Islands In The Rift #1

This post follows on from Travelling: The Great Rift and forms the beginning of my actual play report. This is a quickly assembled set of notes and is largely unedited - please forgive me if that's distracting.

Unboxing…

Chaos Factor 5.
Luck Points = 3

Vek woke with a start. He was lying on his back strapped into a narrow box and he was cold. The frosted glass plate in front of him was slowly clearing at about the same pace as his memory returned. Vek felt sleepy but in that strange mental space which he commonly experienced whenever he overslept. Yes, he remembered, We’ve been in low berth. I wonder if the others survived the transit.

There was a MedTech hovering over the face plate of Vek’s cryoberth now and he wasn’t smiling. He looked like he was checking something on the tablet computer he was holding.

“Did we all make it?”

The MedTech nodded and gave a thumbs up. Then he reached forward and touched the panel on the exterior of Vek’s cryoberth. The lid of the berth hissed as it popped upward slightly, then began to lift in a slow arc sideways to allow Vek to exit.

“Welcome to Amondiage, Mr Kruger,” said the MedTech.

Vek nodded and began to clamber up out of the berth. His gear was stowed in the hold, so once he was dressed Vek would need to go and collect his belongings from the dock. Looking around, he could see the other three low berths were close behind his own in the process of revival.

“Looks like you won the Low Lottery, sir.”

Vek frowned momentarily and then remembered that he had bet on zero fatalities – an unusual play. Relief flooded his mind as the MedTech transferred Cr40 to his account portable credit account. Nice start.

At The Docks…

A short wait on the dock was always interesting to Vek. He was waiting for his compatriots on this mission to recover their gear, get changed, and join him outside. Amondiage looked ok. The starport appeared to be of a much higher standard than he had expected and the local personnel looked rather over-dressed in heavily braided smart-pressed uniforms. But everything seemed to be ticking over efficiently.

Amondiage appeared clean and bustling, mostly with local trade fleet vessels and just one or two independents, like the ship he had just arrived on. You could tell the difference just by comparing the smart uniformed people to the more usual scruffy but practical garb of the wider Imperium.

“Looks bigger than I imagined,” said Jerome, arriving at Vek’s side.

“Yeah. I guess it’s listed as an A-class port but, well, I never know what to expect from somewhere outside the Imperium.”

Esta and Gren were walking over, the big woman’s two-handed broadsword strapped to her back and the smaller Gren carrying his shoulder-slung ACR. Vek was leaning on his own ACR – the familiar feel of the Advanced Combat Rifle helping him feel grounded and back to reality. Jerome was the least armed of the group, packing a sophisticated Stunner in a neat hip holster.

“I guess we better go find this modified Type-R you’ve been tasked with recovering for the IISS,” said Gren as he approached.

Vek nodded and smiled a little. It was a weird mission, no doubt. He had been granted a detached duty IISS scout vessel for independent use but it wasn’t what he expected. Instead of the usual Type-S, the familiar arrow-headed stalwart for the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service throughout Charted Space, Vek had been temporary granted command of The Perfect Stranger. This was a Type-R subsidised merchant class vessel and a very unusual choice for the IISS. The briefing for this contract had offered the vessel in return for recovery of its data logs and transport of the vessel to Zuflucht – on the far side of the New Islands subsector, about 14 parsecs spinward of Amondiage.

By all accounts, the Imperium had been operating a covert data gathering mission in the Islands subsectors – keeping an eye on the progress of the many independent worlds of the region – when two of the crew from The Perfect Stranger had turned up dead, shipped back to Imperial space. Whatever the true story, Vek figured that he would enjoy delving deeper into the Great Rift and might even be able to pick up some exploration contracts if he played his cards right.

Having access to the modified Type-R was an interesting opportunity because the key modification was turning most of the cargo space into fuel containers. The Perfect Stranger could make up to five Jump-1 transits before needing refuelling, giving it a theoretical range of 5 parsecs through deep space. It was definitely a slow boat but it was a much more versatile option than the standard Jump-2 Type-S scout.

First stop would be starport customs, so the party headed towards the short lines formed at the customs area. After a few minutes waiting, the group is ushered forward for a papers inspection – actually accessing their personal data stored on each person’s comm – and checking through their luggage. Given the very limited 10kg limit on baggage use of low travel afforded the Travellers, our characters are carrying only what they mustered out of service with a scant few weeks earlier.

Anything To Declare?

Unsurprised, Vek handed over his ACR to be placed in storage at the dock until his return. Although Gren was grumbling and Esta was rolling her eyes at having to do the same with their own kit, Jerome smiled at the formality. The air of the customs officials was definitely one of smug superiority and a distain for such uncouth visitors from off-world. But they had been polite and explained that all weapons and armour were illegal on Amondiage.

