[NOVA] Blue (4.0)

edited December 2014 in NOVA
MISSION BRIEFING
Polity research station Tangaroa, on planet HXj8-4
(temporary designation BLUE) has sent no message
or data traffic for three standard weeks and has
not responded to queries. Proceed to BLUE, locate
the station, and report back. Further details attached.
Blue is, unsurprisingly, a water planet, and Tangaroa is a self-propelled, mobile, oceanic research station studying the planet-ocean and its ecosystem. It has a complement of two dozen, including six operational personnel, four specialized technical support personnel, two expert divers, and a dozen scientists. The makeup of that group of 12 scientists changed a year ago, when one of the researchers was taking samples from a huge raft of clustered plankton (huge, in this case, meaning a rough rectangle nearly a hundred kilometers on a side). While she was doing that, *something* made contact, telepathically. It took four days for the science staff to discover that it was in fact the plankton raft which had spoken to Dr. Linda Yeng's mind. Some infinitely complex interconnection of the tiny electric life-signals of the widely varied plankter created emergent sentience and self-awareness. Now, half the researchers aboard are Psi Corps funded, learning about the raft (referred to as Pacific) and its smaller sibling (referred to as Atlantic).

Tangaroa
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  • Ksenia, Mei, you approach Tangaroa on a dinghy that Dinah fashioned from materials on hand, with a little help from the 3D-printer. Church, Dinah and Zoo are back with the Stalker Jane, on one of the scattered islands that cluster around Blue's equator. There's a gentle swell today, and your engine carries you quickly to the impressive, sleek vessel, rising nearly 90 feet out of the water.

    There is no direct access or hatch right at sea level, and the ladder to the outdoor deck twenty feet up is retracted.

    What do you do?

  • image
    I'm looking around at our level for a bit. Then, "Ensign," I call her ensign because we're working. "If I give you a boost up, you think you can climb up to the deck?"
  • edited December 2014
    Mei-header

    It's pretty here, and I have my fingers trailing in the water as we approach. Lourdes' dinghy is very sturdy, and I smile at the stenciled Li'l Bit in her style on the prow. Why aren't they answering hails? I've long stopped fiddling with the comm, but I'm a little on edge at the sight of the probable ghost ship. I don't want to do a psi scan just yet, and I don't know why. I set it aside, thus. I shake my head and brush some windswept flyaway hair our of my face. "It's almost four and a half meters to the ladder. On a solid surface, sure. But look," I point, "There's a balcony of sorts on this side that would be easier to reach." It seems like a design flaw that there's not an emergency ladder or something at sea level.

    "There's always the moon pool, too," I muse. I regard my love, resplendent in the spray. "How are you at diving?"
  • image
    "It's been six years since I worked with the SEAL team on a couple ops, but I have a Master Scuba Driver rating from PADI*." I answer crisp, maybe a tiny bit proud. That wasn't an easy accreditation to get. Then, I add, "That was before "the accident", though. I've only done pool work since, nothing open water."

    "I'll keep up." I assure her.

    * - Professional Association of Diving Instructors
  • edited December 2014
    Mei-header

    She's so confident and together. I try to keep a goofy happy look off my face, but she knows me too well.
  • So, you either make your way up nearly 20 feet, or you make a free dive down just a bit farther. Either way, there's no guarantee that you'll gain access... all of the entrances can be secured.

    Both of you know you that Ksenia could pretty much throw little Mei twenty feet, with fairly decent aim. Both of you are also fit, both in terms of musculature and cardio-vascular health. Either option works. So, which is it?

  • image
    I give Mei a little smirk, "C'mon, Ensign Mei. You know I've always wanted to do... a fastball special." I want to toss my girl up there. What? I'll catch her if she comes back down.
  • edited December 2014
    Mei-header

    I roll my eyes, grinning.

    Once the boat is in place, I set my foot on her hand for a boost, my hand on her shoulder for balance. I look up, judging distances with my eyes. Get serious, Mei. Don't brain yourself.
  • Mei, you find yourself flying through the air, propelled by your lover's strength. Halfway up, as you realize that you've got this, you turn a flip, then catch the edge of the boat platform and pull yourself up with the grace of, well, you. The controls to the dive ladder are close at hand, and they respond when you push the single big green button, extending the ladder down smoothly.

    Ksenia, your aim is true. Mei catches the edge and flips over. Seconds later, the ladder is on its way, and after a minute or two you are able to secure the dinghy to it and climb up with your gear to join her. There's a door here, open, leading into the interior of the vessel.

    Both, as you look through that doorway, you see a body lying just inside the threshold. A woman, half-outfitted in a surface diving suit.

