Science Fiction

Our heroes have defeated a squad of assassins sent by Samina’s Corsairs, though they do not know how they are being tracked, and are ready to move on to Hamura station. The roster for today’s session:

  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Al Hamra, captain and mystic
  • Adam, soldier and gunner

The trip to Hamura was easy enough, their whole fleet arriving with no mishaps in the Dark between the stars, and docking comfortably with the Hamurabi portal station. As they docked they noticed a small Draconite ship, the Elegy, sitting on one of the station’s landing platforms. Could it be a coincidence that this sleek and beautiful vessel from the Third Horizon’s most enigmatic faction was here at the same station as them? The Draconites were too dangerous a faction to meddle with, so they hoped they were not, and guessed that if the draconites shared their purpose they would discover soon enough, one way or another.

Hamura has only two planets, one a barren rock and one a water world, and a single gas giant that is mined extensively for ice and minerals. They arrived at Hamurabi station during a mining period, so the roughneck miners were not clogging its old and dusty corridors to spend their hard-earned money, and the station had an air of emptiness and decay about it. They were met by obsequious local officials who had heard much of their reputation on the Dabaran circle, and were eager to make their acquaintance and take their money. They found accommodation in Hamurabi station’s most expensive hotel, and set about searching for information on the Oracle, the strange mystic who was rumoured to hold the key to traveling to the Corsairs’ secret base.

Their first attempts to make conversation with local workers did not go well, with the off-duty station hands that Siladan approached being completely uninterested in sharing any of their precious downtime with a stranger. After this attempt failed, however, they were lucky: the local Colonial Agent, Yasintra Hur, invited them to dinner, and they were able to pass a comfortable time with her eating luxuriantly and discussing the problems of the station. From Yasintra they learnt of a strange cult that operated beneath an old water reclamation plant in the bowels of the station, that was run by an old man who claimed to his followers to have a direct insight into the soul of the universe. It was said that this cult had an obssession with the dancer, though Yasintra herself had not confirmed it.

This was enough for the characters: they set off to deal with the cult.

The Statuette of Souls

They learnt that the station had a fairly relaxed approach to weapons, and that the route to the water tower would take them mostly on deserted corridors linked by a service elevator, so they decided to risk traveling through the station fully armed and armoured. This was a good idea, because they soon discovered the cult was not a friendly operation. They found it where they had been told it would be, a small chapel with a couple of side rooms on the first floor, and a second floor they guessed held living quarters for the cultists. Its position under the water reclamation system made it hot and humid, and the environment around the cult entrance was squalid and foreboding. There were two entrances to the chapel, both surmounted by poor quality frescoes of the Dancer.

When they opened the doors they found a small room occupied by four skinny cultists in rough robes, praying before a small dais. A large black statuette, perhaps a meter high, stood on the dais: it was a carbon copy of the statuette they had found in Ahura, and lost on Coriolis, and their guess was that it was of similar age and provenance. The cultists seemed to be worshiping it. Dr. Delekta engaged her invisibility sphere and crept around the edge of the room to stand near it, just in case, as the cultists broke from their religious reverie and turned to face the PCs. At the same time an old man emerged from a side room and walked over to stand in front of the statue – apparently unaware of Delekta’s presence – where he began berating the characters for their impertinence.

The following discussion fell apart rapidly, and after a couple of seconds of poor negotiation the angry old man ordered his followers to attack the PCs. Another group of wretched cultists charged out of a side room to attack, and the PCs prepared to put them down like dogs. Delekta, seeing a chance to save lives, put her gun against the old man’s temple and ordered him to call off his followers or die. He merely looked at her and with a simple act of will forced her to turn and shoot her fellows. Fortunately she missed, and Al Hamra, realizing the oracle had mystic powers, used his own power of domination to force the old man to call off his followers. No sooner had he done so, however, than four horrible creatures came slinking out of another room and attacked Siladan. They were darkbound, bodies of dead humans that had been taken over by some power from the dark between the stars. These darkbound wore tattered cultists robes, and they guessed must be former members of the church. Was the oracle a necromancer!?

As Siladan, Clementine and Al Hamra dealt with the darkbound Adam and Dr. Delekta attempted to tackle the old man. They grabbed him successfully but he was able to reach out and touch the statue and a moment later he was gone, physically removed from the room. His followers fled, though Al Hamra was able to grab one as he passed, and the temple was theirs.

Old Friends

They searched the temple, finding nothing but the stinking rags of the cultists and a few worthless religious items. In the room that the darkbound had emerged from they found a set of spectacles, of the same kind used by Saqr, that enable the user to see mystic powers and the influence of the dark between the stars. They also found a tabula, which was completely blank except for a single message chain that consisted of messages arriving once per week containing a set of coordinates. The sender had no address or connection details, and the old man had never replied. They took the tabula and spectacles and interrogated their captured cultist.

The unfortunate man revealed that they all worshiped the dancer, and the statuette of the dancer. The oracle had told them that this statuette contained all the memories of anyone who had ever lived in the Third Horizon, and by worshiping it they could learn the secrets of all of history and humanity. Every time they attended rituals with him, the statuette would share a little glimpse into the soul of a long dead person, and they would gain a little insight into humanity. Once their insight was complete they would transcend the mortal realm and become like Icons themselves. There were four small empty plinths next to the large statuette, on which the cultist told them the old man would sometimes place a smaller statue. These plinths were just the right size for the smaller statuettes the PCs had seen in Coriolis station, and now possessed one of themselves.

This interview wound up prematurely, however, when they heard a cough from the door and turned to find themselves facing a draconite hit squad. Four men in full draconite armour and their leader, all carrying meson pistols, stood at the door looking in, with their weapons trained on the characters.

They had been found, and now they would have to reckon with the draconites.

The PCs have returned to Presidium station, and made preparations to travel to Taoan, the next system on the journey to Hamurabi. The roster for today’s adventure:

  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic
  • Oliver Greenstar, colonist
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Kaarlina, mystic

Before they could leave for Taoan the PCs needed to gather their belongings from their luxury hotel. From their ship they crossed Presidium station to the small plaza where their hotel was located. The plaza was deserted, most of its shops closed. They were familiar now with its lonely air: a fountain bubbled in the middle of the square, flanked by two raised flowerbeds where no one ever sat, and two of the shops lining the plaza – a raw fish restaurant and a tailor – appeared to be permanently closed. The only places that were routinely open were a small coffee stand near the tunnel entering the plaza and a delapidated game centre, which seemed never to have any customers.


As they entered the plaza three of them were shot, hit by bullets from accelerator pistols. Oliver took a bullet to the heart, falling immediately, and everyone else retreated to cover. Saqr ran to the coffee stall and vaulted over the counter into cover, but the others continued to take fire as they retreated. They could not immediately see their attackers, who were in cover in shops around the plaza, shooting accelerator pistols that are deadly accurate and deadly silent. After a few moments of confusion Kaarlina ran out to the plaza to give first aid to Oliver, and Siladan dashed to the flowerbeds to take cover until he could see their attackers. Saqr saw one hiding in the raw fish restaurant and took a shot, but in return received sustained fire that burst open the second artery in his leg; he fell behind the counter, painting its decorated coffee pots crimson as he fell.

Finally Siladan saw two of their ambushers hiding behind counters in the gaming arcade and charged over to attack, barrelling into the attacker and trying to grapple him as the other shooter tried to find a good aim. Dr. Delecta vaulted the coffee counter and rushed to staunch Saqr’s wounds as Kaarlina helped Oliver back to the hallway under covering fire from Clementine. Now their two injured members were restored the tide of battle turned, and they began to pick off their attackers. They found a second one in the raw fish shop and laid down sustained fire on it, as Siladan disarmed and then proceeded to stab and mangle the two in the gaming arcade. Finally, after a few more seconds of desperate battle, they managed to kill all their attackers. This battle had been close – ambushed by silent assassins while not wearing their armour or carrying their heavy weapons, they had come close to a bad end. But who had attacked them?

