Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Tunnels of Tonivar


Kiang allies of the Kalar-Wi
Library Data:

Tonivar/Cabria C-200544-8 Non-Industrial/Vacuum
Tonivar, or Kalbia I, Downport has two tractor tugs. The Imperial Scout Base has a repair tug. Tonivar has two small moons – the larger, Ie, is 121 miles in diameter. The smaller, Fleck, is 16 miles in diameter.
Settled by a Vargr mercenary unit that the Imperium paid off with land, the 830,000 inhabitants have been growing restless as their resentment to being forced into becoming miners has increased. Parts of Tonivar were attacked by Kalar-Wi forces during the Kalar-Wi War and a number of warrens were damaged or destroyed. The survivors of the small Kalar-Wi occupation force were repatriated after the defeat of the Kalar-Wi in 1105, though rumors persist that the Tonivargr massacred a number of Kalar-Wi and their Kiang allies after the Kalar-Wi surrender, but before Imperial authorities could completely take control of the situation. A large number of Kiang now live and work on Tonivar, mainly in menial or dangerous low status jobs, sending money home to their families on Gaidon.

After getting caught out a little by the prep (or lack of it) I did for the Secrets in Sulphur sessions, when the opportunity came to run a little side game for John and Chris, I decided to approach this scenario slightly differently. As I mentioned in my last post, I initially used my “bang-two-ideas-together” method to suggest an over-arching theme for the adventure. Coming up with “abandoned base” and “treasure”, and then selecting Tonivar/Cabria as the location got me thinking about the next level down – who lived there, what was or had happened (“abandoned base”?), what was going on.

The library data entry, above, expanded on notes in my system book and, in turn, prompted me to expand my notes on the Kalar-Wi – as noted in my previous post. One thing that came through from thinking about the Kalar-Wi was that a “treasure” for a Kalar-Wi might be a different thing from a “treasure” for anyone else. And this, in turn, allowed me to work a couple of little wrinkles into the scenario to give the players an “aha” moment.

I then wrote up my ideas, making sure that I actually stretched myself and named all the minor characters – just in case someone asked an awkward question.

John decided to create a Merchant character from Book 7: Merchant Prince. I haven’t used Merchant Prince very much – it was published late in my first Traveller cycle – so we had a bit of fun working our way through the character generation process. John’s character, Akira Valdez, started out working for a subsector-wide shipping line. Through a series of bad assignment rolls, he found himself being progressively down-sized – from subsector-wide line to interface line to fledgling line. I suspected that if this trend had continued, then Valdez would have ended up running a concession stand at a D Class Starport. Eventually, after an exciting late career on a free trader, Akira Valdez mustered out after failing a reenlistment roll.

Chris’ character, Nimrod ‘Nim’ Higgins, on the other hand, was a more standard Book: 4 Marine, though he ended up with a rather truncated career – after transferring to the Commandos, he got parked in Staff College, got bored, and mustered out.

Characters:
John – Akira Valdez, Ex - Merchant
Chris – Nimrod ‘Nim’ Higgins, Ex- Marine Commando

Cabria SubsectorBackstory:
Akira Valdez had spent the last couple of years working as a broker for Maash Freight, a fledgling line out of Celephais/Miazan. Injured on Naird/Cabria during a trade deal that went bad, Valdez was let go from his ship and transported back to Tonivar/Cabria in Imperial Space. While recuperating in a hospital at Tonivar Down, he managed to get word to an old friend on Miazan/Miazan, Osiris ‘Ossi’ Higgins, that he needed help. Ossi was committed to a trading voyage to Rimward and so sent his son, Nim Higgins – recently returned home after quitting Marine Staff College – in his place.

Game Play:
Akira Valdez was pretty much on the mend after his adventures out in the Outrim so he decided to take young Nim Higgins out for a night of cards and fun in the Tonivar Down bar district before they shipped out for Miazan/Miazan and home. While playing cards with a group of locals in a bar called Uesze’s, a drunken one-legged ex-soldier called Wai Toi threw a map into the pot. He swore that the map was authentic and that it showed the location of a Kalar-Wi Ground Force payroll in the ruined Laghdha warren, left over from the war four years ago. Wai Toi was in Ordinance Disposal after the war and took part in the sweeps of Kalar-Wi occupied warrens, looking for booby-traps and unexploded ordinance. He says that he never had the opportunity to go back to the Laghdha warren to pick up the pay tokens – he lost a leg to a booby-trap in a later warren clearance – but he knows of a collector on Celephais/Miazan called Ghorman Holk, of Holk, Garstil and Vorshu Antiquarians, who pays top rate for Kalar-Wi military memorabilia.

