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Beached

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Freelance Traveller.

Required Equipment: The PCs need their own ship.

A large cargo ship on a regular run was apparently delayed beyond the 10% jump margin of error, but arrived in the system a week ago. Since then it has been hanging there, close to one of the gas giants in the system, and has not responded to any calls in the meantime. The company owning the ship is getting slightly nervous: Not all the goods on the ship have been declared accurately. It might be bad if the planetary forces have a closer look at what exactly is on that ship, and only slightly better if the Imperial forces look at it first. And there are a few scavengers in the system who might notice that there is a ship hanging somewhere in the system and not responding to any calls. Someone needs to go up there and have a look at that, and do it fast, lest there be any more losses.

Possible Denouements

If the scenario lasts for more than about a week of game time, a response to an inquiry sent out by the company’s office here will come back from the ship’s previous port-of-call indicating that the ship left there as scheduled, and appeared to jump without incident.

  1. Plague Ship: The ship had an outbreak of a virulent and deadly sickness while in jump, and all aboard are dead or so weakened that they cannot function even minimally. The only way that anyone will be able to board the ship to investigate is via EVA to open an emergency lock. Any PC that breaks vacc suit discipline while aboard the ship should roll 1D each hour, and will be infected on 3+. The referee should decide on initial presentation of the disease and its subsequent progress and treatment, but note that anyone exposed to an infected individual (or corpse) within a week of infection is at the same risk of infection noted above.
  2. Psychotic Break: One of the passengers, for no discernible reason, snapped after three days in jump. He (or she) became panicked and started to murder the passengers and crewmembers. The psychotic passenger is the only one left alive on the ship, and will attack anyone on sight.
  3. Mass Psychosis: Several people aboard experienced psychotic breaks, as above, but at least one of them has directed her violence at various ship’s systems. There are a few remaining (sane) crewmembers holding against a siege in Engineering; they are maintaining life support, but cannot get to the (possibly destroyed) comm equipment.
  4. Mystery Killer: People just started dying, getting murdered, usually but not always in their sleep, but nobody seems to know who it really is, and everybody seems to have an alibi. The bodies of the bridge crew—and of anyone who subsequently tried to enter the bridge—have been found, headless, in various areas of the ship. The few remaining crew members are holed up, one small group in Engineering, one small group in the cargo bay. They will attack anyone that attempts to break in to their areas, or anyone that they see that is armed.
  5. Fast Forward: The ship experienced a temporal mishap when in jump. In-jump time was longer than real time, and nobody survived the trip. Examination will reveal that the ship experienced approximately 300 years in jump.
  6. Marie CÚleste: There will be no sign of struggle or damage, and there will be no sign that anything is missing, including personal possessions of the crew or any passengers. Nothing will appear amiss in entries in the ship’s log, or in any departmental logs or personal diaries. But there will be nobody aboard the ship, and no bodies. Any pets brought aboard by crew or passengers will also be missing, but any live animals in cargo will be present and untouched (as will the rest of the cargo).

Complications

Feel free to let the whole thing get investigated by one or more antagonist groups with own agenda:

  1. Any group whose cargo was declared inaccurately might seek to recover it before the authorities do.
  2. The System Space Command will want to investigate why this hulk is hanging there unresponsive for days
  3. Imperial authorities trying to investigate the same
  4. An Agency-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named investigating some rumours about Psi drugs being smuggled on this ship
  5. Scavengers trying to make some profit from this, under salvage laws.
  6. a rival company tries to steal some trade secrets from the ship computers