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February 3229

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Mine Your Business

wow that's a lot of stars is a sci-fi setting about adventure, exploration, and discovery. Every person, place, and thing has a story to tell, if you listen closely.   Setting Intro | Visitor's Guide | Author's Intentions
Content Warning: Swarming insects Confined, underground spaces
In order to arrange a deal for supplies between the Wyre Rats and Nisora United, you need to become friends with the union. If you resolve a possible burrowbug infestation at their factories, they'll be willing to negotiate with you.   But there's a catch: Apex is testing VI managers at these locations. The VIs will be blamed for problems these facilities face, which could result in their memories being erased and the project being scrapped.
███P ██ U█████ ██E U██E
These VI bosses will be your main contacts for the mission. All three have the same androgynous shell with ashen-grey dermal coverings. To allow interface with every machine, cables sprout from their heads like hair, each with a different connection type. Despite being wrought from the same mold, they were given distinct personalities and approaches to management. This statement was provided to you as a warning you don't yet understand.
Related Characters
Related Organizations
Related Locations
Related Species

Author Commentary

Creepy Eaties
This was our Halloween session that year. As a thematic treat, I prepared chocolate-covered fruit, including bananas that looked like centipedes and blueberries that looked like spiders.

Act 1

The Manufactory

Assembly lines spaghetti across the manufactory floor. One worker is shoulder-deep in a machine's gears, their arm fully prosthetic. Another engages in the futility of arguing with an expert system. Despite the hour, most machines are off, and workers sit around playing cards.  
Alpha, the VI manager, greets you at the door. This manufactory makes the final products that get shipped out, but recently, materials arriving from the refinery have been corroded. With less workable material, they're manufacturing less and missing quotas. The source of the problem must be the refinery, but that boss hasn't been cooperative.
Ironed uniform. Hair cables tied in a neat braid.
High-strung perfectionist. Ambitious. Efficient.

The Refinery

The heat of the refinery hits as soon as you walk through the door, and the stench soon after. Distilleries and kilns produce molten metals, later separated or sent to molds and other machines for further processing. Like the factory, large sections of the refinery seem to be offline.  
You find Beta in their office, and the VI boss reluctantly offers a tour. Trey's
Icon for Precognition
precognition alerts him that Beta plans to trap you all in the mines. When confronted, they admit Burrowbugs are coming from the raw materials, and they wanted to force you to destroy the underground nest. You make a deal: in exchange for your help, the VIs will act as your spies in the future.
Pyjamas. Cables slipping from a messy bun.
Disinterested. Hands-off. Takes the easy way out.

Act 2

The Tunnels

You step out of the elevator and onto a platform in a massive tunnel. Motion-sensing lights illuminate tracks and no train, equipment and no people. Your voices echo and disappear in the darkness. Jorie's drone records a lot of nothing.   The nest you need to destroy is between here and the mines. Beside you is a stash of supplies:
  • a battery-powered lantern, field radio, and flamethrower
  • two antidotes to the hallucinogenic quality of burrowbug acid
  • general gear: power cells, climbing equipment, rations, flares, demo charges
"This is more my style of tour. You're in Apex owned and operated transit tunnels. Thermo-electric trains bring materials to and from mines outside Galendra. Tunnels have shifted around lately, so look for a map device somewhere.   "Oh, and be careful with the explosives. You'll need them later and I doubt you want to bring the roof down on yourself."
— Beta, over the radio
Darkness surrounds you as you follow the tracks. The next lamp clicks to life as you near it, but a coating of dust leaves the area dim. The glowing path you leave in your wake shortens every minute.   You find a tablet on the ground, displaying an incomplete map of the tunnels. Beta explains that with a press of the button, it emits a frequency that detects your surroundings and fills in the map.   A trail of blood leads from the tablet to a crevasse. Within is the the prior mapmaker, dead of blood loss from pincer-like wounds on her body.   Perhaps you should be wary about pressing that button.

The Path

To determine the path, my players rolled dice across a blank wet-erase battlemap. Where they landed determined where key locations were, and their size determined which location. I'll talk more about this in the GM Corner later.
As you walk in silence, you hear the earth shift around you. Pebbles knocked loose by your passage maybe, or something crawling through the walls, weakening the supports, urging the ceiling to fall. Wandering the tunnels brings you to dead end after dead end.  
A pile of undulating sacks of slime nests at the end of the corridor. Each egg is two feet long and half as wide, throbbing like a beating heart. One pops open, spilling fluid and a burrowbug onto the ground. Two pairs of wings lay crumbled against the black carapace.   It twitches, turning its compound eyes to you as its pincers click together. One pinch, and you'll be lost to hallucinations.
  Bry's electrolocation helps navigation for a time, despite the headache it causes to track the thousands of insects around you. When that wears off, your only choice is the map's echolocation. You press the button and summon the swarm to you. Atticus uses the flamethrower to clear a path through the sea of wings and pincers.   The map indicates a way forward.

