This article was originally posted to the Freelance Traveller web site in 2007, and reprinted in the November/December 2012 issue of the magazine.
The players find themselves involved in a frantic search for an imperial warship in a backwater region. The ship in question, a patrol cruiser on deployment, is carrying munitions that may become extremely dangerous over time. Unbeknownst to the players, the munitions are part of a highly secret project within the Imperial Navy. They will begin their search unaware of the real reason behind it and unaware of the danger the munitions present.
The players will receive immediate orders to report to the system’s naval base. The players may have only arrived in-system aboard their courier, may being thrusting for the jump limit on a mission, may be in the middle of a stand down period, may be on leave, or any other situation the referee desires. Whatever situation or condition the players are currently in, the orders they receive take precedence.
Once the players report to the naval base, they’ll find themselves part of a frenetic scene. Several small vessels are being repaired and supplied with their crews running errands all over the base. A group of officers and senior enlisted men will take the players to a briefing room and begin asking questions about the players’ ship’s readiness level. Whatever the players’ answers, the group quizzing them will express relief. Apparently, the players’ ship is the one most readily available. They’ll be leaving on a vitally important mission as soon as the ship can be made ready.
The players will find themselves split up into several groups while chasing whatever supplies, stores, and spares they require. Their ship will be quickly fueled, the life support systems flushed, and other jobs finished. As the players help base personnel prep their ship, another party will arrive with a small amount of cargo. The leader of that party will be wearing the uniform of an Imperial Navy captain. He’ll pass over a handcomp with orders to the players’ leader and then begin directing the storage of his team’s gear.
When the players’ leader finishes reading the orders (they read, in essence, “Immediately do whatever this man tells you”), the captain will tell them they’re to be involved in a search for a patrol cruiser that departed on a deployment three weeks ago. He’ll then ask if there are any questions. He won’t expect any other questions and he’ll provide no real answers.
The captain and his team will board the players’ ship, telling the crew to inform them when the departure is scheduled. As preparations continue, a high ranking base officer familiar to the players will arrive and pull the players’ leader to one side. He won’t have any answers either, but he’ll impress on the player that these orders come with the highest authorization. He’ll wish them all good luck and will let slip that other vessels will be sent out on the same mission once they can be made ready.
The Imperial Navy Team
The size of the IN team the players transport for the search will depend on the size of the players’ party and the passenger capacity of their starship. It is suggested that the IN team have three members at a minimum. This will allow the team to both have the necessary skills and maintain a 24 hour watch communications watch without undue fatigue. A three-man team of NPCs has been pre-generated for the referee and is listed below. The skills of these NPCs are not complete; each can be “tweaked” by the referee. Three or four skill “points”, each representing a skill or one level in a skill, should allow the referee to customize the NPCs for their needs.
Captain “Adler Bayreuth”, Imperial Navy
UPP 766BB8, apparent age late 30s
Liaison-3, Computer-2, Interrogation-2, Leader-2, Vacc Suit-2, Demolition-1, Handgun-1
Lt Cmdr “Calvin Dehmel”, Imperial Navy
UPP 76CED7, apparent age late 20s
Computer-3, Demolition-3, Electronics-3, Vacc Suit-2, Handgun-1
Force Cmdr “Eliot Froude”, Imperial Marines
UPP ABB997, apparent age late 20s
Combat Rifleman-2, Vacc Suit-2, Zero-G Combat-2, Demolition-1, Electronics-1, Grav Vehicle-1
It should be apparent to even the most dimwitted player-characters that the names of the IN team are pseudonyms. The team members will never slip when using those names, however. All their identification and authorizations will bear those names and be in perfect order. The team members will also behave according to their rank, but none will act overbearing. When the team begins to work their supposed ranks will become moot. Bayreuth will stand 4 hour comm watches like the others and Dehmel’s orders to the others will be obeyed with alacrity when the certain events transpire. The players should only be able to surmise the personal characteristics and ages of the team members. The same should hold true for the team’s skills.
The team members will be polite, genial, and aloof. They’ll deftly redirect with small talk any conversation that might reveal the nature of the mission or any other sensitive information. Players that ask direct questions about topics which they have no need to know will be reminded of their orders. If any players insist after being reminded, the referee should feel free to impose any penalties deemed fit.
