Saturday, October 28, 2017

On Patrol, Part II

064-1120Peraspera/Sol High Port

            MM1 Brand was casually walking back from the Imperial Courier Service office in the highport’s commercial area, having dropped a message back to Saagii/Madoc (Diaspora 1739). She had received a message earlier this week from her mother. Father’s health was not doing as well, and one of her older brothers was involved in something at Muan Gwi where he is a member of Archduke Adair’s staff. Her reply was more of a generic one stating she was alive and well, and it was too bad she couldn’t be closer. The last part was dishonest; Juliana was quite happy on the Boxing Kangaroo, and in the Navy.
Former Third Secretary Thrupp, 1
            A middle-aged woman dressed in professional attire approached her, “Excuse me, Petty Officer? I’m Third Secretary Thrupp, formerly of the Diplomatic Corps. I think you may need my help here.”
            “Madam, I’m quite sure that anything like that- “
            “Can go through your Captain, and the Station Officer. I know the channels. I also know somebody in the Station Office has been compromised. If I can talk to your Captain, you can help me make a big bust here.”
            “What?”
            “People are listening. Aboard ship, it’ll be clear.”
            “Of course. We’ll get over to the Navy dock.” Brand lead Secretary Thrupp to the Kangaroo’s berth in the small military section of the High Port. Thrupp’s credentials were accepted by the no-neck Marine standing guard on that section. The two women went to the portal where an obviously bored BM3 Zabiyah was standing entry watch.
            “MM1, who’s this you’re bringing aboard?” he asked.
            “She’s MoJ and wants to see the Skipper.” Brand replied.
            “Her ID? I mean, it should be good, but…”
            “Here it is. This isn’t the first one of these ship’s I’ve been on.” Thrupp interrupted, handing him her credentials. “Permission to come aboard, Petty Officer?”
            “Wait one, ma’am,” Zabiyah replied. “Your info checks out, but I’d like to call the CO first.”
            “Captain, this is BM3 on the quaterdeck. I know I’m skipping past the XO, but MM1 came back with someone with MoJ credentials, and wants to talk with you,” he said into the headset as it was keyed to a specific channel. In response came a muffled reply.
            “Yes sir, I’ll let her aboard with MM1 as a guide. And thank you, sir, for not holding this against me.” Zabiyah said into the headset. He looked up from the bridge box, and told the two standing there, “Secretary Thrupp, he’s agreed to see you, with MM1 Brand here and the XO in his office. You may come aboard, but please wait for Petty Officer Brand once aboard”
            “I’m not used to waiting on junior officers like this, but I’ve got a job to do,” Thrupp grumbled in reply as she entered the ship through the belly airlock.
            “Permission to come aboard?” Brand asked, holding her ID card up to Zabiyah and saluting.
            “Come aboard, MM1,” as the salute was retuned.
            Brand lead Thrupp up through the ship, and passed Fireman Maurer who tried to engage in brief conversation with her department head, but Brand pushed her aside with typical military courtesy, on a mission to see Lieutenant Brickley. Stepping through the bridge to the captain’s office, she met with him and Sublieutenant Hassan already seated in the small space.
            “Take a seat both of you,” Brickley directed them to sit.
            “Thank you Lieutenant Brickley. I understand it’s not normal for officers to meet with strangers with Ministry of Justice credentials at the request of their spacers, but this time it’s worth it.” Thrupp replied.
            “I’m afraid you’ve got me at a disadvantage here, Ms,-“
            “Thrupp. Adelaide Thrupp. Formerly a third secretary with the Diplomatic Corps, now an agent for the Ministry of Justice.”
            “Alright then, what do you have? And why can’t you pass it to the normal chain?” Hassan broke in.
Ground Car prepped for use as SVBIED 2
            “My contacts have a Rule of Terra cell that’s been operating here in the Outback that keeps getting lost here at Peraspera. We think there’s someone they’re blackmailing in the Navy Station to let their free trader get through. They’ve been pretty small fry, only a logistics cell, so we’ve got them red handed here bringing in equipment to make a sizable bomb at Prometheus.”
            “Go on,” Brickley notes approvingly. “What’s the route they fly?”
            “Thank you for your interest. This group handles it from Midway to Prometheus, and they regularly just stop here for a quick refuel, before jumping to Prometheus. The reason the Ministry of Justice thinks there’s a mole here is because the Navy was warned twice as to their intention, and the name of the ship, and both times, she got away.”
            “Cargo?” Hassan asks, looking up from notes he had been taking.
            “Ground cars ready for conversion to vehicle borne improvised explosive devices, for use against Imperial forces on world. They look like they’re cut off from SolSec support, but are still dangerous.”
            “Prior runs?” Brand chimes in.
            “Looks like they were doing dry runs to test their supply route as a way to see if they got in, and exfiltrating a couple of Sollie agents. Nothing too big…” Thrupp trailed off.
            Thinking briefly, Brickley breaks the silence with, “Got it, ma’am. We’ll take it from here. ID on the trader?”
            “Well, named the Dentus Delights on the Peraspan registry, actually.” Reaching for a concealed pocket, Thrupp hands a data crystal to Brickley. “Captain, this should have the info you need for this operation.”
            “Thank you for giving us this chance,” he says shaking her hand, turning, “Brand, escort her off the ship, please. Nothing personal, just getting you out of here while I make the plans.”
            As Brand left with Thrupp, Brickley and Hassan reviewed the material. The Rule of Terra cell had bought a legitimate free trader named the Dentus Delights last year, and hand been operating it in the Outback on speculative cargo runs. The tracing of the purchaser had taken long enough the Ministry of Justice had only recently identified them as a terrorist group. The proof was pretty damming on the whole thing. It looked like their plan was to bring in 4 ATVs under cover as a larger expedition seeking preservation information about various carnivorous megafauna introduced on Prometheus. Six terrorists to ensure proper wiring of the explosives and serve as security were under cover as the ‘expedition’. The low berth rooms were modified as well, the capsules replaced by stores for explosives during the last visit to Midway/Sol at the beginning of the year. Since the purchase, the crew’s been a courier and small-scale money maker for the terrorist group as an above board Free Trader.
            The kicker though, was proof that Navy personnel had been complicit in letting them through. Last month, the Dentus Delights had come through Peraspera and the Navy was alerted. Somehow, she got away with a couple of known SolSec agents. Now they were lost on world. A mole in the Navy Station was suspected. Commander Lord Wood was not to be informed, but it was easily obvious the Station Commander was an upper-class twit placed here to keep him from killing people. But in this case, his inaction and poor staff control would lead to that happening. The suspects were Chief Moreau, who ran the boat docks, Petty Officer Brown who worked the parts shop, Petty Officer Gwindhir at the Admin Office, Petty Officer Bullard assigned to Security, and Spacehand Smith working in the Admin Office as well. One of them would be hiding something. The whole thing had to be planned without Station’s interference.


