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The Smarargdian Crisis

This was the featured article in the July/August 2017 issue.

Synopsis:
A chlorine-tainted atmosphere, sentient plants, a murder, and a philosophical question that will decide a planet’s further development.
Recommended skills:
Computer, Contact. Tracking, Investigate and Medic might come handy as well. As with most investigative adventures, Telepathic/Empathic characters may ruin the fun, but a crafty Referee may find ways around this issue.
Setting:
Smaragd, a medium-to-high-technology Imperial world with a tainted atmosphere – it is breathable, but traces of chlorine are irritant to human lungs, eyes and soft tissue, and may cause damage with longer exposure. The inhabitants have filters and air locks on their buildings, and wear goggles and filter masks when out of doors. A parliamentary democracy is assumed to be governing the planet for the Imperium; the elected president (“Connat”) gains the Imperial honorary title of Baron for the duration of his term of office. The spectacular emerald sky and sheer mountain ranges shrouded in roiling clouds of all hues of green draw tourists from all over the subsector, but the main source of prosperity is the export of mid-tech industrial components to the neighbouring planets.
Preparation:
Deckplans for at least part of a large colony ship capable of carrying a sizeable number of families and their equipment.

I. At the Starport

The travellers dock at Smaragd Highport, when they receive a call from the office of Secretary Coerhardt Selkine, the local Scout Service representative (and Imperial advisor to Parliament). If the group includes a former Scout, xe is activated under the IISS emergency protocol. Otherwise, the travellers may be hired for their expertise as investigators, medics or (though Selkine’s undersecretary will not mention this) just because they’re offworlders with no ties to local interest groups.

A quick Law check (ROUTINE; Law; EDU; UNCERTAIN, SAFE) will reveal that Selkine, as de facto Imperial consul, would be within his rights to enlist any Imperial citizen’s help (and commandeer their ship) for the duration of a state of emergency. That he asks the travellers nicely and offers an incentive means he is trying to get their willing co-operation.

The highport is a favourite place for family excursions, furnished with a zero-g recreation park and huge faux-glass domes that offer breathtaking views of the cloudy blue-green planet and the stars. The travellers notice that there are many large exotic plants placed at strategic intervals, and may be intrigued when they notice the plants handing out leaflets or refreshments to the tourists. Everyone is well-behaved, relaxed and unfailingly polite; Smaragians generally seem to have a good outlook on life.

Any or all of the following may happen while the characters wait for their ride to the surface:

  1. A child, holding a translator box, yells at a plant, telling it to bend over. The plant obeys, awkwardly, and the delighted child starts ordering it about, forcing the plant to wave its arms as if dancing, and finally to spill the sugary drink it is holding over itself. At this point the child’s parents arrive, and xe is reprimanded; the father tries to clean the dripping plant with a handkerchief and apologises profusely. The plant seems unmoved by either abuse or apology.
  2. A university student in off-worlder clothes tours the observation deck, noting down the positions and number of plants, the number of people who interact with them, and the nature of the respective encounters, on a hand-held computer tablet. Some of the information in part II. may be gotten from xir if the travellers stop to chat.
  3. A nondescript person is apprehended by Starport security for trying to distribute leaflets to the tables of a diner. The police politely but firmly escort him from the premises, and one of the officers collects the pamphlets, stuffing them into the bag the person was carrying before the travellers can get a good look. There might have been one of the plants on the cover, but one cannot be sure. Observant characters may notice the young man was wearing a labour union badge. If they ask the diner’s patrons, they will be told that the local unions are against the plants’ employment as labourers, which they see as stealing jobs from humans. No one seems to take the unions seriously.
  4. A family of four brought their own plant (pet? butler?) in a floating grav bowl. All of them are very excited, pointing out sights to each other and to the stoic plant. They seem very affectionate, with the little daughter riding in the arms of the plant and hugging it every few minutes. One is reminded of a beloved aging grandparent in a wheelchair dragged along on a family excursion.
  5. Two starport personnel make the rounds of the dome, emptying garbage cans into a trolley. A third checks the plants’ earth, patting each in a slightly condescending but friendly manner and drenching the soil with a greenish liquid smelling faintly of chlorine. If asked, xe will explain that the plants are native to the planet but can exist indefinitely in non-chloric atmosphere as long as they can take up the necessary traces of chlorine through the soil.
  6. An elderly doctor, who is waiting for his shuttle flight back to Smaragd after attending a physicians’ convention on one of the neighbouring planets, treats a fellow traveller in the waiting area; the ten-year-old boy just arrived from downport with his parents and seems to have developed a severe irritation of the eyes and oral mucosa from exposure planetside. A subsequent check of the boy’s mask (painted with garish tiger stripes) reveals a leaking filter. The boy’s father scolds him for being careless.

