Alien Menace: Mission 2 – Macrophage

Wayne Oliver, CEO of Oliver Industries and he who bankrolls the Alien Menace missions, has plans for his hunters, that he’s talked about publicly. Well, not “publicly,” but within the team structure. Just so that they feel he’s got long-term plans for what he’s doing..

There are two kinds of teams. Scout/probe teams and hunter teams. His desire is to have 2-3 probe teams per hunter team, and three or four hunter teams.

Since most “out and back” missions take a bit more than a week, this means about three missions per ship per month.
Up until recently, he had three probe teams and one hunter team. As of the last probe mission (they go out and look for stuff worth bringing back with a hunter team), he now has two scout/probe teams. Oops. Despite the usual caution, despite what the teams call Sir Robin’s Rules of Engagement:

The probe team ran away.
When danger rears it’s ugly head,
The probe team turned it’s tail and fled.
Yes, the probe team turned about
Order-bound to chicken out!
Bravely ran away away.

the probe team was lost to a man on a recent expedition. Based on the telemetry from the drop ship (which is still sitting on said planet), the team seemed to be all afflicted by some incredibly virulent affliction that dropped them after contact was lost after they passed through some sort of entryway.

The mission parameters are two-fold:

1) Retrieve the lost drop ship, and stage it for transit back to earth
2) Bring back a sample of the pathogen that killed the team

Sealed uniforms are recommended.

Departure and Dropship recovery

The hunters, plus two NPCs to pilot the scout ship out for recovery, boosted for the destination planet. They exercised much caution, took air samples, and acted as if they were utterly convinced the GM was out to kill them all upon setting down on the surface.

No idea why.

How it should have ended. Or even begun!

The tests came out clean, the telemetry was solid, and the scout ship was recovered without incident. Yeah, were I better prepared I should have had a monster attack them, a la the critter that attacked Jim Kirk in the Abrams Star Trek. But I didn’t. The point of this adventure was not to waylay the players while recovering the ship.

In any case, the pilot and engineer were transferred aboard after many hours of analysis – and a swap-out of the oxygen tanks they were all carrying to ensure that they weren’t pathogen-ized while getting the dropship out.

Into the sphincter of doom

They then went to find and follow the scout team, first approaching and then deciding to enter the open door into the area. It didn’t look like ti belonged there, but did look very organic, more like a sphincter or iris than a more human type construction.

Nonetheless, the team entered, and traversed several passageways. They found the inner construction again very organic. “Some sort of secreted resin,” naturally. They took samples with Ianali’s ( +Christopher R. Rice ) exceedingly sharp tomahawk, and found that the material was tenacious and light, but very bulky. Much later analysis would show that the material was not necessarily an improvement over terrestrial inorganic materials or high-tech polymerics. Still, abalone is pretty awesome, and this was a variant.

They found doors, with a clear area that seemed like it should be perhaps the opening mechanism, but they couldn’t trigger it.

The moved on, and found several more rooms. Analyzing something that seemed like a “cafeteria,” or at least a large room where some sort of life forms used to gathered, they found traces of a residue on some surfaces, and smearing that smear on the door seal both opened and closed the iris doors.

The place had been cleaned out, though – very little was left.

Slugbeasts and cannibal nano

They found the remains of a SAPI insert plate, partially dissolved, next to what they estimated was over 100 lbs of dessicated powder. They would later conclude the powder was the remains of a team member and all his gear. Only some armor plate and the soles of the boots (also armored) survived. Moving through the door, they found evidence of team member number 2.

While there was some wandering, eventually they opened the last door, and a sluglike creature whirled and moved towards them. A. B. Karabus ( +Peter V. Dell’Orto ) hosed it down with machinegun fire . . . and it exploded like the pressure vessel it was. The room filled with an expanding cloud of . . . something. The team didn’t wait to find out what. They left, and sealed the door. They assumed (correctly) that the dissipating fog was the pathogen/agent that had killed the away team. The evidence for that was two more characteristic piles of powder on the floor.

The mission still wasn’t complete yet, but they came up with the idea of isolating the pathogen in the SAPI plates, as well as using the chitinous samples themselves as a container. It was too awesome to say no, so I said yes.

They did some truly risky things – and Ianali earned his On the Edge by risking himself to get more samples. In the end, they brought back some chitin, samples of the bio-agent, and even some samples of the door material and the membrane that was used to open and close the lock. They would hose down mildly exposed team members with a fire extinguisher and water – this worked very well to halt the dissolution of everything – but Ianali’s armor and boots were still compromised, ruined, and left behind.

Leaving orbit

The trip out started uneventfully, but on their way out, the team got readings on a gigawatt-scale IR and electromagnetic source. They turned their scopes on it, and found it was another ship. An organic looking vessel that was estimated as 100-150 yards long (SM +10 to +11) headed . . . somewhere.

Before too much could happen, they detected a massive surge of Cherenkov radiation, and the ship disappeared. They concluded (a) it went FTL, and (b) did not use the same sort of jump technology that the Hunters used. Definitely an “oh crap” moment, I think.

Analysis, and Close to Home

The samples turned out to be a semi-organic, semi-inorganic cannibal nano. Each macrophage could destroy 100x to 1000x its own mass – which was why the fire extinguishers and water baths turned out to be such a good idea (fire extinguishers more than water spray). The macrophages would disassemble the flood of complex molecules in the extinguishers preferentially to the human host, by dint of “too much food.” Had there been higher concentrations of nano, that wouldn’t have worked.

The lab got to work on the materials. The chitin was nothing special, really. The bits of the slugbeast will require more analysis.

Closer to home, though . . . they received a news report of a town on the coast of Peru that had been nearly depopulated. Thousands missing, presumed dead. And the video feeds from a pirate video showed characteristic mounds of powder where people should be.

The team ordered a flyby, suspecting they were followed to earth. They were not. Any air activity over the last few weeks? No.

So either it was a recent arrival undetected . . . or it was already here.

We ended there, with plans to deploy a team to Peru. The players will get some clues in between sessions, though, because asking a bunch of special ops guys on a “hunt and kill aliens and take their stuff” to do Sherlock Holmes is bait and switch, and that’s not the point of the game.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s summary is here.

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