065-1120

            Early the next morning, the Boxing Kangaroo boosted from the High Port to a patrol sector congruent with a jump in from Junction. Nine hours in their patrol, a jump signature came in. BM3 Zabiyah examined the scope, and called Spacehand Hall.
            “Look, we’ve got jump signature right now. Looks like it’s about 20-25 thousand km from us, and we’ve got it as a, wait a sec, yeah, 200 dTon ship. Get the Captain now. By the time he gets here, I’ll be able to tell him if it’s our quarry,” he orders her. Zabiyah gets to work getting the info and transmitting the challenge.
            By the time Spacehand Hall returns with Lieutenant Brickley, Zabiyah has a good identification on the intruder.
            “Captain, we have a positive ID this is the Free Trader Dentus Delights. Transponder is consistent with the files we have on them, as is displacement and performance. Current range is
23,000 kilometers. I recommend we bring the ship to general quarters and prepare to engage if they won’t heave to.”
            “Very well, officer of the deck. Sound general quarters for a suspected hostile,” Brickley gave the order in a surpsringly relaxed tone. Glancing around, he studied the various instruments.
            Turning to his console, Zabiyah keyed up the general announcing system. “General Quarters, General Quarters, all hands man battle stations for suspected hostile,” then keyed the alarm, and repeated it.
            In the berthing spaces, the Marines were headed down to the Ship’s Boat, with the crew practically on station in the Boat. Chishan and Owen hurried down to the missile turrets, as Hall ran down the corridor getting rousing the resting members of the crew. Hassan and Castillo followed her back to the bridge, getting to their stations. The engineers raced back aft to the plant.
From my collection. Found in my copy of TTB
            Brickey announced, “This is the captain, I have the deck and the conn,” effectively relieving Zabiyah as OOD, and taking direct control of the ship. Hassan took over reports, and noted them on a screen
            “Captain, all stations report manned and ready,” Hassan reported.
            “Very well. Transmit order to heave to.”
            “Transmit order to heave to, aye,” came the response. Hassan spoke with a low voice into the ship to ship laser communicator, “Attention Free Trader Dentus Delights, this is Imperial Patrol Cruiser Boxing Kangaroo. Heave to for inspection. Attempts to evade will be met with deadly force.” Turning, “Order sent, sir.”
            “Very well.”
            “Sir, they just fired at us! A complete miss with a beam laser, but they’re shooting back!” Zabiyah notes with alacrity.
            Keeping his cool, Brickley announces, “Hostile intent confirmed. Away boat!” as they prepare for action
            The long minutes of combat start with both ships firing at long range. First the missiles are released. The Dentus Delights manage to hit the Kangaroo with a single hit, causing them to react with both laser turrets. As the range closed, the superior skill and maneuvering of the Navy crew quickly showed. Once the M-drive was hit and the main hull obliterated, the terrorist crew surrendered.
            Once the Boxing Kangaroo and its ship’s Boat were alongside, the Marines began a search. All eleven aboard were taken, with the trader’s pilot in serious condition. Yap managed to get her stabilized. The near scrap nature of their ship having taken any desire to fight out of them, including one particularly psychotic one who dropped a cutlass at the point of a FGMP. The ATVs were wrecked by the destruction of a cargo bay door, but still recognizable, and the drive section slagged. Somehow, the engineer survived the postmodern metal sculpture garden the engine room had become. An inspection of various documents produced proof this group of cutthroats was in fact two cells of Rule of Terra. A five-member logistics cell manning the free trader, and a six-member direct action cell to explode things. A tug came out from the high port to bring the wrecked trader in, taking most of the day to get both ships back to the high port. Shockingly, one of the gunners was believed dead, a former Sub-Lieutenant in the Navy whose cutter was listed as lost with all hands at Kidashi/Albadawi a few years back. She was in tears next to the pilot.
            Looking at the group secured in the bunk room forward, the Lieutenant examines them in turn. Sergeant Valdez stood next to him, waiting for orders. The former leader looked defiant, like he could get his way out of this very easily, his pilot lying on a rack, with the former officer monitoring the pilot’s vitals. The engineer was morose, like he had lost his only friend. The other two were on racks, one lost in thought, the other rubbing his chest absent mindedly. Of the direct-action cell, they were all rather dejected. The Marines had humiliatingly searched each one aboard the ship’s boat. Brickley looked at Valdez, and nodded. “Take our traitor up to my office. I want the name of her contact.”
            “Aye aye, sir!” Valdez replied and saluted, before taking one of his Marines with him. They pulled the sobbing woman away, and frog-marched her to the small office where Brand was waiting.
            “It’s nice to see someone from that cutter again.” Brand spoke as the renegade settled in her seat. “I remember seeing you all leave, and there was that service for everyone afterwards. What’s it like hearing about your own memorial service?”
            “What!? My girlfriend…” Bailey responded.
            “So that’s how they kept you!” Brand retorted, interrupting. What we need from you is who you’ve been speaking to here to get away from it all.”
            “Why, so you can send them to Newcomb as well? Or is there another prison for us to get disappeared to?” the prisoner retorted, snapping out of it.
            “Now, we can play nice, or I can have the Sergeant come back,” Brand tried to intimidate the prisoner.
            “Not likely. Besides, you’d ruin be before your boss,” Bailey came back, not impressed with Brand’s attempt.
            “Sergeant,” Brand keyed the comms, “Please return to the office and return our friend, slowly.”
            “No, no, I’ll talk.” Bailey returned to her. “It’s someone in the Admin section. We meet, and he keeps me listed as dead, but I use a fake ID. I had met him before, he’s from Thorwald, you know, with the leyden trees.”
            “Thank you, ma’am. That wasn’t so hard.” Brand replied. “We’ll be sure to note this in our logs.” Valdez returned, and took the again crying woman back to the bunkroom, as Brand returned to Brickley, who was waiting in the common area.
            “Sir, she’s keyed a man from Thorwald in Admin at the station. Can you get into their personnel files?” Brand asked.
            Brickley replied, “Give me a sec. It should be possible, but I’ll need Hassan do it. He’s the right man for that job.” Switching gears, he asked, “Repairs to how they dinged the armor?”
            “Should be no more than a few hours once we get back. It’s pretty common hull damage, so even a backwater like this can get it done in an hour or two.” She replied.
            “Thanks, Eng. You did really well there. Did you really work on that cutter?”
            “I’m not sure, but I do remember the massive dress uniform memorial service afterwards.”
            “Get some rest, I’ll speak with the XO here about that info,” Brickley spoke as he turned to the Hassan’s state room. Tapping the door chime, Brickley waited a second, and the door opened.
            “Evening sir, what do you have for me?” Hassan spoke as Brickley stepped through, half standing.
            “Well, we’ve got some ideas as to the guy whose responsible.” Brickley spoke as he waved Hassan back to a chair. “From Thorwald, and in Admin. Can you get a name from the listing of station personnel by the time we get back?”
            “Certainly sir! I’ll get it for you by the time we get back to the High Port,” Hassan replied. “Now if you’ll let me take a look at it all, it won’t be a problem.”
            “Of course. Take your time,” was the reply as Brickley left the stateroom.
            An hour later, as the Boxing Kangaroo was preparing for its final maneuver to the High Port, with clearance for the repair yard and a security force standing by, Hassan reported to Brickley with the information.
            “It’s all here, Skipper. It sounds like YN2 Gwindhir is our culprit. From Thorwald, and in Admin. Good kid before this, but there’s something up here. There’s portions of his record that just don’t exist.” Hassan said as he handed the information to Brickley.
            “Huh. We’ll take this in, and give it to Justice, but now we’ve got to get our battered ship to repairs.”
            Commander Lord Wood awaited them at air lock as they docked, with a mixed group of Marines, Navy Security, and Ministry of Justice personnel standing by. “Lieutenant, it’s great to see you back. And that you managed to capture the entire terrorist group and their information is of great value to the Imperium.”
            “Thank you, sir, but I believe your Station has been compromised,” Brickley responded, “One of the crew was one of ours, but a Yeoman in your offices managed to keep her fake ID acceptable, and their ship from running in to trouble.”
            “What, how?!” came a look of shock and surprise from the Commander.
            “Check your records for the last six months. There’s been a few alerts out on this free trader, and every time, it’s managed to get through without being caught, or the contraband she’s been suspected of carrying has been lost in this system,” Brickley explained. “We got them, and there’s no way that you can’t deny it’s a dirty ship.”
            “I see, I see,” came the cultured voice. “Who, how did you know?”
            “I met with a MOJ freelancer yesterday. She should still be on world, but they were pissed at you and the Navy. Middle aged type, and pushy.”
            “Well, thank you Lieutenant, and we will get these prisoners to jail, and Imperial justice will be done,” the Commander replied with some petulance in his voice. Returning to command, “Force Commander, take them to the jail.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Naval Stations

