This scenario is designed to slot into any existing campaign. It should be set on a world with a breathable atmosphere, a liquid hydrosphere, and a relatively low population (perhaps only a few thousand inhabitants). The starport should be basic (ideally a class D or E port). At the time of the scenario there are very few ships within the system.
Most of the worlds’ population lives in a settlement that forms part of the surface port facilities. The starport is located within a broad valley in the foothills of an ancient mountain range.
While the PCs are in town (perhaps while negotiating with a cargo broker or enjoying the local cuisine) a powerful seismic tremor strikes the region.
For a few moments everything becomes unnaturally still and silent, then a deep rumbling and shuddering begins. The din builds to a crescendo and continues for long terrifying seconds. The ground sways and shakes, cracks appear in walls, masonry falls from above, and all around is a bewildering din of heavy crashes and crunches and stifled cries. A cloud of blinding, choking dust engulfs everything.
Diving under hard cover (such as a table) or getting into the open will help reduce the chances of injury, as will personal armour. Tests against strength or dexterity or even brawling skill (to represent dodging) might be required to achieve such a feat. Even plain luck might be needed. The violent shaking and falling debris prevent anything else being done.
And then the quake fades away.
The dust settles to reveal a disaster zone. Ruined buildings jut skyward, smoke hangs in the air, collapsed walls block streets, and rubble and debris covers destroyed vehicles. The injured and dead lie where they fell. Ragged and dust-caked individuals shamble around while others crouch and stare and cry.
The PCs have arrived in the Adabicci system (Lunion 0204, A-57189A-B), traveling down the Spinward Main. While conducting routine inquiries at the Adabicci starport, they are approached by a representative of the Adabicci Astronomical Union, a semi-professional scientific organization. They wish to charter the PCs ship for an in-system recovery operation.
Over a century ago, the AAU helped to sponsor the production and launch of a remotely controlled probe that would explore the outer planets of the system. The outer planets consist of a small gas giant and a number of airless cold planets that were only briefly surveyed by the Scouts, and quickly deemed not suitable for colonization.
The historical spacecraft, one of the first produced on Adabicci, and really not much more than a sensor cluster, was lost within the first decade of its flight – the radio stopped responding, and it was concluded at the time that the probe had fallen into the gas giant. Recently, the AAU spotted a small moving object that their much more advanced detection equipment has identified as the old probe. It is now far past the orbit of the last planet in the system, and is drifting outwards towards the Kuiper Belt. The astronomers ask the PCs to go out and retrieve it, saying it may have useful survey data, but it also an object of historical significance. They offer payment of Cr 500,000 to recover it. The patron group will keep in regular radio contact with the PCs ship during the voyage.
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