one with a rope, but the hook gets caught at ground level and three zombies begin scrambling up the rope. Mech quickly rebuilds Veronica’s damaged Zombie Gun but the first shot just spins the zombie on top of Dr. Nick. Mech extinguishes the flames spreading across Dr. Nick’s uniform while Dr. Nick stuffs the zombie into the fireproof refrigerated box, and then, reluctantly, cuts the rope before the other zombies enter the shuttle.
Meanwhile back at the Raptor, Dr. Dorian has been seeing patients. Those he’s put into the spare medpods are healing nicely, but since so many people need attention, he is also treating patients directly and testing the nature of their injuries by setting them on fire, killing four. Aathar tries to organize the crowd outside the ship and calm them as they learn that the treatments are not always successful, but 5 more enter the ship seeking help, two into the medpods and three injected with something by Dorian. The recovery team flies back to drop the now-frozen fire zombie at the Raptor before returning to collect the plasma and alcohol they found at the village. Mech builds a device for tapping the plasma from the earth and they plant the tap into the volcano’s side while Veronica and Dr. Nick gather up copious amounts of alcohol from the warehouse and plan their next party. When the away team returns to the ship, Dorian has successfully concocted a salve to treat his patients’ burns rather than kill them, and we trade the salve for more refined plasma to power the ship.
Our next stop is renowned vacation spot Party Station Alpha where Veronica throws an elaborate party built around six centerpieces: an alcohol-powered model of the tricked-out Raptor, a display of the frozen fire zombie, a room of disembodied kidneys, the medpod containing still-comatose Captain Darcy, a supply of premium narcotics, and an experiment on the efficacy of burn salve on partygoers of multifarious species. This party resulted in only a small number of patrons infected by a mostly defrosted zombie and a quarantine of part of the station, little new information about the efficacy of the salve, the Raptor being encouraged to disembark by station security, and an alien guest staying aboard, mostly holed-up in Veronica’s room.
Finally prepared to investigate the Hive Armada, we take-off for Hive space and welcome our guest Alganon to dinner, where the conversation turns from his cowboy hat to his glowing backpack and what might be inside. After refusing to sign a release form that would have allowed Dr. Dorian to examine the backpack himself, Alganon agrees to show us what’s he’s carrying if we stop at Jupiter Prime. So, we change course and notice that the Hive Armada seems to be following us. Jupiter Prime is a binary planet surrounded by giant rings of debris with a bright sun we can see from our observation deck. Alganon pulls an ancient ornate box that glows faintly from his pack, and as the light of the sun shines between the twin planets and strikes it, a burst of light and radiation engulfs the ship. When the light fades and our vision returns, we see a Hive capital ship blocking our view through the observation windows. We immediately flee, and thanks to Mech’s boosting of the engines and evasive flying by Veronica, we escape. In the lab, Drs. Nick and Dorian discover a new person onboard ship, the now-cured zombie Jessica, who cites consortium law to protect herself from Dorian restoring her to the zombie state.
The Hive catches up to us and Dorian tries to parley but manages to insult rather than calm the Hive who immediately send a swarm of assault pods that latch onto the ship and begin to bore through the hull to release the Hive boarding party. Thankfully, when Veronica activates the Raptor’s showtime sound-activated dance mode, Mech beat boxes the ship into a series of moves that shake the invaders off before they can board us. The Hive demand we turn over the time displacer and Veronica agrees, thinking we can warp away before they realize we’ve left them holding an empty cargo container, but the Hive fleet is deployed to prevent us from warping. Mech remembers a file entry about the Hive’s intention to reverse history by merging their Queen with an unknown artifact, and we realize that Alganon’s box can reverse time, as it did in turning Jessica back from zombie to human. With Mech’s beat boxing putting Dr. Nick “into the zone”, he figures out how to activate the device and sends our ship back in time to escape the threat. We all find ourselves younger than we started, then a revived and refreshed Captain Darcy strides onto the bridge demanding to know “What have you all done now?!”