As Toi describes it, the pay tokens were in long, sausage-like, silk bags in a locked and armoured box. He repacked the contents of the strongbox in a plain Imperial storage box and stacked it in a pile of equipment in the warren administration office. Toi estimates that there were about Cr500,000 – the monthly pay for a battalion sized formation known to have occupied the Laghdha warren – in Kalar-Wi pay tokens, worth about Cr15,000 – Cr25,000 on the collectors’ circuit.
Sneaky GM note: Toi does not realise that what he has found is actually a Kalar-Wi Groupment’s Honour Chest – the tokens represent the various honours and awards that the Groupment (a battalion sized unit) has received during its existence. An intact Kalar-Wi Groupment Honour Chest is worth probably in the order of MCr 5 to MCr 10.
Nim did a little asking around and learnt that the Laghdha warren was indeed bombed out during the war, and only partially resealed after the war – four years ago – and that the authorities have still not got around to effecting more substantial repairs. Wai Toi is broke, and an invalid after his injury. Due to an administrative mess-up, instead of being Medivacced to Miazan, he was dishonourably discharged on Tonivar instead. He only discovered this when he woke up in a local hospital and found that his unit had pulled out. He has barely the funds for a Low Passage ticket back to Miazan where he will try and get a Veterans Affairs Lawyer to take his case. Nim also learns that Wai Toi has a reputation as a liar and a drunk. And that all that is known about him for sure is that he was in the Army, his unit was deployed to Tonivar and, it is said, he was Absent Without Leave when his unit was suddenly redeployed.

Kalar-Wi in Combat Armour
Having won the hand, and the map, Valdez slips Wai Toi Cr10,000 for a High Passage home and the chance to clear his name of the AWOL charge. Then, Valdez and Nim retire to have a look at the map they have won.

The Laghdha warren lies about 100 kilometres west of Tonivar Down in a valley. It was once an ancient lava cave and now consists of two main tunnel levels with various branches and smaller lines. Toi’s map shows the main entrance and the route to the administrative office, as well as sketchier details of the lower level and a secondary entrance further along the valley.

As Valdez and Nim prepare to head off to hire some transport, the friendly barman at Uesze’s suggests that they be careful. He’s seen some strangers around recently who remind him of the Kalar-Wi who were on-planet just a few years ago.

After hiring a sealed surface vehicle, as the subsurface monorail system has not been reconnected to Laghdha warren, Nim and Valdez set out, heading along the main northbound roadway in an effort to throw off any casual followers. About forty kilometres north of Tonivar Down, they turn off the main highway onto a secondary road heading west towards the range of hills lining the Laghdha valley. While climbing up the hillroad, they see two grav vans sail overhead, coming from Tonivar Down and heading towards the Laghdha valley and the Laghdha warrens. Assuming that Toi may have sold his map on more than one occasion, Nim and Valdez are not too surprised to crest the rise and spot the two grav vans parked outside the dome entrance to the warrens. As they watch from the crest of the rise, they see a number of vacc-suited people enter the dome.

Realising that they have competition, Nim and Valdez hastily head south, just below the ridgeline. Reaching the southern pass, they come down into the valley near the southern entrance dome. Hidden from the main entrance dome by the curve of the valley, Nim and Valdez are able to drive right up to the Southern Dome. They discover that the vehicle lock door has been breached but the pedestrian lock is still functioning. Once their vehicle is hidden inside the vehicle lock, Nim and Valdez manage to access the pedestrian lock. There is no power for the lifts but emergency lights are still running. Locating a stairwell, they begin climbing down a series of flights of steps until they reach a subway line on the lowest level.

