Helzr’s Recovery Salvage and Reposession Services Part 2
This article originally appeared in Cepheus Journal #004 and was reprinted in the November/December 2022 issue of Freelance Traveller.
Kara’s Got Something Else
This is a short link section to prepare the characters for their next contract. It also provides some more detail about Kara.
Three weeks after returning from Thebus the character’s comm pads chime. It is a message from Kara, asking that they come to Helzr’s office.
This time, the reception area is less crowded, and the reception desk is manned by a human female that goes by the name Colryn Asper and a big feline male that calls itself Dolfar Whitemane and is dressed similarly to the two Vargr on the previous visit. They greet the characters with ”Good morning, Kara is waiting for you in her office. Please come this way” and with that, they lead the characters to a secure lift, open the door and stand aside, to allow them to enter. Once inside, the doors close and the lift starts to move.
After a while the doors open to reveal a large corner office with holoscreens showing images of Kara’s home world. In front of the characters is a large meeting table, on the far side of which stands Kara. She turns and sits at the table and invites the Captain to sit opposite her. Once everyone is seated, she starts.
She begins with “Captain. It is traditional in this industry for a salvage team to have a name, this is so they get known and build a reputation that attracts work. It is better to be asked to fulfil contracts than to have to bid for them.
“Talking of contracts, I may have something for you, if you’re interested?
“Do you have your own ship yet?
“There is an old, I should probably say venerable, Trade ship by the name of Fruitful Venture parked up in Bay Lima17. She has just completed a long, 120 parsec trip, which included her 500th jump. She is about to be stripped down for a full refit. She has been awarded her certificate of worthiness, but only for a further 5 years, and for light duties only. The Fruitful Venture is all we have free at the moment. You can use her until you have something newer, or more suitable, the choice is yours. Would you like her?”
If the characters accept her offer, then move on to Foul Play Part 1
Foul Play Part 1 Background
For the last three years there have been reports of an object in a very unusual eccentric solar orbit in a close by system.
The characters have been asked to investigate the object and determine if there if there is any potential for salvage.
The Contract Objectives
- Locate the Ship.
- Assess the salvage opportunities, is it derelict? A hulk?
- If the craft is salvageable, salvage it and return it to Realgar.
Part 1 this adventure is used in part to get the players near enough to Marduk, to make them available for the little boy lost adventure.
Part 2 the conclusion of the adventure and is intended to be played after ‘The Little Boy Lost’ either before they return to Realgar, or on the way back. In due time this should provide the way to get funds to purchase a new ship of their own choice.
Skills Required: Pilot, Engineer, Astrogation.
What actually happened?
Following up a rumour about a wrecked yacht in a very unusual eccentric solar orbit, the characters narrow down which system it is in, and begin making efforts to locate it. This should be presented by the referee as a puzzle to solve, at which point the characters can attempt to locate the actual craft. It is in a very strange solar orbit; not one a ship would normally find itself in under any set of circumstances the characters can think of. It does not, however, show signs of weapons fire.
Boarding the yacht, the characters find it is deserted. Critical systems have been destroyed by internal explosions which must have been deliberate, totally wrecking the drives and flight controls but leaving the power plant functional. The plant is running on a minimal level, and still has a little power left. This is being used to keep a single low berth running. The low berth has been juryrigged using parts of all the ship’s emergency survival systems, which look like they, too, were deliberately trashed. Judging from the items lying about, it seems someone fixed up the low berth aboard a dying ship and crawled in and is just barely alive. The low berth occupant is badly hurt, having been shot in both legs. She must have crawled around the ship for days collecting the components she needed and has done a good job of rigging the low berth as a survival pod. She needs careful waking and urgent medical attention but will live – and perhaps even make a good recovery.
