Never Tell Me The Odds!

Episode XIV: My Dinner With Tantin

While the fire in Centerpoint’s Warehouse District has calmed down, things are just heating up for our heroes as they investigate Bug’s death…

Characters

Just Triumphant Now, Thanks

The team reunites aboard the Triumphant Failure after escaping the chaos in Centerpoint’s South Pole. They revive the Quarren who reveals himself to be “Dreelo Reevan,” a mercenary. A moment later Dreelo’s eyes roll back as his body shakes in violent convulsions. Dua stuns the party by leaping into action – in a flash she has diagnosed Dreelo as having deliberately ingested some kind of poison, and is immediately counteracting it from the ship’s stores. It’s a poison she’s seen before, popping up a few times out on the far fringes of the Outer Rim and almost always related to a group called the Zann Consortium.

Traditionally no one in the party has any talent for Medicine. This poison was an opportunity to demonstrate the skill’s uses beyond healing wounds. While I had envisioned the party lamenting their lack of Medicinal abilities over a freshly-poisoned corpse, instead we were all celebrating Dua’s doubly-Triumphant success. Kudos, Dua! That little Sullustan is full of surprises.

At the mention of the Zann Consortium, Mathus’ face turns sour. While he’s thankfully never encountered them personally, they have a reputation for violence and a disregard for collateral damage. A missile such as the one the Quarren fired is classic Zann. There’s an old saying that comes to the Chiss’ mind: “The Hutts run an Empire. Black Sun runs a business. The Pykes run a family, but Zann just wants to set the galaxy ablaze.”

Dreelo is alive but still reeling from the effects of the poison and blaster wound. Dua stabilizes him and confines him in the Triumphant Failure’s ever-useful slave pen while the party talks their next steps. They still have information to hand off to Black Sun, and while their primary contact Bug was murdered they still have Tantin, the shadowy member of Black Sun who seems to control their interests on Centerpoint. While they don’t have a reliable way to get in touch with him, they’ve met him in at least 4 different places on the station. They decide to head to the cafe where Desric had made such a good impression on Tantin.

Life in the Country

The party makes their way to the cafe via Centerpoint’s public transitways. Aboard one such public speeder, they catch part of a holonet new broadcast. The local news is covering the warehouse fire extensively. Thankfully our heroes’ names and likenesses are nowhere to be seen in the broadcast, but nonetheless they keep a low profile en route to the cafe.

Strangely, the cafe that had previously been open at any time of day is closed without notice or explanation. While Mathus looks for any electronic signs of surveillance or entry, Oskara happens to notice a few remote surveillance systems. They seem to be hastily installed and meant only to detect the presence of people in or near the cafe, not to prevent intrusion or detailed identification.

The party is discussing these developments when Desric has an idea forcibly appear in his mind. While loitering outside the cafe, he is suddenly compelled by dark visions on a seemingly pointless task – break into the cafe by force and make himself the hot makko that he was denied long ago by Black Sun. While he can’t place the origin of these impulses, he is very confident they have something to do with the jewel that is embedded in his hand.

This revealed a second power of this mysterious jewel – once per session the GM may spend a Dark Side Point to compel Desric towards some action. This can be resisted, but not easily.

Vernox, Tantin’s right-hand man, appears outside the cafe in an airspeeder just as Desric is clumsily flailing at the front door in an attempt to open it. Annoyed, the Rodian hisses at the party to quickly enter the speeder to be taken to meet Tantin. The party enters and they are whisked away to Hollowtown, the station’s spacious and more terrestrial interior.

Urban centers give way to verdant countryside hills as the speeder winds through the various settlements of Hollowtown. At long last Vernox approaches a broad hill atop which sits a vast estate of milky white. The speeder nears an entrance where two well-dressed and heavily armed guards stand watch. At the sight of Vernox, one of the guards mutters into a comlink. A moment later she waves the speeder through and into the estate grounds.

Vernox stops the speeder at the opening to a small statuary yard alongside one of the estate’s side entryways. Wordlessly, he ushers the party out and around a holo-projector where the Chiss gangster Tantin’s image appears. Tantin is curt to the party:

“You’ll understand if we’ve significantly tightened our security practices after recent events. There’s no exceptions I’m afraid, so I’ll need you to give all your equipment to Vernox and strip down for a full search before we can chat further.”

Tantin disconnects the broadcast before the party can speak their many objections, leaving our heroes with a variety of heavily armed guards awaiting their compliance. With a fair amount of grumbling, Mathus, Desric, Khron and Oskara begin to disrobe and hand over their equipment. Dua, our young Sullust adventurers, demurs and requests a private area in order to disrobe. Vernox leads her to an alcove away from the other guards but under no circumstances does he let her out of his sight. Dua, sensing the odds against her, finally relents and hands over all her belongings and dignity.

