The Red and the Black

Emenli IIa-54-624V
A long-forgotten site from Tarsan history

The asteroid, being above a certain mass, was catalogued and named, with its designation based on its location in the belt. This made it no more interesting or special alongside the thousands of others listed in the port authority’s navigational database. It was a large, unremarkable rock among many others, unless you happened to be one of the four individuals standing inside the empty, airless hangar staring at the seemingly lifeless escort.

The facility had markings from the Sword Worlds, but not in the form of anything too detailed or formal. Rather, it was an overall design theme and labeling on some junk left behind that stood out, along with the partially-removed hull insignia from the ship, the name of which was not apparent from the outside. The base had been built well, although without much concern for comfort or aesthetics. The stories of a staging location for the 3rd Regiment and its families and others was true, and this was it. There was room in the large hangar for probably 1000 tons of ship, although not likely for a single ship that large. Still, two large transports or a few smaller corvettes or landers would fit together, and the smaller hangar could fit two scout/couriers or a free trader. The inner chambers and corridors looked to be able to hold upwards of 100 or more people at a time, for short periods, and the powerplant was large enough to provide power and life support for all functions of the facility without blackouts.

Obviously a lot of work went into constructing the place; however, it was also clear that most of it was made of prefabricated pieces and segments, which indicated that some greater logistical and organizational authority than a mere regiment had a hand in this. Interesting.

The base, after a cursory exploration and closer look at the life support and power systems, appeared to be entirely intact, and entirely without power and some critical parts to enable start-up and functioning. It would take a closer, longer review to determine what was needed to get things operating again. The ship would require a detailed review, as well, although from the outside it looked intact, despite some open hull plates and what looked like a few missing components.

The HighNDry had enough supplies to renew the air and power packs on the Vacc Suits a few times over, and there were other tools and diagnostic widgets to be had, as well. A more detailed survey of the base and ship were possible, should the time be devoted to it on this trip.

What are your plans? What do you want to do, when, and where? I think we can accomplish a lot over two weeks in regards to the base & ship right here. Let me know.

ISS Duncan
on station in far orbit of Tarsus

“Contact lost, captain,” deadpanned the tech working the wide-area scanner moments after the probable ship they’d tracked near the asteroid belt disappeared from his screen.

Commander Eryl Cochran, captain of the ISS Duncan, was on the bridge, standing still and central in order to have a view of the primary instrument and system stations. She nodded, although the crewman did not see her.
“Keep an eye on that zone, and the others. I want to be aware of all intra-system traffic,” she announced. It probably didn’t matter and, like others they’d tracked over the last week while on station, would amount to nothing – but she couldn’t share that with the crew.

Her collar itched. She’d only been off active duty for a little over a year, and so the call-up last month, especially with her continued reserve service, shouldn’t have been a big deal. Her job at the port authority at the IISS base on Mertractor was easy to set aside, but her transition to civilian life had been faster than she’d thought. The high collar of the captain’s coat reminded her of her responsibility and the suddenness with which things had changed over the last month.

The bridge doors swished open behind her.

“I stand ready to relieve you for the watch, captain,” stated Lt Barger, the ship’s 3rd Officer.

Turing to face the man, who was actually a few years her senior, she smiled slightly. “I stand relieved.”

“I have the conn,” replied Barger.

“You have the conn,” she confirmed, following the strict protocol that defined interactions at such moments.

“I have the conn,” he answered in a falling tone, ending the interchange. Cochran spent a few minutes going over what she’d seen during her watch and then departed the bridge, weaving her way through a few p-ways, ducking through pressure door frames, and making her way to the small Officer Country on the Duncan, where her small cabin was. Once inside and with the door closed, she relaxed her posture and removed the coat, releasing the grip from around her neck. Unconsciously sighing in relief, she stripped down to her underclothes, took a sip of water from a bottle on the shelf next to her fold-down bunk, and laid down to sleep.

That's odd
in distant orbit within the system

It’d been another long, yet rewarding day on the Drake ranch. Shara had been in Newland for the last few days concluding some contracts with a consortium of off-world buyers, while Cooper had overseen the continued planting of some new crops. The team had helped in all manner of work on and related to the ranch, while also making some contacts of their own among other ranchers and in the world’s few cities.

