Dragonhunters of Trane
This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of the downloadable magazine.
Trane C639422-B Ni 704 [Im] F4V M3D
Trane could have been much more successful, had it not been for the unfortunate fact that it was lying between three rather successful systems, all in jump-2 proximity. Between Glisten, Horosho, and New Rome the only thing that makes Trane interesting for traders is the local fishing and whaling industry which gives the small local community (ca. 70.000 souls, among them about 3.000 dolphins) some good money, while letting them benefit from the good technology of their neighbours. Nearly nothing is really manufactured on Trane itself except for agricultural products.
This is mostly due to the immensely successful attempt to transfer Terran sperm whales to the newly settled planet as an experiment in the early 400s. Now the export of Tranian whale meat and “Tran” (whale oil—local legend has it that this also is the reason why the planet now is called “Trane” instead of some complicated survey number) provides most of the money for both the comparatively large emergency and communications infrastructure, and for the local starport.
Tourism never really took off in this system: Visitors from other worlds still are rare, especially because to enjoy this cold world people have to use breather masks for prolonged stays outside. The only other remarkable thing about the system, the ancient site that has been found in the southern part of Easterland (one of two small continents), has been cordoned off by the Imperium and only will allow few, if any, visitors into it.
So the only visitors the planet gets are the freighters that sell their produce to the other systems in the subsector, and the very occasional jump-1 or -2 ship going through to other, more interesting places. The locals are not that unhappy about it. The only proper city on the planet, Tranhavn (pop.ca 15.000), situated on a small archipelago just off the westcoast of Westland serves both as the local starport and as a capital of sorts, mostly concerned with providing a small infrastructure for communication and emergencies, and as a worldwide and interstellar trade hub for the whalers and the few farmers from the mainland, if one can call it that.
The small unit of Marines stationed around the Ancient site are always welcome as they bring some money and excitement into the community, but otherwise in this town (and planet) not much seems to be happening.
Not that the locals would like it if there actually was anything happening here anyway. Mostly from Solomani-Scandinvian stock they long have accepted imperial culture as just what they are, speaking Galanglic with only a few random Scandinavian snippets thrown in, and are happy to go off planet for a while to trade, and come back with money and a few gimmicks (and/or spouses) they found on Glisten, or New Rome, or Horonsho.
Funnily enough they too like to do holidays though. If they ever are struck with the mood of going abroad and to bask in the warm sun they hitch a ride on one of the tradeships and go to nearby Craw to enjoy a few weeks without filter masks, but never venturing too far from the hotels. Many of them joke about the fact that Claw, being a desert world with only a small polar sea, is pretty much their direct opposite, and they enjoy being, for once, the interstellar jetset, when normally they are regarded as country yokels.
There are dragon in the wilderness of Trane. The planet mostly lives of fishing and whaling the imported sperm whales. The local wildlife is not necessarily dangerous in most cases, except for one: dragons.
The Trane “dragon” is an amphibious quasi-reptilian predator, looking similar to oh-so-many other “dragons” in charted space. Even before the human settlement came about it nearly grew extinct due to lack of resources, and then was hunted even further down by the early settlers. For some time it seemed like the creature was completely extinct already.
This changed with the introduction of sperm whales into this environment. With the success of this experiment the sperm whales were left to multiply nearly unchecked, only slightly decimated by the small industrial whaling of the planets inhabitants. This also proved to be a new resource for the near forgotten predators: Within a short time the dragons multiplied again to unprecedented levels. Even worse: with the new food resource being larger than the previous ones sizes of the predators increased as well over time, with the largest and strongest members of the species favoured over the others. This turns out to be rather to the disadvantage of the dragons themselves. While the smaller and shorter members of the species can fly (or at least glide) in the low gravity of the world, as soon as they reach a certain size they loose this ability due to pesky physics interfering.
The landbound dragons are the prime reason why nearly everybody on this planet, despite its otherwise rather peaceful demeanor, carries a weapon when travelling in or near the inland wilderness. People might not actually lock their doors but they will keep their guns ready to defend themselves against now near-starved dragons.
One of the bigger specimens of dragon now obviously has found another nice source of food that matches the whales it cannot reach anymore without being able to fly: Something is slowly raiding automated cattle compounds of the Sorenson Agricultural Products company. As the cattle compounds are lying in a rather calm inland patch, far from the dragons’ coastal habitat, this is rather a surprise. But not a big one.
Jorn Sorenson, owner of SAP LIC, needs something done about this: his facilities are mostly automated, and even with their normal weapons at hand he and his few assistants might not be able to do anything against a dragon as big as this one.
He needs help. He needs some dragon hunters. He is just on the way to ask for offworld assistance when he notices that the travellers, one or two of which should have a background in the military, are currently on the planet. Or maybe he just left a note at the local bulletin board asking for someone to give some asisstance. “Dragonhunters needed. Contact J. Sorenson at Tranhavn Imperial Hotel”
The dragon, it turns out, would be rather big. Bigger than any dragon encountered so far. That’s why they decided to bring in the big guns. Which might be a problem in this case: the local weapon shop (there is exactly one on the planet) does not actually have anything bigger than a rifle. Why would anyone need anything bigger on this world after all? Nothing ever happens here and for any normal dragon a gun is enough.
If the travellers don’t have any big guns on hand there is a way though: old Cranky Holly, an ex-Army collector of tanks, is living somewhere in the North, close to the Arctic circle, playing war against himself. But he might just loan them one of his tanks if they ask nicely. After all, they might use it to hunt the largest dragon ever seen on this world.
If it was really a dragon.
Instead it is a group of alien (Aslan) pirates (they call themselves privateers) who have decided to use a coastal cave as their base of operations for short raiding trips to the surrounding systems. Mostly to Romar. They are currently in waiting for a specific convoy from the Hierate that should arrive soon. They have it perfectly planned out how to raid that one. And if they do they might get enough dustspice to buy themselves an own planet somewhere.
Their reason for the raids on the cattle compounds is rather simple: meat. They like meat. But they have been holed up in this place for a while and really really are craving anything else but fish.
They have a small base of operations somewhere on the coast (they ARE pirates after all) and just sneak out to raid cattle from the SAP. They figure that they can blame it on the dragons and even go to lengths of leaving artificial footprints whenever they do that. They figure that until anyone can really bring in big game hunters from outside they should long be gone. [one clue that it’s not really one of the dragons they completely missed when creating their dragon hoax: according to the footprnts at the raided sites the dragon would have have gotten away from the compound by lifting off, carrying multiple cows somehow; the characters might find that out if they look a bit more closely]
Not that this would be the first thing the characters will notice about the dragons. Because there are some big dragons breeding close to the SAP facilities. But they aren’t as big as the one that is supposed to raid the cattle compounds.
Of course they only might find out AFTER they just nearly got killed hunting down the dragon that is there: “Sorry but this dragon could not have done it. Its feet are about 30% smaller than the ones we found.”