|MISSION BRIEF||MISSION START||MISSION DEBRIEF|
The target of this mission was a moon in the middle of nowhere by the name of 4473 Styx, and a remote research output codenamed "Beachline" situated inside it. The outpost was responsible for 'volatile work', as Steve puts it, working with dangerous materials and objects in the middle of nowhere, in case of accidents.
We're headed there because the base went dark recently, stopping all communications. It's last transmission was a single word: "P-box". In military research lingo, a P-box is anything which has unknown qualities, but which is inherently dangerous. So the transmission indicates that something has gone very wrong, and that anyone approaching the base should teach it and anything inside of it as a P-box. (What do you think the odds of that are?)
Our mission is two fold: Repair and reactivate the base, and gather everything we can about what happened here. Then bug out. Full quarantine protocols, meaning automated transport into the zone, do not send anything back to the ship, and no reinforcements. It looked as though the end of communications was due to damage on their end, so no communications with Steve until it is repaired. In addition, to maintain quarantine, Steve is blowing that rock out of the sky if the team does not establish contact or if things go pear shaped down there. Just in case.
A simple repair Edit
The first task on the moon was to repair the comm array. It turns out it hadn't just been turned off, but had been stabbed repeatedly with a metal rod. Nearby was presumably the man who did it, dead with his helmet removed. It almost looks like he committed suicide by vaccum, as there was no obvious damage or problem with his suit. The panel was repaired fairly easily and brought online. And that's where the trouble began.
Before activating the array, Bishop, this missions technician, stumbled across some files in a subdirectory. They appeared to be three sound bytes, possibly things in the broadcast queue before the system was destroyed. Lacking any air to use speakers, Bishop plugged Jim directly into the console to take a listen. The first was fairly innocuous, probably some data they were going to send out, or a coded transmission. The second was a quarantine warning, which presumably would have been auto-broadcast until the system ran out of power, if the system hadn't been destroyed. The third transmission was the problem. It was a very odd sound file, with a strange white noise intercut with seemingly random tones. Nothing seemed immediately distressing about it, other than its oddity, so Bishop finished rebooting the transmission system and made contact with Steve, who was several light minutes out due to the quarantine.
Aurally Transmitted Disease Edit
Let's us recall that we are in a quarantine due to a P-Box. So some of you may be as confused as Steve when Bishops immediate next action is to transmit that odd sound file out back to the ship. A few minutes later, he gets a a high pitch squeal and some static. Further attempts to contact Steve fail. Uh oh...
Back on the ship, Steve suddenly stops responding, and the AM actually leaves the armory and walks into a maintenance door. A few moments later, all the lights click off, the VR machines stop working, and the emergency lights power on. A bit later, a calm voice informs them of a Life support failure. The system suddenly starts screeching with static that continues until Steve cuts back in and regains control, then berates the team for breaking quarantine.
Present disaster over and Bishop suitably electrocuted, the team presses on to entering the base. Since everything is still unpowered, they force the door and the elevator, and eventually get access to the second level. And at this point we start to lose Jim. When he enters the level, he sees something move and the door in front of him silently closes. Deciding that discretion is the better part of not getting mindfuck'd, they decide to head down another floor and try to turn on the power, so they head back into the elevator shaft and melt another hole to get to the 3rd level and the power station. Jim again enters first and swears he sees a face flicker on one of the monitors for a second.
They eventually get the power turned on, which kicks off a short diagnostic that seals the main door and reactivates the life support. They return to 2nd level and begin their sweep. The first thing they find are some datapads. The contents are largely uninteresting, but they very quickly find hints to the research subject: "The Puddle", an anomaly that the scientists have been trying to figure out the contents of. Jim's madness creeps up on him as well: One of the datapads he reads appears to contain a fake entry, visible only to him, indicating that something was driving the technicians insane, but that there was a cure in the form of an audio file. Jim doesn't realize this, and leaves the team by himself after handing over the datapad he found. He finds the showers, and then gets his arm grabbed by a corpse spewing white noise at him. After screaming and hacking it to pieces, Jim runs back to the group, covered in blood and trying to show them the hand clinging to his arm... which isn't there anymore. Jim begins to suspect he has a problem...
In an attempt to get away from everyone, Jim wanders over to examine the overseer's office. He discovers his corpse and the daily logs, which reveals the broad idea of what happened here. "The Puddle" is definitely the focus on their research, which was largely unsuccessful until fairly recently. They finally found something, which they described as 'pseudo-life'. The final reports mentioned a sickness spreading amongst the base, starting with the scientist. One that caused hallucinations, paranoia, violent behavior, and delusions! Poor Jim. After reading the logs, he goes to check the overseer's corpse before moving on. It had wandered off. Jim heads back to the group to tell them about the files... and finds the corpse, standing behind Feyri and spewing static! The group notices him acting oddly and informs him that there aren't any zombies around, but he doesn't respond as he can't hear anything over the static! Mesk makes the call for Steve to put him out, but due to the time lag it's going to take a while. Jim tries to attack the zombie but misses spectacularly, then runs away to hide in a room, bars the door, and takes out his frustrations on some nearby corpses by decapitating all of them. He also finds several datapads, one of which claims to have the 'cure' on it! He plays it, annnnd.... it's not a cure. It's the same file that was on the transmitter... At this point, the ping on the electrocute signal comes in and knocks him unconscious.
