The Dawn of the Rangers
- Gev Dyson – Bounty hunter (Edward)
- Kin Asa Goddard – Smuggler (Brian)
- Ordan Vallas – Minor Jedi (Eduardo)
- Zor Draco – Former TIE fighter pilot (Martín)
- R4-3T – Astromech droid (NPC)
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
A IMPERIALS ARE EVACUATING VANDOR!
Summoned by New Republic Intelligence Agent codenamed Tailgunner, the crew of the YT-2000 freighter Rough Profits travels to Vandor. They have accomplished simple missions for Tailgunner before, but this time the stakes are higher than ever. But before they can even begin, a challenge lies before them in the skies of Vandor…
A Semblance of Rough Profits
It was four years after the Battle of Endor, and three after the Battle of Jakku. The crew of the Rough Profits dropped out of hyperspace near Vandor.
The Rough Profits was an old YT-2000 light freighter with green hull panels, maintained and piloted by the smuggler Captain Kin Asa Goddard. There were three others in the cockpit with him. The former Imperial TIE fighter pilot from the Atrisian Commonwealth Zoroan “Zor” Draco, grizzled bounty Gev Dyson. and a Force warrior from the lower levels of Coruscant named Ordan Vallas with his astromech unit R4-3T a.k.a Arfour.
Their former associate the Intelligence Agent Tailgunner requested their presence on Vandor post haste. They had not seen Tailgunner for over a year, but they knew her to be an Alliance Intelligence Agent who they had worked with from time to time during the Galactic Civil War.
Upon dropping out of hyperspace, they almost collided with a fleet of Imperial ships! It seemed as if every Imperial ship from every Imperial holdout was evacuating Vandor. The Rough Profits had a close call with a flight of TIE fighters, but Goddard (rolling a 22 out of a Difficulty Number of 15) evaded them skilfully. Gev said, “That eyeball almost smashed us good, the moof milker!”
The Rush of Retreating Ships
From the cockpit, Goddard warned Ordan to keep an eye on the TIE fighters, but Ordan in the ship’s cannon turret reported that they are not turning around for an attack.
Zor rushed to the gunwale and told Ordan, “Let me handle the guns! I have experience!” Ordan surrendered the gunnery station to him.
In the cockpit, Gev hit the comlink and said, “Tailgunner, this is the Rough Profits. We might be a little late…we have some Imperial entanglements to take care of.”
They enter the atmosphere and dive into a thick cloud cover. Goddard, at his pilot seat, noticed a lot of Imperial ships leaving the planet. He said, “This is not a good sign, I will bring the Profit around toward the landing beacon – GAHHH!” That was when a Gozanti-class transport emerged out of the cloud on a collision course with them. However, he managed to calmy but skilfully peel away from the lumbering beast, pirouetting easily, popping up and landing on their prescribed landing pad in Karkbreath Peak, despite the falling snow and winds.
“Good flying, mate,” Zor called out to Goddard. Goddard replied, “I think the lateral thrusters are frosting up; had a bit of lag at the end.”
Gev was adamant, “Pfft. Whatever, Captain. That was some damn flying.”
Reunion at Karkbreath Peak
Ordan did not join in the exchange as he spotted two figures running towards them outside in the snow. He was unable to identify them. Gev, still full of praise for Goddard, continued, “That was almost as good as the time we smuggled that Gamorrean wedding party past the blockade on Enok 4.” Then he recognised Tailgunner as one of the approaching figures.
Gev said, “I recognise that greasy moustache anywhere.” Tailgunner, dark-skinned human female in her mid-30s, entered the ship with a K-series security droid and quipped, “Are you guys still making jokes about me in moustaches?”
Young Ordan came running to the entry ramp and laughed, “Haha. Nice to see you, TG!”
Gev declared, “Nah, Tailgunner. My grandmother she has a moustache just like yours!”
Zor strode in regally and smiled charmingly at the woman, “I never joke about a lady.”
She gestured at Gev and said with a wink, “I’m not worried about you, love. It’s that Gev I’m giving the side eye to.”
Then her tone became sombre. “We have a problem. I called you in to transport some important datacards to Sector Command. But something else has come up.”
“Shouldn’t be anything we cant handle, right, boys?” said Gev loudly.
Goddard arrived from the cockpit and asked, “This has something have to do with all the Imperial traffic?”
“In the last 5 hours or so, after a revolt in this part of the continent and the death of the local Imperial Prefect and the top Imperial commanding officer on Vandor, the Imps are pulling out of the system.”
Goddard smiled, “That sounds like you had a good day at the office.”
