Journeys in Space Chapter 2 A new opportunity


A new opportunity

As the ‘Lazy Susan’ was damaged in the accident, they are told that there employ with Lady Susan has been put on hold for the time being. It will be a couple of months or so before the ship it will be ready again.  So! managing to get away from the press the group start to talk about options over lunch. However while they are wondering what to do next Dag is approached by Lt. Colonel Meyr [rtd] of the SWC marines, a contact from customs, who joins you for lunch. “Good job you all did there that would have been a lot worse if you hadn’t stepped in.” he says, “ I have a job for you if you are interested?”

“Ah Dag the latest data pulse, from the mail ship, has just given me the following information and I thought you and your group would be able to help. A detached duty Imperial scout ship has been lost on Walston, I would like you to recover it for the SWC as it could have useful information and tech [ID codes; sensor wave lengths; etc]. We have chosen you because you have no direct link to the SWC intelligence agencies and you have shown yourselves capable in the current difficult situation.  We are arranging for you to travel on the ‘Autumn Gold’ an imperial Clipper under Captain Corelli the ship will arrive in two days. He is on a long haul from imperial territory through Biter to Caladbog and Enos before he reaches the Imperial base at Flammarion. From there he will go to 567-908 and Walston in neutral territory and onwards. This is one of a few ships who make this round trip every month or so.

We know that the Imperial scout’s service has sent a group to recover and repair the ship and bring it back to Falmmarion. We want you to use the equipment they are bringing and take control of the ship and fly it back to Enos, via Bowmen, were we will take it from you.  Your passage has been paid for and I will give you 2kcr for expenses each, on completion you will be paid 15kcr. Also we have created a set of papers showing you have legal claim to the ship as its creditors.  As Walston is a neutral system under Imperial protection leaving them with a good view of the Sword Worlds and a bad one of the Imperium is important, any questions?”

After a few questions and raising the expenses to 7k each they agree to this as long as they also get 5% of the hull value of the ship when they bring it back and get paid the 15k each if they only bring back hardware and software from the ship. They decide that Nerdus and Urgen will act as the creditors while Shan and Dag travel as a trade delegation. For the next two days while awaiting the Autumn Gold to arrive they set to using there expenses to buy all the things they think they might need. Smart suites made of ballistic cloth, just in case. New computers, software, tools, survival stuff and other nick knacks. In all the four of them spend over 50kcr spending all of there advance and plenty from the 50k they got from Ebb.

On 24-1504 you board the ‘Autumn Gold’ you have a cabin each and space for your extensive gear. The ship leaves the area of Biter accelerating at 2 g’s, although due to the ships own gravity control you only feel the normal 1g. In a few hours the lights dim and the speaker announces that “we are about to jump. Please take up jump positions”. The light then dim more and flicker as the ship takes all the power it can get into the jump engines and everything shifts as the ships moves into jump space. The lights come back on and the captain announces that “we are now in jump space in one week’s time we will leave jump in empty space and then jump again to Caladbolg a further week away. Each jump will take us 2 parsecs at a time and the time in-between you must use as you see fit, but crew only areas are of limits”. Dag suffers from jump sickness for 36 hours; he never did like the feeling of a jump. However one of the stewards the lovely Charlotte does spend time looking after him, the rest of the people on board is as follows. 3 noble families, Mr & Mrs Gottenburg + 4 young; Mr & Ms DeGual + 2 children; Mrs Rivers +5 school children; 2 merchants;        Miss Hunnam a general goods supplier and in her mid 40’s and quite a looker. Mr Blesus, looking for new textiles. Three imperial military changing base, Lt Pasder a smart young female who is just a little to gruff.  Captain O Brain, a male officer transferring to Caladblog and Petty Off Jane Dean. Then there is the Crew of 12; Captain DiCaprio, Exe off Miriam Shor, Wayne & Zane  the two pilot/navs, Rachel, Joe & Hans the three engineers, Corky and Vera th two small craft crew, Dr Radclif the medic and finely James and Charlotte the two stewards/gunners.  The Autumn Gold has a extra passenger module rather than the heavy bay weapon some carry as well as cargo space of over 1000dt.

Urgen decides to study maritime law as pertaining to space ships while travelling, while Nerdus looks up the specs of scout ships to familiarise himself with them. Nerdus also buys the teaching software to learn robotics; this will take him around 14 weeks of study. Shan decides to learn more on medicine and buys a self learning program to improve his medic skill, this will take him around 30 weeks.

