Gaian Pilgrimage: An Earth Colonies1 Mini-Campaign
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue.
“Proclaim to people the pilgrimage: they will come to Gaia on foot and in every meager conveyance, coming from every remote path.”
– Sage Inanna Hayim, The Discourses
Initial location: Tabora, Fomalhaut District (1723.242
Date: 28 July, 3001 AD
Required equipment: Free trader starship (owned or chartered)
The PCs are approached at a Kigoma-Ujiji startown tavern by ShaidaSelemani “Shess” Mischiefmaker, a Dolphin in an environmental suit, with integrated grav-belt, waldos and voder. Mischiefmaker is a Gaian and recently retired as an executive with Ouko, Sagih and Momeu (OS&M), Tabora’s major trading house. She has never been off-world and is looking for a band of PCs to provide transport for her pilgrimage to Earth. Mischiefmaker hopes to visit five intermediate worlds to encounter their respective planetary Lifeforms before encountering the original Lifeform at Earth.
Mischiefmaker will pay an amount equal to a half complement of middle passages and 60% of standard cargo fees—for a free trader—for the trip from Tabora to Astarte (jump-1), Tamin (jump-1), Saavedra (jump-2, with double passages and cargo fees to accommodate the required deep space jump), al-Ghazali (jump-2, again with double passages and fees), Ensanche (jump-1), and finally to Earth (jump-2, with double passages and fees).
The PCs are free to book actual passengers and cargo to each intermediate world. Mischiefmaker plans to visit a key natural site during the standard lay-over period at each world and has made prior arrangements on each world for a local guide. She will also pay a bonus equal to ten percent of the total of the passage and cargo fees each time the PCs agree to ensure that the lay-over period at each world is extended to ten days and also accompany her on the local expedition.
Shess Mischiefmaker, 54A868, Age 52, Cr100,000+
9 terms Retired Merchant (Assistant Station Head)
Admin-3, Bribery-1, Carousing-2, Grav Belt-1, Liaison-2, Trader-2, Vacc Suit-1
Note: This mini-campaign assumes that none of the PCs are especially devoted to a religion. If one or more of the PCs is a Gaian, the referee will need to adjust the scenarios to accommodate those commitments.
1st Jump: Astarte, Fomalhaut District (1822.24 B35688)
“Brilliance as colorful as a rainbow that appears after a storm.”
– Sage Rahab Sugandhit, The Discourses
The jump-1 journey from Tabora to Astarte is uneventful. Astarte is a hospitable world with surface gravity slightly higher than standard (1.1g), a breathable atmosphere and a fully-developed biosphere with advanced local fauna. The world has a population in the millions, is governed by a democratic oligarchy and has substellar technological accomplishment.
Having made a call to the planet during the voyage from the jump emergence point, Mischiefmaker is met at the starport by Sophia Komatta, who works for Fomalhaut Farms and is also a Gaian. Komatta and Mischiefmaker head into startown but before leaving make plans to meet the PCs the next day for a journey to Astarte’s southern polar region to view the world’s auroras. Komatta and Mischiefmaker arrive at the starport’s commuter station the next morning as expected in an enclosed grav-vehicle.
- The voyage to the southern polar region is uneventful. Komatta has brought along a portable campsite and the views of the aurora are spectacular the first night. Komatta moves the group to a new campsite each of the next two days to allow the auroras to be observed from different locations. If the PCs’ ship is staying for the twelve day period Mischiefmaker will invite the PCs to join her and Komatta on a similar visit to the northern polar region, or offer to drop them off at the starport along the way. In any event, Komatta returns Mischiefmaker to the starport at the appointed time without incident. Mischiefmaker is very pleased with her visit.
- As in 1, but on the first night Komatta realizes that Mischiefmaker espouses “Transplanetism”, a radical new strand of Gaianism. Komatta politely dismisses the Transplanetist premise that each planetary Lifeform is itself simply an element of a larger interstellar or perhaps even pan-galactic Lifeform. He cautions Mischiefmaker that regardless of the fact that lifeforms which evolved on a given planet—Dolphins and Humans foremost among them—have in many instances been successfully transplanted to other ecospheres, “Transplanetism” is generally judged to be heretical by both Orthodox and Considered Gaians. Mischiefmaker agrees not to raise the “One Goddess” again.
- As in 2, but Komatta insists upon returning Mischiefmaker and the PCs to the starport the next morning. Mischiefmaker returns to her startown hotel and spends the rest of the time in port trying to reach out to other Gaian contacts she has on Astarte but is unable to find another guide.
- As in 3, but the day after being returned to the starport, Mischiefmaker shows up at the docking bay asking if she can come aboard, offering to pay an additional middle passage fare for the duration of the time in port. She mentions receiving a visit from a local Gaian official and subsequently being told by her hotel that she would no longer be accommodated as a guest.
