by M.J. Dougherty
Art by andi jones
IntroductionThis adventure is set in the Mileu 0 Traveller setting, in year 8 after the founding of the Third Imperium. It can easily be transplanted to a different setting -- anywhere that there is a little colonial expansion going, where small settlements like Dashgad can exist.
The storyline follows on directly from Cold Night On Dashgad, a summary of which follows:
The characters' situation is not looking particularly hopeful. Having arrived on Dashgad, a frontier world of little importance except as a trade link to the Apge Consortium, the characters were able to find only one cargo worth shipping. Worse, they had to pick it up from one of the outlying farms themselves using a grav truck. Worse yet, a "Cold Night" was descending, as Dashgad moved into the shadow of the gas giant it orbits. Temperatures plummeted as the characters left Smit Town, the only settlement larger than a farm on the entire planet, and headed for the Parnaby ranch to collect their cargo; several tons of Dashgoat eggs, an excellent oxidizing agent and Dashgad's only export.
Greeted warmly by the isolated ranchers, the characters set to work and were in the process of transporting the cargo, requiring several runs to Smit Town by grav truck, when the Cold Night took a turn for the worse.
Scientists had long wondered how the numbers of giant insect-like Dashgoats were controlled before humans came to Dashgad. With no predators, the Dashgoats' numbers should have increased until the planet was completely covered in them. Yet even before the ranchers began to control their numbers by harvesting the eggs, the Dashgoats' population was controlled by . . . something.
During that cold night, the riddle was solved. The Dashgoats' natural enemy emerged from its long underground slumber in the form of a 1-2 meter-long armored caterpillar-like creature. In previous cycles, the predators fed voraciously on the immense Dashgoat herds, laid their eggs deep in the ground, then curled around them to die, leaving the Dashgoats to rebuild their numbers over the years. 99% of the Dashgoat population were slaughtered in this manner each cycle.
But tonight is different. The vast herds are gone, their numbers drastically reduced by human ranchers. With no ready source of food, the predators are starving. Biological imperative forces them to seek new sources of food so that the cycle can continue. Fortunately for the predators, there is another source of food on Dashgad.
It's going to be a long night on Dashgad.
Referee's NotesMost of the data required to run this adventure was presented in the preceding Cold Night on Dashgad scenario. The referee is urged to refer to this data, though the following overview lists the most important points as well as presenting some new information.
World DataStarport: C. Standard but for a lack of orbital facilities.
Size: 1. 2360 km diameter, with surface gravity of 0.37g.
Population: 2. 632 people, of whom 596 live in the main settlement, Smit Town. The other 36 run Dashgoat ranches.
Government: 2. Participating Democracy. Every citizen aged 16 or over is entitled to vote via a computer network on all major policy decisions while the day-to-day running of the world is carried out by officers of the Imperial Colonial Office.
Law Level: 4. Dashgad is a young colony and its laws are few, leaving most legal decisions in the hands of the Imperial Ministry of Justice Marshal and his three deputies. Weapons which are neither military nor fully-automatic in nature are available at the world's "INSTORE". A wait of three days is mandatory while the IMJ computers run a check of your permit and any criminal status.
Tech Level: B. The average Imperial tech level reflects the investment in facilities by the ICO to create a port near the Apge Consortium. The world's citizens enjoy a high standard of living.
Flora and FaunaThe world has only two major forms of plant life: Stiltgrass and Green Weed. Green Weed is a ground-hugging creeper with sharp thorn-like leaves which grows in tangles between the rocks and hills of the uplands. As a plant, Green Weed has no value other than providing a little oxygen by photosynthesis.
Stiltgrass, however, stands 2 to 2.5 meters in height, with a typical stalk having a diameter of 30mm. Stiltgrass covers about 60% of the world's surface in gently-waving forests. Stiltgrass has little value except as food for the world's population of bizarre creatures named Dashgoats.
Physically, the Dashgoat resembles a six-legged insect-like creature 3m or so in height. They lead a simple life roaming the Stiltgrass forests in herds of several hundred, pausing to eat the Stiltgrass, then plodding mindlessly onwards. Dashgoats have no eyes, steering their sedate progress by means of sensitive pads on the leading pair of feet and legs. This lack of senses does not pose much of a problem to a creature which frequently moves as little as a few hundred meters in a day even when on the move. Dashgoat stampedes are not to be feared.
