Norsa, Ozgare and Karter blinked as the lights came up in the small interrogation room aboard the Legion battleship Morrows Crater. Rahull stood before them with orders, a preliminary mission they can help with, here in Melik, before the crew are assigned to their role in the Zalos War.
The mission? Retrieve some Legion deserters who fled but crash landed on a planet in this system.
Sounds simple? Yeah, course it does. But nothing is simple for this crew, there are always complications. Four, in this case: two of the five runaways are Nekatra, Legion enhanced and trained, and deadly dangerous; the planet they have landed on, Sinhabea, is a holy world to the Firstcome society in this system, and the Legion have been told in no uncertain terms that they are not welcome on this planet; as such, secrecy is paramount; but if there are any witnesses they cannot be allowed to live to tell the story…
Karter, having been a Legion man in his youth, was happy and eager to help, but Norsa and Ozgare had misgivings. Despite those misgivings they had little choice, and set off in an unmarked shuttle.
They eventually found the crash site, the trailing plume of thinning smoke a clear sign in the thick jungle that covered the world. So good news. But the bad news was that it had come down within a few miles of a monastic settlement on one of two nearby hills that climbed above the canopy: almost inevitable that the local monks would have seen the crash… But, the even worse news was three dead monks at the crash site, one shot and two literally torn apart. They had found one of the deserters too, killed in the crash.
They headed for the monastery, but decided to summit the second hill, and use this as a base for observation. There wasn’t much activity, but Karter could make out a gun emplacement on the monastery’s tower, but it was unmanned. It was obvious that the deserters had gone there, or been taken there, but not clear if they were there as hostages or hostage takers. A closer look was needed.
Norsa had had misgivings from the start. He’d been a slave of the Legion before he had been lost in action in Zalos, then rescued from the Choral Station by Captain Valdez and the crew. And here he was, back in the clutches of the Legion, tracking down his own kind for doing exactly what he had tried to do. It didn’t feel right. Ozgare had similar feelings, but Karter was behind the mission: they had a job to do; the Legion had given them another chance, when they might be spending the rest of the conflict in an internment camp for Zalosian activists, or worse; they should take the chance they had been given, and that meant completing the job in hand.
Norsa didn’t care, and strode right up to the monastery. Karter felt he had no option, so went with his companion. Ozgare hid in the settlement’s deep pool, and keep watch from a distance.
They were immediately challenged by the two Legion troopers they were looking for, but could see no sign of the either Nekatra, Fenris and Kapral. Norsa kept moving forward despite the shouts to stop, and a crack rang out. Norsa was shot and fell backwards. Karter and Ozgare opened up, dropping one of the troopers. But the other fired with terrible accuracy, his bullet tearing through Karter’s armour and passing through his chest. Karter fell, his life blood pumping away from the terrible wound.
Ozgare leapt from his cover and ran to his friend, in a desperate attempt to save his life. But the wound was too bad, the damage too severe. Ozgare was desperate, and in his desperation heaved a deep sigh and called upon the Icons to help him in this time of desperate need. But the Icons didn’t answer, and Ozgare knew he didn’t have the skills to keep Karter alive.
It was then that an enormous Nekatra walked slowly into view. Fenris was impressive even for a Nekatra: imperious; majestic; in command.
“An interesting tactic to apprehend wayward soldiers, I think,” he growled. “But unlikely to be successful.”
“We weren’t trying to capture you,” replied Norsa. “We want to help you.”
“Interesting. Ignoring your orders then?”
“I didn’t agree to work for the Legion to do their dirty work, and I didn’t agree to kill my brethren and innocent witnesses on their say-so. I agreed to work with them to win the war against Zalos, not this.”
“Interesting,” said Fenris once again. “Did you not think we would test you, test your loyalty before we send you out on your own?”
And that was it. This had all been a test, the Legion testing their reluctant recruits to see how far they would go, how well they would follow orders, what they would be prepared to do. And they had their answer.
Later, back aboard Morrows Crater, they were once again sat before their interrogator, Castellan Rahull. Karter was with them, his life saved by Fenris and his Legion medics.
“So, maybe now we understand one another better,” she said. “I don’t want to incarcerate valuable assets like you, I want to work with you to win this war. But I will protect the Legion’s interests over yours should I feel the need. In future I am prepared to limit our collaborations to operations focused upon winning the war. But you will have to trust me that the orders I give you are appropriate, even if you cannot know the whole picture. If we can work on this basis of trust then we have a future: if we cannot find a way to make this work, then you do not…”
View from the GM’s Chair:
Another “bottle-style” scenario, with only three of my players available, and again another where it would have felt bad to kill one of them. But that didn’t stop me giving Karter a crit when it made sense, the 10s die landing on a 6 and the 1s die spinning on an edge for what seemed like an age before it fell on a 4… That was a tense 3 or 4 seconds! But this crit and dice roll again helped the narrative along beautifully:
- It gave us that ultra-tense moment when we thought Karter was going to die;
- Ozgare, with his meagre Medicurgy skill, was the only one who could save him at a time when they thought they were still in the middle of a fight;
- Ozgare failing his Medicurgy roll…
- Now, if you’re a regular reader you’ll know that Ozgare has spurned the Icons and has resolutely refused to pray, even in dire moments when his own life was hanging by a thread. But on this occasion, with Karter’s blood on his hands and realising he had no way to save his friend’s life, he looked to the Icons and called upon them, breaking the oath he took on Zalos B many moons ago…
- And Ozgare failed his re-roll! The Icons, ever unpredictable, petulant and capricious, ignored his plea!
- Now Ozgare has even more reason to hate the Icons, for denying them all this time and finally accepting he was wrong, that he would humble himself before them if they saved his friend, only for them to say “my humble supplicant, fuck you…”
The scenario also worked out beautifully from another perspective too. I was wondering how the change of roles from Traders to Legion Agents would pan out, and this game was a fine example of learning by doing, by having the players role-play their characters in that situation and play out to a resolution. Their role has been defined really nicely, and was a pleasure to GM good role players developing the story through play.