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The Visitors

Setting

This Scout adventure is set in Traveller: The New Era, in the Domain of Deneb, 1134. Archduke Norris has managed to successfully seal the borders before the initial AI Virus wave hit, but a second major wave has been sighted coming down Corridor Sector. The Second Wave, unlike the First, is composed mainly of naval warships rather than commercial vessels, and according to the fragmentary information coming from the Wilds is definitely more experienced in warfare.

The Domain is still frantically trying to Virus-proof its major worlds and communication systems: it simply cannot afford to fight a war of attrition against Virus, as it's too likely that some infected ships will successfully slip Virus into the network and snuff the last flame of interstellar civilization. The entire Spinward Marches fleet has been dispatched to Deneb Sector to hold the line with Deneb fleet against Virus, with the subsector fleets left to guard the Marches against Virus, the Zhodani, and the Aslan.

The Imperial Interstellar Scout Service is being gutted during the Virus era. The Scouts are fundamentally about obtaining information from the Unknown and spreading it around - but the unexplored regions of the Wilds are now infected with Virus, and gathering in information from that area is likely to bring Virus with it. Moreover, with the mission of the Scouts fatally undermined, there is a desperate need for their resources as part of the newly-organized Domain Quarrentine Service to conduct regular Virus inspections on every ship in the Domain, and watch for anything trying to cross the border. Already there is talk of abolishing the Scouts, an act unthinkable even in the middle of the Rebellion.

[Aside: The adventure is set in Foreven Sector: I have no information in this sector, so the Referee can make it up as he pleases.]

Sector Arrangement Overview

Tienspevnekr Aiafrplians Gvurrdon Tuglikki
Far Frontiers Foreven Spinward Marches Deneb
Telehfaeikh Beyond Trojan Reach Reft

Tienspevnekr is part of the Zhodani Consultate's Adlapriants Province (also includes Zhdant sector, home sector of the Zhodani)

Gvurrdon and Tuglikki are part of the Vargr Extents

The adventure is set in Sector L of Foreven, called Aquamarine subsector in this article.

Byne (2625): C34274A-B, Scout Base, Client State (Imperial)
Cong Su (2626): D885845-8, No Base


Introduction

003-1134

"The Man's Office", Imperial Scout Base Gllagundam, Orbiting Byne, Foreven Sector

Chief Winthrop took a look around the typically slack Scouts facing him. God, he wished he was going out with them on the last real exploration mission he'd seen in quite a long while - maybe the last one he'd ever give.

He began with what everyone knew. The massive saucers that have recently arrived over Cong Su seem to be quite friendly to the locals, if rather cool to the Imperium and openly hostile to the Zhodani. They seem to be about TL 9-10, and are willing to exchange technological information with the Conggi in exchange for the waste products of that world's industries. The world's four military federations, edging towards a nuclear war, was quite willing to trade, and the local ecomony is benefiting visibily from the trade.

According to the reports from interstellar merchantmen, there was some kind of fuss about local Conggi scientists and biologists, and currently they are being attacked by the local governments and the occassional civilian mob. Still, they have been oftentimes arrogant and blind to the consequences of their actions on that world, causing much ecological and cultural destruction, so there's little symphathy for them. (The locals are only 20% Vilani in blood, but one portion of Vilani culture that's very strong in all locals are the typical attitudes to scientific research.)

The Visitors themselves look quite human, and are evidentally from a minor human race. However, Scout research has turned up no governments in Far Frontiers, Foreven or The Spinward Marches that have such a massive (50 ~ 100) fleet of 3-4 km long, TL 9-A starships deployed outside of their home systems. Not only that, but there is no record of this fleet passing through the neighbouring systems to reach Cong Su.

The Scouts are going through massive changes, so they simply could not investigate the Visitors as much as they would have pre-Rebellion (The Station had to wait a year before two scout ships were dispatched to the local base, and wait another year until they arrived. The crew of these ships are the people attending the briefing). So instead, what research there is is based on rumours and the occassional foray into Cong Su via a trader, always with two Visitor escorts while outside of  the starport.

