The players are hired by Marketside Interplanetary Bank (“The FRIENDLIEST Bank!”) to repossess a ship (the Glomar Ascendent) due to eight month’s delinquent payments. The bank provides the ship’s scheduled stops and wishes the players to seize the vessel on a specific low law-level world (to minimize any complications). No resistance from the crew is anticipated but players are advised to be armed ‘just in case’.
Because of sector legal requirements, any contracts for passage or delivery of cargo are considered to be with the ship and not with the owners or operators of the vessel, so the players are required by the bank to complete the vessel’s currently scheduled voyage. The bank is insistent on this detail as Marketside does not want to get involved in any litigation. There are twelve passengers (possibly more at referee’s discretion), two of whom have a cargo contract mandating delivery in twelve days.
Players will be paid standard rates for the crew positions they are filling, plus the bank is paying them each Cr. 20,000 for the repossession.
The referee should let the players plot out a way to seize the ship while it’s in port and believe this is the focus of the adventure. The crew of the Glomar Ascendent hasn’t been paid in several weeks, they will have low morale and likely will put up no resistance.
Suggested vessel is a lightly armed Type-R subsidized merchant (one single turret with pulse laser), but any cargo vessel with plenty of staterooms and atmospheric capability will do. The Glomar Ascendent’s owners were struggling financially, and the ship’s maintenance shows it. The drive is a misjump waiting to happen, internal sensors are giving strange readings if they work at all, airtight hatches aren’t, and everything is breaking constantly. The vessel’s lifeboat is missing, apparently sold several weeks ago to buy a maneuver drive impeller. The ship’s cargo bay is almost full. The passengers each have used their allotment, the rest is agricultural products such as wood, alcohol, tobacco, some valuable radioactive minerals such as unrefined uranium, and concentrated fertilizer and chemical pesticides.
There are twelve passengers, all with high passage.
Ten are grim faced, coldly professional mercenaries with passage two stops further down to a Balkanized world where a war has been festering for months. They are insistent that they must arrive per schedule. They’ve done nothing illegal (yet); their mission is to assassinate a military leader and in order to fulfill their contract have to arrive two days before a parade. Their mission will be unknown to the players. Their weapons are in the hold, legally and properly stowed. They frequently meet in the lounge and have quiet discussions, interacting little with anyone else. They are primarily a diversion to distract and worry the players. The referee can alter their mission or destination depending on their campaign’s political situation.
The other two passengers are members of a farming sect that does not believe in technology (think Amish); Baldrish and Bagen. They are destined to the next stop (Paramour, a low-tech agricultural world), and also insistent that they must arrive on time for the Eastern Enclave Milk Festival. The contract for the cargo they are accompanying mandates that it must be delivered in twelve days (from the point the players seize the ship) to the Milk Festival by the ship’s crew. Oddly, Baldrish and Bagen will not be accompanying the cargo to the final destination of the Eastern Enclave Milk Festival but will instead be dropped off at the Western Enclave.
Note: Additional high or middle passengers may be useful, mainly to add to the confusion. Whiny rich people or nobles who complain about everything, college students on a trip to ‘spring break’ who start partying early and families with lots of small children running around are possible options. Low passengers are not relevant to the adventure, but could be added for a distraction, especially if the power fails.
The Eastern and Western Enclaves have been disputing the results of an earlier Global Milk Festival for twelve years, with the Western group claiming that the Eastern group cheated and used DNA-enhanced cattle. The Western group has decided to end the feud permanently. Baldrish and Bagen’s cargo is a fifty-megaton nuclear device. Since it would be sacrilege for either of them to manipulate electronics, they had the seller arm the device and set it on a timer. It will go off in fifteen days. As it was a ‘budget’ weapon there is no ‘off’ switch, disarming it would be an extremely challenging task, and failure will result in the adventure abruptly ending.
While in hyperspace, the ship’s internal sensors will come online and show that there is an armed nuclear device in the hold. If the players investigate the cargo, they may jump to the conclusion that the mercenaries own the bomb, which of course they will deny. If asked Baldrish and Bagen will be very open, explaining to the players that they merely want to end this long dispute and reunite the Eastern and Western enclaves, and why the weapon is armed and on a timer. They will explain that it is permissible for them to own technology, just not to use it.
When the ship comes out of jump, the entire computer system goes down along with most of the electrical and communication systems. The low passage berths will only run for two or three hours on batteries, so this becomes an urgent issue. Any checks by the players (engineering or electronics) reveals that systems aren’t getting power, but a further check needs removal of external hull panels.
By visual sweeps, the crew locates a planet but on approach it becomes evident that it isn’t Paramour.
Because the ship is in pretty dismal shape, players with engineering skills will conclude that ejecting the bomb by depressurizing the hold and opening the cargo doors is inadvisable as the rest of the ship’s atmosphere would probably go with it.
The passengers at this point should be either enraged (mercenaries), frantic (Baldrish and Bagen, as their bomb is going off in three days), or in a hysterical panic (everyone else) and accusing the players of incompetence, sabotage, treason, and moral decay.
Locating visually what appears to be a starport landing field, the crew using heroic efforts sets the ship down manually to discover that they are making ‘first contact’ with an alien world, Uuglu. The landing field is a dirigible base near a large city, the planet’s technology is equivalent to very early 20th century Earth. The humanoids are blue or orange, tall (2.5 to 3 meters in height) and thin with exoskeletons, it definitely is not a lost Terran colony.
To the humanoid population it’s either the Martian invasion or benevolent visionaries from the stars, depending on how the players conduct themselves. The ship’s arrival will cause a general panic, but the local government will send a welcoming delegation, hoping for the best. Unfortunately, immediate detailed communication is essentially impossible as there is no common language, but the Uugluans seem determined to roll out the red carpet as it were.
Analysis of the ship’s electrical issues reveals that most of the main circuitry has corroded from lack of maintenance. By replacing some key wiring conduits the ship could be restored to reasonable functionality, but the ship’s repair component lockers are empty, long since used up and not replenished. None of the cargo is of any use in repairing the ship. Landing the ship manually with all the electrical systems offline was a major achievement, launch approaches the impossible. The players’ challenge is to secure heavy conductive insulated cable from the Uugluans, either by barter or by force, and find some way to dispose of the bomb before it detonates (the ship’s boat is missing for this reason, shouldn’t be too easy).
Assuming the players aren’t close by when the bomb goes off (or they find some way to disarm it)-
Players are legally required to report Uuglu to the Scout Service on return to known space. Should the players choose not to (to enact some illegal but profitable schemes) they will have to find some way to keep the mercenaries and other passengers quiet.
There should be some logical reason that Uuglu hasn’t been discovered (possibly it’s inside a nebula or some other convenient anomaly or is far enough into unexplored space that returning home will be the next adventure).