War is Hell, but murder is still murder
Location: Ralhe (Spinward Marches/Five Sisters 0731) E-424574-8 Ni
Ralhe is a small world with little to recommend it except some surface mineral deposits. The very thin, tainted atmosphere requires respirator/filter masks, and most of the ground is covered in permafrost. It is not on a trade route or X-boat route, but it gets enough visitors to maintain the economy of its three competing states: Rahlhiem, Torrijo, and Klinghoff.
The three nations share a common culture, but not philosophies of government. Rahlheim is a bureaucratic socialist state, Torrijo is a republic, and Klinghoff is a monarchy. Within the last decade the three nations have conducted a slow-burning brush war consisting of raids and incursions with few pitched battles. Small unit actions have been common, with the occasional airstrike, barrage or armored vehicle clash.
Lady Estella Aardmore is the wife of a humanitarian doctor. They are lesser nobility of nearby Iderati (SM/Five Sisters 0732) The focus of the mission is her husband, Doctor Sir Hiram Aardmore, MD, Physician, musician, millionaire, philanthropist.
Dr. Aardmore is on Ralhe, in the war zone between Torrijo and Rahlheim, directing a free clinic for civilians who have been injured and/or displaced by the ongoing war. Back home on Iderati, however, he has made political enemies who would be glad to see him suffer an accident. The referee can make up details of the political dispute, but they are not critical to the mission. Lady Estella has learned that there is a hit squad after her husband. The PCs must race the clock to reach Dr. Aardmore before the hit squad does, then protect him from the attack.
Lady Estella offers Cr 75,000 to the party, payable once her husband is present with her on Iderati, still alive. She also provides middle passages (round trip) for the PCs and a High Passage for her husband. Local transport will be for the PCs to arrange. Shipping a vehicle to Rahle will be at their expense.
Dr. Aardmore’s location will not be well known. He often deviates from his itinerary to respond to developing situations. He has permission of the government of Torrijo to set up his clinic and to travel within the state’s borders.
The referee must determine the kind of terrain Dr. Aardmore is operating in, most likely forest, steep hills and canyons. Areas without much line of sight will be better for encounters.
The referee should sketch out a map of the Torrijo-Rahlheim border. Where the ‘safe zones’ are, etc. Dr. Aardmore has an itinerary, which is known only to those who work for him at the clinic.
From the starport, the PCs will need to locate the clinic. This should not be too difficult, but the Referee should make the players search, rather than just telling them. The Torrijo government is neutral to favorable towards the doctor’s clinic. Some officials appreciate the help, others see him as an interfering foreigner. If the PCs ask whether anyone else has asked after the doctor recently, the Referee can answer yes or no. Give vague answers to arouse suspicions without supplying useful intelligence on the opposition.
The hit squad has the same problem as the PC’s, which is finding Dr. Aardmore. It has to reasonably look like ‘enemy action’, so they won’t poison him in his sleep, rather they will attack him and his party with gunfire from concealment. If the PCs find him first, then the job shifts to bodyguard work, keeping him from harm while he finishes his itinerary. The killers do not know that anyone is after them to foil their mission. They expect that Dr. Aardmore will be an easy target, so they are not being especially careful.
The PCs will eventually catch up with Dr. Aardmore, in a border town on the Torrijo side. An intense skirmish took place there recently, and Dr. A is trying to assess damage so that his organization can come in and help. The town has multiple ruined buildings, many of which would be excellent places to set up an ambush. Unless the PCs are careless and slow, they will reach Dr. Aardmore before the hit squad, but possibly only by a few hours.
Once the PCs arrive, they still have to persuade Dr. A to accompany them to safety. Dr. Aardmore will not easily deviate from his mission, even once notified of the threat. If the PCs try to negotiate, the referee will make a reaction throw for Dr. A. Only on a 10+ will he agree (reluctantly) to let the PCs escort him back to the starport and off-planet. Social skills and any player arguments can be +DMs for the reaction throw.
