Rise of the Terrans

Session 12

Session 12: “This is Reggie!”

After the brutal murder of the minotaur guards (and the proxy murder of those guarding the Synodans), the PCs loot the bodies to find communicators. They have Pip immitate a minotaur and inform everyone that the Synodans near the jail are attempting to break out, and that the minotaurs sent to help are dead. When the answering minotaur asks who was talking, Pip immediately replies truthfully, forcing the PCs to revoke his communication privileges. Sarah repeats the message, and when asked for her identity, calls herself Reggie. The conversation quickly falls apart, though the PCs learn that the ship is in a state of disarray: the engines have failed and they are open in Synodan space; fires and explosions are happening everywhere, and the Synodans are making constructs to fight on the ship. When Sarah tries to press for more information, the actual Reggie gets on the line; the situation falls apart completely when Ahmose gets on the line and recognizes Sarah. The PCs in a panic continue to run from the jail, but they quickly realize that they are about to be closed in, when doors start closing around them. Adriana quickly comes up with a plan, and tells the PCs to throw their communicators through closing doors. When they do so, all of the other doors open again, allowing them to take a side hallway.

The PCs continue to run through the ship, until Ashlee hears minotaurs running towards them, and a vent opening behind them. The PCs turn back to the vent to see Hans falling out, with Space Jingwei desperately trying to pull him back up. Sarah tosses the PCs into the vent, and they have Pip close the vent behind them. Unfortunately, no one thinks about the fact that Pip is a ball of light, and doesn’t actually latch the vent shut. After the minotaurs pass, the vent opens loudly, and they turn back to the noise. Just before the minotaurs come back, the PCs go completely silent, and Joel imitates an fiery explosion, successfully deceiving the minotaurs. Once they’re safe from guards, the PCs ask about Space Jingwei and Hans. Hyperventilating, Hans tells them that Borris has set up a command center, and that they have taken over some parts of the ship and are sending out teams to sabotage the minotaurs and distract Loki. Borris sent Hans and Space Jingwei to find the PCs and bring them back, once he learned that the PCs “killed” their minotaur guards to escape jail. The PCs decide to go along with this lie and follow them back to Borris. Pip leads them through the vents with minimal lighting, almost sending Sarah to her death down a ventilation shaft.

On the way, the PCs pass by the ship’s command center. The room is in a state of chaos, and they see Ahmose, Hemaka, and Marco in the middle of the room. Ashlee decides to use her air powers to hover unseen in the vent and listen in to the conversation. When she returns to the PCs, she tells them that Marco is fine, and that they are trying to get control over the situation. It seems that the humans are forcing sections to close with the environmental system, gassing rooms slowly to force everyone to move. Loki is fighting the Synodans, moving from section to section as necessary. The PCs realize that they need to get to Borris quickly, to assess the situation and decide how to help Loki.

They PCs finally reach the command center, and Adriana goes alone to see the situation. Borris, now in military uniform, has set up a true command center. Even though his back is to the door, giving orders to some of the humans, when Adriana walks in, he immediately acknowledges her presence and loudly says that the other PCs can join her. They all crawl out of the vents, accidentally leaving Hans behind. Borris welcomes them and finally reveals his plan: two days earlier, he made a treaty with the Synodans to give them the ship and Loki, in exchange for safe transport for all of the humans back to Earth. The PCs immediately start to argue, though Ashlee and Sarah feel conflicted about Borris’s apparent logic. All of them have small headaches, but they don’t pay the pain too much attention. He has the PCs leave to shower and change, as they’re covered in blood and minotaur pieces. In private, they discuss their mission from Loki to determine who is under mind control. Pip, who stayed back in the main room, is told by Borris to help Natalia hack into Marco’s arm. Pip realizes that Borris is trying to mind control him, and while he throws off the mind control, he allows Borris to think that his influence is working. Pip instead subtly sabotages Natalia’s attempts, and distracts her by talking about Lord of the Rings.

Pip immediately flies back to the PCs and tells them of Borris’s mind control. Adriana asks who in the room is mind controlled, and Pip happily replies that all humans are under Borris’s influence. The PCs are confused at first, and then they panic when they realize that includes them. Adriana realizes with Pip’s help that she can sense the mind control with her psychic powers: Borris’s influence is all over the room, and she can tell with her friends that he is exerting mind control over them. She deduces that her powers could break that mind control, and that Pip could cloak them from Borris. She immediately slaps Sarah, breaking the mind control; Sarah’s headache disappears, and all of the murderous rage she feels toward Borris comes back. Angrily, Sarah starts to walk away from the group. At the slap, Borris had turned to the PCs, obviously suspicious, and the further Sarah walked from Pip, the more suspicious he was. Meanwhile, Adriana slaps Joel, but before he can angrily walk away, she calls both him and Sarah back, under the guise of eating. When they go to the other room, Adriana explains how she can overcome Borris’s mind control powers; to demonstrate, she slaps Ashlee. After a moment, she reveals that the slaps were entirely unnecessary; Sarah immediately slaps her back, bruising her face. The PCs wonder what to do, until Joel remembers that he can contact Loki with his mask.