The Chief wants answers to three questions.

  1. How did the Visitor's, with nothing more than jump 1 drives, get here? And when they leave the system, where do they go? No Visitor ship has been seen outside of the Cong Su system.
  2. Who are the Visitors? No medical information is available on them, and no-one has been able to examine them. We do have samples of their written language, but no accurate info on their spoken tongue.

    There are claims that they are really reptiles due to some televised incident, but TV images is easily faked (The local entertainment industry has just reached the special effects level of 2001: A Space Odyssey. People tend to believe what they see, and aren't sophsticated enough to know what can be done at higher tech levels). More than likely, the underground scientists had the images faked off-world, for televising here.

  3. What are they doing on Cong Su? It can't be just taking waste from cities, unless there is some biological organism in the waste that the Visitors want. The Scout's need real information - though only God knows if it will ever be put to use. The way the Domain is curling up into its shell, it's unlikely anyone at Mora - over 50 parsecs away - would care if  the entire Aquamarine subsector suddenly disappeared into the Void - as long as Virus didn't do it.

The Scout Teams

The two Detatched Scout teams - the PC's and the NPC team - will have to fight and bicker over who does what. Whatever the PCs choose to do, the NPCs want for themselves. The NPC team is aggressive and violent, more like mis-assigned Marines than Scouts (No, they don't have a FGMP and Battlearmour in their locker, although they've been trying to get some for the last five years...).

Part of what aggravates the situation is the very low morale in the Scouts. They see their mission in life being snatched away, and their entire way of life dying. Most of the best Scouts have already left for the Navy, with some hanging on in the IISS. The bureaucrats are all leaving for the Domain Quarrentine Service, with its exploding budget and expanding responsibilities. The current Scouts are full of empty shells (both bases and men), folk three years from retirement, and second- and third-rate personnel, a far cry from Strephon's IISS.

This is quite possibily the last exploration mission in all of Foreven Sector, so the NPCs will do everything they can to grab as much glory for themselves as possible. They want all the good equipment, the best information, 100% of the limited spending budget, and the only set of antivirus equipment in the subsector (still barely worth the volume it takes up, it's so primitive - but it has lots of prestige, so the NPCs want it).

They will also try to get the PC's to fail, by denying them information, giving misleading clues, or simply kicking them in the head in their *third* bar fight. The Chief may slap them on the wrist, but no real sanctions will be given: he need both teams desperately.


Information for the PCs to find out:

(after they have filtered out the red herrings, false rumours, wild goose chases, etc)

The misjump rate of starships between Cong Su and one of her neighbours has been known to occasionally spike up to 10% for a year or so, every fifty - to - eighty years. It's known to be caused by a Coisset Fragment, a dual jumpspace/realspace object which may or may not prove the existance of other universes outside of our own. There are theories that it could be used as a way to enhance jump drive performance, but no such method has been discovered. Currently, the misjump rate is normal.

There is undisputable evidence of some slower-than-light, probably human exploration of nine worlds of this subsector, around 3,000 - 2,500 years ago. Only a few derelict probes and small spacetrash (hand tools, etc) has been found. It was thought that one of the local minor human races here did the job, but the design philosophy and engineering specs don't match any of the sector's civilizations of the time period. [This will be hotly denied by some nations, which will insist that their ancestors did the exploration].

Some Conggi are joining the Visitors as members of the Visitors' Scout Service: they are well trained, carefully selected for health and placed in storage in a Visitor saucer for return to their homeworld (which is never named, "for cultural reasons") . It's expected that they may not be seen for a long time, until they return to Cong Su on retirement.

A "cancer cure" called Antivirus was recently announced by the Visitors: it is a genuine TL A/B cure, although limited to only the most common and typical cancers. This cure is being provided only to pro-Visitor Conggi, at selected dispencing areas.

