We re-join our heroes who in our last episode had just beamed down on an apparently derelict planet, only to encounter a strange, cloaked figure. The figure announced his presence, telling us visitors had not been here for a long time. He considered my request to speak to someone in authority for a moment before hitting the deck in a smouldering heap, a phaser blast had shot over my shoulder; one of my landing party had killed the alien! Snatching his weapon I demanded to know why he had opened fire, I was met with protestations that the alien had a weapon and had raised it to fire on me. I had seen no such weapon. Not wanting to start any kind of battle, I beamed the alien aboard the Traveller to see if he could be helped by the medical team, but despite him being sent up successfully, nothing arrived on the ship. This was getting odd, and it only got odder when a rattling of machine-gun fire filled the air! I dived to the ground, only to see my crew-mates standing unharmed in a hail of gun-fire, bewildered at my behaviour. I sheepishly got to my feet and headed off to explore a nearby building. Inside, an old newspaper and a computer terminal told me that it had been some time since anyone had been here. A crew-member had however been examining the navigational data on the computer and had come up with a possible location for a black hole in Sector 288! We beamed back to the Traveller and continued onward towards a distant purple star. On examining the newspaper, we discovered that we had just been on the planet Prax where a past civil war had experienced a rocket crash, carrying a large amount of hallucinogenic drugs… the crash coincided with the end of the war as apparently civilisation completely crumbled through mass exposure to these drugs, helping to explain the strange things my team experienced there.
Signs of intelligent life were off the chart for the purple star I had chosen to visit, but despite receiving no response to my transmissions, I beamed down with a small team. Arriving in an area populated my seemingly nothing but tall buildings, a small vehicle appeared to be approaching in the distance. My translator began to pick up a voice telling me ‘Over here! Quick!’, a voice which belonged to an insectoid figure who had appeared from a small building nearby and was beckoning me in.
The little guy explained to me that the people in the vehicle were PCs, or ‘Population Controllers’. Interestingly, we were also told that we were on the planet Culematter. Nobody on this planet dies and so they are authorised to control the population by exterminating whoever they please within a quota limit. It was past curfew and I would have certainly been killed if I’d stayed out. Despite this though, the PCs burst in having followed me. My host protested my innocence but the PCs blew him away and took my team into their vehicle. We attempted to put up a fight and were overwhelmed, but in accidentally knocking off the helmet of one of the PCs, we discovered that this seemed to immobilise its wearer who jumped back to life when his colleague re-positioned the helmet… A journey in the PCs vehicle took me to a building where we were thrown in a holding cell along with a number of other aliens, presumably set to be executed along with my crew and I. On being summoned by one of the PCs, I decided to attempt to communicate with the Traveller. I tried my communicator and found that transmissions were being jammed, but when using the device, everyone around me became frozen, like statues. A potential way out had presented itself! Using the device to keep everyone immobilised, we made our escape, an escape which took us past a room which contained the equipment jamming the communications signal. Two motionless aliens sat by and whilst disabling the equipment, curiosity took over and I removed their helmets to find they were in-fact robots! Fairly crappy robots it seems if the whole planet can be disabled by my turning on a radio. Nevertheless, I soon had us beamed out of there. So much for Culematter being useful to my cause. I did however take the helmet with me, which would boost my Skill by +1.
Another planet showed up on my scanners as having intelligent life, so we beamed down for a quick look around for more clues. A thunderous storm and three podgy looking aliens greeted us in what is probably my favourite bit of art in the book, the style actually seems to work in this one.
One of the aliens began to waddle back towards what was their village and the other two approached me, sticks raised. Not wanting to take any nonsense I walked up to meet them but was quickly corrected by them and told to remain still. Explaining my story, they aliens suspiciously took us to their village to meet their Elder in his hut. It became quickly obvious that this was a fairly primitive race and would be of no help I engaged the Elder in conversation about the nature of the planet and its inhabitants. We were on the planet Cliba where these little guys had lived for years, they were an agricultural people and used to comfortably sustain themselves with the perfect weather. But in recent years, the weather had turned and they held someone they called the ‘Rain Lord’ responsible. There were a number of sick members of their group too and so I set my Medical officer to work.
Now here is where a peculiarity cropped up. My Medical officer managed to bring down their fever with a successful Skill test, but soon began complaining that she felt unwell. I took a Luck test, instantly passing as I had a Luck of 12, but she became even sicker and needed to be beamed aboard the ship or die! I checked the other option and by failing the Luck test (i.e. rolling higher than your score), my Medical officer was fine and could continue. Now, that shouldn’t be! What’s the point in having a high Luck score if it impedes you? I will discuss this more in my conclusions as it wasn’t the only time I encountered this reversal of the rules. I took the good outcome and continued!
Deciding to help these aliens further, I set out to pay the Rain Lord a visit. A short walk brought me to the Rain Lords castle. I was suddenly wishing I was reading a different kind of fantasy book at the mere mention of a castle! Anyway, I pressed on and approached the guard, he panicked a little and I was quickly surrounded by many more guards and led inside to meet the Rain Lord.
Not quite as scary as the name the aliens gave though, he revealed his actual name to be Bran-Sel and wondered if his ‘intruders’ would actually be able to assist him. He revealed that he was once a trader who was selling planet control computers to a planet named Gleena-3, but his warp drive failed, he was unable to deliver on time and had the order cancelled. Instead of facing financial ruin by returning home, he set up on this planet and used his unsold planet control computers to become something of a benevolent overlord to the planet. This explained the wonderful, agriculturally suitable weather the aliens had experienced in the past; but now the computer was having problems and the weather turned for the worse. My awesome Science officer was able to help though and re-calibrated the machine, instantly ending the torrential rain engulfing the planet. Bran-Sel was able to offer me little information in terms of where the black hole I needed to find to get home was, but he did state that travelling at Warp Speed 3 would be the key to transferring through safely.
I took this potentially critical information back to the Traveller and set off onto the final segment of my mission to get back home…