The Fated Sky
This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue.
Synopsis: A Zhodani noble’s prediction plunges the PCs into a hunt for an enemy intelligence agent.
Setting: The adventure can start on any Imperial world near Zhodani space. The best choices are any of the worlds in the Jewell Cluster (Jewell, Ruby, Emerald, Mongo, Nakege or Lysen.)
The adventurers are approached by a liaison from the local Zhodani embassy, who requests that the group attend a meeting with His Excellency Ishtiabriashav, the Consulate ambassador assigned to this world. If the group is at all hesitant (perhaps due to anti-Zhodani bigotry), the aide is authorized to pay the group Cr1,000 each simply to appear and give His Excellency a fair hearing.
Ishtiabriashav is a quiet, friendly man with a remarkable regard for his Imperial neighbors. It is that regard that has prompted him to summon the adventurers:
“Thank you all for coming. I understand that some of you may be uncomfortable in my presence. Our peoples haven’t been on the best of terms, and that is regrettable. However, I ask that you hear me out; what I have to tell you is in the greatest interest of both our empires.
“As you know, many Zhodani have psionic powers of varying types. Mine is the gift of what you call precognition, the foretelling of future events. The future events I have foreseen are very troubling! I saw the Sixth Frontier War—a conflict more devastating than the previous five combined, with millions of deaths on both sides. By interpreting details in my visions and making some subtle inquiries, I believe I’ve worked out the events that will trigger the war. One of our covert agents working in Imperial space will set in motion a chain of events that, if not stopped, will bring about this terrible future and hopelessly poison relations between our governments.
“I propose that your band find our agent, Krinzhievstebr, and kill him…I see that surprises you. I don’t ask this lightly. I wish in the whole wide galaxy that there was another way, but I confess I don’t see one. However, what’s one life balanced against millions of others?
“I will give you all the details on Krinzhievstebr I have been able to discover, and for your efforts, a sum equivalent to two million Imperial credits. That is the importance I place on this mission. I caution you, he is shrewd, deadly and very well trained. I cannot send other Zhodani after him; not only would they refuse to harm him, he’s trained to avoid contact with our people to maintain his cover. Likewise, contacting Imperial Intelligence is useless because he is trained to spot other intelligence operatives. But you and your companions are, if I’m using your term correctly, a wild card. He won’t expect a band of freelancers such as yourselves. This may give you one shot at him; I advise you to take it if you get it! Chances are you won’t get another.
“I also ask you to keep this mission highly secret. Only we must know what is going on. I realize you would like accolades for an undertaking of this size. I ask you to be content solely with the money, a sense of accomplishment and my thanks.
“Krinzhievstebr must be dead on or before sixty Imperial days from now, or the inevitable will be set in motion. I bid you niajvibl abr—good hunting.”
The referee should select a world 8-10 parsecs from the starting world. This distance allows the group to get there in time if they don’t dawdle, while making their method of getting there a concern. Obviously, the faster their ship is, the more time they have to complete their task.
Ishtiabriashav is as good as his word. He supplies the team with a full dossier on the agent, including past assignments, a psychological profile, and his skill ratings. The files are specific to Krinzhievstebr; they would be useless to Imperial Intelligence were the group to turn them over. In any case, the travelers only have them temporarily; Ishtiabriashav didn’t mention that the files are engineered to destroy themselves at the end of 60 days. This depends on what form the referee decides they take; hardcopies are embedded with nanobots programmed to corrode the media; computer files simply delete themselves.
Krinzhievstebr doesn’t look like a typical Zhodani. He is not as tall (Zho average 2 meters in height) and while he has swarthy features, it falls within the range of Imperial parameters. In addition, he speaks fluent Anglic and has cultivated the ability to utter anti-Zhodani slurs to better integrate into Imperial society. His psych profile indicates a high degree of fanaticism and devotion to duty. He takes pains to look Imperial in dress and mannerisms. The one affectation he makes to his Zhodani heritage is often wearing headgear of some sort, although never the stereotypical turban. The largest problem for the adventurers is that as part of his cover, he has married an Imperial woman (using the name Eneri Garshamak) with two children by her late husband. This information is not in the dossier; it was a decision individually made by the operative again to better assimilate. His family is also on-world and has no idea that he is an agent for a foreign power. As indicated by the documents, Krinzhievstebr’s loyalties are firmly with the Zhodani government; while he is not a monster, he will place the interests of the Consulate first, should things come to that.
