Carathumpian of Tethys

Hooks and Barbs
Episode 2

"When the mind is exhausted of images, it invents it's own."


Red was running.

The sounds of his boots made echoes down the metal corridor, irritating.

He was following his training; advance under cover, quiet recon pattern – but those tactics were made for the deserts of his homeland, not this big ringing can of a ship.

Got to adapt Red, or join the rest of the ghosts.

Ahead of him he heard a barrage of gunfire from the doorway leading into the next chamber – machine guns, none of his companions brought machine guns on this op. That didn't bode well.

He came to a halt looking into the muzzle of a custom terran corp rifle, held by an Earther in combat gear. They stared at each other for half a second, before Liam repositioned and gave a clear to John and Jac. Just a couple of years back he would probably have fired, but things were different then.

Nostalgic Mikhail? 

He ignored the accusations of the past and focused on the carnage in the corridor: Jac was rubbing his head while he emerged from a nearby room, while John was scanning their surroundings with his Ranger gear.

Those would have been helpful during the blitz on Kashmir, too bad the damn Belters weren't sharing back then … still not that big on it when you think about it. 

Although John was ok for a Belter, creepy and weird, but ok. He'd proved himself on Mars.

In front of two belted 'Bots with machine guns a pile of barely recognizable human flesh was cooling and leaking out on the hallway.

What the hell is going on here then?

 


Great, they're coming out of the vents.

These things were barely human anymore, split jaws with rows of teeth, elongated hands and talons, great loping strides and animal, monsterous howls and shrieks.

But they don't have guns, so fuck them.

Liam was lighting them up, gladly.
They had made a 'Kill Box' with the two Turret 'Bots that 'Doc' had repurposed, John on the left with Red, and Liam on the right. These things didn't stand a chance.

Might not be so optimal next time though.

The thunder of guns shook the hallway and made his teeth rattle as they all unloaded on the approaching monstrosities, and then it was over. Silence and smoke spread out. Liam spared a glance at John as he was reloading, the belter was doing the same.

All business that one, we're not so different you and I.

But that didn't change the fact that they both knew that John most likely had killed some of Liam's friends during the skirmishes of the last age. Water under the bridge, they both avoided the subject whenever they socialized. Better that way.

'Doc' was cursing and making a ruckus over by the sealed door.

I'm no Mechanic, but I'm pretty sure kicking at the thing seldom proves to be effective.

Who was this guy anyway? He'd joined up with them after their last mechanic had suffered an … accident.  They've referred to him as 'Steve' the first month before bothering learning his name – Now John was calling him 'Doc' like they were old pals and bringing him into discussions like he was their equal.

But he wasn't there when it went bad, he hasn't bled for us like we bled for each other back on …

Liam brough his shit under control, no time for that. The Belter had proven his worth with machines, John was giving him a chance, might as well do the same. Liam went about sifting through the corpses, partly looking for clues, partly taking medical notes on the mutations in these … things.

The Martian was shouting from the corner he'd been leaning against "Hey guys, I found another door!" he stepped back as a part of the wall slid away, revealing a stairway.

Good, maybe our luck is changing.


 

The bridge was slippery with remains, John didn't know of whom or what, he only focused on his footing. Under the metal bridge he could hear the water moving, the light from their torches reflected on the walls in a kaleidoscope of patterns.

I wonder if this is how the sea sounds.

John had never been on Terra, he had never breathed fresh air or walked without a dome over him. He was from one of the Firstcomer Families, to the Martians or Terran the term meant nothing. But to Belters it was something to live up to. His ancestors were one of the first to settle in space, and they had stayed there across generations. It had begun to shape them into something slightly different than human. 

He looked at where Red was walking in front of him, the Martian was scanning the edges of the bridge with his rifle.

Your kind chained themselves to a rock the first chance they got, when they had all the stars to choose from. Fucking Dustwalkers, all the same.

Something caught his attention, a vague movement in the darkness to his left.

