“In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it.”—Napoleon Bonaparte
Greenleaf is famous for its lush equatorial region boasting white sandy beaches and tropical resorts renowned all over the ‘Verse. Unfortunately, that ain’t the part of Greenleaf where you’re headed. No, the job has taken you to a coastal town in the northern, more temperate climes of wine country. Fact is, as soon as you step out into the air, you can smell it: a sweet scent that you can almost taste, a slight tang in the air. The settlement here is called The Vineyard, and the atmosphere leaves no room for guessing why.
The type of people who normally show up in The Vineyard are either familiar faces doing business with the local vintners or tourists, who are typically easy to spot. You don’t look like either, and that’s bound to draw a little attention. With the upcoming gala on Osiris, it doesn’t take long for a local to approach you and see if you’re interested in making some credits.
Norman Sellers is a thin little man, dressed in a light-colored suit that probably helps with the heat of the day, but shows off the wine stains near his collar. Most notable is his handle-bar mustache, which is lovingly kept in perfect curls and greased into symmetry, accompanied by a pair of small round glasses that sit at the end of his nose.
“Ah, forgive my staring, I just thought, well. You appear to be strangers here, and don’t have the look of tourists, and I suspect that ship that landed a short time ago was yours. Might you be interested in work? Not in the vineyards of course. Heavens no. As in shipping work. Delivery. That sort of thing."
Mr. Sellers will answer any questions you may have for him and wants to negotiate a fair deal. Those not interested in hashing out a contract are free to explore The Vineyard.
- Crash: Since I lack the people skills for diplomacy and negotiation, I’ll head into town and sample the local wares.
- Knives: I will be a part of the group that’s negotiating. My special skills might: come in handy. I will read Mr. Sellers to see if we can trust him.
- GM: To Knives: Sellers is nervous. Sure he’s on a deadline with a very big customer, but you pick up something beyond that making him sweat. Wine delivery is perfectly legal. He shouldn’t be this jittery unless there’s more to it than a simple delivery run.
- Rip: “Well Mr. Sellers, we got a ship full of fuel, with an empty cargo hold. If the prices is right, and the little lady here (nodding to knives,) ain’t got no bad vibes off this little endeavor we might get down to business.” I give Knives the you got anything to add look.
- GM: As Mr. Sellers to Rip: “Yes, well, the thing is, I have a shipment that needs to make its way to Osiris in a week and a half. It’s for a very important gathering, and it wouldn’t do—not at all—for the Baron to be without the wine he always orders, yes, yes."
- Rip: To Sellers “Seems if it’s a regular order, you’d have a regular driver. If you don’t mind me asking where your regular wheel man is?” FYI to those who wonder, Rip will from time to time use terminology that seems dated, due to his extensive time in the past on the cortex.
- GM: As Mr. Sellers to Rip: “Those Tian Di Wu Yohn fellas up and left me in the lurch. Two days ago they sent me a wave demanding triple their regular rate! Always trying to gwai every last cred out of me. There’s not any ships with sufficient cargo space willing to make the trip that I’ve found on such short notice. Well, since it’s rather a rush, hardly giving you any time to enjoy our fair planet at all—very unfair of me, I know—I can offer you 6,000 credits, which should more than cover the tariffs when you arrive, as well as leave you with a hefty profit. And tickets for you and your crew to the gala that evening, of course.”
- Rip: “Im figurin’ that the job’s pretty hot, thats why you can’t find no one to take it on. In addition to the payment, going to need a bit of information and a bit of good will next time were are by this way. Kinda you scratch ours, we’ll scratch your back and all.”
“Who’s your normal crew? I’m betting if we pick up their load, we may have to have a talk to them before we can make the delivery.”
- GM: As Mr. Sellers to Rip: “Oh, I cancelled my contract with them. Gū Xīng Freight and Process is my usual company. Can’t go renegotiating terms like that. They blackballed me just the same. Said I was in breach. Now, no reputable crew will do it. I’m hoping the money might make a less reputable crew bail me out. It’s all on the up and up. I’m just really pressed for time.”
- Knives: To Mr. Sellers: “6000 seems a mite low. You want us to take a job no one else seems to want. How’s about 12000. Or you can just keep looking and see if anyone else comes by before time’s up.”
While Rip and Knives haggle Norman Sellers up to 9000 credits, Jamven watches from a distance. It doesn’t take long to notice that he’s not the only one pretending not to be eavesdropping on their conversation. An unobtrusive man with vaguely Chinese features keeps looking up from his datapad and staring just a little too intently at Mr. Sellers. When he meets Jamven’s gaze, he switches off his pad and starts casually walking away.
