The Let's Play Archive

Escape Velocity: Nova

by Decoy Badger

Part 8: Polaris - Part 08 - June 5, 1178NC: Cross-Polarization

June 5, 1178NC: Cross-Polarization

Updates to Backstories:
Wild Geese Preamble
Polaris Preamble

We have half a million credits burning our hands, so at this point I'm looking at getting a ship better suited to our newfound ferocity. I'm checking out Earth's shipyards when we are approached...

Sigma Shipyards posted:

As you wander through the shipyard looking at all the ships awaiting a prospective buyer, a man wearing an expensive tailored business suit comes over and extends his hand.

"Are you Jack Burton, Captain of the Limozeen?" he asks quietly as you shake hands. You nod, warily. "Excellent, I am Rodney Andrews, manager of shipping liaison for Sigma Shipyards. Ever since Donald Chick disappeared some months ago we have had a problem gaining the services of freighter pilots to bring in our supplies. Would you be willing to work for us?"
Ahh, Sigma Shipyards missions. They give you access to extremely useful outfits, special ships and, eventually, the Hypergate Network. The Hypergates are the single fastest way to travel, instantly transporting you from one end of the galaxy to the other. I of course accept.

Sigma Shipyards posted:

"Great!" he exclaims with a wide smile. "We currently have a shipment of 10 tons of equipment waiting in storage on Kolan in the Sanddown system. If you could head over there, pick it up and return here, making sure that you land on the area of the Kane Band owned by Sigma Shipyards, that would be great.

"Any problems?" he asks seriously. "No? Well, then, I expect that I'll be seeing you again in a few weeks."
Great! Let's head out and-

Ferry Mu'Randa posted:

You see a waving hand out of the corner of your eye when you walk into this establishment. You turn to see the pretty Mu'Randa sitting at a table by herself waving you over. Not for the first time you find yourself wondering about her unique name. You have never heard a name quite like it, although it is strangely lyrical in an exotic way.

"Well, it seems that I have completed all my business here faster than expected," she informs you with a grin, "so I have a little time to myself before I have to perform my next mission. I have always wanted to view some of the Vell-os/human sculptures that remain on Goliath in the South Manchester system.

"Would you be interested in ferrying me there?"
Well, now we don't have enough space to finish the Sigma mission. Fear not!

See Vell-os remains posted:

"Oh, thank you!" she exclaims happily. "I have always dreamed of seeing something left behind by the Vell-os of old! The mystery and wonder of their ancient civilization always fascinated me when I was young, and I suppose some of it still remains in me, even though I am no longer innocent, and even less worthy."

You are a little surprised at the last reference, but you shrug it off as something to do with her work.

"The pay shall be the same as last time," she informs you more seriously, "and I will be needing transport from Goliath to a further destination not long after we land. So if you wait around for a few days, I will have another mission for you."
I jump to South Manchester. Upon arrival, a freighter captain offers us 40,000 credits to escort him to Sirrusa. This just assigns him as an escort until we reach the target system and costs us nothing, so I accept. We land on Goliath.

Goliath posted:

People who live here have nowhere else to go. They could not get further away from anywhere and everywhere if they tried. If there is a bright center to the Federation (or anywhere else for that matter), you are in the system that is farthest from it. Goliath used to be a thriving artistic community where peoples from throughout the Known Galaxy came to work with the many Vell-os artisans to create countless wondrous pieces of art. After the Vell-os Wars, with all the Vell-os killed or enslaved, Goliath slowly wasted away. Now the populace live in habitation domes, as they fear to go into the ruins of this once wondrous planet, which stand side-by-side with the now desolate ghosts of that bygone era.

Goliath's Bar posted:

This bar has pictures all over its walls of Goliath at its height some seven centuries ago. You sense the almost palpable sadness of this place which was amongst the most beautiful of planets in the galaxy.

See Vell-os remains posted:

As soon as you let her off your ship, Mu'Randa immediately heads off in search of ancient Vell-os artifacts. Out of curiosity you decide to tag along.

She takes a tour out to an ancient site where the Vell-os used to showcase their athletic, artistic and telepathic skills to the humans of the Colonial Council in a weekly carnival. When you arrive you are surprised and more than a little impressed by the enormous stone blocks that are so intricately carved and fitted that they have survived the hostile elements of Goliath for so long intact.

