06 An Ode to Backwater Politics
After saving the life of the long-frozen PRINCE ZALO HAI
of the GHYEL system, the crew of the MODESTY BLAZE has found themselves
contracted by Prince Zalo’s descendant LORD ARANI HAI, a Ghyel loyalist.
The GALACTIC EMPIRE, unsatisfied with Ghyel providing raw materials
and manufactured goods to them, has bolstered an Imperialist faction
against the Hais’ loyalists with Ghyel as their endgame.
Meanwhile, as the Prince is reintroduced to his people,
DARTER KEL, QILLIAN RYN and VAX-11/750 await the return of
JOHN TRAY’ESSEK and NORA ROMANOVA back into to their fold
at AZURITE CITY SPACEPORT…
It’s been awhile since I gamemastered six players in a political intrigue session. Political intrigue is hard. More so when you don’t gamemaster the campaign that often. So let’s get down to it!
A Gozanti cruiser modified to be an unarmed commercial passenger liner manoeuvred herself for landing at the spaceport at Azurite City on the planet Ghyel.
In the passenger cabin of the ship, reptilian Trandoshan hired gun/marauder John Tray’Essek sat beside his blond teammate smuggler/scoundrel Nora Romanova who had just finished her scouting contract in Wild Space and was returning to rendezvous with the crew of the YT-1300 light freighter Modesty Blaze who had set up a temporary base of operations on Ghyel. Unbeknownst to them, in the seat behind them was a Duros known as Vendrik who was listening in to their conversation, learning about the Modesty Blaze crew’s contract job attached to the Ministry of History and Archaeology under Prince Zalo Hai in Azurite City.
Waiting for them on the platform below were the Zeltron smuggler/pilot Darter Kel, Trianii bounty hunter/assassin Qillian Ryn and the laconic droid technician/slicer VAX-11/750. They looked at the approaching cruiser. They gazed at the blue morning skies, the white clouds above and the contrail of a rocket which was streaking toward the landing ship! Darter thumbed his comlink on and barked, “Missile incoming. We can’t take it out. If you can do something, do it now!”
The perceptive Vendrik heard the call from Tray’Essek’s hand comlink. It startled him to know that the pair seated in front of him had immediate intelligence on an incoming missile. Vendrik tightened his seat belt. Nora leapt over Tray and sprinted up the aisle past startled attendant droids (with a successful Athletics roll). She lunged into the cockpit and tried to wrestle the control stick from one of the two astonished pilots. (Brawl check: Success with one Threat.)
The Gozanti veered to the left. The missile grazed the underside of the ship’s port engine pylon and exploded. The vessel lost its repulsors and suddenly slammed into the ground kicking up a gigantic plume of dust and debris into the air. The port engine had snapped off and was spiralling away.
Darter and Qillian were aghast! Had their teammates just been killed by a rocket attack? They must be avenged! Leaving VAX to check on the crash site, Darter and Qillian ran for their Ministry-assigned Seraph-class “Flash” landspeeder, leapt onto the seats and rocketed out into the streets trying to determine the source of the rocket fire.
Because the ship fell only about 200 meters and the acceleration compensators were still active, most of the passengers were unharmed. The befuddled and dazed pilots tried to arrest Nora, but she charmed her way past them. Then Tray and her jettisoned the emergency hatch and jumped onto the tarmac unharmed thanks to the emergency gravity field activated outside the hatch upon a crash. All the other passengers, including Vendrik, followed suit and soon everyone was walking out into the debris and dust as police and rescue speeders arrived on the scene.
Vendrik introduced himself to Nora and Tray, then invited them both for a drink at the nearby spaceport cantina.
Initial Introductions and Investigations
“DAAARRRTERRRR KELLL!” Darter yelled his name inexplicably as he sped through the busy Azurite City streets trying to estimate the rocket’s launch position. The Flash speeder was hindered by a street funeral procession. When they arrived at the firing site Darter had reckoned (between two empty warehouses in direct view of the spaceport) the perpetrators had escaped. But they spotted a small munitions container that had been dropped into the mud and picked it up for investigation.
