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Talespin

"We premier another new column this issue: Talespin.  This column will feature short fiction that illuminates aspects of the Earth Colonies Campaign."

— Editor's Comments, Melbourne Times #3


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Adventuring in the Colonies Sphere

Inspired by the regular "Amber Zone" feature of the original Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society, Talespin presents ready-to-play adventure scenarios set in the Colonies Sphere, "complete with patrons, rumors and nasty surprises along the way."

Three Misadventurers | Aeroi Trade Agents | Pollux Commerce Raiding | Snatch the Meren | Ring of Truth | Taken by Marloks | To the Zoo | The Cloud Minders | Go Make the Weather | The Belt Prophet | Home to Hāishén | The Uplift Project | Tundra Hunt
Gaian Pilgrimage (external site)


Three Misadventurers

(Adapted from Melbourne Times Issue #3)

Location: Rugila/Europa (3137.36-A34347)

Image - Aitchsee Sandsifter and Alabama Wang (by Matt Matteo)

HowardCarter Sandsifter and Alabama Wang on the surface of Rugila/Europa (illustration by Matt Matteo)

"It's damn pretty.  I'll give you that."

"Now that's the spirit!" replied Aitchsee.

Ally looked out over the desert.  It seemed like nearly fifteen klicks to the near side of this valley.  The multi-layered cliffs that shimmered in the heat of the distance suggested there had once been water here.  That was a good sign; Aitchsee would need water.

She looked up, shading her eyes from the small orange sun.  It would set in a couple of hours.  She turned her head at the sound of Ptolemy's servos.  "So where are we?"

The robot stooped as he emerged from the escape pod.  "Unknown.  The computer cannot match the stellar field here with that of any known world.  The shift in stellar pattern indicates we are somewhere in Europa District but the district has not been explored by the Commonwealth.  The library indicates some Ouroran exploration and mercantile activity has taken place but specifics are not in the database."

Aitchsee glided to Ally's right, blocking the sun's rays.  "A mystery.  I love a mystery!" he said.

Ally ignored the dolphin.  She felt a chill as a light breeze blew across her body.  "It'll be cold soon.  We'd better head for the canyon wall to find some shelter."

"If we are to abandon the pod I should replace my navigation processor with the standard survival processor," said Ptolemy.

"Good idea.  Aitchsee will you help him while I gather the survival kits?"  She got up from the ledge and stepped into the pod.  Stowage lockers began to rattle and bang as Ptolemy followed her back inside.

The robot opened a small stowage container and retrieved a cylindrical object from a rack of six.  Emerging from the pod again, he handed the cylinder to the dolphin.  Aitchsee hovered around behind the robot and reached down to grasp the back of its head.  "Not only a new world to explore but a chance to perform brain surgery in the same day!"  he said as he pulled a similar cylinder from the robot's head and inserted the first cylinder in its place.  He floated back in front of the robot and handed it the second cylinder.  "Good as new! It's a shame you're not able to do that yourself though."

"Thank you," said Ptolemy, "But my designers have determined that most sophonts are uncomfortable with robots replacing their own TaSK modules."

Ally stepped out of the pod.  She carried three survival packs.  "I've set the pod's transponder to indicate the direction we've taken."  She handed a pack to Aitchsee and another to Ptolemy.  She picked up the portable transponder and e-suit helmet she'd left on the ledge and stowed them in her own pack.  Then she hoisted the pack onto her back.

"Are you sure you don't want to use the grav belts," asked Aitchsee.  "It would make the terrain a lot easier."

"Yes, it would but we don't know how long we'll be on this planet.  You can only get around with the grav unit so we'd better conserve the power cells.  Ptolemy and I will just have to walk until we find a power source that can recharge the cells."  She avoiding thinking "if" they found a power source.  For all they knew the planet was uninhabited.  At least they could breathe the air and didn't have to worry about it running out.  "Aitchsee, you scout ahead.  Ptolemy, I'll bring up the rear.  Let's see if we can make that cliff face before sunset."

"Right, boss."  Aitchsee glided over the ledge and disappeared.  Ptolemy followed, making its way among the rocks methodically.  It wasn't really designed for rugged terrain like this.

It was about ten meters to the gully floor.  Once there the footing was much better.  The desert here was parched and dry but firm.  The robot kicked up only a light cloud of dust ahead of Ally.

Ally thought back to how they'd gotten into this mess.  They'd made some interesting discoveries on Livingstone.  The world had been settled by a generation ship that had left Earth during the Runaway.  When the first signs of a pre-existing settlement had been found by the Federation colonists that now occupied the world there had been a great deal of controversy because no one had found evidence of the generation ship.  Something that size was hard to misplace.  Even if it had blown up there should still have been fragments of the original ship in orbit after five hundred years.  Densitometer scans of the surface would have revealed the ship if it had fallen to the planet's surface but no ship had been detected.

Their discovery had settled the issue.  The dig along the southwest coast of Norabella's Land had found evidence of extensive Dolphin settlement along the continental shelf there.  Acting on a hunch of Aitchsee's they had taken a gravcar over the edge of the shelf and found a huge underwater cavern in the shelf wall beginning at about 200 meters.  The densitometer had gone off the scale.  The gravcar couldn't continue at that depth but they reported their findings to the planetary constabulary.  A week later an armored gravsled made the descent and found the entire generation ship, the Saladin, intact inside the cavern.

The team had supervised the initial survey of Saladin but efforts to enter the ship had proven unsuccessful.  The necessary equipment for large scale salvage operations at that ocean depth weren't available on Livingstone.  Ally had sent a message back to her colleagues at the University of Nyanza but they had been unable to find additional funds to support the excavation.

Reluctantly, she and Aitchsee had decided to travel back to the Commonwealth and make a plea directly to their sponsors on Ensanche.  They had made all the progress they could with the resources available on Livingstone and Aitchsee's sabbatical would nearly be over by the time they returned anyway.  They climbed aboard the Tutankhamen and headed for Commonwealth Space.

That was when everything went wrong.

Ptolemy told them shortly after entering jump space that he suspected the ship had mis-jumped.  His analysis indicated there had been an unusually high level of contaminants in the fuel they'd skimmed from Livingstone's gas giant and the jump field parameters were unlike any he'd seen for the Tut before.

By the end of the week Ptolemy was certain they'd mis-jumped.  Ally was hoping they hadn't jumped out of Nyanza District, or if they had, that they at least had jumped in a direction toward Commonwealth Space.  Ptolemy continually reminded her that the randomness of mis-jump mechanics made that unlikely.

Ally had instructed Ptolemy to attempt to determine their location immediately upon emergence from jump space.  He never got the chance.  The alert siren began wailing as soon as the starfield appeared on the viewers.

Ptolemy quickly found the problem.  The jump field coils had imploded upon their return to normal space.  The implosion had fed back to the power plant and a reactor core failure was imminent.  They barely had a glance at the world they were approaching as they launched the escape pod.

The Tut exploded while they were only 3000 meters away.  Ptolemy assured them the pod's shielding would protect them from the radiation but the pod's navigation computer and sensors didn't fare so well.  Ptolemy only had partial control of the pod.  On the voyage in from the 100 diameter limit they scanned the world's surface but were unable to find any clear indication of settlement.  The fact that there had been no response to the exploding Tut gave information where the pod's damaged sensors couldn't.  Even if this world was settled it clearly lacked any advanced system traffic facilities.

Entry into the world's atmosphere had gone bad as well.  The navigation difficulties had forced Ptolemy to make three attempts, completely losing track of the temperate coastal region they had identified from orbit.  When the pod bounced to a stop in this desert valley they were glad just to be in one piece.

The trio made it to the canyon wall about half an hour after sunset.  Aitchsee had determined that the local day was about 31 hours long.  The temperature was already down to four degrees.  It would be below zero before the night was over.

They decided to forego the environment suits or shelter and instead constructed a small fire from the scrub that grew along the base of the canyon wall.  So far they had found little vegetation and no non-insectoid animal life.  They had food concentrates for about three weeks.

They were all tired, well Aitchsee and Ally at least.  The gravbelt in the dolphin's e-suit provided locomotion but the suits were fatiguing for extended periods.  They had no idea when Aitchsee would be able to get out of it.

"If you won't be needing me anymore tonight I'll shut down now," said Ptolemy.

"Sure thing," said Ally.

The robot lay down on the ground, motionless.

"Wish I could do that," said Aitchsee.

"I suspect we just about will."  Ally checked the transponder once again.

