Cameron Finds His Game
Copyright© 2006 by Cameron Lee
Science Fiction Sex Story: Chapter 1 - A story in Lazlo Zalzac's Damsels in Distress Universe in which Cameron is recruited to join the ranks of the Heroes. There are issues though, he has a girlfriend and the slavers have overturned the applecart on Chaos.
Cameron Richards didn't know when he bought the magazine in 2002 that he was starting a series of actions that would lead him to the most excitement, joy and horror of his life. Of course it is often that way about life changing events, they don't appear that significant in themselves because life is incremental.
Former Sergeant Richards, discharge papers tucked in his overnight bag, caught a bus from Fort Lewis that stopped off at SeaTac, the Seattle airport. This enabled him to call one of the nearby hotels with airport shuttles where he figured to take a couple of days seeing the sights.
Also tucked in the overnight bag was a box containing the basic rule books for a role playing game called "Traveller". Thanks to his mother's interest in the genre, Richards had been a science fiction fan literally since he had learned to read. The concept and practice of role playing games like "Dungeons and Dragons" was attractive but he had a hard time with the fantasy elements. Chess, Bridge, and other strategy games also fascinated him and he actively played them when he could find partners. Old book stores, especially if they also billed themselves as carrying games, pulled him like a magnet.
Cameron's usual habit in a new town was to pull out the yellowpages and take a look for book and game stores. Enroute to Korea, a stop over in the San Francisco Bay area facilitated a couple of days of riding the famous Bay Area Rapid Transit and hunting up stores. It was in such a store just off the campus in Berkley that he had found tucked away in a back corner a letter sized black box entitled "Deluxe Edition Traveller". While his tour in Korea had provided a number of interesting experiences, it had not provided any more than lots of time to read the "Traveller" material and wish for an opportunity to play the game.
It only took a few minutes for one of the shuttles from the chain hotel he selected to show up on the arrivals concourse. The hotel front desk found a route map for the really excellent public transit system and some advise on which ones to take to get to the main things he wanted to see, the Space Needle and the Air Museum at the old Boeing Field. Once settled in his room, Cameron dug out the yellowpages and started hunting under "books" and "games" for likely targets.
He spent all of his first day at the Space Needle and walking around the old downtown part of Seattle which included a couple of the stores on his list. The next day he started with Boeing Field and spent several hours going through the exhibits. The last store on his list was in a suburban shopping center that was somewhat off the public routes so he sprang for a cab.
The shopping plaza was one of those typical sprawl developments with every store being one floor and each with its own exterior entrance strung out in a long horseshoe around the huge parking lot. The rather bored young lady clerk acknowledged his presence, but not much else. The place was basically deserted which made a certain kind of sense as it was mid-afternoon on a weekday. The long narrow layout felt a bit like being in a submarine but Cameron quickly saw that he had hit the motherlode as far as material went.
It didn't take long to find the section for role playing game material. Most of it was "D&D" stuff but there were several other game genre represented. Pulling out "Traveller" items quickly revealed that Cameron was behind the times as the system had clearly evolved over time and that the original publisher had folded up shop. Then he found the magazine rack, again dominated by "D&D" but not entirely. One magazine had articles about games that were played by mail. Being from rural Montana this looked like a solution to the no partners problem. There were several back issues including a series on a game called "Starweb", a computer moderated play by mail game. These went on the pile growing on the counter.
More people had started coming into the store, many of them obviously teens now that school had let out. While wandering around Cameron had noticed that the back of the store contained an outside entry, restrooms, a meeting room, and a notice board. Monday - AH nite; Tuesday - "The Druid's D&D"; Wednesday - open gaming 6-9; Thursday - "Travellers Aid Society"; Friday; cards and chess 6-9; Saturday - Seattle Miniatures Assoc...
Bringing the last of his selections to the counter he caught the clerk's eye, "I'm ready to check it out now." He noticed that the clerk was not only less bored but also a quite attractive young woman, about 5' 5", brown hair, brown eyes, maybe his age, about 23. He also noticed she was actually looking at his selection and apparently trying to decide about something as she ran the items through the checkout process.
"That comes to $149.25 sir, let me get a bag for these;" she said and suited action to word. It actually took a couple of bags. "I noticed that most of this stuff is oriented toward "Traveller". Have you ever played?"
"No, I have been in the army in Korea ever since I got my first books. Its not the sort of thing the average grunt is into."
"Would you be interested in trying? At 6 my group gets together for their weekly game session."
"How would that work? I don't have any characters and I don't know your campaign. Would it be OK for a stranger to drop in out of the blue like that?"
"It will be if I say so, I'm the gamemaster. What I had in mind was having you run one of my non-player characters that is likely to have a lot of contact with the group tonight. If you want to give it a go, say so."
"I have been fascinated with the game idea. If you are sure I won't muck things up for you, I would love to see how it runs in action."
