This article originally appeared in the April/May 2015 issue.
The adventurers are called upon to rescue a singer with a unique vocal talent from pirates intent on using her to secure a legendary treasure.
Evensong is a Classic Traveller adventure for a group of 3-5 characters with varied career backgrounds. It is assumed that the group has been working together for some time prior to the adventure. The initial action takes place on any Imperial world, but moves to a deserted area elsewhere. No particular skills or equipment are necessary for the adventure, but the team will find access to a starship and perhaps appropriate survival gear useful.
The referee will need to select or create the following items:
- A pirate crew; calibrated to the PCs’ capabilities. Their leader, Omatari Zealous, is detailed under NPCs below
- A starship serving as a pirate corsair; perhaps more powerful than the PCs’
- A desolate area; an unpopulated region of a mainworld or an entire world with Population 0
- A system of caverns, possibly populated with animals (Book 3: Worlds and Adventures)
- A starship buried in the caverns, with deckplans
- The capabilities of a ship’s Anti-Hijack program (Book 2: Starships), specifically, its deadliness
- The personality of a legendary pirate
- A pirate hoard
Intro: Heaven Had Wanted One Immortal Song
The team’s previous mission was a complete success, and the rewards were great: not only were they paid everything they asked, the client threw in tickets (worth hundreds of credits and almost impossible to get) to the latest Kristallin concert. The client also told the adventurers if they mentioned his name to Kristallin’s staff, they might get to meet the singer backstage after the show.
An opening act takes the stage first, playing several sets to the audience’s great enjoyment. Then after what seems to be a few minutes of minor confusion, they play another set. Then another… and another. As the time for Kristallin’s appearance draws near, the crowd grows increasingly ugly, hurling boos, catcalls and insults, ready to hurl objects.
Just as the audience is about to storm the stage, the band is hurriedly called off. An announcement goes out over the PA system that due to illness, Kristallin will not be performing; the patrons are invited to report to the admission windows for a full refund.
As the assemblage begins angrily filing out, one of Kristallin’s stage crew members nervously asks the PCs to accompany him backstage. If the group follows, they are taken to meet her manager, Gezar dos Santos, an anxious man with a worry-creased face. He asked to meet with the adventurers because of their transaction with their previous client, who happens to be a personal friend of Kristallin. Dos Santos hopes the PCs can solve his problem as well.
The reason given for Kristallin’s no-show is a lie. The truth is that no one knows her whereabouts. Handlers sent to her dressing room to escort her to the stage reported that she was nowhere to be found. A hasty search turned up nothing.
Dos Santos is convinced that the singer is the victim of foul play; her security team, while capable, is stretched thin. Frankly, they weren’t prepared for something like this; their duties normally went no farther than keeping the occasional overly-ardent admirer at bay. Dos Santos feels he needs the team’s expertise to help locate and rescue her, if possible. He offers them Cr3,000 each on the spot to bolster his security staff and find Kristallin.
Fortunately for the group, they will quickly find evidence that Kristallin is still somewhere within the venue. Unfortunately, it’s a big property, with many places to hide:
To locate Kristallin within the building:
DIFFICULT; INT; 5 minutes
REFEREE: If the heroes split up, each subgroup or individual gets to throw for the task.
If successful, the team finds Kristallin in a little-used basement storeroom, guarded by several rough-looking individuals (a number equal to the PCs who find them, minimum 2) armed with SMGs, who are awaiting an opportunity to move her out of the building once the heat is off. Half of the assailants engage the PCs while the others attempt to spirit Kristallin away. They are not above threatening her life if necessary; nor are they above killing any PCs who interfere.
If the team doesn’t find Kristallin, they are eventually summoned back to dos Santos. He shows them a security holo featuring a group of men taking a bound and gagged Kristallin out of a rear service entrance. Before leaving, one of the men holds a handwritten sign up to the camera stating they will kill the vocalist if the police are called.
Dos Santos doesn’t dare disobey. But he offers the heroes ten times his previous offer to find Kristallin and bring her back before the hooligans visit whatever harm they are intending upon her.
Interlude: However Rude the Sound
It is important to the plot that the referee allow the ruffians to escape with Kristallin, and he or she should manipulate the encounter to favor the enemies, within reason. However, it’s possible that no matter what the referee does, the PCs are either strong enough or clever enough to win. What then?