A quick trip on an IISS pinnace (or the travellers’ own ship or boat) to the downport, and the travellers are brought into Sec. Selkine’s office. The Secretary and his assistant Elvo Ganaress will explain their predicament.

II. The Backstory

Smaragd was settled by a huge colony ship from a neighbouring system that had become gradually uninhabitable during the Long Night. Unfortunately, a stray meteor damaged the ship, forcing it to crash. Most of the colonists survived, but much of the specialised equipment was lost or damaged. The survivors had a hard time of it and would have died out if the native species had not helped them out.

The Morlaic are a pentalateral species (having a five-sided body symmetry) and appear much like a two-metre-tall, somewhat pear-shaped cylinder of tightly furled leaves (much like a rotund palm tree trunk) with a sense-organ bulb on top and five tentacle-leaves branching out from the bulging lower half. They can extract their roots from the earth and move about, but their locomotion is painfully slow.

Usually, Morlaic gather in “copses” of between thirty and one hundred individuals, sharing work to overcome their relative lack of mobility. Materials or tools will be passed from hand to hand (or rather from leaf to leaf) until they reach the individual who requested them. This kind of assistance is an automatic instinct that cannot be countered or resisted; a Morlaic will always obey a request. Since all Morlaic work for the good of the copse, there obviously never was a need to develop a counter-instinct. In this rather cooperative way, the Morlaic technology has advanced to TL 2, with basic metallurgy and similar techniques. Their civilisation never developed weapons, but they have devised a series of defensive mechanisms to protect themselves from the more nimble herbivores on the planet, such as barbed fences. (All information up to this point can also be found in the Imperial Almanac entry on Smaragd.)

The plant-sophonts’ selfless assistance proved to be a boon for the early settlers. As soon as a communication device was developed (Morlaic communicate via heat spots on their central stalks, making the translator box an infrared emitter and sensor with interpretative software), the plants helped build shelters and plant fields – one needed only say, “I need assistance”, and they would pitch in. The early settlers relied heavily on the Morlaic to survive.

On modern Smaragd, those Morlaic who live in government-protected reservations are still at TL 1 or 2 and are left in peace; their contemporaries in the human cities are employed in almost every job conceivable that is simple (communication is still limited to basic concepts) and does not require much moving around; they work the conveyor lines in factories, or as domestic servants. No chance of encountering one as a vendor or barista: they have no concept of money and would cheerfully give away the goods to anyone who said they required them.

Still, the current prosperity of Smaragd rests largely on the inexpensive labour of the Morlaic. The humans’ standard of living is fairly high, with little social difference; society is very stable due to everyone’s modest wealth, and the crime rate is so low that policemen go unarmed.

The Imperial charter prohibits slavery. The trade unions and the political opposition in Parliament claim that the Morlaic are exploited as slaves (they work for free) while others insist that the plant-sophonts work there of their own will, are not owned and never forced to do anything they don’t like. It’s just that they won’t say no and will happily follow any request. This faction is supported by the majority of the Smaragian populace, who (rightly) fear that prohibition of Morlaic work will cause an economic depression and destabilise their society.

The case has been brought before the Imperial consul (Selkine) by the Parliamentary opposition parties. Unwilling to make a decision that could severely affect the planet’s economy on insufficient data, he decided he needed experts on both Imperial High Law and ethics to assist him. He sent a message to the leading university in the sector, and last week received Professor Ildiko Elisheva and her team of several graduate students from the Faculty of Intercultural Ethics as his official guests.

With the help of an IISS staff, Professor Elisheva has started investigating the Morlaic matter. She was promptly murdered, apparently with an automatic pistol at short range, while on a tour of one of the reservations. Selkine suspects political motives behind the killing.