"OK, my relief comes in at 4:30. You can buy me supper over at the Pizza Hut and I will brief you in on the campaign and your role."
Cameron thought this was the best offer he'd heard in two years but was a little bemused by the girl's assurance.
Walking over to the Pizza Hut only took a couple of minutes. Cameron was happy to see that the buffet deal was still on. Pizza was one thing he had missed a lot during his tour in Korea. It was going to be a few minutes before the buffet line opened though so they got a table and sat down to introduce themselves.
Her name was Leia. She said her folks named her because they were taken with the first Star Wars movie. She had grown up here in suburban Seattle and gone to school at the University of Washington. She was an English major and started working in the bookstore because she loved books and her folks' tastes had rubbed off on her. She had dated casually during college but developed no steady relationship - with 40,000 plus students the place was just too big and industrial for her to be comfortable with the scene. Since then, the book store put her in contact mostly with people that were too young, or too old or in relationships already.
Cameron told about his growing up in a small town in Montana. Not sure of what he wanted to do with his life he had opted to go into the service on the theory that he would learn something useful and be able to take advantage of the college program to actualize his decision without having to go into debt.
The first part was looking a little strange - outside the army there wasn't much call for machine gunners. On the other hand he had gotten to see an oriental country. During off duty time he had taken advantage of the option to attend a Korean dojo so his unarmed combat skills were much better than what he had gotten out of basic training. The same dojo also afforded him a chance to start learning about the sword, a weapon that fascinated him though he certainly didn't expect any need to employ it professionally.
Hitting the buffet line they each picked up a salad and a couple of slices of pizza before returning to the discussion of the evening's activities. Leia started it off, "Here's what I have in mind. Tonight my gamers will start the next phase of the campaign. To do that they need a mission. Normally I just game the contacts myself but tonight you can be live in the role. You are perfect for what I had in mind. Major Martin, retired marine, needs a ship and crew. He is an artifact collector and dealer and recently some strange materials came into his hands. They hint that there may be more, a lot more, in a certain star system. He is prepared to split with the crew he gets involved in this. This matches of course with the gamers needs. They have a ship, a smallish tramp freight and passenger hauler, but are currently without a cargo or destination. You will provide them with that."
"OK, how much of what I do in the game is controlled by you and how much can I do on my own.?"
"I am giving you the basic setup and the destination system. You will be on your own to negotiate the terms of the deal and to game out situations as they arise. This should give the other gamers a real sense of ownership in the scenario because it reduces the gamemaster's arbitrary power."
"How are they going to take it when I'm not around for the next session?"
"Well, it shouldn't make much difference by then. I will still have the character on hand to run but Major Martin is less important during the middle of the campaign."
Cameron excused himself to take another run at the buffet bar. When he returned to the table he found that Leia had fished a few things out of her briefcase.
"Here are the basic things your character needs." One was a sector map showing the relationships between the stars in the neighborhood. One was a character sheet filled out for Major Martin. Cameron noted that his character had the skills one might expect of a marine officer, fairly high skill ratings in blade and gun combat, leadership, and vac-suit. All backed by education, social standing, and a hefty bank account. Other items were several pages from a ship's log and a strange piece of "artwork?".
Cameron scanned the material, trying to see it as his character would see it. The artwork was clearly some sort of engraved print. Very odd though, it had scenes on both sides and strange symbols in the corners. As Cameron it screamed "money", as Martin it should be almost as obvious because of his presumed occupation as a collector. He'd seen lots of log pages, written many during his time as a company commander and battalion S-3. These were unusual. They were penciled in a child's shaky hand for one thing and told a disjointed story of disaster on board a family owned free-trader for another.
"What's the backstory"?
"Key question," acknowledged Leia. "These came into your possession at an estate sale. The local authorities were auctioning a ship and its entire contents for the benefit of the 8 year old girl child who was its sole surviving occupant when it staggered in system several months ago. You didn't have the assets or even the interest to bid on the ship or most of the sparse cargo, equipment, and supplies. You did bid on the lot of "miscellaneous personal effects". It was in a closed box, about a cubic meter in size, and described as "mostly clothes, items of personal adornment, and misc." The auction estimate was listed at 10 Credits. The hammer came down on your bid of 8 Credits after starting at 5 and having the local TAS office bid 7. You have one other piece of information - a tech working for the auction house hinted that the ship's computer had contained a digital image of a strange ship."
"OK, lets see if I have this straight - I think there is an abandoned ship in the target system. That ship probably has more, maybe even a lot more, of this", said Cameron, pointing to the engravings. "If we can find it, the ship will have salvage value and these items will be of interest to the right collector."
"Right, the system has very little traffic as it has no habitable planet. You have also done some research and have found no records of missing ships over the last 20 years that match the info you weaseled out of the auction tech. This makes it more likely that anything found would have some rarity value just because it could be unique." Leia glanced at her watch, "Oops, we need to get back now."