Smit TownHome to all of 596 people, or 94% of the world population, the town is centered around the world's small Starport.
The Downport is a collection of 15 launch/landing pads each capable of handling a 400dt vessel. One pad however is very large and can handle 1000 dt. This pad is never used in practice, since large vessels tend to remain in orbit.
The pads are simple plasticrete structures with landing lights and connection points for auxiliary power, life support and drinking water.
Fuel is supplied on request by a grav-tanker, which is in turn supplied by a fuel shuttle, a custom-built vessel which is little more than a huge scoop which makes constant runs to and from the gas giant, delivering its skimmed fuel to the two underground holding tanks built some 60km from the Starport for safety reasons.
The last structure on each landing pad is a small bunker which in fact houses a grav-lift, taking the visitor from the pad to Smit Town deep below the surface of the planet. A second large grav-lift is to be found in the bunker, along with grav pallets, allowing cargo transfer to take place.
The town is built entirely within custom-drilled caverns to protect the citizens from outside conditions, and allowing internal grav fields to provide a constant 0.7g, oxygen-enriched air and a day-night cycle of 12 hours each. A holographic sky-scape projected onto the cavern ceiling gives the impression of dawn, daylight, dusk, and full night.
The caverns themselves are quite tall, most being around 15m high. Buildings are cut into rock faces, though these are decoratively faced leaving no bare rock to be seen. Most buildings are 2 stories high.
The main caverns feature guided walkways and small parks filled with native Sylean plants. Grav lifts hover at about 6m above the floor and grav-stairs consist of a small staircase leading to a platform where a grav-lift can be caught for journeys to various areas of the town. To operate, a verbal instruction is issued and the lift will then proceed directly to the destination.
The town itself is divided into three main sectors, all of which are linked via the main cavern.
The Residential Area has space for far more then the existing homes of the 596 inhabitants, ready for the expansion of the colony over the next few years. There is also a school and a small medical center, and the Democratic Hall. This acts as a museum and library as well as a meeting hall, as most votes are cast via the computer network. The CPU which handles the votes is kept here, as are public records and such like.
The Shopping Mall is quite small, and is dominated by INSTORE, a department store which sells a limited selection of most goods from weapons to data pads.
Other stores include an Astroburger franchise, a cinema, and the Emperor's Head, an expensive restaurant. There are no bars except those within the cinema and restaurant.
The third sector is the Port Sector, and contains the Colonial Broker Office, warehouses, a small ship's outfitters and the Dashgoat-egg packaging facilities.
The largest trading firm in the port is Pharmacologique Fabrique LIC, which has recently expanded its operation to gain a 38% holding in the Dashgoat-egg industry. Some 34 people are employed here (5% of the population). The only other large company is Smit Holdings LIC, a family firm owned by a very minor noble house. Sir Hercule Smit now leaves most of the corporation's day to day running to Sara Smit, his daughter and heir. She has already invested heavily from company profits into local businesses, and Smit Holdings now own or have shares in virtually every enterprise on planet.
The Port sector also houses the town's powerplant, which provides power for grav plates, oxygen compressors and other energy needs. This installation still belongs to the Colonial Office, and is guarded by a squad of ICO troopers.
The FarmsThe Dashgoat ranches are scattered about the equatorial region of Dashgad. They are all built on low mounds of rocky earth -- either artificial or natural. Buildings are blocky and low, built of plasticrete. All the farms have their own grav and environment controls, a couple of grav vehicles and a processing unit for the Dashgoat eggs. They are generally family businesses operated by an extended family or an owner plus a few hired hands.
The farmers are competent and hardworking individuals, but with plenty of land and Dashgoats they are not especially competitive or aggressive.
Weapons and Military Capability
ICO TroopsThe main offensive capability on planet exists in the form of a sergeant and six troopers from the Imperial Colonial Office. These are not regular soldiers but security personnel whose job is to guard the powerplant. As such they are armed with sub-machine guns only, and have a limited supply of ammunition. They also have light body armor and helmets. Their presence shows how important the powerplant and environmental control unit are, and they will not allow these to be left unguarded.
