(Note: This piece is set in John's alternate Heavy Gear setting, about which you will be hearing more in the future. -Ed.)
The CSL Yokohama, captained by Percy Madison and owned by VanVost (a subsidiary of Meridian Corporation), is a Hebrides-class space liner (designation CSL for Commercial Space Liner) with a passenger capacity of over eight thousand people. It regularly runs the commercial liner circuit from Caprice out along the Utopian Arm, the Atlantean Arm to Home, the Terran Arm, and the Babylon Arm. The following are a few of the vital statistics:
By way of overall description: the Yokohama is only 110 meters wide at its widest point, and so is long but blocky-looking. The general impression should be that of an office building with engines in the basement; "up" is always towards the bow of the ship. Twin sensor pods flank the main docking clamp at the bow. A wedge-shaped section of the ship forms the nose, with its nine cargo decks (seven 4-meter clearance, one 10-meter clearance, and one 20-meter clearance). Aft of the cargo deck section is the forward safety bulkhead, a set of blast panels almost ten meters thick, designed to allow the ship to separate the nose section from the rest by blowing explosive bolts and clamps. The next 100 meters or so of the ship consists of three habitat pods, with a total of eighteen floors and the overall layout of a small hotel tower. Immediately aft of the last habitat deck is another safety bulkhead, followed by the sixteen engineering, command, and utility decks (including the aft vehicle bays, on the port side). The third safety bulkhead walls off the forward end of the reaction mass tankage section, and final ten-meter-thick, slablike safety bulkhead separates the engine section from the rest of the ship. The engine section contains a square arrangement of engines surrounding the lozenge of the fusion reactor. Three cooling tower booms extend from the reactor (one on the lower side of the ship and two on the upper).
A central elevator shaft approximately twelve meters across runs through the center of the ship, from the docking clamp at the nose to the lowest engineering deck. The magnetic-acceleration elevator platform in the shaft technically can be used to fire a projectile or act as a catapult launcher in an emergency; it has a maximum acceleration of 350 m/sec/sec (about 35 g) but will fly free of the nose if used at that speed due to inertia.
Samuel Bersard broke into the Paladin Lots Skunkworks portion of the MegaTech complex in Caprice's industrial sector approximately seven months ago. He entered a maximum-security weapons research lab and departed in possession of a single item of great value. Callin in a favor from a smuggler friend, he fled the Caprice system for the security of the Babylon Free State's space. Unfortunately, once he arrived on Babylon he angered Cabo Svenson, crimelord and planetary Councilman. In the first extradition in Babylon's history, Bersard is being turned over to the custody of the Imperial justice system by way of a cadre of ImPol agents.
Anxious to acquire Bersard and the stolen goods as soon as possible, ImPol has contracted with VanVost to book secure passage for the crate containing the goods, and for the ImPol agents and Bersard. To safeguard his interests aboard ship, Cabo Svenson hires the PCs on and sends a "representative" with them to travel on the ship and keep an eye on the ImPol agents and Bersard. Svenson wants his reward money, but he won't get it unless Bersard and the crate arrive unharmed in Caprician space.
If the adventure is being run with any serious degree of combat in mind, each PC should be issued a suit of Garuda-class Naval PCA (Powered Combat Armor) along with one of the modular pods and a handheld weapon of some sort. The ImPol agents will be equipped with Mastiff Variable PCA suits. Both sets of vehicles will have to be stored in the aft shuttle bays on the liner for most of the trip.
Samuel Bersard is a thief by trade, and an exceptionally good one. He's something of a swashbuckling, freewheeling sort, and is basically good at heart. He's sympathetic and doesn't like to see people (especially himself) get hurt. When he gets depressed he becomes a binge alcoholic, but remains a nice guy when intoxicated.
The ImPol agents resent the presence of the PCs as "amateurs" in the field and are cold and aloof at best. There should be at least as many ImPol agents as there are PCs, and the agents have three technicians with them. As the agents are one of the major challenges to the PCs, they should be designed to counter them to some degree. Most or all of the ImPol team are double-agents, in the employ of a single Megacorporation's espionage division on the side. They are being paid to arrange the loss of the stolen item.
Hugh Pannier is a weasely little man who is sent along with the PCs by Svenson as a watchdog for the watchdogs. He will offer to play poker at the drop of a hat, and is generally on the PCs' side unless there's danger around.
Clarianne Miroshe is the only daughter of Karlow Miroshe, the ship's chief engineer. Her mother was killed in an industrial accident two years ago, which also cost Clari her right arm from the mid-forearm down. It has been replaced with a cybernetic augment which is slightly better than her original arm. She is a mechanical genius and a charming fifteen-and-a-half-year-old with a penchant for regularly changing her hairstyle, and a knack for cooking. She is an auxiliary member of the ship's crew.
Marla Den-Passi is the head of security aboard ship. She is generally distrustful of the PCs due to their employer, but will cooperate with them if they are reasonable and seem honest enough.
Lucentia is the ship's computer. It allows users to select its voice tone (male, female, neuter, dolphin, q'ranni) and can be voice-accessed from anywhere on the ship that is covered by its audio sensors. She has CRE -1, KNO +3, PP8 (accessing more than PP1 requires special codes for each additional die used) and is a learning "weak" ONNET AI, granting her WIL -4 but no PSY score.
