This is an onplanet week, so I only need to roll for a world encounter (Solo p. 58) and anything it throws up. 16 = a patron with a commission; additional rolls show this is a rogue (34) who wants us to transport a person (66) , and at that point I stop rolling, because given what I already know, it’s obvious who it must be…
Everything looks pink as the Dolphin carves through hydrogen clouds towards Karabulut Station, a ramshackle collection of aging platforms and pipework dangling precariously from a cluster of three hot hydrogen balloons at the 1,000 mB level in the gas giant’s atmosphere.
“This place was a real mess when the Archive found it,” Arion observes. “Rampant deficiency diseases, failing systems, open warfare and slave raids between the few surviving mining platforms…”
“Arion, I’ve not only read the histories, I’ve been here undercover, and believe me, that’s not even half of it,” Dmitri says.
The Dolphin chimes in. “I’ve been exchanging data with the orbital defence grid. The whole system’s had a rough time. Fascinating history.”
“Okay,” says Arion. “Shutting up now.”
Landing on a swaying platform under a delapidated gasbag is tricky, but if Arion does one thing well, it’s piloting. He flips off a variety of overhead switches and the hum of the drives fades. The hawsers connecting the station to the hot hydrogen balloons creak alarmingly, and the noise of burners can be heard intermittently. The ground crew, if you can call them that, are wearing parkas and breather masks.
“Here we are,” says Arion. “Karabulut Station. So who is this guy you know here, and how exactly is he going to help?”
Dmitri explains as the pair make their way through a narrow corridor towards a staircase leading to an upper-floor apartment.
“His name is Timon, at least these days. I don’t know what it was before. I recognised the earrings on the muscle on Mizah; they’re a cultural aslan clan called the Gimirri. Timon had a falling out with the Gimirri leadership and moved here; maybe he can help.”
“Gimirri can’t be an aslan word, surely,” Arion says thoughtfully. Dmitri shrugs.
“Take it up with them. Ah, here we are…”
The pair knock on a door, and Timon opens it cautiously. He tries to slam it closed when he sees who is outside, but Dmitri is too fast for him and barges inside. Arion follows.
“What do you want?” Timon asks, with no great enthusiasm. “If the Gimirri find out I’ve been talking to you they’ll cut my throat. My continued survival depends on not drawing attention to myself.”
“Then you’ll want us gone quickly and quietly,” says Dmitri. “Listen: I was on Mizah a week ago, and a pair of Gimirri warriors tried to kill me. I’m wondering why they might want to do that, and I think you can tell me.”
“You remember the last time you crossed swords with the Gimirri?”
“Schrodinger? How is he involved?”
“I hear things – a piece here, a piece there. I don’t have much to do these days but put the pieces together and sell the completed picture to people like you.” Wordlessly, Dmitri takes out his wallet, and starts counting high-denomination Credit bills into Timon’s hand. Timon beckons for more. Dmitri grasps him gently by the throat. “Okay, okay. We’ll call that a down payment.”
“We’ll call that done, or I’ll take it back and call the local enforcers.” Timon sighs.
“All right. You know Schrodinger is… ambitious. As an outsider, he’ll need something to give him leverage with the Council of 29. He must think you know something. If he’s trying to kill you, it must be something he doesn’t want anyone else to know. What could that be?”
“I haven’t a clue. What else can you tell me?”
“How many more Credits have you got?”
“None. But my friend here has a large knife and a pistol for when that isn’t sufficiently persuasive.” Arion does his best to look tough. Timon gives under the implied threat.
“Schrodinger chartered a far trader on Mizah last month. The ground crew here said they saw a cage in the cargo hold, sort of thing you might hold animals or slaves in, but the door was really big. You wouldn’t want a big door if you were carrying slaves or ordinary animals, they might get out when you opened it.”
Arion chimes in. “He could go to four different systems from here, but only one of them has big animals. Gazzain. That has to be where he’s going.”
“Great,” says Dmitri. “We must be close behind. Let’s get going.”
“Wait!” says Timon. “Take me with you,” he pleads. “I have to get offworld. I can’t stand this place any more – it’s going to fall out of the sky any minute, the food’s awful, the people will stab you as soon as look at you.”
“Gazzain’s no picnic either,” Arion points out.
“Anywhere’s better than here,” Timon says. Arion and Dmitri look at each other. Arion shrugs.
“Come on then,” says Dmitri. “Five minutes to pack a bag, then we’re off, before the ground crew take our ship to pieces and sell them.”
I’m continuing to re-imagine the early posts of the Arioniad, and one of the things I like about Solo is how easy it is to blend my preconceived ideas with the dice rolls to generate new events and plot twists while still being able to steer the game in the direction I want it to go.
The best way to imagine Kov in general, and Karabulut Station in particular, is to picture the cloud city of Bespin after the antigravity floaters failed and the emergency balloons deployed, except it’s now occupied by one of the road warrior gangs from the Mad Max franchise. (I have no idea if Bespin had emergency balloons, but if not, it should have done.)
In this setting, cultural aslan is a term denoting humans who adopted aslan ways to survive under their rule during the Long Night.
The orbital defence grid was reactivated by the player characters forming the crew of the Collateral Damage in the episode Hot Hydrogen. I find it satisfying when things one party does in a shared setting are visible to the other parties; it’s fun when their notorious rivals are another group of PCs, but the GM has to be careful only to let them meet where they can’t swap hot lead.
Yeah, I know the calendar has slipped 200 years, none of the players seems to have noticed.