Several options are available: the opponents could always try again, perhaps using reinforcements, or perhaps wait for an opportunity when Kristallin is alone (while she is sleeping, for example). One of the PCs’ or Kristallin’s friends could be kidnapped and an exchange offered. The foes could be upgraded, giving them advanced or uncommon weapons, for example. They are also wily enough to engineer a diversion, such as a riot or a fake call to the police, and abduct the singer while the commotion is being sorted out. The referee will doubtless come up with other options not detailed here.
Chorus: The Liquid Music of Her Voice
Assuming the adventurers accept the assignment from dos Santos, they are faced with the problem of finding who took Kristallin, which perhaps offers a clue to where they took her:
To identify Kristallin’s kidnappers:
ROUTINE; Ex-Pirate (terms), Streetwise
REFEREE: The task assumes a former career of Pirate. Former Navy, Rogue, and Law Enforcement characters may also attempt the task (replacing the Ex-Pirate modifier above), but in these cases, the Task Difficulty becomes DIFFICULT. Any other prior career may attempt the task with FORMIDABLE difficulty.
Success allows the group to identify the abductors: members of a particularly-lethal pirate band wanted by the Imperial Navy and several system navies (see NPCs below). What they would want with a famous entertainer is unclear, but anyone knowing about them knows that the clock is ticking; they will surely kill Kristallin the second her usefulness to them is at an end. The adventurers’ must locate her and her kidnappers as quickly as possible; discover where the pirates intend to go; and what they want to make Kristallin do.
Once the marauders escape with Kristallin, they pile her into an air/raft and make for their small craft. Where this is depends on the world; if the environment is non-hostile, the ship is hidden in a wilderness area; if hostile—or the referee simply wants to raise the stakes—the vessel is in a starport hangar controlled by criminals affiliated with, or just plain afraid of, the raiders. The referee should adjust this group to give the heroes a challenge.
If the PCs don’t chase the buccaneers with alacrity, they first have to figure out where they went:
To locate the pirates:
DIFFICULT; Ex-Pirate (terms), Streetwise, Tactics; 10 minutes
REFEREE: Ex-Rogues may attempt the task, but they use terms/2 (round down). If any others attempt the task, the difficulty becomes FORMIDABLE. Regardless, anyone asking takes a -2 to reactions, with former Navy or Law Enforcement taking twice that.
If the group at any time throws both a Critical Success on the above task and a Reaction of 9+, they will learn the legend of Cervantes Diabolique (see below), offering a motivation for the raiders.
The time to the ship’s boat is 8D minutes. The pirates require a subsequent 5D minutes securing Kristallin and prepping the ship for launch. It takes an hour to rendezvous and dock with their main vessel in orbit. The vessel jumps outsystem as soon as possible. The adventurers thus have up to two hours to try and intercept the brigands before they leave the planet.
If the heroes intercept the brigands before they leave the planet’s surface, a firefight is inevitable. But see “Interlude: However Rude the Sound”, above. If the team misses the pirates on the surface, but catches up to them insystem, the pirates fight a ferocious space battle until they can bring the jump drive online and jump outsystem.
If the heroes miss the pirates altogether and the opponents end up escaping with Kristallin, all is not lost. There is a way to determine their possible course heading. If the group is still onplanet, they can use the locate task above to find out through street contacts where Kristallin was being taken (if succesful, see “Bridge: Who, As They Sung, Would Take the Prison’d Soul”, below) but the time becomes 100 minutes. If they confronted the pirate ship in space, they may be able to use their ship’s sensors to determine the other vessel’s jump vector using its latent energy signature:
To determine the pirates’ jump vector:
FORMIDABLE: Navigation, Computer, Electronics; 1 hour
Success means the team determines a reasonable destination (or small set of destinations) for the buccaneers. Of course, they’ll still have to make the jump.
If the heroes don’t have their own starship, dos Santos can authorize the use of one of the show’s cargo vessels and a pilot, if necessary. The referee should decide the speed and power of this ship relative to the pirates’.