This moment was intended to foreshadow their evolving relationship with Tantin in the wake of recent events. Irritating my players by briefly separating them from all their belongings was just a little harmless fun. (I gave it all right back!)

Vernox is briefly entranced by the jewel in Desric’s hand before disappearing inside the mansion. The party is given robes After almost an hour of patient waiting, he reappears and tells them they may reclaim all their belongings and then meet inside with Tantin. Given their treatment thus far, the party decides to present their Quarren as a thank you gift for their hosts’ hospitality. Khron and Vernox make arrangement for the two of them to head back to the Triumphant Failure and discreetly stuff Dreelo into a speeder to bring to Tantin.

With the Quarren in Black Sun custody, the group finally enters the luxurious estate. They are led to a large, airy lounge where a few scattered collections of chairs are dwarfed by huge ceilings and expansive views of the countryside of Hollowtown. In the room are another few armed guards flanking Tantin as well as an unknown older human woman, reclining in a nearby chair.

Tantin is quietly furious as he begins speaking to the party. “I don’t mind the warehouse blaze. I don’t even mind Bug’s death – these setbacks are to be expected in my line of work. What I mind, what I really find frustrating, is having to pay off so many people to cover up your mess.” Seeing the party’s surprise, he continues: “Did it really not cross your mind that I might just have the local police force in pocket if they were anywhere near my turf? Do you really not think I control this station and don’t have control over these things?”

“Your shortsightedness has costs. Paying off policemen has a costs. Paying off civilians costs when they see a Chiss, a species who should really be smarter than these other cretins, escape from police custody into a crowd. Paying off all but two of the fire team responders has a cost too.” At this he turns and activates a nearby newsfeed. “Holonet: News headlines, Centerpoint Station, now.”

The same broadcast our heroes saw earlier continues. “Latest update on the warehouse fire in the south pole – The Secretariat is reporting that two fire team responded died today while containing the blaze and resulting chemical spill, -“

Tantin turns off the broadcast and continues quietly. “When two of the fire team members are too good for a bribe, then that really costs.” Dua, unusually keen-eyed, notices a subtle reaction in the unknown woman when Tantin implies that he had these two people killed.

Good ol’ Double Triumph Dua Neb! All the backstory she picks up on here are from this amazing roll.

Dua sees her flinch at the mention of the dead civilians and can finally recall her. When the party first visited Centerpoint, Dua took a keen interest in the funeral of Baron Jaa Halcorr which was huge news in the station. That interest finally pays off when she recognizes the woman as none other than Laurena Halcorr, daughter of the late Jaa Halcorr and the new Baroness Halcorr of Centerpoint. The young Sullust is intensely curious why she’s even here, adding a new wrinkle to Tantin’s activities.

As the police captain that Mathus met earlier enters the room, Tantin takes a deep breath and concludes his diatribe. “I’m writing these costs off as part of doing business for now, but don’t give me reason to reconsider. At some point my investments in you may not yield a high enough return. Now, let us talk about that business on Stoyer-Pavaad.”

With this, the party relays the good news (they disrupted the Hutt’s spice trade in the CSA, at least for now) as well as the bad (without more money, they can’t provide a lead on the source of the spice, Tantin’s ultimate goal). Tantin and our heroes talk in circles around some kind of partial payment, leading Tantin to take a brief walk while he considers the situation.

The root cause of confusion here was that Tantin vaguely requested the “source of the spice.” Everyone at the table had a different idea of what this meant. Tantin took a break, we took a break, and sorted some of this out off-table.

Many Meetings

While Tantin is out to clear his mind, our heroes are left alone with the Baroness and a few security guards. Dua, in her typically blunt fashion, speaks up. “Why are you here, Baroness?”

Laurena, having regained her composure from earlier, smiles thinly. “First, this is my home – my dear Tantin is just a guest to whom I’ve extended my hospitality in the wake of today’s recent events. But more to your point, I’m the bank as far as Tantin’s interests in the Hutts are concerned. I like to personally oversee my investments.”

The young Sullust continues. “Why? What’s your interest in his affairs?”

Another thin smile. “Centerpoint,” responds the obliging Baroness. Before Dua can inquire further, Tantin returns from his stroll.

Tantin finally agrees to give our heroes half of their payment in advance, 35,000 credits. He clarifies that he is buying exact information on how he can find this Hutt ship making runs into CSA space. Our heroes agree to this, take the credits, and make plans to find Nash.

Not trusting him enough to make good on his promise if they pay him remotely, our heroes instead make arrangements to meet him halfway on Socorro. Nash balks initially but agrees to this provided our heroes cover his travel expenses.

About a week later, our heroes meet Administrator Nash in the desert bog that is Socorro. Inside a small, quiet, cantina they make their payment of 7,500 credits (7k that was owed, 500cr for Nash’s travel expenses) and Nash spills all the information he knows. The Hutt ship is the “Danjanti,” a massive capital ship that Nash believes is a “black ship.”

