08 Dirge of the Nepotist Captain
Thanks to the course I was sent on gave me the opportunity to continue Modesty Blazing, the Edge of the Empire campaign I run for GOKL. I honestly never thought I’d be able to continue the story that had begun more than a year ago when I still lived in Kuala Lumpur. After a quick social media notification, the group agreed to meet at Wira Games and Hobbies.
The Rancor’s Rancor
Ghyel had been annexed by Captain Bullpup Barqueslayer of the Imperator-class Star Destroyer Cockchafer!
The stolen Lambda-class shuttle carrying Zalo Hai the lost Prince of Ghyel and his de facto aides and protectors temporarily attached to the Ghyel Ministry of History and Archaeology, Trianii Qillian Ryn, Zeltron Darter Kel, Trandoshan John Tray’Essek and droid VAX-11/750 reverted from hyperspace and cruised toward their rendezvous site at the edge of the Ghyel system where their new ally the former Imperial captain Razi Sunmote waited.
The spacegoing vessel was basically the modified and upgraded Section 12 of Smallberries Station – a trove of salvaged Clone War hardware on Hypori – which had been jettisoned and stolen by Sunmote on his quest for revenge. The only thing that was different about it were the two large fins bolted onto it, which appeared to have no function. Several fighters were launched from the ship – Vulture droid fighters – and screamed into formation.
Darter hailed the spaceborne slice of Smallberries salvage station, but Sunmote spouted in advance. The comlink crackled,”Where is the scum Flintlock Tile? Give him to me now!” Darter calmed him down by telling him that Tile has now taken on the Barqueslayer identity and in order to defeat him – and for Sunmote to exact revenge – the group needs his help to formulate a plan and carefully execute it. Prince Zalo hoped that this would also save his home system of Ghyel.
“The Vulture droids will escort you in!”
The four droid fighters guided their stolen shuttle toward a small growing dot on the hull of the ship, which grew into a moderately sized energy shield-protected hangar bay.
As they landed, they spotted a battalion of armed B1 battle droids marching in their direction. The group walked down the ramp. The battle droids ceased their march and remained motionless. The group with Prince Zalo behind them became apprehensive.
Suddenly the droids parted to reveal Razi Sunmote in the back.
Beside him was a familiar figure: Nora Romanova, who left Ghyel a few days earlier to escort their Duros friend Vendrik offworld. Everyone rushed forward to greet her. “How did you-?”
“I got a call from Sassatania the Hutt,” Nora said. Darter cringed at the name of his Hutt fiancée who had promised to marry him at the end of the Ghyel job. “She told me you needed help and I was to meet with Sunmote to return to the group. Where’s the Modesty Blaze?”
“How the hell did Sassastania know where-… Never mind. Barqueslayer’s people took the Blaze,” Darter told her. “She’s now in some berth in a landing bay on the Cockchafer.”
“Darter,” Nora said.
“Sassatania sends her kisses.”
“Gentlemen!” interjected the now-well dressed and very eager Captain Sunmote. “Welcome to my flagship the Rancor’s Rancor! Come with me to my conference room and we can begin to plan the downfall of the wretched Flintlock Tile!”
I Love It When a Plan Comes Together
Sunmote led the team down badly-lit corridors into his conference room. Sunmote bellowed proudly, “Welcome to my conference room.” Lights came on to reveal the boxes and cardboard stands on the floor that represented tactical elements in the field. Or something.
If VAX could roll his eyes, he would. But instead he used his wireless scomp link to access the room’s data infrastructure looking for something. And he found it.
The lights dimmed and hidden projectors apparently unknown to Sunmote displayed the Ghyel system. Sunmote gave them an embarrassed grin while Prince Zalo planted his face in his palm. The display magnified deep down onto the planet’s surface to reveal Azurite Cite, the Cockchafer hovering 5 klicks above, the system of rivers that wove through the city, the mountains to the north and west and the swamps to the south and east. The system of rivers wound its way through thick jungles and fed into a delta by the ocean thirty klicks south-east. VAX gestured to the rest.
Darter began his briefing to Sunmote. Ultimately it was decided that they could not win a frontal attack on a Star Destroyer. Therefore a more deft hand is required. The first thing they need to do is to learn all they could about the former Flintlock Tile and how he got to be Bullpup Barqueslayer. And why.
Based on what VAX knew, there was an encrypted Imperial database in a high-security Imperial station in the Bundil system. They would need a ship to get there.
