There are fortunes to be made prospecting the asteroids. You’ve heard the rumors: hundred-ton chunks of platinum, uranium ore so pure it melts your cargo hold; derelicts, war torn Sword Worlder hulks, hollow asteroids filled with forgotten Darrian tech. It is all free for the taking. All you need is a ship, a sharp eye on the sensors, and a good crew.
Sure, it’s dangerous. Zero Gravity and hard vacuum won’t forgive your mistakes. Rescue is millions of kilometers away at best. You know that other Belters have searched all their lives and never made a strike. You know its there though. You can feel it.
The Bowman system is one of the most extensive asteroid belts in the Spinward Marches, 360 million kilometers from rim to rim, its planetoids ranging from sand grains to the 1200-kilometer bulk of Koieng’s rock. Composition shades from nickel-iron alloy on the hot inner edge to the carbonaceous wasted towards the cold rim. Population: a few million belters making a precarious living on the fringes of civilization and the thousands of upperclass parasites running the machines of oppression that siphon the wealth away from its laborers.
The Cold Reserves: A common practice in working class and outlaw ships is to keep redundant or very specialized crew in low berth (cryo sleep) until needed. Add another handful of low berth pods for the crew, and allowing the ship’s AI to handle the routine navigation between Glisten and Bowman, made for a significant savings in life support costs.
Still the Free Fall’s trip from Imperium space to the Bowman Belt was a long one. Bowman is 7 cycles (10 weeks) from Glisten by jump-2. The ship had a hold full of low berthed (in Cryo) passengers, medical supplies, and processed heavy metals bound for various parts of Bowman.
THE STORY SO FAR:
Upon waking the crew found themselves facing a Trojan horse mutiny. A handful of the indentured passengers in Low Berth storage were actually trained mercs sleeper agents intent on taking the Free Fall from its crew.
In the ensuing confusion of forced revivals from the cold reserves a member of the ship’s crew is lost. Marshaling themselves, and the most able of those low berthed passengers not caught up in the plot, our intrepid Travellers put down the mutiny.
The bereft crew of spacers and intended indentured servants learn of the Merc’s intended rendezvous with privateers beholden to the Megacorp they were all ‘hired’ by. It the time allowed them between breakout into the Bowman system and the intended rendezvous our intrepid hero’s manage to set and an ambush.
Upon breakout into the Bowman system The Free Fall is ordered to hove to and be boarded by a megacorp privateer. Luckily, the privateer was expecting to meet the mutineers and so were unprepared for the ship’s forewarned crew. The boarding party is caught off guard and, though they give a hell of a fight, the privateers are defeated and spaced without ceremony. Though not without loss our intrepid crew loses their engineer.
The Merc Captain, leader of the cold reserve mutineers is kept as a prisoner and placed in low berth cryo-storage. Wo be used later as evidence, eye witness, prime suspect suspect. Whichever becomes most useful in exposing the conspiracy that damaged their ship and killed our intrepid crew’s engineer.
The megacorp privateer ship is given to the surviving cold reserve reinforcements. It is rechristened the Blithe Madame. A clone of the Free Fall’s operations AI is installed and it is quickly off to distant Sword Worlder suns. Its injured and now outlaw crew hoping to receive something other than frontier medicine while staying far from the reach of Imperium megacorp corruption.
Unsure of what to do, wrestling with a damaged ship and the uncomfortable knowledge that the local megacorp is gunning for them; our intrepid crew goes dark and limps in toward the local gas giant, Bowman Prime.
Once there they attempt a wilderness refueling from the planet’s hydrogen oceans. The fauna of the Jovian atmospheres prove to be too much for our adventurers and their wounded ship. If not for the serendipitous intervention of an independent Gas Miner the Free Fall would have been lost with all hands.
A much needed respite is taken within the hanger bay of the helpful gas mining station. The pressure of the crew’s bad luck leads to interpersonal crisis and infighting. The Free Fall operational AI is overwhelmed and asks to leave the ship. ‘She’ is copied onto the mining platform computing substrate and an edited version is tasked with running the Free Fall’s Operations from here on forward.
New friends, repairs and reparations are made. The rescuing Gas Miner is so taken with our intrepid crew, mostly with their heroic Captain, that she joins their ranks as the ship’s new engineer. She leaves her Son’s family to tend the Gas Mining Station in her absence. Together they turn the Free Fall towards Bowman Prime’s nearest moon and it’s venerable Imperium outpost, Garrison.
