The Currents of Space GM 1

Before the Game starts, I did a little more work on backgrounds and relationships. I like to keep things tidy and it was obvious that three of the characters shared something in common – the incident on LX504. But where did Achernar fit in? He was related to Capella; he knew this but Capella didn’t.

 

  • I created Bellatrix’s and Achernar’s family trees. I designed a system years ago to do this; it uses a deck of cards to create relationships and families. It seems like a lot of work; in reality it is quite quick and simple and throws up a lot of unexpected connections. It’s surprising how useful the information can be.

 

Bellatrix’s uncle is an executive VP of Makita Genetics, overseeing Resources.

 

Achernar is the illegitimate son of Capella’s aunt; born in violation of the Chinese Birth Control Laws, he was smuggled off-planet to LX504. He left the planet in 2208 to become a Drifter; returned briefly in 2216 where he met Capella.

  • I set up a matrix of character ages vs. terms served to determine when significant events happened. Tables don’t post very well on here (at least; I haven’t found how to do it). The blow-out incident on LX504 happened in 2222 (current year is 2225).

Achernar (as a Drifter) returned to LX504 in 2216 which is where he met Capella. He left in 2218 to join the Survey Scouts. He never told Capella that they were related (he knew this through his mother).

  • With the other PC’s (and a slight bit of tweaking!), the blow-out incident on LX504 happened in 2222. I created a matrix of PC age and date and looked to see where they coincided. Again; usually it falls into place easily.

 

Three years have passed and it is 2225.

D100 Dungeon

Quite by accident I came across this on DrivethruRPG and became intrigued. It is a solo dungeon delve game; create a character and go on varying quests for gold and glory. It is written and published by Martin Knight (mkgames.)

The Game is amazing and really covers everything you could want and does it very well – almost in the style of a boardgame (in fact, there is a PnP version.) You create a character (three basic stats, point-buy some equipment and weapons,) then fill out your character sheet. Lots of spaces here for what you are carrying and wearing, plus five slots for your belt pouches (potions etc.) There is a time track with event/ condition triggers, keys, lockpicks and food tracks (when you come across a locked door you can test against the number of keys you have found to see if you found the right key.)

You then roll for a Quest, which gives you a goal to achieve (rather than just “kick down the door, kill the monsters and grab the loot.”) Some Quests involve you capturing the target and returning them alive for example.

The Dungeon is generated by a table that gives you the room and exits (with or without doors), each fits into a 3×3 square on the included map. The rooms are also colour-coded (red are dangerous, blue are quest objectives etc.) – a Quest might involve you discovering a new blue area which contains the (described) object of the Quest. Notations are made directly onto the map so you can go back and try the Quest again if you failed.

Lots of good stuff, some which can be easily lifted to other systems.

But there’s more!

I also picked up the World Builder book. Now this allows you create a world to do your Quests in. It is possibly the best World Builder book I’ve used. A few die rolls and you have a hex with terrain, settlements, roads, and rivers, plus a name generator to name all of them. There’s lots more, you can move around, encounter people and creatures, build strongholds, make investments, hear of Quests and then go and find them (then use d100 Dungeon to do the Quest.)

I am currently developing an Earthsea – style setting for 13th Age ( a huge archipelago with lots of different cultures) and the World Builder is going to be invaluable. My first map so far is an unnamed island (21 hexes, I’m waiting for inspiration on the name.) Near the centre are the Blood Mountains, on the west coast are the Mountains of Solace with a river running south to the sea through Warlock’s Forest. Here is the city of Knight’s Hold (my starting city). Right to the south are the Mountains of Gloom with a Quest site called the Tower of Flame. The rest is unexplored at the moment.

The books are a bit pricey (£12 for the PDF – but you are allowed to have them printed and spiral-bound, something I’m considering.) IMO they are well worth the price.

HOSTILE Timeline and Record Keeping

When I first started playing in the Hostile setting (The Currents of Space) back in the dark depths of (pre- Covid) 2019, one of the first things I did was set up an Excel spreadsheet of dates. Against each date I record any significant event, both in Known Space and to a PC. As more information is released in Adventures and supplements I update the spreadsheet.

On the sheet are all the PCs with their UPP and age. From this I work back to see when they were born and when they were 18 (so I can see what was going on during their Terms of Service and also tie in any Life Events.) I also give each PC a birthday (usually based around the real date I created them)

Later, I went back and added in the age they reached 14 ( an arbitrary choice in that this is the age when you start to be aware of what’s going on in the world and is also 4 years before you enlist.)

It is a bit of work to set up but once done it is amazing to see how many parallels and links suggest themselves. Also, it’s easy to maintain and so far I haven’t found any continuity errors!

The Stars, Like Dust

Caradhras Episode 2

Rayven and Nashida are en-route to the Caradhras system. They exited drift space in the Kren system but were attacked by a centuries-old robot warcraft. “Nebula”  took some damage so Rayven shut down all systems and played dead.

‘So? How long are you going to hide here?’ Nashida was angry. ‘We need to get to Caradhras to rescue my grandfather and my father.’

Rayven sighed. ‘Look, I don’t know how much you know about space travel. The drift drives need time to recharge; they have to punch us into the drift and, more importantly, punch us out again. If they can’t get us out then we drift forever. No sane pilot goes into the drift without fully-charged drives.’

‘Now. Complicate that with the fact there is a killer robot drone out there. We need to survive long enough to power up the drift drive.’

[Test your Relationship +heart = 8 (1,9) = Weak. Develop Relationship +3 (9/10) but with a complication]

Nashida backed off and apologised but then suddenly asked ‘Why did you become an Iron Sworn? Especially for one of … the Nine?’

Rayven hesitated.

[Forge a Bond with Nashida – Progress move vs. 9/10 = (5,7) = Strong. Bond Legacy 1/4, 0/10. New role for Nashida – Crew]

‘It looks like we both have a quest – a mission. Mine started when I was nine years old, on a place called Moser’s Landing. I was born there. One day I had been visiting friends on an outlying farm when the ships came – Malagate’s ships. They raided the settlement, took what they could and destroyed what they couldn’t – including my family. My uncle Takara rescued me and I have spent the last eleven years training. I became Iron Sworn to the Land Lahani so I could swear an Iron Vow – to utterly destroy the criminal Attel Malagate.

[Hearten – good to talk. +heart = 8 (2,7) = Strong. +2 Spirit]

‘Okay. The drives are fully charged. The warcraft is still out there. I’m going to try a slow power-up, enough so we can engage the drives.’

[Secure Advantage +Shadow 1 = 2 (9,10) = Miss. Pay the Price – the warcraft reacts. React under Fire +shadow = 5 (3,8) = Weak. -1 Integrity (2/5). Has this damage a knock-on effect? Likely 75- = 60: Yes.] *

‘We are fucked.’ Rook slumped down in the lounge chair and fingered the bag of gems.

Rayven glared. ‘We’re not done yet. That thing is not shooting at any of the orbiting junk – so it must be reacting to power. Nebula – what was the power status before the thing opened fire?’

There was no answer. ‘Nebula? What was the power status before the robot warcraft opened fire?’

‘Hi Rayven, welcome aboard. The power status was 29%. Would you like some music and a hot bath?’

‘Not right now. Okay, suit power is less than 29% of ship’s power. So, I use a suit, EVA over to the warcraft and stick a spanner in its works. Nashida, as soon as I’ve done that, start the power-up sequence.’

[Face Danger +wits = 5  (5,8) = Miss. Pay the Price – #34: Something of value is destroyed.]

The warcraft was a fairly basic design; Rayven simply pulled an inspection panel on the lower surface and pulled a few wires. The machine began to power down. Just then her wrist comp lit up – STARTING POWER UP –‘

‘Nooo!’ yelled Rayven but too late. The warcraft got off one last shot that slammed into Nebula.

Back on Nebula, Rayven was surprised and a little concerned to find that both airlock doors were open. She entered and hit the CLOSE button.

‘Nebula. Re-pressurise ship. Nebula! Respond! Re-pressurise ship.’

