|The trip from Rio to Qantseqr took a bit over two months and you are expecting the return trip to be about the same, including a stop for fuel at a gas giant along the way. Your travel is entirely NJP to NJP to avoid any chance of an encounter with a zho military patrol at a Jump Point. The fuel tanks are full when you depart Qantseqr and you make two jumps in a row before planning to refuel. ROCK is capable of making three jumps but it is never a good idea to completely deplete a ship's fuel reserves.|
After the second jump, ROCK arrives in system within 10 million kilometers of a gas giant, a pleasantly close distance that will make the refueling stop in an enemy system much shorter than otherwise anticipated. ROCK begins the short (4 day) sublight trip to the gas giant.
Two days later, ROCK's long range sensors pick up a strange anomaly within the atmosphere of the gas giant. Surge goes to work on sensor array to try to learn more. Radio sensors indicate the presence of something akin to a black hole but there are no other indications that this is the case and, in fact, there is every indication that it couldn't possibly be a black hole, certainly not within the atmosphere of a gas giant as the first thing to be sucked in would be the gas giant itself. Visual sensors are inconclusive.
KYLE: From the moment that he learns of the anomaly, Kyle is with Surge at the sensors, forgoing sleep and food alike to remain at the sensors full-time. And once he learns that Surge can reconfigure the sensors (OOC: That's true, isn't it?), he'll be relentless in making suggestions as to what should be scanned for. Many of the sensor arrays will be understandable (radio spectrum analyzers, neutrino detectors, gravity field sensors). But some of the requests may seem a bit odd (and maybe impossible for Surge to accommodate). I mean, why would Kyle need a quantum spin detector or a gluon analyzer? It is clear from his comments and observations that he's skilled in astrophysics, stellar cartography, sub-nuclear physics, and gravitics.
KYLE - TECH: Researching the anomaly using Comprehensive Scientist (16-), [rolled 15]. Let me know if you want me to make multiple rolls for multiple areas of investigation. For what it's worth, he'll try and conduct the research in an orderly fashion using PS: Research Scientist (15-), [rolled 15]. Also, it's a long shot that this has anything to do with dimensions, but Kyle would make certain to look into the possibility using KS: Dimensional Phenomena (15-), [rolled 13].
JACK (OOC): I am speaking OOC because Jack has no hard scientific knowledge relating to black holes, but I do ;) I will respond IC after this. I'm definitely curious about the phenomenon, you say there is no perceptible visual sign of it, but that it is a strong radio source, implying an accretion disk around a point singularity? Do we have any way of measuring gravitational forces? If this thing is a point singularity with the mass of a large moon, but compressed to a pinprick, the planet may be in the process of 'circling the drain' by losing atmospheric mass to the singularity in a stream, but not actually losing it that quickly. It definitely implies something very recent.
JACK (IC): "I don't know much about singularities or black holes, but if it's recent it would affect the gravitational landscape of the system, making the star chart less accurate, and might well have pulled us out of hyperspace closer to the planet than anticipated. Lucky break in one way, but dodging a bullet in another. Can you get any gravity readings on the thing at all, Surge? Are there any other moons in orbit of the planet? We may have to be prepared for a long journey away from the planet to make sure the gravity doesn't affect our jump away from this system. Omen or Brendan, can you get a passive mental scan of the planetary area? I wouldn't expect any minds other than ours near a gas giant, any additional ones could imply a ship, or a mutant, or both. Surge, what about electromechanical devices?
BRENDAN: Brendan gives Jack a curious look and asks, "Are you under the impression that I'm some sort of psionicist or do you assume that I have some machinery that is capable of mental scans? Either way, your assumptions are incorrect. I am not a psionicist nor do I have any means of conducting any types of mental scans."
JACK: Jack looks confused for a moment, and then says, "Odd, I thought you could, I'm not sure what gave me the idea. I know you showed some mental strength when we first met and Omen tried something, but that's no reason to believe you actually had powers other than defense, my aura defends ME from mental attacks and noone would ever believe I was a psionicist. I apologize for the confusion. Vareq?"
OMEN: Vareq looks up from a game of 3D chess and sees the chaos around him. Presumably he hears about something hurtling towards them. If so, he will brace himself then use Mind Scan to see if there are any mental presenses on the intruder.
0 Phase: brace STR for impact
Mind Scan Activation 15- ECV 10 [rolled 12]
Mind Scan 15d [rolled 5 6 2 5 2 1 3 3 1 4 1 4 2 2 2 - Total: 43, Body: 13]
GM: Omen picks up nothing out of the ordinary.