While only Joel can see Loki through the mask, the other PCs can hear their conversation with their communicators. Loki, while taking out Synodans and constructs with ease, questions the PCs and their mission. Joel explains the mind control situation, and while Loki is pleased, he is also more concerned about other problems: the engine failure, the hacking of the ship’s cloaking, and the take-over of the environmental controls. Joel tells him that Borris had make a treaty with the Synodans and activated a distress signal, for the first time Loki seems truly shocked. He tells them that his brother, Thor, is on the way, and that the PCs need to turn off the distress signal, as well. Before they disconnect, Loki warns the PCs that others could listen in to these local communications. The PCs regroup and try to come up with a plan, and they decide that speaking to Borris would be the best plan.

Session 11

Session 11: Fuck the Police!

The PCs—minus Marco, who is taken to the medical center for his arm—are forced to wait in jail for some time before they meet with anyone. Each is in their own cell, which have screens instead of bars. After some time, Loki walks in and dismisses the guards, and he forms a chair in the center of the room. He sits down, uses magic to turn the cameras arund, and opens the cell doors. Adriana and Ashlee hover in the thresholds of their respective cells, while Joel and Sarah walk out aggressively. Loki smiles and asks the PCs to tell him the situation. After a moment, Adriana asks about the possibility of the humans gaining extra elemental powers, aside from those implanted in them. Loki concedes that it would be possible, and tells her to elaborate. When Adriana shows that she can turn into water, Loki says, without much surprise, that it’s a cheap parlor trick; at this, Sarah calls him a cheap parlor trick. He uses magic to push her back into her cell, and even though she plants her feet and fights, he seals the cell, making the door opaque and soundproof.

As Sarah knocks continually on the door, the PCs ask Loki to explain himself. He informs them that he knew about Borris’s mind control powers, and about the influence he has over many of the humans. While he knows about the mutiny, he would rather not wipe out all of the humans, though it would be easy for him to do so. Instead, he wants the PCs to take control of the situation and find the mind controlled humans for him, so that he could intervene without wasting human resources. He then makes the cell door transparent and only soundproof on Sarah’s side, so she can hear the plan. The PCs reluctantly agree, and Loki has them follow him into the hallway; he has Pip show himself, and he tells Pip to accompany the PCs. Before they can say anything, he kills both of the minotaur guards. Adriana starts to demand an explanation, but Loki merely tells them to go, and he leaves quickly.

The PCs run into the hallway, but the sound of an explosion and the sudden jolt of the ship distract them. The lights dim for a moment, before emergency lighting comes on, and an alarm starts to sound. The PCs go to the adjacent room holding the two Synodans. Adriana and Joel see two minotaur guards struggling to keep the Synodans locked up, while an Aesir frantically types on a console. They decide to lock the room, to prevent the Synodans from easily leaving. Ashlee and Sarah are forced to confront three minotaur guards coming down the hallway. Adriana and Joel successfully lock the door, and as it closes they see one Synodan break free, as the Aesir looks at them with horror, obviously telling them to open the door. They join Ashlee and Sarah in the fight, as the splat of a guard dying comes from the room. The PCs quickly kill the minotaur guards in gruesome ways, coating themselves in blood and pieces. They realize that the three in the room are dead, and by the end of it, the second Synodan had broken out. The PCs decide that they need to leave immediately to find the other humans.

Session 10

Session 10: Somehow, Things Get Worse

The PCs regroup in the morning in the main room, and they tell each other about what they discovered the day before. They berate Joel for forcing Kendall to injure herself in the medical center. While they eat breakfast, along with Jeanette, Borris approaches them and sits down. He ignores the aggression at the table and asks to speak prviately with Jeanette, who looks at the PCs fearfully. They point out that they wanted to talk to Jeanette and tell her about their adventures on the planet, but their lie doesn’t work when Borris asks them to include him, since it’s obviously not sensitive information, and he enjoys reading mission reports. When Sarah snaps that he should read the mission report, he points out that all of them forgot to write one. The PCs are forced to leave Jeanette alone with Borris, though Marco manages to put a mic on her back without anyone else noticing.

