This adventure was originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in 2002 and reprinted in the March/April 2017 issue.
The referee should be familiar with the adventure The Long Way Home; this adventure is written with some indications suggesting that the characters have experienced the events in that adventure.
This adventure is written for GURPS Traveller. In addition to the GURPS Basic Set or GURPS Lite and GURPS Traveller, having GURPS Traveller Alien Races 2 is recommended.
While investigating a series of disappearing starships, the characters are flung into the Solomani Rim sector, in the Azun system. Damaged by the transport, their ship is damaged further by attack from a large Aslan salvage ship while en route to the planet to refuel. This causes the ship to make an emergency landing. The crew is met by some of the locals, who turn out to be rabid believers in a Solomani genetic purity doctrine preached by the planet’s oppressive leadership; some of the characters may be earmarked for execution, while others will be sent away for “reeducation”. While interned, they meet a former government scientist now turned dissident who reveals a startling fact to them; the people of this world are no longer genetically pure themselves! He asks the characters to help him escape, recover his stolen data, and find some way to broadcast this information to the people of his world, in hopes they will see the error of their foolish ways and overthrow the racists in the government. Of course, the characters will also need to get their ship back, rescue their friends before execution, and eventually make a return trip to the starship graveyard to scavenge the parts they need to repair their ship. They must then find the control center for this end of the tunnel, and prepare for another journey through, to get home.
As the scenario opens, the characters have made planetfall on the Dashgad system (Core 0603 C140244-B). Their reasons for being there may vary; they may be Imperial Scouts on a contact mission; they may also be independents hired by the IISS. They may have come on their own seeking a new trade partner. Whatever their reasons, they find a dry world, but one which has hung onto a semblance of space travel; in-system ships bring large chunks of ice from the asteroid belt to supply the domed cities on the planet below. One of those domed cities, Ishgaar, serves as the world’s starport.
After whatever formalities of contact have been made, the characters will be treated as guests and allowed full access to the planet’s facilities. The planet has 900 inhabitants, but there are many more people present, as it is something of a waystation for free traders and other transients. At one time, of course, the population was much larger.
Eventually, the characters will have opportunity to overhear a report about an outbound ship that simply vanished from the planet’s sensors. They may hear this in the starport lounge, where the assembled spacers are discussing it, or may hear it from government officials, whispered to each other. If they inquire further, they will be told that this is not an infrequent occurrence; it has happened several times over the last six years. No one knows what is causing these events, and of course it is having a bad effect on interstellar trade. The only clue that the planet has to what is going on is a strange energy surge that occurs before each disappearance. (an IQ roll at –5 or a Physics roll at –3 will notice the similarity of the energy readings to that of a starship that is misjumping. A further roll at –5 (no mods if the characters has Eidetic Memory) will connect this field with the jumpspace tunnel that transported the characters to the Gushemege sector in The Long Way Home). If the characters offer to investigate (especially if they do so as a goodwill gesture from the Third Imperium) the planetary officials will be suitably impressed and will accept. If the characters don’t think of it, the government will ask for their help (with appropriate recompense, of course). If they decline, they can still be thrown into the adventure when their ship gets caught anyway.
The disappearances occur near the asteroid belt in the outer part of the system; this also happens to be right at the 100 diameter limit where ships that are leaving the system must go to jump out. When the characters’ ship approaches this area, sensors at first will detect nothing. An Electronics Operation (Sensors) roll at –4 will pick up the very beginnings of an energy surge; a critical success can determine that the power is being drawn directly from the system’s star. A further sensor scan at –4 will pinpoint some kind of underground facility on an asteroid not far from the ship’s position—just before a huge tunnel suddenly appears directly in front of the ship. According to the sensors (which are having problems due to massive electromagnetic output) the giant metal ring, which is the size of a large gas giant, suddenly phased in from jumpspace!
The ship begins moving toward the ring—something like a giant tractor beam has grabbed the ship! The Pilot can try a roll at –6 to escape the grip of the beam, but such an attempt will do damage to the ship; make one roll on the Major Damage table on page 174 of the GURPS Traveller (2nd Edition) rulebook. (Don’t allow any event to automatically cripple the ship, however). If the roll succeeds, the ship has managed to resist being pulled through, but must make another attempt the next round, with the same effects. Three successes in a row, or a critical success, allows the ship to escape. Failure means the ship is sucked through and emerges on the other side with whatever damage it has incurred.
