The Demon’s Eye. . .aka, Send in the B Team!
Updates from my campaign:
As we wrapped up Revolution on Acrid, my travellers had split into groups, mainly because I let my players have way too many travellers. I’ve since been told this is “troupe play”. In any case, the majority of the travelling team is headed back to Drinax, along with their Pocket Warship, Rao’s Revenge , and the Harrier, Artemis. The surviving Vespexers are with them, ready to be home.
This group made a few stops, working the diplomatic angle caused by the publication of the fake GeDeCo Treaty, moving a few worlds one step closer to Haven while travelling. Most notably they had a good introductory meeting at Byrni, meeting the Regent and learning of his desire to possibly join the Kingdom of Drinax, should King Oleb prove worthy. That’s something to work with, for certain. But this story isn’t about that group. . .
This story is about what is left of the “B Team”, who were recruited initially when the Travellers got their 3rd ship. The B Team had six members but is now down to four. Benedict Catlow, a retired scout, is now pilot of the Revenge. Wilhelmina Moneaux, aka “Willie”, has taken up residence at the Acrid Highport and is the travellers’ representative in the Borderlands.
The remaining four are married couple: Alaina Madigan, a retired Navy Captain, and her husband Chadwick Vangeles, a retired Army Colonel from Simok. Travelling with them are their protégés, both of whom left the service early to seek their fortunes with Alaina and Chad: Junior Sanchez is a three term Simok army vet and the Colonel’s point man, and Gemma Armiger is a three term Navy vet, and is a crack engineer and mechanic. They’ve also hired an NPC sensor operator. They are travelling in the fast trader Lady Miria , named after the pirate Miria Silverhand, who sold out her Captain, Ferrik Redthane, to the travellers. The Lady Miria is the former Janal Torsk, Redthane’s ship. Their journey to date:
Leaving Acrid, they returned to Cordan, finding a very upset patron, Baroness Lux, who finds herself under (justified) suspicion of being behind the assassination of Josephus Agraaki. The combination of the Harrier’s comings and goings in her territory with the use of advanced weaponry has led both sides to suspect her of using outside forces, for which she (justifiably) blames the travellers. The travellers themselves were never identified on Cordan, so they aren’t personally under suspicion.
With a little better planning, and the use of advanced sensor tech combined with tech level appropriate weaponry, the B Team engage in some low level clandestine military work (or acts of terrorism, depending on who you ask) against the other two barons, blowing up a fuel dump, a bridge and a vehicle hanger, leaving enough evidence to point towards the opposite side for each attack rather than Baroness Lux, at least at first glance. Arriving incognito onboard a tramp trader didn’t hurt either.
They do get a call from an Imperial Consul at the starport asking them to refrain from landing at the Baron’s landing field. Chad explains that they are contracted to deliver goods to the Baroness and are now waiting for a contracted shipment of goods leaving her territory. Not the greatest story but not something the Imperial rep can disprove, either. They follow this with an offer to serve as neutral arbitrators at a peace conference, but Baron Fero and Baron Halley are wary of their ships coming and going from Lux’s territory. They also plant a bug with the Imperial trade delegation and the local Megacorp reps to put a peace keeping force in place to enforce a peaceful resolution. This exact idea doesn’t gain any traction, but combined with recent losses in the field, creates enough chatter to bring Fero and Halley to the negotiating table. The Imperial trade delegation, not the travellers, oversee this process. Having no official role in any of this and with their patron in a position of strength during the negotiations, the B team considers its work done and heads out, bound for Tech World.
Tech world beckons in the form of an invitation from its ruling council that was given to the NPC former crew of the Lady Miria several months earlier and passed on to the travellers in Acrid. So Begins “The Demon’s Eye”.
On Tech World, the B Team meets with the scientists, but is a little wary of earning the enmity of GeDeCo, having just openly attacked the PRQ. They are intrigued by the offer and agree to take it up with Oleb and his advisors, looking for ways they can meet Tech World’s needs clandestinely. They really don’t have a good grasp of GeDeCo’s grip on the region, and the former GeDeCo Agent on the team, Porter, is on his way to Drinax with the rest of the team (so the referee doesn’t give them any inside info that Porter would be expected to know – they’ll get that when Porter learns of the plan). They do clarify that Tech World is expecting all these shipments of goods for free, which the travellers ask the researchers to justify. If they can afford to build ships for their own defense, surely they can afford to pay for trade goods? Sheepishly, Dr. Hodal of Tech World agrees to pay for shipments, although he indicates that good pricing “will be appreciated and remembered”. The travellers agree to begin sourcing goods when possible, but make no commitment as to Tech World’s defense until they consult with higher authorities (wimps). They do share with the egg heads that there is a Broadsword Merc Cruiser stuck in Acrid with no jump drive, and that its captain may agree to work for Tech World’s nascent government if they can transport the ship there and agree to terms to get them a jump drive again. Hodal asks the travellers to try to arrange these terms, so they agree to send a message to Willie on Acrid to try to negotiate terms with the Hero on behalf of Tech World. An interesting turn of events in their relationship with the Hero, but business is business.