‘Hi Rayven, welcome aboard. Now you are back, I can re-pressurise the ship. Would you like some music and a hot bath?’

Rayven opened her helmet and ran to the bridge.

‘Nashida!’

Explosive decompression can be a very messy business.

To be continued …

===============

GM Notes

OMG! Like, really OMG!

I (as the player) don’t know how to react to this at this time.

OK. Deep breath ( this is written about six hours later.)

This is a MAJOR change that was played out exactly as it reads. But there are lots of precedents in novels and films where what looks to be a long-running character gets killed almost immediately.

I’m thinking of The Jackal (1997) and several Jack Ryan novels. Also, the end of OHMSS.

Obviously, Nebula is behaving erratically. Did she kill Rook?

Shades of 2001: A Space Odyssey

BUT

The big thing has to be with Rayven. She has just formed a Bond with Rook; she made her one of the crew and has obviously taken her into her trust. Yet, within a short time span, Rook is dead.

How is she going to react?

* Kept in reserve for a moment. The consequence does not have to take place immediately and does not necessarily have to be linked to the missed roll (it depends on the situation.)

————————-

Rayven

Edge 3   Heart 2   Iron 1   Shadow 1   Wits 2

Health 4  Spirit 4   Supply 4   M 4

Gunslinger

Bannersworn to Land Lahani

Epic Vow: Utterly destroy the criminal Attel Malagate (0/4, 0/10)

Quests (1/4, 0/10)

Bonds (1/4, 0/10)

Discoveries (2/4, 0/10)

Gear

Spacer kit

MPM pistol

Connections

Kei Takara (Dangerous) (0/10)

Nashida Rook – Dead

Current Vows

Starship

Nebula (Integrity 2/5)

Module – Overseer

Threads

* Who is the Shrouded Figure?

* What trouble is Nashida’s grandfather in?

* What is wrong with Nebula?

BETWEEN PLANETS 2.5

Previously –

‘Wait. How do you know our next cargo is to Tora Bora?’

‘Captain. I’m detecting a small object, a ship’s boat near to the hyperspace point.’

‘The “Discovery” didn’t crash, the crew just think it did.’

‘You bastard. You’ve been trying to double-cross me.’

2226 – 05.24

Mike slowed the tractor to a stop and gestured to the passengers.

‘We’ll get a better view from outside. Use your masks, the vapour is pretty heavy here.’

They climbed out, Shereen opted to stay behind ‘to fix the dinner.’

Mike led the way to a low rise about 50m away. They trekked through the sphagnum-like Benzinovium; Bobrikov examined a plant; it left an oily rainbow sheen on his hand. He hurried to join the others; looking up as the sound of the jump jet swelled above him. He saw a fiery spark launch from the craft and drift over the rise …

WHOOM!

There was a massive fireball and burst of heat; Masefield, Mike and the engineer fell back down the rise.

‘As I said – satisfaction guaranteed. Now …’

‘Er … Mike. Should this be happening?’ Masefield looked around wildly. Rivulets of fire were running along the ground, igniting pools into fountains of flame.

‘We need to get back to the tractor! Now!’ Mike sounded panicky. He started to run towards the Firefox, about 18 metres away. They followed him; suddenly a gout of flame caught Masefield and his clothes caught fire. Bobrikov yelled and turned to help, a glance showed that Mike was also alight but the engineer had reached the tractor.

‘What the … the bastard! He’s driving off and leaving us!’

Suddenly, they were all engulfed in a deluge of white foam. The jump jet hovered above them; fire-retardant foam spraying from nozzles mounted on its underside. It touched down briefly, enough for them to dive aboard. As they lifted off, the whole of the ground erupted in flame, the updraught caused the jet to roll and yaw alarmingly.

‘Get after him – Shereen’s on that tractor!’

Ahead of them the tractor slowed and slewed to a stop. The side door opened and Shereen looked out, waving a bottle of L4. Inside, the engineer was out cold on the floor, a large, bruised lump on the back of his head.

Later

Back at Vehicle Station 23, Mike offered them their money back.

‘Hell, no! Are all your excursions that exciting like that? However, maybe there is something you can help with. What is glob?’

Mike started to shake his head, then stopped. ‘Glob. Mako Juice. Ultima. It has many names. Look, working here is living on the edge. We are on the edge of known space and staring at the bottom of the next guy’s Stack-Rack, smelling the smell of hundreds of partially-washed workers, knowing that a thin wall lies between you and death just … you need a release. Glob gives you that. For a time, you are off in a Yellow Submarine land and it helps you forget – for a time.’

‘So, it’s an illegal drug?’

Mike choked, then laughed. ‘Illegal? Fuck no. The Company sponsors and provides it. They charge $50 a shot because the punters are expected to pay.’

‘So where do you fit in? What about this tour at $500 each?’

Suddenly Mike screamed and stormed off.

They glanced at each other and shrugged.

‘Guess we hit a nerve.’

‘Wait.’ The voice was familiar, it was Buddy, the jump jet pilot. ‘Don’t judge him too harshly. He used to work for Eurochemicals – he was in charge of the drug distribution process. Now, they say you can’t get addicted to glop. That’s not true – you can. Mike did and was charged with abuse of his position. He was fired and now has to pay street price of $250 a shot. He only gets basic Welfare subsidence.’

2226 – 05.25, Colony Class D spaceport

‘Sorry Captain, but the whole spaceport is under lockdown. No one is permitted in and no ships can leave.’

‘My ship, the Macao Champion, is contracted to deliver a cargo to Earth by 08.03.’

The guard was unmoved but shifted his auto rifle.

‘Sorry. Nothing leaves without correct authorisation. There has been information received that illegal items are being smuggled in; searches are being made.’

‘Without authorisation?’

The guard shifted his rifle again. ‘Captain, sir. You may think this is a backwater Class D port, but we still come under ICO regulations. Those regulations give us the right to do whatever THE FUCK WE WANT. Do I make myself clear?’

Agbaje glared but backed off; he opened his comms and called the others to a meeting at the Spacer’s Hostel.

2226 – 05.25, Spacer’s Hostel, bar

‘Right. We need to find a way to get off this shit hole. We are on a timer; the cargo is already loaded. It’s metal pellets and ingots to Earth, due 08.03.’

‘Earth? Not one of our usual stops.’ Masefield grunted. ‘Still, It’ll be interesting to see the homeworld, I’ve never been there. I was born in the Fomalhaut system, a rock rat.’

Cook glanced at Chandradatti, who looked pale. She started to speak but Chandra shook her head.

‘Okay.’ Agbaje stood and pulled his Memex. ‘We find a way to get this cargo on time and I will authorise 14 days downtime on Earth – captain’s discretion.’

After some discussion, they came up with a Plan. Cook and Peshkova would hack into the local computers and authorise the Macao to leave immediately for LX256 carrying urgent medical supplies.

‘+++ Attention – Port Control to CSF 080416 Macao Champion. Destination system is not listed in database. Please hold for further verification +++

+++ Macao Champion to Port Control. Destination is an unlisted outpost MRA 635 on LX256. Mission is Priority One. Lifting cycle engaged. Be seeing you.’ +++

Crew lounge

Bobrikov and Masefield recounted their story of the sightseeing trip. Cook returned from the bridge.

‘Peskova’s taking us on a tighter course to the HSP through the debris field. Should shave 24 hours at least.’

30 hours later

Peshkova dropped into a seat in the crew lounge and dialled up a double portion of chicken and noodles (Kinako Brown.)

‘Fuck shit, I’m knackered. Where is everyone else?’

Cook pulled a drink. ‘ Masefield and Becker are down in engineering. We blew a primary drive coil about a day ago; they fixed it but we wasted a full burn running on the secondaries. The Captain thought it best not to bother you.’

‘Wait .. I’m the fucking pilot and …’

Suddenly the lights dimmed to red. ‘ATTENTION CREW. REPORT TO HYPERSLEEP CHAMBER. TRANSLATION TO EARTH IN 6 HOURS. ELAPSED TIME 54 DAYS. SWEET DREAMS.’