Murder is unusual on Smaragd, with most crimes of violence having a domestic background, so Selkine can cite the local police’s lack of experience to justify bringing in a team of outside consultants (the PCs). He’ll also force a preliminary writ from the Connat stating that the police are to support them in all matters pertaining to the investigation.

III. The Investigation

Starting Points

The characters have several points where they can start their investigation:

  1. Professor Elisheva’s body is in an improvised morgue at the base, and the official autopsy has been very superficial; Selkine will give permission for a more thorough examination provided his aide Ganaress is present to bear witness.
  2. Only a few people know where Elisheva was bound on the day of her death: her assistant Sunje Sendak, a few of the students, Selkine and Ganaress, a corporate trade agent named Adam Descant, and the Baronial government liaison Flavia Roergarden. They are all available for interrogation at the base, although Selkine would prefer a more oblique approach.
  3. Elisheva’s personal computer was left in her air/raft.
  4. The murder site is within a Morlaic reservation, and off-limits to tourists and the general populace; obtaining permission from the police is relatively easy if the characters produce the Connat’s writ. The police chief will admit that his agency lacks experience with murder cases. A certain reluctance on his part to comply with the request may be attributed to embarrassment, nothing more.

Findings

  1. The body: Elisheva, currently stored in the IISS base’s medical ward, is not a pretty sight. Her suit was breached by the bullet, and the insides of the wound have been eaten away by the chlorine-laced atmosphere. Her mask was off, so her eyes and mouth are similarly affected. Using the extensive medical facilities at the IISS base adds +2 to all Medic rolls if the operator is proficient (Medic-1 or better).
Tasks
  1. ROUTINE; Medic; EDU, UNCERTAIN, SAFE: The angle of entry can be deducted; somewhat surprisingly, she was shot from below. The round entered her stomach and continued into the left lung before exiting at the shoulder. The killer must have fired from a position below her.
  2. DIFFICULT; Science/Chemistry or Investigate; EDU, UNCERTAIN, SAFE: There are no powder residues, meaning she was shot from a distance.
  3. DIFFICULT; Gun combat/any slug; EDU, UNCERTAIN, SAFE: The killer must have been about ten meters away, judging from the penetration pattern.
  4. DIFFICULT; Gun combat/any slug or Investigate; EDU, UNCERTAIN, SAFE: Using a computer to match the bullet with guns’ performance data on the planetary net (woefully inadequate as there’ve been precious few incidences of gun violence on Smaragd) indicates the type of weapon as one of two models of small automatic pistols made by LSP.
  5. SIMPLE; Administration; INT, SAFE: Both models are standard issue to plainclothes police and government agents; planet-wide, 362 are registered with civilian owners. The weapon is popular throughout the subsector as a rugged and inexpensive self-defense weapon.
  6. ROUTINE; Science/Chemistry or Investigate; EDU, UNCERTAIN, SAFE: There is gun oil residue in the hip pocket of Elisheva’s suit—she may have been carrying an automatic pistol or revolver. Either LSP model would fit into the pocket.
  7. DIFFICULT; Medic; INT, UNCERTAIN, SAFE: Hair fractures in two ribs may have been caused by a person trying to resuscitate Elisheva.
  8. FORMIDABLE; Medic; INT, UNCERTAIN, SAFE: The rib fractures occurred before the disruption of tissue by the gunshot.
  9. FORMIDABLE; Medic; INT, UNCERTAIN, SAFE: Difficult to ascertain because of the tissue damage by the chlorine, the distribution of blood indicates that Elisheva was already dead for one or two minutes before the bullet hit her.
  10. ROUTINE; Investigate; INT, UNCERTAIN, SAFE: The filter mask found near Elisheva’s body was taken off her in a hurry and carelessly thrown aside; one filter has been knocked askew and is filled with dirt.
  1. The staff: Interrogation of the people present at the IISS base reveals that several people may have had a motive. Depending on the travellers’ angle, have them roll Carouse or Interrogation, or play out the conversations.
Adam Descant, trade agent:

Descant likes to show off his good looks and broad shoulders in a well-tailored suit. He is a marketing agent for Swift Robotics, an influential corporation on a neighbouring world, and was sent to report on the survey’s findings and assess the market. The Referee should not point it out too obviously, but Swift RC has a vested interest in stopping Morlaic labour and selling their robots as substitutes.

