Monday, June 10, 2013

USS Carter 4

4: The Only Tar Who Ever Jumped Ship From Vanderveken’s Crew


The USS Carter is at Hope III when it discovers a stellar anomaly in the nearby Type D Star: it has a ring that is only occasionally visible. Investigation reveals that this is not an actual stellar occurrence but a lost Terran slowboat, trapped in the star's gravity and perpetually accelerating in it's hydrogen atmosphere - it is now orbiting at .9999c! The crew must find some way of freeing the ship from this predicament, but when they get on board they learn that the combination of radiation and time dilation sickness has driven the crew a off-kilter, and they will react violently to the presence of outsiders, posing a whole new problem.


Hook

"We're concluding our analysis of Hope III  and it's colonies records for any of Dr. Knox's missing Terrans. No luck here, but Governor Tyree is gratefully accepting the results of Carter's scans of the empty southern continent, and there is an approaching astrological display of some significance that I intend to investigate before we leave."

Initial investigation of the planet/exposition reveals (Hope III) has a Human colony is under 25 years old, and is only on the northern continent. While there is a southern continent, it is closer to the equator and much of it becomes very hot during the summer. Hope is a binary system - Red Giant and a secondary White Dwarf. Hope III's elliptical orbit gives the planet hot summers as it approaches the primary. The secondary has regular annual sunspot activity that produces a unique EM display. This is only visible for 22 hours every year.  Coincidentally, that Orbital display coincides with the Gregorian New Year, which is why New Hope still uses a terran planetary calendar. Funny that, eh? There's no evidence of pre-colony terran life, any sentience for that matter. This was a 'probably' systems (the Hope system might have registered to the terran mathematicians in the 80's).

Plot Turn 1

One the Carter breaks orbit and approaches Hope Secondary (A type D8 VI) they can see the beginning of the sunspot activity, and the predicted orbital effect - something akin to an aurora borealis that circles the star once every 13 minutes (and accelerating). Give them a few seconds to rhapsodize about the beauty of it before they detect a metallic object inside the Borealis. It's a ship!

More precisely, it's the Dyufken, one of the slowboats from Earth that got thrown off course by the ion storm and caught in the gravitation pull of the star. The ship has been in an accelerating orbit ever since. Scanners, once some re-calibration has been done, show life signs on the ship: while their ramship field is hindering scans there could easily be several hundred people alive in stasis on there.

Pinch 1

No matter what order the Carter decides to do things, everything points to the ship not having any living people: scanners are muddled but don't show any clear indications; plans of the ship type show that it should have the potential to break free on its own but hasn’t; it's been there a long time. While the Carter might come up with some clever plan for altering the star's gravitation field, using a precise tractor burst or vaporizing the hydrogen in front of it to nudge the Dyufken out of orbit, that still leaves them with a ship moving at near lightspeed not in a warp bubble that will never slow down unless someone on it pulls the breaks or another ship matches its non-warp speed and applies a tractor beam. Nether seems likely, so the Carter has to get someone over there to turn initiate a breaking turn. That will require some risky pinpoint transport: there's a split second between warp and normal space when the Carter matches the Dyufken's velocity.

Midpoint

Once Carter crewmembers are on board the Dyufken, they'll be near the engine room and where they need to be to initiate the breaking maneuver. Instead, they'll find that the controls have been damaged (or tampered with!) and worse, they can't contact the Carter! The high degree of relativistic difference between the Dyufken and the Carter is fouling up communication - in fact, one minute is passing for the away team for every 30 minutes in normal space! As they make these discoveries (though, too be fair, they might be prepared for the time dilation - they're not idiots) they'll be being closed in upon by crewmembers of the Dyufken.

Pinch 2

That's right, the crew is alive and kicking, and with 10 years at 1.2G, they can kick pretty hard. The crew will be shocked to find outsiders and will respond with nigh fanatical violence in that shock, leading to our first fight.

Of course, it's phasers against airpistols and tools, but the Dyufken crew has a 2 to 1 numerical advantage, and one of the redshirts gets seriously wounded in the opening seconds

Plot Turn 2

The Away Team has either won itself some space or been captured and thrown in a cell, but they have an opportunity to explore their surroundings, read a journal and/or talk to one of the crew. This means they'll have a shot at figuring out what happened. Apparently the Dyufken crew were fleeing what they prophesized to be the destruction of Earth in hopes of building a proper religious colony. Alas, when they hit the subspace anomaly/Ion Storm at near lightspeed they felt an enormous shock-wave and suffered some damage. By the time they woke up, they were in orbit around Hope Secondary with no immediate way out. They though the shockwave was the end of the universe and that God had trapped them there for hubris, much like he had trapped Vanderveken centuries ago (if you don’t know the name, he’s captain of the Flying Dutchman). With no long range sensors, no means of relativistic communication and an incorrect starting point they literally think they're all that's left of the Earth (if not the world). As such they never repaired the not-overly-damaged maneuvering controls because their religious leader/captain told them not to.

Resolution

Armed with this information, the Away team has a means to salvage the situation: they just need to get to their Dyufken's captain and convince him that there is a world out there. How they got to the captain depends on their circumstances: if they're captives they'll just get dragged along. If they're not, they need to make their way to him by stealth (yes, there are Jefferies tubes equivalents) or conflict.

In any case, once there someone will have to make some impressive social tests to resolve the situation. Once they have that, a matter of minutes to make the repairs and (Hmmmm, should they instead if victorious in the fight have to deal with the captain coming to them armed to the teeth?) by shutting down the first ramscoop and engaging the breaking on the other side of the ship. It turns out that the Carter will have been prepared for this when the breaks didn't come on easily, and they’ve been coming close to matching speed to try a tractor beam maneuver. The Combination of the two brings the Dyufken back to a sane speed relatively quickly. The crew and colonists are saved.

Denouement

This is the Carter making its final good-byes to the crew of the Dyufken, whom the citizens of Hope III have given the southern continent. The Dyufken's computer systems have yielded their secrets, providing Knox a wealth of information on the eugenics Wars time period, the other Disapora ships heading in this direction and other things they might find useful. Two members of the Dyufkin’s crew - Rey and Vandermar- will request to travel along and see something of the broader universe. The adventure awaits!