SURGE (OOC): I was going to post about the gravity scans as well. :)
SURGE: Surge will nod and make the proper sensor adjustments to scan for gravitational forces. He'll also personally scan for EM devices though range will be an issue. If I can adjust the sensor array to mimic my ability I will but I'm not too sure if it can be done.
KYLE: After another moment Kyle returns his attention to the matter at hand. "It's possible, Jack, that it could be a quantum singularity - a kind of a miniature black hole - being kept in a gravity bottle. Astrophysicists long ago predicted the existence of quantum singularities that would have been created at the time of the Big Bang. And I read about some research being done in the core that suggested they were close to creating a gravity bottle capable if insulating gravitic anomalies. It was only theory back then, but they or other scientists might have perfected it. Add to this the other gravitic phenomena in the universe and the fact that what little we know about the Ancients indicates that they had gravitic technology far beyond what we have and the number of possible explanations for the anomaly is high."
KYLE: "It's possible that this is naturally occurring," he notes. "But we should consider the possibility that we've stumbled on a secret research facility - military or private. For all we know this could be a hidden Zhodani military research facility. Without a doubt if they could harness this power into a weapon, it would be devastating. And this is not the sort of research you'd want to do anywhere near a habitable planet."
MEK (OOC): It actually sounds like a naked singularity. That's a collapsed region of space-time with the density of a black hole's center. Kip Thorne beat the pants off Stephen Hawking by proving that such a thing could theoretically exist. The mass of the singularity need not be very large at all. It could be a mote of dust, but it would need to be a mass that was confined to the smallest possible region of space-time. Thus, it would accrete nothing, except over very long periods of time, but it would register as a singularity. I love physics. Hey, anyone want some quotes from Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler's "Gravitation" textbook? Yes? Well....
MEK (OOC): "The singularity is a region of spacetime in which timelike or null geodesics terminate, not because of infinite gravitational forces or infinite crushing, but because of other, more subtle pathologies." p. 940
The ship goes to port and starboard combat stations for the remainder of the trip and approaches the gas giant warily, staying well clear of the anomaly and approaching the gas giant on the far side from the strange "thing".
Watch Section One - Vamperina (pilot), Dalag (engineer), Midnight (gunner)
Watch Section Two - Jack (pilot), Surge (engineer), Curt (gunner)
Even with the body of the gas giant between Rock and the anomaly, radio sensors still pick up signs that it is there. This allows the crew to do some monitoring of the anomaly as Vamperina climbs into PEBBLE for the first of the six refueling trips that it will take to completely refuel ROCK.
KYLE (OOC): At some point Kyle will no doubt suggest that they bring ROCK to the near side of the gas giant from the anomaly (assuming his initial analysis indicates that it will be safe). When told that they can't take the risk he'll accept that but spend some time showing how moving closer would actually involve minimal risk while giving a real opportunity for scientific gain.
MEK: That one suggestion by Kyle will make Mek talk. He'll firmly and quietly say, "No. That's too dangerous. Ships better equipped than ROCK have been lost doing stuff like that. Watch it from here and let it go. Really. Let. It. Go."
GM: ROCK's sensor array is a variable power pool that is "limited by available tech" and "requires a skill roll - Systems Operation (w/appropriate subskills)". There are four people onboard who have the appropriate skills for using the complex sensor array - Surge, Vamperina, the Professor and Dalag Thompson. Of them, Surge is the best (18-) although Dalag is right behind him (17-). Vamperina is the worst (13-).
Surge is an extremely capable scientist in his own areas of expertise and recognizes that Kyle's knowledge of such anomalies far exceeds his. However has no idea how to work the extremely complex array of sensors with which ROCK, and most other spaceships, is equipped. Between the two of them, they make a very good team. Dalag's skill and knowledge with all things dealing with space serves a very strong complimentary role such that very little is missed in using the sensor array to maximum effectiveness. The anomaly is studied in all manner possible by the sensor array. Gravitational sensors are initially reveal nothing until Kyle theorizes about a possible 'gravity bottle' effect and though measurement and study is inconclusive, there is sufficient reason to believe that this might be what is happening in this case. The anomaly IS some sort of strong gravitational anomaly that somehow insulates itself from its surroundings.
JACK: "Is that even possible as a natural phenomena? It seems to me to make it obvious that it's man-made in one way or another..."
