Weeding the Aspidistra (Part 3)

Players: Gabe, Talos and Kendrick (from last week) plus Yana, an alien pilot.

Ten Days Later….

Yana, a no-nonsense soldier and pilot from the Alais system gets a private message from the XO. “Ten days ago I sent a team to cripple the Aspidistra. Last I heard, there was some kind of accident on the station and the ship left in the confusion. Two of the team are dead and one’s locked up at the station – the other three, I have no idea. Get over there, find out what happened, and finish the mission.”

Yana heads to the station’s improvised brig, breaking out the remaining merc (a human named MacCarthy) with only a minor scuffle. MacCarthy fills her in with what he knows – the ship was docked in bay 94 and took off after the accident – there’s a fair chance the other 3 were on board.

The pair get close to the bay before surrounded by the authorities. Yana, ever cold-hearted to someone foolish enough to get caught in the first place, turns her erstwhile ally over to the surprised authorities before leaving for the docks.

A few threats directed at the mechanic who worked at bay 94, and Yana gets access to their computer records – including [crit] the Aspidistra’s navigation data. Stealing a shuttle, she makes her way out in pursuit of the ship and her crewmates.

Aspidistra Cargo Bay, About a week ago

The Aspidistra’s taken off – with three stowaways on board. Thanks to some fast talking (and supporting words from two of the crew) the trio are at least accepted on ship, if not outright welcomed.

Over the following few days, they work to ingratiate themselves with ship duties, while secretly finding ways to sabotage the ship from within:

  • Talos begins work on a subroutine designed to allow remote control of the ship. He’s got to work on it in secret, but [success] is pretty sure it’ll work with the ship’s archaic systems. At the same time, he does what he can to earn the favour of the ship’s commander – Marek, the stern human leading the party on the station. Luckily, Marek’s ancestor worked on some of the same ships Talos was assigned to and they hit it off. Talos is pretty confident when he needs to, he’ll be able to get on the bridge and upload his program.
  • Kendrick works to earn the respect of Magnus, the engineer, through his own hard work and skills. Making himself useful and fixing up some of the other minor problems on board Magnus comes around to thinking there might maybe be someone on this ship that’s actually worth his attention. After a few days’ work, Kendrick’s been allowed into engineering (where he plans to sabotage the o2).
  • Gabe has used his ‘medical supplies’ to get in with most of the rank and file, trying to get them friendly (and preferably addicted!)

None of the trio find a way to meet the real captain of the ship, who’s illness confines him to quarters. (Gabriel tries, using his ‘medical experience’, but to no immediate avail.)

Back to the Present

Unbeknownst to the others, Yana (having tracked the ship’s course) is only about half a day away – nearly within comm range.

The trio put their plans for sabotage into effect. The general plan [after much discussion] is Talos will upload his program and gain access to the airlocks, simulating an oxygen breach. At the same time, Kendrick will sabotage the o2 feed, then get the engineer to head to the airlock (and hopefully, throw him out of it.) Gabriel will get the crew so dosed up on drugs they don’t know what to do, then try and see to the captain.

Halfway through Talos’ part of the plan, Yana gets in contact with him. With the reinforcements inbound, the plan can go even better and things spiral quickly from there.

Talos’ program works to a T and he unlocks the rear airlock. The engineer sends Kendrick to look at the issue and Marek also insists on going to see the problem. Kendrick quickly heads back, calls the engineer for help – then locks both of them in the cargo bay! At that point he hears the sound of gunfire from the sick captain’s quarters, and grabs his shotgun…

Gabe’s drugs did the trick and most of the crew are sleeping it off. In the meantime, Gabe’s fast talking convinces the one guard on the captain’s room that he’s on ‘doctor duty’ and he gains access to the captain – once a powerful and mighty fighter, brought low by ill health. He fights fiercely even after Gabe doses him up, and causes enough of a racket in his death throes to alert the guard – who manages to clip Gabe in the shoulder. At this point Kendrick arrives with his shotgun, rescuing his outgunned colleague.

Yana arrives in visual range of the ship to see an odd sight… both cargo doors and the rear  hatch open up (she thinks she sees two human-sized figures fly out of the bay as it depressurises, but she can’t be sure.) Taking the cue, she [passes her roll and] manages to squeeze the entire shuttle into the bay, blocking off all access for anyone else coming in.

At this point, the ship is pretty much theirs. Both the captain and the XO are dead, along with the ship’s chief mechanic; the only ones left who aren’t dead or drugged up are Gabe’s friend and Talos’ “brother” – left on the bridge. Not being the sort for last-minute heroics, they quickly surrender.

Epilogue

The party re-pressurise the ship and take it back to the Stymphalian. Most of the cargo that wasn’t ejected into space is transferred to the crew’s bays; the Aspidistra itself is stripped down (including the rather useful matter cannon on it’s prow) and the remains sold off. Who knows, perhaps the crew will run into the new crew of the light frieghter someday… but for now – game over!

Thoughts

On the good side, I was pleased that the flashback/flashforward idea was quite entertaining and allowed the players to get a relatively high amount of things done in a short space of time. Also, it meant Yana could do her own thing a little more before the action started. I could have had Yana be part of the Aspidistra’s crew, but I felt it would be better she start off as a ‘friendly’ character rather than someone who is in theory on the opposing side to the rest of the players.

Although I’ve paraphrased here, I think the session itself was an awful lot of planning with only very quick bursts of action – too quick, perhaps. I’d also like to avoid setting up situations where each character does their own thing in isolation, given helping each other out is the only surefire way of gaining XP. (In hindsight, I could have merged some of the player’s actions together as one person helping another, like Kendrick and Talos sabotaging the o2 for example.)

Since we missed last week’s session I started writing up a ‘mission pack’ based around the Aspidistra; it’s past, present and future occupants. In the scenario I’d created I planned this event to be, potentially, the last in the ship’s life – I was actually a little relieved when they didn’t blow the ship up at the end, as (daft as it may sound) I’d already got a bit attached to the old girl! I need to bring more of that level of connection into the game proper, somehow – I want there to be a stronger link between the players and their vehicles.

Also, we talked about how players with multiple characters could start to build some kind of lineage to link their characters together. (This dialogue was specifically inspired by Wormwood’s Shortest Month, Longest Game challenge.) The idea of building a character off your last one seemed to appeal, so I’ll carry on working on that.