Pulse Beacon Relay

An &xkcd event
(Please contribute and add your nick.)

Main Points

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What Is Happening?

A sci-fi-themed RPG employing the eponymous Pulse Beacon Relay bot as the main means of communication. See What Do We Know? for a moderately short and inconsistently updated summary.

Help pick our ship's name here!

What Do We Know?

“Apollo Station” in orbit around a red dwarf experienced some kind of event where the (previously red) star itself turned blue #4. The space station is requesting assistance because the failures they suffered in consequence of that.

The crew works for a company called GDf Futuristics. They stated that their problems began 110 days before their first message to us (Sat, June 03, 2017 ), which was was Mon, Feb 13, 2017, in Earth days #3. Their days are half as long, 12 hours #15. When the problems started, two crew members, Eiffel and Jacobi became irradiated, turned delirious and violent, and had to be stopped #14. They’ve been ‘buried at sea’.

Three remain alive on Apollo Station: The main contact person, Commander Bright; Hilbert, a cosmologist who is able to “float”; and Sam Lambert, a doctor who was in jeopardy from the unusual radiation effects, which our meds seemed to counteract. And who also has a theory as to the reason for the ship losing control, as yet undisclosed #5. Lambert states they have been alone without much contact for years prior to the accident #14. Message 14 has good explanatory material.

We’re not sure yet if the Apollo Station crew are fully trustable or not (this could use some analysis and discussion). Our ship (as yet unnamed) decided to head there to assist, but has been warned by the Apollo crew to not come too close, presumably to avoid the same fate of falling into an inescapable orbit #6. However, a transmission from GDF #7 was picked up stating that the Apollo inhabitants are armed and dangerous criminals GDF is allegedly a large interstellar corporation; Apollo Station mentioned a website, and the fact that GDF may send either a Rescue Team or a Containment Team (which sounds possibly like a security or ‘termination’ squad—scary) #14.

When asked, we recommended that Apollo jettison their damaged medical bay after salvaging materials, and keep the more structurally sound escape pod for use and emergency escape, and they followed our advice #5. While travelling to their sector, we launched a probe which determined that the star actually was emitting blue waves, verifying this part of the Apollo crew’s claims. The probe also delivered emergency supplies, medicine, and music, and may or may not also include secret weaponizable materials #10.

A broken message from Apollo hinted at unusual probes, and possibly solar flares, or something interfering with communication. Apollo seemed to warn us against using the comm until further notice; it’s a bit unclear, though. At the same time, a coded message intercepted from a GDf ship to GDf Command suggests that they are about to attack Apollo. The “Stanton Effect” of the blue star was mentioned, and our Strategist passenger postulated that this could be a GDf experiment of the shady sort that they are willing to protect and keep secret at all costs. The fact that Apollo was caught unawares by this effect suggests they are innocent bystanders, despite belonging to GDf. Or perhaps targets. In any case, in order not to attract undue attention from the GDf ship, “Desperate Measures”, in the area (not to be confused with “Desperate Times”, which was our ship’s probe dispatched to examine the blue star), a !ping-style message requesting a response (and also hinting at danger, limited time, and testing Apollo’s awareness of the GDf ship message) was conveyed, disguised as a spam ad for toothpaste #17.

Much is happening! See Msg #18. Plans for the final showdown are coming to fruition. Update coming soon, see Messages 19 to 23 for more.

We’re on the verge of big action, expected around 10, 11:00 UTC on Sat, Jun 17.

Who Are We?

The proposed backstory is a war mothership/shuttle taken by a group of rebels that are escaping from the (galactic) empire.

Character Euphorian Description
Doctor Caesar @caesar Medical Doctor, Officer
TW-947 @tw947🎸 AI Flight Officer
Xyzzy @Xyzzy Friend of a friend of a friend
Master of Engineering @PouncySilverkitten Engineering Officer
Ensign bluebird @bluebird Crew member, lackey, jackdaw of all trades
Strategist Jeremy @JeremyRedFur Redfur Strategist
TBD @DoctorNumberFour Chronology Specialist
TBD @Garmy none
TBD @totallyhuman none
TBD @EclipseRose none
TBD @MartyKthevampire none

Ships and Entities


Apollo Station
People we had been talking to. Lambert, Hilbert, Bright.
Pulse Beacon Relay
Apollo’s probe, our primary communications link, the one we have been getting all the messages from.


