ACT I, SC. I
A pair of women’s muscular, barefoot legs striding up a tropical beach. We see VANESSA MILLER (48) pants rolled up, a sweat-stained tank top, a shirt slung over her shoulder approaching a wood shack on stilts on the beach. A fishing boat tied up to the pier is painted with the name ‘WRY BRED’. She slips on her shoes and goes inside.
— WOOD SHACK — INT.
KAYLA RYE (25) lounges in a rocker behind a counter, a desk fan blowing her dark bangs poking out under her W-Y ball cap. An empty whiskey bottle sits on the counter. She sits forward in her chair.
RYE: The fuck you doing here?
MILLER (looking lazily around the shack): I found her. I need you. You in?
RYE: Fuck no. (slurring) ..the fuck outta here ‘fore I call the policia…
MILLER (picking up empty bottle): C’mon Rye, you’ll be dead before you’re thirty here.
RYE: No! Fuck outta here Cap’n! I don’t wanta go back there. It’s just darkness and blood and… (chokes back a sob)
MILLER: On your feet, crewman! Shift starts now! I need you! And you need to get back out there. You know I’m right. So c’mon girl, we got work to do.
RYE: Stands unsteadily, looks green and pukes on MILLER’S shoes
RYE: Sorry cap’n. I’ll buy you some new ones.
MILLER (unfazed): If we get to her, before anyone else does, you can buy me some real fancy ones, buy yourself anything you want.
RYE: yeah unless…(chokes)…you know, there’s still…something out there.
MILLER (frowning): Only one way to find out, girl. Let’s pack you a bag and get goin’. First things first, we gotta round up a crew.
RYE: The fuck you gonna get for this run? They’d have to be crazy or fuckin’ desperate… or both.
MILLER: I got some leads.
We played the Chariot of the Gods scenario months ago and had a blast. Literally – one of the spaceships blew up at the end of it! Two crewmembers of the Montero made it out alive, but we left our vessel in the depths of interstellar space. When Icculus sent out the “after action” report, I suggested we should put together an expedition to try and recover the Montero. I’m sure that Miller would have done so. Not one to disappoint, Icculus wrote up an adventure to do just that. We started it last week when our Numenera GM needed a break.
Cast of Characters
Vanessa Miller: Captain of the ill-fated Montero. Cashiered as a captain after losing the Montero. For the past two years she’s been smuggling for Brazilian crime lord Ruth Santos. All the while, Miller has been looking for the Montero.
Kayla Rye: Mechanic on the Montero and one of the two survivors of the original crew. Rye hit rock bottom. She’s suffered greatly and turned to alcohol to help her forget the horrible things she saw and did during the previous adventure. When Miller discovered the Montero, she recruited Rye and got her sobered up. Rye’s still scared as hell about going back “out in the black”, but feels like she owes Miller one for actually giving a shit.
Kiefer Monroe: Hot shot pilot who’s been working as a smuggler for Ruth Santos for some time. Monroe is too much of a risk taker to be hired by a legitimate outfit. He’s a real cowboy. He even wears a Stetson and packs a revolver.
“Diya” Padilla: Former street punk from Buenos Aires, Padilla was “rescued” from the street by Ruth Santos. He represents her interests and conducts most of the negotiations for his boss.
Addie: We don’t know much about her. She stowed away on our ship with a backpack full of canned food. She’s told us she ran away from her pimp on the Titan colony. She’s a wiz with electronics.
The Montero is not where we left her. The ship is now in the Gamma Geminorum system – parsecs away from the last adventure. Someone moved her and god only knows how Miller figured out her new coordinates. Miller wants that ship. Badly. If the cargo is still intact, she’s set for life. Her problem has been getting to the system to recover her ship.
By hook or by crook, Miller has finally landed a smuggling run to Gamma Geminorum. The system is 11.9 parsecs from Earth and well outside what would be considered the frontier of known space. There is a colony of wildcat miners on Alhena, a moon orbiting a Neptune-sized ice giant in the system. Needless to say, this colony is highly illegal. It is outside any government or major corporate control. They are extracting heavy metals from the moon and deal with Santos for food and supplies.
Our ship is named The Demeter. She’s a Corvus CM-90 salvage ship that has been converted into an armed smuggler. The vessel has got a pretty good engine and sports some sensor drones, a light rail cannon and a particle accelerator.
We started the adventure picking up supplies and cargo on Titan. We had a long burn to get out of the gravity well before we could engage the hyper drive, so we did a little research on the colony and caught up on some rack time. Rye was apparently passed out in her bunk when the rest of the crew heard some noise coming from the air ducts. The gang grabbed weapons and went to check it out. Miller ordered Padilla into the vent to “check it out”. One gunshot later, they find a stowaway aboard the ship. She’s a teenage girl and she immediately proves her worth by bypassing the hole Padilla had blasted in one of the electrical conduits.
We decide to hit the cargo deck and figure out exactly what we are carrying. There’s plenty of food, alcohol and porn for the colony. There’s also enough weaponry to arm a small mercenary company. We’re not just talking pulse rifles and grenades. Plenty of RPGs and missiles as well… There’s got to be something going on at Alhena to warrant all this firepower. Rye speculates that one of the big corps has found out what the wildcatters are up to and want a piece of the action.
There’s not much more to do – Miller isn’t going to give up this chance to get back the Montero and none of us want to fuck with Santos. We prep the ship for hyperspace, transponder and engines off – we’ll come into the system dark and see what awaits us.
Emerging from hyperspace in the Gamma Geminorum system, we soon encounter a USCMC Corvette. We’re ordered to stand down and prepare to be boarded. Fuck that! We’d be imprisoned for life with what we’re carrying. We fire up the engines and make a run for it. A tense chase ensues. Addie is ace on ComTech* – breaking every sensor lock the corvette gets on us and scoring a lock of her own. Padilla cuts loose with the particle beam and fries some of the corvette’s systems, but the Marines are still spoiling for a fight. Monroe proves his mettle as a pilot** outmaneuvering and finally losing the corvette.
Roaring up on the moon, we send a tight beam communication to the colonists and get coordinates to the LZ. We enter Alhena’s atmosphere way too fast. Claxons are sounding. Engines 3 and 4 flame out. Rye’s got a fire in the engine room and is on the edge of losing her shit*** when she finally gets it under control.
We finally touchdown on a hidden landing pad and the colonists drape our ship with camouflage netting. The ship is grounded. Key components are burned out and we don’t have any replacement parts. Icculus tells us landing usually takes a full shift and we did it in 30 minutes. Any landing you can walk away from is a good one, but our asses are firmly planted on this rock unless we can scrounge or machine some parts to repair our boat. The characters gear up and get ready to go outside when we call it a night.
I got to say, Alien is a ton of fun. I’m not a big fan of the system – it is way too swingy – but I also don’t know of any way to emulate the genre as well as it does. The stress mechanic is really awesome. It really does send a shiver down your spine when those damn facehuggers turn up on the dice…
*I don’t think Addie’s player rolled fewer than 3 successes when rolling this skill. Picture a scrawny teenage girl is outwitting the Marine sensor operator. I’m willing to bet she’s actually synthetic…
**Monroe’s player was rolling multiple successes on each pilot roll. Icculus couldn’t match it.
***I rolled 7 skill dice plus a stress die for heavy machinery to put out the fire – no successes. I push and end up with no successes and 2 facehuggers! Luckily, I held it together on the panic roll and used a story point to save the ship from burning up on reentry.