In the chamber with the hypersleep pods they all stripped off (there is no modesty in space), attached the monitor pads to their head, chest, arms, and legs and then lay down in the pods, then watched the lids slowly close. No-one remembered going into hypersleep.

Except one … *

To be continued …

===========================================

GM notes

Really. None of this was pre-mediated. The expedition could have gone badly and Masefield and Bobrikov could have died.

I’m not sure this would make a great novel, but it is making a great Game experience for me.

The character stories and motivations are becoming more complex – I think I need to join a writer’s course to see how authors keep track of everything that is going on with their characters

* I do not know who this is at this moment. Curse you GM Emulator for throwing a spanner in the works!

BETWEEN PLANETS 2.4

Previously –

The man’s eyes hardened. He scribbled a number on a piece of paper. ‘Call that number when you have arranged things. You will receive further instructions.’

‘Oh fuck – these were M9 disposable missiles’

‘Kyoka. Hit me with a gun butt just before we went into the power car. But she did give me this first.’

2226 – 03.06, Hiroshima

Following the monotrain crash, Cook and Agbaje found themselves to be media celebrities, appearing several times on Hiroshima-Net. They were personally thanked by Chairman Nogu Noku and his son and heir Shigeto. *

As they took their leave, to head back to Kashima to re-join the Macao Champion, they were intercepted by law enforcement and taken to the police station.

‘I am Colonel Volokh, Kyoka worked for me. Tell me, did she say or give you anything before she died?’

Agbaje glanced at Cook then shook his head. ‘She gave us nothing. I volunteered to go to the front power car but she said it was her duty.’ Cook nodded assent.

‘Hmm. I see. I have to let you go; I understand you have a cargo waiting. If you do remember anything, call this number.’ He slid a FONE card across the table.

‘How are we going to get back to Kashima?’

‘Chairman Nogu has arranged for a private flight.’

2226 – 03.07, Kashima

Peshkova and the rest of the crew boarded the shuttle bus for the Downport. They swapped stories (mainly about the Hiroshima hospital facilities.) Bobrikov was still bandaged but looked okay.

‘Well,’ said Peshkova. ‘Maybe you’ve all forgotten, but I am XO of the Macao Champion and one thing I have to look after is expenses. Your recent stays in hospital have cost the ship’s budget $7500 each. I will consult with the Captain about how this is to be repaid.’

There was a general outcry. ‘None of this was our fault and (yelled Bobrikov), the Captain took us back there. Bollocks. I don’t see why I should pay for anything. If anything – he should pay. He gets more than the rest of us anyway.’

2226 – 03.08, Kashima Highport

On the orbital Highport the crew re-united and went for the traditional departure meal in the ‘Flight Bar’, an exclusive restaurant for flight crews. It was all-expenses paid, eat all you like and was for the purpose of stocking up on calories and protein for weeks in hypersleep.

‘So, we have a passenger?’

‘Yes. The cargo is 1000 tons refined hydrogen fuel and a fusion reactor for a new colony. The passenger is an engineer to oversee the installation of the reactor.’

Peshkova held her breath as Agbaje skimmed down the rest of the manifest.

‘Okay. It looks okay. Call a general meeting to discuss the flight plan.

2226 – 03.08, Macao Champion

Everyone settled into their quarters then met in the briefing room. Agbaje stood in front of the screen.

‘Right. We are hauling 1000 tons of liquid hydrogen and a fusion reactor to Tora Bora. We are also taking a passenger – an engineer to install the reactor. The distance is eighteen parsecs, that’s nine weeks asleep. It’s a big pay out and bonus if we get there on time – so let’s do it.’

Masefield spoke up. ‘Boss – we had to reconfigure the liquids tank to channel the water to the fuel tanks. We need to do some work on it to change it before we can put L-Hyd in it.’

2226 – 03.13, Macao Champion, approaching HSP

‘Course plotted in and ready to engage,’ reported Cook.

‘Engineering to bridge. Running at top of the green, ready for power up.’

‘Captain.’ Bobrikov turned from the comms station. ‘I’m detecting a small object, a ship’s boat near to the hyperspace point.’

‘That’s a long way out and it can’t be using the HSP. Call them, see if there’s a problem.’

Peshkova glanced at him but said nothing – it was an inviolable ICO rule that all ships should render aid to another in distress.

‘Contact made. It’s an android, calls themselves David 612. States they on a routine mission checking navigational beacons. No help required.’

‘Okay people, time to go in the freezers.’

2226 – 05.18, Tora Bora (NEW 0706 10 Tauri F8v)

Becker woke and detached herself from the monitoring pads and wires, then sat up.

‘Scheisse, it’s cold. Why haven’t the heaters kicked in to warm the ship?’ She glanced at the engineering panel; all the lights were green. Butt-naked, she climbed out of the pod and headed for the shower to get the hypersleep gunk off her. She was soon joined by the others, on a deep-space crew no-one gives a damn about modesty at this time.

‘Nav, report.’ Agbaje looked at Cook, they were all in the crew mess shovelling down food.

‘Okay. We’ve translated out okay but we are 70 Mkm out so the transit will take 3.5 days, unless Pesh can shave some time off that?’

Peshkova pulled her Memex and plugged it in. ‘This is a pretty shit system to be honest. It’s got a debris field and the planet has two biggish moons which cause lots of gravitational shifts.’

Masefield turned to the passenger, the engineer, who was sitting to one end of the table. He made several attempts to engage him in conversation but the man was not inclined to talk.

‘Please. I am here to do a job, to install the reactor.’

2226 – 05.20

The comms panel lit up with an incoming message.

+++ CSV DARK STAR to MACAO CHAMPION. We are outbound to Oracle. Having pre-flight meal before buttoning up. Any gossip? +++

+++ CSF MACAO CHAMPION to DARK STAR. Some trouble reported on Hiroshima at government level. Have a good flight. +++

2226 – 05.21

From orbit, Tora Bora looked similar to Earth but the land and the sea had a curious iridescent sheen to it, like a soap bubble. Also, the boundaries between the land and sea were hazy and ill-defined.

‘It’s called benzinovium and it’s the reason anyone is on this rock. It’s a kind of moss that secretes and concentrates heavy hydrocarbons. They are refined and extracted, then transported back to Earth and the NEZ colonies.

2226 – 05.22

Peshkova brought the MACAO CHAMPION down to a good landing at the starport. As they exited the ship the overwhelming stench of the benzinovium hit them.

‘For fucking once can we go somewhere where the air is breathable?’

‘I’m sorry Captain Agbaje, but you are late and so incur the penalty.’ The Factor pulled a computer keyboard to him and punched some figures.

‘Your delivery date was 05.20, you are two days late, so you incur a 2% penalty. Your payment is $31,000. It will be transferred to your corporate account within three days.’

Agbaje gnashed his teeth but kept quiet. This was the truth of interstellar economics, the guys in the middle, the haulers, were expected to pull off the impossible. Still, it was a fairly decent payout of $5428 to each of them.

 It was a short turn-round, only a two day stop, as is common with crews that spend a lot of time together, they separated and did their own thing.

2226 – 05.23

‘Where is it?’ Peshkova struggled awake as Tetsushi roughly shook her shoulder. ‘The cargo. Where the fuck is it?’

‘How should I know Tet? You’re the loadmaster; you loaded it. Anyway, I’ve got the deal in hand. Why?’

‘I’m checking on my investment that’s all.’

Peshkova rolled out of bed. ‘You bastard. You’ve been trying to double-cross me. Yeah, I thought you might so I closed the deal early, yesterday. Don’t worry, you’ll still get your share as agreed, but you can then go fuck yourself.’**

Bobrikov and Masefield were out exploring the colony attractions. The colony (it didn’t appear to have a name) was a typical frontier settlement given over to oil extraction. Eurochemicals owned many of the franchises. They ended up at a club called the Psychedelic Fur, synth music throbbed over the dance floor, which was crowded with burly roustabouts and club girls.

‘You want glob?’ A heavily-rouged, bare-breasted waitress carried a tray of small plastic vials. ‘$50 a shot, discount on four or more, another $100 gets you a back-room voucher.’

