Drop Point Hotel Zebra
We continue the Traveller adventure Islands in the Rift, and are rapidly approaching the end of it. There’s a few bits I’ve skipped over which the players weren’t so interested in (as well as greatly fleshed out some parts which they were), but there isn’t that much more to go. I manage to drop in a definite hook for the next adventure during this session, which gives a bit of a detour, but hopefully once they get to Zuflucht and have dropped off the The Perfect Stranger, they’ll have a plan about what to do next.
The crew are landed at Besancon, a small settlement of only a few thousand people, though it’s important enough that there are several small warships here from multiple nations looking to keep an eye on each other. Even if the Neubayern ships know about the Perfect Stranger, then there’s not much they want to do with everyone else watching. The fleets also greatly reduce the chance of there being any pirates here.
The plan is to head directly to Herzenslust, but after spending several weeks cooped up in their ship, they spend some time stretching their legs and seeking entertainment. With most of the people here working for the starport, or in industries around it, so the entertainment is mostly geared towards singles, contractors and civilian and military traders. Meaning sex, alcohol and other drugs are common.
With the crew spending time here, there is a chance to pick on on a few rumours, some true, some false. As it turns out, this doesn’t appear to be a great place for accurate rumours – or maybe Shinzaro and Khadashi were talking to the wrong type of people.
- A wreck of the Ancients has been found floating in the space between St Genevieve and Achille. Secret forces are looking for it, in order to plunder it for technology.
- “Diplomatic consultants” from the Zhodani Consulate help President Phillip of Esperanza to keep his huge population under control.
- The people of Sturgeon’s law are working on weaponising the strange moss that covers most of the planet.
- There are Q-ships from several navies plying the shipping lines, waiting for the moment to make their true natures known and attack enemy vessels.
- There is a crashed space ship near the south pole. Several thousand years old, being excavated. Dates back to the 2nd Imperium. There is a team there working on excavating it from the ice.
- Amondiage has started a purge of Neubayern spies, and there have been shoot outs between Amondiage agents and Neubayern agents in which the latter were killed or driven off world.
- There are pirate ships preying on vessels around Sturgeon’s Law, Topas and Berlichingen. They have been taking advantage of the unrest.
- The exploration vessel Deepnight Endeavour has gone missing recently. It was out exploring the Anundarluu, but never reported back.
- There are skill-jacking rings operating Spinward of the Islands, who sometimes kidnap people and force them to work as slaves on dangerous projects.
In terms of trade, Madeleine is able to find a 40t lot of fertiliser bound for Herzenslust, which will net them 40KCr on delivery.
On arrival at Herzenslust they are directed down towards a secondary spaceport some distance from the main city (and starport) of Birmingham. They are informed that this is because only New Colchis registered vessels are permitted at the main port.
On arrival, they are slightly delayed whilst the kids using the landing field for ball games clear out the way, and Shinzaro brought the Perfect Stranger down for a perfect landing. There seem to be just pre-industrial cottages here, with only limited facilities for ships.
Fortunately Madeleine did some reading up on the world before hand, and ensured that they had suitable filter masks to wear whilst on the planet. The atmosphere is dense, and tainted with chlorine. It actually smells of rotten seaweed, a scent given off by the vegetation, but after a couple of weeks the chlorine has destroyed any ability to notice the smell.
I think I’m starting to use Madeleine to handle things that the PCs haven’t thought of, or which are possibly too much detail to go into. She’s simply competent at looking after them and ensuring that they don’t forget anything important.
They spend the first day gathering some rumours at the local pub whilst waiting for their cargo to clear (which it does, a straightforward 40,000 credits), getting into bar fights (nothing serious) and Zanobia finding and talking to the local healer (they don’t have a hospital out here). Oh, and they picked up on some local rumours:
- There is a cult out in the farms, which practices human sacrifice to some dark god named the Birdman, an enemy of the Great Maker.
