The Rings of Kether – Part 1

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#15

The Rings of Kether

Corruption is rife in the Aleph Cygni system and the flow of the illicit narcotic Satophil-d from the spaceports of the planet Kether has grown to enormous proportions. Several attempts have been made to crack the notorious drug rings of Kether, with no success. Now the Galactic Federation has entrusted YOU with this dangerous undercover mission in this wild and lawless place. But will YOU succeed?

 Hello there, just an inter-galactic salesman here, ship’s full of exotic spices and fruits, nothing else. Smart missiles? No, just a load of cumin and bananas, mate. That’s my story anyway, as I drop out of hyper-space into the Aleph Cygni system, my task is to sniff out a drugs ring and take it down. Kether is the main planet in what is apparently a very small system, a small moon named Rispin’s End was also nearby as well as an asteroid field. I figured the best place to start to find some leads would be Kether, so I set a course for the planet with my rather odd, square looking command console.

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Kether has only one starport and their checks are so thorough they didn’t bother to look at my ship, but they did hold me up at Customs and took my spy ray off me, technology such as that isn’t allowed here. Firstly, I never knew I was equipped with a spy ray, there’s no mention of it previously. Second, what the hell is a spy ray? Regardless, I don’t have one any more, so we’ll just have to complete this mission sans spy ray, it’s a tough ask, but I think I’m up to it.

Wanting to maintain a low profile, I kept well away from anywhere conspicuous and started to chase down drugs suppliers in some seedy little bars. I came across one such place called Crash, an animated neon sign above the door along with a sign saying ‘No Aliens’, so inside I went for a mingle. Once inside, I had to roll a dice to see who I would talk to, for no obvious reason I wasn’t allowed to make the choice myself. Very odd. So I threw my D6 and came up with a 2, which meant I had to approach a fat, middle-aged woman playing cards.

She is horrible; gap-toothed, burping and coarse. She is however commanding a game of cards with ease and instead of joining them I chose to watch from a distance and then follow her when she left some two hours later. It only occurs to me now that while on an high-risk undercover mission I sat in a bar watching a fat woman play cards for two whole hours and followed her home for absolutely no reason. Unfortunately, whilst sneaking through the streets my Skill of 10 couldn’t prevent me failing a test and I knocked over a hover-moped, or something, and alerted my prey to my presence. Impressively for a heft of a lady, she managed to move at a fair old pace, but I kept up as she fled and managed to see her entering a block of apartments. Allowing things to calm for a few minutes, I went over to check the names on the resident list, the one that seemed to be for gap-tooth read ‘ Zera Gross – Import/Export’. I’d better go to the City Central Library and see if I can find out any more information about this person with no perceivable links to a drugs cartel.

Almost entirely devoid of other humans, staff or otherwise, I had the pick of the terminals at the library the next day. Checking old records I tried to home in on anything to do with narcotics legal cases in the news, I came up blank except for one which read ‘Central Criminal Court 3: State vs Z.Gross and B. “Blaster” Babbet. Before Justice Zark. Charge: trafficking in illicit organic materials (Satophil-d)’. So there we have it, the randomly selected woman in the bar seems to be a key player after all. Odd though that I went to the library specifically to look her up and wasn’t actually given the option to do so directly. Inconsistencies aside, my next port of call was the State Computer File Centre to see if I could dig up any more information on these two individuals.

The File Centre appeared rather unwelcoming, a squat concrete building surrounded by razor wire, but still with a public entrance, a sign informed me though that only records of over 100 years old would be available to the public. Trying to keep things as discrete as possible I decided that breaking in would be a good way to get my hands on some more recent materials.

Returning after dark I scaled a nearby drain-pipe, crossed some cables and managed to ascend safely to the roof, and with a good Luck test I dropped through a sky-light into a room with the necessary computer terminals from which I started to extract some data. Unfortunately though, no personal or criminal data was available, all I had access to was transport data, and that transport data had vast sections missing, seemingly deleted? Someone is trying to hide something…

Someone who might be able to help me one way or another was the Air Traffic Chief, so I went over to the helipad to try and make some sense of what I’d seen. His office would be an interesting place to start, even better if he wasn’t in it, so I knocked quietly on his door and then went inside, in the process rolling a D6. This came up even and resulted in me finding his office unoccupied, so I was free to investigate. Checking his desk drawers brought up some solid evidence that shady deals were taking place, a letter from the Head Customs Officer to the Air-Traffic Chief.

Dear Aestho,

Here’s your cheque. Note that today’s flight from the east coast – No. 212 – was ‘unusual’ and should be written off as per the others. Contents will be cleared tomorrow, so tomorrows’ shuttle to Tau Ceti – No. 005 – should also be written off.

Zac Calensus

The cheque was for 3,000 kopecs! Wow! I suppose. That could be a fiver for all I know. Regardless, this is all building up nicely. Deciding to find as much information on this planet as I could before moving on, my next stop was at Customs.

Deciding against bribery and threats, my strategy for dealing with the customs officers was to continue my covert stance and so I hid myself away in the lockers of the freight depot in the hope of spotting something illegal. Not the most pro-active method I agree, and it almost got me caught as a security guard came along and started to open up and check all the lockers! As he reached mine I held my breath and hid behind a big coat, but just as he opened the door, a distant call came out – ‘Hey Harry! Time for a beer ol’ buddy!’ – and that was enough for Harry to instantly down tools and begin drinking. Classic Harry!

