I didn't want to land there anyway ...

I didn’t want to land there anyway …

The first adventure of the Spiral Confederacy campaign starts with just two adventurers, who find themselves looking for work on a Starport above the Remnant planet of Dune. The two adventurers for this first session are:

  • Alpha, a psion with an interest in archaeology who has travelled out to Dune in hopes of exploring its surface
  • Ahmose Inhapi, an ex-pirate who has switched to smuggling and is travelling the Frontier hoping to find adventure, independence and wealth

The planet they have travelled to, Dune, is under protective blockade by the Spiral Confederacy, enforced by the naval frigates Script for a Jester’s Tear and Garden Party. All congress with the planet is forbidden, even high-resolution film, and no one is allowed on- or off-world. This blockade has been in place since the planet was identified some 30 years ago, but the system itself is rich with asteroid belts and an extensive mining operation is underway. Travel in and 0ut of the system is unrestricted, and the starport was established soon after the wealth of the asteroids was identified by Pan-Galactic Mining, which sounds like a big company but isn’t, under a semi-exclusive lease. The starport is small but high grade, in order to support a large fleet of automated mining vessels and a small fleet of piloted vessels. Dune lies two parsecs from any other planet, and its star system is being exploited ruthlessly before the planet’s residents are uplifted and able to stake a claim on their resources.

The characters have met with a man called Kong, a slightly effete fixer and broker from a nearby planet called the Forge. He has offered them a very simple deal: he needs them to get an ancient data crystal from a mine on an asteroid in-system, immediately. The crystal is a left-over relic from miners or prospecters who moved through the area a few hundred years ago, and may contain information of value to Kong’s buyer. He arrived in-system five days ago but didn’t have time to find people to help him on the way, so he is hiring the PCs. Because there is a possibility the crystal is guarded by some kind of automated system he wants people with a bit of combat experience to find it, and he can’t take his own bodyguard because the man is a Remnant and very uncomfortable with zero-g. Getting to the asteroid is simple: Kong has a chip that contains access codes for the automated mining ships, which can be overridden and given new flight orders, or even flown manually. If given automated flight orders they will not wait on the asteroid for more than a day, so it is better to use manual flight if possible, something Ahmose is definitely capable of. Payment consists of a single Memory Download Centre access card, valid for one week from date of activation, to be given to the PCs on their return with the chip. A memory download is equivalent to a spare life – it comes with a clone of the user’s body at the time of download – and is usually only available to members of the intergalactic elite, so even a one-time download is a great reward.

The PCs spent a few hours getting their gear together, and then left on their mission. Hacking the mining ship was no trouble, and so after 15 hours of steady flight they were on the destination asteroid. They set the mining ship to manual upon arrival and emerged onto a small asteroid, perhaps 2-3 km across, rimed in some kind of ice and very far from the small, super-hot white sun that flooded this star system with deadly light. Vacc suits on, they trudged across the landing site, down a slope on the far side and into a gully in deep shadow. Ahmose activated a mining lamp and they moved cautiously down the empty gully, which was cast in deep shadow by 6m high sharp walls, on one side surmounted by rib-like stone arches. After walking perhaps 200 m they came to a small hole in the gully wall, which opened into a smooth tunnel leading down into the asteroid. They followed this tunnel down in a spiral for perhaps 60m before it opened into a small cavern. Here in the middle of the cavern was a small plinth, on which sat their target, a dusty yellow chip in a rough cube shape about the size of a die. They explored the cavern carefully, Alpha’s surveillance drone checking for any radiation or invisible signals, but could find no evidence of automated guard systems. Using a special box provided by Kong they picked up the crystal and left the cave unharmed. Too easy!

As they returned, slogging up the gully back to the ship, they were ambushed. Two laser beams hit them, one each, and they dived into cover. They were taking fire from a pair of antagonists in a jumble of rocks about 40m away on the far side of their landing zone. Alpha, not being a combatant, slipped back down from cover into the gully, activated an anti-grav belt, and drifted out of the gully further away, out of sight of the shooters, in order to drift around behind them. Meanwhile Ahmose took out her shotgun and returned fire, flattening one of their attackers instantly but taking more damage from the other, who had better cover and seemed to be an excellent shot. Fortunately this enemy’s laser carbine was having difficulty penetrating Ahmose’s combat armour, and she was able to sustain only light wounds while she kept him pinned down. As this battle unfolded, Alpha slid up behind the remaining attacker and opened fire. He hit once but the attacker saw him and returned fire, doing a very light wound. Alpha, terrified of being killed here, teleported out of his vacc suit and back inside the hold of the mining ship, leaving his space suit drifting empty in front of their attacker, who didn’t realize immediately that something so strange had happened and kept shooting. This gave Ahmose time to leap forward into battle, drawing her cutlass and laying into the guy. He was soon beaten by her ferocious attacks, and she was able to tie up both men and drag them back to the mining ship.

