Stars Without Numbers: Out There!

Session 1: A Bumpy Ride
September 29, 2017

Summary: Party attempts to escape from a transport ship that is under attack by terrorists. A player character was killed without ever making it off the ship. RIP, Jack the Space Lawyer.

Molly woke cross-legged and uncomfortably hunched. She was hemmed in on all sides, trapped in a crate which served not just as a transport for her, but as a sensory deprivation tank designed to prevent her psychic abilities from tampering with the surrounding environment.

The crate shook again, only slightly, but enough to suggest that the ship had abruptly changed course. While Molly mused on what this could mean, the crate’s top was suddenly flung open.

A sudden influx of thoughts and emotions rushed inside, swirling about Molly like a gust of wind. Now that she was no longer cut off from her surroundings, she could sense that there were at least a few dozen passengers on board the ship; she felt the familiar low-frequency vibrations of the bored, the sleeping, the impatient… and something else. Something disturbing. Something she had only felt a few times in her life, either from others or from herself.

The desire to kill.

Her visored face snapped upward. Instead of the scientists and military security she had expected, she saw the hard, angular face of a rough-looking man in civilian clothes. There was no kindness in his eyes. He spoke in loud, jarring Russian, and Molly shrank back from the noise. She couldn’t understand his words, but she could tell that he had been surprised to find someone packed inside a box. His turned away and he called to someone else. Molly waited to see what would happen – straining to catch any words she could understand, any clue – then started to tremble as she felt the murderous intent of whoever else was in the cargo hold. Whoever he was, the other man was getting closer to the crate, and he would kill her – not for any personal reason, but simply to make a point.

What point that might be, Molly didn’t have time to consider. If she didn’t act quickly, her crate would become her grave.

Desperately, she flung her own compulsory urge out over the cargo hold. She might not be able to dissuade a fanatic from his passion, but she could stall for time.

She heard a man cry out in surprise as his arm involuntarily threw whatever weapon he had been carrying. There was a metallic clang from the far end of the cargo hold. Both men sprinted off in its direction.

Molly peeked over the edge of the crate. She had won herself a few precious seconds. Her wrists were still cuffed together (standard procedure, though she had no more strength than a child) but she was able to awkwardly swing the upper half of her body over the side of her container, propelling herself upward with her stiffened legs. She fell over the edge, slammed roughly against the steel floor, and quickly scurried to shelter behind the crate, ignoring the pain. Adrenaline surged through her veins. A small indicator on her visor flashed red, indicating that her heart rate was dangerously high. She ignored this and listened.

The two men at the opposite end of the cargo hold were speaking hurriedly. Molly held her breath. For whatever reason, they were not coming after her; some device had attracted their attention at the other end of the room. A shrill beeping began to echo off the walls of the cargo hold, and Molly realized they hadn’t changed their plans in the slightest. They were still going to kill her – along with everyone else on board. She peered around the side of the crate and watched as the men hurtled upstairs towards a sudden cacophony of screams and gunshots. What was happening on the passenger deck above? Just how many killers had gotten aboard?

The ship shuddered and shook. Wherever it was now headed, it seemed to be accelerating and falling apart at the same time. The terrorists certainly weren’t leaving anything to chance.

Molly began creeping across the empty hold just as sirens began to blare. Perhaps with enough time and a fast data connection, she could have guided herself through the process of defusing a bomb, but an untrained and unplugged attempt would have a high chance of setting the device off prematurely, and the ship might be doomed in any case. Hating her options, she fretted for a moment before fleeing in the same direction as the terrorists, up the narrow stairway leading to the passenger deck.

The ship rocked as she climbed, each violent motion tossing her frail body against the bulkheads. She gripped at the railings with her cuffed hands and hauled herself up the final few stairs.

The passenger deck was in chaos. Passengers screamed at each other as they squeezed into escape pods. Gun smoke filled the air. Bullets slammed indiscriminately into walls and bodies alike. The terrorists hollered instructions to each other in their foreign tongue before trying to wedge themselves into the already overfilled pods.

No less disturbing than the sights and sounds were the impulses and emotions assailing Molly’s psyche, wave after increasing wave, threatening to overwhelm her. The mundane emotions of only a minute ago had been replaced by a storm of despair and anguish. The unbridled terror of shrieking children amplified Molly’s own fear a hundredfold, and she struggled to keep her knees from buckling. Taking another step into the room was impossible. The disorganized final thoughts of the dying grasped at her like skeletal claws. Worst of all was the hate-fueled excitement of the terrorists, which hung over the deck like a black thundercloud, hot and heavy.

In the midst of the madness, two passengers put up a brave resistance. They stood in the doorway of one of the only two remaining pods, preventing the terrorists from securing it by standing firm in the face of point blank gunshots. No one was getting aboard that pod without a fight; hot lead was the only thing making its way inside. Molly wondered how long the two passengers – who seemed to be unarmed and improvising – could possibly hold out.

Knowing that the bomb below deck might detonate at any moment, Molly finally spurred herself back into motion. She staggered clumsily across the passenger deck to the other remaining pod – the one not being peppered with bullets. Unfortunately, the door had just slid shut and locked, and the pod’s countdown launch was already in progress. Adding insult to injury, Molly realized the man staring through the pod’s hatch at her was the same terrorist who had opened her transport crate and had stood back while his companion moved in for the kill.

He shook his head at her. He hadn’t personally set out to kill her, specifically, but he would let her die all the same. The hatch remained locked.

Molly stared open-mouthed as the pod’s countdown reached the single digits.

“There’s still time!” she pleaded, though it was unlikely those inside the escape pod could hear her. Her quavering voice was lost in the din of alarms, gunshots, yells, and minor explosions now threatening to tear the ship apart.

To her disbelief, the hatch slid open a moment later, and the terrorist roughly pulled her inside. He had postponed the countdown.

Molly fell to the floor in a heap amidst the other huddling passengers. She stared up at her rescuer, who only a minute ago had been more than content to witness her execution. Had he taken pity on her, or had he opened the hatch just to take one final shot at the two remaining passengers who were still thwarting his companions at the entry to the other pod?

From the floor, Molly recognized one of the terrorists still battling on the opposite side of the deck. It was the other man from the cargo hold, the one who had thrown his gun away. He had retrieved it, obviously, as he was now firing round after round at the two passengers who dared defy him.

She lashed out once more with her psychic forces, gritting her teeth in sudden concentration. Her visor thrummed and her vision went dark for a moment. Her target’s body went limp as his mind was dragged down into unconsciousness.

But she had been too late. The terrorist’s last act before sliding into a coma had been to squeeze the trigger of his handgun. A final gunshot rang out in the passenger deck. One of the innocent passengers who had courageously guarded the final escape pod was now tumbling backwards, his lawyer’s suit bloodied and a bullet hole splitting his forehead just above the rim of his expensive sunglasses.

The doors of both pods slammed shut. The remaining defender of the other pod – a flashily dressed passenger – disappeared from Molly’s sight as a bright bloom of light filled the interior of the ship. Molly wondered if the other pod had launched intact. The sound of the explosion was muted as her own pod rocketed away from the dying ship.

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