Polera

Chapter 1: “Cold Beginning”


“Cold Beginning”

Planet: Ormor (Fringe)

Location: Hillside Road


I


Whipping through the forest, a truck bounced along the dirt road. Bill, a grimy man and friend to no one, sat behind the controls and turned the vehicle gently around the next turn.

“We need to go faster,” said the passenger sitting next to him looking out the back window, “much faster.”

A fancy car led the way down the mountain road with the truck following close behind. Five men were split between the vehicles, each knowing they were dead if they were caught. Another tight bend, and the truck slowed down to take the turn.

The back window of the truck’s cab slid open and Paul Cole stuck his head in.

“We have to go faster. They’re coming,” Paul said.

“I just told him that,” the passenger, Doctor Graham said.

“Shut up,” Bill said as he took another lazy turn.

The car ahead, the car with the accountant in it, the car with the man they had just rescued, was getting too far away. Doctor Graham brushed dirt off a digital display, dialed in the car’s frequency, and spoke into the radio.

Thompsky, slow it down up there. We need to stick together.”

“Sorry boys,” came the voice over the radio. “It’s been a fun ride, but this accountant’s worth a ton of money. You’re on your own.”

The car sped off around a switchback and could just be seen through the trees. Paul cursed and ordered the doctor into the empty bed of the truck. He opened the driver’s door, pushed Bill aside, and took over the controls. The truck accelerated around the next turn, nearly slamming into a tree.

Graham climbed into the back and spotted two more trucks overflowing with mercenaries barreling down on them from behind.

“We’ve got company,” he said as the first bullet hit their vehicle. “A lot of them.”

Paul glanced into the rear-view mirror to see the thugs shooting off the back of their trucks. He jerked the wheel and sent their own vehicle off the road and straight down the mountain side. Branches snapped against the windshield. Bushes were crushed under thick tires. Graham clung to the back of vehicle in terror. Trees flashed by on either side.

Cutting back and forth across the steep slope, the road appeared across their path. The truck slammed into the dirt road but continued down the mountain the hard way. It launched off the side of the road and down the tree-covered slope again. For a moment, they were in free fall. The truck hit the ground hard, wheels lost traction, and it spun out of control. Paul fought with the wheel and the brakes, but the truck kept sliding sideways down the mountain. The doctor screamed from the back. A tree hit the rear of the truck and spun it forwards. The wheels took hold and kicked up earth.

Just ahead, the road appeared again and the car was there. They had caught up with Thompsky and the hostage. Paul wrenched the truck onto the road with a hard turn and brought it to a halt blocking the car. The screaming in the back finally stopped.

The car slid to a halt before hitting the roadblock. Paul Cole jumped out of the truck and walked to the car with purpose. Thompsky got out of the fancy sedan with his hands up in the air and smiled.

“What the hell, Thompsky?” Paul said.

“Easy, Paul. No offense man, but you would’ve done the same,” Captain Thompsky said. “Look, they’re not far behind us, so get the hell out of the way and we’ll work this all out later.”

“Give us the guy,” Paul said pointing at the terrified accountant sitting in the car.

“I can’t do that, Paul.”

The pursuing trucks could be heard above tearing around the switchbacks.

“Get him in truck,” Paul said making sure his hand was seen disappearing behind his back.

“Don’t do something stupid,” Thompsky said. “He’s not leaving that car. Move the damn truck.”

Three shots rang out. Thompsky covered his face. He lowered his hands and looked around. The car’s engine was a smoking mess. He looked at Paul, who turned around and looked at the back of their truck. Doctor Graham stood there with a pistol in his hand and a determined look.

Paul turned back to Thompsky, “Now, get in the god damn truck.”


II

Planet: Ormor (Fringe)

Location: Outside of Town


The three crew members, the accountant, and Thompsky drove back to town in the truck, losing the mercenaries in traffic. Resting in an empty field sat an old transport, Polera. She was a medical ship that had been converted into a hauler years back. Polera had carried plenty of questionable cargo over the years and never could stay clear of trouble. Even with limited weaponry and carrying capacity, their beloved ship kept her crew safe.

Catherine Stapleton, the fourth crew member, welcomed the accountant and found him accommodations. She smoothed the man’s frazzled nerves and did her best to make him feel at home. Thompsky, on the other hand, was sent off without payment and had to walk to his own ship back in town.

After dropping off the rescued hostage and collecting their payment, the crew took on an assignment with a small company, Pharin Enterprises. A remote mining facility owned by the company had not been reporting in during the last two weeks. With few ships of their own to spare, Pharin Enterprises hired Polera to investigate the situation and restore communications.