Nobody on the base trusts the agent. Selkine had to take him on as a favour to Swift RC (the firm supplies the Scout Service with robotic exploration probes) but isn’t all that happy about his presence. With his confident demeanour, ready smile and athletic physique, Descant looks like a corporate spy rather than a trade official; it is conceivable that he would kill in the interests of his corporation. He denies owning a weapon, but a quick check (DIFFICULT; Administration; SOC, SAFE) reveals that he indeed registered a firearm with starport security. If confronted, he claims it is in a rented locker at the highport.

Several of the students say they have been approached by him with questions about their findings, and one female graduate student reports a rather obvious attempt to seduce her in a local bar, which she turned down. He was polite enough not to insist, though.

On the day that Elisheva was killed, Descant was on a tour of local trade unions, and will admit (with an impudent boyish smile) having agitated a bit for abolishment of the Morlaic slavery. If the characters follow this lead, some of the union leaders will admit having seen him; it turns out he used the unions’ resources to hire a private investigating service to shadow Elisheva and dig into her past for possible blackmail.

Sunje Sendak, Dr. IntCultEth.:

Elisheva’s postgraduate assistant. A slender young woman with a quick intelligence and precise memory, Sendak has a tendency to be contrary for argument’s sake. She now seems rather subdued and a bit frightened of her new position as the delegation’s leader, but that could be an elaborate fake. She is known to be ambitious, and a few of the students have heard her complain vehemently about the Professor deliberately stifling her (Sendak’s) career. Sendak does not own a weapon but, when pressed, will reluctantly confirm she holds a small arms permit and is proficient in the use of guns—leisure fowl hunting on her home planet.

Sendak drove Elisheva’s air/raft on the excursion where the professor was killed, but claims Elisheva entered the reservation alone.

Flavia Roergarden:

The Smaragian government liaison is a member of the Connat-Baron’s staff of troubleshooters, and has served several Connats during their respective terms of office. (The staff is “inherited” by each elected Connat-Baron and is seen to serve the office rather than the person.) A strong, dominant woman in her fifties with an angular face and short hair, she dresses impeccably but practically. If one of the characters has ties to the Psionic Institute, they may learn that Roergarden discreetly supports the local branch even if she is not psionic herself.

Roergarden could presumably have decided that Elisheva’s findings were too dangerous and might have had her killed. She definitely has been in the study delegation’s hair about the slavery issue, though nowhere as clumsy and obvious as Descant. Her position, naturally, is the opposite of Swift RC’s, and she is determined not to allow the “absurd claim of slavery” ruin the planet’s prosperity for the sake of an intellectual technicality. On the day of the murder, she claims to have been at her office (and her secretary will, of course, vouch for it), though, yes, she has a government-issue air-car that is untraceable by the local traffic net.

On the first day the travellers meet her, Roergarden’s voice will be a bit hoarse, and her eyes are watering slightly; she claims someone inadvertently knocked her mask askew when she was attending an outdoor function, and she got a whiff of the tainted atmosphere. The symptoms will be gone on the next day, though she still carries remedial eye-drops in her jacket’s pocket.

  1. Professor Elisheva’s computer: A latest-model scientific computer of TL 15. This slab of shiny technology, purchased for her by the university, has been woefully under-used; much of Elisheva’s work has been stored in her own head. Fortunately, what data there is has been archived in a very organised manner by the Professor.
Tasks
  1. ROUTINE; Computer; EDU: Cracking the password and accessing the data. Currently stored is a huge library of philosophical, ethical and linguistic books and articles, including several by Elisheva herself, rough drafts for a treatise on Human-Aslan cultural exchange, and annotations to the delegation’s current findings—mainly tables of interaction times and student reports. Her personal organiser notes “Log may be still at ship; try to retrieve”, along with Sendak’s name, on the date of her death.
  2. DIFFICULT; Computer; INT; SAFE: Cross-indexing the “log” in question with the rest of the data brings up a passage in a student’s report, mentioning that the original settlers may have kept a diary of their first year on the planet (possibly including their contact with the Morlaic) on the colony ship’s log.
  1. The crime scene: Elisheva had Sendak park the air-raft at the reservation’s fence, and entered alone and on foot. (The reservations’ air space is barred to flying vehicles by law.) She seems to have been shot at a place where the dry riverbed she followed is overhung by a tall scarp; the holographs from the rescue team show that her body was found lying at the bank’s foot.

