10 May 2024

Higher Technology Items on a Low Tech World

If they run, they're barbarians!
This is a post that's been brewing in my head for a while about how technology can leak down the technology levels in Traveller. It will cover mandatory high technology, common imports to both governments and private concerns, and bootstraping technology. It was heavily influenced by this image of Roman Legion re-enactors manning a machine gun.

There is, as I see it, one item of mandatory high technology that will occur on any world that has an operating starport. That is a base station to communicate and offer some space traffic control. As in, keep the free trader from crashing on approach. It's going to be a standardized design from the IISS and Starport Authority. The Imperium is heavily run by the corporate classes, and one thing I do feel safe in stating is that certain navigation features will be standardized. The minimum outfit would be a simple antenna farm, a central computer with attached communications, and geostationary satellite. On worlds lacking indigenous electricity production, or where connecting to a grid is impractical, the rudimentary standardized system is powered by low maintenance generation. Typically, 'walk away' capable fusion plants, solar arrays, geothermal, and radiothermal generators are used for surface installations, of designed power outputs. Important factors for this equipment include reliability and minimal need for spare parts for all elements. This applies to small scale, Class E, ports, in newly established areas. In my vision of the Traveller Universe, inhabited worlds rarely have a Class E starport for more than a few decades, particularly on trade routes. The development of the surrounding area may easily push it into the Class D rating. Considering how GT: Starports notes that setting up a Class I (E) port is as simple as landing two cutters, clearing an area, establishing an extraterritoriality line, and maybe setting up an office, along with a communication station. It also notes that many have an 'artist's conception' of a future starport.

04 March 2024

Review: GURPS Traveller Interstellar Wars

The final physical book published for the GURPS Traveller line, and the only one for Fourth Edition, GT Interstellar Wars provides us a look at the first contact between Terrans and Vilani and the centuries of conflict that followed. Published in 2006, I was reluctant to get a copy because of edition compatibility. Also, I prefer the 3rd Imperium era.

    A 240 page hard cover book, the full color nature is typical of post D&D 3rd Edition publications from established gaming publishers. The copy I am borrowing from Hiverlord is in good shape, and eminently readable. The illustrations are of high quality, and the text readable. SJ Games really does produce quality supplements, and this is no exception. It feels like a book that can see regular use for a while. The illustrations are a mixture of computer renderings of starships that were common for the GT line, and quality illustrations. The style differences are not enough to distract the reader and break immersion.

    Structurally, Interstellar Wars is laid out in a familiar manner. Sections on background, characters, and starships offer a logical structure for both an initial read-through and later reference.

    Chapter 1, pages 6-16, is an introduction to the setting, and a basic history and information, including introducing some Vilani terms, and describing both Terran and Imperial societies. Including the differences between our era and the Terran Confederation of the 23rd century and later.

    Chapter 2, pages 17-46, provides an overview of the entire period, from the near future, including unification of Earth under the UN, to the fall of Vland in 2303. Much of this is based on prior material, including Jon F. Ziegler's GT Rim of Fire, but explored in more detail. An important detail is the nature of ethnic background of Sharik Yanglia was noted, and now expanded as a minor Human Race.

    Chapters 3, 48-68, and 4, 69-93, are similar in desribing the Terran Confederation and the Vilani Imperium. Both offer notes on society, structure, and military operations. The Imperium chapter also has a section on subject races. Alongside the familiar Answerin, Bwaps, Geonee, Suerrat, Vegans, and Nugiiri, we meet the Anakundu and Dishaan as well. The military sections provide, if you ask me, a justification for the 3rd Imperium's Marines to use the cutlass, as well as the Draft in practice. Nice little nods, if you ask me.

    Chapter 5, pages 95-132, covers the setting. Nine subsectors of the Rim, in detail a few thousand years before the 3rd Imperium. This provides some interesting information about the worlds previously covered, but has far less information than either of the 3rd Edition. One notable item, is the starport classification has returned to the Traveller standards of A-E, instead of GURPS Space using Roman numerals. My description of Persapera/Sol (SR 2028) does work with the offical, but it's been a few thousand years. 

    Characters are chapter 6, pages 133-157, and that is almost entirely GURPS 4e. For the non GURPS player, the description of social standing is most useful, as are Vilani military titles. Notable, the Ziru Sirka's fleet uses impenetrable function titles.

    Chapters 7, 159-168, provides a primer on how Vilani technology and Terran differ and work together. It also provides that much-needed information on society. Vilani social engineering for stability means computers are always dedicated. It also notes the limits on technology in this era. Biotechnology is noticeably limited.

    Chapters 8, 9, and 10, pages 169-186, 187-218, and 219-227, are all linked, Chapter 8's focus on starships is more informative on operations. It includes skill checks, chrome for operations, and the like. It also has the all important speculative trade tables, and how to work that into the setting. Chapter 9 is starship design, and is a refinement of the 3rd Edition one in the core GT book, and GT starships. It also includes a variety of sample designs from 10 dton fighter to the 30,000 dton Indomitable-class battleship, featuring a meson spinal and Jump 3. It also provides another justification for the Detached Duty scout ship. Chapter 20 is starship combat, and is serviceable.

    Chapter 11, 228-238, covers campaigns. It offers a default "Terran Free Traders" campaign, and other campaigns. Options, detailed as a few paragraphs, include main fleet and commerce raiding naval campaigns, ground warfare, occupation duty, exploration, colonization, and diplomacy/espionage. The one page offers some great alternates, including playing through the entire war with a cast of characters, time travel from the 3rd Imperium (Ancients Device!), secret Psionic masters, and a crossover with GURPS Infinite Worlds. The remainder of the book is a useful index.

