The survivors from the first group return to Ratsputin’s grounded airboat and link up with the rest of the party. They find Link Seyz awake, aware and apparently fully functional. Link Seyz feels fine –none of that fuzzy half-awareness he had always felt for as long as it could remember. It tests out decision trees and logic synapses long unused. Things test out fine, but there appears to be something vitally important he should be remembering….
“Oh well,” he remarks. “I’ll get to that later…”
Shai fills the rest in on the harrowing fight at the metal mountain and they are shocked to learn that Max is dead.
Together, they set off once more across the wasteland of crunching, glassy sand as the two moons, silver Aleph and green Bast hurtle across Cygnet Delta’s alien sky. Upon reaching the sandy hill forming the base of the metal mountain, they reacquire Orua’s trail and find themselves at a sandy cliff-wall. Zed and Albus brush aside the sand end predictably find the same greyish metallic-hued wall of seamless material behind it. Orua’s tracks end right at the wall.
Upon closer inspection by Mirage, the android finds the last footprint abruptly ending seemingly under the wall itself. Kyoshi and the androids attempt Words of Power learned from their Ancient Lore but nothing disturbs the quiescent seamless wall.
Then, Shai appears to make a fateful decision and, without looking back, resolutely walks into the wall. To everyone’s great surprise, a black disturbance forms when he touches it, and the its seamless surface turns insubstantial, like a black bubble – and he disappears inside it. After much muttering and doubting, the group follows- one by one.
To all there is a momentary feeling of coldness- a numb heart-stopping emptiness through a sea of black, and then they are through. The Androids, on the other hand, feel like an ‘On/Off switch’ was suddenly flicked inside for a moment.
Before them is a great hollow space, hundreds of feet wide are it is high. It is as if they stepped into the inside of a gigantic, seamless, metallic-grey egg. The familiar night sky above Cygnet Delta is replaced by the glossy inner surface of the hollow encompassing the dome above them. The desert sand below their feet is different – there are patches of hardy grass and stunted plants. The smell of moisture is in the air and the ever-present reek of burnt rubber and copper is missing. Under the eerie twilight of the dome about a few hundred feet before them is an even stranger artifact.
It is a building in the likeness of a gigantic mushroom, almost three hundred feet high. There is a great central cylinder rising up from the ground crowned by a disc-like platform of durable grayish stone. They see structures, buildings and machinery built on the platform suspended above. The central cylinder has several massive orbs constructed at intervals rising from the ground until the platform itself. Blinking lights are emplaced on numerous places throughout the structure. It is obviously some temple dating back from the Age of the Republic.
ML’s note: Traveller players will have probably recognized the structure already. All I can say is three words for this: Research Station Gamma.
After recovering from his shock, Shai curtly commands the party to move forward, weapons at the ready. There appears to be an entrance at the ground-level orb visible from their location. They reach the orb but find only a small square panel to the side, at shoulder height. A transparent square and coin-thin slot appear beneath it.
They scrutinize the panel for a while whereupon Zed hits upon an idea. He reaches into his pack and pulls out a small, wafer-thin card of ancient synthetic material, given to him by the Mayor of Jeffton during one of their previous adventures. The blue card with red stripes fits perfectly into the panel’s slot. He inserts it and waits.
ML’s note: I was glad someone had the gumption to remember to properly use the different artifacts they began to accumulate from past adventures. Doc Ben-g caught on very fast!
There is a humming sound and a sharp buzzing. They hear locks disengage and machinery in motion within the orb. The surface before them irises inward smoothly and opens a gateway into the structure.
Entering, they move deeper into the structure. There is an ever-present hum of machinery, all-so-faintly. There is bright artificial light from glowing panels on the ceiling and it is cold compared to the barren wastes outside. Exiting through another irising gateway, they find themselves in the inside of the central cylinder of the structure.
ML’s note: I always imagined the hollow central pylon to look somewhat like the inside of the central cylinder-shaft of Bespin Cloud City in the Empire Strikes back- somewhat like this.
There is a small glass-walled car built on rails running up and down the central cylinder. They check it out and upon entering, Link Seyz finds a wooden stick with a roll of torn cloth wrapped around it. Unraveling it, he finds a stylized smiley drawn on the cloth.
“Orua,” he says. “It’s her sigil. She was here.”
They climb aboard the car but it does not respond to the card inserted by Zed. Shai, being a pure strain human, lays his right palm on the glass square atop the control panel. There is a buzzing sound and the car activates. It moves downward, spiraling ever so lower into the structure until they find themselves in the subterranean levels.
“I don’t like this,” mutters Marcus, drawing sword and dagger.
The car abruptly stops and a disembodied voice enjoins them to “disembark”.
They leave and find massive sealed circular hatches before them. Shai, Kyoshi and three Androids puzzle out the controls and sometime later, they pass beyond the hatches. They find themselves inside a large globular chamber. The ground is rocky and muddy. The walls cannot be glimpsed. Instead, there is a grayish, cloudy sky above from which constant sheets of sleet and rain are pouring. The walls are likewise not evident- instead, they glimpse far-off hills and valleys.
“What is this place?” asks Link Seyz.
They are surprised by a startled squeak from Otiiss. The rat points his rifle to the right, finger twitching on the trigger.
“A cat- a big one!” he yells. “Over there to our left .”
No-one sees anything. Kyoshi, on the other hand approaches a nearby rock after spotting a large furry black and white rabbit. No one else sees the rabbit.
Otiiss fires, but there is nothing to hit. Kyoshi looks around the rock but there are no rabbits.
As the hatches behind them hiss shut, there is a loud carnivore roaring off to the side. The party forms a skirmish line, weapons are drawn. Then they see a shimmering in front of a wall to their side – something large and furry on four legs begins to leap at them, its hide changing chameleon-like. It moved fast!
ML’s note: this is a special random encounter I rolled up. Basic critter is a Sabre-tooth Tiger with upped hit dice. I threw in a few mutations such as Increased Willpower, Chameleon Epidermis, Dual Brain and Quickness. Upon initiative check I won easily!
The feral cat bounds forward and slams into Marcus, pulling him under and repeatedly laying away with teeth and claws. Everyone else piles in and the fight becomes a desperate melee. Albus and Zed are also badly mauled by the time they dispatch the critter.
The ever pragmatic Shai orders Williis and Otiiss to break out the knives and start dismembering the carcass for meat. Food security for the party, he reasons, is still not certain- and food is food.
ML’s note: I didn’t see that coming but trust Justin to turn his kill into rations. Still, it made sense considering they were in the middle of a desert with 3 days of rations left.
While the others keep watch, the rest cut away the meat from the kill.
Then, there is a sharp buzzing and a warning siren in the air. The disembodied voice starts up again – calling for an alert, enjoining all to stay calm and that assistance is on the way. At this, they make ready for another attack. They can’t get the hatches open again.
With not long to wait, the hatches clang open and pull back. A few man-sized robotic forms begin moving into the chamber. The adventurers take up ambush positions, readying themselves for yet another fight.