Ironsworn: Starforged (Mophidius)
Written & Designed by Sean Tomkin
Art by Joshua Meehan, Jeff Zugale, and Sarah Dahlinger
You can purchase the game here.
Read part two of this series here.
The Vigilant gracefully glides through the vast expanse of space, weaving its way through the remnants of long-abandoned planet-cracking mineral drills & shards of the ancient facilities that once dotted Orcus’ surface. As it approaches this floating graveyard, the hull groans under the stress of sudden turbulence as if protesting the eerie surroundings.
The graveyard itself is a haunting sight. Metal carcasses of massive, once-grand spaceships float listlessly in the void, their lifeless frames casting shadows in the darkness. Debris and wreckage are scattered everywhere, testaments to the violent ends of these colossal vessels. They had been coming here to pick up for distribution or in orbit, waiting for clearance to jump. Their crews never fully understood what was happening.
The vessel deftly navigates through the wreckage, and the asteroid comes into view as it draws closer. Glimmer, which orbits Orcus, a lifeless planet, is an unlikely location for a settlement, but it is built around the mining of corbomite, the source of the United Planetary Alliance’s FTL capabilities. Orcus had been the site of a massive battle that ended The Kreder Union’s occupation of Bamiri society. Forces dispatched by Sulvu and their allies ended this period of apartheid and pushed the Kreder forces back into their pre-established territory. Many Bamiri ended up on this side of UPA space, separated from their home worlds. They adapted, and many even live in Glimmer.
Glimmer is a bustling hub of activity, despite its small size. Tens of thousands make this place a permanent home, mostly part of the mining operation or running businesses catering to the miners. The asteroid’s interior is hollowed out, with the settlement built into its walls. There are layers upon layers of districts within that unassuming rock hidden among all the other asteroids that encircle Orcus.
The Vigilant eventually makes its way down to the landing port, where the large doors open up, and it comes to land in the space designated by Glimmer Control. Despite the eerie surroundings of the derelict spaceship graveyard, the settlement feels very much alive, but Kei can’t help bring a sense of dread with him.
Kei exits the landing bay and finds himself navigating a sea of people rushing to gates for commercial takeoffs or arriving to do some business here, likely black market. Then, finally, he spots Astrid occupying a stool at a spaceport bar named Fontana’s. He sits beside her and says, “Guessing the data’s not here? No chance of me just hopping back on my ship and leaving?” She shakes her head and finishes her drink before speaking. Astrid’s older than Kei by around a decade, with white-blonde hair and cracks in her weathered skin that make it obvious she’s someone who has lived in a mining colony for nearly her entire life. “I don’t know if we’re making it out of here.” She gestures beyond the bar to the doors indicating arrivals should pass through them to enter the Commerce District. Two Glimmer LEOs stand on either side, eyes locked on Astrid.
Kei begins looking for a distraction to help them escape (Secure an Advantage) and notices a large group of Bamiri pilgrims moving towards these sliding double doors. He points it out to Astrid, she pays the bartender, and the two maneuver their way into the crowd (Face Danger with Wits). Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out well, as the guards have no problem shoving Bamiri to the side to get to Astrid. As Kei is pushed into the Commerce District by a wave of pilgrims, he watches helplessly as the guards grab Astrid and drag her towards an alleyway.
Kei keeps an eye on Astrid, knowing they are minutes away from her being thrown in some cell at a nearby security office. He keeps up a few paces behind and ducks around a corner when one guard turns around to check. Kei notices a tower of three precariously placed plastic container crates. He tests and finds they are moveable, but it will take some force. As the guards and Astrid near the tower of crates, Kei throws his full weight into them, and they tumble down, releasing Astrid but drawing their weapons. One guard peels off to look for whoever did that while the other, weapon drawn, keeps working toward the security office. Kei manages to come up behind the one looking for him and disables them with a stun shot from his sidearm. He retraces his steps, finds the other guard with Astrid, and manages to take him out as well.
Astrid tells Kei to follow her, and they disappear into the labyrinth of Glimmer, swallowed up by crowds just a couple streets over. She explains they cannot return to her office/apartment as station security has likely ransacked the place and is staking it out anyway. So instead, she offers up an unlicensed safehouse apartment she kept off the books for clients who might need a place to hide out for a while. Kei follows his contact through narrow backways and even over a suspended bridge, looking down on the Entertainment District. Finally, they end up in an area where Bamiri comprises most of the community. Kei notices familiar designs and icons in the windows of apartments and shops, things he first saw as a child when his father entertained many speakers from the Bamiri worlds.