There is a Visitor Youth Movement, which acts as a workforce/paramilitary arm of the Visitor's. Local armed forces are rarely seen: most have been disbanded with the permission of the local world democracy, and the military equipment is being broken up. Many people are openly Friends of the Visitors, and the planetary constitution is being expanded to provide them with special rights and priveleges.

The Visitors have a certain flair for slogans and propaganda, which the Conggi find charming and truthful. A good sample can be found on
http://people.we.mediaone.net/hallert/friendsofthevisitors.html , slogans include "Friendship is Universal", "I'm doing my part for the Visitors, are you?", "I'm a patriot of Peace. I want to join the Youth Movement!", etc. The enthusiasm for the Visitors on Cong Su is genuine.

The four military federations on Cong Su have - with Visitor guidance - unified into a proper world democracy. The formal world government is becoming more and more a blend of Visitor's and Conggi, with Visitors being placed in many advisory positions.

Few mind the increasing political power of the Visitors, while many (intellectuals and the general population) welcome it as a way to keep the politicans on a leash. With disarmament, the economy is booming, the inflation caused by military spending is finally under control, and taxes are actually being decreased. The Visitors are helping out not only with new technology, but massive financial assistance and trade as well. Several major construction projects have been started, including upgrading the starport (even as trade restrictions, partly anti-Virus, partly Visitor suspicion of Imperials and Zhodani traders, is increased).

Weapon restrictions for civilians have been loosened, so anyone with a clean record can purchase rifles, pistols and most small arms: the crime rate has substantually declined in response. If there have to be a few unusual health regulatons to please the Visitors, so what? Smoking was always a nasty habit, but now, even the ex-Weed farmers are now employed in something that actually benefits society.

There is a strong emphasis placed on good health and nutrition by both the Visitors and the local government. Diseases and illness is sharply declining in the poorer areas of the world, and drought is now unheard-of. Use of contraception, abortion, and sterilizing operations are strongly emphasised to fight the overpopulation problem, and are becoming socially mandatory. The birth rate has been sharply declining since the arrival of the Visitors, but there are hints of an imminent breakthrough on life-extension. In the meantime, a massive social welfare network is being set up, stressing hard, honest work for a fair living wage, free health care, and a pleasent lifestyle thanks to the Visitors.

The Visitors are rarely seen out of their orange uniform and sunglasses: the bright light hurt's their eyes. Still, they are uniformly cheerful, if suspicious of non-Conggi.


Referee Section

What's really going on?

The Visitors are indeed a reptilian race, but physically near-human excluding their egg-laying, long poisionous tongue (usually kept in a pouch in their throat, and never seen among humans), slitted yellow eyes and a preference for mammalian meat.

While they don't mind swallowing guinea pigs whole (small rodents are typical fare on the Visitors homeworld), they prefer human flesh, and that's one of the main reasons they're on Cong Su. They are aware that eating rodents is repulsive to most of humaniti, and avoid it in public. Of course, the real fate of those selected as "Visitor Scouts" or pro-Visitor researchers chosen to study on the homeworld is never mentioned. It's pratically impossible to prove: the Visitor's have remarkable political and social instincts, and are quite good at making their enemies look like xenophobic buffons or science-worshipping fanatic ideologues. Documentation is hard to find, even on the motherships - the Visitors know the importance of leaving no paper trail.

The very few Conggi who know what's really going on tend to be reprogrammed in a Visitor Education Centre ("You too can learn the technological secrets of the Visitors in our special Research Centres! Call now at 666-934-42678 for you personal appointment TODAY!"), and go on to live happy, satisfied lives.

Remarkably, despite the vast superiority of Visitor forces (and the local politicians, fully bought and paid for when not "persuaded" on their personal tour of the Visitor ships), there is actually a resistance movement against them. Local, light firearms are worthless against the Visitor Shock Troopers (due to the remarkable anti-ballistic properties of their black breastplate - very good for their Tech level 9/A manufacture),  but heavier weapons and lasers are much more useful. The resistance movement is small, only about 200,000 or so, spread out on a world population of 260 million. They do have a good number of scientists, intellectuals, and politicians with them, but are despised as idiot militamen, manic science loons and ignorant bigots by the general population.

