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#10 To Be Continued (Paranoia?):

We are hiding out in Kylar orbit, playing dead after jumping from the doomed Thral base.

Frank tries to talk to Larana's parents about the problems of "isolationism" -- he also proposes marriage to Larana! For no observable reason... Larana (& her mom) are in shock for the next few days. (This is done at a dinner on the Hell -- Selene appears in a dress, sans the sensor goggles, which freaks Moonfur out for quite a while.)

The NG Commerce Org. is trying to contact us to find out why ships are disappearing from the NG-Bethlehem trade-route (coincidentally, the same area that Thral & Unar trade ships started disappearing, which started the whole bloody war). We play dead, but, well... We send a probe to follow a ship. The ship & probe get vanished, & appear five minutes later in a system that one of our BSI probes [Baker Street Irregulars -- AI probe-ships that go and look at things, and are stealthed] is looking at.

Two too-perfect planets -- one Earthlike, w/ several crashed ships on it, & New Garavarans, Thrals & Unars living in harmony. The other one has a mildly corrosive atmosphere, a LARGE power-source, & is constantly scanning the Earth-planet.

We leave Watson & Embereyes on the Hell, & go in the Bat to check out the situation.

We save a Kestralian ship from crashing by giving it some anti-matter. The "hostile" planet is scanning the other ship, too.

We send a probe to check out the power-source. It gets close & gets teleported into the sun. Before it goes, it reports the constant scanning of the area that the ships were disappearing from. (We have backups for that AI, so few problems w/ the destruction, since it was also one of the cheaper BSI probes to build.)

We get a call from a blind Thral girl, Tamerind (a Unar name [before I got through with them, that is...]), on a radio that a dying Thral from one of the crashed ships gave her, & told her to call for help. We discover that they've been there 400 years of so (the time the war started), get asked if we're Ancestors From the Stars (say "Yes (sort of)"), & discover that when the Ancestors first arrived, four-armed people w/ shiny faces & square things on their backs came & took people away at first.

We decide that the thing that jumped the probe into the sun was prolly just automated defences, so we can land & look around so long as we stay away from the power-source (& crater that is there too). Selene, Larana, Nick, Celeste, & Geoffry go down in the Handbasket to investigate, Frank & Moonfur stay on the Bat. We get lots of data, send it off to Moonfur & "Bessie" (BC, the BatComputer) to try & translate the pictographic alphabet. Everyone winds up in a place Moonfur & Bessie translate as "Bio-lab." Surgery tools, an auto-doc thingy, & a computer! Selene figures it out [it's 2-3 tech levels above 13, which is what Byte is up to in private comps], starts it up. After a false start or two (Selene un-wires it from the system, & runs it off a power-cell, so as to not call attention to us; Moonfur decipers one screen as "initiating self-destruct"), we get a lot of data about the structures of Thrals & Unars.

Nick is staying w/ Selene. Larana, meanwhile, has been exploring (w/ the doctor tagging along behind) -- found a couple of cells w/ Thral & Unar skeletons in them. Nearly had the ceiling crash onto her head. Found dank stairs leading down, followed them, followed along the corridor (that led towards the power-source), found a door that we translated as "weapons storage," & which had anti-matter & the "jump gun" behind it. Didn't open it. Went further. Found alcoves w/ chitonous foot-prints. (We have by this time deduced that the critters breath the atmosphere & are bugs.) Went further. Finally decided that they should turn around, heard a noise of someone following. Dashed into alcoves. Larana wasn't noticed, but a four-armed bug zapped Geoffry w/ a rifle-thing, which drained all the power-stuff of his & left him on the Earth-planet.

About now, the BatComputer reports that it's being scanned. Moonfur orders Bessie to steer the ship so that the orbiting Kestral ship is between it & the scanner & then to head away! Frank is to shut down the main engines & disconnect them from the drive (since stuff connected to drives was drained by the big "jump gun"). Moonfur is doing a lot of fast talk to Bessie about how it's better that they run away now & rescue Selene later. Down-planet, the "bugs" are getting stirred up (trying to figure out how to re-aim their Jump-gun?). Most of the crew is on the planet. [It's 3am, so the game gets a big fat To Be Continued. Next episode: should Moonfur tell the Thrals where their quarry is now? The bounty is 30,000 creds now for Confirmed Dead, or Alive. Maybe we could collect the bounty, get Thrals in trouble, & rescue the rest of the crew in the confusion...]