Aside from the special equipment previously mentioned, the team will bring aboard a normal amount of personal kit. Each will have a standard issue vacc suit, an EVA pack, personal communicators, a hand computer, and military clothing appropriate to their rank. Bayreuth and Dehmel will have handguns. Froude will have an ACR, an accelerator rifle, and a handgun. All three will have a normal amount of ammunition for those weapons. The referee should feel free to give the team any other weapons or equipment that they feel a team of “spooks” should have.
Dehmel will have an extremely sophisticated electronics tool and diagnostics kit, Beyreuth will have a series of electronic authorizations that stop just short of being an Imperial Warrant, and Froude will have very nice guns. The team as a whole will have very detailed dossiers on various SPA and local government officials throughout the cluster.
INS Pulawy’s mission: The patrol cruiser has been ordered on an independent deployment through the Zyra cluster. She will leave one of the naval bases and report to the other after 24 weeks. During that period, she is to visit every world in the cluster with the exception of the two which hold naval bases.
In the nine systems involved, the patrol cruiser will engage in collecting signals intelligence data. She is to lay doggo off a gas giant or planetoid belt for one week while observing and recording as much of the activity in the system as possible. All the SIGINT she collects is to be encrypted and a copy passed to the system’s SPA for analysis and forwarding.
After collecting SIGINT for a week, the cruiser is to transit to the local port for resupply, shore leave, and courtesy visits. In the six of the nine systems that do not have naval bases, scout bases, or x-boat links, the cruiser is to engage in previously scheduled commerce inspection exercises with both SPA and local forces.
When the SIGINT has been collected, port visit made, and local exercises finished, the cruiser is to jump to another system and begin the process all over.
The order in which the cluster’s systems are visited is left up to the patrol cruiser’s commanding officer. Naval command hopes this “randomness” will increase the effectiveness of the mission.
How we’ll look: The IN team will lay out an in-system search procedure the player’s ship will follow. They will not suggest which systems should be visited in which order however. Given her mission orders and jump rating, the patrol cruiser is jumping within the cluster somewhat randomly. The players’ best chance of intercepting her is to rapidly determine which systems the cruiser has already visited.
Naval command will be dispatching other search vessels within days of the players’ departure. To prevent a duplication of effort, command will require the players to choose the first three systems they will check.
Once in a system, the search for the cruiser will be pretty straightforward. The IN team will select a point in the system where the vessel should leave jump space. That point will be, as much as possible, equidistant between the system’s gas giants, belts, and mainworld. This will limit comm lag between the search vessel and all the potential locations of the patrol cruiser.
After exiting jump space, the IN team will immediately communicate with the local port asking about the patrol cruiser. They will then direct signals to all possible locations ordering the patrol cruiser to break her comm silence and immediately contact the player’s vessel.
The distances involved means that the players’ vessel will have to remain in system for up to 100 hours. (The “recall” signal must first go out, the patrol cruiser could also be behind a gas giant or moon for some period, and then the cruiser’s reply must come back.) The number of belts and gas giants, plus their orbits, will determine the exact amount of time required. Referees with no life can calculate the exact time required in each system. Other referees can vary the time needed in each system with a die roll. (How about 40hrs + [2d6 × 5hrs] for a 50 – 110hrs period?)
During the entire period that the “recall” signal is being transmitted and an answer awaited, a member of the IN team will be on the ship’s bridge. Each team member will stand a four hour watch, take eight hours off, and then stand four hours watch again. This will be in addition to the players’ normal watches.
Once the “recall” signal period is over and if refueling is required, the IN team will direct that the players refuel at the closest source; port or gas giant.
Practice makes perfect: Along with the comm watches, “Calvin Dehmel” will also train some or all of the players to assist the team with the evaluation and “safe-ing” of ‘certain experimental’ warheads. Players with any level of gunnery, electronics, mechanical, or computer skill will be trained. (He will not explain or even hint at the nature of the ‘experimental’ warheads.)
The players will only be trained to assist “Dehmel” and a mockup of the warhead is part of the teams’ equipment. The training will consist of exactly following a lengthy procedure as they open warhead sensor ports, attach diagnostic equipment, take several precise readings, attach other equipment as required, and make then the determination whether the warhead can be “safed” or must be destroyed.
