The PCs are heading outbound from their starport when they are contacted by the disabled lab ship SS HAWKING. The head scientist by the name of Ammat Hassad who on board requests the PCs help him retrieve some important flora and fauna in a nearby backwater system before they have to evacuate their temporary laboratory/outpost on the planet’s surface. His university-funded outpost is located on an isolated island in the tropical zone and the cyclones common in that area would imperil his fellow researchers and their research work alike. His lab ship’s Hyperdrive Motivator is broken and a replacement part is still weeks away. He needs transport to this destination, they need to retrieve the six scientists and their samples and leave long before the replacement part arrives. He will pay for the fuel, the cargo space (Cr. 3000/ton) and passage for him to the outpost, and for the seven of them to return. For every successful sample brought back to his lab, the PCs will also receive a bonus of Cr. 100/animal and Cr. 50/plant.
Fluffy – Image from Wikimedia – No known copyright restrictions
The PC’s are approached by a well-dressed gentlemen aged in his mid-50’s. He introduces himself as Armand Morgan, majordomo and confidant to his lordship, Frederik, the Marquis de Bonneville – well sort of. You see the actual Marquis was killed in a re-entry burnout on his personal small craft as he was returning to his estate a few years ago. Armand was aware that the Marquis had purchased a life insurance policy ten years ago where, in the case of an accidental death, his salvaged DNA would be reanimated. If there was no DNA to salvage (as it was in this case), an additional DNA sample was taken, placed in cold storage and would be available as a Plan “B”. Welcome to Plan B.
The Marquis had become suspicious in his later years that someone was trying to kill him. He had a wafer chip inserted in the back of his cranium and he would download his memories each and every night on to alternating chips. He also had a decent amount of money secretly stored away that only Armand would know about and be able to access. Always his faithful servant, Armand grabbed the memchip from the day before to his death to be secretly appropriated for later use. Armand was fired within a year of his lordship’s death by the Marquis’ wife, Julia. Since her husband’s death, she has laid claim to her late husband’s lands and wealth, in order to continue to raise her two sons and daughter. According to Armand, all three children have been placed with other family members, or have been sent to boarding school. Julia has taken on a young lover by the name of Leopold and has been living the high life after she did her obligatory year of mourning.
Armand is convinced that Julia did something to the ship to have it lose control. He needs help to get his lordship his lands back and help find out what actually happened to the Marquis those three years ago. He has contacts back on their homeworld who are willing to reopen the crash investigation and he has retained a trusted lawyer to help him regain his lordship’s property as its rightful owner. Armand will offer the PC’s Cr. 5,000 per PC per month (over twice the normal rate) as bodyguards to the Marquis. He will pay for all fuel and goods consumed along with an additional Cr. 250,000 if their mission to restore the Marquis is achieved.
The Marquis – Image from Wikimedia – Public Domain
The PC’s are heading outbound from their starport towards their mission when they receive a distress call from the passenger liner Lord Brisbane. The ship’s registry lists this vessel as a Type “OO” Bastien-class Passenger liner with a crew of 16 and a passenger manifest of 28. When the PC’s ship gets a little closer the standard “Signal GK” is issued (like an old-type SOS).
The message says: “SIGNAL GK… SIGNAL GK…. This is the SS LORD BRISBANE… We have been holed in the engine room and have lost power… We are drifting towards a planetoid – aft first… We have lost our engineering crew… Gravity and Life Support is failing… Requesting immediate assistance…. We have 43 souls aboard needing immediate evacuation… SIGNAL GK… SIGNAL GK… (repeats)”
As the PC’s ship gets closer (about 30 minutes out) it is apparent the ship was struck by a cluster of micro-meteors. The ship is drifting backwards towards the nearby planetary body (a size-1 to 2 airless planet). The ship is expected to crash in about three hours and no other ship of any kind will be able to assist in time. Some passengers have been able to make it to the life pods and they are drifting along with the ship towards the planet. These life pods should be able to make a successful soft landing safely away from the crash site if things go horribly wrong. However there are crew and passengers still stuck on board. What will the PC’s do?
A Low-Tech Lord Brisbane – Image from Wikimedia – Public Domain
The PC’s are approached by an old prospector. He tells them about an old claim of his that was overrun by a volcano some thirty years ago. He and his team of ten other prospectors had to then abandon their claims immediately and exit the area due to pyroclastic flows that threatened to bury them along with their claim. This eruption and the ones that followed were so severe that the planet went from a cooler temperate climate with a breathable atmosphere to a frozen tundra with a strong taint of sulfur and ash.
The prospector has heard through the grapevine that the eruptions have finally ceased after all these years. It is his hope that his old claim’s cache of semi-precious and precious gemstones will still be there and intact after all this time. He says they were secured in several strongboxes of reinforced ferroconcrete in a small hut and unless the lava flow struck his area directly (which he doubts) his claim should be right where he left it.
The miner does not know what has happened to his old team members. He knows some of them have passed away, but he still possesses the legal paperwork to give him rights to anything that may be left. He says the strongboxes have an electronic lock that will only open to his DNA and thumbprint. If the PC’s take him to his location he expects to have about ten tons worth of ores ready to haul which are worth about MCr 1.0 for each strongbox. He is willing to split the haul 50-50 with the crew if they will help him find the claim, find his ten strongboxes and haul them all back to this port. He says his wife thinks he is crazy to chase down his old claim, but he needs to get it out of his system or it will drive everyone in his house crazy.
He does not possess a starship, but he does own an industrial cargo robot (grav drive) that displaces two tons. It is in small wooden crates and it will need to be assembled on the planet. If there is any ash covering the cache area it will dig its way through to the designated area. The robot is of TL-12 design and is quite slow (15 kph maximum). It can dig through dirt, ash or rock fairly quickly. It also can grasp the strongboxes and bring them to the ship if they are located. It also is dependent on verbal commands as it is not capable of independent thought, reasoning or problem solving.
If the crew accepts his offer, he will produce a chip with the exact coordinates for his claim. Since the planet has gone through pronounced change several orbits around the planet will be necessary to map and grid the surface to be able to zero in on the location of the strongboxes. The miner recommends the crew bring extra dust/filer masks and rugged equipment and sensors on this trip. Due to the blinding snow and dust, lasers will be nearly useless.
Ashfall – Image from Wikipedia – CC-BY-2.0 license
Required Equipment: A starship, 2 tons of cargo and enough room for two passengers.
A much publicized trial has just concluded. Annika Greer, a popular figure who was a champion of the local populace, has been convicted of murder, sedition and grand theft. She is to be transported to a penal colony several jumps away. The locals are not happy with this verdict and they are protesting in front of the jail complex where she is being held.
The local police are anxious to get her off planet as quickly as possible. They are hiring scout ships, freighters and any civilian craft from off world who is willing to pick her up and transport her to her new home. They will pay double rates for this job as long as they move her within 24 hours. Each ship will also be provided a fuel chit that will cover their fuel needs throughout the voyage.
The police are taking absolutely no chances. They are hiring six ships and are placing six of their prisoners in cold sleep in portable cryo-beds. These ships will land at the private landing-pad at the secure facility at ten minute intervals. All ships will be greeted by a dozen guards keeping watch over six cryo-beds. When one of these cryo-beds is loaded aboard, two of these officers will accompany their prisoner to their ultimate destination. While this is taking place security will be tight in the air space surrounding the prison and in the guard towers at the complex.