Dimmul/Foreven (2936 C587A7A-C) / Date: 281-1106
"I think," says Lt. Gytovo, "that we should try to be diplomatic. Odds are they got left in the lurch like everybody else in this whole sad affair. I say we trade amnesty for a ride to high command."
Everyone agrees. They hike for two more hours to get to the road leading up the side of the mountain. Major Vetne is again tied to a tree, and gagged for good measure. One of the severely injured soldiers is feeling well enough that she can sit against a tree opposite the prisoner, and keep him covered with an ACR. Eshtam and Lt. Gytovo lead the other four mercenaries up the road.
The guards walking outside the ship are getting careless. Lt. Gytovo has led his unit most of the way across the parking lot without them noticing. He shouts out "Parley!" to get their attention, waving the whitest shreds of fabric he could find.
[the soldiers are Surprised; encounter range = medium;
reaction=4, hostile, attack on 8+ (roll=3, do not attack)
Our heroes do not know this, but the soldiers are Caidro, Nakko, and a random (1d6=)guy (#232) from the Veterans supplement
Q: What does Caidro want? Delay/Tactics]
The three soldiers are all wearing ballistic cloth armour jackets, but in three different styles. One wears generic-looking camouflage and has a pistol holstered on his hip (vet#232), the other is wearing grey coveralls and holds an ACR (Nakko), and the leader, who steps forward to talk, wears a tacky souvenir t-shirt ("Dive in to Oothoom!") and has a submachinegun on a sling (Caidro). He looks over the the new arrivals -- four in combat armour, two in fatigues, all with gauss rifles -- and runs his hand through his hair nervously. "You look like you've seen better days," he says.
"Yeah. We're just trying to get home."
"Yeah. I understand. Let me get the boss," he lies. Caidro trots back up the ramp and into the ship. He returns with four more armed soldiers.
"Now how about you put those guns down and those hands up?" says Caidro.
[Q: What does the crew of the Hekabe do? Mistrust / Dispute (as seen in Star Trader part 13)]
Lt. Gytovo starts backing away slowly. The soldiers behind him make no movement either to raise or put down their rifles. "Come on," says the Lieutenant, "we've all seen enough action for a while. The fighting's over."
"Shut up," says Caidro. "I'll do the talking here. You're outnumbered."
Just then a bedraggled-looking woman comes bounding down the ramp out of the ship, brandishing a shotgun like one unused to firearms. "What's going on?" shouts Inty. "Who are they?"
"We're Imperial observers," says Lt. Gytovo. "We're trying to stop a war from consuming this whole planet, and maybe spilling over into other systems."
"Shut up," shout Caidro, "Shut up! Shut up!"
Then everyone starts talking at once, each shouting to be heard over the others.
[Q: Do things get messy? 50/50: 07, Exceptional Yes.
Q: Who fires first? (1d6): 1-2 'Imperial' team, 3-4 Caidro's mercs, 5 Inty fires shotgun into the air to get people's attention, 6 everyone
For the combat, I am using the expanded combat rules out of German Traveller book 2, which are I believe taken from Azhanti High Lightning, and rather similar to Striker. I am ignoring Action Points in favour of the classic Traveller 1 action/round for expediency.
All merc stats (#s) from Veterans, except Caidro who got his own character sheet when he was introduced. Heldamin's mercs were all selected from the TL15 Artillery characters. The Tetrarchy mercs are the first 4 TL13 ones; they each start with a light wound. Attack bonus (Att) for everyone includes skill&DEX modifiers. *Eshtam only gets her full bonus for single shots, not autofire]
Name (#) Sx Wounds Weapon Att ML
----------- -- ------ ------ --- --
Alfie (152) m light Gauss Rfl +0 8
Betman(153) m light Gauss Rfl +0 6
Gamis (154) f light Gauss Rfl +0 3
Dellt (155) m light Gauss Rfl +1 5
Eshtam f Gauss Rfl +5*
Lt. Gytovo m Gauss Rfl +3
Ypsla (211) f Revolver +0 7
Phil (213) m ACR +1 6
Xi Xi (204) f ACR +0 3
Psiro (206) m ACR +0 4
Omig (232) m Auto Pst +1 12
Nakko (222) m ACR +0 16
Caidro m SMG +0 7
Since everyone is out in the open, they need to make a ML check in order to attack instead of just diving for cover this round. Since Inty and Eshtam are PCs, they don't have a morale score but would both seek cover. Lt. Gytovo is a quasi-PC, and I know he'd stand and fight.]
Half of each side rush for cover as weapons are drawn; Caidro's mercenaries duck behind the landing gears of the Hekabe, Lt. Gytovo's squad rush behind the empty crates and the meson gun's generator (being a fusion generator, it is more than resistant to small arms fire).
Lt. Gytovo, Alfie, and Betman spray the mercs with bursts from their gauss weapons; Ypsla and Omig return fire with their pistols, Nakko with an ACR.
Bullets fly every which way, but only Ypsla is hit (by Lt. Gytovo), and falls to the ground seriously wounded.
All the shooters who began in the open have now moved under cover.
