Five to six Player Characters, on their way to somewhere else, get involved in the Case of the Missing Anthropologist on the desert world of Golus/Miazan.
The young lady is demanding that “someone do something!” but the security official indicates that he is helpless to assist. Finally, the young woman declares that if Starport Security won’t help her, she’ll “do the job herself”. She storms off, and the players will later find her sitting at a table by herself, weeping.
If they ask her what is wrong, she will tell them the following:
Doctor Calan has been studying the culture of the Olkathi, the native Minor Race of Golus and, in particular, one clan as it migrates across the great equatorial desert. His latest field trip was due to finish three week ago, as the ‘nThi Clan returned to its winter range in the northern foothills of the Koldai Mountains near the town of Tartesh, some one hundred and thirty kilometres southwest of Golus Downport.
Traci Calan has travelled out to Golus from Miazan to meet up with her father as he comes in from the desert, and to assist with the writing up of his field notes. She has been down to Golus, and out to Tartesh several times since she arrived four weeks ago, but there has been no sign of him, nor of his two assistants, Andrea Horsh and Leha Je’lan. The ‘nThi clan has also not returned to its habitual range.
Traci Calan has spent the last week trying to get help from the Planetary Manager, who governs Imperial affairs on planet, and her officials and now, in desperation has tried unsuccessfully to get help from the Starport Authority.
She offers the party Cr 10,000 each if they will help her find her father and bring him back to Golus Highport.
Low gravity (approximately 0.4G) and a thin, dry atmosphere make Golus a harsh world. A vast equatorial desert girdles the planet, and what little water remains is locked up in the small northern polar ice cap.
The human population of some 57,000 people are either involved with maintaining both the Downport and Highport facilities, or in prospecting and mining in the northern Hemisphere. Water miners are involved in a large project to tap the northern polar ice cap and bring water, via a system of artificial canals and aqueducts, into the Aldesarn Valley where the main human settlements are located.
Aside from Golus Downport, and the town of Tartesh, there are half a dozen small settlements in the Aldesarn Valley. Up over the rim of the valley, the land dries out completely as one heads south over the Koldai Mountains into the Great Desert.
Golus lies right on the Imperial Border in Miazan subsector. Its position across the tail end of the Rimward Main; lying within Jump-2 of two independent Outworlds; and Jump-1 from the subsector capital, ensures that Imperial officials keep a close watch on Golus during times of interstellar tension. Due to Golus’s sparse population and harsh environment, however, in times of peace the authorities tend to worry less about the hinterland of the planet, which, in the past, has proven to be beneficial for criminals and fugitives.
The Olkathi: a Minor Race
The Olkathi live in clan groups that migrate from water source to water source across the desert. Each clan has its line of water traps and secret storage reservoirs and by frequently moving they reduce pressure on individual sites. Each clan wears platted cords about the waist, dyed in the colours of the clan.
A naturally curious folk, the Olkathi tend to regard off-worlders with a little awe, especially the technology that they bring, as the Olkathi had only developed to Tech Level 3 when contacted by Imperial Scouts. The Olkathi will happily use higher technological devices, if they understand their purpose, but generally don’t covert them, preferring technology they can manufacture and repair themselves.
Honesty and fair dealing, even to those not of the clan, are values intrinsic to Olkathi culture. But, if they find they have been fooled or, otherwise tricked, either as individuals or as a clan, Olkathi will become intensely hostile and endeavour to track the miscreant down in order to enact a suitable revenge.
Water is an extremely precious commodity to Olkathi. ‘Water Friend’ is a title indicating that the recipient is considered a member of the bestowing clan and is treated as such, including being given the locations of the clan’s water caches. Someone who intentionally wastes water or damages a water cache is considered mentally deranged and a danger to all Olkathi clans.As there is so little water in their environment, Olkathi who have the opportunity to consume more water than usual will sometimes become 'water drunk'. In this condition, Olkathi will act irrationally, ignoring survival instincts, before ultimately passing out.
Olkathi cannot interpret maps or pictures (either stills or video) as they lack the necessary cultural references to interpret what they are seeing. They can, and do, make representations of journeys in the form of linear narratives, called ‘sand maps’, that, through a series of pictograms, show the landmarks one would see on a particular path.
The Adventure1. Go to Tartesh. No sign of clan ‘nThi
At Golus Downport, the party can pick up limited equipment and supplies for travelling out into the Big Dry. Traci Calan has an air/raft fitted out for travel into the desert around Tartesh. If required, she will purchase some basic equipment for the party.
The trip from Golus Downport to Tartesh, one hundred and thirty kilometres to the southwest, will take about an hour and twenty minutes. Calan has booked some rooms at the Hostel to use as a base.
In Tartesh, the players will catch their first glimpses of the Olkathi. The ‘nIngi Clan has become almost sedentary, camping in caves just north of the town and hanging around a stand pump in the main street.
The ‘nIngi have not heard from the ‘nThi for some time and eventually will direct the players to an elderly ‘nIngi who lives about an hour’s walk out of town.
The ‘nIngi elder, Chi’eba, will give the party directions on a sand map – showing key reference points - to a ‘nThi reservoir some two hundred kilometres west of Tartesh. She does this because Doctor Calan is a ‘water guest’, an important title in Olkathi culture.