The Briefing in the Cold
The intelligence officer gave a wry expression. “We managed to take control of one data centre, before they could self destruct the computer banks. We have reports that at least 4 data centres have been destroyed. But we have discovered this from the one centre we saved. The Imps have been working on a nerve agent… very deadly. Kills immediately. A single droplet can kill all lifeforms in a 10 km radius. They’ve installed nerve agents dispensers, hidden in cities all over the planet. A last ditch punishment method.”
Ordan spat, “Imperial scum.” Zor mulled softly, “And to think I used to buy into all this Imperial-“
“Here on Vandor,” she continued, “the detonator seems to be on a timer.”
Goddard asked, “Where do we need to be? I would guess you have a plan?”
“Yes. They have also developed an antidote, but the formula is in one of the data centres that we couldn’t save. Its creator is Dr. Ver-Tho-Ree, a Tiss’Shar. According to the data we did find, he will be taken from his lab in the city of Ghest River on Elshandruu Pica. They will move him 2 hours from now.
“You need to get to him there. Bring him here so we can create a lot of antidotes. We have the Imps’ chemical factory. The schedule says that they will take him via Unirail from Ghest River to the Imperial Security Bureau facility on the island of Ollitavalam. He is not a willing collaborator. Grab him before they stop at Ollitavalam and get him back here in 7 hours. There’s no way we can evacuate the whole planet in 7 hours, so we need you to get him ASAP.”
“K-3LP here will help you,” she pointed to her tall droid companion. “He has gear for you.” The droid set down the huge valise he was carrying and unzipped it. There were comlinks, medpacs, syntherope, grenades, stealth suits, climbing gear and a datapad of Dr. Ver-Tho-Ree’s profile and a map of the unirail network on Elshandruu Pica. Gev grabbed the climbing gear and rope.
Casting Off Into The Wild
“Good luck. I would send out the Blue Swifts, but when a data centre exploded they were… uh, inside it. So you’re the only ones I trust to get this job done in… 6 hours and 47 minutes.”
Tailgunner hurried down the ramp and told them, “Now get it done, I’m gonna have to try to evacuate the women and children, as many as we can, while coordinating the search for at least 300 gas dispensers.”
Goddard raised ship and the YT-2000 lifted off out of the planet’s gravity well. Aided by Arfour, Zor made the calculations for the jump to hyperspace (and rolling a 21 with a Difficulty Number of 20).
Dyson said, “You know I don’t have a bad feeling about this.”
K-3LP coolly shot back, “I never have a bad feeling about anything.” The droid addressed Goddard, “I am also programmed to pilot starships. I can be of great help to you, Captain Goddard.”
Ordan chimed in, “Arfour could help, as well. Arfour, get friendly with the navicomp and get us a course plotted.”
Zor was already in the astrogator’s seat. With Arfour aiding him, the Rough Profits made the jump. (Zor rolled a 21 with his Astrogation 4D+1 and a Difficulty of 20.)
Arrival at Elshandruu Pica
Elshandruu Pica was not far. Forty-five minutes later they reverted back to realspace off the planet. The METOSP signal was inviting and sensors detected 12 large pleasure yachts, 3 massive luxury liners and dozens of other smaller ships in orbit. K-3LP scanned the surface and pinpointed the location of Ghest River, the city where they would attempt to acquire Dr. Ver-Tho-Ree.
With Goddard piloting, the Rough Profits dropped into the atmosphere and made an arc towards the seaside city.
K-3LP announced, “According to the readings, the unirail is approaching Ghest River. Five minutes to the station there. There’s one more stop after: Coven Point at the beach before the unirail goes over the sea and to Ollitavalam.”
They would have more time to prepare if they landed in Coven Point. Goddard immediately formulated a plan. He contacted traffic control for immediate landing. Although control pushed back at such irregularity, Zor conned the young officer by invoking “people in high places” (with a 5D6 con roll of 17, Difficulty 10 – he was a young one).
Goddard asked K-3LP as the landscape below grew nearer, “If we miss the train, what chances do we have of fighting our way in?”
“I would say your chances are slightly better than moderate,” the droid said as the Rough Profits descends into the blue skies, blue oceans, tall snowy mountain range, green plains and woodland area near the shore. “It is an ISB facility, but from what we can tell security is low. We will have ten minutes after landing for the unirail to arrive. After that it will take them another ten minutes to reach the island.”
Scoping The Station
The ship landed easily on a field near the unirail station. The sun was shining, just after noon local time. Birds were chirping happily. The air had the tangy smell of the sea, slightly mixed with a bit of spoor of a swamp. They had eight more minutes before the unirail arrived.