Eventually though, I struck gold, a heli-jet arrived and started to unload its cargo of small one-tonne boxes. Overhearing the conversation of the customs officers unloading and checking it, this was it, a big shipment of Satophil-d! The swines were stamping it as ‘PASSED’, my time had come. Jumping out of the locker, aiming my gun at them, I demanded information on who was running this racket. Two clues were stuttered out to me by the shocked officers before I arrested them and locked them up in my ship. The top floor of the Iscosceles Tower and the L16 satellite were presented to me as my options and I opted for the satellite, heading up to it entirely unhindered in my ship.

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On arriving at the satellite, the first option I was presented was to blow it up. Not being endorsed by the Bush administration I decided to actually have a look at what I was blowing up first and went on a little space walk. What followed was a sequence of Skill tests, I had to pass enough to get me to the satellite before I ran out of propulsion fuel, of which I had enough for four tests, having a Skill of 10 meant this wasn’t so bad and I managed to get a magnetic clamp onto the thing. Identifying a communications panel I opened it up and managed to access a diagnostic inlet which I was able to track data transmissions. The Iscosceles Tower I had been tipped off about was receiving a lot of communications regarding Satophil-d from a nearby unknown asteroid. I returned to Kether…

At the 15th floor of the Isosceles Tower was a door marked ‘Z.Gross & Associates. Import/Export‘. I drew my blaster and entered, finding a corridor that led off left and right. Following to the left I came out into a large open office, the place had been trashed, stripped and deserted. Perhaps they knew I was coming… Hoping I might find someone still in the act I pressed on and found an office where two thugs were shredding documents and throwing ‘magnetic memory’ into an incinerator. This was 1985 remember, where average hard drive capacity was less than 100mb!

They didn’t last long in an exchange of blaster fire with me though and I was able to take the automatic blaster one of them carried, which would allow me to do 6 Stamina damage rather than 4, not bad progress after only one fight. As the smoke cleared a small, gangly officer worker tried to jump me with a paperweight, a Luck test thwarted him though and I had him a full-nelson asking him just what the hell was going on. Gurgling and spluttering, he motioned towards a vidi-link.

Flashing on the screen was a message that read –

***ATTENTION ALL STAFF***

THE FEDS ARE ON TO US SO DESTROY ALL FILES INCLUDING THIS MESSAGE, RENDEZVOUS – PARADISE, 34 16′ 42″ WEST, 16 00′ 00″ NORTH AT 21:30. BE EFFICIENT.

ZERA GROSS + BLASTER BABBET

These co-ordinated were for a small island off the coast, and when I got there I found a small, but predictably busy heli-jet pad…

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…I can only hope something happens there in part two!

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A dangerous undercover mission on a wild and lawless planet!

I approach The Rings of Kether with concern.

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While I did eventually read it, my childhood brain remembers little of this one, save for seeing it in WH Smiths on many an occasion and overlooking it due to the sci-fi setting not being as exciting to me as demons and broad-swords, but also because of the strange fat man who intimidated me. Only in my adult years have I realised that the billowing red cloak he wears is in-fact a desolate red planet stretched out behind him. And while we’re on the subject of the cover art, a little Googling reveals that what appears to be the original is out there in private hands…

So my concern is not based so much on memories, but on my experience with Space Assassin, a book I didn’t get on with all that well which was also written by The Rings of Kether author, Andrew Chapman. To save you the click, I summed up Space Assassin by quoting Bernard Black from Black Books, ‘Enjoy. It’s dreadful but quite short.’.

Now we have to give Mr. Chapman a chance here, even though I fear his long, unending corridors, as Titanica quotes him as saying this was a much more focused effort. The Rings of Kether was actually planned as book 12, which turned out to be Space Assassin, as revealed in The Seven Serpents, which allows me to lazily re-use this picture from my Temple of Terror introduction.

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If we get into the story of the book, it’s basically The Wire in space. Our hero is an undercover agent, sent by the Galactic Federation to infiltrate a drugs network responsible for flooding the Aleph Cygni system with that well known narcotic, Satophil-d. Oh go on, admit it, we’ve all got off our tits and slapped on some Happy Mondays after a few tabs of Satophil-d, but no more! The introductory text is barely a page long so that’s about all we’re getting for now in terms of details.

Reading around, it does seem this adventure is a fairly open-ended affair, which perks my interest, and there are some unique rules to consider as well. Combat is split between blaster, hand-to-hand and ship-to-ship variations. Blaster combat is differentiated by 4 Stamina of damage being done per hit compared to the regular 2, which is used here in hand-to-hand. Ship combat uses new stats called Weapons Strength and Shields, both 1D6+6, which pretty much replace Skill and Stamina. Another option is provided by Smart Missiles, which destroy an enemy ship in one hit, but I am limited to just two. Provisions are replaces by Pep Pills, restoring 6 Stamina each, but I only have 4. Currency is in the form of kopeks, of which I have 5,000.

Finally, if you want to see what the book looks like in motion, here’s a Youtube channel which has videos of Fighting Fantasy books. I know you’re all desperate for that niche to be filled!

 

Hidden artifacts stashed within an Oxfam shop

Just a small morsel for you to nibble on before the next book comes up, something I found a long time ago in an Oxfam book shop. A small crop of titles I already owned were on the shelves, but I do love to see if there is anything written on the adventure sheets so I had a look inside. What I found was that the owner of these books had left in a hand drawn map for City of Thieves as well as his own inventory sheets for City of Thieves, Forest of Doom and Space Assassin!

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Much better than the kind of crap I churn out! Seems he had some great luck on rolling his main stats too 😉

COT_INVENTORY

FOD_INVENTORY

SA_INVENTORY