Thursday, 17 January 2013

Secrets in Sulphur Session 2

Or Five Old Guys Go Looking for Their Salad Days Part 3

Like the difficult second album, the second session of a game can be a bit fraught for a Gamesmaster. Not only do you have to carry the story forward and start resolving some of the little mysteries you have carefully set out, you also have to maintain or exceed the levels of excitement and fun set in the first session.

Well, two Saturday nights ago, we gathered together again for the second session of Secrets in Sulphur. I had given the scenario ahead some thought and had plotted out some of the set pieces in both my mind and on paper, expanding upon my initial notes. With these “hand holds” in place, I felt confident of being able to move the story forward, while still being nimble enough to react to any unforeseen curve balls thrown at me by the players.

Our cast of characters:
John – Boris Clapshaw, ex Army Infantry Sergeant
Jonathan – Riishaa Daanel, ex Marine
Dylan – Count Asenault “Chivers” Washington-Pipps, retired Marine Colonel
Chris – “Bunty” Staffburger, ex Marine Force Commander

After getting out of the Marines, Bunty Staffburger spent a few years bumming around Gamelea Subsector before winding up on Por’via in Lymethius Subsector. While working service jobs at Por’via Downport, he hooked up with Selia Vuir, a sulphur miner.

Recently, Selia found a cache of valuable sunstones. As her employers, Ossourous Processing, are the legal owners of all valuable minerals found within their claim, she stood to lose the lot. However, Jorgan Kiorpanos, the local agent for VenGems Holdings, was interested in having a look at the gems she had found with a view to working out a little deal.

Things began to unravel when Selia’s Mining Unit was late returning from a shift out on the Sylvian Flats. Then, a storm front began moving down out of the Green Mountains onto the Flats, and Jorgan Kiorpanos seemed to have made the acquaintance of some unsavoury-looking offworlders. Fortunately for Bunty, his old friend Colonel Count Asenault “Chivers” Washington-Pipps, (Rtd.) showed up at the starport with his batman, Sergeant Daanel, and ex-Army Sergeant Clapshaw. These three were in the process of transhipping into the Geithurian Republic to chase up employment offers with the Murkhida Kargesu – the Republic’s equivalent to the Foreign Legion.

After some bother with some Vargr, the party located Selia’s wrecked Mining Unit and chased Jorgan and his cronies up onto a tableland. There, they arrived in time to see Jorgan and two of his assistants killed by a band of fast and deadly carnivores. While Bunty captured the survivor of Jorgan’s crew, Chivers, Daanel and Clapshaw sorted out the carnivores with some well placed gauss rifle volleys and the odd autopistol shot. And then the storm struck.

Deciding that they needed all their equipment up on the tableland before taking on the irrijari, Chivers heads back to Jorgan’s crew’s ATV where Bunty is securing the tranqed captive. Daanel investigates the sunstone geode while Clapshaw keeps an eye out for any more irrijari.

Chivers carefully backs Jorgan’s ATV down the narrow trail towards the party’s ATV as the rain begins to bucket down. Meanwhile, Clapshaw spots two sets of human foot prints leading further uphill from where the irrijari attacked Jorgan’s group. He starts to follow them as he can see that the rain is going to wash the tracks away very soon.

As Clapshaw strides off into the wind and rain, Daanel is on the horns of a dilemma. One of the geodes has been broken open and he can see a fortune in sunstones lying inside it. But combat armour doesn’t have pockets. But there’s a fortune in sunstones just lying there. Helmet – he could fill his helmet with them. But then his head would melt because of the hostile atmosphere before he could make it to the ATV. But there’s a fortune ... oh, sod it! He clambers to his feet and hurries off after Clapshaw.

Chivers and Bunty quickly transfer the party’s extra ammunition and explosives from their ATV into the smaller one Jorgan’s group were driving. Then, grabbing a vial of adrenalin from Clapshaw’s medical kit, they give their prisoner a shot to wake her up. With a gasp, she regains consciousness and promptly throws up all over the back seat of the ATV.

After some questioning, Chivers and Bunty learn that the woman, Cari, was unemployed on Feor/Gamelea when her friend, Clay, was recruited by Jorgan. Along with their friend Mikki, Cari and Clay were given passage to Por’via to help Jorgan claim-jump any miners who brought in under-the-table finds. Cari doesn’t much care for Jorgan, but is upset to learn that Mikki and Clay have also been killed by the irrijari.