[Did the PC's manage to make peace with the semi-Marine Scouts? They could come in very useful... especially if the PCs managed to obtain a FGMP, and gave it to those who know it best...]

There was a failed attempt to repel the Visitor invasion with a locally built biological weapon called Red Dust. A vaccine was given to pro-Conggi Visitors (yes, they did exist: a very few still do), but Red Dust had a variety of nasty side-effects. It blighted food crops, causing starvation in a few regions of Cong Su. In major concentrations, it's toxic to mammals (including the humans), causes an increase of stillbirths and mutations, and an increase of respatory aliments. Finally, Red Dust needed to have a cycle of temperatures below freezing for the bacteria to rebuild itself and remain effective.

Fortunately for the Visitors, Red Dust was poorly distributed, only affecting a few regions known for milita/terrorist activities and a handful of smaller cities. The only region currently infested with Red Dust is the Kar Dijalis Archipelego, which now affects only mammals: the Visitors now have their own vaccine. They also used the Red Dust incident to make great political points, declaring all-out war against those insane scientists, stressing the side effects on humans, making sure that both humans and Visitors were involved in the clean-up, and further driving the anti-Visitor movement underground.

It's very, very difficult to find the Resistance movement. Areas which remain sympathetic to the Resistance usually deface Visitor posters and propaganda pamphlets with a red V, for victory. These areas are almost always in the "badlands", e.g., mountains, deserts, jungles, places where any central authority always had difficulty governing.

If the PCs are good, they might be able to find out that the population has been declining about 1% per year for the last three years, when the Visitors population program really kicked in. (Hint: check out the local government offices: the information is publicly available, if buried somewhat). At the same time, life expentancy has risen a remarkable four years during the same time: because so much of the population is in the local "Third World" there's still a good way to go before everyone is living till their 70-80's.

Most of the population decline is due to the fall of the birth rate, but a good 20,000 - 50,000 people per year choose to go on the saucers, to join the Visitor Scouts, see their homeworld, by winning a contest, or getting very high marks in a bodybuilding contest ("Build those muscles! Get rid of that worthless fat!"). Someof the more wealthy members of society actually have enough to pay for a ticket, and pay for a highly valuable trade licence.

Most never leave the Visitors' homeworld ("Life is so good here: I can't even bear the thought of leaving" the forged videotape image said): those that return were treated well, Persuaded to see what the Visitors wanted them to see, and are quite enthusiastic about the place when they return ("Can't wait to get back!").

The Visitors are on Cong Su for more than just some good eating. The are also covertly preparing the world for settlement. After the world's population has declined and aged to a certain point (currently 30 years from now, in 1170) a crisis will be created, the remaining Conggi will be moved to Emegency Housing Facilities, hearded onto the saucers, and shipped to the homeworld for eating. The world will then be settled by about one or two billion Visitors over a hunderd-year period: the necessary transports to move 10 million Visitors per year are being constructed. The world itself is perfect for Visitor settlement, so no terraforming is needed. A TL 9/A infrastructure will be thoughtfully constructed by the humans, before the crisis is declared.


How did they get here?

The Visitors are members of a military government which has conquered thirty-two systems via sublight warships in their region of the galaxy. The government isn't popular due to the military expense of keeping all those worlds (twenty-two have large, restless alien populations that the Visitor economy depends on). It has no current starfaring opposition in its region of space, but has no real friends either.

The government found out that, earlier in their regions history, a minor human species invented an inferior, near-Jump Drive (called an Arkenstone Engine in Imperial engineering literature), but which was mainly useless except near a Coisset Fragment. Near such a fragment, the Arkenstone Engine could - if designed and calibrated right - jump to a location of another Coissent Fragment.

