When I last posted in this thread, Platoon 56 was on a dangerous mission to recover a priceless artifact from the depths of space - a functional Quantum cruiser. Quite the prize, I would say, especially seeing as nobody had even seen a Quantum cruiser before. Unfortunately, this one was moving at Warp 18. That's 3.6 million times faster than the speed of light, or close to 6 times faster than mankind's fastest warp capabilities. Best part: it was being chased down by an instance of Dark Space, which was moving even faster
- though not by much, as it's already pushing the limits of warp capability.
Fortunately, the engineers aboard the Hermes (where Platoon 56 temporarily resided) hatched a plan to launch Platoon 56 off a jury-rigged "warp catapult" to get them up to speed, so they could "safely" rendezvous with the target. Long story short, it worked. They managed to catch up with the Q-cruiser - although now they had the dark space dogging them as well, and had to put up with the fighting forces of both the Q-cruiser and the Darkspace. Fun for the whole family.
After a series of (mis)adventures, and a lot of deaths, the platoon manages to meet up and talk with a couple of actual Quantum survivors. They install their equipment into the warp drive of the Qcruiser with the help of one of them, which is designed to help give the Qcruiser a massive warp boost (yes, even faster) and pull it out of warp right next to the Tartarus. They even find a real, living Quantum girl to bring along with them, physically aged around 17-22ish. In removing her from an alternate universe, they effectively cut off her access to the nearby Quantum Orb - the thing that lets Quantums interface with our universe and others, leaving her as a former host.
Tartarus looms before them, they're just getting ready to dock, SCAMPS is praising them for such an amazing mission AND a capturing Quantum prisoner to boot, and...
The Darkspace catches up and rips through the entire REKT platoon and the back half of the Tartarus. Everything goes dark. Close curtains. Roll credits.
This is where I closed off last time.
Now we continue.
The stars go out. The light of the nearby star is extinguished. The REKT crew is enveloped by a crushing darkness, unlike anything they'd ever known before. Yet around them, something seems to glitter in the inky blackness of the almost-void - something dim, lifeless, and twisted. As their eyes adjust, in the dead space around them, hundreds - no, perhaps thousands - of broken wrecks and derelicts drift aimlessly. Many of them don't even look like they belong in our galaxy. Some of them are difficult to even look
at because their forms shift and shimmer in ways that are uniquely unsettling, impossible for your minds to comprehend, and others warp, or seem discolored, like they don't actually belong in your reality. Speckled among these are asteroids, massive chunks of rock, and unidentifiable debris. And through it all, little darkspace drones flit about their business - whatever business that might be.
The smarter among the platoon quickly discern that you're floating in a multiuniversal
graveyard of targets that the Dark Space has consumed... and you're just its latest meal.
The comms finally crackle to life. "SCAMPS here. I had to reboot. Presently running at a fraction of normal capacity. I need a situation report. Are you guys still alive? Our active sensors have gone dark." Of course, he says it in a way that is much more... "asshole".
You inform SCAMPS that you're indeed all right (unless some of you aren't, which is likely, given you're probably shot to pieces) and you request docking permission. SCAMPS grants it without hesitation.
The hulking engines and lower decks of the Tartarus loom before you. Somewhere out there, in normal space, in the Milky Way galaxy, the rest of the Tartarus is orbiting a star, engineless... or at least you hope that's the case. If it was swallowed up separately, the chances of you ever finding it again in this seemingly infinite volume of detritus seems beyond remote.
You land in Platoon 56's docking bay. You leave your CASKETs, the medical team patches you up in the medbay. The lights are dim, and flicker. What's left of the Tartarus is running on emergency power. The quantum girl, Lin'shih, is quickly escorted elsewhere, to be interviewed and interrogated by... whatever brass happened to be on the lower decks when the darkspace hit. Tensions are high, fights among inmates break out, morale is universally low. There are known casualties of multiple thousands just on your portion of the ship - the darkspace didn't leave a clean break when it chopped the ship into pieces.
In short, things look remarkably grim. Even for what you're used to dealing with.
After a time - after you've made new purchases and dealt with (almost) everything you needed to - SCAMPS calls you into a briefing room. When each of you arrive in your typically scattered, disjointed manner, you find the door to the briefing room is locked. SCAMPS seems silent to your pesterings about it - but that's become normal. At only the barest fraction of his normal processing power, he's less like an all-seeing god, and more like a single person struggling to keep the ship holding together.