Gren and Esta both wear Tech Level 10 Cloth armour which is designed to look like smart wear. I am curious as to whether the less-than-obvious Imperial design can be sneaked past customs. Do the customs officials notice? This seems Unlikely and I draw… a No.

“What’s the purpose of your visit to Amondiage?”
“We’re a replacement crew for a vessel berthed here and assigned to recover her,” Vek smoothly replied.
“Interesting,” said the official eying the four suspiciously.
“You’re wondering what happened to the last crew,” Vek suggested. The official nodded encouragingly.
Vek continued: “They were picked up several months ago by skip tracers and we have been hired to bring the ship to Zuflucht for a refit before it gets resold.”

This is a lie. Vek will need to pass an Average (8+) Persuade check to make it stick. He doesn’t have the Persuade skill – and usually faces a -3 untrained penalty – but he does have the Jack-of-All-Trades (JoT) skill at one, which makes it only a -2 penalty. I roll 2d6, add his Intelligence bonus (+1), and apply the reduced unskilled penalty of -2… rolling 2 (snake eyes!) and failing spectacularly.

“How come the skip tracers didn’t just impound the ship and have it refitted here?”
Vek stared at the official a moment, seeing in his eyes the narrowing suspicion. Somehow he wasn’t buying this story.
“Well, ok,” said Vek, “We’re the skip tracers and the ship is supposed to be in port, so we’re here to arrest the scum who stole her and bring them in quietly.”

This is a potentially alarming adjustment to the story Vek is spinning. It’s also another lie. Does the new story make it worse for Vek? Seems Likely… draws a Yes.

“If that’s true, we can’t have you wandering the docks looking for trouble,” says the official. “Do you have your official documentation and what’s the name of the vessel?”
“The Perfect Stranger,” says Vek as he makes a show of looking for a data slate in his duffle bag.
“One moment, please sir.”
The official taps some details into his terminal and his brow furrows. He taps a few more times and frowns again.
“That’s odd,” he says. “The Perfect Stranger is not in port, sir.”
“Oh? When did it leave?”
“Your documentation, sir?”

Vek decides to fudge it. He stops looking through his bag, looks up and smiles at the official and says, “If the ship isn’t in port, I guess we’re just here for the local cuisine and a hot shower.”

This feels like an Average (8+) Persuade check but the official is suspicious, so I am applying a Bane – that means I roll 3d6 and take the worst total. Rolls 2d6, +1 for INT, -2 for unskilled… 5-1 = 4. Damn. I decide to spend a Luck Point and make a re-roll. Rolls… 5-1 = 4. Again.
Luck Points = 2

“Erm, I don’t think I can allow that without the documentation, sir.”

Jerome leans over and asks, “Perhaps a modest donation to the Orphan’s Fund would help to smooth over any administrative inconvenience?” The official watches as Jerome places a small stack of Cr100 chips on the counter, Cr1000 in total.

Jerome is trying to bribe the official. This is a Persuade check. It feels like it should be Difficult (10+) but Jerome has dropped a pretty big bribe – equivalent to about a month’s living expenses – on the counter. This gives him a Boon to his otherwise weak Persuade check. I also rule he can use his Social Standing bonus because Jerome is an ex-Naval officer with an air of authority. Rolling 3d6, taking the best score with a total -1 penalty (+2 SOC, -3 unskilled)… 9-1 = 8. Fail.

The official stares at Jerome, then looks at Vek, and his gaze slides to each of the others. The tone is polite: “Would you give me a moment?”
Vek looks to the others and nods. As the official turns to speak to a colleague, the group decides to simply walk back towards the dock… and attempt to blend into the crowd.

Is the equipment box with their weapons in still open in front of the Travellers? Seems Unlikely… draws a Yes and a No. Damn.
Does the official raise the alarm given that the party is running? Seems Likely… draws No and Exceptional No…. Interesting.

The Travellers walk back into the shifting crowds on the dock. The official turns back to see them drifting away, several metres away and he smiles to himself, knowingly. Won’t be long until they end up in an interrogation cell, he thinks.

SCENE. Next logical scene is the party regrouping back at the ship they arrived on. They know their target ship is not in port but they have lost their weapons and cannot access the main port. They are effectively trapped in the extra-judicial space of the docks area. It feels like the situation has worsened for the group, increasing the Chaos Factor. I also need to check and see if the expected scene goes ahead… draws an Altered Scene. I draw two cards for some more details: “Haggle Expectations”. Hmm.

