Black Dusters

It wasn’t us! I swear!

It all starts on Whitefall in a town named Santa Fe. Recently, there has been a popularity of wearing Black Dusters.  Some say it’s a gang.  Others think it’s just a fad.

The PCs have a cargo to pickup in the outback regions of Whitefall and, on invitation of a local, they are all staying in the same hotel on the upper floor.  If any PC refuses to leave the ship, or if the paranoid PCs chose to leave a guard, anyone on the ship will have to make a Heroic Perception + Alertness roll to detect the Duster introducing a sleep agent into the ship’s life support system. 

The party wakes in the morning to the sound of rioting, those that stayed on the ship and where knocked out by the sleep agent wake up in a cell. A glance out the window reveals the entire town outside their hotel with a number of Black Dusters (as their bearers have become known). One of the Black Dusters says, “That’s them.  They’re the ones that done it!”  With their heads out the window, they glance to the side and notice a bloody dead woman hanging out the window. She turns out to be one of the hotel’s prostitutes. In an instant, the party is surrounded. They can fight, but the Black Dusters are out in force and the PCs are hopelessly outnumbered. Bound by law, they are soon on their way to the magistrate. Since the nearly lawless moon doesn’t have a proper court, the magistrate took jurisdiction. They also didn’t want to raise any further chaos with the possibility of some of the party members being members of the Independents.

After three days in a single cell, they see two grappling hooks clank on to the window bars.  They then hear a “Hee-yah!”  The bars are then ripped from the cell.  A Hispanic Bandit appears at the hole and says, “Hurry!”  It doesn’t matter whom, but one of the party members recognizes him; he is a friend.  The Hispanic says, “If you want to know the truth, it was the bastardos in the Black Dusters.  Something’s funny going on with them.  They’re all over the place.  Go back to Santa Fe, meet me in the town San Melas after defeating them.”

 

The Party Finally Has Control

                Now the party can finally do something.  Prior to this was all just background.  Here they stand, outside a wall ripped from a jail cell.  The sheriff is unlocking the cell door while he sends his deputies around the outside, and there are just enough horses for each party member. Will they stay or will they run?  Any sort of tactics roll says to run as they might be free, but they are unarmed. Better hope they took Animal Handling. The Law will not immediately pursue, as after all, there’s not enough of them to take on the escapees and their unknown benefactors.

                When the PCs enter Santa Fe, all is quiet.  Some people are outside drinking.  Others are at the windows.  There’s music from the Macaroon Saloon.  The PCs will take on the Black Dusters if for no other reason than to regain their ship. Fortunately, none of the Dusters are pilots and they have stored all the PC’s gear seized when the PCs were captured on the ship. The town and the ship are unguarded and any plan worth the name will take them by surprise. Once the PCs regain their equipment, they will have to take on the Dusters, as there is a landing lock on the ship that cannot be released from the ship. There are five times as many Dusters as PCs, but they are idiots banding together to be more formidable than they really are. Since these would be desperadoes aren’t really fightin’ types, once the shooting starts the PCs will get two free actions before they even begin to react.

                At the hotel, if they investigate the whore’s room, she, of course, is gone and the room has been cleaned.  She was never more than a means to an end and there aren’t any clues to pin the murder on the Dusters or anyone on Whitefall that care enough to do anything about it even if there were evidence. Outside, they notice that the Black Dusters have lined their side of the town with barrels for cover. One barrel has fallen and rolled over to the PC’s side. Investigation proves that the barrel is full of rot gut moonshine whiskey. The idiot Dusters have taken the barrels from behind the bar.

As soon as the PCs are ready, the shootout begins.  After 10 long rounds of bullet holes and dead Dusters, A PC can stick a rag in the barrel, light it, and kick the barrel over to the Duster’s side. Soon, the barrel ignites taking all the other barrels with it.  With no one to fight the flames, Santa Fe, slowly but surely burns to the ground.  They then mount up and ride west into the sunrise, the fire of the sun lighting the sky in behind of them in their wake, and the fire of Santa Fe lighting the sky in front of them.”

When the PCs reach San Melas, they will find that their Hispanic friend (Isidro Benevidez) is the head of a gang of bandits.  They have fought off the Dusters in their town, but need help to break the power of the Dusters for good.  If they help him, he can over ride the landing lock on the PC’s ship. As a friend, he lets the party know what’s going on and offers this enticement.