Backlach the Feeder

They searched the bodies and found nothing to identify their assailants except room cards for a hotel. They also discovered that the assassins had killed two customers of the game arcade when they entered, presumably so as to eliminate witnesses. Realizing that someone would call for help soon they quickly retired to their hotel, where they packed up their gear quickly while Siladan jury-rigged a hotel room card reader from the readers in their hotel. From this he was able to learn that the assassins had stayed in room 12 of the Strontium Dog hotel, and had come into Presidium station from Taoan a day earlier. They had little else to go on so they left the hotel and sought out an old contact of Kaarlina’s, a data djinn known as Backlach[1].

They found Backlach in the water purification section of Presidium station, surrounded as always by a small squad/harem of immensely overweight young women, who he trained as data djinn and fed until they were enormously obese. He and Kaarlina had not parted on good terms after their last mission together, so their meeting was tense, but he Backlach agreed to do a little work for them, and with the information they gave him was able to track down surveillance video of some of their activities. They had arrived a day earlier from Taoan on a passenger ship called the Harrowing, which was now the subject of some legal dispute: apparently it had left Taoan two days ahead of schedule without warning, and a family of pilgrims were now suing its parent company for spiritual damages. They watched random video footage of the team disembarking, moving around and going to the hotel; it appeared that they had killed the entire team and no one was left over. Satisfied and with little time left to them, they thanked Backlach and left him to feeding his girls.

Back at the ship they guessed that this was an assassination team from Samina’s Corsairs. Somehow the Corsairs knew they were coming, probably because when Saqr fumbled his first attempt to scry on the Corsairs’ base he had been seen by some dark power and could now be tracked. This meant that from now they would need to be on the alert for assassins. They also needed to be on the alert for the police, so they abandoned Presidium station as quickly as possible and set off for Taoan.

The Taoan Blockade

They passed through the portals at Taoan without difficulty, but as soon as they arrived they found themselves confronted by a Legion fleet. The Legion Battleship Sister of Darkness hung in the Dark near the portals, and hailed them as soon as they arrived with a simple warning: Taoan was under a blockade and they were only allowed to visit the Taoan portal station, no one could travel into the system itself. The Sister of Darkness was nearly three times the size of the Beast of Burden, 700m long, 100m wide and 200m tall, packed with heavy weapons and accompanied by a crusier, the Tidebreaker, a 200m long class IV gunship that was easily a match for the PCs’ entire fleet. A cursory check of publicly available data on these ships soon informed them that the Sister of Darkness carried a class III gunship, the Emissary of the Gambler, and the Tidebreaker held four more class 1 gunships. Any attempt to break the blockade and enter the Taoan system to find out the truth of what was happening there would see them confronted by a fleet of vast destructive power. They meekly accepted the warning, and took their suddenly powerless ragtag fleet to dock at Taoan’s portal station. They would head straight to Hamura, and their looming confrontation with Samina’s Corsairs.


fn1: This is the “friend in every port” talent, which is way overpowered and very fun.

Your temple screaming
To be heard
To be in love
Your flesh a kingdom approaching
An ocean raging wild into the ideas surround
You are flesh

Our heroes have freed a group of young men from a tyrannical matriarchal cult, and in exchange received information about the location of a statuette similar to one that was stolen from them a year ago. They now prepare to enter the abandoned mine where the statue is hidden. The roster for this session:


  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic
  • Al Hamra, captain and droid (with mystic powers)
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Kaarlina, mystic
  • Adam, gunner

They had been warned that something very dangerous guarded the statue, and guessed that it was a Sentinel, a portal builder remnant they had not encountered in person but had witnessed in action on some found footage from a dig in Kua. They flew to the dig site and prepared themselves for a deadly confrontation.

The abandoned mine

The statuette was located in an abandoned mine a few hours’ crawler ride from the matriarchal cult. They flew in on the Beast of Burden, taking their most powerful ship in order to have some defense should the matriarchs have some heavy weapons in reserve. They landed the Beast of Burden about 100m from the abandoned mine and left Oliver Greenstar with the energy cannon pointed at the entrance. The rest of the team took their flyer to the mine entrance and parked it there, the loading bay facing the entrance. They expected to be making a very rapid exit and wanted the flyer ready to move quickly.

The mine entrance was unblocked, a wide cutting hacked into a cliff face composed of a strange mixture of hard rock and a fine, fibrous material that wound between the rocks like sinews in some ancient beast. They followed the cutting on a slope down and into the earth, lighting their suit lamps as the cutting merged into a tunnel and curved into the ground. They followed the tunnel down into the cold dark, weapons ready, searching the walls carefully for signs of pillars or any rough texture that might indicate the sentinels they feared. All they saw were smooth stone walls and long-dead lamps.

After some distance and a drop of perhaps a few hundred metres the small entry tunnel opened into a long, dark gallery. They stumbled into the open space, suddenly submerged in darkness: their suit lamps were not powerful enough to illuminate the entire gallery, and all they could see was the vague shadow of walls and then blank emptiness.

Here is where ambushes happen. They bunched together and crept over to one side of the gallery, moving slowly along the walls in a tight group. Nothing emerged from the shadows to warp their flesh but halfway down the gallery they found two corpses, twisted and ruined by strange forces, their equipment scattered around them. They investigated the bodies enough to confirm that they had been killed by Sentinels, but their guess was that the bodies had been dragged here and not killed in this place. They moved on.

A short distance further they came to a rockfall, which was obviously blocking a tunnel entrance. They had found the room they sought.

The statuette

They took their time to open the rockfall, carefully clearing rocks away from the entrance while they guarded each others’ position and prepared themselves for the worst. Nothing attacked them, and after a few hours of heavy work they had broken a gap wide enough for two people to pass through side by side. Adam set up his machine gun on the rocky outcrop, Siladan laid some breach charges in the gap as a defensive measure, and they entered the room beyond.

The room was small, a 10m by 10m cube, with a large mosaic across the far wall, a rockfall obscuring the far corner of the room, and four pillars supporting the ceiling. The pillars, obviously, were what they needed to worry about. They fanned out across the room, covering the pillars with their weapons while Siladan investigated them.

There was nothing to see. They were simple pillars, old and weathered but not threatening in any way. Siladan could see nothing to indicate they might be alive or active, though he had no doubt they were, so he moved on to look at the statuette. It was nestled in an alcove on the bottom right corner of the mosaic, a squat, ugly little black stone thing that was exactly the same as the one they had seen in Coriolis. Above it, at the top of the mosaic, a similar alcove was empty, as if someone had stolen the statuette that sat inside it. How many of these things were there?

The sentinels

With nothing else to do here, Siladan did what obviously had to be done: he picked up the statuette and put it in his bag. The pillar nearest to him immediately came to life, warping and twisting in a disturbing preternatural fashion and attacking him with a strange rocky outcropping that whipped out of its body with incredible speed and force. He managed to dodge the blow, and then another statue on the far side of the room rippled to life, attacking the nearest member of the team. The ambush had begun.

Within seconds one of their team was down, badly injured, and they had to retreat from the room rapidly. Under the heavy, thundering roar of Adam’s machine gun they withdrew from the room, but as they ran to the door the remaining two pillars activated and began attacking people as they passed. After a tense couple of seconds of battle they were able to break out, Adam dragging their injured colleague as they fled the room. One of the sentinels rushed after them into the gallery, but Siladan was able to trigger the breach charges and bury the remaining three inside the room. They rushed down the hall with the sentinel chasing them, moving too fast for a stone pillar animated after a year of slumber. They engaged it at the point where the two bodies lay, all of them shooting it or stabbing it. Clementine’s monosword broke on the thing’s armour and most of their shots bounced off its stone skin but eventually they managed to shatter its guard and beat it down. It fell and shattered into a thousand pieces of stone. Saqr grabbed a tabula lying next to one of the bodies and they dashed out of the gallery, terrified that the remaining three sentinels would find a way through the rockfall. One of their number was nearly dead and they had only killed one of the sentinels, even with a heavy machine gun and breach charges to defend them. They piled into the flyer and rushed to the Beast of Burden as Oliver Greenstar opened fire with the energy cannon on the mining entrance. As Saqr hurled the flyer into the Beast of Burden‘s hangar the entire cliff face collapsed on the mine entrance, covering it completely. They took off immediately, and no one breathed until they were in low orbit, the sentinels far below them in the bowels of the earth.