The Puddle Edit
After recovering his unconscious body and getting caught up to speed with all the data pads, the team decides to wake him back up. Steve has them power up a diagnostic mode first, which reports abnormalities in the 'organic controller'. Since nothing could be done without surgery, they decided to risk it and bring him online anyway. A few fumbled AUX rolls later and he was back and fighting fit. Or insane. One of the two. This level clear, they move onto level 3 and start the search again, and immediately there's a problem. As Jim starts to examining the rec room, he hears whispering from the elevator room that indicates that the rest of the group is going to kill him. Of course, they are saying no such thing, and are simply discussing what to do on this floor and moving off to do so. A finished search of this level turns up more details, but nothing new, other than Jim's increasing paranoia. Bishop accidentally powers up the entire base, which jumpstarts the main computer. It decides the base is in the same state it was when it was turned off and immediately reinstates P-box protocols and depressurizes the entire base.
Power restored, they try to use the elevator to move to the next level, only to have it get stuck. Frustrated by this and his paranoia, Jim attempts to melt the wall and instead melts the entire floor of the elevator, sending all of them falling down the elevator shaft. They land in the bottom mostly intact, with just a few broken and dislocated limbs. Jim, still feeling paranoid and angry, melts a hole in the door and leaves. The rest of them begin to engage in the HMRC version of 'Triage'. Today's Medic In Training, Mesk, earns his title of "The Kickboxing Doctor"... by kicking Feyri's shoulder back into her socket, and then attempting to fix everyone else in the elevator shaft by kicking them. To mixed effect. While Mesk 'doctors' Charro to death, Bishop moves to look at what's holding up the elevator.
Meanwhile, Jim continues his paranoid wandering, and begins walking towards the last level of the base. He gets to the bottom level and finds a large machine about 5 meters high, consisting of blocking electronics connected in a ring structure, with scaffolding and mechanical arms for manipulating and positioning the ring. As he approaches, the ring is automatically moved to a lower position, presumably assuming that Jim is down here to perform maintenance. After examing it for a bit, Jim decides he suddenly needs to talk with Feyri and heads back to the observation room... When he arrives, he suddenly hugs her, opens a private channel.... and spews out the white noise and tons from that odd file into the channel.
They both seem fine immediately afterward... so they both continue the mission. Bishop gets a data storage unit working on copying the secondary database, and Mesk attempts to 'fix' Jim's arm... by cutting it off and gluing it to his forehead. So Jim throws him down the elevator shaft, breaking his spine, something which becomes a hobby of Jim's after this mission, and then melts off his own head in rage.
Down with the machine in the basement, Feyri has accidentally powered up the device, which seems to burn a hole in space: "The Puddle". Further fiddling causes the anomaly to 'stabilize', whatever that means. That dealt with, Bishop gets access to the main computer and starts poking around, and eventually wrestles a storage device down to the main computer and starts transferring data. While they wait for that, Feyri decides to start playing with The Puddle. She ends up sticking one of the probes into the disk and plugging in her suits audio into the output, resulting in her standing their and spewing that same sounds that's been haunting them this entire mission. She then collapses into Jim's arms, unconscious. Bishop helps disconnect her and then starts trying to shut down the device creating the Puddle. While he waits for the second download, he finds more detailed information on the research.
The Project was centered around the study of the Driac Sea, and called the generated anomaly "The Puddle", due to its size. They tried for years to find a way into the puddle, and when they eventually got in, they discovered a world that was like looking into a droplet of seawater, full of creatures swimming around in a gravityless, fluid filled environment. Their next objective: capture one and bring it back to our space. They eventually succeeded, bringing it back as 'an audio signal of unknown capacity and probable partial sentience'. The signal that Jim heard at the beginning of all this. The scientists had been listening to it repeatedly, trying to understand it. Bishop reported all of this to Steve, who called down the hammer, launching several gauss rounds at the moon, giving the team roughly an hour to leave.
So they book it. They get the storage device loaded and get to the first floor, only to find the external door locked due to the P-Box protocols. Bishop shoos them all into the entryway and then rushes back down to the main control to try and lift the protocol. He succeeds, but accidentally reboots the entire system, killing all power. He rushes back to the maintenance elevator, only to find that this elevator doesn't have any manual way of getting up! Helpfully, Feyri comes down and dangles a cable for him, helping him up the shaft, short one unfortunately heavy weapon. They scramble up the shaft and the team rockets out, data in hand and sentient sound waves in mind.
- Charro's Rib Cage
- Mesk's Leg
- Mesk's Spine
So, not a mystery, but I find the name of P-box amusing. In the real world, there actually is a thing called a P-box: a permutation box, which is a cryptographic object that 'permutes' data put into it. This probably isn't relevant, but I found it amusing.
The real mystery of this mission is "The Puddle", a self contained bit of space that was the research subject for this base. It is based on trying to study the Driac Sea, which is a real life model for vacuum. Basically, the real model posits that vacuum is not empty, but is instead filled with a sea of infinitely many particles with negative energy. Taking this from the real world to ER, it would seem that these scientists wanted to see if there was anything *in* that infinite sea of particles, and found that there were quite a lot of things. By all accounts, only the smallest of these things leaked out, which leaves a lot to be wondered about what the *larger* of these things could do or would be in this world.