Kei has a moment to breathe inside the dingy, sparsely furnished apartment. Astrid tosses some stim tea on to heat up while they talk. Kei notices Holo pics of Astrid with another woman, olive-skinned, hair cropped short; they appear very close in these pics, embracing, smiling, a different image of the stern woman sitting across from him. Astrid explains that security has been on higher alert since the UPA issued warnings about unauthorized Imperium refugee ships crossing into Regulak. Gilmmer’s Commodore Vega has seen his authority slipping in the last few years as the Bamiri become more politically active. Rumors of collusion between the Bamiri and Imperium resistance forces are rampant throughout the colony, driving Vega to become more aggressive with security measures.
Vega’s main opposition comes from Rozhan Kane, the voice of the diaspora in Glimmer. The other religious leaders at the high temple in Glimmer remain masked & anonymous as their beliefs dictate. Rozhan speaks for them, meaning his people recognize him as having immense power. Rozhan’s writings have sparked regular protests on the station, creating trouble as about ⅓ of the miners are Bamiri. This leads to work stoppages, and the flow of corbomite is the only thing that keeps Vega in power. When the flow slows down or ceases, he realizes his time is short. Astrid reveals she does a lot of intelligence work for the Bamiri pro bono, which has made her a target of Vega’s.
Kei is getting antsy and more interested in what info she has on his brother, Tomo. He mentions the disks, and she excuses herself, retrieving them from an unseen, hidden alcove. She tosses them to Kei, and he loads them onto his tab. Most of what Kei finds are classified reports between UPA commanders in this quadrant about an influx of Imperium refugees, mainly on the deep space Lyra Station, where Tomo was killed. Astrid explains she couldn’t find anything specifically about the incident that caused Tomo’s death, but there was an endless flow of chatter about losing control of Lyra to these refugees. She posits that The Da Silva’s away mission on Lyra has been locked down because something much worse happened when a power struggle broke out.
Kei immediately asks how to get to Lyra, to which Astrid curtly responds that you don’t. There are no clear, direct FTL routes, meaning shorter jumps through space wilderness are the safest option. Kei is straight with her and says he’s going, that he can’t continue living in the dark about his brother’s death. He says he’s taken to some of the Bamiri customs about honoring the dead and that he simply cannot allow his brother’s spirit to remain in turmoil. There needs to be closure. Astrid relents a bit and says there are ways to get to Lyra, but you must have the right people with you and know ways around detection.
Astrid says they need to meet with the Elder Consortium at the high temple. They have regular encrypted communication with their peers on Lyra and would know of ways. She tosses Kei some Bamiri pilgrim’s clothing and says they must wear it because Glimmer security will be looking for them now. A tense journey into the heart of the Temple District is made, including navigating around a clash between station security and a protest against the cancellation of recognition of one of the holy days of rest. Once they reach the threshold of the temple, things calm down. Due to treaties still in place, Glimmer security forces are not allowed to set foot within the temple grounds. The attendants bring Astrid and Kei to a waiting room; she is escorted out first while Kei waits another hour.
Eventually, they bring Kei to a larger room where Astrid sits and speaks with a copper-skinned bearded man, unmasked, unlike the other people in the temple. He introduces himself, Rozhan Kane, the voice of the diaspora. He says he knew Tomo briefly during The Da Sliva’s two weeks at Glimmer. He gives Kei his sorrow over Tomo’s passing. Kei inquires if he knows why the ship went to Lyra, and Kane says it was part of an intelligence operation to determine the leadership of the refugees flooding into the sector. Kane is unsure what went wrong; his contacts on Lyra say there were “complications.” Kane also says he can get Kei to Lyra, but there is a larger catch; Kane needs to get out of Glimmer undetected. If Vega knows he’s left, the commodore will make a big move against the diaspora. Kane will come with Kei, sneaking off to the station. To do this, Kei & Astrid will need to upload a virus into the station security mainframe; this will blank out all scans of ships coming & going from Glimmer for a small window. In this window, they can escape without Vega knowing Kane is gone.
It’s another odyssey to a cramped corner of the asteroid station where Kei helps defend against protocols designed to seek out viruses in the mainframe. He realizes as he’s combatting this virtual enemy that Glimmer uses security protocols developed with Sulvu technology which is very odd in a UPA station. While the Sulvu are a vital part of the UPA, the standard security systems are often a hybrid of many different tech systems. The autonomy of a Sulvu virus hunter is far out of compliance with UPA standards as they have been known to kill people by deactivating life support systems to stop a hacker. Through intense concentration, Kei distracts and diverts this one while Astrid puts the virus in place.