While the heroes know to which world they’re travelling, and Krinzhievstebr/Garshamak’s appearance, he is still a very small needle in a very large haystack. They must spend time finding him:
To locate Krinzhievstebr:
19+; Recon, Streetwise, Liaison; 2.5 hours
REFEREE: Apply the following DMs to each throw:
If the world’s population is 5+, subtract the UWP Population value.
Using a computer as a tool in the search: +1.
After the first: +1, cumulative (representing the adventurers’ efforts to avoid places they’ve already looked.)
Once the group locates Krinzhievstebr/Garshamak, he is accompanied by his family on a throw of 9+. If he is, he’s an expert at playing the dutiful husband and stepfather. If the heroes attack him, he won’t break cover, rather expressing the shock, alarm and concern for his family any normal person would under similar circumstances. The wife and children will of course be terrified of the intruders and won’t believe that Stepdad is an enemy spy out to destroy the Imperium. They’ll react to such news with scorn at best.
If the agent is alone, however, the gloves come off. He uses every skill and ability at his command, especially his psionics, to eliminate his opponents. His preferred tactic is to fight a holding action while assessing their abilities, withdraw and engage them later on his terms. When he does re-engage, he gets to apply his Tactics skill level to all combat throws. Even so, he avoids a stand-up fight whenever possible. Picking the adventurers off one by one from hiding is high on Krinzhievstebr’s list of methods.
But his true danger lies in the fact that he will do anything to avoid capture, including taking hostages, demolishing a building, starting a riot as a diversion, even crash a starship into the port; whatever gives him a chance to escape. If he is well and truly cornered with no hope of escape, even using extreme methods, he will not be taken alive.
When the group completes the assignment and returns to Ishtiabriashav for payment, they discover that he’s dead; the victim of a self-administered dose of poison. By way of explanation, his aide gives the adventurers a hologram recorded by the ambassador and intended for their eyes only:
“My Imperial friends,
“By now you have discovered that I have departed this existence. I foresaw your success of course and offer my congratulations on completing a difficult mission. However, I committed a terrible crime, one unheard of among my people: I sent Imperials to kill a fellow Zhodani. Worse, I employed deception to do so. Such an act is unforgivable, regardless of the good intentions. The penalty in Consulate space is re-education, but that assumes the subject was insane. I am not; and in any case, re-education wouldn’t apply to me, because I find I can’t live with the knowledge, or the guilt.
“My aide will see to your payment as promised. You also have my thanks; and the unwitting thanks of the millions of people—Zhodani and Imperial—you saved through your actions. Please don’t feel you have blood on your hands because of any of this. I was the instigator. Mine was the fault, and the guilt.
“I am sorry we met under such circumstances. Still, I wish you ievr eqrzhdedrie plibr—peaceful and happy thoughts. Take care.”
Consular Guard Officer Advisor (Major) Krinzhievstebr/”Eneri
Garshamak” 8A9ABC; Age 38; 5 terms; Cr60,000
Psi-14, Blade Cbt-3, Brawling-1, Cbt Rifleman-1, Commo-1, Computer-1, Fwd Obs-1, Body Pistol-2, Hvy Wps-1, Interrogation-2, Leader-1, Recon-4, Streetwise-2, Tactics-2, Telepathy-14, Telekinesis-14
Krinzhievstebr was generated using the tables in Alien Module 4: Zhodani. The skills operate in the same manner as those in Books 1 and 4. Also, during his time in the Consular Guard, he was extensively trained in intelligence methods.