"Hey, look at that!"  She turned and looked in the direction Aitchsee indicated.  To the south, along the canyon wall and perpendicular to the path they'd followed, she could see a bright light in the distance.  It was definitely artificial.  It winked on and off without a discernable pattern.  At first she though it was a signal but then realized it was getting closer.  It must be getting blocked by terrain features as it approached.

"Ptolemy, we've got company," she said.

The robot rose immediately.  After a couple of minutes it reported, "It's a grav vehicle.  Speed approximately 75 kph.  The grav field resonance is unfamiliar to me."

The vehicle slowed as it neared the campsite.  The head lights darkened and were replaced by bright floods as it hove into view and settled onto the ground about twenty meters away.

Ally didn't recognize the design.  It definitely wasn't Ouroran issue.  Nor did it look like anything the Theridians developed.  She turned to Aitchsee.  "Meren?"

"I hope not!" he said.

"The vehicle does not conform to any known design," said Ptolemy.  "The starboard hatch is opening."

Ally watched as the panel swung up from the hatch.  The interior was lighted but it was difficult to see inside in the light of the floods.  A silhouette emerged.




Image - Ptolemy Rainshower by Duncan Long

Ptolemy Rainshower (illustration by Duncan Long)

The travellers are assumed to have been travelling aboard Tutankhamen with Ally, Aitchsee and Ptolemy, either as extended members of their archaeological team or simply as passengers who had paid for passage from Livingstone back toward the Commonwealth.  One or two other travellers could easily be aboard the archaeologists' escape pod and journey with them to the canyon wall where the grav vehicle is encountered.

Alternatively, the travellers may have escaped Tutankhamen in a separate pod, which either landed near the first pod or, possibly, managed to make it to the temperate coastal region which had been identified from orbit.  In the second case, the travellers will be aboard the grav vehicle, having convinced the locals to come to the aid of their former shipmates.

The locals are an exploration party of Humans from the Meren Worlds.  It was not previously known in the Colonies Sphere that there were Humans in the Meren polity.  The Meren explorers are generally hospitable and are willing to help the Tutankhamen crew and passengers to survive on Rugila — they have established a small base in the coastal temperate region where their small, streamlined and lightly-armed survey starship is located — but it also seems clear they are troubled by the prospect of word getting back to the Colonies States that there are Meren Humans.

Language will present a problem initially.  The Meren Humans have their own language and do not speak or understand Anglic or any of the other Colonies Sphere languages which may be known by the travellers.  The non-Human Meren encountered in the Colonies Sphere have usually spoken via translating voders in their environment suits.  Non-Human Meren can understand Dolphin languages but Dolphin understanding of the non-Human Meren language has been complicated by the fact that much of it happens a frequencies beyond the range of Dolphin senses.  These Meren explorers do not have a machine translator which could translate their language into that of non-Human Meren and while Colonies Sphere xenologists — and intelligence officals — my have recordings of the non-Human Meren language that database is not part of Ptolemy's knowledge. Over time though, especially with the help of Ptolemy and various recording devices, the two groups should be able to learn a common language the "old fashioned way."

Eventually it will become clear that the Meren have no intention of helping the Tutankhamen crew to escape Rugila until after they have received instructions from their headquarters.  A second survey ship, which had been making an orbital survey when the Tutankhamen exploded, was sent to Meren space once the Meren learned that survivors had reached the planet's surface.  When presssed on the issue, the Meren will offer to take the Tutankhamen survivors back to Meren space.

This adventure is intended to launch a campaign in which the travellers seek to make their way back to the Commonwealth.  When the second survey ship returns from Meren space — perhaps in a matter of twelve or fifteen weeks — it will come with instructions that the Tutankhamen survivors are to be returned to the Meren base at Dedn/Europa.  There will be no assurances that the survivors will be allowed to return to Commonwealth space from there.

It should be possible for the travellers to seize one of the survey ships, especially as they will find two or three members of the Meren survey team who are interested in fleeing to the Colonies Sphere.  The travellers should be allowed the assist the Meren in their survey work on Rugila and will eventually forge friendships with the disaffected survey team members.  These people are convinced that the travellers will not be allowed to return to the Colonies Sphere from Dedn.  They will not themselves propose an effort to pirate one of the survey ships but will be supportive of such a course if it is suggested by the travellers.

Subsequent events are to be determined by the referee. ☺

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Aeroi Trade Agents

⑆ HVI-UNAPFI / AURIGA (1909.09-A4585B) Date: 3001-Jan-11

Image - Dolphin, Human, Aeroi (by Matt Matteo)

Aeroi Trade Agents (illustration by Matt Matteo)

   ¶ Foreign Minister Leulp aci-Gharean, opening a face-to-face campaign to convince the Aeroi's toughest trading partners to relax trade barriers, said Aeroi ties to the Colonies Sphere are "both wide and deep".
   ¶ Speaking to representatives from the major Colonial States, aci-Gharean said the end of the Markets War would not diminish Aeroi interest in the region.
   ¶ "To the contrary, the end of Aeroi-Meren confrontation and the opportunities for peace in the Colonies Sphere will allow us to begin to turn a page in history and focus on the new challenges of interdependence as we shape a new era," aci-Gharean said.
   ¶ "Aeroi engagement in the Colonies Sphere region is critical to the success of a post Markets War interstellar system." Ω


Location: Marduk/Fomalhaut (2428.24-A35789)

Marduk Mercantile had recently brokered several trade agreements for Meren commercial interests to provide industrial goods to several worlds in Fomalhaut District.  With the sudden withdrawal of Meren interests from the Colonies Sphere Marduk Mercantile now finds itself with trade commitments for which there are no suppliers.  They have been approached by an Aeroi trading house which has offered to supply the industrial goods required to complete the commitments from which the Meren have withdrawn.

The travellers are approached by a Marduk Mercantile agent on Marduk.  If they have a ship, the agent approaches them directly; if they do not, the agent approaches them along with the master of an independent trader who is under contract but needs to fill several crew positions.  The Marduk Mercantile agent has a cargo of Aeroi industrial goods for shipment to Ibadan.  The shipment has been stalled on Marduk for several weeks and the contract is in danger of being voided if the industrial goods do not reach the customer on Ibadan within a certain number of days.  The master's freighter — Reluctant Oligarch — has been loaded with the cargo and cleared for departure; all that remains is to fill the vacant crew billets.  If the travellers accept the assigment, Oligarch — or their ship — departs without incident the following-day.

Several different possibilities present themselves (1D6):

1) All is as represented.  The Oligarch — or the travellers' ship — reaches Ibadan without incident and successfully delivers the cargo to the customer.  The ship is successful in obtaining another contract from Marduk Mercantile for its next trading voyage.  If the travellers hired-on as crew on the independent trader, the master offers the travellers the opportunity to sign-on as permanent crew members.

2) One of the other crew members, also hired on at Marduk, is actually an agent for Ouko, Sagih and Momeu (OSM), a Tabora-based competitor to Marduk Mercantile.  She will make several subtle efforts to disrupt the voyage, from minor sabotage of the ship to startown provocations at intermediate ports intended to result in one or more essential crew members being jailed by local authorities.  If the travellers begin to suspect her it will occur while the ship is in port and the OSM agent will escape and evade any pursuit.  Whether or not the delays have been sufficient to void the contract at Ibadan is at the discretion of the referee.

3) As 2) above but the saboteur will be apprehended by the travellers.  If they turn her over to law enforcement authorities along the way — or at Ibadan — they will not discover that she was working for OSM.  On the other hand, if the travellers attempt to interrogate her they will learn about the connection to OSM from her at the discretion of the referee.

4) As 3) above, but at one point the saboteur will faciliate the abduction of an Aeroi trade agent, serving as supercargo aboard the ship at the invitation of Marduk Mercantile, by OSM accomplices based in a local startown. 

5) As 4) above, but with information gained from the saboteur the travellers are able to launch a rescue of the abducted Aeroi.  (Local law enforcement, either through incompetence or corruption, will prove unable to assist in any recovery.)  Whether or not the rescue attempt is successful, including whether or not the Aeroi supercargo survives, is at the discretion of the referee.

6) As 5) above, but the Aeroi is successfully rescued.  Regardless of whether or not the cargo is delivered to Ibadan on time, the travellers will be approached there by an Aeroi agent who offers them direct employment providing security and/or transport for Aeroi trade expansion efforts in Fomalhaut District.