At the cantina, Vendrik expressed an interest in working with the crew. The group informed him that on Ghyel there were Loyalists and there were Imperialists. The group had been contracted as agents of the Historical Ministry thanks to Prince Zalo Hai whom they had rescued from carbonite and returned to Ghyel. The Hai Family had Loyalist ties. They figured that a returning royalty might have enough celebrity power to sway the people to pressure the Ghyel Ruling Council to reject Imperial occupation. They were also concerned that this might get him assassinated by Imperialist agents.
Vendrik told them that he represented an offworld organisation that might be able to help the Loyalist with money and support if he was able to speak with the Prince. He never said the “R” word but the group suspected that he was a rebel agent.
Suddenly, the cantina holoscreen was interrupted by an emergency bulletin. Someone in official Ghyel Council colours appeared and said, “There was an attack on a commercial liner at the Azurite City Spaceport this morning. A starship was badly damaged but fortunately no one was killed. Early investigations reveal that this was an attack by Loyalist renegades who wish to see Imperial presence and support withdrawn from our fair system. Our trade with the Empire is boosting our economy. All these so-called Loyalists want is chaos and disorder. We will find the ones responsible and we will punish them. More details to be announced as we find them.”
The screen returns to its regular entertainment channel.
Suddenly VAX’s comlink chirped; Darter was calling. “VAX! We’re on our way back. How are our comrades?”
VAX monotonously replied, “They crashed.”
“Our poor comrades! VAX! Collect their body parts!”
VAX studied Nora and Tray from top to bottom. “Their limbs are still attached.”
“I see! Open casket funeral, then?”
After Nora and Tray were finally reunited with Darter and Qillian, and Vendrik was introduced to them, they all strained the overloaded Flash speeder to travel to the administration district. The Ministry of History and Archaeology was a five-story building constructed of stone and marble, with ornately sculpted façade, windows, balconies and columns. Foliage crept up the exterior walls in the form of thick decorative flowering vines. As they headed for the underground speeder bay, they noticed that there was a new, very prominent ship in the blue sky: An Imperator-class Star Destroyer was hovering about 5000 meters above the city.
The group escorted Vendrik up to meet the Prince who had an office on the fourth level of the Ministry. The 14-year-old Prince was busy reading datapads and books, catching up on the previous centuries that he had missed. He asked for a report.
After hearing the report of the attack, the Prince was introduced to Vendrik, whom the group vouched for. The Duros revealed that he was an agent for an up-and-coming galactic organisation who wanted to make a deal with the authorities of Ghyel for some land to develop and call home. However, the Empire would have to leave. Thus Vendrik would do anything to help the Loyalists agenda to this end.
The Prince said. “I have also been informed that an Imperial Star Destroyer has come out of hyperspace and hovering above the city. This can not be a coincidence. If you have resources, use them. Find out a connection between them and the local Imperialists. If we have proof that these attacks are designed to sway the people into accepting Imperial prefectship then I would talk to your people.”
“We will seek out options for you with Vendrik’s help,” promised Qillian. Darter quickly said, “We might be able to prove that the spaceport attack was not made by Loyalists. We have a clue that we left in our speeder. We’ll go get it now.”
Vendrik was led by VAX and Qillian to the common room near their quarters where they would be able to investigate further. Darter, Nora and Tray descended back to the speeder bay to retrieve the munition container.
Scuffle in the Speeder Bay
There were three Flash speeders in the underground bay. The speeder they had driven was resting near the far wall, where a Quarren and a Green Nikto was inspecting it suspiciously. Immediately, Darter, Nora and Tray were on guard. There was a grimy Givin hiding behind another speeder. A Rodian blocked off the vehicle entrance which the trio just walked through. Darter and Tray kept walking toward their speeder while Nora turned back to the Rodian.