The low berth occupant is – was – Jafurra Darrecourt, a midlevel employee in the accounts department of a large business group, who discovered a fraud. Lured to the yacht, an enemy she made in her rise engineered a particularly cruel way to murder her, leaving her wounded aboard her crippled yacht to slowly die as the air ran out. What they did not know was that she started her career as an engineer and had the skills to give her a chance of survival. She has been unconscious for more than three years, and her ‘murderer’ thinks they have got away with their deed. The ship’s eccentric orbit was taking it far outside the system, not to return for decades and, in the meantime, her ‘killer’ has used her absence to prosper. The victim has no resources, no wealth, and no position anymore; she is officially dead, presumed lost in a misjump incident. Naturally, she wants revenge and will try to get the characters to help. If successful, she will be able to reward them richly, but has little to offer at present. Of course, it is up to the referee to decide if she deserved what happened to her.
The Fruitful Venture
The players should really go and check the Fruitful Venture and move in.
By hooking their commpads up to the Fruitful Venture’s internal systems, the systems checks will be considerably quicker. 1D6 Hours.
The characters will discover that the Fruitful Venture has been well maintained, everything is up to date. In fact, some maintenance has been done ahead of schedule. In short, she’s good to go.
Outbound Travel Schedule
Depending on your universe you can make this trip as short or as long as you like, but it should at least 3 to 4 jumps.
Target System Sensor Sweep
This is the first thing the characters should do. If they don’t, give them a gentle reminder by having a piece of random space junk bounce of the hull, or bridge window.
Let them define some of the search parameters: Size, type of orbit, etc.
Have the characters get some early contacts, such as
- Cargo pods
- Junk or general detritus
Eventually give them a distant contact with details that match what they’re looking for, 200 tons, solar elliptical orbit. They will need to get closer for better detail.
Once closer they will be able to determine that the object is a 200 ton Yacht and it is cold (no signature from any drives or its power plant). Its sensors are inactive or passive. The ship’s transponder will identify it as the Just for Fun, a corporate yacht presumed lost in a misjump incident 3 years ago with the loss of its only passenger, Jafurra Darrecourt. As they get closer still, they will be able to see that there are no obvious signs of weapons damage. Hailing the craft will get no response.
Boarding the Just For Fun
The characters now have to figure a way to get across to the unresponsive yacht. Give them plenty of time to discuss their options. There is no right or wrong way, there is plenty of equipment aboard the Fruitful Venture that can be of assistance. Get them to look in the ship’s locker if they are stuck for ideas. Just before trying to get into the Just for Fun the characters get an urgent message from Kara.
The shipboard comms station and the captain’s commpad sounds an alert and displays that a message has arrived, marked ‘for the captain’s eyes only’. When opened, it has a video message enclosed.
“Captain, if you’ve found the object and it’s worthy of salvage, I need you to slap a salvage finder’s beacon on the hull and prepare to jump as soon as you’re prepared. I need you to go there without delay. Further details and your jump coordinates to follow via an encrypted channel. Clumsy—redo Mark it, Register it.”
Drop Everything, We’re on the move
A very important client of Helzr, The Baroness Tianna Reafort has requested that someone be sent to Marduk to check on her nephew Kawar. His steward-cum-chaperone has not sent his regular report, which is highly unusual. The last report he sent said they were in orbit above Marduk, in his starship The Chase is Everything but that Kawar had not told Turfan his intentions. The Fruitful Venture is to depart immediately for Marduk.
/* End of Contract Foul Play Part 1*/
The Little Boy Lost
Kawar, the nephew of Baroness Tianna Reafort, an important Noble, has gone missing with his starship, The Chase is Everything, along with his pilot and steward, a Caniform called Turfan Jenkins. Kawar was looking for creatures for his own Garden Planet, on which he has created his own private Safari Park, when he went missing.
Turfan would regularly send updates back to the family to let them know where Kawar was and that he hadn’t got himself into any sort of situation which would cause the family any embarrassment. Kawar is not aware of these updates.
- Find him and return him to safety
- Return his craft
- Return any specimen creatures has already collected
This information can be discovered via general research. Baroness Tianna Reafort has a lineage which can be traced back for centuries. Her family was once one of the great shipbuilding dynasties, accumulating vast wealth during this time. The family now owns whole planets, or at least large continents, as their estates.