Our Ship (unnamed*)
Is our ship.
Desperate Times
Belongs to our ship, probe sent out to research the (death) blue star.
Congenital Optimist
Belongs to our ship, supply probe for the Apollo station.
Garden Path
Belongs to our ship, probe sent out to help with diversionary maneuvers, to attract attention away from Apollo during their escape

GDf Futuristics:

Desperate Measures
Speculated to be an armed GDf ship approaching Apollo Station with the likely intent to destroy it
GDF Command
Some sort of base of operations for the corporate conglomerate GDf Futuristics. Unknown whether this is a station, ship, fleet, or planet.

*Suggest and Vote on Ship Names Here!

Any Patterns?

Beacon connects and requires response in order to deliver message. N.B. These messages sent directly before Message #5:

[Pulse Beacon Relay] Incoming Pulse Beacon Hail...
          [Pulse Beacon Relay] Auto-acknowledge enabled

The bot stores submitted messages and displays replies whenever they are there.

After that, we can respond with a message on our own.

There’s a short time window it waits for no less than twenty minutes for both these actions. Afterwards, the beacon disconnects.

Replies can be sent at any time.

Did anyone note the lurkers this time? Yes, there was one.

5 min after there are two agent lurkers, one the same as yesterday.

Adding Lurker notes to Raw Logs, and maybe a sub-appendix.

Who Is This Guy?

We don’t know. Maybe we shouldn’t know. *cue X-Files Theme*

I do know (at least who the front is) but won’t tell.

> Who says they know? What clues led to this hypothesis?

Who Could It Be?

— Encore to Who is this guy?

Message Log

Formatting Guide

Message #1 (2017-06-02) Log

Incoming Pulse Beacon Hail...
      (Reply to acknowledge hail)
      Signal lost.

Message #2 (2017-06-03) Log

Incoming Pulse Beacon Hail...
      (Reply to acknowledge hail)
      Signal lost.

Message #3 (2017-06-03) Log

Incoming Pulse Beacon Hail...
      (Reply to acknowledge hail)
      > ?
      === Pulse Beacon Relay Message ===
      Message Body: Pan-pan. Pan-pan. Pan-pan. All stations, this is Apollo Station requesting assistance. 110 days ago we encountered an unknown astrophysical phenomenon. Requesting assistance. 110 days ago we encountered an unknown astrophysical phenomenon. Requesting assistance, requesting assistance. Please respond.
      Message Hash: 4af369ab7673f5ba6944fb43f55eb28c
      === Pulse Beacon Relay Message ===
      !respond <message> to respond.
      caesar > !respond ?
      Sending response.
      Listening for acknowledgement...
      Signal lost.

Message #4 (2017-06-05) Log

Incoming Pulse Beacon Hail...
      (Reply to acknowledge hail)
      > Ooh.
      === Pulse Beacon Relay Message ===
      Message Body: I hope you're receiving this. We picked up a signal from your vector, but there wasn't a message or hash attached. I hope that that wasn't just a coincidence. Can you identify yourself? Are you another station? A ship?
      112 days ago, the red dwarf we were orbiting for research purposes changed. I know that this sounds  impossible, but it turned blue. Two of our staff were caught in the radiation when it changed, and they're dead now. There are still three of us alive, but the station is breaking down at an accellerated rate. we've had to spin the station so that we have a chance to repair every part of it without being exposed to the radiation, but that's causing structural problems, and even now systems are breaking as fast as we can fix them. Please, you have to help us. I don't know how long we have left.
      Message Hash: 2786b7f202dd8f76a59588b231fe12f9
      === Pulse Beacon Relay Message ===
      !respond <message> to respond.
      caesar > !respond We'll try to make our way over to you.
      Signal lost.