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Pollux Commerce Raiding

⑆ AZTLÁN / PROCYON (0911.20-B3596B) Date: 3001-Jan-18

Image - Imelda Aniak by Nagy Norbert)

Imperial Navy spokesperson Aniak
(Illustration by Nagy Norbert)

   ¶ A spokesperson for the Imperial Admiralty today refused to comment on the latest clash between Imperial and Commonwealth naval elements in Pollux District.
   ¶ "I can neither confirm nor deny any reports of engagement of foreign forces by elements of the Imperial Navy," said Lieutenant Dona Imelda Aniak.
   ¶ "While it is not our policy to discuss the Empire's naval maneuvers I can assure you that any attempt by foreign forces to encroach upon Imperial territory will be met with appropriate resistance."  Dona Imelda made her comments during the Admiralty's weekly press briefing.
   ¶ Tensions in Pollux District have risen in recent weeks following the disappearance of the Commonwealth merchant carrier Finnegan's Surprise which failed to make it's scheduled arrival at Remus / Pollux more than two months ago. Ω



Location: Proteus/Pollux (1220.20-952410) Required Equipment: starship (owned or chartered)

The travellers' ship has departed Proteus starport — essentially a bare spot of bedrock on the outskirts of the main settlement — with a speculative cargo of radioactives and heavy metals.  The high-density cargo will enable them to store additional fuel in the cargo hold for a deep-space jump on the way rimward to New Kerala in Jagannath District.  (From New Kerala it will simply be another jump-1 to the resource processing facilities on Maharashtra where the cargo will fetch a good price.)  The ship makes its way on maneuver drive to the system's small gas giant for fuel skimming.

Once the ship is well within the 100-diameter limit of the gas giant, sensors detect another ship approaching, emerging from the atmosphere of the gas giant below.  The ship's high acceleration and hull configuration suggests a warship, an escort or similar class.  The ship's computer identifies it as an Aztán Maza-class escort* just as the comms system announces an incoming transmission.  "This is B.I.A. Martillo," says the young Aztlán officer shown in the display.  "You are ordered to cease your descent and assume orbit at your present radius."  The travellers' ship would likely be unable to out-maneuver the Martillo and even less likely to out-fight it.

If the travellers nevertheless attempt to flee, the Martillo will quickly come within weapons range and again order the travellers to stand down or be fired upon.  If the travellers continue to refuse to submit, Martillo will fire upon their ship, first a warning shot across the ship's bow and then shots intended to disable the ship's maneuver drives.  Once the travellers' ship has been disabled the Martillo will grapple and force a boarding party aboard.

(If the travellers engage the Martillo, either directly or after having attempted to flee, resolve the space combat per the appropriate ship combat rules.  If fired upon first, Martillo will seek to destroy the travellers' ship.  Otherwise, it will attempt to disable and board as above.)

In all cases, the travellers' ship will either be destroyed in space combat, be disabled and boarded or simply be boarded after having complied with the instructions from Martillo.

Several different possibilities present themselves (throw 1D6, with +1DM if the travellers attempted to flee and +2DM if they engaged in combat with Martillo):

1) The boarding party, which is half again as large as the travellers' party and wearing battledress, will inspect the ship's cargo and records.   The officer in charge will eventually contact Martillo with information about the travellers' cargo and planned destination of New Kerala in Jagannath.  The officer will be instructed to allow the travellers to proceed without further incident and the boarding party will return to Martillo.  Once the boarding party is back aboard, Martillo will quickly maneuver away.

2) As 1) above, except that the officer in charge is instructed to insist upon a "customs duty" equal to 25% of the purchase price of the cargo on Proteus.  If the travellers cannot (or will not) pay this amount the boarding party will seize 25% of the cargo and offload it to Martillo — with assistance from additional personnel aboard Martillo.  (If the travellers' attempt to resist the boarding party, resolve the combat per the appropriate combat rules.  Martillo will fire on the travellers' ship, damaging the jump drives, if the travellers manage to gain an advantage over the boarding party.)

3) As 2) above, but the "customs duty" is 50% of the purchase price of the cargo.

4) As 2) above, but the "customs duty" is the full purchase price of the cargo.

5) As 4) above, but as the boarding party are off-loading the cargo — or, alternatively, just as a firefight with the boarding party breaks out — the boarding party is suddenly ordered to evacuate (the referee must determine how much of the cargo has been transferred at this point) and Martillo quickly maneuvers away once the boarding party has been recovered.  Sensors detect another warship, approaching from the direction opposite the departing vector of Martillo.  An incoming transmission shows a young Commonwealth officer in the display.*  "This is C.N.S. Ömer Lütfi Paşa," says the officer.  "Please identify yourself.  Are you in need of assistance?"  The Ömer Lütfi Paşa, which the ship's computer identifies as a Foch-class frigate, continues to pursue Martillo.

6+) As 5) above, but the Ömer Lütfi Paşa arrives before any cargo has been removed from the travellers' ship.

* This scenario assumes the travellers are more favourably disposed toward the Commonwealth of Earth than to the Empire of Aztán.  If the travellers are instead more favourably inclined toward Aztán then the interdicting ship will be the C.N.S. Chuízi, a Commonwealth Gùnbàng-class escort of similar design (based upon the Gazelle-class close escort), and the rescuing ship will be the B.I.A. Francisco Villa, an Aztlán Zapata-class frigate of similar design (based upon the Lucifer-class destroyer escort).

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Snatch the Meren

⑆ DEDN / EUROPA (2934.30-D3588B) Date: 3001-Jan-25

Image - Jacqueline Morekki by Taylor Fischer)

Ambassador Morekki
(Illustration by Taylor Fischer)

   ¶ As she leaves office, the Commonwealth ambassador to Dedn rates Morrochai Gvo's chances for political survival as high and predicts that the crumbling Expansionist Clique will not regain its once vast power.
   ¶ Asked to assess the Meren autarch's prospects, Ambassador Jacqueline Morekki replied, "It seems to me it has excellent chances.
   ¶ "I would say the whole four years I've been here, most of them, people have been predicting that somehow it was about to be swept from the scene.  And each time there is a crisis, it seems to strengthen its position." Ω


⑆ DEDN / EUROPA (2934.30-D3588B) Date: 3001-Apr-24

Image - Morrochai Gvo by Matt Matteo

Meren Autarch Morrochai Gvo
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

   ¶ In a terse communique released today, the mysterious Clique for State Security announced that it had assumed all executive authority in the Meren Worlds.
   ¶ Actual composition of the Clique remains unclear.  The Clique has been rumored to be an extension of the reactionary wing of the Expansionist Clique, which has suffered from increasing turmoil since the end of the Markets War.
   ¶ The status and location of Morrochai Gvo remains unknown.  The communique stated that the Meren Autarch had been "relieved of its responsibilities" by the Clique.
   ¶ In a separate statement, Ivondond Verch, leader of the Reformist Clique and a frequent critic of the Autarch in the past, called for Morrochai's restoration to its "appropriate and lawful position" and characterized the action of the Clique for State Security as a "supra-legal usurpation of executive authority." Ω


⑆ DEDN / EUROPA (2934.30-D3588B) Date: 3001-Oct-29

Image - Ivondond Verch by Matt Matteo

Autarch Ivondond Verch
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

   ¶ Ivondond Verch was installed as Autarch of the Meren Worlds in a unanimous decision today by the Supreme Conclave.  Verch, leader of the Reformist Clique, was instrumental in deposing the self-proclaimed Clique for State Security last month.
   ¶ The Conclave was sitting without a quorum due to the absence of delegates from the reactionary wing of the Expansionist Clique.  Several leaders of the reactionary wing were imprisoned following the overthrow of the mysterious Clique for State Security.  The reason for the absent delegates remains unclear.
   ¶ In a statement following the decision, a spokesperson for Verch claimed that "all legitimate parties" were represented in the current Conclave and denied allegations that called into question the legitimacy of the Conclave's action.
   ¶ The installation ceremony was attended by Morrochai Gvo, who was held for several weeks by agents of the Clique for State Security.  A spokesperson for Gvo said that the former Autarch "supported the actions taken by the Supreme Conclave."  It remains uncertain whether Gvo will retain its position as leader of the Expansionist Clique. Ω


Location: Eurybia/Gaea (2216.16-B33639)

With the end of the Markets War, many Meren interests have begun withdrawing from the Colonies Sphere, largely for reasons that are left unexplained but are generally believed to be related to a political and economic restructioning assumed to be underway following the change of government among the Meren Worlds.  In some circumstances the withdrawals have been orderly, with fixed assets sold to local interests and with personnel and current assets transferred back to Meren space in a phased manner.  More commonly, these withdrawals have been haphazard or disorderly, with facilities abandoned, inventories pirated or sold illegally and even with personnel stranded and left to their own devices.  In some cases, abandoned Meren personnel have taken up service with local elements including criminal enterprises and authoritarian regimes.

