Machine Ghost

Ghost Machine: Part 1

The ETS Incident

Our story begins on Extrasolar Transit Station 4 – ETS4 for short. The ET Stations were built before the fall as Humanity scrambled to find solutions for the dwindling resources, environmental instability and constant threat of war on Earth. Scientists from across the globe worked on solutions to fix Earth, to colonize new planets or to make Humanity more capable of surviving the changing nature of the home world. The ET stations were born of this age of panic – a dozen or so stations all scattered along the edge of the solar system, located on the path to neighbouring star systems that were believed to be capable of supporting colonization.

Most of the stations were never completed, and after the Fall they lay forgotten for a decade before being rediscovered by the Hypercorps looking for new ways to make income.

Pathfinder was one such Hypercorp. Discovering ETS4, they established the station to begin research on the potential of colonizing Groombridge 34’s planetary system. The station underwent refurbishment by Pathfinder before a team of 100 were bought in to begin work – a team of scientists, researchers, engineers all accompanied by a small security team and corporate representative.

However, this period of research was short lived as Pathfinder discovered a nearby Pandora Gate – one of the artefacts left behind by the rampant TITAN AI that left Earth uninhabitable ten years ago. Seeing an opportunity, the team upon ETS4 was redistributed and room made for travellers, tourists and ‘gatecrashers’ passing through on their way to see or go through the Pandora Gate. A skeleton crew of scientists and engineers remained on ETS4, their new task instead being the creation of new technology to study and pass through the Pandora Gate safely.

A rather large group of tourists and gatecrashers has landed in the last 24 hours. The space station is overcrowded and tensions are high as people find themselves cramped and barely able to manoeuvre about the living quarters section of the station. A day after their arrival, a smaller craft has set off with a dozen gatecrashers to the Pandora Gate. Locally, it’s 9PM on a Friday Night – the living quarters a buzz with activity as people celebrate their arrival on the station, enjoy the market stalls set up by Pathfinder, or simply try to unwind and ignore the stress and cramped quarters.

However, not everybody in the packed crowd would be what they seem. A pirate with his canine uplift ‘pet’ trip up people and steal their goods while they are unaware. An old Ayah morph slips through the crowd, searching for their next big score.

It’s not long before sirens break through the volume of the chatting crowd, and the talking draws silent as people wait for an announcement that doesn’t come. It’s not immediately clear what is going on for a time, before the sound of machinegun fire fills the room. The three Reaper drones – emblazoned in Pathfinder colours and placed in the room to keep watch over the crowds – open fire on the unsuspecting tourists, gunning people down before they have a moment to react.

One of the stations scientists manages to capture on a device what appears to be a burst of code that has managed to flow through the mesh and all the people present within the station – the likely cause of the droids going haywire. Along with one of the station repairmen, they suit up and venture into the chaos of the living quarters to investigate the situation. People turn on the reaper droids and attempt to fight, and the canine morph joins the fray to attempt to defend its master as the ayah takes cover and discovers at least SOMETHING of value to make the whole trip worth it.

Unwilling to enter combat with the haywire reaper droids, the repairman and scientist skirt around the room in an attempt to escape as the bulkhead doors seal, locking in everybody with the droids intent on gunning down anything in the room that moves. Trapped and with no other option but to fight, the canine uplift attempts to attack one of the droids – but finds the armor too thick to be effective.

It turns out that the reaper drones may be the least of their concerns however, as the station lists dramatically to one side at a 45 degree angle when the spacecraft that had left for the Pandora Gate crashes into the station. It takes a moment for the artificial gravity to compensate, but it’s already too late as the ayah is toppled over and the scientist is flung from the balcony they are upon.

The room – once filled with dozens of people – is now instead strewn with corpses and semi-active morphs that are simply too damaged to continue to function. The station’s corporate representative finally sneaks out of his quarters and attempts to escape when the doors to the doors to the docking ring mysteriously open, but he too is cut down by the droids. Only five survivors remain – the ayah, the canine uplift, the pirate, the scientist and the repairman.

Presented with an opportunity to escape through the now-open door to the boarding section of the ship, the ayah, pirate and canine uplift run for it in an effort to flee the reaper droids. The scientist provides cover for the repairman as they attempt to open the door to the stations central core – engineering and maintenance – by dropping thermite onto one of the droids. It proves effective, and they manage to escape into the heart of the station with the other two functional droids giving chase.

It’s in the engineering section of the station that the scientist retrieves the device he’s been working on – a small, two-man vehicle made for short trips through Pandora gates. Realizing that the station was rapidly falling apart after the ship crashed into it, the repairman and scientist get into the vehicle and pilot it expertly through the narrow corridors of the station to escape into the boarding area.

There, they find the pirate, ayah and canine already facing off with a reaper droid that appears to be protecting the only spacecraft docked with the station. Corpses lie strewn about the room, remnants of the few that had attempted to flee the station or were present in the boarding area when the droids went active.

Keeping the attention of the droid, the canine morph is completely unaware of the discussion happening between the ayah and its pirate master. Slipping the pirate a hasty dose of Oxytocin-A, the ayah manages to convince the pirate to give up ownership of the canine uplift before they continue to rush to the one remaining spacecraft.

Doors to the boarding area seal as the sound of explosive decompression fills the connecting corridors when it appears the spacecraft that collided with the station has not finished doing its damage just yet. It rips into the boarding area, tearing a long hole through the reinforced metal slowly as it drifts and atmosphere begins to escape the one last safe haven upon the wrecked station.

United in one final attempt to flee, the two-man vehicle deploys its grappling hooks and manages to hook the droid, getting its attention and ire as the remainder of the survivors rush to the spacecraft. However, it does not take much for the droid to shoot the two-man vehicle out of the air, sending it crumpling to the floor as the scientist and repairman are forced to flee with the remainder of the group. The group board the spacecraft, encouraged on by a mysterious voice – only for the pirate to be gunned down by the droid just short of the door.

As the station falls apart, the spacecraft pulls away before rapidly attempting to gain speed to get distance from the station as it scatters into thousands of pieces. The voice upon the vessel introduces itself as Icarus, a machine artificial general intelligence. He explains that someone or something attacked the station with a virus and – realizing that the scientist carries it with him – gets him to eject it from the ship. With introductions made, everybody settles in for the trip to Titan.

Two weeks later, once they’ve reached Saturn and have entered orbit with Titan, Icarus delivers the news that Pathfinder has put a price on their heads – believing that they were responsible for the stations destruction and the death of the hundred people residing upon it. Meanwhile, a terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attack – though this fact seems to have gone largely ignored by Pathfinder.

Wanting to clear their names and solve the mystery (or simply having nothing better to do), Brad Forest the Repairman, Doctor Octopod the Scientist, Alfred the Canine Uplift, MT the Old Ayah and Icarus the Machine Informorph ready themselves to land on Titan so that their investigation into what happened on ETS4 can begin.

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