G.F.S. Sorceress: 0.87c   2 comments

It is THE FUTURE. The year NINETEEN NINETY FIVE.

Earth discovers, via radio receivers, a transmission from the center of the galaxy. The transmission continues for thirty years before mysteriously cutting off.

The signals, while never fully decoded, were sufficient to jumpstart giant leaps in technology, including xenon energy storage and magnetic recoil reaction drive. The two together would enable ships to travel to the stars, eventually with ships reaching 87% the speed of light.

Noteworthy in the lore for G.F.S. Sorceress is that there is no faster-than-light travel and the distances between star systems are “realistic”, so several (or many!) years may elapse in a single trip. Relativistic effects also apply (so 12 years to observers appear to be 6 years on the ship). This has gameplay ramifications I’ll get back to later.

It is THE PAST, roughly around 1500 CE in Earth years, on the planet Epsilon Indii II.

A scientist (whose original name is unknown, and is simply referred to as X) was conducting experiments with organ regeneration when he “accidentally dosed himself with the entire research serum.”

He discovered the next day he suddenly had the power to change his body at will; not only appearance but number of limbs and species. As a consequence of this, he could also heal any physical injury immediately (since he could just reshape the affected body section).

He used this power not for good, but for evil.

X’s typical modus operandi is to infiltrate positions of authority by murdering a superior in front of witnesses while disguised as one of his rivals for the newly vacant post. Preferred targets are military installations whose weapons can be turned against helpless civilian population centers. Over three hundred major cities and five entire planets (including his own) have been conclusively proven to have been destroyed by X.

His shape-shifting and regeneration abilities have made him essentially immortal. He is still at large at the time our story begins.

X’s original, long-discarded appearance.

Fast forward to 2582:

The main character of our story is Joe Justin, Weapons Officer on the G.F.S. Rheingold.

This has been one of those weeks that start badly and end worse. I am beginning to doubt either my memory or my sanity — probably my sanity is slipping away as I drift abandoned in interstellar space.

His troubles start with a low-gravity racketball match against the Executive Officer of the Rheingold, Commander Bernard Taub. Amidst a particular tense round, Joe accidentally injures the Commander, but moments later there appears to be no wound and the Commander himself denies anything happened. Afterwards, Joe notices blood on his racket.

Later, the Commander does a surprise inspection of quarters and seemingly ignores the blood still on Joe’s racket.

A week later, Joe has just finished covering a shift for a crewmate when he is dragged out of bed and brought to the brig, and then to a makeshift interstellar court marshal, officiated by the ship’s computer, with Commander Taub as prosecutor.

The ship’s captain had been just murdered, and there was damning evidence: a video clearly showing Joe Justin walking into the command module and shooting the captain, in full view of witnesses.

The punishment for mutiny and murder is ejection into the vacuum of space. This is where the player’s control of the story begins.

Commander Taub is of course not really Commander Taub, but X. His inspection of the racket was just confirming that our hero had learned something very dangerous to know, if Joe were to connect the dots. (In fact, one can assume, since we are now controlling Joe Justin, we realize what just happened whilst staring into the blankness of space.)

YOU ARE FLOATING IN SPACE. YOU SEE STARS AND A FAINT ION TRAIL.

YOU ARE WEARING A SPACESUIT. YOU ARE CARRYING NOTHING SPECIAL.

While the Rheingold is now long gone — presumably with X now as its captain — Joe has the almost astronomically lucky fortune of being nearby another ship, the G.F.S. Sorceress which just suffered a collision with a meteor storm as is similarly just floating in space.

I left off last time making it inside the ship but getting eaten by an AMOEBOID. I also found a “young woman” in another part of the ship but she shot me immediately upon entering and threw me out of the room.

It turns out to be necessary to defeat the amoeboid first; the lore necessary to solve the puzzle is jammed somewhat awkwardly in the middle of the short story I summarized above.

However, when exposed to the activated xenon gas from a leak in a starship’s fuel tanks, an amoeboid can grow very quickly to an alarming size and become a menace to the safety of the entire ship. When that happens, standard weapons are of no avail because the creatures are able to absorb energy or projectiles. The only solution is for some brave volunteer to duck by the amoeboid (which never goes far from the source of the xenon) and patch the leak or shut the open valve.

The solution here was to SHUT VALVE. I had already tried to TURN and CLOSE the valve with no success so this was almost like a copy-protection check where I had to work out the correct word.

TURN, TURN, TURN. THE VALVE IS TIGHTLY SHUT.

THE AMOEBOID IS SHRINKING… SHRINKING… IT VANISHES!

Once the amoeboid is gone, the woman in the other part of the ship doesn’t shoot you on sight anymore.

SHE SAYS: “I AM CAPTAIN SELENA SAKAROV OF THE G.F.S. SORCERESS. YOU ARE A STRANGER TO ME AND I HAD TO TEST YOUR COURAGE.”

Soon after:

HE SAYS: “PERHAPS WE CAN DEVELOP A SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP AFTER YOU ESTABLISH YOUR INNOCENCE. FOR NOW, YOU HAVE COMMAND OF THE SHIP. I WILL BE IN HYBERNATION UNTIL OUR RETURN TO EARTH.” SHE SASHAYS OFF TO THE HYBERNATION ROOM.

I feel like the conversation is missing a few beats here. We just got ejected from another ship but we’re now given command of this one? I could see “have a conversation about X where Joe Justin is very convincing” might fit the story logic, but as it went I was a little puzzled. (Also, somewhat sad this meant I didn’t have a snarky NPC following around during the adventure.) But at least the premise is now setup: we’ve been framed by a shape-shifter, and before we can return to Earth, we have to prove our innocence.

Story jump aside, we now have a ship that can fly around.

In another game, pushing a button for a planet might cause a little time to pass as the hyperdrive does some magical things, but remember the lore: no faster-than-light travel. So the button locks in a destination, and then you have to go into cold sleep and several years pass. Since this is a planet-hopping type adventure, it means in all likelihood the game will take place over 20+ years.

I’ll get into detail on the planets themselves next time, but I should note the time compression/expansion pattern continues on the planets themselves; a particular action might be just walking from one room to another, or it might involve walking several kilometers, or it might involve spending several weeks inside a space worm.

Posted December 30, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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2 responses to “G.F.S. Sorceress: 0.87c

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  1. Joe has the almost astronomically lucky fortune of being nearby another ship

    Mm, literally astronomical, I’d say!

    And cf. HHG: “In the entry in which it talks about dying of asphyxiation thirty seconds after being thrown out of a spaceship, it goes on to say, that with what space being the size it is, the chances of being picked up by another craft within those seconds are two to the power of two-hundred-and-sixty-seven-thousand, seven-hundred-and-nine to one against.”

    • I held off on literal astronomical until I was sure there wasn’t a plot reason the other ship was there — but I have finished the game and it was indeed just a coincidence.

      (probably doing the writeup tomorrow, so only a smidge behind finishing 1980 in 2019, whoop)

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