The travellers are approached by an undercover agent on Eurybia/Gaea who identifies herself as a member of the Synod Guardian Service.  (On a throw of 10+ one of the party will suspect the agent is actually a member of the Lucent Templars, with DM+1 for each full term of prior service in the Guardian Service.)  If they have a ship, the agent approaches them directly; if they do not, the agent approaches them along with the master of an independent trader who needs to fill several crew positions for the mission.  The Synod agent wants the ship to travel to Sedna/Gaea to bring a group of Meren researchers back to Eurybia and will pay five-times the amount of high passage fares for each of the Meren (numbering the same as the available passenger staterooms aboard the ship).  (The Guardian Service is not able to retrieve the Meren researchers because Sedna has strict prohibitions on Synod military personnel in their system.) 

The master's trader — Dubious Empiric — has been loaded with cargo and cleared for departure; all that remains is to fill the vacant crew billets.  If the travellers accept the assigment, Empiric — or their ship, with a cargo arranged by the agent — departs without incident the following-day.  During the jump to Sedna a pre-recorded mission briefing — or the agent in options 5 or 6 — will inform the travellers that the Meren researchers, formerly employees of a collapsed Meren pharmaceutical firm, are now working for a research agency associated with Sedna's security forces believed to be engaged in genetic weapons development.

Several different possibilities present themselves (1D6):

1) All is as represented.  The Empiric — or the travellers' ship — reaches Sedna without incident and successfully connects with the Meren researchers.  In addition to the middle passages paid by the Meren themselves, the ship is also successful in obtaining another cargo for return to Eurybia.  If the travellers hired-on as crew on the independent trader, upon return to Eurybia the master offers the them the opportunity to sign-on as permanent crew members.

2) One of the Meren is unwilling to depart with the others and threatens to tell its employer of the others' departure.  Eventually, the hold-out will break with its colleagues and flee, promising to bring Sedna security personnel to prevent the others' flight.  The remaining Meren seek to leave Sedna immediately.  Whether or not the ship is able to lift-off from the starport or reach the jump-point before being overtaken my Sedna security forces is at the discretion of the referee.

3) As 2) above but the Meren insist on bringing their wayward colleague with them.  With or without assistance from the travellers the other Meren will capture the hold-out and bring it with them aboard the ship.  Whether or not the ship is able to lift-off from the starport or reach the jump-point before being overtaken my Sedna security forces is at the discretion of the referee.  (If the travellers refuse to depart with the kidnapped Meren, Sedna security forces will seek to board the ship at the starport while threatening to arrest everyone aboard.)

4) As 3) above, but the wayward Meren manages to evade capture by its colleagues and flees.  Whether or not the ship is able to lift-off from the starport or reach the jump-point before being overtaken my Sedna security forces is at the discretion of the referee.

5) As 4) above, but the Synod agent, who travelled with the group undercover, masquerading as supercargo, insists upon mounting an expedition to retrieve the fleeing Meren.  Whether or not the recapture attempt is successful, and whether or not Sedna security forces are alerted, is at the discretion of the referee.

6) None of the Meren wish to depart Sedna but the Synod agent will insist upon abducting them to prevent them from continuing to work for the Sedna military.  If the travellers are successful in retrieving the Meren unharmed, the travellers will be offered direct employment assisting in similar covert operations involving stranded Meren personnel in Synod space.  (If the travellers are captured by the Sedna security forces they will be freed from custody after 2D months by Synodic diplomatic personnel, their ship will be released from impoundment and they will be allowed to depart Sedna under threat of imprisonment should they ever return.  The Synod will pay them the original fee in compensation.)

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Ring of Truth

Location: Arthabaska/Jagannath (0924.16-343789)

Carousing in startown on Arthabaska, the travellers encounter Shalviya Rand, an officer in the local constabulary, and begin to develop a solid friendship.  Later that night — or early the next morning, more accurately — Rand knocks on the door of one of the travellers at the hostel where they are staying.  She is quite agitated and says she needs the travellers' help, saying she's sorry to impose on their new friendship but has no one else to turn to.

Image - Ring of Truth by Matt Matteo

Ring of Truth
Original illustration by Matt Matteo

All of the travellers are roused and Rand explains her dilemma.  Her son, Magdiel, was captured less than two hours ago by an off-world bounty hunter, Yosei Barentain.  Rand believes her son is being held aboard Barentain's ship, Ring of Truth, currently located in a wilderness area outside the city.  Rand has previously worked informally with Barentain, who is renown for getting his bounties to confess to their crimes, often including crimes not included in the bounty.  She understands that this is because Barentain possess an illegal veridicator.

Rand admits that her son likely did commit the crime identified in the bounty — a complex (unarmed) bank robbery — and is resigned to him serving the ten year prison sentence for the robbery.  She nevertheless wants the travellers' to rescue her son from Ring of Truth, where she believes Barentain intends to interrogate him, before he is turned over to Arthabaskan authorities.  Rand believes that her son is also a minor participant in a rebel group seeking to overthrow the Arthabaskan government.  She's worried that Barentain's interrogation will reveal this — and the Arthabaskan penalty for participation in rebel activities is execution.

As is the case on most worlds, use of veridication technology is illegal on Arthabaska.  Rand and her colleagues have been careful not to learn too much about Barentain's activities because they have found his services as a bounty hunter useful.  Now that her son is at risk of facing a death sentence she's had a change of heart.  She will pay the travellers Kcr13 in advance — all of her family's savings — for their assistance.

Several different possibilities present themselves (1D6):

1) Rand cannot be associated with the rescue effort but is prepared to provide the travellers with two surplused G-carriers still marked with constabulary livery and a set of constabulary uniforms.  She can also supply the location of Ring of Truth* and recent orbital imagery of the landing site.  Barentain's crew is of comparable numbers to and similarly equipped as the travellers.

Barentain is not expecting a constabulary visit but will not be suspicious of the travellers-masquerading-as-constables on a throw of 6+, with a DM equal to the highest level of Admin, Carousing or Liaison skill of the traveller communicating with Barentain.

When the travellers arrive Magdiel Rand has just been strapped into the veridicator by the medic.  If the travellers managed to get invited aboard, the will be invited by Barentain to view the interrogation.  If they board by force, the medic will begin the interrogation immediately.

2) As in 1) above, but Rand has already been interrogated and confessed to the bank robbery.  He was not interrogated about any rebel activities but due to the effects of the veridicator Rand is (temporarily) unable to speak.

3) As in 2) above, but Rand has also confessed to being involved in several rebel activities.

4) As in 3) above, but there is also another prisoner about to be interrogated.  This is Zǐhán Rabadi, a young woman about the same age as Magdiel Rand, who is also a member of the rebel group.  Rand, despite being unable to speak, will insist that she be rescued with him.

5) As in 4) above, but Rabadi is actually the leader of a rebel cell who will insist, once free of Ring of Truth, that she and the younger Rand be returned to her rebel comrades.

6) As in 5) above, but during the escape from the Ring Rabadi manages to communicate with her rebel comrades.  Shortly after the travellers lift-off from the landing site the two G-carriers will be intercepted by three similarly-armed G-carriers which insist that they land immediately.  Rabadi assures the travellers that they will be free to go if they release her and Rand to her colleagues.  The rebels — who are similarly equipped as the travellers but with half-again as many numbers — will depart immediately once Rabadi and Rand are aboard their craft.

Shalviya Rand had asked the travellers never to contact her again.  They were to leave her brother, secured in one of the abandoned G-carriers in another wilderness location in the opposite direction from the city from the Ring of Truth landing site (where some of her constabulary colleagues would later retrieve them).  Any captured components from the veridicator or recorded evidence of its existence aboard Ring of Truth were also to be left with the G-carrier.  She will not respond to attempts to contact her and will disavow any knowledge of the travellers if she is approached in person.

Subsequent events are to be determined by the referee. ☺

* Ring of Truth is similar to the Lurushaar Kilaalum Class Patrol Cruiser which appears, including deck plans, in Adventure Class Ships, Volume II, FASA, 1982.