    Conclusions? The book is a worthy addition to the GT canon. It is obviously a product of when it was produced, and includes some things in the future history that have changed radically. However, that does not detract form it. The ideas are still good, and workable. If a player is in a GURPS 4e group, and wants to try the Traveller setting, this book would work for that. Don't get it if you have little interest in this era. I did find the nods to the established Traveller setting to be amusing, but slightly distracting, as well as the references to Mesopotamian culture that also came from Imperium. Notably, the name of the family that was the Apkallu Kibrat Aban Kushamii being Sharrukin and then Anglicized to Sargon, is a clue to which of the authors wrote that section. Or at least provided the idea. Most of them got me to crack a grin, or connect the mechanic.

Drye, Paul, et al. Interstellar Wars. Steve Jackson Games, 2006. 

18 December 2021

Chaos over Hades!

 This took a while, because of various distractions, like a new job, and replaying old video games.


Imperial Patrol Cruiser Boxing Kangaroo’s maneuver drive fired, breaking orbit for the jump distance from Dismal to Hades. Sublieutenant Hassan prepares the jump plot. He can’t remember if he’s done this particular route before, but it’s a routine Jump-3 in well charted space. Brand had one of her juniors at the controls, who was a jump tech by training. With the final power diversion, the ship shudders slightly as it leaves reality. The watches go to their jump space norm, interrupted by the occasional drill. The major project, under Sergeant Valdez’s supervision, is cleaning up the bunk room. Without the distressed Solomani aboard, it’s possible to give it a deep clean. Besides, it gives the crew a chance to do something useful during the down time.


On the afternoon of 117-1120, Spacehand Recruit Castillo is working with Marine Fini in the bunk room, and they find one of the rescue bubbles in the space removed from the packaging. Looking at, it, they speculate for a few minutes before calling for Sergeant Valdez.

Fini pops to attention, while Castillo matches her in a manner that suggests a less intense discipline, when Valdez enters the compartment. “Sergeant, we found this rescue bubble removed from stowage, and now it’s useless,” and hands the damaged bubble over to him.

Taking a second to examine it, Valdez notes the external seals are all broken, and but the oxygen tab wasn’t pulled. It looked like a quick examination by someone bored as all get out. He remembered his first tour, with his company crammed on a Caen-class Dropship. That was unpleasant, and the order of the day for the rest of the mission was finding things to do to keep the crew out of trouble. There were a lot of locker inspections, and a couple of Terminal Lances were muttering about how this wasn’t the Force. He turned to them, and said “Good work finding this, we’ll get a replacement at Hades.” He went up to the captain’s day cabin with the tampered item. He explained to Lieutenant Brickley about what it was, and how it looked more like boredom than sabotage. Besides, there was no indication of any tampering with the locked door to the missile magazine, and the alarm circuit was intact. 



Keith Illustration, from Megatraveller

         The Boxing Kangaroo began to shudder noticeably as the ship came close to returning to the normal universe. Dropping into the system, the crew was on edge until Hassan and Zabiyah determined the ship had emerged in the Hades system. The cool, red star was normal for the Outback, but the small population orbited a gas giant. It also meant the fairly nice starport was relatively secure, given the lack of population. Officially a colony of Fenris, but that world’s military occupation meant it was a de facto Imperial possession. Other than the message stating the nature of the navigation instructions, there was nothing of interest nearby. Chishan and his section returned to an orbital watch, watching as normal.

            Later that evening, the subsisized liner Albatross jumped in from Prometheus, and a pair of fuel shuttles came to start it loading fuel, ready for it to continue on Fenris in a few days.



Solomani Uriel class Escort, from MgT Solomani

After a quiet day in orbit, and watching the Albatross make her way to the jump limit, the Boxing Kangaroo was in her usual patrol routine, with intermittent sensor sweeps showing little that changed in the system, when the main sensor array came alive for Zabiyah’s section that afternoon. An incoming jump flare was detected, and he immediately went for an active sweep.

            3,000 kilometers away, a small ship came into the universe, barely making emitting anything on the electromagnetic spectrum. The challenge, to submit to inspection of papers and identify the ship, was ignored. Going back to his training, and how he had seen leaders react in the past, he turned on the main radar system, and resent the challenge, further informing the intruders they were under sensor notice. He managed to get a lock on the little target easily. It proved to be a Uriel-class escort of Solomani design, but without the transponder, there was no way to identify the craft.

            Brickley came in, ready for ship-to-ship combat, “Officer of the Deck, report,” he stated, standing in front of his seat in the center of the bridge.

            “Sir, we have an unresponsive intruder at 3k kilometers and closing. Positive ID with FC radar has it as a Solomani designed Uriel class Escort. They have not replied to challenges, and we have sent two.”

            “Very well, what is the status of the ship?”

            “All systems normal.”

            “Attention on bridge, this is the Captain, I have the Deck and the Conn,” Brickley stated, and paused for a second, and turned on the announcing circuit, “Man General Quarters for hostile starship intercept.” The alarm sounded, rousing the off-watch sections to their stations. Chishan to the missile turret, and Valdez and Afari preparing the Marines in the Ship’s Boat. Hassan slipped into his console, while Brand was readying the power plant and drives. The crew strapped in, sending reports to the captain’s console.

            The two ships closed, with the intruder’s operator attempting a sensor lock. The Joey is released from Boxing Kangaroo’s hangar, and takes station. As the two starships reach under 1000 kilometers distance, the Joey races in, to attempt to board. Corpral Afari narrowly makes it, and docks with the Solomani Escort. Upon doing so, they note a name for this little ship; battered but faint, Glycon. The escort, lacking turret mounts, fires the each of its lasers harmlessly at the Ship’s Boat as it closes to dock.