Suddenly Red made a shout from his right, twisting back to him he could see something slimy and long was gripping his friend, it's shape continuing from the bridge down into the pool below them. He had to help him.

Wait, the movement to the left.

John turned back just in time to see the spikeed appendage of the tentacle embed itself in his chest, it's icy toxins pumping into him as he screamed in pain and outrage.

Shit! No! Should have paid more attention to my sector!

He ripped the appendage away from his torso and almost fell over convulsing as he dragged himself back to safety. He could see Liam opening his medic kit, Jac was running towards him. Sounds were gone, his vision was tunneling as he staggered away from the bridge.

Didn't even get to swim, typical Belter luck.


 

"What I'm saying is that we need access to the mainframe somehow, all we've got so far is local controls, and that won't cut it." Jac highlighted his point by making a chopping motion with his hand.

"You saw what happened to Reznikov and John, that thing was big and it was fast, it's suicide!" Liam sounded tired, after carrying his squadmates back to the Angeliqa, stitching them up, and making sure they were stable, he had sat down to rest his head for a moment. That's when the discussion with 'Doc' had started.

He was seconds away fom punching the Belter Mechanic, just for being a tool, and for not shutting up. 

"Then we go around somehow, we still haven't explored all of the aft, somewhere in the back there has to be a different access." The engineer was relentless.

Liam studied the dried blood on his suit and gloves as the irritation bubbled in him "Listen, STEVE – I'm tired, I'm covered in blood, I don't CARE how good you are with a tablet or welding torch, we are NOT going back in there JUST the two of us."

"Three. " The voice was raw and ragged.

Standing in the doorway leading to the improvised medbay, John looked paler than ever before, his eyes were ringed and his chest was covered with the silvery spiderweb-like material Liam had sprayed on him some hours past.

"The three of us are going back in there." He repeated, his voice had a tinge of madness or anger in it.

He looks like Death himself.

"Ok John" Liam edged, staring at the pale half dead giant of a man " But we're not going in now, I'm tired, you're barely standing – you lost a lot of blood, remember. And we don't have a plan"

He continued quickly, to avoid the annoying mechanic from interrupting him "We rest, we heal, we eat,  and THEN we decide whether we're staying here or cutting our losses and leaving. So far all we've lost is some ammo – But we almost lost you AND Red , man!"

John looked like he was about to fall over, he gripped the top of the doorway to steady himself. "Ok, ok, we will rest, you're right Liam." He leaned closer, his slender bulk towering over Liam and Jac. "But. We. Are. Not. Leaving."

"Sure thing John, now get some rest"

I know that look, this is going to get ugly.

"Right, I'll get some rest as well" Jac added smugly. Liam gave him a look of death.

I'm going to punch that dude one day, it's a certainty.


 

"There" Jac added finally and kicked the lever for good measure, the gears loosened and started spinning slowly, the door slid away with a grinding slow sound.

Kicking things always help.

The corridor ahead was narrow, enough room for one man to stride.

"Right" John was tapping at the control on his arm, unlike the others helmets the visor of his Ranger helm showed no trace of his face, just a tinted dome of glass and metal tapering to an end at the back of his head, all sinister curves and sleek design. "No signs of movement, but hrmm .."

"Humm-what, Icarus?" Jace asked, his tone curious and annoyed at the same time.

The visor angled in his direction, the tall angular body betraying tension … or mirth? It was hard to tell with this guy. "Whoever built this ship did not have a problem with mineral rationing or economics – so the bulkheads and doors are thicker and stronger than what my sensors are used to." He looked back to the hallway, readying his autoshotgun. "So I'm not sure I trust the scans as much as I usually would."

"Send one of the 'Bots ahead, we follow in a line, me, Liam, then you. Keep two metres between each other-to avoid getting tangled if we're jumped. Let's go."

Jac looked over at Liam, the Earther just shrugged and lined up behind the large Void Ranger.

Creepy fucker at times, I'm glad he's on our side though.

They walked into the gloom, the clicks of boots and the whirr of belts preceding them. As the corridor widened out into a room Liam and John turned to each their side, scanning over the corners. "Clear." "Clear" They've obviously done this together before.

