Date: Sun, 2 May 1999 19:27:07 -0400
From: Alvin Plummer
Subject: Short Adventure: Man of the Earth
Location: in orbit of Van Buren, X324000-0, fifth planet in Risek System
UPP: Risek/Rhylanor/Spinward Marches 2712, A325579-A
Baron Khalifa Abdullah stood on his yatch's bridge, surveying the EVA crews flitting across the long-obsolescent cruiser. Rented out from one of the government's of the nearby Porozlo system, most of its weaponry has long ago been stripped and sold, but its spinal meson mount kept and retooled to serve as an underground excavation device.
Every single hour of that stripped cruiser's use is costing Abdullah's family hundreds of thousands of credits. True, the entire project - building a private subterranean habitat for both the new family residence and impressing selected guests - will be lucky to get under the two billion credit mark, but his house didn't get to its current level of wealth without watching where every last credit went, even in the familiy's private projects.
A burbling sound rose from the nonhuman pilot. "My lord, the Draconic is ready to fire, as per the modified timetable."
"Yes, yes, tell them to just do it. Hilel, please contact the Director on the private channel and remind him that I have delegated local authority to him, so he has no need to have me second all his actions."
"No problem, Uncle."
Director Ptahmes Nen-Ptu signed off, rolling his eyes. He acts on his own initative, and he get's a two-hour grilling session about unnecessary expenses. He carefully asks permission before doing something major, and he's pushed to do his own thing, as if he was a shy little boy. Yes, if you want the big-time, reputation-making jobs you HAVE to work with Nobility, but they're such a pain to deal with!
He walked over to the meson post, ignoring the painful eyesores of the largely-gutted weaponry stations. For additional control and fine-tuning, the typical naval firing station has been expanded to a five-man mini-bridge, complete with a seperate washroom and microwave oven. Nen-Ptu stepped up to the post, after kneeling twice to the large holographic idol "blocking" the platform's entrance.
A few word's, some quick technical direction and the board came up live. Because this was detailed meson demolition work at a stationary target - not just blasting away at a moving ship - it took a good hour before firing started. The very high-grade densitometers set up on the ground base relayed data back to the Draconic, which was used to modify meson strength and targeting.
On Van Buren herself, the 52 base personnel continued at their duties. Only thirteen people, mainly support personnel, were at the base proper during the third firing sequence. This was a good thing, as this was the time that the meson cannon "misfired", striking the base and killing four people.
The cause of the misfired meson gun was traced to an altered firing submodule of the targeting program; the out-system programmer who did this is currently being pursued by a variety of bounty hunters (by the Baron, by the Porozlo government who provided the ship, and the corporation who who was in charge of that submodule's programming), with some assistance from the Ministry of Justice.
The reason that the programmer corrupted the code is unknown, and will have to be determined by interrogation after capture. Currently in the subsector there is no organized anti-Imperium movement capable of financing such an act; therefore, it's almost certainly related to the Baron's business interests. No competitor has claimed responsibility, or declared a Corporate War: the MoJ's investigation is on hold pending the capture of the programmer.
No act was committed against the Imperium per se, so the matter is viewed as a local affair, although assistance and information will be shared with the Baron as a courtesy. The wealth and authority the Imperium gives the Baron as liege should be enough to insure the Baron's protection, although MoJ will get involved if his person or family is attacked/killed.
[AKA The Baron is a big boy, and should be able to handle this sort of thing himself: if not, then the Imperium will soon get a new and hopefully more capable Baron.]
The Imperium is simply stretched too thin for the Emperor to babysit the Nobility: the MoJ has enough problems pursuing the latest biowar incident, investigating unofficial slavery/kidnapping rings (a good TL15 scientist is going for 150,000 credits I hear...), making sure that the hundreds of major and minor wars being fought in a given subsector are all following the rules, hunting down the latest Navy kickback scheme, breaking up a highly illegal Corporate trade cartel, keeping down the local anti-Imperial terrorist groups, checking out various religious/mystical groups for Psionic activity, etc., etc.
Because the Imperium (IMTU) strongly discourages major civil bureaucracies from forming within the Imperial government - it tends to undermine Noble authority, cloud Noble responsibility, and cost entirely too much to maintain - the Nobility does not get a personal MoJ security section from the Emperor until the Subsector Duke level. After all, the Noble is getting ample wealth from his holding -- let him look to his own security. And if he can't, why should he be entrusted with the security of the Imperium? Let natural selection handle it - there are a LOT of people with plenty of bucks and brains who would LOVE to get their hot little hands on an Imperial Title.
Of course, things are different if the Noble is placed by the Emperor in a dangerous situation (aka a battlefield, an area known to revolt against Imperial authority, etc), or if he and/or his family is personally attacked or killed as a direct attack against Imperial authority; in such cases, the Emperor is willing to act, probably very harshly. If the Noble is merely killed in a local dynastic struggle, a duel, or due to "family matters", well, them's the breaks [all IMTU, of course].
Thus, the Baron is out to stiffen his household forces.
The PC's arrive on Van Buren via shuttle from the Risek mainworld. They are a small team of Protected Forces (ie. hostile-env) mercenaries, hired by the Baron to train his 20 local household troops to operate in underground, low-grav environments. The Baron is rather on the cheap side, but he does have a reputation for sticking to the agreements he signs, and that to the PC's is more important than big money with little trust. Moreover, a peaceful cadre posting is a good way to relax from the last disaster they had on Rhylanor. (Reminder: double your fees when being hired by infighting corporate factions!)
The troops are eager to learn, and shouldn't cause a problem. Their trained/regular level of experience is as anti-insurgency infantry on Risek. They are used to the low gravity, but spent their time patrolling the domed settlements, and very little time outside in their vacc suits. The PC's are to teach them aggressive patrolling of the barren landscape, and familarize them with battlesuits, plasma weapons, field communications (man-to-base and man-to-ship) and hand-held rocketry.
The current contract is for two months; there is a base level of pay, and bonuses based on demonstrated proficiency of the newly trained troops. The equipment was purchased by the Baron: damaged plasma guns, battlesuits etc will be charged against the player's fee, but they can use as much ammo as they need to get the expertise desired.
As the PC's near the end of their two-month term, the Referee may want to introduce an attack of some kind or another. However, right now I'm using this as a "typical cadre mission" so this adventure will end with a test.
In the Imperium, just about any service you want is available for sale, from "Professional Administrators" whom a noble can hire on a two-year contract to govern his world as he makes the journey to Capital and back ["A Noble Patent is a non-negotiable requirement for this influencial position", as the advertisments in Imperial Governance Magazine goes] to Mercenaries to protect your world and train the locals. In this case, Baron Khalifa has secured the services of Executive Outcomes, LIC.
Yes, the market for mercenaries is so huge that there is a number of organizations which exist solely to judge their performance.
Executive Outcomes prefer's to evaluate their charges in three phases: physical drills, Virtual Reality tests, and a live-fire excercise: they place rather little emphasis on paper/datapad testing. They would prefer to have a aggressor group, simulate a fight between the aggressor's and the household troops, and judge the results, but the Baron isn't willing to pay that much cash.
The small EO group sent to Van Buren are quite experienced; the PC's might recognize them from a former life, on some battlefield or field camp. They carry much high-tech goodies (VR boxes and the like), which are guarded by EO men to protect them from tampering. The test itself will be pretty accurate, and will determine just how much the PC's will be paid.
If they have done poorly, decrease their reputation by a greater amount among the Nobility - bad news has more impact, is more trusted, and is better remembered than good news.
Pr 22:1 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.