Message #5 (2017-06-06) Log

Incoming Pulse Beacon Hail...
      Auto-acknowledge enabled
      === Pulse Beacon Relay Message ===
      Message Body: caesar? Are you there? We don't think that you should come. The last time a ship came into the system... it didn't end well. The engines failed, and it fell into a decaying orbit around the star. We couldn't reach the crew. A few probes have come and gone, though. We don't know why, but Hilbert thinks it may be something to do with engine technology. Lambert, our doctor, has a different theory, but she won't say why. Please, you have to help us. Two days ago, Lambert got caught in the radiation when a batten failed. We don't know how long she has.
      On a more practical note, we don't know where you are, but we think that we'll be able to communicate less effectively at times, because when the star is between you and us, it'll block transmissions. At least, we think so. The good news is that our station AI has managed to come up with a repair plan for the station's integrity. The bad news is that it means losing most of the hospital, or our only working escape pod. Lambert thinks that we should lose the pod, on the basis that engines seem to fail the whole time around the star. Hilbert believes that the medical bay is useless, and in fairness we weren't able to cure any of the others. Which do you think we should cannabalise? The useless pod or the useless medical bay? Counting on ya.
      Message Hash: 634ad9be35f81c57ee51e41b3da5dea8
      === Pulse Beacon Relay Message ===
      !respond <message> to respond.
      Xyzzy > !respond Here speaks Xyzzy, a friend of caesar. We will send a ship nonetheless and advise it not to use its main engine and navigate using intertial thrusters and gravity assists only instead. Furthermore, we ask for an estimate of a minimal safe distance for the ship to keep, if you have any. Additionally, the ship will assemble a probe with nutritional, medical, and low-technological supplies and launch it into a passive orbit that should bring the probe close to you. Concerning the station's interior, our consensus is that you should salvage the med bay first, as the escape pod presumably has a higher structural integrity and could be used as a shelter in case of a (more dire) disaster.
      Sending response.
      Response sent.

Shortly after a !help @PulseBeaconRelay, the bot disconnected, without a Signal Lost. Whether or not the events are causally related is unclear. Further experiments and tests are needed to find out whether a correlation, in fact, exists. – Hello from the future! The Signal Lost reply seems to have been disabled entirely.

Message #6 (2017-06-07) Log

      Incoming Pulse Beacon Hail...
      Auto-acknowledge enabled
      === Pulse Beacon Relay Message ===
			Message Body: If you insist on coming we cannot stop you. In the event that you do take that risk, we advise that your orbit be no smaller than 5AU outside the farthest planet in the system, though further would be ideal. We thank you for your offer of the probe and counsel on our structural questions. Work began on emptying the med bay a short time ago, and will continue for about another three hours, at which point we will begin preparations for jettisoning it. Our AI informs us that it will require several EVAs. we will report back once work is complete. Is caesar okay? How many of you are there?
			Message Hash: 06168a8ad89d800dc20228db5429843e
			=== Pulse Beacon Relay Message ===
			!respond <message> to respond.
			tw947 🎸 > !respond Greetings. Here writes the AI of this ship, TW-947. Your advice will be relayed to the crew of our shuttle. We anticipate your report and wish success. Caesar is functioning appropriately. There is a small number of us abroad. ETA to your shuttle is 29 hours.
			Sending response.
			Response sent.

Message #7 (2017-06-07) Log

Incoming Pulse Beacon Hail...
			Auto-acknowledge enabled
			=== Pulse Beacon Relay Message ===
			Message Body: Broadcast: All ships at sea, all ships at sea. GDf Futuristics reports armed and highly dangerous criminals in command of Apollo Station. Do not repeat not approach. Containment crew inbound, expected time until apprehension < 30 standard days. This message ***highly confidential***
			Message Hash: 4d8e83610bb15e6b866ed8bd387f45bd
			=== Pulse Beacon Relay Message ===

There was no chance to reply.

Message #8 (2017-06-07) Log

Are you receiving? Hilbert's trying to jury-r-rig a faster comms system. You should be able to use !PBR <message> to communicate with us.
			Xyzzy > !PBR This is a testing message. We have received your communication attempt.
			Doctor Number Four > !PBR Will this work all the time now? Or is the signal too spotty?
			Xyzzy > !PBR Please reply.

