I do the usual upgrading, adding more fuel, crew, and storage. I upgrade the Lander from the Melnorme so now it's immune/resistant to alien lifeforms. Woot.
I then set a course for the Vulpeculae cluster of stars, chasing after the Melnorme's rumors, as well as random mutterings about the Androsynth.
This is what we meet, instead:
(I'd just like to say that typing this out sucked. Also, yes, it's supposed to read like Engrish)
THIS IS A SYSTEM MESSAGE FROM THE SHIP'S COMPUTER TRANSLATION SUBSYSTEM:
INCOMING MESSAGE EXTREMELY UNUSUAL IN COMPOSITION. TRANSLATION INCLUDES MANY LINGUAL ANOMALIES. OVERALL ACCURACY OF TRANSLATION IS: UNKNOWN.
Orz: Hello extremely! I hope you like to *play*. Some *campers* are not so good for *games*. Is it time for *playing* yet?
Captain: Who are you? What can you tell us about yourselves?
O: Who are you? You are not Orz! We are Orz! Orz are happy *people energy* from the outside. Inside is good. So much good that Orz will always *germinate*. Can you come together with Orz for *parties*?
C: Greetings, I am Captain Stubing, of the starship LoveBoat. We are having some difficulty translating your messages.
O: Yes, of course. Difficulty. Problems are difficult. Let's be *special* together. *Spicy games* are always fun.
C: You seem like friendly fellows. Perhaps you could aid us in our mission?
O: Yes. Yes. We are too friendly. Extremely happy *sisters* should correct each other for *celebration*. So much enjoyment! Shall we come to your *house* so that we can be *relatives*?
C: You seem very...uh, trusting. Why is that?
O: We are not trusting. We like to be *together*. Do you want to be *together* with us? Always the other *sad animals* go away, but first we have lots of fun. Too many fun is not enough!! Do you agree? I think you *smell* like you do. This is the story about trusting. It is sad and makes many Orz *dissolve* or burst into several.
Why is it that you are trusting? What a funny question. I am tired.
C: Uh...I presume you are talking about an alliance. Yes, we are very interested.
O: Jumping *peppers*!! This is smiley time! You are *campers* after all!! We will start *alliance* *parties* for better enjoyment!
C: I'm afraid I'm still not exactly clear on who you are and where you're from.
O: You are a *silly* camper*. I am always Orz. If I was not Orz, then I would not be, but of course I am Orz. We are from the *outside*. Also the Arilou *quick babies* are from *outside*. It is the same, but not. Orz are from *below*, Arilou are from *above*. Orz does not like Arilou. Arilou are too much trouble. We can not have *parties* when Arilou always *jumping in front*. It makes Orz *frumple* so much. These are *fat* words. Do you want to play this some more?
C: Now please don't take this the wrong way, but what did happen to the Androsynth?
O: I am say best word *frumple*. Maybe you do not know. *Frumple* be *round* yet *lumpy*. So bad!!! The asking about Androsynth is so *frumple* we are not happy. Do not asking it so much. It is better to not *frumple* or else there is so much problems. No more Androsynth is better.
C: Just tell me this. Are we in for the same fate as them?
O: You are not the same. You are *happy campers*, but already you know. I will not talking about *silly* Androsynth, now is stop asking. If you are say the question another time, it is *frumple* too much and Orz are *dancing* for *dissolving* the *campers*. I am clear!! You are not so *silly*!
We land on Eta Vulpeculae II, only to find nuked cities and...uh...those things. Investigating the cities leads to the following reports:
Xeno-historian Kilgore here, sir. We have confirmed that these ruins are the remnanets of the Androsynth culture. From the mass destruction we have witnessed, we can only safely assume that there was some kind of huge land war here within the past 5 years; however, there is no, repeat, no signs of obital bombardment or invasion from space. Just a whole mess of buildings shot to pieces.
Probably the weirdest thing we've seen, or not seen, are corpses. There aren't any! It's as though something appeared out of nowhere, blasted everything with nuclear bazookas, then grabbed all the Androsynth and disappeared.
An additional report, sir, from science officer Bukowski. We have located an Androsynth research station and I have been trying to make sense of what is left of their central computer.
As far as I can tell, about seven years ago, the Androsynth began experimenting with something they called dimensional fatigue phenomena. I can't figure out what this dimensional fatigue (or DF as they called it), but maybe if we explore another city, I would be able to find more info on this subject.