The labyrinthine bureaucratic mess they encounter upon reaching Garrison is complicated by a intimidating encounter with the local colonial cruiser class ship, The Apishal. Never fear though, the red tape and intimidation tactics are adroitly navigated by the Free Fall’s second in command and our intrepid crew makes moonfall safely.
Similarly the legal and financial minefield that greetes them, due to being at odds with the local megacorp, proves to be no match for our Traveller’s wiles. They emerge poor of credits but manage to secure damning evidence of the conspiracy that greeted them upon breakout into the Bowman system.
Suddenly our beloved adventurers find themselves standing tall and invited to dine with the local Aristocrat; The Comptroller of Bowman system himself, himself. The Travellers gussy up a bit (it’s not everyday our intrepid crew gets to dine with the Imperial Envoy of an entire star system) and prepare for a classier approach.
What starts as a well heeled affair of garden strolling, parlor games and a full ‘soups to nuts’ dinner spread quickly turns into a brawl that’d put any belter saloon to shame. The command crew of The Apishal sat amongst the guests at the Comptroller’s table and the subject of the warship’s intimidation tactics sparked animosity. Bullets fly, blood is let and our fearless crew manages to make an enemy of The Apishal’s Vargr Captain. Thankfully, when the shock settles in, its fairly obvious that the crew of the FFL is the victim here. That should count for something. Right?
Surprisingly it does. While in the throes of the chaos, that was supposed to be the desert course, the Comptroller saw something he admired in our stalwart adventurers. They certainly had a part to play in the in causing the kerfuffle but when push came to shove the FFL crew’s masterful defusing of the situation impressed the Comptroller. He saw in our beloved Traveller’s a scrappy potential for getting a job done. Like any good aristocrat he quickly moved to put this potential to work in his interest.
The Comptroller dismisses the aggrieved Captain of the Apishal and takes our crew into his confidence. He is, of course, deep in a game of dominance with the local megacorp and its lap dog The Apishal. Our intrepid crew shares their evidence of conspiracy against them: the Merc meat popsicle in their cryo pod and the damning communications they discovered upon moonfall. The Comptroller suggests they help one another.
His ‘help’ comes in the form of employment and its implied protections. The employment is a contract to transport a favorite Academician from Garrison to a distant research outpost on Bowman Prime’s farthest moon, Epsilon. Once there he promises another contract opportunity. One that will allow our intrepid Travellers to move deeper into Bowman Belt under the mantel of his protection.
The FFL breaks orbit from Prime’s nearest moon and makes way towards it farthest moon Epsilon. There, to entangle themselves in some Darrian archeology drama. On the way they discover that The Apishal lies in ambush in hopes of capturing our intrepid crew in route. Fore armed is fore warned and instead of an economical loop around Prime as their flight plan called for the crew decides to go full burn for Epsilon and thus avoiding the trap.
The Comptroller seems oddly delighted to learn of The Apishal’s active interest and promises to take further steps to protect our beloved Travellers and the evidence they carry on the Free Fall. He sends for the nearest Imperium Marshall to come and investigate the situation. The nearest Marshall is two cycles of interstellar space travel away but is on hir way to bring the weight of the Imperium’s judiciary oversight to bear on the problem of the corrupt Megacorp.
The welcome the crew receives upon docking at the Research station on Epsilon is warm and invigorating. Aristocratic patronage has its perks. Unfortunately the Academicians staffing this remote station prove that the old spacer’s adage warning “to avoid another’s gravity well” a good one. Romantic entanglements vie with institutional bureaucracy to entrap, ensnare and injure our errant adventurers.
To top it off, it seems that a psionicly afflicted predator has claimed this outpost as his hunting grounds. Our crew’s Security Chief, mildly afflicted himself, sniffs out and tracks this monster. While the rest of the crew prepare for the next leg of the trip. The Chief confronts the Psionic monster and losses his life to it. In so doing he manages to exposed the wolf among the academic fold.
In a dramatic confrontation, just before liftoff, the crew of the Free Fall Lass pushes the Afflicted man to show his predatory nature. They finally break the hold of Epsilon’s gravity. They leave the body of their former Security Chief behind but taking satisfaction in watching Epsilon security take mortal vengeance on the monster responsible.