  • image
    I draw my service weapon and give Mei a look, "Stay frosty, Ensign." I'll keep the weapon aimed low, and enter, moving around the body to hold and cover. Mei should check the body, she'll get a read on the cause of death and anything odd.
  • Mei-header

    Obviously there's nothing in the atmo that's inimical to human life, but I still have an internal reaction moment to the body. It reminds me of an accident on a ship. I blink, swallow, and head over to kneel. I'm not a full medico, but I have some basic training. I cluck to myself, thinking of Gaumata. I wonder why Church hasn't found a ship's doctor yet.

    Back to the here and now, Mei. Let's take a look at this corpse. I'm careful to avoid touching her with bare hands until I know more. It's probably fine, but we have zero information right now.
  • Mei, the woman isn't moving, but neither is she dead. You can see the faintest rise and fall of her chest, almost too slow to notice. Without a more thorough examination, you can't be certain of anything else.

  • Mei-header

    "K," I say, a sharpness to my voice, "She's breathing." I take a closer look, trying to see if she's obviously injured. I don't want to move her if she's got anything broken. The Tangaroa has a medical zone a few levels down. I hope there's power. Moving an injured person down stairs could be risky. I suddenly picture navigating the stairs in a storm. I'm glad we've got the Jane to play weathergirl.
  • image
    "She's survived this long. She can last a bit longer." I say in clipped tones. "Let's scope out the infirmary. If it's clear, I'll come back for her. Or we can find a stretcher or a wheelchair, something."
  • There is no obvious sign of injury to be seen. If she was lying in a bed, you'd probably think she was just deeply asleep if not for the remarkable slowness of her breathing.

    The power is on, or at least the lights are. There's another door leading farther into the interior, a glowing green light above it.

  • image
    I holster my pistol, "Ensign Mei, this might be a quarantine issue, not a violent attack." I'll head to the glowing green light.
  • Mei-header

    "My concern as well, yet I find it hard to imagine she's been asleep for three weeks." I call up the schematics just to refresh myself. "The command deck is one level down. We should stop there first."

    I report back to the Jane, that we're on board and may have survivors in need of medical attention.

    I stand, looking over the downed crewman, then head to follow Ksenia. Dammit, Cribbage, wait up!
  • You make your way through the hatch/door with no incident, and climb down a level. (There's an elevator that runs through the whole vessel, but the position indicator tells you it's nearly at the bottom.) The control bridge is lit but quiet. There are two crew members, dressed in non-military uniforms, sitting in chairs. Also completely out, just the barest hint of pulse and breathing to indicate they're alive.

    image

    "Don't have facilities for many on the Jane, Mei, but the med area on the research station should accommodate some, at least? Keep us informed."

  • Mei-header

    I do look at the two crew members, wondering about their lives, who they are, why they appear to just be resting. My practical curiosity wins this time. I make for the log console. I report back to Church as I access the log, "Three living crew so far, Church. Possibly comatose?" I shake my head; that's not right. I'm a little on edge and I can't jump to conclusions. "I'm going to squirt the log data back home." I want to leave the comm open until we know more.
  • image
    Being locked in your own head, that's a nightmare I would wish only on my worst enemies. I've been close, after the accident. It was horrific. "Let's keep moving." I'm pushing for the med bay.
  • Mei-header

    "One moment." I'm still working at the console. "Jane, do you have the data channel open? We're about to move."
  • edited December 2014

    image

    "Channel's open, and we're receiving. Keep your comms open, please."

    The medical area is one deck down. I'm assuming you take the stairs rather than the lift that runs through the center of the structure. There are three separate areas on this deck, one clearly marked Medical, one Fitness, and one Laboratory.

    In the Med bay, you find three more people in a similar state to those you've encountered so far. One, on a bed, looks to have been in the process of having a broken arm set. The work is mostly done, but the inflatable splint hasn't been applied to the arm yet. On the floor next to him is a woman in a lab coat, probably the doctor that was treating him. The third is slumped over a terminal at a desk in the corner of the room.

    What do you do?

  • Mei-header

    "Three more in the medbay, Jane. It's like the Mary Celeste in here, looks like whatever happened was pretty sudden. What's the last log entry from the bridge?" I move closer to the man on the bed. If there's a portable scanner, I can see if there's been any bone growth- How terrible to imagine to have a broken arm for three weeks.

    Six so far. I wonder who's missing, and I kick myself. I should be referencing the crew manifest.
  • image
    I'm covering Mei as she works on the comatose, or something, people. I'm keeping eye on any threats, checking movement. My weapon is no longer drawn, but I'm very alert. On edge, even. This is some creepy shit.
  • edited January 2015

    Ship's Complement

    Operational Personnel


    • Captain: Ruby Bennett (found in her quarters)

    • First Mate: Chad Guzman (found in the control bridge)

    • Chief Engineer: Calvin Norris (found in the Engine Rooms, above sea level)

    • Comms: Terrence Tate (found in the Communications Zone, at -6.20)

    • Engineering Mate: Gabrielle Staley (underwater garage -11.6)

    • Helm: Charlyn Buckley (found in the control bridge)

    Support Personnel


    • Ship's Doctor: Dr. Sandy Wong (found in the med bay)

    • Computers: Cedric Logan (found in the med bay at the computer)

    • Submersibles Mechanic: Victoria Waters (underwater garage -11.6)

    • Undersea Communications: Van Barber (pressurized living quarters -11.6)

    Divers


    • Jeffrey Harper (pressurized living quarters -11.6)

    • Eduardo Arnold (found on the table in the med bay)

    Scientific Complement (civilian)


    • Oceanography: Dr. Belinda Hayes (found in the gym)

    • Oceanography: Dr. Taylor Swanson (found in the -1.0 bunk area)

    • Mineralogy: Dr. Herbert Gordon (found in the -1.0 bunk area)

    • Xenobiology: Dr. Linda Yeng (on a boat?)

    • Xenobiology: Dr. Marlon May (modular lab +1.6)

    • Planetary Sciences: Dr. Ruben Ball (modular lab +1.6)

    Scientific Complement (Psi-Corps. Fields of study not listed.)


    • Dee Anglin (found at the topside platform)

    • Janelle Hartman (pressurized living quarters -11.6)

    • Dean Stahl (found in the -3.60 bunk area)

    • Celesta Atkinson (modular lab +1.6)

    • Elene Briscoe (pressurized living quarters -11.6)

    • Vinita Partin (on a boat?)

  • edited December 2014

    Mei, the scanner indeed shows three weeks of remodeling and bone growth in the fractured area of the diver's arm. His other vitals are strong and clear, but brain activity is very strange. This doesn't look at all like a coma, nor does it look like sleep. The areas of the brain that monitor autonomic functions show normal activity, but the only other areas that seem to be engaged are Wernicke's Area in the left hemisphere, and the corresponding area of the right.

    You've read a lot about the brain since joining Psi Corps, and having just this one part of the speech-processing bits of the brain lighting up is very strange.

    image

    "Just a routine log entry. Navigation points, operational status. Dated the same day that contact was broken."

  • edited December 2014
    Mei-header

    "Very odd," I muse at the reading. "Church, maybe there's something earlier? We'll keep exploring."

    I roll my hand, gesturing at Dr. Wong lying crumpled. "It's like they just... stopped." My empathy tears at me.
  • image
    "Ensign Mei," I say, suddenly acutely aware that every word is overheard by the crew. "What would sustain these people for this long? Are they in a state of hibernation?"
  • edited December 2014
    Mei-header

    I look at her with a bit of concern, she sounds a little strained. Surely she's not as weirded out as me? "Ensign Cribbage," smiling a little, trying to reassure her, which itself is a little backwards, "It's puzzling. Even a comatose person needs water or fluids... and if someone were still unaffected, mobile and hydrating or feeding the rest, they wouldn't leave them slumped like Logan there." I can't remember the studies on hypersleep just at this moment- it's obsolete with FTL. I'm not convinced that we're the only mobile people on board, and I want to search the whole ship to account for everyone. I suspect there won't be a wet suit in my size when we have to search the waves. The Jane really should have a bigger away team, I make a note to mention it to Church... I spare a fleeting thought for my admirer, but I must set it aside right now.

    "Brain activity is anomalous, too. Look at this, here and here." Blank look or no, I'll call up a display of a normal brain and a comatose brain to compare. "It should look like so, see?"
  • image
    I look over Mei's shoulder at the display. "I see. Well, we've secured this area, we should continue moving in case there's someone or something unaffected." I don't mention Cora, but I'm sure Mei's thinking of it.

    If she doesn't object, I'm going to do a sweep of this level. I assume she's got my six.
  • Mei-header

    There's a lab and a fitness area on this level. I follow Ksenia, my eyes seeking everywhere.

    She gives me a quick look. Of course I'm thinking about whatever may have affected the crew psionically, but I'm being cautious... on two fronts. I don't want to be court-martialed. Stop it, Mei! These people will need your help one way or another.