"Faceless" NPCs include ship crew (either hotel-style personnel or utility/operations crew) and any of the thousands of passengers.
Before launching into the main story, it is important to establish the main NPCs and to provide some characterization. Clarianne in particular should befriend the PCs if at all possible, to the point of cooking them a lavish seafood dinner featuring a rarity: real seafood on a space liner.
Just after entering the last empty system before entry to Caprician space, things begin happening aboard ship. People begin dying, brutally murdered by a killer with a large vibrodagger and incredible reflexes. Each corpse has a letter carved into his or her chest, and all are human. A new corpse appears every few hours.
Timing should become important during this scenario: if possible, space the killings so that the second occurs a full day or more after the first, and that the time between deaths shortens rapidly as the list of dead passengers lengthens. The murderer should evade capture until the last few hours before gate transition into Caprician space.
Each murder occurs on a different deck, seemingly at random. However, a pattern does exist: when listed from bow to stern, the letters carved into the victims will eventually read: "WE ARE AL HUNT." Alan Hunt is a passenger with a minor criminal record, who is traveling alone in the second-class section of the ship as a regular passenger.
Clari is the killer. She was secretly webbled and used as a sleeper agent by the corporation employing the ImPol agents; the operation to implant the illegal combat "zombie" controls and berserker suite was performed when her arm was reconstructed and installed. The corporation staged the accident that killed her mother, specifically to achieve this result.
Clari's control system is a signal remote used by the leader of the ImPol team; it is normally used only to "activate" her as a sleepwalking killer while she is in fact asleep. She had been moving to a dead-drop point which constantly changed, picking up the vibroblade from the drop hiding place, and seeking out her next programmed victim. The ImPol computer specialist edited out computer sensor logs of her activity by recording loops of normal activity over the actual footage, thus covering her tracks. Clari would then head to the nearest maintenance shaft and travel using her multispanner's duct-runner function, returning to her room to awaken but troubled by what she believed were nightmares. Her memories were not clear enough to be recognizable as anything but shapeless horrors.
Her last programmed victim is her own father. The ImPol agents plan to have her kill her father so that she will not be a suspect in the murders, thus allowing them to blame Alan Hunt and plant evidence in his quarters. They look like heroes, and the confusion resulting from the resolution of the case once Caprician port authorities are brought in after transit will allow them to slip the crate's contents into a waiting stealthed shuttle.
Unfortunately, attempting to kill her own father snaps Clari out of the trance. Seeing what she's done, she panics and flees into the engineering ducts, where she goes catatonic. Her father falls into a coma but does not die. And before she leaves the scene, she scrawls on the wall, in her father's blood: "WE ARE ALL HUNTED."
If the sequence of events allows it, Bersard will flee to the forward cargo bay and steal the contents of the crate again: the experimental Gyrfalcon PCA superweapon. He will hide outside the ship, trusting the armor's fusion reactor and excellent life support suite to keep him alive long enough to get into the busy traffic lanes of Caprician space, preferably near the gate station for the Babylon Arm, where he will slip away. The best place for Bersard to hide in the Gyrfalcon is in the crenellations of one of the heat sink booms; the EM and heat wash from the reactor will hide the sensor signature of his suit entirely in the ship's "Drive Blind" zone.
The ImPol agents will react by attempting to hunt him down, using their Mastiff suits if they have to leave the ship. If the PCs oppose them, they'll have a close-space fight on their hands. The Garuda suits have a huge advantage in speed and maneuverability, but the Mastiff suits are very tough and carry integral anti-vehicle weapons. If the PCs can get into laser-comm contact with Bersard, he'll agree to help them if they agree to let him escape after transit. He will readily agree to give up the Gyrfalcon in exchange for his freedom.
The leading ImPol agent will not leave the ship to pursue Bersard: he or she will more likely attempt to escape. The best method is to use the Captain's Launch: a yacht-sized mini-shuttle which is normally clamped onto the hull of the Yokohama midway along the crew section. The agent will attempt to hide by clamping the shuttle between the thrust ports of the ship (this is known as a "Millenium Sneak" for unknown reasons). Because the Garuda suits are so small, the PCs can attempt to corner the agent in the yacht. Bersard will refuse to participate in this if asked. The agent should be armed with a number of grenades and other traps to use against the PCs.
Clari's cybernetics can be easily burned out by setting off an EMP grenade near her. The pulse will easily slag every cybernetic system in her brain, and most of those in her body (which include a tissue regenerator, subdermal armor, a berserk suite, enhanced reflexes, and an adrenal injector). Her arm is standard, and may make a roll to resist the EMP. The subdermal armor is, of course, unaffected by an EMP attack. If desired, Clari could make an interesting add-on NPC to the main campaign's cast of characters; she may have nowhere else to go if her father doesn't recover from his coma in short order.
If the PCs somehow managed to stop the murders before the puzzle was completed, or if they figured it out in advance, the primary storyline has been derailed. It is thus important to distract them with red herrings for quite some time! Nonetheless, they may well manage this; if so, the ImPol agents should react with extreme prejudice, and the scenario could devolve into a stand-up fight. During such a fight, Bersard will probably attempt to flee as above, stealing back the Gyrfalcon and forcing that sequence of events anyway.
A murderer with a heart of gold, a personable career criminal, corrupt cops, and a superweapon with a crush on a thief? If the players insist on taking the most obvious solution after this scenario, they've missed the point entirely.
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