The PCs retreat to Ashlee’s room to listen in on their conversation. Borris asks Jeanette about the success of her “mission,” and the PCs confirm that she isn’t actively mind controlled, but that she is helping Borris by giving him information about the ship’s layout. Joel tells the PCs that they need to find Hans, as the Russians are pressuring him into giving them the vent layout for some unknown reason. They leave to the minotaurs, using Joel’s access key, as Hans is rooming with Reggie in the barracks. The smell of the first barrack is horrific, and the PCs tell Joel to go on alone to the secondary barracks, which would undoubtedly smell worse. Ahmose approaches the PCs and has them drink more, particularly Ashlee. Hemaka joins in the conversation, though he listens more than speaks. The PCs tell them about their elemental powers, with Sarah and Adriana changing their arms, and Ashlee moving paperwork on the desk. Hemaka is obviously interested, but he doesn’t give the PCs any information, instead opting to act like a cat to knock Ahmose’s drink off the table. Hemaka leaves, and Ahmose soon follows, telling the PCs to have Joel leave his keycard with the others in the drawer.

The PCs immediately steal the remaining keycards as soon as Ahmose leves. Joel soon returns, with Hans in hand, and they return to the main room. Hans—having stayed with the minotaurs for so long—smells foul, so they have him shower in Ashlee’s bathroom while they discuss what to ask Hans. When Hans is done showering, they start to ask him about his plans with the Russians, and he reveals that he will give up the information, as the Russians would hurt him otherwise. The PCs insist that they will protect him, but before he can say anything, the door opens to reveal Natalia, Liza, and Avdotya. Sarah steps forward between Hans and the Russians, while simultaneously throwing Hans back to the other PCs. In a fluid motion, Liza and Avdotya push past Sarah and push her into Natalia, who grabs her arms. Avdotya grabs Hans and turns so that his back faces the other PCs. Joel immediately pulls out his daggers, while Marco leaps at the door and accidentally kicks Sarah and Natalia out of the room. As Adriana and Ashlee scream at Joel to stop, he slashes at Avdotya and stabs Liza, who falls to the ground. While she’s down, Joel stabs her mortally in the chest. Ashlee heals Liza by taking on her injury momentarily, and she falls to the bed, bloody and tired. Sarah throws Natalia off her, across a dinner table, and onto the floor directly at the feet of a guard. The guards in the room tense up and summon hammers to disarm the PCs, even as Adriana tries to diffuse the situation. Borris smiles smugly at Sarah before standing up, acting both calm and concerned, and rushes to Liza, calling for medical help. (Holy shit, no wonder we looked like such assholes; we nearly killed Borris’s girlfriend and then scoffed when he tried to help her)

The PCs are quickly captured by the guards and escorted out of the room to jail. On the way, they see the room that the Russians were interested in, holding two giant Synodans in holding tanks. The jail is directly across the hall, and they are placed in under minotaur guard, to wait for Loki.

Session 9

Session 9: The Russians Continue to be Assholes

Now back on the ship, the PCs try to find out why it looks so damaged. Ahmose informs them of the Synodan attack, during which there were numerous casualties and damages to the ship’s systems. Their ship is currently stuck in Synodan space, luckily hidden in the planetary ring, but they had no ways to defend themselves should any other Synodan ships come back. Ahmose asks about their mission, wondering if the PCs also located and marked colonies or other Synodan sites. The PCs react angrily, pointing out that the planet was a death trap. He drops the matter and brings them to the other humans. Rather than two rooms, one for the command squad and another for the black squad, the humans are clustered into a single room. It’s clear from the beginning that many humans are not in the room, and the PCs quickly learn from Tom that many of them are either dead or critically wounded in the medical center. Tom tries to ask Joel and Marco about their time on the planet, but their silence and almost aggressive responses dissuade him from asking too many questions. The PCs soon learn from Tom that a mutiny is brewing on the ship: the Russians have decided that they can take over the ship and fly back to Earth. Many of the humans are aligned with the Russians. It is heavily implied that Borris has some strong influence on everyone, much to Ashlee, Adriana, and Sarah’s disappointment and anger, as he was on the command squad with them. The PCs realize that Borris is likely mind controlling many of the humans, and they learn that the Russians had intentially hurt or even killed many humans that initially disagreed with them. The other humans had quickly fallen into line after that, though the PCs aren’t sure which are mind controlled and which are scared.

When Tom leaves, upset with the PCs’ silence and hostility, they soon realize that there are few rooms for sleeping, so they would need to bunk with other humans. They devise a plan of attack, to learn as much information as they could. Sarah approaches two Scottish men from the black squad, taking Joel with her so that they would trust her. Nilima and O’Hare are strikingly different, but obviously good friends. Sarah talks to Nilima, who refuses to say much, while Joel tries to talk to O’Hare, though that mostly involves O’Hare loudly hitting on any women in the vicinity. Nilima, trusting Joel, agrees to room with Sarah. She stays to talk, quickly ensuring that O’Hare would stop making any comments at her, while Joel goes to talk to Kendall in the medical center.