Kyle and Surge continue to study the anomaly for the remainder of the trip, making extensive notes and suggesting several theories. The reality, however, is that it will take more advanced equipment, and much more time, to make any progress about what it might be.
KYLE (OOC): Before we start heading out, I'd like to have Kyle and Surge give a short briefing to the crew about what they've learned about the anomaly so far. It may be just an interesting scientific observation, or it might be a potential military threat to the Imperium.
GM: Kyle and Surge have ruled nothing out at this point so the briefing is worthwhile. Thus far, they have seen little interaction between the anomaly and surrounding space though they have noted some reaction of the gas giant itself to the anomaly but this has thus far been localized to within a few hundred kilometers of the anomaly.
Despite the heightened level of tension, the refueling proceeds normally. Dalag Thompson is as highly skilled an engineer as he is a pilot and navigator and is able to take over the duties of the Chief Engineer for refueling to allow Surge to continue monitoring the anomaly. When the last of the fuel is transferred from PEBBLE to ROCK, Vamperina brings the small ship around and brings it to rest in its berth inside of ROCK. She returns to the bridge and ROCK begins it's week long trip out to a safe jumping distance for the next jump on its way back to Rio.
MEK: Mek is visibly worried as Surge goes into more detail about the 'black hole' that can't be one, but doesn't say anything. That in itself is odd.
MEK: Mek is also rated in Plasma Weapons and we figured out he fits in the harness. :-)
JACK: I would not assume only a week on the way out, 'safe jumping distance' is determined by gravity, isn't it?
MIDNIGHT: Midnight seems very intrigued, but he has absolutely no training on this type of thing, so he mans his gun as a precaution and keeps his ears open to the ongoing discussions.
The trip out from the gas giant begins ordinarily enough though still with most of ROCK's sensors tied up with studying the anomaly, looking for any sign of threats. By now, Surge, Kyle and Dalag have keyed in some standard scans that they run on a regular basis, interspersed with normal 'threat' scans for hostile forces or space debris.
Two days later, one such scan reveals a "bulge" in the anomaly. The bulge expands over the course of the next two hours and then begins to contract. Six hours later, it has contracted completely and, at that time, the anomaly suddenly ceases to exist. Surge quickly but calmly runs the gamut of preprogrammed scans and one such scan (gravitic) picks something up. The anomaly is gone and has been replaced by something with the mass of a small spaceship (about 400 tons). As they watch, the mass begins accelerating towards ROCK. It clears the gasses of the planet within seconds. Surge keys in the visual sensors to get a look at what is coming after them, but nothing is revealed. Radio scans also come up negative. Switching back to gravitic scans reveals distressing news. In the few seconds it took to run the other scans, the object has accelerated to faster-than-light speeds and is on a direct collision course with ROCK. Impact in six seconds.
JACK (GM): Given the relative velocities I would assume there is no chance of evading it. If there is, we'll try. If I have time, I will say over the intercom, "Everyone brace for impact!". If I have even more time I will give orders for EVERYONE to button up inside PEBBLE and I will rendezvous with them there to protect them with my bio-field (Force Wall). (This includes Vana, after she keys in the command for Rockora to engage the thrusters to evade at maximum thrust until the object passes.) I'll push it as far as it will go and beyond, trying to extend it to protect all of those that need protection (wouldn't it be nice if I could get it to protect the whole of ROCK just for an instant ;) If we have no time to move, I will still use the Force Wall to protect those of us on the bridge in the instant it takes for the object to overtake us.
MEK: Mek is staring at the displays blankly. His face is ashen and he hangs in mid-air, muttering, "It's just like me." All the while he shrinks down to his smallest size.
TECH: Activate Shrinking, full strength. 0.0475 m tall. Activate FF, 6 PD/5 ED/2 Mental Defense/1 Power Defense/1 Flash Defense: Sight Group, Hardened. Flight is active, but no movement as Mek holds position in mid-air, out of the way. All three powers are 0 END, Persistent. Only the Shrinking is not IPE.
BODY: 13/13 END: 28/28 STUN: 30/30
KYLE: In a desperation move, Kyle will jump down at the comms station and try and use it to co-opt the gravitic sensors (which should still be active) and send out a short burst of a numeric sequence in gravity waves that would be indicative of intelligence. It's a huge long shot, but on the very off chance that this is some kind of gravity creature that doesn't like the way we look, it might be able to sense the gravity waves and realize that we're intelligent. (Okay, so typing it out makes it sound a lot more dumb than I thought. But what else can I do?) He'll take an action to try this and then quickly turn out of phase before impact. His priority is to phase out before impact, not get the message out. That's just something he'll try if there's time.
