Stardust Voyage of the Selene

Tonight we return to Final Voyage of the Selene by James Mullen for an online adventure on that doomed interstellar starship. Our story starts as we meet our cast beginning with Lt. Kazarian accidentally joined the crew of the Selene after being discharged from the service when he signs papers to book passage that instead institutes a new service contract. Ambassador Masiri boards from the planet Selassia where he has just successfully negotiated a peace treaty between the Selassians and Gargantia, their longtime rivals in the system. Juve Mahler sneaks aboard the Selene disguised as a technician when it docks at Tetan in search of ancient artifacts he’s heard are available on Earth. Professor Carris leaves Earth to find new avenues of research and books passage aboard the long-haul ship out of scientific curiosity. Chief Pryce joined the crew twenty-five years ago, fresh out of the Academy, to help out his best friend with his first captaincy and has been here ever since.

In the first Act, Juve Mahler talks to everyone he can about the interstitial dust that lines the spaceways in the Void through which we travel from one node to the next. Chief Pryce and Lt. Kazarian dismiss his talk as old wives tales, but Prof. Carris is intrigued by its promise of cellular regeneration. If only they could harness the ship’s neusmatron beam to harvest dust in great quantities, but the Chief shuts them down when they try. Carris tries again with Chief Pryce suggesting that they could go into business together collecting the dust if the Chief built a ship specially kitted for interstitial harvesting. Meanwhile, the Ambassador seems unhealthily obsessed with news of the election now ongoing back on Earth.

Act Two begins with Lt. Kazarian interrogating Professor Carris about his past experiments and confiscating his stash of the interstitial dust, claiming that it’s too dangerous to leave unguarded, but when Chief Pryce asks Kazarian where the dust is, he denies knowing anything about it. He plans on keeping the powerful hallucinogenic stardust for the exclusive use of the crew, but Juve Mahler keeps talking about the necessity of working with the crime syndicate if you want to deal in illicit goods. When Ambassador Masiri discovers them prepping the drug in the ship’s kitchens, they offer him information on his wife in exchange for his silence with the captain. As the act ends, Mahler is explaining how you can mix the stardust with the baobab plant to create metamorphic effects. Could they create a doppelgänger of the captain?

As the final Act dawns, Ambassador Masiri confronts Juve Mahler about the latest election news from Earth. Impressed by Mahler’s initiative and enterprising nature, Masiri promises that they can do great work together on Earth and places his hand on the youth’s neck, where Mahler gets a strange scurrying sensation. Mahler later finds a vorpian spider and believes this is what he felt racing across his neck, a vorpian that the Chief confirms could scuttle the ship if it runs loose through its systems. When Chief Pryce asks Professor Carris about the missing creature, they firm up their plans for a business venture in the future, but the Chief rebuffs the romantic overture from Carris, who turns out to have been one of the Chief’s teachers back at the academy. Smitten, Carris easily forgives the Chief when he confesses to having stolen adamantine serum from his lab back in school. When Lt. Kazarian arrives at the lab and tricks Carris to confessing that his research is based almost entirely on the advice of adolescent Mahler, the vorpian spider’s work is done and the ship crashes out of interstitial space.

Everyone makes it to a life-pod in this slow-motion disaster film and we see their fates play out. The Chief is dragged to an escape pod by Prof. Carris and builds the harvesting ship Carris needs to create his rejuvenation formula from the interstitial stardust. Carris becomes famous and rich, while Chief Pryce retires to write safety manuals. Lt. Kazarian makes it off the ship but never makes it to Earth, not ready for planetary life. Ambassador Masiri returns to Earth and is selected as the Vice Presidential partner of the winning candidate from the election. Juve Mahler escapes carrying the alien viral infection given him by the Ambassador to join the criminal syndicate. Will the alien intelligence inside him fight or focus his illicit ambitions?

