Inside the falling segments, Keth desperately tries to revive his unconscious allies. His skill with a medpac leaves much to be desired, however, and they fail to stir. Marrass shouts that Mercre must have electronically overridden the emergency repulsor compensators, and that there should be a manual bypass somewhere. Searching quickly, the two find an access panel hidden behind a painting. Inside, three levers are stuck in the "up" position through some sort of adhesive--Mercre had been planning this escape maneuver for some time! Keth puts all of his weight into trying to wrench the levers free, but to no avail. Marrass, however, despite her slight build, is filled with adrenaline and has no difficulty in breaking the bonds of the adhesive and moving each lever to the "down" position. The emergency repulsor compensators kick in, the segment starts to slow, and a safe landing ensues.
Keth and Marrass see the shuttle the Mynocks arrived in parked nearby, and decide to drag Waric and Tazo-Rhi to it. The two then exhaust the shuttle's supply of medpacs and Waric and Tazo-Rhi begin to stir. The group quickly make the decision to lift off and set hyperspace coordinates for their temporary home, the New Republic battlecruiser Flourishing.
The journey through hyperspace continues. A subdued air reigns in the shuttle, as those inside ponder their failure. Marrass vows to track down Mercre, but admits she still doesn't know the source of the strange phenomena that affected them.
The shuttle drops out of hyperspace near the Flourishing. After a safe landing in the hangar bay, the Mynocks are immediately ordered via comm to Briefing Room # 2. Although Keth was unharmed in the firefight aboard the Guiding Heart, Waric and Tazo-Rhi remain bruised and singed despite receiving some emergency medical attention. When the three of them arrive at the briefing room, they notice that the red light above of the door is lit, indicating that a session is in progress. However, the door has clearly malfunctioned, as it hasn't closed all of the way and a voice can be heard coming from inside. The three Mynocks overhear the distinct accent of Lt. Tuvolo:
"I'm just sayin' Major, I don't think they're ready! Even Alpha's gonna be hard pressed, not to mention Beta and stars forbid Gamma! Ya know their background as well as I do--one em's gotta habbit a runnin' when things get bad, the other's not all there, and don't even make me bring up the third's psyche profile!"
The voice goes silent for a moment, and indecipherable murmuring can be heard before Tuvolo continues:
"Yeah yeah, I now they've got a few weeks while the new shielding goes on, and I know they done good on Nal Hutta--but this is sumptin' completely different!"
Another pause, and then:
"Yes, sir. No sir, I'm not suggesting we disobey the Provisional Council. Well, with your permission I better comm-off--Gamma's gonna be comin' to get briefed on a S&R."
When Tuvolo admits the three Mynocks, he is obviously angry over their failure to secure the Guiding Heart. However, he says there's no time for a full debriefing because an emergency is underway: a new recruit to Mynock Squadron and a pilot from Beta Flight have not turned up on schedule, and the emergency hypercomm beacon has been activated from their vessel. The coordinates have been traced to a jungle planet called Haruun Kal. Tuvolo says he hasn't had time to scour the data on the planet, but that there's some sort of spore in the air that can render electronics inert after several hours. Gamma Flight is ordered to travel to Haruun Kal in three Y-Wings to retrieve the two downed pilots.
As Warrant Officer Kero is still at a conference on immunology, Ensign Waric is again the commanding officer of Gamma Flight. He salutes smartly and orders Keth and Tazo-Rhi to proceed directly to the hangar. The three make quick time and are soon strapped in their respective cockpits and entering hyperspace for Haruun Kal. The journey lasts just a few hours before the three vessels emerge into realspace and pick up the emergency beacon's signal. Finding a place to land is difficult in the dense jungle, but the Y-Wings are able to set down a few hundred meters away from the beacon's coordinates.
When the three pilots emerge into the hot, humid air, Waric takes one look at the dense undergrowth and vegetation and then begins to act erratically! He shouts something about "meatbags" and "servos" and charges into the jungle in the direction of the beacon's signal. Tazo-Rhi comments to Keth on Waric's strange behaviour, but both of them follow.
Meanwhile, a short distance away, Private Max Cindarion is in trouble! A brown-haired human with amber eyes, Max had been journeying to the Flourishing with Beta Flight's Trill Dunerunner when their vessel suffered sudden mechanical failure and was pulled into Haruun Kal's orbit. Both survived the crash landing, but there was no choice but to wait for rescue. Establishing a temporary campsite on a small hill, Trill ordered Max to stay put while she went in search of food and water. Hours later, however, Trill had not returned--and now Max was hearing the howling of strange creatures at the base of the hill!