37-1504 the ship reaches the Caladbolg system which is under imperial control.  You arrive in this system after two jumps and 4 weeks, as you arrive, the ships alarm sounds and you are informed that if you wish to be ready for local gravity you will need to set your cabin controls to 0.25g. You will not be allowed to leave the starport and all firearms are not allowed in the port.  As the ship has to land to refuel you will only be here for a day you are limited to the star port and if you wish a change from the ship can stay in its hotels. However over than a quick stretching of legs the group decides to stay on board ship. Dag manages to avoid being sick for long after both jump events this time. 45-1504 you arrive in the Enos system. You arrive in this system after one jump of 1 week and stay in system only long enough to recharge the jump drive before jumping to Flammarion. The ship does not move to approach the planet, this double jump does not cause Dag to suffer for more than an hour or so, maybe hes getting used to this effect.

52 – 1504 you arrive in the Flammarion system an Imperial base, as you come out of jump in the Flammarion system the ship alarm goes off and you are informed that although local planet is 0.7g we are only docking at the high port, a large orbital space station, were all facilities are in 1g domes, the “‘Autumn Gold’ will stay here for two days before heading onwards please make sure you are back on time. You are allowed side arms here but please note this is an imperial naval base and therefore imperial law is in force, expect to meet off duty military. If you intend to travel onwards to the planet you might want to set your cabin gravity at 0.7g as the shuttles will also be set at that. Have a good stay.” As you and the others leave the ship you are all approached by Mr Camden who asks if any of you are travelling to Waltson?  When Urgen says yes he approaches and says, that he would like you to capture a local fish, ‘the green nose Deep Water Brakerr’  and bring it back to him as he has been asked to get one for a client. I am a pet shop owner and one has been requested, I will pay you 2000cr if you can bring two back alive. Urgen says he will see what he can do.

For the next day and a half you look around the space port, chat to people etc. Dag buys some new clothes which are of a different style than he has seen in the Sword worlds and then gets involved in a conversation with an employee of Border-line LIC. From this conversation he finds out more about the scout ship, its name is High & Dry and the crew had abandoned it when it had broken down. They have been arrested on charges of fraud, for skimping on maintenance and other charges. They fled the planet of Waltson with all the expensive small things they could carry but got picked up here.

As you prepare to re-board after two days Urgen is approached by Mr A Marr, an imperial merchant dealing in general goods and personal delivery, who asks “are you travelling to Waltson? I need someone to find a lost cargo box which was dropped off at Waltson instead of the next stop. It’s addressed to a Mrs H Smith code HS-56412-10-54.  If you can find it and have it on shipped to Squallia, which will cost 1000cr, I will pay you 5000cr. The box is 2mx2mx3.5m tall and weighs appox 1ton.” After a short conversation Urgen takes the 5k and gives Mr Marr a receipt for it and says he will see what he can do.

54-1504 leave Flammarion high port and drive at 2 g’s to the jump point from were you enter jump space and head towards the 567-908 system. Poor Dag is sick again as usual. Roughly 168 hours out of Flammarion, on date 60-1504, Autumn Gold makes a Jump emergence at 11 9 diameters out from the planet designated 567-908. Data on the world is available on any of the ship’s consoles, and there is not very much to tell. The world is dry, has a thin atmosphere, and is officially uninhabited. Census data takes note only of permanent residents, and 567-908 has none. Autumn Gold is only stopping over for a day at 567-908. Once the cargo is delivered and refuelling is completed the ship will be moving on as soon as possible. Other than a chance to get out of the ship for a while, there is really no reason to go groundside at 567-908. as soon as the loading and unloading is done Autumn Gold leaves the planet and drives for the jump point, jumps and heads for Walston.

67-1504 arrive at the Walston system, as you come out of jump in the Walston system the alarm goes off and you are informed that local gravity is 0.5g and if you are getting off here you need to set your cabin controls to reflect this so that you can start to acclimatise. We will reach the limited spaceport in around 4 hours were the ship will stay for only 1 day. As the planet has a high law level all weapons except small blades must be registered at the port and left locked up there.

