Entirely based on my own initiative... and not on ANY comments by the DM in another thread...
Doctor Ziirkaa focuses on the signal for the next several days using the ship's computer to help him decode the information.
Taking 20 and adding the ship's +2 my T/communication roll is: 31
In case it matters my T/Computers skill using the same approach is: 38
The broadcast seems to be a self contained packet, the first 3 'tones' indicate a start to the data. Then the next bits of data indicate the atomic structure of hydrogen, then helium. Next it has the description of the local sun and a bit of data that seems to indicate the size of the sun based on hydrogen. It's fairly accurate. Then using those numbers, several sets of number relationships build up a decoding map for the rest of the transmission. No words, but, the planet is described via it's size and orbit, and then a temperature in relation to the sun, then a large number. Then the planet's temperature drops, and the second number falls rapidly. Then again it falls, but the second number falls slower, but still rapidly, not in a direct correlation. After several more lowerings of the planet's temperature, the second number is a tiny fraction of what it was before.
The rapidly lowering number started at 5,585,000,000. It ended at 12,000.
As the ship approaches the planet, and the sensors can do detailed scans, it begins picking up lifeforms. There is a sparse but diverse eco-system.
The sensors, as you enter orbit, also pick up thousands of cities dotting the surface. But they are all almost completely un-powered. Most are covered with several feet of ice.
The ship is picking up one city, on the equator, that has 5 functioning fission reactors, and is powered.
As the ship enters orbit and begins scanning, a powerful energy beam projects from the powered city (which is currently on the light side of the planet, with about 14 standard days of light remaining before sunset). The beam of energy hits the ship, and the comm unit begins beeping, indicating that it's receiving a message via microwave comm.
The hull of the ship rises 0.1 degree celsius from the beam of energy.
---Earlier, course of action discussion---
Ceres follows the debate with a pained look on her face. She knew what she wanted - and she knew what would be best, most efficient, for their mission. And the Diplomat was right. They couldn't really afford to spend much time or resources here, when those resources where needed for the reconnection attempts and to build up their own world again. And yet, they couldn't just leave these people to be.
"*Sigh* As much as it pains me to say, Annara is right on the resource department. We don't have much - and we can't spend what little we have for *just* curiosity. Unless our close sweep finds anything that changes that, we can't stay too long."
Not good... Ceres makes a mental comparison between the number of frozen cities and those presented in the first message. Biting her lip she looks to the console presenting the energy output of the city and its communication beam.
"Their ability to project this amount of energy speaks to some scientific achievements at the very least ... What are they saying?"
The computer, using the previously deciphered decoding, finds that the new message repeats the odd pulse pause pulse to indicate a new message.
Then the planet's mathematical signature is repeated, and the undefined symbology (We'll call it Alpha) for the rapidly decreasing number is repeated. Then a new number, 9,538. Then the planet's current position is mathematically represented in relation to the sun and the other planets. A new symbol is introduced, and a point in space mathematically determined that seems to match the McTavish.
The planet is then mathematically represented further around in it's orbit, and the Alpha symbol repeated with the number 5,000. Then another mathematical representation of the planet further around in it's orbit, and the Alpha symbol repeated with the number 1,000. A third mathematical representation of the planet further around in it's orbit, and the Alpha symbol repeated with the number 0.
The first planetary orbit seems to be about 1.5 months standard from now, the second planetary orbit seems to be about 4.5 months standard from now, and the last one about 6 months standard from now.
"Aggy do you think you can send a message back giving out place and time on the planet, as if we can come in to land?"
GM how far above them are we sorry are we with in 500km? or 50000km
"Viktoria if you want I can remote view the city below, get an idea of what is waiting for us. Ill need time on my cabin alone, say five minutes."
She looks at the image on the screens showing the planet and city below.
Victoria nods in agreement with the Diplomat. Anything we can do to know more. If she interpreted the signal correctly - their newfound neighbours wouldn't last much longer. Which made ideas such as 'careful study' irrelevant. They would need help and fast. And they would be desperate. Perhaps desperate enough to lash out and try and seize the ship. I know I would try ... She really hoped it wouldn't come to that, even if Annara had eerily predicted it a few days earlier.
she go's and takes a seat looking at a image feed of the city the signal is coming from. She then takes out a small vile and drinks its contents.
Then looking at the image for a wile, she then closes her eyes and constraints, pushing her minds eye down to the city below.
Clairvoyance 2+6 range at this range, 8pp used +5 from bust 19-8 places her on 11/14pp left. 30 seconds of viewing GM
Annara concentrates on the visual image of the city from orbit. It's a little hard at first, the city is covered in white snow, but the regular markings finally help and she locks in on it.