The stereotype of commanders of Stations, out of regulations, and not caring.
On worlds that are not defensive nodes or on communications nodes, the Imperial Navy establishes a Station in the starport. These offices serve as standing liaisons for the Navy in the system, providing a presence in the system, and running in naval business required.

Organization
These stations are organized in a fairly standard manner, with a Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, and several departments. It is not uncommon for some departments to have Imperial Civil Service personnel in key roles, and many Civil Servants are retired Navy personnel or former spacers who just stopped wearing the uniform to work. The commanding officer of a Naval Station is often only a Commander, and has authority only over personnel, not over units.

The Executive Department consists of the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Senior Enlisted Leader, and a few general clerks. These personnel are concerned with running the unit and talking with the outside authorities, including the SPA.

Admin Department contains many of the personnel assigned. Their primary role is personnel administration, and pay records, and ensuring the Navy's database is up to date. They also support the affairs of Reserve and Retired personnel and their interaction with the Navy. A station is capable of authorizing retirement voucher payments. 

Supply Department ensures the Station and visiting ships get the equipment required for missions, food and quarters are available, and any on world suppliers to the Navy meet supply standards. Also, they arrange passage aboard Navy ships if required. Munitions bunkers, if present, will be under control of Supply Department, but located well away from the rest of the starport. Finally, the Disbursing Officer maintains records of payment in both Imperial Credits and any local currency.

Security is a major department. Often staffed by a mixture of Navy personnel and civilian law enforcement, they provide physical security to the ship's arriving at the station, and organize the Shore Patrol. They have a particularly thorny relationship with some Marine units that have a 'tradition' known as "System D".

Operations Department does all work required for ships themselves and support Navy specific communications equipment. They operate any docking and servicing equipment, and monitor any hired ship repair facility present. If any small craft are assigned, their operation is conducted by a Boat Division in Operations department.

Medical Department operates at extremes. Stations on major worlds will have only a few spacers assigned as medical administration, with actual doctors being local contractors or reservists. At larger stations, the Navy operates a small clinic capable of most medical needs.

Recruiting activities on most worlds are technically under the authority of the station, but more often answer to recruiting command at the Subsector and Sector levels.