A black ship is one built at a private shipyard and which has never docked at any registered port. This level of secrecy ensures the ship never shows up on any government ship databases and officially doesn’t exist. Only the largest ships are even capable of this as it means they can never make dock at most starports and must therefore be capable of running without a resupply for months, even years, at a time.

Nash supplies a few other details to our heroes on this ship. He’s spoken to the ship’s captain a few times in the seven times he’s met this ship over the past four years. The captain (who was rather talkative for a Hutt) mentioned that the ship was relatively new, but didn’t go into other details about it. Nash also provides the coordinates at which he would normally meet the Hutt ship in a month’s time, but cautions the heroes against using that information. “I’d guess that plan’s all gone to hell since their main point of contact, me, is on the run and considered a wanted criminal right now. If you’re lucky, the Hutts leave it alone and you just spend a few days in the deepness of space. If you’re not, well…”

Not loving that idea much, the party asks Nash if he has any other information that could help them find the Danjanti. Nash coyly mentions that while he’s out of a job and on the run, he’s not the only corrupt official in the Corporate Sector. Another 2,000 credits and Nash would be happy to serve as their “Who’s Who of Crooked CorpSec Government Officials.”

Dua asks him to prove himself before going further and give the party something of value. Nash thinks for a moment, then asks Dua to pull up a map of the CSA borders. He points to a few systems. “I’d guess you crossed at Saclas, or maybe Craci if you’re clever, yeah?” Dua nods in response. “Next time cross at Evenfall. The CSA presence there is thin enough to have an easy time getting around us but it’s also part of our patrol route for the past few years, meaning pirates have been steering clear of it.”

Dua has no way of verifying this information at the moment but is sufficiently convinced of Nash’s crooked ways to take him at face value. The part comes up with another 2,000 credits for Nash and he gives them a holonet relay address for a contact in the CSA border security group. By the time they return to Centerpoint she’ll be expecting their relay call. Nash bids our heroes a fond farewell and encourages them to reach out if ever they need anything, providing a dummy identity of his they can contact.

Holonet Famous

Random aside: There are some GMs who are meticulous in charging their players docking fees, holonet fees, daily meal & lodging charges, etc. I did that exactly once and found it a profoundly tedious way to grind the story to a halt. Now I only do that when it’s narratively significant. If any of my players object to this, let me know.

The crew returns to Centerpoint Station. En route Mathus finally finds a free moment to repair Oskara’s busted jetpack. In keeping with the night’s luck he is doubly triumphant in the repair, fine-tuning the handling as well as giving the jetpack a sound dampening modification for stealthy approaches.

As the Triumphant Failure docks at Centerpoint’s South Pole, an unknown Duros is waiting at their docking bay. Outwardly he’s enthusiastically friendly but there’s an undercurrent of menace as he speaks. “Desric? Is that Desric Rhane? It is! I thought that was you on the holonet feeds, Desric Rhane! Boy I bet the folks back on Ord Mantell would love to hear what’s going on with Desric Rhane, wouldn’t you agree?”

Desric bristles and looks about furtively before speaking. “Let’s take this conversation somewhere more private. How about we talk aboard the ship here?” Khron, picking up on what Desric is intimating, moves to grab the Duros and quietly force him aboard. The Duros proves a little too cool for Khron though, backing away and into the public promenade before the Trandoshan can touch him. “Hey, even though we’re all friends here I still prefer to chat on my own terms. How about you come down to the Tenfold in Nulltown in the next few hours and we have a friendly chat.” Finished with his work, the Duros blends into the docking level’s crowd and disappears.

While the group briefly considers dealing with this immediately, Desric brushes it off and instead leads the team to a nearby holonet terminal. After a modest fee, they have a private connection to a “Elsie Foxwell,” a bizarre Twi’lek official in the C.S.A. Department of Border Security.

I had a lot of fun as Elsie. I had to keep this dialogue unfortunately brief since we’d already spent a lot of time on exposition with Tantin this session.

Elsie’s thick accent and her bizarre name initially make Dua extremely skeptical. When Dua bluntly calls her a fake, Elsie’s outrage does nothing to convince her. Her subconscious lekku from her brain tentacles is enough to convince Oskara that whatever strangeness belies this Twi’lek, she isn’t lying about her ability and willingness to help the group. Oskara inserts herself into the conversation and makes a gracious apology for her Sullustan friend.

Elsie regains her composure. “If Nash weren’t such a good colleague to me, or if your friend weren’t so gracious in making amends we might have had a problem. But as it is, you’re fine with me. Now let’s get down to business as holonet time is precious. Nash told me a little about your problem – can you fill me in on specifics?”