Her nephew, Kawar, has disappeared, along with his pilot and steward, a Caniform called Turfan Jenkins, whilst looking for creatures for his garden planet in his starship The Chase is Everything. Kawar is very much a playboy and is forever using his family connections to get him out of trouble. Kawar is an arrogant, pompous, spoilt brat. He will use his lineage or money to get his own way and is prone to fits of rage and tantrums.
If the players make enquiries about Turfan, they will hear nothing but good. He is very loyal and trustworthy. Added to this, he is a proficient pilot and accomplished steward. He has served the Reafort family for 20 years, originally as a bodyguard.
- 100kCr upfront for discretion.
- 10% ship value
- 15kCr, per creature
- Starship shares
Skills Required: Pilot×2, Engineer×2, Astrogation×2
Useful: Survival, Recon.
- Find Kawar and return him to safety.
- Return his starship.
- Return any specimen creatures already collected.
This small, Earthlike world has no surviving cities outside the star port shantytown. The civilisation on Marduk collapsed due to repeated raids from nearby worlds. The planet’s population has broken into several dozen clans, each of which fears all outsiders. The clans all have their own languages and wildly divergent cultures. The star port is operated by GeDeCo and is on an artificial island far away from any of the nativeheld archipelagos.
Outbound Travel Schedule
2 parsecs 1 jump 1week
Scanning the system
Upon arrival at Marduk a quick system scan will reveal The Chase is Everything lying in a stable low orbit. A more focused scan will show that all her drives, power plant etc., are as would be expected for a ship parked in orbit.
Finding the The Chase is Everything
Any attempts to hail the vessel will result in the following recorded message.
“This is privately registered vessel The Chase is Everything. Please do not attempt to board, AntiHijack software is enabled. Repeat, this is privately registered vessel The Chase is Everything. Please do not attempt to board, AntiHijack software is enabled.”
A closer visual inspection will reveal that her air/raft bay doors are open, and the air/raft is missing from the bay. The 20 Ton cutter is securely docked in place.
The characters should be dissuaded from trying to enter the The Chase is Everything by having each and every access point carry large warning signs about AntiHijack software and Boobytrapped Airlocks. Make scanning the surface the safest and easiest option. If they persist, then hit them with some heavy damage, but do not kill anyone yet.
Scanning the surface
A scan of the planet’s surface will detect a small power source adjacent to a heavily overgrown square shaped rock outcrop, surrounded by dense vegetation.
Finding the Air/raft
A more detailed scan will show that the air/raft is actually located partially under a protruding strata section in a small clearing in the surrounding vegetation.
Going to the surface
The characters will need to make their way to the surface. They should use their own air/raft but should take time to prepare.
Finding the camp
Descending to the surface is routine and can be achieved without mishap. The outcrop and clearing become apparent.
It would appear that a small camp has been setup with the air/raft tucked under an overhang with its cabin roof open and a clearing in front, which isn’t big enough for another air/raft. A larger clearing is a few kilometres walk away with an easy looking trail leading to the The Chase is Everything’s air/raft. Once they have landed, ask the players what they want to do.
They may want to setup their own camp and then set off, they may want to set off immediately, or they may want to split the group, some to set up camp and some to investigate the other camp. Ask the players what they are carrying with them, and what is being left behind.
While setting up camp a couple of light rain showers pass over, suggesting that there might be heavier rain during the night. The terrain is a complete wilderness, with large areas of spiny bushes reminiscent of brambles. These are extremely resistant to being hacked through and have sufficiently nasty thorns to make macho stomping a bad option. They also have a fibrous core, whose long tough strands would likely entangle the mechanism of any rotary cutting tools.
Referees Note: These bushes are Spring Vine thorns, which exude a neuro toxin from their tips. They recoil if touched and the toxin can kill small prey, which will then provide nutrients to plant. The toxin will make the characters sick, but they should have an antitoxin in their medkits.
Fortunately, there are plenty of gaps to move through, and the bushes are only high enough to block sight in a few areas. However, they would effectively hide anyone who crouched as they moved.