On 292 of year 1117, Syd picked up on some communications chatter in the system, indicating what seemed like some confusion over the presence of a large ship in distant orbit of Tarsus. The ship identified itself as being with the 2055th Imperial Reserve Fleet, which raised some questions and has become a topic of discussion among merchants, starfarers, and others with connections off-world. Since Reserve Fleets typically only train part-time, it seems odd that a ship assigned to one would suddenly appear in the system to conduct what seem to be benign drills.

The ship, probably an older model cruiser or escort, is near the edge of the system, in the general vicinity of where ships would come out of hyperspace. It’s been there for about a week, and the current scuttlebutt is that it’s made no plans to make planetfall.

Problems Solved; Nobbles Harvested

SuSag’s “contractors” were harvesting plant matter that could be easily refined into psi-drugs – the sort that are illegal within the borders of the Imperium, taboo in most of human space in mainstream society, and also very lucrative for sale throughout those same places. Technically legal outside the Imperium – as on Tarsus – public knowledge of SuSag’s operation would not reflect well on the company. The contractors they’d hired, it seemed, had gotten sloppy and greedy, and caring mostly for profits their corporate handlers hadn’t been too interested. Still, the murder of the rancher was not what they’d wanted.

The team forced their hand by hijacking a truck carrying, among other things, a shipment of unrefined psi-compound heading from Evander to Newland. Stopping the truck in the middle of nowhere wasn’t too much trouble, and the three-man crew wasn’t interested in getting shot over cargo. With evidence of the reason behind the swamp operations in hand, Felix and Syd decided to reprogram the sonic stakes in order to push the predators south instead of north, driving them directly into the lands the drug harvesters wanted them out of. Once the chaos began – with only days before the critical nobble hunt – the team dropped in on the planet’s SuSag office and paid a visit to Augustine Derrik, the corporate operative likely in charge of what was going on.

Derrik was not happy about the situation, but appreciated the professionalism with which the team conducted the business, and he eventually agreed to a sizable insurance payout to Shara, as well as a cessation of “bean harvesting” in the swamp to the south of her ranch. In trade the team, and Shara, signed non-disclosure agreements, keeping quiet about what SuSAG was up to in the swamps. Additionally, Derrik assured all involved that the men who’d been arrested for her Shara’s father’s murder would be held accountable and would not be a problem for anyone.

Three days later, after a significant amount of work and well-earned fatigue, the nobble hunt went off well, with the two centuries for which Shara had contracted being harvested, earning her a total of 432,000CR, which was in addition to the payout from SuSAG. Needing extra help, she asked the team to stay on at the ranch for a few months, and offered to pay well for the work.

Thus, almost three months pass. You’ll have an opportunity to increase one skill by one point – your choice, but it needs to make sense given what you were up to for those months. You also can increase one skill that you made regular use of during this first story, by one.

Questions to consider: during this time, what research do you conduct? What news to pay attention to? What other things about Tarsus would draw you attention? Everyone has a player secret, too, and remember that you need to be logged into the OP to be able to read it.

As for money issues, Shara was paid 1,000,000CR by SuSAG through intermediaries, and profited well off the nobble hunt. All your room & board was covered for the time on Tarsus, as well as maintenance and upkeep on the ship. Additionally, each of you (including the ghostly Dr. HP) have banked 15,000CR during this time, made up of money Shara paid you for the nobble hunt and for helping her on the ranch. If there are any other business deals or money-making schemes you’d want to pursue during those months let me know and we can work out what happened.

++++++Guys, this is Syd. We need to get together to discuss something in person- it’s not for broadcast. I figure tomorrow night at Shara’s we can talk privately.

Also, if someone could find a snack that isn’t Nobble Jerky I would pay a premium for it. ++++++

INTERNAL: Base Commanders' Eyes Only
Secure IISS Command-Level Communique


On 132-1116, Emperor Strephon Aelia Alkhalikoi was assassinated in the Imperial throne room on Capital by Archduke Dulinor Astrin Ilethian of Dlan. The traitor, claiming the Right of Assassination as justification. The Archduke apparently fled to his homeworld where he had prepared forces in advance to support, by military, political, and economic means, his claim.

The throne has been claimed Lucan, the Emperor’s nephew, who is marshaling Imperial forces to capture the traitor and quell a rebellion before it spreads.

All IISS installations, forces, and assets are to implement War Plan Orange and protect all holdings, trade routes, personnel, and assets to the utmost in order to promote stability and demonstrate the continuance of the Imperium.