Tray noticed them going for their blasters. The reptilian hired gun swiftly leapt onto their speeder and slammed the squid-headed Quarren goon on the other side into the wall with a muscled arm. The Quarren was reduced to a heap on the floor. His Nikto partner fired but missed their hulking Trandoshan assailant.
The exoskeletal, bony Givin on the far wall aimed and fired at Darter, grazing his arm. The injured Darter jumped into the speeder’s pilot seat, activated the engines and gunned the throttle. As the Flash speeder thrusted forward toward the Givin, Tray leapt off the open-top vehicle, landed and flattened the Nikto to the wall with a crunch. The Nikto minion fell limp – as if boneless – to the ground, which VAX would later refer to as fillet minion.
The Rodian seeing everyone was fighting started to draw his blaster, but Nora unleashed her energy whip that struck the Rodian, who screamed in pain but held on to his gun.
Darter crashed the vehicle into the far wall, missing the nimble Givin thug. When Darter tried to reverse the vehicle, the Givin’s bolt struck the Zeltron pilot’s back in a burst of sparks and smoke. (Darter’s Wounds are whittled down to zero. If it was below zero, he would have to roll a Critical Wound.) Before the Givin could turn to Tray, the Trandoshan had crossed the distance and slammed the Givin’s head into the wall. The Givin dropped to the floor unconscious. (Or dead – Tray could not tell. It was quite a powerful smash to the concrete.)
Nora pirouetted out of the way of a blaster bolt from the Rodian and cracked her whip once more. The energy tongue wrapped around the thug, pulling him down with deadly force onto the floor. The final thug finally fell silent.
“Get the container!” Tray yelled at Nora. The munition container was still there for Nora to retrieve. Tray applied a stimpack onto Darter, rousing him, then carried him up toward their quarters.
All You Need are Medical Benefits
A pair of medical droids had been summoned by Prince Zalo to care for the injured Darter. VAX was telling Tray, “Alas, poor Darter! I knew him, Tray’Essek; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; and pelvic sorcery.”
Darter muttered from the surgery room, “Oi. I’m still alive.”
VAX ignored his injured comrade and asked Tray, “Did you hit them with your tail?”
Tray slapped his scaly forehead, gesturing to his behind and said, “Trandoshans do not have tails!”
“Stop being in denial!” said VAX dryly.
“At least I’ll be able to hit on the hot doctors and nurses,” came the drugged Darter drowsy words from the other room.
“But those are FX-7 medical droids!” said Prince Zalo with disdain furrowing his teenaged brows. “Anyway, the city police will be at the speeder bay to inspect the attackers soon. I’d like your team to handle the investigations.”
There were no bodies left in the speeder bay. Only a squad of white-armoured stormtroopers led by an officer in flak armour – a Lieutenant who did not identify himself. Obviously they had come from the Imperial Star Destroyer hanging above everyone’s heads.
When asked, the Lieutenant said, “We are taking over the investigations of this attack and the attack at the spaceport, on invitation by the Ghyel Council. We will carry out the autopsy on the attackers here. If we left it to local authorities, the Loyalists would blow everything up before anything could be done. Now stand aside. All units return to the shuttle.”
Tray puffed up his powerful and muscular chest and jumped in the way of the retreating stormtroopers who pretty much ignored him and filed out of the building.
Vendrik said, “This doesn’t make sense. The Imperials are trying to cover up the truth. It’s time I contacted my people.”
Investigations and Revelations
Before making a call at his quarters, he scanned the room for bugs. He found none.
Then he sent an encrypted text message asking for any data on Ghyel. He also used the Ministry’s computer network to search for information. VAX offered to help, but Vendrik declined, saying, “You could do it, but an information search by a droid would have no soul.” VAX shrugged, “Okay.”
Hours later, when he had searched enough, he called the group for a briefing. Darter also attended the briefing, carousing with a cylindrical FX-7 droid around each arm like a pair of fashion models. Prince Zalo saw this and stuttered to no one in particular, “How is– Why is–?”
