Vessels traveling in the deep have always been vulnerable to attack and capture. Some call it piracy; others call it terrorism. But when it happens, the parties involved usually have an agenda.
When the DCS Galatea, a new generation of automated transport ship, stopped responding to hails and ceased all signal transmissions on the trade route between Mars and BANCE-3, the Dominion Space Transportation Agency (DSTA) asked for help from the DSF. They needed to find and recover the vessel if possible. It went silent while traveling somewhere near Neptune.
The Galatea was transporting processed platinum from Mars to a new construction project beginning beyond BANCE-11 and simultaneously testing a new control system. Generations of AI-fly-by-wire had proven unreliable after several BANCE jumps and “glitching” as reported by Cydyne engineers among others. Human-directed flight is difficult on long trips due to the mental strain, but computerized options offered severe challenges unless new AI paths could be explored. Some sort of automation was still needed if Dominion expansion was to continue apace.
The new system relied on older technologies from the early days of Earth’s space exploration and a small crew of four engineers was on board to monitor systems. Unfortunately, the ship never made it to its destination to test the new systems on the first jump from BANCE-3 to BANCE-5.
Mission parameters: Locate, Investigate, and Recover if possible.
Arriving at the Ship
Galatea is not broadcasting on the standard DSTA frequencies, but instead communicating on Lumino channels, which are highly encrypted and use steganographic techniques to piggyback on public transmission frequencies. A Lumino boarding party, using Neptune’s largest moon Titania as a temporary base, used a distress beacon to lure the Galatea close and then attacked with a series of six small fighters used to penetrate the hull. A group of armed mercenaries boarded with Domino Brown, the reclusive founder of the Lumino, leads them.
The captured ship is now heading back towards its point of origin. About the time the PCs are approaching Neptune, they will see a live broadcast begin from the bridge of the Galatea with Domino Brown’s pale, drawn face front and center.
“Dominion citizens, my name is Domino Brown, founder of the Lumino. We have been ignored and repressed long enough. Our goals are simple. The Dominion Council must disclose the names, locations, and purposes for all BANCE gates beyond those in the public domain. If this has not been done by the time this vessel enters a high Martian orbit, we will destroy the Galatea and send its shredded remains on a collision course with Mars.”
From Neptune to Mars will take roughly five days (28.5 AU distance) at in-system speeds and the Lumino plan on broadcasting over the Inter Galactic Network Service (IGNS) the whole time.
If they can negotiate a peaceful solution to the situation, the PCs will be hailed as heroes. But if they are sent in as a terminal deterrent, they will be seen as the villains.
Each of the six small fighters used to board the Galatea is packed with explosives to tear the ship apart. The ship will be aimed at Mars and then detonated to tear the ship apart. Depending on where the pieces land, it could be catastrophic.
The PCs may be able to get on board and disable all of the explosives to defuse the situation further. The PCs may also be able to disable the live feed from the Galatea to give them a bit more anonymity, but if they go on board Brown will do everything he can to show the DSF activity against him.
The boarding party plans on using the on-board escape pods to flee the ship ahead of the event. Though Brown believes the mercenaries will try and save the engineers on board, they will likely only save themselves. The PCs may have to also find ways to save the engineers.
Long term, this one event could serve as the beginning of a civil war to tear the Dominion apart from the inside, with the people siding with the Lumino if they succeed.