Alarms rang as the crew scrambled through the strobing corridors of the giant ship, Khanfasar. Mehr, already aboard the Spectral Corsair, cried out encouragement and tactical advice, as Norsa dragged the twisted body of Resim Aldair and the others rushed to safety. Karter’s grenade killed the Nazareem Sacrifice adherents that were blocking their way, and the enemies rushing up from behind took pot-shots at the retreating Ozgare, his animate armour taking the blows. But they all reached the ship, Norsa dumping Resim’s body in the cargo hold as they ran to their stations.
Mehr hacked the hanger bay doors on Khanfasar and ordered them to open, and Hanbal launched. The Corsair eased into the space deep inside Anqad Nesh, the Sacrifice’s asteroid, named “The Stone Sarcophagus” for good reason. Mehr led the way out, undocking his Class I Clipper, ‘Blackbird’, from the Corsair and opening up her thrusters, rushing away from their pursuers.
As the Corsair turned to follow the Khanfasar powered up, and enemy Scimitar class torpedo fighters launched to chase them down. With Mehr gone Ozgare took over the sensor ops, but with little experience found it hard to detect and lock on these quick little ships. Torpedoes from the fighters flashed towards them, and only Karter’s gunnery and skilled deployment of ECM kept them at bay. Khanfasar’s Ion Cannons, on the other hand, raked across Corsair’s bows, shaking the vessel and sending shudders across the bridge. Fenwick’s energy and effort controlled the damage, and kept them afloat, but they were outmatched and outgunned.
A Scimitar Class I Torpedo Fighter
Hanbal steered the ship into a narrow side-channel, scraping the paintwork, but the fighters were too manoeuvrable and kept themselves in attack positions. More torpedoes flew, more ECM scrabbled their sensors and kept them away. A fighter pilot chose to ram them instead, and only Hanbal’s deft flying evaded the collision. But now this Scimitar was lying before Karter’s Heavy Accelerator Cannon, and a quick burst of fire cut the smaller ship in two.
Corsair was taking hit after hit, from the fighters, from Khanfasar and the automated cannons that ranged the walls of the tunnel. Fenwick’s excellent work kept them flying, but their stocks of spare parts were running low. The cargo bay was hit, explosions tearing the doors away and sucking Resim’s body into space. Then the Graviton Projector took a blow, bullets the size of a hand punching through the hull and slamming into the sensitive machinery.
“She’s not responding!” cried Hanbal. The engines were out, but the Corsair’s momentum carried them on through the main tunnel. She was well-directed, but the tunnel was twisting and turning and she would inevitably crash into the walls and be a sitting duck before they reached the patch of open space Hanbal could see: literally the light at the end of the tunnel. Again Fenwick came to the rescue, the projector restored just in time. A final burst from the engines and the Corsair was free of the asteroid. Ozgare dropped the stealth field, and they were away and free of the fight.
So, all of a sudden, and in the quiet of the asteroid field, they could draw breath: Anqad Nesh was buzzing with ships, but they were falling away behind them and had no chance of finding them in the Ash Belt; the asteroid belt, with its spinning rocks and lumbering icebergs, surrounded and hid them from view; and the little portal shined away in the near distance.
Aware of the Ash Belt’s reputation, and Abdelacar’s dire warnings of the dangers of the Bane of Ash, Hanbal set the shortest course to escape the field and reach open space. But even heading at 90 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic at full thrust would take several hours to escape.
It was then they detected something and the hull display shouted damage warnings. Something was eating through the ship, across her whole surface: so the Bane of Ash wasn’t just a legend to frighten skittish travellers after all. Initially the damage was minor, but it soon worsened. They were never going to make the edge of the belt alive before their dwindling stock of spare parts was exhausted, and the Corsair would be eaten alive and left to die. The only option was to consider going through the Little Portal, even if – as they feared – this would only take them to the Second Horizon…
Fenwick set to making the jump calculations, using the research and algorithms stolen from the Nazareem Sacrifice scientists, while Karter tried to repair the ship, to keep them going long enough to make the jump without jumping blind. Everything seemed lost, the hull creaking and crumbling into dust, when The Deckhand showered the Spectral Corsair with his blessing, restoring their hull just as she was about to break up, and giving Hanbal the time to make the jump.
Spectral Corsair fell into the portal. As she did so Hanbal saw something he’d never seen before: a kaleidoscope of opportunities appeared before him, a shocking display of portal space lanes and destinations. There was no time, he had to decide if he were ever to make stasis before they were swallowed into portal space. But none of the destinations were outside the Third Horizon, as far as he could tell. He chose one then ran for the stasis bay…
Spectral Corsair emerged in Melik, on the Dabaran Circle. As the crew emerged from stasis and dusted themselves down they justifiably felt a tangible sense of relief and peace: they were out of danger and safe in a system a long, long way away from Odacon and Zalos. At last.