They had the statuette, and the mining team’s tabula. The final scenes on the tabula were exactly as they expected: a mining team investigating the room, finding the statuette in the top alcove, picking it up, and being attacked by the Sentinels. Three people escaped, one carrying the statuette and one injured woman dragging another, as they collapsed the rocks on the room. When the two injured women collapsed the remaining woman carrying the statuette panicked and abandoned them, leaving them to die rather than risk facing the sentinels. The statuette had been liberated, and they guessed then the sentinels had returned to their slumber.

Saqr used his mystic powers to track the statuette, and found it in the place they all had least expected: in a spaceship near the lair of Samina’s Corsairs. He took the risk and used his scrying power to look in on the statuette. It was sitting on a control panel in the bridge of a small spaceship that was heading away from the Corsairs’ lair, which could be seen on a screen in the bridge. The ship was heading to a set of coordinates, which Saqr memorized and shared with the group. What were these statuettes, and why were they so entangled with the Corsairs?

There was only one way to find out. They returned to Presidium station, and prepared to set a course for Hamura.



The PCs have learnt interesting information on the nature of Samina’s Corsairs, upgraded their ships, and are preparing for the final showdown with the Corsairs. They set off for Uharu, the last interesting system on their journey to Hamura. Today’s roster:

  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic
  • Al Hamra, captain and droid (with mystic powers)
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Kaarlina, mystic[1]

From Dabaran they traveled without incident to the Uharu system, where they docked at Presidium station on the system’s second planet. Besides a cluster of moons around the system’s enormous brown dwarf, Uharu had only 3 planets: a barely-occupied planet, a sparsely-populated Emirate planet, and a third planet with only a small population living in a cult-like matriarchy with very harsh rules. The second planet, Presidium, was under a partial security emergency due to a low-grade insurgency by local anti-government forces, but it held the only significant spaceport in the system, so the PCs had to dock there.

Once they had docked and gathered some information they discovered that the entire system appeared to be somehow connected to the Dancer Icon. Every planet seemed to have either been colonized by a cult of the Dancer or to have a strong religious connection to the Dancer, and even the brown dwarf was named Nartaki, a local name for the Dancer. Presidium itself was ruled by an Emirate, the Latif Ascendancy, which had traditionally venerated the Dancer over other Icons, and was now brutally suppressing any form of Dancer-worship it considered “unorthodox”.

A day trip to a shabby palace

The PCs decided to explore the surface of Presidium a little, and after calling up a poor-quality and overly-eager djinn (AI) in their room they learned that the planet had a famous palace, the Palace of the Latif Ascendancy, that was fabled across the Dabaran Circle. They paid for an expensive luxury shuttle trip to the Palace, but experienced an incredibly disappointing and shabby tour. The “luxury shuttle” they booked had nothing more than a buffet, and the dancing girls for which they paid extra were simply a video recording of not-very-enticing girls from another era on another system. The journey to the Palace from the landing area was a bland little trip in a very standard transport through boring and uninspiring fields. The Palace itself was heavily guarded by Latif guards, with many security checks, and was neither splendid nor grand. After only an hour they had finished their tour and returned to the shuttle in disgust. They had seen better on the surface of Kua!

Irfan’s Request

When they returned to their lodgings they found a video message from a skinny, scared-looking boy who told them he wanted the help of some “combat archaeologists” to help him with a mission. He told them he had no money to pay them, but could give them the location of an artifact if they helped. Attached to the video message was a grainy photo, which looked like it had been taken surreptitiously on a tabula over someone’s shoulder, of a photo that was already low quality. It depicted a wall covered in old mosaic, with two alcoves in the wall. A trailing hand in the photo suggested each alcove was perhaps 25-30 cm high, and in one of them was an ugly, squat black statuette that looked exactly like the statuette that had been stolen from them in Coriolis nearly a year ago. Intriguing! Saqr used his powers of finding (which haven’t been so crash hot recently!) to locate the statuette in the picture, and confirmed it was on the planet of Sylph, in this system. He also sought out the statuette that had been stolen from them, and confirmed it was on a spaceship docked at Coriolis station. So there really was a second! Even though Saqr had found the statuette and the group did not really need to help him now they knew its location, they agreed to meet Irfan.

Irfan met them the following evening at a mining cantina on the surface of Presidium, where he was working as a labourer in a mine. He was a small, skinny, demure boy, a little under-nourished and not really the type who looked like he could dig in a mine. He told them he was from Sylph, where the matriarchs run a brutal and extremely unpleasant regime of slavery and oppression. He had escaped a year ago, and he wanted now to help his brother, Irfan 2, to escape from Sylph. He needed to do it now, because in 6 months Irfan 2 would be old enough to be sent to the breeding pits, after which he would be unreachable. He wanted the PCs to go to Sylph and rescue his brother, and in exchange he would tell them how to get the statuette, which he assured them was in an abandoned and depleted mine near the matriarchs’ settlement. He promised them the mine had been abandoned and the statuette must still be there.

They agreed, and set off for Sylph to rescue Irfan 2.

The scam and the fight

They set up a cover as investors interested in exploring a future potential investment and headed to Slyph. It was easy enough for Dr. Delekta to convince the matriarchs that their mission was genuine and to organize for them to be taken to the mine where Irfan 2 worked, but she accidentally revealed that she was a doctor, and they began asking her some very unsavoury questions about the “resources” (i.e. the men of their colony). Apparently some had been struck down with a lung disease that might require extensive treatment, and they wanted a doctor with more experience and better qualifications than their local doctor to give them an assessment of whether these resources could continue to work, or should “cease being utilized”. Seeing their chance, Dr. Delekta requested that the 10 resources in question be brought to her medlab, along with a sample of five control resources – amongst whom she selected Irfan 2. All 15 of these malnourished, exhausted and sickly men were dragged on board the Beast of Burden and put into the medlab, as the PCs gathered to figure out what to do.

Unfortunately four of the matriarchs had also come on board, and were loitering around the medlab waiting to hear about Delekta’s judgment. Soon after she got the men in the medlab this woman, Iwoe, entered the medlab without invitation and began examining the 15 men. It was painfully apparent to Siladan and Al Hamra as soon as this woman reached Irfan 2 that Irfan 2 was her secret sex toy, and she was not going to let him go. They managed to hustle Iwoe out of the room and started talking about what to do about this problem, but unfortunately one of the healthy men overheard them talking about rescuing Irfan 2 and, seeing his chance to improve his own situation with a judicious bit of treachery, ran to the door to alert Iwoe to the impending rescue. Siladan and Al Hamra chased him but were not fast enough, and he slid out the door with Siladan wrapped around his legs, yelling to Iwoe that an abduction was going to happen.

Things went bad very quickly at that moment. Iwoe and her three assistants drew accelerator pistols from the folds of their jackets and began shooting, and battle was on. Unfortunately the PCs were not wearing their armour and did not have their weapons, so they had to dash into melee or make the most of what they had. Fortunately Clementine was able to knock a mercurium sword out of Iwoe’s hand, and of course Al Hamra is a droid who is always armed, and after a few desperate seconds in which it looked like they might be outgunned they were able to beat the four intruders down. As the fight unfolded Oliver Greenstar, Adam and Kaarlin were able to lift the ship off, with Adam using the accelerator cannon to make short work of the matriarchs’ ground-based missile launcher. They spaced Iwoe and two of her assistants, kept one alive to interrogate, and then spaced her too.