Sunmote brought them to another hangar bay and gave them a recently-repaired, working VCX-100 freighter which Qillian named the Tiger’s Claw. Unfortunately it had no S-6 auxiliary shuttle perched on its dorsal docking rails.
We Begin Our Covert Heist By Blowing Up a Landing Bay
Leaving Prince Zalo with Sunmote, the group travelled to the nearby Bundil system where the Bundil II Imperial QX2 platform was stationed. They were immediately queried. The Tiger’s Claw‘s BoSS transponder code was sound, which meant the ship would have a clean record. So Darter gave them a story about them being from a corporation looking to expand and look for partners in the Outer Rim and was hoping that Bundil II would be able to help.
They were given landing permission and the Tiger’s Claw glided through the energy shield into their assigned bay. Darter gestured out the cockpit window to Nora. “We’ve got company. Let’s go talk to them… But wait. I have to get into my business suit first.” He removed his tiny jacket, went shirtless and put on a bow tie, then they both disembarked the freighter.
A squad of four stormtroopers were en route from a blast door to meet them. Darter and Nora beamed their best smile at them.
That was when the blast door exploded from inside. The blast staggered the duo, but the fiery debris knocked down all the stormtroopers. Beyond, through the smoke and flames, two Rodians were hurrying toward another freighter, a shiny looking Ghtroc-720. They were armed and carried large valuable-looking cases.
“I think we stumbled across a heist,” Darter said. Nora drew her energy whip, snagged a Rodian and made him eat the pavement. The survivor stepped forward with his blaster pointed at them. Behind him, two more scruffy-looking Rodians scampered into the burning landing bay.
“Let’s go!” Tray barked. He and Qillian ran out the ship and aimed his blaster rifle at the newcomers. An exchange of gunfire was about to begin…
…until VAX, who sat in the nose turret, swung the cannon barrels at the far end of the landing bay and fired. A pair of energy bolts streaked past Nora, Darter, Tray and Qillian and struck the deck where the newcomers were. The ensuing explosion rivalled the Rodians own explosion, and this time the Rodian were caught within its blast radius. The two newcomers were immediately flash fried. The Rodian closest to Nora was not having a great day neither.
Imperial Aid, More or Less
More Imperial troops entered the landing bay through the hole in the wall led by Lieutenant Gripps. Darter smooth talked his way through the interview with the unwitting Lieutenant believing every word he said. Even the security holocams confirmed that Darter and his crew tried to stop the Rodian thieves from reaching their ship. But most importantly, Gripps was totally enamoured with Nora. Naturally, she fluffed her golden hair and batted her eyelids at him to good effect.
The Lieutenant gives them permission to access the Imperial database while they rested in their temporary quarters. VAX sliced the network with his normal flair. He quickly found and downloaded an encrypted file on Flintlock Tile and Barqueslayer.
It appeared that Tile had been an ultimate screw-up in the Imperial fleet. But all his mistakes – some of which had been fatal for others – were swept clean by someone high up in the chain of command. This earned him many enemies in the fleet. He was never promoted as captain but he ended up the executive officer for Sunmote’s last command. Tile had ordered a Base Delta Zero upon a non-hostile world. For mysterious reasons Razi Sunmote was blamed and dishonourably discharged. Tile had not been charged in military court at all. Soon after he disappeared off the records.
Barqueslayer appeared not long after as a transfer from the Core to the Outer Rim Territories, and was given command of the Star Destroyer Cockchafer. Upon close inspection, it was clear that his history prior to that was a fabrication.
Not only someone high up was protecting Tile, but they were also powerful enough to alter military records. Why would someone protect a nincompoop like Tile?
On the way out they informed Lieutenant Gripps that they had done some digging and have decided to visit Ghyel to scout for business prospects. Gripps warned them that the Cockchafer is there and a notorious Star Destroyer captain Bullpup Barqueslayer commanded it. Not only Gripps, but he told them that many other officers in the sector despised Barqueslayer, who was a moron that made many mistakes all during his tenure as am Imperial captain, but was somehow protected. Gripps said, “If clear evidence could be brought to light about his missteps and before anyone can bury the evidence, there would be a lot of Imperial officers – especially here in the Ferra sector – happy to see him arrested and throw into military prison.”
Then, Gripps gave them a limited-use code cylinder which they could use to transmit a clearance code to the crew of the Cockchafer. He did so while incessantly smiling at Nora.
They thanked him, boarded the Tiger’s Claw – while Nora blew Lieutenant Gripps a kiss – and then headed back to the Rancor’s Rancor.