Bukowski again, sir, we have found another research institute. Well, the ruins of one, anyway. The computer here's in better shape, allowing me to learn a bit more about the Androsynth's investigation into DF.
It would appear that their studies actually began 10 years ago, after one of their Blazer vessels discovered some Precursor artifacts in Alpha Lalande. As far as their scientists here could tell, the devices generated DF waves which would allow the user to see others, well, other dimensions - realms of existence which share a position with our own universe, but have a different, um, what should I call it, reality phase.
Anyway, the Androsynth had hoped that the dimensional fatigue tech contained in the devices would permit them to create new, faster forms of hyperdrive and hyperwave. Instead, when they began their experiments, they made contact with some kind of lifeform on "the other side" - a creature from an alien dimension.
The record is fragmentary here.
I see requests to the central computer for information data on reality aberration, the mosquito mange, and, er, ghosts, poltergeists, and other malevolent supernatural creatures.
The requests grow more urgent, almost frantic, and then...the record ends.
Captain, this is Ensign Hawthorne standing in for Bukowski. Sir, Bukowski has found something, but in the process he has gone, well...kind of nuts.
When we first got to this city, Bukowski went wild because the science center was pretty much intact. He locked himself in their computer control cabin and spent about ten hours alone in there. We could hear him mumbling to himself, then his speech got louder until he was shouting. He was scared, sir, damn scared. We finally decided that we'd better check up on him, but Bukowski wouldn't let us into the room. He said that no one could ever know what he had learned. That knowing was just enough to alert "them."
He kept talking about "them," crazy stuff, sir, about how "they" could see him now, and "they" were moving toward him. Then Bukowksi started thrashing around the room, screaming that he had to destroy everything before "they" saw us too.
He did a lot of damage to the Androsynth's computer before we stopped him, but I guess he must have hurt himself pretty bad in the process. He's cut up pretty badly.
You know, it's strange, he must have hurt himself worse than I thought. Now, when I look at him, he looks like has even more cuts than just a few minutes ago, and boy, is he screaming!
Based on the damage Bukowski wreaked on the central computer, I don't believe that we will find anything more down here. I think we have learned all that we can from exploring these ruins, and frankly, with all of Bukowski's ranting, I'm getting a bit nervous myself. Call us back to the ship soon, please.
We can come back and talk to the Orz with a few other conversation options
C: Uh...Hi there. It's good to see you again...I think.
O: That is *funny*. You think you *see* Orz but Orz are not *light reflections*. Maybe you think Orz are *many bubbles* too. It is such a joke. Orz are not *many bubbles* like *campers*. Orz are just Orz. I am Orz. I am one with many *fingers*. My *fingers* reach through into *heavy space* and you *see* *Orz bubbles* but it is really *fingers*. Maybe you do not even *smell*? That is sad. *Smelling* *pretty colors* is the best *game*.
Asking the same question later leads to another response:
C: Uh...Hi there. It's good to see you again...I think.
O: Perhaps you have not been to the *Playground*. The *Playground* is for Taalo and for Orz, but *Campers* can go. It more fun than several. The *Playground* is 372.1, 261.9 your *silly* numbers. You can go there for too much fun.
Actually going to the system and planet in question:
Orz: Happy *pieces*! I am *squirting nice colors*! Why? The reason. *Camper friends* have come to Taalo *Playground*. Why are you coming to this?
Captain: Why are you here at this planet?
O: I will tell. This is Taalo *Playground*. Do you know? Taalo is not anymore the *heavy space*. They are not here. To *play* with Taalo, Orz must *spread* into *Pretty Space*. There are many good places for this here, Orz are happy. Of course you do not know Taalo. You are *Campers*. You cannot go to *Pretty Space*, too bad.
C: What do you mean by "Playground"? Can you explain some more?
O: Yes. Yes. You say words, then I say. It is fun *in between*. More fun than *dancing*. Many *gravity centers* in *heavy space* make good *party places*. This is why we like the *New Town*. So many *Campers* and then what? Even the *Playgrounds*! Such a surprise!
At this *Playground*, Taalo are making *Time jokes*. It is too funny for the Orz. Taalo are in *heavy space* and next what? They spread to *Pretty Space* because Dnyarri are chasing them. Now Dnyarri are sleeping, so Orz can *chase* them. Then we can have a *party*. They are even better *campers* than you. Do not feeling bad. You are good enough *campers*, but not yet.