TECH: Systems Operation: Comms (15-) to get the message off in time [rolled 13]; Lightning Calculator, Comprehensive Scientist (16-) to get a decent message off the top of his head [rolled 16]; Desolidification to phase out.
MIDNIGHT: I think Midnight is already "secured" in his gunnery position. He'll just watch in awed terror as that thing approaches. (I know he can't actually see it, but you get the point.)
SURGE (OOC): Based on the turn, I'm guessing Surge will announce the impact. Also, I'm not sure if V's danger sense would key off before his scan. Who's currently manning what? Is V in the pilot's chair or is it unmanned? I'm going to assume that we weren't at 'battle stations' so people are probably milling about though I suspect many might be hovering over our shoulders as we analyze this new discovery. Based on the fact that we just came from the gas giant it would mean the ship is coming at our aft, correct?
SURGE: Surge curses and blurts out, "Impact in six seconds!" Surge then worked furiously to put ROCK 's shields at full, while also activating his own force fields. If Vamperina is at the pilot's helm, he shouts, "Vamperina, evasive maneuvers starboard." If she's not he'll key in the sequence for Rockora to do.
SURGE (OOC): At our speed, I'm not sure how much good it will do but full thrusters to one side will give us our best shot at getting off it's path. I'm doubtful ROCK can move quick enough but anything to lessen the directness of the collision.
MEK: Mek has been on the bridge near the overhead, so 'hovering about' is a good description.
MEK: Mek goes from tiny and ashen faced to tiny and angry as he hears his friends facing the danger of the oncoming collision. He yells out angrily, "Go Away! Just go back where you came from you freaks! Leave us alone!"
VAMPERINA: Danger Sense roll for Vamperina - 14- [rolled 7].
VAMPERINA: Vamperina knows that her danger sense is generally very reliable but does occasionally fail. She reasons that this must be one of those times as she is not picking up any sense of danger to herself. Her danger sense does not extend to those around her so she cannot tell if anyone else is in danger.
As the crew was on port and starboard watches because of both the fact that ROCK is in an enemy system as well as the presence of the strange anomaly, all positions are manned. Jack is at the helm and he immediately takes evasive action to the extent that he can at the speeds that they are traveling - Starship Pilot on 15- (with level) [rolled 8].
Evasive actions, however, fail to prevent the iimpact. Six seconds later the "effect" slams into ROCK. For most of those aboard the ship, there is no indication that anything happen except for the effects on those that feel the impact. Everyone onboard suffers a 10d6 NND attack. The defense is NOT having any dimensional based power which means that most aboard are unaffected. Note that the effect does affect desolidified characters. Those with teleportation or other dimensional based powers or special effects take full damage. Mek, on the other hand, takes double damage and also suffers a 1d6 NND, Does Body, killing attack.
10d6 NND attack [rolled 6 4 1 6 5 2 1 3 2 4 - Total: 34, Body: 10]
1d6 NND killing attack [rolled 6], Stun [rolled 1]
The scanners show no indication that there is anything out of the ordinary around the ship. There is no anomaly that can be detected anywhere. There is no hurtling mass the size of a small spaceshipt.
KYLE (OOC): FYI, Kyle takes double Stun from this as well. (TECH: 2x Stun from any attack that Affects Desolid.)
KYLE: Seconds before impact Kyle fades partly and becomes slightly translucent. As everyone braces for impact Kyle screams out, immediately fades back into solid form and drops heavily to the deck, soundly unconcscious.
BODY: 10/10 STUN: -42/26 END: 0/36 END RES: 80/80
OMEN: Vareq screams as his body twists into impossible shapes, then grunts and pulls himself back from the brink. He leans back against the bulkhead and recollects himself.
TECH: Stunned not KOed. Take one recovery.
OMEN: Vareq will head over to Kyle to make sure he's okay.
OMEN: We have injured. Damnit, what just happened? Where's our medic?
SURGE: Surge glances about after impact and sees Kyle (and the others) go unconscious. "Holy Cr@p," he exclaims and makes eye contact with either Vamperina (or whomever else is our best backup medic) to make sure they'll deal with the fallen. He then starts several diagnostics on the ship and its systems. He also checks in with Rockora and Storm.
