- Any starport tavern with a Scout Base.
- An unsettled swampy backwater world with a breathable atmosphere about a jump or two away.
The PCs are approached by a Mid-level ranking Scout. She is on active duty from the IISS (Imperial Interstellar Scout Service) Survey Branch – yes, the Scouts. She is looking for a group to help solve a mystery. You see, the IISS sent a sub-contractor Pathfinder team to a remote, swampy world to perform dirtside surveys. These people were to build a rudimentary starport landing area to prepare for additional teams to follow and expand the facilities into a boa fide new colony. Initial orbital surveys showed a vibrant native eco-system in place; therefore, some dirtside experiments on interactions between imported flora and fauna and native life needed to be done.
All was going well for the first few months. The starport area had been finished and the team was turning their efforts into importing herd animals that thrive in a swamp-like environment. The reports from the surface spoke about frequent electrical storms with robust lightning which they were trying to harvest with lightning arrestors that shunt the electricity into storage batteries. The Geostationary Satellite System was up and fully operational, but the system was out intermittently due to the higher base Gauss level of this planet. The initial hypothesis of the silence is the colonist/contractors died from some form of incompatible viral or bacterial infection that kills all non-native life.
As stated about a month ago, all communications stopped. No distress call was made and IISS flyovers report no signs of life. The IISS is trying to keep the news of this event off the TAS Newsline so speed and discretion are exceptionally important. The offer for help cannot be in the atypical contract format. With that in mind the Scout is willing to upgrade the PC’s gear with top-level vacc suits, ship sensors or anything short of an armored vehicle that will get them to take this contract. Additionally, the PCs will be allowed to visit the base armory to “refresh and replenish” their own weaponry. (Slug-throwers and a few grenades at the most – NO energy weapons).
Additionally, the Scout will accompany the PCs for several reasons. The first reason is she is skilled in microbiology. The second reason is the IISS has placed a warning beacon in orbit to interdict any unauthorized entry. She has the correct passcode to access the planet. The third reason is her spouse was one of those unlucky pathfinders that disappeared. If he left a logbook behind, she would be able to access it. The Scout will also be transporting the PCs on an IISS-owned Type-L Standard Lab Ship, complete with an IISS team of eight to crew the vessel and also with a second Pathfinder team of eight members who all are trying to solve this mystery. These eight members are a mix of scientists, medics, and communications technicians.
The Scout is being truthful with the PCs. She is trying to keep this incident under wraps because she fears that if the Navy or Marines get involved, they will destroy everything from orbit. What she is doing is highly irregular and no records are being kept. Since she is the Supply Officer for the base, she can bureaucratically acquire up to 1.0 MCr of equipment and gear, but not cash.
The journey to their destination should be uneventful. After coming out of hyperspace and while en route to the planet, a briefing will be held for all members of this expedition. The plan is for the Lab Ship to send down away teams to study the colony structures dirtside and find out exactly what happened. This will happen in several stages.
The Scout with the PCs will be fitted into environmental hazard suits and hand sensors/detectors supplied by the IISS. Other team members will wait in orbit until the planet is declared “clean” of hazardous microbes. Air samples will be taken and analyzed on the cutter that is shuttling the first team down from the Lab Ship. If the air is declared “safe” the PCs and the Scout will then exit the cutter and take surface samples of any notable fluids while still in their Haz suits and return to the Lab Ship. As this is taking place, separate teams will deploy with helmet cameras and walk through the settlement area to investigate what happened.
The IISS Technical teams will then be cut loose to check the power plant, the barracks, the starport and the experimental farm. The comms gear will be checked and the ground gear, including the utility exoskeletons will be energized to see if they are operational. At the end of Stage Two all the data will be gathered, studied and further plans will be made from that point.
The starport consists of a landing zone roughly 200 meters from the edge of a primordial swamp. The landing pad is at 20 meters in elevation above the water’s edge and the rest of the standing buildings are located on the same flat rise in land opposite the water. The entire settlement area is on a peninsula roughly a kilometer in width. Walking from the landing pad one would pass the hydrogen refueling tanks. Next the vehicle barn where the wheeled work mules are located next to the powered down and locked in place exoskeletons. Moving on, the potable water tanks are adjacent to a treatment facility that is drawing water from wells that have been drilled. Moving further along you would locate four buildings used as barracks and a general-use kitchen. Back at the starport there is a three-story rectangular control building that contains a ground-level warehouse, a second-story office area and the top floor is an open space where the comms gear are located. The entire top floor has open windows and each corner outside has a battery of lights pointing outward. 100 meters from there is a 40-meter-tall ferro-concrete tower with a lot of heavy cabling running along the length of the structure. Clearly this is a lightning arrestor that is being used to power the huge block of two-meter-tall batteries running along its base. Well beyond that is where the prototype experimental farm is located complete with animal paddocks, cages, and a small crop silo.
