A week of ground time on Verbena passed before Captain Wu could work another cargo out of Patrick Hong. However, Hong only had an outbound cargo to Greenleaf, he did not have anything for pickup on Greenleaf. Figuring a standard shipping fee for a one-way trip was better than no shipping fee at all, Captain Wu agreed. At least Patrick had a full load of 400 tons of agriculture equipment to ships this time. As the cargo was being loaded, the pilot Sylvester Marsh worked up the course, since Greenleaf is on the rim and Verbena is a border planet, the best-case plot worked out to be ten days.
Loading up and departing, Chen Juan decided to keep the “lift day” banquet a Lattimer’s Ghost tradition. Mixing at the fine dinner, the ship’s medic Cindy Schultz inadvertently revealed the reason she never graduated med school. She carefully tossed salt over her left shoulder after knocking over the salt and obsessively wiping her chopsticks after every bite. When asked why, she replied with complete sincerity “evil spirits”. Li Ming would not let the medic’s…idiosyncrasies ruin a tradition changed the topic smoothly and all had a great time.
The trip was uneventful, livened only by the first mate William Lemont’s attempts to become a gourmet chef. To everyone’s surprise, except perhaps to William himself, the meals turned out to be quite good. On arrival at Greenleaf, Marsh had to fly an exceptionally precise landing path due to the restrictive anti-smuggling rules in the space around Greenleaf. Marsh not only followed the landing beacon, he did so with flare. The APS Stellar representative met Chen Juan at the landing dock and the cargo was quickly unloaded and the crew paid.
Before the crew could explore the starport, let alone locate a cargo, the captain received a summons from one Chang Wen Shen. A quick check of the cortex found that Mister Chang was the noble administrator responsible for regulation of commercial operations on Greenleaf. Mystified by the summons, Captain Wu took her first mate with her to meet with Chang.
The lavish office and conference room bespoke the wealth and power of the man who started the meeting with brisk efficiency. The outline was simple, in the past ten weeks several Greenleaf merchant vessels have been attacked, each has had their entire crew killed, but only part of their cargoes stolen, namely a mildly narcotic product called Highleaf. This is a luxury trade item that to the locals of Greenleaf is no more potent than a glass of wine. It is exported for it’s potent medicinal properties, however, to people not from Greenleaf this same product, when processed to that end, it becomes a powerful, dangerous, and addictive drug.
Evidence recovered from the drifting ships implies renegade
Independents have resorted to piracy to fund anti-Alliance activities. Local patrols have been unable to capture
these attackers as they attack precisely and with great speed. Since Chang Wen Shen discovered Captain Wu was a member of the Independents
movement by checking
By the time Chan and William returned to their ship, a cargo was already being loaded. The decoy cargo was powerful bait consisting of 350 tons of other valuable medicines and a staggering 50 tons of Highleaf. The loading was done in broad daylight with heavy noticeable security that drew much attention, while not disguising the contents of what was being loaded from anyone in the area that took the time to look.
Information on the raiders was scarce, but Chang turned over all the data he had figuring that knowing the hijacker’s tactics would give the crew of the Ghost a slight edge during their mission. According to Chang’s briefing, the pirates approached fast, fired a warning shot, then if the ship didn’t heave to a second shot would disable the target’s drive. This was followed by a broadcast that no one would be harmed if they cooperated, however, once the crew was rounded up, they were executed. In order to survive, Chan and crew would have to meet the boarders with blinding violence and attempt a counter boarding if at all possible. In addition to their tactics Wen Shen informed Captain Wu that every ship ambushed occurred near Boros and was either inbound or outbound from Persephone. A final note in the briefing included that Persephone also happens to be home of a business rival to the Chang’s. It is possible that these rivals – the Hans – are just using Independent faction veterans as muscle to organize the raids.
On returning to the Ghost and informing the crew of their new mission, Xavier tapped into the local cortex to see if she could find a pattern to the attacks. She immediately was able to figure out that there could only be one ship making the attacks as there were a couple of noticeable gaps in the raid pattern; indicating this single ship was out being serviced or was disposing of already captured cargo. Digging deeper, Xavier was able to find that because of formal flight plans, import/export formalities, and warehouse contracting, there are dozens of possible sources for a leak. Since a single source didn’t present itself, Captain Wu went through every step in the Chang shipping SOP to make certain that wherever the leak is located, they would get the word this time too. Due to the schedule set out by Chang, the crew only had time to restock the ship’s fuel, infirmary, and larder before taking off for Persephone.
It would be an eight-day trip and despite the pall cast by their mission, the traditional lift day meal was served. In what all hoped would be a harbinger of good luck, William’s meal turned out better than ever. Six days into the trip, Marsh picked up the signature of a ship closing fast. Knowing it was show time, Marsh signaled the crew, who moved to their pre-arranged battle stations.
Marsh and Xavier locked themselves on the bridge and prepared their electronic surprise for the visitors. Captain Wu wearing full body armor and with a hidden pistol would greet the boarders, while William, Cindy, Li Ming, and Willis (all also in full armor) took up ambush positions in the cargo bay. Chan Juan would calmly agree to the boarder’s demands and lead them into the rest of the shooter’s kill zone. No sooner had everyone reported in ready via their micro-transmitters, then the warning shot was fired. Marsh showed off his piloting skills by not only completely avoiding the inbound missile’s blast radius, he made it look like it was a random course change and not an alerted target. Marsh then immediately sent a signal that they would heave to, Marsh powered down the drive and waited for the raiders to dock.