The next day Khadashi and Shinzaro head into the city (by steam train!) to check out the coordinates that were recorded in the ship’s log – it turns out to be a old starship wrecking yard (next to a nuclear power station), filled with a couple of dozen starship wrecks.
In case they asked, I did come up with a list, and even worked out which ones might be salvageable, but the PCs focused on their target – something called Drop Point Hotel Zebra. Neither Shinzaro nor Khadashi had any idea what a ‘zebra’ was, but fortunately Zanobia, being a well educated Solomani, had explained the term to them. So when they came across the partially disassembled hull of a Subsidised Merchant (very similar to their own Perfect Stranger) painted in a black and white dazzle camouflage pattern, they paid attention. It was called the “Starstruck Hotel”.
A search of the ship found them some spare parts, as well as hard drives (and 20,000 in credits) stashed away in the same location that the credit stash had been located in the Perfect Stranger.
A bit of failed haggling with the owners of the junk yard to buy the parts, and they were able to head off back towards the ship. On the way, they did notice a lot of advertising, and another rumour:
- There is a lot of advertising based around Aslan Fighting Cats – it’s being used to launch a new soft drink. Apparently Aslan cat fighting has been a craze in New Colchis for the last year.
What they mostly failed to do was notice that they were being tailed. They spotted him as the train pulled away from the station – a young kid who they remembered seeing at the Wreck Yard. Someone seemed to be interested in them – but they never got a chance to find out who or why.
The written adventure did have a less subtle encounter at this point, but it didn’t quite seem to fit, so I replaced it with something more subtle with an opportunity to find out some information (depending on how it played out). But they failed most of their checks, and now they thought they had what they needed, they were more interested in getting off planet before anything went wrong. To do this quickly, they decide to buy fuel (they’ve also been informed that the world doesn’t allow ships to refuel from the oceans, for ecological reasons) which wipes out the 40K profit they made on their cargo run.
Get off planet they did, and managed to confirm that the data drives did fit nicely into the computer rack of the Perfect Stranger. However, the content was encrypted by strong military codes, well beyond their ability to crack (and probably uncrackable without the right keys).
So the next decision for them was the best route to get to Zuflucht, which is where they were asked to take the ship (and data) to. They could go through Besancon, Elysee and through Serendip Belt, or straight to Gloire or Serendip.
Gloire is more direct, requiring a 5 jumps through empty space, but Serendip Belt has a class A starport, and a military base, so they determine that it would probably be a safer destination. I ask them for exactly what route they’re taking through empty space, and get them to chose one that makes the most sense for the next bit.
305-1105: Signal GK
Whilst sitting in empty space at location Reft/1325, Shinzaro picks up a weak signal on the ships radio receiver.
Signal GK. This is the shuttle Tydirium of the Deepnight Endeavour. We have misjumped and are seeking assistance. Most systems have failed and power is almost gone. We require emergency medical aid. Please respond. Signal GK…
Signal GK is a Vilani distress call. It doesn’t seem to be an official distress signal (with all the right header information etc that you’d get if it was sent from a ship’s primary distress beacon), but seems to have been jury-rigged from a ship’s transmitter. It also has a timestamp of 6 months ago, which suggests that whatever is sending it either needs to reset their clock, or is about 6 might months away.
This is of course a hook into the Deepnight Endeavour adventure which has been hinted at a couple of times in the rumours, and which the players have shown interest in. Trying to figure out how it might be located without it being capable of getting back to civilisation by itself was tricky, but I think I’ve come up with an astronavigation scenario which works.
The route they’re taking is only jump-4, so they have a spare parsec of fuel to be able to make a 6 light-month detour since they’re staying in the same hex. If they hadn’t rolled so well on their Electronics then they still would have picked up the signal, but only after going through recordings after jumping away, which wouldn’t have given them the opportunity to follow up on the lead immediately.
So I have until next week to figure out the details of what it is that they find out in the middle of deep space, and double check my astronavigation notes.