Max tries to climb a tree, but falters on the slippery bark. Seconds later, massive fanged feline creatures appear: jungle nexu! Max decides to run for it, and sprints between the two nexu, but one of the creatures is fast and rakes the pilot's back with sharp claws before taking a bite out of his ankle. Suddenly Waric appears in the area. One of the nexu tries to rip out his abdomen, but the pilot's partially cybernetic flesh keeps it at bay. With one nexu on Waric and the other on Max, the arrival of Keth and Tazo-Rhi is timely. Keth blasts the nexu on Max and then ducks back into concealment behind a tree. The wounded creature cringes and flees.
Waric, however, is not so lucky. His opponent gets past his guard and bites into his crotch, severing arteries and felling the soldier instantly. The nexu then leaps for Keth, but accurate blasts from he and Tazo-Rhi kill the beast. Tazo-Rhi succeeds in staunching Waric's bleeding, but he is clearly badly hurt. With the three conscious victors being of equal rank, Tazo-Rhi asks who is going to be in charge. No answer is forthcoming.
Max volunteers that Trill Dunerunner is probably dead, and that they should carry Waric back to the rescue vessels and depart because this jungle planet is obviously too perilous to remain in for long, especially given the fact that all they have is their service sidearms. Tazo-Rhi observes that there is some logic to his words, but that, were she in a similar position, she would hope her fellow Squadron members would at least try to find her. Keth insists on trying to pick up Trill's trail after Waric is safely deposited in the cockpit of a Y-Wing.
Although the dense undergrowth might normally make tracking an individual through the jungle difficult, the Zabrak reveals a surprising proficiency in the art and leads his Squadron mates to an area where a dark hole leads into a low mound covered in vegetation. The darkness is impenetrable, but from the entrance Keth hears a strange groaning. Climbing in on his hands and knees, he feels around and discover a roughly-humanoid shape covered in a sticky covering. He begins to pull it out.
Meanwhile, just inside the entrance, Max suddenly sees a shape silhouetted against the grey sky: a winged creature that is at least a couple of meters long and that looks like a giant insect. Max fires at the creature and the blast tears through one of its membranous wings. A giant tongue lashes out from it, however, wraps around Max's blaster, and slams it against the cave wall until it shatters! The creature then flies forward and lands on Max, burning his flesh through some sort of acid emanated from its limbs. Tazo-Rhi joins the fight, as a weaponless Max bolts for the outside, but she is quickly overcome. Fortunately, Keth has appeared on scene and throws his sidearm to Max--the pilot catches it and somersaults underneath the creature, firing bolt after bolt into its vulnerable abdomen! It falls to the side, dead.
Tazo-Rhi is stabilized, and the cocooned Trill is cut free but barely conscious. The walk back to the Y-Wings is a long and arduous one for Keth and Max, as the jungle heat and the effort of dragging Tazo-Rhi and Trill combines to wear them down. Still, they do make it back safely and decide that everyone should rest in the safety of the Y-Wings for the night.
The next morning, Tazo-Rhi has recovered enough to be able to fly. Waric and Trill are still unconscious, however. With Keth, Tazo-Rhi, and Max in the cockpits and Waric and Trill in the turrets, an attempt is made to lift-off. But ill fortune strikes in the form of Haruun Kal's spores: Tazo-Rhi's Y-Wing won't start.
Trapped on a foreboding jungle planet full of hostile creatures, how will the Mynocks escape?
Director's Commentary (November 4, 2016)
I was back at the helm this session, resolving the cliff-hangar from the previous guest-directed session and telling a one-shot of my own. The big news this session was the arrival of a new player! When we finally accepted that the person who played Stavros was not coming book, I put a call out on the Internet and found a player all the way over in England. That meant we had gamers on three continents--its pretty cool to live in an era like this, as I can still remember the days
|Max Cindarion, intergalactic swashbuckler!|
I foreshadowed a major storyline for the future with the PCs overhearing Tuvalo's conversation, but for this session I really wanted to tell a story that would be accessible and have clear goals but also be a fun way to introduce a new PC, so I went with a military-themed classic: the Search & Rescue. I couldn't think of any more forbidding place to crash than on Haruun Kal, the jungle planet described so evocatively in the novel Shatterpoint. I loved it when I was able to integrate something from the novels into the campaign, as it made the whole thing seem so much more "real".
The session went fantastically. There was some exciting, cinematic combat, and the new player did a great job in enthusiastically describing his character's actions. As a director, it's always a little nerve-wracking to welcome a perfect stranger into your game, but I have always had great luck--so many of the gamers I've met and friends I've made have come from a forum post launched into the darkness. The session even ended on a natural cliffhangar, and really couldn't have gone better.