The city wasn't designed for this much snow, buildings have collapsed under it, but it's still only -10 to -15 C, so warmer by far than most of the planet. The buildings are oddly shaped to her senses, far too fluted and columned, but pretty. The also seem oddly elongated, but then Annara remembers that the gravity is so much less, the buildings are under less pressure on height.
Figures move between the buildings, covered in thick clothing, oddly hunched and seeming to crawl.
Moving her sight into a building, she finds a library, and sees her first alien. The alien is wearing glasses, and is putting a book back upon the shelf. The book is nearly the size of itself, although it handles the book easily enough. It's a six limbed creature, the middle limbs oddly arranged to operate as manipulative limbs, while the two forward and rear limbs are primarily for locomotion.
As she looks on, the gray alien stops and looks around, then looks toward another alien, this one a yellow pelted one. They both speak to each other, or at least you assume they do, as their mouths move. Then they both scan around, and then suddenly both seem to look straight at Annara.
Hesitation. Concern. Fear/Excitement. Desperation. Cold, so cold. Friend/Enemy.
Annara's body rocks as her mind is assaulted by emotions.
Images and emotions follow.
Exultation! Theories True! Too late/Not too Late! The Project! Other safe? Must know! A verdant lush black planet flashes through Annara's mind. Creatures great and small, all with six limbs, some huge with scary teeth, others tiny and delicate. Mushroom cloud. Volcanic eruption! Green sky turns black. Black plants turn white. Clothed aliens die, adults, children, frozen huddled in shelters.
Extinction! Alien dangerous! Not hostile? No care... Annara's psyche is probed, not by one, not by two, but by thousands, the link too strong to break as the aliens all join it. Not just the two, but all of them. Images come stronger, smells, the feel of fur on her skin, of an extra set of limbs.
Selfish. Dangerous. In Danger it is. Still selfish. Self obsessed. Whole species? Yes. No. Perception Tainted. Yes. Maybe. Choices? No, no choices. Cities are covered by snow fall, buildings collapse, killing those within. Those who aren't killed die of exposure. Evacuations, too many, too fast. Most die, the world dies.
Annara feels her mind probed further, too many minds behind it to stop them, one mind maybe, but thousands, no...
Approximately an hour after Annara leaves, another burst of microwave energy hits the ship, this time a third of the power. The ship's computer beeps and begins translating automatically as it receives a signal in standard frequencies and encryptions.
"Greetings from We, The Mylanthi, to Human Crew, Martha McTavish." The computer voice is synthetic, as the message was raw data, not voice. "Excuse poor wording, language yours is difficult. Apologies to entity Utoxier-Lee, wishes unharm. Execution May-Day request. Repeat, Execution May-Day request. Responses Request."
She was looking at them look and then, it/they/ so many, more and more she felt violated, her protective mind defences ripped away. MORE came.
She tried to scream to scream but her body was back up there, back in space 1000s of km away. The mind/minds so many, and the images, now fear, pain hurt worry vast waves of emotions, and she could feel them, moving in her memory's, looking inspecting, her mother telling her off, the sound of gun fire close, Sleeping in the sun on the beach with her children, the smell of sex, water on her face, flash of cameras and being talked to. Over and over she was lost in her own life, then dee down something, a point, something like one/many, she called out in her own mind.
"ANNARA! I am Annara, I am Annara, I am Annara there is only one me, I am Annara there is only one me, I am Annara there is only one me, I am Annara there is only one me, you are other, I am Annara there is only one me, you are other, I am Annara there is only one me, you are other, I am Annara there is only one me, you are other, I am Annara there is only one me, you are other, we will talk, I am Annara there is only one me, you are other, we will talk, I am Annara there is only one me, you are other, we will talk,I am Annara there is only one me, you are other, we will talk."
In that point of self she pulled her mind into her, finding her centre, she cant broke the bond so she uses it
"I am Annara there is only one me, you are other, we will talk, Now let me tell you of our language..."
Annara is still missing in her room when the message comes.