The procedures will be listed on hand comps “Dehmel” provides and he will not allow the procedures to be copied. Each session will be two hours long. “Dehmel” will conduct two each day in normal space and four each day in jump space. This training will be constant and, after a player has been through ten sessions, the training will simply begin again.
This adventure is set in the Zyra Cluster of the Trin’s Veil subsector in the Spinward Marches. System information for the cluster can be found below.
The Zyra Cluster: The cluster consists of eleven systems in the rimward half of the Trin’s Veil subsector. Only four of the cluster’s worlds have populations over one million. There are several starports of good quality or better. Trade volumes are low within the cluster, but a few major routes do skirt the region. Two x-boat routes run along the rimward and coreward edges of the cluster. There are two small naval bases at either side of the cluster, plus a scout base and way station.
|The Zyra Cluster|
The largest population is 8 at Edenelt, the highest TL is B at Edenelt, Hammermium, and Katarulu, and the best starports are A at Edenelt and Hammermium. Bases codes are: N = Naval base, S = Scout base, W = Scout way station, X = X-boat route. Edenelt x-boat routes connect with Ffudn and Katarulu. Hammermium x-boat routes connect with Robin and Trin. Katarulu x-boat routes connect with Edenelt, Trin, and Nexine. Major trade routes pass through Edenelt, Katarulu, Prilissa, and Traltha. The PBG numbers are the population multiplier, number of planetoid belts, and number of gas giants for each system in that order.
Other Locations: If the referee wants or needs to set the amber zone elsewhere, the region being searched for the deployed patrol cruiser should resemble the conditions found in the Zyra Cluster. There should be no high population worlds, medium or low technology levels, limited interstellar trade handled by small ships, few or no x-boat links, few if any Imperial bases of any sort, and few or no Class A starports. In short, the region should be a backwater in which a small naval ship can get lost.
The Shionthy Projects: Research is an unending pursuit within the Imperium. Individuals, corporations, governments, and the Imperium itself all engage in research aimed at a myriad of different goals. While research is usually conducted in a low profile manner so as not to lose the advantage it creates, research into weapons is exceptionally secretive and is especially so at the Imperial level.
The benefit of using contra-terrene matter in warheads was first noted before jump drive was developed. The safe production of such material is currently beyond the Imperium’s ability and the ability of her enemies. The Imperium has an enviable edge in CT research, however: the Shionthy system.
Situated in the Regina subsector, Shionthy is interdicted because of the contra-terrene matter found in one of the planetoid belts there. The public explanation for that interdiction is the hazard CT matter presents to shipping. The actual explanation is that the Imperium gathers CT matter there for its own use alone and wants to keep it that way. A small number of civilians still exist within the system; their ancestors arrived before the interdict was put in place. However, the great majority of the population listed in the IISS’ piloting guides for the subsector are there working for the Imperium.
All of those thousands are either directly involved in the various CT-centered activities the Imperium runs or provide support for those operations in some manner. Safely transporting CT is fiendishly difficult at any time and carrying it aboard ships for the weeks or months an interstellar voyage would require is risking suicide. For this reason the Imperium has for centuries placed in Shionthy nearly all of its research projects which require the CT harvested there.
Contra-Terrene Warheads: Developments in the last decade from Vincennes/Deneb recently allowed Imperial researchers at Shionthy to begin producing experimental contra-terrene warheads. Limitations in the technology have kept the warheads small, small enough to mean that they are not an improvement over many of the warheads already in the Imperial inventory. Other requirements, primarily involving the necessary containment field, meant that the warheads would best be used aboard ships. Given those strictures, the only advantages occurred when the CT warheads were used with the smallest of Imperial shipboard weapons; the civilian, turret launched, 250mm, missile.
The Shionthy warhead project staff constructed a few dozen 250mm-compatible warheads for evaluation purposes, ran all their tests, and then turned their attention to the problem of making larger versions. When their reports reached certain ears in the Imperial Navy, the black ops boys put down their stilettos, sat up, and took an intense interest. A civilian missile that isn’t a civilian missile can always be useful and a civilian missile that packs a contra-terrene punch is doubly so. Orders were sent and the Shionthy production team began producing a small, but steady, number of CT warheads for all sorts of deniable purposes.
