The crew search for the rest of the test subjects, the data, and the provenance of the severed arms. Along the way, they panic, hallucinate, and panic some more. Will they follow through with their cursed mission, or abandon it and earn the ire of the Tannhäuser megacorporation? Olivia’s player is out this time, so her character returns to guard the ship they came in on, and another new player joins us, taking over Janice Nyman, the Marine that the crew rescued from the mental domination of Test Subject 03.
Cpl. Janice Nyman (Marine): Formerly Tannhäuser Protection Corps security detail on the RSV Fidanza. A tough but traumatized soldier, she’s sick of being an expendable bullet shield for megacorp execs. Patch: “Smile: Big Brother Is Watching”.
Active Crew: Alex Hardcastle 02BZ Sasha Denisovich Janice Nyman
Having reached an uneasy détente with Sonia — the test subject who appears to be controlling the ship — the crew decide that they don’t want to go through with Tannhäuser’s mission and be party to the megacorp’s sinister experiments. They decide to descend to the science lab on the lower deck and recover the test data so that they can use it to get some leverage on Tannhäuser, and then look into the jump drive issue for Sonia.
On their way to the lower deck, they spot the sparking artificial gravity unit through the hole O2 accidentally blew in the wall with a grenade earlier. As Sasha, who knows his way around spaceships, leans into the hole to try to fix it, he sees movement between the pipes, wires, and machinery. Suddenly a bloody arm shoots out from the wall, grabs him by the neck, and pulls him halfway into the hole. Sasha is already unconscious by the time the crew can reach him. After some struggle, they manage to pull him out, and the arm retracts back into the depths of the ship.
Once Sasha recovers, the crew heads down to the cramped lower deck and makes their way to the science lab, using a keycard they lifted from Dr. Ubertino’s body to get in. Inside, they find a hallway with 6 cells, one for each test subject, but their bioscanner shows that only cell 4 is currently occupied. Janice and O2 start searching the empty cells while Dr. Hardcastle and Sasha check out Cell 4.
Dr. Hardcastle tries to use his psych training to talk to whoever’s inside, but as he reaches for the door, he sees his hand begin to flay itself, skin peeling back, revealing the bone underneath. This scares him, but noticing he’s not in pain, he surmises (from his extensive experience with psychedelics) that he is hallucinating or else experiencing some kind of psionic illusion. He shows Sasha, who doesn’t see the flayed hand, but suddenly does witness a bloody, undead vision of Janice, their new Marine companion, emerge from one of the other cells and drift towards him — Hardcastle quickly tells him what he thinks is happening and he too manages to keep his cool. Hardcastle continues to talk in placating tones through the door to the subject in cell 4, and the illusions gradually disappear.
The real Janice steps out from one of the cells, and when Sasha and Dr. Hardcastle look at her, they see that she appears to have too many arms. Suspecting an illusion, they quickly ask each other if they both see them. They both do. Realizing it’s not another hallucination, and that the splayed arms are actually behind her, Hardcastle tries to run past Janice to attack whatever — or whoever — is stalking her. He slips as he runs, barreling into Janice and spinning her around in the hallway.
All at once, everyone sees what was behind her: crawling down the hallway like a huge wet spider is a teenage girl, long matted hair glistening with blood and BioGel, crawling through the narrow corridor on a multitude of mismatched severed arms, two of which where her legs should be. She is wearing shreds of a tattered and stained jumpsuit with the number “02” barely legible on it.
Janice rolls Cowardice on the Panic table, meaning she must make a Fear save or flee from combat for the foreseeable future.
Janice panics as the dripping mass of limbs reaches for her and bolts for the door at the other end of the hallway, but it’s locked and she can’t get it open, so instead she ducks into the nearest cell — Cell 4. As she leans against the wall and hyperventilates, she looks up, wide-eyed, and sees her own mother sitting on the cot. She bolts back out of the cell and cowers in the corner of the hallway, trying to make sense of what she’s seeing, and work up her nerve.
Sasha’s trinket is a fire-retardant blanket.
Back in the hallway, the girl in the mass of limbs grabs O2’s arm with one of her own, which detaches from her body and begins crawling all over him. Sasha throws a blanket over the girl, entangling her and muffling her screeches. O2 unloads clips from two SMGs into the thrashing blanket, splashing gouts of blood on the walls. Dr. Hardcastle rushes in and jabs a stun baton into the screaming mass to incapacitate the girl inside. The arms all fall limp and detach from her body, except for the top two, which appear to be her actual limbs. O2 throws the arm that was crawling on him into Cell 6, and Dr. Hardcastle drags the girl in after it with help from Janice, who looks shellshocked but grateful to receive orders from someone with a cooler head. Sasha, meanwhile, frantically uses his vibechete to chop up the remaining arms in the hallway.
