Zhelyne - synthetic humanoids used as crew
Ellen had received a message from an old friend, Sybil, who had requested her help with some new project. The message had described the situation as Urgent. What she and the rest of her adventurers found when they arrived was that Ellen’s friend was a designer of Spelljammer ship - well one spelljammer ship, at least. Sybil was a prodigy, a genius in technomagic and what she had created was unlike any spelljammer vessel of the past - or so she claimed. It was “the next step in spelljammer ship evolution.” That was an understatement. It was a living ship with an artificial crew she would refer to as Zhelynes. The Zhelynes were synthetic humanoids. They lacked much in the way of creative thought, not that Sybil didn’t encourage them to try. She set aside time for them to learn more about themselves. Some might have regarded them as a little creepy.
Sybil's reason for summoning Ellen was that she needed a group to help her with security. She had heard ugly rumors that word of her project had leaked. Illithids, Githyanki, and Beholders were all searching for her ship. As it turned out her fears were not ungrounded. They had barely begun trial runs when they detected the fleets converging on them.
To escape the enemy fleets they had tried to lose them in a Wildspace rift. It had been a dangerous maneuver. But to stay and fight was a no win scenario. And they couldn’t outrun their enemies forever. Their experimental ship proved far more resilient than the enemy fleets.
As soon as they exited the rift, pressure alarms went off. Negative pressure. Negative? The pressure alarms were for diving in the sea. But what the hell was negative pressure. Sybil immediately understood and issued a warning for noone to leave the ship. They had arrived some eight and a half days out from the local realm. The main realm seemed to be a beautiful blue realm. Its smaller moon appeared lifeless, devoid of mana. The choice of destination was obvious.
Behind them the rift began responding to the emergence of other ships, which could only mean that their enemies - or at least some of them - had followed them. They were now between a rock and a hard place as the saying went. Ellen ordered the ship to Spelljammer speed heading straight for the blue realm.
Ellen called the group to the mess hall, which functioned as a briefing room, to discuss their options. She looked around at their crew. Originally landlubbers, the group- largely herself and Moonshadow, Karoshi and Rasitah, and Enola - had taken to spelljamming. There she had purchased a beaten up old spelljammer vessel and hired a captain who turned out to be a complete idiot. The human had damned near gotten them all killed. But along the way they had encountered Chum afloat in space in the remains of a spelljammer vessel inside a Sarcophagus of Preservation. Chained to her sarcophagus was a chest filled with her personal gear. As near as anyone could figure she had been floating around for over a decade. Her stories instantly charmed the half orcs - and grew on Ellen even though she doubted the veracity as the stories seemed to evolve. But such bardic tales were a sign of creative intelligence and she saw value in that. Besides, Chum's stories boosted morale.
The final addition to the crew was Olrion, a novice at best whose talents simply were NOT suited for spelljamming. Fire didn’t work in space. It was dangerous as all hell. And the whole group damned nearly lynched the dhampir when she managed to torch a pirate spelljammer vessel they had just captured, which would have meant a serious upgrade. In fact, the explosion almost destroyed their own vessel.
Ellen consigned Olrion to swabbing decks - inside and out - for over a month before even the crew started to take pity. Or rather Rasitah did. Rasitah went outside the ship and joined the dhampir with swabbing. After another week Karoshi soon joined her. Chum only joined them because Rasitah kept giving her that look. By the end of the first shift of Chum’s help, Karoshi went to Ellen and told her she was tired of senseless deck swabbing. Ellen told her she didn’t have to. But Karoshi announced that Moonshadow had joined them and noone was getting much training while swabbing decks. And so Olrion’s punishment came to an end.
Their newest crew members were Sybil herself and Rae. Rae had already been working for Sybil as both security and fabrication. Besides Sybil, Rae was probably the most knowledgeable member of the crew in the functions and design of the ship. Ellen suspected she would soon prove herself to the crew.
“We have a week before we hit the edge of the realm before us. Behind us are Illithids, Githyanki and Beholder fleets. The only good news is that our enemies hate one another and will kill each other to keep this ship out of their hands. But they will also kill us to keep the status quo. The bad news is that there is a realm ahead of us they may prove hostile - or prey for our enemies. Thoughts everyone?”