Highleaf Madness

 

The PCs have come to Greenleaf edge of the Rim.  The group is engaged in ordinary trade and commerce, but soon after their cargo has been unloaded, receives an order to meet with the noble administrator responsible for regulation of commercial operations on the world.  Accompanied by suitable retinues, the patriarchs of the families involved in the merchant group call on the noble.

 

This noble, Chang Wen-Shen, commences the meeting with brisk efficiency.  In the past ten weeks, several local merchant vessels have been attacked, disabled, and boarded, their cargo holds ransacked and their entire crew and crew-family contingent killed.  It is believed that renegade ex-Independent raiders are responsible for the incidents, but the local patrol forces have been unable to catch these raiders in the act, so well-timed and carefully executed have these attacks been.

 

Independents are suspected for two reasons, first, one or two fragmentary transmissions from ships in distress have indicated that the vessels in question are very small and of a wartime Independent configuration. Secondly, the motive for the attacks seems to be intent to hijack a particular type of cargo - Highleaf.

 

Highleaf is a mildly narcotic agricultural product popular to the luxury trade on Greenleaf and about as stimulating to the locals as a glass of wine is to other humans.  But this mild narcotic has a much stronger effect on humans not raised on Greenleaf who chew it, for it is one of the most potent drugs known to man, worth perhaps €1 per kg on the Greenleaf; it is worth up €2,500 for the same size lots to non-local buyers in the Alliance. It is extremely addictive and can be quite dangerous to non-locals if used too often or if improperly processed.

 

Each ship, which was attacked, carried a fairly large cargo of Highleaf, which was missing when the damaged vessels were checked out by patrols.  The matter is a grave cause for concern; usually traders acquire such cargos in perfect legality (and what they do with them where Highleaf is illegal, is their own business). Now, it seems that some unscrupulous human group has decided to prey on Greenleaf shipping.  The massacre of crewmen, servants, even females and children, is enough to move any local to rage.

 

So far, Wen-Shen tells them, their patrol vessels have been unable to stop the raids. The attackers are too well organized, too capable of staging their ambushes quickly and competently to give the patrols a chance to close in. Wen-Shen has decided that the obvious alternative is to set a trap. If the proper bait-an unusually large cargo of Highleaf-is available aboard an innocent merchant ship, perhaps the pirates will pounce again.  But, if the crew of the ship is ready, they are unlikely to be so successful. Wen-Shen wants the group to carry out this special mission.

 

As is the case under most circumstances in the Alliance, the request of an individual of higher standing must be obeyed, as the alternative will be an extensive ship inspection and the sudden inability to ever find a cargo again.  Nonetheless, the Wen-Shen does not wish to force the group to undertake such a hazardous job. He gives them the option of backing out, though he adds that they, being the only ship non-Greenleaf shipping guild vessel currently in port, are his best chance of catching these criminals before they can strike at another innocent party.

 

If the group accepts, Wen-Shen will add some additional details.  Every ship that has been ambushed has been taken near the border planet of Boros; each one has also been either coming from or bound to the Persephone, which is the home of a rival clan. There is a distinct possibility that radical elements on Persephone are supplying information to the raiders.  There are formalities to be gone though at either end of the route to import, export, or just transship cargo through a subject starport, and it could be that word of ships carrying Highleaf is passed on to the raiders. As to the raiders themselves, it can only be assumed that they are a single ship, perhaps operating from the Boros planetoid belt.  There have been a couple of noticeable gaps in the patterns of the raids, presumably when the ship was away to sell its ill-gotten cargo or to be serviced.  The vast volume of traders visiting Persephone and Greenleaf could be giving support to the pirates without even realizing it.

 

Locating and destroying these raiders is matter of paramount importance.

 

Referee’s Information:

 

The actual situation is considerably more dangerous than any of the Greenleaf nobles realize.  It goes far beyond a piracy/smuggling ring.

 

In actual fact, the raiders are not disgruntled Independents at all.  They are operatives from Blue Sun who have obtained a small starship with an Independent registry transponder left over from the war. A group of Independent affiliated black marketers are involved, but they are behind the scenes-they arms merchants who are selling various weapons to the Blue Sun Operatives in exchange for Highleaf.  The operatives are trying to break the Greenleaf monopoly on Highleaf..

 

The black marketers are, in fact, based on a Persephone, where they meet the raiders every so often to exchange weapons for Highleaf out of reach of Alliance patrols.  True Independents are unaware of the situation, and would not condone it if they found out, but pirates are common enough in the Alliance and are pretty much free to come and go as they please.

 

The actual course of the adventure will be largely up to the referee.  If the merchant Greenleaf nobles go through the proper steps, notifying the Persephone representatives to obtain cargo clearances prior to departure, they will be hit on their way through the Boros system.  Resolve the attack by assuming eight pirates board the PC’s ship, in complete ballistic mesh and armed with assault rifles.  The combat, which follows, should go in favor of the PCs if they are prepared for the action.

 

Once the boarders are defeated, the hijacker’s ship disengages under Hard Burn and escapes. The PCs do not know it, but they have made a Deadly Enemy.

 

Defeat of the initial pirate attack will prove who was responsible for the raid, but it will take capture of the raiding ship and its captain to uncover details of the plot.  It is fully possible that the referee may wish to follow up with additional adventures involving the smashing of the conspiracy and/or attempts to root out the black marketers who are behind the endeavor.  Such further activities may be staged entirely at the referee’s discretion. If successful, a grateful Wen-Shen will fund the repairs of the PC’s ship, but that is the extent of his gratitude. A new cargo and payment for services rendered will not be forth coming.