They headed back to orbit to send the news of the successful extraction to Irfan, hoping that the people of Sylph had no decent starships to chase them with. From their prisoner they had learnt the reason that the statuette was in an abandoned mine: it was guarded by at least one Sentinel, the strange portal-builder guardians that they had learnt about in Kua. They had never fought those things, but the video they watched suggested it would not be easy. But the mystery of that statuette called, and what had they encountered yet that could harm them, really? They sent a message to Irfan, and swooped down to the surface of the planet Sylph to do some combat archaeology…


fn1: Dropped out after an hour or two due to incredibly bad technical issues

The PCs have destroyed the Nekatra guards protecting the Dabaran hacker, Livan, and are ready to ransack his apartments and capture him. The roster for today’s mission:

  • Adam, gunner and acting captain
  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic
  • Al Hamra, captain and droid (with mystic powers)
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Kaarlina, mystic

First they began investigating the large warehouse room where they killed the nekatra, ignoring the stench of burnt fur and blood. They found nothing of interest in the cargo space but in a neighbouring storage room they found a collection of electronic equipment, and buried amongst it a box full of data chips with the names of important local figures tagged on them: The Grand Vizier, Inspector Aluf, and so on. They inserted one into their tabula, and Siladan was about to begin his data djinn work to decode it when a speaker in the corner of the room crackled to life and Livan spoke to them. He asked them not to take his data chips, and offered to cut a deal with them if they would return him the chips. After a very short negotiation he invited them upstairs to his living space.

They moved cautiously out of the room and into the hallway, where a previously locked door opened to reveal an elevator. They took the elevator up to the second level of the old abandoned ice hauler, into a small and messy kitchen. The centre of the kitchen held a large circular table, and on the far side of it a tall, thin, rangy-looking man sat in a chair with his legs on the table, an accelerator pistol pointing at them. He gestured to them to sit, and they cautiously joined him at the table.

The negotiation that followed was simple and effective. Livan revealed to them that Samina’s Corsairs were his most rewarding and most demanding clients, and he did not like working with them. He also thought they were very dangerous, but he was willing to cut a deal with the PCs in order to secure the return of his data chips, which were his insurance policy for his work on Atuta; if he lost them he would need to move or begin his entire career all over again. The PCs, seeing a chance to learn all they needed without any dirty work, agreed to return him the chips if he would tell them all he could about the Corsairs, and also scrub the registry of all their stolen ships. He agreed to both, and had refreshed the registry of their stolen ships in a matter of minutes. He then told them what he knew of the Corsairs:

  • Samina herself must be a powerful mystic, or at least had some mystic power
  • A mystic barrier of some kind protected the Corsairs’ home base from being found, so ships would pass it by without ever knowing it was there
  • No one on a Corsair ship knew how to pass through the barrier. Instead they visited Hamurabi portal station and met someone called the Oracle who then guided them through the barrier
  • The Oracle must have some mystic power, or perhaps carried some token or symbol that helped pass through the barrier
  • The Corsairs were run like a cult, and were fanatically loyal
  • There were perhaps 60 soldiers remaining in the Corsair base after the damage the PCs had already done to them
  • The Corsair base was rumoured to have a resident fleet of attack ships to defend it if ever the barrier is breached
  • There are perhaps 3 remaining Corsair ships that are used for travel across the Horizon, between portals

Livan also told them that he routinely dealt with three agents, who visited him occasionally. The most recent visit was from an agent in a ship called the Haymarket Massacre. Saqr asked him if he had video footage of that man approaching his home, and indeed Livan did. He shared this with Saqr. They asked after a few other details, and agreed to part ways in peace. Livan was sure their trouble with the Corsairs would soon get them killed, and doubted he would ever have to see them again.

They returned to their luxury quarters far from Livan’s rundown old freighter, and decided to take this time in Atuta to prepare themselves for the biggest action yet of their campaign. With their ships now officially registered as theirs they were finally in a position to upgrade them, and now they were in one of the largest shipbuilding spaceports in the Horizon. They took a month here, resting and recuperating from their many injuries, while the Beast of Burden was repaired and the Judgment of the Dancer upgraded with more modules and weapons. They also modified the Grace of the Icons to increase its armaments and prepare it for war. For a month they took in the airs of Atuta, enjoyed its thriving souks and bustling cantinas, and wound down from months of constant combat.

Then, a month later, on the day of the Founding, as they were relaxing in their quarters and preparing to return to their ship, Saqr took it upon himself to use his mystic powers to see if he could find Livan’s contact, and to scry upon him. He took his support cat Orange to his lap, made himself comfortable in his cushion room, played the video Livan had sent him and sunk into a mystic trance.

He found the contact easily enough, though in a bizarre place. His mystic powers told him that the contact was not in Hamura, but at a location far from any star, in the centre of the Dabaran Circle, a place light years from the nearest portal and not connected to any star. Had the Corsairs found a hidden portal!? He tried to investigate further using his scrying powers, but here everything went wrong: his mystic powers failed him, and a huge shadow of darkness passed over him as he fled the scene of his scrying. As he tried to draw his powers back into himself the great shadow followed him, and the Dark between the stars broke into his room.

It manifested as four huge, ghostly hounds, one in each corner of the room, which immediately broke into a great howl that almost tore Saqr’s spirit from his bones. Then they attacked him.

These were the infamous Hounds of Tirides. Fortunately their howl alerted the rest of the group, who were able to quickly come to Saqr’s aid, charging into the room unarmoured and with only the gear they could quickly grab to try and save him from the swarming Dark. This battle was nearly deadly: the Hounds had some mystic power to shift in time and space when attacked so that they took no damage, and every time one of them howled it tore at their souls. Within moments Saqr was a gibbering heap on the ground, Siladan was unconscious with his face torn off, and the rest of the group had nerves so frayed they felt they must flee. But they perservered, and finally through a mess of gunfire and mercurium they were able to cut the beasts down and send them back to the Dark from whence they came. Dr. Delecta and Adam between them dragged Saqr back from his catatonia, and as they recovered from the battle he explained the strange thing he had seen.

They realized now that some great and dark power was invested in the Corsairs. When they killed Samina it would not just be a dangerous bandit nest that they destroyed, but some sinister force from the Dark. They must prepare themselves for a bitter battle not just against human cruelty, but against the Dark itself …

A note on darkness points: My players have been pretty liberal in giving me darkness points, because failure has consequences in this game so they often reroll, especially with knowledge or observation checks where failure can be misleading. So when the Hounds of Tirides materialized they had given me 13 darkness points, and for the first few rounds they gave me a few more. This enabled me to liberally spend darkness points avoiding damage and using the horrible howl power of the Hounds, which causes 2 MP damage every time it happens. By the end of the battle it was clear to the players that if they gave me even one darkness point I would be able to use the howl again, and probably render half the crew catatonic (they were all pretty low on mental points by then, and most of the fighters don’t have a lot, maybe 6 or 7). So they had to fight the last part of the battle unable to pray for any rolls, with two of the crew down and desperate to beat the dogs before another person took a serious critical. It would have just required one or two more howls, or one serious critical on a fighter, for the battle to turn from a hard fight to a TPK. Darkness points can be very dangerous when the GM has a lot of them!

Our heroes have finally captured the First Horizon pirate base Zarra’s End, freed its captives and liberated the women and children who had been cowering in its bowels. Now after a little investigation they plan to fly on to Dabaran, to find the Hacker Livan who works for Samina’s Corsairs. The endgame is coming …

For this session we again have a full complement:

  • Adam, gunner and acting captain
  • Oliver Greenstar, colonist
  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic
  • Al Hamra, captain and droid (with mystic powers)
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Kaarlina, mystic

They have now learned the secrets of the strange society that had been built here, hanging in the Dark beyond Rigel’s ion storms, and had obtained a complete copy of the available data on the First Horizon that was still stored on the pirate base. They planned to sell this to the highest bidder when they arrived Dabaran, along with the location of the Zarra’s End, which they would sell off for scrap. They interviewed the three pirate doctors who had been responsible for installing and repairing cybergoggles on blind children, but soon lost interest and spaced all three. They showed no mercy to the people responsible for the horrors they had found here. They also discovered that one of the women on the ship, Clementine, was not blind, and had been born somehow immune to the disease that overwhelmed everyone on the ship, and had spent the last 15 years pretending to be blind as she taught herself mechanics and technology. With her help they were able to learn their way around Zarra’s End and unpick more of its secrets, and in return they took her and her infant child onto the Beast of Burden as new crew.

