Abbreviation for Gashimeku Kaalariin, Vilani for “vessel in distress”.
The code ‘Signal GK’ originated on Vland, home world of the Vilani, the first of the Human diaspora to acchieve independent interstellar travel over ten thousand years ago. It started, like so many other space faring traditions, as a distress signal in maritime and aviation activity. It was one of the standard communication codes of the first Interstellar Impirium, the Vilani Imperium known to history as the Ziru Sirka. In the Second Imperium, the Rule of Man as it was made known by the Terran conquerers who forged it, signal GK was retained as a distress code co-equal with the Terran SOS and Mayday signals.
After the Rule of Man collapsed under the weight of it’s arrogance it threw the human diaspora, humanitie, into a dark age. As part of humanities effort to claw itself out of this apocalyptic abyss the 3rd Imperium drafted The Imperial Navigation Act of 103. Among other things it requires all vessels, whether military or civilian, to respond to the GK, SOS , or Mayday signals, provided such response does not endanger the ship and crew of the responding vessel, and render whatever help needed to insure the survival of the signaler.
There we were, minding our own and half way through a milk run delivering water ice to the Belter’s of Koieng’s Rock. The call came out of the cold black. It was weak and originated from well out of our way, deep in the carbonaceous wastes of the Bowman Belt. Our Comms team needed to do some magic for it to be understandable, here’s me wishing that, just this once, they weren’t so on the ball.
This is what they managed to get before the signal died out:
This is Signal GK… an SOS…
We are under attack…
Main drive is gone…
Turret number one is not responding…
They’ve holed the…
…Losing cabin pressure fast…
SOS… Calling anyone… Please.
This is free trader Beowulf… Mayday….”
The Capatain wanted nothing to do with it of course. “Focus on delivering ice to the Belter’s of Koieng’s Rock. Leave the hero work to the Imp Cruiser whats on patrol.”
Damnitall, why did I have to convince him otherwise.
“We are closest.” I said. “It’s the law Sir.” It was myweakest argument and I new it. That’s why I led with it. My shot across his bow so to speak.
A renowned scofflaw, the Captain did just that. We took a moment to share a laugh over the absurdity of enforcing the Signal GK law out here in the frontier well beyond the Imperium’s borders. I was determined though. Maybe it was the cabin fever. Maybe I was looking for a chance to prove my mettle as the newly promoted XO. Either way, I knew if I was convincing the Captain would send me and a small team in the skiff to investigate. More the fool I but I wanted that assignment.
I poured the Captain another jigger of the hydroponic rye from the moons of Bowman Prime. I picked it up off one of the Moony roustabouts there as they were weighing The Cantos’ hold full of ice to insure the Comptroller got his due. The Captain was a might more malleable after a dram or three of whisky.
“Some of the crew will grumble about cowardice.” This was a range finding salvo and I knew it. I had a better argument but I needed to soften the Captain up a bit first.
As expected the Captain looked me in the eye and countered with. “Only the green horns and those that cling to the Swordie’s Aesir. Any spacer worth his salts knows chasing distress calls is work that’ll have you sending out a Gk signal of your own more often than not.”
Though the wisdom was sound I can tell my warning about being called a coward had its intended effect. The Captain may not hold to the local Aesir superstitions about heroic death but he was a former Navy man and touchy about how the crew viewed him.
The Captain’s stare wavered. His eyes drifted to his empty cup again as if unsure if I was going to refill it. I obliged and readied to cross his T with the argument I new he couldn’t just brush off.
“The Comms boys referenced the Beowulf’s transponder signal. It comes back as an Imp Jump Trader On its way to Glisten from the Five Sisters. with a hold full of rare earths. “ I informed the Captain off handedly. He paused then, his cup half way to his lips, it was then that his eyes began to twinkle with a speculative light. I knew I had him. All I needed to do was hole him just right now.