Imperial MarshalA Marshal and three Deputies are the only representatives of the law on this peaceful world. All have a Diplo armor vest, a sidearm and a baton, plus a teargas spray. For emergencies they have two autorifles and two shotguns in a cabinet in the office.
The CharactersThe characters have whatever they arrived with, bought, stole, picked up, made, converted or filed down from a girder in their spare time . . .
The ColonistsIn Smit Town, about 10% of the residents own guns. This includes colonial officials with an issue handgun in a drawer somewhere, ex-service personnel, sporting shooters and colonists who thought that a pistol or shotgun might be useful someday. Thus there are about 50-60 firearms in civilian hands in Smit Town. The vast majority are cheap small-caliber pistols of no great lethality. There are about 30-40 pistols and revolvers, 10 shotguns, 10 semi-automatic rifles and carbines, plus a couple of "specials" in the hands of detailed NPCs. The referee should decide precisely who is armed with what, but remember that this is a peaceful colony with no real need for heavy firepower.
The INSTORE has a small gun rack, selling only weapons legal on Dashgad, and just a few of those. There are no automatics or explosives, just eight various pistols, three shotguns, five carbines and a powerful hunting rifle. The owners will not relinquish their property readily, and may need to be persuaded.
The FarmersMost of the farmers have a gun or two; mainly a shotgun or small-caliber rifle for dealing with the smaller animals of Dashgad.
"Dash-Hunter"100Kg, A2 F8. Speed: Double.
Armor (see note) 20/6
Weapon: Claw (Contact/Very short 2D)
Teeth (Contact 2D)
Note: These centipede-like creatures move very quickly above or below ground. They cannot dig in the stony ground of the uplands, however.
Physical Appearance: They have a large head with a thick rigid shield of bone-like armor, together with two 2m long claws which grab prey and hold them for eating. These arms are adapted for grabbing feeding Dashgoats, which stand 2-3 m high. The head shield provides 3 rigid armor while the leathery hide of the body counts as 2-points of flexible armor.
The AdventureDuring the long and eventful night ahead, there are several scenes which may be played out. The order in which the referee stages them will depend upon the actions of the players. Some scenes may not be used, or may be heard about from NPCs later on, while the characters may find themselves in new situations not listed here. The referee should play for tension, interspersing dramatic action scenes with personal interaction as the colonists try to decide what to do, or take stock, mourning relatives or friends killed by the predators. The colonists as a whole will be very frightened and will look to others for leadership. Without firm, and charismatic -- and successful -- leadership, the colonists will be as much use as a herd of sheep, more of a problem than an asset. Many will simply demand that "something be done," while others will engage in desperate and possibly ill-conceived rescues, stage futile defenses of their property, and otherwise complicate an already appalling situation. Properly led, however, the colonists can do a lot to help themselves. Gaining control of the colony and directing the efforts of the population might be an important step in surviving the events ahead.
Scene 1: The Town MeetingThe characters have brought the news of the predators to the colony, and the colonists will try to decide what to do. To this end, a general meeting is called. About a hundred colonists will pack into the chosen building, shouting and demanding their opinions be heard. The characters and the leaders of the colony will be buttonholed and shouted at, bombarded by demands that they "do something," or stop telling tales and frightening decent folks. The leaders will react according to their nature: the Marshal will try to keep order, the ICO troops under Greener will continue to guard the environment plant, Fergy will try to form a committee to decide what to do, with representatives from all the interest groups there to have their say. The director will become flustered, say something about needing more information and retreat to his office. The meeting is unlikely to achieve much without the characters; intervention.
Eventually, several points will emerge from the babble:
1. More information is needed about the predators.
2. If there really are that many, they'll eat all the Dashgoats and wreck the economy.
3. The predators do not seem to have come anywhere near Smit Town yet, but some of the farms are out of contact. Someone will have to try to reach the farms and see what can be done.
4. Some sort of plan or organization is going to be needed. Evacuation is not an option, since the PCs ship is the only one in port. Even the fuel shuttle is half a day away on a run to the gas giant..
The characters' suggestions will be important in shaping how this scene is played out. The referee should roleplay the support and opposition to any suggestions like forming a militia or mounting an expedition to destroy the predators.