“Back already?” The Steward of the Dubious Pleasure grinned at Vek.
“Bloody customs wouldn’t let us through and confiscated our gear to boot,” said Vek.
“Blimey – what did you do? They usually don’t mind why you visit because Amondiage likes the credits you’ll spend.”
“Yeah, well Jerome here tried to bribe the official and… yeah, we left.”
The Steward, a kindly man named Hemmas, laughed throatily.
“Any chance you guys can help us get our gear back?”
Hemmas pursed his lips and paused. “For a price, no doubt we can try.”
“Would it be possible to check the port database for signs of the shop we’re here to collect? It’s called The Perfect Stranger.”
Jerome coughed and stepped in. “Hey, Vek, why don’t you guys go find a coffee and I’ll work something out with Hemmas.”

Time for a Broker check, given that we are arranging a deal. Jerome has this skill, so that’s why he stepped in. The easy bit is checking the port data because this is open information and all the group needs is access to the ship’s computer to look it up. The harder bit is working out how to recover their ‘lost property’. I am going to assume that Hemmas knows someone in the authority to ask/bribe. It sounds like an Average (8+) task to Broker the deal to favourable terms. But… I have no idea what a reasonable fee might be. I decide to use the Sentencing guidelines on page 225 of the Traveller rules. The minimum fines are 1Dx Cr1000 so this seems a good baseline for a mildly illicit deal. The party hasn’t falsified their identities but they did get themselves flagged by the authorities. I roll a 6. So… Cr6000 to get the gear back. That’s more than the gear is worth by a long way, so the roll will help up see how much Jerome can reduce the cost. I decide each positive point of Effect will reduce the bill by Cr500. Rolling 2d6, +1 for INT, +1 for Broker-1 skill… scored 3+2 = 5. I decide to spend a Luck Point to re-roll… 8+2 = 10. Success with Effect 2 = Cr5000. Still, buying ACRs on a foreign world with no contacts is going to be expensive and hard. Jerome transfers the funds to Hemmas.

Luck Points = 1
Chaos Factor reduces to 5.

The Travellers find a coffee vendor on the dock and settle in to watch the local news broadcasts. The general impression is that Amondiage is on the brink of war after aggressive postering by the Serendip Belt. Other powers across the Islands subsectors, notably Neubayern and New Colchis, appear defiant. The main headline is that local ships have been “aggressively deployed” to patrol various stations in-system while diplomats “escalate” matters, presumably through the repeated incendiary statements being aired on the news network. Evening had fallen by the time Hemmas returned with the box of weapons. Everything was as they left it but Hemmas was still looking uncomfortable.

He has news on the ship the group is seeking but does he know anything more? 50/50 chance, I reckon. Draws… Exceptional No. I decide he not only has basic info on the ship but has discovered precisely nothing from his contacts.

“You wouldn’t believe how tight-lipped the officials got when I asked about your gear, The Perfect Stranger, and why no one tried to detain you earlier,” Hemmas began. He was shaking his head and seemed genuinely surprised.
“The ship definitely isn’t at Amondiage. I did a search for Imperial-registered Type-R merchants and there were a few but all seemed to be crewed and in service across the Islands. Checking back through arrival and departure logs, I found out that The Perfect Stranger was last here several months ago. No one I talked to will tell me anything more… which is pretty unusual.”

The Travellers thank Hemmas and are now left with a bit of a quandary about what to do next. The ship isn’t here and they have zero leads. They need to somehow get into the local official transport database and see what flight plan was logged for the ship the last time it was here.

Options would include bribery, coercion, or a hack. Given my characters woeful persuasion skills, Gren suggests trying a system hack. To do that, he will need to get hold of a good-quality portable computer and some interface cables. Given Gren has a state-of-the-art Skill Augmentation Implant to assist his computer work, this seems like a likely course of action. The group decides to try and buy Gren a computer.

It’s decided that Esta and Gren will leave their weapons with the other two, run the risk of trying customs again posing as a couple on holiday, and then go buy Gren some new gear. They have suitably disguised credit accounts from the IISS for expenditures on-mission, so this seems a reasonable plan.
SCENE
Chaos Factor unchanged at 5.
Luck Points = 1
Scene Check = Altered. “Agree Success”

BEHIND THE SCENES

In an office somewhere on Amondiage, an officer wearing a smart military uniform with the flashes of military intelligence is seen in a video call with a port authority customs officer.

“Yes, I would like you to allow any and all of these Travellers through customs if they try again. I have assigned a team to observe them and they are therefore of little risk.”
The official pauses while he listens to the port officer’s reply.
“Yes, they are suspected agents of one of the other powers but only observation will tell us which of our enemies has being sending these agents. Your cooperation and discretion are appreciated.”
The intelligence officer ends the call and sits back in his chair thoughtfully.

Wonder how things will turn out, eh?

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