Message #9 (2017-06-07) Log

The system should store up messages from us at Apollo Station and then send them to you when there's a good signal. It'll do the same at your end. We won't be able to have a conversation but we should at least be able to talk asynchronously.
			Doctor Number Four > !PBR At least we have that. How're you doing?
			Pulse Beacon Relay Message sent.

Message #10 (2017-06-08) Log

All well here thanks. Work progresses on losing the medbay. We're about a third of the way through but we'll need to stop soon as that's going to be on the 'day' side of the station soon. Lambert is no better but no worse. Hilbert and I are alternating EVAs to cut off the medbay. We'll get back to you with more info soon. How are you?
			tw947 🎸 > !PBR This is TW-947 speaking. We are glad to know that your station is all well. Our shuttle is functioning correctly. 19 hours ago, we received a broadcast. The broadcast stated that Apollo station is commandeered by dangerous criminals. This has aroused suspicions amongst the crew. We question the integrity of your previous relays and request an explanation. Our ETA still stands.
			Message sent.
			ensign bluebird > !PBR addendum: we are tumbling along, missing friends and mrghhhing our way through the trials of the day, from early light until stupid o'clock. awaiting the senior officers' final determination, we are nevertheless proceeding on our way, fitting the probe with supplies, anticipating staying at 7 AU's distance per your recommendation. we may be slightly delayed, as we needed to slow down to tend to some hull damage from unanticipated debris. what happened 116 days ago? was your ship alone in the quadrant, or was the area well travelled, and if so, were others affected? how fares lambert, hibbert, and yourself? what is your name? and your favorite musical genre? we may be able to send old-fashioned data discs to you. ~beep
			Message sent.

Message #11 (2017-06-08) Log

Ship's Probe Desperate Times reports launch window for inspection of red dwarf has opened.
			Reply !runtests to perform a full suite of pre-launched tests.
			> !runtests
			Window closed; awaiting next window.
			> !runtests
			Ship's Probe Desperate Times reports launch window for inspection of red dwarf has re-opened.
			Reply !runtests to perform a full suite of pre-launch tests.
			> !runtests
			Tests beginning.
			Rough-control engine: nominal
			RCS: nominal
			Fuel: acceptable levels
			Signal: 5x5
			Instruments: recording
			Launch profile: verified
			Go no/go launch point reached. Reply !launch to launch.
			Xyzzy > !launch
			Decoupling from ship
			Maneuvering into de-orbit burn position
			Beginning deorbit burn
			Deorbit burn completed, awaiting entry into sensor range.
			Signal five-by-five, telemetry enclosed.

repeated 7 times

Signal five-by-five, telemetry enclosed.
			Star in range of scanners.
			Composition: consistent with red dwarf profile
			Emitting spectrum (human-visible): Predominently [sic] #486fad.
			Mass: 0.4023523 solar masses.
			Beginning shutdown sequence…

Analysis Result

Xyzzy > The color reminds roughly of the hue of intortus, or =3.
			tw947 🎸 > And catface.
			tw947 🎸 > Which is blue.
			tw947 🎸 > The star is indeed blue.
			Xyzzy > I'll convert it to HSL in a moment...
			Xyzzy > HSL 217° 41% 48%
			Xyzzy > @test
			Xyzzy > For comparison, Euphoria uses 50%/42% for pings and 65%/85% for nicks.

Message #12 (2017-06-08) Log

Ship's Probe Congenital Optimist reports launch window for humanitarian mission to Apollo Station has opened.
			Reply !runtests to perform a full suite of pre-launch tests.
			> !runtests
			Tests beginning.
			Rough-control engine: nominal
			RCS: nominal
			Fuel: acceptable levels
			Signal: 5x5
			Cargo: secured
			Launch profile: verified
			Go no/go launch point reached. Reply !launch to launch; !standdown to canncel.
			Xyzzy > !launch
			Decoupling from ship
			Maneuvering into de-orbit burn position
			Beginning deorbit burn
			Deorbit burn completed, awaiting capture by Apollo Station. Capture window opens in 04h32, lasts 00h01 minutes, window opening every 11h32.