After an hour or so of hard work slogging through this terrain for an hour or so and after countless trips and falls, the characters encounter a change in the landscape. There are unusual mounds and oddly regular areas where the undergrowth is small and patchy – as if the soil underneath was very thin. It becomes apparent after a while that this area used to be a city. Very little remains of it now, other than a layer of tumbled masonry and roadbeds on top of which thin soil has been deposited. It is possible to see where highways and lesser roads once stood, and here and there a small section of wall has survived. Most are covered with creepers which are now home to innumerable small birds.
After a further hour of making your way through or around the interminable vegetation you spy the air/raft across the clearing. You can now see that what appeared to be a rock outcrop is actually the remains of a structure, and the protruding strata section is a partially collapsed upper floor. The Chase is Everything’s air/raft is neatly and quite obviously, expertly, parked under the overhang. As you cross the clearing, glad to be free of the worst of the undergrowth, it is possible to see that the once-neat campsite is in complete disarray.
With night drawing ever closer, the characters have a decision to make, search the area now or wait until daybreak.
Searching the camp
Near to the front of the air/raft is a gauss pistol with an empty clip and next to it a full clip of ammo. Behind the air/raft, further beneath the overhang, protrudes a pair of booted Caniform feet. It is the dismembered body of Turfan.
Further inspection reveals that Turfan has been killed by an animal, possibly as he reloaded. There are bloodied human boot prints which lead into the air/raft.
The inside of the air raft is blood spattered. A stray gauss round has gone through the controls of the air raft and rendered it unflyable. There are several empty cases from a large-calibre rifle scattered in the interior, but no weapon visible, and no trace of Kawar. As dusk starts to fall many of the birds are seen flying home to roost higher up into a collapsed highrise building, whose floors provide slopes up to the interior.
The landscape feels eerie, deserted yet alive, with oddly familiar shapes softened by vegetation. The wings of many small birds create sudden sounds and movements, making it seem that there is something lurking at the corner of the characters’ eyes. Everyone is tired and at first jumpy, but soon it becomes too much effort to turn at every sound. It’s just the birds again.
Referee’s Note: Do a quick Check to see if any characters have lost equipment during the trip through the scrub.
Seeing a light
As night sets in, one the characters suddenly think they see a twinkle of light, high up in the vegetation of the overgrown building and, after waiting, it appears again, and then a third time.
Allow the characters an opportunity to plot a course to the lights location. As night turns into day an obvious set of human boot prints, accompanied by drops of blood, can be seen leading off into the brush in the direction of the building that the light was seen in, which appears to be approximately 2.5 km away.
Following the trail
The boot prints initially follow a relatively straight line, with the occasional deviation around denser patches of undergrowth. Judging from the spacing, it becomes apparent that the subject was running. Roughly 0.5km into the brush the subject stops and there is an empty casing on the ground, along with a small, now dried, pool of blood.
The tracks then continue, but now there is a broad drag mark which almost certainly has been caused by the butt of a rifle. This then turns into a barrel impression, as if the rifle is now being used as an impromptu crutch. About 200 meters further on several sets of prints appear, from what appears to be a dogfooted quadruped, over the original trail. After a further 700 meters the tracks indicate that the human stopped, and probably turned to look behind and then continued at a faster pace for a short distance, before slowing dramatically, then stopping next to more blood. Thrown into the bushes can be seen the empty wrappings from items from a first aid kit.
A further 200 meters on the trail breaks into what must have once been a plaza and the scrub and brush gives way to waist high grasses and flowering plants. The track, although less obvious, still heads towards one of the collapsed upper floors of the building in which the light was seen.
Finding the building
The characters are able to cross the final 1000 meters to the base of the collapsed floor in short order. Here they will find another small pool of blood and a spent rifle round. The slope created by the collapsed floor is covered in ‘liana’ type roots, which although they are still quite thorny, are climbable with caution.
Entering the building
Getting to the top of the slope is exhausting, with many slips and slides, but luckily, no falls. The slope ends and the floor becomes level. There is a trail in the mulch, with one obviously dragging foot, heading further into the building, and towards an old doorway. The door for the doorway has long since gone, and the remaining hinge is encrusted in rust.