Lost in the Marches: Through a series of unflattering events, the Imperial Navy has lost a shipment of contra-terrene warheads. They weren’t hijacked or stolen by third parties either; the Navy has lost them within its own supply system! The warheads were shipped out from Shionthy and then unaccountably mixed with a shipment of regular naval stores. They passed unnoticed through the supply chain until they arrived at a naval base in the Trin’s Veil subsector.
When the CT warheads failed to arrive at their destination, the Imperial Navy immediately began looking for them. Teams first back tracked the shipment route and then branched out to cover all the other possible destinations. Time was critical, but so was secrecy. Teams of Navy investigators armed with high-level authorizations chased the warheads’ needle through the haystack of the Marches’ naval supply system. Clerks were frightened, officers broken, and every lead, no matter how small, run to earth.
Meanwhile, at a base in the backwater Zyra Cluster, nine of the lost shipment’s warheads were mated to missiles and palletized as reloads for a patrol cruiser there. When the IN team tracking down the warheads found the lost shipment, they also immediately learned that nine of the warheads were aboard the recently deployed patrol cruiser INS Pulawy.
The search now entered a new phase. The deployed patrol cruiser must be found and contacted as soon as possible. If the warheads are aboard her, the IN team will board and immediately examine them. The team’s first concern during the examination will be the condition of the warheads’ contra-terrene containment field. The condition of that field will determine whether the IN team can “safe” the warheads or whether the patrol cruiser will be evacuated before a failing containment field causes its destruction.
Broken Arrows: A missile’s subsystems require power in some fashion. That power is drawn from the propulsion system after launch, naturally, but power is also needed when a missile is only awaiting launch. When staged in a turret, a missile’s power requirements are met by the turret’s power system. When a missile is stored in a magazine or armory, it is not attached to any constant power supply. In that case, a rechargeable battery onboard the missile provides what is needed. In Imperial Navy service it is standard procedure to connect stored missiles to the ship’s power distribution system and “top off” their batteries every 72 standard hours. (Routine preventive maintenance is also performed at this time.)
None of the Imperium’s standard 250mm missile warheads require power, but the experimental CT warheads are not standard. Whether attached to a missile or not, they use power to maintain their containment fields. Batteries in the warhead can maintain that field for a varying amount of time but, when the warheads were shipped, it was mandated that each by connected to an outside power supply with redundant back-ups. When a CT warhead is attached to a missile, its field draws power from either the missile’s internal systems or the source currently supplying the missile with power.
The IN team’s great concern regarding the warheads’ containment fields are predicated on three facts. First, no one has yet been able to determine when the “lost” warhead shipment was separated from its outside power source, so no one knows how long the internal batteries had to provide the required power. Second, while the warhead’s field is designed to draw on a missile’s power when attached to one, the batteries do not recharge at the same time unless told to do so. Third, the drain on a missile’s internal batteries caused by the containment field can be great enough to drain those batteries in less than 72 hours.
If the CT warhead-armed missiles are not loaded in a turret where they can receive power constantly, the warheads will completely draw down their missiles’ batteries during each of the standard 72 hour charging cycles. That will require the warheads’ own batteries to power their containment fields for varying amounts of time until the missiles are recharged on schedule and those warhead batteries have a completely unknown amount of charge left in them.
The IN team can only make educated guesses about when the first field collapse will occur. In the worst case, INS Pulawy is already destroyed; the best case gives her 25 weeks, and the median case has the first field failure occur in 15 weeks.
The ship and her story
INS Pulawy: INS Pulawy’s mission has been described in the Players’ Information section. The patrol cruiser is commanded by Lt Cmdr the Right Honorable Bazzul R. Moncreefe. On a ship with only twenty crew, everyone wears several “hats”. LCDR Moncreefe is also the piloting officer. The executive officer, Lieutenant Kikka Bannerjee, is also the weapons officer. The navigation and operations officer is Lieutenant Haumel Gallinas. The engineering officer’s billet is being filled by Chief Petty Officer Donal Ngiva. As an enlisted man, he is referred to as the "Main Propulsion Assistant" rather than as the CHENG.