The rescue team fouled up much of the traces when they extracted the body. The police chief will be very apologetic; his agency has very little experience with murder cases, he explains. (He owes Flavia Roergarden a huge favour and was told to eliminate her tracks, which he did by discreetly parking the police air-car over them.)

On the scarp’s top, a copse of Morlaic can be discerned. This is an opportunity to watch the plants interact; a local scavenger, a large crab-like animal, slowly climbs the bank and starts mauling the closest Morlaic. There will be an agitated rustle before panels of barbed mesh wire are passed from leaf to leaf to the scene. Two plants will tend to the injured Morlaic while the others fend off the crab with the mesh until it wanders off in search of easier prey.

There is a small smelting oven and workbench under a sturdy roof where the copse is currently making wire for more fences. The copse looks rather sedentary; it should be obvious to the PCs that those same plants may have been witnesses to the murder.

If the travellers draw weapons, they may be conscious of a pressure; they imagine they can feel the copse becoming watchful. If they shoot at the crab, the pressure intensifies; those with high INT may develop a mild headache half an hour later.

Tasks
  1. Interrogating the Morlaic: DIFFICULT; Contact; INT; UNCERTAIN; SAFE: The plants are very helpful, but can only communicate basic concepts. Several integral parts of their communication (such as passing tiny electrical currents through their roots where they touch each other) cannot be reproduced by the translator box. They also tend to talk and listen simultaneously, and several plants will talk at the same time, which makes it difficult to reconstruct the order of events from the narrative:

Human came, went there (followed the riverbed), came back. Other human came. Humans pointed things at each other. (No weapon was found with Elisheva’s corpse, but if one knows what to look for, a shallow groove near her right hand may be where a pistol struck the ground and was subsequently removed by the other person.) Much bad. Humans bad. Humans opened mouths wide, showed teeth. (The Morlaic have no ears and could not hear the argument, but they have a fair idea that the two humans quarrelled.) Then bad too much—one human died. Bad went away. It is good that the bad went away. Now good and peace again. Other human removed masks, tried to gnaw at dead human’s mouth and struck at dead human’s middle. (The other person tried to perform CPR on Elisheva.) Other human pointed thing at human—thing spit a little fire, then took things from dead human and went away this way.

Note that the plants will not say that one human shot and killed the other. When pressed, they will say that the human died from “too much bad”, “bad became too much, and human died”.

  1. Examining the crime scene:
    1. SIMPLE; Investigate, Hunting or Tracking; INT; UNCERTAIN; SAFE: Elisheva’s body left a fairly large impression in the dirt. A rectangular object (a briefcase or computer terminal) dropped near her left hand.

(The police: no such object has been found at the crime scene.)

(Sunje Sendak: Elisheva left her personal computer with her in the raft, it’s still there.)

  1. ROUTINE; Investigate, Hunting or Tracking; INT; UNCERTAIN; SAFE: She didn’t climb the scarp. Perceptive travellers might notice that if that is this case, she wasn’t actually shot from below—she must have been shot by a standing person while already lying down.
  2. SIMPLE; Hunting or Tracking; INT; UNCERTAIN; SAFE: The other person’s tracks were obscured by an air-car stirring up dirt and several persons walking back and forth between the air-car and the corpse. The obscuring tracks are from safety boots commonly employed in the public service—policemen and paramedics both use this model.
  3. ROUTINE; Hunting or Tracking; INT; UNCERTAIN; SAFE: Elisheva was returning to the fence gate; her tracks lead down the riverbed and back.
  4. DIFFICULT; Hunting or Tracking; INT; UNCERTAIN; SAFE: The other person was also returning from roughly the same direction. Xir footprints can be discovered if the travellers scour the underbrush.
  5. DIFFICULT; Hunting or Tracking; INT; UNCERTAIN; SAFE: Whether the travellers follow Elisheva’s set of tracks or the other person’s, they end up at a derelict colony ship nearly completely overgrown with vegetation. (If they botch both rolls, they will also find the ship when scouring the whole area; it is invisible from the air through the thick covering of soil and foliage, though.)