The Imperium didn't make use of the Arkenstone Engine: the sheer cost and the learning curve gave a very poor return for the information learned, and after a few failed Scout experiments in the 880s it was abandoned: ships with the Engine didn't even budge an inch, never mind leap across galaxies.

The minor human race - having no other method of FTL travel - pushed the Engine for all it was worth, and finally made a round trip with the Arkenstone Engine in -2994 Imperial / A.D. 1527 (when the First Imperium just started to go into decline). Over the next 500 years, the occasional exploration vessel (with both an Engine and a sublight drive) would be sent to Foreven Sector, but no useful world was ever found (compared to other routes).

Much of the information was lost, but thousands of years later the Visitors managed to successfully rediscover the principles of  the Arkenstone Engine using both original research and ancient documents. With the remarkable discovery of a workable chart to the Foreven Sector, the Visitors sent their first scoutship, which arrived in Foreven in 892. A small station was soon constructed at the Fragment, and a scout ship pernamently stationed here. Their duties included charting interstellar space, mapping the area, listening to radio signals and sending sublight probes to look for good worlds before dropping into the primary to remove all evidence.

A major revolution occurred when, in 959, a jumpship was found with its distress signal still blazing. It was the Northern Lights, a brand-new Profit-class, 300-disp TL A trader, designed and built locally. The trader was rescued, and the crew dealt with kindly and befrended. Unfortuantly, there wasn't any hydrogen on hand to lend, so the traders decided to journey to the Visitor homeworld instead in the Visitors' "low berth". They finally arrived at the Visitors' homeworld at 1021. There they were pumped for information, paid very well, and poked and prodded. They were permitted to live in ease and comfort for 15 years until the Visitors were satisfied that they got all the information they could from them: then they were eaten at about 1035.

The Northern Lights was brought back home for dissasembly and investiagtion: jump drive still wasn't cracked until 1021 (mainly because the Northern Lights had a subtle flaw in its engine, caused by the misjump), but much other information was gained. In the meantime, a large "trade fleet" was slowly built to meet with the Cong Su government, and unoffically conquer it. (The Visitors have long experience in dealing with small, world-bound civilizations). Moreover, a major naval base was built at great expense at the Coissent Fragment at Foreven Sector, which took decades to build.

The "trade fleet" left the staging area on 1057, arrived at the local Coissent Fragment at 1078, made a seven-day long jump across 1,880 parsecs, and arrived at the Visitor base in Foreven Sector. Then, it made its way to Cong Su, arriving at 1117, one year after Strephon's assassination. It takes 60 years to make the journey via sublight ship, at about .05 c per year.

(The Foreven fragment is just under two parsecs from Cong Su: the Visitor fragment is just about one parsec from the Visitor's homeworld).


What do the Visitors have?

The fifty massive, 3.2 km diameter ships are buit with three drives: a jump drive, an Arkenstone Engine, and massive gravitic plates that use interstellar gravity waves for sublight propulsion. Smaller ships use standard artigrav drives. Standard Imperial thruster plates are being researched and analyzed back at the homeworld. The massive ships has a crew of 6500, including 3000 infantry Shock Troops, 1000 field support, 2000 technicians, and 500 officers, political personnel, etc.

[ Aside: If I am doing my sums right, the mother ships are about 50 Million disp in size! Not that it will stop a Tigress from ripping it apart with nothing but its meson gun... ]

Weaponry ain't that hot: assume 200 TL A laser turrents, and two TL A laser batteries. The ship itself is largely a TL A construct, with possible TL 9 components and "Mystery TL" Arkenstone Drive and gravitic plates.

As you might guess, most of the bulk of the ship is fuel for Liquid Hydrogen for the drives, although several grams of antimatter is used for the Arkenstone Engine (The explosion if that antimatter contacts matter would be bad, but I don't think it would destroy the ship in One Big Boom...)

