Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Solo Traveller - Episode 20: Prologue as epilogue (9Qs #9)

Where does the world stand after the results of Q7 and Q8?
Be the GM first:
Use the random idea generator to inspire the way the world responds to the final
resolution of the conflict between the heroes and the threats. Clearly or cryptically
articulate any change in the status quo of the lives of the heroes or the world itself
from the way things had been before the adventure had begun.
Be the PCs next:
Advance the surviving heroes as per the RPG's rules. Acknowledge any gains or losses
in their lives.
[Q9 sort of spilt over into the next post as well...]

Dimmul/Foreven (2936 C587A7A-C) / Date: 288-1106

The briefing room is little more than a double-sized stateroom with a short, oval table in the centre. The table's holo display and data terminals are inactive. A white noise generator hums quietly over the door. The attendees are a smaller group than were present at the mission briefing aboard the Bettina von Arnim [at the end of Episode 12] in orbit over Uloryy. Eshtam and Lt. Gytovo recognise all but one of them from that meeting.

Commander Darus sits at one head of the table. To either side of him sit a pair of Imperial Navy flag officers, Commodore Lousinda Menneru and Rear Admiral Augustus Kiriikaar. Both, like Darus, are INI (Imperial Naval Intelligence). All three are in service uniforms.

On one side of the table sits Special Executive Thurmond, Eshtam's old SpecOps handler in the IISS. Beside him is his subordinate, Section Leader Fefesetes, the man who had put together the rest of the team for Eshtam's fateful mission to T'nan.

At the other head of the table sits Baron Trevist hault Ornanceu of the Ministry of Justice, resplendent and imposing in his robes of state. To his right sits Dr. Uikstra, looking composed as ever in her crisp business suit and hair in her signature tight bun, though she does have dark circles round her eyes. To the Baron's left sits the unknown quantity: a man in unremarkable civilian clothes, suit jacket over the back of his chair and shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbow.

Eshtam and Lt. Gytovo are seated across from the IISS contingent. When the door closes and locks, Commander Darus rises to address the room. ""Ladies, gentlemen, my lord, I hope you'll forgive the height--"

"Mike," interrupts Dr. Uikstra, "we've been in Vunsetgie for two weeks and are out-of-sync with the Maud's ship time. You promised us coffee."

"That I did," replies Commander Darus, "That I did."

Admiral Kiriikaar stands. "You keep going, I'll serve. I already know what you're going to say for the first part.

"Ta, Gus," says Dr. Uikstra. "Mine's white with two sugars."

"Dr. Uikstra," says the Admiral as he pours the first cup, "INI may not quite have the resources  of the Ministry, but give us some credit. We have dossiers on all of you, and -- I assure you -- we know how you all take your coffee."

Even the Baron smiles for a moment at the pleasantry. Commander Darus continues. "As I was saying, you'll have to forgive all the precautions, but we can't let word of this mission get anywhere outside this room, for a number of reasons of which I know most of you are aware. There had been leaks in the past -- on the INI side, so I'll own up to it -- but there's no way to be sure that there won't be any more."

"The Controller assures me that we haven't plugged all the leaks," says the Baron. "that, according to her analysis, there's no way Ladver doesn't have more people on his payroll. When last we met, if you will recall, there were some unanswered questions about Ms. Dreejeh's service history, particularly the latter half of it. If this operation is to go forward, I'll need some hard information to run by the Controller for analysis. Or some assurances..."

"Come on, Trev," says Thurmond. "I'm vouching for her, then and now. Has one of mine ever let you down before?"

The Baron merely snorts in reply.

"The Controller?" asks Commodore Menneru. "I thought no one outside this room was to know of the operation. And anyway, why isn't she here in the first place?"

"She isn't here because she only attends briefings when she's running the show. I have not discussed the particulars of this operation with her, merely sought her advice on a few related matters. I make no secret that I think this plan of Mike's is a great risk, and I am merely doing my due diligence to see that it doesn't blow up in our faces the way it did back in '83. Since Thurmond assures me that Ms. Dreejeh is a good asset, I'll accept him him at his word. But if this mission officially existed, I would have to go on record with my reservations."

"But it doesn't," sighs the Commodore.

"If it makes you feel better, Trev," says Thurmond, smiling, "Ms. Dreejeh was only 11 years old back in '83. So I know she wasn't involved."

"I just hope you're right, is all. I've said my piece; we all know where we stand. So, Mike, let's hear the rest."

Commander Darus surveys the room for a few moments, then, when he is satisfied he will have no more interruptions, begins again in earnest. "Whilst our esteemed operatives made great strides in exposing Ladver's machinations on Uloryy and some of his doings on Dimmul itself, we have to admit that he's been several steps ahead of us, and it's only now that we're starting to see the whole picture. Ladver had agents working within several governments on Dimmul, and used them to manipulate these rival nations into open warfare. Each side believed it had his backing, when in fact they were all pawns in his game. Three of these governments no longer exist. The Republic of Erhai got off lightly, with a meson gun used against an essentially military target to remove the dictator. The other two had their capitals nuked, as did a third nation wholly uninvolved in the fighting. As some of you know, a nuclear detonation was planned over the downport in Vusetgie, too, but was foiled by the Controller's people.

"The nuclear detonations stopped the fighting cold. Even conflicts between uninvolved nations saw cease fires. On the very day, the MoJ HQ on Mingiz received documents naming many of Ladver's agents, both on Dimmul and inside Imperial space -- a special courrier just brought summaries and wanted lists yesterday. We understand that other governments were similarly contacted; the CherGaSen government passed us copies of what they had been given. At first we thought it was all a smokescreen, or a ploy to get us to distrust our own people, but the evidence we were given was pretty damning. Arrests are being made, but we're keeping it as quiet as possible.