I Love It When a Plan Comes Together Redux
After the Tiger’s Claw landed, the crew quickly looked for Sunmote and Prince Zalo. Darter – still wearing nothing but a bow tie, tight leather pants and light boots – told him, “We need to link Barqueslayer with Tile. Someone high up is protecting him clandestinely, but he has more enemies than friends. And if we can somehow let everyone know that these two characters are one and the same, we can get him out of the picture.”
“What do you need,” growled Sunmote.
“We have images of Barqueslayer,” said Darter. “We need images of him as Tile. Then we have to plant the images and their connection into the Imperial Holonet so it gets widespread attention. Do you have a Wall of Hate?”
Sunmote led the team down badly-lit corridors into his Wall of Hate. Sunmote bellowed proudly, “Welcome to my Wall of Hate.” Lights came on to reveal a single print of Tile on the wall with darts sticking out of it.
Tray scratched his head and asked, “Don’t… Uh, don’t you have holograms of…”
“Oh yes!” Sunmote spun and hit a button on the wall. The lights dimmed and 2D and 3D holograms of Flintlock Tile spread out over the walls of the room. Some were even animated. Where did Sunmote obtain these images? Darter focused on one image and said, “VAX, can you project the image of Barqueslayer we have on file beside this one?”
“We need to find out what’s going on in Azurite City,” said Darter. “I think I know how to contact a smuggler down there right now.” (Thanks to a VERY successful Knowledge: Underworld roll.)
With VAX’s slicing skills which required him to point his crotch-mounted transceiver at the comm console and gyrate wildly, they were able to contact Roan Yaxx a smuggler who was stuck in Azurite City since the Imperials annexed and blockaded the system.
“Who is this?” the smuggler barked, surprised at the call. “How did you get this channel?”
“Listen, Roan,” Darter told him. “I know you live on information to survive, so you need to tell me if the Imperials are building a Holonet relay on Ghyel.”
“Okay. But I’m a business man. What’s in it for me? And what’s that droid doing gyrating in the back?”
“Besides you being able to leave Ghyel again, we are persons of many skills and we would be indebted to you once you’re back in the space lanes. Don’t ask about the droid.”
“Very well. I will send you a data package on this channel. Yaxx out.”
After a short pause, Tray said to VAX, “They’ve stopped transmitting. Can you please stop gyrating, man.”
Not long later, the data package arrived. VAX unpacked it and displayed it onto the conference room floor.
VAX muttered, “Bah. They are constructing a Holonet transceiver tower right in the middle of the city.”
“But look,” Prince Zalo pointed out excitedly. “They’re building something big connected to the tower across town in the basement of our old Ministry building.”
It was the Holonet relay station.
The other piece of information included was that Captain Barqueslayer never left the Cockchafer for any reason. Not even if there were armed uprisings, which the ship’s Stormtrooper Corps quelled easily.
They decided that they would land, bluff their way to the relay station, plant the connection between Tile and Barqueslayer at a visible and high-traffic node in the Holonet. The information will spread across the fleet quickly and Tile’s enemies would not pass on the chance to apprehend him. But to do that, they needed to lure the Cockchafer away from Azurite City. Nora requested a fighter for the job.
Sunmote told her there was an Incom T-65B X-wing fighter in an auxiliary hangar bay, but it had been badly damaged even before the Rancor’s Rancor departed from Hypori. No repulsorlifts, weapons systems wrecked, engines shot. However, since there were a lot of tools and spare parts lying about the hangar bay, and VAX did not need to eat, he told the others to go have supper while he fixed up the fighter.
An hour later after dinner, the X-wing was fully repaired, newly-painted and modified for better flight and combat performance! Nora was elated and named the X-wing the Delicious Mango!
Sunmote assigned a squadron of Vulture droids for Nora to lead: Mangrove squadron. “This is Mangroves One, Two, Three and Five. Don’t ask about Four. It’s a pretty sad story.”
“My own squadron!” exclaimed the somewhat-too-excited Nora. She jumped onto Mangrove One and yelled, “Take me to my X-wing, One! It’s time for me to go to battle. And there’s only one way I go into battle.”
And Mangrove One strode past the others, Nora’s halter top, neckerchief and hot pants fell onto Tray who was rendered mostly speechless. “So apparently Nora goes into battle naked,” Darter commented as Mangrove One tipped over to allow Nora to jump into the X-wing’s cockpit. Naked.