Masefield waved her away.

‘What the fuck is glob?’

‘Never heard of it, but I think we should avoid it. Look, she’s selling some down there.’

2226 -05.24

Bobrikov and Masefield were looking at a poster on the wall.

SEE AN IGNATHUS CLOSE HAND.

WITNESS ONE OF TORA BORA’S MOST SPECTACULAR EVENTS CLOSE UP.

SATISFACTION GUARANTEED AND SAFETY ASSURED

Call 202-415 to book a place.

 $500 per person

‘An ignathus happens when a low-lying pool of lighter hydrocarbons is ignited by a spark, like a lightning strike. It explodes in a spectacular fireball, like a fuel-air explosion.’

‘Sound fun. Let’s go. Call the number.’

The tour boarded at vehicle station 23, heading there they passed several groups of roustabouts and workers. Almost all of them were waiting to board ground transports and they shuffled forward like zombies. There was very little conversation.

Bobrikov nudged Masefield and pointed. ‘They were that group buying that glob shit offered to us. We need to talk to Chandra after we get back.’

The Ignathus tour was a Seonwu half-track carrier *** One other person was waiting to board, it was the nuclear engineer that had been a passenger on the MACAO CHAMPION. He looked up and nodded a greeting.

‘Hi. My name’s Mike and I’m your driver today.’ The speaker was a young man in his early twenties. ‘My buddy Rich is flying a jump jet and following us; in the event of any trouble, he can go for help, or get us out.’

‘So, what do you know about Ignathus? Okay. You know about the benzinovium, right? Well, sometimes, we don’t know why, it produces lighter, volatile hydrocarbons. A single spark, like a lightning strike, can explode this into a massive fireball. That’s what we are going to see today. Yes?’

Masefield had raised his hand. ‘How do you know we’ll see one today?’ Mike just smiled. ‘Satisfaction guaranteed’.

Later

The Seonwu headed out across the plain towards a low line of hills. From ahead a small speck grew into the shape of a MX Vector jump-jet, it reversed course and kept station with the tractor.

‘Rich says he’s located a likely spot about 100 klicks out. We’ll be there in about an hour. Shereen! How about some drinks? – first one is complementary.’

From the rear of the tractor came a young blonde girl wearing a flight hostess uniform.

‘Hi everyone. We have Red Dragon or L4 on offer; first drink is complementary, others cost $4 a bottle.’

Masefield and Bobrikov had a bottle of Red Dragon, the engineer did not have anything alcoholic but asked for a glass of water. Shereen served them and then went forward to the co-driver’s seat and sat with Mike. It was obvious that they were a couple.

2226 – 05.24

Indira Chandradatti sat in her quarters on the Macao Champion, her thoughts, and feelings in a total turmoil.

‘Masefield saved my life back on Hiroshima. How could he do that, after what I’ve done, what I caused?’

Unwillingly, but drawn, she reached into a closet and pulled out a surgeon’s gown, She reached into the pocket and pulled out a bottle of two white tablets. She set the bottle down on the dresser. She then pulled out a certificate –

DARASALAM UNIVERISTY HOSPITAL – PLATINUM SIGNIFICANCE AWARD OF HONOUR TO DR INDIRA CHANDRADATTI

               Awarded to Doctor Chandradatti in recognition of her outstanding work in reconstructive surgery – 2221

‘How! How! How could they have been so wrong?’ She burst into tears and pulled the next item, a printout of an Earth-Net broadcast.

+++ 2223 – 06.08. Reports are coming in that a massive explosion has destroyed the Darasalam University Hospital. Rescue teams are on the site but sheer scale of the destruction makes the likelihood of survivors very slim.

Surviving eyewitness accounts say it was a massive explosion, like a small nuclear weapon +++

Chandradatti started to shake and grabbed the bottle of tablets.

‘All of those deaths – all because you fucked up an impossible operation – reconstructive surgery does not mean reconstructing the dead – but they didn’t understand.’

She screamed aloud and then looked at the bottle.

‘One of you is instant death. One of you is drawn out agonising death. Which of you do I deserve?’

To be continued …

=====================

GM notes

Spotlight on Bobrikov and Masefield

 I have reverted to the date system I used in The Currents of Space – the Earth Standard Calendar (ESC)

There are 12 months of 4 weeks, each week is 7 days. Nomenclature is Year – Month. Day

A huge reveal about Chandradatti’s backstory!

This really did start as a couple of random rolls, tempered by her paranoia and the fact that she must have been a top medical specialist (Medical 4.) The tale grew in the telling as I wrote it!

* They did recognise Shigeto as being the body they had found but said nothing.

** OMG – I set up a PLAN for Peshkova and Tetsushi to close the smuggling deal ( I really did think that it could be a long-running sub-plot.) However, the evil dice decided otherwise and literally everything fell apart, including their relationship with each other.

*** See Prelude to Freedom for full stats and floorplans of the Seonwu Firefox tractor.

BETWEEN PLANETS 2.3

Previously –

Suddenly the door burst open and three people entered – two carried pistols and the third, a woman, had a sub-machine gun.

“He’s lost confidence in me because of that outburst”

‘Peshkova could see that blood as being a good luck charm that protected her.’

‘Suzaka is a terminus – we are going to hit it at five hundred kilometres per hour!’

2226 – 061, Kashima

Peskova sat at a table in the “Double Helix” nursing a bottle of Red Dragon. She looked around; there were a few people in the bar but she didn’t feel particularly sociable.

‘Bastard!’ She banged the bottle down on the table and punched in an order for two more on the Memex. ‘Fucking bastard. I’m the pilot and XO of the Macao and I’m fucking good at my job. Why did he take Cook? Cold bitch. What does she know of combat?’

‘Permit me to pay for these?’ A man slid into the seat opposite her. ‘Did I hear you are on the Macao Champion? Your next cargo is to Tora Bora in the New Concessions Zone. My associates would like a sealed cargo container to be delivered there. Arrange this with your loadmaster – there is three thousand credits for each of you.’

‘Wait. How do you know our next cargo is to Tora Bora?’

‘It will be. You will have no choice.’

‘Tetshusi will want five thousand, as will I.’

The man’s eye’s hardened but he nodded. ‘Five thousand each, but you will deliver.’ He scribbled a number on a piece of paper. ‘Call that number when you have arranged things. You will receive further instructions.’

Later

Peshkova found Tetsushi in a parts warehouse near to the spaceport.

‘We need to talk. Let’s go to the ‘Double Helix.’

She explained the deal to Tetsushi and waited to see his reaction. As expected, he went along with it (the quick look at his records had helped, she didn’t even have to mention what she’d read.) *

‘I have some contacts in the docks. Leave it with me.’

2226 – 061, Monotrain

‘The train can’t stop. We are going to crash into the terminus at Suzaka at 500 kph with the force of a small tactical nuke. Nogu Yoshikawa is next to the rail terminal, the explosion will destroy the house and kill all of the guests.’

Cook came back from the control compartment. ‘The radio’s dead – there’s no signal.’

‘What about Hiroshima-Net? Can you get onto that?’ Cook shook her head. ‘We’d have to be hard-wired in somehow.’ **

Agbaje cast a glance over the burnt primary control unit. ‘Well, that can’t be repaired. So, what about cutting the power?’

‘NO!’ yelled Cook and Kyoka simultaneously. ‘That would kill all of us instantly.’

Agbaje looked puzzled so Kyoka explained. ‘ The train is suspended from the overhead rail by the pylons, two to each car. The pod on the top of the pylons contain maglev units, effectively making the train frictionless. The motive power comes from a micro-fusion plant in the base of this car. If we cut the power at this speed then the effect will be like slamming into an armoured wall; the train and track will disintegrate. The primary control unit controls the fusion plant and the speed of the train.’

Cook looked back at the connecting door to the rest of the train. ‘How many people are on the train?’

Kyoka shrugged – ‘I haven’t counted, but I would estimate it is more than half-full.’

‘Over two hundred people,’ whispered Cook. ‘How long before we reach Suzaka?’