There are also 15 docking and figher bays. Assume 30 large fighters (each with four lasers), 20 Squad ships (each with 2 lasers, 2 crew and 18 troops), and 20 Transports (configurable in 5, 8, and 10-cabin forms). Each transport requres two crew, and each "cabin" holds 3.75 Visitors. There is usually no weapons, but a weapon pub with a dual-barrel laser can be added. Finally, there are 10 Tankers carrying Liquid Hydrogen, with a crew of four. These are about 10 disp. in size. Assume all of this equipment is at TL A, powered by small gravitic plates.

Interesting aside: did you know each Visitor Skyfighter holds a pilot, a co-pilot, a gunner, and THREE TROOPERS? Hmmmmmm.....

[ Hint's for mercenaries: did I see any... tanks? Nnnoooooooope! Did I see any... armoured vehicles? Nnnnooooooope! Did I see any... artillery? Nnnnooooooooope! Did I see any... major fortification equipment? Nnnnoooooooope! ]

At both the Coissent Fragments (Visitor's end and Foreven End), there is a major 10 Million-ton Visitor base, with over 1000 laser turrets, ten laser bays and 10 missile bays (each bay with 10 missiles).

Moreover, there are over 50 TL A fighters, 200 more primitive TL 9 fighters (which use fusion engines and missiles), and three genuine warships. These TL A warships are a little smaller than the motherships, but optimized for battle, not occupation/transport/surveillance. The warships are actually decently armoured, with 5 top-of-the line laser bays for TL A, 500 laser turrets and 500 missile turrets.

Often, at both the Fragments and Cong Su, you will see one to five transports. These 1 km diameter saucers are actually doing the transporting of humans, Visitors, and equipment. They are thinly armoured and have only 20 TL 9 laser turrets, and a few auxiliary craft.


Now What?

After the PCs have a pretty good grip on what's really going on, they then need to decide what to do.

[ Referee hint: usually the PCs would be clued in via contact with the Resistance, although expatriate Conggi living on other worlds - or even crewing other ships - may give the Scouts a hand. Individual research, daring raides into prison camps, the local unoffical Zhodani agent, intense survellance from orbiting satellites (after somehow getting permission from the Visitors under some guise or in payment for a tech exchange), cracking the Visitor encryption and searching for key words in the Visitor language (how did the PCs compile a dictionary of a totally unknown language? Hey, they're Scouts - they should be able to do this in their sleep!), the methods should be left to the players. ]

Options include


Back at the Ranch...

Important points

Timeline

1270 - Projected time of full Visitor Settlement of Cong Su

1170 - Projected time of human evacuation of Cong Su. Visitor settlement beings in earnest

003-1134 - Current date, just after the awful Holiday party

1131 - Cong Su population begins to decline by 1% per year

1130 - AI Virus release

1129 - Red Dust incident: some Visitors killed

1125 - Persecution of scientists on Cong Su, especially those in the biological sciences.

1123 - Cong Su miliary blocs merged into one planetary democracy

1120 - Trade agreement between Visitors and Cong Su governments hamemred out. Visitor money pours in, as does some Visitor technology.

1117 - Arrival of Visitor Trade Fleet at Cong Su

1116 - Strephon assasinated

1078 - Visitor Trade Fleet arrives at Foreven

1057 - Visitor Trade Fleet leaves their homeworld

1035 - Northern Lights crew, after many year's in comfort, are eaten by the Visitors

1021 - Visitor race gets Jump Drive technology from the Northern Lights

959 - Northern Lights is captured by the Visitor station in Foreven Sector

892 - Visitors succesfully send their first Arkenstone Engine ship to Foreven Sector.

~800 - ~890 - Visitor's attempt to reconstruct the Arkenstone Engine

-2994 - Minor human race uses Cossent Fragment and Arkenstone Engine to enter Foreven space. Limited exploration for the next 500 years.


Designer's comments

For those to whom it's not obvious, this adventure is adapted from a 1980s-era TV mini-series called V.

There are several modifications made to the Visitors, to make them more plausable and have a better Traveller fit.

Ignored items include

Things to keep include