            Sergeant Valdez is the first one across, with his team. Yap and Binici are ready with them. The Marines start working on opening the portside airlock, but end up blowing through the outer iris valve to get inside. Glycon’s crew tries to break the docking, but just can’t get it. The airtight door from the airlock to the crew’s area, and gets forced open, and the Marines storm in. They open the forward door on the little escort’s common area, and pull the hapless engineer off his couch. Placing him under Binici’s guard, they then force the overhead iris valve, and take the tiny bridge, and the two individuals in there surrender once the laser rifles are on them. The man at the pilot’s couch speaks, “I’m Andre Charpentier, and I surrender the family yacht to you. That includes you, Franca. Is my engineer, Teun, alright?”

            “I accept your surrender,” Sergeant Valdez says through an external speaker set to boom in the cramped bridge. “Your man is fine. We’ve got him back on the boat.” Switching to the radio, he calls out to the Joey. “Afari, you and Franke over here. We’ll need you to get this to a stable orbit. Before that, call the Skipper, and tell him to ready a prize crew.”

            Appledorn and Fini escorted the two crew down from bridge, and into the waiting boat. The four Marines ensure the three crew are all separated from each other. Corporal Afari and Marine Franke were able to get the ship into a stable orbit, and Valdez and Appledorn stay on the captured Escort.

            “Another prize, here we go.” Sublieutenant Hassan notes, with Castillo and Maurer in the boat on the return trip with Appledorn. The Kangaroo had closed into an appropriate distance. The small population here at Hades just couldn’t support a defense force, so roving patrols were about it. The plan for the Glycon was simple. Search the main cargo bay, and place her down at the Starport until the Navy could condemn and sell her. The ship would be under guard until then. The Class B port offered the space to put the captured boat down securely until a real prize crew could come for it. The Marines said the crew refused to talk, other than requesting comfort items, and an advocate. The four junior Marines stayed back on the Boxing Kangaroo as guards for the prisoners, as the Kangaroo secured from general quarters.

            Sergeant Valdez was standing by in the bridge of the little ‘yacht’ when the Joey docked. Appledorn was down at the airlock, showing the XO where to go. When they all returned, Hassan gave a final set of instructions.

            “Maurer and I will be checking out the M-drive, flight controls, and comms for the Downport. Sergeant, you’ll start searching the cargo bay. I understand you and Appledorn haven’t checked it yet?”

            “Yes sir, we haven’t. We’ll do a quick sweep for anything of interest. They did dump the log, though. Standard procedure for when you’re getting boarded by us.”

            “Good. Sergeant, carry out a search.”

            The trio departed for the cargo bay, and the Marines and Spacer looked through the crates in the space. Valdez found nothing of interest, just some spare parts he didn’t have a clue about. Castillo did find something interesting. A crate of Aquitanian Eau de Vie, lacking the Seals for Imperial Customs, as did Appledorn.

And Appledorn’s was far more interesting than some rare liquor. Eight travel cases for weapons. Two with gauss support weapons, six gauss rifles, eight ammo drums for the support weapons, and four mags for each rifle. All had Imperial model numbers and serials. Somehow, these were stolen and aboard a ship caught in questionable circumstances. The three men leave the cargo bay, and seal it. Weapons smuggling in the border is always an issue, especially with the Solomani Party General Conference going on.

            Meanwhile, Hassan and Maurer were going over the flight controls, comms, and powering on the transponder. Everything seemed fairly standard, and though it had been quite some time since he’d landed a starship at a downport, Hassan was certain he could with this one. They managed to get the comm system turned on, and contacted the downport for clearance, along with that for the Ship’s Boat. After about thirty minutes, Sergeant Valdez returned to state what they’d found. The information would immediately be passed to the Boxing Kangaroo and the Imperial Magistrate once they’d landed.

            Boxing Kangaroo, this is Navy Prize Three One. Black sun standard heaters aboard, over,” Hassan radioed to the Kangaroo.

            “Prize Three One, Boxing Kangaroo, copy black sun standard heaters. Got a count? Over,” Lieutenant Brickley responded. The Skipper was still on the bridge.

            “Couple of heavies and half a dozen regulars. Over.”

            “Enough for a squad. I’ll note that, and send it down to the Starport Security and the Warden’s office. Anything else of interest? Over”

            “Crate of Aquitanian Eau de Vie. Small stuff, but still a fine. Prize Three One Over.”

            “Copy on the fun water. Prize Three One, this is Boxing Kangaroo¸ you can land when directed by Hades Down control, and be followed by the Joey. Boxing Kangaroo out.”

            Boxing Kangaroo, Navy Prize Three One, we can land when directed, and return on Joey. Out.” Shortly afterwards, the prize crew lands the captured Glycon, and starts turning it over to the Starport Security Officer.


Recent News Stories: 

Home/Aldebaran                  079-1120

 The 104th General Congress of the Solomani Party opened today, beginning many days of intense political activity at the Solomani capital. Secretary-General Lin Peres presided over the opening ceremonies, calling for all Party delegates to be "mindful of the heavy responsibility inherent in making decisions that affect all the Solomani people."

 As Secretary-General Peres is not expected to win re-election, much attention fell on the Party leaders considered most likely to succeed her. Jan Malikov, a prominent Nationalist delegate to the Secretariat from Vantage/Solomani Rim, is considered the favorite in the upcoming voting. He spoke during several formal gatherings today, and appeared relaxed and confident.


Daedalus/Aldebaran                  063-1120 

The pleasant island resort of White Kyros was attacked before dawn this morning by an armed party of unknown origin. Over a dozen cottages were destroyed before the attackers withdrew. Although no specific report has been released to the media, casualties among both security staff and vacationers were apparently high.

 The authorities are treating the incident as an unusually bloody terrorist attack, but have made no public statement as to the identity of the terrorists.

 Terrorism and political violence are rare, but not unknown, on Daedalus. The White Kyros resort is quite exclusive, and is known to cater to Solomani Party leaders as well as the occasional Imperial aristocrat on a tour of the Solomani Confederation.


Esperance/Solomani Rim                  049-1120

 Air and interface forces of Waothan and Nueva Argentina have clashed over the neutral airspace of the city-state Todos Santos. Three aircraft were shot down, two Human and one Vegan, before the opposing forces could disengage. Both major states (and Todos Santos) are now engaged in a vicious name-calling contest in the Assembly of Nations, although other powers are attempting to mediate the dispute.


Capital/Core                  229-1119

A near tragedy was averted today, when quick thinking on the part of a sport rentry diver prevented the death of a companion.

 Davros Janni Gannisibek, a member of the Karbiili School's Atmospheric reentry diving team, experienced an equipment malfunction during a practice jump yesterday, when his retro pack malfunctioned and fired prematurely, placing Gannisibek on the wrong course for reentry. Team member Karen Selkirk Kabinda risked death herself to match course with Gannisibek, use her own retro pack to correct her teammate's vector, and then moved far enough away for both divers' ablative reentry shields to deploy without entangling each other.

 "We ended up about 20 klicks from where we were supposed to land." said Kabinda in an interview after both divers landed safely, "I didn't have the fuel to correct our courses to bring us both down in the right spot, and we almost landed in Zhukov Memorial Park Lake."

 Both divers were planning on going up again at the next opportunity. "You can't dwell too much on the risks," said Gannisibek, "otherwise nobody would ever go rock-climbing, or enter jump in a starship." No explanation has been brought forward for the malfunction, but the school and local law enforcement officials are investigating.



02 July 2021

Preparing for In Person Play

Putting this to use!
    Well, this happened last weekend. I was talking with some friends that I was going over to play Traveller5 with the Hiverlord on Saturday. One of them, who can be very enthusiastic, asked me what I was doing, and explained a bit about the Traveller setting and mechanics, and roleplaying games. She then asked me if I would be interested in running a game, for the common group of friends, as she wanted to try it once. She said she'd played in a similar game before, and wanted to try again. I went a little more in depth on it, and she convinced another friend that this was a good idea. So I found myself now running a Traveller session that may turn into a campaign in the winter, for some people.

    Examining my bookshelf and extensive folder of PDFs, I settled on running One Crowded Hour for the group in August. I'll have character sheets for the pregenerated characters from the adventure prepped, but offer character generation if anyone wants it using Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition and limited options. I'll be copying the deckplan down onto graph paper so it's larger than the one provided in the PDF. Mr. Dougherty, a normal sized sheet of paper (US Letter or ISO A4) just doesn't quite work for the table!

    I have the adventure printed, and I'll make a pamphlet out of Traveller - in Two Pages, and provide prefilled character sheets for everyone. I'm hoping it turns out well, and that in the future, I can progress to more free-form games. I'm definately wanting as much input as possible for running a game for non-roleplayers. Maybe even start with Research Station Gamma....

09 May 2021

Patrol Over Dismal


bureaucratic stereotype

            The Boxing Kangaroo was felt crowded, with the Solomani locked in the bunk room, and the crew forbidden to associated with them outside of the OOD and Marine. The survivors set up a rota, to ensure there would be one of them ready to meet with the crew. The most junior would have had the overnight. In the starport’s morning, Brickley found himself negotiating with the Starport Warden, an unpleasant cretin named Bretodeaux. They spent most of the time bandying about what responsibilities and authorization would be allowed for landing the crew of the Heartbreak Hill.

            “You see Lieutenant, I am under no obligation to allow ANY non-Imperial personnel on to this world, even if they stay inside the XT line,” was how it started after brief introduction. Self-importantly, the man continued, “I’m not even sure where this whole idea comes in, you know, that spacers whose craft can still support their lives…”

            “Except it cannot support their lives for the MINIMUM three weeks that it would be to get an official ship out here, with a diplomatic representative, to repatriate them.” Brickley calmly responded, at the man. “Additionally, my orders do not authorize me to maintain personnel onboard outside of ship’s company for any longer than required. Your starport is on an inhabited world in the Imperium, and the High Laws require that distressed starfarers are allowed to be landed at the starport and granted a minimum of parole around the starport vicinity. Additionally, I will inform my superiors that you were not willing to assist the Navy in standard missions.” His unspoken addendum was this would end Bretodeaux’s career, as the Navy in many ways was the authority with quick teeth in the Imperium.

            “Gah! I just want a nice easy time here,” came Bretodeaux’s response.

            “In that case, grant my ship or boat clearance. I know the only other ship in system is a safari ship!”

            “Fine, fine, we’ll take them,” Bretodeaux replied, seemingly resigned. They shifted the call to communications specialists, and Brickley called for the Marine Sentry to escort Mr. Strnad up. He took the half minute to think about what he had to say.

            As the door opened, and the Solomani official entered, Brickley waved him to a seat. “Mr. Strnad, we’ll be able to get your crew ashore on Dismal. At this point, you’ll be covered under the Distressed Starfarers provisions. You can land on Dismal, and there’s a moderate hotel in the Starport that should be able to put you and your crew up for a few weeks. It may be a while, maybe the 130th or so, before you can get back to the Confederation.”

            “That’s some good news,” Strnad replied, his guarded features not showing a reaction. “I take it we’ll be limited in our movements?”

            “I’m afraid so. The Starport Security Officer will require daily check ins. I’d like to think this would be true for an Imperial ship unable to leave the Confederation under its own power.” A moment, and Brickley thought of misadventure BM3 Zabiyah told him of, having been in Mirabillis/Capella accidentally.

            “Well, at least there won’t be any S-men bugging the suites. Thank you for offering something positive for my crew, Lieutenant, and showing me a positive side of Imperials.” Strnad replied, with polished look. “May I take my leave, and return to the bunkroom?”

            “Of course, I’ll have the boat take you down later today,” as the two men parted.

            Corporal Afari found himself loading up his entire fireteam for the short flight down. A routine flight path, with a published approach, made this a piece of cake. Franke was in the other chair as systems operator, with Yap and Binici making sure the passengers sat down and didn’t rock the boat. Yap was the lead for passenger section, and the passengers wearing their vacc suits for the very thin atmosphere when they landed. Nice and easy, no major weather patterns. Coming in with minimal flare, he stuck the landing, making it look easy. But then, the contragravity and computers made any landing look easy, but he did it with style. “Thank you for flying with the Imperial Marine Force. Please enjoy your stay on Dismal!” he said over the loudspeaker as the port connected the boat to their pressurized concourse. The first person Binici let aboard was a security officer.

            Entering, the officer came aboard and entered the flight deck. “Alright, corporal, do you have the papers?”

            “Here’s their papers, and the required docs from the Skipper. Any questions?”

            “Not really, let me see,” as the security man flipped through the docs. “Huh, that’s interesting.”

            “What’s interesting?”

            “Looks like your ‘Mr. Strnad’ may be under an alias. Something clicked with him in my database. We’ll take him, but I’ll be watching him as best we can.”

            “What, nobody else around here security?”

            “Pretty much. I’m one of eight, we don’t have much out here that happens. The occasional border trader goes big, but that’s it. I’ve been authorized to tell you as soon as you’re ready, you can request clearance for launch.”

            “Well good luck with them.” As the security officer steps out, and the three other Marines moved to remove them, and their baggage that was removed from the wrecked courier. The return trip to the Boxing Kangaroo was routine and uneventful.


            A day later, a single seeker from the belt came in, to refuel and replenish some stores and then jump for Ember via Loki. Catalogued as routine, Sublieutenant Hassan noted it, and allowed the ship’s routine to continue for the rest of the day.


Once again, Sublieutenant Hassan found himself on watch when a ship entered the system, this time the midwatch, when the courier came out of Jumpspace a mere 500 km from the Kangaroo, coming in with the mail. Make way for the Imperial Scout Service, indeed! Logged and noted, they continued their lonely reverie. Consulting with the captain, they move their orbit in from the 100-diameter limit, closer to the geosynchronous orbit over the starpot.


            Running an afternoon training exercise for Owen, Chishan ended up noticing a comet in the system, and adds it to the astronomical database. While not a requirement, it costs them nothing in the long run.


15 April 2021

A Dismal Place for Search and Rescue

        My apologies about how long this took! I hit some major writer's block as I finished up the New Year, New Character challenge, and on how to ensure there was action in this. I also added Sharrukin's Palace to the blogroll. It's the blog of Jon F. Ziegler, author of Rim of Fire. 


            Ready to leave this backwater for another, the crew mans stations for preparing to jump. Sublieutenant Hassan starts, as usual, at the Astrogation plot, and prepares it for a standard two parsec jump to Dismal. A normal task, he does it quickly and passes it up to Lieutenant Brickley who verifies that it is done correctly. As they prepare for the jump at the 100d limit, MM1 Brand prepares her engineering team with the regular task of diverting power to the Jump Drive. They set up the controls and the ship enters jump space flawlessly. 


Seven days and four hours after they jump out from Loki/Sol to Dismal, the Boxing Kangaroo reemerges from jump space after an uneventful week. Somehow, the combination of in-ship drills, training features, and entertainment nights, kept the crew from becoming unhappy. Even the junior personnel, barely out of their training weren't that unhappy.

When sensor cleared, it became clear the system name of “Dismal” was appropriate. A few hundred thousand people running after small petrochemical and mineral deposits, on a world with little water and a thin atmosphere. The resources were there, but not in amounts that made sense for a major colonization effort. The local government didn’t even have local orbital police, just a few hundred officers to enforce what law there was on this small world. At three parsecs from the nearest Solomani world, there was no reason to even try and defend it, the thinking went. Beaming some messages down to the port, the Kangaroo flew in to low orbit, approximately 400 km from the surface of the world. Entering in to brief communications, including their mission, they fell into the routine of patrol duty.



            At about 2000, well into the evening watch, GM2 Chishan was watching the primary radar scope, when an unknown ship entered the system, jumping it at 60,000 km out. He sends the standard challenge, “Unknown ship, this is Imperial Patrol 234. State your name and intention. 234 out,” before calling for the Captain.

            The response is almost instantly, “234, this is Corporate Yacht Lustrous Ambition, inbound from Inferno. Corporate mission from LSP. Sending over our papers now. Ambition out,” as Brickley stepped into the Bridge.

            “Captain on deck!” Spacehand Apprentice Owen shouted.

            “Carry on. So, a corporate yacht. Anything yet?” Brickley replied.

            “Just getting it now, sir,” Chishan replied. “Lustrous Ambition, we have received your transmission. You are cleared to enter orbit, once there, await permission for landing. 234 out.”

            “We copy all, 234. Just not expecting any Navy boys around here. Ambition over.”

            Brickley starts by examining the papers. The registration checked out for an LSP owned Safari Ship, and it seemed they were here to make a sales call on a minor customer. Unusual, but it happens. He forwarded it to the downport, and recommended they approve the landing. The Lustrous Ambition took orbit, and stayed in orbit until the Starport Warden was ready to deal with them.


            The following watch, with Hassan and his section on watch and the Lustrous Ambition still in orbit, another ship jumps in. At 100,000 km, it’s even farther out, almost half a light-second. Nodding at Castillo to get Brickley again, Hassan starts with the challenge, “Unknown ship, this is Imperial Patrol 234. State your name and intention. 234 out.”

            The pause comes, and it takes a few seconds, for the intruder to reply, “Imperial Patrol 234, this is Solomani Courier Heartbreak Hill. We have misjumped and require assistance under the MAYDAY provision of Conf-er, Imperial Navigation Act, Heartbreak Hill out.”

            Heartbreak Hill, this is Imperial Patrol 234. Can you maneuver? Stand by for further instructions. 234 out.”

            “234, Heartbreak Hill, we can maneuver, but not well. We suffered a computer failure while in jump from Lyoness to Tlaoc. The only thing we’ve got is about half a gee of maneuver from the ship, life support, and I’m talking to you on the launch’s radio. Heartbreak Hill out.”

            Brickely arrives on the bridge, his suit barely even on, and he’s still fastening it. “OOD, report,” he flatly commands, still waking up.

            “Wait one,” Hassan acknowledges the command, and then returns to talking to the wrecked courier. “Heartbreak Hill, we copy your last message.  You are to maintain present course and we will meet you in your current orbit and get you into a high orbit for investigation. Maintain a guard on this frequency. 234 out.” He then turned to Brickley to report, “Sir, we’ve got an assumed Sollie Fleet Courier, and that’s what they’re squawking as well. So far, they’re story holds up…”

            Heartbreak Hill copies, 234. Out.”

            “As I was saying sir, I’m planning to bring us out of our low orbit, and help them get in to a high orbit. They’re claiming a misjump and computer damage. We can take them to Hades with us when we get there in a few weeks, or drop them off here.”

            “The rendezvous makes sense. Get everyone to general quarters, and we’ll go from there.” Brickley said as he finished getting his suit on and sat in his chair. Keying his internal announcing microphone and alarm controls, “All hands to stations to provide assistance to a distressed ship,” and the crew piled out of their berthing, ready to go.

            Afari leads the Marines in reconfiguring the bunkroom to take personnel, from the current arrangement as a recreation room, as the ships moved to rendezvous, as the Boxing Kangaroo to tow the damaged Heartbreak Hill. As the ships moved closer, BM3 Zabiyah made sure the Kangaroo would be positioned to moved the damaged courier into a very high orbit. Lt. Brickley was making decisions for how to prepare for the personnel. Calling up what information available for Solomani Couriers, he thought around seven personnel would be expected. Maybe a few more, maybe less.


Cpl Afari

Flight Engineer

Marine 1st Class Franke

Salvage Lead

MM1 Brand


SA Owen, SR Castillo

Boat Security

Marine Binici


Marine Yap

Ship Security Lead

Sgt. Valdez

      He called the people named to the bridge, and turned to face aft for briefing. “Corporal, your fire team is running the boat. Get them onboard, separated, offer treatment, and don’t let them touch anything. ANY OF THEM could be SolSec,” broken by a pause to take a drink, “Brand, take Hall and go onboard to rig for a tow. Ensure any drives are shut down, and complete the rig. If you can, take a look for anything interesting. Sergeant, run our guests to the bunk room, and make sure they’re comfortable. Once they’re aboard, treat them as guests, but limited to the bunk room. Any questions?”

            The group looks at him, and shake their heads no. “In that case, stand by to drop the Joey and provide aid.”

            “Aye, sir!” was the group response. Brickley turned his next task, where to put the guests while they waited. He started by directing a call to the port, and with chance they’d heard the prior conversation. The only resident ship was an old Type A2 where the J-drive had been shot years ago, and was now fuel barge. Dismal was one of those worlds that was in the Imperium mostly by astrography, rather than economy. Just as well, the ship had to stay in orbit, as he wasn’t sure if there was anything on world worthwhile for them.

            Heartbreak Hill¸ this is Navy Patrol 234. Cut your thrust, and prepare to take on tow. We’re sending our boat over to take off personnel and send over a salvage team. Report number of survivors. Over,” Hassan radioed the crippled courier.

            A different voice answered, “Navy 234, we copy boat is coming over and your instruction to cut thrust. I have six, correction, seven survivors onboard. I say again, I have seven survivors. Heartbreak Hill, over.”

            Hill, this is Navy 234. Seven survivors. State assistance needed and injured personnel, over,” and Hassan turned to Brickley, “We’ve got their skipper on. We’ll need to prep space for seven personnel, sir.”

            “Understood, OOD. Continue on the recovery operation. We’ll limit power in this case to 1 g, get them into a permanent orbit,” Brickley replied.

            “Navy 234, this is Heartbreak Hill, I require removal of all personnel, have no injured personnel. My damage is a destroyed computer, and failure of clamps on the launch. I request your boat take us on at the forward end of our hold deck, over,” was the reply from the wrecked ship

            “We copy boat at forward end of the hold deck for launch, Navy 234, over.” Hassan replied, and turned to Brickley, “Can we send the Joey over to them now?”

            “Release the boat, and away the salvage party,” Brickley commanded.

            Switching to a different, encrypted channel, as well as the direct link to the Joey, Hassan spoke “Joey, Boxing Kangaroo, you are go for mission. Mate your airlock to your cargo hatch. On open channel, we are Navy 234. Kangaroo over.”

            Boxing Kangaroo, boat away! Will mate airlock on their cargo hatch. Joey out.” The boat fell away from the Patrol Cruiser, and maintained a safe distance before Afari lit off his drive. The Joey mated to the forward cargo hatch with its portside airlock, and Marine Binici stood by to cycle the airlock, and allow Brand to enter, with the two junior ratings. As this went on, the Boxing Kangaroo took position 100 kilometers to the stern of the Heartbreak Hill, ready to push the stricken vessel into the appropriate orbit.

            Brand examined the hatch, and noted that it showed the normal gravity direction, which was aligned, and that it still held atmosphere on the far side. This was a good sign, at least initially. She gave a thumbs-up to Marine Binici, who relayed it to the flight deck. Brand started by connecting the equalizer, and plugged into an intercom. Afari keyed his radio, “Heartbreak Hill, this is Joey. I am docked to your cargo hatch, and awaiting personnel. Our salvage team is standing by to check on your ship status, for our message outbound.”

            Joey, Heartbreak Hill. I read you loud and clear. We will transfer over our crew except for our pilot and engineer, over. Do you have anyone at the hatch? Over”

            Heartbreak Hill, my salvage team lead is there. She’s ready to open the hatch, and bring your atmosphere to normal. What are you running on? Joey over.”

            Joey, Hill, we’re running T-norm, over.”

            Of course, they’re running Terran Normal atmosphere, they’re Sollies! Afari thought, and shook his head before replying. “Hill, we are as well. Stand by to open your hatch when we hit it three times. Joey over.” He passed the word back to Brand, who removed a 46 cm adjustable wrench from her vacc suit tool harness, and CLANG CLANG CLANG on the hull plating that made up the cargo hatch.

            The internal dogs on the man passage on the hatch opened, and the scent of poorly recycled atmosphere came in, and then a middle aged Solomani man. “Permission to come aboard?” he asked as he stumbled to his feet, feeling the artificial gravity.

            “Name and identification?” was Marine Binici’s response, gauss rifle slung to his strong side.

            “Cebrail Strnad, here’s my Confederation Passport,” drawn from a shirt pocket, “I’m a member of the Solomani Party on a fact-finding tour before next year’s Congress. My crew was provided from the Solomani Navy Reserve, and all well trained.”

            “Right. One at a time, come into the cabin, and take a couch,” Binici spoke, in the fashion of a man who is very afraid of making a mistake. “Marine Yap will assist in you have any problems in here,” as he returned to the airlock.

            Brand had gone into the zero-g section, and was meeting with the master of the Heartbreak Hill. A professional woman, slightly shorter, but more solidly built, she introduced herself as Riika Manz, and retired from the Confederation Navy, but an old friend of Mr. Strnad’s. She and her engineer would help Brand, Owen, and Castillo rigging a push into a graveyard. While this conference went on, the navigator, each gunner, and the medic came aboard the ship’s boat, and was seated in separate couches. This surprising mixed crew managed to rig cables on the damaged courier in a reasonable amount of time.

            “Petty Officer, thank you for helping salvage this ship. It’s not much compared to the old Stalingrad class cruiser I commanded, but the Hill’s a nice ship,” Manz spoke with Brand, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to ride her in. Captain’s prerogative, and all that.” The two Imperial Spacers had gone back to the Joey, as well as the Solomani engineer.

            “Ma’am, I think the skipper would agree. Out here in the black, we’re all together. Give me a few, and I’ll ask,” Brand replied as she shifted her radio to contact the Boxing Kangaroo. “Captain, this is the Cheng. I’ve got a question from their Captain.”

            “Cheng, go ahead,” was Brickley’s curt reply.

            “She wants to ride this in to the parking orbit, and leave from there.”

            “Cheng, let her do it, but take some pictures first, and you’ll go with. Old tradition but I’m still not trusting them.”

            “Aye-aye, Captain,” turning her suit radio to communicate with the Manz, “Ma’am, we’ll let you ride her in to orbit, but I’m coming with. For legal reasons, I need to take pictures for the Admiralty Court.”

            “What, yes, that makes sense, and thank you,” was Manz’s response. They spoke with the boat crew, and shut the hatch at the cargo bay, allowing the Joey to return to the Boxing Kangaroo. The two of them went through, and it did look like something had caused the ship’s computer to explode, as well as feedback into a regulator in the jump drive, inducing a misjump.

            Afari was sitting on his flight deck in the boat, comfortably flying the return course. The party left on the wrecked ship would help rig the tow. The salvage team and ship’s crew were aboard, and they were ready to get back to the Boxing Kangaroo. The rest of his fireteam was ensuring the passengers were settled, and there were no ill effects from the week in microgravity. The steward/medic had brough over some information regarding the health status of all members of the team, and Marine Yap reviewed it, finding no problems. The Joey returned to the Boxing Kangaroo, and docked without incident. Sergeant Valdez began processing the survivors aboard the patrol cruiser. The Marines aboard were keeping them under guard, and with strict orders not to let the survivors speak unless answering questions about health and information about their incident. Sublieutenant Hassan came down to start preliminary inquiries about what happened aboard the ill-fated Heartbreak Hill. Brickely returned to the bridge to plan for him and the Boatswain to push the ships together.

            Brand and Manz went through the wreckage, and the Imperial Petty Officer took pictures of the damaged computer, and entered the engine room with the Solomani officer. The cursory examination of the drives revealed they were in fairly good shape, but the interface modules to the computer on the jump, maneuver, and powerplant were slagged. Whatever destroyed the computer, it was quite powerful, in providing enough feedback to take out those lines. Brand’s investigation revealed nothing more about the destruction of the computer, only that it was enough to hide it from the anyone short of a trained investigator. A common tech, not as much. That concluded, the two women suited up for the required EVA. Going into space, they noted the Kangaroo having shifted to the stern, and taking up position to nudge the damaged courier into the right orbit.


            Brickley and Zabiyah were sitting on the bridge, preparing to use the Kangroo’s drives to nudge the damaged courier into a graveyard orbit, and then to drop the survivors off. Working together, they plot the course, and come up with the exact piloting needed, in a matter of minutes. “Won’t even have to eyeball it sir, this’ll get it moving to the right orbit, and we can get back down in to low system orbit,” Zabiyah commented on the completed plot.


            Down in the bunk room, Hassan found himself in an argument with an irritated Solomani dignitary. “I DON’T CARE ABOUT ANY OF THIS, I WANT TO GET BACK TO THE CONFEDERATION!” Strnad bellowed at the experienced officer.

            “ALL SHIPWRECKS MUST BE THROUGHLY INVESTIGATED, AND THIS INCLUDES THE CREW AND PASSENGERS!” Hassan counted, just as loudly. “I don’t know what the regulations are in your so-called Confederation, but here, I will take statements, and they will be forwarded to the Admiralty Court. Your transportation back to your port of origin will be arranged as well.”

            “You half-breed occupier,” Strnad speaks in reply, noting Hassan’s obvious Core accent, compared to the Rim Anglic the rest of the crew spoke with. “I will give you nothing, more than what’s in my passport, as will my crew.”

            “In that case, I’ll be recommending that we treat you as prisoners, and hold you until the diplomats come up with a solution. You can’t be preparing to break the truce, but are you giving information to a deep cover agent?”

            “And what of your engineer and my captain? Will your captain believe you when we get their information?” Strnad’s response was calm and collected, obviously used to ignoring crude threats.

            “Fine, fine, we’ll just have some basic testimony, so the insurers can hash it out. You know, credits make the galaxy go round.”

“Of course, Sublieutenant. As we said initially, we were jumping from Lyoness to Tlaloc with plans for Smade’s Planet, to refuel, and then to New Greenpernt. I was there to speak with various Party organizations and support candidates for the Congress…” Strand trailed off, giving a long story, short on details relevant to the incident, but providing background information.

            Seeing their leader give answers, the rest of the survivors, under the watchful eyes of the Marines, asked him for material to write a statement and then explain it.


            Brickley went to his chair on the bridge, and got Brand on the radio, a private channel, using. “Are you read for us to play tug?”

            “We are. The skipper of this little boat gave me the full tour. It looks like something went off in the computer, and slagged the controllers for the drives. I can’t say much else, but they’ll need a full survey team,” Brand replied.

            “So, they’re telling the truth?” Brickley asked, considering his options.

            “Yessir. Standing by to shift orbit. Then we’ll MMU over to the Kangaroo.”

            “Copy.” Shifting his attention, Brickley picked up the 1MC microphone, and announced to the ship. “Set general quarters, as we move the wreck into a graveyard orbit. All survivors to stay in the bunkroom, and prepare to don escape bubbles.” Sergeant Valdez’s team stayed behind in the bunkroom, and insured the escape bubbles were passed out to the six in there. The two junior engineers went to the engineering space, and the gunners stood by. GM2 Chishan had them ready, if any damage control was required. BM3 Zabiyah stayed in his right-hand pilot seat, ready to make the precision controls required. Cutting his thrust down to micro-gravities, he got the Boxing Kangaroo’s aircraft like prow up against the tall aerofin of the Heartbreak Hill, well clear of the cruiser’s wings. The two figures on the hull of the stricken courier went boarded the cruiser. Manz found herself sitting in the bunk room, and giving a written statement under Valdez’s watchful eye, as Brand went to the engine room, and prepared for the precision adjustments required.

            A steady hand, eyes on the display, and two throttle taps. The damaged Heartbreak Hill began on her trip to a graveyard orbit, as the Boxing Kangaroo separated. The secured from General Quarters, to land the next morning. Unhappily, the Solomani were confined to the bunkroom the entire time.


31 January 2021

Character Creation Challenge 31 of 31, Adalwin Pethes

Completing the series, Adalwin Pethes is a less traditional Traveller character. Not much experience in space travel or operations, he's still ready to be a contact, adversary, or ally in the Sol Subsector.

Aldalwin "Call me Dall" Pethes is a man of some reputation in the region. He grew up on Ember/Sol, where his family grew some of what little locally available food was available in hydroponics facilities. Seeing the heavy handed treatment of the citizens by the Office of the Military Governor, he wanted to Change the System from within, by becoming a reporter. Gaining employment with Sol Interstellar News at an early age, he spent twenty years as an investigative reporter in and around the Subsector, exposing corrupt military government officers, investigating organized crime, and the like until he was injured while investigating work conditions on Loki. Recovering from his injury, he started to study the law, and became a crusading lawyer, often looking after those harming "the little guy". Some younger reporters, not knowing his background, have called him "The People's Attorney General of Sol Subsector." Crossing the subsector, he has a knack for showing up at the worst possible moment for many nobles, officers, and crime bosses. He recently stepped down from his firm's management, and is now listed as "Of Counsel".

STR 6 DEX 7 END 5 INT 13 EDU 11 SOC 7
Advocate 3, Art (Holography) 0, Art (Writing) 3, Carouse 1, Comms 1, Computers 2, Deception 1, Diplomat 2, Drive (Wheeled) 2, Guns (Slug Pistol) 1, Investigate 3, Melee (Foil) 1, Persuade 2, Stealth 1, Steward 0, Streetwise 0, Trade (Hydroponics) 0, Vacc Suit 0,
Cr57500, 6 Ship Shares, Body Pistol

Today's FINAL Roundup