The party explained to her the story so far about their quest to find this ship the Danjanti. They remained decidedly vague about why they needed to find it and brushed off any of Elsie’s attempts to learn more. Finally she indulges our heroes. “Even a big ol’ ship like that is like finding a bone in a Rancor den.” She briefly looks away from the relay, lost in thought, before continuing. “If this ship is as big as you say, even if it’s crossing at a route we don’t know about it should get picked up on our long-range gravometric sensors. We use them for detecting the occasional new backdoor into C.S.A. space by analyzing traffic patterns. Even a single capital ship is just noise here, but if their flight patterns are as regular as you say, you should be able to correlate the data over a few years and filter it down to their crossing point.”

“Getting you that much data at once is far beyond what I can provide. No way that doesn’t get noticed. If you want this, you’ll have to go to the archives themselves. The sensor readings get logged to a data archive at the CSA headquarters Etti IV. It’s pretty high-sec and heavily guarded at all times though, so you’d have your work cut out for you.”

Seeing the party’s dismay at the difficult heist looming ahead of them, Elsie gives them a wink. “Of course, every good data engineer makes a backup of any critical data. A good backup is offsite, ideally on an entirely different network and backbone than your central store. In this case, your friend Elsie knows where the backup is for the gravometric sensors. You can find itz in a vault in Theed, on Naboo.”

Our heroes are relieved to hear this but Mathus is quick to ask more details, eager to find an end to their never-ending quest. “How frequent or regular are these backups?”

Elsie punches something into an offscreen terminal before responding. “Looks like we back this data up about once a month, but we haven’t actually made contact with the secondary site in about seven months. It’s on someone’s to-do list but you know how these things go with non-critical problems…”

The party does their math and realizes this is still enough time for at least two years’ worth of data. Satisfied this will lead them on the right path, they ask what Elsie wants in return for all this assistance. She smiles again, responding “Like I said, I can’t ask for that data in bulk without raising flags. I’d love to get my hands on a full copy of whatever you find.”

I’ve retroactively changed some of the timing in this tale. Originally I had accidentally left our heroes with only enough data to capture 2-3 of the Hutts’ border crossings which wasn’t really a plausibly sufficient set to correlate. This new timing doubles that. #NoOneCaresScott

Tenfold Troubles

The party decides to deal with Desric’s “admirer” before heading back to Tantin. They travel down to the Tenfold in Centerpoint’s Nulltown, a seedy area nestled between the hemisphere’s of Centerpoint’s Hollowtown.

The Tenfold takes its name from the ten sets of crudely stacked cylinders that gives the cantina the shape of a narrowing tower climbing up the underside of one of Hollowtown’s larger hemispheres. Desric and Khron decide to enter together while Mathus and Oskara loiter outside the club. Dua stays aboard the ship to monitor for trouble. Desric pauses on their way in to take yet another hit of Glitterstim, just-in-case.

Who would have guessed that a drug dealer’s satchel way back in Session 2 would become so integral to our story? I love it.

With his drug-boosted perception the duo is able to make a few faces in the crowd that are a little too keenly interested in their arrival. The Duros sits at a table where a Gamorrean is obviously watching over it. Khron suspects that to be deliberately obvious and is able to make another pair of humans at the cantina’s bar who are more discreetly monitoring Desric and the Duros. Khron wanders over to a nearby section of the bar and does his best to blend in.

Desric sits at the table as his new friend beckons to him. He makes a simple proposal. “I’ll drop the act, Desric. Seeing you in the background of a warehouse fire in a part of town known to be controlled by Black Sun can’t be a coincidence. Tell me everything you know about Black Sun’s activities on Centerpoint. Do that and you can remain a ghost on Ord Mantell as far as I’m concerned.”

Desric summons all the convincing demeanor he has before speaking. “I’d love to, but my only point of contact was this Sullustan, ‘Bug,’ who was killed in that same fire you saw. I’d tell you more if I knew anything. Really.”

The Duros frowns and takes a long sip on his drink before speaking. “Tough luck. I suppose you won’t mind if me and some friends accompany you on the rest of your stay on Centerpoint then. Conduct whatever business you have left here and never return. Let’s get going.”

This was a challenging Deception roll that Desric just barely pulled off even with a Force Point. Great job Desric.

At that the Duros motions to his friends to come over to the table. Seeing this, Khron quickly finishes his drink and heads towards the table as well. Our heroes prepare for a fight just as we fade to black…

Epilogue

What will become of Desric’s mysterious friend? What will Tantin make of their update? Will our heroes ever get their full payout on this spice saga?

This was an interesting one. Dialogue-heavy interactions with mostly-friendly characters, it fleshed out some of the larger plot but didn’t have a ton of epic Star Wars moments. I still had fun but I think this leaned a little heavy on conversation (as indicated by this novella-length recap!). I’ll be more diligent in balancing future sessions.

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