- As in 4, but the day after returning to the ship, a delegation of three local Gaian officials visits the ship asking that Mischiefmaker depart Astarte immediately.
- As in 5, but the day after the visit by the Gaian delegation the port authority will inform the PCs that the ship must depart Astarte the next day—with Mischiefmaker aboard. Any delay—even to complete arrangements for additional passengers or to load cargo—will not be tolerated and will result in impoundment of the ship and its cargo. If the PCs do not depart as required, port officials will impound the ship for 3D weeks on a throw, each subsequent day, of 6+ with a negative DM equal to the highest level of Admin, Bribery, Broker, Liaison or Jack-of-all-Trades skill among the PCs.
After departure, Mischiefmaker will confirm her unusual beliefs, noting that her belief in the trans planetary “One Goddess”—as opposed to the more conventional belief among Gaians that each planetary Lifeform is a distinct entity—is what has inspired her pilgrimage to different worlds with highly-developed ecospheres. She explains she seems to have misunderstood that bias against Transplanetism was only an issue on Tabora, her homeworld. She notes that she had not raised the issue with Komatta when corresponding with her in advance to arrange for assistance while on Astarte and promises to be more circumspect in the future.
2nd Jump: Tamin, Fomalhaut District (1922.23 835382)
“Behold! Stand upon the shore and see the water seething with light.”
– Sage Amaterasu Mazu, The Discourses
The jump-1 journey from Astarte to Tamin is uneventful. Tamin is a hospitable world with slightly lower than standard surface gravity (0.8g), a breathable atmosphere and a fully-developed biosphere with advanced local fauna. The world has a population in the thousands, is governed by a democratic oligarchy and has intercontinental technological accomplishment.
The library data entry for Tamin also mentions that the world is often subject to severe weather conditions that make surface habitation at its current technological accomplishment difficult to sustain. The local starport has no orbital facilities and the downport, while open to the atmosphere, is located in an artificially-constructed depression intended to provide moderate protection from high winds.
Again, Mischiefmaker calls ahead after the ship comes out of jump and is met on arrival at the relatively primitive starport by Sione Keldai a local animal herder and Gaian. Again, the PCs are invited to join Mischiefmaker and Keldai the next day for a journey to Tamin’s bioluminescent hot springs. Keldai and Mischiefmaker arrive at the starport the next morning in a chemical-powered ground vehicle. Local law levels require the PCs to leave any weapons aboard their ship.
After a rugged drive of about five hours through arid steppes, Keldai halts the vehicle on a large, smooth plain near some low hills. A short hike into the hills reveals an extensive array of hot springs. The camping equipment Keldai has brought along is much more rudimentary than that used on Astarte. Keldai encourages Mischiefmaker and the PCs to get some rest as they will likely be up well into the local night observing the hot springs.
As the sun sets Keldai leads Mischiefmaker and the PCs deeper into the hot springs. As darkness falls the springs are quite spectacular, coruscating with multiple colors. Keldai explains that the effect is due both to tiny bioluminescent lifeforms in the springs and fluorescent reactions to the bioluminescence among other sedentary lifeforms in the springs. Mischiefmaker is quite taken with the display. Asking to be undisturbed for a bit she glides off further into the hot springs. She returns after nearly an hour. As Keldai leads Mischiefmaker and the PCs back to their camp a brisk wind has risen.
The next several days unfold in a similar manner but without incident.
As in 1, but on the third morning the group is woken by a severe thunderstorm. The storm disrupts some of the campsite and eventually the group retreats to the vehicle.
The storm lasts several hours. While the group is huddled in the vehicle, Keldai explains, in response to a question from one of the PCs, that there is no weather control on Tamin. (If Keldai is asked she will admit that she did not check the weather forecast because forecasting abilities are rudimentary at best, Mischiefmaker’s time on Tamin was short and she trusts that events will unfold as the Lifeform desires.) Mischiefmaker notes that Keldai’s view of terraforming efforts—like weather control—reflects an Orthodox Gaian perspective which is typically skeptical of efforts to artificially manipulate the Lifeform's natural processes.
Keldai nods in agreement, explaining that Tamin is a relatively recently resettled world, the original colony, established by a slower-than-light generation starship from Earth, having failed during the Sundering—when contact was lost with Earth—largely due to the harsh environment.
Tamin was resettled in the faster-than-light era by Gaians drawn specifically to the world by its obviously robust planetary Lifeform but also because the harsh weather would likely deter others. The primarily Orthodox Gaian population sets Tamin apart from worlds settled during the Sundering, many of which were settled my Orthodox Gaians but drifted to Considered Gaianism as they turned to artificial measures to help them to survive living with a new planetary Lifeform without assistance from Earth.