Bridge: Who, As They Sung, Would Take the Prison’d Soul
The raiders avoid as many patrols and traffic control sensors as they can en route to their destination. If the world is interdicted, this will slow the rogues down greatly as they must also skirt any automated monitors.
When the PCs arrive depends on how diligently they pursued the pirates and what kind of transportation they secured. They may be mere hours behind the marauders, or much farther behind. The adventure from this point on assumes the heroes aren’t far behind the cutthroats.
The spot chosen by the brigands is in badlands far from civilization (if any). They are unconcerned about hiding their ship; they believe they have shaken pursuit and made planetfall undetected. Thus, their vessel is out in the open, with only a token guard. A cave entrance is 100 meters away.
Collision: A Window to the Secret Places
The cave mouth accesses a natural cave system. One cavern opens into a section of a starship hull with an airlock door; not enough of the vessel is visible to tell its class, or how long it has been in the caverns. However, anyone with Demolitions skill (Book 4: Mercenary) can tell the craft was deliberately buried, using expertly-placed explosives. An additional electronic lock (see Ship’s Locker below) has been added to the hatch; its rude appearance belies the intricacy of its inner workings. It is wired with enough high explosives to end attempts to tamper with it with a massive cave-in; again, Demolitions skill can detect this.
If the referee decides that the ruffians haven’t yet gained access, the PCs’ appearance will surely start a firefight. Kristallin is in danger from ricochets and being used as a human shield. The pirates, however, will ask no quarter and give none. While they aren’t willing to fight to the death (yet), they will fight ferociously, especially if Captain Zealous—who is present—is endangered.
If the heroes don’t encounter the outlaws while they are trying to access the hatch, there is still time; Kristallin must sing the song perfectly—the proper notes in the proper order in the proper key—to disengage the lock—a daunting task even when she doesn’t have guns pointed at her; the pirates’ threats are making her nervous, so she is making mistakes:
To sing the proper code to open the lock:
IMPOSSIBLE; Perform (Singing); 30 seconds
REFEREE: Multiple attempts may be made, with +1 added to each subsequent attempt. Thus, Kristallin will not succeed on her first try, but will learn the notes necessary through practice.
Failed attempts may buy the adventurers enough time to catch up to the villains.
Captain Zealous and her crew aren’t known for patience or charity. After each unsuccessful attempt to sing the lock open, the referee should throw Zealous’ reaction; 7- means she orders her crew to rough Kristallin up, for 1D damage each time. Should the beatings render her unconscious, she will be carried to the craft outside and allowed to recover before being brought back into the cave to try again.
Success on the singing throw deactivates the Bardlock and automatically opens the ship’s airlock. Unknown to the intruders, accessing the ship awakened its computer, which had been operating in low-power mode since its burial. It is a cutting edge (for its time) machine, with personality emulation software advanced enough to allow it to convincingly masquerade as an uploaded Diabolique. It is not a true AI, however. Once the heroes/pirates board the vessel, the computer awakens and runs the ship’s Anti-Hijack program. Meanwhile, “Diabolique” challenges and taunts them.
The threat ends when the computer is shut down or destroyed, or all of its offensive capabilities have been disabled. A canny referee could manipulate events to force both groups to work together to bring this about.
Coda: A Defiance to the Giddy Wheel of Fortune
Once the computer has been dealt with, the crew can access the hoard locked in the ship’s cargo hold. There might be additional rewards such as returning particularly valuable items to their original owners (possibly leading to several subsequent adventures) and turning over information on the ship to the authorities. Records show that it is a private vessel that disappeared from a neighboring subsector years ago. If the PCs captured any of the pirates, especially Captain Zealous, they will find a substantial reward awaits them courtesy of the Imperial authorities.
Of course, the greatest reward is the safe return of Kristallin to her crew and fans. An overjoyed dos Santos will gladly pay as promised. And since the show must go on, as soon as it can be arranged, the PCs will be offered front row seats to a concert that is now dedicated to them.
The referee should determine the flow of subsequent events.