The next morning, Dr. Jali accidently turns herself in cyborg and damn nears burns the whole place down, and the real adventure begins. Investigating Dr. Jali’s lab doesn’t turn up too much, but Junior does manage to get himself infected with nanobots, so he’s got that going for him. The B Team takes the bait and begins their chase of Jali with their new friend Lemuel in tow.
In Exe, they don’t catch the Lord Gerald’s Fancy on sensors, but do pick up the Vagabond Soul. It’s obviously drifting with some strange life sign readings aboard, so they dock to investigate, loaded for bear. No gravity on board. The B Team enters through the airlock, with Junior on point, Chad behind him with a plasma rifle, and the ladies behind him with laser carbines (house rule: carbines can be used in close quarters combat, unlike rifles. Carbines would incur a penalty if the traveller is engaged by an opponent in melee, but could be fired). Lemuel is tagging along behind them. His special “nanobot proof” hazard / vacc suit is excellent for its purpose, but not nearly as well armored in the conventional sense. The team isn’t really crazy about the awkward geek being behind them with an auto pistol, but they’ve got combat armor, so what could go wrong? Their NPC sensor operators stays behind, manning the bridge.
Entering the common area of the Vagabond Soul, Junior rolls a “2” for a recon check, which results in a “Cursed” getting a surprise attack by dropping on Junior’s head. I gave the zombies 3D damage with their claws instead of 1D in order to make them a credible threat. They are otherwise unchanged. A high effect combined with a good damage roll results in Junior’s combat suit being pierced. Junior takes neurotoxin damage of 5 Int and 5 Dex. He only had 5 Int to start with. Is he brain dead? Maybe. I finally found some rules in the Traveller Companion that in the case of a neurotoxin, Int and Dex both going to zero results in death, and otherwise recovery is possible. Good enough for me. Junior’s automed unit can’t neutralize this particular toxin, but it does inject a fast drug to keep him alive for the moment.
Because of the zombies’ ability to communicate using radiowaves, I rule that the remaining team members can’t communicate unless they open their face shields, which seems a singularly bad idea. So unless communicated with hand signals, any targets they attack are determined randomly (i.e. no concentrating fire). They have enough of an armor and firepower advantage that it doesn’t really matter. Alaina and Gemma cut down the zombie on top of Junior, and Chad catches one across the room with a plasma bolt. The remaining three in the room collapse on Chad, forcing him to abandon his PGMP for a monoblade. The ladies keep shooting, and they cut the zombies down fairly quickly. The three zombies on the bridge have armed themselves with shotguns, and although there isn’t room for them to join the fight in the airlock hallway, once their compatriots go down they leap across the room in zero-G, each firing a shotgun into the small place the travellers are packed into.
They aren’t nearly as proficient with the shotguns as they are at melee. Two hit but don’t penetrate combat armor, and one sends itself spinning out of control. They are quickly cut down, but Chad realizes he was also infected in the preceding melee, but not as badly. Lemuel says he might be able to help Junior with his combination of medical training and nanobot knowledge, so he drags him back on board the Lady Miria. Their sensor op reports that he thinks there may be something alive on the top deck. Chad, fighting the effects of the infection, very carefully tosses a frag grenade up the hatch into the passenger common area, which happens to be exactly where the last Cursed was waiting in ambush. The Cursed avoids damage by diving down the open hatch, but it’s one attack roll is rebuffed by armor before this last zombie meets its end.
Chad manages to shake off the worst of the infection. Our travellers find the notice of the religious conference on Mirage in 16 weeks. Mirage is 10 jumps away. Man, that really sucks. Maybe we can catch her before then, they exclaim! Right at that moment, the Lord Gerald’s Fancy is detected jumping out. The team decides to try to salvage the Vagabond Soul, and manage to get her running well enough to get out of orbit. Gemma is a crack engineer and mechanic, after all. They take 30 tons of the petrochemicals and leave the seriously messed up ship on a nearby moon, but lose a day in the chase in the process.
During all this, Lemuel’s medical efforts to save Junior are successful. Question: What does the Immortal Protector need to roll to cure someone of a nanobot driven neurotoxin? Answer: He doesn’t (the players don’t know this, of course).
How to catch her? Their plan isn’t all that bad. They correctly deduce that Jali will limit herself to wilderness refueling. Time between jumps is significantly less when buying refined fuel at starports vs. using gas giants. It takes less time to get from the jump limit to the starport and back than it does to get to and from the jump limit of a gas giant, even before taking into account the much faster M Drive of the Lady Miria. Jali also needs 1-2 days to skim and refine fuel unless she’s taking chances.
The jump 2 path to Mirage has a choke point at Fist, so their plan is to beat Jali there. We’ll see how they do next time.