Once there they woke up one – Larry – and interrogated him. He was quite forthcoming, revealing that he and his empathy-linked colleague Barry had been paid by a woman called Orlac at Junction Zero, to come here and take the crystal. They were told that the crystal was a relic of an ancient rebellion that swept through this area 1000 years ago and might hold secrets about the nature of that rebellion, but that other factions connected to that time might be searching for it and they were to kill them if necessary. They were also told to rush the job, and offered shares in a micro-cutter called the Lithium Blade, as well as a safe house on The Reach (a pirate planet). Larry and Barry themselves had come on a small ship called Come as You Are, which was a shifter – a type of tiny ship designed to move very small numbers of people across short interstellar distances. Investigation revealed it had just two staterooms – room for four people – and a small cargo hold.

Ahmose negotiated with Larry a little and they came to a deal: she would let Larry and Barry live, in exchange for becoming captain on their ship. Larry agreed, and they headed back to the starport together. Ahmose contacted Kong on the way and he met them in the arrival lounge of their ship bay as soon as they arrived, carrying their memory download cards. Larry and Barry passed him and went straight to the medical bay of the starport to tend to Barry’s (serious) injuries, while Ahmose and Alpha negotiated with Kong. They handed over the crystal and Ahmose told Kong about the information she had received from Larry; in exchange she convinced Kong (rather easily!) to give up two more memory download vouchers. He handed them over, thanked the PCs, and left in quite a hurry.

Ahmose and Alpha were going to return to their quarters and relax a bit but something about the atmosphere in the starport made them change their minds. Things seemed tense and busy, and something had changed. Getting a bad feeling, they both went immediately to the Memory Download Centre, only to find it closed and the remaining staff member directing robots to pack up equipment. When they asked her why she was closed, she told them that the entire Starport was going to be destroyed within five days, and the MDC was evacuating today. Since memory download takes a full day with aftercare, they wouldn’t be able to do the download; and since jumping to another planet with an MDC would take more than 7 days, they would not be able to execute their vouchers. Perhaps they could find an advocate on Junction Zero who would be able to force an extension of the expiry date …

Had Kong known this when he gave them the vouchers? Had he ripped them off?

The pair of them rushed to a nearby bar where starport residents were gathered around a screen, to catch up on the news. The starport was due to be destroyed as part of a contractual dispute between Pan-galactic Mining and Soleria, a larger core company, that had been resolved several weeks ago in the Supreme Court. Soleria starships had just arrived with the news, and with the gunboat that would destroy the starport. They had also provided two evacuation vessels, Soleria 11C/1 and Soleria 11C/2, that between them could carry 400 people in cryogenic low berth. Because there were 600 – 700 people on the starport, these ships were sorting through residents and taking only residents who had legitimate business on the starport and were not Pan-Galactic staff, consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling that they only had to exercise a “reasonable” effort to save starport residents. Everyone else had to find their own way out …

Alpha and Ahmose rushed down to the medical bay to find Larry arguing with the Doctor, who was refusing to provide medical care to Barry because his condition required several days of care and she needed to get out soon. Unfortunately she was a Pan-Galactic Mining employee, so had no guaranteed way off the ship. Ahmose suggested she could leave on the Come as You Are if she loaded up the medical equipment needed to care for Barry, and any spare valuable gear that would fit. She agreed to this deal very quickly and began preparing to move Barry and all required gear to their ship. They then rushed back to their ship, worried that someone might try to steal it, and indeed found two men arguing about whether to break into the docking bay when they arrived. They scared them off, set Larry to guard the doors, and went down to the main docks to find out what was happening.

The main docks were a scene of chaos. Only four ships were now docked here – Soleria 11C/1 and 11C/2, a mining ship called the Mineral Dahlia, and a freebooter called the Ride on Time. The Soleria ships had marines out in force herding people into queues for assessment, and the captain of the Mineral Dahlia was looting as much mining gear as she could, loading it all into the cargo hold of her ship – a cargo hold that, if empty, could probably rescue all the remaining citizens of the starport. Meanwhile the captain of the Ride on Time, an odious man by the name of Mithril Carn, was auctioning off berths on his ship. He had enough stateroom space for 24 people to board his ship, and had begun taking bids on the space. Six of his men, thuggish-looking mercenaries, stood ready to quell any dissent, and as the PCs watched the two men they had scared from their own ship sidled up to join that gang. Things in the docks were rapidly taking a desperate and criminal turn …

This is where the adventure ended. The PCs need to decide whether to try and intervene in this madness to try and rescue everyone on the starport, or to just abandon them to their fate. They have only two or three days to make their decision before the deadline becomes pressing. What will they do …?