    I pick up my pace to match Ksenia's longer legs.
  • You try the gym first. One more unresponsive body here, slumped in the seat of a rowing machine. Turns out you'll probably be able to find a suit that fits after all, because the oceanographer, Dr. Belinda Hayes (you match her face to the picture in the roster), is just about your size.

    The lab space is actually several modular labs for several disciplines. More crew here, but the first thing that catches your eye is the centrally located monitor, which shows a live view of the ocean surface. More accurately, a live view of a portion of the constantly shifting and undulating surface of one of the large plankton rafts you read about. It seems to be a near-uniform greenish shade, but shimmers intriguingly in the sunlight.

  • Mei-header

    I'm staring at the monitor, fascinated by the patterns I can almost make out. "I'm going to have to go in there, K." I murmur. I clench one fist, reminding myself to blink.
  • image
    "We're both going in, Ensign Mei." No way I'm going to watch you go out there while I'm in here with a bunch of stiffs.
  • edited December 2014
    Mei-header

    I look at her suddenly, worried. "Do you really want to link and go in?" I'm not sure if that's a great idea. We haven't canvassed the whole ship yet, which adds to my nervousness.
  • image
    I offer her a confident smirk, "You know I'm good to stick my nose out there and have a looksee. But we should clear the base first. Then, we play some football on a plankton field."
  • Mei-header

    My mouth quirks. "I'm not sure tapdancing on an alien's brain for first contact is on my bucket list, but we need to finish our sweep."

    Ksenia knows just what to say to cheer me up, but I notice she didn't answer about a tandem psi-link. I'm already wondering what Cora will do.
  • Mei, as you watch the shifting surface of the massive colony of plankton, you feel just the slightest tickle of connection.

    The cycles of sunlight becoming sustenance, growth, reproduction, death, dying parts of yourself becoming nutrients for the rest.

    This is not contact, not yet, just a peripheral awareness on your part of this massive and massively strange mind. Cora uncoils from her slumber in the recesses of your mind and you taste her interest as the smell of freshly-baked bread and acute angles.

    Ksenia, you look around the lab spaces and find three more unresponsive scientists. The xenobiologist Dr. Marlon May, planetary scientist Dr. Ruben Ball, and Celesta Atkinson, one of the Psi Corps "researchers". You recognize Atkinson, but knew her by a different name, once upon a time. What were the circumstances?

  • image
    Her maiden name was Celesta Kerrick. I called her Celly, like everyone else in secondary school. She's Martian, was always razor sharp, but a little weird. She looks so much like Taban. I never noticed. She's married now, that's good. I hope he's been good to her. I hope she gets to come home to him.
  • edited December 2014
    Mei-header

    Softly, I say, "Oh, wow." I stand stock-still for a second, blinking slowly.

    My eyes are almost but not quite out of focus, and a flicker in the back of my mind wonders about psi and AI...

    Ksenia comes back and I shake my head, tuck a stray bit of hair behind my ear, and look up to her. "Anything notable, or more of the same?"
  • edited December 2014
    image
    "One of them was Psi Corps." I answer, looking at her dainty little ear. "No, nothing pertinent."
  • Mei, there's a touch of a hint of something in Ksenia's voice that makes that double negative seem important. Do you pursue it, or continue with your exploration of the station?

  • Mei-header

    I give her a look, curious and attuned to her touches and hints and somethings in her voice. "Should I take a look?" She's probably already updated the "found" roster, but I don't check it yet.

    Another Psi Corps down. Hopefully, they've left notes somewhere, somehow. I must be careful.
  • image
    I nod, once, curtly. "You mean, with psi? Be my guest. I'll keep eyes on."
  • Mei-header

    I blink, taken aback. No, I didn't mean with psi. What if it's contagious? Be brave, Mei. Conscious of the open comm, I nod back. "I'm on it."

    Now, let's go find the Psi Corps crewperson. I step into the corridor and look both ways before following the colored signs to the other spaces on this deck.
  • Mei, you find the Celeste Atkinson in one of the chairs in a decent-sized workspace, where she was studying a holographic model of something incredibly complex. Your Psi Corps training allows you to recognize that it's a three-dimensional map of the electrical and chemical pathways of something very much like a brain in some ways, but not at all like a brain in others. Your guess that it's one off the plankton-colony entities is confirmed when you notice that it's labeled "Pacific".

    Ksenia, did you follow Mei back into the workspace where you found Celeste, or are you doing something else?

  • Mei-header

    I'm thinking of the Dauntless as I stare at the holo. I'm fascinated, tracing the paths and wondering at the marvels of the universe, of evolution. It's clearly a mind, but its brain is made of of "cells" that are different multicellular species. How do they stay so symbiotic and not torn apart? I'll bet there's no larger lifeforms to act as predators. A couple of big jellies would be the end of it. Even a decently-sized goldfish.