Peeling Back Layers

With the addition of Felix, an intel operative who’d been HP’s handler/monitor a few years ago and is known to the group already, several things were accomplished by splitting the team and working in detail on a few different tasks.

  • HP helped Shara repair some equipment around the ranch in preparation for the Nobble harvest, coming in six days.
  • Syd set up a communications monitoring system using the captured air/raft’s comm system and the ranch’s satellite connection. Doing so enabled the team to get a sense of messages being sent from the swamp to a location in Evander, and air/rafts in transit between the two.
  • Felix’s interrogation of two of the three captured goons yielded key information about who hired them (a cut-out), how they were paid (dead drop), and what they were actually doing (picking up sealed barrels at various sites upon order, delivering them to a warehouse in Evander, and keeping people out of the swamp). Why they were doing these things was a mystery to them, and remained so for the team.

Once in Evander, Hal and Felix broke into the warehouse and found that the barrels were being delivered to a storage container that itself contained a secret entrance into the building next door, where a processing/packaging room was found, although they were unable to explore it due to the presence of an alarm system. Given residue found in four empty barrels, they were confident that whatever was being smuggled was from the swamp, and seemed to be some kind of plant or soil.

The two also identified the shipping company, Schmidtsohne, that was moving the processed stuff to another spot, in the capitol of Newland, thousands of miles to the east. A shipment was due to head out the next day.

Additionally, through Felix’s digging, the pair identified the guy who ordered 1000 sonic stakes – Tomas Barryster – and learned that he’ been fired about a year ago from a local surveying company for running off-the-books work, most notably the purchase of those stakes. Barryster was found living in a much nicer neighborhood than he’d come from, and when confronted was forced to provide some extra information, connecting the shipments to SuSAG, one of the larger interstellar corporations, which has a small presence in Newland. It seems that the shipment from the Schmidtsohne warehouse would be headed to a SuSAG facility in Newland, and soon.

Barryster was a shady character, but did not strike Felix as a murderer or one who’d turn to violence first. He struck the operative as a crook, but of the ‘shady dealings’ sort.

The group left off considering whether to return to the ranch or head to Newland, while HP and Syd were still back at the ranch with Shara, preparing for the Nobble hunt, now only five days away.

Landing on Tarsus
and Finding Problems

The HighandDry checked in at Tarsus spaceport, cleared customs, and registered for oceanic fuel replenishment during its stay, and then made for the Drake Ranch, several thousand kilometers to the west.

Shara met them with news about the money troubles facing her father’s ranch, and the hunch that both he and the manager had that these problems – a few years in the making – were deliberate. Beyond that, her father had gone missing a few days beforehand, while she was away bidding on licenses for an upcoming, and financially crucial, hunt.

The three, along with Shara, took off the next morning in the ranch’s Air/Raft and conducted a search of the areas where her father seemed likely to be found, and ended up making their way into the massive swamp the reached out from the southern coastal lands near their property.

Hal noticed a few feline predators circling a tree and after chasing them off found the body of Shara’s father lodged high in its branches. After getting the corpse down, Hal and Scoutster Sam tracked broken branches and a slight blood trail deeper into the swamp while HP and Shara, clearly shocked and barely holding on, took the remains back to the ranch.

A few hours later Hal and Schblapdorf saw an Air/Raft skimming the trees a little to their south, and unsuccessfully hid – which prompted the thee-man crew to begin shooting at them. A brief exchange of shots – including laser blasts from one of the intruders – ended with the vehicle nosing down into the soft mud, it crew knocked out from gunfire.

Later that night, after the constabulary had dispatched a small team to take statements and investigate, the group was left with the need to plan a funeral and burial, and questions about who those men – taken into custody – were, why they’d attacked them and presumably Shara’s father, what the purpose of the sonic stakes they’d found in the swamp was, and how the might all relate to the problems facing the ranch.

Dates, the Calendar, travel time

Since the thousands of worlds comprising the Imperium have different day lengths and orbital years, a standardized date system was established around a 365-day year with 24-hour days (convenient for those of us in the real world, right?). Although local and regional traditions and names persist in some areas, the norm is that there are no month names, and days are numbered, 1-365. A date is written “Day#, Year#,” as in 122-1116 – which would be the one hundred and twenty-second day of year 1116 of the Third Imperium.