LCDR Moncreefe is the third son of a fairly prominent sector noble. As neither the heir nor the heir’s “spare”, this “spare’s spare” is a barely competent nonentity more concerned with the social opportunities his naval commission affords him than anything else. LT Gallinas is Moncreefe’s “running buddy”. He’s attached himself firmly to the “spare’s spare” with the hopes he can use the relationship to gain some influence with the nobility. Fortunately for the patrol cruiser, LT Bannerjee and Chief Ngiva are both exceptionally competent and handle nearly all the warship’s day to day operations. Far more than the very limited influence Gallinas doesn’t know the captain actually possesses, it’s the efforts of Bannerjee and Ngiva to keep the patrol cruiser functioning that have kept the Navy’s hierarchy from removing Moncreefe from his command.
The ship’s current deployment threatened to end the social whirl Moncreefe loves so much for 20 weeks, but he came up with a plan. Whether the patrol cruiser is lying doggo off a gas giant or planetoid engaged in SIGINT collection or whether she is exercising with local forces, her captain plans on spending as much time as possible on the system’s mainworld engaged in either “public relations” or “purchasing supplies”. Moncreefe put his plan into action in the first system INS Pulawy visited and continued it throughout the deployment. It is while using the ship’s gig as his personal taxi that the accident occurs.
Accident and Cover-up: While his patrol cruiser was collecting SIGINT off a local gas giant, LCDR Moncreefe was busily engaged in “public relations” on the system’s mainworld. The SIGINT portion of the warship’s mission here was nearly over, so Moncreefe decided to return to the ship before she traveled back to the port for her scheduled exercises with the locals. Aboard the Pulawy’s gig for the trip back were Moncreefe, Gallinas, a crewman, and two local “friends” of the officers. Moncreefe had the crewman pilot the gig for most of the voyage while his “public relations” efforts continued.
When it came time to dock with patrol cruiser, Moncreefe took over so he could show his local friends his piloting prowess. He also disengaged most of the computer functions that assist with docking in order to exhibit some “old school, seat of your pants” flying.
The resulting docking attempt was a disaster.
The gig contacted the patrol cruiser so hard that the warship’s boat bay was essentially wrecked, the gig itself was badly damaged, the crewman in the copilot’s position was gravely injured, and the two locals shaken. Moncreefe then compounded his error by trying to back the gig away from the damaged boat bay. The gig did break free, but all his decision really did was further damage both vessels while leaving the gig in an uncontrolled tumble.
The Imperial Navy has a procedure for nearly every occurrence and Strephon’s Boys train hard. The crew of INS Pulawy responded to the accident immediately. Damage control responded to the boat bay’s deck and began operations there. The ship contacted the gig and, when told that vessel no longer had thruster control, began rigging “bump booms”. The patrol cruiser sealed her leaks, began repairs, bumped the gig to a near stop, and recovered all the people aboard within a half hour.
As bad as the collision was, the damage control party had worse news. The ship’s armory, which is next door to the boat bay, was so heavily damaged it was open to space. After surveying the damage in a vacc suit, LT Bannerjee reported that the armory would have to be emptied. The compartment could no longer be used store the ship’s small arms, munitions, and other sensitive equipment. More importantly, he believed the compartment would not be safe to enter while the ship was in jump. Space aboard a patrol cruiser is in short supply. Only a portion of the less bulky contents in the armory could be shifted elsewhere and there’d be no room for the ship’s palletized missile reloads. When it was suggested that the locals could be asked to help offload and store those items the cruiser could no longer carry, Moncreefe panicked.
Citing “operational security”, he forbade all but the briefest contacts with the locals. The gig would be abandoned and the armory items that could not be carried – including the palletized missile reloads – would be jettisoned and recovered after repairs could be made. Moncreefe’s orders were carried out and then Pulawy orbited the mainworld just long enough to drop off his friends and cancel her scheduled exercises with the locals. After that, the patrol cruiser jumped away to make repairs in another system. Fearing a heightened local interest thanks to his two bruised “friends”, Moncreefe didn’t want the cruiser’s damage seen where too many questions could be asked and certain conclusions reached.
A successful search?