As the stairwell and corridors contain a breathable, if rather stale, atmosphere, and there is some power on, Nim and Valdez are able to doff the helmets of their pressure suits. One of the subway cars is still working, so they set it in motion. Exiting the subway tunnel, the track continues northward along the main lower tunnel. The lower tunnel is about 40 metres wide with various smaller tunnels running off to the east and west. The “rail line” runs along the centre of the main hall and consists of parallel guide grooves for the wheeled carriages of the train. Riding the train north, both Nim and Valdez become very conscious that the only sound, in the dimly lit and abandoned hall, is the susurrus of their train’s tyres.

After what seems a very long ride through the gloomy main tunnel, Nim and Valdez locate a service stairwell that their map tells them will bring them out near the administration offices on the upper level. Leaving the train, they carefully ascend the stairs, emerging in a narrow corridor. Moving cautiously along it, they check the side rooms as they go. Then, they hear noises and see the flicker of flash lights coming from a side corridor, ahead.

Carefully peering around the corridor corner, Nim and Valdez find themselves looking into the central administration office suite for the warren. Various desks and other items of office furniture are in the process of being pushed aside and otherwise investigated by twelve small humanoids. While each is wearing a light pressure suit, all have their helmets off, revealing the dark blue skins, bald heads, and long ears of Kiang.

As Nim and Valdez watch the Kiang sifting through the stacks of office furniture, two taller figures emerge from one of the partitioned offices. As they step into the light, Valdez recognises them as two Kalar-Wi, wearing Kalar-Wi issue combat armour.

One of the two Kalar-Wi issues a stream of orders to the Kiang, sending them scurrying around the office, obviously looking for something, while two of their number are picked out and dispatched to explore further.

Nim and Valdez suddenly realise that the two Kiang are heading right towards them. They quickly scoot back into an empty office and wait as the Kiang pass by. After lying quiet for a few minutes, they hear the two Kiang coming back from their errand. The Kiang hesitate before turning into the corridor towards the administration centre, and then start arguing with each other.

Both Valdez and Nim come to the conclusion that these two Kiang are not very happy with the situation they find themselves in, nor with their Kalar-Wi masters. Getting the drop on them, Nim and Valdez question the Kiang further. Their names are Tak Tal Nok and Von Dat Goh and they are retainers of Group Leader Tur’vak Hrak’lar, the leader of the Kalar-Wi expedition. Tak and Von are also members of the Phagouran Nak Prah - or FhNP – the Kiang Separatist Movement known of the Harmonious Path.

Nim and Valdez persuade Tak and Von that they are the local FhNP cell’s best hope of defeating these Kalar-Wi and aiding the revolution. After some quick planning, Tak and Von enter the office suite and report to Group Leader Hrak’lar. As he dismisses them, they shout out to the other Kiang in Udah Gol Pranh – the Kiang native language, suppressed by the Kalar-Wi – to take cover.

As most of the Kiang drop to the floor, Nim and Valdez step in the room and open fire. A spectacular fire fight erupts as the rest of Group Leader Hrak’lar’s party of Kalar-Wi spill out of the offices and the Kiang join in, either firing on each other or at their overlords.

When the smoke clears four Kalar-Wi and five Kiang are down and the two surviving Kalar-Wi have fled. Along with Tak and Von, Nim and Valdez quickly check the offices and locate the pile of containers Wai Toi left behind during his team’s sweep of the warren. There is an obvious gap where a box has been removed.

Convinced that Tur’vak Hrak’lar, who survived the shoot out in the offices, has their treasure, Nim and Valdez give chase, with Tak, Von and the rest of the FhNP Kiang racing along behind. Reaching the main elevator at the Northern Entrance, Nim and Valdez see that the passenger car is heading towards the surface. Forcing the lift doors open, they fire up the lift shaft, damaging the lift and bringing it to a halt. Piling into the vehicle and freight elevator, Nim, Valdez and the Kiang make their way to the surface.

As the lift doors open, Nim and Valdez rush around the lift core to the passenger elevator. Bursting through the airlock separating the two halves of the entrance dome, Nim and Valdez see that the elevator door has been wedged open. It would appear that Hrak’lar and his companion managed to climb up the emergency ladder in the elevator shaft and made their escape in one of the two grav vans their party arrived in.

Piling into the other grav van, and with Tak driving, they chase off after Hrak’lar. Soon, they work out he’s heading for the starport and his ship. After a crazy chase through the hills east of the Laghdha valley, Tak manages to manoeuvre their grav van close enough to Hrak’lar’s van that Nim is able to shoot it down before they reach the Tonivar Down city limits.