Once the airlock cycled, as planned, Captain Wu met the boarders. Something about meeting killers of children set Chan Juan’s blood to boiling. Rather than a smooth lie to relax the eight boarders, she snarled, “He Chu Sheng Za Jiao De Zang Hud!”* drew her pistol and opened fire. This threw the ambush into chaos as Chan Juan was the boarder’s firing zone, but only half of the boarders were in the crew’s kill zone, this left Chan facing four boarders that only she could fight.
Chan’s move ignited a storm of confusing fire from both sides. The first person to actually fire was Li Ming who put two shotgun rounds into her target’s chest. His body armor saved his life, but the two powerful hits hammered the man unconscious. Chan Juan fired second pumping three fanned pistol rounds into a second boarder and like wise he went down unconscious. Cindy fired a SMG burst that clipped another boarder in an aimed shot to the head that left the man so stunned he couldn’t return fire. Both Willis and William fired on the last man in their kill zone, but he dodged out of the way. With two of the eight boarders down, things were looking good for the crew of the Ghost, despite the premature start of the firing.
Li Ming fired two more shots at the man Cindy hit and the massive systemic shock was enough to kill the man. The surprised boarders finally began returning fire with one of the goons taking a shot at Li Ming for causing so much havoc, but the nimble gambler managed to dodge out of the way, just barely, but enough to stay in the fight.
Knowing the threat his captain faced, William moved to protect Chan blazing away with his rifle, hitting one of the goons, and drawing fire from another boarder for his trouble. Despite his bulk, the big man dodged out of the way. Giving Chan the chance to return the favor with two headshots that reduced the number of boarders by half.
Cindy and a boarder exchanged fire that left the boarder stunned. One goon still hiding in the airlock hit Chan in the body armor before the crew could press home the attack. Staggering the captain, but not taking her out of the fight. Li Ming fired the instant before the boarder that had already taken her under fire, driving him back before he could fire again. Chan shot the man that hit her also preventing him from firing again.
Another goon hiding in the airlock hit William with a rifle burst that sent the big man crashing to the deck unconscious, only saved by his armor. Li Ming responded with two lightning fast shots at two boarders with one man dodging, while the second man – the one who shot William – slumping to the deck, dead before he hit the ground. A boarder fired on Li Ming at the same instant Chan fired at the boarder shooting at Li Ming. The gambler was hit by one round before the raider’s weapon jammed, also saved by her armor. Chan’s shot killed the man that shot Li Ming. With only two goons still standing, the raiders had reached their breaking point and started to run. The goon in the airlock bolted before anyone could stop him. The last goon swung his rifle at Chan, but a perfectly aimed burst of submachine gun ammo from Cindy split the man’s skull, killing him instantly.
Willis, hampered by his own unwillingness to kill attempted several shots aimed at boarders weapons, but not being the greatest shot, missed completely. To his credit, he could claim forcing boarders back and allowing the others to do the more effective shooting.
At this point, Xavier sprung her surprise, hacking into the hijacker’s airlock controls; she got the Ghost free of the pirate ship. At this point, Marsh bolted for the Boros asteroid belt. Caught completely by surprise, the Ghost got a great head start on the hijackers. Beyond furious at the casualties inflicted by what was supposed to be another easy target, the raiders immediately prepared to blast these upstarts as an object lesson. However, as the pirates attempted to open fire on the rapidly retreating Ghost, Xavier’s second electronic surprise struck initiated a virus program that sent a powerful electromagnetic surge through the pirate’s ship**. The resulting overload fried the control systems of the hijacker’s just as they entered the asteroid belt. There was a brilliant flash as the pirates met with an asteroid at a high enough speed, that when the Ghost returned, all they found was a very deep smoking crater.
Continuing on to Persephone, the crew turned over the five bodies and two survivors to Chang representatives, who also picked up the bait cargo. When Captain Wu spoke to the Chang company rep, she was stunned to be informed that the crew of the Ghost was technically volunteer security personnel conducting a sting operation and not contracted shippers; accordingly there would be no payment for the cargo. As mad as she was, Captain Wu knew that it would have required providing direct evidence that pro-Independent rogues were not involved for them to get paid. Since all of the thugs, dead and alive, were once Browncoats and since nothing survived of their ship to prove otherwise, such evidence she did not have. As bitter as it was to swallow, the crew of the Ghost didn’t have the legal grounds to stand against corporate law in this case, they would simply have to find a new cargo and move on.
*The reason the plan chanced was despite Captain Wu’s player throwing in 3 plot points to boost her roll on INT + Influence, she managed to roll a botch. I ruled that, nothing displays a completely break down of negotiations like gunfire; this is what led to Chan springing the ambush too soon.
** I had originally intended for the overload to disable the
pirate ship giving the PCs the options of: a free chance to escape, trying to
board the raider’s ship, or at the very least call for an