    I shudder at the notion of something eating away a thinking being's brain without that being aware of what's happening. That sends a chill up my spine.

    I want to look at the files more closely, but I don't want to sit on Atkinson. Maybe there's a way to find out the ranks or skills of these Psi Corps crew? It might be easier to make contact with one person over another if I knew their background and psi profile.

    My eyes drift back to the holo. I wish I had my sketchpad.
  • image
    I'm heading back to the workspace for a minute, but Celeste freaks me out. "I'm doing a quick perimeter check. Sit tight and check out the files. I'll be right back, Ensign." I give her a look, just in case something nasty happens. I don't want to forget.
  • Mei-header

    I nod, still running through possibilities and potentials in my mind, working at the console. "Let's keep comms open, okay?" I keep the unease out of my voice.
  • image
    "Affirmative." My reply is curt. There are ears and eyes on us. What the hell, I give her a wink before I head out. Nobody would call me on that. It's not out of regs.
  • Mei-header

    My heart is warmed, and a smile bursts free. I give her a friendly wave and almost blow her a kiss as she goes, but I keep it in check. Let's see what I can pull out of the system.
  • Ksenia, you checking around this deck, or do you go further afield?

  • image
    I sweep this deck first, but if Mei's still having a peek at the data, I'm definitely going further afield.
  • Mei, the details of the Psi Corps personnel list are encrypted, of course, just out of habit, as are Atkinson's notes. You're sure the first will surrender to one of a few combinations of clearance passcodes and identification methods, but the encryption on the notes seems to be... unorthodox, personal. Not unusual to see something like that, but you don't have much of a starting point.

    Which do you address first?

  • Mei-header

    The personnel list is first. I want to know more about who's here. Hopefully, that will give me more insight into what happened.
  • Mei, why don't you build me a roll... beat a 10, and you get the basic personnel information (Name, Rank, 'Job Title'), but beat a 13 and you'll get more.

  • Mei-header

    Discovery - d10 - I'm determined to know who's here, and why, and what for, and anything else I can know! We have to help the Psi Corps staff.
    Science - d8 - I crack my knuckles and get to work on these databases.
    Lourdes - d6 - She can remotely process some of these encryption routines in parallel back on the Jane. It'll help.

  • Discovery - (Rolled: 1d10. Rolls: 3. Total: 3)
    Science - (Rolled: 1d8. Rolls: 5. Total: 5)
    Lourdes - (Rolled: 1d6. Rolls: 1. Total: 1)
  • Mei, you spend time running through the standard algorithms, and finally manage to decrypt the file that you thought contained the Psi Corps personnel information for the research station. Turns out that it's the wrong list, though, something from a previous posting of Atkinson's. Church volunteers to contact HQ directly and get the correct list, so you'll for sure have the data, but it will likely take a few hours to make the request and receive the info.

    The unencrypted portion of Atkinson's research notes show that she is a neurochemist. The document that was open when... whatever happened, answers your question about predators. Apparently there are some specialized "organelles" that act like capacitors, allowing the colony to convert solar energy into electricity, which can be discharged to protect the "creature." There is a large directory of encrypted material, labeled "Preliminary".

    Your eyes are drawn again and again to the holo map of Pacific's neurochemical pathways. It's beautiful and alien and fascinating, and you can't help but wonder what it would be like to communicate directly with such a mind.


    OOC: Buying that 1 (take a PP) to give you the d6 Complication: Dangerously Fascinated.

  • Mei-header

    "Ensign Cribbage," I say over the comm. "This will take some time." My brow is furrowed in concentration and I occasionally chew on my lip or tap a fingernail against my teeth in thought.
  • Ksenia, you finish a quick tour of the research station, all areas except for the lower, pressurized decks. You come across many more... comatose? bodies in various spots. Moving through the airlocks to the pressurized zones requires time and possibly gear, if you want to be able to go back and forth freely. What do you do?


    OOC-ish. The list above is updated with where you've found various crew and researchers.

  • image
    "Looks like eight unaccounted for." I recount. "I've cleared the research station. Heading back to you. We'll need to talk about traversing airlocks once we compare notes."
  • Mei-header

    "Almost a third of the crew." I mutter. I can wait the few hours for the roster before I try a psi-scan of someone. I nervously glance at Atkinson. Her quiet breath sounds louder than it should. I really don't want to be alone when I try to touch these sleeping minds. I tell myself it'll be okay. Dammit, Mei, you don't need anyone to hold your hand! These people need your help!

