The_Migraine_Express

la migraine exprès

Carter hurried through the spaceport hoping to obtain passage on anything immediately heading out of the system. He had a lead on a deep space jump ship whose Captain rarely adhered to the formalities of cargo and passenger manifests. Rounding a corner in the twisting corridors of the station's "economy" berths Carter found himself suddenly sprawling on the ground.

Disoriented and unsure if he had run into a wall or been overwhelmed by the stench that suddenly filled his nostrils Carter slowly raised his head to stare up at a massive uniformed man. An insignia on the man's shoulder identified him as an employee of a private security firm and his apathetic gaze assured Carter that the guard’s current assignment did not involve him.

Beyond Carter and the guard was an open air lock that should have led to an Unaffiliated Courier Ship, but where both men expected to see a clean, well lit docking tube was a pulsating, moist corridor that resembled the intestines of a gigantic luminescent jellyfish. From that oozing corridor emanated the pungent order that had overwhelmed Carter and a muffled cacophony of sounds best described as “bodily”.

Each man remained motionless, silently considering the events that had lead him to this gangplank and the consequences of not boarding. Their thoughts were broken by a alternating click and booted foot step approaching the air dock. They turned to face a wild haired grizzled old man whose lunatic grin was made more unnerving by the expanse of decaying teeth exposed by his smile. Carter managed to stand, still uncertain as to whether or not he should flee when the old man boisterously spoke.

“Ay, me lads you’d best be boarding soon if yer planning to shove us with us. If’n you’er feeling a whee bit nervous a’bot me ship. You dunna haf a reason to fret, she naugh gonna make you sterile … this time.”

The Adventure

For a variety of reasons (from desperation or coercion) the PCs find themselves on board the Hirsk bio-ship "la migraine exprès". The usual cargo of such vessels are non-electronic documents which need to be delivered more quickly than physically possible and with the greatest possible security. Occasionally passengers will travel aboard a Hirsk ship, but they are limited to those with no cybernetic augmentations. On this trip members of a religious sect have chartered the vessel for a pilgrimage to an uncharted region of space which is well beyond the range of conventional space craft.

As "la migraine exprès" makes her appointed mail stops trouble in the various ports of call begin to raise suspicions that something about or on board the ship is not what it appears to be.

Possible Player Character concepts

Ship's crew: Mechanics, Bio-engineers, Navigators. Crews rarely stay on board a Hirsk vessel for more than a few voyages due to the physical demands the ships their crews, passengers and equipment few
Passengers: Anyone with a need to get out of town fast, far away and cheap. Someone desperate enough to take passage inside a gigantic space faring slug.
Contractors: Courier, Security Guard or Escort for packages which need to be delivered faster than physically possible.

Pre-generated PCs

The Setting

Worlds & Environment

  • Planets which can engineered to support Terrain life are uncommon (simple microorganisms, slimes, molds, etc), but sufficient for the galactic human population and far enough apart so as not to "crowd" anyone.
  • Planets with developed ecosystems are incredibly rare (complex flora and fauna) and are often the source of industrial and governmental conflicts. Wars have been fought over the rights to exploit natural resources of evolved worlds.
  • No living sentient beings have been found, though archaeological evidence is occasionally uncovered and such artifacts are highly contested as a source of major technological advancements.

Governments & Trade

  • Various Empires, Confederations, Unions, etc control "civilized" space. Most of the galaxy is unexplored (exploited).
  • Precious metals/elements most common form of interstellar trade.
  • Fiat currencies unless outside of sphere of issuing authority (Piracy very common).
  • Most trade & vessels allowed to flow, but tolls and traffics are common and enthusiastically collected.