PHASE ONE EXECUTION
The referee should play up the red herring surrounding the hazardous microscopic theory. For those members of the party that lack basic vacc suit skills, have them make rolls against their skill or they suffer a tear in their hazard suits. The initial cutter fly-over will show a facility that has been weirdly ransacked. Expensive gear is stowed safely in the vehicle barn, but all the windows in the barracks, mess hall and control tower have been smashed inside the structures. There are no bodies to be found anywhere and that includes the animals that were kept in the crates at the farm. Many of the doors are smashed in and it is obvious that the inhabitants were involved in one tremendous struggle. There is also a hole in the roof of the control room as it looks as if a lightning strike impacted one of the corners holding a battery of lights. This also started a small fire that singed much of the control room. Most of the small gear, such as personal computers, test equipment, lab equipment and electronics are smashed, soaked, and ruined beyond hope – but the canned foodstuffs and bulk foods are still in place. The referee should give the impression that whatever happened was quick and violent. Also stress there are large amounts of mud and slime inside these buildings, along with the occasional smudge of dried human blood.
PHASE TWO EXECUTION
It should be revealed eventually that the atmosphere is indeed clean of hazards. The technical crews will then be dispatched to the surface to restore the power and to make sense of the wreckage the PCs encountered. Since the planet has a daily rotational cycle of twenty hours, this will not begin until the following day. Within two daily cycles power will be restored and much of the wreckage will be cleaned up. The control room will be patched up and the global comms network will be back up and operational, but that still leaves the mystery of what happened. Due to the damage to the computers and controllers caused by the lightning strike, the PCs are asked to help remove the old control gear and help install the new control gear. As they set down at the landing pad the cutter pilot asks them to hurry and unload the gear as a nasty storm is just an hour off and coming in fast.
THE STARPORT LOG ENTRY
As the PCs are helping with the removal of the ruined gear, they will discover an intact cluster of computer storage chips. After some clean up one of the chips is discovered to be the long-lost starport logs used by the Scout’s spouse. It contains a series of video reports that show their efforts in the beginning went well, despite the fairly common violent thunderstorms they had to endure. This should be further stressed as the storm they were dodging when they landed is raging outside.
After playing about an hour of video reports, the person making the log sounds more stressed. He speaks about the disappearance of two contracted workers who were working on surveying some land near the farm. They were supposed to find a place where a boat landing could be constructed. Search parties were dispatched for two days and no trace of these workers were ever found. The only new thing going on is a loud booming sound is now being heard off in the distance, but it is coming from multiple directions. The consensus among the staff is that it is coming from a large indigenous animal of some sort several kilometers away.
The final entry shows the Scout’s spouse in full-panic mode. He is yelling at the people in the room to look sharp for large orange eyes and small lights coming under the lights on the control building the as it is now in the middle of the night. The control crew is also dealing with a full-on thunderstorm that is booming outside. Just as he is turning towards the camera, he gives the date like he normally does and then the screen goes blank. Nothing. Dead silence. Just then, as the storm is subsiding, the PCs hear a loud booming sound through the windows of the control room. “THEY” are here.
What the IISS Survey Teams missed in all their surveys were a fully developed indigenous Tech Level Zero amphibian society. Living the majority of their lives in and under the water, these territorial bipedal “frogmen” resemble the Bullywugs from ancient Solomani mythology. Their booming voices are their means of communication both above and in the water. They are armed with clubs and spears made from hardened driftwood. “They” initially encountered humans along the edge of the water as one of the workers decided to go fishing and they ended up hooking and killing one of their young. A team of these natives quickly hopped into action and they killed the contractors and dragged their bodies into the water to be quickly dismantled and consumed.
“THEY” (the Frogmen)
|Basic Appearance:||Bilateral, endoskeletal
Head, (2) arms, (2) legs [4 digits each/webbed], no tail
|Body Size:||Male (150 kg), Female (100 kg)|
|Dietary:||Omnivore / Gatherer|
|Culture:||Individual – Pack; Xenomorphic!|
Has no natural weapons. Prefers sharpened spears, javelins, and clubs.
Has hairless scales (armor=2) on top of head, back and the tops of their extremities.
Warm-blooded, live-bearing, two genders.
Body Covering: Head to toe has hairless blue-green scales. Males tend to be darker colored than females. Males tend to have broader shoulders and the females have a broader pelvis. They are bioluminescent – their nodules are behind their ears and under their jaw. Males tend to be more orange in color and females bluer in color.
Senses: MAJOR – Auditory (normal range). Secondary – Olfactory (increased sense of smell). They have gills and are fully amphibian (natural swimmer). Males have an unpleasant, musky smell. They have poor vision in daylight, and they tend to be nocturnal. They are resistant to most diseases.
So, the PCs and their patron are in a bit of a tough spot! There are countless nocturnal “indigs” armed with crude wooden weapons hitting them in waves. Unless the referee has it in for the PCs these attacks should come with delays in between assaults. Their comms signal is having a tough time reaching through the electrical interference caused by the nearby storms and the cutter that can rescue them is docked at the Lab Ship. Meanwhile they hear the booming calls of the indigs gathering themselves for another attack and the patchwork of repairs is not holding up that well. Enjoy!
PATRON – Alexandra Khardon age:34 (Scout, 4-terms) 688A78
Pilot-1, SMG-1, Science (Microbiology)-3, Bureaucracy-2, Computers-1, Comms-0