Meanwhile, Ashlee and Adriana went to talk to Borris, curious about the mutiny and his supposed mind control powers. They are surprised to see Borris seated on one side of a table, while the other Russians sit on the other side; the Russians are able to speak in Russian without the translator converting the language, something the PCs have never seen before on the ship. At their approach, Natalia kicks a chair away, while Liza pointedly places a foot on the remaining chair. Amused, Borris asks the Russians to leave. They do so with a clear salute and clacking of heels. Ashlee and Adriana sit down to speak with Borris. While he is polite, he doesn’t give many answers beyond vague statements. When Adriana attempts to intimidate him into talking, Ashlee’s concerned face gives away the bluff, and Borris leaves with a calm and subtle threat.

While Joel is walking to the medical center, he realizes that the Russians, having left Borris, are crowding Hans into a corner. Hans clearly looks uncomfortable, so Joel decides to intervene, even though he hardly knows Hans aside from Sarah’s deragatory remarks. The Russians are angry when Joel walks over, but they leave before a fight could break out. Hans admits that the Russians are trying to use him for their own mission. Hans has been working with Reggie as a maintenance worker, and as such he has a knowledge of the ship and access to maps, including the ventilation system. Joel tries to convince Hans that the PCs can protect him, but Hans appears unconvinced. Joel asks him to not room with Reggie in the minotaur barracks, and instead return to room with the PCs that night, but Hans leaves without making a sure promise. Joel continues on to the medical center. Many humans, Geb, Aesir, and Vanir are injured, and many of those are encased in tubes similar to the ones the humans were kept in when first kidnapped. Joel weaves through the chaos of the room, and no one notices him because they’re too busy trying to save and sustain patients. He eventually finds Kendall, who is clearly critically injured. Joel attempts to press her for information about the Russians, using a blink for yes or no system, but Kendall panics (thinking that the Russians sent Joel to finish her off) and intentially induces a panic attack so that healers would come over and force Joel to leave.

Joel returns to the main room as Ashlee and Adriana try to find more people to room with. Sarah, still talking with Nilima, sends O’Hare off to flirt to Jeanette. Ashlee intervenes and asks to room with Jeanette, so O’Hare goes after Adriana as the last female in the room missing a roommate. Adriana eventually agrees to room with him to find out more information. Hans doesn’t return that night, so Joel has no one to room with. Sarah learns that Nilima opposes Borris, but is too scared to oppose him openly. Jeanette is similarly scared of Borris, while O’Hare seems more aligned with Borris (but still refuses to say much to Adriana on the matter).

Session 8

Session 8: Silt Whore…err… horror

They PCs fight the Silt Horror. It’s fucking terrible and they almost die. Marco finishes the mission, and they return to the ship, which was obviously under attack, because why wouldn’t it get attacked? Meanwhile, Loki’s gambit is attacked by Synodans, and a mutiny begins in the aftermath.

Account from Marco’s lob, stardate 1762.5:

We have been on this dreadful planet for a few days now, and it seems we are going to reach the end of our “vacation”. Little did we know that there was one more trick this planet had up its sleeve. As the team and I were reaching the ship that we had to tag, there was some sort of dried-up river that had some quicksand at the bottom, which would probably kill all of us.

As Ashlee made her way across, while my sister and I stayed on the river bank, she sang like an Italian on a beautiful morning; Sarah stood on a skeleton of some large animal that had died, while Joel was being carried across by Pip.

Suddenly, Sarah felt something big moving. Two tentacles came out of the ground next to Sarah, and a third tentacle came out in front of Ashlee. We all readied to fight a monstrosity of a mouth coming right out of the sane. It was a sight that I could never imagine; it looked like the nightmare of a small child brought to life. It was hungry, and it wanted Terrans. As the fight raged on, Joel and Pip remained in the air, with Joel still singing, before Pip finally decided to drop Joel (who said, “Pip what is going on?” before Pip dropped him with a “Sorry, but I really have to help Sarah; good luck!”). Joel finally saw the tentacle fighting Sarah, and with a turn he saw Ashlee being brought to the mouth of the beast, crying and screaming for help. Meanwhile, my sister and I started to attack from behind. We must have done a lot of damage, because the tentacles sunk back into the depths of sand, dropping Ashlee beside us, and nearly dragging Sarah down with the monster.