The colony ship is the original vessel that brought the first settlers here, and now is nearly completely covered with vegetation. Power is long gone. Several rooms are overgrown with slimy weeds, the footing is treacherous, and the travellers might have a few tense moments with collapsing floors; if the adventure has been too placid up to now, add a few violent encounters with local fauna. One of the dark elevator shafts is used as a breeding chamber by the crabs, and the characters are suddenly swamped with thousands of palm-sized crablets (which are harmless, but the characters don’t know that). If they run into too much trouble, you might have Adam Descant (who followed them) suddenly appear and help them out.

If the characters follow the trail of disturbed vegetation inside the vessel, they discover that someone (Elisheva) has entered the bridge and removed the black box from its slot (which is about the size of the missing briefcase). The black box contains flight data and the captain’s log. A decrepit emergency power unit has long ago been rigged to the slot, so it is obvious that the log has been used for for recording until some time after the crash.

IV. What Happened

When Professor Elisheva found hints that the original log might still be in the wreck, she flew to the reservation with her assistant Sunje Sendak. Leaving Sendak and the air/raft at the fence gate, she entered the wreck and removed the black box.

Government agent Flavia Roergarden, who is one of the few people on Smaragd who know about the Morlaics’ telepathic ability (see below), feared that the ship’s log might contain clues to the secret. If the Imperium knew, they might interdict the species in order to protect their human citizens. Smaragd’s economy would suffer, families and interspecies friendships would be torn apart, and the peaceful co-existence would come to an end. There might also be Imperial investigations that could endanger the local Psionic Institute. The Connat’s agents are sworn to prevent all this. So Roergarden followed Elisheva and finally caught up with her on her way back; the professor and the government agent quarrelled when Roergarden demanded the box. Elisheva drew a pistol, and Roergarden followed suit.

Unknown to the human population, the Morlaic are a naturally telepathic species; they can read each other’s minds and discern rough surface thoughts in other species. Their society is very dependent on cooperation; those Morlaic with anti-social tendencies are euthanised by telepathic assault by their fellows. Humans are treated the same as copse members, but since the Morlaic are rather puzzled by human behaviour, only the most blatant and terrible acts will be sanctioned in this way. When Elisheva resolved to kill Roergarden and was about to pull the trigger, she overstepped that line and dropped dead with a stroke—the first human to be killed by Morlaic in the history of Smaragd.

Roergarden, aghast, tried to resuscitate Elisheva (getting her face exposed to the atmosphere in the process), but to no avail. When she realised that the investigation would show how the professor died, she shot the corpse to fake a violent death. She then departed the scene with both weapons and the box.

V. Conclusion

The travellers now hold the facts that decide Smaragd’s further fate.

If they make their findings public, a wave of horrified anti-Morlaic activity will sweep the cities, with people suddenly afraid that their friends and servants might kill them in their sleep. Some will turn violent in their panic, leading to more telepathic assaults in self-defense (possibly even on humans resorting to violence to protect Morlaic!) and the eventual banishment of Morlaic from human settlements. In the end, the reservations will be closed, with Imperial garrisons established and an uneasy peace enforced at gun-point. The travellers might make a fortune providing the Smaragian market with psi-helmets, protective children’s psi-cradles and labour robots, profiteering from both the panic and the rapid economic downturn.

Meanwhile, the effects will be felt throughout the subsector as prices for the planet’s export products rise sharply and worlds formerly dependent on cheap Smaragian industrial parts start looking for other suppliers.

Depending on the implication of the Connat-Baron’s staff in the keeping of the secret, the enraged citizens may demand that the Connat retire from office. Emergency elections will be chaotic, and eventually the Imperium may step in, dissolve the Parliament and assign an off-world noble as hereditary planetary governor. The planet is in turmoil, and anti-Imperial sentiment will be rampant. The noble may need to deploy house troops to contain the unrest, further feeding the population’s feeling of oppression.

