This Amber Zone is designed to be adaptable to a referee’s sector or a published planet.
- A planet which is marked as an Amber Zone
- Locals who are hostile (balkanized planet, low law level, xenophobic, up to the GM)
- Hostile critters that could seriously threaten a group of PCs
- Someplace that normally would be entirely advisable to stay away from
- Somewhere within the Imperium (if your patron is the IISS – otherwise you’ll need a similar patron for other polities)
- Preferably Size 4 to 10, Atmosphere Thin to Dense range with minimal taint, Hydrographics in the 30-80% range
- Law level that will normally preclude carrying visible weapons (owning may be okay, but you aren’t a local) and obvious body armor would also draw attention of the locals
- Tech level 5 to 7 just to make it somewhat backward
- A nearby system with at least Average Stellar tech where the lost pilot’s call could be intercepted (1-2 hexes away)
- Ex Scout in the group with a Scout ship
Danli Suganlii, IISS Administrator, X-boat Mail Service (this sector):
This job’s a tough one. We pride ourselves on getting the mail to the destination in a timely manner. We’ve served through piracy, wars, terrorism, budget cuts, tough jumps and rough landings. We get the job done if it can be done.
This time, one of our pilots had a failure in the ship’s computer that affected Jump calculations. He precipitated out within 10 diameters with significant damage to his vessel and the vessel’s controls getting worse by the moment. His message indicated he’d be trying to set it down but he couldn’t even tell us where he was. He was hoping someone in the system could come rescue him.
That was eight years ago. We figured he’d been taken by pirates or the victim of terrorism or a bad mis-jump into someplace between systems.
His message travelled through interstellar space to the nearest star with a population – that took over 3 years. And it was faint. Only because there was a science vessel with advanced sensors doing some astrographic surveying nearby was the last message from the missing pilot received at all.
Now we’ve got a missing pilot, on a planet that is hostile to outside presence, and a missing ship with digital and physical mail. We owe it to the pilot, his family, and the people whose mail is stuck in transit to mount some sort of recovery.
We are short on operational assets here, but we saw you were in-system on business of your own in one of our Scouts. We need your help and thus we are reactivating the retired Scout member and his Scout-provided Scout vessel to attempt recovery of the pilot and the missing mail.
We have informed the Navy. They say a Scout ship ought to be able to get into the system okay and landfall if the crew are careful and avoid active scans.
Bring our man back, or his body, and the mail so we can deliver it.
And be discreet. The locals will be angrier than Janobian Injector Wasps if you start showing off high tech gear and acting like Aliens. That might create problems for us in the future and might get you killed in the here and now. Blend in if you can or stay out of sight if you can’t.
You’ll be given 50 KCr for trade goods that will fit within a 1 dTon of cargo space that you can use to bargain with friendly locals as they will not accept Imperial Credits and trying to use those would get you killed most likely. Choose carefully – base metals, simple medicines, and some simple TL-8 or TL-9 utility tools. Nothing too dangerous or problematic if it gets left on the planet.
There’s a success payment of 25,000 Cr each plus any ship expenses. It’s also an order for your Scout and his ship.
What Happened to X-Boat 1195?
The pilot, Gonda Raastrathan, did the best he could to get his damaged X-boat, “Mike One-One-Niner-Fife”, down intact. It was not meant for atmospheric insertion. The ship started tumbling and breaking up. The pilot was forced to abandon the vessel in a re-entry kit.
The pilot landed on a continent in the middle of winter with a broken leg. He headed towards the nearest radio source (after splinting his leg… he was a Scout!). He reached a small community called Gotanham and he didn’t look threatening, even if he was from somewhere beyond the clouds. Unfortunately, the Scout succumbed to the blood loss and shock of his injury in Gotanham.
Seeing a business opportunity, the Gotanhammers took an empty house and refitted it as a museum. The pilot’s casket is there as are his various bits of gear. Most of the gear won’t work (either broken, power exhausted, or DNA keyed).
This museum eventually saw word travel near and far and is now known around the continent. It is known as “The Starman’s Rest Museum”.
This would have been the obscure and sad end of Gonda Raastrathan, except some three years ago, someone playing with the emergency transmitting beacon triggered it. It has been transmitting on frequencies the locals don’t monitor. It is strong enough to reach orbit. And it sends its standard coded signal out every 24 hours. Any ship monitoring the standard distress frequencies will hear it.
The first time it is heard, it may not be possible to pinpoint the location, but within another few rotations of the planet, you can pin down the location to about 10 km. The small town of Gotanham has an apparent population around 100 people and a main road leading through it. It is surrounded by mountain valleys, peaks, and forests.
Amongst the Museum’s items is a copy of the ship’s log on a standard portable data stick. It includes logs, the flight data up until shortly before the pilot bailed out, and the cargo manifest. If the party can recover this, they can attempt to guess where the ship might have crashed and maybe go look for any signs of emissions from it.