Jet and Roy are making use of the time in port to do the engine upgrades on the shuttle. Short of a drydock there’s no way to do the modifications in the black, so they’re hurrying to get as much done as they can before you leave Greenleaf. As Roy climbs down to fetch the spare photonic reverser, he notices two gentlemen in mechanics’ coveralls near the base of the docking platform. He recognizes their tattoos as 14K Tong symbols. They’re carrying a mix of mechanical and electronic toolkits and seem to be admiring “Freedom’s Flight.”
Crash meanwhile is enjoying a very nice, relaxing tour of Mr. Sellers’ Vineyard complete with a wine tasting. It’s easy to see why Baron Otello demands Sellers’ wine for his shindigs. The Vineyard still uses authentic wood casks to give the wine a better flavor, making their product one of the finest vintages around.
- Jamven: I’m going to see if I can follow the other eavesdropper without him noticing me.
- GM: To Jamven: Before I determine how it plays out between you and this guy, I need a bit of backstory from you. During your time in Perdition how friendly were you with the Tong inmates?
- Jamven: I spoke to a few of them, though several didn’t like me for the simple fact that some of them knew it was our organization that acted out hits on important members of some of their groups. The organization, simply referred to as “The Company,” that I was involved in back in my assassin days was much more discreet and more of a contractor organization than a gang or organized crime family. We did have dealings with them though. Some liked me or at least respected me for what I myself and “The Company” had done for them, but their rival groups didn’t take too kindly to my presence at all.
- GM: To Jamven: Once he leaves the port authority building, the unknown man takes a brisk pace along the sidewalk downtown. you lose sight of him briefly as he rounds the corner beside a quaint cafe with outdoor seating. As you edge around the corner after him, he’s leaning up against the wall waiting for you. Two men who had been sitting in front of the cafe stand up and move behind you blocking the alley. The first man smiles and introduces himself as Howard Lim. “My employer would like to talk to you about a matter of utmost importance,” he says. “Meet him at these coordinates in 3 days time.” He hands you a small datapad showing a region of space halfway between Greenleaf and Osiris. “Go ahead and take Sellers’ job as planned, but if you meet with my boss before delivering the merchandise, he’ll pay double whatever Sellers promises you.”
- Jamven: I give him a good look in the eye before taking the datapad reluctantly. “Just who is your employer, anyway? I don’t particularly like meeting people I’ve never heard of, especially not in your… ‘line of work.’ I’m also curious as to why you’re choosing me.”
- GM: As Howard Lim to Jamven: “Let’s just say it’s professional courtesy that my boss asked nicely. You are smart enough to take this outstretched hand. Don’t disappoint him by not meeting with him.”
An increasingly harried Norman Sellers concludes his negotiations with Knives and Rip, saying “Now, if there’s nothing further, my men can load your cargo bay with 8 pallets of Sellers Vineyard ‘s finest within the hour and you can be on your way. If you’ll just press your thumb right here, acknowledging receipt of the goods. 2000 credits now, 7000 upon delivery.” He hands you a pad, awaiting your signatures.
Howard Lim, meanwhile gives Jamven his best “you can trust me” smile and promises that it would be in his best interest to make the rendezvous. “We both stand to benefit from this and no one gets hurt. I’d hate to think what might happen if you missed this opportunity. There’s really no telling what might happen out there in the black on such a long stretch of emptiness.”
The two mechanics catch Roy’s gaze and walk off. As they do, one turns back and gives Roy a little salute with a knowing grin. Overhead, another ship is coming into port. The Alliance Short-Range Enforcement Vessel or ASREV is unmistakable and is a favorite among Federal Marshals out on the Rim Worlds.
- Jamven: I quirk my brow at Lim, then finally put my hand out. “I’ll run it over with the rest of the crew and see what I can do.”
- Roy: To Rip: “Perhaps we should make ourselves scarce. I have a bad feeling about this.”
- Rip: To Roy: “Good idea.”
To the crew: “Let’s dust off and get out in the black. We need to put some space between us and them Alliance dogs. Never know how they might spin a mishap into a year in prison.”
- GM: Are you leaving without the cargo? It will be nearly an hour before it’s loaded.
- Rip: No, but as soon as the last crate is on the ramp, I want us drifting in the stars. It can’t be just coincidence with our pasts that that ship is here. I think I might be best for us to stick close, keep our heads down, and get out ASAP.
- GM: Oh, and Crash isn’t back yet. He doesn’t know there’s any trouble so he won’t be in a rush.
- Knives: “Do ya’ll know if the Feds are looking for us especially or just in general? Somebody needs to go look for Crash so we can get some yonder.”
As the ASREV slowly descends onto a docking platform a few sites down from the one “Freedom ’s Flight” is occupying, Norman Sellers watches with keen interest. “Ah, finally,” he says. “I called the marshals a week ago. Hopefully they’ve found something. If you’ll excuse me, I need to see to that. My men will have the wine to you as soon as possible so you can be on your way.” With that he scurries off towards the newly arrived Feds.
