Heat Signature is fantastic at telling unauthored, emergent stories. Here’s a cool video all about its procedural generation of characters:

And here’s a personal anecdote, generated entirely by a combination of the game, my actions and circumstance:

Docked. Turrets everywhere. Armoured guards with heat sensors, and they’re clustering in groups of threes and covering all room exits, so I can’t even sneak past.

There are four levels of door keycard locks between me and the Euler Contraption which I need to steal in order to pay off my debts.

I have no melee or projectile weapons.

I have 75 seconds before the ship docks with its destination space station and I’m discovered.

Well, shit.

I sneak past the first turret. Easy enough. This place is huge and a maze, my way barred by locked doors. I have a keycard cloner, meaning I can steal keys remotely from guards without having to actually tear them from their cold, dead hands.

The level 1 keycard is easily acquired but that doesn’t help me actually get past the first group of guards – three heavily armoured bastards blocking the corridor from the airlock into the rest of the ship. I can’t knock them out or kill them without setting off the alarm.

Time to stage an accident.

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I’ve got two breach grenades with me – just two, on this massive ship. If I can throw them just right, I can destroy the room and jettison the guards into space. I throw, the grenade bounces to a stop at their feet, there’s a pause and then a fiery explosion tears a hole in the ship and I find myself floating in the void along with the guards.

Well, shit.

Activating my pod’s remote control, I undock it and pivot it around to come find me, while my oxygen supply dwindles away and I drift ever farther from the target ship. The pod reaches me just in time and I pile back inside, taking the controls and firing thrusters on full burn to get back to the ship.

I notice there’s a second airlock and check it out, but it opens into a corridor rammed with armoured guards. No way I can sneak my way past, and a breach isn’t going to help. Then I notice that the breach explosion earlier left a gaping hole in the side of the ship – if I can just identify it from the outside, I can use it as a makeshift airlock and sneak aboard that way.

I’ve got about 65 seconds left before the ship docks at its destination station.

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Undocking again, I wheel around the ship in an arc, closing in on the breach.  I’m so focused on lining up the approach that I don’t notice my pod drifting into the the sensor array on the side of the ship – it detects my thrusters immediately and auto-fires a missile, hitting my pod and sending me and it spinning off into space. I pull at random controls and manage to stabilise the ship after about ten seconds, but its venting fuel and limping badly.

I have to balance using up fuel to manoeuvre with the always ticking countdown to the ship being beyond my reach. I close back in and line up the approach perfectly, docking with the breach hole.

50 seconds.

There’s a single turret which I dodge past, then I’m on the other side of a door from a guard. I use a swapper to exchange places with him, leaving him dazed and confused on the other side, and then I’m charging down the corridor towards the cockpit, where I use my final breach grenade, rolling it through the doorway and backing off as the pilot is eliminated.

With no pilot at the controls – and, in fact, no controls – the ship continues on its previous trajectory, flying straight past its destination space station without stopping. I’ve got all the time in the world. The ship’s on high alert but there’s nothing they can do. That said, I’ve still got most of the ship between me and the Euler Contraption.

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In a side room near the ruined cockpit I find a storage locker with a subverter inside. It has three charges: it’ll have to be enough. Retracing my steps to the turret, I hack it with the subverter, scrambling its friend-or-foe circuits, then I make my way cautiously towards the next corridor, where four guards are holed up and entirely in my way.

Ducking round the corner I give them a friendly wave, then dart back towards the turret as they pursue. They don’t have time to realise their mistake as the turret cuts all of them down in about half a second. I grab a keycard from one of them and head deeper into the bowels of the ship.

Another subverted turret clears the path further ahead and then I’m nearly at my target. All I need is the final keycard to get me close enough – but my cloner is out of juice and there’s no turrets to subvert to my purpose. The guard carrying the keycard is hanging out with three friends, and I’ve got no way of disabling them to get the keyInstead, I activate my visitor teleporter to appear right in the middle of them all, then instantly throw up a shield. The guards react, firing their weapons at me, and I watch as their bullets ricochet off the hissing blue energy of the shield and bounce right back at the guards. Turns out the armoured guards have armour-piercing ammunition. It doesn’t quite take out all of them but that’s OK – the keycard has been dropped, I’ve grabbed it and the visitor teleporter yanks me back to my original – safer – position.

The Euler Contraption is mine. I grab it, then dart back through the ship, being careful not to get too cocky. I make it back to my pod, detach, and then remember that the pod is leaking fuel and falling apart. Because the big ship’s been drifting aimlessly without a pilot we’re a long way from a friendly station.

Getting stranded in space at this point would be frustrating.

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I fire the thrusters in the direction of the nearest station then cut the power, drifting on my own inertia through the nebula’s clouds. The station comes into view and I hit the brakes, using the last of my fuel, and the dock sucks me into a berth.

The Euler Contraption is delivered and I get my pay. Debts are cleared.

It was so exciting I completely forgot to even take any relevant screenshots.

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