#11 To Be Continued II/Cyberbugs:

Bessie & Moonfur are dodging around, & manage to get out of range (about a parsec) of the smaller, more maneuverable teleport gun. We get a distress call from Watson -- something insectoid bamfed onto the ship & is heading around spreading destruction in its wake. Watson is told to jump to Unar area & send out a distress call. The Hell appears in the vicinity, Watson yelps that it's close! Then goes dead. A few moments later, the Hell jumps. Bessie reports that the signature that it sent out shows it as arriving in Chester's universe. Moonfur talkes Selene & Bessie into letting them (Moonfur, Frank, & Bessie) go jumping after. It takes an hour, they arrive, get close to the Hell. Moonfur goes over w/ a safety line, hauls Frank across to fix the engines. Embereyes is fine, shoved into the freezer (in her biosuit).

Selene's ship-building robots are dismembered, w/ evidence of being shot w/ antimatter bullets, & Watson is mildly wrecked. (Most of the parts are there, & in mostly the same order, but a lot of wires are clipped.) Frank fixes the engines (sabotaged by the bug, no doubt) & a Goblin Empire ship shows up. Moonfur is trying to get them to spill data on the life cycles, etc., of centaurs, but Frank orders Bessie to jump both them & the Hell before anything useful is accomplished. Another hour, wind up at Kylar, do some fast explaining, leave the Hell there & warp back to the new system {ahem} like a Bat out of Hell.

Meanwhile, the planet-bound group (Selene, Larana, Nick, & Celeste) have been busy. Selene has been dragged from the TL 16 computer by Larana to open the weapons cache that she & Geoffry found earlier. Amazingly enough, Selene suceeds in bypassing the alarm & they enter. The weapons' racks are alarmed too, but many of them are in disrepair -- Larana grabs an antimatter-bullet shooting pistol, Selene snarfs a (heavy!) teleportation rifle. Then they hide as a bug comes to close the door. After the bug is gone, the Hell is jumped to the other dimension, & 10 more bug life signs appear. When the Bat follows, another 10 show up. Discussion is made as to whether they'd go away again when we return.

Selene breaks herself & our Security Offier out of the weapons cache again (Larana has snarfed lots of ammo for her new toy, as well). They devise a plan -- the last active BSI probe will slam into the Big Teleport Gun at warp 5 while they beat a hasty retreat in the Handbasket. But first, a few diversions & salvage... Larana arranges rather a lot of explosives in an area in the tunnel to the bug-hideout, w/ a remote controlled trigger. She comes back, & Selene feeds in the virus-thingy that she'd managed to cook up on the bug-computer (hopefully this will help screw up their organization & buy the probe more time). Then Selene props the teleport rifle (same thing that sent Geoffry to the surface of the other planet) on a table & fires it (at near point blank range) at the computer. It vanishes, Larana triggers the explosives, the probe starts its attack run (w/ much protesting & reassurance that it's backed up), & the group high-tails it out of there, getting Handy clear of the atmosphere as quickly as possible & warping out of range of the big boom.

Moonfur, Frank, Bessie, & Embereyes arrive back & comment on the brand-new astroid field. A whole bunch of Kylaran ships are right behind them (the system just appeared in their scanners!).

By virtue of being there "first," we claim the planet (Unal) as ours. Frank doesn't want the Kylarans near it for whatever reason, Larana is telling him he's an idiot. Moonfur calmly asks the Kylaran ships to please stay a goodly distance away to make sure that they don't get caught in any residual explosions that might occur, thank you.

End result: We sell Unal to the New Garavarans (since they're the only ones who won't massacre at least half the planet's inhabitants, & Kylar doesn't want it) for boocoos of credits. Nick gets the Kestralians to give the Hell better thrusters for cheap ("salvage" for saving their ship).

Larana sells about five of her antimatter bullets for a million each.

Frank sells his jump drive (after we wig up a probe w/ it in, & get the databases for the minifac) & Selene writes the Astrogation program for it [& does a very good job of it -- near crit success]. Frank & Embereyes manage to talk Moonfur into letting them leave the Hell for a while & go work & study at a New Garavaran University ("& be sure to wear your biosuit, & get a brain-tape made if you can, & a clone done up!"). Frank taps a replacement engineer, Randy, a friend of his who sings in Trade Kintaran, to fill the position, & Nick the diplomat comes back from Kestral w/ not only the thrusters, but also a Kestralian fianceé, one-armed like all Kestralians, but also has some engineering skills. Larana & Nick buy into the Hell/Bat shares. Geoffry is content to remain an employee. Frank is still part-owner as well.

From the bug-computer that Selene saved, we find that they were "cyberbugs," the semi-intelligent constructs of the race (from another dimension -- not Chester's) that had constructed the Big Teleport Gun & had been snatching Thral & Unar ships to study. (This is what started The War, having their ships disappearing...) The original bugs had been wiped out by a few escaped "lab animals," but the cyberbugs had been set to activate ten at a time when a dimension rift occured, like the ones that happened when the Sylvan arrived & left.

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