Explorers Inc.

Copyright Joel Lovell © 2017

Edited by Mario Butter for The Guild Companion

"A new habitable world like TS-4427is potentially very valuable, and investors and colony organizationshave already begun bidding millions of credits based on thepreliminary survey information alone to gain first exploitationrights."

Background

The 25th century brought to humanity much of what prior century science fiction visionaries imagined. What was not imagined was the sheer scale of what was accomplished, all made possible with the advent of gravitics and faster-than-light travel. The massive engineering feat of the Ring City alonee—a 256,000-kilometer sprawling torus 50-kilometers in diametere—is so vast that from the view point of the surface its arc is too gentle for the unaided eye to perceive. To those that are more intimate with the sprawling marvel, the true engineering feat is the organizational scope of the infrastructure and social engineering involved in supporting the massive population living on the structure along with the seemingly endless amount of transiting people and goods. A non-stop flow of hyperloop passenger and cargo carrying trains, networked between thousands of massive towering terminal stations and hangar concourses catering to beanstalk nexus hubs to the planet which in turn are tied into thousands of dock and shipyard facilities lining the outer surface of the ring structure. Localized AI systems cooperate in parallel throughout Ring City, facilitating communications, traffic control, financial transactions and security. One small aspect of commerce that characterizes mega scale civilization is industry operating at the speed of communications, made possible by large pools of freelance micro-contract specialists providing every kind of service for every kind of market. Those seeking work can find as much they can handle. The demand is a flood of both obscure and mundane opportunity for those seeking their fortune among the stars. Many end up spending their entire lives on Ring City, having never explored more than a fraction of its seemingly endless cultural and even societal diversity.

Introduction

The heroes learn about a job offer in their office, a lounge, or simply browsing public terminals for freelance gigs, but in this case, we assume they are a bit more upscale and experienced, which typically insures a better clientele and significantly more interesting job offers. In any modern port of call it is easy enough to have set-up shop with a micro-lease office share complete with receptionist, waiting area and conference rooms and offices overlooking the sprawl that surrounds their building. Their instant corporation package for their business, designated ExplorersInc-29A32Z004BHF2211838JJ includes the services of a legal expert to assist with working out fees, permits, visas, pay-outs, beneficiaries, confidentiality agreements, benefits, perks and a lot of other minute details that are auto-negotiated and handled on behalf of the parties of business arrangements. This setup costs about 125 Credits per day, and sometimes for additional fees, includes perks such as a gym and lodging.

The Job

A meeting request is coordinated by the receptionist who informs the group that a retainer clause for their services has been flagged. This means that another job they had bid on previously but had not been awarded had failed to be successfully completed by the freelancers who had won the contract. The client Translight Survey wishes to give them the opportunity to take over the micro-contract. When the client arrives, they learn that a newly registered M-class world had been charted by one of Translight Surveys robotic probes, but when a survey team was dispatched to investigate further they failed to return. The planet was a potential agrarian candidate world, having a large surface area of arable land and no significant life forms. Depending upon your group of player’s characters’ career paths, they could be hired to provide security for the second survey team or be the survey team themselves. Aside from the original Scout mission’s basic information on the system and its one inhabitable world there are not a lot of details other than conditions are earth-like enough that no special environmental equipment is needed. If the PC’s don’t have a ship, they will need to secure one. The mission will pay a base of 2000 Credits per team member, per week, plus bonuses for performance, bonuses for successful rescue of the previous team, and hazard pay if they run into serious problems given that Nexus space has a history of hostile aliens warring against each other. The client will cover expenses such as Portal transit fees and fuel, but nothing else. They are to report back as soon as is practical once the fate of the first expedition is determined. A new habitable world like TS-4427 is potentially very valuable, and investors and colony organizations have already begun bidding millions of credits based on the preliminary survey information alone to gain first exploitation rights.

The System as Recorded by Survey Drone

System: TS-4427
Star type: G4, 31 LY from Nexus
Habitable Zone World: TS-4427-II M-Class
Diameter: 12,960 km
Gravity: 0.85 g
Distance from sun: 1.21 au
Satellites: None
Year: 1.31 Earth years (480 Earth days) Rotation period: 25 hours Atmosphere: Nitrogen/oxygen
Hydrosphere: 30% oceans
Climate: Cool to temperate mix
Species: None
Government: Uninhabited

TS-4427 II (as yet unnamed) is approximately 31 LY from Nexus, and to get there is a half-hour jaunt, one-way ride via Nexus portal, which in turn is a 400-minute ride via Portal from Earth. The return trip from TS-4427 II to Nexus will take them over a month, since there is no portal at TS-4427, as far as the early robotic probes have determined. This planet has breathable atmosphere and a mild climate. Its single large landmass has few geographical features suggesting any plate shifting or active tectonics.

TS-4427 I is a small rocky planetoid tidally locked to the G4 star but it is almost at the starting edge of the habitable zone. TS-4427 II is well within a prime real estate position in the G4 star’s habitable zone, and may have somehow lost its moon at some point in the past which became TS-4427 I.

TS-4427 III is a large blue gas giant with a swarm of asteroids and planetoids surrounding it forming a debris disc.

There are also several hundred planetoids orbiting the star past the orbit of the single gas giant.

The Plot

The first expedition established a base and began survey operations, finding ideal conditionse—a nearly perfect planet ready for an agrarian colony to start producing enough food to provide for many worlds.

Their timing was most unfortunate. A cosmic irony as something massive—completely undetected and of unknown origine—struck the world hard enough to crack the planet. The devastating earthquake shook the planet to the core and the immense shock wave spread across the entire surface of the world. The survey group barely had warning from their preliminary weather satellites of what was coming. They tried to evacuate the planet but their ship was swept up in the shock wave and crash landed.

They had to survive brutal conditions, and are trapped in their ship awaiting rescue.

The adventure will see the players coming upon a savaged planet, red, toxic, and bleeding lava, still wobbling from the hammer blow of the mysterious rogue killer object which will represent a further mystery in that it might not have been naturally occurring.

They must determine what happened, and locate the weak signals of the survey team huddled in their wrecked ship which lies buried under a pile of ash. Some engineering creativity will be required to dig out the trapped crew while dealing with the threat of a new seismic fault line forming under them all. In the meantime, one of the investment groups who have already bid an enormous amount of Creds has learned that the first survey team has failed to report in. Concerned about what is tantamount to a ‘sight-unseen’ ‘as-is’ blind bid based on the probe data for first rights of Colonization and development the investment group has put together a mercenary team to find out what has happened for themselves in order to take advantage of the insider knowledge to dump their investment back on the market if necessary. When the mercenary team arrives, and learn that the investment is about to be a total loss, and they come in for the kill right after the heroes rescue the initial survey team who must defend themselves. Hopefully they succeed and get back to civilization to report their findings, collect bonuses and hazard pay.

When they arrive they find this…