Kyoka glanced out of the window. ‘About two hours.’

2226 – 061, Kashima

Tetsushi entered the “Double Helix” and made his way across to the table where Peshkova sat. She was nursing another Red Dragon.

‘All set,’ said Tetsushi. ‘A sealed cargo will be loaded at the correct time, no questions asked.’ He ordered a Red Dragon on the Memex, then looked at Peshkova. ‘Say, why don’t we take in a show? There’s a few playing down on the Strip.’

Suddenly, Peshkova stood and grabbed him, pulled him close.

‘I’ve got a show, upstairs, right here, right now.’ ***

2226 – 061, Monotrain

‘What about if we detach the power car?’

‘No good, power still fails to the maglev pods on the train. Normally the emergency brakes would kick in but this tawagoto no ichibu has disabled them.’ Kyoka kicked the body of the steward.

‘Okay, what about the rear power car? These trains are double-ended. Could we power that up to slow the train?’

‘Worth a try.’

One at a time, so as not to cause alarm, they made their way to the rear power car. None of them were electronics experts but they managed to figure out something.

‘This will only work once and the front power car will have to be detached from the train, allowed to get ahead and then the power cut. There’s no other way; one of us is going to have to do it from the front car. The rear part of the train has to be given time to slow down and stop or else it will crash into the wreckage of the front car.’

Agbaje stood and offered a short bow to Cook and Kyoka. ‘I will do it.’

Cook started a protest but Agbaje waved her down. ‘ Peshkova is XO; no doubt you will get a replacement captain.’ He looked at Kyoka, who just nodded.

‘I will show you what you have to do.’

Double Helix, Kashima

Tetsushi rolled over and lit a Blueband cigarette.

‘We could make this a lucrative operation – get some cash on the side.’ He looked at Peshkova and then at the TV.

NEWS IS COMING IN OF A TRAIN CRASH ON THE SUZAKA MONOTRAIN. EARLY REPORTS THAT THE TRAIN CRASHED AT THE SUZAKA TERMINUS. FURTHER UPDATES TO FOLLOW

‘Cook and Agbaje were on that train.’

2226 – 061, Monotrain

At the right moment Cook hit the activation control on the rear car power monitoring unit, then ran to the control compartment and started to increase the power to match the speed of the train. She found that there was a comm link to the front car and she could talk to Agbaje.

‘Speed is matched although I’ve got a few warning lights.’

‘Right. Okay. Kyoka is going to detach the front car; you need to start reducing speed now – use the emergency brakes. When this car stops it’s going to wreck the track. We are ninety minutes out, so we need to do this now.’

‘Captain ….’ Cook’s voice broke. Agbaje didn’t say anything more, the comm link clicked off.

Later

Cook sat by the side of the monotrain watching the medevac jump jets taking the casualties and survivors to Suzaka. The plan had worked to a degree but the leading coach had still slammed into the wreckage of the front power car and there had been many casualties. Suddenly she glanced up and yelled ‘STOP!’

On a stretcher was Agbaje; he had several cuts and a massive bruise on his left temple. He opened his eyes.

‘Kyoka. Hit me with a gun butt when we were in the power car. But she did give me this first.’

He held out an optical disc.

To be continued …

====================================================================

GM Notes

As usual with solo Games, this is developing into a nice, interesting but totally unexpected Storyline.

* As Tetsushi is becoming a key player in the Game I gave him some stats and background.

Tetsushi, Yasu   646894                 Age: late 30’s     Japanese             Born: Abyss (EZ Aquarii, NEZ 0704)

Position: Loadmaster

Survival 1, Electronics 1, Gun Cbt 1, Loader 2, Air vehicle 1, Ground vehicle 2

>  Spent 4 years in prison on New Tokyo.

** Retro-80’s remember. No wi-fi.

***Reaction roll.  I really don’t have to spell this out, surely?

BETWEEN PLANETS 2.2

Previously –

‘Right. We follow this up. No-one shoots and hurts one of my crew.’

‘No help here. Take her to hospital. You interrupt private meeting. No interrupt again.’

Well, he’s not going to be inheriting anything now.’

2226 – 60, Hiroshima

Bobrikov went back to the top of the stairs to look at the other body. He found a light switch – it wasn’t a body! It was a rolled -up piece of sacking surrounding a wooden box. There were Japanese symbols stamped all over it. He hesitated about opening it.

‘It’s a weapons case.’ Captain Agbaje was looking over Bobrikov’s shoulder. ‘I can read and speak Japanese; it made sense to learn it if I was coming here to work. Open it up.’

The case was empty, foam-padded slots showed it carried two weapons.

‘Oh fuck – these were M9 disposable missiles. They can be carried by one person and are capable of taking out medium armoured tanks.

Suddenly the door burst open and three people entered – two carried pistols and the third, a woman, had a sub-machine gun.

‘Who are you?’ she called. ‘We were contracted for this job.’

Bobrikov stepped forward. * ‘Butt out. This is our job.’ The intruders looked confused for a moment, then one of the men raised his gun. ‘I said BUTT OUT!’ yelled Bobrikov and hefted the baseball bat. He was rewarded by a shot in the guts that knocked him backwards, bleeding profusely.

‘STOP!’ yelled the woman and fired a short burst into the ceiling. ‘You leave now and take your friend. You don’t come back and you don’t talk about this.’

2226 – 060

Bobrikov was taken to the hospital, again there seemed to be no raised eyebrows over the gunshot wound **

At the Fukuryū Maru there was a message and an invitation – on a card.

Captain Chinedu Agbaje, captain of the Macao Champion freighter. You and one guest are cordially invited to a reception at the house of His Excellency Nogu Noku, Chairman of the Planetary Board of Hiroshima.

The reception is at Nogu Yoshikawa in Suzuka; travel has been booked for you on the monotrain leaving Kashima tonight.

Reception 17.00 2229-061. Formal dress.

Captain Agbaje debated and then asked Mary Cook if she would accompany him. She looked surprised but accepted and went to look for something formal to wear (more formal than her normal flight coveralls.) Agbaje didn’t see the look that Peshkova flashed him.

“He’s lost confidence in me because of that outburst” she thought. “Well, I’ll show you, Captain sir.”

Agbaje and Cook boarded the monotrain, it was a standard five-coach design running suspended from an overhead rail.

They settled into their seats and the train pulled out, quickly accelerating to its cruising speed of 480 kph.

‘It’s five hours to Suzuka. Let’s see what’s on the menu.’

They both ordered a bowl of Katsudon noodles and two Red Dragon beers. A white-jacketed steward served the food and drinks. Agbaje tried to engage Cook in conversation.

‘Not much to tell,’ said Cook. ‘I was born in the UK, Birmingham, in the Stacks. I don’t remember my parents; I grew up as a ward of the Kinako Corporation, working on an algae farm in the Mediterranean Valley Rift.’

‘How did you become a space navigator?’

Cook looked down. ‘I was …. Wait …. Did you feel that?’

‘Yes’ Agbaje looked up, as did Cook.

A slight judder had passed through the train; they looked around. No-one else seemed to have noticed but as a spacer your senses are on high alert.

‘Monotrains are maglev, so what caused that?’

‘Wait.’ Cook sat back and closed her eyes for a moment. ‘We are accelerating! Something is not right.’

They made their way to the front of the train, to the power car. The door slid open to show the main power monitoring unit; leaning over it was the steward that had served them. He turned and looked them.

‘Please – return to your seats. Passengers are not allowed in here.’

‘Is there a problem with the train?’

‘No problem. It will reach Suzaka as fast as possible. The train is fully automatic, nothing can go wrong.’

Cook nudged Agbaje and pointed. The pocket of the steward’s jacket was stained with blood. The steward saw the gesture and pulled out a bloodstained knife. Agbaje and Cook tried to overpower him; Cook took a slashing wound to her left arm.

‘Stop! Put down the knife. Hiroshima Security!’ The voice came from the door. The steward snarled a reply in Japanese and lunged for the monitoring unit; a shot rang out and he fell, as he did so he hit a button on a device attached to the monitoring unit. There was a brief flash and a smell of burning, several lights went dark and the train lurched again, then accelerated.