Around the Couch

Tonight, we tried another game on For the Drama as part of our pandemic inspired online experiment, this time a silly bit of modern everyday life called Around the Couch by (I believe) Matthieu Bé, who runs the site. We play a diverse group of house mates who have been living with a monstrously large old stained couch in dark green pleather with a landscape painting with a unicorn on its wall side. Now, one of our number has gathered us together to decide whether to keep the couch or get rid of it. As we gather together, we remember various episodes from our history with the couch.

Red couch upholstery background on which words 'Around the Couch" appear in gold.
Image courtesy of For the Drama.

The couch had come with the house, perhaps predating the extended family that had lived here before us. It dominated our living room, forming a giant L-shape covering two walls and sat across from the communal television and was frequently covered in snacks. We often fought over the cupholders built into the arms, one of which we repaired with bright orange, thick thread. We have a rotation of which games take place on the couch so we’re all satisfied: video, board, role-playing, and story. A pillow with a cartoonish image of Darth Vader poorly cross-stitched upon it always sits on the couch, offering solace, kitsch, and humor.

We’ve had on this couch geek sleepovers with all night gaming, watched Blair Witch from its deep cushions, and fights over who should or shouldn’t be allowed to join the house. We sat around after two of our numbers married to remember how their relationship had developed in this house and on this couch, while the two exhausted newlyweds slept between us on the couch. We’ve prepped our costumes for ComiCon cosplay dropped on this couch, and left them out to embarrass each other when our parents came. When the viral epidemic broke out, our married mates argued about whether to go out, and she shook him awake after he’d fallen asleep on the couch, waking him from the strange dreams of another reality that seem to come to whoever sleeps with their head resting in the couch’s corner.

After all these remembrances, we go around and agree that we have to keep the couch. It’s too comfortable and resilient, full of sentiment and memories, and magical.

At this Precise Moment

Thanks to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in Westchester, we decided to play online tonight and played a short session of At this Precise Moment by an unidentified author (at least I couldn’t find it), a Descended from the Queen adaptation of A Single Moment at For the Drama.

We start by naming our dueling warriors: Shen of the Mountain Clan and Yao of Clan Crane. They meet at the dawn of Spring as the snows begin to melt, flooding the river ford where their paths at last cross after two years of studiously missing each other. Yao moves to attack but Shen skips free leaping from boulder to boulder across the river.

Illustration artist: Soizic/ @tempetedigitale from For the Drama.

Then we flashback to see the two of them training together in a large monastery, rival prize pupils of an ancient master. Yao always admired how Shen’s determination would drive both of them to excel, pushing them beyond where they would have been otherwise. In the present, we see a tear fall down Shen’s cheek, having hoped to reconcile when at last they met again. On the night before their final test, Yao had confessed to love Shen, who didn’t know how to react and left the next morning never to return.

In the present, Shen throws a knife at Yao, who spins around causing the knife to pierce their sleeves without finding its target. Not long before Yao had confessed their feelings, Shen had saved them from dismissal from the school after Yao had drank all the Master’s rice wine and caused much mayhem in a drunken tirade. Shen had broken the empty bottle among the detritus and blamed it all on a training incident to protect Yao.

They had lived separate lives peacefully until two years ago when Yao’s actions had angered the elders of the Mountain Clan, who sent Shen to track Yao down. Yao had always been righteous about clans and status, while Shen was never afraid to go their own way. Shen had avoided meeting Yao all this time, just as they had avoided fighting alongside the Mountain Clan against the River tribes during their great battle so long ago. Shen was always convinced they were so much better than others that they could ignore what the elders thought. That’s why Shen had insisted on taking on all their Master’s challenges alone, even when Shen and Yao were teamed up and supposed to work together.

Back at this precise moment, Yao lays their sword across Shen’s chest, hoping to force them to stop and think before acting. That’s when Shen notices the scar cutting down Yao’s ear to their neck and remembered how dangerous they were. In that moment, Shen sees an opening in Yao’s defense and moves to strike the killing blow. Yao recognizes the vulnerability too late to stop the strike, but Shen slips on the wet rocks and the sword fails to land solidly and Shen falls into the icy waters. Yao regains their footing and goes bounding from rock to rock downriver to try to retrieve Shen from the swift-moving rapids.