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Taken by Marloks

Location: Van Maanen's Belt/Sirius (2119.19-00078A) Required Equipment: starship (owned or chartered)

Carousing in startown at Van Maanen's Belt, the travellers are approached by Jorja Filbi, a major shareholder in a small mining firm.  Filbi explains that her spouse, Weena Abar, has failed to return as expected from a recent visit to neighboring al-Hariri/Sirius (2320.19-B35381).  Abar is an amateur anthropologist and had recently travelled to al-Hariri to study the Marloks, the devolved descendants of the colonists aboard the original generation ship which crash-landed on al-Hariri.  Filbi wants the travellers to go to al-Hariri to conduct a search for Abar and return her to Van Maanen's Belt.

Image - The Time Machine by Virgil Finlay

Taken by Marloks
Original illustration by Virgil Finlay

Al-Hariri is two parsecs from Van Maanen's Belt.  Filbi will provide a voucher redeemable at the starport on al-Hariri for twelve middle passage fares (Kcr96) and standard shipping for 164 tons of cargo (Kcr164) — essentially the cost for a two-parsec, deep space jump to al-Hariri by a free trader — and a second voucher for the same amount redeemable at the Van Maanen's Belt starport, once validated by the port authority at al-Hariri.  (There are no passengers or cargo tied to these vouchers; the travellers are free to book actual passengers and cargo aboard their own or a chartered ship.)

Obviously, Filbi hopes that her spouse will be returned alive and in good health.  She nevertheless asks the travellers to return Abar's remains should that not be the case, or at least provide substantive evidence of her demise.  She also promises to reimburse the travellers for any unpaid medical or other expenses incurred by Abar on al-Hariri.

The voyage to and from al-Hariri proves uneventful.  (The standard trade and commerce procedures should be used to determine any passengers and cargo at Van Maanen's Belt and al-Hariri.)  Details of Abar's arrival and planned activities will be easily obtained from local authorities on al-Hariri.  She had planned to venture by land vehicle to a known Marlok settlement in a temperate region nearly 500 kilometers — a day's journey by land vehicle — from the main settlement around the starport.

Several different possibilities present themselves (1D6):

1) The travellers encounter Abar shortly after their arrival.  She is in the process of arranging transport back to Van Maanen's Belt and is eager to return with the travellers.  During the voyage back to Van Maanen's Belt she will regale them with tales of her time among the Marloks.

2) as in 1) above, except that Abar has been arrested by local authorities and is being held in a small jail complex near the starport.  She was arrested for provoking a Marlok raid on a small homestead near the Marlok settlement she had visited.  Abar does not dispute the charges.  The travellers are able to arrange for her release after 2D days, with negative DMs for Admin and/or Bribery skill, and after paying 3D x Cr100 in fines and administrative fees, again with negative DMs for Admin and/or Bribery skill.

3) As in 2) above, except that the person who has been arrested is Dudda Passarinheiro, a local with whom Abar has become romantically involved.  Abar will refuse to leave al-Hariri without getting Passarinheiro released.  On a throw of 7+, Passarinheiro will accept Abar's invitation to return with her to Van Maanen's Belt.

4) As in 3) above, but Abar and Passarinheiro are still camped near the Marlok settlement.  Abar will be unwilling to leave but invites the travellers to join her venturing into the caverns.  Throw 10+ each day spent in the caverns, with a DM equal to the highest level of Hunting or Survival skill among the travellers, to encounter any Marloks.  (If 3D days pass without encountering any Marloks, Abar will agree to return to Van Maanen's Belt.) When encountered, the Marloks will flee on a throw of 7-, losing Abar and the travellers after 5D minutes.  On a throw of 8+, 3D Marloks will attack the party, quickly causing 2D-3 of damage to Abar (in addition to damage to any of the travellers).  The Marloks will flee as soon as one of their number is incapacitated.  If Abar survives her injuries she will agree to return to Van Maanen's Belt.

5) As in 4) above, but during an attack the Marloks will capture Abar and flee with her into the caverns.  It will take the travellers 3D days — or 2D days if Passarinheiro is able to lead the search — to find the 4D Marloks holding Abar.  Abar will have taken 1D damage while in captivity and will agree to return to Van Maanen's Belt upon her rescue.

6) As in 5) above, but as the travellers emerge from the caverns they will receive a distress call from a nearby homestead.  At the homestead, 1D homesteaders are being attacked by 3D Marloks.  Abar — or Passarinheiro, if he survives and Abar has been killed or is incapacitated — will insist upon going to the aid of the homesteaders.  If the travellers refuse to assist the homesteaders, they will be arrested on a throw of 6+ upon return to the starport, with a negative DM equal to the highest level of Streetwise or Bribery skill among the travellers.

Should Passarinheiro return to Van Maanen's Belt with Abar, Filbi will refuse to reimburse the travellers for any expenses associated with Abar's (or Passarinheiro's) return.  Abar will reimburse the travellers from her own funds on a throw of 10+.

Subsequent events are to be determined by the referee. ☺

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To the Zoo

Location: Siguiri/Jagannath (1428.14-E35786) Required Equipment: starship (owned or chartered)

Players' information:

While visiting a broker's office, the travellers are introduced to Karanlik Lænas, a zoologist with the local zoological society.  The society will pay Kcr20 if the travellers will transport some animals to a zoological reserve on nearby Ashanti/Jagannath (1429.14-B21588) one jump away.  Lænas will accompany the shipment — a transport container which includes food and water and provisions for waste storage but which must be in a climate-controlled area and displaces two tons of cargo space — and care for the animals in transit.  The society will pay her middle passage in addition to the fee.  The animals must be delivered as quickly as possible, and in good condition.

Referee's information:

Image - Garrel by uncredited artist

To the Zoo
Uncredited illustration from Dragon #98

There are twelve garrels in the transport container.  The travellers are free to book additional passengers and shipped cargo as available.  (The standard trade and commerce procedures should be used to determine any passengers and cargo at Siguiri for Ashanti.)

Several different possibilities present themselves (1D6):

1) 2D of the animals will escape while the ship is in jumpspace.  Lænas has a carbine which shoots tranq darts and will insist that the garrels not be otherwise harmed.  The garrels will "procure" several items during their escape, some of which may be valuable or hold special value to a crew member or passenger, but none of which are essential to the operation of the ship.  Throw 8+ per hour for Lænas to recover one garrel, with a cumulative DM equal to the number of crew members and one-half of the number of passengers assisting in the recovery.  Any missing items will be recovered with the garrels.

2) As in 1), but the garrels will "procure" an essential component which threatens the operation of a key ship system.  Throw 1D to determine which system: 1 = life support; 2 = piloting and navigation; 3 = computer; 4 = power plant; 5 = maneuver drive; and 6 = jump drive.  Determine recovery of the garrels as above but, regardless, the missing component will have been hidden by the garrels.  Throw 10+ per hour for one crew member to recover the hidden component, with a cumulative DM equal to the number of additional crew members assisting in its recovery.  (Lænas and other passengers may assist in the search but will not provide any DM advantages.)

Additionally, throw 6+ each hour that the component is missing for the performance of the affected system to degrade.  Throw 8+ each hour of degraded system performance for the affected system to be restored, with a positive DM equal to the relevant crew member skill level.  (Computer, Electrical, Mechanical or Steward skill can be used to restore the life support system.)  Ultimately, no permanent damage will be incurred but the referee should do their best to create a sense of peril and frustration for as long as possible.

3) As in 1), but after the garrels have escaped, Lænas attempts to hijack the ship (and ultimately steal the animals).  In addition to the tranq dart carbine, she has an automatic carbine.

4) As in 3), but Lænas has 1 + 1D-4 associates among the passengers, each armed with an automatic pistol.

5) As in 2), but after the garrels have escaped, Lænas attempts to hijack the ship (and ultimately steal the animals).  In addition to the tranq dart carbine, she has an automatic carbine.

6) As in 5), but Lænas has 1 + 1D-4 associates among the passengers, each armed with an automatic pistol.

Subsequent events are to be determined by the referee. ☺

(This scenario was inspired by patron encounter #19 in 76 Patrons, p. 18.)

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The Cloud Minders

Location: Issuk Kul/Procyon (1620.20-B5486A) Required Skills: Computer, Demolition

Players' information:

Issuk Kul is a marginally habitable world in the α Centauri system with surface gravity higher than standard (1.4g), a dense, oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere which is not breathable at sea level for Dolphins and Humans (even limited exposure can lead to oxygen toxicity and/or nitrogen narcosis) and a developed biosphere with primitive local fauna. The system has a population of 600 million, is governed by a democratic autarchy and has interstellar technological achievement.

