The Aizium stockpile…

Posted: December 24, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
Tags: , ,

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_ImageIt had been a while since LL and I had played a session of our sci-fi Microscope game so we sat down on Christmas Eve to explore its history a bit more. This has been, by far, the most popular series on our blog, thanks mostly to the shout-outs by Microscope designer Ben Robbins on his Ars Ludi blog and Twitter feed. Thanks, Ben, and thanks for giving our setting a name: “Psionic Scream”.

If you haven’t been following our history so far, you can read previous sessions one, two, three, and four as well as a discussion of moving this setting over to TSR’s old Alternity role-playing game.

As part of that move, we wanted to explore a bit more about early human colonization of the galaxy: what was travel like before the discovery and exploitation of jump gates, what were the first human colonies like, and so forth. Accordingly, I opened up the session with the focus (our seventh in the game) “early human colonization”. LL followed that with the “P2X-1138 Wormhole”…something that won’t make any sense even to our avid readers until some of the following history is revealed. So, read on!

  • Early human colonization – After humanity began its slow expansion beyond Sol, establishing a few colonies by slower-than-light (STL) travel, and before it discovered and began using naturally occurring jump points, it invented slow faster-than-light (FTL) drives. We’re not sure how fast these drives could propel a ship but we do know that human colonization and trade expanded exponentially in the wake of their introduction.
    • The outer worlds initially faced massive raiding and piracy. New FTL drives created an opportunity for trade but also for piracy. Pirates in slow FTL ships could hit a world or large transport ship and be off before authorities could respond: communications still traveled at the speed of light.
    • The merger between Marquette Consolidated Industries, a heavy industrial concern, and Nakamura Ordinance, an arms dealer, was intended to take advantage of new opportunities opened up by the advent of slow FTL travel. It planned to establish corporate colonies and trade routes. Nakamura’s government connections gave the new mega-corp a leg-up on its competitors.
      • Young Omar Nakamura was called into a meeting with M-N’s board of directors. His grandfather, the chairman, told him that he would be taking over off-world colonization operations – and that he would have to take a leave of absence from the Terran Confederation Navy (TCN), in which he had just received a commission to Lieutenant JG.
    • Marquette-Nakamura Corporation established the Redemption series of penal colonies. Redemption-7 on P2X-1138, a “death world”, is the last of these; established to mine an unknown (at least to the public) mineral found there. (It had to happen, amirite?)
      • R-7, and the entire planet upon which it was sited, was destroyed in massive explosion which left an unexplainable stable wormhole in the place of P2X-1138. M-N staff scientists theorized quietly that the large quantities of mined and processed Aizium, awaiting pick up, exploded. This may have caused a chain reaction that somehow reached the vast veins of untapped Aizium that riddled the planet. Even the M-N scientists were baffled by the resulting wormhole – in theory it should have taken much more mass to create even a fleeting wormhole, let alone a stable one.
        •  A message capsule was found many years after the colony’s destruction. In it was a message from Clinton Gardener, former R-7 corporate compliance officer, stating that he had decided to overload the colony’s power plant, causing it to go critical, rather than allow the colony to fall into the hands of rebels – and reveal R-7’s sinister secret. This explosion is likely what set off the chain reaction in the Aizium.
      • Scientists flocked to the site of the P2X-1138 wormhole, as it came to be called, to study it
        • The ten ships working and running patrols in the area gained valuable experience dealing with astronomical hazards and anomalies. Many breakthroughs in navigation and sensor technologies resulted.
        • One of the experiments on the wormhole causes it to release a tachyon burst. Encoded within that burst was a signal. At first it appeared to be simple background noise but some clever filtering and enhancement brought out the details: a visual transmission recording a massive space battle. More shocking was the astrographic evidence that the battle depicted occurred (or would occur?) here at P2X-1138. The transmission was severely degraded and the ships involved could not be identified
        • The wormhole was initially stable but the scientists soon realized that it was rapidly degrading and the Terran Confederation Navy and its partner corporations, including M-N, spent immense resources to try to stabilize it.
        • Unknown to most, the P2X-1138 wormhole had a deleterious effect on psions. Humanity as a whole knew nothing of psionic phenomenon at this point, though certain individuals, corporations, and government agencies may have.
          • Petty Officer Jessie Vanhoy, a crewman aboard one of the TCN ships had, from a young age, been able to read minds. He had kept the true extent of his ability secret from his family and others, having been mocked for his claims as a child. He found that his ability did not work at all after his ship arrived in the system and resumed after it left. The loss was accompanied by intense migraines, for which he sought treatment in the ship’s infirmary. The medics were unable to do anything for P.O. Vanhoy.
        • Civilian scientific vessels were suddenly requested to depart, without explanation, the vicinity of the P2X-1138 wormhole and the TCN blockaded the system – a quarantine that is still in effect today. Coincidently, P.O. Vanhoy disappeared from his ship. None of his shipmates could give an account of his whereabouts…though several did report having seen two men in suits aboard ship. They were wearing proper identification badges and were able to answer security challenges, but no official log of their visit could be found during a later investigation.
  • Much, much later, following the so-called “Psion Revolt”, there was a dramatic increase in the birth of humans exhibiting psi powers. Until that time most humans developed psionic abilities after travelling through jump points. Nobody was sure why, but these children came “on-line” immediately following birth. They also exhibited an innate link with their psionic siblings.
  • And, later still, during the “Psionic Suppression” period: The Psion Revolt spurred widespread paranoia among non-psions. Once the capabilities of Blank-White-Curtain/Compound Omega became known to the public at large, via the court martial of Admiral Omar Nakamura, corporations and wealthy private citizens began to seek the material for their own protection. The mineral was rare but, suddenly, supplies of it began to appear on the black market, at a very high price. The crates containing it were marked with the logo of the now-defunct Marquette-Nakamura corporation and the cryptic notation, “Aizium; R-7, P2X-1138”. Coincidentally, the Free Human Front began freely spending money on weapons, ships, and other essentials shortly afterward.

photoWow. You can’t make that stuff up. Well, actually, you can…if you play Microscope!

We’ve got five sessions of the game under our belt. As you can see in the picture at right (click for a larger image), we have amassed quite a large collection of cards. We tend to write short descriptions on the front and then a much more detailed narration on the back, but sometimes our details fill both the front and back. We had initially thought about using half-sized note-cards for the game but rightly concluded that they wouldn’t really be large enough. I guess the only solution is to get a bigger table!

So. We ended up not learning all that much about technology with this session after all…but we learned a lot more about the twisted socio-political situation that drives our “Psionic Scream” setting. I sometimes feel as if LL is trying to drag us toward the light but I just can’t turn my head away from the massive potential for linking things together into conspiracy theories. Did Nakamura know about Compound Omega from the start? How much did the government know about psi before those abilities became wide-spread among humans, conferred by travel through jump? What’s happening “now” at the P2X-1138 wormhole…and when was that fleet engagement? In the past? In the future? Nobody knows. But I guess we’ll find out a little bit more the next time we play!
MA

NB: Almost forgot that I wanted to credit the awesome PULP-O-MIZER folks for the tool that let me create this issue’s cover. What a great app! LL discovered it and sent me the link…I fear I could disappear down that rabbit hole for quite some time.

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