Message #13 (2017-06-08) Log

I don't believe it. Those... listen, we've been broadcasting since about fifty days after the event, asking for help. We were sent up here by a company called GDF - they wanted us to do scientific analysis, but it felt more like a prisom sentence - we don't have a craft that could get us home, and the supplies they sent won't last half our rotation. When we arrived the station felt unsafe, but we never - look, that doesn't matter. What can we do to convince you? Lambert's worse, I don't know how much longer she has unless you can launch that probe.

1 day later

tw947 🎸 > !PBR This is TW-947 speaking. Thank you for the information. This will be relayed to the remaining crew members. ETA will still stand. The probe had already been launched and should arrive soon. We still question your integrity. If there is any means you can utilise to prove your innocence, do so.
			Message sent.

Message #14 (2017-06-09) Log

Hi- woah, this dictation thing is weird. Hi, everyone. This is Sam here, Sam Lambert. I owe you my life. The commander says that you thought we were criminals? But you sent the probe anyway, and I honestly can't thank you enough for that. The commander asked me to say that her question stands - whatever it takes to prove our innocence, we'll do it. 
			I really want to say thanks, especially for your addendum : ) It's so good to hear from people in the real worldW! We don't have any kind of long range comms, and we've been here for years. Thank you for making us feel human : ) We're glad to hear that you're keeping your distance, we really don't want any harm to come to you! Especially after everything you've done for us. We don't know what happened, really; Hilbert, our cosmologist, came floating out of his lab (which is a rare occurrence) in a terrible rush and told the commander we had to prepare for a storm. 
			Figured it was just a solar flare, but the commander gave the order to batten down, so we did, but two of the battens failed after about twelve hours, and Eiffel and Jacobi were irradiated. We moved them into the medical bay, and I tried to treat them, but I couldn't do anything beyond help their pain. They were delirious after a few hours, and then... I can't bear to say it, but I have to. You deserve to know. 
			Ridiculous, how hard this is to say, but... we killed them. 
			Of course we did. We had to. Their delirium was worse, and they were attacking us. Hilbert and the commander tried to restrain them, but they were so strong! It was like... you know the thing about mothers lifting cars off children? The brain removes the internal limiter it uses to protect your muscles, and it was like that with them. One of- no, it was Eiffel. Eiffel went for Hilbert, and I hit him with an oxygen tank and broke his neck. 
			My God, I know that none of this is helping the accusation of being criminal, but I swear to you we're not. We're just... we want to survive. Your meds saved me from that. I can't thank you enough. 
			Probably- hang on, status update! Hilbert and the commander - Commander Bright, if you don't know her name - are fine. They cut loose the last of the med bay just a few minutes ago, so hopefully the station's structural integrity will hold for a bit now. 
			Offhand, I don't know what our plan is now - hopefully GDF will send a Rescue Team? They have teams, you see. Rescue Teams are for stranded people, Protection Teams are like security or something, and there are meant to be others, teams they send in to make sure no-one's heard of again. 
			Ugly business, ugly company. Even their website looks shady. 
			Never say never, though : ) hopefully we'll get home safe and sound! I hate being so serious, especially since Hilbert and the commander are so focussed. 
			Cheers again for the probe - the music is really lovely. We've got an old tape player up here and I'm loving some of the jazz you sent up! 
			Yours, faithfully and indebtedly, 
			Sam x
			Doctor Number Four > !PBR I've got some old scifi movies; you guys want those?
			Message sent.
			Pouncy Silverkitten > !PBR Glad to hear you're feeling better, Lambert! Thanks for filling us in on what happened. Does Hilbert have any idea about why the star changed? How's your structural integrity? I'm happy to take a look if you can send up blueprints - hate for the station to disintegrate now that it's stable. What are your plans now? Do you have any ideas about getting off the station? Master of Engineering, Pouncy Silverkitten. P.S. How does the length of your station 'day' compare to the Standard Day? PSK. P.P.S Sorry to ask, but did you do a burial at space for Eiffel and Jacobi? If not, where are their remains?
      Message sent.