The Marine security force provided to the Starport operates out of the Station as well. As the Imperial Marines are notoriously short on support personnel, Navy Station personnel often find themselves either serving as drivers or mechanics for the Marines, or suddenly becoming the alert medic in crisis times.

Public Works departments are the construction workers and sanitation engineers of a Station. They maintain system connections on more populated worlds, and actually run major physical plants on more barren worlds.

Size and Layout
Stations are part of the spaceport on the worlds they are present. Generally, they are fairly small commands, no more than a few hundred personnel at most. Around habitable worlds, if a high port is present, Operations Department will be based there, along with detachments from most departments. Command and thus, the Executive department will colocated with the starport administrator's office.

Generally, a Station will consist of a HQ, supply stores, and a perimeter area. Many support facilities are contracted out to the starport. A planet-side Station will be some buildings at the starport with their own razor wire fence. On worlds under Imperial Occupation, Operations also finds itself supporting the local patrol forces present in addition to supporting Navy operations.

Location
Navy Stations are found on worlds with Class A, B, and C starports most often, with a few strategic class D starports receiving them. Generally, the facilities the Navy sets up for its own use are enough to build a startport almost up to the quality of a Class  C facility, but use by non-governmental users, including detached duty scouts, can be highly limited. Stations will generally be on worlds with populations under 1 million and feature limited space defense abilities.

Subsector Navy bases, when present, will replace these facilities, and Imperial Navy craft are supported on a contract basis. The Imperial Navy is represented by a simple office, little more than requirements for recruiting and supporting reserve and retired personnel. An area with limited colonial and subsector fleet assets available will have more Navy Stations.

In the Sol and Gemini Subsectors of the Solomani Rim, there are Navy Stations at Peraspera, Midway, Hades, and Forlon supporting patrol units and anti-terrorist forces. These are smaller stations, and have only a few personnel assigned to them.

Personnel
Navy Stations have a reputation as being the place to allow officers with limited talents to serve out their twilight tours. In some areas, they are vital nodes, and are standard shore duty assignments for personnel. The nature of a Navy Station in some cases receives far less oversight than larger commands. In some areas, it is rumored that some of the Station personnel are assigned to Naval Intelligence, while in others, there is an attache on world openly collecting information.

Some stations have an old drunkard as the commander who is being eased out of the Navy. While others have noble screw-ups commanding whose fumbling marks them as dangers on active service, but have too important of connections to force out. A third stereotype is the high flyer who is only there for a short time, and assigned to the Station as a deserved break from real action.

Adventures
Navy Stations provide limited services to retired military adventurers. They can cash pension checks, and provide a source for Navy related patrons in systems with out a formal military presence. If your characters just look wrong during a bar fight, they could be hauled into the Stations' brig, and some embarrassment may occur upon their release. As well, it's a place to put a vindictive screw up where he cannot hurt the Navy and Imperium too much, but instead has power in one spot.

Monday, October 2, 2017

I Hope I am Not the First to Notice This

From GT Nobles, the insignia is red on black
Re-reading GT Nobles recently, I noticed the name of one of the Orders, and in fact, the one associated with the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service is the Order of the Arrow. Many would find this to be nothing out of the ordinary, but I admit to having spent much of my youth involved in some fashion with the Boy Scouts of America, and went to their Jamboree in 2001, and it has an existing Order of the Arrow.


The Honor Society of the BSA is the Order of the Arrow, and it has a much less exclusive membership. It is an organization started as a camp fraternity to support the ideals of the Boy Scouts, and recognize scouts in who are active in their communities and in camping. There are two levels of membership, Ordeal and Brotherhood, and an honor level of Vigil. While adult leaders can join, they are supposed to take a backseat to letting the youth make decisions.

Looking at this, I see a fictional group called the Order of the Arrow that honors scouts, and rarely has the Imperial family as members. Could Loren Wiseman, Jon F. Zeigler, or those listed as "Additional material" have been Scouts or Scouters? If so, it's a pretty nice inside joke. As it's not listed in the Traveller Wiki, I don't think anyone else has caught this.

Or perhaps I'm making a mountain out of a molehill.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Rest In Peace, Dr. Pournelle

Word has come out that Jerry Pournelle has passed away at the age of 84. A review of King David's Spaceship, last summer got me to write my own post in response as a list of books. This winter, I read and reviewed The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand. Both books provided great ideas for Traveller gaming. In some ways, Pournelle and Niven are the last of their generation, writing ideas forward, and fully embracing having the story first. To write fiction half as well as he did would be a great thing.

Now, he's another star watching down on us, in the Galaxiad.

Order of Solar Excellence

          There are many orders of chivalry throughout the Third Imperium. All of them, of course, recognize the Emperor as sovereign, but are in practice overseen by one or more nobles. In 1065, Duke von Ritterberg of Sol sought to establish an order to recognize the accomplishments of Imperial citizens in his demesne. In 1067, it was authorized by the Imperial Household, with the first inductions to the order made on 001-1068. Unusually, it provides the following levels:
            Knight or Dame of the Order of Solar Excellence (KSE/DSE)
            Companion of the Order of Solar Excellence (CSE)
            Officer of the Order of Solar Excellence (OSE)
            Member of the Order of Solar Excellence (MSE)
            Medal of the Order of Solar Excellence (OSEM)
A sketch of the Medal, used for proofing purposes.
Original work by Michael Thompson
Only Knights and Dames receive titles, the other levels are decorations, and merely make the awardee a prominent member of society. There are two divisions, the Military and General for all levels except for Knights and Dames. The motto of the Order is “For Sol and the Emperor”
            The ribbon of the Order is dark blue, with central symmetrical stripes of pale green and purple, differenced by a narrow yellow stripe at each end for the Military Division. Recipients of the medal are awarded a hexagonal gilt medal bearing with a stylized map of the subsector on the obverse, and “For Sol and the Emperor” in Anglic on the reverse. The Medal is worn on the left breast. Members receive a similar award, with a miniature hexagon mounted on a Maltese Cross, and also worn on the left breast. Officers receive the award as a neck order, but made of gold, using a medal similar to that the Medal. Officers receive the award as a neck order, in gold with the same design used for the Medal of the Order of Solar Excellence. Companions wear the award as a neck order as well, in gold and mounted on the Maltese Cross. Knights wear the hexagon upon a gold disc on the left breast below any medals, with the home world of the recipient picked out with a gem of the appropriate color of the star, and the rest noted with diamonds. If the Knight is not native to the subsector, the world he is most associated with is used instead. For informal use, the ribbon is worn with a following differentiations, Medal plain, Member a miniature of the hexagon in gold, Officer a miniature of the hexagon in silver mounted on a bar, Companion a gold miniature of the hexagon mounted on a bar with the left side gold and right side silver, and Knights wear the gold miniature of the hexagon on a gold bar.
            Officers of the order include the Sovereign, Grand Master, and Secretary. The current Sovereign in Strephon, Duke Mazun Tomas von Ritterberg is the Grand Master, and his Seneschal is the Secretary. Currently, Knights and Dames include Marchioness Alessandra Ribeira da Silva of Terra, Archduke Kiernan Langos Adair of Sol, the Count of Nusku, as well as many other nobles resident in the subsector.
            The Medal is awarded for long meritorious service in the Sol Subsector Unified Armies and Fleet personnel, as well as for ordinary sophonts performing a service worthy of particular recognition. Membership in the General Division is for “service in a particular locality or field of activity or to a particular group”, and the Military, “exceptional service or performance of duty,” and limited to 1020 persons per year. Officers of the order are have “Distinguished service of a high degree to the Sol Subector or to the Imperium at large” or “Distinguished service in responsible positions,” with a limit of 430 per year. Companions have “Eminent achievement and merit or service in duties of great responsibility,” and are limited to 100 per year. Knights and Dames have “Extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit of highest degree in service to the Sol Subesctor or to the Imperium at Large,” with a very hard limit of twelve per year. Any Imperial citizen in good standing can nominate another for an award. The Duke’s staff is responsible for ensuring they are proper.

Game rules:
In UPP based Traveller games:
Rank
SOC
Notes
Knight/Dame
11
If received with a higher SOC, note the postnominals
Companion
+1 to a max of 10

Officer
+1 to a max of 10

Member
+1 to a max of 9

Medal
+1 to a max of 8



GURPS Third Edition Traveller:

A Knight or Dame is Status 2. Other grades of the Order may give Status 1 at the Referee’s discretion, or else a +1 Reaction from everyone in the Solomani Rim with sometimes recognition as a 2-point advantage. Use the character’s background to make the determination.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

On Patrol, Part I

049-1120

Alice Springs, Terra/Sol 0830 Local
Found Here
            A short week after the Boxing Kangaroo returned from the shakedown, she was commissioned. It was a typical ceremony, with the crew formed up, Admiral Taugolo delivering, and Lieutenant Brickley taking command, and the first watch stationed. That was yesterday, and half the crew was recovering from the party that followed. Baroness Beata Nehru Mesa of Brisbane, one of the honor nobles resident on Terra, served as the sponsor, serving to link the ship and crew more closely to the Imperium. Older, she had received her title as a result of having lead Oceania Exports, LIC into leading a leading seafood export firm, having had an Imperial Warrant of Appointment for the past decade, as well as running massive aquaculture operations in the warmth of the Pacific. Her picture would set next to Emperor Strephon’s in the crew’s mess, a reminder of the ship’s loyalties.
            Today though, was the first operational movement of the Kangaroo. Orders were in hand, after the week where the yard had fixed a few minor things in various systems, including an error in the targeting computer for number two laser. The ship was now formally assigned to Patrol Force, Sol Fleet, and the Rimward Flotilla. Six other Patrol Cruisers were assigned to this unit, and it mostly operated out of the Navy base at Fenris. The orders were a common mission, a patrol loop. The Boxing Kangaroo was instructed to patrol Peraspera, Loki, Dismal, and Hades for two weeks each, and then report to Flotilla HQ at Fenris. Simple stuff, for the most part, but these are backwater systems in the Outback lacking the population for effective system fleet.
            Brickley stepped out of his miniscule ready room into the empty bridge, and through the iris valve into the small common area. Hassan, Brand, Chishan, and Valdez were discussing plans as he strode up next to them.
            “Thank you for coming in here, Captain,” Hassan said as Brickley joined the group. “We’ve been going over the information here. All weapons and provsions are loaded, and once the G-carrier is secured in place, we’ll be ready to lift.”
            “Sounds good. What’s the load out? Starting with you, Guns.” Brickley replied
            “Sir, Weapons department has a full load out in the magazine, with 12 thunderballs,” Chishan replied with the slang term for nuclear tipped missiles. Continuing, “Both laser turrets checked out as satisfactory to the yard last week, and there are sufficient stores aboard for foreseeable future.”
            “Very well,” Brickley responded, “Eng?” shifting his focus to Brand.
            “Full fuel load, all engine room repair parts, and food stores onloaded, sir.”
            “Of course. Marines?” Brickley turned to Valdez.
            “We just need to secure the G-Carrier. All our Dress is in the Boat, and the boat checks out. Sir, in all respects save the G-Carrier, the Imperial Marine Detachment of the Patrol Cruiser Boxing Kangaroo is ready for deployment.” Valdez returned formally.
            “Of course, report accepted,” Brickley acknowledged. Shifting to the entire group, “We’ve got the 1000 boost. Get the G-carrier loaded, and start the reactor by 0930. Understand?”
            “Aye-aye, Captain!” came the response.
            By 0930, the G-Carrier was loaded, and the reactor started up. At 0945, external power removed, and the entire crew prepared for lift. 15 minutes later, the ship had taxied to a pad, and was ready to go.
            “Pilot, set course for orbit.” Brickley commanded.
            “Aye sir, course set for orbit. Lifting now!” Zabiyah responded, expertly piloting the ship into Terra orbit.
            “Sir, traffic is clear, and permission to set course to Peraspera?” Hassan informed him.
            “Very well. Set course for Peraspera.” Brickley responded.
            “Set course for Peraspera, aye.” Hassan replied, as he busied himself in the star charts and navigation computer during the flight to the jump point. “Jump course ready, sir.”
            “Jump course ready, aye. Engineering, divert power.”
            “Diverting power, aye,” came Brand’s steady voice. A few seconds later, she came back, “Power diverted, sir.”
            “Power diverted, aye,” Brickley took her report, switching to the main address system, “All hand, stand by for jump!” A brief pause, and “Jump!” as the Boxing Kangaroo flashed out of existence in the Terra system.
Found Here
            “Set jump space watch, section II,” Brickley said with normal resignation for the uneventful week in jump space. While merchant ships may have a “Captain’s Table” dinner for the final night in Jump space, the Navy instead ran it as a formal mess dinner, with a grog bowl and all sorts of hijinks. The messenger and engineer watches were secured for that evening, as it proved an entertaining diversion. The next day, ship’s time, they precipitated out of jumpspace into the Peraspera system.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Communications at Tech Level 5

Some times, you find interesting things in the family. Like this old Zenith Super Trans-Oceanic Radio dating from around 1951. It's believed to have been purchased with one of my grandfather's first paychecks after finishing basic training for the US Air Force. While the old batteries may no longer work, it will still function on AC main power. It is mentioned in the technical specifications that both 115 VAC 60 Hz power and 220 VAC or VDC power can be used as power for the system. The system is best described as a 'luggable' in that while portable, it is not a personal device, and best for moving between periodic locations. Interestingly, it does feature a headphone jack. I rather doubt it would work with a set of modern earbuds with out a heavy duty adapter!


In this big, black case is a rather expensive radio, with an initial MSRP of around $200. There is a front and back page with technical specifications. I paged through the guide book, and it had a list of clear channel stations in the United States when published, as well as a time zone map and a log for shortwave radio stations the owner heard. Of the "clear channel stations", I saw  Minnesota's old 830 kHz WCCO and 1500 kHz KSTP which are still around, as was St. Olaf College's WCAL at 770 kHz and WDGY at 1130 kHz. Of that pair, WCAL was bought by MPR, and the 1130 kHz spot in the Twin Cities is now a talk radio station. Another thing I saw was the nomenclature for the signal frequency, mentioned as kilocycles, as in WGN 930 kc, rather than Hertz, as the latter was not adapted as a SI unit until 1960.

Here's what it looks like with the cover up. On the cover is an external antenna for the AM band, and a receiver for shortwave stations includes an extendable antenna as well. The station selection is a single dial system. It also features weather and time radio station, and the manual includes a guide to various weather stations and their schedules as of printing.

How could something like this work in a science fiction campaign? Well, vacuum tube electronics are more or less electromagnetic pulse resistant, which may be useful if the characters find themselves on a nuclear or high energy laden battlefield. I would not be surprised if a Fusion Gun could fry equipment. Also, a system like this, a heavy duty communications receiver could be a useful trade good for TL 5-6 worlds. Not only would it be a good size for various transportation methods, with the original designer being a keen yachtsman, but it is also locally repairable. Think of the graduate class in receiver construction this would be on a low TL backwater, and how it isn't crippleware making the user totally dependent on outside tech support. Pair a radio receiver with a simple solar charger system, and it could be sold on almost any world that is open for trade as an easy way to get information to a large number of people The relatively innocuous nature of a radio blends into espionage campaigns as well. Numbers stations exist, as do propaganda stations like Voice of America, the BBC World Service, and Radio Moscow.  An every day radio set can be part of a spy's sinister plans for the players to thwart.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Quiet Shakedown

032-1120
A badge for the Boxing Kangaroo
Following the excitement of the Kaufmann incident, it returned to normal (more or less). The full crew, including the Marines had arrived by 300-1119, and simulations had run more or less successfully. The Boxing Kangaroo was complete, a few weeks earlier than planned. A week before, the yard had taken her up and all systems were good. Brickley had been aboard, but the test crew had done all the work, and he’d been little more than a passenger the whole way. To mark the occasion, the Navy decided a full-on shake-down of all systems would be appropriate. The ship would lift from Terra, jump to Ceres, and burn in back to Terra. A couple of asteroids would do for some target practice.
            Brickley looked forward through the iris valve to the bridge opened; seeing Zabiyah on the left, and Hassan on the right. Forward of them sat Chishan at a console set up for master weapons, and Able Spacehand Hall to his back. The ship was nearly rigged for lift, with all equipment in the hull, and hatches locked. The only thing remaining connected was the power umbilical.
            Brickley stepped through the valve, as Marine Yap stepped out from the ship’s locker and shouted “Attention on Deck!” taking their attention. The young man braced against the locker iris valve, as Brickley passed him in the narrow passage.
            “Carry on. Captain has the deck,” was Brickley’s mild reply, but heard throughout the space. He stepped up to the acceleration chair mounted in the center at the aft end of the compartment.
            “Captain has the deck, aye,” Hassan replies, noting the time in the log. “Sir, all departments report ready for lift. Clearance has been received from Alice Springs Central, we are scheduled for one hour from now.”
            “Very well,” Brickley replied as he plugged in his personal comm to the ship’s systems and keyed the general announcing circuit.
            “All hands, this is the Captain. We will be lifting in one hour. This is our first flight with the Boxing Kangaroo, and we will bring our new ship home. Our mission is simple here. We jump out to Ceres in the Belt, and then shoot an asteroid, and come back through normal space in time to get back to Terra for fixing any issues. I have every faith in you that we’ll make it without a problem. Carry on.”
            The bridge crew looked at him with the understanding they’d be lifting soon. The indicator for an internal call came on. Brickley pushed his answer button. “Bridge, Captain.” The idea of saying that still came as new to him.
            “Captain, we’re ready to start up the plant for this first time. Plant is in condition to start up in accordance with POP-1,” came Brand’s collected voice back to him.
            “Engineering, you have my permission to start the power plant in accordance with POP-1,” he replied. “Note that in the log, initial operation of the power plant under ship’s force control.”
            “Right team,” Brand spoke to her people when she got off the line with Brickley, “The skipper said it’s time for us to start her up. Maurer, you got the procedure up?”
            “Yes, MM1,” the small woman spoke up. The team entered in to the procedure to start the main plant. Brand began the operation that would start the power plant. As she brought it up, Kidd, her other assistant, disconnected the umbilical. Brand called the bridge, reporting the ship was successfully on internal power.
            “Sir, Central has given us clearance, we have 10 minutes to boost,” Hall spoke from up forward.”
            “Very well,” Brickley replied, after taking Brand’s report as well. “Astrogator, make checks of all spaces.”
            “Make checks of all space, aye-aye,” Hassan replied, then spoke into the main announcing circuit, “All spaces, make final reports to the bridge before boost.”
            He turned to a clear area of his console, and with a grease pencil, stood by for reports.
            “Bridge, common area,” Sergeant Valdez came across, “We are ready for boost.”
            “Ready for boost, common area, bridge, aye,” was Hassan’s reply. He got the same reports from Brand in Engineering, Owen in the Missile magazine, Castillo in the cargo bay, and Afari in the boat.
            Hassan turned and looked at Brickley, “Sir, final reports from all spaces report ready for boost.”
            “Very well, astrogator,” Brickley replied before continuing, “Pilot, stand by to boost on my mark.”
            “Stand by on you mark, aye,” Zabiyah replied.
            “Engineering, bridge make the maneuver drive ready to answer all orders from the helm.”
            “Bridge, engineering, make the maneuver drive ready to answer all orders from the helm, aye,” came Brand’s report. A minute later she replied that it was in fact ready. The readout for the timer in the corner of his HUD showed 1:30 remaining before the Kangaroo’s turn to boost.
            The slow wait got to everyone, as the ship felt unnaturally quiet. As the seconds clipped away, the nerves seemed to grow in anticipation. 15, 14, 13, 12….
            “Pilot, ready to boost….” 5, 4, 3, 2 1 “NOW!” Brickley spoke as Zabiyah’s hands got the ship off the ground easily. The thunder of the ship’s lift boosted them to orbit quickly. He knew it would be about two hours for the ship to get to the 100D limit.
            “All hands, this is the captain,” he began, “Relax watches until rig for jump.” Chishan stood up from his console, and walked aft, likely looking to get a quick snack.
            Two hours passed uneventfully, and shortly before the 100D limit, Hassan looked up from his console. “Jump plotted, Captain. Do you want to check it over?”
            Considering his basic astrogation skills, Brickley paused, and said, “I trust you here. It’ll be good enough.”
            “All hands, stand by for jump. Engineering, divert power to the Jump Drive.”
            “Power diverted,” came the response on the direct channel from engineering.
            “Pilot, take us to jump!”
            The INS Boxing Kangaroo shuddered for a brief moment, and the universe went to nothingness.
            “Astrogator, set J-watch, section 1.”
            “Set J-watch, section 1, aye, sir.” Hassan replied, “All hands, set J-watch, section 1.”
            For the next week, the ship was in the quiet rotation of a jumping starship, even though the distance was far too little to be really worth Jumping for. Each day was heavily involved in administration and prep for the upcoming commissioning. Marines First Class Appledorn and Fini were practicing their pipe and drums in the Ship’s Boat each day, and somehow working into a harmony. Brand and Valdez were working to ensure that everyone’s uniform would be nearly perfect, and it seemed everyone was working well enough to ensure a quiet trip. 161 hours after jump, the ship precipitated out near Ceres.
            “Senors, OOD?” Brickley asked Chishan as they precipitated in to N-space.
            “I show nothing, sir. Contacting Ceresport now,” was the reply.
            “Very well. Keep the ship fixed relative to Ceres while we wait.”
            Shortly, a text only reply was received, it told them an asteroid 400,000 km ahead in the orbit was what they were authorized to target with all weapons. It had long been fitted with a couple of beacons for target practice with powered down lasers, and few missiles were authorized for expenditure on it. A short burn got them in position.
            “All hands, Man battle stations for space engagement,” followed a gong of an alarm, rousting everyone from their places. The crew hastily donned their light vacuum gear, to plug into stations. Brickley took his location at the aft end of the bridge. Zabiyah at the right, Hassan left. Father forward, Hall and Castillo buckled into remote directors for the lasers, with Chishan and Owen taking the missile mounts. Brand and her juniors were ready to go in engineering, donning hardsuits. The Marines were standing by in the cargo bay, ready to either board the boat or the G-carrier.
            “Sensors?” Brickley asked.
            “Clear,” came Hassan’s answer.
            “Range?”
            “40,000”
            “Open-“
            “Wait, sir, I’m getting a jump emergence, range 50,000, bearing 358!” Hassan interrupts,
            “Transponder?” Brickley responds. Shifting gears, he calls down to Chishan, “Do we have any warshots?”
            “There’s twelve, sir. Three barrages per turret, and about 15 minutes for Owen and I to ready them by the book. We have to pull the telemetry”
I found this in my copy of the Traveller Book
Too good not to use.
            “Do it,” Brickley gives the implicit order. Calling to the boat, and Valdez, “We’ve got something. Get the Marines in the boat, and be ready to launch.”
            Before he could hear the reply, Hassan spoke up, “Sir, it’s the Free Trader Mudshark by the transponder. She’s Fenris registry.”
            “Ask them what happened to jump out here.”
            “Coming across now, they’re coming from Prometheus, and headed to Ceres with a cargo or robotic parts. Looks like a slight jump problem”
            “I’m sending the Marines over to ensure they’re legit, along with you as the boarding officer, XO. Draw a pistol on the way.”
            As Sub-Lieutenant Hassan and the Ship’s Boat made their way over to the Mudshark for a papers and quick inspection. As the boat came closer, they saw a battered, aging Empress Marava-type ship, with the exterior only showing a simple sigil. On the Starboard side, at the passenger deck, Afari expertly docked the boat. Checking the tell-tales, Sergeant Valdez told Hassan, “Sir, we’ve matched up and there’s nothing incorrect on the other side. Me and Appledorn’ll go first, then you. The squad’ll file in except for Corp and Franke, as the boat crew.”
            “Sounds like a plan, Sergeant. You heard him, we’re going.”
            The Captain of the Mudshark, a middle-aged man with the name “Thu” on his ship suit stand next to another in a cheap suit. Valdez and Appledorn step out to either side.
            “Captain Thu, isn’t it? Sub-Lieutenant Hassan, Imperial Navy, off the Patrol Cruiser Boxing Kangaroo. We’re going to conduct a brief inspection here, and ensure your ship’s safe.”
            “Not a problem, but I’ll be looking for a new astrogator soon. I like getting back to the wife and kids, here,” the Captain replies. “Mr Tazewell here is a robot seller, and is looking forward to getting to Ceres to sell his wares, while I get some ores to take home to Fenris.”
            “Thank you, Captain; Sergeant, start the inspection,” Hassan replied. “Are there any other passengers?”
            “Nope, only Oggie here. It’s me, my nephew running the plant, a cousin who’s the steward, and a couple of hired hands. A good one for my nephew, a horrible one whose Astrogating. Need to find a relative who can astrogate.” Thu claims as he thumps Tazewell on the back.
            “As the good captain introduced us, I’m Ogleston Tazewell at your service, my friend. I am a free-lance dealer in robotic parts. I sell Naasirka and Ling-Standard in the Sol and Dingir Subsectors.” Tazewell replies.
            “Right, did you get lishun?” Hassan asks.
            “Oh, free pratique, we cleared that at Prometheus. I’m sorry, you Imperials do prefer that term ‘lishun’.” Thus replies, and asks, “About how long will it take?”
            “Depends on if the Marines find anything. May I review your papers?”
            “Of course, you can. If you’d like, I can get Cousin Verda to get you something,” the Captian replies as he hands a data pad with the ship’s info on it to Hassan.
            “No thank you, Captain.”
            After his review of the papers, Hassan returns briefly to the ship’s boat, and informs the Kangaroo of the progress of the search. The gunners are all working to reinstall the telemetry packages on the missiles.
            After an hour docked to the Far Trader, Afari calls, “Message for you, sir.”
            Nodding in acknowledgement, Hassan answers, “Boxing Kangaroo, this is the boarding officer.”
“Boarding officer, Boxing Kanagroo. We got clearance back from Copernicus Down; this guy’s been check-mated, let him continue,” Zabiyah answers with near disinterest.
“Affirmative. I’ll get the Marines back here, and we can resume the shakedown. Boarding officer, over.” Hassan quietly walked back to the waiting Captain Thu.
“Sir, we regret the inconvenience, and you are free to carry on at this point,” Hassan states to him, offering a hand shake. “Once I call the Marines, we’ll get off your ship.”
“Of course, of course! At some point, I may have to bring the family along, on one last voyage. Many have not seen the wonders of Earth! I hope the other officers of the Imperial Navy turn out as professional as you!” Thu ebulliently responds, pulling the Sub-Lieutenant in awkwardly.
Stepping away, Hassan calls “Valdez, round everyone up. We’re letting this ship get on with her business.”
“Aye aye, sir,” Sergeant Valdez responds. “Marines! We’re clear.” The team is back aboard the boat with in a couple of minutes. “All present, sir.”
“Very well, Sergeant.” Hassan replies to the order. “Captain Thu, we’ll be clearing your airlock momentarily. Save travels as you shape your voyage home.”
“Of course! And the same to you.” Captain Thu replies, shutting the iris valve between him and the boat. Hassan walks through the air locks, cycling the boat’s as he head back to his seat just off the flight deck.
“Corporal, take us home.”
“Taking us home, aye,” Afari responds, in his Terran accent. The Marines are a bit more frantic than normal, seeing as were doing something rather than the nothingness of ship’s troops duties. Even a perpetually barely breaking even Far Trader with no interesting contraband is new compared to being locked into a starship with little to do. The trip back to the Boxing Kangaroo is uneventful, as is the docking. The Marines get to their post operation routine of equipment care as Hassan returns to the bridge.
            Strapping himself in, Hassan tells Brickley, “Just another fellow trying to make a credit. I think a robotics salesman had him chartered.”
            “I see,” the captain replied. “We’re getting back on schedule. I’m setting a modified battle stations here so the Marines can complete their work.”
            “Did it really relax?” Hassan asks rhetorically.
            “No sir,” came Zabiyah’s response.
            “Right then,” Hassan replied, as he keyed the mike and announced, “Naval personnel, man battle stations for weapons test.”
            The two junior gunners came up, and manned their stations forward of the bridge, setting them up to take the laser turrets. Chishan and his junior gunner reported the missile battery manned and ready, as did Brand in engineering.
            “Astrogator, range to target?” Brickley inquired
“30,000”
            “Open fire, Laser 1”
            “Laser 1, open fire, aye.” Spacehand Hall replied. Direct hit, and unaided.
            “Laser 2, open fire, with full fire control assist,” Brickley ordered.
            “Open fire with full fire control assist, aye,” Castillo, her counterpart at the other station acknowledged. Again, a direct hit, results similar to the first.
            The ship closed the range to 10,000 km off this rock, and repeated the procedure with the missile battery.  Chishan’s hit, as did Owen’s.
            The only thing left was the distance burn. All telemetry was sent to the Naval base at Theophilus on Luna. About a half hour later, the Kangaroo got her results back; pass in all regards, take the fifty-hour burn in back to Terra, and the ship and crew were accepted for commissioning. The impromptu boarding exercise would count for small craft operations.
            The return was uneventful, and Zabiyah stuck the landing at Alice Springs perfectly. A small crew was there to meet them, including Admiral Taugolo, informally congratulating them on a job well done. Next week would be the formal congratulations and commissioning.