Adventure Log: Flight of the Albatross, Part 3

The Albatross came out of the jump into a crowd of debris, pinging against the hull. For a moment, it seemed as if their deductions had been off, but as they regained their bearings they realized that they were being pelted by starship debris. Wolf immediately began a sensor sweep, and managed to pick up a weak distress signal. Oddly enough, it seemed to be one designed for a personal Vacc suit, only it was operating far out of its standard range. The Albatross followed the signal to a rickety old space station orbiting Borite. Unable to resist their curiosity, and hoping for clues regarding the pirates they were chasing, our pirates elected to dock along the manual airlocks, to a region of the ship that had been breached, counting on the protection of their own Vacc suits.

With a bit of work, the party managed to wrench open the door to the station. Festus and Wolf decided to explore the inside with the ship’s contingent of three marines, while Newt would keep an eye on the ship and keep up sensor sweeps in case they drew unwarranted attention from the planetary defense forces or returning pirates. Inside the space station, the lights were dim at best, frequently flickering out. The away team advanced further in, moving to the next room. There was a dead body floating in a Vacc suit, the helmet broken, but the emergency beacon intact and non-reporting. This wasn’t what had called them here. As they looked closer, the lights flickered back on for a minute. The helmet had been broken, but it looked as if the body underneath had been dissolved and removed. Along the walls, carved into the metal were the words “It’s Coming It’s Coming It’s Coming”, scrawled over the walls. The party immediately perked up and decided to charge forward as quickly as possible. They pushed ahead straight, and came into a fork: one room continued straight ahead and another branched off to the left. Relying mostly on their gut, the group pushed in straight, and were greeted to a yelp of surprise and fear.

A lone Vaugr was cowering in the back. Wolf asked if he was Krrsh, the Vaugr pirate whose name they had heard in the encrypted messages they had hacked back on their way to Torpol. With a whimper, Krrsh revealed himself and begged to get off this station. He had been left here by the others, and he had plugged his suit’s distress beacon into the station’s communication dish in a last ditch effort. It was immediately apparent to Wolf that no self-respecting Vaugr would be acting like this, especially to humans. Whatever had happened, Krrsh had been broken. Festus agreed to take the Vaugr, immediately hatching plans to turn him to the side of the Albatross, but there was also the issue of the beacon: if they left it on, there was no telling who else might stop on the station and run into . . . whatever was on this station that had everyone so spooked. So, in a decision that left the GM giddy, Festus decided to split the party, sending himself and Wolf to the communications room (directions provided by Krrsh) while the Space Marines would guard their prisoner/asset/new crew member.

Festus and Wolf managed to get to the communications room unopposed. It wasn’t terribly difficult for them to see where Krssh had gone to work, mostly by pulling out wires and jury rigging a connection to a circuit board. Removing it wasn’t so much difficult as  it was time consuming, ensuring that the communications wouldn’t be firing off any blasts. Just as they were finishing, there was suddenly a shout, and a roar of gunfire coming over their comms, followed by a harrowing scream. After a few seconds of fumbling static, one of the space marines called out “It got Jimmy!” over the team comm channel.

For a quick peek behind the GM screen, this part of the module was entitled “Bug Hunt”. And the PC’s had elected to split the party. And leave a group of Space Marines all alone. In all good conscience, I couldn’t pass up the chance to go Aliens on them a bit. Jimmy the heretofore unnamed Marine NPC had been jumped by some type of alien bug and dragged away to a different part of the station. The team now had a clear shot back to the ship…but Jimmy’s vitals were still coming in. While they could have probably rushed back to the ship, Festus and Wolf decided that they owed it to Jimmy to at least try to rescue him, or at least wreak some form of vengeance upon his killer. A bit of exploring found that the rest of the parts of the station that were depressurized all connected to each other and currently there was only one available door with pressure on the other side. Krrssh was sent back to the ship, taking the chance that he would be safe while the rest of the party would be a distraction. The party opened the door, realizing that it was on the other side of an airlock. Hoping to make as quick work as possible, the party opened the second door, purposefully venting the atmosphere on the hallway ahead of them. Following the signal of Jimmy’s beacon, they opened the door it seemed to be coming from, quickly closing it behind them in case there was any way to save their comrade. Inside, the party found Jimmy’s corpse, his faceplate ripped off like the other body, but only partially eaten. Close by was an air vent that was covered in some kind of resinous substance, apparently the nest of the creature. Not wanting to even risk it, the party threw incendiary grenades into the nest, staying until they were content with its destruction…but even then, there was no sign of the creature.

Not seeing any other options, the group trudged back to the airlock, extremely eager to get off the station and possibly blasting it from the ship until they were sure nothing else was living on it. As they prepared for Newt to unseal the door, there was sudden motion on the ceiling. The Bug was here! Lying in wait, the bug took its best shot, spraying acid at the party . . . and epically missing. From there, the action was mostly anticlimactic. The Bug was an opportunistic hunter, desperate to find a way off the station and find a way to feed. Caught in the open, against heavily armored and armed foes, Festus and Wolf easily squashed it with attacks that rach would have have one-shott it on their own, but the party was not taking any chances.

With the immediate danger past, Newt opened the airlock and ushered the group back into the Albatross. They had a pirate to interrogate.

Probably the trickiest part I had in this session was trying to keep pacing and “show don’t tell”. The module had helpfully provided a map for me to use, and a speed for the Bug (a Hunter Chimax), but in some ways it hamstrung me a little. It could be awkward for the party to walk into a room, and try to set the appropriate theme and feel of each room while keeping a tracker going.

It was hard to set the mood properly. There are only so many times that you can say “creepy space station with an Alien vibe” without beating the party over the head with it, and I feel like I rushed myself a bit trying to get through it. I am chalking it up to lessons learned.

One GM trick that I got to try out was the art of letting a player do something innocuous, and then go “Hmmmm” and roll some dice. It doesn’t have to mean anything, and I think it was the closest thing I did to set the mood that something was off and that players should be on edge. Obviously, it’s not something that you should break out all the time, or players will get wise, but it might be a nice changeup for when you are really sending something after them when they really ought to be on their guard.

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