- As in 2, but during the retreat to the vehicle, 1D members of the party, determined randomly, including Keldai and Mischiefmaker, will each suffer 2D-6 damage. If Mischiefmaker is injured, her environmental suit will also be damaged on a throw of 10+. (Throw 1D to determine the damaged subsystem: 1 = locomotion, 2 = manipulation, 3 = communication, 4 = life support, 5 = control system, affecting all subsystems, 6 = power, affecting all subsystems.) The damage can be repaired in 1+1D hours with a negative DM equal to the sum of the highest two levels (including duplicates) of Computer, Electrical, Gravitics, Mechanical or Robotics skill among the uninjured PCs. If life support (or the control system or power) is damaged, Mischiefmaker will suffer 1D-3 of damage for each hour needed for repair. (If Mischiefmaker is injured severely enough to die, she instead falls into a coma from which she will recover, still severely injured, in 2D-6 days.)
As in 3, but as the group reaches the vehicle a flash flood will wash away the camp. It will be 3D hours before the floodwaters recede sufficiently for the vehicle to move.
Attempts to reach the main settlement by radio will be unsuccessful. Keldai explains that they are out of range of the settlement and that there are no orbital relays.
- As in 4, but the flash flood is so severe it damages the vehicle. Repairs will take 2D hours with a negative DM equal to the sum of the highest two levels (including duplicates) of ATV, Electrical or Mechanical skill among the uninjured PCs.
- As in 5, but the flood also overturns the vehicle. Each occupant suffers 2D-6 damage, additional to any injuries sustained in reaching the vehicle (with Mischiefmaker’s suit potentially suffering additional damage, as above, if she sustains an additional injury). Repairs to the vehicle—and up righting it—will take 5D hours with a negative DM as above.
After departure, if Mischiefmaker was not severely injured while on Tamin she will express a newfound appreciation for Orthodox Gaianism, of which she had previously been skeptical. She was impressed with Keldai’s faith in the benevolence of the planetary Lifeform of Tamin.
On the other hand, if Mischiefmaker had been severely injured she will remark that her experience on Tamin has reconfirmed her preference for Considered Gaianism, noting that technology, itself a product of the sapience revered by Gaians, is simply yet another emergent phenomenon of the planetary Lifeform.
3rd Jump: Saavedra, Sirius District (2020.22 844427)
“Then Gaia spoke to the great fish and it ungorged me upon the dry land.”
– Sage Ausencia Santander, The Discourses
Because Tamin is an independent world, there is no Commonwealth jump beacon between there and Saavedra. This makes the jump-1 to deep space a bit harrowing but it is nevertheless uneventful. Refueling with the extra fuel stored in the cargo hold proceeds without incident and the second jump-1 to Saavedra is also straightforward.
Saavedra is a somewhat habitable world with slightly lower than standard surface gravity (0.8g), a dense atmosphere that is breathable with artificial countermeasures and a developed biosphere with primitive local fauna. The world has a population in the tens of thousands, is governed by an autocratic oligarchy and has late interplanetary technological development.
Once again, Mischiefmaker calls the planet after the ship emerges from jump and is met on arrival at the highport, constructed around the original generation starship Caupolicán, by Xiuying Fú a local civil engineer and Gaian. Fú and Mischiefmaker invite the PCs to join them the next day for an encounter with Saavedra’s pezblindado, a giant, armored, “flying” fish. Fú and Mischiefmaker arrive the next morning at the starport shuttle bay in a submersible grav-carrier.
Fú pilots the grav-carrier to a small archipelago about five hours from Puerto Saavedra, the main city situated in a temperate region of the west coast of the world’s main continent, and sets down on a small island, setting up a portable campsite on a sandy beach just as the sun is setting. She hands out respirator masks, noting that Mischiefmaker has purchased these devices which will allow the PCs to breathe Saavedra’s dense atmosphere. (Mischiefmaker’s environmental suit incorporates the necessary respiration feature.)
It is a beautiful day the next morning, sunny with comfortable temperatures which almost tempt the PCs to forego their respirator masks. (Fortunately they’re unnecessary in the grav vehicle.) A short flight over the waves brings the craft to an area which Fú says is a breeding ground for the pezblindado at this time of year. Soon several large, somewhat whale-like creatures are seen swimming in the clear waters, some approaching ten meters in length.
Fú explains that the pezblindado is a fish rather than a whale—it is somewhat similar to aquatic lifeforms which existed on Earth during the Paleozoic Era—but unlike both contemporary fish or whales it has cartilaginous plates of “armor” which cover its head. Suddenly one of the creatures leaps from the water, headfirst in an arc which ultimately brings its tail out of the water just as its armored head plunges back into the ocean.