Gamis and Dellt catch Xi Xi in a crossfire; she is killed instantly. Lt. Gytovo's fire grazes Omig's arm [light wound, no KO]. Phil hits Gamis squarely in the chest; she goes down bleeding heavily (serious wound).
Inty has been yelling for everyone to stop. Her voice is just starting to be heard above the din.
Phil, Psiro, and Caidro panic [fail Morale checks], and retreat up the ramp into the ship.
Lt. Gytovo hits Omig again, but his armour absorbs the impact. Eshtam draws a bead on Nakko and squeezes off a single shot; he falls, barely clinging onto life (serious wound).
Inty is still yelling for everyone to stop shooting.
[Q: Do people stop? Very Unlikely: 19, Yes.]
Omig is only the only mercenary from the ship left standing outside. He makes a show of putting his gun on the ground, then cautiously emerges from behind the landing gear.
Lt. Gytovo lowers his gun but does not discard it. The others follow his lead.
"Imperial observers, huh?" asks Inty. "How do we know you are who you say you are?"
"Who the fuck are you, anyway?" counters Eshtam.
"We need to all sit and discuss this rationally," says Lt. Gytovo, "before anyone else gets needlessly hurt."
"He's right," says Eshtam, more calmly. "And I need to contact the Maud. We have vital information."
"Ummm..." says Inty.
"I think we have a problem."
"What?" say Eshtam And Lt. Gytovo in chorus.
"We were hired to bring these mercenaries... we were told it was just a transport job... I... I think we were set up."
"Look," says the Lieutenant, "I got a bunch of tired and wounded soldiers that just want to go home. Can you get everybody out here so we can talk?"
"I can... I can get most of them. I'm afraid our employer is indisposed."
"Your employer?" asks Eshtam. "Who...?"
"She's a Zoan diplomat. Or so she said."
"Oh. Not who I'd hoped. Get them all out here, then."
Inty goes back towards the ramp to find Caidro and Diula peeking out, looking a bit pale. She tells them to come outside without any hardware, and have Orneev fetch the medkits out of the ship's locker. Caidro comes out empty handed, the rest follow. The mercenaries outside lay their guns in a pile. Lt. Gytovo orders one to check the wounded, another to fetch the rest of their party. Caidro does the same. No one present has any medical skill, but Inty and Eshtam, at least, have had first aid training [medic-0 from the Jack of all Trades skill], so they tend to the injured as best they are able. Bandages are applied, and the casualties are helped into bunks on the ship. Xi Xi's body is covered with a blanket and put in the cargo hold.
Then everyone reconvenes outside. Inty gets them to all sit in a circle, and tries to mediate the discussion as best she is able. She's almost surprised when it works [though she shouldn't be; she has Leader-2]. Everyone is told they get a vote, but the options aren't as clear cut as perhaps they should be. Some wish to stay right where they are, some wish to get to neutral territory, and some insist that the only way forward is to fly the Hekabe up to the Imperial battlecruiser in orbit.
[Those who are seriously wounded, a prisoner (Major Vetne), or passed out drunk in their staterooms (Heldamin) aren't voting. Eshtam and Gytovo have an obvious vote, the rest roll 1d6 on the appropriate table.
1 leave ship and walk to neutral territory
2 surrender to Imperium
3 stay at resort indefinitely
4 start combat anew*
5 agree with majority
6 stall for time
*this will look like stalling for time unless there are a lot who wish to fight. There's a pile of gauss rifles not 20m away.
The Hekabe's crew have slightly different options. I'm rolling twice for Inty and takinge the lower result, as she is leaning towards letting the Imperium settle the matter, but is afraid of the possible consequences.
1-2 surrender to imperium
4 agree with majority
5 kill outsiders
6 kill Heldamin's mercs
Results of the vote:
Surrender: Eshtam, Gytovo, Phil, Inty
Stay at resort: Psiro, Caidro
Agree with majority: Diula
Kill Heldamin's mercs: Orneev (not voiced, appears to be stalling)
Stall: Betman, Gamis, Omig
"Well," says Inty, "It looks like the motion to surrender has carried the day."
"I don't think so," says Betman, "there are some of us who still haven't voted."
"So vote!" says Inty. "If you don't like the options presented, feel free to propose a new one. But if even one of you votes to surrender, that's it. All the others together wouldn't be enough to swing either of the other camps."
"What if we come up with a good idea?" says Betman. "Can other people change their votes?"
"I don't care," says Eshtam. "They can if they want to. So do you have another idea?"
"Wait, wait," interjects Caidro, "what if we don't have a majority in the end. Can those that want to leave still leave?"
Eshtam shrugs. "I don't know. I guess."
"Hey," says Betman, "Why does everyone keep looking to her for answers. Who put her in charge?"
Lt. Gytovo points up at the sky.
[Q: What do the stallers want? Release / Pain: Not to get in trouble. The mercs want to activate their repatriation bonds in neutral territory.
Q: Did Heldamin say anything about the bonds? 50/50: 95, Exceptional no. NB: her silence following the revelation from her employer is reflected in the last Star Trader post -- I played the crossover bits in tandem. It will all be revealed in a few paragraphs.
