Third Expanse

Well, if you're buying

Session Six – November, 12
As written by Future associate of Xander Rhysland

So, you want to hear what happened next to the crew of the Jewel? And from me? Well, sure if you’re buying another round. But I gotta tell ya, the one I heard the account from may not be all that reliable, if those scars on the sides of his head were any indication. Seems like he’d been through a lot, poor kid.

Anyway, if you insist… There they were, in an alien ruin on the far side of a barely-settled jungle world, with weird tech lighting up all around them in response to the psychics’ and the hacker’s meddling. The records they found suggested the research team, or what was left of them, had barricaded themselves in what seemed like a medbay.

With one of the doors giving off the impression of something like a medbay, the crew decided to explore that way, though not before preparing to make a quick profit, even if they had to make a quick getaway. You know, priorities. They unhooked the researchers’ hard-drive array and piled them up, ready to be scooped up in a hurry if necessary. Then, with Aniah operating the console using one of those translating devices mounted to the alien machines, the doors opened to what looked like an elevator.

They got in and pressed a button, but didn’t feel any movement after the doors closed. This didn’t fool that Xander kid, though. He could tell they were moving somewhere, and fast. Soon enough, (though not soon enough for the Captain John, whose hand was now in excruciating pain), the doors opened into a new, even weirder area. Another console sat in front of them in the middle of an open room, with three hallways behind. One led down and to the right, one to the center, and one up and to the left. From what I understand, the one in the center was covered in some kind of black, ugly looking growth, and the whole area was lit in a low glow.

The crew went about exploring around the room. Aniah and Archer checked out the console, which didn’t seem to have the same jury-rigged interface as the others. Chittery got a closer look at the black stuff, being careful not to touch it himself, while Xander paced between the doorways sensing something, and John did what all good bosses do and watched while his crew endangered themselves, keeping an ever-watchful eye out for potential sources of profit. He tried feeling out for a clue on where to go from his hand, but there was nothing.

The crew noticed that the black stuff had been smeared or dragged into the room and down the center hallway, but whatever it was didn’t seem to be responding to them, so they just decided to avoid it.

Xander pulled Archer away from his watching Aniah’s tinkering with the alien console and got the Vuri to confirm what he was sensing – psychic impressions from the hallways suggested a purpose for where each one led – some kind of mental focusing on the right, medical in the center, and exercise on the left. Following the right-hand rule (what, it’s the left-hand rule? Ok, well they’re even dumber than I thought then), the intrepid explorers descended the right hallway until it split off into two directions. Sticking right, the hallway started curving around to a door and another split, but the door caught the crew’s attention.

It opened as they approached, showing a bare, circular room with a reclined seat in the center. They looked around the room, not finding anything, while Xander climbed up into the chair in the first of what would be “a series of selfless experiments for the good of science and discovery, in the spirit of humanity’s finest pioneers.” That’s how he said it, anyway. I told ya, those scars didn’t look good. Anyway, having a hunch of what this room was for, he set about trying to meditate and call upon his powers. Blaming his lack of success on the distracting influence of his crewmates, he asked them all to leave the room. When the last foot walked past the door, it slammed shut behind them, trapping Xander inside. He was somewhat unnerved to find himself also trapped in the seat, unable to move a muscle, as though he was held down by some invisible force. He had wanted peace and quiet, though, so it wasn’t all bad. He went back to trying to meditate again.

Meanwhile, the crew didn’t take too kindly to being shut out. Aniah, especially, was incensed that the alien technology had so far resisted her hacking. She set about trying to rectify that, prying loose a panel to find a gel-covered network that looked more like a living nervous system than a circuit-board. Not sure how to apply the usual hacking techniques to such a device, Aniah did the next best thing and straight-up shocked it with electricity, watching as the gel reacted to absorb the arcing discharge. Noticing the technology’s biological nature, Chittery took a closer look, recognizing it as somewhat similar to neural structure. He suggested that perhaps this was the ruin’s brain, with the small rooms serving as some kind of conduit or control chamber for it. Aniah, meanwhile, got to thinking that if the thing was similar to a brain, maybe a drug would work on it, and pulled out some tranquilizer (because of course the Squeelah would be walking around everywhere with drugs in her pockets). Injecting that into the gel seemed to do the trick, or something, anyway, since the door popped back open and Xander popped back up, clearly annoyed at having had his meditation broken. Turns out he had sensed some things while he was sitting there – something like being told he was not ready, and a warning of a violation of some sort, right before the door reopened.