After driving back up to the geodes on the upland, Bunty and Chivers leave Cari handcuffed to a seat in the ATV. With her Environment suit secured to the exterior of the vehicle – out of reach for her in the hostile atmosphere – they decide to risk leaving her unguarded while they rejoin Clapshaw and Daanel. Meanwhile, Clapshaw has lost the tracks he was following as they wash away in the rain. But, he has spotted what looks like a declivity under a large rock about half way up the side of a narrow valley, uphill from the geodes. It would appear that the tracks were heading towards it.

As Clapshaw rejoins Daneel, three irrijari appear out of the swirling mist and driving rain. Snapping and snarling, the irrijari dart and lunge. Daanel shoots one and then his gauss rifle jams, again. Clapshaw shoots a second and then the third one dashes in, clawing and scratching. Clapshaw drags his autopistol from its holster as the irrijar knocks him to the ground. With the irrijar trying to tear its way into his combat armour, he manages to swing his pistol up. There’s a muffled report and then he pushes the body off him.

Chivers and Bunty slog up the rise to where Daneel is helping Clapshaw to his feet. Together, the foursome make their way up to the large rock on the hill side. Examining the declivity beneath the rock, they find a cave – now more of a muddy slide – leading down into the earth. Sliding down first, Clapshaw, and then Daneel, discover that the slide only descends a couple of metres before a half-buried metal grill arrests their descent. In front of them is a dark, metallic, keyhole shaped door. There is a slightly darker discolouration part way up one of the door sills. Checking that Daneel is ready and armed, Clapshaw touches the discolouration. The door slides open.

Standing out in the rain, and occasional flashes of lightning, Chivers muses aloud that with both their combat armoured compatriots below ground, the only thing standing between Bunty, Chivers and any wandering irrijari (with their big, pointy teeth) , is the rather feeble protection of their Environment suits. Bunty does not see this as amusing and, after some consideration, neither does Chivers. Piling through the narrow cave mouth, they arrive at the foot of the slide in a rather undignified pile, just as Daneel and Clapshaw step back from their first glance through the keyhole-shaped door.

A second door lies beyond the first door, separated by two metres of smooth, metal corridor, wider at the top than at the bottom. Cautiously opening the second door, the party sees that the corridor continues for another twenty metres before ending in another door. The muddy foot prints they had seen around the first and second door quickly fade away in the long corridor. Clapshaw thinks he sees something like a bundle of rags by the door at the far end of the corridor while Daanel notices that the atmospheric mix is now containing a lot more methane than the natural atmosphere of Por’via.

Exploring the corridor, the party discover that the pile of rags is actually the body of Jimmi, another of Selia’s mining crew and the only other miner, besides Selia, unaccounted for. He has serious claw and teeth wounds on his chest and shoulders which have compromised his environment suit and it may this, rather than his injuries, that lead to his demise. Just as they are about to move on to examine the door at the end of the corridor, the party hear the distinctive sounds of some things sliding down the mud tunnel and landing on the metal grill behind them.

As the party turn to face the open entrance, they see three irrijari slither into the corridor. Chivers and Bunty drop to their knees; Chivers drawing his autopistol while Bunty snaps off a burst from his gauss rifle. Behind them, Daneel and Clapshaw open fire with their gauss rifles. The hail of needles accounts for two of the three irrijari. As the third one springs forward, Chivers fires his autopistol. The muzzle flash ignites the methane in the corridor.

Picking themselves up after the explosion, the party decide to push deeper into the complex to see if Selia managed to reach a place of safety. It is about this point that they hear a grinding, groaning noise, and the corridor seems to subside slightly towards the left. The players conclude that entire structure appears to have settled somewhat, possibly due to the shock wave from the methane explosion.

Passing through the door at the end of the corridor, they find themselves in a hexagonal chamber. The internal atmosphere is now registering as a fairly typical methane mixture with very little oxygen present. Three other doors lead out of the hexagonal chamber – one straight ahead and one each to the left and right. Crossing the chamber, they open the door opposite and see a corridor of a similar length to the one they have just exited, though this one has two doors opposite each other about halfway down, and another two doors opposite each other at the far end.

Opening the first door on the left, the party sees a small, three metre by three metre room. In each of the four corners of the room stands a large metallic ovoid on a small plinth. Daanel spots a darker patch on one of the plinths, much like the door opening patches they have seen in the corridors, so he presses it. There is a humming noise and then a small character, in an obviously alien script, lights up beside the dark patch. This character begins to rotate and change in a regular sequence, like a countdown.

Backing out of the room, the characters try the door opposite the one they have just examined. Again, they see a three meter by three meter room with four ovoids, one in each corner. This time, they resist the temptation to touch anything. Moving down the hall, they open the door on the right at the end. Again, they see a three meter square room. In this room there are three ovoids. On the plinth where the fourth ovoid would stand, they see a tall, strangely alien creature – a Mi’yargin. And standing in the middle of the room and facing them, is Selia.

It is immediately apparent that there is something amiss with Selia. A massive chest and neck wound has ripped her Environment suit open. She stands awkwardly, facing the party, her eyes blank and her bubble helmet pulled back from her face. When she speaks, it is in a flat, monotone.

In the rather unusual conversation that follows, it appears that, much to Bunty’s distress, Selia was fatally injured (“this one was fatally compromised”) by the irrijari (“vermin”) and that to save her, the Mi’yargi known as "The Second" has included her within the Mi'yargin Collective – a group consciousness. Their efforts have stabilised her body at the expense of effectively transmuting her at the cellular level, while her consciousness has become part of the Collective consciousness of the Mi’yargin crew. The structure the party is currently within is actually a Mi’yargin shuttle that became stranded on Por’via some 200 years ago – the Mi’yargin use a base five numbering system and measure time in clock cycles of cesium so there was some frantic figuring carried out on handcomps.

Eventually, after discussion and possible mistranslation, a deal is struck. The party agree to get rid of the irrijari (vermin) that have infested the ship and damaged it, preventing it from lifting off. The Mi’yargin will endeavour to preserve Selia from further “compromise” and pay the party a fee in “metals of a heavy atomic weight” – the implication is that their Nullship, which the party assume is their jump-capable starship, has been busily refuelling and mining in the rings of the Por’via system’s gas giant for the last two centuries and has picked up a quantity of heavy, or radioactive, metals which could be worth a lot of Imperial Credits.

The characters then search the rest of the deck they are on and the one below it. Both decks are similar in layout – a central hexagonal room (which is also the elevator that runs the length of the ship) with four corridors leading off it. Each corridor, except the entry corridor, gives access to four rooms, and each room contains four ovoids – the crew’s life pods. Some of the ovoids are discoloured and the characters assume that perhaps the life support has failed on these units but, out of a possible complement of 112, at least 100 Mi’yargin appear to have survived. No irrijari are found on these upper two decks.

As the lift doors open onto a gantry at the third deck level, the characters find themselves looking down into the vast, empty space of the cargo hold. Tie rods and bracing struts form a lattice of anchor points between the deck head, above, and the engine deck below.

Looking down through their IR scopes, Clapshaw and Daanel spot movement around the base of the lift shaft. At least a dozen irrijarri are prowling about. Clapshaw, Dannel and Bunty start sniping at them from the gantry. The irrijari quickly work out where the fire is coming from and start swarming up the bracing struts towards them. What started out as a fun turkey shoot, suddenly starts turning serious as missed shots and miss-fires fail to stem the tide surging towards them.

Just as the characters begin to wonder whether it might be time to cut and run, as they’re getting pushed back into the lift car, Chivers fells the last irrijar with a shot from his autopistol. Heaving a collective sigh of relief, they head down towards the engine deck.

As the lift doors start to open, Clapshaw’s combat armour tells him that the atmosphere on the engine deck is an oxygen/methane mix. The irrijari compromised the ship’s integrity when they broke out onto the surrounding tableland. Waves of irrijari come swarming out of the gantries and crawl spaces of the engine deck. A volley of gauss needles cut some of them down and then Bunty fires a RAM grenade into the midst of them as Chivers closes the lift door. A flash fire and explosion rips through the engine deck, blowing the party off their feet, even as the lift doors close. When the smoke clears, the irrijari are gone and the Mi’yargin shuttle tears itself free from Por’via.

Rejoining Selia and the Second on the top deck, the party prepare for the ride out to Harrimol VIII, the Por’via System gas giant, when the Collective advises them that a ship has lifted from Por’via Downport and has given chase. The Mi’yargin instruments indicate that the pursuing ship is the Vargr freighter, Akhska.

To be continued...

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Secrets in Sulphur

Or Five Old Guys Go Looking for Their Salad Days Part 2

Last Friday night I ran a Classic Traveller game, Secrets in Sulphur, for four of my old gaming group. Dylan and Chris decided to use pregenerated Book 1 Marine characters, while Jonathan and John decided to refamiliarise themselves with the character generation system by generating a couple of Book 4 Army and Marine characters.

When writing the scenario for the session, I knew that my players had a preference for an action adventure – John had mentioned “bug hunt” in a pre-game email. Also, as we haven’t played for a while, I figured that any puzzle or mystery would need to relatively uncomplicated to solve (ie few moving parts) as there’s nothing more frustrating for a player than a puzzle that just won’t come out if you can’t think like Inspector Poirot.

So, our cast of characters consisted of:
John – Boris Clapshaw, ex Army Infantry Sergeant
Jonathan – Riishaa Daanel, ex Marine
Dylan – Count Asenault “Chivers” Washington-Pipps, retired Marine Colonel
Chris – “Bunty” Staffburger, ex Marine Force Commander

Now, I had already decided that Chivers and Bunty knew each other from their service days, so to have both characters end up as ex Marine Officers and both have Gambling skill was a writer’s gift – theirs was obviously a relationship forged over the green cloth of the Officers’ Club. Jonathan decided that Riishaa Daanel had been Chivers’ batman while they were in the service, while John’s character, Boris Clapshaw, was an acquaintance of Daanel’s.

I decided that I wanted to set the scenario on the planet Por’via in the Lymethius Subsector.

Library Data:
Harrimol IV - Por’via/Lymethius D9B4566-8. Imperial World.
Harrimol VIII is a gas giant and Por’via has no moons. Scout Base has no facilities. No Highport. Downport has a tug and three tenders. Por’via is directly governed from Julnar/Gamelea and the lack of local representation is a source of friction for the local population of 793,000.

This was primarily because I wanted a hostile environment as a complicator. I had been tossing up between Por’via and a world or moon with a methane atmosphere but, in the end, went for the sulphur-contaminated atmosphere of Por’via. Looking at Por’via’s statistics, I think I actually underplayed the atmosphere as Corrosive implies a higher degree of toxicity than Contaminated.

After leaving the service, Bunty Staffburger bummed around Gamelea Subsector before settling on Por’via a couple of years ago. Working in the service industry driving cabs and hauling freight, he was just scratching by, and then he hooked up with Selia Vuir.

Selia Vuir works as a sulphur miner for Ossourous Processing – a Julnarian mineral extraction concern that is well connected with both the Julnarian Government and with the Julnar Mandate Authority which governs Por’via – on the Sylvian Flats, 100 km north of Por’via Down, the main town and starport on the planet. A member of a five-person crew operating a massive surface Mining Unit – a 20 metre wide surface cutter, very much like a highway resurfacing machine but designed to cut and process the top 15cm layer of soil – Selia works week on/week off shifts out on the flats.

Just recently, Selia discovered a cache of sunstones – valuable opal-like gems occasionally found in geodes – near the end of the cut zone her crew had been working. Ossourous Processing technically owns any valuables found on its claim, but Selia and Bunty have hit upon a plan to scam this cache. Jorgan Kiorpanos, the local agent for VenGems Holdings, has expressed unofficial interest in the cache and its Selia’s intent to retrieve the cache during her current duty shift for him to evaluate.

A Vargr freighter is currently at Por’via Down. Several people have remarked that while this ship, the Akhska, is similar to the Ueill out of Tonivar/Cabria that often calls at Por’via, the crew of the Akhska do not speak much Imperial Basic. A party from the Akhska has headed up towards the Green Mountains, north of the Sylvian Plain, in an ATV to hunt Crarachan – a goat-like grazer able to survive the sulphur-laden atmosphere.

Bunty Staffburger is sitting in the Por’via Downport bar, waiting for a fare and keeping an anxious eye on his handcomp. His girlfriend, Selia Vuir, a sulphur miner, is overdue from her current week-on shift, and storm warnings have been posted for the Green Mountains and Northern Sylvian Plain area. He is also concerned that Selia is supposed to be bringing back a geode of sunstones she has found out on the Plain. Failing to declare a geode is viewed as a serious offence by Ossourous Processing, and as the company carries a lot of weight with the Julnar Mandate Authority, a prosecution is pretty much a career ender.

While mulling over his worries, Staffburger hears a familiar voice boom behind him. “Bunty!” Glancing around, Staffburger sees a vaguely familiar figure from his past, “Chivers?” Indeed, it is his old wardroom drinking and card buddy, Marine Colonel Count Asenault “Chivers” Washington-Pipps. Chivers quickly introduces his two companions, “Sergeant Daanel, my batman, and Sergeant Clapshaw. Clapshaw’s Army, but he’s a good sort.”

Chivers tells Staffburger that after coming out of the service there hadn’t been a lot of work for security consultants in Gamelea Subsector. Eventually, Daanel had got wind that the Murkhida Kargesu, the Geithurian Republic’s Alien Legion, was busily recruiting for operations to Spinward of the Republic. This presented a dilemma for Chivers as the Imperium frowns on its past service personnel serving non-Imperial states, and particularly non-Imperial states that have been actively hostile to the Imperium, as the Geithurian Republic has been.

Daanel was able to discover the existence of the Crimson Road – a semi-coordinated series of interconnecting short haul passenger-carrying freighters that enables certain people to drop off the Imperial radar as they move around Imperial Space. It was while travelling this circuitous route that Chivers, Daanel and Clapshaw found themselves on Por’via, and about to take the final section over the Imperial Border and into Geithurian space.

While Daanel and Clapshaw secure their luggage, Bunty Staffburger tells Chivers about his girlfriend:

“I’m dating a miner.”
“A minor? Gad, and I thought I was a rake.”
“No. A miner. She mines.”

And how she was overdue from her current shift, and how a storm system was moving south, down out of the Green Mountains and onto the Sylvian Plain.

As the rest of the groups’s equipment arrives, Staffburger rings the Ossourous Processing Dispatch office to check up on Selia’s Mining Unit. He learns that it is standard procedure for the crew to stay buttoned up during a storm if the Unit has broken down. As the incoming storm has grounded all grav search vehicles, it is highly likely that Selia and her crew are preparing to wait it out at the end of track as plotted by the Dispatch office. As Staffburger downloads the Unit’s track, he sees through the window of the Concourse, Jorgan Kiorpanos, the VenGems agent, talking to two unsavoury-looking men in an ATV. After a brief conversation, Jorgan’s companions drive off, heading out of town.

Once the party get themselves organised and hire an ATV, they set off towards the Ossourous Processing Restricted Access Zone north of Por’via Down. After a two-hour drive up Route 41, Chivers turns off the main road and onto an access road that leads to a transfer site. This is where the Mining Units unload their ore onto stock piles, and dump their tailings.

Passing through the transfer site, they pick up the last cut Selia’s Mining Unit made – a 20 metre-wide track that zig-zags across a ten kilometre wide cut zone that stretches across the north of the Sylvian Plain to the foothills of the Green Mountains. As the party follows the cut, they realise that there is not one, but two ATVs ahead of them, both apparently following the Mining Unit.

On Clapshaw’s suggestion, Chivers pilots the party’s ATV up over the edge of the cut. Crossing the rough ground between the east-bound and west-bound cuts, the party manage to get ahead of the second of the two ATVs they are following. With their ATV concealed, Clapshaw wriggles forward into the shelter of a boulder where he can watch the cut. Soon, he spies the second ATV heading towards him on the west-bound cut and, by the skilful use of his Recon skill, he manages to see that there are at least five individuals inside the ATV, and at least two of them are Vargr.

After the vehicle passes, Clapshaw returns to the party and relates his intelligence. Giving chase up the west-bound cut, and with the weather closing in, the party suddenly realise that they are closer to the turn back then they thought as they catch a glimpse of the other ATV heading back past them on the next east-bound cut.

As they come round the turn back and clear the steam of the fumaroles that define the western end of the cut zone, the party find their way ahead blocked by the second ATV. Three Vargr have alighted and open fire on the party’s vehicle. Chivers throws the ATV into reverse, even as the front windshield is shot out.

“Darn! There goes the deposit,” Staffburger observes sourly.

Fortunately, the party have been wearing environment suits since they set out so it takes them but moments to button up as the insidious planetary atmosphere floods the interior of their vehicle. As clouds of noxious fumes roll across the countryside, hiding the two groups, Chivers hits the brakes. Clapshaw, Daanel and Staffburger leap down from the ATV and take up firing positions as the Vargr come dashing through the clouds of steam and gas. All three Vargr go down in a hail of gauss rifle fire.