When everyone is present, the door unlocks itself and slowly slides open. At the conference table inside, Lin'shih sits alone. She gives the group an awkward wave and even says "hello" as you file in and take your seats - noteworthy because when you last saw her, just a few days before, she barely knew a word of Galactic Standard. You're given a little time to talk to her, but almost immediately, SCAMPS speaks.
Everyone has questions for him. "Is this the end?" you want to know. How can you possibly escape from the darkspace? Surely there must be a way. Some of you are certain that there must
be a way. (These individuals get whacked soundly on the back of the head IRL for applying real-life trope knowledge and metagaming to their character's actions.) Others of you are not so sure. Is this your life now? How will you survive out here? What happens when the food stores run out? Might it be easier to simply open the airlocks and kill everyone without prolonged suffering?
SCAMPS tells everyone to shut the hell up and listen. Lin'shih (while still grieving over the loss of her family) has apparently provided a bit of useful information about the situation and so forth. However, no one has ever escaped from darkspace before. SCAMPS also informs you that the orb inside the quantum cruiser is dead. So is Zo'qiir, one of the Quantums you met - Lin'shih's "biological father", whatever that means in Quantum terms. His body is still "alive", but his brain is fried. Darkspace drones retrieved his comatose body, and the quantum orb, and the Tartarus's scout group wasn't able to hold them back. They did see, however, what direction they left in.
For those that haven't been paying attention, Lin'shih and SCAMPS give everyone a little background on the Quantums and the Alts. You all know some portion of it by now. The Quantums are a Boltzmann Brain race from a universe very dissimilar to ours. They engaged in universe-hopping and body-control in the pursuit of knowledge. The Alts were Quantums that decided to "transcend" their original brains, transferring data into hyperspatial implants and memory coils (Lin'shih is a bit sparse on the technical details), and when they realized they could hold literally infinite knowledge that way, they began murdering the Quantums to engorge themselves on their minds, sparking the Quantum-Alt war... and it's very clear which side was the definitive victor. When the Alts began snowballing their intelligence, nothing could stop them, although the Quantums put up a brave fight before the survivors retreated to dark, secluded corners of the multiverse, or withdrew to their home universe, their "Nexus", altogether.
You're now in Darkspace, a manifestation of the Alts as part of their quest to consume Quantums. The darkspace cuts Quantums off from the Nexus in a messy, brute-force manner, and allows an Alt to absorb their intelligence and knowledge. It preserves a referential form of the link to the Nexus as well, so the Alt can thoroughly wring the controlling Quantum mind dry. In essence, it's the only way a Quantum can truly die - and it puts the hosts (across the multiverse) in a coma at the same time. However, by removing Lin'shih from her alternate universe and dragging her through to yours, you safely severed the link and allowed her Quantum host to retreat quickly and safely to the Nexus. She is no longer a Quantum - merely a former host, though she retains much of her former host's thought processes, and all of the mental gadgetry and augmentations.
SCAMPS says you're going to follow the darkspace drones, to figure out where they're going. Ideally, you won't run into an Alt, which Lin'shih says you must avoid at all costs. Also ideally, you'll figure out how to eject the entirety of the Tartarus back into your own universe. There must
be a way to do it, SCAMPS reasons, or the darkspace wouldn't be able to send out drones into our galaxy. Somewhere, there is a two-way street. You just have to find it.
The briefing ends - but you don't go to your ships. SCAMPS sends you back to the ship proper, this time with Lin'shih in tow. You're supposed to get to know her a little better in the 48 hours before the mission. She listens to everything said with a sort of wide-eyed innocence that is somehow also devoid of naiveté, and her ability to learn is incredible. With how quickly she's (almost) mastered Galactic Standard, it seems inevitable that she'll learn other skills quickly as well (which is great, because that means it won't feel quite
so much like an annoying escort mission every time you have to bring her along somewhere). In this way as well, you're able to shape her, and through her, the course of some of the events that take place during the rest of the campaign. Will you teach her to be bloodthirsty? Will you teach her to forgive? Will you teach her to be bold, or cautious? Loud, or quiet? Optimistic, or pessimistic? She's young and very impressionable - virtually clay in your hands.
Of course, you don't have long enough still before SCAMPS inevitably calls you to the hangar bay. It's time to launch, straight into a bizarre dreamscape that human minds were never meant to comprehend.
You strap into your CASKETs and prepare to exit into the cold darkness of the graveyard...