Bleed Out: An Ashen Stars Campaign

Episode 1.3 "Tartarus" Part 1 of 2

Tartarus, at the convergence of the Viminal Cluster and the Kraken Outzone

Note: Test audiences felt alienated by the all-alien crew of the Earwig after the first two episodes. In a knee-jerk decision, the producers temporarily pulled NCC-1701 from the program and replaced him with the human “Wild” Jim Straight. This episode aired without any explanation for the casting decision, leaving audiences to speculate what might have happened in the intervening months.

Flying into Tartarus’ system while exploring their contract, the crew wondered why Charles Shrawley, board member in perpetuity of Shrawley-Gosha, joined a potentially hazardous mission. Speaking with a S-G rep, Jenny, they learned only that Charles had been promoted under shady circumstances which he was not willing to discuss.

The Crick

In the system, the crew found The Francis Crick orbiting Tartarus. The ship had gone into standby mode, and the Earwig crew noted damage near its shuttle bay.

Deadbeef hacked the Crick’s bay doors, revealing the ship’s shuttle inside, having crashed into the far wall; Vedeg spacewalked aboard.

Vedeg’s search of the shuttle bay revealed that the hatch leading to the Crick’s interior corridors had been modified with a series of nozzles and bio-sensors, and a gelatinous substance coated the doorway. Scans revealed Vale’s DNA. Vedeg searched the Crick’s shuttle before venturing further into the ship and discovered the hand of a crysolis. The hand had been severed by the closing shuttle door.

Vedeg also discovered Vale’s tether inside the shuttle. Decrypting it, Vedeg discovered that Vale had been attempting to hack the Crick to activate a fail-safe which normally only Shrawley would have been able to initiate: this failsafe would have sent a neutron missile to specific coordinates on the surface, vaporizing a significant area of the planet.

Vedeg’s search of the rest of the ship revealed sensor logs pointing to a Shrawley installation on the planet, as well as a trail leading from that installation by a convoy of vehicles.

The Installation

The planet’s atmosphere was rough, but Deadbeef landed the Earwig’s larva-shuttle atop one of the prefabricated installation buildings: the planet’s crust just didn’t seem likely to support the weight and shock of the shuttle landing.

Inside the installation, the Lasers found a loading bay with transport bikes, one of which sported claw marks. The installation rocked as the planet’s crust shifted; Vedeg returned to the Earwig and piloted it just above the installation, setting the tractor beam to stabilize the buildings as the crew explored.

The crew explored another building, a conference room which could convert into an emergency shuttle. In the conference room, they found crew medical records, including Dr. Vale’s notes that she didn’t understand why she had to conduct so many tests, but those complaints eventually gave way to unadorned reports.

They found a holo record of another expedition member, Iler, studying carvings in a strange alien complex. Checking his suit readings, he declared the air breathable and took off his helmet. Another piece of footage shows Iler screaming, “I’m infected! I’m infected!” until two other crewmen restrain and sedate him.

The Earwig crew also found a containment chamber which had been breeched from the inside: examination revealed that the chamber was designed to hold crysolis specimens. A bioscan revealed a huge cluster of crysolis a few kilometers from this location, as well as a couple of arguably crysolis lifesigns in a nearby building.

Moving to the final building in the installation, the Lasers cautiously opened the hatch, having read crysolis lifesigns. Inside, they found a wrecked biolab containing two creatures, both a horrific combination of human biomatter and crystaline strands. One creature was a bloated human head on crystaline spider legs, the other a torso flailing crystal-lattice intestines about as razor-sharp tentacles. The Lasers suffered some pummeling from these creatures, but their suits stayed intact and they were later able to identify the creatures as expedition members Iler and Stricker.

The Trail

The Lasers grabbed two of the trikes from the installation’s loading bay and followed the trail they had detected from orbit. Vedeg drove one due to his tavak weight; Wild Jim and Deadbeef rode the other. Maneuvering around potential fissures in the thin crust was tricky, but Vedeg had it down to a science.

Along the trail, the Lasers discovered an exposed lake of organic goo, and a human body floating on a chunk of crust. The body belonged to Dorrie Haslett; cause of death: head twisted 180-degrees.

As the Lasers grabbed a sample of her DNA for their client, her hair flailed upward, reinforced by organic crystalline compounds. He body stayed still, but her eyes opened and her mouth let out a horrifying scream.

The Lasers interrogated her: she continued screaming throughout the conversation, but her calm language contrasted the horrific sounds. She praised Shrawley as a great, self sacrificing leader and denied the presence of Crysolis. The group didn’t believe a word of this. She also said that Shrawley was looking for the fountain of eternal life, but the expedition was riddled with mistakes, and others went crazy and attacked her. She said she felt fine, but tired, and the Earwig crew decided to let her rest.

Continuing along the trail, the group spotted a bulge in the crust ahead of them just before the fused remnants of four expedition crew exploded from the ooze underneath as a single organic-crystalline entity. Brin, Kwong, Krd-Drk and Vatak scuttled and jumped toward the trikes, screaming, “All hail the god-king Shrawley!” as they attacked. Vedeg stood his ground against the unfortunate creature, but Deadbeef turned tail and ran, with Wild Jim shooting off the back of the trike. Their combined firepower took the creature down, and the crew gathered the DNA samples.

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