As they lay her down, the girl quickly comes to, flinging off the blanket and scrambling up Janice’s legs with only her two remaining arms, crying and screaming that they’re taking her legs away. The chopped-up arms in the hallway start twitching, and the detached arm that O2 threw in the cell lunges at Janice, wrenches her SMG from her, and falls to the floor, tensing for another attack. Janice rips the girl off of her and throws her to the floor. She falls on her back, screaming and convulsing like a dying spider. O2, now carrying 2 SMGs, steps up to her, puts both guns to her head, and fires, splattering her brains across the cell. As she falls limp, the arms finally stop their convulsions.
Janice, wiping blood from her BDUs and staring at the dead girl, quietly tells Dr. Hardcastle that her mother is in Cell 4. Dr. Hardcastle tells her that this is merely an illusion, describing what he and Sasha saw before. Subject 4, he guesses, can create illusions in their minds, and was trying to scare them away — now, perhaps, they are trying to use the illusions to get the crew to protect them instead.
Hardcastle gets a Paranoid result on the Panic table, meaning whenever someone joins the group (even if they just left briefly), he must make a Fear save or gain Stress.
Hardcastle enters the cell with this in mind, but isn’t prepared for what he sees: his long-dead little brother is sitting on the cot, hugging his knees. Dr. Hardcastle panics and steps back, sinking to the floor, mind racing with paranoia and fear. O2, seeing this, steps into the cell and just sees a kid of about 14 cowering on his cot, with “04” stenciled on his jumpsuit. He grabs the doctor’s tranq pistol from his shaking hand and shoots the kid in the chest, instantly knocking him unconscious.
Dr. Hardcastle, further panicking at seeing an android he despises shoot his long-lost brother, screams and lunges at O2. O2 sidesteps his clumsy attack and quickly tranquilizes the doctor with another dart from his own gun.
Quiet settles over the lab. Sasha and Janice carry the sleeping Subject 4 upstairs and put him in a cryochamber before he can wake up as O2 repairs himself and Dr. Hardcastle sleeps off the tranquilizer. As he comes to, he remembers the illusions, that his brother is long-dead, and begins thinking somewhat more clearly, though he remains visibly shaken.
The crew cautiously use the keycard to open the door at the opposite end of the hallway and enter the main science lab. They find the mainframe they’ve been looking for and start downloading the data to the datapad they found earlier. It can only fit a third of the data, however, so they search around for more pads. In the lab, they find some drugs, a cooler with Subject 2’s legs in it, and another datapad, this one containing information about Subject 5, Yu Yin, who they have not yet encountered. The pad describes incomprehensible test results and says that she’s been quarantined in the test chamber next to the lab. They look at the door with rising trepidation.
O2 gets a Death Drive result on the Panic table, meaning he will attack strangers on sight for the foreseeable future unless he successfully makes Sanity saves.
Dr. Hardcastle and O2 use the mainframe to look at a camera in the test chamber and see, floating in the center of the chamber, a whirlwind of flesh and bone constantly folding in on itself, a human body turning inside out over and over again. Hardcastle stares in quiet, dumbfounded horror at the screen, but O2, utterly unable to rationalize this vision, short-circuits and develops an overactive defense routine — he wants to destroy whatever is in the chamber, but Hardcastle talks him down.
As he watches, Hardcastle sees the flesh vortex occasionally seems to resolve into the human form of Yu Yin, Subject 5. He tries to use the intercom to communicate with her, but she doesn’t respond. The crew don’t want to find out what will happen if they try and approach her, so they opt to leave the test chamber locked, keep exploring the ship for more data pads, and check the warp drive.
They find the warp drive with the end of a large steel spanner stuck in one of its power conduits. A dead scientist is holding the other end of the spanner. Sasha determines that the drive can probably be fixed, but that they should get Sonia to turn off the power to this system before making an attempt.
Space Weed: -1d10/2 Stress, Disadvantage on stat checks for an hour. Not addictive. Smoking more than a dose has no effect, except that you have to Body Save or fall asleep.
They then go to the upper decks, find more datapads about the other subjects, as well as some strange personal effects of the former crew (like a “pin-up bible” with sexy centerfolds of bible scenes). As they download the rest of the experimental data onto the datapads, Hardcastle rips on some space weed that he found tucked behind one of the engines.
The crew return to the Life Support terminal and tell Sonia that they’re going to fix the warp drive, but can she please not jump away until they’re off the ship? She replies that she was actually hoping they would stay with her — she’s new to being a spaceship, she says, and she doesn’t know if she can do it without a crew. Plus she has no idea where to go.
The crew confers, and determines that:
They agree to crew the RSV Fidanza and start hatching a plan to cover their tracks as they forge new lives on the outer rim. And repair all the holes 02BZ blew in the ship. And clean out all the bodies and gore. And determine if they can trust Sonia. And figure out what to do with the psychic kid in cryo. And how to deal with the kid in the test chamber who’s become a maelstrom of flesh.
Eh, it’ll be fine. Onward to the outer rim!
Continued in 01.04 Cleanup.
Everyone had a great time with this homebrew module, and we’re all excited to see what happens next. It feels like we’ve set ourselves up well for future adventures. Here’s how the experience stacked up against the “survive, solve, or save: pick one” ethos that Mothership espouses:
An early version of our house rules worked well, for the most part: