Fauna of Yeellan

It is a Jump-2 to System 2634. The Encyclopedia Galactica suggests Yeellan as a name, tentatively accepted pending further information.

The system has 1 orange main sequence star, 3 rock planets (1 of which has 2 moons), 2 ice planets further out (both with 2 moons), a large Jovian planet with 4 large moons and 1 decent looking planet - Earth-like, but not much water, a thin atmosphere, probably needs a filter if not respirator.

We approach the Earth like planet. It has a hot, humid, atmosphere, not tainted but thin - will need a compressor to breath under any activity. There is some open water near the poles.

Dr Ntesh is looking for the following exo-fauna:

Of which, this planet is most likely to hold the worm and the centipede. The usually scornful Doc allows that a specimen of the centipede might be OK, as they are fast, viscous and poisonous. Coming in, the Salamander assigns names to geographical features. Black are major waterways, blue minor but still navigable, lighter shading high ground less densely vegetated. The Marquis sets us down on a sandy spit jutting out into a large lake, and removes himself to the sun deck where Bart serves cocktails. Corto and Sir Arthur set up a perimeter with electronics and ensure good fields of fire.

Yeellan

Armitage makes sure that he has ranges with the Gauss rifle out to the jungle edge about 500m away, clearly marked. Morle ribs him for worrying about the 3 types of fauna we’re going to encounter:

  1. Prey that is worried it’s meat to us
  2. Predators that want to make us meat
  3. Neither of the the above that just ignore us

Armitage points out that the bugs we just encountered organised themselves to protect their home and destroy us - they cut off our escape routes, shot down our vehicle, set ambushes and opened the doors. It’s that Type 4 that he’s worried about. Morle looks thoughtful, then begins getting the rocket launcher ready and ranging it.

Corto, Bart and Sir Arthur take the air raft into the lake. The top layer of water is cloudy with precipitate or algal bloom, and difficult to see through. There is abundant small scale fauna. Below about 10m, the water clears. There are shark sized predators feeding off other organisms, and some strange long necked four flippered fast moving creature that seems to be top off the food chain. Large, but not large enough to take on the air raft. The crew scout down to about 200m without incident and return - Dr Ntesh seems intrigued by the flippered creature but agress it is impractical to transport. Alive at least.

Late morning, the Marquis offers lead of the expedition to Dr Ntesh. She readily accepts, albeit deferring to others in security matters. She suggests a short foray today, to get the lay of the land. Drone recon shows that the jungle is very dense, and beyond about 10m from the edge, extremely thick. Armitage wants a very short trial - no further than 50m into the canopy, then parallel the edge of the open ground for a short way, then return to the promontory. Dr Ntesh rolls her eyes and asks the Marquid if he is always like this….

The 5 person away team sets off, the usual 4 of Sir Arthur, Corto, Morle and Armitage supplemented by Dr Ntesh, who has been kitted out in Cloth and Reflec. All are in Ghillie suits, apart from Armitage who has the chameleon suit on. He finds a hide about 25m in from the tree line, where he can watch the other 4 as they move through the forest. After a few minutes of the teams progress, he spots a metre high bat-feathered bird in a tree watching him. It appears to be calling, in amongst 4 or 5 others of the same type.

small_runner

Just as he figures out it’s probably an alarm, and they all take flight, a rustling and pounding of feet sounds, and a 2 metre tall flightless bird charges out of the jungle towards the away team…with 2 or 3 others following it an angle.

runner

Sir Arthur says “lets throw some flashbangs”…Sir Arhtur and Corto throw…Dr Ntesh says “what are you doing!” The birds run off like a scared cat and calm descends.

Discussion ensues…Dr Ntesh is upset. She has a flat packed cage and wants one alive. As they are talking, Armitage spots one coming back; Dr Ntesh approaches it with her arms out to the side…she reaches into her pocket, it backs off, she tosses him something. He pecks at it…and runs off. Having established they like the food, a plan is hatched to tranq/stun a beast the next day

The team retreat, settle in for the night and set watches. There are lots of birds in the middle watch. During the last watch, a curious, large Amphibian crawls out of the lake and sniffs around the Salamander, then ambles back into lake. It is not large enough to pose a threat, but the team that went into the lake didn’t see any of the type previously.

The next day, Armitage leaves early and spends a few hours crawling into the jungle and to a pre arranged spot. Despite his caution and the stealth suit, it’s obvious the creatures not his passing. He reaches the spot, settles in, and after a long time, the creatures begin to ignore him. Morle lays the bait trail, ending in a mound just off the agreed killing spot but close enough. After another long wait, a bird takes the bait, and as it eating the pile, Armitage tags it with the stun gun. It spins round, and looks right at him, before collapsing. The team get it on board and into the cage. Armitage is getting nervous about how these creatures are so easily spotting him….