Walston orbits an M2 primary which is named Albin’s Star for the captain of the first exploration ship into the system from the Imperium. The system contains two small gas giants named Insive and Greenish (the latter for its color, apparently) plus five rocky bodies in fairly standard orbits. There are no planetoid belts as such, but the system does have the usual comets and planetoid collections at the Trojan points of the gas giants. Walston itself lies on the outer fringe of the Life Zone, occupying the innermost orbit of Albin’s Star. In order out from the star, the system contains:

ORBIT NAME                       TYPE

0          Walston         Rocky, Habitable

1          Roberts          Large Rockball

2          (Empty Orbit)

3          Greenish       Small Gas Giant

4          (Empty Orbit)

5          Victir               Iceball

6          Temine                       Iceball

7          (Empty Orbit)

8          Scales                        Iceball

9          Insive                         Small Gas Giant

Once in range they are shuttled down to the starport along with some cargo. Disembarking they notice that there are no other ships at Walston Starport and although there are a couple of roofed berthing pits that might contain a vessel, a quick look suffices to assure the characters that there is no vessel present. To enter the town, it is necessary to pass through customs which they head towards seeing no one around who is going to help them. Nerdus and Urgen pick up there bags and tool box and enter the customs building with Shan and Dag following behind. Nerdus and Urgen state there business as creditors come to claim there goods, hand in there weapons and Urgen asks about the missing crate. Finds that a crate with a similar code to HS-56412-10-54 in that there is one to Mrs Smith with the code HS-55412-10-54. it looks like someone has missed entered the code. Asking about transport to get them to the train station, which is the way to get to the capital where they can ask about the scout ship, according to the vargr clerk, they are told that a pickup will come and get them after the driver has finished fishing. As they have some time to wait Urgen takes Nerdus to find the crate in the warehouse and arrange to ship it on as they leave the office Shan and Dag enter it.

As Dag and Shan enter the customs office and start to register there guns, the Vargr clerk says “what about your arm blade sir!” to Shan.” I can’t remove it” says Shan “its part of me however maybe I can disable it if you have some tools!” “That will be up to someone else” he says back “I will get a security guard to take you to the capital by train where they can decide what to do. After a short while a security guard carrying a rifle comes and escorts the pair to the railway station. Meanwhile Urgen has reached the warehouse enters and after realising there is no one there starts to look for the missing crate.  While moving things around Urgen knocks over a smaller crate which Nerdus dodges, but it smashes when it hits the floor bouncing off the ‘in case of fire’ box, on the way, and sets off the sprinkler system. Nerdus heads outside to wait for the authorities while Urgen try’s to cover up what he has done. However he is still doing so when he is caught doing it by the fire response unit. He try’s to explain but the vargr decide that the officials in the capital can sort out the situation and they are marched off to the train station to await the next train.

Once the train was ready it pulled out and slowly steamed up the line, the slightly bone shaking track looks old and not well looked after and the two carriages look older than the steam engine. The engine is an advanced design using low weight high strength metals which on a good track would allow it to really move.  However in the situation it is in now, with to few workers, it is a wonder it works at all. The train moves slowly through the countryside, the four notice few signs of wildlife and only a few farms with animals at all. Talking with there escorts they find out that the “green nose Deep Water Brakerr’ is a deep water large, human sized, fish which is dangerous. Urgen finds out that he will have to talk a fishing sub owner in to taking him out to deep water to get one. They also find out that flier masks and warm clothing is needed when outside due to the thin tainted atmosphere.

However, despite the somewhat primitive transport, the journey does not take very long and soon Central Station comes into sight. It is located on the edge of the capital, a town that looks remarkably like the one the heroes just left in many ways, though it is smaller. There is no starport, but there is a large lake with islands to the north. This is Central Lake, named because it lies more or less in the centre of the island. Central is the rail hub for the island, with a line out to each of the larger towns. The town actually has a reasonable service industry as anyone travelling from one settlement to another by train will almost certainly have to stop over in Central as there is only one train per day to each destination. There are also a couple of government-owned factories, using computer control patterns to make most low level tech everyday stuff this is then customised by the locals with great skill so that no two things look alike, and the dictator’s palace, which serves as a governmental centre. The palace is rather grandly named. Like other buildings on Walston it is largely underground, with just the top floor above the surface. In fact the ‘palace’ is in four parts. Two are semi-separate accommodation wings for the employees of the government, the security force and the personnel that support them. Between these lies the governmental building where the world’s tiny bureaucracy work and accessed through it is the home of the dictator and his immediate family. The entire ‘palace’ contains about 75 people all told. About the same number work in the factories and the railroad, all of which are owned by the dictator or his close family. The remainder of the settlement’s population either work in service industries or small businesses in town. There are a few farms close to the town as well, plus a small lakeside dock where a handful of fishing boats are moored. The palace is not really segregated from the rest of the town, except by a wider than usual open space between it and the nearest building complex. There is an obvious entrance facing the town, which is the direction almost anyone coming to the palace will approach from. There are no guards outside and during office hours the outer doors are left open. The entryway leads to a reception area decorated in the locals’ idea of a tasteful and businesslike manner. Pastel blue and light to mid gray seem to be the colours of choice.