The left side had lockers, the right had … what Jace though were old batteries or generators, much weaker than what they had in their ship.


 

The door slid up and the mutated crewmen launched themselves into the hallway, climbing over the turret robot in their eagerness to get to flesh. The small corridor flashed with the gunfire from Liam and Johns automated weapons, throwing dramaticly distorted shadows around them.

One of them was running at John, it's crew uniform torn into rags and it's eyes blodshot and unfocused. He removed it's left leg with the first shot.

Aaaaand, Stay Down!

He filled the sprawled creature with shots until it stopped moving, then added two more for good measure. He quickly scanned the others, all hostiles down – that was good. He could have sworn I saw the mechanic actually using that SMG he was holding.

The man is an ok shot – make a note of that, John.

They advanced into the room, near it's center a large ugly anglular box was standing, surrounded by blinking lights and screens. A mainframe terminal.

"Jackpot." 'Doc' hissed.

Two other doors led from the room, one to a storage room with grilles separating the layers above and below. John did not like the look of those.

Too easy to get outflanked if we forget about those.

The other door was sealed, behind it sounds of … animals? could be heard moving about, grunting and roaring at each other. They hadn't noticed the group yet.

Most likely more of those shark-mouthed beasts we mowed down in the hallway, don't want to fight THEM in close quarters.

Now, what next?

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Introduction Episode 2: Aièn aristeúein
Choices, choices, choices...

Having responded to the odd signals as per the law, and decelerated into the shadow of Saturn, the crew of the Angelica discovered, through a near miss collision, a mysterious vessel. It was massive, and its design nothing of the modern day. It was long, angular and black, it was almost as if design had been prioritised over function – whatever function it was to have, it looked like no other ship they had seen. They could pick up no life forms or any other signals or readings. They could however pick up readings of life support. After locating an airlock, they boarded the vessel.

"Red" stayed on the Angelica to keep the ship ready and to watch the scanners and listen on the communicators for raiders, other's coming to investigate help and more. Considering the mysterious ship's lack of readings and transmissions, they were uncertain of whether or not their own communicators could penetrate the hull, another reason for "Red" to stay behind.

Having explored and met some odd cannibal like crew members that John and Liam dispatched of loudly and proudly, while Jac managed to open a large door, leading away from the large hangar-like corridor they had been traversing.

After a brief encounter with some robot security Jac managed to shut down – security was old and out of date, they discovered a small control room, overlooking a darkened room. The control room contained the first working consoles and computers they had found since boarding the ship, a ship they suspected quickly was called Nova Terra.

Steve, also known as Jac or 'Doc' sat down by the only working console, touched the screen and a flurry of text and images flowed by until the screen settled on the rotating emblem of the Nova Terra, a stylised bird of prey in flight. Jac set to work on getting through the computer security, whereas Liam and John started to rummage through the room, looking for gear and anything useful the crew of this ship may have left behind.

Shortly after having successfully hacked the system, the first activity Jac noticed on the running system showed the following scan of the solar system:


 

John and Liam found a small storage room containing cleaning utensils, two still functioning flashlights, a pair of magnetic boots, one set of goggles (lowlight), a suture pen, and a weapon rack with an old submachine gun and 50 rounds for it. John and Liam considered the machine guns of the security robots, effective weapons (even if they were old), yet heavy to carry around.

On further exploration of the computer system, Jac came across the following excerpt from some old, partly corrupted, document:

Jac found a few other corrupt documents with some discernible writing. The local computer system seemed otherwise purged or corrupted, further inquiries and exploration of the system would require time, power and – it seemed – activation of the section's and/or level's main-frame computer. The location of which appeared to be classified.

Liam pointed at a screen that suddenly came to life. The image was blurry and full of static. It showed a medical bay, several shapes on stretchers and beds could be made out, a loud hissing and crackling sound coming for the speakers. Before any further details could be gleaned, the screen flickered again, a stylised map of the Nova Terra appeared.