The Dr and the Marquis agree on an upcountry expedition, using the air raft, and select a forward base of operations. Bart ferries in the usual away who begin clearing an area to set up camp in. Or 3 of them do, whilst Armitage nervously maintains watch. Whilst doing so, he supplements their rations with a crack shot that severs the head of a particularly long necked bird specimen. The air raft departs to bring more supplies, leaving the 4 alone up country.

The hunting crew creates a hide two hours south of the landing zone and another one further south-east (?) but nothing of interest can be spotted on the first day, leaving the Dr in rather crestfallen. Some sounds could be heard at night, waking up everyone except Sir Arthur but nothing was spotted and the night went over uneventful otherwise. On the next day the crew follows the same plan as the day before but shortly after the two groups split up Dr Ntesh spots something in the underbrush and runs after it, throwing any caution in the wind. She stops at a large slope and her part of the group can catch up as she reports that she thinks she has seen one of the great apes! Armitage promptly contacts the Salamander to raise an amber alert, and so the Marquee sends out the airraft. The doctor then charges down a large slope where also the first team can see her and now everyone tries to make it to the bottom of the hill. There we soon come upon a weird stony hill with a tree ontop. It turns out its actually an overgrown ancient building with an entrance going down into the darkness on the other side.

jungleStairs

The team call in the air raft to bring some drones, more munitions and spelunking supplies from the base camp. After a couple of hours, with the military guys establishing a perimeter (showing no other entrances, but lots of traffic that looks like apes), whilst Dr Ntesh and Armitage wait, Bart and George lower everything down via a winch and cargo net. They stay on station above the stone mound that was once a pyramid.

The drone shows the stairs descend steeply, at more than 45 degrees, for approximately 100m. The cavern at the bottom seems to have a very still lake in it, very dimly illuminated by phosphorescence, and not much else. The image starts to break up if the drone moves from the line of sight down the stairwell. The team set up a rope to make the descent safer, and go down. Armitage follows some time later from his hide, making sure they are not followed.

At the bottom, the lake is actually some kind of glass like substance! The team decide to explore the rockfalls first, and find a crude passage behind one with some evidence of passage in the droppings on the floor. The 3 ex-military and the Dr advance (Standard order: Sir Arthur-Corto-Dr Ntesh-Morle) with Armitage creeping behind them in the dark.

They enter a room with 2 large worked blocks on the floor, one have possibly fallen from somewehere and burying itself in the ground. Moving on, there is a narrow chimney that perhaps Dr Ntesh could navigate, but no one else, Ape included (they are 2-3m tall!), could. The passageway bends to the right, then opens into a flooded room. There are stones, possibly fallen or worn down, dotted in the water, that apart from one section, offer easy passage over. The tricky area is either a longer jumer, perhaps 2m, or a shorter jump but onto a tiny stone…

Armitage volunteers to go over, with Morle covering him, on the basis that Morle hasn’t shot Armitage yet whilst the reverse sadly isn’t true. He divests himself of equipment and all weapons bar a knife and revolver, and attempts the crossing with a rope tied around him. He reaches the crux move, and with a swing of his arms, broad jumps, lands, wobbles and sticks it. He quickly crosses, and tautens the rope. Morle sends over his equipment, then Sir Arthur, then Dr Ntesh. Corto and Morle discuss who should go last, and Corto says that if anything is going to happen, it’s going to be as the last one crosses, so Morle had better go. Morle crosses without incident. As Corto reaches the penultimate stone, he sees movement in the water. He shouts a warning, and leaps, just as a translucent, eel like creature lunges at him. It knocks him off balances, and he sprawls across the rock, half in and half out of the water.

The team on the far side all notice this, and open up on the fish as it circles for another attack. Morle misses, but Sir Arthur and Armitage hit - although the bullets seem to be slowed by the water and to not be affecting it as much. The fish lunges, as the team rain down auto fire on it, and it latches onto Corto’s leg, pulling him from the rock. Corto tries to stab it to no avail. Morle’s careful single shot hurts the beast, but it looks to be dragging Corto under as Armitage leaps onto the rock, and dives into the struggle with a knife. There is a churning of water, and a bloody swirl surfaces as the water stills - and then Armitage bursts to the surface, gripping Corto, and they both struggle to dry land.

