Sunday, September 16, 2012

Faster Than Light, Story 2

{I thought it best to host this here, instead of plugging Seattle Whispers up with game-stories like this. Plus, this blog hasn't been updated nearly enough}.

After being reinspired by playing FTL for a few hours, I decided to dramatically narrate the following game, no matter if I was shot down in my third jump, or made it all the way to the end. The following story is a little long, but I feel I wrote it in an enjoyable way. Those who have played FTL by Subset Games may find more humor and awesomeness in it, though.

I walked out into hidden, Federation hangar, escorted by a short man with worried eyes and jittery hands.
"Are you sure you can get it to the base safely?" he asked quietly.
"Don't you know, safety is no promised thing out here," I said somberly. He nodded and shook my hand one last time, and scuttled back into the depths of the base. It was hidden on a backroads planet, out of the sights of the Rebels. We were never too careful, and needed to head out.

I turned around and basked at the glory of my ship. A Red-Tail class. I never could find an appropriate name, and so the crew and I just called it what it was, Red-Tail. And a fast one, at that.
The orange paint was pitted, rusted, scraped, and singed from the ships past. But she held on strong. The crew was all finished with repairs, and its four, basic lasers were ready.
I entered the ship via the cargo ramp, and faced my crew.

Magmaros "Magmar," a Mantis who had stuck with me from the beginning. He was there during the depths of the Rebel Wars, and was a damn good pilot. Also, he had almost never been beaten in a fight. Once by a Rock back on Alpha-4, but that's another story.
Swampson "Swamps," a Zoltan, was our weapons expert. His innate ability to "leak" energy had been helpful over the years. During one fight, he was single-handedly powering one remaining blaster, as our power core was tampered with during an ion storm.
Filip and Remo were human twins from Terra VII. Some of the best mechanics in the galaxy, they liked the Red-Tail class ship because the layout of the rooms had the Shields and Engines next to each other. When I'd turn around, they'd swap positions and keep on working. I didn't care, as long as they kept the ship running and the shields at full.
With a quick brief, we took to our stations, and jetted off the planet, trying to keep our distance from the Rebel fleet. Coded messages had reported a massive fleet was sweeping the area. Needless to say, Filip-Remo had Red-Tail burning hot and fast. As we shot out of the atmosphere, I took out an ancient magneta-tape, and tossed it into the player. Its ancient label barely read, "Nor--and, Bin--pilo-."

The First Sector
I heard Magmar swear in Mantid over the comms as we came out of our first jump. Right near the beacon was a Rebel scout. Without delay, the scout's drone locked onto us, and Remo flipped on the shields. Swamps used a syncopated firing technique with the four blasters to deplete the Rebel's shields and eat into the hull. The fight was brief, but one last missile was launched, and struck the front of our ship. The explosion caused a fire in the cockpit. Magmar, barely batted an eye (well, he can't blink anyway), put out the fire, and strutted into the medlab.
After a brief look at our scanners, we charted a path that let us skirt around the nebula in this sector, and jumped headlong

...into the immediate vicinity of a M-Class, flaring star...

Seemingly undisturbed by the violent flares, a lone Mantis pirate's craft came charging at our ship. Knowing the dangers of the flares, Swamps aimed to dispatch the pirate as quickly as possible, crippling their shields and oxygen. The first flare ripped across our two vessels, destroying the Mantis craft easily, and starting fires in our medlab and hallway. With our FTL drives charged, we decided to risk a jump to another beacon to escape the wrathful star. Luckily, the next beacon was in deserted space, and we took the brief moment of relative peace to focus on the fires.
Despite our best efforts, the fires raged through the medlab and oxygen rooms, which crippled our ability to fight them. The twins Remo and Filip succumbed to the sudden depletion of oxygen and low health. Swamps and Magmar fought the flames, but had to retreat to the cockpit, and purge most of the ship of oxygen with airlock manipulation. Once the flames died, we stood in sorrowful silence by as the repaired oxygen machine groaned and slowly replenished the air. Swamps was badly injured, and the low level of oxygen wasn't helping. He stayed in the cockpit until the oxygen levels in the medlab were restored. After the twins were given a small ceremony, Swamps stepped up to man the shields, engines, and weapons in the future. With heavy shoulders, we jumped again and held our breaths.