    Come on, Mei, you built a hell of a psi-wall on Tara's Daughter, you can do this. You're not alone, you're just the only psi talent... the only active psi talent for parsecs around.

    I put my face in my hands and get it together before Ksenia comes back.
  • image
    I come back up to meet with Mei in short order. She seems fine when I come in, but there's something. Something off. I push it aside, too many eyes and ears on us. I'll check in with her later.
  • Just to make sure we're all on the same page: you've covered everything from the deck where you entered (+6.8 meters) to the "atmospheric pressure" living quarters (-8.8 meters). You haven't gone above your entry point or into the pressurized areas a the bottom of the vessel.


    Mei, as you ponder what you can read of Atkinson's notes:

    Currents and tides, the sensation of knowing where you're going but not needing to direct yourself. Great age, but constant renewal. For so long, only one other mind with which to share, then these dozens of other little voices, unaware at first, until lindayeng.

    You feel Cora wanting to reach out, communicate.

    Mei and Ksenia, what do you do next?

  • edited December 2014
    image
    Once I check in, see she's working, I decide to keep moving, stay useful. I cinch up my pack, grab my gun, "I'm taking a look above entry point, Ensign Mei. Stay frosty, alright?" I want o kiss her cheek, or her temple, pause for a moment considering it. But I don't. Work to do.
  • Mei-header

    I hold, mid-keystroke. "It's reaching out to me." I keep the budding fear from overwhelming into something worse. "I don't want to be... lost like they are."
  • image
    Well, that tears it. I walk over and squeeze her shoulder, giving support. "You won't be. You're too strong." I lean down and kiss her temple. Regs be damned. "Plus, if you do't come back to me, I'll frakking hunt you down."
  • edited December 2014
    Mei-header

    I reach up and clasp her hand, my soft fingers twining into her metal ones, and I squeeze hard. "I..." I really wish we had a few more hands. "I'd rather try to help the crew first before venturing out to the raft or doing any diving. How far away is the closest raft?" I can't recall which is Atlantic and which is Pacific right now. Tara's Daughter has given me an idea, or maybe it's the strength of my love, pulling me up.

    The ship's not that big.
  • image
    "About twenty five clicks, I'd guess. I can pull it up to make sure."
  • Mei-header

    The chair squeaks as I turn around to face Ksenia, looking up, still holding her hand. "I have an idea. A psi wall might be the answer, if I can set it up to block any influence from the raft. We might get the crew back, all at once!"

    I focus, and psi-send to Cora.

    can you feel the other humans on this ship
  • image
    I don't want to break her confidence, but I do need to ask, "What are the risks, Ensign?" My tone is soft, I'm still holding her hand.
  • Mei-header

    I consider, my excitement draining into facts. "There's a possibility that they're not trapped in their bodies, but instead trapped out there. On the raft. I have no idea what a psi wall would do." I slap the table with the heel of my hand, frustrated. In a smaller voice that's carefully even, I say, "If that's the case, a misstep with any psi contact might suck me out there, too. I've got to watch out." My knuckles are white.

  • Mei, Cora gives you an image, which your brain interprets as a web of twenty-two bright threads stretching from here out to an even greater brightness you assume is "Pacific". The threads maintain their individuality, but twine themselves into the fabric of the colony.

  • Mei-header

    "ohhhh," I say softly, my hand relaxing into Ksenia. "We can't do a wall. They're still connected." My eyes lose their focus. With a note of sadness, I say, "And two are missing, maybe dead. Unless they're surviving somehow...?"

  • image
    That gets me to snap to. I don't take my hand back, but she can sense my urgency. "If there are two "survivors", then we need to find them. Want to come finish the sweep of this place, Ensign Mei?"
  • edited January 2015
    Mei-header

    "Agreed." I pull myself to my feet, smiling at her attitude, still holding her hand. "Maybe the bridge can do a lifeform scan?" I purse my lips."And we need to account for and rule out any submersibles, perhaps with a sonar sweep."
  • image
    Clever girl. "I was just going to, you know, walk around." I say with a half-grin. "Buuuut, if you want to go and use technology and stuff, well, I guess that works, too."
  • You finish looking through the upper decks and find that one of the boats is gone. The equipment log tells you that it was checked out by the xenobiologist Dr. Linda Yeng and one of the Psi Corps researchers, Vinita Partin. The entry is from early on the same day that the research station stopped communicating.

    From the bridge, you can access the airlock logs for the pressurized decks and check on the submersibles. All the submersibles are docked, none away from the station, and the remainder of the unaccounted-for crew (aside from Yeng and Partin) are checked in to various areas on the pressurized decks. You can probably get into the security system and get visual confirmation, but you update your list with what the logs tell you for now.