Issuk Kyl is a moon of a small gas giant, Khan Tengri, orbiting in the habitable zone of α Centauri A.  It is a water world with less than 10% of land surface.  The primitive fauna of the high-salinity world ocean is the principal source of in-system foodstuffs.  Most settlements on the world are grav-assisted aerostat habitats at an altitude which permits breathing without artificial assistance though there are also artificial habitats anchored to islands on the surface.

Image - Tamchy aerostat

Tamchy aerostat
Original illustration (detail) from NASA Langely Research Center

Nearly seventy percent of the system's population lives off-world in various artificial habitats orbiting Khan Tengri or other worlds in the trinary system, in one of the many planetoid belts or on the surface of the system's many planets and moons.  Many planets have extensive ring systems.

The travellers are approached at a Tamchy aerostat outdoor cafe by BenjaminBlue "Beebee" Pearlmaker, a Dolphin in a fashionable-on-Issuk Kul environmental suit, with integrated grav-belt, waldos and voder.  Pearlmaker is a retired musician and a Gaian who has become increasingly uncomfortable with the industrial aquaculture on Issuk Kul.  He acknowledges that it is this aquaculture that feeds the hundreds of millions of people in the system but his faith has led him to believe it's wrong for people to treat the Lifeform in this manner in order to support such an extensive, off-world population — and the industrial resources processing at the heart of its economy.

Pearlmaker wants to hire the travellers to assist him in sabotaging an automated aquaculture facility on the world's surface in the hopes that its failure will draw attention to the unsustainability of the aquaculture industry.  He will pay each traveller Kcr10 plus an high passage off-world for what he estimates will be three or four days of work.  Pearlmaker will provide transport to the surface and the necessary environmental suits — similar to a vaccsuit — which will enable the travellers to work at surface level.  He assures the travellers that the facility is completely automated and that no people will be injured in the sabotage.

Referee's information:

Pearlmaker will pay for a training course for any of the travellers who do not have Vacc Suit or Battledress skill.  The course adds one day to the job and gives the participants Vacc Suit-0.

The aquaculture facility is essentially a large storage facility the size of a waste water treatment plant attached to a small rock outcropping at the edge of Issuk Kul's southern polar region, about six hours from Tamchy by grav-carrier.  Automated grav submersibles gather assorted sea creatures and bring them to the facility, which sorts and stores them for retrieval by a piloted grav-transport (which arrives every ten days and is at the facility for eight hours).  The submersibles are constantly arriving and departing with 2D craft docked at individual docking ports each hour.

Pearlmaker plans a two-pronged attack against the facility.  The first attack will introduce a virus into the facility's main control system which interrupt a variety of sub-systems, from power to communications with the automated submersibles.  The second attack will be to lay a series of demolition charges intended to destroy the docking facility used by the grav-transport.

Several different possibilities present themselves (1D6):

1) All is as presented.  Upon approach the facility will broadcast an interrogation message asking for an access code which Pearlmaker has managed to acquire.  It is stormy, with windswept waves crashing over the edges of the facility, as the grav-carrier lands on a small landing pad next to a small building — really just a single, small room — which houses the main control system interface.  This room, which has space for only two people, is the only artificially-controlled environment space in the entire facility.

The virus can be introduced into the control system on a throw of 10+, with a positive DM equal to the highest level of Computer skill among the travellers.  This throw can be made each hour but after an hour, throw 6+ each hour, with a negative DM equal to Computer skill, to avoid tripping an automated alarm system.  If the alarm is tripped security personnel from Gemeinwesen-Verbundfabriken (the company which operates the facility) will arrive in 1D+2 hours.  The security team will be of similar numbers as the travellers and comparably armed and armored.

The explosives can be set in 1 + 2D-7 hours, with a negative DM equal to the cumulative levels of Demolition skill among the travellers.  Working in environmental suits in the high gravity and dense atmosphere can be hazardous and each traveller must throw 4+ each hour while outside the grav-carrier (or the control room) to avoid a mishap, with a positive DM equal to their Vacc Suit or Battledress skill.  If a mishap occurs the traveller will suffer 2D-6 damage every ten minutes, with a negative DM equal to their level of Vacc Suit or Battledress skill, until the suit damage is repaired — throw 8+ per minute, with positive DM equal to Vacc Suit, Battledress, Mechanical or Electrical skill — or they reach the grav-vehicle (or the control room).

2) As in 1), but the throw to introduce the virus is 12+ and the time to set the explosives is 1 + 2D-5 hours.

3) As in 1), but after the first hour a grav-carrier arrives at the facility with a Gemeinwesen-Verbundfabriken maintenance crew.  The crew of four is unarmed and will call for security assistance — provoking a similar response as the automated alarm — within 2D minutes of landing, if all four personnel have not been subdued or incapacitated in that time.

4) As in 3), but the throw to introduce the virus is 12+ and the time to set the explosives is 1 + 2D-5 hours.

5) As in 1), but an hour before the last explosive is set a grav-carrier will approach the facility broadcasting a mayday signal.  The stricken craft will fail the approach interrogation query, initiating the same automated alarm calling the Gemeinwesen-Verbundfabriken security personnel.  The grav-carrier will make a crash landing at the grav-transport dock, bringing an end to the mayday signal.  The grav-carrier is carrying 1D + 2 oceanographers who have each sustained 2D-4 damage.  They are all wearing environment suits but their grav-carrier is beyond repair.

6) As in 5), but the stricken craft is an grav-armored personnel carrier (APC) crewed by mercenaries who are armed and armored comparably to the travellers.  The APC mounts an auto-cannon which is undamaged in the crash.

Subsequent events are to be determined by the referee. ☺

(This scenario was inspired by the Star Trek original series episode "The Cloud Minders.")

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Go Make the Weather

Location: Hǎishén/Gaea (2118.18-C33765) Required Equipment: none

Players' information:

Hǎishén is a habitable world in the Luyten 1159-16 system with surface gravity slightly higher than standard (1.2g), a standard atmosphere and a moderately-developed biosphere with advanced local flora. The world has a population in the tens of millions, is governed by an democratic oligarchy and has early interplanetary technological achievement.

Due to the flaring of its primary, Hǎishén is subject to intense weather activity that can, at times, be deadly even in the most temperate regions of the world.  Because of this the world has devoted substantial resources to weather control, even importing weather control technology that cannot currently be produced on the planet.  These efforts have proved quite successful with the most highly populated regions enjoying tumultuous but generally not overly-severe weather conditions throughout most seasons.

The travellers are approached at a Cháoshuǐ startown tavern by a local agent of Eurybia Foods, an agricultural corporation based on Eurybia/Gaea (2216.16-B33639) with local operations on Hǎishén.  She explains that Keshnaka Maurya, the daughter of Eurybia Foods' chief factor, has been imprisoned by authorities on Hǎishén.  Maurya, who was raised as an Abrahamist but recently converted to Gaianism, was arrested for sabotaging a weather control facility.

Maurya has since been convicted of the sabotage which led to the death and injury of dozens of people in a severe storm that was not ameliorated by the weather control system.  Maurya did, by Hǎishénian standards, receive a fair and legal trial.  She signed a confession and pleaded guilty and is currently held in the Nagini prison, a maximum security facility.

The Eurybia Foods agent has obtained orbital imagery of the region of the prison, which sits atop a plateau deliberately kept free of vegetation.  Orbital imagery of the prison itself shows it is surrounded by two outer fences approximately 15 meters apart.  The facility includes an administration building, a power plant, a barracks for approximately 50 guards, two large adjacent cellblocks, each holding up to 500 hundred prisoners, and a combined factory / warehouse facility.

The chief factor wants her daughter freed, regardless of the consequences.  To assist with this and as payment, the agent will give the travellers a surplus Eurybia Foods free trader starship.  The agent has arranged for Maurya to be transported off-world immediately upon her rescue.

Several different possibilities present themselves (1D6):

1) All fences in the prison are electrified; the outer fence sufficient to inflict 16D damage on an uninsulated person, but the inner only enough to incapacitate (2D damage per touch).  The 15 meter strip between is mined. (Throw 10+ to avoid a mine, with Demolition skill serving as a positive DM, unless mines are suspected — perhaps because of the triggering of a mine, or after learning about them from a prisoner — then 8+.  Each exploded mine does 3D of damage.)  Maurya will cooperate fully in her rescue; he has Rifle-2 and Pistol-1 should she be provided with a weapon.