Some sort of alarm-like noise had started sounding off sometime after the lockout, echoing from down the hallway they had veered away from. The crew ignored it some more, first checking the rest of the way in the other direction, finding nothing but other rooms like the one Xander had been trapped in, and a door seeming to lead off elsewhere. Finally, they decided to check out the noise, finding a large room with a number of devices and consoles. Archer went over to the console with the alarm, and tried to make sense of what it was saying, while the rest explored around. Aniah and Chittery discovered a small pile of blue powder in the corner, which Chittery first determined was most likely the drug, Crystal Blue, before confirming it with just a small, harmless taste.

Not to be outdone in the title-fight for Most Questionable Judgment, Xander meanwhile let himself get overly curious about some strange circles on the ground that lit up whenever someone walked by. He studied one for a moment before deciding to step on, only to duck away at the last second as a contraption began descending towards him. He studied that, too, watching tendril-like wires tipped with pads of some sort reeling back up into the ceiling. Then, in what he assured me was an act of extreme bravery and faith, but what I can only assume was the result of some blow to the head he’d suffered in the locked room earlier, he stepped back on and let those tendrils go to work.

I think he was expecting something less…what’d he say…“invasive” than what happened, like some kinda scan or psychic interface like he’d been encountering, I guess. But nope, kid got a right good alien head-probing. Old-school style. Seems kinda appropriate, considering how into the classics he was – and I mean the old classics. Anyway, those pad things stuck right to his head and cut him open so the little wire things could go to work. The console Archer was monitoring lit up, showing the kid’s brain and something happening to it. Xander says he could feel something trying to “get in”, and sounded almost like he was tempted to let it, but I guess the whole drilling through his skull thing put him off enough to fight the thing’s control. It stopped after a while of him resisting, the machine pulling back out of his brain and leaving him in what he described as the most spectacular pain, and with some holes in his head, but otherwise fine.

While all that was going on, Chittery had been having a good time. Or a bad time. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never touched the stuff. But either way, Aniah must have gotten concerned for her Draziri friend, and started using whatever she could think of on the poor doctor to reverse the effects of the Blue Crystal. She got something that worked to snap Chittery back to reality, but it had the unfortunate effect of inducing projectile vomit right back onto Aniah. Disgusted to the point of near-insanity, the Squeelah fled in a panicked search for the nearest source of water to wash off with, right around the time Xander came to the end of his ordeal (what kinda crew goes planetside to a strange location without taking water along, anyway? Am I right? Hey, how ’bout another round!)

Not much longer after the doc set about patching up the result of Xander’s stupidity, I mean intrepid discovery, a shot of gunfire echoed in the metal corridors from down the hall. Poor Aniah, frustrated to the point of rage by the lack of any obvious source of water, and unable to replicate her earlier success with hacking the alien doors, had resorted to pulling out her gun and just shooting the fuckin’ panel (girl after my own heart, that one). This, unfortunately, did not have the effect she desired, though it did briskly summon her crew and captain to her location. Xander, at least, had come prepared with water and, even better, cleaning gel, so Aniah was finally given some relief from her misery, and the crew could survey where the Squeelah had led them. Straight to the center room, with that creepy black stuff spread along one wall, and four doors on the wall opposite the entrance. With these doors responding to the (what’d you call them?) Psychic Dynamic Duo like the others, the crew decided to venture forth, starting with the door farthest from the black stuff.

Entering what seemed like an airlock or decontamination chamber, the doors they came through closed, and soon they were bathed in a colored light display. It seemed harmless enough to everyone except for John, whose hand, or whatever was in it, once again seemed like it was trying to kill him. Just when it seemed like it would be too much for the cap to handle, the lightshow stopped and the inner doors opened to what could be a lab. A large table with a wraparound console was in the center of the room, seemingly of an older style than the other tech they’d seen, and a pair of doors appearing to lead to one of the other rooms adjoining an airlock. That must have been a relief for Cap’n John, knowing they could explore without going through that again.

So the crew messed around with that room, and the next (another lab of some sort, I’d guess from the sound of it), and then the one after that, until finally the last room revealed itself – pitch dark, and covered in that black growth. This room proved much more interesting, with someone spotting a set of transparent chambers containing the black stuff, one of which had been busted out of, and then a set of what looked like bodies, covered in the stuff. Soon a voice pierced the silence, a female, Draziri voice. It told them they were in danger, and they had to go. The crew tried responding – this was who they were here for, after all – but there was no answer. The woman repeated the warning, and it dawned on the crew what they were hearing: A radio, from one of the corpses.

Now, I’m with Archer and whoever else thought going for that radio would be too risky, but don’t try telling that to Xander. I get the sense if you tell that guy something’s impossible he’s going to do it just to prove you wrong or die trying. And well, sounds like he very nearly did last time.

But hey, if you’re staying for the next part, how’s about another round?