2. Go into desert. Random animal encounters. Foothills of Koldai mountains
3. Meet some Olkathi. One has is wearing a hand computer as a trophy
4. Get directions from Olkathi to crash site of air/raft
5. Air/raft has been shot down. Sketch map in the sand indicates a box canyon as a place of interest
The players will notice a thin plume of smoke that will lead them to the downed air/raft. There are a couple of dead Olkathi scattered around the crash scene. These Olkathi are obviously from a different clan to the ‘nGirgur and while some are burnt, as if they were in the air/raft crash, others appear to have been shot. Traci Calan will be able to identify them as from clan ‘nThi from the colours of the platted cords they wear around their waists.
Amongst the confusion of disturbed sand about the wrecked air/raft, it is possible to make out where someone crawled under a near-by thorn bush. Next to where a body rested for a time, a small sand map, like that which the ‘nIngi elder, Chi’eba, made, indicates that a nearby box canyon is a place of interest.
6. Sign that an ATV has been parked nearby in the box canyon
7. ATV tracks go up to canyon wall and then disappear
If the players hunt around, eventually someone will locate a carefully concealed control panel near the place where the ATV disappeared. This control panel appears to operate a large concealed door hidden in the wall of the box canyon. A concealed path leads up the canyon wall. Eventually this path will become an obviously man-made staircase that eventually leads up to a concealed watch point. From this vantage, the players can see for some miles in all directions over the broken canyon country. They will notice a deep, circular depression or valley, approximately one hundred metres wide, near the watch point, but the valley rim appears very undercut and unstable. There appears to be no access to this valley from the high ground, but the floor of the valley appears to have been cleared.
If anyone investigates the floor of the watch point, they will uncover an iris valve door, carefully camouflaged to look like the surrounding rock. The door is electronically locked but this can be over-ridden by someone with tools and computer skill.
As the players are wondering what to do next, they will observe a pair of robots emerge from the shadows of the undercut valley rim and begin sweeping loose dust and rocks from the floor of the valley. At this time, a small satellite dish will deploy from a point just across the valley from the watch post and begin tracking around to locate a point in the sky.
Soon, the players will hear the sound of an approaching ship. The ship, which appears to be an armed 200-ton merchant ship, will come in from the south, manoeuvre over the hidden valley and then descend. A tractor unit will then tow the ship out of sight under the overhanging cliff.
8. Secret door to pirate base
9. Encounter pirates
About a dozen pirates are in residence while their ship is away. They use members of the ‘nGirgur tribe to keep an eye on the area around their base and so became aware that Doctor Calan and his ‘nThi where poking around in the area. Having taken care of Doctor Calan, the pirates have been preparing the service facilities of the base for the scheduled return of their ship, the Hevvekii.
The Hevvekii has a crew of ten – five crewmen and five boarders.
At this point, the players may try to infiltrate the base to locate and rescue Doctor Calan, or they may try a full assault. There are a number of possible outcomes, depending upon how the players are handling the situation, and how the Umpire wishes to integrate this scenario into an established campaign:
1) The players successfully infiltrate the base, rescue Doctor Callan and escape back to Tartesh to inform the authorities of the Pirate base. There is a possibility of a chase across the desert if the pirates can get an ATV or air/raft going in pursuit.
2) The players get into a running battle with the pirates in the base. If things are looking particularly bad for the players there is a possibility that Traci Callan will reveal that she is actually an Imperial Secret Service (ISS) agent. If she can get to a communications uplink, she can call in a squad of Imperial marines from the Highport to mop up the pirates.
3) Everything is as outlined in the scenario. If the players successfully secure the base, and rescue Doctor Callan, there is a chance they can gain possession of the Hevvekii. What they will be able to do with a rather odd ship of uncertain legitimacy could be a matter for future adventures. There are two extra-Imperium worlds within Jump 2, which could serve as possible boltholes.
4) Doctor Callan and his two assistants, Andrea Horsh and Leha Je’lan, are ISS agents, and have been working to uncover the pirate base. Horsh and Je’lan are ex-Marines and so are very competent in combat. Traci Callan is Doctor Callan’s daughter and is not aware of his ‘second’ job.
5) As above, except Traci Callan is an ISS agent and is the liaison operative for Doctor Callan’s ISS team. She is aware that something has gone wrong with Doctor Callan’s mission in the desert and in an effort to save the mission, she brings the players in to try and locate Doctor Callan.
Appendix 1: Animal Encounter Tables
ENCOUNTER TABLE, MOUNTAIN TERRAIN
ENCOUNTER TABLE, DESERT TERRAIN
ENCOUNTER TABLE, BROKEN TERRAIN
Appendix 2: Pirates
There are twenty-two pirates in Captain Shoeul’s band. The crew of the Hevvekii consists of a pilot, navigator and three engineers, plus five boarders. Amongst the ‘ground crew’ are a couple of engineers to maintain the Hevvekii when she is at the base.
Appendix 3: Maps
1. Pirate Base Sketch map
The Pirate base has been excavated around a natural, 100 metre diameter, tomo or pit. There is garaging for a 200-ton ship and accommodation for up to thirty people.
Access is through either the vehicle garage, hidden behind a false wall at the end of a box canyon, or down a ladder from the watch point on the ridge above the base. It is possible to access the base through the landing pit/tomo but this would require specialist climbing gear.
There are surface sensors that will detect the approach of grav vehicles or ships, relaying the information to the Comms room. There are three ships' lasers in remote sites, controlled from the Comms room, to defend against airborne attack.
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