With that they flew on to Dabaran, negotiating the portals at Rigel without incidence and arriving just two days later at the starport of Atuta, home of the Dabaran shipbuilders. Here they relaxed, finding accommodation in an old passenger freighter near the outer docks of the huge spaceport and taking time to explore the wonders of this strange complex of jumbled together debris. They visited Atuta itself, the Unbroken, the original ship that the Shipbuilders had used to come to Dabaran, and wandered the huge, silent spaces of its central dome. They joined the people of Dabaran in their strange, austere prayers to the Messenger, and wandered the shipyards and warehouses of the spaceport’s huge, sprawling docks. After a few days of rest they organized repairs and small improvements on their ship, began negotiating bigger work, and set about looking for the hacker Livan.

They found him easily enough. Of course they had a friend in the port, a trader who knew the ins and outs of its myriad dockyards and slums, and he was able to direct them to a small, disused ice freighter, packed in amongst other tenements on the far side of the station. He was fairly sure that the hacker was holed up there, and they simply had to pay him a visit.

They did, taking a long series of ramshackle fliers and public shuttles and long vacuum-tube trains to a transport hub far from the centre of the spaceport. Here they found a long corridor carved out of the spine of an old class V ice hauler, stretching away into the distance and dotted with docking stations to individual tenement-ships and crumbling mini-habitats. At the 77th door they found their man, a docking station opening to an old ice hauler. They opened it easily enough and slipped inside.

They did not have to explore for long before they found themselves in the darkened cargo hold of the old hauler, peering into a shadowy mess of crates and workbenches and machinery. As they cautiously entered the room someone threw a grenade in their midst, which exploded with a loud but harmless whump, and then the nekatra attacked: four big, scary, frenzied monsters, all claws and anger, slamming into them from the shadows with unbridled ferocity. The team had fought nekatra before but not these: these were legion nekatra, ex-military grade beasts, bigger and much stronger than the ones they had fought before, fast and full of rage. Nonetheless, the group made short work of them, dodging the worst of their attacks and cutting through them with mercurium, thermal blasts and vicious heavy melee weapons. Once they had beaten down the nekatra they pinned down their gangmaster too, and finally Siladan sliced his spine through with a monosword, and the battle was done.

They stood amongst the wreckage of the room, suffused with the stink of burning hair and the tang of too much nekatra blood, thinking thankfully at last they had made it through a battle where the blood was mostly their own, and then wondering – how rich and connected was this hacker, that he could afford to keep four legion nekatra as his personal bodyguard? Someone had connections, and wasn’t afraid to use them to guard his stuff. They looked at each, adjusted their armour, grunted, and paid it no mind. Where were his connections now, in the darkness of the hold? Nothing but cooling flesh. He would talk! They looked upward, to the residence deck of the ice hauler, and prepared to march up to get their answers…

Our heroes have ambushed the First Horizon attack fleet and destroyed it, and now head into the First Horizon base, a ruined troop carrier called Zarra’s End. The roster for this mission[1]:

  • Adam, gunner and acting captain
  • Oliver Greenstar, colonist
  • Reiko Ando, deckhand and swordwoman
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic
  • Al Hamra, captain and droid (with mystic powers)
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Kaarlina, mystic

They flew to the Zarra’s End on a stolen spaceship, finding themselves drifting towards a poorly-lit, badly scarred 300m long block of grey steel, unattractive and undecorated with none of the commitment to aesthetics and iconic devotion beloved of starship designers in the Third Horizon, a simple streak of grey metal hanging in the darkness. It was so old, battered and poorly lit that from a distance it could almost appear to be a derelict, only a few faint winking lights visible from afar, but as they drew closer they realized that this was because the ship had almost no windows except for a few public viewing galleries, and these were poorly lit. They drifted into the ship’s hangar, faking loss of communications as they approached, and once they were in the ship they executed a very simple plan: they walked out of the loading bay doors and started shooting everyone they saw.

In the hangar this turned out to be two teams of four soldiers, led by hardened men in strong First Horizon armour. These men attacked them from two positions, and somehow during the fight Kaarlina and Dr. Delecta found themselves trapped in the hangar control room, fighting an automated defense system that Kaarlina somehow accidentally activated. They cleaned this fight up reasonably quickly, but not before Reiko Ando was seriously injured and the entire ship alerted to their presence.

Once they had killed those men they thought to activate their proximity sensor, and identified the rest of their enemies: 9 more men clustered around a stairwell a deck below, and 5 men in the bridge ahead of them. They decided to lay a trap for the 5 men on the bridge, embedding a breaching charge on the door to the hangar bay, and then to go down and kill the 9 downstairs, but unfortunately as they were preparing the booby trap the 9 men downstairs came up to get them. The ensuing battle was a hot-fought and vicious affair, which looked at one point as if it was slipping away from the PCs when the 5 men from the bridge slipped past the breaching charge trap and joined the fray, making the odds very uneven. They prevailed with heavy application of Adam’s machine gun, and judicious use of Kaarlina’s mystic powers to deactivate the soldiers’ cybergoggles and reduce them to blubbering piles of panic. However, as they were killing off the last few soldiers a single injured captain managed to slip away into the bridge and open the hangar bay door, ejecting everyone who wasn’t tied down into space…

… Somehow they all survived this catastrophe[2], except Reiko Ando, who was struck in the head by flying debris and blown out into space with a crushed skull. They all managed to somehow regather in decompression shelters or their spaceship’s raiding bay until it was safe to emerge, killed the last resister and set about exploring the ship. Reiko Ando was lost to the dark between the stars, spinning out of control into the vast emptiness of Rigel system, her life valiantly spent saving the captives and slaves of the Zarra’s End.

On the ship they captured the doctors who installed cybergoggles, and learnt much about the ship’s operation. Investigating one of the soldiers, they also discovered – through a combination of Saqr’s Mystical powers and Dr. Delecta’s medical skill – that the disease which rendered the occupants of the Zarra’s End blind was a strange mystic power drawn from the Dark between the stars and present throughout the system. This disease rendered people blind, but it also infected their soul with mystical poison, rendering them docile and terrified. However, if the blindness effect were countered by installing cybergoggles, this docility and terror was reveresed and became irrational, often uncontrollable rage. This explained the strange behavior they had seen on the videos of the Donald J Trump Jr 3rd, and also the behavior of their captives and the way soldiers collapsed into terrified foetal lumps when their goggles were rendered inactive by Kaarlina’s mystic powers. It seemed that undoubtedly the First Horizon was just as bad as they had always been taught to believe, but that this crew was even worse under the influence of this strange disease.

They also learnt from their captives the history of the Zarra’s End. During the final battles of the portal war there was a small engagement in the Rigel system, where a fleet of First Horizon ships heading to Dabaran to escape the Horizon were ambushed by a larger fleet. During the battle the remaining First Horizon ships fled through the portals to Dabaran and were chased by their attackers, but the Zarra’s End was hit by heavy fire and had her main reactors and drives blown out. She and all the ships that lacked portal transit capacity were left stranded in the system, unnoticed in the heat of battle and left to drift. In a heroic effort of engineering they managed to seal off the damaged and leaking areas, regain power in the emergency reactor, and establish the Zarra’s End as a base for all the survivors of the battle. But with their drives and stasis pods destroyed, and lacking the materials or technology to build more stasis pods, they were trapped in the system. Expecting to be hunted down they hid and turned to piracy for the first few years, stealing material from passing ships to restore parts of their ship and feed themselves. However after a few years they all began to go blind and, lacking any knowledge of the reason, the doctors on the Zarra’s End started building cybergoggles, starting of course with the leadership and the soldiers. This sealed their fate, since they began to become rage-filled violent thugs, and any chance of surrender or peace was lost. Over the ensuing centuries a new society grew, based on capturing prisoners from passing ships, using them for slavery and breeding, and raising the children in a violent society of blindness, rage and authoritarian piracy.