The Friends

You don't make it through unscathed:
  • After a bite from a goliath, Atticus thinks he's back at the Razing. He shoots Bry, believing he's an enemy combatant.
  • A nymph gets Trey, making him think he's a kid at the Compound. He calls Jorie "Twelve" and nearly exposes his secret past.
Injured, tired, and hungry, you shelter in a rusted train car near an underground lake. Atticus tends to Bry's wound, apologizing profusely. Bry tends to everyone else's. You rest for the night.
In the morning, the radio crackles to life. "You can't reset me, no!" you hear Beta cry out. There's the sound of a scuffle, and the radio goes silent. This far underground, your compads have no service, and nobody else knows you're down here.  
Yet you find signs of another person, and soon encounter Derrick kon Bell. He works as a miner and fell into the tunnels during a recent collapse. There was another person, but she's since died. Jorie's
Icon for Telepathy by Rin Garnett
telepathy notes guilt, but not enough to distrust him. You agree to help each other get free.
"Found a bunch of 'em in the mines. Sold the lot, dunno who to, but I kept one. Shh..."
— Derrick, on his alien pistol
  Bry notes that Derrick carries a Niris pistol, and wants it for himself.

The Broodmother

"It's the the one producing every one of these nightmares. Harder 'an a rock, she is. Only option is to pancake her."
— Derrick, on strategy
Low on supplies, you fight your way to the nest. To Bry, the number of bugs make the cavern blinding. To you, it's near pitch dark. Jorie's drone is your lightsource as it records the sight. Swarms buzz around and crawl out of walls. Goliaths patrol and watch over drones carrying egg satchels. In the center, dangling from the ceiling and supported by nearby pillars, is the broodmother. Eggs ooze from pores across her carapace. Silvery goo drips from her body and splatters to the ground.
Plant demo charges on the pillars around the broodmother to cause a cavern collapse to kill her. Requires a quick escape.
  • The broodmother summons the swarm
  • Goliaths and nymphs attack and obstruct
  • Sticky residue makes it difficult to maneuver
  • Help
  • Echolocation from the map can confuse the swarm
  • Derrick will cover you with his shotgun
  •   With charges planted, you flee to a nearby mine train that's still functional and trigger the detonation. The train outpaces the collapse, and Atticus unleashes fire on the swarm giving chase. Derrick navigates through track switches, until Trey's
    Icon for Precognition
    precognition alerts him to an upcoming dead end. He takes control in time to save you.

    The Way Out

    Safe from the swarm, Derrick suggests splitting up to find the mine entrance. Jorie's
    Icon for Telepathy by Rin Garnett
    telepathy picks up on alterior motives, and he confesses when pressed:  

    Content Warning: Cannibalism
    Hover to reveal & read

    "You don't get it, she wouldn't have made it. Her leg... An' these bugs! They get into your mind! When you're hungry, everything becomes food.   "I tried antitodes, but I can't get the taste out of my mouth. I'm so hungry..."
      As he reaches for Jorie, Atticus shoots him in the chest, killing him.   Bry claims the pistol before you leave Derrick's body behind. Soon after, you find a woman's remains. One leg is broken and infected. The other looks like it's had sections cut from it.   Nearby, sunlight streams down from an opening. Voices echo from beyond, and your compads have service again.

    Act 3

    The Mine

    Workers pull you to safety in a mining camp far outside the city's reach. The VI boss of this location invites you into their cottage and serves you coffee. The other bosses told them about you, though Beta has since been taken by Apex and is awaiting a factory reset.
    Dirty work clothes. Hair cables tied out of the way.
    Amicable. Helpful. Mimics a type of empathy.
    When Gamma asks if you found anyone else in the mines, you claim to have only found bodies. They thank you for your help, and request an Apex vehicle to pick you up. Euclid Tao wants to personally thank you for your assistance.

    The Deal

    Dirty, smelly, tired, hungry, and wounded, you meet with the CEO of Apex and his robotic tiger. To reward your assistance, he offers you a service in return. You instead argue for Beta's release and continuation of the VI manager program.  
    These materials enable the Color Bombs later.
    After a few days of rest, you arrange a meeting between K-Ra and Nisora United. K-Ra presents a list of items she needs for the Wyre Rats, and the union members comment on how dangerous some of the items are. You leave them to their negotiations.   Jorie writes about the excursion in the Galean Gazette, including bits of video. Her goal is to make you all look heroic, especially Bry whom Perimeter is trying to depict as a threat to humanity. She excludes any mention of Derrick or the other mine worker who was found dead.

    Cover image: by Aaron Lee, Nick Ong, Norah Khor


    Author's Notes

    This article was written as part of WorldEmber 2023. Follow the link to learn more.

    Please Login in order to comment!
    Dec 20, 2023 23:43 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

    Your campaign sounds like it is so intricate and fun. I enjoyed having a little insight on it like this.

    Dec 21, 2023 13:33 by Rin Garnett

    Thank you! This was one of my favorite missions to run, which is probably why I had so much to say about it...