The most likely solution will be for most of the colonists to remain where they are, protected by a militia armed with pistols, shotguns etc. A couple of groups constructed around more powerful weapons used by the ICO troops or the marshal's men will form a reaction force, while the characters undertake an expedition to gather more information, round up a few Dashgoats, rescue the farmers, or whatever the colonists decide is the most urgent task.
This is an interaction/roleplaying scene, and should be used to introduce the characters to the colonists' leaders, plus force the players to make some decisions.
Scene 2: The Last RoundupIt is obvious that if the predators are allowed to slaughter all the Dashgoats, the economy of Dashgad is finished, since Dashgoat eggs are the only export. The colonists decide to mount an expedition to round up a small herd of Dashgoats, move it to a safe location, and defend it against all comers. The characters may join this expedition or hear about it later.
The problems inherent in this undertaking are not few. First, a suitable group of Dashgoats must be located. Second, this group will of course attract the attention of the predators, which must be kept at bay. Third, herding Dashgoats is not as easy as it sounds. They are 2-3 meters tall, blind, and slow moving. Dashgoats respond best to vibrations through the ground, and can be induced to move by causing vibrations "behind" them. If sufficiently vigorous, these vibrations will become unpleasant for the beasts, which will amble slowly away from the noise. It might be possible to herd the Dashgoats onto the landing pad (which the predators cannot break through), or even down the cargo lift into the colony. Whatever the characters do, they must later live with. Dashgoats wandering the colony's corridors dripping acidic enzymes everywhere will cause a set of problems all their own.
The challenges in this scene are to decide where to find the Dashgoats -- and what to do with them. Then to get them to go where the characters want. The occasional predator attack will not help matters, and a minor crisis like a grav-vehicle failing due to the cold should keep the players thinking.
Scene 3: BreakthroughReturning to the colony, the characters are invited to another meeting of the Provisional Defense Council (Fergy will come up with grand titles like this for everything). Matters are still deteriorating. The predators are swarming out of the ground in seemingly endless numbers, and a few seem to have managed to get into Smit Town by some means. A discussion takes place, where information can be shared and collated. It seems that the predators cannot burrow through rocky soil very well, and not at all through solid rock. The few that have managed to get in can be dealt with by reaction patrols, but already the defenders are stretched thin. It is not known how these few have managed to infiltrate the town. The meeting will throw up a couple more "must be done" jobs for the colonists or the characters.
A couple of families have managed to escape in their grav harvesters or trucks and reach the town, but others are still trapped on their farms. A rescue attempt must be mounted. The points of entry for the predators must be found and sealed or at least guarded. Colonists must be moved from their homes in the most threatened areas of the town.
Before a plan can be properly formulated, news arrives that a dozen or so predators have somehow managed to get into the town and are rampaging about the residential district. The patrol assigned to defend the area has taken several casualties trying to contain the situation, and their injured personnel are threatened, along with several civilians in a temporary aid post set up nearby.
A response will have to be mounted immediately, or the wounded will be slaughtered.
This scene allows the characters a chance to interact with the colonists before being plunged back into the fray.
Scene 4: StocktakingBack at Smit Town, the characters will be briefed on the current situation. The incidence of predators getting into the town is on the increase. The defenders are doing their best but the entry point is going to have to be found and blocked or the colonists will be overwhelmed.
Other problems to be dealt with include rising panic among the colonists and a feeling of mistrust towards the characters (who could escape in their ship if things become too desperate) showed by some of the colonists. Others will try to bribe or beg for a berth aboard the ship to escape.
Clearly the colonists need to be given something constructive to do rather than wait and hope. Characters who form teams of medics, set colonists to building barricades or jury-rigging explosives, or otherwise "manage" the colonists should be rewarded, while those who simply ignore them are going to have a problem -- maybe even a riot -- on their hands. Some of the colony's leaders might actively support such a revolution among the colonists if it places them in a better political position or furthers their aims.
By this scene, the colony is under pressure from within as well as without. How the characters handle the interactions here could prove the turning point in the scenario. A colony divided, with different groups scrambling for power, will surely fall. The referee should play out several scenes of discontent, fear and vicious selfishness as the characters try to rest and take stock.