Qillian said with a smirk, “Because he’s Darter Kel.”
Vendrik informed them that one of the information he found was that Sassatania the First of Her Name, a female Hutt has taken over the holdings of her father Teemo the Hutt in several star systems. Sha had also sent out a bounty for the live capture for one “Darter Kel”. Darter confirmed that he knew Sassatania and had a fling with the Hutt before. And he might have broken her heart before he left. Vendrik was at a total loss on how a Zeltron could have a fling with a Hutt.
Vendrik had discovered that the top people in the Ghyel Council who were for and against the Imperialists. Councilwoman Drazi appeared to be the most vocal in the efforts to prevent the Empire from gaining a foothold on the surface. Councilman Zirrus wasleading the campaign to allow Imperial prefectship on Ghyel. Prince Zalo swiftly provided dossiers on both of them.
A new plan formed: Vendrik would send a message to his organisation asking for intelligence they have gathered about the happenings on Ghyel. After then they would split up. Nora, Darter and Qillian would try to speak to Drazi. VAX, Tray and Vendrik would attempt to make contact with Zirrus, and if possible try to uncover a connection between Zirrus and the attacks.
Sundown over Azurite City
Each team was assigned a Flash speeder. The two teams left the Ministry en route to their destinations.
The Zirrus team drove to the City Council building in the Administrative District where Zirrus’ office was. Vendrik, VAX and Tray found an adjoining eatery with a view into the main foyer and holed up at a table there. They ordered coffee drinks while Vendrik worked on a HoloPoint Presentation from the data he already possessed – just in case they have to convince anyone that the Loyalists’ armed insurrection was not what it seemed to be.
The sky had turned a bright shade of red when the Drazi team arrived at Councilwoman Drazi’s four-story office building that housed a number of Azurite City’s administrative offices. The trio entered the spacious foyer through sliding transparent doors where a factotum droid awaited behind semi-circular reception desk. The droid, who had the voice of a tired, old lady forbade them seeing Drazi without an appointment. When Nora tried to assert herself (by failing a Coercion check), the droid told them that she had just pressed the panic button. Security would arrive soon.
Darter checked for any upcoming public events. An official City Council dinner would be held two nights hence; a major event.
They were leaving through the door when wood-panelled doors slid on either sides of the foyer. Each door spat out three guards with blasters ready.
Elsewhere, the Zirrus team in the cafe suddenly thought something was amiss in the cafe. They looked about suspiciously (and everyone failed a Perception check) and suddenly Vendrik yelled, “LOOK!”
Everyone looked at the wall menu he was pointing at.
“They have a new type of latte drink!” the Duros exclaimed, totally missing whatever it was that slipped his notice.
Back at the City Council, Darter gleefully welcomed the new arrivals, “Good work, everyone. You passed the annual security test that the City had devised and tasked us with checking. Very swift dispatches! High scores all the way! Now, if we could see Councilwoman Drazi to congratulate her office…” (A failed Deception check.) The burly man in light armour gestured with his locally made blaster, “You’ll be able to congratulate her if she ever visits you in jail. We’ve heard that before, now move along!”
Darter kept being cheerful, but stood down then led Nora and Qillian out of the building. “I guess we should wait at the speeder.”
Stars were beginning to appear in the dusky sky.
Skulking by Dusk
The Zirrus team spotted two humans in black business suits – obviously official undercover guards – came down the spiraling stairs in the foyer and took up positions in the shadows by the stairs. VAX,Tray and Vendrik headed out to their speeder, which was parked at the curb.
Soon after, a heavily hooded figure came down the steps in front of the main building entrance. Vendrik confirmed with the dossier at his datapad, “It is Zirrus. Where is he going?”
The councilman headed out into the cool night air at a brisk pace. VAX drove the speeder, shadowing him but kept their distances. Vendrik told them, “We’re being followed by a black XP-38 speeder.” Indeed, an unmarked speeder was tailing them and keeping their distance. Vendrik had a plan. “Get them away from the Councilman. I’ll tail him. You guys try to lose our tail.”