Back at the high temple, fighting has broken out around its borders between Bamiri and security forces. Kei slips in and helps Rozhan disguise himself to escape through the crowd. Astrid has staked out the spaceport and triggers the virus, causing chaos among ships both docked and waiting for clearance. They get aboard the Vigilant and jet out of the station along with other ships whose pilots and crews were likely doing something illegal and used this to their advantage. Alarms sound over Glimmer comm channels, and Zip Fighters are scrambled to apprehend as many rogue ships as possible.
Kei asks if anyone can man the Vigilant’s weapons systems while he tries to lose the Zips in the asteroid field. Astrid says she has some experience from her time in the border skirmishes with the Renkat Empire. Very quickly realizes the Zips are in panic mode, which he uses to his advantage by trying some riskier maneuvers. Once the FTL drive is powered up, Kei goes to make his jump, but just as he does, the ship is struck by an asteroid chunk broken loose in the laser fire. When they come out of the jump, heading towards the green-blue atmosphere of Nemus, alarms sound over engine failure. Kei decides to take his chances with an emergency landing on the planet rather than drifting into the void.
The problems escalate when they breach the cloud cover and find the area around the settlement of Silvana experiencing massive geological issues. Silvana is a settlement torn in two. Half the place is dedicated to its original intent as an archaeological site to learn more about the forerunners who once lived there. The other half is an industrial operation attempting to harvest natural gasses from the planet’s core. Silvana was built into the side of a supposedly dormant volcano which seems to be signaling that it will be active very soon. The spaceport lies around 30 kilometers from the volcano’s base on a reasonably even savannah. Kei urgently tells spaceport comms they are having engine failure and is given a landing pad on the outskirts of the port. Astrid points out many ships leaving Silvana right as a chunk of magma spews from the volcano and completely obliterates one of them.
Once landed, the three find constant tremors that make it hard to stand up. They signal for a maintenance crew and see only one person has shown up. He’s a humanoid with the distinct trait of having four fully functioning arms and a body type clearly bulked up through chemical means. The man seems very shy when he sees them, making little eye contact and mumbling questions about what needs repairs. Kei is impressed with the dexterity and speed on display from the addition of an extra set of limbs. He notes Astrid bristles reflexively at the mechanic and asks what she’s on about. Astrid explains the guy is clearly an “Ez-head” (an addict of Essence, the chemical vital to the Trade Enclave’s power). Things like the extra limbs and overly muscular physique result from long-term use. In UPA space, especially in the sectors that border Trade Enclave territory, there is a lot of hostility towards workers that cross over looking for jobs and show signs of using the substance. In addition, Essence often causes changes to the brain, allowing for low levels of ESP, making them constantly suspected of spying for the Enclave.
Between tremors, Kei introduces himself to the mechanic, who explains repairs he made that have upgraded the Vigilant’s engines slightly, terminology Kei can’t say he fully understands. However, he does express his appreciation and pries a little deeper. The man’s name is Jorruns, and he, like many others, crossed the border to find work outside the feudal Enclave economic system. He labored under the control of the sadistic House Verfault, tapping his chest where the scars of a surgically sealed-up heart plug were once installed. Silvana’s spaceport was the closest he could find work, but he lives in squalor here. Despite Astrid’s prejudices, Kei feels sorry for the guy and notices the tremors worsening. All Jorruns knows is that explosions started about a week ago on the volcano, and these earthquakes just keep getting worse. Most ships are under emergency evac orders, but he knows there will be no spot for him on any of them. Kei offers passage on the Vigilant in exchange for Jorruns keeping things running smoothly. He’s honest and says they are headed into potentially hostile territory, but he can’t leave the four-armed man behind. Jorruns eyes Kei, trying to suss out any betrayal in his words, likely having been burned before. He agrees, and the Vigilant is ready to flee yet again.
The ship breaks hurtles towards the clouds to break the planet’s grip when a chunk of magma careening towards the Vigilant sets off its proximity scanners. Kei dodges it, but his engine charging causes a small explosion on board and scorches the eyes of Rozhan. Kei stops the ship once they are in orbit and finds Astrid attending to Rozhan. Unfortunately, he’s been blinded, and the medkit onboard isn’t enough to repair the cell damage. They need to get to Lyra even more now to get him help. Jorruns explains that his repairs to the FTL drive and the damage it sustained means they will have to take shorter jumps to avoid burning it out. And so the Vigilant makes its first FTL jump into the vast wild space between here and Lyra…
Read part four here.
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