‘Who are you?’ Cook did a double-take. ‘Wait – you’re the woman who was toting the SMG at the house.’

‘No time to explain. Call me Kyoka. I am undercover security. I will explain more later. But the important thing is to get control of this train.’

In the front control compartment the driver/conductor was dead, stabbed though the back of the neck. The controls were set to automatic. Back in the main compartment a lot of the monitoring unit was burnt out.

‘He’s disabled the emergency brakes and the automatic signals. The train can’t stop. Suzaka is a terminus – we are going to hit it at over five hundred kilometres per hour!’ ***

To be continued ….

———————————————–

GM Notes

Okay – why are my crew getting into situations with which they can’t cope? None of them are really fighters.

The Hostile: Solo rules work well and are a good introduction but I’m now going to expand the Game and start using Crew Expendable as well (because I haven’t tried them out yet.)

* Spotlight PC this session

** Hiroshima has a Law Level of 3 so it is a pretty lawless place. I did roll for 3+ to Avoid Legal Encounter. However, what the Crew have yet to discover is that there is no NHS on Hiroshima; hospital stays cost a base rate per day based on the degree of damage –

Basic Attendance              $50 (Triage and diagnosis)

Daily Rate                          $300 (heal 5 pts per day)

*** Homage to ThunderbirdsBrink of Disaster, Perils of Penelope and Runaway

BETWEEN PLANETS 2.1

Previously

‘This place is a death trap waiting to happen.’

‘Don’t shout at me.’ She sounded close to tears. ‘I didn’t mean to be here; it was an accident.’

‘The “Discovery” didn’t crash, the crew just think it did.’

2226 – 059, Hiroshima, 0304 NEZ Japanese Sector

The “Macao Champion” docked at Kashima Highport and the crew and passengers took a shuttle down to the surface. At the entry port they were issued with Yoshiko survival masks.

‘Keep these with you at all times and make sure they are charged. The chlorine content in the atmosphere is up by a fraction of a percent – not enough to present a danger as yet, but it is being monitored. Up in the highlands is still okay.’

Captain Agbaje made a report about the situation on Exile, Dr Taylor, and Elizabeth parted company. They checked into the company rooms at the Fukuryū Maru spaceport hotel, then went out onto the Strip.

‘We’ve got a three day turnround, so make the most of it.’

Hiroshima

One of the most densely-populated worlds in the Japanese Sector of the NEZ. Hiroshima has a chlorine-tainted atmosphere; at higher altitudes it is safe to breathe, down near the coast it is recommended to carry survival masks. The air has a very strong tang of bleach.

Buildings are built with overlapping polymer sealing doors and are at a slight positive pressure when entered.

Masefield stopped at a shop selling souvenirs and trinkets; he admired a pendant made out of the turquoise-green native marble tree and bought it on a whim (‘thirty bucks for that?’ commented Tetsushi.)

Ahead, the others were heading for a bar –

‘This one looks new.’

It was called “The Double Helix” and looked clean. Inside, several people sat singly or in groups at tables; Captain Agbaje went to the bar. The bartender turned and handed him a Memex E-Board.

‘Plug this in at your table and make your order – it will be delivered and your PASS automatically deducted.’

Captain Agbaje looked at the barman – he wore jet black wrap-around shades. The man nodded.

‘Name’s Ryk Storn; ex- Survey. I was blinded by an acid storm on LX307; retired and set up this bar.’

Captain Agbaje turned at the sound of raised voices from his table. Masefield and Peshkova were standing face to face; Masefield was holding something in his hand.

‘That blood was from my buddy and co-pilot!’ Peshkova was shouting. ‘Three tours we served on Tau Ceti piloting drop ships into the combat zones. And how did she die? Shot on a street on Earth by some mad bastard who didn’t like uniforms. She died in my arms.’

‘I’m not going to fight with you,’ said Masefield. ‘I’m sorry, but it was an accident. I’m going for a walk.’

2226 – 059, Hiroshima, Kashima Strip

Masefield was on the edge of the Strip; he turned as Dr Chandradatti joined him.

‘I tried to make it up to her.’ Masefield showed the marble tree pendant.

Dr Chandradatti pursed her lips. ‘You have not been in combat – no, wait, that is not a criticism. Neither have I. But those who have, like Peshkova, form special bonds with their teammates. Peshkova said her buddy died from a random attack against wearers of uniform – Peshkova could see that blood as being a good luck charm that protected her.’

Masefield didn’t answer and Chandra glanced at him. He was looking out to sea, at a rolling fog bank approaching. He sniffed the air. ‘That’s weird. Can you smell that? It smells like new-mown hay.’ *

Suddenly he coughed as something caught his throat. He coughed again.

‘Mask!’ cried Chandra. ‘Get your mask on – now! This fog is deadly; a combination of the atmosphere and the hydrochloric acid in the oceans produces phosgene gas.’ **

Masefield managed to get his mask on, but in yelling the warning Chandra had breathed in some of the gas. She doubled over coughing and her mask came loose. Masefield tried to secure it but found that the fastening was broken. Chandra was choking and gasping for breath; Masefield dragged her to the nearest building. There was a sign painted on the wall, Masefield barely glanced at it as he couldn’t read Japanese anyway.

Inside were two men and a woman, one of the men looked up and growled ‘where have you been – what took you so long?’ He then did a double-take and yelled something in Japanese, the other man, and the woman both pulled guns.

‘Don’t shoot!’ shouted Masefield and pointed at Chandradatti. ‘She got caught in the fog and breathed some of it. She needs help.’

‘No help here,’ said the man. ‘Take her to hospital. You interrupt private meeting. No interrupt again.’

Masefield turned in a hurry, half-carrying Chandradatti. Behind him he heard a voice – ‘they have seen my face’ and a bullet slammed into his upper back. He fell forward into the doors, opening them the deadly phosgene fog swirled in. Dimly he heard choking screams and then he passed out.****

2226 – 060

Masefield and Chandradatti were in the hospital, the doctors had treated the gunshot wound without comment. In the Double-Helix the others discussed plans.

‘Right,’ said Captain Agbaje. ‘We follow this up. No-one shoots and hurts one of my crew.’

Everyone round the table nodded. Cook and Peshkova produced autopistols. ***** Bobrikov went to the back of the bar and came back carrying a baseball bat.

They approached the building warily; the fog had gone but a Coriolis Storm was building towards the north (the Darkside.)

Captain Agbaje pushed the doors open, then cursed as he stumbled over a body just inside. He fell forward and rolled down some steps into a cellar. The smell of bleach was very strong. He stood and found a light switch.

The light revealed another body lying on a table.

‘Wow!’ said Bobrikov. ‘That’s Shigeto Noko, son of Nogu Noko; Chairman of the Colonial Council and de facto ruler of Hiroshima. Shigeto is heir to the position of Chair – it’s pretty well hereditary.’

‘Well, he’s not going to be inheriting anything now.’

To be continued …

———————————————————-

GM Notes

Hiroshima  0304 NEZ B774633 – C           M           Ag, Ni                   G

Locked – Warm

Ross 154 / M3V Red Dwarf

Military Base JADF

> Interesting. According to the Setting book, Hiroshima is a Garden World, for this it would need Atmosphere 5,6,or 8.

> It is also tide-locked, which I’d missed when I set about developing the world. I could ignore this of course but I like to stay with the RAW if I can.

Okay so this disappeared off in a direction I was totally not expecting (and appears to be nothing about shipping cargoes) but … it’s an interesting development so let’s just go with it.

* Phosgene does (apparently) smell like this.

** I used Vacc Suit skill as the check; of course, neither PC has it so the Unskilled DM-2 came into play.

*** Chandra was down to END 1

**** Masefield was also down to END 1 (bullet did 10 damage!)

***** Peskova was a drop ship pilot, so it seemed reasonable to give her Gun Combat 0

BETWEEN PLANETS 1.3

Previously –

‘Leave her,’ cautioned Captain Agbaje. ‘I’ll ask the doctor to talk to her.’

