A Thin Sharp Line

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by Layne K. Saltern

For years, the mysterious Sathar have been slaughtering Frontier worlds from space. No one knows their motivation, or much of anything else about these evil worms. But that may change. You see, a Sathar individual has just made contact with us, expressing his desire to defect to the Frontier. Is this our first breakthrough...or a cleverly designed trap? Either way, we need your help!


Background Information

This adventure hook was originally designed for the Star Frontiers role-playing game, although it could easily be adapted to other systems. In the Star Frontiers universe, the Frontier faces the constant threat of a murderous race called the Sathar, a technically advanced swarm of man-sized worms bent on total and unconditional annihilation. Very little is known of the Sathar, and no live Sathar specimen has ever been captured. A coalition of worlds called the United Planetary Federation (UPF) has been formed to defend against the Sathar menace. Star Law is a division of the UPF that specializes in hunting down Sathar agents.

The Player Characters (PCs) either work for the UPF or have some sort of relationship with the UPF.

The UPF has received a covert message from a Sathar who has expressed a desire to defect to the Federation. A small team is to take a solitary Assault Scout to an asteroid belt in an uninhabited star system just beyond the Frontier's edge. There they will meet up with the Sathar in a small Scout Ship and take him aboard. All lie detection and verification methods show that the Sathar seems to be sincere.

If the PCs work for the UPF, they are selected for the mission. If they do not work for the UPF, they are selected because the Sathar requested that non-UPF personnel be chosen for the job.

The Sathar is indeed sincere. There are a number of possible motives for his desire to defect. The Sathar nation has gone to great lengths to cull the general populace into a mentality of cohesion and hatred. But an individual mind might be stronger than that. Maybe this single Sathar being, probably having been sheltered in a privileged status, has slipped through the holes and decided that what his race is doing is wrong. Or on another note, perhaps he has committed some unpardonable crime and is fleeing for political asylum. The details are up to the game referee.

The Twist

Unbeknownst to the defecting Sathar, Sathar intelligence is aware of his plan and is using it to set a trap. The primary goal of Sathar intelligence is to capture an Assault Scout undamaged, so that they can study it and reproduce it.

For this reason, Sathar intelligence has subjected the defectee to hypnotic suggestion, causing him to insist that an Assault Scout be sent. The reasoning the Sathar being will give for requesting that type of ship is that he is being picked up in a remote corner of space. The Assault Scout is the smallest UPF craft capable of interstellar jumps and capable of decently defending itself. A larger ship would attract too much attention.

By the time the defecting Sathar arrives in the asteroid field, a fleet of "sleeping" Sathar warships has already been strategically placed and hidden. (They are difficult but not impossible to detect.)

If the PCs fall for the trap, they find themselves ambushed on all sides. However, since the Sathar wish to capture the ship unharmed, they will only fire shots to disable the PCs' craft--and will only do that if absolutely necessary. It is up to the players' ingenuity to either outsmart or outrun their would-be captors. One point of leverage that the PCs might use is that the Sathar are mainly interested in acquiring an intact Assault Scout. The Sathar might get nervous if the PCs threaten to destroy their own ship. Ultimately, this is the players' chance to be creative, and the referee should honor that creativity by improvising accordingly with the rules.

Aftermath

If the PCs do manage to make it home with the defecting Sathar, the Sathar begins talking about this being the start of a new era of friendship between the two peoples--when suddenly he is shot and killed by a hot-head Star Law Ranger.