JACK: Jack continues scanning for additional 'not-there' objects and such as he recovers the ROCK from his heavy-duty evasive action. Immediately when Kyle and presumably Mek fall unconscious he calls into the intercom, "Everyone check in and give me a status report, we have people hurt on the bridge, come help if you can." When he has a moment he turns to Surge and says, "I didn't feel a thing, did you? It didn't keep going after it hit us, it just wasn't there any more, so it would seem to have been a direct attack on us that dissipated once it hit..."
MIDNIGHT: "All clear up here," Midnight responds slowly. "I didn't see or feel anything more than our ship taking evasive measures. I'll stay here in case there's a more physical danger in the area unless you need me elsewhere."
JACK (intercom): "It's ok, unless you have actual medical training you can remain there, same with Dalag, we're getting things under control here the best we can."
JACK (GM): This all assumes that we have at least one person still conscious on the bridge besides Jack and Surge. If we do not, Jack will cut thrusters and let the ship coast for a minute while he makes sure none of the hurt people are bleeding or dying or worse. If noone is bleeding out (Mek?) he will go back to the pilot chair almost immediately, but he won't ignore them just to keep steering the ROCK when we're not even technically in combat or under attack. Does Mek revert to normal size or stay shrunk?
MEK: Anyone in the bridge area will hear Mek's scream. Mek's powers are all Persistent, so he ends up where he is, which may be difficult to see. He is bleeding 1d6 per phase, but, good news, he's dropped to 2 SPD. Yeah, for Small Miracles! Given the nature of the attacks, NND, fluids, including blood, are trickling out of Mek's ears, eyes, nose and mouth.
BODY: 7/13 STUN: -44/30 END: 0/28
JACK: "Okay, that scream definitely sounded worse than Kyle's. Surge, help me find Mek..." (base PER 13- w/ level [rolled 8]). Hopefully knowing where he was will help, and if not Surge can help, or internal sensors? Good news is since he's not actively hiding he's not 'invisible' ;)
SURGE (OOC): I'm pretty sure that Jack can leave the helm. ROCK can fly on its own is we're just maintaining a speed and heading. I'd say that once you correct the evasive maneuver you put it on autopilot and can deal with the people.
SURGE: Mek's scream catches Surge's attention. She turns around, remembering roughly where Mek was last and looks for him. PER 19- + 2 (if necessary) [rolled 8]. He then turns to Jack, replying to his comment. "No, I didn't feel a thing but clearly Mek and Kyle did."
JACK: "I will at least start the treatment if I have to, you can keep dealing with diagnostics and sensors, I just wasn't sure how much trouble I'd have finding Mek. I've got him over here, though how the heck I'm supposed to do first aid on something that small... Looks like Vareq took a hit too, though not as bad, he's still standing." First Aid 13- [rolled 7] to assess Mek's condition best I can. A second roll [rolled 12] to assess Kyle's condition (presumably before Vareq picks him up since he has to recover from being Stunned). If Vareq is starting to come round I will concentrate on Mek, assuming I know he's the worst off.
SURGE (OOC): BTW, If you take extra time you can get a bonus to PER rolls. Half phase look is +1, Full phase look (puts you at 1/2 DCV) is +2.
JACK (OOC): My first reaction is to look, then ask for help, then look harder while you look too ;)
SURGE: Once Surge spots Mek, he'll point his location out. If it appears that no one else can help (I'm still not clear who else (that's also conscious) beyond Jack is on the bridge), Surge will step away from the diagnostics and help tend to the wounded. As Surge is insensitive he often overlooks the TLC type of reactions and wants to be sure that the ship is fine and won't be affected in the foreseeable future (as there's not another impact coming, etc). But if Mek or someone else is dying, he'll definitely help them first. Surge does not have any medical training per se but if first aid is an everyman skill he'll be able to use it. He is pretty smart so he'll do pretty good with treatment.
SURGE (GM): Surge's priorities are make sure the ship is not damaged by running a full set of diagnostics. He'll also confirm that Storm and Rockora are alright.
JACK (OOC): As far as I'm concerned you're fine doing that once we have dealt with immediate triage of finding the wounded and determining how bad it is and who needs help first. Professor Ricket or even Nanci may be able to help me treat Mek, no idea. If you have actual Paramedic skill I think we may need you once you're satisfied nothing is going to blow up in the next 10 seconds.
SURGE (OOC): Surge does not have paramedic nor any other specific medic type skill.
JACK (OOC): Yes, but you automatically get an Int-based roll for First Aid to stop bleeding ;) You're just a BIT better with that than Jack.