‘The ILS beacon has just gone off-line.’

Peshkova stormed into the lounge and threw a sodden mass of clothing at Masefield ‘Bastard!’ she yelled.

2226 – 030

Peshkova was a very skilled pilot, she brough the 5000 ton ‘Macao Champion’ precisely down onto the landing pad next to a set of low hangar sheds. A flexible docking tube began to snake out from the nearest shed.

‘Looks like they have tried to make some improvements.’

‘Look over there,’ said Bobrikov ‘in that other hangar. That’s a ship’s boat and a modular shuttle. The boat looks worse for wear.’ He zoomed in the screen – the “Nomad” class boat was rusted and corroded, also it looked like it had been stripped. ‘From “Discovery”?’

‘The “Discovery” was a Resource Exploration Vessel that went missing about a year ago,’ reported Cook.’ Owned and operated by Tharsis.’

It was agreed that Elizabeth should stay on the ship for the moment, Dr Chandradatti was more than happy to stay with her. The rest of the crew entered the colony through the docking tube, leaving Becker and Tetsushi (the loadmaster) to finish cleaning out the staterooms.

Inside the colony [WELCOME TO EXILE – JEWEL OF THE JAPANESE MANDATE], they were immediately struck by the strong taint of chemicals in the air and how run-down and shabby the interior looked. They were met at the entrance by a welcoming party of 3 workers. A dark-haired man wearing grey coveralls stepped forward.

‘Sorry about the smell – we had a bit of a chemical leak from a storage tank. I’ll take you to Operations and then we’ll get you settled. ‘Fraid we don’t have much recreation facilities but we have a lounge and a pretty good gym. Anyway, it’s a break from breathing ship air – our hydro plant room is pretty good.’

They followed him down a corridor marked [WEST BLOCK] and into a conference room. * A Chinese woman in her early 50’s entered, followed by a younger man.

‘Hello. I am manager Chen and this is my deputy manager Roberts. What ship are you and who is captain?’

‘CSF , CSF 080416 – Macau Champion, Captain Chinedu Agbaje.’

‘Welcome Captain Agbaje and your crew.’

2226 -031

The crew were quartered in stateroom block 1 in the South Block.

Masefield collared Captain Agbaje after evening meal.

‘Captain – I’m concerned. This place is literally running on a shoestring, it’s got temporary patches and repairs everywhere. We are in a hostile environment; this place is a death trap waiting to happen.’

‘Ok, let’s see what we can do to get a cargo and get off here.’

Cook and Bobrikov were asked to help fix the faulty ILS beacon – they went to Operations and started work. It didn’t take long to find the problem.

‘This is an AE-35 unit. It’s designed for ship use, not ground. Ground units are AG – 40.’ Bobrikov checked the serial number, then looked at Cook. ‘This is off the “Discovery.” WTF?’

‘Captain. We have a cargo for you. Two thousand tons of scrap to be delivered to Paydirt – 0701 – Herschel 5713. There are also eight passengers. We can begin loading once our ground crew has checked over your ship.’

‘Thank you but a check will not be necessary. My engineering crew are fully competent.’

Later – Bobrikov’s stateroom

‘Captain. This place is a real death trap They are cannibalising ships systems to keep things going.’ Bobrikov paused and shook his head. ‘I don’t like to say this but I think we are in real danger here. Somehow they are going to cause an accident and we crash, then they can strip the ship.’

‘They want us to take a large cargo and eight passengers.’

Captain Agbaje opened his comm link. ‘Captain to Macao Champion. Is that you Chandradatti? Listen, seal the locks, and don’t let anyone aboard without my okay.’

‘Captain. You are frightening me. Why should I seal the locks? What is wrong out there?’ **

‘Chandra. There is nothing wrong with the situation. However, the colony manager wants to put a maintenance crew aboard and I’m not allowing it.’

‘Why?’ Chandradatti still sounded nervous.

‘Because we don’t need it – Masefield and Becker are fully competent.’

2226 – 031

‘We are ready to begin loading the cargo.’ Tetsushi the loadmaster clicked the comms. ‘What ground facilities do you have? We have a Reachstacker.’

‘CSF 080416 – the cargo is not here. The crash site is 50 klicks away.’

Tetsushi clicked ‘Wait one,’ then changed to the ship channel.

‘Captain. I really don’t like this. They are expecting us to take the MC to a crash site 50km away, land and load the wreckage with just a Reachstacker! And in a hostile atmosphere!’

Captain Agbaje sat back and thought, then contacted Tetsushi. ‘Who are the passengers?’ His screen lit up green with a list of names.

‘They are all survivors from the crash of the ‘Discovery.’

‘Where are they now?’

‘In the colony medbay.’

2226 – 031

Dr Chandradatti made her way to the medbay in the west block. The colony doctor didn’t seem to be around so she quickly looked into the ward. There were 8 patients in there, all were asleep. She examined the nearest person, frowned, and then moved to the next one. She then quickly went into the doctor’s office and called up a set of computer records

‘What are you doing?’ The voice came from the doorway. ‘I’m Dr Taylor. Why are you looking at those records?’

‘I am Dr Chandradatti and these people are due to leave on my ship. I am making sure they are fit for hypersleep. Tell me, why are you using a lot of asmemnic dichlorate?’

‘They were involved in a crash and have traumatic memories.’

‘All of them? That’s unusual. Also, according to your records, you have a large stockpile of it here. Do you have to treat a lot of trauma?’

Dr Taylor closed the door, then sat with her head in her hands. ‘I know too much. Chen has got me over a barrel and I have to cooperate. Asmemnic dichlorate is used to block traumatic memories true but used correctly it can also create false memories. The “Discovery” didn’t crash, the crew just think it did. That’s what they’ve got planned for you. You need to get away – now. But you must take me with you.’

2226 – 031

The passengers were safely loaded into hypersleep stasis pods, Dr Taylor stayed with them to monitor their condition. The rest of the crew were settling into pre-flight checks when the comms lit up.

‘Macao Champion this is deputy manager Roberts. One of my men must come with you to guide you to the pick-up point.’

‘Affirmative,’ replied Captain Agbaje. ‘Peshkova – punch it!’

The engines whined up to lift-off power and the ‘Macao Champion’ powered away from the landing pad and headed for orbit.

‘Cook. Plot a course and insertion back to Hiroshima.’

End of Issue 1

=================================================

GM Notes

Although the various tables are grouped by the Campaign Type, there is a lot of crossover – expected as the Play Through example in the book shows. Basically, just use what seems to fit at the time.

Also (and this is a major point in any solo Gaming) – you DON’T have to roll for everything randomly. It’s your story and, much like a GM going with the direction their players are suggesting – if it fits your story and sounds like fun, then go for it. Only start rolling again when inspiration is needed. This becomes especially relevant once you’ve established some Storylines.

* I designed the colony straight out of the book, maps and schematics are shown as nodes and lines linking them (tbh, I’ve designed locations, dungeons etc. like this for a long time.)

** Chandradatti is paranoid remember.

Storyline

Exile is a failed colony venture and the sponsor has withdrawn funding. Chen refuses to give in, she had a successful career but due to her age she will not get another posting. She will stoop to any lengths to keep the colony going, but the jerry-rigged repairs are now putting everyone in danger. Now she and her co-conspirators are resorting to wrecking.

Hmm … okay, this started off interesting but didn’t seem to develop anywhere. Anyway, it’s more suited to a team of Corporate Investigators so I might play this out as a side-mission.

BETWEEN PLANETS – 1.2

+++ Hello? Hello? Who’s that? I’m Elizabeth Tadpole, I’m on this big cold ship and I’m very frightened. +++

2226 – 021, outer system Altair

‘What’s a child doing awake on that ship? It could translate at any time!’

‘If it was going to translate into hyperspace it should have done so by now,’ pointed out Peshkova. ‘Something has stopped it.’

Captain Agbaje pressed the comms button – ‘Hello Elizabeth, my name is Captain Agbaje of the Macau Champion. What are you doing on that ship? You are in danger.’

