An agent of the ruling noble of the subsector, Her Grace Duchess Estelle du Mere, contacts the characters. Sir Nolan Stannar is a member of the nobility who is well into middle age, recently retired from the Imperial Marines. He engages in small talk for a while, providing a round of refreshments while comparing military service histories, but soon comes to the point.
“Her Grace,” he says with a more formal tone, “is well into her second century of life and is preparing to retire from the Moot. In light of her exemplary service to the Imperium, the Duke of this sector has allowed her to select her replacement from among the nobility of the subsector. Her Grace has no relatives remaining to allow for a more… normal means of succession; so she has a short list of candidates.”
“The problem to Her Grace’s mind is that none of the most acceptable candidates has ever truly been tested by dire circumstances. Therefore, she has decided to stage such an event aboard her yacht – which has been specially fitted with extensive surveillance gear so Her Grace may make a full assessment of the candidates under such conditions.”
“Countess Yvette du Marisone, Marquis Kei Chang and Baron Lars von Helgard are currently bound for this world aboard Her Grace’s yacht. Her Grace intends for you to pose as members of a local group of pirates and stage an attack and boarding of the vessel. She will provide you a spacecraft and weapons loaded with non-lethal ammunition for this task.”
“The crew of the yacht is aware of this ploy, staging a slight delay on their last port of call to send word ahead. Their weapons will also be loaded with non-lethal ammunition, though they will endeavor to miss you so as to keep the façade going as long as possible. You will raid the ship, disarm the nobles without giving yourselves away, take valuables and pretend to kill the crew toward the end.”
“Before you can pretend to kill the nobles, you will depart indicating that the authorities are on their way. Once you are clear of the yacht, the crew will inform the nobles of the deception and upon your return to this world, you will each be paid Cr 50,000 and be provided a high passage for your trouble.”
He pauses to crack his knuckles before continuing. “Let me be clear: none of the nobility aboard the yacht is to be harmed beyond a bruise, abrasion or minor cut. The crew is only to be attacked with the non-lethal weaponry provided to you and nothing else. Any permanent injury to anyone aboard the yacht will void the agreement and possibly result in legal action against the lot of you.”
If the characters agree to this unusual arrangement, Sir Nolan will escort them to the starport to a fast pinnace armed with a laser that has been purposefully set to be ineffective. The livery of the local pirate group is boldly emblazoned on its flanks and the characters are fitted with vacc-suits and the non-lethal weaponry – snub pistols loaded with tranq rounds and a spare magazine loaded with marking paint rounds colored the hue of fresh blood (to “finish off” the crew of the yacht).
Sir Nolan provides emergence coordinates for the yacht as the characters prepare to depart. “The yacht should emerge from hyperspace about twenty hours from now – plenty of time to get ready.” He smiles and winks. “Give them a good show,” he says as the spacecraft’s hatch closes.
The fast pinnace will have no problems getting to the emergence coordinates in time, which should give the characters ample opportunity to work out the details of their act. Make deck plans of the yacht available to the characters (it is a standard design) so they can plan out their actions.
When the yacht emerges from hyperspace, the characters will have no problems “forcing” its surrender and conducting a boarding action. The nobles carry no weapons of their own and the crew is suitably inaccurate with their non-lethal snub pistols.
The nobles are indignant at first, but will be cooperative if the characters threaten the lives of any of the crew or other nobles. If the characters seem hesitant or unimpressive, this may inspire Baron von Helgard to attempt some heroics with a blunt object.
As the characters are about to “execute” the crew, a warning klaxon begins sounding. “Another ship is approaching!” shouts the yacht’s captain. He gives a serious look to the characters, adding “A real one.”
A quick check of the sensors confirms that the inbound ship is hostile and similar in design to one of the local pirate group’s vessels! The characters and crew will have some explaining to do and figure out some means to defend the nobles and repel the pirates with any weapons they can find or fabricate aboard the yacht – though the tranq rounds will be of some help, at least.
The boarding party will equal the characters, crew and nobles aboard the yacht, and they will be wearing Jack armor or full spacesuits, plus be carrying cutlasses and snub pistols loaded with explosive rounds. The ship’s locker will have six shotguns with a pair of tubular magazines of buckshot each, plus six cutlasses as well.
If the characters seem reluctant to fight the pirates, they can attempt to evacuate the yacht and make a run for it in the fast pinnace. Under no circumstances will the nobles allow themselves to be at the mercy of the pirates – these cut-throats have already killed two other members of the local moot in recent months.
If the characters manage to overcome or escape the pirates with the nobles and yacht crew, the Duchess will pay up, plus pay out a hazard bonus of up to Cr 20,000 per character, in addition to allowing the characters to collect and split the bounty upon each member of the pirate group they successfully capture alive (3d6 x Cr 1,000 each).
Failure to save the nobles will have fairly dire consequences for the characters – Sir Nolan wasn’t kidding about the price of failure – including a public trial and sentencing. Regardless, the Duchess will have enough problems with the three candidates, who will all be indignant over the deception and perceived threat to their very lives.