Vendrik jumped, rolled on the lawn and hid in the bushes. He studied the the tailing speeder that passed him by, then reported by comlink, “It’s the two guards at the foyer.”
VAX pulled away from the Councilman and headed into an adjoining street. The XP-38 followed them. Vendrik remained on the Councilman’s tail. He followed Zirrus under an elevated train line and into a rough part of town. He (with a successful Stealth roll) managed to stay with the hooded figure until they were in an alleyway. He knocked on a door. It slid open. In the darkened doorway, from his vantage point, Vendrik saw an Imperial naval captain in full uniform greet Zirrus with a smile. The duo disappeared into the building together.
Meanwhile, VAX and Tray had decided to take prisoners. They sped up, causing the XP-38 to speed up too. Suddenly, VAX executed a bootlegger turn. Tray unslung his blaster rifle and stood up. The XP-38 drive sideswiped, turning ninety degree and presenting the other man toward their Flash speeder. The gunman fired some shots that missed Tray just before the Flash speeder rammed into the side of the XP-38 taking out the gunman. The crash provided Tray enough kinetic energy to leap to the other driver and punch him unconscious with a dull crack.
Tray looked up. A lady pushing a baby pram was on the sidewalk looking at him. “Come on, Tray. No witnesses,” quipped VAX with dry humour. Tray gave the droid a sour look, allowing the lady to pass by unharmed.
Their comlink crackled on, “VAX, Tray! This is Vendrik. I’ve discovered something big. Come pick me up.”
They looked at the wrecked landspeeders and then each other before giving Vendrik the bad news.
Escalation at Nightfall
Almost everyone had left their offices for the night in the building where Drazi worked, except Drazi herself. They overheard a number of people leaving the building excited about the upcoming City Council dinner. Apparently the dinner was to be an official “welcome back” event for Prince Zalo.
Tray looked up and spotted two dark figures climbing out of a fourth story window onto a ledge. It was Councilwoman Drazi’s window. They also noticed the nose of a hovering airspeeder jutting out from behind the corner of the fourth story. The intruders were out of range of Nora’s whip, so she unholstered her blaster pistol. Tray also did the same. Darter loaded a homing beacon into his dart gun and ran toward the corner of the building where the airspeeder would be visible to him.
Nora’s blaster bolt (Ranged Light success with a Triumph) blew a hole through one person’s head. Qillian’s stun bolt struck the other who went limp. Both fell. The Trianii tried to catch the one he shot, tripped (failed Athletics check) and sprained something when the human fell on him. The airspeeder started to flee, but Darter aimed (with an extra Boost die) and tagged it with a homing dart. The speeder disappeared quickly into the night sky immediately after.
“Nora,” Darter called, pulling out his comlink. “Check on Drazi. We have to call the others.” Nora sprinted up the steps. The doors slid open into the foyer where the factotum droid was sitting dormant at her desk. There was a crash of thunder and a bright flash of light. The entire top floor of the building – including Drazi’s office – exploded in a cloud of flame and debris. The downward shockwave began to collapse the building’s facade. Darter and Qillian was thrown away from the falling debris.
A shower of concrete, plaster, metal and glass was about to fall onto Nora. As she spun and vaulted out of the dark foyer, a cloud of dust enveloped her from above.
Then she was out of the miasma of debris, coughing and nursing bruises as cuts and running until she was safe. (Nora rolled a Success in Athletics.)
Darter and Qillian were relieved that Nora survived the building collapse.
“We have to rendezvous with the others.”
As police speeders arrived by road and by air, blaring their sirens and shining their floodlights at the disaster zone, the trio heard something and started looking at the city skyline. They realised a more dire situation was developing: Explosions were being set off all over Azurite City.
Above them, the Imperator-class Star Destroyer watched over everything in silence.