The players are contacted by Alberta Picerno, who wants to meet them to discuss an urgent passenger transportation mission. They meet Alberta in her office, which is lavishly appointed and in a prominent location in the heart of the city.
Alberta explains that her grandson (Carlo Picerno) needs a passage out from a nearby planet. Civil order is breaking down as several years of a poor economy has drained the authoritarian (Impersonal Bureaucracy) government’s resources and led to mass unemployment. Several new factions are vying to seize power, and supporters of the factions are now starting to target each other with bombings, kidnappings and beatings.
Carlo can’t get to the starport safely, but his house is in the countryside and a small craft could land nearby. Whilst starships must land at recognized ports, small craft are free to land anywhere where the landowner gives permission.
Alberta will cover all reasonable preparatory expenses for the rescue in advance, plus a fee of Cr200,000 when Carlo is delivered to Alberta personally. She explains that time is of the essence, you must make any preparations and depart within 24 hours.
Consulting the library, the players find that in practice the local law level is low (Level 1), although the government insists that the local laws are still in effect (Level 6).
The situation has deteriorated more quickly than Alberta expected. The protests and skirmishes have ended, and the planet is descending into civil war. There are four major factions in play.
• Government: Control now limited to small parts of the planet, mainly around military bases. They recently lost the starport and are trying to recapture it. All orbital facilities are under government control. Brutal, repressive and trigger-happy, they enforce the nominal Level 6 law level and conduct searches to make sure visiting vessels are not transporting supplies to rebels. Government forces and locations are easily identified by the local flag and government insignia.
• Better Alone: This faction believes that the problems are caused by too much integration with the Empire. Things would be better if off-worlders were not allowed to visit, and the planet should be completely self-sufficient. Will attack off-worlders on sight. They are strong in cities, particularly with the poor, but have little support in the countryside. This faction tends to use a red clenched fist as a symbol.
• Anarchists: This faction believes that laws are inherently repressive, and that individuals should have the sole right to determine (and enforce) what happens on their own property. They don’t have a central area of control but do often conduct uncoordinated attacks and bombings. Many countryside and some city areas are nominally under Anarchist control. The anarchists use a variety of colors and symbols to identify themselves.
• Democratic Citizens Alliance: This faction wants to replace the old government with a new, elected, government. They have some general support amongst the citizens, particularly amongst the educated middle classes, and control some areas of countryside. This faction has access to better technology than the other factions and has links off-world. They have started expanding their territorial control, using force where persuasion doesn’t work. Their symbol is a tree, in blue.
As well as these there are many minor, local factions. Small towns and villages are usually under control of an isolated local leader, suspicious of people they don’t know. Clashes are frequent, and extra-judicial killings common for even minor offences.
Approaching the Planet and Landing:
The local orbit is still under the control of the government, and as the starport has been taken over by the Better Alone faction they prohibit any starship atmospheric entry.
Upon approaching the planet, the players will be contacted by traffic control and asked to explain their business. If the answers are unsatisfactory, they will be asked to await boarding for inspection. Unauthorized entry into the atmosphere will bring pursuit by the Government. If they are boarded and found to be carrying contraband, or if their paperwork is out of order, they will be detained and fined. If they are thought to be aiding the non-Government forces, they will be locked up (at best).
Carlo’s house is near a non-aligned small farming community. If they land nearby, they are approached by the local militia and asked to explain themselves. The militia is poorly armed as the historical law level has restricted gun availability on the planet. Most have shotguns, but there are two people (military reservists that have stayed home with their families) with military-grade weapons and armor. The locals are suspicious, and frightened.
If the players land some distance from the settlement, they will need to make contact with Carlo. The locals have roadblocks at the roars into the settlement, and a small number of lookouts on tall buildings.
This scenario can be run in several ways, depending on the capabilities of the party.
Case 1: Black Ops
Carlo is actually a spy who Alberta suspects has been compromised. Alberta is a government agent who has been tasked with getting him out but can’t involve their special forces in case the operation goes wrong. She needs ‘plausible deniability’. Carlo’s cover has been blown and he has been captured by the locals, who are holding him as a bargaining chip. The locals primary concern is self-protection, and they think that they can barter for their own safety by offering to give up Carlo if a stronger faction turns up. They would consider handing Carlo over if it was in their interests to do so.
Things they would find attractive include evacuating children to a safe place (along with some carers); help to defend the settlement; significantly improved technology to allow them to become more self-sufficient (particularly power generation, or fuel for their farming vehicles); successful assistance in negotiating with nearby settlements to form stronger mutual protection.
Case 2: Family Ties
Carlo wants to escape the Picerno family dynasty and their control. He has married without the family approval (something Alberta does not mention), and Alberta wants him back under control. Alberta is gambling that the local situation will force Carlo to agree to go with the players for his (and his family’s) own safety. Carlo does indeed want to leave, but he won’t go without his partner and he pleads with the players to deliver them somewhere else. He has no money to offer but gets increasingly desperate as they close in on the destination. Carlo and his partner will run as soon as they have landed at the planned destination.
Case 3: Into the Fire
Shortly after landing the community is attacked by the Democratic Citizens Alliance, who are looking to cement control of the area. The Alliance is well armed for this tech level, with a section of ex-military personnel. They have a small number of TL-appropriate anti-aircraft weaponry, potentially posing a threat to whatever transported the players here.
Case 4: Runner
Carlo isn’t at home when they get there. Successful interaction with the locals indicates that Carlo had set out for the starport in his vehicle a few days ago and hasn’t been seen since. Finding him will involve travelling into territory owned by several different factions. The players will need to interact with those factions and locals to find him. They will need to be careful dealing with those factions, who are armed and suspicious, and have little sympathy left for others.
On the first day, Carlo managed to travel (in a ground vehicle) for about two hours before he was stopped at a checkpoint on a bridge over a small river. His vehicle was confiscated by local Anarchists, but he was free to leave. He hitched a lift with an Anarchist sympathizer to continue his journey.
The vehicle was intercepted by the Democratic Citizens Alliance when it tried to bypass the next settlement, and after a brief exchange the Anarchist was taken away and killed. Carlo was lucky, he was recognized by one of the Citizens and only robbed and subjected to a beating. Weak and with no resources he stole a Citizen vehicle that night, continuing up the road.
After running out of fuel he met up with a small group of refugees (about 20) heading to the city. These refugees were made up of the elderly and children, those of fighting-age having been killed along the way as ‘terrorists’ from another faction. Carlo is trying his best to shepherd them to some sort of safety, and the players find him on the outskirts of the city, trying to persuade Better Alone to take them in. It’s not going well for Carlo, as they are beginning to conclude he was born off-planet. If he is rescued, Carlo won’t abandon the refugees. He wants to see them put in a safe place, and although Carlo has lost everything he owns, he promises that Alberta will pay the players for doing as he asks.
Leaving the Planet:
Government traffic control will again contact the ship as it begins to leave orbit. They will be very suspicious and will cross-check against the original story the players gave when they arrived. If the players are not able to convince them that they have not been helping rebels the government will instruct them to wait for boarding and inspection. Transporting refugees is not a crime, but if they seem to be transporting rebels or if there are wounded on board (particularly if those wounds were inflicted by weapons) they may be flagged as mercenaries and dealt with harshly.
Concluding the Adventure:
Alberta will only pay if Carlo is physically delivered to him. She’s not interested in any issues the players might have had, any fines, or any extra costs. She will pay the Cr200,000 promptly, without delay, but nothing more. Alberta can call on significant resources if double crossed, and she will do everything in her power to get revenge if necessary.