From the belowdecks of the Zarra’s End the PCs rescued a number of blind women; some captives from passing ships who, though traumatized, were still alive and still not completely affected by the disease; and some technicians and support staff with poor-quality goggles. Now they hung in space, proud possessors of a shattered and useless troop carrier and a large number of irrational, blind captives. What would they do? And how many of them must they space?

fn1: Now the whole world is in lockdown no one has any reason not to play, and al Hamra’s player is currently locked down in some plague-infested foreign shore so able to join remotely, and a colleague of Saqr’s player was asked to join to relieve her boredom. So beyond a full house! And hard to manage on roll20, which is where these two sessions were conducted …

fn2: Second use of the Survivor group talent!

Image note: the headline picture was taken from the deviantart page of a person called Synthesys.

The Belle of the South

The crew of the Beast of Burden have disabled a pirate ship in the Rigel system, and are preparing to board. The cast for this session:

  • Adam, gunner and acting captain
  • Oliver Greenstar, colonist
  • Reiko Ando, deckhand and swordwoman
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic

Two of their attackers have escaped, one has been reduced to shards of metal, and one lies paralyzed in space, Siladan’s data pulse still wreaking havoc in its systems and preventing it from escape or attack. They transferred all their fighters to the Beast of Burden and moved in to board the incapacitated vessel.

Onboard the Donald J Trump Jr 3rd

They drew close and attached their docking station, though it did not connect cleanly because the seal on their target was of a strange and unorthodox design, that did not fit their docking seal. Siladan fit a breaching charge and they blew the door open and prepared to enter.

Inside was a small open area, covering the majority of the space inside the ship, containing only four standing steel barricades set at even spaces in the room. Soldiers lay in wait behind these barricades, ready to open fire on anyone who entered. Unfortunately for the men waiting inside, Adam was carrying the group’s machine gun, and laid down an immediate barrage of bullets that decimated the crew. Siladan and Reiko charged forward under Oliver’s covering fire, and although some of them suffered light wounds, they were able to break into the room and close to melee range. Most of their enemies were firing vulcan carbines, which they used ineffectually to attempt to drive the fighters back, but one was using a strange energy weapon that seemed to fire a highly-focused and extremely dangerous laser. They had never seen this before, but after a couple of seconds of brutal and one-sided hand-to-hand combat its owner lay gurgling on the floor, the gun in Adam’s competent hands.

The rest of the ship consisted of just two small ready rooms that led from the docking area to the bridge. In the bridge they found two crew in their seats, dead, and a large and precise series of holes cut in the hull by the Beast of Burden‘s accelerator cannon. There was no atmosphere in the bridge, and when they entered they found a man hiding under a desk. They dragged him out, and when they did so they somehow broke a seal of duct tape on his exo suit, causing it to leak air. As he panicked they dragged him back into the ready room, sealed the door against the de-atmosphered bridge, and forced him to surrender. They had the ship, and a prisoner.

The Loser’s Flag

The ship yielded nothing interesting. It was an entirely functional, plainly dressed and frankly very primitive looking fighting vessel, with no decorations but for a picture of a strange orange-skinned fat man in one room, and a cross with a strangely sexualized semi-naked man crucified on it in another. They thought it might be a strangely perverted figure of one of the icons, but they could find no sign that anyone here was religious at all, and their prisoner obviously did not speak their language fluently. The only other icon they found was a strange flag, with many stars on it. It made no sense though, because it did not have enough stars to represent the Third Horizon, and too many for just this system. No one could remember how many stars were in the Dabaran circle, so it was a mystery to them. Stranger still, every crew member of the ship had replaced their natural eyes with poorly-made and rough-looking cybernetic goggles, which protruded from their skull and made them look like barbarians. Medical scans of the bodies revealed no other cyberwear – just the complete replacement of their visual system with these poorly-crafted cyber-eyes.

They attempted to loot the ship’s Exo suits but they were old, run down and heavily-repaired, and not worth much. When they investigated the dead pilot and gunner they found that they had died when the atmosphere exited the ship – their exo suits were not impermeable, and they had died of suffocation as the air drained out. This ship was obviously very old, very run down, and was running on tape and stitches. These pirates had not expected serious opposition, and had been flying in a vessel that was obviously not much longer going to be able to hold out the Dark.

The First Horizon

They tried to get their captive to show them where the ship’s data core was, but they could only learn that the ship had no data core, only separate partial data storage for each position on the ship. Worse still, their captive’s position was Data Djinn (though he called it “SIGINT Ops”), but he had to interact with the ship’s computer using a keyboard. They gave up on electronic information and resorted to interrogating the captured crewman.

This data djinn’s name was Alex “The Q”, and he was cooperative with their interrogation after a few threats. He first warned them that his mother ship would come back for him and then they would be in deep trouble, but after that he was happy to speak. They learnt that he and his fellows were the remnants of a First Horizon fleet that had been trapped in Rigel at the end of the portal wars some 200 years ago. They were based on a troopship called Zarra’s End, and at the last moments of a retreat in this system its drive systems and main reactor, as well as its stasis pods, had been destroyed by heavy fire. Unable to move, it and its complement of support ships had been abandoned by the last scattered survivors of the First Horizon’s fleet, and had been left to die in the Dark of the outer reaches of Rigel. They survived, however, and since then they had become pirates in this system. They used the ships they looted to repair their own ships, but would not take on any of their victims’ technology, and had no way to repair their own stasis beds and no technological skills to transfer stasis pods from the ships they captured. They had been stranded here for more than a century, building a pirate society in the barely-functioning remains of the Zarra’s End.

Further investigation revealed that the society on Zarra’s End was an unpleasant and abhorrent system of heirarchies and slavery. Alex “The Q” told them that the system they lived in had infected them with a strange, incurable and inherited disease, Deneb’s Blindness Disease, which caused anyone in the system to go blind after 6-8 years. So all children born in the pirate enclave had cybereyes fitted at about this age, and grew up with only electronic sight. There were not enough cyber-eyes to go around, however, and the skill to make and repair them was limited, so they recycled eyes and newly-made eyes were often not very good quality. The men who received the best eyes became warriors, while the men with poorer eyes became support staff and servants. Women received no eyes, grew up blind, and were confined to a small area of the ship. People captured from other ships were used for slave labour until they went blind, then spaced.

Adam had been planning to recommend they take this ship and leave, but when he heard that he decided that they needed to destroy these pirates. They would not take their time sending information about them to the Legion. They would go and kill them all, and free their prisoners.

Strange Manners from Strange Horizons

Something they noticed about Alex “The Q” was that he had very erratic behavior that made him very difficult to talk to. He alternated been explosions of extreme and violent rage and sudden desperate craven spasms of sorrow and despair. He would cower and beg and cry, then bristle up and scream and fight, until someone punched him enough to put him in his place. Sometimes he would become sullen and unresponsive, as if wracked by depression and angst. From these episodes of depression he would inevitably explode in spite and rage, before cowering and sniveling to his new captors. His behavior was incomprehensible and erratic, and they could not fathom how he could be this way.

On a hunch Saqr accessed the video recordings from the Donald J Trump Jr 3rd‘s last few days, hoping to see the face of someone who had stayed behind on the Zarra’s End before the ship left on its pirate mission. If Saqr could see one person who was not currently on board the ship, he would be able to use his mystic powers to find the Zarra’s End’s location. Unfortunately, however, the video recordings from the ship’s internal cameras only went back two days, and no new faces were visible on it. But the footage did show Saqr a wild panorama of violence, bullying and hatred. The pirate leader would regularly beat and castigate his inferiors, forcing them to cower and beg and hitting them with impunity; and they would then enact the same violence on those next down the ladder of the heirarchy. The entire crew lived in terror of each other, on the edge of constant violence, acting barely civilized and obviously only uniting in the appreciation of violence towards others. Something was very wrong with this pirate community – either it was a strange and desperately evil cult, or something had gone very awry in its military code. Was all of the First Horizon like this, completely overrun with authoritarian violence? No wonder the Firstcome had fled, and no wonder they had fought a war with the First Horizon and sealed the portals. No one wanted a society like this a mere portal’s jump away.