‘Don’t shout at me.’ She sounded close to tears. ‘I didn’t mean to be here; it was an accident.’

‘Is there anyone else there – a grown-up I can speak to?’

‘No, there’s just me.’

‘Captain!’ It was Peshkova. ‘The ship has increased thrust  and changed course.’

‘Confirmed,’ said Cook. ‘I think it’s heading for another insertion point.’

‘How long have we got to get her off?’

Cook shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Hours, maybe minutes. The crew must be buttoned up in coldsleep, that’s why she’s saying the ship is cold – power conservation.’

Peshkova brought the MC down to a successful docking, Bobrikov went into the Commercial Envoy and returned with a frightened young 10-year old girl. Peshkova took the MC to a safe distance and shortly afterwards the Commercial Envoy translated into hyperspace.

Peshkova and Cook watched from the bridge.

‘Funny, films and TV shows have the ship suddenly zooming off and vanishing. The reality is pretty boring.’

2226 -021, Crew Lounge, Macao Champion

‘Okay Elizabeth, what were you doing on that ship? Maybe you don’t understand but you could have been killed. You can’t just hitch a ride on a starship.’

Elizabeth had recovered after her rescue. ‘I’m not a kid, I’m ten years old. I didn’t mean to be on the ship, it was an accident. I was hiding from someone who wants to kill me.’

‘What do you mean?’ said Captain Agbaje with a concerned look. ‘Who’s trying to kill you? And what’s your real name – surely it’s not Tadpole?’

Elizabeth started crying. Gradually, the crew got a lot of the story.

Elizabeth’s surname is Tadzeus so everyone nicknamed her Tadpole. Her Mom is, was, a petrochemical engineer on Exile; her real Dad is on Earth.

Ten days ago, her Mom died in an accident on the surface. She went out alone to inspect an extraction rig 5km from the main base; her suit failed and she died. Elizabeth was judged too young to see the remains that were recovered. Elizabeth doesn’t believe this is right or correct.

‘Exile is a nasty place. You do not go out on the surface alone; even in a tractor you go in threes. We all know this; Mom knew this and would not have gone out without backup. I was not allowed to see her body – was told I was too young. I’m a CK – a Colony Kid. We are trained and used to life on the frontier. It’s not peaches and cream out here.’

Elizabeth paused.

‘I kicked up a fuss and went to see the Council – I’m a colonist and have rights. They said they’d look into it. On the way back to our house someone grabbed me and pulled me into an alleyway. He hissed “Don’t struggle Missy”’ His breath smelt of aniseed. I managed to get away and ran.’

‘Wait. How did you get away from him?’

Elizabeth grinned and pulled a Taser from her pocket.

‘I ran into a warehouse and hid in a box marked RETURNS – MACHINE PARTS. I fell asleep and woke up on the starship.’

‘How did you stop the programmed translation?’

Elizabeth looked confused – ‘There’s an emergency button. I just hit that.’

Peshkova nodded. ‘The data fits’

Later – crew lounge

‘Elizabeth is asleep in a stateroom.’ Dr Chandradatti entered the lounge and sat down. ‘I have checked her over, she seems unhurt by her experiences.’

‘So, do we investigate this issue further?’

Most of the crew agreed, Cook scowled but reluctantly nodded.

‘Navigator – plot minimum burn for Exile.’

‘Minimum burn is 9 days to Exile.’

‘Peshkova – full burn for Exile.’

‘Engineering to Captain. Fuel levels are below 50%. I would remind the captain that we cannot refuel on Exile and there are no gas giants in the system.’ *

2226 – 028

‘ETA at Exile Day 030’ reported Peshkova. **

‘Engineering to Captain. Me and my assistant have come up with an idea. We are carrying 1000 tons of water in the liquid cargo tank. How if we rig up a series of pipes and valves to pump some through the fuel processors? 200 tons should give us enough for 4 Burns, . It’ll take about 4 hours to rig it up without having to EVA.’ ***

‘That water is for the colony. Alright, rig the piping but don’t pump anything without clearance from me.’

2226 – 029

‘Well? What happened?’ Captain Agbaje glared at Masefield and the assistant engineer Becker. Both of them looked exhausted and were dripping wet.

‘We set it all up ok, everything was good to go on your command.’

‘So how did the staterooms get flooded?’

Becker glanced at Masefield, then she stepped forward. ‘A pressure valve burst; we didn’t have a lot of piping so we routed it through the air con ducts to the fuel processors. Mase tried to get some baffles up in place and I repaired the leak. Unfortunately, the water got through the ducts before we could stop it.’

Peshkova stormed into the lounge and threw a sodden mass of clothing at Masefield.

‘Ruined!’ she yelled. ‘Fucking well ruined. Do you know what this meant to me? Bastard’

Masefield stared at Peshkova; this was unlike her, then looked at the clothes. It was a USMC flight suit with several holes and dark stains. Pinned to it was a medal ribbon – Purple Heart with two stars. ****

‘You were in the Marines?’

‘Drop ship pilot at Tau Ceti, three tours. That was my lucky suit; I never washed the blood off it. But you decided to do it for me. Fuck off and leave me alone.’ She stormed out of the lounge.

‘Leave her,’ cautioned Captain Agbaje. ‘I’ll ask the doctor to talk to her.’

2226 – 030

Peshkova was back at her pilot’s station, seemingly calmed down following her outburst at Masefield the previous day. *****

‘Engineering to Captain’ – we processed enough water for 9 Burns’

The ship entered orbit and Peshkova initiated a deobit burn for the starport at the colony.

‘ILS beacon loud and clear,’ she reported. Her eyes flicked round the multiple readouts surrounding her station. ‘In the pipe, five by five. Preparing to switch to manual approach in two minutes.’

‘Why manual approach and landing?’ asked Dr Chandradatti who was occupying one of the jump seats.

‘Because this is only a lousy spot of bedrock. The beacon tells me where it is, not how to land on it.’ Peshkova checked some readouts. ‘Switching to manual in three … two … one. AG off, lifters to optimum. Landing struts extended.’

Suddenly she swore in Russian as an alarm sounded.

‘The ILS beacon has just gone off-line.’

To be continued

————————————————————————–

GM Notes

I meant to do this originally to demonstrate how the SOLO system works.

One thing it did demonstrate is the rate that fuel is used – there is not a lot to spare.

* Starships carry 24 Burns of fuel.

Take off from Hiroshima to orbit = 2 Burns

Orbit to hyperspace point = 4 Burns

Catching up with ‘Commercial Envoy’ = 4 Burns

Altair outer system to Exile = 4 Burns + 1 Burn to enter orbit

Total = 15 Burns used (15/24)

If they land on Exile (a Class E port will not have a Highport) then that will be another 4 Burns (2 to land, 2 to take off), plus 4 Burns out to the HSP and 4 Burns at the destination.

In other words, they don’t have enough fuel. They will have to use the 30-ton Ship’s Boat to land on Exile and plan to refuel at a major spaceport.

** Time for a Crisis Roll – Roll d6, on a ‘1’ the worst thing happens. In this case it might be a mid-course correction (which might use another Burn if Peshkova blows the piloting roll.) Roll ‘2’ – sigh of relief.

*** But they still have a fuel shortage.

Scene Resolution. Both Masefield and his assistant are engineers so I’ll give them a DM +2. They are inside the ship, working with water, so I’ll rate this a Foolproof (6+) and Safe.

Roll 3 + 2 = 5! They failed to rig it up. Did something go wrong? Roll 5! Oh hell, what did go wrong?

I’ve got an idea but let’s make some rolls on the Inspiration Tables and the Consequence Table (at +2 because it was Safe.)

Consequence – Job took 4 times longer than expected.

Inspiration – Bypass/ Resist

My idea – I think they had a massive water leak which flooded part of the lower deck including some of the crew staterooms. They did manage to save and process 40% of the water , 400 tons = 9 Burns (6/24)

**** To clarify, this means she was wounded on three separate occasions in the line of duty.

***** Chandradatti rolled 9 + 1 on Liaison = Effect +2