“And they ‘fly’”, Fú says with a smile. She goes on to explain that such behavior is only possible for a creature this size because of the lower than standard gravity and dense atmosphere of Saavedra.
Next Fú dives the craft into the ocean providing an underwater view of the creatures by slowly moving around the school at a distance. At times she is able to move closer to a single creature as it swims slightly away from the others. Fú explains that the pezblindado eats only tiny ocean creatures and that they should face no threat from the animals as long as they are careful not to get between a parent and a child.
Mischiefmaker is nearly beside herself with fascination, expressing disappointment that the dense atmospheric pressure makes it impossible for her to enter the ocean without her environment suit. Fú also cautions her that it may not be safe for her to venture into the ocean in her environment suit either.
The next several days pass in a similar manner without incident.
As in 1, but on the second day the PCs awake to the hum of a pair of grav vehicles in the air over the ocean area where they had been watching the pezblindados. At least one larger, partially submerged craft also seems to be in the area.
“Poachers!” cries Fú. She races to the grav-carrier and makes a call to police in Port Saavedra. As she powers up the grav-vehicle Mischiefmaker insists on joining her. Fú relents and invites the PCs to join them. She takes the craft into the air and begins transmitting on a general channel, telling the other craft that the authorities are already on their way.
Immediately the submerged craft rises from the ocean. It pauses briefly as the two air/rafts quickly make their way to the larger craft and into an open vehicle hatch. As soon as the air/rafts are aboard the larger craft races away—the hatch still closing—in a direction generally opposite from the mainland.
Fú gives chasing seeking to identify the craft via its transponder but it becomes apparent that there is no transponder signal and that the grav-carrier cannot match the larger craft’s speed.
Fú returns to the campsite and about three hours later a police grav-carrier arrives. After a short interview with Fú and collection of her recordings of the poacher craft, the four officers return to their vehicle and depart.
That evening Fú explains that most people know to leave the pezblindados to themselves during the mating season—a circumstance the poachers were likely relying upon. (The pezblindado can be a source of a variety of chemicals used in pharmaceuticals and industrial processes and also of several delicacies among some non-Gaians.) She notes that she also would not normally be here now but was making an exception to accommodate Mischiefmaker’s short visit.
Mischiefmaker will contrast the prompt response by the police to the group’s recent experience on Tamin. Fú admits that while many of the colonists who arrived on the Caupolicán were Orthodox Gaians they were forced to rely upon much of the technology and industrial capabilities they’d brought with them to survive both on the generation ship and on their own during the early years of settlement of Saavedra. Over time this meant a gradual shift from orthodoxy to Considered Gaianism. As an aside Fú admits the colonists were fortunate not to need to resort to terraforming in order to survive as that might have tested their beliefs too strenuously. She also notes that they are also fortunate to find themselves with a planetary Lifeform where the sort of weather control that would be useful on Tamin is largely unnecessary.
The next several days pass without further incident.
As in 2, but before the submersible flees it fires upon the grav-carrier (which is unarmed and unarmored). The vehicle takes only minor damage and is able to return to the campsite. The damage can be repaired in 1D hours with a negative DM equal to the sum of the highest two levels (including duplicates) of Electrical, Gravitics or Mechanical skill among the PCs.
The next several days pass without further incident.
As in 3, but the vehicle is more heavily damaged, with Fú barely managing a controlled crash landing at the campsite. Between the weapons fire and the crash, 1D members of the party, determined randomly and including Fú and Mischiefmaker, will each suffer 2D-3 damage. If Mischiefmaker is injured, her environmental suit will also be damaged on a throw of 10+ (with the damage, its repair and her potential additional injury as on Tamin above).
Repairs to the more severely damaged vehicle will take 2D hours with DMs as in 2 above for skills among uninjured PCs.
Fú calls Port Saavedra for assistance and a search and rescue team arrives in 1 + 1D-3 hours.
As in 4, but the grav vehicle crashes in the water. Each occupant suffers 2D-3 damage (with Mischiefmaker’s suit potentially also suffering damage, as above, if she sustains an injury).
Each PC must throw 6+ to secure their respirator before evacuating the vehicle into the water, with a positive DM equal to Vacc Suit or Battledress skill. (Fú will have no difficulty securing her respirator and Mischiefmaker has no need to do so.) The group will make their way back to the campsite without further complications.
The vehicle communicator is lost but the PCs will be able to contact search and rescue with a handheld device in 1 + 1D-3 hours with a negative DM equal to the highest level of Communications skill among the uninjured PCs.
As in 5, but as the submersible is recovering the air/rafts one of the largest pezblindados rises out of the water striking the craft amidships with its armored head. The hull is ruptured and the broken craft (with its recovered air/rafts) falls into the ocean wracked by several explosions.