C: Would you mind if we did a bit of exploring on the planet's surface?
O: You are ask if Orz are upset? Orz are not upset. You are *happy campers*. Certainly you are only *slow time* *walkers*. It is not fun on the surface in *slow time*. If you want to go, that is okay.
So we go, and find this lovely thing on the planet's surface.
Captain! We have found an unusual glowing rock-thing here on the surface.
When we first noticed it, we thought it was a naturally fluorescing, igneous dike, but upon closer inspection we can only conclude that this object is artificial in origin - Taalo design! These guys sure built to last. Simple radiometrics show an age in excess of 20,000 years.
Regardless of how old it is, it continues to radiate energy all up and down the EMR spectrum, with a concentration of emissions in the red/infrared range.
Even though it weighs a ton, we will definitely lug this puppy up to the ship.
One last comment before I sign off. Ensign Hodgkins and Witherspoon have both reported extreme headaches and mental disarray whenever they approach the Taalo device. None of the rest of us have any problems, so either the ensigns are just being babies or the Taalo device produces some kind of shield that affects only certain people's minds.
Maybe the scientists back at base will tell us more.
The Vulpeculae systems are ridiculously rich in minerals and biologicals, so we farm the shit out of them. Unfortunately, even 4 Storage Bays aren't enough to carry all the lovely, lovely goods herein (for the record, you can get 1-2 systems per Storage Bay, assuming about 3-4 farmable planets in each system).
Sometime during our profiteering, the Spathi sphere dies. Hmm...
Back at base, we unload our cargo (and got some stuff from the Melnormes too), and the Commander here tells us that a whole bunch of crap happened, including the Orz "invading" the base (in exoskeletons we never get to see), the Zoq-Fot-Pik sending a distress message, and the Spathi commanders getting the hell out of dodge.
We also ask him to analyze the thing we picked up from Orz space.
Captain: Can your scientists analyze what I have acquired since my last visit?
Starbase Commander: The analysis reads as follows:
SUBJECT: Taalo Device.
DATA: Whoever the Taalo were, they were clever - way past us, probably even beyond the Chenjesu. As far as I can tell, with all our equipment, this thing is a rock. Just a rock; nothing but a rock. However, if you feed a current into it, anywhere along its surface, everyone on board this starbase who has esper potential gets a bad headache. Well, we checked a bit more into that, and when the Taalo thing is active, all evidence of psychon interaction is flatlined - nothing gets through.
SUMMARY: If you keep this Taalo rock device thing on board your vessel, I'll bet you are immune to any kind of psychic attack, or at least mostly immune. That's the end of our scientists' report.
We upgrade our shit again, although probably for no good reason. I'm gonna do something that makes it kinda pointless to have such ridiculous amounts of fuel, but since we have to fly a good bit on this trip, I take the ultra big tanks. And with ultra big tanks comes the need to take more storage bays, because fuel is still fucking expensive. Notice that the LoveBoat still has no guns
Also, our Landers are resistant to Earthquakes now, have double capacity, move twice as fast, and shoot twice as fast.
Oh, I buy an Orz Nemesis ship, just to pad out my armada. You can't buy anymore Eluders at this point, unfortunately, so we're stuck with those three for the REST OF THE GAME.
A few words on the Nemesis.
It's fucking awesome. Easily one of the better ships in the game, despite being relatively fragile. It and the Eluder are pretty much the top tier middle weight ships in the game, both being very maneuverable with excellent offensive capabilities.
The Nemesis comes equipped with a cannon that shoots in a very satisfying boom, that does 3 points of damage. The kicker is that the cannon can rotate, so if you're really good, you can just do strafe runs on your quarry, rather than hitting them head on. The secondary is sending out a marine, which is similar to the Ur-Quan's fighters. The difference is that in space, the marine is much more resilient, but it won't come back to your ship until the enemy's destroyed. And you only send out one at a time. I think they're faster, too, but don't quite me on that.
Anyway, when the marine reaches an enemy ship, it starts opening fire on the crew until it dies. I think it normally does about 4-6 points of damage on average, but I've seen it deal much, much more (and much less). They're great to stack on slow ships that have no way to deal with gnatty things.