On the planet of Gobi, people are setting up for a six month stint repairing the Kendai Relay Station and preparing for contact with The Verge to be reopened. It’s been over a hundred years since contact was broken off. A lot of the Stellar Nations have put people forward to reopen trade, to find life forms which have gone unstudied and to report on The Verge. And that’s where we find our players, for one reason or another, fate has brought them here.
- Elias Hocks, a human from the Union of Sol. A former soldier, dishonourably discharged after an affair and a tragic death. His military contacts drummed him up security work on the station.
- An’Acronym, a mechalus scientist. He’s a brilliant mind trapped in a disintegrating body. He’s taken on VoidCorp money and help to weaponise viruses, while in reality seeking to cure the disease which is eating him apart.
- Isaac Clements, a lawyer from the Orlamu Theocracy, a group of science-priests who believe that Drivespace is god. He’s a psychic and a complete pacifist.
- Tyler Reece, a Solar smuggler caught trafficking a fugitive through Concord space.
We open with Tyler being injected with a remote device. He’ll be looked after by Edgar Bickerstaff, a Concord Security operative. If he’s 40 meters away from Bickerstaff, then the device in his neck will detonate.
The group are introduced to Concord Ambassador James Roberts, who is the latest person to try and get the relay station working, and Eden Hedges, the head of security. They, and the other workers, are brought on board.
The station is a sphere with an approximately 40 meter diameter, two meter-thick walls, 1000mm clearsteel viewscreens, a shuttle and sixty workers going in three shifts. Each person finds their place relatively quickly, and prays to last out their term without much space madness.
Other people they encounter in the time-passing montage are; Ray MacKenzie, the head of the ComTech team dealing with the software. Fiona Finch, one of his workers. Reed Goodwin, an overeager Austrin-Ontis gun salesman. Keith Oldini, a VoidCorp worker in ‘mergers and acquisitions’. A fraal mindwalker prisoner called Intheeg. Jrethhrat, a gigantic weren engineer and his friend, Harrevieve, a winged, space-faring seshayan.
It’s confined, no one’s allowed off as the plan is to get the station to actually work by the end of this term. For a lot of people, they can’t deal with more than six months, despite all the potential that The Verge will bring. Elias decides to pass the time by dating Finch. Clements carves out his own space in the crew lounge for his own work. Reece starts to get on with Intheeg, learning that he stole supplies to feed his family and the Fraal are very strict about the law, which is why he’s being punished in the same way as Reece. The attempts for Reece to get to know Bickerstaff don’t gain much ground as he doesn’t really give a toss about this explosive-laced prisoner he’s with, or his duty.
Two months pass, and Reece is the only one doing okay. The other players weren’t coping with the stress and the isolation. An’s twelfth request for shore leave went as ignored as the others. The ComTech guys demanded their own bunkroom and got it, so Clements started using his psychic powers to listen in on them. He hears that they’re pressuring the engineers (outside of their purview) and they’re mentioning something called Geneva.
A third month passes and things are going bad. Even Reece is going a bit ‘space madness’, his only enjoyment being experimenting with beards. He befriends Intheeg to get in on his meditation group. An is too stressed to work and confined to the hospital for a week. Ambassador Roberts is dedicated to getting the station running early, and won’t take any slacking.
Then, one day, something changes. The group wake up, Elias, An, Isaac and Tyler. The lights are off, replaced with the dull red flashing of the emergency lights. Everything’s floating. The gravity’s off. Elias is the only one trained in zero g. Tyler uses his magnetic boots to stick to the floor, the others float about. The doors are all locked down remotely. The group spots a hatch leading to the emergency ladders. Elias has a stutter pistol for security purposes, the others have their weapons in the security chief’s locker downstairs. They find one more stutter pistol in the bunkroom personal belongings. A stutter pistol fires shots of compressed air to stun targets, and doesn’t compensate for zero-g.