In all cases, the debate will be spread out over several hours, as Dr. A continues with his plan of evaluating the town and setting up aid stations. Dr. A has a crew of 2D+2 assistants, both local and off-planet with him. Folk around him are coming and going all the time as he works and moves around the town. This will probably make the PCs very nervous, as unfamiliar people approach the doctor from all angles.
PCs on the lookout for snipers might actually spot one. The Referee can choose whether it is the hit squad, or Rahlheim soldiers, or a paramilitary group. Only in the first case will Dr. A be the main target. Anyone carrying a visible weapon (like the PCs) could be targeted. The Referee can choose how the hit squad attacks, but it is supposed to look like an happenstance of war, not a murder.
The players might decide to simply abduct Dr. A themselves. This will initially work, but makes Dr. A antagonistic towards them. He will claim to anyone he can reach out to that the PCs have kidnapped him (which they have) and that they should be arrested. Officers of the Torrijo military will be able to confirm Dr. A’s status, and will attempt to arrest the PCs. It may be possible after the fact to persuade the Torrijo government of the PC’s bona fides, but they will initially be put in jail. Dr. Aardmore, however, will be returned to his clinic.
During the trip back to the starport, the referee may have an military or paramilitary force from one side or the other happen upon Dr. Aardmore’s group and attack. These are not the hitmen, but the PCs might think they have accomplished their mission if they defeat this armed group. Any time while the PCs are in any developed area (camps, villages, towns) there is the possibility of an artillery attack directed at the area.
Detecting an ambush before it happens requires the PCs to be alert and watching for it. The Referee should secretly conduct the Surprise throw from the pre-combat steps. The hit squad will get a +2DM on the Surprise throw. PCs with Tactics or Recon skill get to add their skill levels to the player’s Surprise throw. If the ambush fails to get surprise, the PCs can avoid the ambush. If the result is the PCs getting Surprise, they can attempt to turn the tables on the hit squad. The PCs should not know the allegiance of the hidden attackers, only that they are present.
Eventually the PCs should escort Dr. Aardmore out of the war zone, and to the starport. If the hitmen are still after them (see below), the last attack occurs just outside the starport area.
Once inside the starport zone, the PCs will be safe. The Referee does not have to tell them that, however.
Stats for Dr. Sir Hiram Aardmore
7999BB Age 46 Doctors
Medical-3, Administration-3, Mechanical-1, Streetwise-1, Computer-1
Dr. Aardmore is tall and lithe, which hints at the possibility of Darrian ancestry. He moves and speaks like a man who knows what he’s doing, and expects to be listened to at all times. If the PCs suggest or insist that he evacuate, he will initially decline. His wife will advise the PCs of his likely unwillingness to leave. All the way home he will remain firm that the threat against him was overstated. No amount of evidence will convince him.
Gear: Medical kit, Mesh armor (he’s not an idiot), Communicator, breathing mask
Stats for the hit squad (equal in number to the PCs, +1)
Cloth/Reflec armor, TL-8 weaponry with enhancements They will likely (6+) wear uniforms of the Torrijo army to blend in.
The hit squad are hired killers, with no interest in Dr. Aardmore except as a target. The party that hired them took steps to remain anonymous. They will be able to tell the PCs nothing. If they are captured alive, they will surrender. If they fail a morale check, they will retreat. If they fail three morale checks, the team gives up and leaves the job undone. It was only a paycheck to them.
Stats for soldiers of the two belligerents
Torrijo or Rahlheim
Cloth armor, TL-8 Assault Rifles, Long Range Communicator (1 per team)
As a twist, the Referee may decide that the patron has been misinformed, or has fabricated the threat to her husband, all with the intention of getting him home sooner. It is also possible that the hit squad ran afoul of local troops and was defeated before they got close to Dr. Aardmore. The referee can replace the hit squad with more regular soldiers for as many encounters as the PCs can handle. Without close investigation, the PCs will not be able to tell who the hit squad was, and therefore they cannot be sure that the threat has been neutralized.