Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Reprieve

Lasgunpacker and Crazy-Ass Tim have been very helpful with ideas for the upcoming Redshirts Stars Without Number campaign.  I love Lasgunpacker's idea for a crazy captain AI controlling a teleportation machine.

However, as described, it doesn't quite fit into  the SWN technology background - which I'd like to stick with.  Actually, the fact that it doesn't fit makes for a wonderful creative exercise into making it fit.  That's something I've always enjoyed immensely - mental masterba . . . I mean mental gymnastics.

So, if you'll remember from the last post, our intrepid crew of freeze dried scouts were meat-sicles aboard the experimental starship, the Reprieve.  While the Aquilan scientists were experts at stitching together a working starship from ancient parts, their aesthetic sense left something to be desired.  The Reprieve looks remarkably like Rick Moranis' spaghetti strainer hat in Ghostbusters.  Well, not exactly.  It looks like Rick Moranis' spaghetti strainer hat in Ghostbusters, covered with a hairnet.  The inside resembles the cramped, steamy corridors of a German U-boat during World War II.

For those who are familiar with ship statistics in Starts Without Number, here is the Reprieve:

Aquila Union Starship Reprieve (Experimental Deep Space Scout Ship)   Power: 15/3 free     Mass: 15/0 free
Cost: 6,290,000     Hit Points: 40     Crew: 10/40     Speed: 2     Armor: 10     AC: 7
Weaponry None
Defenses None
Fittings Spike Drive-4, Advanced Nav Computer, Armory, Cold Sleep Pods, Emissions Dampers, Fuel Scoops, Precognitive Nav Chamber, Shuttle Bay x2, Ship's Locker

Blue Ghost Reconnaissance Shuttle     Power: 3/0 free     Mass: 5/2 free
Cost: 237,000     Hit Points: 15     Crew: 1/20     Speed: 3     Armor: 0     AC: 9
Weaponry None
Defenses None
Fittings Spike Drive-1, Atmospheric Configuration, Emissions Dampers, Survey Sensor Array, Ship's Locker, 4 tons of cargo space

You may note that neither the Reprieve, nor its two shuttles, have weapons or defenses.  The crew certainly did.  The scientists pointed out that the great big hairnet helps the ship avoid detection, so they should be okay.  The crew really didn't buy that.

The crew also noticed that the Reprieve had a honking big spike drive - faster than any engine that the Aquila Union could produce.  The scientists noticed that too, but had no idea how it worked.  That is where Commodore Halberta Clarke came in.

Commodore Halberta Clarke

Five hundred and thirty five years ago, Commodore Halberta Clarke (who looks remarkably like Nancy Parsons from Porky's, aka Ms. Ballbricker,) was an officer in the Terran Mandate in charge of the operational integrity of the regional psitech Jump Gate network.  A top notch psychic herself, she also assisted in the day to day operation of slinging spacecraft across the universe. (see Anne McCaffrey's The Rowan for a trip down the rabbit hole on that subject.)

Then 'The Scream' happened, killing all psychics, or driving them insane, thus making inoperable the Jump Gates and ending the Golden Age of Man.  Commodore Clarke didn't die - but she did go insane.  An insane master psychic with teleportation, precognition, and telepathy abilities doesn't make a very good neighbor, so the Terran Mandate military took her down and let the research scientists experiment on her to see if they could restore her sanity.

Since no one alive really understood how the psychics did their psychic things, the scientists did the best that they could as civilization collapsed around them.  They took a snapshot of Commodore Clarke's mind, then pasted that image over the pre-existing neural synapse net of a Voltaic 9000 AI brain-cube.  After they had a working simulacrum of Commodore Clarke, they extracted her physical brain, put it into a jar, and hooked it up to the Voltaic 9000.

On paper, the old 'hook an AI up to a psychic brain in a jar to use it as an input/output device' looked like a good idea to reboot mankind's crumbling empire.  It wasn't.  After 2 years of war, leveling much of the planet, the a team of brave soldiers finally shut off the AI, froze the brain in stasis, and the remaining research scientists were put to work in the rice paddies of what had been once the sector capital.

Five hundred and thirty five years later, desperate research scientists from the Aquila Union find a Spike Drive-4 capable engine they don't understand, a dead AI, and a brain in a shoe box - and have an idea.


The crew of the Reprieve live in fear of their commanding officer.  The hologram of Commodore Halberta Clarke stalks the corridors.  She doesn't know she's dead.  She doesn't know her brain in in a jar.  The crew must act as if they are members of the long gone Terran Mandate Fleet - not the Aquilan Navy.

Halberta sleeps most of the time, running the ship's spike drive in REM state.  The captain, the real captain,  can breathe easy then.  But when the Commodore gets up, she is grumpy.  She can read minds.  She can see the future.  And she can teleport a person into the heart of a star.  She is clinically insane.  But no one else knows how to make the ship go but her.

The research scientists who set this nightmare situation up are still sleeping comfortable in their beds back home.  After all, the Fleet Admiral okayed everything.  He's safe in his bed back home too.

The Redshirts, however, are not so lucky.

 Commodore Halberta Clarke adjusting something on the Lido Deck.

Happy gaming.

- Ark


  1. Haha that's awesome, I can't wait to die horribly!

    1. Oh, you will . . . you will, my pretty . . .


      - Ark