Terror’s Lair or
Let The Good Times Roll
(adapted from Terror’s Lair, © GDW/FFE)
“Team Pantera,” yells Patrick Harper, one of their combat instructors, “You’ve really screwed up this time! Get your asses up to the office of the Director of Training, now! Your personal effects will be packed and waiting for you, if you survive what Director Wright has to say to you.”
Thus, the PCs are called to the office of Alexa Wright, the PSII Director of Training. As they trek to the office suites, they wonder what they did and if they are really going to be kicked out of PSII.
BEHIND THE SCENES
In reality, the PCs have graduated and are being given their first mission. However, there is a running joke among the instructors to make it seem like graduating individuals or teams have failed. One last time to make them sweat, you know.
DIRECTOR WRIGHT’S OFFICE
When the team arrives at the office of Director Wright, her executive assistant, Karl Morrison, looks them up and down from his desk in the outer office. He shakes his head. Then, he says, “Ms. Wright, Team Pantera is here to see you.” He receives some kind of response into his ear piece and gets up. He walks the team to the door, opens it, and motions them in. He closes the door after them.
Director of Training Alexa Wright stands, greets them politely, but with a stern look upon her face. She motions them towards chairs, exactly as many chairs as there are team members, and says curtly, “Sit!”
“I have received interesting reviews of your training,” she says. “And now, there are some things we need to discuss,” she continues with a sideways look at them that leaves them feeling more anxious. “You will have a chance to offer disagreement with your instructors, if you like.” She motions toward the door, where several of the team’s instructors, with grim looks on their faces, have silently entered the office from behind the team’s seats.
“Your instructors have told me that you are ready for your initial field assignment. Congratulations! You are now graduates of the PSII training program!”
The instructors now applaud and laugh at the stunned expressions on the faces of the team. They quickly move forward to offer genuine congratulations.
Karl appears with the in-house catering staff with champagne and hors d’oeuvres. A mini-celebration ensues.
After about 10 minutes, Director Wright pings her glass and says, “Party’s over. Now we need to talk about your mission.” Over the next few minutes, she proceeds to lay out the details.
About two years ago, American narcotics agents were closing in on a major AmeriCo drug smuggler named Felix Berthold. Berthold had somehow figured out a way to get drugs through Earth’s Orbital Quarantine Command, making it much harder to attack his drug traffic. Plus, it indicated a flaw in OQC – a flaw that frightened officials who want to keep Earth clean from extraterrestrial contamination. One of Berthold’s underlings leaked information to the Feds who set up a trap for Berthold when he was to take possession of a shipment on its way to Earth.
Somehow, Berthold learned of the trap, killed his underling, moved his financial holdings to King, and escaped to that world himself. Once there, he underwent the DNAM (DNA Modification) treatment necessary for him to live in King’s three Gs and settled into the Australian colony of New Huntsland. The federal agents did not want to pursue him to the planet’s surface themselves (King’s ultra heavy gravity and sulfur-laden atmosphere being a deterrent), and New Huntsland’s colonial government, being very protective of its autonomy, was unwilling to extradite him. (Nor would the American colony of New Columbia help.) A deadlock had been reached, and the American narcotics agency turned its eyes to other fish.
After nearly two years, however, Berthold decided that he could not stand King any longer. The heavy gravity and the sulfurous air had taken their toll on him, and realizing that King’s inhabitants live half as long as other colonists, due to the heavy stress on their bodies, Berthold decided to leave. He quietly bought a mansion among the British holdings on Tirane (at Alpha Centauri ) and left the planet, no one knows for sure just how.
Narcotics officials received notice of the mansion purchase and the transfer of funds to Tirane, and identified Berthold as the one behind them. From the government of New Huntsland. which had been watching Berthold closely looking for an opportunity to prosecute him under their own laws, the American officials learned the date of his departure They determined that he must have taken passage on the Ann Arbor, a luxury liner headed for Earth But they had no way of knowing for sure which of the 150 passengers that boarded at King was their quarry.
When the Ann Arbor arrived at Earth’s orbital station, all passengers going on to Tirane transferred to the New Orleans, another passenger liner. The New Orleans will be in Earth orbit for only another few hours, finishing the discharge of its stutterwarp drives.
American Marshal Obadiah Thomas has been assigned to capture Felix Berthold. The team has been tasked with assisting Marshal Thomas. In fact, the team members will be given badges as Deputy US Marshals.
Marshal Thomas and the team are tasked with determining which of the passengers is Berthold and arresting him without endangering the safety of other passengers. This must be done before the ship leaves Earth and takes him to sanctuary at Tirane. Berthold certainly does not have any qualms about endangering others, which makes the task more difficult.