The Cruiser Located: The players and the IN team they are transporting will eventually contact a local starport and receive interesting news regarding INS Pulawy. The patrol cruiser was operating in the system until an accident occurred. She contacted the port canceling the scheduled exercises and informed them she was traveling to another system to effect repairs. The locals have no additional information regarding the accident. If questioned further, they’ll report that LCDR Moncreefe spent time—a great of time—on the planet and that the accident occurred after he had returned to the cruiser. (Note: As suggested before, the referee should choose where in the cluster this occurs. They should also choose where INS Pulawy went for repairs while keeping the following in mind. Any A or B class starport will be able to make the repairs but, given the details of the accident, LCDR Moncreefe will not choose any system with a base or x-boat route. He’s hoping to keep things quiet for as long as possible.)
When the players arrive at the system they were told about, they will finally find INS Pulawy. She’ll be grounded at the local starport while repairs take place. After directing the players to start a minimum time course to the port, the IN team will contact the patrol cruiser as soon as possible and order her captain to make a full report regarding his vessel’s condition, the accident she suffered, and the munitions she has on hand.
The players will notice that the IN team is more on edge than usual. This is because the team believes there are nine CT warheads with containment fields waiting to fail sitting at the starport! The tension aboard the players’ ship will continue build with the IN team heatedly debating whether to order INS Pulawy to orbit or not. The players should have been picking up hints concerning what the mission is really about during the voyage and the IN team’s discussion now should provide several more clues.
When LCDR Moncreefe sends back his terse and, frankly, unconvincing story of the accident, the IN team will be elated, incredulous, livid, and relieved all at once. A constant debate, sometimes furious, will continue between the team members during the flight to the port. The team will also monopolize the ship’s communication systems as they continue to question LCDR Moncreefe. Their interrogation will grow easier as the comm lag shortens, they will also begin questioning other members of the crew.
With the IN teams’ high-level authorizations, the local SPA will grant landing clearance to the players’ ship as soon as it makes orbit. After landing, the IN team will board INS Pulawy immediately taking their special equipment with them. Within an hour, several things will happen in rapid succession.
First, most of the IN team will return to the players’ ship with LCDR Moncreefe. He will be placed in a stateroom and the players will be told he is to be confined there until further notice. Next, much coming and going between the players’ ship, INS Pulawy, and the local shipyard will occur. The patrol cruiser will be made ready for departure as quickly as possible. Finally, within 24 standard hours, both vessels will lift then thrust for the 100D limit to jump back to the system where the accident occurred. The highest ranking member of the IN team will be in command of the patrol cruiser while the rest of the team will remain on the players’ ship. Moncreefe will “share” a stateroom with one of the IN team and will take his meals there. (Inventive referees should gleefully use the disgraced officer to create more problems for their players. Moncreefe could snap and attack someone, he could fall into a depression and attempt suicide, or he could do any number of other things.)
The Warheads Located: After arriving in the system where the accident occurred, the IN team will use the sensors aboard both ships to try and track down the jettisoned armory items as quickly as possible. The patrol cruiser’s 4-gee acceleration probably means it will be able to reach the search area after jump breakout faster than the players’ vessel. Any suspected missile reload pallets could be identified before the players arrive, but the skills and equipment needed to “safe” the contra-terrene warheads are traveling still aboard the players’ ship.
Just how quickly the reload pallets are tracked down, how many need to be examined before the nine CT warheads are located, what condition the warheads are in, and other such factors are left to the referee’s discretion. The IN team hadn’t exactly planned on finding the warheads floating in deep space. Given the training they’ve received during the search, the players will definitely be assisting the team. The patrol cruiser’s gig is gone, but the players’ ship could be carrying something similar to a seeker’s “belter buggy” or a g-carrier. Whether a vehicle is available or not, the players should find themselves making several EVAs with member of the IN team.
Checking the warheads will be done exactly like “Dehmel” and the players have trained, just in deep space while wearing vacc suits. (The IN team will not take the missile pallet aboard the players’ vessel until the warheads have been “safed”.) The zero-g environment will make the task difficult but not impossible. As with the mockup, a warhead’s access panels will be opened first, then diagnostic tools and probes attached. The containment field strength of all the warheads will be determined first, before any other work is attempted.
