Amber Nebula Campaign Log

8. Cold Night on Dashgad


7 June, 2775. 23:51 UTC. Log entry by Iki Piki.

Following an eventless flight to Arawne, we have sold our load of cloves, making a net profit of around Earth$28,700. We note that with a new fusion engine, our profit would have been around Earth$43,000, since there would be no antimatter fuel expense. Unfortunately, we have managed to choose a destination where once again we cannot have such an engine installed, since Arawne is a metal-poor world on which Harungard Industries does not produce fusion engines!

We have decided to save the time and extra expense of importing an engine by simply continuing our business until we arrive at a world where we can buy a locally made fusion engine. Given this, we have decided to buy a sufficient quantity of antimatter to cover another few trips with our existing engine. We have also investigated the possibility of other ship upgrades.

At present, the most profitable run out of Arawne is a contracted mail and supply delivery to a small, nearby colony world, called Dashgad. The Arawne Colonial Office have offered $1000 per tonne for supply delivery, with a load of 43 tonnes to be shipped. A net search has also turned up one possible passenger, a Mr Maxwell Sendak, who has some cargo of his own to be shipped with him.

8 June, 2775. 02:16 UTC. Ship's vidphone log.

Serron: Mr Sendak, we understand you are looking for passage to Dashgad.

Sendak: That's right, and a few product samples as cargo.

Serron: Product samples?

Sendak: Oh yes, I have lots of wonderful equipment - latest, top-of-the-line stuff, best quality. I'd be happy to give you and your crew a demonstration of the latest in electronic homewares and leisure equipment...

Serron: Yes, yes... how much cargo?

Sendak: Well... as much as you can take. I have farming equipment, geoscanning satellites, all very useful to the colonists on Dashgad.

Serron: We have 8 cubic metres of space available, at a shipping cost of Earth$1200 per tonne of mass. Plus passenger fees of Earth$500 per day.

Sendak: $1200?! Come on, that's a bit steep! Do I get a cabin of my own?

Serron: We could arrange that...

Sendak: How about $9000 straight up, cargo and passage?

Serron: $10,000.

Sendak: Done! My man... er... sparrial, you won't regret this! I have the latest in virtual reality entertainment systems... I'll give you a free demo during the trip, and a special price when you decide to buy... No ship should be without one of these beauties...

Serron: Can you have your cargo at Planteth Spaceport in the next 3 hours? We want to leave as soon as we can.

Sendak: Sure, I have some stock in a warehouse not far from there... I'll see you in an hour or so!

05:10 UTC. Log entry by Spanners.

Having loaded Mr Sendak's cargo and settled him into the rear starboard cabin, we are preparing for hyperspace skew for our trip to Dashgad. It is a relatively short hop, taking just over two and a half days in hyperspace. Serron negotiated a quarter payment for our supply delivery before leaving, with the remainder to be paid on delivery. Standard practice is to be paid in full on delivery, so his bargaining skills have once again come to the fore.

We also have payment from Mr Sendak for his passage. We have decided to purchase enough antimatter on Arawne to cover our return trip, plus enough for a trip to a planet where we can finally get a fusion engine installed. The remainder of our cash we have invested in the short term financial market, since the most logical destination after Dashgad is to return to Arawne with any passengers or local produce that we can pick up.

9 June, 2775. 13:38 UTC. Log entry by Serron.

Maxwell Sendak is a rather amusing human, plump and gaudy, possessing many interesting devices and trinkets, which he has been pleased to demonstrate to us during our flight. Ogier in particular has taken a liking to the man, his virtual reality games, and his penchant for whiskey.

Note: Ensure Ogier takes sufficient sobriety pills prior to orbital re-entry and landing.

11 June, 2775. 02:47 UTC. Log entry by Ogier.

Landing on Dashgad completed without incident. I have berthed the Legacy on pad 7 of a fairly tiny spaceport, sitting atop a clear rocky plateau. Buried some 400 metres below us is the main settlement, Smit Town, in an excavated cavern, pressurised to 0.8 standard atmospheres. The surface air pressure is only 0.37 atmospheres - breathable, but only just.

There is little to see on the surface here. Only a few garages and outbuildings, which contain lifts leading down through the rock to Smit Town. We are about to disembark and take the trip down to the town, where we have an appointment with Sara Hercule, the colony administrator.

04:11 UTC. Field log entry by Sirene.

We have met with Administrator Hercule, who paid us the agreed remainder of our mail and supply delivery fee. She is a friendly and cheerful person, who strikes me as being a little bored with the minor admin work running such a small colony. She invited us out for dinner and conversation later this evening, and I think the first showing of one of the new films we brought with us from Arawne.

In the meantime, cargo handlers are taking care of unloading the Legacy topside, while we have a look around Smit Town. There isn't a great deal to see. It's in an artificial cavern about a kilometre wide and one and a half long, with a large grassed park in the middle, surrounded by various buildings which form a few short streets before reaching the rock walls. The ceiling is domed slightly, from about 10 metres high at the walls to 100 or so in the centre.