The transport folded through space to arrive at the icy world of Braft Tenor. She pierced through the clouds and freezing rain to find Mining Outpost DO# 119 tucked next to a rocky hill. A structure built like a tough warehouse took up much of the space, but a two-story building was setup to the side next to a landing pad.

Polera circled the facility several times looking for any signs of trouble. The radios were dead silent.

The transport settled on the landing pad scattering ice up in glittering clouds. Paul Cole and Doctor Graham put on their environmental suits and loaded their weapons. The atmosphere was breathable but very cold and hard on the lungs. The two men set out up the hillside first where the communications beacon continually rotated in place. Catherine sat inside the ship up in the turret keeping a close eye on the men. At the top of the hill, Graham examined the beacon but found nothing wrong with it.

“This does not bode well.”

The two men walked back down the hill in their heavy suits, past Polera, and closed in on the two-story building.

Standing at the entrance, Paul looked back at the ship and said, “Catherine, let us know if you see anything, and I mean anything. I don’t want any surprises. Oh, and try not to shoot us.”

Catherine rolled her eyes and pointed the turret directly at the two men just to annoy them.

The lock to the building was hacked with a datapad, and the door cracked open. The light mounted to Graham’s shoulder shined into the darkness. A counter and stacked chairs that hadn’t been used in years appeared beneath the beam of light. The men forced the door the rest of the way open and entered guns first.

Abandoned offices left behind centuries ago were what awaited them. A board set on the wall listed the names of freighters, cargo, and their departure dates. The dates were from more than a century ago, before the Collapse.

Amarik Lady ==== 11,520 tons ==== EC 07/18/2680

Paul spoke into his radio, “Anything going on out there?”

Catherine panned the turret on top of Polera around the compound. She kept a close watch on the other building. It was a huge, flat box with a massive door and metal tracks leading up to the landing pad. Only the blowing snow moved.

“Everything’s quiet.”

The two men continued to the second story of the office building and found signs someone had been there. A sleeping bag, empty cans of food, a heater, and some old magazines were tucked in an empty room. Finding nothing else, the men left the building and marched across the snow to the main structure. With the ship’s turret covering them, they could find no way to open the massive entrance. Suddenly, Doctor Graham pointed his pistol out towards the hill with the communications beacon. He peered through the blowing snow for a few tense seconds before lowering his gun.

“Never mind. It was nothing.”

They found a man-sized door that would not open with a flashing light on the lock. The display next to the entrance flashed “Environmental Alert” in big red lettering. Paul plugged his lockpick into the display and the door slid open. Inside were industrial hallways made for mining operations and small vehicles. Multiple orange strobes flashed across the corridors, warnings of some emergency. The men walked slowly through the halls with weapons out. Even inside their cooled suits, sweat beaded and trickled down their faces.

They crept into an area labeled Operations with a window that ran the entire length of the room. The plexiglass showed a view of a garage on the other side and metal tracks for hauling ore. Graham tried to access any information off a computer terminal, while Paul found the emergency alarm and looked for any reason why it was on. He put his submachine gun on a table and reached out to reset the emergency alarm. His finger was inches away from the button when the lights in the Operations room went out and the only doors slammed shut and locked.

“That wasn’t me,” Paul said snatching his weapon up.


III

Planet: Braft Tenor (Fringe)

Location: Operations Room in DO #119


Beyond the window in the garage a dozen figures appeared in the flickering orange light. Men and women stared at the intruders in the operations area, their faces covered in soot and sweat. They hefted mallets made of steel with worn handles and axes with edges chipped from endless work.

A woman stood forward and yelled through the long window, “Drop your weapons and put your hands behind your head.”

“What’s going on here?” Graham asked.

“Let us the hell out of here,” Paul yelled back holding his gun with a tight grip.

“You’re the ones who broke in,” she said. “Don’t make us come in there and kill you. We wont-”

Paul emptied his entire clip into the reinforced glass window in a matter of seconds. Each bullet spit out of his gun punctured a hole in the far side of the window. He reloaded his gun stood on to the console under the window and threw his shoulder at the damaged glass sending chunks of it spilling into the garage. He dropped down on the otherside and looked at the mob of people. All of them backed away except one man who walked forward with a shotgun in his hands. He cocked the weapon and pointed it at Paul, who returned the favor with the barrel of his own gun.

“Hold on just a moment,” Graham said clambering awkwardly through the window. “Just wait a second. I, excuse me, I think there’s some sort of misunderstanding.”

“Get that gun out of my face or you’re dead,” said the man with the shotgun.

Paul kept the warm barrel of his submachine gun pointed at the man’s head.

