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The Afflicted

This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue.

Synopsis: The PCs run into complications when they are hired to help evict squatters on a repossessed colony moon.

Setting: a large moon orbiting any non-interdicted Imperial mainworld.

Skills and Equipment Required: A starship. Liaison and Diplomacy skills are helpful, but not required.

Background Information

Vandervliet Factors is a financial conglomerate that has grown from humble beginnings to become the predominant economic force in the system. Roughly 60% of all offworld assets are either completely owned or leased out by Vandervliet, and it even owns several moons outright. Such is the case with the single large satellite orbiting the mainworld. This body, similar to Terra’s moon, is home to 169,000 people scattered over several pressurized habitats on and under the surface. Most are employed in mining, mostly extracting helium from the crust, but some work in ice mines at the poles.

As owner of the moon, Vandervliet also acts as landlord, with rentals paid directly to the company via designated agents based in the habitats. Lately, a recession on the mainworld has reduced demand for the resources exported from the satellite, which in turn has impacted the colonists’ employment levels. Rents fell behind to the point where Vandervliet felt it had no choice but to foreclose on the entire moon and evict its inhabitants.

Players’ Information

While in port, the heroes are approached by a Vandervliet representative. Briefly explaining the above situation, she informs the PCs that the company wants to hire them to help transport the settlers off the moon to a designated resettlement area on the mainworld. They would be one member of an ad hoc fleet the company is assembling to accomplish the task.

The job is simple: travel to the moon, take on as many passengers as they are able (housing them in the cargo hold for the duration of the trip), drop them off at the resettlement area on the mainworld, repeat until there are no denizens left to relocate.

The PCs can take on two passengers per ton of cargo space; obviously, streamlined merchant and cargo ships are best suited for the work, but the moon has only a trace atmosphere, so any type of ship can land there. Unstreamlined ships with passengers are directed to an orbital facility where shuttles ferry the evacuees to the surface. Since a trip one way only takes about 3.5 hours at 1g, refitting the cargo hold is not necessary; rows of folding chairs will suffice. Vandervliet will supply these and refreshments for the passengers as necessary, pay Cr120 a head, and issue vouchers for fuel, ship expenses, and port fees. (Example: a Type A Free Trader (82 tons of cargo) can carry 164 people in an otherwise empty hold, for a total of Cr19,680 per trip.)

The representative further stipulates that the heroes may collect the settlers in any way they see fit. Although the company frowns on violence, she understands if the PCs are forced to defend themselves. As a rule of thumb, any actions they take in that regard must be able to stand up in court.

Referee’s Information

The Vandervliet rep mentioned that other starships are participating in the spacelift. The crews of these ships are not important to the adventure unless the referee wants to set up a rivalry between some of them and the PCs. Referees who enjoy number-crunching, however, can generate such ships using any method deemed fit if necessary. As the rival ships will be drawing colonists from the same limited pool (thus affecting the heroes’ bottom line), some thought should be given to their effects on the moon’s population. Otherwise, the referee can simply rule that the PCs can make a certain number of trips before the moon is completely evacuated.

Likewise, the referee can make the trips to and fro easy milk runs, or make them exercises in high frustration. The current social environment on the moon is chaotic at best, with masses of people by turns fearful of an uncertain future and angry at being involuntarily relocated. Emotions are running high, and trouble is bound to manifest. Thus, the case for making the job frustrating has support.

Assuming the referee doesn’t want to let the travelers have an easy time of it, any or all of the following situations can be implemented when the group makes their jaunts:

Situation One: The Frozen Watch

A group of settlers has taken refuge in one of the ice mines at the moon’s north pole and refuses to come out. The gathering numbers 8D, of which 30% are children. Unfortunately, the area of mine they have chosen as their redoubt is structurally unsound; any damage to the walls or ceiling could compromise the whole section, resulting in explosive decompression. They have posted guards armed with accelerator rifles (per Book 4: Mercenary) at the entrance, but even so, a firefight could be catastrophic. The PCs must get the settlers out of the mine without the situation ending in disaster.

Situation Two: Mother Knows Best

Vina Malikova is the venerable matriarch of an extended family in one of the moon’s smaller habitats. Having recently turned 140, she is very much set in her ways, as evidenced by her steadfast refusal to leave her home, even under threat of forcible removal by less compassionate agents of Vandervliet. Vina’s family has rallied around her; any attempt to remove any of them by force will result in violence and a PR nightmare for Vandervliet. Word of the attempt will also reach other satellite dwellers, who hold the Malikovs in high regard. The heroes must persuade Vina to voluntarily quit her home; if she agrees, the rest of the family will quietly follow.

Situation Three: Grand Theft Starship

The PCs try to round up a group of settlers who keep moving away from them deeper into the habitat. It is soon apparent why: while the heroes are being duped into following them, a smaller group sneaks around them and makes for their ship. Assuming the team wasn’t foolish enough to leave their ship unlocked and unguarded, the would-be hijackers—numbering 1D+3—have an electronics expert with them to defeat any security systems (Electronics-4 skill), a pilot (Pilot-2) to fly it, and all are armed with body pistols. They are not evil, just frightened, and have no real plan beyond stealing the PCs’ ship and making off for parts unknown.

Situation Four: Vox Populi

Word of the adventurers’ affiliation with Vandervliet spreads quickly. At one of their runs, a large crowd numbering 20D is waiting for them. Apparently, they believe their best chance of staying put is to do the PCs grievous bodily harm. The mob will not kill the team, but anything short of that is fair game. Any hero caught by the throng must throw END or less every combat round or take 2 hits of damage. Making three successful END throws in a row allows the victim to break free. The PCs will need to come up with a way of dispersing or neutralizing the crowd without seriously harming any of them—any injury will reflect badly on them and Vandervliet.

Whether the heroes’ efforts are simple milk runs or they run into any or all of the situations above, Vandervliet will pay off as promised. If the team did an especially good job, the company will almost certainly contact them for further work in the future.

The referee should determine the flow of subsequent events.