We're told the population of the town is about 550. There are another 100 or so people on the planet, living out on the plains running farms to harvest the dashgoat eggs that form the world's only export industry. Given these facts, we are hoping to secure a load of egg powder for export, so that our return trip to Arawne can be at least a bit profitable. Apparently there is some chemical in the eggs which has some medicinal uses.

Mr Sendak, our inbound passenger, has also been invited to dinner tonight - it seems our host is eager for offworld news and gossip. At the moment though, he is scouting the town for prospective customers while the cargo handlers unload his equipment samples.

13:47 UTC. Field log entry by Iki Piki.

We have just spent an interesting evening with Administrator Hercule. The pinchilekki was below average, and naturally I declined to eat any of the human food, but Hercule was an eager conversationalist. We learnt much about the history and administration of Dashgad, which I found a fascinating subject, though the others appeared a bit bored.

At the entertainment centre after dinner we saw a film I didn't really understand, some human romance thing. But one of the advertisements beforehand was of great interest, being a promotion for a local firm called Gabatith Haulage. Hercule informed us that Gabatith exports dashgoat egg powder, and sometimes hires freelance cargo operators to carry shipments. We have decided to contact Gabatith first thing in the morning.

12 June, 2775. 00:43 UTC. Field log entry by Serron.

Gabatith Haulage is a tiny operation, run from a small office in Smit Town by a man named John Fergy. The rest of their regular employees are apparently overdue from Arawne on their single cargo freighter.

Fergy was keen to hire someone to ship a consignment of 30 tonnes of dashgoat egg powder to Arawne, since he had a deadline of eight standard days for delivery to a buyer there. He offered us Earth$1250 a tonne for shipment delivered on time, which I negotiated up to $1300 when he revealed that the shipment was not in a Smit Town warehouse, but needed to be picked up from a farm some 300 kilometres away! It seems this Gabatith Haulage is an ill-organised ramshackle company and Fergy doesn't have the sense to arrange for his cargoes to be where they should be. If we don't make the deadline, he'll pay us only half.

At any rate, the upshot of this is that we have to drive out to this farm in a truck and collect the shipment. Fergy only has one truck to lend us, and its capacity is 2.5 tonnes. This means 12 return trips, at an average speed of about 90 km/hr, plus loading and unloading time, followed by a three day flight to Arawne...

The gist of this is that we need to make runs in the truck almost non-stop to make this deadline. Given this, we are about to set off for our first run. We are just waiting on Maxwell Sendak, who has asked to join us because it gives him a chance to sell his wares out amongst the farmers. Spanners is staying behind, tinkering with the Legacy systems, performing routine maintenance, and so on.

04:29 UTC. Field log entry by Ogier.

Parnaby Farm. Left to right: garage, Parnaby farmhouse, generator and air compressor building, egg drying and packing building. Power and air lines running across the ground from the generator building are visible.
We have arrived at the Parnaby farm, out on the broad flat plains which surround Smit Town. The scenery is very different from the bare rocky plateau under which the town is built. A few straight roads cut through the 3-metre high stands of stiltgrass - a thick, bamboo-like native plant, which forms pretty much all the visible plant life. Standing amidst the stiltgrass are small clusters of dashgoats - largish insectoid creatures which graze on the grass.

The farm is run by a John Parnaby, who greeted us upon arrival. When he learnt of our hurry, he offered us the use of his own truck and his driver Chi Jang to double our capacity back to Smit Town. The only other person we met at the farm is John's teenage son Jose. With their help we've loaded the two trucks and are about to head back to the town. John's wife Kotin and their two younger children are currently visiting friends in the town for a few days.

Parnaby's house is sealed against the elements, and has an airlock entry to allow maintenance of a 0.8 standard atmosphere pressure inside. There is also a garage, a generator building, and the building housing the egg drying equipment and a store of packaged powder.

With the urgency of our trips reduced somewhat, John has invited us to share dinner with him, Jang, and Jose tonight after we return from this load. We've radioed Spanners back at the Legacy, who expressed an interest in trying some dashgoat, which Jang said he'd be happy to prepare, though he advised the rest of us against tasting it. So we have accepted the offer.

Sendak is staying here for the moment and returning with us to Smit Town after the dinner. He says he wants to spend some time demonstrating various products he brought out with him to show Parnaby, and presumably try to convince the farmer to buy.

11:23 UTC. Field log entry by Spanners.

All of us are now here at the Parnaby farm, resting in John Parnaby's rather luxurious house while Chi Jang prepares dinner for us. The others returned a 5 tonne load of dashgoat egg powder to the Legacy about three and a half hours ago, where the Smit Town port workers helped us load it on board. I joined them for the trip back to the farm for what should be an interesting meal.

Dashgoats are the only large animal known to exist on Dashgad. They stand over 3 metres tall, and bulk as much as 2 or 3 humans, but are apparently completely harmless. With a lack of natural predators, they move only slowly and have very limited sensory capabilities, feeling their way from one stalk of stiltgrass to the next to feed. They reproduce by growing asexual eggs on their backs, which hatch into new creatures. Fascinating animals - I am eager to see what they taste like.

23:04 UTC. Field log entry by Sirene.

Typical men. They all drank far too much stiltgrass wine during dinner. With no sobriety pills here at the farm, it was impossible to take another two truckloads of egg powder back to Smit Town until after it had been slept off. Jang is now cooking up a special breakfast which he says will kill any hangover.

If it's anything like the dinner last night, it should be something. Besides the raw dashgoat for Spanners, he served up an excellent roast chicken and vegetables, plus according to Iki Piki an immaculately prepared gachiddik which he brought with us for himself.

John Parnaby bailed us up for tales of adventure which, given the recent experiences we've had, weren't that hard to come up with. Iki told them the story about the blaster scorchmark on the Legacy bridge, where Serron tried to drug the guy they just rescued, and Parnaby refused to believe it, although he laughed a lot and said we were great tall tale tellers.

I noticed during the dinner that Jang was a bit edgy, and he explained that the farm hand, a fellow called Connor, who we haven't met yet, hadn't returned from his patrol of the dashgoat herds. Parnaby told us that Connor often goes out on his motorbike to scout dashgoat locations and camps overnight in the wilderness because he enjoys the countryside and isolation. He wasn't worried and said he'd return the next day.

After the meal, and with us pretty drunk, Parnaby supplied blankets and pillows for us to bed down on the floor of the living room. To be truthful, it was a better prospect than venturing outside again into the thin air, dropping well below freezing as the nine-hour night fell.

At any rate, with the two trucks we are still on schedule to make our deadline on Arawne, and we'll be leaving with another 5 tonnes of egg powder as soon as we've eaten. Maxwell Sendak is returning with us to Smit Town to pick up an automatic harvesting device which he has somehow convinced Parnaby to buy. Iki Piki is staying here this time to satisfy his curiosity about the operation of the farm.

Parnaby has warned us that an eclipse of the sun by the gas giant Masia is due for tomorrow, which means that we won't see the sun at all for that day. The night tonight will be almost 30 hours long, and the temperature will drop to about -20 Celsius.

13 June, 2775. 02:35 UTC. Field log entry by Ogier.

Total now 10 tonnes of egg powder loaded aboard Legacy. We are preparing to return to the Parnaby farm for another load, but are just awaiting the arrival topside of Kotin Parnaby and her two children, who have taken the opportunity to catch a ride with us back to their husband/father and home. Spanners has been dropped back off to work on maintenance of the ship.

05:55 UTC. Field log entry by Serron.

We have arrived back at the Parnaby farm shortly before the long night sunset, and curiously nobody has come out to greet us. A radio call to Iki Piki has gone unanswered. I have gone into the house with Sirene, Sendak, Kotin, and the children, but a quick search hasn't turned up anybody. Ogier and Jang are outside attending to cargo, but I think we may have greater concerns here...

05:58 UTC. Radio communication log.

Ogier: Uh... guys... there's something big out here.

Jang: What the..?!!

Ogier: Geez!!

[Sounds of blaster fire.]

Serron: We're coming! What's happening?!

Sendak: I'm in the airlock already, looks like some sort of creature is attacking them.

[Screams of pain. More blaster fire.]

Sirene: The airlock takes half a minute to cycle! They could be dead by then!

Sendak: I'm blowing the hatch manually!

[Clank. Rush of air. Running footsteps. Blaster fire. Gyroc fire.]

Serron: My god! look at the size of those things! We have to get out there to help!

Sirene: The airlock needs to repressurise...

[Blaster fire. Weird alien gurgles.]

Serron: We could shoot through this window.

Sirene: We can't! The whole house would depressurise!

Sendak: I think they're dead, folks.

Ogier: Iki! Where have you been? Where's your radio? Get over here, what's happened here?

Iki Piki: These creatures attacked... John and Jose and I came out to try to drive them away. We were afraid they'd breach the house. There was some fighting out there amongst the stiltgrass, my radio got torn off, I lost them. I made my way back here, but they're still out there somewhere.

Sendak: Look out! Two more!

[Blaster fire. Gyroc fire.]

Serron: Damn this airlock!

[Blaster fire.]

Ogier: Any more? No?

Sirene: We have to search for the men!

Iki Piki: There's no way... they could be anywhere out there in the grass. You can't see anything out there in this dark. And there are more of these creatures around.

Spanners: You guys all right out there? Use a truck to search.

Sendak: Spanners! I didn't know you were hooked into this comm. But we can't use the trucks to search the stiltgrass. They'd never get through it.

Serron: Get a helicopter out here, with IR detection gear, quickly! Spanners, get us a line to Sara Hercule. The rest of you, get in the house here where it's safe. Now!

Cold Night on Dashgad is based on the adventure "A Cold Night in Dashgad" by M. J. Dougherty and Neil Frier, published in Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games' on-line gaming magazine.

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