Prince Zalo absolutely bewildered by Nora’s display stayed put as the crew ran into the Tiger’s Claw, and launched into space right behind Naked Nora and Mangrove Squadron. Darter contacted Sunmote by comlink and told him not to worry. By the end of this mission, Sunmote would have his revenge on Tile.
The Not-Very-Savage Battle for Azurite City
As per the plan, Nora’s squadron made a beeline toward the planet and the skies above Azurite City. Once they emerged from under the clouds, the Cockchafer immediately detected them and requested their identification. Without an identification response, the Star Destroyer’s turbolasers opened up. Flak exploded all around them. As they closed to ten klicks, a single flak burst tore Mangrove Three into a hundred fiery pieces.
Then they were upon the Cockchafer, Nora’s X-wing flying close to the bridge window at the conning tower, causing the officer of the deck to spill coffee onto his uniform. The officer ordered, “After them!”
The Star Destroyer turned to pursue, volleys of turbolaser blasts still lancing out. A deadly red bolt struck and immolated Mangrove One. Then a wing pair of two TIE fighters joined the chase, their cannons blasting at the Delicious Mango and the survivors of Mangrove squadron.
Once the Cockchafer had left the vicinity, the Tiger’s Claw soared down in from the sky transmitting the clearance code from the code cylinder that Gripps gave them (which gave them a dice upgrade to any Deception rolls). The city based Imperial traffic controllers stood down and allowed them landing permission when Darter told them they were Holonet civilian consultants, tasked with the upgrade and boosting the Holonet relay station that had been built under the Ministry.
Qillian landed the VCX-100 freighter on the roof of the Ministry of History and Archaeology where a squad of troopers awaited them. They disembarked and faced the lead officer, but the code cylinder (and Darter’s Deception roll – and maybe his distracting business suit) allowed them safe passage into the building. VAX gave the officer the “I’ve got my eye on you” gesture for no reason as he passed him by.
They jogged down to the fourth level where another officer stopped them, but a quick code cylinder data burst and some fast talk from Darter resulted in a squad of eight Imperial stormtroopers escorting the team down the stairwell to the basement. There was a long corridor that extended for two hundred metres underground which led to the Holonet relay bunker. The troops halted and the squad leader advanced upon Darter ominously. He said, “Good luck with your work, sir.” Then the entire squad turned and headed down the tunnel back to the Ministry basement.
They entered the bunker. There were guards, but they stood down quickly thanks to the code cylinder. VAX used his scomp link to wirelessly connect to the hardware. Then with the help of the code cylinder’s software he began slicing into the system…
… and succeeded triumphantly.
Not only did he manage to send the data package of Tile and Barqueslayer into official message drops of the entire Imperial network, but he managed to slice into a highly classified Imperial Ubiqtorate database and had just enough time to look for and alter certain files to their advantage. Firstly, VAX copied a list of Imperial unmanned supply cache, then he retrieved an Imperial Security Bureau most wanted list and a list of possible Rebel agents, then he found and took a list of emergency comm frequencies and access codes. VAX also discovered the dossier on Ghyel and altered it to be a non-hostile world and instate Prince Zalo as the most probably head of state for the system.
Finally, (thanks to the Success and Triumph) VAX was actually able to add their names to a deeply buried list of Ubiqtorate deep cover agents! Some day this might come in handy.
As VAX disconnected, Darter told the guards with a smile, “The upgrade is complete. It will be a couple of hours before everything is back up. We’ll find our way back out.”
And with that the Zeltron led the group back out toward the Tiger’s Claw casually and calmly through a horde of Imperial officers and troops.
The Attack of the Swamp Thing
Meanwhile, a green energy bolt had struck the left engines of the treetop skimming Delicious Mango. The X-wing fighter wobbled violently. A burst of flame and sparks, then it began streaming thick black smoke. This gave Nora an idea. She opened up the cockpit. Wind buffeted her, causing her hair to flail wildly and her face to do that compressed-air-to-face thing. She drew her blaster from her weapon harness and fired on the right engines. More smoke billowed out and obstructed the pursuing TIE fighters’ view. As the TIE continued to fire, Nora said, “Goodbye Delicious Mango. You were sweet.” Then she ejected. The TIEs screamed by beneath her as her seat’s repulsorlift kicked in and lowered her safely to the ground hundreds of metres below.
Nora unbuckled and leapt out onto wet and disgusting mud. She was surrounded by thick-trunked, twisted and gnarly trees. She began walking back toward the city and hoped that the rest of the crew would give her a lift.