The travellers have to wait around for a few minutes, but eventually they will be spotted by an overworked clerk who recognises them as ‘not from around here’ and tries to put together a suitable reception. The travellers are offered comfortable seats in a side room, with coffee or wine to drink and a plate of pretty good biscuits – this is about the limit of hospitality that can be offered off the cuff around

here. Within a few minutes a government official – the Minister for Offworld Affairs, Public Relations and Fisheries, as it happens – enters the room and apologises for the delay. The Minister, whose name is Alan Greener listens to the guards story and then asks the four for there version of what has happened so far.  After listening to Dag and Shan he decides that Shan can keep use of his sword in the arm as he is guarding Dag and that they are free to go about there business he will also make sure that the crate is on shipped.  He then sorts out the trouble Urgen and Nerdus have got them selves into. Minister Greener decides that it was an accident and tells Urgen to be more careful in future. They then ask Minister Greener about the scout ship and he explains the situation regarding the Courier. Its crew were, frankly, a bunch of troublemakers, but for lack of anyone better the government chartered their vessel for a fairly simple job. They somehow managed to botch the task and disable their ship into the bargain. They then departed in the direction of the starport aboard an air-raft before anyone knew what was happening. They took a ship out of the system a couple of days later and have not been heard from again. Now, the travellers’ documentation seems to be in order, and with no way to verify it 100% Greener is willing to accept it at face value. He will tell Urgen and Nurdus where the ship is and help them get access to it… if they agree to complete the mission the original crew were supposed to have carried out. Greener can offer a flat fee of Cr3000 in cash – a case full of Imperial Credits is it happens – for the job, but it is important and he is not willing to cooperate unless the characters finish the job. The task is not very complex. Greener needs the characters to use the Scout’s planetary survey equipment and a bunch of seismic charges (which are aboard the ship, presumably, since they were given to the previous crew) to carry out a geological/seismic/tectonic survey of a region not far from the capital. Greener knows that he cannot stop the characters from fixing up the ship and making off without holding up their end of the bargain, but he thinks he is offering a fair trade; help in getting the ship and a little hard cash in return for a job that’s important to Walston but will take only 2-3 days to complete for a suitably equipped ship. He will not even discuss the ship’s location until and unless the characters agree to his proposal. If the travellers are honourable people they will surely be willing to keep their end of the bargain. As the Urgen and Nerdus agree, Greener outlines the problem. There is a volcano on Settlement Island, called Mount Salbarii. It was thought extinct for millennia but has recently rumbled a bit and caused occasional tremors. A geologist who was passing through a year back took a look and concluded that it was 99% or more certain that this was just ‘twitch’ on the part of the mountain, i.e. that there was no danger. However, Greener wants a more detailed survey and a map of the interior of the mountain. Originally he intended to send this off for analysis at one of the high-pop-world universities but he recently became aware that a Scout/Courier’s survey equipment could provide all the data he needs, such as the chance of an eruption within, say, the next decade. So, he hired Highndry to carry out the survey and something went wrong. Now that the travellers are here the job can be finished just as soon as they get to the ship and reactivate it. The only problem really, and it’s not a major one or anything, is the location of the ship, which is, of course, parked in the crater of a possibly active volcano.

Nerdus and Urgen having agreed and now knowing were to look for the ship get minister Greener to let them have access to there weapons to be able to protect the ship once they have it. So with all current troubles sorted and with some idea of were the space ship is they head for the hotel. When Nerdus and Urgen get to the hotel they met up with Shan and Dag and pertaining they do not know each other get talking and agree to help each other. This is of course for show as they had planed this out, so that the locals would not know that they were a group working together from the beginning. Urgen decides he would like to have a personalised sniper rifle so orders one. It will take two weeks and 1kcr before its ready, a couple of days to reprogram the industrial replicator and produce the parts then another week and a bit to produce the hand made furniture and assemble it. Next morning, 68-1504 they take the train back to the starport to pick up there weapons and then settle into different hotels. Shan and Dag stay at the Star hotel while Nurdus and Urgen sign in to the Merchant Inn. Shan and Dag are asked to join three off-worlders for lunch, they turn out to be Stumpman, Grange and Herman. Over lunch Dag and Nurdus get them drinking and find out that they are here for the ‘Border-line LIC’ to repair and recover a ship, however they can not find it and no one will tell them where it is, so they are just looking around and hoping someone will tell them were it is. They also notice that Herman spends a lot of time stroking his advanced laser carbine as though he was in love with it.