Scene 5: The Battle Of Duct 39 AlphaThe worms' entry point has been discovered. They have managed to get into the ventilation ducts above the artificial caverns of Smit Town, squeezing or forcing their way through the grilles and fans of the ventilation and condensing system. From here, they are able to get into the colony itself, and a small number are already roaming the town. This number will increase rapidly as more find their way through the ducts, widening the gaps forced by earlier arrivals.
In fact the situation is much worse than that. Some of the predators have managed to get into the machinery and been chopped to bits by the fan blades. Their armor plating has jammed some of the fans, causing the rest to become overloaded. If the ventilation system is not cleared then within 6 hours the colony's air will become unbreathable.
Volunteers are sought for an expedition into the ventilation system, to climb up the service tunnels and clear the fans, then drive the worms out of the system and shore up the grilles -- or if that is not possible then to station guards on the entry points to defend them.
The volunteers will be required to negotiate narrow access shafts, most of which are unlit. The environmental system is built more in the vertical than the horizontal plane, meaning that at least some of the fighting will have to be done while hanging from ladders or balanced on inspection ledges.
This scene should be reminiscent of the "Alien" films, with combat taking place in awkward places, in the dark, and with the very real danger that a ricochet might injure one of the volunteers. There is also damaged machinery to contend with -- not merely requiring repair or the clearance of minced worms, but posing an active hazard from bare wiring or whirling damaged fan blades. There is also the possibility that a dead worm might fall upon its killer from above.
The characters will find themselves having to think as well as fight, to overcome technical problems with the machinery, to find a way to keep the worms out in future, and also to avoid falling down the shafts or into the fans.
Scene 6: The MacInray FarmThis incident is typical of any of the rescues that might be staged. The MacInray farm is some distance from Smit Town, and has been out of contact for hours when a weak radio transmission is picked up. The message has been rebroadcast by the fuel shuttle, which is coming in from the gas giant. The ranchers have sent a brief GK (SOS) signal to the effect that their ranch house is surrounded by predators, which are crawling up the foundation mound and seeking a way in. Most of the family have barricaded themselves in, but the doors and windows cannot keep the predators out for long.
The MacInray farm is home to a family of four, plus three hired hands. Of the seven, five are in the house, with one of the hands currently on top of the environment hut trying to get an emergency hand radio to work while fending off predators with a length of pipe. The minced remains of the farm owner are currently being fought over in the yard, where Douglas MacInray tried to reach the harvester to rescue his family. Once the Dash-hunters have finished eating him, there is little to stop them bursting into the farmhouse. The rescue party arrives in time to see a predator finally manage to break a triple-glazed toughened-glass window and slither inside. Others move to follow.
The rescue is complicated. The characters must get the hand off the roof quickly as well as rescuing the family from inside the building. This presents a challenge of its own, as there are two screaming young children who do not yet know that their father is already worm food -- ironically the only reason the predators have not broken in earlier -- a farm hand armed with a large spanner vainly trying to fend off the onslaught in the kitchen, and a very frightened but nonetheless determined Mrs. Eileen MacInray armed with a double-barreled shotgun, for which there are exactly two shells left. She is scared enough to shoot at any movement -- this may be the first character into the room. Worse, she might decide that the kindest thing she can do for her children is to turn the gun on them rather than let the "worms" get them.
The characters have to somehow get this crowd into their vehicles and away before the worms finish with Douglas and begin looking for dessert. There are simply too many of them to just shoot them all. A fast rescue is the only answer.
This scene is not a simple firefight. The characters need to move fast, convince the farmers to move and leave Douglas behind, and keep the terrified children calm. The latter may have the team wishing they could just go hand-to-hand with the predators.
Scene 7: Last Stand On DashgadThings are a little better, or so the characters think. The defenses are holding, the farmers and a small herd of Dashgoats have been saved, the threat to the environmental control units has been dealt with.
The colonists begin to look at what they can do beyond the immediate survival necessities, and ask the characters if it might be possible to use their ship to go for help. With suitable measures in place, the colonists should be able to hold out for a couple of weeks, by which time the threat might have passed, or the characters brought back reinforcements.