As Daanel and Clapshaw advance cautiously, the second ATV drives off at high speed, eastward along the east bound cut. Seeing their quary in flight, Daanel and Clapshaw sprint back to the party’s ATV. Chivers again takes the ATV up and over the edge of the cut and over the rough ground between the east and west-bound cutways. Closing on the next west-bound cut, he halts a little way short of it. Clapshaw wriggles forward in time to see the Vargrs’ ATV approaching him from the east. After a moment’s deliberation, Clapshaw decides to knock the other vehicle out with a well-place RAM-grenade in the engine bay. Unfortunately, his RAM-grenade is not so well-placed and the Vargrs’ ATV is not as armoured as he first thought. With a bang and a flash, the Vargrs’ ATV explodes in a massive fireball.

“That didn’t work out so well,” Clapshaw says ruefully as he rejoins the rest of the party.

Pressing on, and with the weather closing in, the party find themselves nearly at the northern end of the cut zone. Ahead, they can see where the Mining Unit’s cut ends and the Unit crosses a small gully via a causeway before commencing a return cut towards the transfer station. As they get closer, they can see that the gulley is narrow and steep, and that the Mining Unit has come off the narrow causeway and is nose-down in the gulley.

Debussing from the ATV, Clapshaw covers Staffburger as he climbs down to inspect the Mining Unit. Daanel walks up the road a little way and investigates the gulley above the causeway. Staffburger quickly discovers that while two of the Mining Unit crew are still aboard, both are dead and neither are Selia. Damage in the Unit’s cutter bay indicates that some sort of explosive charge or mine was left in front of the vehicle and that this was taken inside, along with the normal ore, before exploding and disabling the Unit. Someone has then shot up the Mining Unit’s wheelhouse and removed or destroyed all computer gear aboard, including handcomps. Meanwhile, Daanel has found tracks indicating that two people on foot and a vehicle have headed up the narrow gulley, upstream of the causeway.

After some deliberation, the party decide to follow on foot as their large ATV will not fit up the narrow gulley. At this stage both Chivers and Staffburger are wearing environment suits and are armed with handguns while Daanel and Clapshaw are wearing Combat Armour and are armed with gauss rifles.

They follow the narrow trail that winds up through gulley before debouching onto a more open upland area. Visibility is now down to about twenty metres and the wind is rising, driving swirling clouds of fog and gas before it. As they pass between pools of bubbling water and boiling mud, Chivers spots something in one of the mud pools. It turns out to be the body of one of the miners.

Retrieving the body, Staffburger discovers a hand drawn map that shows a location not too far from them with an ‘X’. Beyond the ‘X’ is a crudely drawn twin-peaked mountain and the word ‘jackpot’ written in Selia’s handwriting.

As the first heavy drops of rain start falling, the party finds the ATV they have been pursuing parked by the side of the trail.

As they investigate the vehicle, they hear a scream of terror from further ahead. Advancing cautiously between twisted piles of stone, they hear more shouts, and then gun shots. Running forward, they see a body on the ground and three people in environment suits standing back to back with handguns drawn. Around them, leaping and hissing, are half a dozen irrijari – particularly fast, nasty and vicious predators. As the party watch, an irrijar leaps forward and literally bites one of the three survivors’ head off.

Daanel and Clapshaw manage to fell several of the irrijari with their gauss rifles as the two survivors run towards the party. One of the two is killed by another irrijar and then Daanel’s gauss rifle jams. An irrijar springs at Daanel but can’t hurt him through his combat armour. Clapshaw lines up a shot, and then his gauss rifle jams, too – obviously the insidious atmosphere is taking its toll on the gauss rifles. Staffburger chases after the fleeing survivor and manages to tranq her with his snub pistol. Again, it isn’t Selia so he ties her up and leaves her in the ATV.

Clapshaw throws his heavy autopistol to Chivers, who hasn’t managed to hit any of the irrijari with his snub pistol. This was becoming rather alarming for Chivers as he was very conscious that he was only wearing an environment suit and that there were still several very dangerous irrijari darting in and out of the swirling gas clouds. Snatching up Clapshaw’s pistol, Chivers turns and fires, downing an irrijari with a single shot. Clapshaw clears his jam and shoots the last irrijari that has been wrestling with Daanel, and suddenly the upland is silent, except for the moaning of the wind. A rattling noise, drawing nearer, announces the leading edge of a downpour.

To Be Continued ...