Message #15 (2017-06-12 14:30 UTC) Log

I've spoken to Hilbert - he'll prepare the blueprints with annotations. We appreciate the offer! We don't have plans yet - Hilbert is talking about conducting engine tests but we don't have much of... well, anything, so we need to be careful. Our day is about twelve hours, so we get two of them in a Standard Day pretty much exactly. Eiffel and Jacobi received a burial at sea.

Message #16 (2017-06-12 21:11 UTC) Log

Unidentified Ship, this is Dr Hilbert at Apollo Station. Blueprints are attached but I am confident in my calculations. Be advised I shall be testing highly experimental engine within 36 standard hours.

Nothing was attached

1 day later

TW-947 > !PBR This is TW-947 speaking. In a previous relay, Dr Hilbert mentioned that blueprints were attached. However, the relay we received did not have any attachments. Please take caution with the engine, and forward us the blueprints with haste.
      TW-947 > !PBR This is TW-947 speaking. After evaluating the previous messages and the data Desperate Times relayed back to us, the crew has several inquiries. Exactly how much radiation is coming from the blue dwarf star? Is there any equipment on board to measure? In addition to that, several crew members have questions about the nature of the "storm" Lambert had mentioned. Could you tell us more?

1 day later

bluebird > !PBR are you still on track for your engine tests, or are you waiting for a chance for us to review your plans? wondering if the star system has perhaps interfered with communications. checking your status. ~tweet

Message #17 (2017-06-14 09:49 UTC) Log

Unidentified ship, please report. we're detect      robe entering syste        could be dange          lar flar        batten dow     O NOT broa        nti clear.
      From Desperate Measures to GDf Command - we are running low on toothpaste. Message from French friend as follows:
      16 19 15 11 12 18 12 7 12 13 7 21 23 7 26 9 15 8 12 9 7 8 4 11 22 17 5 11 20 12 24 15 18 12 1 4 16 22 24 24 24 17 8 24 11 8 20 19 13 13 8 2 15 9 23 20 1 10 12 8 20 1 15 26 12 19 19 12 8 20 22 3 2 25 16 7 13 23 23 23 13 15 2 13 22 3 5 24 25 9 22 8 3 7 26 9 1 10 12 24 8 4 11 24 8 5 15 6 12 5 11 1 19 23 26 9 15 8 2 18 25 23 6 2 21 22 18 19 7 11 24 23 2 13 15 7 5 23 12 24 23 18 15 18 26 8 20 7 9

Decryption result

Translating the numbers to the respective letters and deciphering using a Vigenère cipher with a key of TOOTHPASTE yields (after adding spaces for clarity):


We are closing in. Sent probes ahead. Detected Station appears damaged. Confirmed Stanton Effect on star. Weapons armed. In firing range in three STD days.

bluebird > !PBR 🌟🌟Brighten ⭐⭐and Whiten ⚪ your Smile 👄👄👄
            with our Patented 🎫 Formula™
              🐔🐔 Hen's Teeth Dental Creme! 🐥🐥🐥
          🕙🕓Now at Special Discount Rate! 💸💸💸 Save Big 💰💰
          ⏳⏳⏳For a Limited Time  Only* 💥💥💥
          ☎☎ Call in the next 30 minutes for a 20% discount ⏰⏰⏰
          💶💵💴💷 A One-Time Savings of 37% if you Act Now Now NOW 📬📬
            *🔋🔋🔋Batteries Not Included  ⚡⚡
      Message sent.

Message #18 (2017-06-15 07:05 UTC) Log

Message One

From Desperate Measures to GDf Command: Kepler has finished the chocolate.

      v m f a t m u f e f t a o t h l n m n r s d f p f m h r t h s u n p x f j j f m w t s u f b h u t h m a u h i t m t l t s s h r z k t h s v r t s s u n p p r n o t p h s s t a n v u n e s z s u t k s u n p s u h m a o z e n r e v r u d t r f m e n f m u x n s u a a h z

Decryption Result

The message was encrypted using a keyed Caesar shift with keyword “chocolate”.