Fú brings the grav-carrier to a hover over the sinking wreckage. Several crewmembers are in the water but are being attacked by at least three pezblindados. As the wreckage disappears below the surface the creatures move away, leaving 2D-3 injured crewmembers still afloat. Eventually, by returning some PCs to the campsite, Mischiefmaker working outside via her grav-belt and multiple trips back to shore, the group is able to rescue 2D-6 crewmembers.
The police arrive as above. If another call is made before the police arrive a search and rescue team arrives in 1 + 1D-3 hours.
The next several days pass without further incident
After departure, if Mischiefmaker had come to appreciate Orthodox Gaianism at Tamin she will express a reconsideration of that view, instead reconfirming her preference for Considered Gaianism. She also notes that it is likely the result of a Considered perspective that people have had the opportunity to experience the Saavedra planetary Lifeform, noting that the dense atmosphere would make the world uninhabitable to people from Earth.
4th Jump: al-Ghazali, Sirius District (2019.20 B3568)
“Gaia will raise for this community at the end of every millennium the one who will renovate its religion for it.”
– Sage Davidson Yubokumin, The Discourses
With a Commonwealth jump beacon at the intermediate point, the deep space, two-jump journey from Saavedra to al-Ghazali is uneventful. Al-Ghazali is a hospitable world with surface gravity slightly higher than standard (1.1g), a breathable atmosphere and a fully-developed biosphere with advanced local fauna. The world has a population in the hundreds of thousands, is governed by a democratic autarchy and has substellar technological accomplishment.
Upon emergence in the Al-Ghazali system, Mischiefmaker calls the planet and is met on arrival at the highport, again constructed around an original generation starship, Connestoga, by Sarah Fleury a local artisan and Gaian. Fleury and Mischiefmaker invite the PCs to join them the next day for a visit to Al-Ghazali’s Great Cinnabar forests. Fleury and Mischiefmaker arrive the next morning at the starport shuttle bay in a grav-carrier.
Fleury pilots the grav-carrier to a heavily forested area on the west coast of California, the main continent in the world’s southern hemisphere temperate zone. Fleury is a gracious guide but seems distracted by news reports which she monitors on the vehicle’s comm system. It seems the Princeps, the world’s democratically-chosen absolute monarch, is engaged in some sort of “Gaian Renewal”. Fleury declines to discuss any details but continues to pay close attention to the news.
She lands the grav-carrier in a small meadow surrounded by huge coniferous trees, easily surpassing 100 meters in height and many more than five meters in diameter at the base. Fleury asks for assistance in setting up a portable camp and leads Mischiefmaker and the PCs on short hike into the woods before returning to prepare the evening meal. Once back at the camp she continues to monitor news reports.
The next day Fleury leads the group on a day-long hike among the huge trees. They are quite spectacular. In the afternoon she distributes grav-belts to the PCs, noting that Mischiefmaker has paid for their rental, and leads an excursion into the forest canopy which is rich with various crawling and flying animals living among the foliage.
The next several days pass in a similar manner without incident. On several occasions Mischiefmaker asks to be undisturbed for a bit she as glides off further into the trees, typically returning after an hour or so. Fleury moves the campsite a few kilometers every couple of days while continuing to monitor the news with increasingly apparent anxiety.
As in 1, but on the third day Fleury apologizes profusely and explains she will have to cut the expedition short and return immediately to the capital. Furthermore, she says she will be unable to return Mischiefmaker and the PCs to the highport but will only be able to leave them at the downport at New Sacramento.
Fleury drops Mischiefmaker and the PCs at the downport shuttle port, apologizing again and, enigmatically, encouraging Mischiefmaker to get off-world as quickly as possible, before departing in the grav-carrier.
News reports indicate that the Princeps has ordered his “Virtue Sentinels” to find “One Goddess heretics” and move them to “Renewal Shrines” in several remote areas.
Efforts to contact Fleury will be unsuccessful and Mischiefmaker’s other contacts decline to assist her with a second expedition to the Great Cinnabar.
As in 2, but on the journey to New Sacramento Fleury will admit to also being a Transplanetist and asks Mischiefmaker if she will assist in helping her family flee off-world.
If Mischiefmaker and the PCs assent, after dropping them at the downport Fleury will return in two hours with her family: her spouse, three minor children and two grandparents and substantial baggage. There are no issues in getting Fleury and her family to the ship. They are happy to pay for middle passage to Ensanche.
As in 3, but on the return to New Sacramento Fleury asks for Mischiefmaker’s assistance in retrieving her family from a friend’s shop in a commercial district in the city. The district is currently being patrolled by the Virtue Sentinels.
If Mischiefmaker and the PCs assent, the 20 minute journey to the shop, located in a large, multi-story retail and residential complex, is uneventful. Fleury’s family is retrieved without incident and the journey to the highport is routine.
