ITV Session 6: the Evil Bug

5 weeks have passed since the last session. The team returned exoarchaeologist Zal Twist to Planet Mylor, and from there he began the long journey rimward to Planet Zapata. The teams spends their time doing maintenance on the ships, replenishing gear, maintaining the robot, and designing a drone (to be built soon). They consider buying an office for the company, SAFCO, but decide against it. They calculate that annual maintenance on the ships will cost 30,000 credits for the Scout ship, and 38,000 for the free trader. Berthing at the spaceport will cost 3000 credits per month, per ship. Clearly they have some thinking to do. They calculate how much total money they have made, minus expenses, on the Zal Twist missions, and each put 20,000 into an account for the business, for a total of 60,000.

While maintaining the ships, a local gluck delivers a hand-written message. “Have I got a deal for you. Meet me at the Happy Gluck tonight. Ronda.” Wondering what the old pilot of Croyd’s Scumbags could want, the team goes to the tavern at the appropriate time. After sitting down, they are approached by a 7′ tall, purple skinned, 4-eyed humanoid who introduces himself as Mergatroyd. He claims to be a treasure hunter with information about possible riches in the Void. He finally admits to working with Ronda. The team expresses interest and he says he’ll be in touch. At that time Scout administrator Billy Zoom walks up with two local law enforcement, greets the team, and sits down. After some small talk, he gives them the bad news — they are being reactivated for a short time. The Scout Service needs them, and all the other teams are away on missions. They go back to his office to discuss matters further.

Admin Zoom explains that a research station on the interdicted world of Trillos, 2 parsecs away and on the edge of the Void, has been out of communication for 6 months. Probably just an automated x-boat failure, but still, the situation must be investigated. He explains that the planet is interdicted because of the station there is conducting weapons research. It is run by a small team of scientists, led by Dr. Marla Glascow. Lastly, he notes that she is a low-level Psi, with a minor ability in telepathy. Two marines stationed on Mylor will accompany the team in case there is trouble — Force Commander Gregor Rodrowski and Captain Clementine Strongbow. They’ll be well equipped. The Scout Service will pay the team 60,000 credits and cover fuel expenses. The free trader is already set up with extra fuel tanks, so it can make the Jump-2 trip there and back without refueling.

The marines arrive at the ship the next morning, introduce themselves, and load their stuff.  The team takes off. During the week in Jump Space FC Rodrowski helps Roger train with his autopistol. The rest study their own skills.

Arriving at Planet Trillos, Barney sends the appropriate access code to the network of interdiction satellites. He then downloads recent data from them, which indicates no ships have landed in the last 6 months, and no weird activity.

Taking the ship in and surveying from their air, they see the entrance to labs, which are in a natural cavern complex in a mountain. The terrain is rocky. They also see a damaged Scout ship on the landing pad, blocking them. They land 200 yards away, suit up in Vacc suits (the Marines in sealed combat armor), and take the air raft up the landing pad. Fardt goes with them, not needing a vacc suit as he can breath the tainted air.

They see a large hole blown in the left rear hull of the Scout ship. Entering the ship, they find a dead man in a vacc suit near the the hole. He head has been blown apart. Roger examines and determines that it was blown from the inside out. Barney examines damage to the ship, and finds a remote detonator in the same area as the dead man.

The team enters the main airlock to the underground complex, finding a large chamber containing supplies. Lights are very dim – emergency lighting only.

As they explore the complex, Fardt alerts them to a threat from the rear (it’s hard to surprise a gluck). The team turns to find two humanoids fast approaching. The beings wear the tattered clothing of the research team, and each has a 20′ tentacle with claws extending from its back. The team orders Fardt to the back, as they and the marines engage the creatures. Gunfire erupts in the dim light. The creatures lash out at the marines, but their striker appendages prove ineffective against the combat armor. The group blasts the creatures with enough gunfire to kill a dozen normal humans before they fall. As the last one falls, Fardt calls out again — two more are approaching from the other side. They attack the gluck, whose luck proves incredible, as four attacks miss him. Again he runs to the back, the Marines to the front, and again the team blasts away until the creatures are dead. They clearly are the science team, mutated by some as-yet unknown force.

Artist: Bob Eggleton. Book: Shadow of the Scorpion, by Neal Asher

The team continues to search the facility, finally entering the engineering section. In the corner of that room, they see a horrible sight. A massive insect-like creature sits, leaning against the wall, revealing it’s underbelly. The head scientist, Dr. Glascow, is enveloped in its flesh, tentacles and limbs penetrating her skin, her eyes flashing back and forth as if panicking. Roger hears a voice in his head. “You — are the pilot. I need you. The others must die.” The marines quickly evaluate the situation and begin shooting. Roger shoots too. Barney enters the room to hear a loud popping sound. Captain Strongbow falls to the floor, the interior of her helmet’s visor covered with blood and brain. Barney aims not at the bug, but at Dr. Glascow, having reasoned that the bug is using her telepathy to do some kind of psionic assault.  He blows her brains out.  Roger and FC Rodrowski continue blasting the bug until it is dead.

They remove Captain Strongbow’s helmet to find her head blown up just as the man they found in the Scout ship. They secure the rest of the facility, collect data. They discover that this was a bio weapons lab, working to weaponize a species discovered in the Void. They had no idea it was intelligent and able to take control of other creatures. Using Dr. Glascow’s knowledge and telepathy, it was able to use the lab to capture and mutate her fellow researchers. Clearly, the dead scientist they found in the Scout ship disabled the ship to prevent the creature from leaving the planet, moments before the creature, able to greatly boost  Dr. Glascow’s telepathy and psi power, blew up his brain.

The team leaves the planet, returning to Mylor, where Captain Strongbow receives a proper burial. The team collects 60,000 credits for their work, and are of course instructed that this is all classified information and not to speak further of it.

“I wonder” thinks Fardt, “if there are more of those bugs out there.”

Elapsed game time: 16 weeks (4 months)

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