Out of the next jump, we spotted a pirate vessel off in the distance, and were able to recharge our FTL undetected. The next beacon was near a deactivated autodrone. Instead of tampering with the datacore, we scrapped the rest of the ship, leaving the defense systems (and information, damn it), drifting into space. No need to start a fight under-crewed as we were.

At the next stop was a trading world. We were able to repair our hull, and hire another crew member. His name was Vitas Varnas, a Rock from the world of Disparga. He was eager to help the Federation, and offered his services as a mechanic and fireman. We shook on it (he was very careful not to crush me), and he joined aboard. Swamps looked relieved to have someone to help with the ship.

We warped out to the final beacon in the sector, and stumbled across two Federation ships fighting. One of them hailed us, and notified us the other was actually a pirate vessel, about to destroy our comrades. Varnas powered up the lasers and blasted them into dust without a moment's notice. I'm glad to be on the friendly side of this guy. Our comrades kindly offered to repair our damaged hull and give us a few pieces of scrap. We thanked them, and jumped into the next system. Faced with jumping into Zoltan- or Rebel-controlled
sectors, we chose the former, betting that Swamps would be able to talk us out of any fights with the "enlightened" Zoltan, if needed.

Zoltan-controlled space
Early on in the Zoltan system we bought as much fuel as we could at a trading outpost, and went on our way. After a jump into a peaceful, empty zone of space, we warped in front of a Rebel droneship. It burned after two volleys, and was barely able to shoot a pathetic beam past us. I may have detected a grin on Varnas' stone face as he shot the drone out of the way. 
Our progress threw us right into the middle of an asteroid field. Among the rocks we saw a Zoltan security ship chasing a Mantid pirate. Taking the Zoltans' warnings to heart, we waited for our FTL drive to recharge to get out of there before the situation escalated. Regardless of our plans, a rock ripped through our shields, damaging the cockpit and medlab. Varnas lumbered over to the fires in the cock pit and extinguished them.
Swamps and Magmar repaired the medlab, but when the low oxygen levels hindered Magmar from returning to his position, Varnas surprised us all by fixing the console, and piloting us out of the field.

Varnas picked up a distress signal, and decided to investigate, revealing a severely damaged and abandoned Zoltan freighter. Finding no one in the immediate vicinity, we boarded the vessel and salvaged what we could before jumping away, fearing an ambush by whatever predatory vessel had caused the wreckage. With the salvaged equipment, we reinforced our airlocks and upgraded our oxygen machine, as it had a history of getting compromised.

Magmar took reigns again, and jumped us straight into another damned asteroid field. A Zoltan ship approached us, warning us that we had broken the Natural Mineral Protection Act, and demanded we surrendered our weapons. Swamps informed us that the vessel was likely a pirate, as it didn't carry the official security markings, and so we retaliated. A barrage of asteroids and lasers ate away their shields, and was ripped apart by one last rock. Right before it was destroyed, the Zoltan ship warped a bomb into our engine room, mangling the equipment and wounding Swamps. Regardless, he muscled on and repaired the engine to warping capabilities.

Lower on fuel, we stopped at another trading world. Although the merchants' wares included some very tempting equipment: drone recovery arms, ship cloaking, and a teleport (I'd pay good money to see Varnas rip apart a Rebel scout from the inside, out), I thought it best to grab reserve fuel and go continue on. Without incident we warped to the exit beacon, and chose the Engi homeworlds over another Zoltan sector.