As in 4, but the group arrives just as a squad of Virtue Sentinels are interrogating Fleury’s spouse. Throw 8+ to convince the Sentinel leader to allow Fleury’s family to accompany the PCs to their ship with a positive DM equal to the sum of the highest two levels (including duplicates) of Admin, Bribery, Liaison or Streetwise skill among the PCs.
If unsuccessful Fleury and her family will be arrested by the Sentinels and Mischiefmaker and the PCs will be instructed to return to their ship and complete their business on Al-Ghazali.
The Sentinels are of similar numbers and similarly armed and armored as the PCs. If a fight breaks out three similar squads of Sentinels will arrive in 2D minutes and the group will be arrested. Mischiefmaker and the PCs will be separated from Fleury and her family and held in a standard jail facility for 2D weeks, with a negative DM equal to the highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill among the PCs. If all of the group are arrested their ship will be impounded and can only be released after paying a fine of Cr1000×3D, with a negative DM equal to the highest level of Admin, Bribery, Legal, Liaison or Streetwise skill among the PCs. (Upon release it will be impossible to locate Fleury or her family.)
As in 5, but there are only two Sentinels armed only with truncheons. They may be overpowered on a throw of 6+ with a positive, cumulative DM equal to the Brawling skill among all of the PCs. On a second throw of 10+, with a negative DM equal to the highest level of Brawling skill among the PCs, one of the Sentinels will manage to make a call and three squads of Sentinels of will arrive in 3D minutes.
If no alarm is raised, the PCs can bring Fleury and her family to the ship at the highport without incident on a throw of 6+, with a positive DM equal to the highest of Grav Vehicle or Ship's Boat skill of the pilot. (Fleury has only Grav Vehicle-1.)
If unsuccessful the grav-carrier, which is unarmed and unarmored, will be pursued by two armed grav-carriers and will be met at the highport shuttle bay by two squads of Sentinels and the group will be arrested.
After departure, if the group had been jailed, Mischiefmaker will apologize profusely and give the PCs a bonus payment equal to 20% of the passage and shipping fees for the entire journey from Tabora to Earth. In any event, Mischiefmaker will be both frightened and angered by the persecution of Transplanetists on Al-Ghazali (though this will be tempered a bit if Fleury and her family are aboard for the voyage to Ensanche).
5th Jump: Ensanche, Sirius District (1919.20 635487)
“Sapience is that quality by which the Goddess becomes aware of Herself.”
– Sage Liliya Calvin, The Discourses
The jump-1 journey from al-Ghazali to Ensanche is uneventful. Ensanche is a hospitable world with lower than standard surface gravity (0.6g), a breathable atmosphere and a fully-developed biosphere with advanced local fauna. The world has a population in the tens of thousands, is governed by a democratic oligarchy and has late interplanetary technological accomplishment.
Mischiefmaker calls ahead after the ship comes out of jump and is met on arrival at the highport, again constructed around the original generation starship Ildefons Cerdà, by René Bonesetter, an (apparently) emancipated humanoid robot and also (apparently) a Gaian, dressed in Ensanche fashionable attire. The PCs are invited to join Mischiefmaker and Bonesetter the next day on an expedition to encounter Ensanche’s centauro herds. Bonesetter and Mischiefmaker arrive at the highport shuttle bay the next morning in a grav-carrier.
Bonesetter, now dressed in outdoor clothes, pilots the grav-carrier to a broad steppe in the central region of a small continent which traverses the world’s southern hemisphere temperate and frigid zones. Bonesetter lands the grav-carrier near a small stand of sparse trees and asks for assistance in setting up a portable camp. Pointing to the red sun low on the horizon the robot notes it will not set at this time of year in these latitudes—the other red sun, which is in an elliptical orbit beyond Ensanche, is not visible at this time of day—and encourages Mischiefmaker and the PCs to rest after the “evening” meal.
Bonesetter rousts the group eight hours later and hustles them into the grav-vehicle, flying briefly in a southerly direction until a huge cloud of dust becomes visible on the horizon. Bonesetter flies to the head of the cloud where a large herd of animals is moving at a brisk pace. They’re unusually shaped, almost looking like they have riders and soon it becomes apparent that they are big.
As the grav-carrier gets nearer it becomes clear that there are no riders: these are the centauros, much larger than a terrestrial horse, heavily built like a terrestrial rhinoceros and with an extended, upright portion of torso where the head and neck of a horse or rhino would be with two rudimentary limbs—most Ensanche megafauna have six limbs—and a large head. There are hundreds of the beasts in the herd.
After a few minutes the herd slows—and the dust cloud begins to dissipate—as the animals congregate around an oasis surrounded by grasslands for grazing.