The IN team will then make a determination about what to do next, discussing the question over a suit frequency they’ll instruct the players not to monitor. If the situation warrants, more equipment, including a special power supply, will be attached to the warhead and the containment field recharged. Some of the equipment, including the power supply and diagnostics, will remain attached to each warhead after it is “safed”.
The procedure to check and “safe” each warhead will be performed very slowly. There should be no difficulties involving the warheads themselves; “Dehmel” knows exactly what he is doing, will not deviate from the procedure, and will not be rushed. There could be problems with vacc suits and the zero-gee environment, however.
The problems presented by the CT warheads can be solved in several ways. The warheads may be all “safed”, all destroyed, or a mixture of both performed. Because Pulawy’s armory compartment is still not repaired, any “safed” missiles will be brought aboard the players’ vessel. At least 2dTons of cargo space will be required whether one or nine missiles are recovered. Aside from their special equipment, the IN team will dump anything aboard to create the necessary space.
After the missiles are recovered or destroyed, the IN team will order both ships to the nearest of the cluster’s two naval bases. If the travel time to either is the same, the team will choose Katarulu as a destination.
Additional complications are listed below, but the referee should feel free to develop their own. A fluttering containment field or trouble with the team’s power supplies while in jump space are good, if nasty, examples of this.
If desired, the referee can further complicate matters by using one of the following options.
- The jettisoned missile pallet is located, but one or more warheads explode due to collapse of their containment fields. The referee should determine how near the players, their vessel, or IN team is to the pallet when the explosion occurs.
- The jettisoned missile pallet is located but the warheads are of the normal high explosive type. The information leading the searching IN agents to INS Pulawy must have been incorrect and the search must begin again.
- The jettisoned missile pallet is located but one or more of the warheads are too near containment field collapse. They must be removed from the pallet and placed at some distance before the others can be “safed”.
- The jettisoned missile pallet is detected and salvaged by a third party before the players can find it. The other salvagers may have transported it to a starport, moved it to a safe location, or reported it to local authorities all in the hopes of receiving a finder’s fee.
- As in 4 but the other salvagers decide to keep the missile pallet for their own use or later sale. Local records; transponders, port traffic, etc., can suggest who the salvagers are and where they may have gone.
- The jettisoned pallet is never recovered. Instead, the IN pickets the system where it was lost waiting for the inevitable explosion!
Unless the referee has other ideas, the players should find themselves safely back at a naval base once the search is concluded. LCDR Moncreefe will face a court martial and the players may find themselves giving evidence during the trial. Depending on how much the players were able to learn about the true nature of the mission they were on, or depending on how much the IN team believes the players learned, the players may find themselves either working for or pursued by the black ops boys because of their knowledge of the contra-terrene warheads.
Where to begin: The adventure should begin at either the Katarulu or Murchison naval base. With a larger population, x-boat routes, and scout way station, the Katarulu system is the better choice. It is likely to have a larger naval base, and is also closer to where the warheads and IN team originated.
Who to use: The adventure all but requires that the players should be on active duty. They could currently be serving in the Imperial Navy, a colonial navy, or a duchy navy. They needn’t be regulars in any of those services. In a placid backwater like Trin’s Veil, the players could be reservists recently recalled to the colors for a fixed period. Naturally, given the length of time the search will take, any reservists will find themselves serving for longer than they planned.
The players could also be members of the IISS, either active or on detached duty. The navy wants to keep their mistake quiet however, so asking another service for help will only be done if there is no other option. Further options, in order of increasingly implausibility, would have the Navy using an Imperially-subsidized “star merc” outfit, hiring the players to crew a ship, or chartering the players’ ship.
As previously mentioned, the Navy’s desire to keep the incident quiet would make the IISS or civilian options hard to “sell” to any thoughtful players.
What ship to use: Aside from holding the search party and players, the ship should be at least capable of jump2. The Empress Marava–class far trader, with fully armed turrets, naturally, is a good choice as would be the jump2 version of the Type R subsidized trader. The jump6 naval courier from [Classic Traveller] Supplement 9 will most likely have too limited accommodations. If the players are in the IISS, the Suleiman scout/courier is a good choice. If the players are in one of the naval services, a “stretched” navalized version of the Suleiman is presented below. Built at TL13 for provincial forces like colonial or duchy navies, the vessel is capable of jump4, has five staterooms, and has 7dTons of cargo space. This ship can carry as many as seven players plus the minimum suggested three-man IN team.