Nerdus and Urgen go and join Dag and Shan for the afternoon and discuss how they are going to get the repair hardware and software from the other group. Eventually they decide to use there abilities at gambling to target Herman and co and by getting them in debt get hold of the equipment. So that evening the four of them meet up with Grange and co and Nurdus, Shan and there three new friends play poker while Dag watches for there tells while Nurdeus plans to plant false tells of his own. The game is friendly and lasts for a couple of hours, during which Dag finds out the tells, of Herman, Grange and Stumpman, while Nurdus finds the others to slow to notice his planted tells.  With the game over they arrange another one for the next evening, Herman is eager as he won most this time round. Next day -69-1504- the foursome spends some time preparing for the evening game. When they met up with Stumpman and his cohorts for the game, they seem quite angry and fed up with not being able to find the ship. They then start there game of poker with a pot of 500cr, over the next five hours each of them win and lose but by the end Nurdus is the one who is in pocket. Herman is the big loser owning 5k which he doesn’t have. So Urgen negotiates a trade of the equipment for the debts which eventually Stumpman agrees to this with a little annoyance.  Grange goes over to the starport and gets the gear and hands it over to Nurdus, and they all head off to there rooms for the night.

Morning of the 70th day of 1504th year, waking in there rooms in Star City the heroes have breakfast and talk about the risk of Stumpman and co trying to retrieve the ship from them. After breakfast, they go and find out information on Barvinn and mount Salbarii, they find out that Barvinn is a small hamlet at the foot of the volcano. The volcano is around 1500m high and the nearest town is Salbarii which is around 20k north.  Urgen gets his rifle order sent to Salbarii for finishing and asks for ammo to be included. The group then spends the rest of the day studying.

Next day the four take the train south to Barvinn, it takes around a couple of hours to get there on the rickety route. Once there they hire a local to drive them around the mountain base so that they can have a look at it. They then spent the night in, the Varger drivers Adam, spare room. Next day they headed back to Salbarii town and approach the leader Jane-Hutchins, a human, to ask about equipment for climbing the volcano. They need pitons made as well as air sets, from the divers, a 2 man tent and some head mounted torches.  These cost 1000cr and will be available in two days, they then find a home to stay at for the next couple of days. Two day later the 74th of the year, they head back to Barvinn and arrive midmorning, they spend the rest of the day resting and packing equipment.

Next morning leaving all unneeded equipment behind they set of to climb the volcano; they get Adam to drive them as far as he can around 500m. then its all out and walk, the early part of the climb is easy just takes time to find way around and up. After one hard climb which Dag does to help them avoid a long detour they find some bones of two humans who must have died here 50 years ago. Moving on Shan and Urgen start to suffer from altitude sickness and around 5pm they decide to camp for the night on a flat area. Shan and Urgen make use of the pressurised tent which helps them overcome the sickness. Next day up early they push on, with only around 400m to go they expect to get there by nightfall. Again Shan and Urgen suffer from the thin air followed after lunch by Dag. Nurdus being used to thin air guides them and saves them all when they fall trying to get round a bad block. Eventuality they reach the top and clamber over the lip and see the view from the crater lip looking outwards is most impressive. South and west are coastal plains falling away to the open ocean. North and east, if anyone travels around the crater rim, the interior of Settlement Island can be seen. The interior of the crater is a good 1-2km across, with an outer zone sloping steeply down a good 200m (to a height of about 1250-1300m above sea level). There is a fair amount of vegetation in the crater including a scrubby bush-forest, and a small lake in a centre. The lake has an island, and on that island is parked the familiar arrowhead shape of a Scout/Courier. It looks to be intact, though it is surrounded by trash. Descending into the crater is fairly hard work but not unduly hazardous unless a character is suffering severe altitude sickness and cannot keep his balance. However, it will take time to climb down and even longer to get back up if the ship turns out not to be flyable.

The group climb down 200m to the waters edge as the light is dying and quickly camp at around 8pm, as they start to fall asleep they hear a howling sound and wonder what might lie out there on the island or in the water.

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