2) As in 1) above, but Maurya insists upon freeing a young woman who is also held in the cellblock.

3) As in 2) above, but the woman is angry with Maurya and will refuse to cooperate in her rescue.  Throw 10+, with Liaison or Persuasion skill (or Recruiting divided by two, rounding down) as a DM, for Maurya to agree to leave without her.

4) As in 2) above, but the woman, Sarah Godofredo, is the daughter of a Gaea Starlines factor on Eurybia.  If she is rescued her family will pay the travellers Cr50K.

5) As in 4) above, but rather than being returned to her family, Godofredo insists upon coming with Maurya. (Obviously, there will be no reward from the family in these circumstances.)  A few days later, as the travellers are preparing to depart in their newly-obtained free trader, Maurya and Godofredo will call at the docking bay, seeking middle passage transport to the destination to which the ship is preparing to depart.  Maurya claims to have the consent of her family but the travellers will find it impossible to contact the Eurybia Foods agent immediately.

6) As in 5) above, but if the couple do depart with the travellers they will be pursued by two squads, each of comparable capabilities as the travellers and each working for the respective families of people killed in the storm which followed the sabotage of the weather facility.  Should Maurya and Godofredo leave the ship at the destination world — they will not be inclined to do so but will not insist on staying aboard if asked to leave — the squads will not pursue the travellers further.

Subsequent events are to be determined by the referee. ☺

(Inspired by the Amber Zone adventure "Rescue on Ruie," Jeffery May, The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #1, Game Designers' Workshop, 1979, pp. 12-13.)

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The Belt Prophet

Location: Sirius Belt/Sirius (1718.20-000487) Required Equipment: none

Players' information:

Sirius Belt is a planetoid belt in the Sirius system with minimal surface gravity (0.0g), no atmosphere and no biosphere. The belt has a population in the tens of thousands, is governed by a democratic oligarchy and has late interplanetary technological achievement.

Sharyn Bāza is a retired belter who hit a fantastically large strike several years ago.  Af first Bāza enjoyed a life of opulence and debauchery but eventually she began to engage in various charitable efforts to assist down-and-out belters and others in need in the Sirius Belt.  More recently Bāza has embraced Gaian Transplanetism, a relatively new sect which rejects the traditional Gaian belief in individual planetary Lifeforms in favor of the "One Goddess," a single, interstellar or perhaps even pan-galactic diety.  Transplanetists are seen as heretics by most Gaians.

The travellers are approached at a Tiānláng startown tavern by Lachlan Slyusarev, a mining engineer.  Slyusarev and some fellow Gaians are planning to disrupt a public speech to be given by Bāza and will offer the travellers Cr500 each, half paid in advance and half following the event, to attend and heckle Bāza during the event.

Bāza will be speaking at a large artificial park space — the natural grass has been geneered to provide a similar touch-fastening surface for the standard footwear used elsewhere in the habitat — at midday the day after the encounter with Slyusarev.  When the travellers arrive there are several hundred people gathered, filling more than half the space.  Bāza begins speaking, without amplification, but the acoustics of the artificial space allow her to be heard clearly even from the back of the crowd.

Referee's information:

Several different possibilities present themselves (1D6):

1) All is as presented.  Bāza's message of care for those who are less fortunate seems harmless enough but her discussion of the ways in which the "One Goddess" in present among the artificial habitats of Sirius Belt is bit more difficult to follow.  Still the crowd seems generally receptive to her message.  After twenty or so minutes a handful of individuals spaced throughout the crowd begin to heckle Bāza.  At one point Slyusarev is recognized by the travellers as one of these disrupters.  Once the travellers join in Bāza will continue to try to speak but eventually will be mostly drowned out.  She'll end her remarks with a smile, saying, "We'll meet again soon friends."

2) As in 1) above, but shortly after the travellers join in the heckling several fist-fights break out between the hecklers and others in the crowd.  Each traveller should throw the lower of Strength or Endurance, or less, to avoid being assaulted by 1 + 1D-3 others in the crowd.  (Each brawl should be resolved using standard zero-gee combat rules.)  Bāza calls for calm and eventually the brawlers will be separated by others in the crowd.

3) As in 2) above, but several constables will arrive 1D+4 minutes after the brawling begins.  Each traveller engaged in a brawl should throw 8+ to avoid arrest, with a positive DM equal to the higher of any Streetwise or Tactics skill.  Each arrested traveller will be held in a standard jail facility for 1D days, with a negative DM, for each traveller, equal to their highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill.

Slyusarev will not make the post-brawl meeting arranged in advance for collection of the remaining payment and efforts to locate him will be unsuccessful.

4) As in 3) above, but shortly before the constabulary arrives several gunshots will ring out.  Bāza will be uninjured but those travellers arrested will be charged not only with brawling but also with conspiracy to commit murder.  Each arrested traveller will be held for 2D weeks, with a negative DM, for each traveller, equal to their highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill.  Any traveller who identifies Slyusarev will have an additional negative DM equal to 1D.

If Slyusarev is identified by a traveller, on a throw of 10+, with a positive DM equal to the highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill for that traveller, a constable will inform them that Slyusarev and his associates are actually believed to be Transplanetists like Bāza.

5) As in 4) above, but Bāza is wounded.  Arrested travellers will be held for 3D weeks, with the same DMs for skills and identifying Slyusarev, and with the same opportunity to learn about the Transplanetist involvement.

6) As in 5) above, but Bāza is mortally wounded.  Arrested travellers will be held for 4D weeks.

Subsequent events, including any potential reprisals against the travellers by Gaians unhappy to have been falsely implicated in the (attempted) assassination of Bāza, are to be determined by the referee. ☺

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Home to Hāishén

Location: Anywhere in the Colonies Sphere Required Equipment: starship (owned or chartered)

Players' information:

At a mundane but unexpected location in startown the travellers are approached by a tall, slender Human woman of late middle age dressed in hooded robes of durable gray and blue materials who introduces herself as Anglea Cháo-xīng.  She is seeking passage to Hāishén, an independent agricultural world in Gaea District (2118.18-C33765). Any traveller who throws their EDU or less — with a -1 DM if they were raised in Gaea District — will recognize her as a Thendar.

Cháo-xīng notes she has no money for passage but offers to share information which will enable the travellers to obtain the most profitable cargoes and the greatest number of high fare passengers to the next destination world in the direction of Hāishén.  She shares this information simply upon agreement that the travellers will transport her, in middle passage accommodations, to that next destination world.

Referee's information:

Several different possibilities present themselves (1D6):

1) Cháo-xīng's pointers to brokers and tips on passenger agents prove to be virtually useless, producing a mix of cargoes and passengers well below the break-even point for the costs of the voyage to the next destination world in the direction of Hāishén.  If pressed on how it is that a Thendar can be so mistaken Cháo-xīng will admit that she's not actually a Thendar.

2) Sure enough, Cháo-xīng's pointers to brokers and tips on passenger agents produces a mix of cargoes and passengers near the upper bounds of potential profitability for a voyage between the current world and the next destination world in the direction of Hāishén. At the next world, Cháo-xīng will again offer to provide similar tips in return for passage to the next destination world in the direction of Hāishén.  Cháo-xīng will be quite personable aboard ship, often engaging the travellers and other passengers in conversation about their lives and activities — though she will politely decline attempts to bargain with her for information other than the cargo and passage advice she's been providing in exchange for passage.  Her advice will continue to provide similar results all the way to Hāishén where, upon arrival, Cháo-xīng will thank the travellers for their service and disappear into the crowd at the starport.

3) As in 2) above, but before she departs Cháo-xīng will share similar cargo and passenger tips for all of the potential destination worlds from Hāishén.

4) As in 3) above, but once in jump space on the way to their next destination, one of the travellers, reviewing local news information from Hāishén, will discover several reports showing video and audio of Cháo-xīng but which identify her as Cài Yīngwén, the Zǒnglǐ ("First, among equals" or "premier") of Hāishén.  ("Cháo-xīng," it turns out, is the name of Hāishén's primary — a variable flare start — and translates as "tidestar.")

5) As in 2) above, but at some point along the way one of the travellers, reviewing local information from Hāishén, will discover several news reports which reveal Cài's actual identity.  Cài will admit the truth if presented with this information and explain that she had simply been travelling incognito as a sort of vacation.  She hopes to continue on to Hāishén under the existing arrangement, asking only that the travellers not reveal her identity to others.