“We are here on behalf of Pharin Enterprises to help restore your downed communications,” Doctor Graham said.

He handed his datapad over to the woman in charge which displayed the official orders and documents regarding their assignment. She told her foreman with the shotgun, Jennings, to back off and lower his gun. She explained that they had lost communication several weeks ago but planned on continuing operations until the hauler came next month. The woman introduced herself as Lizzy Markan and welcomed the men to DO #119.

The emergency within the facility was a fire that had broken out in the mine below the day before. The workers has been fighting hard to contain it most of the day when they found Graham and Cole in their operations area. Lizzy was thankful for their help, and offered to have the foreman take them out to the communications console, but first, she had to show them something special.

All alone in their mess hall, strapped down to a metal chair, a man calmly sat as though relaxing with his hands bound. He had been found prowling about the facility days ago, and wreckage of a one-man ship had been found a few miles away. He claimed to be stranded but was later found planting explosives down in the mine. The miners beat him, took him prisoner, and held him in the mess hall for several days. Though he was tied down, it was believed that he was somehow responsible for the fire that had burned the last 24 hours.

As armed representatives of Pharin Enterprises, Paul and the doctor interrogated the man but got few details from him. What little they did learn, was that he was a professional, cool and calm. He talked to the Polera crew as peers and offered them a considerable amount of money to get him free of the planet. The fellow was far too calculating to trust. Graham told the man they’d take him off the planet, but drop him off at Pharin Enterprises and let the company figure out what to do.

Doctor Graham and the foreman, Jennings, went out into the cold to take a look at the communications beacon. The miner stopped midway and pulled back a tarp covering an anti-aircraft gun located not far from the landing pad.

“Any other punks try and get in here, I’m blasting them right out of the sky,” Jennings said. “So you better watch your ship and make sure you don’t sneak up on us again. I just might take you down.”

With the gruff foreman’s help, Graham examined the beacon at the top of the hill. He found that the machine was receiving and sending just fine, but some outside signal was blocking all communications. The doctor used Polera’s sensors to pin point the exact coordinates where this jamming signal originated. The dot on the sensor screen was miles away to the east amidst icy mountains. Somewhere at that point, out in the snow, was the answer.

They left the miners behind and set out. Paul boarded the ship, woke up Bill, and flew Polera across the frozen hills to the east.


IV

Planet: Braft Tenor (Fringe)

Location: Icy Crevasse


The transport flew past mountains of blue and brown with snow splattering against the cockpit window. Graham called out directions to the source of the jamming signal and watched as Polera closed in on his marker. The ship hovered over a series of crevasses that dropped hundreds of feet down. They were pure blue walls of ice that dropped to darkness below.

“The signal’s coming from down there,” Graham said looking at his screen.

Cole moved the controls of the ship with a gentle touch. She pivoted in place and descended slowly into the abyss. The surface of the planet disappeared, and the entire cockpit view was swallowed up in a cobalt blue. Down Polera dropped. The wall of ice in front darkened in color with every passing moment.

“There!” Catherine called out. “That ledge. That’s got to be it.”

She pointed to a huge cut of ice jutting out in the middle of the crevasse. It was a hundred meters long, half as wide, and then dropped off further down into the darkness. Paul swallowed hard before nudging the controls in that direction.

Polera’s landing gear, three flexible claws, unfolded beneath her. As she set down on the ledge, the claws sank into the top layer of snow before settling on the ice. Several loud cracks echoed out and reverberated through the chasm. The crew all looked at each other with cringing faces, but the ledge held.

Doctor Graham and Paul Cole put on their haz suits and walked out onto the ledge. Two-hundred feet above a trickle of light came down from the top of the crevasse. Straight down from the ledge, the drop fell farther than anyone could see.

The men trudged through thick snow with Graham leading the way. He panned his datapad around the ledge. Linked to the ship’s sensor array, it ticked off the closing distance to the signal. 50 feet, then 30, then ten, and finally zero.

There was nothing but snow, the two men, and the wind.

“Something wrong with your equipment?” Cole asked.

“Nope,” the doctor said putting his datapad away. “Now we dig.”

They clawed at the packed snow underfoot. Working in the thick environmental suits tired the men, but they hadn’t flown all that way for nothing. Finally, their gloves grasped at an unusual device buried deep in the snow. It was a sphere the size of a man’s head attached to a four foot rod ending in a jagged point. The entire piece was covered in a brilliant purple material they had never seen before and clearly did not belong here.

No sooner had Paul yanked the device free from the ice then the signal on the doctor’s datapad went out. Graham climbed out of the hole they had dug, sat down to catch his breath, and slapped his friend on the back.

