An Entrepreneur with a vision gets some venture capitalists to invest in a new type of sub-1000 ton ship. Minimum cargo space with maximum passenger conveniences - luxurious cabins with incredible common lounge facilities.
The fledgling new company builds 5 prototypes - #2 incorporating changes that the testing of #1 made evident, #3 incorporating changes from #2, etc. The design began the rigorous safety and product testing, with 96 of the 104 tests completed successfully.
Then disaster strikes: The CEO steps down and the investors start pulling out. Several advance orders are cancelled and the company begins a spiral plummet down the financial black hole. The new Corporate Board convinces some marginal banks in less-than-solid financial institutions for new funding, but Test Series #102 showed a problem with the compatibility of the new design with existing starport facilities. It becomes a Technological White Elephant - technically elegant but a financial disaster. No one wants anything to do with it.
The assets are sold off - including the 5 prototypes - for a fraction of what it would have sold for on the open market. Due to the volatile history of the design, none of the major lines want anything to do with the prototypes.
- The PCs somehow acquire one of these prototypes. The ship itself is a technological marvel: massive cabins, Five-Star entertaining facilities, a Noble's ultimate dream yacht. Before they can put it into service, they need to pass the last 3 or 4 Safety Certifications and then they will be able to legally carry passengers. They need to secure cash - no financial institute would go down the path of destruction these 5 ships have blazed. Then they need a good crew - a top Chief Engineer who is willing to take an unproven design that used unproven technology that was above State of the Art 3 years ago, and a ship that has no defined service program, and keep it flying; a Top Pilot that can keep her plowing the lines between the stars; and some excellent Stewarts who know how to get Top Name entertainers, the best food (at an affordable cost), and know how to serve and wine and dine everyone from Commoners to Nobility.
- The PCs acquire the contents of a storage facility - either as payment-in-lieu of cash or as a gambling debt settlement. They figure out the address is for an orbital warehouse and discover that it contains a ship in mothballs. They may or may not have heard of the problems of this particular Prototype (it may be a news story local to this particular solar system or sub-sector). The ship has no registration marking, ID transponders - nothing. How deeply entwined do they get before someone comments on 'how well they've pulled off The White Elephant'.
- Each prototype is slightly different to each other - with changes and improvements made as trial tests were carried out. Some prototypes may have damage from these trials - damage that hasn't been properly documented or repaired. How many Jumps before the structural stress of the hull begins showing microscopic fractures? Or maybe the Jump Drives have been programmed to automatically shut down after 'X' amount of hours and automatically run a diagnostic which lasts for 72 hours?
- Spare parts could be a problem as well. A good Engineer could adapt some off-the-shelf parts, but some components are truly unique. They may need to be manufactured specifically for the ship. Maybe an adventure could be the players hunting down who bought the component manufacturing facility and then either buy a supply of parts, or try to buy the plant facility itself.