Technology

  • Interstellar travel is as relatively safe, quick and affordable as intercontinental navel travel was in the 17th century.
  • Faster than light space ship propulsion, navigable wormholes and ancient alien "jump gates" have allowed humans to settle across vast areas of space.
  • Faster than light vessels are susceptible to attack and boarding from other craft in a similar state of travel.
  • Artifacts from non-human civilizations are incredibly rare and rumors of a discovery will result in a "gold rush".
  • A huge black market for alien items exists because governments confiscate all finds.
  • Energy weapons (e.g. Blasters) exist, but kinetic "firearms" still popular due to their low cost, ease of use and effectiveness.
  • Some (alien) propulsion technologies are not fully understood or are too bizarre/impractical for wide spread adoption (the Hirsk bio-technology that la migraine exprès is built around is an example of such technology).

Hirsk bio-ships

The Hirsk jump drive is one of the least understood of the discovered technologies. If it's inventors actually intended to use it as a means of transportation is highly debated by techno-anthropolists who believe it is actually for time travel rather than for space travel. Giving credence to this hypothesis is the fact that Hirsk drives have only been successfully used for propulsion when coupled with biomechanical technologies adopted from other alien discoveries.

The drive shifts it's surrounding vessel into an intra-dimensional space and the longer the ship remains in that state the "faster" and "farther" it goes. A vessel equipped with a Hirsk drive could theoretically could travel across the Universe and arrive on the other side before the Big Bang where to occur. Unfortunately the moment any matter appears in i.d. space it begins to break down to sub-atomic particles and with sufficient exposure will completely dissolve. Dense inorganic materials are affected more quickly and severely (e.g. metals, electronics) than living organic material. This atomic decomposition is the primary reason for the limited adoption of the technology.

The only types of vessels which have successfully (and repeatedly) used Hirsk drives for interstellar travel are genetically engineered bio-ships. While considered machines these vessels are composed of complex organic systems that result in a rough approximation of "living". The ship provides crude life support and environmental protection for it's crew as well as minimal navigational, communications and inter-planetary propulsion. Travel on board a Hirsk ship has been described as "living in a pig's colon for 6 weeks with the worst hangover in all of human history." Complex weaponry, navigation or communications equipment is not commonly installed in Hirsk ships because it will rarely survive a single voyage.

Despite numerous limitations a Hirsk ship can readily find work as couriers delivering messages or passengers (who can bear the trip) in the shortest (relative to time in normal space) time, over distances and routes impassible by other drive technology and with complete security or secrecy.

Some of the benefits of a Hirsk ship are:

  • Can enter i.d. space with little prep and with a minimal clearance from another vessel (some pilots can jump immediately after disconnecting from an air lock).
  • Can not be attacked while in i.d. space.
  • Can not be tracked once in i.d. space.
  • The origins of a vessel cannot be deducted as it exits i.d. space.
  • Crew can "look" at time and place in normal space where the ship will exit i.d. space (making ambushes very difficult) and choose a different time/location to emerge.
  • Bio-ships cannot navigate within an atmosphere.
  • Gazing upon i.d. space from a portal of a Hirsk ship is rumored to provide visions into the future.

Some of the liabilities of a Hirsk ship are:

  • Each trip causes the vessel, it's crew, passengers and cargo to "rot". The longer the ship is i.d. (which effects how far and how short the trip is) the greater the damage.
  • The smell inside the ship can be nearly unbearable and difficult to wash off.
  • Conventional food stocks do not store well during extended i.d. voyages so Hirsk bio-ships produce nutritional food. Unfortunately the "food" is a waste product of other ship functions and is accuracy called "poop".
  • Berths are cavities in the ship's body and are often moist (but warm!)
  • Sensors, navigation and communication equipment are organic in nature which result in speradic readings. A significant about of experience with the equipment is necessary in order to become proficent with it.
  • i.d. spaces causes physical damage which manifests as headaches, mutations and cancer like growths. Crew or frequent passengers may elect to undergo some genetic engineering to minimize the effects of repeated and prolonged trips.
  • Gazing upon i.d. space from a portal of a Hirsk ship is rumored to cause insanity.
  • Navigation is often a matter of knowing "when" to stop and requires significant experience traveling in i.d. space. The best Hirsk navigators are easily identified as "the most bat shit crazy one in the bar!"
  • Because Hirsk bio-ships are a living organism they are outlawed in many systems because of concerns with enslaving another organism or as abominations against the gods.
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