No matter. They would exterminate this nest of hold-outs, free their prisoners, and end the menace in Rigel.

The ambush

Alex “The Q” spoke a strange language that they could not decipher and could not hope to trust him to use, so they decided to lay a trap for the rest of the fleet from the Zarra’s End. They asked the passenger ship Plainsong – the original targets of the pirates’ violence – to again send out their distress signal, and lay in wait for the incoming ships of the Zarra’s End, their ship disguised in stealth mode.

They did not have to wait long. Soon a large contingent of fighting ships approached, which Alex “The Q” identified as:

  • The Twin Towers
  • Constitution 231
  • The Kentucky Derby
  • The New York Minute
  • On the Road
  • The Michelle Malkin

and a larger ship, the raider Belle of the South 142. As they approached the Plainsong’s emergency beacon the PCs’ entire fleet – the Beast of Burden, the Judgment of the Dancer, and the No Satisfaction – closed the jaws of their trap.

This battle was vicious, and when it began there was no guarantee that they would prevail. Fortunately their first shots disabled the Belle of the South‘s drives, and as it drifted by useless they were able to decimate the remaining smaller ships in the fleet, returning through the debris cloud to tear apart the larger ship as it repaired its drives and returned to the battle. Within a few minutes of springing the trap they had eliminated the entire pirate fleet, and were ready to attack the Zarra’s End.

They piled into the Donald J Trump Jr 3rd‘s boarding area, loaded up their weapons, and headed towards the Zarra’s End, faking battle damage and ready to attack. These barbarians from the First Horizon would be dead soon, and whatever horrors they had brought with them would be lost in the Dark between the stars. No mercy for slavers, and no kindness towards their ancient enemies: they were ready to do what had to be done.

In session 27 normal service resumes, and in a short session our PCs spent a considerable amount of time on book keeping and ship management. They now have possession of a small fleet of mostly stolen ships:

  • The Beast of Burden, their main class 4 yacht
  • The No Satisfaction, a class 1 shuttle they use rather a lot
  • The Gun Metal Logic, a class 2 attack ship that they have stashed at the Rockhome mining community in Kua until they can launder its information
  • The Grace of the Icons, a class 3 converted freighter/troopship that they stole from Samina’s corsairs
  • The Judgment of the Dancer, a class 3 Order of the Pariah troopship that they liberated from its mad captain

They did also have possession of an unregistered Firstcome space station, but Adam accidentally teleported an Efrit in possession of an elite Order of the Pariah soldier into that space station, so it appears they will have to do some work to recapture it.

At the beginning of this session the PCs are on Hormous station in the Melik system, basking in the glory of having rescued the entire system from a falling moon that would have radically changed its gravitational layout and probably killed millions. Being of some renown, they have been invited to parties and given accommodation in the station’s richest and most outrageously appointed suites. However, their focus is on moving along to Dabaran, to launder their ship registrations, before someone finds out that they are not so much saviors as collectors of stolen and hijacked starships. The cast for today’s session:

  • Adam, gunner and acting captain
  • Oliver Greenstar, colonist
  • Reiko Ando, deckhand and swordwoman
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Banu Delecta, doctor
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic

The first half of the session was spent at the octopus races,  meeting a highly-placed figure in the Syndicate’s local operations so that they could find a hacker to crack the data core from the Judgment of the Dancer, to sell to the syndicate. With this somewhat tricky arrangement done, the data core hacked and the losing octopusses eaten, they were ready to move on to Dabaran.

The Plasma Storms of Rigel

Traveling to Dabaran requires the PCs to pass through Rigel, an empty system dominated by a white super giant star with no redeeming features except its plasma storms. Before they set out the PCs took on passengers, a family of shipwrights returning to Dabaran, and collected also a few rumours of pirates in the Rigel system which were generally dismissed by more sensible captains as hearsay. Ships go missing in Rigel not because of pirates, but because occasionally when they emerge from the portal the system is experiencing a plasma storm, and then only the best pilots can escape from the storm – some, inevitably, go missing. Wiser captains travel to Dabaran on the counter-clockwise path through the Dabaran circuit, and for most journeys Melik is the end of the line. But the PCs, having no choice, would have to risk the storms of Rigel.


And so it was that a few days after their dealings in Melik were complete they headed to the portal stations. As always they calculated the portal jump themselves, and entered with Saqr piloting the Beast of Burden, Reiko on the Grace of the Icons, and Oliver Greenstar flying the Judgment of the Dancer. Two ships passed through safely, but after they arrived the Judgement of the Dancer did not pass through. They waited some hours but the ship did not arrive. Obviously, a jump error had happened, and in perhaps some cosmic retribution for its theft, the Judgment of the Dancer had become lost in the Dark Between the Stars.

None of them had experience of a misjump, though they had all heard horror stories about what could happen. Had they lost their doughty (though somewhat morally flexible) colonist? Had their ship been seized by djinn or other creatures of darkness before they had even a chance to fly it properly? They waited a day but all that emerged from the portal was a passenger ship called the Plainsong. Even Saqr’s mystical finding power, which should work anywhere in the Horizon, could not find Oliver – he and his ship had disappeared from this space. In desperation they left the Plainsong to settle into its waiting cycle for entry to the portal, and returned to Melik. Here, after a day, the Melik portal disgorged the Judgement of the Dancer, broadcasting its distress signal and drifting aimlessly.

They rushed to board, but found nothing amiss – the crew was still deep in stasis, and no damage done to the ship. However, when they opened the stasis pods they found Oliver catatonic and incapable of speech or response. They took him to the chapel and with prayer and medical care were able to restore him to his senses. No one on the ship remembered anything, and no harm seemed to have been done. Shaken but not daunted, they recalculated the jump coordinates and re-entered the portal to Rigel.

This time they emerged together and unscathed – but straight into a plasma storm. A raging sea of super hot gasses was rolling outward from the brilliant white surface of the star and threatening to engulf their fleet. By the time the crew was awake from their stasis pods and aware of the danger they were in no position to take the time to recalculate coordinates for the next jump – all they could do was flee outward from the star. They raced away, with the roiling white clouds of the plasma storm seething in their wake.


After half a day’s travel, with a half an AU between them and the portal, they emerged from the tempestuous edge of the storm and into clear space. Electrical systems that had been faulty under the storm’s erratic magnetic fields were recovered, and they found themselves drifting safely while the inner system burned up. They were just beginning to relax from this terrible series of events when an emergency beacon activated, and they received a distress call on loop:

This is the Plainsong. We are under attack by pirates. Please assist us. Emergency! This is the Plainsong, under attack by pirates.

With sighs of exhausted resignation, they turned their ships in the direction of the beacon, and sailed to the aid of the beleaguered passenger ship.

They arrived at its location quickly, to find it outnumbered and outgunned. Three class 1 attack ships circled it while a class 2 ship moved in to board the Plainsong. As they approached, the leader of the pirates hailed them from the larger pirate ship:

This is the Donald J Trump Jr 3rd. This ship is our prey and if you interfere you will be destroyed. Desist, or we will destroy you.

The three smaller ships peeled off from harassing the passenger ship to head towards the PCs’ fleet, and battle was joined.

The pirate ships fired strange energy weapons that the PCs had never seen before, and their ships were of a design that they had never seen, nor did they register in any databases of ship types, shipbuilders or known pirate organizations. Even their list of nomad federation hybrid ships showed no likeness. These ships were a mystery to them. They were not, however, especially powerful, and the Judgment of the Dancer’s antimatter torpedoes, combined with the Beast of Burden’s accelerator cannon, made short work of the smaller ships. Finally they crushed the hull of the Donald J Trump Jr 3rd and destroyed one of the smaller attack ships. The remaining two attack ships fled, leaving their stricken flagship to its fate.

No doubt people still lived in the tattered wreckage of the ship, and there was no way the PCs would learn the truth of this ship’s motivations – or steal its strange energy weapons – unless they could take some of those people alive. They put on their exo suits, and prepared to board their vanquished enemy.