Annara can't really communicate directly to them, like talking. Their method of thinking is.. odd. Rather than thinking in concretes like humans, they think in concepts. It's blazingly fast, one concept after another, merging together. She suspects they have a limited hive mind, that is, each is an individual, but there is a low level bond with any others like them nearby. They don't think about 'The Pencil'. They think of 'pencil/writing/language/recording/drawing'. That low level hive mind makes it harder for them to think of a single pencil rather than all pencils, the concept of pencils, and what pencils can do. It's all mixed up together. So language isn't exactly something she can try to teach by thinking at them. She just kind of has to talk and talk and have concepts flit through her mind, and they begin to understand the concept of human language. Fortunately, mathematical concepts like communications protocols (which Annara would have the basic knowledge of as a security grunt) are easy concepts for them to pick up, because it's all mathematical. Annara suspects the Heethee might have an easier time communicating with them than humans would.
"Well that's a surprise... Captain, it appears we can speak to them." He leans over to the ship's intercom. "Travers, MacGrogh, Please check on the Baroness. If anything is amiss, let me know before taking action."
As soon as I have done that, Dr Z will compare the readings described in the message from what we have picked up. Is there something that could cause this sort of temperature drop?
K/Physics: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (5) + 9 = 14
The upper atmosphere is choked with volcanic dust. It looks as though the planet had an Extinction level eruption, probably within the past 5 years. Temperatures would have plummeted 40 or 50 degrees C. It will likely take a few hundred years for the ash to fully work it's way out of the atmosphere. Which is why they are using microwaves and not radio from the planet's surface. The ash would block most normal radio.
She was trying, they where a hive mind should could see it now, the lass and horror of there dying. She feed them hope, help, images of a child being picked up and also images of a doomed colony, there lost world, the dead laying in a sports stadium bones white. Her feeling at the loss of life, how she would do anything to have been able to save them. Rescue, safe home, help she feed them. She dare not brake the link, dear not let go back to her body, she could feel the Fatigue not let go until they understood they would help them, give them a home of they helped back. She showed and image of ships, there shops coming to land, jumping to a new world of heat and light. Images of home, love family, love and Hope. Then a question, Show me your history, time/past/events?
The images come so fast and hard that Annara can never remember individual images. She can only ever get a vague sense. The Mylanthi had an almost idyllic history, by human standards. No wars, low crime, only the mentally ill committed crimes and murder. The low level hive mind connection acted as a societal brake, making them more concerned about the species than the individual. That results in a lot less individual freedom than humans are used to, but it's internally applied restriction, not external laws.
The Mylanthi are smart, but struggle with hard sciences other than mathematics, because of how their brains work. Even with mathematics, they work better with set theory and quantum theory than hard physics. Most of their hard science was a slow painful struggle, thus their current tech level is stunted in the hard sciences, while their psionic and social sciences are far more advanced. But those soft sciences don't help when a massive volcano explodes and makes one's planet enter an ice age.
Unlike humans who went from steam to space in a hundred years, the Mylanthi took 20 generations to advance from steam to limited space.
"Dr. Ziirkaa! We're at Baroness Annara's room, she's shaking violently and bleeding from her nose and eyes! We're taking her to the medical bay now! You need to be here! She's not responsive, but her eyes are moving all over the place and she's panting hard!"
Her brain waves are all over the place, heart rate three times normal, blood pressure 250/125, adrenaline levels off the charts. Her EKG is erratic. Ziirkaa thinks she needs to be sedated until her body calms down.
Holt looks over the translated data from the planet with awe.
A new race! And they're facing extinction! We... we have to help them!
But hearing the news about Annara makes her bite her lip as she turns to Ziirkaa and says "I can cover the comms now that you've cracked the code. Go."
She trys so hard to see their ways, such a well ordered world, a culture with no brakes but so limited, but the culture they have will not die, they will survive if they except help, help is being of...
"what was the pain?"
something sharp in her arm, how long had she been thinking with them, it was longer than she could hold, they must be holding her here, why?group think yes but why?
"Show me the big ones the larger of your kind"
Annara seems to be in some kind of active trance unable to see or hear any on the ship.
"Captain, I suggest we have the aliens describe the reason for the May-Day request and hold until we have more information." Vathan offers.
Hearing Annara's problems, Vathan launches off the bridge toward her cabin. Not knowing what else to do, he will carry her to Medical if there is one on the McTavish.
Ziirkaa follows right behind Vathan, clutching his medkit. "I'm going to examine her first, and see what I can do to stabilize her right away. We are going to want to move her to the autodoc after that. I think her psi probe with the aliens did more than anyone expected."
T/Medical: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (16) + 13 = 29
Ziirkaa injects Annarra with a sedative, and her body jerks and then relaxes, her eyes stop the rapid eye movement. He loads her into the autodoc, which indicates that she'll need to stay in it for at least two hours while it stabilizes her neural transmitters, which are so scrambled that she was within minutes of a complete neurotransmitter failure.