    What's next?

  • Mei-header

    I want to go through the systems and account for all the people. It will be short work, now that we know where to look. I also want to move them, but that's somehow... unseemly. "I think the last two are on a boat out at the raft. Yeng tried something, and that's what caused all this." Again, I find myself wishing we had more hands for these sorts of missions. I wonder how Sung is?

    "Jane, can you get a visual on the raft? I hope we'll get lucky and find that boat."
  • edited January 2015

    image

    Church comes back over the comms. "This thing is big. We'll scan the perimeter, starting at the point closest to the Tangaroa, but it will take a bit of time. Should have your Psi Corps personnel information back any second, though, if that's a help."

    image

    "I've got a remote out now. You can tap the feed directly if you like, but we'll let you know if we see anything interesting. And... Mei, Ksenia? Be careful. This is really creepy."

    Shortly after that, you receive a data squirt from the Jane. Those with no rank listed are civilian researchers.


    • Lieutenant Dee Anglin: Xenoneurology

    • Janelle Hartman: Exocommunications and Linguistics

    • Lieutenant Dean Stahl: Psi/Tech Interface Specialist

    • Celesta Atkinson: Neurochemistry

    • Lieutenant Commander Elene Briscoe: Psi Specialist

    • Commander Vinita Partin: senior officer, Psi Specialist

  • Mei-header

    "Thank you, Church... It's still hard to grasp the sheer physical size of the raft. I got the data squirt, I'm reviewing the data now... Seems like Hartman might be easiest to communicate with, if possible." I'm working on my pad, looking back and forth from the deckplan to the list to the rosters. I look over at Ksenia, wordlessly asking her opinions and insight.

    I'm glad Dinah's still speaking to me. Her concern warms me, it's nourishing. Half smiling bravada, burying my own fear in her warm blanket and soup, I connect the drone's feed to my tablet and say, "You don't know the half of it, Lourdes." A beat. "Thanks." It's genuine, real.
  • image
    To Red, I reply, "Thanks, Red. We'll be alright. Keep eyes on." Then, to Mei, I say, "Ensign, let's go out there. I have faith in you. We'll figure this out together. But we won't figure anything out... until we get out there."
  • Mei-header

    "You're right." She's right. Of course she's right. I tap a few keys to the systems to finish up, then stand slowly, pressing my palms to the table. I steal a few glances at her, not really trusting myself to not kiss her on the nose in gratitude (even though the look on her face would be adorable) and look up at her. I say brightly, "I sure hope you can drive a boat." My eyes have a tiny twinkle in them, but I'm still uneasy.
  • image
    I give her a "sister, please" look about me driving a boat. I mean, really. Navy SEAL training, girl. "I'm your huckleberry, Ensign." If we weren't on mic, I'd make a crack about finding the man in the boat, but I don't. I'll lead the way if she seems any more hesitant.

    I know this is hard for her, but she's the only one of us who can get this mission done. So, I'll push her on.
  • Mei-header

    I nod once, small, to myself, and set my jaw. You got this, Mei. You're be fine.

    I open my mind a little, and "reach" out to "hold" Cora's "hand" since I don't want Ksenia to see how much I want to hold hers. I look at my tablet's deckplan, noting the path to the upper decks and the remaining boat. "Huckleberry. A giant raft. Does that make me Tom or Jim? I can never remember." I'll start walking, and let her tell me if there's a better route.

  • OOC: Skipping some time.

    The boat skims along the surface of the water silently, its tiny fusion engine barely even registering as you reach 60, 70, 80 klicks per hour. Cora is all watchfulness, but the tickle of the other alien presence remains background for you, Mei. Soon, you begin to see the barest shimmer on the horizon, the edge of the vast colony of tiny sea-creatures that those from the research station named "Pacific." You're still on comms with the Jane, and they're able to give you a real-time aerial view of your progress.

    You reach the edge of the raft and look out at the gently undulating surface, glinting in all the colors of the rainbow as its trillions of individual members refract sunlight at trillions of angles. No signs of humans right here, but this alien presence is there, right before you.

    What do you do?

  • image
    The whole way, I'm keeping watch over Mei. I worry for her, this is a risk. I guess we have to rely on Cora now, which is unpredictable at best.

    Damn, Mei looks good in a wetsuit. I really can't wait until this mission is over and we're back on the Jane. Want to peel it off her.