Our campaign began on 153-1116, and you arrived on Walston on 170-116, and finished your work there, and then left on 175-1116, and arrived at Flammarion on 191-1116. You were ready to leave there on 198-1116, meaning that about a month and a half have gone by in the game already.

A unique facet of Traveller campaigns is that a good amount of in-game time will pass, due to the length of hyperspace jumps. Getting to Tarsus is going to take 6 weeks of jump time, plus some days here and there between them. I’ll say at least 50 days to get there, given time to reload ship’s stores…meaning that by the time you arrive at ‘adventure site #2’ over three months will have elapsed.

The Cost of Operating a Ship

I did some more reading about ship operations and have come up with the following, most of which is rules-as-written, with some adjustments for house rules that I think are campaign-appropriate. Everything here is relevant to a Scout/Courier only when it comes to the specific numbers, but the categories of expenses are generally the same for any ship.

  • Standard monthly maintenance – that’s just upkeep…not fuel or food…for a Scout is 3064cr. Since the ship belongs to the IISS and I said that you are required to bring it in annually (actually every 30 jumps or annually, whichever comes first), I’m going to say that some of the annual work is paid for by them, thus cutting down on the monthly portion of that. So, regular maintenance and upkeep will be 2500cr/month. You can go without that, but over time you’ll risk and increasing chance of failure, and the IISS will be pretty angry if you show up without proper records.
  • Life support, water, and other consumables cost 1000cr/stateroom plus 1000cr/person on board. Thus, your total for the Scout, which has four staterooms, is 8000cr/month to make the ship livable and have food.
  • Fuel costs 500cr/ton refined or 100cr/ton unrefined. You have a system to refine fuel, and it can process 40 tons/day. A jump-1 uses 10 tons; jump-2 uses 20 tons. The ship can hold 23 tons of fuel, with the extra 3 being there to run the power plant for other ship’s systems. You can figure out the math there…
  • You can skim oceans and gas giants for hydrogen and refine it yourself, however, since your ship is streamlined and can enter and atmosphere. Thus, depending on where you travel you could get away with spending almost nothing on fuel…depending on where you go and the routes you take.
  • The total cost to keep the ship running and properly maintained is 10,500CR/month.

So…figure out how much it’s going to cost you to make it to Tarsus, and post it in the comments. Think about the best route(s) and how you’re going to afford your trip there.

Big Damn Heroes

Meta Summary

The team, with the help of two hired Vargr, made it to the ship after a long, exhausting day of hiking and climbing, and decided to stay the night in the shelter they'd borrowed from the adminstrater of Salabrii, setting it up on the shore of the warm crater lake. The ship had been landed on the island, about 100m out from them, and the next morning they swam across, bringing the buoyant components cases across zipped inside the (mostly) waterproof tent with the rest of their belongings.

The ship was a mess, but mostly intact. So much of the equipment from inside it had been inexplicably strewn about the island, and what was left of a heap of food packs was torn to shreds by the canine left behind – clearly domesticated, as evidenced by its collar, and also clearly starving. Hal made nice with it while the others started to work on repairing the ship, which still had enough fuel to make some atmospheric flight.

Later that day they set the seismic charges, left onboard, to complete the survey of the volcano that the other crew had failed to do, and during the tests the mountain began to rumble, then shake, then erupt. Certainly the charges hadn't done that…certainly. Regardless, in short order the mountain was beginning to smoke and spew ash, then lava, which computer models showed would soon engulf the nearby hamlet of Barvinn. The crew got in contact with the local government, which began evacuation operations, in which the crew and ship played an active and vital role.

The small town was devoured by molten rock but with no loss of life, after a few rescue flights by the Highndry.

After the day's excitement, the crew was treated to a heroes' welcome at Walston, the capitol, provided with a full tank of refined fuel on the house, full provisions for 12 weeks (the standard for a Scout/Courier), a few days of appreciation, and finally as swanky a dinner as humble Walston could muster. The locals assured the men that they'd always be welcome on the world.

Four weeks later, upon arrival at the Scout waystation at Flammarion, the ship was repaired and refitted to standard, and while waiting for that maintenance to be completed Hal received a message, by X-Boat, from and old Army friend, Shara Drake, now living on her homeworld of Tarsus. The short text-only message was as follows:

"Hal – Sorry to come at you from the black; hope all is well. Weather's right for another patrol, although the rubber's are a little thin. Working with my family to get things back to standard; plenty of time until a flag visit, though. See you around sometime. – Shara"


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