The Engi homeworlds
Our first experiences of the Engi system were rather violent. One Rebel ship came at us out of the first warp, but again Varnas shot them down without hesitation. We flew past another trading outpost, and came across a Rebel ship attacking an already-damaged Engi vessel. When the aggressor noticed our Federation markings, it chose to take us down, instead. Varnas did what he does best, and the crippled Engi crew hailed us. We welcomed them aboard as they pleaded for supplies; they were just trying to make it home, but had lost equipment and supplies in the battle. We loaded their ship full of missiles (which we seemingly hoarded, but never used), some scrap for any tolls, and a few blocks of fuel. Their captain embraced me (in his cold, metallic arms), and left with a small salute. 
As they left, Varnas mentioned feeling warm and tingly. A brief investigation revealed that the Engi crew had installed an Engi medbot dispersal unit in the medlab, which filled our ship full of nanobots that would heal us anywhere in the ship. I turned to hail the Engi ship in thanks, but they had already warped away.

Before long in the Engi system, we were approached by an official research ship. We let them aboard, and Swamps kept his eyes on them as they asked us their questions, marked their surveys, and left us with scrap and a few tough cookies. (Which we handed to Varnas once the researchers left). The rest of the Engi homeworlds was empty and quiet (or at least the branch we were in). In three final jumps, all we came across was a pike beam module in the middle of a debris field, and an easily-dispatched auto-scout. We jumped headlong into the Civilian sector with high hopes.

Civilian space
The first warp led us into a nebula. The radiation killed our internal cameras, and we heard the distinctive sounds of hostiles warping aboard. We vented empty rooms defensively, and found the four boarders working through the ship. Varnas and Magmar took them on, but even with the medbots, the boarders proved difficult to dispatch. The Rock and Mantis retreated to heal, while the boarders ravaged the oxygen machine, and attempted a take over of the cockpit. The Red-Tail class' distinctive layout allowed us to deprive the hostiles of oxygen as they banged on the cockpit airlock. Once they were gone, we upgraded to blast doors, increased the medlab's abilities, and took off.

A ship was sending out a distress signal, and we boarded to help them with giant space spiders. Upon entering the ship, Swamps was snatched by a massive specimen and carried off. The two crews fought the infestation, but a battle resulted in all the airlocks failing. We escaped back to our ship and looked for Swamps, but to no avail. Poor Swamps. He never did like spiders, of any size.

We entered empty space near a planet, when we were hailed by a low, gruff voice. It was a mercenary telling us of the rumors and tales of this area. We listened and shivered, as we waited for the FTL drives to warm up. Off the in the distance we saw his craft in the shadows of the nearby planet, a dull glow of his thrusters. He offered his services to us, but we declined, and jetted out of there. Another distress signal brought us to a small planet. The signal originated from a small colony, that looked devastated, even from orbit. Varnas went to the surface, and found a lone Mantis, Charlie, huddled in the ruins. Charlie asked to be hired, and so we took him on. He quickly grew attached to Magmar, and would watch him as he piloted our vessel with skill.

We stumbled across a Mantis pirate ship attacking an Engi craft. Seeing the Federation markings, the Mantis retreated. The Engis awarded us with a defense drone, and took off as well. Puzzled, we hauled it into the cargo room and took off as well. Another empty swath of space rewarded us with scrap and fuel. With no opportunities openly available, we plotted a course for the exit beacon. Right after jumping, we found a Rebel scout revving its engines to run, doubtlessly to notify the Rebel fleet of our position.

Attempting to stop it, we fired upon the scout. It's volley of lasers beat down our shields, and the attack drone methodically shot through our essential rooms. The engines, medlab, comms, cockpit, and door controlroom were all damaged. A fire raged somewhere, unseen due to the downed cameras. Varnas, Charlie, and Magmar fought the flames as the drone kept our shields from restoring. One last volley of lasers from the scout ripped through our hull, and I felt the vessel start to fall apart.

I do not know if the others survived. I was jettisoned from the craft, and my suit autosealed itself. I floated for what felt like an eternity, watching my ship crumble and burn, with the drone still circling and firing. I watched helplessly as the Rebel scout approached, opened an airlock, and swept me into the depths of their craft. Pounding on the blast doors was fruitless, and I heard the noises of Mantid laughter, and the FTL drives revving to life.

Score: 871


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