Bereft but free again, our intrepid spacer crew finally makes it way deeper into the carbonaceous wastes of the Bowman system. Specifically they make speed for points spinward in Bowman Prime’s leading Lagrange field.
On the way the system’s news feeds are rocked by a interstellar trader’s distress call. Luckily other ships are closer to the distressed vessel so the Free Fall can be about its business. Notably The Apishal, being the Imperium Law force projection in Bowman, is compelled to investigate. Once again the crew of the Free Fall Lass breathes deep knowing that they have been, by providence, spared the full attention of the warship and its wolfish Captain.
Thinking discretion the better part of valor our intrepid spacers make a clandestine rendezvous with the Comptroller’s personal Yacht the Rockhopper. The plan is to store the Free Fall Lass in the hanger bay of the nearby Imperium Scout Service (ISS) Command post. While the crew finishes their contract with the Comptroller in his personal ship.
The transfer of cargo and crew is done under the cover of an obscure heliocentric cloud of asteroids; in the hopes that it be executed unbeknownst to their pursuers. Unfortunately the risk associated with hiding in such a densely packed cloud of interplanetary flotsam proves injurious. Both ships take damage. The Intrepid Free Fall takes the brunt of the battering as it defends the Rockhopper from the unexpected bolide swarm…
Notably, in the chaos, a Academician is almost lost to the unforgiving vacuum. Fortunately vac-suit discipline and heroic extra vehicular action saves the day. Our crew is spared the trauma of another life sacrificed to the big hoover in the sky.
After the Free Fall Lass and the Rockhopper part ways it is discovered the Ship’s Doctor and the Ship’s Mascot are not on the Rockhopper with the rest of the crew. It seems they stowed away on the Free Fall.
Instead of letting the beleaguered little ship make its way to safe harbor for repair, the renegade doctor, in cahoots with the Free Fall’s operational AI, abscond with it to rescue a ghost from the doctor’s past.
Remember that minor and distant drama unfolding in the neighboring Asteroid Belt while all this went on? That distress call. Against the insistence of their idealistic passengers the pragmatic crew decided to decline receipt of the distress call and stay their course.
As the Free Fall nears it’s meeting with the smuggler ship carrying the Doctor’s long lost friend… As the Rockhopper approaches the Challenges of making rockfall upon their destination, Jarlson’s Doom… News is received about the distressed trader ship and its would be saviors. A local ice scow that followed the cry of help to it’s source ran afoul of a trap of some sort. It was utterly destroyed. 50 Belter souls and millions of tons of water ice destined for the thirsty asteroid belt were lost. The passengers aboard the Rock hopper are aghast at the news. The crew are… Well there is a reason they chose to look the other way.
A Belter clan-raft (a hodgepodge of dozens of low tech Belter craft carrying hundreds of souls) is encountered vectoring lazily away from the dangerous orbits of Jarlson’s Doom. At first the Belters hardly deign to acknowledge the Rockhopper. Once they discover who is crewing the ship though their tone changes. Sarcastic disregard becomes an intense exchange full of the locals odd religiosity. They practically insist that the Rockhopper accept their offering of a guide. They do this in order to help the Rockhopper make what is sure to be a legendary attempt to navigate the swarm of asteroids, debris and derelict sentries that orbit Jarlson’s doom and share in the Rockhopper Crew’s notoriety.
This is a Storium adaption of a Classic Traveller adventure. You do not need to know Traveller this game. Familiarity with the Traveller Universe is a plus but also not necessary to enjoy this gritty space opera romp. All right reserved by Game Designers’ Workshop & Far Future Enterprises.
Notes on play:
Exit Strategy: Should you find that you are not enjoying your time here on the Free Fall please follow these suggestions and most of the normal separation anxiety should be avoidable. Space and space travel is harsh and unforgiving. Those who adventure there know that when the time comes it’ll be quick and merciless. Simply write into your next move your character’s sudden and tragic death. Once your swan song is published please take a day or so to say your goodbyes in the sidebar and then I will retire your character. As simple as that. No explanations needed. No exit surveys required. The other players might ask why but don’t feel compelled to answer. Follow theses simple steps, be nice, and no grudges will be held.
Hosted and narrated by:
Loup-de-Lou Valentine (Valloup)
Scenes played: 31
License: Community License
image source: The top portion of the Game Designer's Workshop publication of 'Beltstrike'