“That’s it then,” he said still breathing heavy.

The wind howled as it wound its way through the crevasse.

“You make it sound like this was easy,” Paul said trying to conceal his exhaustion. He looked up at the sliver of sky above, “I still have to fly us out of here.”

Away from the ledge, barely able to see Polera resting precariously at the precipe, an alien ship clung to the crevasse wall. It was a small vessel that hung sideways on the ice, waiting, like a spider. It was made of an unusual purple alloy that occasionally glittered if the light caught it just right. It had hung there without stirring and watched the transport land on the ledge. As soon as the jamming signal went dead, the alien ship detached from the wall. It turned upright and pointed itself at old transport.

Graham got up to his feet and dusted the snow off his legs. He looked back at Polera and spotted the alien vessel. It was barely visible against the blue ice just beyond, hanging there almost like a toy. A puff of gas appeared at the nose of the ship before a missile spiraled across the dark abyss towards the men. The projectile twirled through the air and passed over Polera. Catherine, plastered against the cockpit window, turned her head as it past directly over the transport and towards her friends. There was nothing she could do.

“What the- ?” Graham said before Cole grabbed his ankle and yanked him back into the hole.

The missile exploded just a few feet away. Shards of ice shredded the area. The sound was deafening. A cloud of disturbed snow gently settled. The two men lay unharmed in a heap at the bottom of their hole.

“Are you hurt?” the doctor asked.

“I’m fine,” Paul knocked the doctor off and spoke into his radio. “Bill, get her off the ledge and over to us.” He looked back at the doctor and said, “Easy my ass.”

The ship’s engineer grumbled as he slowly sat down at the controls and went through the pre-flight checklist one line at a time.

The men clambered out of their hole, but before they could even look for the alien ship, a thunderous roar echoed all around them. Up above, tons of snow and massive chunks of ice disturbed by the explosion, came crashing down.

“Go, go, go!”

The men ran as the snow hammered them. Small pieces of ice cut through their suits. They pushed on through the torrent. A big chunk slammed into Paul knocking him down. More snow piled on top of them both. Graham pulled his friend up to his feet, but found Paul pressing his visored helmet up against his own.

“Never say it’s easy again. Ever!”

Bill finally had their ship a few feet off the ground and slowly banking towards the men when a second missile exploded right under her. The ship lurched violently and crashed back on to the ledge. Polera ended up even closer to the edge of the drop.

The two men hobbled closer to their ship as more snow and ice crashed down around them. Another ominous crack echoed through the chasm and a huge section of the ledge split open tilting downwards. Polera’s landing gear could not hold her steady, and she slowly started to slide. Bill, as expert a pilot as he was an engineer, couldn’t figure out what to do, so he reverted back to another check list to see if he could a solution.

As the ship continued to slide, Graham and Cole grabbed a hold of the transport’s gangway and pulled themselves into the airlock. Paul tore off his helmet and limped up to the bridge as quick as he could. He pushed Bill out of the pilot’s seat and flipped on all the horizontal thrusters. Catherine strapped herself down into one of the seats and looked out the cockpit window. The last bit of the ledge, a sliver of blue, gave way to the black abyss below.

Paul jammed the controls full forward and sent Polera over the edge. Catherine grabbed her harness and screamed. The transport plunged down into the darkness with each thruster kicking on in sequence. With her controls pulled full back and throttle pushed full in, Polera pointed skywards, completely vertical, and took off like a rocket.

The walls of blue towered ahead like a long hallway. The ship darted right to avoid more falling ice and scrapped the wall next to her. A warning light flashed on a console, but she didn’t stop. Gathering speed, Polera dodged again in her climb to avoid a jutting chunk of blue bigger than herself. Another scrape along the wall sent out more warnings.

The widening mouth ahead gave way to sunlight, as the ship cleared the crevasse leaving a trail of ice falling behind. No sooner had she rolled level, when the wake of snow she had left was pierced by the alien scout ship closing in with sickening speed.


Comments

A great start to our Polera campaign. The players were thrown into the thick of things just as it reads above. With no idea why they were being chased, by whom, or even who the accountant was, both the players dove right in a did a great job.

The lost-communications story was setup as an Aliens movie moment. As they searched the mining operation, I set it up for an onslaught of horrible chittering aliens, but instead turned it around on them with nothing going on like that at all. I could just see the looks on the players and miners faces as they pointed their weapons at each other wondering what the hell was going on.

Bonus Comment: Almost every campaign I’ve started for the past 15+ years, no matter what the setting, no matter how large in scope, every campaign starts with the line “Whipping through the forest…”

Chapter 1: “Cold Beginning”
Doc4

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