Ordan said, “I can reconnoitre the area first in stealth suit, locate the target and give you sign to proceed.” He left the ship to scout, wearing a stealth suit. As the others stood by for his signal, K-3LP and Arfour took control of the Rough Profits.
Ordan reported that there are a lot of local security forces here. They wore helmets, double breasted tunic, high boots, an insignia of a yellow diamond with a red halo atop it. They were mostly clad in grey with bright red shoulder pads. Each carried a blaster pistol and had helmet comlinks. From a vantage point overlooking the street he saw that the station platform was about 200 meters lengthwise and the passenger platform was on one side of the rail. The other side was nothing but a sheer 50 meter drop to the swamps below. The entire platform structure appeared to be supported by repulsors over the swamp.
The civilian passengers were accumulating in the open-air foyer of the station. There was a stoop – about 10 steps high – which ran the length of the platform for them to reach the covered platform. But now a squad of local security was blocking their entry. The security team was uncomfortable preventing the mob of rich locals and visiting holiday-goers from entering the rail station. Ordan heard yelling.
The Harangued Guards
“I will be late for my meeting!”
“My daughter is waiting for me!”
“WAARRRGHHGBBGHG!” roared a Wookiee.
The the lead officer announced, “I am sorry but the Empire has requested that we let this rail stop and leave without anyone getting aboard.”
A Rodian lady yelled out, “The Empire lost the war. Why are we still giving in to their commands?”
Ordan reported that if they approach, everyone would be certainly spotted. He said, “We could throw a grenade to cause a distraction when the unirail arrives.”
Zor snapped, “No grenades! We have civilians on the scene!”
Suddenly, a pair of security personnel were about to discover Ordan in his alleyway vantage point overlooking the station. One of them has a sergeant’s epaulet. Ordan ducked behind a crate and called for help.
A Time for Fast Talking
Zor came down the Rough Profits, rushing to the rescue. Gev and Goddard followed suit, but flanked him at a safe distance. In his fine clothes, he called out to the guard at the alley, “Excuse me. I have noticed that security here seems very lax. I am awaiting a business partner, and I am afraid she will be mugged. This is very alarming.”
Their eyes passed over the space where Ordan was hiding with the active stealth suit. (Zor rolled a 36 with his 5D con skill because three Wild Dice 6 in a row!) Being a local police on a resort planet, they were very unaccustomed to any wildly problematic occurrences. The security officers were very apologetic. “I’m very sorry, sir. But there has not been any muggings here since Mrs. Porpalus, the baker’s wife, mistook her neighbour Garal Konn for an actual Ghest. I m-mean a Ghest, an actual animal, in her heated swimming pool, waiting for Mr. Porpalus to have an affai-” He realised he was rambling. “I mean, yes sir, follow me. I’ll get you to a safe spot.”
As the guards led Zor closer to the station, Ordan had used his stealth suit to creep past the line of guards and into the station. The enclosed station platform as empty.
Meanwhile the civilians were becoming more rowdy.
“Let’s go, team,” Zor whispered into his comlink. “We need to move.” The unirail coaches were arriving in four minutes. Miraculously, everyone was able to take advantage of the upset crowd and inexperienced crowd controllers to sneak into the station.
The Worsening Crowd
All four were now on the enclosed platform in the station, unseen by the mob outside. No one else was in there with them. They saw a crisscross of fine architectural struts and bars that allowed sunlight to enter from the roof. The platform was pristine white. There were marble seats all along the platform. Also, they saw rows of refreshers on the back and side walls of the platform.
Two minutes before the unirail arrived.
They had no idea which coach Dr. Ver-Tho-Ree would be in. K-3LP radioed in, “The unirail approaching has four coaches. The engine, one luxury coach, then one passenger coach, one cargo coach, followed by another passenger coach in the caboose. I do not know which coach the doctor is located in.”
One minute before the unirail arrived.
Ordan reached out with the Force. He felt the swiftly approaching Tiss’shar life form. Then, something shook him. He said, “Something’s wrong, guys.” The disturbance in the Force grew stronger as the unirail approached.
There was a chime and an automated voice said, “Train approaching in 45 seconds.” It then repeated in Huttese.
As they saw the train approaching along the repulsor rail track, Zor said, “Let’s split up. Each one of us try to board one car.” Gev drew his blaster and prepared for anything. “K-3LP,” said Ordan into the comlink. “We might jump or fall. Prepare to catch us.”
“Train approaching in 30 seconds.”
“I don’t know if I can make it there in 30 seconds,” said the KX security droid. They heard the Rough Profits engines begin to start up. “But I will try.”
“Train approaching in 15 seconds. Please stand back.”
That was when they heard a toilet flush.