As we all started preparing for the next attack, yelling at each other, the monster burst out from the sand next to Ashlee and me. I escaped by the skin of my teeth, while Ashlee was picked up and again moved to the monster’s mouth. My sister IMMEDIATELY INTERRUPTED the monster, putting it in its place, and I managed to carve an M into a tentacle; it immediately slapped at me, causing me to land in the river bed and sink into the sand. Almost instantly, the maw of the monster appeared next to Sarah and Joel, putting them in a bad spot. Its emergence knocked Joel into the sinking sand. As I climbed out of the sand, I felt something trying to grab me, but I focused on escaping and saved Ashlee from a tentacle’s grip. Joel managed to get out of the sand; I saw Sarah take cover behind the skeleton as the monster flung sand into the air to hide itself. Pip transformed into a sand ray to distract the monster, as my sister stood on a rock to take aim. The monster took its chance to attack, but suddenly a bright light shot down from what seemed like space, focused on the monster by my sister’s magic. As the monster began to fight back, my sister attacked with greater ferocity, driving the beast to sink back into the pit.

Finally, the fight was over; we were all relieved to see it disappear. But there was one more thing to do before we could leave. As I prepared to go tag the ship, Sarah fixed the comms and called Ahmose. He answered, relieved to see us, but not so much to see us in our present condition. We explained that we had just fought a Silt Horror, and that he was surprised to see that we survived and killed one. He then promised to send for us once the ship was tagged. By the ship, I noticed that the Synodons were trapping elementals in pods of some sort. Whatever it was, we needed to put a stop to it. I tagged the ship, and ran back to the group; immediately, the rings appeared to pick us up.

When we made it back to the ship, we were all shocked to see signs of a battle that just happened. We were debriefed, and learned that Synodans had boarded the ship; there were fights throughout the ship, but they were able to clear out the enemies. However, the cost of life was high. It seemed that the black and white squads merged into one. Many of the people that were taken from earth are thinking about taking the ship; I worry about what is going to happen next. I just hope that I don’t have to put anyone in their place, or worse, kill them.

Marco signing out.

Session 7

Session 7: The Planet Continues to Be Awful

The PCs immediately crowd Adriana, demanding to know how she turned into water to escape. She shrugs, unsure of the answer, and they set off to the outcropping. The PCs take shifts again for rest, but the presence of desert scourges means that their rest is not easy or peaceful. During Ashlee’s watch, she walks to the edge of the rock they’re on to watch the dunes for any signs of movement. From where she sleeps, Sarah hears the faint sound of electricity, and she wakes as a creature—larger than the sand ray—bursts from the sand among arc of electricity, produced from moving through the sand. The creature lunges at Ashlee while Sarah screams at the others to wake, standing up in the process. It narrowly misses, going just over her head, before burrowing back in the sand. The others, startled, begin to move, realizing that a land shark is attacking them. They have a harsh battle, particularly since Joel is separated and the land shark has a tremor sense with makes it hard to attack it. When Sarah throws a boulder to distract it, Joel realizes that he has sand ray jerky to distract the beast, so he tosses it at the center rock. The land shark falls into their trap, and when it’s pinned to the rock, weakened severely by the others’ well-placed attacks, Sarah leaps onto the shark and attacks it in a frenzy. Her skin seems to harden into stone when she jumps, and the desert scourges that attack the downed shark don’t affect her at all. The PCs decide to stay for a while longer, as they need the rest. They wait for the scourges to devour their fill of the land shark, before they go over and inspect the remains. They decide to keep the hide, which will make great armor, but they have to take turns dragging it through the sand.

The journey continues to be hard, though the ground slowly hardens and the air grows saltier and windier. Soon, they can’t see more than a foot in front of them. Sarah, with her newly discovered tremor sense, moves forward to help Joel, who uses his mask to navigate to the ship now that the sun is gone. However, he misinterprets his mask, and they walk for some time before they realize that Pip can “see” perfectly even in these conditions. They correct their course before anything terrible happens, and soon they are out of the blinding wind and onto salt flats. After more walking, which brings them within a day’s journey of the ship, they stop to rest. Marco spots strange markings in the ground, but they continue further off their course, so they don’t investigate. Adriana sees a giant sand ray in the sky, much larger than those they had seen before, surrounded by young. Sarah thinks she hears something during her watch, but they’re safe and nothing happens.

The PCs set off to the ship, and as they walk they plan. They decide to send Marco, who is well-trained in stealth, to go to the ship and mark it with their tagging system. Pip, however, tells them that elementals surround the ship, and so the PCs decide that Pip will be fast enough to save Marco if he’s attacked, though it won’t be stealthy. Joel notices something in the air, a ship in orbit, though he can’t tell if it’s their ship or a Synodian ship. The PCs continue to the ship, until they come across a basin where a river likely used to run. A great skeleton in the sand, surrounded by seemingly hard ground, so they decide to stay there, hidden while Marco goes to the ship. Sarah has Pip take her to the skeleton, while Ashlee uses the land shark hide and her staff to steadily sail across the deep sand to the skeleton. Pip returns to the edge to get Joel, and as they fly to Sarah, tentacles erupt from the ground around Ashlee and the skeleton. Adriana and Ashlee recognize the creature as a silt horror, and the group readies itself for battle.