 

“It’s a scientist that has stirred up all this mess here on Whitefall, but the other half is you getting involved with breaking up that Highleaf smuggling out of Persephone. This scientist is Blue Sun and is helping the Alliance by supplying them with Highleaf from a special hydroponics process that allows him to grow that crud here. There’s a railroad running from San Melas to the starport. From the starport, the Highleaf is shipped around the ‘Verse at a high price to the buying addicts. The money is used to offset the costs of the local security force. What is not sold is used for towards the Alliance research efforts. The scientist is Robert Ghallager, and he has developed an advanced train with heavy armor and outstanding speed. It is fifteen cars long and is guarded with two Dusters in all the other cars and eight in the baggage car. Destroy the train and kill the scientist. This will once again, shut down the Highleaf trade.

To destroy the train, you must break into it. One of my men used to work for the scientist and found that if the brakes are applied with the engine running and the relief safety bypassed, it will stop the train and causes the main hydraulic reservoir to over pressurize. This locks the brakes in place and at this point you best git to runnin’ as the engine will blow putting the train in a permanent stop, after which I’ll lift the landing lock and you can go.”

The easiest way to gain entry to the train is to board it at one of the stops. Flying over the train and landing on top while the train is in motion is possible as well. Boarding via paid tickets will not require any skills rolls to do. Slipping past the guards on the passenger cars only needs an Average Influence roll.  The guards on the baggage car can not be bluffed and it is impossible to reach the engine without going through the baggage car as it is located right behind the engine.

The platforms between cars have ladders to the roof of the train, but when connected to another car they are sealed and the ladders blocked. Bypassing the seal breech detection circuitry requires a Formidable Technical Engineering (Electronics or Security Systems) roll. The hatch at the top of the ladder will need an Average Open Locks roll. Once on the roof of the train, the high speed and vibration will fore each PC to roll a Hard Athletics for each car they have to cross. Failing a roll, the PC has one chance to make a Hard Athletics roll to prevent falling. If this second roll fails, they take 3D12W from the fall.

Landing on top of the train will require a Formidable Piloting roll ever round the ship is above the train. A fail means the ship is too high and the transfer can’t be made that round. A botch has a 50/50 chance of a character falling or the ship clipping the train or some terrain feature. In a fall, the PC has to make a Formidable Athletics roll or will take 5D12W from the impact. The ship hitting something will result in the ship taking 1D10W damage. There is a 75% chance it was a terrain feature the ship hit. On the 25%, it is the train that is hit. The train will also take 1D10W damage (it has Vitality 1D12+1D4 and 20 Life Points). If the train takes more than 6 points of damage, it will force the train to a halt. This will abort the mission as the brake overload can not be induced forcing the PCs to come up with a different plan. Because of the damage to the train, all tasks are one level higher as everyone is on guard and jumpy. If the piloting rolls succeed, then landing on the train via winch will take a Hard Athletics roll; while dropping onto the train without a winch is a Formidable roll.

On reaching the engine, it will take an Average Stealth roll to avoid detection by the engineers. If the PCs are spotted, they will have to subdue the two engineers. Use Border Planet Bounty Hunter stats for the engineers. A in motion hijacking was never envisioned during the train’s design, so the engineers do not have a means to call for help. Once the engineers are defeated, disabling the brakes on the train will make a Hard Sabotage roll.

Once the train screeches to a halt, the PCs have three combat rounds to get at least 150 feet from the train before it explodes to avoid the blast. If unable to reach cover in time, they will take 1D10W for each 20 feet closer to the explosion.

The last task the PCs have to make sure the scientist Robert Ghallager does not survive the explosion. Whether Ghallager makes it off the train or not is up to the GM. If things have been tough on the PCs, then it is a simple ruling to say after a careful search, no one on the baggage car survives the explosion. Or if things have good to easy, then the scientist and four of the guards survived giving the PCs the chance for a big climatic gunfight to wrap the episode.

True to his word, once the destruction of the train is confirmed, Isidro Benevidez lifts the landing lock. As the PCs lift, they get a short wave from their friend. “Muchos Gracias Amigos, Whitefall may not be much, but it is my home and getting rid of that Highleaf Zao Gao is a step in the right direction. Thanks again and remember, for you my friends, the main thing to know is that Blue Sun has really got your number.”

At this point the PCs are free to choose a new destination they still however, do not have a cargo or even a clear course of action.