Reaching the ship would require a sally in force by the defenders to drive the worms away from the vessel long enough to board safely. A discussion is begun about how to mount this operation when a huge explosion rocks the cavern. Rock falls from the ceiling, buildings are damaged. Power is lost to some areas. Another explosion follows, and a third.
After a few frantic minutes trying to find out what is happening and to deal with the immediate crises, the full extent of the disaster becomes apparent. While the main liquid hydrogen tanks are stored some 60km away from the town, there is a small reserve in the grav-tankers used to refuel visiting starships. The worms have begun trying to get inside any vehicle or structure, so desperate they are to find food. Their efforts may have damaged one of the grav-tankers, or perhaps it just had a leak. The truth will never be known.
One of the worms managed to get into a storage area containing a crate of Dashgoat eggs, ate all it could of the powdered eggs and went into a frenzy as the oxidizing agent in the eggs began to act. Blundering about covered in egg powder, the worm came into contact with a little hydrogen from the leaking tanker. The resulting small explosion ruptured the grav-tanker bringing several tons of liquid hydrogen into contact with air and the super-oxidizing egg powder.
The resulting explosion has partially destroyed the starport, damaged the characters' ship, and blown open several entryways to the town. The atmosphere inside will soon become unbreathable as the gases inside mix with the low-oxygen atmosphere outside, requiring emergency filter masks to be worn. Far more urgently, the worms are entering the last stages of starvation, and begin to plunge into the town through the grav lift shafts, ventilation ducts and cracks in the ceiling.
The colonists' last refuge is threatened. The worms are apparently swarming in from all over the planet. There is no chance for rescue.
Grimly, the colonists construct barricades from whatever is to hand, bar themselves into the most sturdy buildings and count out the few remaining rounds for their weapons. The defensive ring shrinks as the defenders are forced back. Finally the remaining colonists are crowded into a small space in the center of town, a ring of barricades manned by the surviving defenders the only flimsy obstacle between them and a messy death.
As dawn approaches, the colonists prepare to make their last stand.
Scene 8: Deliverance?The life cycle of the worms is a complex one, and requires certain conditions to be met. One of these is extreme cold. Only in the very depths of a Cold Night will the worms awaken, to rampage until the temperature rises again. Only when the alignment of planets is such that the world experiences three nights in a row -- i.e. the time Dashgad spends in the shadow of the gas giant Masia corresponds to what would normally be a day -- will the temperatures fall low enough. On this particular Cold Night the timing has been perfect for the worms, causing them to awaken.
Dashgad has been through two natural and one "shadow" nights, and the temperature will begin to rise. Within a couple of hours of sunrise, the worms will sense the temperature rise and begin seeking a place to burrow and lay their eggs. Those which have had enough to eat will do so immediately, while the rest become increasingly desperate. They will hurl themselves at the barricades to try to get at the colonists, but also will try to eat one another, especially the wounded.
Gradually the tide will ebb, until there are no more worms at the barricades. The colonists emerge into the light of a new day and begin to repair their shattered lives.
Assuming, of course, that anyone survives at all.
Note: The cavalry does not arrive, just in time or otherwise. The characters and the colonists must weather the storm and survive by their own efforts. The overall feeling of the scenario should be rising tension, interspersed with interaction scenes before the next crisis breaks. If the characters do not emerge limp and exhausted, joyful at the new day's breaking but saddened by the losses they have sustained, then the referee wasn't really trying!
NPCsThe following are a few of the NPCs who might play a prominent role in the events of the night. They are not just there to bear arms, but will have their say at any meeting, perhaps insisting that their course of action is the only sane one or demanding that the defenders protect an installation in return for weapons or advice.
The colonists may form several teams of defenders, and some of these NPCs, who may well be known to the PCs by name, will be on those teams. The news that a friend is on the team that was just reported as surrounded and down to the last few rounds will make a rescue more dramatic -- or more poignant as the characters arrive just too late. These NPCs are expendable, but their demise should have some impact upon the PCs. No skills are listed, as their personalities are more important to the adventure.