Unidentified beacon or ship in area STOP
      Will investigate and take necessary measures STOP   
      Probe passed out of system STOP   
      Standby for further info in two STD day

Message Two (Apollo Station)

Did you broadcast that at them? My god, that... what part... all right, never mind. Listen, we've got a little under two standard days, by Hilbert's calculations. He's been working on some new engine tech that he thinks will be resistant to whatever it is about the star that causes engine failure. We're going to do a test in a few hours; iff it works all right, we'll retrofit it to our escape pod and use it to get the hell out of dodge. We're never going to be able to outrun the Desperate Measures, thoguh. If you think your engines can do that, giving us a lift might just about make up for the fact that in about forty four hours, a heavily armed ship crewed by trigger happy sadists picked for their psychopathy will be cruising through on a mission with the happy side effect of making this system the cleanest in the galaxy, because they're going to be destroying literally. every. space. rock. just in case. I- paws dictation. Yes, Sam? Commander, with respect, when did you last sleep? Don't know, don't care. I'll be able to sleep plenty when the Desperate Measures arrives if we don't get off this station. Commander, as the medical officer on board, I have to insist - it's been almost sixty hours. Please, get a few hours. Fine. I'll finish this and go to my bunk. Wake me for the engine test. Commander, one other thing - you know Hilbert said that the flare was going to disrupt communications? Yes. That applies to the message we sent, too, they probably didn't get anything comprehensible. Really, Medical Officer Lambert? Dismissed. <door opens, shuts> Jesus. <sound of shaky breathing, then sobbing> Resume dictation. All right, unidentified ship, it seems I owe you an apology. Please, our lives are dependent on you.

      TW-947 > !PBR This is TW-947 speaking. We had intercepted a relay from Desperate Measures. It will arrive in systems in approximately 18 hours. This can lead to unfavourable circumstances. However, everything is going to be fine, as long as things go according to plan. We will ensure your safety to the best of our abilities. The crew had decided that we are morally inclined to rescue you. This is a decision I must comply with. 
      The plan so far includes sending a probe to distract the Desperate Measures while we circle the star and prepare a rendezvous with your escape pod, which is still intact. We need your ship as an ally to escape the Desperate Measures, so it would be the best for both of our ships if we cooperate. 
      In the meantime, hang in there, you’re doing remarkably well in unexpectedly (and extraordinarily) difficult circumstances.
      Our crew members have prepared several inquiries: 
      1. What is the extent of your knowledge of Desperate Measures? We would like to know what weaponry and engines it is equipped with. This is so that I can calculate the ability our ship has to outrun with. 
      2. Will there be a solar flare at the approximate same time as when the Desperate Measures will arrive in systems? We encourage you to leave quietly during a flare, although this will make communication difficult for a time. We plan to impersonate you and send simulated messages so DM will think you are still on board; any assistance will be appreciated
      3. Do you have the technology to receive a compressed version of me, so I can assist with your escape?
      4. The intercepted message mentioned the “Stanton effect.” Do you have information regarding it?
      5. A previous message stated something about Medical Officer Lambert having a theory as to why the star turned blue. Can we request details?
      6. The solar flare rendered one of your messages scrambled. Would you please reiterate it so the crew can refer to them? 
      We wish you all the best. Hope to meet you on the other side.
      Message sent.

Message #19 (2017-06-15 17:55 UTC) Log

Unnamed Ship, this is Dr Hilbert speaking. Plan sounds excellent. Looking forward to the bit where we don't die. Agreed that we shall co-ordinate. 

      The Desperate Measures is equipped with moderately powerful engines, advanced weaponry and highly effective countermeasures, both active and passive. The two weapons we should be especially concerned with are the coilgun arrays (which are line of sight, and extremely powerful) and the guided missiles. They are dangerous, but can at least be mitigated with the use of flares, which I can produce in quantity in our laboratory.