Now, to gain access to the computer systems a main-frame had to be located. They knew they were in the stern, the engineering, cargo and defence section. From here, access to systems and the rest of the ship should be possible, if difficult.

Studying the map and trying to raise "Red" on the comms, heard a whirr, a thud and a distant moan …

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Derelict spacecraft
Episode 1: New owners

The crew had gotten close enough that they could start scanning the signal source. After several minutes of scanning and some improvements done on the scanners by Doc, they managed to see that is was spacecraft. Several orders of magnitude larger than the one they flew in now. No signs of life, and no response to hailing over the radio. John had tried for a fast docking with the ship, but was unable to complete det maneuver, resulting in a minor crash. Only Doc and Liam was injured. After correcting the course John was able to dock with the larger craft.

They managed to get into the airlock but the way further in was locked. Never despairing Doc pulled out his tools and circumvented the security, opening the door. The tech in the lock suggested this ship was old. Like way old. Inside the ship they found it was breathable and had some dim lighting. They entered a large corridor going in the direction of the bridge. Following this they found a power conduit that was out of order. Fixing this would take time, and they wanted to scout some more first. Getting farther in they came to a T-intersection. On one side there was a large door and on the other side a small passage. Doc tried the lock on the large door, but it was not functional. He set about fixing it while John and Liam went into the small passage.

Inside the small passage they found a service room, for the engineers of the crew. And it was still populated.. By ghouls… Seeing John and Liam they attacked. Meanwhile Doc continued fixing the door and started to hear gunfire. He asked them over the comms if they needed any help. (Hoping for a no, as his last submachine gun had been stolen from him shortly before coming on this mission, and with the gun he had he could scarcely do any damage). On the 4th call he got a reply for John, "Yeah we're good. At least I am, and Liam will be too if he can kill that thing". Taking this as a good thing Doc finished fixing the door and went after them. Inside the service room there were body parts everywhere. Gagging a little Doc asked if they found anything, getting a negative in response. There were som stairs leading downwards from the room, but they went into total darkness. Spending a little time searching Doc found a weird conical, circular thing that emitted a weak power pulse. Putting it in is his bag the party went back to the now unlocked door. By combining Doc's console and John's scanning tech they tried to scan for anything on the other side of the door. Getting nothing they went through. Inside was a smaller corridor with an opening in the middle of the far wall and a door towards the front of the ship. They decided that they needed to check out the opening for dangers, and lo, they found some. Two small tracked, cubic droids with not so small machine guns mounted on them circled the room. Doc found some network signals he could interfere with and started working on those. In the meantime the droids saw us. Asking us for our identification, they were getting ready to shot. In the same second that John and Liam answered the drones Doc managed to turn them of remotely. Whoa, a close one.

Some higher power made the crew check out the door towards the front before it got to late in the day. Inside they found a large viewing room and the name of the ship: Nova Terra…

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Introduction: how it all began ...
Episode 1

It was their last trip to Eris, the last out of too many, this year. They hadn't been further in-system than Caelestis in more than six months, and the last trip further in had only been to Ceres. Caelestis had been their port of call in this massive transport scheme Apsis had hired them for. Periastron, their handler – an obvious code name – had suggested legit work for once. Running errands for the Syndicate wasn't always a great way to make friends or avoid FedPol.

The work had been mostly fine, if boring. Transporting foodstuffs and equipment to the colony on Eris wasn't a high-octane risky job with high stakes and good pay … Periastron had let them continue to use Angelica for the job, which had, finally, confirmed their suspicion of the Apsis-link. John looked out the view port as he eased Angelica towards the docking tower. He could hear Liam and Mikhail getting ready to move out the cargo. What a place to settle John thought as the lights turned blue to confirm the atmo-seal. They had docked.

Aphelion wasn't much to look at, it probably never would be. It was a large bubble city with extra reinforced ceiling, couldn't be too careful in the Kuiper-belt, this resulted in even less light getting through. John and the crew had quickly unloaded their cargo and had been allowed to enter the colony proper, for the first time. It is after all New Year's eve they had been told, and there was going to be a party. There was going to be fireworks and a ceremonial send-off of three communications and research satellites. People were merry and drinks were free.