"This is the debt we must repay above all others," murmurs Mu'Randa to herself quietly. "This atrocity can not be allowed to go on."

You are taken aback to hear such somber words from the normally cheerful young woman. Obviously there are depths to her persona you are only now becoming aware of.

"Wait for me in the bar," she tells you quietly without moving to face you at all, her eyes on the Vell-os sculpture. "I need to wander for a while."
We duly abide.

We should've been named Charon posted:

As you wait in the bar sipping your drink you see a somewhat rejuvenated Mu'Randa walk in the door. She quickly spots you, and makes her way over sporting a happy smile.

"I have to thank you for bringing me here," she begins sincerely, "this is a life-long dream come true. Thank you so much.

"But now I must return to business," she continues more seriously. "I need to get to Port Kane in the Kania system to make contact with a colleague of mine. I am prepared to offer you another 20,000 credits for your troubles, and in all likelihood there will be another mission waiting for you within a few hours of our arrival.

"Are you willing to help me out again?" she asks hopefully.
Carrying around Mu'Randa has made us marked for torture. We can't back out now.


"My colleague's name is Bis Andreya, and she should be waiting for us on Port Kane when we arrive," Mu'Randa continues cheerfully. "She will be directing our travels from there. That is, of course, if you are prepared to help us further."

You are starting to get more than a little curious about Mu'Randa's background. Her name is clearly not Federation in origin, and the name Bis Andreya is even more foreign.

"Well," Mu'Randa informs you with a happy smile, "I am ready to go when you are."
We depart. On the way out of the system, we idly kill a marauding Pirate Valkyrie before jumping to Sirrusa to complete our merchant escort mission. Continuing on to Kania, we're scanned by a Federation patrol. They immediately call for reinforcements and spam missiles at us. Knowing the interest the Feds have for us, I run rather than face down the hefty fleet that's sure to follow.

And follow it does.
As soon as we jump into Kania, we are beset by no less than a gigantic battle fleet, all bearing the affiliation of "Prodigal Son". Coming from a relatively sleepy journey, it's one hell of a wake-up call. I attempt to evade, but a full complement of fighters is launched from the carriers. Leading them away from the motherships, I deal with them as quick as possible and circle around towards the planet.

My escort is overtaken by the battle fleet, but as it's outwardly a Federation ship it escapes notice. I run to Port Kane on full afterburner and screech into a docking bay, dozens of missiles trailing behind me.

I didn't sign up for this posted:

When you land you see an elderly looking brown-cloaked lady with gray hair hurry up your ramp and onto your ship. Two gray-cloaked men who were flanking her stand at the bottom of the ramp as if guarding it.

"Bis Andreya!" exclaims Mu'Randa almost reverently, which causes you to look at her suspiciously. "What has happened?"

"I am being followed by Federation troops," the old lady informs you both, "and I have no wish to be detained by them."

At that moment you see a number of Federation soldiers begin entering the spaceport running towards your ship, and the two men in gray snap into action. Within seconds they decimate the Federation forces in the most awesomely skilled and stunning display of martial arts you have ever seen. When they finish with the soldiers they run back up the ramp and enter your ship.

"Young man, I suggest that we get out of here before more of them turn up!" suggests Bis Andreya gently. "Make for Nil'a Mjolnir in the Mjolnir system."
Don't have to tell me twice! With the Federation battle fleet in hot pursuit, I high-tail it for Polaris space.

As it turns out, I made a wrong turn at Polaris and end up having to take the long way around. I can't backtrack as doing so would involve decelerating to a stop and spooling up a hyperdrive in the direct presence of some very angry people. The Polaris garrisons don't deign to even notice the "Prodigal Son" ships. So much for the good will gained from carting around these ridiculously apostrophied people. After over a week of continuous pursuit, armour close to total failure and energy completely drained, I stumble into Nil'a Mjolnir and dock seconds ahead of the Federation force.

P'o'l'a'r'i's posted:

You realize that your passengers are all members of the mysterious Polaris civilization, and although you want to ask many questions of them, the casual stares of the two men in gray keep your curiosity in check.