      I suspect that your engines will be capable of outrunning the Desperate Measures, in which case we may have a chance.
      My charts show that the next flare is due in approximately 24 hours. If we are to utilise it as cover - which is an excellent suggestion - we must delay the Desperate Measures' arrival. Do you have any probes remaining ready for launch? They would be ideal.
      We do indeed have the required technology - our station AI will prepare for your arrival and doubtless be grateful for the assistance of a more martially inclined strategist. Beam over when ready.
      We have no information relating to the Stanton Effect. Our Station AI is researching, but there are no good results as yet.
      Lambert's theory pertains rather to the circumstances relating to the ship falling into the star - I believe she suspects the curious frenzy that the irradiated patients enter.
      Our message is rendered irrelevant - a warning about the flare, and a request for radio silence.
      I will prepare flares for tomorrow. The engine test went well; we will prepare to jettison. Please advise on your ability to slow down the Desperate Measures.

Message #20 (2017-06-16 08:36 UTC) Log

Ship's probe Garden Path reports ready to launch on diversionary maneuvers. Reply !runtests to perform a full suite of pre-launch tests.
      Pouncy Silverkitten > !runtests
      Tests beginning.
      Rough-control engine: nominal
      RCS: nominal
      Fuel: acceptable levels
      Signal: 5x5
      Aerial: broadcasting
      Launch profile: verified
      Go/nogo reached. !launch to launch
      Pouncy Silverkitten > !launch

Message #21 (2017-06-16 08:40 UTC) Log

From Desperate Measures to GDf Command - the weather here is cloudy. Wish you were here.

      4 16 15 23 18 12 3 1 4 25 4 16 21 24 3 16 12 12 9 4 8 9 19 21 11 23 26 3 17 20 7 4 8 3 10 25 22 16 7 14 18 14 18 16 6 26 18 16 15 20 2 1 7 13 18 1 26 25 21 25 16 12 26 19 22 7 21 25 3 17 22 18 17 1 19 18 19 3 5 5 1 21 1 7 15 6 1 13 12 22 10 26 9 12 7 3 14 12 13 13 23 13 18 16 12 10 8 1 22 12 6 12 12 20 3 23 15 14 4 14 17 23 26 9 22 18 3 5 23 9 17 12 11 25 19 2 18 19 20 4 1 21 1 17 22 26 4

Decryption Results

The message was encrypted using a keyed Caesar shift with keyword “cloudy”:


      Beacon appears moving STOP   
      Will investigate STOP   
      Performing Doppler analysis now STOP   
      Expect maximum six hour delay STOP   
      Expect arrival at Apollo Station in nine hours max STOP

Message #22 (2017-06-16 11:47 UTC) Log

From Desperate Measures to GDf command: we've had a great party. Thanks for packing us the birthday cake! 
      22 24 21 20 1 8 1 14 18 5 11 22 20 16 6 12 1 12 12 3 21 8 19 20 10 22 18 11 12 4 19 18 17 16 17 19 10 22 24 23 8 21 11 17 22 15 26 9 25 24 22 22 1 21 5 17 23 13 15 19 17 13 9 20 1 12 15 12 21 3 4 1 6 20 13 24 26 23 4 6 20 6 2 19 14 22 6 16 26 23 15 14 3 18 2 13 23 9 3 20 23 18 12 10 17 19 4 5 21 17 6 7 8 17 20 7 5 9 26 5 21 13 21 13 12 17 8 19 16 4 2 9 5 3 11 22 1 18 13 13 20 18 25 1 20 2 6 9 23 15 5 25 21 5 3 24 2 22 21 21 6 9 15 16 9 15 24 19 8 23 10 2 14 17 1 10 21 20 25 20

Decryption Results

The message was encrypted using a keyed Caesar shift with keyword “birthdaycake”:

      UPDATE Appears hostile ship in area STOP 
      Going dark STOP 
      Expect resume operations c [circa] twelve STD hr from now STOP
      Arrival Apollo Station anticipated ten hundred UTC tomorrow STOP 
      Please stand by for go no go signal STOP

Raw Logs

The raw logs are currently missing from this copy of the PBR document... Until they are ready, please use the logs in the google document

Comment Section

Take non-repeating letters of the key word in order of first appearance, and append the remaining letters in alphabetical order. Map the letters of the alphabet to the letters at the corresponding position in the string. The classical Caesar cipher is a special case of this with the keyword “XYZ”. http://rumkin.com/tools/cipher/caesar-keyed.php