Large signs and holograms lit up the various quarters, sound blasted from hidden speakers. All sensory input overloaded with slogans for the genius behind the Cepheus-program.

The preparations had been going on for decades. Soon Eris would be too far away to reliably and efficiently receive visitors. They were now prepared for more than 400 years of relative isolation. By this it was understood that help would be too far away to be meaningful in case of an immediate crisis, but new colonists could arrive, supplies would still be shuttled, and military patrols would still swing by at times. Advances in technology would or could change this of course, but the minds behind this venture did not count on the mega corporations and governments of the conflicted solar system to maintain what counted as peace these days. The relative stability humanity had suffered the last century was not something to strive towards.

The airlock shut, the transport's life-support sucked up all the remaining air in the chamber. Something like a shudder could be felt as the ship was released from the docking clamps. The job was done, the last of the packages delivered. John eased the freighter away from the docking tower and manoeuvred the ship away from Eris; he started calculating a route to the Jovian system it was about time to get paid. From below he could hear their engineer working on the damaged gravitic drive; it had been acting up lately. It was a risky run if he couldn't hold it together. But then everything was risky these days, even with a working gravitic drive. Mikhail and Liam could be heard chatting in the galley – they looked forward to get paid again. Apsis had better pay up this time John thought as he settled on a route to Jupiter.

The journey would take a week, most likely more, perhaps less. It was a long trek. It was their last from Eris.

The engines of Angelica coughed and hummed as the gravitic drive generated all the G's it could muster, the shields flickered ominously as the ship accelerated towards Uranus' orbit, aiming for Saturn's orbit to save time and fuel and shoot from Saturn towards Jupiter about halfway through the journey. Out here not many dangers lurked, beyond meteor showers and the like.

It is a long journey, lots could go wrong and this engine isn't cooperating. Steve the mechanic moved his toolkit closer as he got working on the redundancy power couplings – a risky endeavor at this speed, but the risk of them not working was far more lethal, if something else went wrong.

The Angelica was coming up on Saturn. Almost 7 days into the journey, they were only about a day and a half or so from Jupiter. This area of space was still mostly void of life and human presence, except for the research stations on Titan. It should be silent, except maybe for the odd hail from a researcher of the aforementioned installations. Yet, John could pick up readings on the sensors originating from a source closer to the gas giant than Titan, among the innermost moons of Saturn.

The law was clear, any SOS or out of the ordinary signals and transmissions must be investigated. Not only for the "good of your fellow humans," but also for the profit of your employer. John started the deceleration procedure. Hopefully this wouldn't set them back too much… he could already hear the groans from his companions as they realised that the universe had conspired against them. Again.

The Angelica had slowed down from their top speed, a healthy 0.025c, close to 7500 km/s, to 700 km/s and still decelerating towards the source of the signal, they would be there soon, time to get the crew ready. He called out "Get up here, we're within reasonable range, I'm going to start up the scanners." With the flick of a switch two displays lit up, he aimed towards the source and started the scanners.

At this distance there were limitations with their old sensor suit, but chance were they could identify it and figure out whether they could or should move on, or stop to investigate. His hopes weren't high. It could be desperate pirates, fanatical pseudo-luddites in search of food, Belter rebels or a syndicate raiding party. It could also be an old derelict vessel ripe for scavenging, which could mean extra cash … or it could be someone in need of help, some desperate scientist kid in a stolen shuttle from Titan. Either way it meant losing fuel and time …

Focused on the scanning he could hear the others making their way into the cockpit, Mikhail and Liam had been around for a while, but the new guy … Steve? He was useful, but chatty and … worse, sociable. The smell of canned food followed them. Food. In the cockpit. The sensors pinged …

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Session 0
God damn chaotic

We only used 6 hours to create the characters. And that is without much of the gear.

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