Imperial Marshal Yvonne Lavillii. Age 36. Lavillii is an ex-Captain in Ground Force Command (the Imperial Army), with decorations and a couple of combat ribbons to show for it. She is opposed to the idea of armed civilians running about the place, and will trust only ex-military personnel. At first she will argue that only the "proper authorities" should deal with the situation -- the ICO troops and her own deputies, plus any ex-service personnel she can co-opt. She will quickly agree to the formation of a militia among the more able civilians once the situation begins to get out of hand, but has a rather utopian view -- she wants this militia to undergo training for a couple of days before deployment. Lavillii will cling to her illusions rather longer than is sensible.
Sergeant Holden Greener. Age 28. Greener is also an ex-army man, but has no combat experience. He is absolutely unwilling to leave the life support equipment unguarded, but will allow pistol-armed colonists to replace half his men, freeing them for mobile duty. Greener will argue for the formation of "fire brigades" of armed colonists, deployed to respond to any breakthrough by the predators, which will be detected by a screen of lightly armed patrols. This is a sensible idea, but typical of Greener's NCO mentality -- hang on and wait for the officers to sort the problem out.
Greener also has an inner demon. He has not seen combat, and does not know if he will be able to lead his men in combat. His doubts may make him cautious or reckless, or both.
John Fergy, Gabatith Shipping. Age 48. Fergy represents the corporate interests on Dashgad, and is the voice of economics on the emergency council. He will be the one to point out the value of anything destroyed, and the first to realize the fact that if the predators eat all the Dashgoats, then Dashgad's economy as well as her ecology is finished. He is middle-aged, overweight and not especially brave. Although he has a pistol in his desk drawer, Fergy will be the man to organize a defense rather than lead it. He may be invaluable in helping formulate and agree on a plan, though.
Commander Sharrii Attarii, ICO. Age 27. Attarii is a career officer in the Colonial Office. He is young to hold the post of a colony director, and up until today was proud to be a high-flyer. Right now he's scared of many things -- what might happen to his career, to the colonists and installations under his jurisdiction, and not least being eaten by the predators. At first he will dither and err on the side of the defensive option when he makes a decision at all -- more often he will simply rubber-stamp the most conservative plan. As time goes on and casualties mount, Attarii will gradually lose his authority and begin to despair as the situation slips away from his control. He will still try to take credit for successes, weaseling frantically to make sure that any blame falls on others -- like the PCs. He would not be above selling the characters out to save his career. He has a pistol, which will probably remain unfired throughout the crisis.
Sam Jenkins. Age 52. Sam is an old soldier. His military career was uninspiring -- a series of garrison duties with little active service. He does, however, have a considerable amount of experience gathered over the years, and an inexhaustible store of common sense. He also still has his service rifle, kept as a reward for long and dedicated service. Initially just a gray-haired face in the crowd of colonists, Sam will emerge with a few choice words of advice, and though not terribly fit will volunteer for duty defending the colony. He advises that the most defensive option is not always the winning choice, and will bluntly state that there isn't going to be any rescue. The colonists are on their own. Sam does not want to lead or command, but he will advise someone who does. He will do whatever it takes to protect his new home, his friends and neighbors, whatever the consequences. He might even shoot a leader who was leading the colonists to destruction if Sam thought that was the only option.
Petrov Nadile. Age 18. Petrov will not appear until the first incursions into the underground colony. He is a fairly typical colonist. Or was, until the predators attacked his family. He knows for certain that his parents are dead. He is searching for his sister, baby brother and his girlfriend, who was babysitting for them. He has no idea if they are alive, and is becoming increasingly unbalanced. He will volunteer for patrols in order to search a wider area, but gradually his motive will shift to just killing the predators. He will lead patrols into danger to get them to kill more of his enemies.
Veronica Margrave. Age 39. Just an ordinary colonist, a computer programmer working on the environment control staff, Veronica has three children in the colony. She will speak for the "ordinary colonists" at any meeting, demanding not glib reassurances but hard facts, wanting to know what the colonists can do to help themselves. Unarmed, Veronica will be seen leading groups of younger men and women she has shamed out of hiding to bring in the wounded, form medical parties, retrieve stores and generally perform common-sense supportive tasks. She will quickly become the rallying-point for the non-combatant colonists. Her death would shake them badly, though she takes great risks to do whatever seems necessary.
Article publication date: May 7, 1999
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