With the pilot gone, the ship tumbled, rolled, yawed, pieces flew off, and the ship’s hull shook like a maraca. Eventually, it smashed into the ocean, skipping a bunch of times, and skipped onto the beach and then into the jungle on a small, remote, uninhabited island.
Built tough, the ship’s hull is battered, penetrated, dented, and torn. The structure is dangerous (checks for weak areas in floors and stairs). In the cradles, the impact resistant message blocks (suitcase sized with handles) are resting quietly. These contain the digital mail.
The small cargo area for physical mail is busted open (from the tumbling) and some of the mail is smashed to bits, but about half in the form of various letters and containers are available to be rescued.
The ship is giving off a beacon, but the damage to the external antenna (“What external antenna?”) has given the system very limited range (maybe 10 km). If the team can analyze the ship’s log and flight data, they can determine roughly which area of the sea (including several small, ostensibly unoccupied islands). Once they are in the general area, if they keep looking for signals from a beacon, they’ll hear the beacon and that should lead them to the ship.
- Paranoid populations that don’t trust strangers
- Fear of people from beyond the stars (Aliens!)
- Some local armed helos and jets could be scrambled with TL7 tech – guns and early missiles
- Ground forces with rifles or ARs could certainly be summoned (police or military)
- Locals are likely to have weapons nearby (hunting rifles, shotguns) and local law enforcement would have handguns
- Law enforcement may have some nasty attack dogs
- If a scout courier is seen in daylight or an air raft, a lot more jet fighters will be scrambled and a lot more trained military will become involved
- The signals are only a bearing – so as the players move toward them through the forest (first portion) or across the water (second portion), they could encounter native wildlife, local people, or even local law enforcement. At sea, they could mistakenly identify another island in the direction of the ship’s beacon and have to stop and explore that first (traps, hostile flora and fauna) before realizing they have to go further to reach the actual crash site on another island
- You can throw in snowstorms or heavy rain in the mountains, wolf packs (or the equivalent), even a yeti-type creature if you’re thinking big
- At sea, you can have encounters with sea life, other seaborne vessels, storms, rough seas, navigation problems, etc.
- In the end, some locals may be bought over by gifts or promises of loot and some would help just if they could because even the most paranoid place has a few good folks
- The local sheriff could be a hothead for more likelihood of a fight, but maybe his main deputy sheriff is more reasonable (or not…)
- The island where the ship crashed could still be contaminated with various dangerous substances as well as some fun stuff like spiders, snakes, birds, scorpions, sand pits (trap), big spider webs (trap in the jungle), and wildlife (perhaps scared herbivores) that can do serious damage to a vehicle
Your group will dictate how much of this is a ‘fight your way in and out’ or ‘sneak your way in and out’ scenario. Give them hints or chances when they are about to pick a fight that is avoidable and will likely draw in a lot more heat on their location.
If they can get in, find the pilot’s body (they can empty the casket), his logs, and then the ship, and the mail, and get out without a major local military presence, then that’s the best case for the mission.
Need more twists! (1D6) – Optional:
1. The ship’s wreckage shows evidence of pre-atmospheric entry explosives damage. Terrorists? Ine Givar or equivalent? Someone trying to stop some piece of mail from getting through? Hmmmm….
2. All is as stated, but when you open the casket to recover the body, there are signs of ritual sacrifice and the bones have gnawed marks consistent with cannibalism
3. All is as stated. Nothing to see here extra.
4. There’s evidence in the ship’s wreckage that the ship was hit by something just before jump, as the lanthanum grid was energizing. Enough careful scrutiny with engineering skills and you’d say it was an X-ray laser. When you get back to the patron, he might ask you to investigate that end in the last system the ship visited and with the coordinates. It could turn out (after some more damage to the player’s ship) that the jump coordinates used were near an old Imperial Navy testing range (on a small planetoid). It could have been some older defense satellites were being tested there and one was lost… (and still waiting…) – BAD NAVY!
5. It turns out that a bioscan of some of the physical mail (or a local ‘dawg’ – a four legged vaguely canine analog – takes an interest ) indicates an issue with a well-sealed package with the shipping label torn off which turns out to be a smuggled payload. Is it narcotics? combat drugs? anagathics? psi-drugs? biological warfare samples? infectious disease samples headed to a lab?…. and what happens if at least one container inside the packet is broken open?
6. A careful examination of the pilot’s gear in the museum reminds one of the characters of something he saw in a high-tech gear catalog…. a pen that is actually a portable data cache. It turns out that the pilot had downloaded all of the X-boat routes and schedules for the next 3 months in his area. Why? Just to have the info? Or because he was going to sell it to someone? Maybe the Zhos? Or a mega corporation? This could be combined with the explosion from #1 – maybe it was S3 or another Imperial agency that took out the X-boat.