There is confusion about 'big ones' of their kind, and then the connection fails, and Annarra sinks into sweet oblivion.
When she wakes up in 2 hours, she'll have a major headache, and any attempt to use her psionics for 24 hours will be incredibly painful.
Ceres expression turns sour as she receives both the aliens message and the report of Annara's status. The road to Hell and all that ... And from Ziirkas analysis she knew there was precious little they could do to help. They would probably need both food and warmth. From some dark corner of her mind an idea emerged; just leave them and secure a habitable world for our coming generations. But with a disgusted look she rejected it. She rubbed her temple. There was so much to do! Think positive. Let's go one step at a time.
"Holt - see if you can't find something to recalibrate so that we can answer them." she leans back in her chair "Vathan is right - we won't approach until we know more and Annara is back. If they did that from here - accidentally - there is no telling what could happen in closer proximity." I do think she mentioned that range was one of the most important limitations...
Holt's mind is racing as she tries to think of how they might save these people, dismissing ideas as quickly as they arrive, when she is broken from her thoughts by Ceres.
"Yes ma'am. They seem to understand our frequencies and language, so it should be fairly simple to send a response. I'll take a look at the sensor data from their messages and hook it up to your standard comms interface."
The communications system is capable of using radio, microwave, and laser to send messages, so it's mostly just making sure you're pointing the microwave emitter at a receiver dish, and not someone's house, and broadcasting
"Well Vathan, the Baroness and her ten million credit brain is going to be fine. The readings aren't good, but they hadn't hit anything lethal yet." Ziirkaa stands from the machine perfunctorily, he has the lost expression of someone who is done with one job, and is trying to decide what to do next.
All-right. So that is done...
"Well, what do we say then? They hospitalized our diplomat in their opening moves - so shall we keep it simple and ask what they would need?" the Captain muses loudly, letting the question hang in the air.
"Yes, we should ask what they need. It appears it's a volcanic eruption that has caused an extinction level event. It is possible they have come up with a plan, after all potential extinction has a way of focusing the mind.
If their population is small enough we could move them... somewhere... or perhaps think of a way to clear their atmosphere. Not a trivial problem, but we have some of the finest scientific minds Telthani has ever produced on this ship.
Holt prepares a statement for the Captain's approval:
"Greetings Mylanthi from the Martha McTavish. What happened to Utoxier-Lee? And what assistance do you require?"
After the message is approved, Holt begins to search for a receiver, starting where their message originated from. Upon finding a receiving beacon ,assuming she does, she begins the transmission, nervously, but excitedly, awaiting a response.
There is about 10 minutes of silence, then the response comes in.
"Stubbornness unhealthily. Unskillfulness from poor training. Regrettable lack. Wishes unharm for Utoxier-Lee. Wishes thanks for knowledge sharing. Mylanthi needs primary vital for food. Mylanthi needs secondary vital for warmth and escape."
"... her stubbornness didn't cause her to spontaneously haemorrhage until we met these guys ..." Ceres grumbled to herself.
"Does the file contain any indication of what they actually *eat*? And if we are going to have a shot at feeding such a number of *ehm* 'people', we'll probably need the entire fleet acting as couriers and then some! How feasible would it be to provide some sort of artificial lighting schematics so they can grow their own food? Fissionable material for their reactors and low-level schematics and supplies take much less space. If they can get the production up to speed in time ..."
After their message, the 3 tones come in again, and raw noise squeals from the speakers. Holt and Zirkaa recognize that it's a data feed, and switch it over to their original transmission translation protocol. After a few minutes, a 3d model of the planet appears on the display, and thousands of red dots begin to blink on the surface, along with numbers that Ziirkaa and Holt can confirm are temperatures.
Then the voices come back. "Primary vital loci indicative of by 001. Secondary Vital loci indicative of by 002. Tertiary Vital loci indicitive of by 003."
Holt color codes the spots indicated, and the resolve into red, blue, and green dots. The blue dots are always paired with a red dot, but not all red dots have a blue dot. There is only one green dot. It is in orbit.
The red dots seem to indicate frozen and dead cities. The blue dots seem to be shut down fission reactors in major cities. The green dot seems to be the McTavish.
T/Sensors: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (18) + 13 = 31
"Humn... This overlay of sensor data should help... See?" Ziirkaa brings up the signal from the planet as an overlay on the normal sensor data that the crew is used to looking at. "The red dots seem to indicate frozen and dead cities. The blue dots seem to be shut down fission reactors in major cities. The green dot seems to be the McTavish."