The stallers re-roll: Betman changes to Surrender, Gamis, Omig, and Orneev each roll a 6.]
Betman looks confused, then suddenly understands the implication of the Lieutenant's skyward gesture. He falls silent for a moment, then clears his throat. "Maybe we should let the Imperium handle this after all," he says. No one else speaks up.
"Right," Eshtam says as she stands up and brushes the dust from her fatigues, "I'm going onto the bridge and calling the Maud right now. Any objections?"
[Q: Any objections? 50/50: No.]
Eshtam goes to into the ship, with Inty and Caidro in tow. She sits in the first officer's seat, and switches on the ship's communicator. "This could take a while," she says. "I suggest you get comfortable." Inty sits in her captain's seat, and unconsciously begins to fidget with the chair's swivel controls. Caidro slumps in the navigator's chair.
[Eshtam needs a Commo roll of 9+ to get through over all the chatter: 10+1=success; it still takes 1d6x10=30minutes.]
After half an hour of waiting in the communications queue, Eshtam finally sees the receiver light start blinking. The face of a harried comms officer aboard the Maud appears on her screen. "This is the Imperial battlecruiser Maud," he says, barely suppressing a yawn.
"Maud, I'd like to request a song."
"A song? What--? We're in the midst of a planet-wide crisis. This is no time for stupid j--"
"It's a code phrase! Look it up!"
"A code... uh, let me... oh! Ma'am! I'm sorry, ma'am, it's been a long shift. Commander Darus isn't on the bridge right now. I'll track him down for you. Just a moment..."
Whilst she's waiting, Eshtam glances over to see Inty and Caidro staring at one another in amazement at what has just transpired. Inty is about to say something when the Maud's comm officer interrupts. "Ma'am, commander Darus is in his quarters. He'll take the call there. Putting you through..."
The screen goes black for a moment, then Commander Darus appears, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Sorry, been on duty for about 30 hours straight. They only relieved me an hour ago. So, Ms. Dreejeh, you had a request?"
"Something the whole family will enjoy."
"You're lucky not to be alone for the holidays."
"Has anyone ever told you your code phrases are rather twee?"
"Come now, Ms. Dreejeh. What's the point of working for Naval Intelligence if you can't talk like a spy off the vids now and then? So who's with you?"
"Me and the Lieutenant found a far trader on the ground, the -- hey, Captain, what's she called?"
"The Hekabe. We have a prisoner, mercenaries from two sides, some lost imperial free traders, and the ship itself. The mercs just want to activate their repatriation bonds. Are you collecting them up there, or should we drop them at the port?"
"You haven't heard?" says Darus, "All the bonds are rubbish. The money was never put in escrow, and the governments that had contracted the mercenaries no longer exist."
[Q: Does anything happen at that revelation? 50/50: Yes.
Q: What? Break / Portals]
Caidro looks shocked, then leaps from his seat. "I'm getting the hell off this ship," he says as he sprints from the bridge. Inty looks shocked, but Eshtam just rolls her eyes and goes back to the communicator.
"We need to come upstairs."
"That would be best. I'll put you back through to the bridge and let them know you're to be given top priority to dock with the Maud. You might want to let the captain talk with them to make sure you have all the necessary clearances before you take off. So you don't get shot down."
Inty makes the arrangements whilst Eshtam goes back outside to tell the rest the news. Everyone else has agreed to surrender to the Imperial Navy except Caidro and Alfie. No one tries to stop them. The wounded are helped into the ship, Major Vetne is locked in a stateroom, and then they're underway.
[Q: Any incidents? 50/50: No.]
Eshtam and Inty are alone in the cockpit as the ship lifts off. Inty is flying, Eshtam is monitoring the comms. They are barely 100 metres in the air when she presses the call button. "Maud, we're under way, but there are two enemy combatants -- one a person of interest -- on the ground where we left. They're standing next to a meson accelerator so they shouldn't be hard to spot."
"We see it, ma'am. We'll arrange for a pick up."
"I thought you were going to let them go." says Inty.
"I changed my mind."
[Q: Is Caidro captured? 50/50: 29, Yes.]
The rest of the flight is passed in silence. The Hekabe flies alongside the Maud, practically disappearing against the bulk of the 50,000 tonne battlecruiser. The ships join airlocks, and when the hatch opens a squad of Imperial marines in battle dress step through into the trader. Everyone who can walk is taken aboard the cruiser for processing, whilst the squad medic remains on the Hekabe to see to the wounded. Only Eshtam and Lt. Gytovo are afforded any respect by the marines, and only once they have been positively identified.
"Processing" lasts [2d6=] seven days. Eshtam and Lt. Gytovo are billeted together as, despite the size of the Maud, space is still at a premium, especially given the number of prisoners brought back by various missions. They are both given marine fatigues to wear, but only the Lieutenant has rank insignia, and neither have any unit markings. They spend two days in lengthy debriefings, then are given use of the officers' mess whilst they wait for their next summons. Commander Darus stops by to see them a few times, only for brief social visits, though he does pass them some dossiers as information is compiled. One day he does not appear, and instead sends word that they should have an early night; they're required at a briefing at 08:00 the next morning.