Doubling back to the wrecked van, Valdez is able to recover the storage box containing the loot. Then, after some discussion with Tak and Von, a brazen plan for seizing the Kalar-Wi ship is hatched.

Driving discretely up to the starport gate, Tak and Von talk their way past security while Nim and Valdez keep out of sight in the rear of the van. En route to the landing pad, Von calls ahead to the ship. Claiming that “one of the Masters” is wounded, he implores the duty Kiang to open the cargo hatch so they can bring the “Master” aboard the ship in the grav van. After some off-mic discussion, the duty Kalar-Wi officer orders the van brought aboard.

As soon as the grav van is aboard and the cargo hold is restored to full atmosphere, Tak pops the lock on the van as the two Kalar-Wi officers enter the hold. As they approach the grav van, Nim and Valdez pop out of the back. “Surprise!” they say as they open fire.

The FhNP Kiang pile out of the grav van and quickly overcome their compatriots aboard ship. A number of heads are banged together and then the shipside Kiang see the wisdom of joining the revolution. Unable to believe their luck, Nim and Valdez settle back as Tak and Von get the ship ready for a quick take off.

Given the way that the Kalar-Wi have run the ship up until now – only interacting with Imperial authorities through their Kiang agents – Tonivar Down Traffic Control does not suspect anything is amiss when their Kiang “guests” abruptly request departure clearance. Once cleared, the ship, now renamed the “Harmony” by Tak and Von, heads for the Jump point. On board, there has been some debate about where to head as Tak and Von want to aid the FhNP’s cause against the Kalar-Wi. Valdez suggests that taking the loot rescued from the Laghdha warren to Wai Toi’s contact, Ghorman Holk the Antiquarian, on Celephais could realise a lot of cash that could be converted into supplies that could aid the revolution. After some thought, Tak and Von agree. As the “Harmony” is only a Jump-2 ship, they are obliged to plot a circuitous route via Masaad and Kalar-Wi to reach Celepahais. While risky, the relationship between Kalar-Wi and Kiang is such that Kalar-Wi officials see only what they expect to see – Kiang going about their Masters’ business. The alternate route via Ektra and Kamperelian space is considered more dangerous as the Kamperelians are going through one of their periodic xenophobic phases.

Three jumps and six weeks later, the Harmony, with a little extra cash aboard from some speculative trading, reaches Celephais. As suspected, as long as Nim and Valdez kept their heads down, there was no interference from Kalar-Wi authorities at either Masaad or Kalar-Wi – Group Leader Hrak’lar’s little mission to Tonivar had not generated an information wave across Kalar-Wi space that would raise a flag when the Harmony docked. On Celephais, Valdez and Nim track down Ghorman Holk and discover, much to their surprise, that he is both an honest dealer and knowledgeable about Kalar-Wi militaria and culture.

Ensuring that Nim and Valdez lodge their loot at a local bank where he can examine it under controlled conditions, after six weeks Holk is able to tell them that their loot is not low value pay tokens but the Honour Chest of a Kalar-Wi Groupment, a battalion-sized combat formation. In Kalar-Wi society, Holk explains, guilds and military fraternities are extremely important – substituting for kinship groups and lineages in many cases. Every Kalar-Wi soldier who wins an achievement or bravery award contributes this to the Honour Chest of the Groupment. Individual actions and excellence become part of the Honour of the corporate group, increasing both the standing of the group, and of the individual members of that group, within Kalar-Wi society. The Honour Chest that Nim and Valdez have recovered belonged to the 1st Groupment of the 12th Regiment, a unit with an honourable history stretching back over two hundred and fifty years. Very few Honour Chests of a Kalar-Wi formation of either this size or this age have ever been recovered intact by non-Kalar-Wi and Holk estimates that such an Honour Chest is worth between MCr5 and MCr10. He offers Nim and Valdez MCr7, which he believes is a fair price, as well as the authentication documentation that he has compiled from his studies, and thanks them for the opportunity to study such a fascinating find.

After a little thought, Nim and Valdez take Holk up on his offer, as they feel that it is the best deal they can make. With cleared funds, they meet with Tak and Van to decide on the next stage of their operation to aid the Harmonious Path.