This is part of an ongoing campaign. You can find the other sessions over on the sidebar. This session was run on December 22, 2022. This session contains secret communications between me and the individual players. This means that these recaps do not cover everything that happened in the session. I will be reporting only the information that all players had access to. This portion of the campaign uses Zozer Games excellent Outpost Mars setting for Cepheus Engine.
While they were initially disturbed by the alarm, Samantha explained that it was a general security alarm and did not mean that there was a decompression risk. She told them that the city's security needs were fairly minor, so they did not have a sophisticated alarm system and the same alarm went off for almost any incident. The locals usually ignored it unless further instructions were given over the PA system. Based on this, they decided to head back to 10wPink.
On the way, they discussed whether they still needed information from David Saunders in light of having Samantha Hall's assistance in locating the drill site. Hunter revealed to the rest of the group that David Saunders owes quite a bit of money to some people that he is working with and Hunter needs to bring him along to collect for them. Everyone but Romilius and Samantha diverted back to the prison instead of returning to the transport. When they reached the prison, the sheriff informed them that he still could not release Saunders and explained that he was busy because the entire public terminal system for the city had locked down after a hacking attempt. He asked them to come back in the morning.
Meanwhile. Romilius was arranging a rover for the group to use for their trip to the dig site. He spent some time tying 10wPink into the rover remotely as best he could. While he was working on this, the others returned and the group decided to leave in the morning whether they could convince the sheriff to release David Saunders or not.
A little after 2100, they got a call from the sheriff's office telling them that the terminal hacking situation had been resolved and that the sheriff was ready to meet with them about possibly releasing the prisoner. Romilius continued working on the rover and the rest of the group made their way back to the office. When they arrived, they were surprised that several armed deputies were present. The sheriff explained that his cybersecurity team had determined that Romilius was responsible for the earlier hacking attempt and that he had destroyed a radar located on Adrienne's upper level by overriding the safety controls on the motors that turned the dish. They were initially surprised to hear this, but Lukas worked out that Romilius had wandered off on his own during the time that the cyberintrusion happened. Hunter called Romilius and asked him to come down to the sheriff's office. Romilius agreed and Hunter secretly left his phone on so that Romilius could hear everything happening in the room.
While they waited for Romilius to arrive, Lukas contacted Jin back at Reunion to see if UNSCO would be willing to intervene on Romilius's behalf with the ESA. Jin asked him if he thought he needed Romilius to complete the mission, and he told her that he thought he was essential. She told him to standby while she ran the request up her chain. While Lukas was on with Jin, Romilius arrived and was immediately arrested and handcuffed. There was a brief moment of tension between Hunter and one of the deputies when Hunter tried to leave, but Zalf was able to defuse the situation.
While they waited for UNSCO to convince ESA to release Romilius, Lukas and Zalf got permission to speak privately with David Saunders. Lukas told Saunders that the UNSCO would be willing to intervene on his behalf during his drug smuggling trial if he was willing to give them the coordinates for the Kellington drill site. Lukas explained that they believed that there was information at the drill site necessary for the investigation of the transporter crash. Faced with the potential for a long sentence to hard mining labor, Saunders agreed and gave them the coordinates. He told them that during one of their test drills, the Kellington group broke through the lakebed into a strange chamber. It appeared to be artificial, so they sent a drone down. The drone revealed a large chamber and a smaller passageway. They found the artifact that they handed over to Darryl Hall in the chamber. They did not have a chance to investigate further because of their financial difficulties.
As they were finalizing the details of this deal, Lukas got a call from Jin and excused himself while Zalf stayed with Saunders. Jin told Lukas that UNSCO and ESA reached agreement and the sheriff would release Romilius to them on the condition that he would be charged for his computer crimes on his return to Reunion.
The sheriff handed Romilius, still in handcuffs, over to Lukas and explained that Lukas was now personally responsible for ensuring that Romilius reached Reunion to stand trial. He also conditioned his release on Romilius not reentering Adrienne proper. They agreed and decided to head back to the rover and leave immediately. On the way, they discussed whether to keep Romilius restrained. They had been burned by a teammate’s personal agenda in the past, and were worried about further problems. Ultimately, they decided that they needed his computer skills and would have to trust him. They removed his cuffs when they reached the rover and started the three day trip across Lake Barsoom to the drill site.
The drill site consisted of three small domes and the drill rig. They quickly explored the facilities. One dome was a living area and divided up into four smaller areas for sleeping, eating, and recreation. The second dome was a garage and a workspace with several drones, both hover and tracked, that appeared to still be operational. The third dome was divided into a storage area and a control room for the drill rig and the drones. Romilius determined that while the hard drives had been removed from the control computers, he had everything he needed to get them working again. The drones were commercial products, so he was able to download the necessary control software for them.
While Romilius was repairing the control center under Mildra’s watchful eye, the others worked to prepare the drones. Zalf investigated the rig and found it to have a more powerful motor than expected. He also saw that the winch Saunders had described for lowering drones into the shaft was still in place. They sent an update to Jin and turned in for the night.
The next morning they lowered a tracked drone down the drill shaft into the chamber a kilometer below. Watching the feed, Hunter immediately recognized that the chamber was artificial. There was a significant amount of debris from the ceiling on the floor of the chamber, but the passageway that Saunders described was clearly visible. Romilius carefully navigated the drone down the passageway through the debris on the floor. The passageway terminated in another, smaller chamber, with several other passageways leaving it. In the center of the chamber, the ceiling had collapsed half covering a table. The table appeared to be roughly similar in dimensions to a human table and there was a metallic box visible on the top. The box appeared to be very similar to artifact based on the pictures they stole from the New Dawn computer system in Reunion. This second chamber was at the limit of their communication range with the drone.
Romilius managed to grab the box with the drone and lift it off the table. This revealed that there was another box behind it that was half buried in the rubble. They decided not to mess with that box as they did not want to risk shifting the debris and causing further collapses. Romilius started to maneuver the drone back to the bore shaft but it capsized while trying to navigate some of the debris in the passageway. He was not able to right the drone.
Zalph, Lukas, Hunter, and Adler decided to go down the shaft to explore more and retrieve the stranded drone. Mildra stayed in the drone control center with Romilius. It took a few hours to lower everyone down the bore shaft one at a time. Once assembled at the base of the shaft, they began exploring the chamber. Lukas, an archaeologist, was able to spot architectural similarities with the Cydonian sites, but could not identify any specific imagery or writing on the walls that would reveal the chamber’s purpose. They proceeded down the passageway, righted the drone, and had it drop the box at the base of the shaft. In the second chamber, they determined that removing the other box would be tricky due to the state of the partially collapsed ceiling. They also determined that, of the six other exits to the chamber, all but two were completely blocked due to collapses. One of these passageways sloped up, and the other sloped down. They let Romilius know that they were about to pass out of communications range and started down the descending passage.