Beyond the door is an intact stairwell. The stairs going down descend one flight and are then blocked by rubble. The stairs going up appear to be unimpeded as far as can be seen.
Every upward flight terminates in a landing, with a closed and locked security door. The first couple of doors bear witness to attempts to open them by brute force alone. After ascending several flights, the characters are faced by another doorless frame. The doorway opens onto another flat floor. Directly ahead the floor ends abruptly in a jagged edge. To the right the exterior wall stands, still intact, but pierced at regular intervals by window openings. To the left is a doorway into what appears to have been an interior room. The doorway has been blocked by an ad hoc barricade. The lingering smell of a wood fire hangs in the air.
If the characters make themselves known, there will be a response from Kawar, who is hiding in the room. If the characters make no sound and approach the doorway silently, as they reach the doorway, they will be shot at by the terrified Kawar, sheltering within. Roll some dice, but Kawar is likely to miss in his weakened state.
The barricade can be climbed over; it is not very well built but is about 1.5m high. Once inside, a leanto shelter can be seen. Inside is a very scared, very dirty and disheveled Kawar. The smell of infection is immediately apparent. Kawar has a nasty, infected, bite wound to his left thigh. He has a second bite wound which has removed most of his right calf muscle, his right forearm has been bitten so deep that the bones are crushed and shattered. He has numerous superficial wounds to his face and left arm.
The characters now need to formulate a plan, or plans. See if they can come up with all the options.
They need to…
- Treat Kawar’s wounds /here/in orbit/at the star port.
- Come up with a way to get him to the air/raft, or, get the air/raft to him. As they discuss their options tell them that the light is starting to fade. Into orbit or head to the star port?
Nightfall again The attack
The Referee should take time to read the section on Garinars. This can happen either on the trip back to the air/raft or during the night.
Kawar may be in a state to have given the characters a description, and the local name, he likes to showoff, especially if it makes him look more intelligent. This is what he was here to collect, but had only got as far as stalking one, before he and Turfan were ambushed at their camp.
Garinars are described locally as:
- ‘Extremely clever teethkilling thing’
- ‘That which was left over after civilization collapsed’
- ‘The things out in the darkness’ and
- ‘Death beyond the light’
Garinars can best be described as a ‘bristly furred, longlegged doglike quadruped’, striped in grey and dingy brown, with long fangs and claws that let it climb as well as gouge and tear. They resemble a larger version of African wild dog.
The attack will be sudden organised and relentless. The Referee should determine how many attackers there are. Make this a challenge. Wounded Garinars will back off and then rejoin the fight as a group. Kawar will only be able to take part if he has been supplied with a handgun.
Hopefully, they remembered to bring the recently departed Turfan’s Gauss Pistol.
Kawar will be ‘very’ insistent that he be returned to his ship and the characters take him home. He does not want it stolen by pirates, or by any other low life. He will threaten the characters with all sorts of things if they don’t do as he says. His Aunt is very important, and he has lots of money and can pay for very good, ‘the best’ lawyers that money can buy.
Getting back to orbit
The The Chase is Everything’s air/raft, although damaged, can be jury rigged in extremis, in order to get everyone to orbit or back to the character’s own air/raft.
Kawar, providing he has received some food and water, and some medical care, will be able to supply the characters with the necessary override codes to enter the The Chase is Everything.
The characters now have a conundrum, or two. They need to:
- Get Kawar back to his home world.
- Get the The Chase is Everything to its home world.
- Get the Fruitful Venture to their base of operations.
Remind the players that it is a multiweek return trip and Kawar is a spoilt brat and will probably whine all the way home and make ridiculous demands of anyone looking after him.
/* End of Contract the Little Boy Lost */
Appendix A Contracts
Contract: Foul Play Part 1
Part I: this adventure is used in part to get the players near enough to Marduk, to make them available for the little boy lost adventure.
Part II: is the conclusion of the adventure and is intended to be played after ’The Little Boy Lost’ either before they return to the home world, or on the way back. In due time this should provide the way to get funds to purchase a new ship of their own choice.
Contract: The Little Boy Lost
This adventure will gift the players their own starship and therefore grant them a greater amount of autonomy.