In the team’s favor, however, is the fact that all inhabitants of King are mesomorphs as a result of the DNAM treatments. Also, as King’s atmospheric density is 2.7 atmospheres at sea level, the planet’s colonists are unable to breathe a normal density atmosphere without the aid of rebreather masks that fit over their mouths and noses. Citizens of King should stand out easily among the rest of the passengers. Just look for stocky people with rebreather masks.
The team will depart in 30 minutes for Rocky Mountain Space Port where they will join Marshal Thomas and take a scramjet to orbit and board New Orleans. If all goes as expected, the team will have about six hours from the time they arrive aboard New Orleans to identify and arrest Berthold.
Marshal Thomas will be undercover as a microelectronics parts salesman. Two team members will be undercover as his sales associates. The remainder will be undercover as tourists.
“The goal here is to arrest Berthold before New Orleans warps out,” states Director Wright. “We really don’t want you all to go to Tirane and back. We want you headed out the French Arm instead.
“If you can’t get Berthold before New Orleans warps out, you are to stay aboard and assist Marshal Thomas in capturing him before reaching Tirane where he an try to claim asylum and cause an extended legal battle,” she continues with a grimace.
“But, presuming you are successful in getting Berthold quickly, you are to return to Gateway and take flight D20 to Mars orbit where you will rendezvous with one of our contractors. They will be taking you to Beta Canum with the customary stops at each stutterwarp discharge system, where you may receive further orders. Ms.Darkwater is familiar with them from before joining us. The ship you will be traveling on is the Pretender.”
“Any questions?” Director Wright asks. “Then get your gear and get going! Do your instructors proud! And good luck!”
GETTING TO ORBIT
The team must hustle to get to their gear, which has indeed been packed for them. Note that the only weapons that will be present are a Smith & Wesson ISP 106 and a ceramic knife for each of them (these are the only weapons that will pass weapon detectors at the space port. The only armor available will be one set of armor clothing (shirt and pants) for each team member. Also, they have badges and identification as Deputy US Marshals.
The team may say their quick good-byes to a few people before they are whisked into a helicopter and flown to the space port. Observant team members may notice Instructor Stevens slip out of Guillermo’s room, looking upset. Guillermo follows her, also looking upset. They quietly, but heatedly talk for a few moments. Finally, they embrace and kiss. Then, realizing they are in public view, they look around and will appear embarrassed if they see anyone looking their way.
The chopper flight gives the team about a half hour opportunity to discuss things, including giving Guillermo grief over Ms. Stevens.
At the space port, they are quickly ushered to a scramjet where Marshal Thomas is waiting for them. Introductions are made and undercover roles established. Thomas enjoins them to not blow their covers unless absolutely necessary; word that marshals are on board could make their mission much more difficult if Berthold starts actively hiding. Right now, the belief is that Berthold thinks he got away from King without anyone being the wiser. Marshal Thomas points out that it is possible that Berthold has members of his organization aboard New Orleans to aid him and give him protection if needed. Thomas also suggests that once they have been shown to their cabins, they meet at the New Orleans observation deck for final instructions.
Before they finish introductions, the scramjet is rolling for takeoff. By the time they finish talking, the scramjet is in the air and they are pushed back in their seats as it starts pulling a steady three gees of acceleration. While the acceleration seems to go on forever, it is really only about a half hour before they achieve orbit, although it is another hour or so before they dock with New Orleans and transfer across. For those who don’t have zero-g experience, this will be an opportunity for the GM to require agility tests to keep from smacking into things (although the crew of the scramjet and of New Orleans are on hand and well trained to expedite the safe transfer of passengers not used to zero-g). GMs who feel the need can also require toughness or willpower tests to avoid space-sickness.
Once aboard New Orleans, the team and Marshal Thomas are escorted to their quarters (happily, on the spin decks so there is gravity), while porter robots bring their luggage. They then head to the observation deck.
ABOARD THE NEW ORLEANS
The New Orleans is themed with French Quarter trappings. The shops and restaurants have facades that attempt and largely succeed in making the passengers feel they are in New Orleans. Jazz plays in the background at all times. There are even a few live musicians here and there, playing Jazz, just like in the real city.
Sitting at a table on the observation deck (which is also a park laid out as much as possible to appear to be Jackson Square), you sip a cup of coffee while eating a beignet and watch the stars wheel by with the vessel’s rotation. About once a minute, Earth rises into view of the ports – it fills them all at this distance – and swings out of sight overhead. Several seconds later, the ports darken automatically as the sun swings past only to lighten once again immediately afterward. Earth rises, sun rises. Earth rises, sun rises – it’s as if time were accelerated and a day were passing every minute.
Behind you, on a stage near the center of the park, er, deck, a crowd of passengers watches a small circus troupe performing. A trio of acrobats holds their attention performing amazing flips, leaps, and twirls in the lower gravity.