APAGear - Volume 5, Number 3 - May 2003

Shootout at Venera VII: A Lightning Strike Scenario

Christian Schaller

Venera VII is an aging space station in orbit around Venus. The Venera stations were all assembled during the early stages of Project New Earth as homes for the terraformers while they engineered their new home into a paradise. During the Birthing, however, the sudden influx of refugees from across the Solar System put tremendous strain on the Venusian system, and millions of lives were lost in this trying period of Solar System history. One of the most nightmarish events was the evacuation of Venera VII. Instability in its spin threatened to tear the station apart, and it was evacuated -- despite the fact that there was little room elsewhere in the Venusian system to go. The instability lessened after the evacuation, but it remained a no-man's land for the duration of the crisis.

Once the crisis was over, the Venusians turned the station into a monument to those who had perished during the Birthing and the Fall. Plans have come and gone over the years for restoring the station's life support systems to allow visitors to go inside and pay their respects, but the enormous cost of space travel would prevent most Venusians from doing so. The plans have thus always been shuffled aside. Instead, the station is viewed from afar, from the ground or from other Venusian stations whenever its orbit brings it within sight.

As with much of Venus, however, the real story of Venera VII is quite a bit different from what the public knows. Although the original instability was real, it was fixed decades ago. Most of the interior is kept uninhabitable, with the life support systems turned off, but it can be brought fully online within a matter of months. The few portions of the interior that are habitable house secret research labs that almost certainly violate the Edicts.

In 2214, the Solar Police launched Operation Isis, a covert investigation into the station. One in a long series of investigations, this one was the most daring. The SPSS Hel's Gate, a modified Inari-class transport, entered the Venusian system disguised as the free trader SS Edelweiss to conduct business with the Yggdrasil station Red Oaks. As the ship entered the system, it discharged a small stealth pod containing a team of Crisis Intervention troops and Edicts Enforcement investigators. The maneuver was timed so that the pod would reach the station just as the latter passed into Venus' shadow, allowing for maximum stealth on the part of the SolaPol. Meanwhile, the Hel's Gate/Edelweiss continued on its cover mission to Red Oaks.

One day later, the Hel's Gate/Edelweiss departed Red Oaks on a course that, not too coincidentally, brought it near Venera VII. As the ship passed within 20 km of the station, it made ready to recover the team of specialists, which was scheduled to rendezvous quietly with the ship before it departed for Earth. All had not gone well with the mission, however, and the team escaped the station under the pursuit of a flight of Venusian exo-armors.

Thus began the battle the Solar Police refer to as "Shootout at Venera VII."


Solar Police Forces

CIT/EEB Operation Isis

The Hel's Gate is part of SolaPol's Crisis Intervention Team fleet. Its captain, retired USN Guard Commander Carlisle Jenner, is just one of many former Guard personnel serving aboard the ship. A modified Inari liner, the Hel's Gate is equipped with a small KKC turret, an improved defense system, and a pair of hangars to serve its complement of Wyvern exo-armors. (Change location 6 on the Inari datacard to a KKC identical to the one on the patrol cutter in the Lightning Strike Companion. Increase the ship's base avoidance to 2/1. Reduce the capacity of the cargo module to 25 and add "Bays: 4" to the module.)

The Barracuda -- normally stored in the port cargo pod -- is quite heavily modified. It is equipped with stealth features and additional thrusters. The former allow it to be inserted into a target area undetected, and the latter allow it to get out again in a hurry if things go badly. The pod carries the CIT/EEB team, which is outfitted with Kobalt exo-suits.

Venusian Forces

Venera VII Garrison

The Takahashi is named for the lead member of the artist group Megaptera, which is responsible for the giant whale bone sculptures on Venus' Sedna Planitia known as the Cetacean Graveyard. Senchou Chu Jo commands the ship, and he takes the secret nature of the Takahashi's duty very seriously. The electronic warfare rig carried by the Takahashi is immensely valuable for it mission, though Chu often wishes he had a dedicated support ship to handle the EW duties -- the rig detracts too much from his crew's ability to eliminate threats quickly.

The Scenario

This scenario begins with the Venera VII located squarely in the center of the playing area. The Hel's Gate/Edelweiss starts at one end of the table, and its exo-armor complement begins aboard the ship. The Barracuda pod, with its complement of exo-suits, starts out within 5 cm of the space station, headed towards the Hel's Gate/Edelweiss. The Venusians begin within 10 cm of the station, but on the opposite site.

The Venusians do not know who the SolaPol forces are; they believe them to be Venusian agents themselves. Although the SolaPol forces are using CEGA equipment, decades of scheming have left the Venusians with little trust for appearances. The Venera VII garrison actually assumes the SolaPol forces are Venusians themselves.

The goals are simple. The Hel's Gate/Edelweiss must rendezvous with the Barracuda, bring it aboard, and exit off the opposite end of the playing field.

There's just one catch: neither side can afford to attract any attention while conducting its operation. The SolaPol forces are under deep cover. The Venusians must maintain the appearance that Venera VII is just what it appears: a memorial. Consequently, neither side can engage in battle tactics that will make them stand out from the usual in-system traffic. The ships may only move once per turn (probably during their free movement in the First Ship Phase, rather than during the Second Ship Phase). Furthermore, the ships must not let their avoidance drop below 0/-1 -- any lower and they will show up quite brightly on in-system traffic monitors. Finally, no unit may fire energy weapons at greater than 10 cm range without attracting undue attention from the traffic monitors.

The first side to break these limitations loses. Of course, the battle can continue, although the Venusians are unlikely to do so.