“With it’s maneuver drives and turrets down I doubt they lasted long against any sort of determined raider.” I continued conversationally. “The attackers had to know the Beowulf GK signal got out so they most likely cleared the Beowulf’s hold, dealt with the witnesses and made best speed far and away…”
“…which leaves a jump capable, crewless hulk in need of a tow to the salvage yards of Koeing’s rock.” The old man finished for me before draining his cup in a gulp. “It could be our ticket off of this system bound, ice scow and out of Bowman for good.” I agree and offer another re-full.
“Right.” Says the Captain as if coming to a decision of his own accord. “You have a team on the ready?” It wasn’t really a question. I offer my handheld with the profiles of the crew members I picked a Tech, Comms Jockey, Corpsman and former Marine. He waves it away.
“Have the helm set course for the Beowulf’s last know vector and begin our deceleration to hove alongside her. Tell Comms to start trying to raise any survivors. Liaison needs to file our salvage claim with both the Belter Trust on Koieng’s Rock AND the Imperium Comptroller back on Alpha, Prime.” As the the old man rattled off these orders and several others to support it he turned to take a long look out the forward portscreen.
His off hand came to rest on the small of his back and his shoulders rolled back. For a moment the Naval officer he was back in the fourth frontier war stood, aloof before me. He looking purposefully into a future that suddenly promised more that this broke back scow and the dusty frontier Belter system it’ll never leave. As I relayed his orders via my handheld his reflection smiled into the middle distance.
Poor bastard, I had given him hope. When the last of the acknowledgments came back he turned back to me and quipped “If this gets us all killed I am going to hold you personally responsible.”
I laughed then at his gallows humor. More the fool I.
This is the tragic short story of a gritty troupe of frontier belters looking to profit off of the misfortune of others and being served their just deserts. This is a tragedy, make no mistake. I hope to have at least half of you write your character’s death before we are through.
This is my Storium adaption of Classic Traveller material. You do not need to know any of the traveller rules or setting to enjoy this game. Familiarity with the Traveller Universe is a plus but also not necessary to enjoy this gritty space opera romp. If you have questions about the limits and use of Traveller’s various handwavium fueled Deus Ex Machina please ask. Please remember though we are writing a tragedy here so whatever tech miracles we end up pulling out of our collective arse to deal with the troubles, in the end, it will fall short of their needs. All rights on this material is of course reserved by Game Designers’ Workshop & Far Future Enterprises.
The backdrop of the story is that you are all members of the Bowman System’s Lower Technical Class. You are Belters who have lived in ships and habitats for your entire life but have never amassed the wealth needed to leave the star system you were born in. Your skills are the result of an entrenched nepotism called an apprentice program. This makes your character’s skill base somewhat narrower than that of a spacer who received technical schooling in the bright center of things. It also instilled in you a reverence for your and other’s ‘work’. Its a bias towards not taking another’s work or allowing yours to be taken from you. You don’t have a job. Your work is literally your life.
The cultural overlay comes from a near by Interstellar Polity Called the Sword worlders. The Swordies, a space viking, Aesirist culture, oppose the 3rd Imperium that claims the Bowman System. Periodically (every couple of decades or so it seems) the Sword worlders attempt to sweep through and take the Bowman System from the Imperium. Every time they have failed. The hundreds of Sword worlder crew that manage to survive each failed raiding attempt join the Belters of Bowman. Where they resentfully scrape a meager livelihood out of the immense asteroid belt there.
When it comes time for your character to shake of their mortal coil please follow these directions and the separation will remain dignified and friendly. Space and space travel is harsh and unforgiving. Those who adventure there know that when the time comes it’ll be quick and merciless. Further more the local superstition skews towards a Norse sense of accepting death and facing it’s means bravely in order to enter the Valiant Hall of the Ancestors. You can play a coward or an atheist of course but even they will default to the ritual knowledge they were born to. When the time comes simply write into your next move your character’s sudden and tragic death. Once your swan song is published please take a day 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 for more but don’t feel compelled to give it. The dead need not worry about the plight of those left behind.
Hosted and narrated by:
Loup-de-Lou Valentine (Valloup)
Scenes played: 6
License: Community License