As soon as you land Bis Andreya is greeted by a man garbed in an all-green outfit who lays his hands on the head of the elderly woman. After a few short moments he nods his head and allows Bis Andreya to step off your ramp.

"By now you know that we are of the Polaris," says the elderly woman over her shoulder at you, "but you may not know the enormity of your actions over the last few days. To help you understand, know that my full name is only Andreya. Bis is the title given to the leader of the Polaris Ruling Council."

After a few moments the enormity of her words begins to sink in. You have just saved the leader of the Polaris from being detained by the Federation. And you begin to ask several questions, like: 'why was the Federation, given Bis Andreya's position, trying to detain her?'

There is hidden dialogue here! As far as I can tell, you can never access this from within the game. My guess is that the mission was initially intended to be a lot more vague, forcing you to explore Polaris civilization before getting the next bit of plot. Good thing they changed it, as the Polaris already have too many "wander about until I feel good and ready" missions as is.

Hidden dialogue! posted:

You realize that your passengers are all members of the mysterious Polaris civilization, and although you want ask many questions of them, the casual stares of the two men in gray keep your curiosity in check.

As soon as you land Bis Andreya is greeted by a man garbed in an all-green outfit who lays his hands on the head of the elderly woman. After a few short moments he nods his head and allows Bis Andreya to step off your ramp and she turns to face you.

You shift uncomfortably under her piercing gaze.

"You were offered 20,000 credits for your services," Bis Andreya continues, "but I will make sure that you receive five times that amount in thanks for your deeds. I will also allow you access to the docking computers where my people lodge their travel requirements. You will be the first non-Polaran ever to be allowed to ferry my people from place to place."

With that Bis Andreya, the green cloaked man and the two men in gray turn and walk away, seemingly in unison.

"Perhaps I will see you again some day," Mu'Randa murmurs as she too exits your ship and walks away leaving behind numerous unspoken questions unanswered.
Following from the changed-mission theory, Mu'Randa has something extra to say to us:

More work? posted:

"I cannot thank you enough for what you have done," Mu'Randa tells you as she too exits your ship. "You have done us a great service. If you wish to continue helping us, I will be making myself useful on the planet Mu'ar Haro, and if you drop by I will make sure that you get some more work."
Yes, right now our reputation with the Polaris is "dependably greedy foreigner."
Nothing ages like Bryce "alien" textures. Get ready to see this one a lot.

Nil'a Mjolnir posted:

During the brief war with the Colonial Council, the Polaris were saved by the timely intervention of the Vell-os, and also through the actions of one of the Council's cyborg-soldiers. Little is known about that man, other than part of his unit designation - Mjolnir. Apparently, he destroyed a piece of new technology that would have ensured victory over the Polaris. It is worthy of note that he is the only non-Polaris soldier to be remembered by the Polaris warrior-caste with respect, although none of them seem to be prepared to tell you exactly why.
No bar here. I realize that we now have all our cargo free! I immediately set course for Kolan to complete the Sigma Shipyards mission.
Look familiar?

Kolan posted:

In stark contrast to Kiniké, Kolan has hardly been touched since the first days of the colonization of the Sanddown system. Kolan is a forest moon made of particularly dense materials (mostly iron and lead), but it still only has a gravity of 0.6 G. Most of the wealthy industrial magnates of Kiniké; actually live here rather than on the planet below.

Kolan's Bar posted:

This well-lit, tastefully furnished bar is obviously something of a gentlemen's club. Soon after you enter, the members call on you to tell them of news from your travels throughout the galaxy. They listen avidly as you tell them about some of the more bizarre encounters of your life.
We fly to Earth and meet back up with the Sigma Shipyards rep.

Sigma Shipyards posted:

As you pilot your way into what is normally a restricted area, out of bounds to all non-Sigma Shipyards personnel, you take a quick peek at some of the enormous shipyards at their disposal.

As soon as you land dockworkers swarm all over your vessel and in no time they have unloaded your cargo. A few minutes later, as you stand around wondering what to do, you spot Rodney coming towards you.

"Sorry I'm a little tardy," he apologizes sincerely, "I've just been having one of those days today. Now that I've finally arrived, here are the details I'm sure you're dying to know."

Sigma Shipyards posted:

"Firstly," Rodney ticks off a finger, "you have been paid 20000 credits for your services and I have also made available similar missions through the Mission BBS' throughout the Federation.