Session 6

Session 6: The One Where They (Kind of) Become Baby Killers

After the battle, the PCs decide that they should go to the bottom of the canyon, as they aim to go to the habitable zone (which is noticeable from their height, though it’s obvious that it will take days to reach the zone). However, before they leave, they notice a huge ball of flame in the sky, heading in their direction. Pip comments that it’ll hit where they are soon, so they run down the narrow ledge to find cover. Ashlee and Sarah manage with ease, but Joel and Adriana quickly trip and nearly fall to their deaths, before Pip saves them with some strain. The unknown object hits the formation lightly, sounding more like something landing than something crashing. The PCs can faintly hear a whoosh, as if a door was opening. Sarah hears the faint sound of whistling and, cursing, she goes back up the ledge to find the whistler. Unfortunately for her, she isn’t stealthy, and the unknown being immediately realizes someone is there. He calls out, ready to attack, and Sarah recognizes the voice as Marco’s. After calling the other PCs to go up and meet him, the group reconciles with Adriana and Marco particularly happy to see each other. Marco informs the group that he was sent to warn them of three incoming Synodian ships; Loki’s gambit was forced to leave the vicinity, and they were to continue the mission in radio silence (as Sarah’s communicator was broken, leaving them no way to speak with the ship). The group resolves to go to the canyon bottom, but not before taking a portable communicator with them and setting a trap on Marco’s pod. This unfortunately takes the better part of three hours. While Joel and Adriana help Marco, Sarah and Ashlee take watch outside. After some time, Sarah realizes that mountains appear to be moving closer to them, albeit slowly. She calls Pip over, who confirms that there is a boulder sandstorm moving in their direction. Ashlee insists that the group inside hurry, but they refuse to listen until Joel (using his mask) learns that the sandstorm will reach them in about 12 hours. The PCs then set off, pod trapped and communicator handy, to the bottom of the canyon.


They walk for hours along the cliff sides, trying to find a good spot for cover for when the sandstorm reaches them. After some time, Marco notices something shifting in the sand. He calls the group to a halt, and moves closer to investigate. Figuring that firing his baton would be a good idea, he shoots at the sand, piercing what appears to be a sting ray, which flings itself into the air. Ashlee recognizes it as a sand ray, from her time watching Discovery Channel, and tells the group of their poisonous sting. The sand ray continues the screech, and the sound echoes throughout the canyon. Fearing the consequences, Joel shots the ray down with a ball of blue flame, and it falls dead as Jorel hisses in the background. The PCs take the sand ray with them. Just as pebble sized rocks begin to fall around them, signaling the proximity of the sandstorm, they find an outcropping with a fair amount of cover. They immediately head inside. Unlike the outside, which had few signs of life, this outcropping appears to have more signs of living creatures, though nothing so large as to threaten their safety. The PCs agree to take shifts for watch, with Adriana going first.

During her watch, Adriana skins and filets the sand ray. The outside was somewhat charred from Joel’s fireball, but the inside was cooked at all, so she decides to leave it out for Joel to cook during his watch. Time passes uneventfully, though she uses her knowledge to extract a black and viscous poison from the sting for Sarah and Marco’s weapons. Joel takes the next watch. Unfortunately for the group, he isn’t familiar with cooking without instructions, so instead of cooked filets he makes sand ray jerky. They’re sandy, since Adriana had taken the skin with her (and discovered that it was insulating, she kept warm while sleeping). Marco uses the poison to coat some of his weapons, and Ashlee has an uneventful watch. During her watch, Sarah coats her longswords with poison and entertains Pip by telling him the histories of Middle Earth (which he confuses for the contemporary Middle East, and thus is very concerned about Earth’s safety with respect to Sauron). The sandstorm eventually passes, and the PCs venture outside. Realizing that they are walking parallel to the habitable zone, they send Marco to climb up the cliff side and look around. Using his communicator, he tells the group to join him, as he sees light reflecting in the distance. Curious, the PCs meet him, and Joel uses his mask to learn that the reflection is coming from a ship—likely the Synodian ship they were sent to find—about 170 miles away. The group sets out, with enough food rations for five days—thanks to Joel’s sand ray jerky—and water for three days, as well as the water Joel can give them from producing ice at the end of the day.