If the ship does manage to escape, have each character roll a Vision check; those who succeed got a momentary glimpse through the portal and saw a large number of derelict starships of various sizes floating beyond the tunnel. There is no indication of which ships might be dead and which ones might be functional.
If the characters choose to investigate the underground installation on the asteroid, they will eventually find an entrance on the rocky surface (Vision roll at –5 from space, no modifier if searching from the surface.) If they enter it, reference the gateway control center from The Long Way Home; this one is nearly identical except that it is in much better shape and the control crystals are all present, still in their receptacles. There is also a system schematic much like the one in the original; it is different systems, but it shouldn’t take much work to correlate it with a map of the sector and determine that these are all systems in the Solomani Rim sector (although none of them are Terra). Anyone who was involved in that adventure can figure out how to operate this console, and can even determine which system the portal opens to: Solomani Rim 0809, in the Ultima Subsector. The system’s name during the Rule of Man was Azun.
At this point, the characters have a choice to make: will they go through the gateway to try to rescue the occupants of the recently disappeared ships? They have no way of knowing if any of them are even still alive, of course, but if they are, they likely need help. An appropriate roll on Physics or Engineer (Jump Drive) will also reveal some anomalies in the gateway’s field that could indicate that passage through might be a bumpy and perhaps damaging ride. If they choose to depart, they then have to figure a way out of the system without activating the tunnel.
(The tunnel is on automatic, but it only affects ships leaving the system, not entering it. The damage to the tunnel occurred when a ship actually managed to activate its jump drive in an emergency attempt to escape; it caused the ship to be catastrophically destroyed and damaged the tunnel’s jump grid. The tunnel is capable of intercepting any ship leaving the system at the 100 diameter limit; there is no safe vector to avoid it. It also can affect any ship which flies by the gateway area out to another 100 diameters. It can be avoided by jumping before the limit, but this carries a risk of a random misjump that most sane people would not take.)
If they choose to go through the tunnel, or were sucked through, proceed with Part Three.
If the characters come through the tunnel voluntarily, or are dragged through, the effect is still the same; damage to their ship. A massive energy surge burns through the jump grid, destroying the lanthanum jump coils. The surge also causes the sensors to white out and will damage 1d3 other systems (roll on the Major Damage table again). The sensors clear just in time to see the ship about to impact with a large ship hulk in front of them! A –4 Piloting check is needed to avoid a collision. If the roll succeeds exactly, one turret weapon on the ship will be damaged; if it merely fails, the ship will hit a glancing blow on the large vessel, doing damage as per ramming but only half. Only on a critical failure will the ship actually ram the 1,000 ton hull in front of it.
This of course is not the end of the problems. No sooner has this been avoided then everyone must make a Vision check at –3; one of the ships out there is moving! If everyone fails the roll, the ship will get a free attack with its lasers. If not, the characters can try to defend themselves. The ship is a 600-ton vessel armed with four laser turrets and two sandcaster turrets. After the first attack, the ship will hail the PCs; the leonine face of an Aslan appears. “You are violating Aslan territory; we have claimed these ships for salvage. Prepare to surrender your vessel or be destroyed!” (use the stats for the Khtukhao-Class Clan Transport on page 53 of Alien Races 2, with the addition of the above weaponry.) The Aslan are here to salvage high-tech equipment from the various ships.
The first damage the characters take should affect their fuel tanks, making it impossible for them to jump outsystem. After that, run the battle normally. The Aslan ship, while bigger and heavier armed, is not a warship and will attempt to disengage if it appears they will lose. They will not leave the system, however; they will merely try to hide among the derelict ships, and will return to menace the characters again upon their departure if they are not destroyed here.
The Aslan ship will pursue the characters to the planet, but will not follow them into the atmosphere. If the characters don’t succeed in shaking or destroying them, they will get a hit on the ship as it enters the atmosphere; this hit should affect either the power plant or the maneuver drive. The result is a crash. A Piloting skill roll at –6 will allow a hard landing in an area not far from a major city, but deserted enough that the characters won’t take out anything important. Assess any damage as needed but do not kill the characters; assume they managed to get into crash seats and the like before the crash.