Except, could the shipboard clock be right? It said they’d been in stasis for three months…
An hour later they found themselves under arrest, a Legion squad boarding the Corsair and taking them to a bright and bare interrogation room aboard a massive warship. Eventually a tall and imposing woman entered the room, scanning a tabula in her hands:
“Raz al-Zeka, a Zalosian flagged vessel flying out of Havilah in Zalos A. You are all under arrest as prisoners of war.”
Prisoners of war? There was total disbelief, this could not be! In a desperate attempt to show their innocence of any crime, or involvement in any war, Hanbal and the crew chose honesty, and told the Legion interrogator everything that had transpired and their part in it, a story that was corroborated by the records on Spectral Corsair.
The interrogator, Sudasharna Rahull, spoke with them at length: in the three months they had been asleep much had happened.
“The Order of the Pariah invaded Odacon three months ago, on the ridiculous pre-text that Nazareem’s Sacrifice was resurgent and re-building their strength in the destroyed system. We couldn’t allow the Order to take over Odacon, so moved our fleets into the system to maintain the peace. The Zalosians were not interested in peace, and we were pushed to take action against their leadership: we took that action when the opportunity appeared, after the Order’s leaders had arrived in the rogue city, Calumet on Sharma. Regrettably, that meant war. In an attempt to prevent a catastrophic backlash and preserve the peace across the Third Horizon Legion fleets moved in to Zalos, to convince the order that further resistance and aggression was not in their, or anyone’s best interests. The Order of the Pariah did not agree. They still don’t agree.”
Ozgare asked about his home planet, Benagia in Zalos B, where the Zalosian civil war had been playing out.
Rahull was blunt. “Gone,” she said. “Destroyed by the Order of the Pariah…”
None of the crew had any loyalty to Zalos or the Order of the Pariah, and were willing to listen when Rahull said: “as a Zalosian-flagged vessel you can spend the rest of your lives as prisoners of war, or you can choose the side of right, and help me and the Legion win this war, for the Third Horizon…”
Their destiny was clear…
View from the GM’s Chair:
This scenario saw the end of the first campaign arc, 17 game sessions and 320 in-game days. In effect, Season 1 of The Spectral Corsair has now ended. This was another scenario that played out really well with some very tense moments, with Ozgare still refusing to pray to the Icons for help, with dice rolls that helped the game brilliantly and – as usual – lessons for me as a Coriolis GM!
– First and foremost: ECM as a defensive mechanism against torpedoes. I knew it was powerful, hence I put two torpedo fighters against them. But the way the chase inside the asteroid played out meant that more often than not only one torpedo would reach the Corsair at a time. And that meant that it couldn’t get past the ECM. In the end, to increase the tension, I used 2 DP to have them run out of chaff, and disable the ECM for the rest of the chase. I’m thinking that in future the ECM should have “ammo” in the same way that other weapon systems do, otherwise a talented gunner with a prayer re-roll should manage quite easily.
– They used a number of their Icon Talents in this encounter, Fenwick using the Gambler’s Talent to get an automatic three successes when repairing the hull at one point, and Hanbal using the Deckhand’s Talent to restore 1d6 points to the hull when the Bane of Ash finally brought it to zero… (Tony, playing Hanbal, rolled a 6 of course!).
– Another thing that came up was something that Matt and I discussed on our last podcast (the anniversary podcast!): the possibility of changing the Group Concept if the story took the crew that way. At the end of this campaign they are now becoming more like agents for the Legion, than independent Free Traders (although their Free Trader persona would give them a cover for travelling around the Horizon, much in the way trading was the cover for their search for Resim Aldair). My players loved the idea, have decided to change and have taken the Agent Group Talent, Friend In Every Port. There will be an issue about how we play this, reflecting their history with their old patron, Jubal Aldair, and their history as Traders (they don’t suddenly become a crack agent unit – they are traders playing at being agents (although, that said, Ajit Mehr is already an agent-style character, as is Ozgare, and Norsa is a former Legion warrior!)). But some of those “friends in every port” might well be old Trading contacts rather than military or intelligence experts. But, however it works out, playing out the transition will be a lot of fun.
– The last thing to mention is that this scenario really felt like the end of a TV season of the show, “The Spectral Corsair” (are you listening Netflix? :-p). It ended with a big surprise (which was at least in part caused by their actions), a cliff-hanger, and a wide range of opportunities and ideas we can take forward in Season 2.
I for one can’t wait!