The journey is hard, as they have to move through shifting sand dunes and a harsh wind. They take turns using the sand ray skin to shield themselves from the sun, which doesn’t move in the sky (luckily, as this serves as their navigation point). By taking walking/resting shifts—three hours of walking, one of resting—the group travels for hours before finally finding what appears to be a sufficient outcropping. However, before they reach it, Adriana senses a disturbance in the area, and she quickly turns to see something moving underground on a dune behind them. She starts screaming “Dune! Duuuune!” but the rest of the PCs have no idea what she’s talking about, and instead assume she’s suffering from heat stroke. She explains to them what she saw, and, carefully, the PCs watch the dunes until they see movement: something at least feet across, steadily coming towards them. In a panic, the group splits up, with Marco and Sarah sprinting to the outcropping, Ashlee stumbling but still running, and Joel and Adriana falling straight into the next dune. As they scream, a giant sand ray erupts from the ground and comes to rest over them. Making a sound almost like purring, it runs its wings over them. Adriana still wears the sand ray cloak, but Joel is covered in dead sand ray from his cooking escapade. The creature immediately takes Adriana under its wing and hisses at Joel, raising its sting in a threatening manner.

Scared, Joel tells Pip to make the same noise as the sand ray, meaning its happy purring noise. However, Pip—being an unnecessarily literal creature—hisses impressively and shines brightly. The sand ray immediately jumps into the air, still carrying Adriana. Thinking that they’re in great danger, Sarah and Marco turn around and sprint over to help. Adriana turns in water, and in her haste to escape she leaves the sand ray skin behind, and she flows back to the ground. The creature falls and lands on its back in shock. Sarah, not realizing that Adriana is safe, lunges at the sand ray and attempts to stab it with both of her swords, but they don’t even pierce it’s skin. Marco then takes a running leap, ready to stab the sand ray in its mouth, but he tumbles into Sarah and they both fall on top of the sand ray. The others stay still, not sure what to do—and kind of hoping that they can make this sand ray a pet. Sarah and Marco simultaneously realize that the sand ray is holding dozens of sand ray babies, and that the sand ray they had killed earlier was also a baby. This sand ray, a father, was only trying to protect its young. Screaming “Babies! It’s got fucking babies!” Sarah rolls off the sand ray, narrowly missing its young. Marco does the same a moment later. As soon as it’s free, the sand ray launches itself into the air, before flipping over and diving back into the safety of the sand. Ashlee and Joel mourn the loss of their almost pet, while Marco and Sarah think about how they were nearly monsters. Adriana reforms from the water, and the PCs take a moment to think about what had just happened.

Session 5

Session 5: Simulations and Live Battles

Since waking up in their respective rooms, two weeks and a half have passed, and the terrans have undergone daily training sessions: the morning consists of learning (battle strategies and command tactics for the white team, nanites for the black team) while the afternoon sessions were fighting and training. Within days, scoreboards appear in both rooms while a system ranking people based on their performances. In the white room, Ashlee leads the scoreboard, followed by Adriana, while Sarah is tied for third with Rajiv Harish. For the command team, training sessions consist of fighting battles: matches of randomly paired fighters utilize a virtual reality system to give them the ability to either command their armies from a distance, giving them full view of the battle and the ability to give commands to each unit, or to command within the battle in the midst of it and actively participate.

holographic battle sim

Pain is very real in these simulations, and it’s apparent to everyone that these battles affect placement on the scoreboard. After some time, Ashlee faces off against Wen Shan, an average opponent. Early on in the battle, she gets a notification on her headset that she has an infiltrator behind enemy lines, behind their commander, with assassination capabilities. Taking advantage of this, she orders her troops to feign a weakness in order to entice Wen Zan to advance and lower his defenses. The other Command Squad members, who are spectating the combat, are shocked at what seems to be the worst possible move she could be making. Ashlee remains out of the game, while Wen Zan takes the bait, and suddenly the stimulation ends, and even though it seems like he met the victory criteria, he takes off his helmet while cursing, rubbing at his back. He asks Ashlee how she won: everything was going right for him, until he felt a stabbing pain in his back and saw blue flames before the stimulation ended. She refuses to tell him, since the rules state that they can’t discuss the battles until the end of the day. After some other fights, Adriana pairs off against Rajiv Harish. During the fight, they are evenly matched, until Adriana things she sees an opening. She presses forward, but suddenly she feels an excruciating pain going up her ribcage, and the stimulation ends. Shocked, she listens to Rajiv brag about his victory, but she trips him on the way out. More time passes, then Sarah goes into the room to face Hans, who is low on the leaderboard and seems already defeated. When the battle starts, it’s clear that Sarah is at a huge disadvantage, and none of the Command Squad thinks she can win: Hans has a mountain pass and a much larger army with an arcane squad raining down destruction on Sarah‘s army. Quickly after the fight starts, Sarah receives a notification which tells her that she has a demolition/assassination expat behind enemy lines. She tells him to set off explosives on the cliff side, to divide the army and distract them so he can kill Hans. Sarah joins her fighters on the battlefield, and as soon as the explosions go off they charge, forming a shield wall to deflect spells and falling rocks. They easily smash through Hans’s forces. As they run, Sarah looks up to the cliff side. Her infiltrator, holding out a metal arm with a detonator, pulls back his hood: it’s Marco, and they make eye contact before he jumps into the falling debris. Moments later, the stimulation ends with Hans holding his neck and sighing sadly.