The characters should have some time to assess the damage to their ship and perform first aid on injured parties; when they have been given this time, the next part occurs.
Have the characters make a Vision or Hearing check; success means they hear the sound of approaching aircraft. Outside their ship, helicopters are approaching, and it is also likely that ground vehicles will be coming as well. The characters have had the unfortunate circumstance to crash close to a military base. Soldiers will deploy, and surround the downed ship. A voice will blare over a louspeaker in accented Galanglic:
“Leave your ship and surrender immediately! You are under quarantine by the Azun Military. Any attempt to resist will be dealt with severely!” The soldiers aren’t kidding; there are approximately 20 of them, all well-armed, and they will open fire on any character who tries to resist them. If the characters require assistance, they will be treated by medics. Once the characters are secured, they will be taken in the helicopters to the base.
Once they arrive at the base, the characters will be taken under guard to a holding area. There they will meet General DeGraff, who will begin interrogating them. He is not a man with a sense of humor; any attempt at flippancy will be met by force. His guards will shoot anyone who attacks him. He will ask the characters where they come from, what brought them here, and things like that. He will seem especially interested in any characters with non-Solomani names. He will then explain that he is a member of the Azunian Purity League, the ruling party on this planet. If asked what that means, he will explain that his party exists to defend his world and the Solomani people from invasion and contamination by undesirable alien elements, especially those elements calling themselves “human” that really aren’t. He will then state that the characters will be taken for processing, which will also include genetic testing and scanning for psionic abilities.
If any of them are found to be “polluted”, they will be scheduled for termination; if not, they will be assigned to a detention center.
The characters will be escorted under guard to an infirmary where a group of doctors and scientists will begin the tests. They will be under heavy guard at all times, but of course can attempt escape if they choose; the GM should not unduly hinder these attempts, but not should not allow them an unrealistic chance of success either. After the tests, the characters will be removed to a holding center until the tests are analyzed, which should take 24 hours. The holding center consists of a building with a long hallway and cells on all sides. The characters will be divided evenly among two cells. In one of the cells, they will find another prisoner, an older male. He will identify himself as Dr. Jolarth. He is a government scientist who was imprisoned here for some “anti-government” research he was conducting. That research, he will confide in the characters, was showing that none of the inhabitants of the planet Azun are pure Solomani any longer; environmental factors have caused significant genetic drift, causing all of them to deviate from the expected norm. The government, of course, doesn’t want anyone to know this. Hopefully, the characters will pick up on this, as a potential way to bring down the repressive government. Dr. Jolarth doesn’t know if his research notes have been purged or not; they did get the ones he kept at home, but the ones in his secret files at the lab may still exist. He will ask the characters to help him get them back and broadcast them to the populace; he is part of an underground movement, and this is a chance to free his people from the tyranny that has caused so many of them to be put to death.
A plan of escape is largely up to the players. The place is well-guarded and has security. The characters may have some hidden equipment, and some of them may have psionic abilities that might help. If they do manage to escape, they will most likely want to go to the lab, or perhaps return to their ship to pick up equipment. The ship is under guard, although there are only a few.
The characters will need to get into Dr. Jolarth’s lab, which is located in the nearby city, also the capital of the world government. There are sophisticated high-tech security systems (sophisticated for TL9, at least), and of course armed guards. Once inside, the characters will then have to deal with the computer system. If Dr. Jolarth is still alive, this won’t be a problem, otherwise they may have to hack in. The basic modifier is –3, plus any mods for tech level differences. They will then have to get out again, and somehow make it the 75 km. to their ship.
…are dependent on the characters’ actions. If they do manage to get their ship repaired enough to fly and refueled, they can make orbit; they may have to deal with some interceptors but none of them have space capability. They will need to find some way to reactivate the tunnel; the control center on this end is located on an airless rockball planet at the edge of the system. They will need to check the derelict starships for replacement coils; some of the ships are very old, some are quite recent. There is a good chance the Aslan ship will return if it has not been destroyed; this could result in a space battle or a tense zero-gee combat hand to hand with Aslan soldiers on a derelict ship.