"The source of this information -- incredible as it first seemed -- was Ladver himself. These were loyal agents of his, either well-paid or well-blackmailed, and almost none had aroused any suspicions.

"Fortunately, our two operatives here, whilst not tracking down Ladver himself, brought us back the next best thing. Dame Heldamin Ngiff, black sheep of one of the Zoan technocratic families, was Ladver's favourite. It had been thought he was grooming her as his "heir to the throne". She played her part in this affair, believing, as she has stated under interrogation, that this was to be a localised strike to take down both of the Erhai nations, and that their former colonies were footing the bill. The nukes caught her by surprise -- not that she would have cared, had she known -- and her last contact with Ladver before he left the system was him telling her he'd given the MoJ and the families on Zoe a full account of her career.

"Dame Heldamin has furnished us with the key to this entire sorry affair. Simply put, she believes Ladver is bored, and intending to move on. To this end, he is dismantling the criminal empire he built, lest any other should reap the rewards of all his hard work. She's seen him do this when he left Pa'trix, and he intimated that he'd done it when he moved his base of operations off Cuuwri as well. She says that Ladver had often been unguarded with her, something she'd never seen him do around anyone else, and she assumed that she was indeed being set up to take over when he retired. He even called her his daughter, once.

"We could eventually extract the information we need from her, but it wouldn't be easy. And it might no longer be current by the time we did. She knows this, and so has offered us a deal: a pardon and safe passage to Gushemege sector in exchange for her full cooperation. We've no choice but to deal."

"Sorry, Mike," interrupts the Baron, "but I have to interject again. Dame Ngiff had been under surveillance for some time before she gave us the slip on Tierdan. Just how can we be putting our faith in such a person?"

"Simple," says Dr. Uikstra. "Revenge. That, plus the fact that we have her on so many capital crimes right now it's a wonder she hasn't already been shoved out the airlock."

"Like that mercenary?"

"He was no one," says Darus bluntly. "A hired gun, but one she had a history with. She didn't know the other, that Vetne character. And besides, we're going to turn him over to the people of Erhai for trial, once they from a new government. But point needed to be made to her. I'd say she got the message."

"I understand the necessity," says the Baron, "but it just strikes me as a bad idea to send her along. Almost as bad as using civilians... but I don't want to spoil the surprise for our operatives."

"Right," says Darus, "the mission, then. Heldamin has indicated that after an escapade of this scale, Ladver tends to go to ground for a while. Partly to watch the news reports of his handiwork ripple across the sector, and partly for an extended course of treatments by his personal physician, to combat the side effects of long-term anagathics usage. You know how he has always kept his movements a secret, even from his subordinates, but this time he let slip certain hints in Heldamin's presence. She believes he is going to hole up on Ikaktu. So that's where you'll be going, with the good Dame in tow as an adviser.

"He will certainly be controlling some of the syndicates there, and may very well have agents in one or more of the governments. We need to get the team in as unobtrusively as possible to avoid setting off his alarm bells. There are, of course, secret channels we could use to smuggle you in, but it's a safe bet he's monitoring them. So instead, I've arranged for you to travel aboard a civilian far trader, the one you found and brought up here. Her crew need to work off a little of the debt to society they incurred for their role in this nasty business.

"They'll be told you have a mission, but no details. They won't even know your ultimate destination, only that you decide the route. They have officially "volunteered" for the navy's scheme to get all the stranded foreign mercenaries off Dimmul. Your first stop is Lasperth, after refuelling at Hope, naturally. After that you have two further destinations near the extra-Imperial Xboat network, Obox and Zalba. Thurmond's arranged to send people on ahead via fast courrier. Obox is only a preliminary, in case we get any intel we can pass on to you. Zalba is more important. We'll be smuggling an MoJ operative to Rafan who will liaise with the IISS Section Leader there. Any final information will be communicated to you at Zalba. This will all be strictly one-way; don't try to pass anything back.

"If you don't meet your contacts within a two-week window, or if you fail to give them a certain code phrase when you do meet, they will have instructions to release information about a two million credit dead-or-alive bounty on Dame Heldamin; she knows this, as it is our insurance policy to keep her on side.

"After your final briefing at Zalba, proceed to Ikaktu. You can cut the traders loose then, or have us hang on to them for you. The Commodore's sending along a new ship's doctor to back you up. He'll stay with the ship to keep them quiet. He knows no details of your mission, only that he needs to babysit the merchants and keep them from talking out of school.

"We don't know the situation on Ikaktu, but by the time you arrive there will be a clearer picture waiting for you. Once you're on the ground, find Ladver. Find his organisation, find his physician, do what it takes, just uncover his lair, track him there, and terminate his operations."

The unnamed civilian speaks up for the very first, and only, time in the briefing. "Terminate, with extreme prejudice."

"Right, those are the broad strokes. Now to go over the finer points. I believe it's customary to start with the Ministy. Dr. Uikstra, over to you..."


  1. See . . . I was right about the 'offer' . . . wasn't I? . . . (yes, I have played a game or two in my time).

    -- Jeff

    1. Ah, yes. Well, then... you will probably notice in the next post that the two PCs have been given Cr10,000 each by the navy, which is just Traveller-speak for 1000 gold pieces and a +1 sword.