The Frozen Fire
This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue.
Setting: Any Imperial world.
Required Skills and Equipment: A starship and cold weather gear. Hunting skill (Book 4: Citizens of the Imperium) is useful, but not required.
The crew is approached by the personal aide to this world’s Imperial representative, who requests they accompany him to a meeting with his principal. Marquis Jeligan Vallarte has a reputation of being a little (to put it politely) eccentric. He also has a reputation for paying those in his employ very well.
Upon meeting with the Marquis, the party will immediately see that his reputation precedes him – Vallarte is indeed eccentric and more than a little flamboyant, but a look around his meeting room shows that he is used to having the finer things in life and is not afraid to spend money getting them.
The Marquis explains that while on a recent vacation, he had the pleasure of tasting a delicacy called simply firecrab, an animal native to an ice world in a nearby system. A complex dish that can only be prepared by licensed chefs, it is nonetheless much sought-after. The Marquis hired a chef to prepare the ’crabs for him and laid in a large supply, which has since run out. He wants to hire the party to go to the ’crabs’ source world and bring back a cargo of them for his kitchens; he is hosting a dinner party for friends in a month’s time and he would like to serve the ’crabs at it. He needs at least two tons (but the more, the better) and will pay Cr3,000 per ton and ship expenses, plus a bonus of Cr500 per ton of unused cargo capacity for timely delivery.
The referee should create or designate any world within the PCs’ current one-jump range as the firecrabs’ source world. The planet environment is very harsh; it is a frozen world at the outer edge of its habitable zone with temperatures that typically hover around -30˚C. Worse, the planet is entering its winter; and huge, frequent snowstorms are an ever-present danger.
This is not the straightforward “bring ’em back alive” it appears to be. The PCs must deal with complications as they try to fulfill the Marquis’ wishes:
- The ’crabs’ export is controlled by a militant environmentalist group with active cells on several worlds in the subsector. As they had previously done on other worlds, they assumed stewardship over the planet when they became concerned about environmental damage being done, in this case the declining firecrab numbers due to overhunting. The activists now ensure that only a certain quota of ’crabs are taken from the world at any given time. They are equipped to TL9, including cold weather clothing, radios and assault rifles.
- The firecrabs, large pseudoarthropods that resemble the crustaceans they are named for, have adapted to their arctic environment by evolving a biochemical heating system. They combine certain chemicals in their bodies to produce a low-grade exothermic reaction. To fend off predators and other threats, they can “overload” the chemicals and thus raise their body temperature sharply. The chemicals are normally toxic to humans in their raw state; the proper cooking process transforms the poisons into benign substances that make the ’crabs’ meat succulent and tasty. Only the most skilled chefs with the right training can neutralize the chemicals; this is why a license is required. Firecrabs also have formidable claws that can deliver a painful pinch. To top it all off, the creatures are highly aggressive during their mating season, which coincides with planetary winter.
Upon arrival, the heroes have the option of dealing with the ersatz wardens or not; doing so will gain them permits that effectively give them +2 on reactions with patrols but limit them to taking only 6D crabs. If the hunters choose not to deal with the preservationists, they may take as many ’crabs as they can find, but will incur a -2 on reactions with any stewards they encounter. They may also be considered poachers and attacked. If the group is issued permits, then is later caught violating the terms, the permits will be immediately revoked and the PCs branded poachers.
The adventurers will need to take 30 ’crabs per ton, calculated per the suggested formula in Book 2: Starships. While this only works out to 360 kg for the ’crabs themselves, the remainder of the weight is the shipping crates and special refrigeration needed to preserve the meat.
As the adventurers hunt for the ’crabs, they will encounter specimens
of the native wildlife per the encounter chances in Book 3. The referee
can use the following animal encounter table or substitute his own, as
long as the firecrabs have an entry.
|Wounds and Weapons
|7 claws and teeth
|as Laser Carbine
|9 hooves and teeth
|Event: Snowstorm (see notes)
|Encounter: Conservationists (see notes)
|Pouncer (see notes)
|Chaser (see notes)
All the animals on the table are insulated from the cold by fur and/or a layer of subcutaneous fat except for the firecrab, whose method of survival has already been noted.
Event: Snowstorm: A snowstorm hits the area, cutting movement and visibility in half. Any PC failing a throw of END or less takes 1D hits of exposure if not wearing cold weather clothing or in a heated vehicle. On a 2D roll of 9+, this is a blizzard, which halts all forward progress and forces the PCs to throw vs. END regardless of clothing unless in a heated vehicle. A failed throw means 2D hits of exposure. The storm will last 1D hours, 2D if blizzard.
Encounter: Conservationists: 1D+1 conservationists, acting as a patrol as noted above, accost the party. They will demand the PCs’ hunting papers and will attack if they are not forthcoming.
The pouncer (#11) is an analogue of a Terran polar bear; the creature has superior camouflage ability and will attack from hiding only if it can achieve surprise. It flees immediately if it is itself surprised.
The chaser (#12) is a large, barrel-chested quadruped with a large, tooth-filled maw. It has incredible endurance, catching prey by relentlessly pursuing it until the quarry finally collapses from exhaustion. Since it is a solitary animal, it only hunts lone targets.
If the team fails in their mission, the Marquis will only pay ship expenses, and also spread the word that the PCs are unreliable. Deliberately crossing the Marquis would be unwise, as he possesses enough of a combination of eccentric and connected to make the adventurers’ lives very difficult. Conversely, if the group does a particularly good job, he will put them at the top of his list for future work.
The referee should determine the flow of subsequent events.