Sarah walks back to the main hall with Ahmose, who congratulates her (since they’ve begun training, Ahmose has taken to calling her Little Bull and often tells her that she’ll earn her brass ring some day, something which is obviously important to the minotaurs) and pulls out a suspicious flask to help her celebrate her victory. Eager to tell them about what had happened, Sarah rushes to her friends, but they stop her to ask about the flask. Ashlee, brave but also wanting to drink, volunteers to try it: it’s salty but strong. Adriana tries some, which is less salty, and Sarah gives it to Ashlee after a small sip. They recount their experiences in their battle simulations. Ashlee didn’t see her infiltrator, but she saw blue flames before it ended. Sarah tells them about Marco, reassuring Adriana that her brother is alive and appears to be well, and they wonder if Joel is similarly okay.

Meanwhile, the black team also undergoes their daily simulation training. Joel and Marco lead the scoreboard, since they were the only team to succeed in the sneak training, even though they technically killed the command team. They are closely followed by Avdotya, Liza, and Natalia, a trio of Russians who have consistently demonstraded their skill, effifiency, brutality, and love of inflizcting pain. Joel goes first in his stimulation: he is told to follow his orders exactly, and soon he is commanded to assassinate the commander of the enemy’s army. He does so with ease, stabbing a Chinese man in the back and leaving his trademark blue flames behind. Hemaka praises Joel for his attack. After some time, Natalia, one of the Russians, goes. While spectating, Joel watches as she attacks Adriana. Instead of killing her quietly (like Joel, Natalia was supposed to kill quickly and ensure that her target couldn’t scream), she makes sure that Adriana suffers by stabbing her in the back and gouging up through her ribcage. Natalia makes sure to kill all of Adriana‘s guards as the stimulation ends, eager to make them all suffer as she leaves them to die. Joel is disgusted, but he’s glad to see Adriana alive. After a few more matches, Marco goes in, with Joel‘s encouragements. He easily sneaks through the enemy camp, setting demolitions on the cliff wall with any problems. Pulling off his hood in a signature move as he detonates the devices, he makes eye contact with his charging commander. Though Marco doesn’t recognize her, Joel (spectating through Marco’s eyes) immediately knows that it’s Sarah, even though she’s covered in blood. The stimulation ends, with Marco getting also perfect praise from Hemaka, and the Russians are yet again ranked behind both Joel and Marco. When they all return to the black main room, Ahmose comes and asks Joel to go with him. Joel asks about Adriana (who Ahmose calls Evil Eye) and Sarah, and then he asks to speak with Natalia, and he steadily burns an eye into her skin without her noticing.

He leaves with Ahmose, who takes through a series of hallways and doors to a room which overlooks a planet. This room is a bright white, with gold and silver trim, starkly different to the room Joel has been starting in. Asgardians walk about, along with Geb, and Joel finds himself face to face with Loki. He holds out a hand to shake, but Joel coldly rejects him, referring to their earlier conversation about feedstock. Loki tries to have civil discourse, and he clears up some misconceptions Joel might have about their situation. He tells Joel that there is a mission for him, and a team from the command squad, to go down to the planet and investigate a Synodian ship crash site. Joel agrees, even after a reminder that if any one else finds out about this mission, they’ll kill Loki and all of the Terrans. Ahmose, cowed by Loki, takes Joel to the white room, where they find Sarah, Adriana, and a drunk Ashlee hanging out. Surprised, they greet Joel and bombard him with questions. Pip immediately interrupts, and he quickly irritates the others with his literal nature. Ahmose promises to get Ashlee some more to drink later. Joel is given a key to access both the white and black rooms, and they agree to set off in the morning one they’ve all rested and Ashlee had sobered up. The next morning, the PCs are told about the terrain and given equipment to investigate and mark the Synodos for attack.

When they arrive, they realize that they have no idea where they are. Ashlee suggests climbing higher to get a birds’ eye view, but the other PCs are skeptical. Sarah asks Pip to fly up to investigate, forgetting his literal way of following directions, and he files into the air and yells down at them. When he returns, he tells them that there are lots of enemies around, and they are coming from below. After a brief fight, the PCs defeat two iron defenders (which appear as dogs) and an iron cobra, and they are left wondering what their next move should be.

Session 4
Session 3

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