When Howard Lim notices the ASREV, he pulls his thugs into the alleyway and whispers to them, “Zhàogù tā.” and they nod and head off in the direction of the port. To Jamven he says, “Tell no one but your crew what we have talked about here. If anyone asks, you’ve never heard of the 14K Tong and have no idea who we are. Keep your end of the deal and you’ll be well rewarded.”
Crash, meanwhile, is not answering any attempt to contact him. A functioning alcoholic in a town called The Vineyard… Yeah, someone will probably need to carry him back to the ship.
- Jamven: To Lim: “I’ll keep it to myself.” Walking out of the alley, I head back to the ports and contact the others, in case I missed anything. “Has Crash come back yet? I’ve got something that might interest everyone regarding this deal.”
- Knives: To Rip: “I’m gonna get as close to those Feds as I can without being seen. If Sellers called them a week ago, they’re probably not here for us. But we gotta make sure. Jet, why don’t you take the shuttle and find Crash. If things get hairy, we can all meet up in the black.”
Knives tails Norman Sellers as he makes his way towards the ASREV that just landed. She finds a good vantage point within earshot and watches as a lone Marshal steps out of the ship. The soft spoken man greets Mr. Sellers who immediately begins questioning him. “Did you find them? It’s not like them to be so late. Not at all.”
The Marshal shakes his head solemnly, “I did not. But I will get to the bottom of this.” When he looks Knives’ direction, she steps in line with a passing tour group and misses the rest of the conversation. When she looks back, the Marshal and Mr. Sellers have left the port, probably headed for Sellers’ offices.
When Jamven arrives back at the ship, it’s total Tian Fuhn Di Fu. Rip is directing several uniformed workers moving large crates of oaken wine casks. From the sound of it, Roy has nearly completed the preflight sequence to get off this Chai Neow rock. One of the workers sees Jamven and quickly pulls his sleeve over his forearm, but not in time to hide his 14K tattoo.
At the Sellers’ Vineyards, Jet finds no trace of Crash. A perky tour guide says she remembers him, though. “We asked him to leave after he threw a punch at one of the other visitors during the tasting. He was escorted out and asked not to return.” She has no idea where he was headed after that.
- Jamven: I’ll ignore the 14K tattoo for now, but keep a sharp eye on the workers. I’ll tell Rip about it though, and tell him about the deal that was attempted to be made with us. “I’m not sure if we want to meet him, but it seems we’d have more to worry about in passing it up than we do in meeting him. Even if we meet him, it doesn’t mean we have to take his deal. I only told them I’d meet their boss. I will say this all looks like a 14K deal all the way through. It seems a mite fishy to me.”
“Let’s make sure that cargo is what it’s supposed to be before we take off, also.”
- Roy: I can’t really leave the controls right now, but I’d really like to know those crates are clean as well.
- Jamven: “I’m going to see if I can check the cargo without these 14k workers seeing me. If I can, I will do so to the best of my ability.”
Jet follows the tell-tale sounds of debauchery to a dive bar well off the main thoroughfare. This is a “locals only” type establishment, but Crash has made himself right at home by buying rounds for the all regulars. It takes some work, but Jet is finally able to convince Crash it’s time to leave and help him stagger back to the shuttle.
As Knives returns to “Freedom’s Flight,” an open access panel near the aft gravitic drive catches her eye. Roy and Jet weren’t working on the gravity generators, so there’s no good reason it should be left unlatched. Before she can investigate it, a comm wave from the port authority comes across ordering the crew to shut off the engines and submit to a “random” cargo inspection.
As the porters rush to secure the last of the wine, Jamven takes advantage of the momentary confusion and checks out one of the oaken casks. It sure smells like wine and sloshes around when he rocks it, but tapping it yields an unexpected result. Around the middle of the barrels, the deep resonant thump sounds different; almost like there’s a hollow spot there.
- Jamven: My eyes widen at the realization that we’re carrying something that isn’t what we bargained for, and considering the circumstances, it can’t be anything good. “Guys, it looks like we’re not
justshipping wine. I’m not sure what to do other than just let the port authority check it. Whatever is in these casks is disguised well enough to make it look normal. When they clear off, assuming they don’t check us too thoroughly, we should take one of these apart. I want to know what we’re packing before we go anywhere.”
- Knives: "This whole situation feels like a Da Chow Jing Ser. I’m not going back to Perdition for some Feh Feh Pi Goh that set us up like this. Roy, can you put some distance between us and those Feds? Whatever’s in those crates, we’d best not be caught with it."
- Rip: I think we play it dumb if they find it, at this point ignorance is a plausible. If we can get in the black with the cargo we need to find out what we are haulin’ and decide what to do from there. – We need to find out who is trying to pull the wool over our eyes an play us a fool. If it’s on this end I think someone is going to owe us a little more for the trouble.