Tyler’s implant starts beeping, so he rushed back up from Engineering, leaving Elias alone there. Clements and An go upwards, to the locked admin door. Elias sees all the lockdowns in engineering and gets enough of a success to pick unlocking all the doors or switching on the gravity. He picks the doors. Tyler rescues the other people who were in their bunkrooms (suspiciously not the ComTech team), and everyone looking outside the viewscreens sees the only shuttle leaving.
Intheeg patches the group through to Ray MacKenzie for some threats. They try James Roberts but he’s unconscious, then Eden Hedges who can’t be detected (probably dead). Elias runs to the station guns which are missing their targeting programming, and shoots out their Stardrive engine. The ship escapes. An finds the corpse of Bickerstaff and takes the implant in him, so now Tyler has to keep within 40 meters of An to continue.
Tyler takes the implant back as the others see a massive countdown with, “GENEVA 01:18:52”. That’s when I started the timer on my phone. Now they had that long in REAL TIME to not bicker but find a solution. They managed to speak to the virus and open up its command centre, telling it to power down. The drivesats started to launch and Elias found out what was going to happen. The Geneva Virus would transmit itself through the drivespace relays to every single relay in range, then shut down completely. Those relays would do the same, again and again, until all the relays were shut down and people couldn’t pinpoint where to jump, or send communications to anyone.
While preparing to shoot down all 25 drivesats (which would ruin the attempts to get into The Verge), the virus was persuaded to stand down. All was saved. Kind of. The standard Concord operating system was put up and Tyler turned gravity back on.
But there was something he saw… In the bottom corner of the screen, a countdown. 00:18:32… Running diagnostics, the station was purged of the virus, but the first five drivesats were infected. The virus was specifically on them and when all the satellites activated, it would spread through the whole ‘constellation’. Alex ran back to the guns, took one down and missed another (I allowed him one shot every two minutes of real time). Clements ran to a viewscreen near a drivesat and pressed his hand to it, projecting a psionic electrical jolt through space to a satellite, formatting it. An hacked into another, restoring it to factory settings. Alex took two more shots and as he did that, he noticed the ComTech shuttle speeding back to the docking bay. An sealed them in, and threats were thrown back and forth. MacKenzie wanted free passage back to Insight space, through the relays, and was threatening his hostage, Ambassador James Roberts. His people (including Fiona) started to try and break through the sealed doors…
And then the drivesats opened. The timer was still going, and played a loud alert through my phone. One by one, they started to drift into Drivespace and back, pulling messages through from The Verge. Everyone suddenly had a strange vision.
They were being pulled out of the station, through Drivespace, all the strange colours of the other dimension, all the odd constellations unlike anything they’ve seen, and then it all stopped. They were in a temple, somewhere they didn’t recognise. There were odd sculptures, patterns, and something they all wanted…
For Elias, is was his own command, back in the Union of Sol military.
For An, it was him as an old, wise, happy man, his genes all repairs.
For Isaac, this was the holy place which proved the Orlamu Theocracy right, the proof of their god.
For Tyler, it was his own ship, fame, fortune and all of space in front of him.
They drifted away from the temple, and saw that it was floating, orbiting like a moon. On the planet below, spider-like creatures were surrounding something they each hated or feared.
For Elias, it was the body of his dead lover.
For An, it was his disease, his body and those of his race.
For Isaac, it was a field of dead bodies, and him with his hands on a smoking gun.
For Tyler, it was captivity, with no hope of escape.
Then they were pulled back, further and further, knowing now that whatever they saw was somewhere in The Verge. They fell back through drivespace and into their bodies, in the relay station. Only Isaac was left standing from the vision. Looking at the people in the control and engineering areas, they all had visions, as did the ComTech guys who were attacking the station.
Before they could react, there was a burst. Messages, through the comms. Dozens, no hundreds of messages, all playing at once. Every single one of them sent from The Verge, automated distress beacons, calls to loved ones, business reports, threats, cries for help, anything, everything. All at once. Then two ships burst out of a crimson red starrise, having been trapped in drivespace for over a hundred years…
END OF PART ONE.