(Please note that the ship’s name and class designation follow the customs of the author’s personal Traveller universe. The class designation of PC refers to the type; provincial naval courier, the tech level at which it is designed; D or 13, and the year the design was frozen; 950. The ship’s name refers to the type; PC, the subsector it is based in; Trin’s Veil, and the number of such vessels that have been built their since the design was first used; 112. Small ships like this are routinely nicknamed by their crews IMTU and this vessel is known as “Petey 12”.)
Type: provincial naval courier
Architect: SpinMar BuShips
Tech Level: 13
PCSC-1142441-030000-20002-0 MCr 124.180 150 Tons
Crew: 2 at a minimum
Batteries: There are one battery each of lasers, missiles,and sandcasters each of which bear.
Cargo: 7 Fuel: 66 EP: 6 Agility: 2
Fuel Treatment: Fuel Scoops and On Board Fuel Purification
The reader should notice that this adventure seed is quite unlike my usual efforts. It’s very “chatty” for one. Also, the players’ actions are strongly “directed”, if not “railroaded”. The reason for this is that I found the bulk of this material while rummaging through some old computer disks.
I’m not sure when I first wrote this idea up, some internal evidence suggests it was over 20 years ago. I’m also not sure if I ever actually ran the adventure. While GM-ing I had a habit of writing and saving “quickies” I could use right “out of the box” as needed; most of that personal slush pile never got used, however. This material definitely started out as a “quickie”. I apparently added to it over the next few years, another habit of mine. I know this because one of the “easter eggs” refers to an incident that occurred a few years after the bulk of the original material was first written.
The adventure was meant to be self contained and, as I was writing it for myself, it includes far greater detail than I now normally include. Unlike my more recent adventure seeds, this material was written when I wasn’t worried about the ease with which another GMs could ‘port’ the material into their personal campaigns. After adding the topical hook, updates, and few other pieces, I left this material relatively untouched as I believe the nature of the adventure requires it to be so. (That decision also saved me from rewriting it!) My excuses are that the subject matter, location, and possible complications do require more explanation than normal; requiring more “chatty” bits, and the player-characters are under orders of their superiors; leading to the “railroad” bits.
All of these reasons mean I didn’t quite wield my “Editing Machete” as ruthlessly as usual.
The idea behind the adventure was suggested by actual military training exercises in which I participated. The topical “hook” that made me salvage the material is an actual incident from August of 2007. USAF personnel at an airbase in Minot, North Dakota mistakenly loaded six nuclear armed cruise missiles aboard a B-52. The aircraft then flew a lengthy training mission over the US Midwest between Minot and an airbase in northern Louisiana without knowing the missiles were aboard.
In military parlance, the USAF lost “control” of those warheads for 30 hours. Although the warheads were always aboard the B-52, the Air Force wasn’t aware of that. More importantly, the Air Force wasn’t even aware that the warheads had been moved out of wherever they’d been stored. Amazing as it may seem, no one knew the warheads were aboard the bomber and they weren’t even aware that the warheads were no longer in storage.
As a result many officers lost their careers and several courts martial, all with possible prison sentences, are still pending [as of the time this adventure was originally posted –ed]. Dozens of the others involved, both officers and enlisted, have lost security clearances, lost job qualifications, been reassigned, received disciplinary action, or have been punished in other ways.
As a former naval nuclear reactor operator, I find such a lapse in operational control, procedural compliance, and institutional cross checking almost inconceivable. The multitude of actions necessary to move the cruise missiles out of storage, deliver them to the flight line, load them on an aircraft, and then fly away should have all provided any number of “check points” where the mistake should have been found.
The fact that the mistake wasn’t noticed points to an incredible and, far more damning, systemic failure in both the training and work habits at the Minot base. It was entirely correct, then, that, when the mistake was finally detected, the overall commander at Minot was immediately relieved and will be forcibly retired after his court martial.
There are a few “easter eggs” in the adventure for those who enjoy ferreting things out.