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Aqua Pura

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue.

The heroes must recover a stolen shipment of water purification plant parts from rebels on a desert world.
Any desert world with an E starport.

Players’ Information

The planet is a sun-blasted expanse of sand and rock with a surface punctuated by a few scattered lakes—the only open water source. The population clusters around these lakes, each settlement built around a central water purification and reclamation plant. The water is nominally government property, rights to it are granted to the citizens based on a complex formula involving need and seniority. Unfortunately, such a system is open to corruption, with more water rights granted to those with the most money and influence. This has been the case lately. Several local business interests were caught bribing government officials for greater water rights while restricting access for those of lesser means.

In response, a protest movement against the practice arose, which escalated into armed conflict after several government crackdowns. The insurgents’ efforts to sweep the crooked officials from power so far have been in vain, although they have managed to tie up men and material. Meanwhile, Imperial authorities have avoided interfering as no rules of war have been violated. They are, however, monitoring the situation and are prepared to declare the world an Amber Zone.

Recently, a battle near a water works resulted in substantial damage. Engineers onsite have been able so far to stabilize it, but nevertheless expect it to fail soon. The unprocessed water is dangerous to drink, thus making the plant critical to the settlement’s survival. The proper parts were unavailable locally, so an emergency order was put in to an offworld supplier. The PCs got the cargo by luck of the draw.

The group has just offloaded the consignment when they are attacked by insurgents. The opponents number 40, divided into two groups: a force of 30 that keeps the PCs pinned down from cover while the rest seize the cargo and make for the hinterlands in battered trucks.

The town leaders are livid once they hear of the theft. While they do not blame the PCs directly, they hold Imperial authorities responsible (the theft happened on starport—and thus Imperial—property) and demand something be done to recover the equipment. The starport manager in turn tasks the heroes with the job. Officially, he makes it an Imperial directive; unofficially, he offers Cr10,000—all the port can spare in its budget—as an incentive.

Referee’s Information

The cargo consignment consists of 10 tons of mechanical parts and equipment worth Cr770,000. The authorities have spent a large portion of their budget on the cargo, so simply buying more is not an option. In any case, it would take at least two weeks to arrive; the current facility will fail long before that.

The raiders intend to hold the machinery ransom to extort concessions from the settlement’s leadership. They are holed up in a redoubt in badlands 10km from the starport. Government troops are busy fighting insurgents elsewhere and cannot respond. Worse, the hijackers are entrenched and prepared for an attack. They are armed with rifles and small arms, supplemented by a few stolen military weapons; and otherwise equipped to the planetary tech level. They are not professional soldiers, however; just citizens with a grudge.

The adventurers should remember that the planet is a desert. Not using a vehicle of some sort to reach the badlands means a long walk through soft sand in 40C temperatures. In addition, they will each take 2D hits from exposure, applied first to their END and doubtless have to deal with any animal encounters the referee sees fit to impose.

The insurgents’ reaction to the heroes depends on how they are approached. If the PCs want to negotiate, they will be accepted as a neutral third party (after disarming them, of course) and allowed to bargain for the parts. The PCs also have the option of using stealth and guile to steal the consignment back. The referee must determine the chances of such action succeeding; any such effort will be completely on the heroes’ shoulders.

The PCs could always go in eyes glinting and guns blazing; the rebels will in turn neither ask nor give quarter. The referee can run the resulting battle using the combat rules in Book 1: Characters and Combat, or as outlined in Book 4: Mercenary.

It may occur to some groups to simply fly over the rebels with a starship, rain down death from above, and load the cargo at their leisure. This is very likely to result in a destroyed consignment and the filing of multiple murder charges. The starport manager would likely be implicated with them, for tacitly approving the excessive use of force.

If it looks as though the fighters will be defeated, they will rig the cargo containers with explosives on a throw of 10+. This will not destroy the consignment, but the parts will have to be repaired, adding 1D hours to the installation time (see below).

The heroes should remember that they are under a time limit. The purification engineers have extended the deadline, but they are running out of tricks. The plant will fail in 12D hours and contamination of the water will begin almost immediately. Anyone drinking the water unfiltered takes 2D hits and is incapacitated for 20-END hours.

Once the parts are delivered to the plant, the engineers require 1D+2 hours to install and test them. This time can be cut by any levels of Engineering or Mechanical skill the PCs contribute. For example, Engineer-2 cuts installation time by two hours.

The referee should determine the flow of subsequent events.