Ziirkaa taps his screen... "Suppose... Just suppose... they need to get to the frozen cities to get food, and then to the dead reactors to get fuel for the still functional reactors...Is it possible they just need some vehicles?"
Holt nods at Ziirkaa and adds "Or maybe they need materials to repair their reactors? We might be able to suggest some reactor improvements as well that might make it easier for them."
Ehum. That is reassuring!
The Captain smiles as the sensor overlay appears across her screen. She looks down at it and nods.
"This is something we actually can manage. Going the land route across the ice would be dangerous - do we have the schematics for any basic but reliable aircraft in our databanks? Teach a man to fish and all that - and assuming their weather patterns are not too extreme. In the meanwhile, I guess we can spare some time to ferry supplies. We would only be saving an entire species after all!"
She pauses and puts a finger to her lower lip, indicating that she's thinking about something.
Did we bring any probes? Could be useful to ferry an all clear message to the rest of the fleet. We could certainly use a hand here!
Is the ship capable of dis-infecting the entire APC? Wouldn't do to infect either them or us with something nasty, but the extra horsepowers might help if we are going to explore a frozen city!
You would need a very advanced ship to fly in that atmosphere. It's low gravity, but it's also thin atmosphere. The combination means that about the only thing that would fly stably in it is a zepplin. Granted, you can make a brick fly if you put sufficient thrust behind it (see Bumblebee). However, the things you have plans for that would fly in that atmosphere require a major tech base to manufacture. The things they could manufacture, like biplanes, on an emergency basis, wouldn't fly. Ziirkaa and Holt would be willing to bet they never developed aircraft at all, probably zepplin tech at best. They most likely skipped aircraft and went directly to rockets to get things into orbit. Given that, it's likely the locals have no way to move from city to city except to travel over land, much of which is covered in sheets of ice and snow.
You have the one probe that you sent on a flyby that's now in orbit around the planet. You'll need to top it's fuel off to send it back though (8.5 tons of fuel).
Infection likelyhood is very low, even within the same biosphere, it's rare for infections to jump species. Alien biospheres are even more so. When it does happen, it's usually extremely nasty, but it's only happened a few hundred times in the history of interstellar flight. There are standard procedures for 'first contact' with a planet. Mandatory autodoc on return, first contact ship maintains itself in a quarantine for the first month after contact. Nobody with an active infection is allowed to go to a new planet. Equipment and personnel are sprayed down with an evaporating disinfectant and exposed to strong UV light.
"All-right then. We will make an attempt at landing as soon as Annara wakes up and we made sure she is okay."
"Vathan, would you ready the Marines, hazardsuits and the APC? See if you can't find any drilling or breaching equipment too. We'll need to spray everything we're bringing so get some men on that!"
"Ziirka & Holt - One of you must try to shake out something more concrete about the aliens food. I wouldn't want to bring back their equivalent of pre-packaged bathing sponges! And I want the designated sites scanned - accessibility first and foremost, but also for radiation leaks. Try to focus the ones a bit away from the living city, I'm not sure we want to come that much closer until we know more about their 'accidental' mind-trick."
Lastly she addressed the ship itself, running a datasearch.
"Let's see if we can't find any basic Zeppelin craft schematics somewhere in the data banks ..."
Need to know what you send to the aliens before I can respond for them.
The cities away from the 'living one' are devoid of power signs. However, doing a detailed scan, and something is 'off'. There are an awful lot of small buildings for a city. Small as in, what look like single room buildings, or two story buildings with one room on top of another. As if someone took a ship's cabin and stuck two on top of each other for a building. The sensors can't do any detailed interior scanning from orbit, however. There are some decently sized buildings scattered in amongst the smaller ones though. No radiation leakage detected anywhere. The plants look cold and powered down.
You find some old zeppelin plans in the computer banks. Looking them over, you aren't sure they'd work in the thin atmosphere, as even hydrogen would have less lift due to the lack of air pressure.
"In the meanwhile, let us collect and refuel that probe. No need for the others to lay in waiting any longer!"
Hmm. Maybe if we went with a hybrid design and used heated gas instead ... And ground - effect jets? It doesn't have to fly high - just be capable of traversing the uneven ice and the occasional crevasse.
Ceres opens any available simulation software and queries the computer to make the necessary adjustments.
"Aye, aye, captain," replies Vathan. He goes to prepare the two other marines, APC, haz mat cleaning process.
After 10 minutes, he returns to Ceres. "Captain. There's explosives in the weapons locker, about 10 lbs of plastique equivalent. Nothing for drilling though, outside what's in the machine shop." reports Vathan.