"Secondly, as an employee of Sigma Shipyards you are allowed to purchase all the ships in our range," he informs you to your delight. "In particular I am talking about the Starliner, the Pegasus, and the Leviathan. If you can scrape together the funds, you can purchase them from here at any time. You should also be able to find a few ship upgrade outfits available here on the Kane Band.

"Anyway, if you'll forgive me," he finishes a little tiredly, "I have a thousand and one things I still have to do today, so I'll take my leave of you. Thanks again.
Great! With 600,000 credits, nothing we buy is really worth our piddly little Limozeen. I make our way back to Polaris space to find Mu'Randa. It's a long trip, and we have to stop several times to refuel and buy maps.

Nil'a Ro posted:

The Nil'kemorya are the only inhabitants of this station. As a rule, the Nil'kemorya have a stillness and a seriousness of aspect about them that you have only ever seen amongst the most elite and battle-hardened soldiers elsewhere. You quickly come to the realization that they are all exceptionally capable, even compared to those soldiers considered 'exceptional' elsewhere.
As with all Polaris battlestations, there is no bar.

Tre'ar Illini posted:

Tre'ar Illini is a beautiful, forest-covered world with extremely rich deposits of rare earths, and it is for these minerals that the Tre'pira, the Polaris worker caste, are present on this planet. Because of careful management and advanced technology, the beauty of Tre'ar Illini remains virtually undisturbed by their operations.

Tre'ar Illini's Bar posted:

The white clothes of the workers in this bar are all soiled to some degree or other. You can tell the miners from the processors from the foremen just by the amount of dirt and grime on their clothing.
It's on this planet that we get our first view of Polaris missions. Right now it's simple ferrying passengers, but depending on caste, it can pay up to 20,000 credits. Given that we have about 640,000 credits and a far-off destination, I don't take any on. I make the last few jumps to meet Mu'Hara, ending on Mu'ar Haro near the edge of the galaxy.

Mu'ar Haro posted:

Nearly two centuries into the development of the caste system, it was realized that there were a significant number of young Polarans who did not fit easily into any one of the castes; their talents had more of a general nature than a specific one. So, the "casteless" caste was created, and this is their homeworld. The casteless all wear black to signify their shame at being incapable of entering another caste, and think of themselves as "servants of all." Strangely, the other castes view these "Mu'hari" with a certain amount of awe, and even more strangely, the position of leader of the Polaris people has been held by more people who came from the casteless caste than from any other. Mu'ar Haro has naturally occurring biological agents, rich rare earth veins and dangerous, and aggressive, natural predators. Hence jacks-of-all-trades flourish here.

Mu'ar Haro's Bar posted:

This bar is filled with people wearing the black of the Mu'Hari. As you walk in, they all give way and you find that your every need is met almost before you can voice it. It seems as if everyone is going out of their way to help you.
Mu'Randa is here to greet us.

Talk to Mu'Randa posted:

Out of the corner of your eye you catch a waving motion, and you turn to see the auburn hair and cheerful smile of Mu'Randa.

"How are you, Captain Jack Burton?" she asks happily. "What do you think of the Polaris now that you have had a chance to look around?"

You mutter a few vague comments about being very impressed about it all.

"Come now!" she exclaims, pretending to be cross. "Surely you can do better than that!"

You smile sheepishly and she laughs kindly.

"Now that you are here," she continues more seriously, "the P'aedt (the Polaris name for the scientist caste) could use the help of an independent ship captain to perform some experiments and retrieve some data for their various scientific endeavors. We got a message a few days ago when they heard that one of us Mu'hari had been in contact with you, to ask if you would be willing to help out. Are you?"
This is where the Polaris plot branches out - one branch gets you more toys, the other branch gets you more plot. At the end of this storyline, I'll go back and show off what could have been.

Go to P'ar Aed posted:

"Our scientists will be pleased," comments Mu'Randa with a smile. "Go to P'ar Aed in the P'aedt system and they will explain their needs further. I believe that they want you to help them out with their studies of the Wraith."

You give Mu'Randa a puzzled look at the mention of the word 'Wraith'.

"They are some sort of space-based life-form," she informs you. "For some reason they attack all Polaris ships on sight, and they are very dangerous.