The Toilet Flush and its Repercussions
Many things happened almost simultaneously. Gev turned his heavy blaster pistol to the sound. A fresher door across the empty station slid open and someone casually walked out of it. It was an ISB agent. Gev fired. (Blaster skill of 6D, Difficulty of 20, rolling only 12!) The blaster bolt flew past the agent and into the fresher. The toilet exploded violently.
The agent pulled up his comlink, “This is Agent Savastri. Do not stop! Repeat, do not stop!”
A second bolt whooshed past him and the fresher bloomed into a cloud of sparks, smoke and toilet water. (This time Gev rolled a 14, still a miss.) There was a shout from outside: “I think someone is shooting up the public restrooms! Why? What are the restrooms’ sins?”
Goddard looked at Gev and said, “They never talk about it.”
Gev replied, “A lot of shit happening there.”
The automated voice carried on without disturbance, “Unirail stopping. Mind the gap. Mind the gap.“
The unirail roared into the station. Wind buffetted at them all, even as it was slowing down, but Zor and Ordan leapt onto the first passenger coach. Gev, despite not being able to prepare to jump, made his leap onto the caboose. Goddard realised he was not adept enough to jump onto the train, which was now speeding up. Then K-3LP’s voice came through the comlink, “Trust the Force, Captain Goddard.”
Leaps of Faith
“Agent Savastri! What is going on! Is there a threat?” a voice rasped out of the ISB agent’s comlink as the Imperial drew his blaster.
Goddard calmed his mind and allowed the Force to flow through him. Then he jumped.
Savastri raised his blaster and aimed at the freighter captain as he sailed through the air.
Goddard’s feet landed at the back of the luxury coach near Zor (spending one Force Point, rolling a 33 on 8D, beating a Difficulty of 15) just as the unirail accelerated and swooped out of the station.
Then the guards burst into the station, pushed by the civilian mob from outside. The wave of people slammed into Savastri. He lost his balance and fell off the edge of the platform. He screamed all the way down.
Infiltrating the Unirail
Gev told Ordan, “I shot up a toilet.” Then they rushed forward towards Zor and Goddard. Ordan felt the pull of the Force. Something that was strong in the Force was on this unirail. Was it a Jedi? Was Dr. Ver-Tho-Ree a Force sensitive?
The passengers were worried because the unirail did not stop at Coven Point. Gev and Ordan carefully walked through the rear coach. There was no Tiss’Shar here. There was one Saurin, drunk as a skunk in his seat. But no Tiss’Shar was present. Thankfully, no one challenged them as they headed for the cargo coach.
Then the comlink buzzed, “Zor here, target’s not on the front passenger coach. Moving onto the next one.”
Ordan replied, “Same here, moving forward.”
They heard Goddard say, “Kaythree, where you at?”
“This is the Profits, we are pacing you. Fifteen hundred meters behind.”
When Gev and Ordan passed through the luggage coach, Ordan stopped. Something in this compartment was calling out to him.
Ahead, Zor and Goddard found that the luxury coach was shut tight. The rear door had a high grade military lock installed recently. Its side windows were blacked out. At first Zor considered using the security tool kit to break the lock. After a short soul searching, Zor drew his blaster and shot at the lock. (Damage blaster 5D roll of 23 against the 3D lock strength roll of 10!) There was a brief tempest of smoke and sparks. The door slid open. He said, “I found the key.”
From the luggage coach, Ordan yelled into his comlink, “Be careful, Zor!”
And Now What?
Gev said, “Let’s go up and help!” They both rushed forward into the front passenger coach. But as soon as Ordan was halfway forward of the coach, a strong feeling in the Force compelled him back towards the centre of the luggage coach. Whatever it was, Ordan knew that it was not sentient, and not Dark Side at all. But it was calling for Ordan specifically and he felt very comfortable with the call.
Somehow, Gev Dyson did not notice that Ordan Vallas had stopped.
Their comlinks buzzed, “This is the Profits. What’s going on? What is happening down there?”
Back on the rear patio of the luxury coach, Captains Zoroan Draco and Kin Asa Goddard were pointing their blasters into the dark, smoking doorway. There were six stormtroopers within. Three were flanking a reptilian alien wearing glasses and holding a stack of datapads. It was Dr. Ver-Tho-Ree! Three other troopers were pointing their BlasTech SE-14 blaster pistol at Zor and Goddard.
Though armed and weapons drawn, the Zor and Goddard were outgunned. For a moment they were frozen, assessing their situation and waiting for the hammer to drop.
Then, the former Imperial TIE fighter pilot Zor Draco said to the Tiss’Shar in the middle, “Doctor, drop to the floor!”
TO BE CONTINUED