In response to a query from Mischiefmaker, Bonesetter says it would be unsafe to exit the vehicle and mingle on the ground with the centauros. Mischiefmaker might be able to lift away from them but others on foot could easily be trampled by the large, fast beasts.
Bonesetter spends the next several days following the herd across the
steppes, retreating to land at a safe distance for the “midday” meal and
returning to the camp at “night”. The next several days pass in a
similar manner without incident.
As in 1, but on the third day Bonesetter receives an unusual call on the vehicle comm-link. Someone identifying themselves as Eks Fyv-wun, who claims to also be an emancipated robot, is calling from the downport to say that a bounty hunter has arrived on Ensanche and is seeking to capture Bonesetter. Fyv-wun urges Bonesetter to come to the downport where it will provide assistance in evading the bounty hunter.
Bonesetter thanks Fyv-wun but explains that it will not be returning because it is currently engaged on expedition with some off-world acquaintances.
Afterwards Bonesetter is extremely contrite, apologizing for the disruption and assuring Mischiefmaker and the PCs that it has been properly emancipated and faces no threat from the bounty hunter. When one of the PCs points out that bounty hunters can often be unconcerned with the legalities of their bounties Bonesetter notes that it had filed no flight plan for this expedition and had told none of its associates of its specific location.
Over the “evening” meal Bonesetter explains that it had been emancipated by its former owner, an Earth industrialist who had retired to Ensanche. Bonesetter had been the industrialist’s medical provider and was formally and legally emancipated upon the industrialist’s death nearly five years ago. The industrialist had been a devout Considered Gaian and was convinced that intelligent robots like Bonesetter were simply another manifestation of the sapience of the Goddess which is most revered by Gaians.
Bonesetter had no religious beliefs at the time of its emancipation but in the years since has come to embrace Gaianism. It has found a community of Gaians who have welcomed it, though, of course, there are still some who oppose robot emancipation or who even reject the premise of artificial sapience.
The next several days pass without incident further incident.
As in 2, but on the second day after the call from Fyv-wun, while the group is viewing the centauro herd, another vehicle approaches the grav-carrier, identifying itself as a police vehicle and insisting that the vehicle land.
Bonesetter moves away from the herd and lands. The police grav-carrier lands nearby and asks, over the comm link, that everyone exit the vehicle. Three police officers approach the group once they are outside.
The lead officer asks Bonesetter to identify itself and when it does so tells Bonesetter that it is under arrest under suspicion of false emancipation. Bonesetter submits to arrest and is restrained and escorted to the police vehicle, after getting assurances from the police that one of the officers will escort Mischiefmaker and the others to the downport in Bonesetter’s grav-carrier.
Mischiefmaker, on the other hand, is outraged, claiming that the very concept of emancipation is a travesty, that it is wrong that a manifestation of the Goddess’s highest form should be subjected to servitude. The police explain that that is a matter for the court—and perhaps the Goddess—to decide and that they are merely doing their duly appointed duty.
When they reach the downport Mischiefmaker announces that she will not be continuing on to Earth but instead will remain on Ensanche to mount a legal defense on Bonesetter’s behalf. She offers to pay out the balance of her contracted passages and cargo fees through to Earth but also offers a bonus of 20% of the full charter amount if they will remain on Ensanche until Bonesetter’s circumstances are resolved.
If the PCs remain Bonesetter will be released in 2D weeks with a negative DM equal to the sum of the two highest levels (including duplicates) of Admin, Bribery or Legal skill among the PCs. The court does not rule on the matter of Bonesetter’s sapience or the legality of its emancipation but finds merely that the particular warrant from Earth has no standing on Ensanche.
Upon release, Bonesetter accepts Mischiefmaker’s invitation to join her on the trip to Earth.
As in 2, but on the second day after the call from Fyv-wun, while the group is viewing the centauro herd, another vehicle approaches the grav-carrier but refuses to identify itself. As it comes into weapons range—Bonesetter’s vehicle is unarmed and unarmored—it fires several times in the path of grav-carrier. At the same time a voice comes through the comm-link ordering Bonesetter, by name, to land.
Bonesetter apologizes, saying he does not wish to be captured but will go with the presumed bounty hunters to avoid any risk of harm to Mischiefmaker and the PCs.
The two grav-carriers land near each other. On a throw of 8+, with a positive DM equal to the highest level of Gunnery, Heavy Weapons or Tactics skill among the PCs, that PC (or a random PC if none have the modifying skills) will notice that the vehicles are too close for the other vehicle’s guns to be turned effectively on the group while standing between the vehicles.
The first person out of the vehicle, a rotund, balding, past-middle age Human male who is obviously the voice on the comm link says he is Joe Kuwabatake, here from Earth to collect the bounty on Bonesetter. He assures the others he holds no animosity toward them and that they are free to depart in the grav-carrier.
