Friday, 5 October 2012

Aloin's Saga - Solo Traveller #10

“Target returning fire. Lasers and missiles. Three missiles inbound.”

“Launch sand. Run Gunner Interact programme. Engage Target with Turret 1’s beams.”

“Missile 1 destroyed. Missile 3 destroyed. Missile 2 locked on.”

“Launch more sand. Turret 1, point defence against incoming missile.”

“Missile has lock.”

“Run Evade programme. Launch more sand. Turret 1, engage missile.”

“Missile has lock. Impact in ten seconds.”

“Not again! Turret 1 engage! Run Evade!”

“Missile impact. Explosive decompression aft of frame 24 ... .”

“Darn it! Same again! Every time it comes out this way! I’m so bored!” Aloin pushed the game controller away from him. As the tacsym paused, and the commons lights came up, Captain Elera Lukk glanced up from her reader. “We’ve been here two weeks and I haven’t stepped out of the ship,” Aloin complained, stalking over to the chiller and pulling out a fizz drink.

Elera Lukk frowned and turned her reader off. “We’re waiting, Mr Grathikka,” she said. “We are practising the art of patience.” She glanced at the chrono on her wrist. “I am expecting a call within the next 80 minutes which will determine whether we go out light or heavy.” She touched a couple of buttons on her hand comp. “Until then,” she continued, getting to her feet, “might I suggest you re-run your last exercise on the tacsym as I have just altered the parameters.” As the tacsym sprang into life and Aloin made a dive for the controller, Captain Lukk serenely headed for’ard towards her cabin.

“Right! We have a cargo,” Captain Lukk said, bursting into the crew commons. “Nine tons of the finest, laser-etched, Miazan blade ware. Or so that cutpurse, Itato Surviiros, tells me. Which probably means,” she added, “they were stamped in some Vargr-run sweat shop on Tonivar and Surviiros tricked them out of a dim-witted Outrim trader.”

Kiirgun Atmai pulled a face. “Nine tons, Ma’am? We’ll be running practically empty.”

Lukk nodded glumly. “I’m aware of this, Kiir,” she said. “Light up the board. We’ll take freight for Ektra, via Omega Vasali IX.”

“No passengers?”

“No passengers. More trouble than they’re worth.”

Kiir raised an eyebrow. “And we’re ignoring our angry cousins?”

Lukk grinned. “With Miazan Traffic Control climbing all over them for leaving their slot on approach? I suspect they’ll be staying quieter than fauxmice.” She chuckled. “The anonymous complaint probably didn’t help, either.”

“You dropped a blank call to M.T.C.?” Kiirgun asked. He laughed. “I think you’ve just made our angry cousins just that little bit angrier,” he said with a grin.

Twenty-seven hours later, and with 30 tons of freight for Omega Vasali IX aboard, the Iridium Queen departed Miazan High Port, dropping away to nadir into the outbound Jump Zone. One hundred and five planetary diameters out from the blue-gray orb of Miazan, the Iridium Queen’s Jump Drive began to spin up. As the ship’s transponder automatically synced departure time and destination with the Jump Zone Buoy, the Jump Drive wrapped the Iridium Queen in a bubble of energy, ripped a small hole in the fabric of the Universe and hurled the ship through it.

With a flash and a burst of neutrinos, the Iridium Queen vanished.


I do feel a bit of a tease after the big build up, but sometimes you roll “no encounter”. And in a Solo game, you then have to come up with a plausible reason as to why the expected confrontation did not occur.

With busy shipping lanes around a major starport, I would expect that Traffic Control would keep a very tight rein over what starships do or not do in the vicinity of the Highport. While space is very big, with traffic converging on a volume only several miles in diameter, the chances that someone not sticking tightly to plot ends up where they shouldn’t be and causes a major accident must be reasonably high (the wrecking of the Rena on the Astrolabe Reef, off the port of Tauranga, is a rather salient reminder of what can happen when a navigator attempts to cut the corner on what should have been a simple approach).

Given the agitation evident amongst the Iridium Queen’s crew over the appearance of the Guard Amethyst, a combination of a Traffic Control investigation (into a retro-written illegal manoeuvre) and a policy of staying pretty much aboard while in dock seems a likely explanation as to why there was no encounter – this time.

Anyway, the Iridium Queen is now bound for a new area of space – Ektra and the Kamperelian Republic – where, surely, adventure and daring do must be done.


  1. Cool.
    Hey in your games, how long for a Jump Drive to spin up? I am aware of the rules for plotting a jump but assuming a jump is plotted, could someone just jump right out of a combat, for instance? Just wanting to get your impressions.
    I'm also interested in the logging of the jump buoy, keeping track of where ships are heading. Guess it would be handy skip tracing. Any sources on buoys, their operation, etc? Or is it your own creation? If so, cool idea and makes a lot of sense, adds realism.

    1. Oooh, what good questions :) Now, these are just ideas for my Traveller universe, but if you like the flavour then please adapt them.

      Jump Drive Spin Up - depending on the version of Traveller you use, the amount of time required to prep the drive for jump is either not stated (Classic Traveller) or is implied (Classic Traveller High Guard), or is possibly defined in microscopic detail (MegaTraveller's Starship Operations Guide).

      I've always viewed Jump Drives as giant capacitors. The actual action of Jumping requires a huge amount of energy to propel the ship from our energy state universe into a higher energy state. Civilian Jump Drives generate this energy as they spin up and power up their Jump grids, storing the excess energy until it is released to create the Jump bubble and insert the ship into the energy state required for the Jump. Military grade Jump Drives do this whole "power up the grids and jump" thing a lot quicker as when they have to move, they really have to move.

      Classic Traveller High Guard states that a military ship can jump in one turn (20 minutes) if its Power Plant number is twice the Jump number being attempted (ie a ship with Power Plant 8 can Jump in one turn if it is attempting Jump 4 or less). As this crash Jump takes all the power output, most military ships will jump after two turns (40 minutes) or break off under manoeuvre drive before Jumping. For a civilian ship, I would say that the drive spins up in 1d3 turns (ie 20 minutes to 60 minutes) reduced by 10 minutes per point over 8+ the Engineer makes his/her Drive Engineer roll. Of course, the civilian ship might begin Spin Up prior to reaching their 100 diametres+ Jump point, but if the drive reaches capacity prior to the Jump Point then you run the risk of Miss-Jump and/or drive damage.

      The Jump Buoy idea actually comes from CJ Cherryh's excellent Alliance/Union series (Downbelow Station and Tri-point are particularly excellent for Traveller atmosphere) and her Compact Space series (Pride of Chanur, etc, which are also excellent source material for Aslan). Given light speed communications lag, I assume a series of buoys in the Jump Zones, all routed through COACC and Traffic Control that provide in and out-bound ships data snapshots of moving objects in the system.

      Not all systems have them. I'm thinking A and B Starports with main world populations of tens of millions + will have extensive Jump Zone traffic control purely for the amount of shipping that will be passing through.

      While the buoy would provide details for skip tracers, the information would be old by the time it was accessible, and it might not be 100% accurate. But at least it would be something, providing a probability cone pointing in one direction as opposed to "no freaking idea". A bit like traffic CCTV cameras on modern motorways.

    2. I have wanted to read Downbelow station for a while. Right now I am finishing up Daugherty's Yesterday's Heros.