AMBER ZONE: The Outer Limits

Players’ Information:

The PCs have arrived in the Adabicci system (Lunion 0204, A-57189A-B), traveling down the Spinward Main. While conducting routine inquiries at the Adabicci starport, they are approached by a representative of the Adabicci Astronomical Union, a semi-professional scientific organization. They wish to charter the PCs ship for an in-system recovery operation.

Over a century ago, the AAU helped to sponsor the production and launch of a remotely controlled probe that would explore the outer planets of the system. The outer planets consist of a small gas giant and a number of airless cold planets that were only briefly surveyed by the Scouts, and quickly deemed not suitable for colonization.

The historical spacecraft, one of the first produced on Adabicci, and really not much more than a sensor cluster, was lost within the first decade of its flight – the radio stopped responding, and it was concluded at the time that the probe had fallen into the gas giant. Recently, the AAU spotted a small moving object that their much more advanced detection equipment has identified as the old probe. It is now far past the orbit of the last planet in the system, and is drifting outwards towards the Kuiper Belt. The astronomers ask the PCs to go out and retrieve it, saying it may have useful survey data, but it also an object of historical significance. They offer payment of Cr 500,000 to recover it. The patron group will keep in regular radio contact with the PCs ship during the voyage.

Pia
Image from NASA – Public Domain

Referee’s Information:

The probe is coasting outward at a constant velocity equal to one range band per combat turn. It is 3.75 billion kilometers from Adabicci. The patrons are anxious that the object be recovered before it gets too far away and they lose track of it again. The referee will produce a map of the system, including the gas giant and six outer system planets. The probe is 500 million km outside the orbit of the last planet, and at least 25 degrees away from the planet itself. Given the distance the PCs must travel, communication with the AAU on Adabicci will become slower as the radio signal takes longer to cross the distance. At first the PCs should note only a second or two of delay between sending and receiving, but by the time they pass the last planet’s orbit, (3.25 billion km from Adabicci), the communication lag will be significant: 10,833 seconds or 3.01 hours.

Some time after the PCs ship passes the orbit of the last planet, the Navigator or whoever is monitoring the ships’ sensors may notice another ship is following them. The referee should secretly throw for 9+ for every 100,000 km the ship travels. The ship will not answer hails and sensors get no specific data. Inquiries back to the starport will not reveal any further information, the AAU’s equipment does not detect it. Furthermore, somewhere out there past the last planet is a planetoid ship, run by the Sword Worlders to collect data on merchant and military traffic through Adabicci. It is running quiet, and has worked hard to have its IR & EMS signature look as natural as possible. The PCs will detect this on 8+ (DM+Navigation skill), even if not actively looking for it. After the ship is noticed, if they actively search for other objects, they will detect the planetoid on 5+.

The mystery ship is a 200-tn customized Type A or Type Y, using stealth technology and matching the PC’s ship in thrust. The Swordies use it to jump supplies into the system, and occasionally to visit the outermost planet, which has a trace atmosphere and a small quantity of water ice.

Either the asteroid ship or the mystery craft may attack if investigated too closely. Both are equipped with a triple turret with missile launchers, which are lower profile than energy weapons. If the PCs ship takes fire it will take a hull hit and lose some of its atmosphere, unless the players took the precaution of decompressing areas of the ship beforehand.

If the PCs ship loses air, they now have a new problem; they are days away from Adabicci, and may no longer have enough air to breathe to get back. The referee should work the numbers in such a way that the PCs have to find another source of air to survive.

The stealth ship has a normal crew compliment, who are armed and will resist if the PCs attempt to board. The planetoid station is a 3-level cylinder with a central access shaft. There are two more crewmen aboard than there are aboard the PCs ship. They are SW navy crew, armed and ready to resist boarders. Either the ship or station will have enough air reserves to allow the PCs to get back.

The last planet of the system does have a trace atmosphere which could be harvested for oxygen. There is a small abandoned station in the trailing Trojan Point of the last planet. Finding it will be a task, throw 7+ DM +Navigation skill. Getting to it is not a problem, but docking without any radio guidance will be more difficult, throw 8+, DM +Pilot skill. The station has no power, but is still sealed. PCs can transfer its air supplies to the ship on a throw of 9+, DM+ any Engineering or Mechanical skill, +1 for EDU of 9+. If the PCs want to explore the abandoned station, the referee can populate the station with whatever seems appropriate.

Once the PCs reach the probe, it has to be taken aboard. The probe will be of whatever size will just barely fit into the ship’s hold. PCs with Vacc Suit skill can go outside the ship; a PC with only Vacc-0 should not attempt an EVA.

To maneuver the spacecraft aboard, one player must be in charge of the effort and make the throw of 9+ (DM +Leader skill, +1 if Navy or Scouts, and +1 for INT of 8+). Each PC that goes EVA or works in vacuum must throw 10+ to avoid a mishap, DM +4 per level of Vacc Suit skill. A mishap will cause 3D damage and rupture the vacc suit if not avoided. A mishap can be remedied on a throw of 7+, DM +2 per level of skill by that PC or anyone else who is also EVA.

Travel times for a distance of 1 billion kilometers:

1G 7.3 days, 2G 5.2 days, 3G 4.2 days, 4G 3.7 days, 5G 3.3 days, 6G 2.9 days

The target is nearly 4 times that distance away. They can call for help, but any rescue ship will take days to get to them.

Success:

If the PCs successfully recover the probe and return, they will be greeted as media heroes. The AAU has gone public with the project, and all communication from the PCs has made it to the news feeds. The local Imperial representative will be very interested in the Sword Worlders’ activities, and will want all data the PCs can provide. The PCs could gain a bonus to SOC from positive media exposure if they capitalize on it well. The referee should throw three times on the Patrons tables for new projects resulting from their popularity. PCs with shady pasts or things to hide may not enjoy the spotlight, however.

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