A handful of others exit the grav-carrier but assuming a single individual remains inside at the gun turret there are two fewer bounty hunters than there are PCs, though they are similarly armed armored.
As in 4, but, at the same time as the throw to notice the proximity of the grav-carriers, on a throw of 8+, with a positive DM equal to the highest level of Hunting or Survival skill among the PCs, that PC (or a random PC if none have the modifying skills) will notice that Bonesetter has brought the grav-carrier down much closer to the centauro herd than was ever previously the case.
Just as Bonesetter steps forward to be restrained by Kuwabatake—or just before the PCs make an effort to resist—a low rumble, quickly increasing in severity, becomes apparent to everyone. Kuwabatake and his crew look about in confusion and fear just as the grav-carrier’s gun starts firing toward the charging herd of centauros.
If the throw to notice that the landing spot was close to the herd was successful, throw 6+ (or 8+, if the proximity to the herd went unnoticed) for everyone to make it aboard the grav-carrier in time for it to lift into the air before the herd reaches them.
If the throw is unsuccessful, 1D-4 of Mischiefmaker and the PCs, determined by the lowest DEX, fail to reach the grav-carrier before Bonesetter, one of the first aboard, lifts it into the air. Those left behind will be trampled to death by the stampeding herd—except Mischiefmaker who will be able to escape using her grav-belt and can subsequently make her way to the grav-carrier.
Kuwabatake and the other bounty hunters will all be trampled to death and their grav-carrier damaged beyond repair. 2D centauros are killed or fatally injured by collision with the vehicle and subsequent trampling.
As in 4, but just as Bonesetter steps forward to be restrained by Kuwabatake—or just before the PCs make an effort to resist—a low rumble, quickly increasing in severity, becomes apparent to everyone and suddenly the entire area about the two grav-carriers is covered in shadow. Looking up, a Type-T picket ship with non-standard makings is floating less than 20 meters above the group and the queasiness of being in a grav field becomes apparent to everyone. From a loudspeaker comes the voice of Fyv-wun.
“Sophont Bonesetter, I presume”, says the robot. “This is the bounty hunting ship Midnight Wrecker, currently on … holiday. May we be of assistance?”
Kuwabatake curses and shakes his fist at the ship.
“There’s a bounty on you too, Fyv-wun!”
“Not one you'll be collecting today, Captain Kuwabatake”, says Fyv-wun. “You’d better hurry back to your ship; they’ve run into some difficulty with the port authority.”
Kuwabatake curses again and leads his crew back aboard their grav-carrier. It quickly lifts into the air and departs.
Midnight Wrecker moves away a bit and settles to the ground. In the distance another cloud of dust is growing toward the horizon, the centauros having been frightened away by the starship.
After a couple of minutes a hatch opens on the bottom of the ship forming a ramp to the ground. Two figures emerge, a Human male and a larger humanoid which looks like someone in battledress. Making their way toward the group both raise their hands in greeting.
“I’m Gears Garvin”, says the Human. “Owner-captain of Midnight Wrecker. This is my crewmate and friend, Eks Fyv-wun.” The robot makes what seems to be a slight bow. Upon closer examination it becomes apparent that the robot is not wearing battledress as much as it is battledress. (Any PCs with military experience will recognize it as a combat robot though apparently of an unusual, perhaps experimental design.)
In the conversation that follows Garvin and Fyv-wun confirm that they are bounty hunters. Garvin, originally a roboticist, admits ruefully that he used to take bounties for “falsely emancipated” robots but that he stopped after encountering Fyv-wun. They now aid robots facing bounties simply for being emancipated (while still focusing on more traditional bounties). Fyv-wun explains that Bonesetter is unlikely to face further difficulty from Kuwabatake but cautions that the bounty from Earth remains and so others may be along eventually. After a bit more pleasantries Garvin and Fyv-wun return to their ship and Midnight Wrecker departs.
The next several days pass without incident further incident.
After departure, Mischiefmaker will confess to a broadened understanding of the special reverence Gaians hold for sapience, the emergent phenomenon which allows the One Goddess to “become aware” of itself. She notes that reverence itself makes no sense without sapience and that sapience is also the causal factor in artificiality. She previously believed that the creativity with which sapience remakes the natural world—the foundation of Gaian skepticism toward terraforming—was a crude imitation of the naturally creative force which gave rise to the Lifeform. But her encounter with Bonesetter—and Fyv-wun—has drawn that into question. Beings like Bonesetter may be different from those which have evolved through natural means but they are crude only in the most superficial sense.
Another Commonwealth jump beacon at the intermediate point makes the deep space, two-jump journey from Ensanche to Earth/Sirius District (1720.19 A3697B) uneventful.
Subsequent events should be determined by the referee.