The team watch the water for signs of further movement, but see nothing. Morle sets up watch inside an alcove further up the passage (within the cave are the remains of worked bones…!), whilst Dr Ntesh pumps Corto full of anti venom, antibiotics, a booster cocktail and dresses his wound and Corto and Armitage dry off. After sorting themselves out, the team continue along the passage as it gradually climbs, to a room with a shallow pool in the middle, with water trickling down to it. Morle stands by the exit to the ENE, Corto the exit to the NW, Sir Arthur and Dr Ntesh examine the pool, as Armitage cover the room from inside the passageway they came up.

ApeCave

Sir Arthur and Morle investigate the rock shelf at the back of the cave, and find it is full of old hominid skulls. They collect several for the Doctor as the others move up to the entrance. Suddenly, a centipede slithers out of the skulls, up onto the ceiling, and lunges at Morle, biting him. The team unload fire on it, but it latches onto Morle, who appears strangely unresponsive, as a second bursts from cover. Armitage cuts the second one down, but the team resort to knives to deal with the one on Morle, Sir Arthur delivering the killing blow. Morle is unresponsive on the floor, but Dr Ntesh manages to administer something to stave off the paralysis and deal with his wounds over the next half hour.

Proceeding cautiously up the other passage, the team take the right turn, leaving a web of tripwires over the other passageway rigged to a flashbang. The passage twists and turns, and in a small alcove, Sir Arthur finds a data stick of ancient design!

The passageway is blocked by an ancient rock fall, apart from one large block at the top that seems to be more recent. The team manage to haul it out using the grapple guns, and squeeze through. The passage turns left, and ends at elaborately carved stone double doors. Entering the room, there are stairs down on one side, but otherwise no other exits. A strange metallic carved pillar in the centre of the room turns out on examination to have a slot the right size for the data stick in it…Sir Arthur plugs it in,and a projection of an ancient city is displayed holographically. The city with its walkways, the ape like inhabitants, a big gathering crowd followed by a flash showing the destruction of the city leaving only glass behind.

Armitage stack stones in the gap in the rockfall to create a crude early warning system, Dr Ntesh takes cover in the corner of the room behind the door, and Corto approaches the steps down whilst Sir Arthur and Morle cover him

WhiteApePyramid

Sir Arthur decides to see if the hologram can be viewed again and the group is witness to another event: This time primates climb out of a hill in the middle of an otherwise flat glass like surface, formed from ejecta, many seem to be sick or dying and it cuts out, then cuts in some time later, a display of bones is shown. It cuts out, then in again, a metoer is streaking across the sky, there is a bright explosion, it cuts out again, then as it cuts in, there seems to be topsoil on the glass surface. After that,before the hologram ends. We try to start the projector again to see if we can learn even more but suddenly a guest arrives.

Corto gets rudely used as a stepping stone for a running and lunging primate that jumps to the pillar and makes some rather loud and angry noises. To our surprise he produces a strange rattling box and only moments later we hear a voice seemingly in our heads

“Wiffa not happy men here”

There follows an astounding tale, mostly told to Dr Ntesh as Wiffa, the four armed white ape, seems to trust her. Wiffa is the last of his species, about 1,200 years old, who was here through BOTH catastrophic events. He was in this mine with others when the first explosion hit, and was lucky enough to be in here when the 2nd explosion wiped everyone else out. He has lost access to much of the previous technology, but the society was obviously extremely advanced, practically immortal, and aware of techniques such as cloning. He fights of several 15 legged centipedes, and agrees to come with us in the hope that combining genetic material from his species with his living DNA might enable genetically varied clones to be produced and re-start his species. He also knows of a couple of other larger mines on the planet where there may be other survivors, but has not been able to reach them. We will go investigate in the Salamander. In the meantime, Corto customises 2 Submachine guns for Wiffa’s use.

The thought occurs to the crew that this could be genocide followed by terraforming by the Sisterhood of Djiil - the Cask station could have followed this path on being eject from its wormhole on its way here!

Sadly, the glass like substance seems to prevent scanning of the planets interior, and too many possible locations are identified. The crew decide to head back to civilisation, which will take 5 weeks in total (including to pick up the scout ship). On the way, they discuss what to do with the funds acquired, as it seems likely they will clear at least 2 million credits from the salvage, as well as the more than 500,000k profit from their sponsors. In the end, the main crew of Sir Arthur, Corto, Armitage and Morle all agree to retain 6 months funds for the ship (a cool million!) - the haul is good this time, but it might not be in future. The Marquis as Owner and funder of most of the expedition receives 8 shares, the three original crew 4 shares, whilst Morle receives 3 shares this time as he was paid out 10k before the expedition, with the salaried crew (Bart and Ucas) receiving a bonus of 2 shares apiece, and the expedition members and George a share apiece for danger money. The total of 30 shares seems a good working model in future, with the Marquis receiving double crew members allocation a good rule of thumb.

On the way back, the jumps are largely uneventful, until….