For the remainder of the voyage, she will be amenable to sharing any information requested, as long as she and the requester can come to an agreement on payment for her information.

6) As in 3) above, but upon arrival Cài will reveal her actual identity and invite the travellers to be her guests at the Zǒnglǐ's residence for up to 3D weeks.

Subsequent events are to be determined by the referee. ☺

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The Uplift Project

Location: Anywhere in Ouroran space Required Equipment: starship (owned or chartered)

Players' information:

At a typical startown tavern the travellers are approached by a Dolphin in a well-worn, grav-assisted enviro-suit and a reasonably-well-dressed, middle-aged Human man.  The man introduces himself as Engraçado Lucas and his companion as Lavrador Sonhoscaçador, noting that both are currently crew aboard the Matilde Clinza, a free trader also in port.  (A quick check of the starport registry will confirm that the Matilde Clinza arrived the day before.)

Sonhoscaçador is seeking a ship to transport a cargo — the amount to be approximately one-half the cargo space of the travellers' ship — to the world Trêsmares in Tunghai District (2423.31).  She will pay standard cargo shipping between the current world and the last world before Trêsmares and double standard shipping for the final jump to Trêsmares, but there's a catch — she wants the cargo delivered to a specific location on-world away from the world's starport.  When pressed for a rationale she simply says that she wants to "avoid any official entanglements."  She will also pay middle passage for the entire journey for herself and another companion, also a Dolphin.

If the travellers' accept the charter Sonhoscaçador and the other Dolphin will arrive with the cargo at the appointed time.  She introduces the other Dolphin as Iago Oathkeeper, whose accent identifies him as a Theridian.

Referee's information:

Several different possibilities present themselves (1D6):

1) All is as presented; Sonhoscaçador's buyer is simply trying to avoid the import duties which would be collected by Casa Barcellos at the starport.  The landing and off-loading preceed without incident and Sonhoscaçador and Oathkeeper depart once the cargo has been unloaded.

2) As in 1 above, but as the cargo is being off-loaded a Casa Barcellos grav-slad arrives and the constables aboard insist upon inspecting the cargo.  After the inspection they announce that the light industrial components are prohibited for import on Trêsmares.  Sonhoscaçador and Oathkeeper are arrested and the travellers are assessed a fine amounting to 50% of the shipping charges for delivering the cargo from the last destination to Trêsmares.

3) As in 2) above, but the cargo is advanced weapons systems.  Sonhoscaçador, Oathkeeper and the travellers are arrested and their ship impounded.  Each arrested traveller will be held in a standard jail facility for 1D days, with a negative DM, for each traveller, equal to their highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill.  After their release the ship will not be returned to their custody until payment of an impound fee equal to 2D (with a negative DM equal to the highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill among the travellers) times ten percent of the shipping charges for delivering the cargo from the last destination to Trêsmares.

4) As in 3) above, but Oathkeeper is revealed to be a Meren agent.  Sonhoscaçador is utterly surprised and agrees to cooperate in the investigation of Oathkeeper.  Each arrested traveller will be held in a standard jail facility for 1D days, with a negative DM, for each traveller, equal to their highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill.  After their release the ship will not be returned to their custody until payment of an impound fee equal to 2D (with a negative DM equal to the highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill among the travellers) times ten percent of the shipping charges for delivering the cargo from the last destination to Trêsmares.

5) As in 4) above, but Sonhoscaçador has knowingly conspired with Oathkeeper in an effort to liberate Trêsmares from Ouroran control.  Each arrested traveller will be held in a standard jail facility for 2D days, with a negative DM, for each traveller, equal to their highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill.  After their release the ship will not be returned to their custody until payment of an impound fee equal to 3D (with a negative DM equal to the highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill among the travellers) times ten percent of the shipping charges for delivering the cargo from the last destination to Trêsmares.

6) As in 4) above, but as Oathkeeper's identity is revealed another grav-sled suddenly arrives carrying a mix of local Meren, Dolphins and Humans who attempt to free Oathkeeper.  The attackers (the Meren and Dolphins are wearing grav-assisted enviro-suits) are armed and armoured in a manner equivalent to the Barcellos constables,.

Subsequent events are to be determined by the referee. ☺

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Tundra Hunt

Location: Tabora/Fomalhaut (1723.24-B3588A) Required Equipment: starship (owned or chartered)

Players' information:

At a Kigoma-Ujiji startown tavern the travellers are approached by a middle-aged Human woman dressed in fashionable, somewhat flamboyant clothing.  The woman introduces herself as Liana Tarter, a professional hunter from Van Maanen's Belt in Sirius.  (A quick check of the local Knowledgesource confirms Tarter's identity as a professional hunter of some renown.)

Tarter is recently arrived on Tabora and is seeking a group to assist her in a hunt on nearby Astarte (Fomalhaut 1822.24).  Besides transport to Astarte — and return to Tabora, hopefully with two, large animals — she also seeks to hire a team to assist her in capturing a mating pair of tundra beasts.  (Tarter has a contract from the Commonwealth Scout Service to procure the tundra beasts but will not freely reveal this information.)  Tundra beasts are native to No Cha (Fomalhaut 2324.27) but travel to No Cha is difficult from Tabora.  Tarter has learned that a substantial population of wild tundra beasts exists on Astarte, imported from No Cha some years ago.

If pressed, Tarter will admit that her original hunting team left her service shortly after their arrival on Tabora.  She provides few details but regrets having become involved in an especially tumultuous and ultimately failed romantic relationship with one of her team members.  She retained most of her hunting equipment — amounting to approximately one-half ton of cargo — as well as possession of two specially-crafted transport containers — displacing two tons each — for the captured tundra beasts.  She will pay high passage for herself to and from Astarte as well as five times the standard rates for her cargo each way.  She expects to spend no more than two weeks on Astarte and will pay standard weekly navigator-equivalent salaries — travel to and from Astarte included — for each traveller who assists her on Astarte.

If the travellers accept the opportunity, Tarter arrives with her cargo at the starport docking bay at the appointed time.  The travellers (or a chartered ship's master) are free to make whatever other passenger and cargo arrangements to Astarte as are available.  The voyage to Astarte is uneventful.

Referee's information:

Several different possibilities present themselves (1D6):

1) All is as presented. At Astarte Tarter will use vaguely described connections to "borrow" a pair of grav-carriers from the Commonwealth scout base near the downport.  Once the transport containers are loaded, travel takes approximately twelve hours to a site in the subpolar region of a smaller continent in the world's southern hemisphere where the largest population of tundra beasts exist.  Throw 9+ on 2D6 each week to encounter a mating pair of tundra beasts.  (If no beasts are captured by the second week, Tarter will offer the group additional pay at the same rates plus a ten percent bonus for each additional week until successful in capturing a mating pair.)  The actual capture of the beasts will be fairly straightforward — Tarter is using rifle-fired tranquilizers to incapacitate the beasts — but the referee should nevertheless play out the capture encounters.  The return voyage to Tabora is uneventful.

2) As in 1) above, but while preparing to depart the downport one of the travellers will learn that the tundra beasts on Astarte are considered sacred by a local religious group.  Kiites are a locally-developed sect of "Transplanetist" Gaians.  Tarter will not be deterred by this news.  A pair of beasts will be captured in the second week.  Return to the starport and departure with the captured beasts unfolds without incident.

3) As in 2) above, but as the tundra beasts are captured in the second week the party will be set upon by a group of Kiites also travelling in two grav-carriers.  The Kiites are roughly equal in number and similarly armed and armoured as the travellers.  The Kiites will attack immediately in an attempt to free the captured tundra beasts while seeking to avoid harming the travellers (and Tarter), and will break-off their attack if the beasts are freed.  Should a beast — or any of the Kiites — be harmed or killed, the Kiites will retaliate without regard for the safety of the travellers (or Tarter).

4) As in 3) above, but there are four grav-carriers and double the number of Kiites.

5) As in 4) above, but even if the beasts are freed the Kiites will seek to capture the travellers (and Tarter), turning them over to police authorities at the downport who will arrest them on (attempted) poaching charges.  Each arrested traveller will be held in a standard jail facility for 3D days, with a negative DM, for each traveller, equal to their highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill.

6) As in 5) above, but the Kiites are intent upon killing the travellers (and Tarter).

Subsequent events are to be determined by the referee. ☺

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