On old Al-Ardha there was a nation of deltas and rivers, a low-lying land that had made its history and its culture at one with the sea. Rich nations far away from this tidebound kingdom polluted and ruined Al-Ardha, and as the seas of the warming world rose this nation that had lived at peace with the brine for 1000 years was inundated and ruined.

The people of this nation had a proud tradition of ship-breaking, taking the terrestrial ships of other nations and reducing them to their bones and parts, repurposing them and selling them. When the people of the First Horizon went into space the people of this nation followed, taking their ship-breaking skills to the Dark between the stars and becoming consummate recyclers of the ships of the richer nations that were ruining the surface. But for all their labours, when the people of the First Horizon sent out their generation ships to colonize the second and third Horizons, the people of this proud riverine kingdom were not included. Watching their own land sink beneath the waves of their dying world, they decided to build their own generation ship, fashioning a mighty vessel to take them to the Third Horizon and preparing it with loving care over decades to send out to the stars.

As they finished their ship, however, the people of the First Horizon discovered the portals, and generation ships were no longer necessary. The river-folk of this drowning land saw their chance, and quickly redesigned their ship to travel through the portals. They set off through the portals with the rest of Al-Ardha’s fleet, arriving in the Third Horizon and becoming part of the wave of migration known as the Firstcome.

This nation’s ship was called অটুট, Atuta, in their language. In the language of the Third Horizon this would be interpreted as the Unbroken. While the other Firstcome ships had been designed for the portals, the Unbroken had been designed as a generation ship, and it dwarfed the other Firstcome ships. 4km long, carrying some 500,000 people and a wealth of equipment and materiel, the Unbroken was twice the size of the next largest ship in the Firstcome fleet, and carried far more people than any of the other ships in the fleet. When the Firstcome arrived in the Third Horizon a mad scramble began to find new planets and places to settle, but the people of the Unbroken, being themselves victims of colonialism, refused to join the frenzied competition for land and resources that characterized that first wave of settlement. Instead they traveled the Horizon looking for a place to rest. By dint of the skill of their captains, long honed in a land that had grown with the sea and leapt into the sky, they were able to navigate the unstable portals of the Dabaran circle, and were among the first to arrive in the Dabaran system. While some of those who came with them chose to settle planets in the system the people of the Unbroken decided to make their fate in the stars, doing what they had done in the First Horizon. They brought the Unbroken to rest in a far orbit in the Dabaran system, and turned the huge ship into a massive space station, hundreds of years before the arrival of the Zenith. The massive engines that had powered it were repurposed into material for factories and shipyards, and the Shipbuilders of Dabaran began their trade.

Over the next generations, before the portal wars collapsed the portals and destroyed the connection to Al-Ardha, the people of that drowning nation set out on many small ships to the Third Horizon to join their pioneers from the Unbroken, bringing their ship-breaking yards and their factories and their culture to the Third Horizon. Over those generations another million people joined the original settlers, and the original space station grew in size, the Unbroken now surrounded by platforms and barges and dormitory stations and factories. The complex grew, and in this complex developed the largest, most productive and well-known of the Horizon’s shipyards: the Dabaran Shipyards. These shipyards could do anything: repurposing, renovating, scrapping, salvaging and building. They took old ships and reduced them to their components, recycling the parts into new ships for clients all across the Horizon. They refurbished and repurposed ships, adding and removing modules, changing shapes, grafting in new components, redesigning anything they were asked to do. And using the components they stripped from other ships, or materials brought in from distant systems, they build new ships to order. Mira could make faster, more beautiful ships; the freighters of Darkos were unparalleled for their solidity; Harima’s ships were faster and more luxurious; but if you wanted versatility in your design, at a reasonable price, or just wanted a simple, all-purpose ship with no problems and no fuss, the shipyards of Dabaran could build it for you. Everyone in the Horizon knows about Dabaran ships, but somehow they pass through every system unheralded, unnoticed and without awe or disgust. They are the workhorses of the Horizon, the vessels that all the people of the systems of the Horizon do not even know they depend on. These are the many progeny of the shipyards of Dabaran.

A ship being broken, viewed from the deck of the Legion destroyer Azure Sky

Over the years the shipbuilders of Dabaran have become synonymous with the system itself. Their language, Dabari, is spoken on all its planets, and the industry of ship building dominates the economy of the whole system. Over time the shipbuilders themselves have become associated with the system, and so they themselves are called Dabarani. Some live on the surface of the Dabaran system’s planets, but the majority – perhaps 2 million in total – live in the many stations and satellites of the shipbuilding community, which is generally referred to as Atuta by its residents. Atuta is a huge, thriving complex of interconnected spaceships, space stations, platforms, barges and habitats, linked by a complex network of transport tubes, docking stations, and tiny fliers and transports that swarm around the habitats themselves. Even a lifetime spent on Atuta is insufficient to understand its many communities, souks, gardens and factories, and to visit Atuta is to understand what the Horizon could be like if only everyone were as industrious, as busy and as energetic as the Dabarani. People from all over the Horizon come here to trade ships and ship parts, to do business in the hectic and confused bazaars and marketplaces, and to make money from the shipping industry. In particular the agents of the Nomad Federation and the Free League swarm to Atuta to do business, and it is a stronghold of these factions. The Legion have a presence here as well, ostensibly to ensure security but in reality to ensure a steady supply of spare parts and new ships for their expanding empire. Far out from the centre of the Horizon, Atuta is a hub of commerce and industry.

The Dabarani build ships, and they also break them. But they do not, officially, break or refurbish illegal ships, and it is an unwise adventurer who brings a stolen ship to the Dabarani to be refitted or scrapped. However, a large industry of hackers and criminals has grown around Atuta, laundering the names and registrations of stolen ships so that they can be merged into the industrial landscape and repurposed or scrapped by its official industry. The Dabarani ruling council claim to be ignorant of any such crimes, and promise to punish them with extreme prejudice if caught, but everyone knows that in reality they tolerate these people in their midst in exchange for the business they bring. Some say the Legion maintain a presence here so they can watch this business, and keep track of all the ships that are being stolen and scrapped – and the people doing it. Others say that the Dabarani are nothing more than the permanent home base of the Nomad Federation, who sometimes need to trade in stolen and salvaged ships, but the truth is simpler: Atuta is open for business, and any business can be done here for the right price, if you are careful and you do not cross the Legion or the leadership of Atuta. If you have a stolen ship all you need to do is find one of the many Data Djinn who work at the fringes of Atuta, laundering ship licenses, and then you are free to take your new, “clean” ship into Artuta to pay the Dabarani to modify it.

With commercial influence and power has come cultural independence, and the Dabarani have retained many unique cultural practices over the years. The hull of the Unbroken itself remains largely untouched, but within it has been renovated to reflect its new purpose as the centre of Dabrani culture. The old hangars, vast spaces designed to hold the many courier ships and shuttles of the original generation ship, have been turned into a complex of gardens and shrines, with at its centre a huge hall for reflection and revelation. Most of the ship’s stasis pods have long since been stripped away and turned into parts for an expanded medical bay, but a few remain, converted into tombs to hold the remains of the Nabi, the navigators, captains and engineers who guided Dabarani society through the first generation of its growth in the Third Horizon. The Unbroken also bristles with ancient Firstcome weapons, installed during the portal wars, and although quiescent now represents a potent military force if roused to action. The Dabarani also follow a variant of the Church of the Icons, in which the Icons are not revered as gods but as messengers of an ineffable elder god. While others in the Third Horizon hold all the Icons as equal, the Dabarani revere the Messenger above all, seeing him as the original conduit for the wisdom of the ancient god, and like to quote from a book of his ideas that they claim he brought with him from the First Horizon (and which the other Firstcome lost).

This is Atuta, the Unbroken, the home of the last refugees of a drowning land, its best pilots and its most industrious shipbuilders. The entire Horizon is connected by its labour, and the entire Horizon can be found here, in Atuta.

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