After some time sloughing through the muck, she (succeeded on a Perception roll and) felt a slight tremor in the ground. She quickly marched to a tree and tried to jump onto it (but failed a Coordination check). She slipped and fell, just as a giant white worm with a mouthful of sharp teeth and many eyes exploded underneath the tree and toppling it, which knocked Nora into the mud.
It was a wandrella!
It attempted to smash Nora into a pulp with its distended body. Nora lunged out of its way but she was not quick enough. The wandrella impacted into the mud, closely missing Nora. The explosion of mud, soil and water flung her back first into another tree (losing 2 Strain from the impact). Then the worm withdrew back into its hole.
For a long moment, everything was silent. There was hardly a sound. Then the wandrell burst out from under Nora again. This time she managed to twist out of its way, but she fell back into the mud. The wandrella reared up, opening its dark maw. That was when Nora grab one of the two stun grenades hanging from her belt, pulled a pin and threw. The grenade hit the top of the wandrella and explode. Absorbing the blast, the grenade sent a quick undulating wave of wormflesh down its body.
Then it slammed down into the mud beside Nora – splashing her with more mud and soil – and rolled over quietly. Nora quickly got up and double timed it out of there.
Soon, the comlink on her weapon harness beeped. It was Darter calling. She told him, “I’ve ejected and am now on foot in the swamp. I’m activating my homing beacon!”
“Hold tight! We’re coming for you!” said Darter. Then he continued, “Oh, I forgot to tell you: watch out for giant worms in the swamp.”
“Okay,” said Nora dryly. “I will.”
Five minutes later, the Tiger’s Claw swooped down. Darter held tight at the open ramp, looking for Nora as VAX brought the ship down to a hover just over the ground.
“I’m here!” came Nora’s voice.
“AUGH!” exclaimed Darter. A human-like shape of mud, soil, fallen leaves and branches was shambling toward the ramp like some unholy thing from the swamp! Then Darter realised that it was Nora, naked under the muck. As Nora clambered aboard the ramp, VAX flew low and dunked the ramp into a nearby river to wash the swamp detritus off Nora.
So Did We Win?
But as the ramp closed and VAX and Qillian took the Tiger’s Claw above the jungle canopy, a shadow fell over them. The Star Destroyer Cockchafer was back and launching more fighters.
Then two Dreadnaught-class cruisers descended from the clouds above. It was the Ballerina and the Tap Dancer! The Tiger’s Claw crew saw the newcomers circle the Cockchafer, then suddenly the TIE fighters from the Cockchafer opened fire on them. The cruisers opened fire at them and at the Cockchafer in defence.
“I guess someone got our message,” Darter quipped.
Suddenly, the Cockchafer appeared to cease its attack on its own accord. The Ballerina and the Tap Dancer moved into and held flanking positions. A shuttle flew from the Ballerina to the Tap Dancer. After about a minute, the three capital ships began moving toward the city.
Using one of their stolen frequency channels, Tray easily tapped into the Imperials’ communications. It was confirmed that acting upon newly-discovered evidence of incompetence and identity fabrication, Captain Barqueslayer has been put under arrest by his executive officer. The Cockchafer and all its military assets have been ordered to withdraw from Ghyel. The captain of the Tap Dancer will remain to oversee the peaceful return of power to the local government.
Episode Six! It’s Time For a Wedding
The Tiger’s Claw sped into space back toward the location of the Rancor’s Rancor. Everyone was overjoyed. Azurite City was free, Prince Zalo will have a chance to rebuild Ghyel, Flintlock Tile was in chains, and the team gave itself invisible but tangible benefit. All that was left was to return Prince Zalo back to the city and retrieve Modesty Blaze.
But as they approached Sunmote’s piece of a salvage station turned mobile battle station, they saw that a fleet of capital ships, transports and freighters had surrounded it. A large Minstrel-class space yacht was docked with it. A Hutt ship with familiar colours.
Darter gulped. Sassatania the First of Her name aided by her heavily armed entourage had come to claim her Zeltron fiancé.
To be continued!
- The wandrella stats can be found here on this very blog.
- Wait! What about poor Modesty Blaze?
- How would Razi Sunmote react to still unable to exact revenge on Flintlock Tile?
- Who was Tile’s patron and what would this mean for the player characters?
- Bundil II is from the Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance video game.
- With that another session was over and I suppose it would be many more months before I get to meet the group again.
- Finally I would also like to remind everyone that Sassatania the Hutt looks like this.