    As we look over the raft, I ask her, "Feel anything, Ensign Mei?" I want to take her hand, but I'm holding the rifle.
  • edited January 2015
    Mei-header

    I can't drive a boat, but it's very relaxing to be on the ocean. I enjoy the whine of the engines, the fresh air whipping by, the occasional spritz of water on my skin... and Ksenia's eyes on me. I smile a little secret smile and pretend I don't know how cute this wetsuit is when I move. Looking at the wavelets and the wake and the shimmers on the surface, I do miss swimming. I wonder if Dinah could somehow rig a pool on the Jane? I flip my hair around into a cap, watching her dark eyes.

    At the raft, it's just, just... breathtaking. I lean over the edge of the boat not-quite-but-almost-too-far, entranced by the scintillating colors and shifting shapes. Each plankter is analogous to a brain cell, perhaps, and this... being is at least two orders of magnitude larger. "Ksenia, it's beautiful..." My eyes are wide; I'm fascinated. "Zoo, Dinah, Zeke, are you seeing this?"
  • edited January 2015

    image

    Church's voice comes over the comms. "Beautiful, isn't it? How are you and Cora? Anything catch your mind's eye?"

    Ksenia, the gently moving surface and the intricate patterns of refraction make it hard to judge distance here. Wind and the calls of some strange-looking seabirds are the only noises aside from the sounds you brought with you. Something about the situation is vaguely disorienting, a bit like being snow-blind.

  • Mei-header

    "We're about to find out..." I sound less nervous than I feel. Ksenia may pick up on it. It's probably blindingly obvious to Cora. I move closer to Ksenia, close my eyes and reach out to hold her hand. I take a deep breath, and...

    / cora are you ready /
  • image
    I see Mei, the tension in her neck, the wariness in her eyes. She reaches for my hand. Of course I take it. Selfishly, during her fear, a tiny part of my mind gets a thrill from her touch. I focus on giving her the support she needs, willing it with my heart, hoping in some small way I can protect her from this threat, as well as Cora.
  • Mei, you feel Cora shift by the barest angle, and something clicks into place, as if you've just put on a pair of goggles. You see the vast organism that floats before you through your mind's eye, a network that somehow, improbably, has formed a mind and even a personality. At the moment it seems merely to be basking in the sunlight, but its awareness turns toward you, Cora, and Ksenia.

    Both of you feel the iceberg-tip of this vast mind. Wordless inquiry. ??

  • Mei-header

    I feel the bottom drop out of my stomach... It's so immeasurably large and real... how do you measure a mind? I squeeze both Cora's and Ksenia's hands, and like a flea on an elephant, I psi-send... I don't know, something...

    // me at my sketchbook, drawing the planet from space //
  • // shift in perspective, attention engaged, additional information //

    The sketch, now enriched by a deep instinctual understanding of the radiation from this planet's sun that makes it possible, currents of cold and warm, rich feeding grounds of organics, polar areas with larger predators that threaten //I//. Tendrils of cooperating micro-organisms, trailing into the depths, temperature and pressure differentials along their length adding to the energy balance of the whole.

    The sense of having had only one other mind with which to interact, then these new tiny lights, shining so brightly.

    ...and through it, for both of you, now that Cora has helped to open the channel, a sense of deep contentedness from many, more recognizable, individual minds. Belonging, not to a group, but to an ecology, and knowing one's place. It's tempting, to give in to that. To simply float and soak up the sun. A real vacation, perhaps?

  • Mei-header

    I'm a tiny new light. I've worked hard. I could use a vacation. I'm humming softly, swaying to music in my head. I want to dance among the microorganisms and see them, map them.

    I am wearing a wetsuit, and I'm sure there's plenty of air.

    It must be lonely.
  • image
    Pffft. It's only slightly tempting. I'm not big on sharing. I'm my own damn colony, frak you very much.

    I know we're in an alien hive mind and all, but let me just say: Mei + wetsuit = Ksenia wants us to get out of this alive.

    "There has to be a focal point, Mei. A queen. There always is." I reach out to her as she hums. "Use Cora like a radar. There has to be a stronger light among the stars. Right?"
  • Mei-header

    I start at Ksenia's words and touch. I really wasn't about to dive in, no! I sit up straighter and check my center of balance. I center my thoughts and hold on to Cora's hand, searching.
  • So, let's see a roll, Mei. You're looking to establish some sort of meaningful contact or dialogue with "Pacific," right? Let's call that a static difficulty of 11, against whatever you can bring to the table. Less than that means that you'll be a step closer to basking in the sun. Above that, and you get more information/connection/control as the result gets higher. Ksenia can certainly help, she's right there, as long as the two of you can figure out a die she can offer.

  • image
    I would like to offer my Love d8.
    If that doesn't work, Psi-Op Handler Trigger of d6 should.
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