The travellers might instead come up with a credible cover story for the supposed murder, which would enable them to keep the Morlaics’ telepathic ability secret. Roergarden will be very cooperative, and may pay them a large bonus as hush money. As is obvious from her reluctance to kill Elisheva, she is averse to murder and will only try to eliminate the travellers if presented with no other option. Others in the Connat’s office may not be so squeamish.

Sunje Sendak, now head of the delegation, will rely heavily on the characters’ testimony in her final decision and even ask for their advice. Making the drafts on Elisheva’s computer available to her will immensely help her career (she will finish the Aslan treatise and publish it under her own name). She may become a useful Contact in academic circles if the characters help her out.

If the Morlaic are officially defined to be exploited as slaves, Roergarden will grudgingly consent to a gradual phasing-out of Morlaic labour, to be replaced by robots. The Smaragian economy will still take a dive, and again, crafty traders might make a good credit off the situation. Smaragd will need mid-technology goods to retool their factories and robots to replace the Morlaic. Knowing those needs in advance means the travellers will have a definite lead on the competition.

Adam Descant may offer the travellers money or lucrative exclusive contracts (or offer to become a Contact) if they support his company’s position with Sendak and the delegation.

If Secretary Selkine is taken into the characters’ confidence, he will agree to the least damaging course for the planet and the subsector. He’s a very perceptive man, though, and if lied to will try to get to the truth of the matter by himself. That may get pretty awkward for the travellers, as well as for Roergarden.

VI. Further adventures:

Depending on the outcome, the social and economic upheaval on Smaragd may provide a lot of opportunities for further adventure (possible patrons are mentioned in brackets):

  1. Different corporations and free traders trying to muscle in on the new lucrative Smaragian market and looking for ways to sabotage their opponents (Adam Descant).
  2. Smuggling Psionic Institute staff and students off-planet before the Imperial investigation hits (Flavia Roergarden).
  3. Escorting Morlaic from the cities to the reservations through an angry mob—without getting violent (Police chief, Flavia Roergarden, Coeurhardt Selkine).
  4. Introducing cheap robot labour to the factories over the heads of the trade unions, who should have known better but now feel cheated by Descant. Industrial action, sabotage, threats, and robot-smashing ensue (Adam Descant, Police chief, Union head).
  5. Contact work for the IISS or University, who want to study the Morlaic in detail once they are confined to reservations. Possibly polite resistance by the Imperial Marines who now man the fences (Coeurhardt Selkine, Sunje Sendak).
  6. Contact work for the Psionic Institute who had their own clandestine research on the Morlaic underway and want to continue even with the reservations closed off. This involves sneaking into the reservations past Marine patrols and then dealing with the suspicious Morlaic (Flavia Roergarden).
  7. Helping a family find their Morlaic friend who became lost when their house was attacked in the civil unrest (Acquaintance at starport from part I).
  8. Finding an unscrupulous trader crew who sell fake tinfoil psi-helmets or “anti-psi drugs” and incite panic to push their product (Police chief, Flavia Roergarden, Coeurhardt Selkine).
  9. Gathering evidence on illicit enterprises who still employ Morlaic in underground sweatshops after the ban on Morlaic labour (Police chief, Flavia Roergarden, Coeurhardt Selkine). May be combined with 7) if the family’s friend has been enslaved at one of the ’shops.
  10. Helping or hindering offworld corporations trying to get specimens of Morlaic off-planet—to be employed as slaves on other worlds where the Imperium isn’t looking or where the officials can be bribed (Police chief, Flavia Roergarden, Coeurhardt Selkine).
  11. Run-ins with the new riot control branch of the police—to help contain the civil unrest and labour guild action, the police had to take everyone they could get (including the characters?), and some of the impromptu policemen have let their new-found power get to their heads. Now they terrorise entire neighbourhoods, and some even extort protection money from the citizens (Police chief, Flavia Roergarden, acquaintance at starport from Act I).
  12. Rivalry between several noble houses over whose younger offspring will be selected as Imperial governor; the characters may be approached by a noble to gather (or create) incriminating facts to damage a potential candidate’s reputation—or by a corporation who would prefer a certain noble candidate who will grant them exclusive contracts (Noble house or corporate representative, Adam Descant).