- 7A8A55 Age 30 Cr200,000
3 terms Other (Entertainer);
Member Travellers’ Aid Society
Perform (Singing)-5, Blade Cbt-1; Jack-O-T-2;
Kristallin is one of a handful of humans gifted with a ten-octave range. In addition, an unusual palate structure gives her a particularly resonant voice; she has singing ability well beyond that of normal vocalists. She has parlayed this ability into a lucrative career and a way out of a hard-knock life on her own homeworld. When singing, she adds her skill level to audience Reactions. She is built using the tables in “The “Other” Option: An Extended Career for Classic Traveller” (Freelance Traveller, January/February 2014 issue.)
- Capt. Omatari Zealous
- 486BC8 Age 46 Cr150,000
7 terms Pirate Leader
Brawling-3, Gun Cbt-2, Blade Cbt-1, Pilot-3
Despite being small of stature (she stands only 152 cm tall and masses 50 kg under 1g), Zealous has an outsized ruthlessness and cunning that has helped her destroy enemies and evade concerted Imperial efforts to capture her. She is obsessed with Terra’s ancient Egyptians, and adopts Egyptian-styled accessories. Recovering Cervantes Diabolique’s fabled treasure represents her Big Score; she will let nothing stand in her way.
Zealous heard the Legend of Cervantes Diabolique (see below) many times, but never dreamed she’d ever find the fabled hoard, until she happened to stumble across some notes written in an arcane code in an old book. The notes proved to belong to none other than Diabolique, and while they didn’t say exactly where the treasure was, there were enough clues that Zealous eventually deduced them. It was then that she discovered that the legend of the Bardlock (see Ship’s Locker below) was true. Undaunted, Zealous chased down the required song, then turned to finding someone able to sing it; thus the current scheme.
Her crew is ruthless, uncouth, and fanatically loyal. Their modus operandi includes not leaving witnesses, and as a result are among the Imperial Navy’s Most Wanted pirate bands. They are typically armed with SMGs and knives.
Ship’s Locker: The Bardlock
(TL unknown): Secures valuables with a unique song as its code. 2 kg (not counting additional fasteners such as chains, etc.) Cr Unknown.
This device is unique in the Imperium. Previously the property of the notorious Cervantes Diabolique, it’s not known whether he built, commissioned, or found it; but it is considered (in legend, anyway) to be the most secure lock ever devised.
The so-called Bardlock is a digital lock that responds to sound, but not the simple voice command of the sort that can be found all over the Imperium. The device requires a particular song sung in a particular key in a particular octave range. These requirements are far beyond the capabilities of the average singer. The lock’s digital protections can be augmented with physical fasteners such as chains, ropes, or cables, but it has a dedicated computer and a powerful electromagnet that effectively renders access to whatever it is securing impossible.
The Bardlock has defenses against physical tampering in the form of high explosives that deal 12D to anyone attempting it.
Successfully opening the lock deactivates its defenses both electronic and physical. The device can then be reprogrammed by anyone with sufficient Computer skill.
The referee is encouraged to set the Bardlock’s Tech Level to as advanced a level as desired.
The Legend of Cervantes Diabolique
There is not a pirate in the sector that hasn't heard the legend of Admiral (his men didn’t dare refer to him as a mere captain) Cervantes Diabolique. This notorious pirate lord cut a bloody swath some 150 years ago. Rumor has it he was responsible for thousands of deaths and the destruction of a handpicked Imperial task force assigned to bring him to heel—and the families of the task force’s leaders afterward. His appetite for plunder was vast; he is whispered to have caused the bankruptcy of several planets by emptying out their treasuries.
The legend goes that Diabolique decided to retire, hiding his amassed ill-gotten gains until the heat died down and he could return for it. To secure his booty further, he used the most complex lock anyone had ever seen, installing it on the entrance to the hiding place. And as yet one final safeguard, he entrusted the location of the horde to only one other: his First Mate, who proved to be as greedy as Diabolique. This worthy quickly decided such a treasure should finance his retirement instead; to that end, he quietly slipped Diabolique’s whereabouts to the Imperial Navy and waited for the empire to do his dirty work. But word reached Diabolique of the treachery, and a final confrontation took place between the two men on a lonely asteroid, just before Imperial missiles sent them both to the Great Black.
Rumors that one or both actually survived aside, the fabled riches were (depending on who one asked) still out there somewhere, although most people consider them just a myth. An embellishment of the fable states that the spirit of Cervantes Diabolique still guards the treasure, along with the cunning lock.