"Just be careful," she tells you with a smile. "If you keep your wits about you, everything should work out. Just remember that a large number of Polarans are watching you carefully because they are not sure whether or not to trust you. Not all of them have worked with you before like Bis Andreya and I have done, so they are a little suspicious. Something like this would go a long way towards gaining you acceptance amongst us.

"Regardless," she finishes with a grin, "I wish you the best of luck out there."
Off we go! It's quite a trek, through many apostrociously named systems. We land on P'ar Aed.

P'ae Aed posted:

The word P'aedt translates roughly as 'he who climbs the tree of knowledge, only occasionally falling', a surprisingly apt metaphor for scientific advancement in human history. Many notable scientific experiments have had horrifying effects on human civilization. The P'aedt have had only one fall from the tree of knowledge, and that is P'ar Aed. Some of the effects of their early experiments left this planet a polluted nightmare of a world. It is precisely for this reason that the P'aedt have claimed this world as their homeworld. They wish to remind themselves that they are no better than any other group of scientists from anywhere else in the galaxy, or from any other period of human history, for they too have a black mark. While a great deal of technological research goes on here, most research on this planet is directed to repairing the damage that they have done.

P'ar Aed's Bar posted:

The many blue-coated scientists in this room all seem to be discussing differing ways of reducing pollution on a planetary level. The tired ring to many of these conversations suggests that a lot of what is being said has been said before.


You are met by a youthful-looking man dressed all in blue, which you notice seems to be the norm for most of the people on this planet.

"Allow me to introduce myself," he begins formally. "I am P'Jeena, and I will be your contact with the P'aedt until you have learned our language."

You nod, realizing that it makes more sense for you to learn the Polaris tongue, than it does for all the Polaris to learn yours.

"Take some time to freshen up," he tells you politely, "and meet me in the bar in two hours and I shall give you the outline of your first mission with us."

He bows before turning away and leaving you standing alone. You shake your head and go to see about getting your ship serviced.
I just realized that the planet name is an anagram of "parade." Does this apply to all other Polaris planets?


As you sit sipping your drink you see the slim, somehow bookish figure and brown hair of P'Jeena enter the bar. You have to wave to attract his attention before he makes his way over to you.

"You are all freshened up?" he asks in his polite manner and you nod. "Good. Well then, to explain your mission, many P'aedt have become curious of reports from the Nil'kemorya over the last few years that the Wraith, a hostile race occupying the space to the North-West of our own, have begun to wink in and out of physical existence, leaving only a strange energy signature that can still be followed on radar. We need someone to carry some scientific instruments deep into Wraith-held space to try and observe this phenomena more closely.

"That's where you come in," he nods in your direction. "Are you prepared to help us out?"
Yes oh lords yes

Summon bigger fish posted:

"Excellent!" he exclaims with a smile in his first break of decorum. He continues more seriously. "At the furthest limit of our exploration to the North-West into Wraith space we have located a gas giant which we believe that they use as some sort of 'home base', although we have no idea why. It is one of the busiest systems in the region, and so it is the most likely place to find a Wraith corpse.

"When you have picked up the sample we want," P'Jeena informs you seriously, "return here and we will ensure that you are financially recompensed for your troubles.

"Also," he tells you formally, "we have come to an arrangement with the Nil'kemorya so that you can purchase some of our ships which have a much longer range than your Federation technology vessel, which will be more than a little handy on this mission. I suggest that you get one.

"Finally," he warns quietly, "the Wraith have a history of attacking ships without warning or provocation, so keep your wits about you."
We now can buy the Polaris Manta , ridiculously fast and the best fighter in the game; the Polaris Striker, a fast heavy fighter; or the Dragon, a mid-size warship that's essentially a more expensive, shittier, slower Striker. There's also the Polaris freighters, the extremely large Cambrian and the smaller Sprite. We can also hold out for something better. No matter what, we can't stay in this heavy fighter if we're to ever go toe-to-toe with the Feds.

So which ship should we buy, what should we name it, and how should we get the credits to outfit it? Once again: piracy (against who?), trade, missions, or spending all day drinking while our income slowly piles up the cash? Gambling and mining are just too time-consuming given the quantities we need to raise, sorry for the diehard miners out there.