After the battle and a round of first aid to my squishy friends, L’hrequ looks for the first thug he had taken down with his new light weapon. Sure enough, the poor sod was still crawling away from the scene, a few yards only from the warehouse. He tells me on the comm. that the man is quite hurt. I join them and start healing the critically wounded man. L’hrequ asks more information about Rossi’Ora , the Togorian who hired them. According to the thug, it was supposed to be easy, they didn’t expect to meet such resistance. The human mercenary also explains that he and his crew were hired by the Togo especially for this job, that they were supposed to then go to his place on Ganath and work for him (he supposedly have a fast ship). We let him go. We loot the group the leave.
We research the planet Ganath. It is actual a theoretical/mythical planet. Theories abound around this place. Soncho recognizes it from stories when it was a child: Gamaku , the Toydarian version of hell… However we know nothing about its exact location.
Winter calls our informant Waroon Dak. She explains Rossi was never on the Wheel, and neither was her brother. She explains we are looking for planet Ganath. According to him, there are plenty of stories about it, with treasures and good fortune to whom would find them. Waroon Dak doesn’t know where it is either, but he explains he’ll contact his people to get more info and get back to us (the usual).
We resell a bunch of weapons taken from the defeated mercenaries, at the same kid’s store we’ve been before, the one with the killer battle droid (I trust her). He’s a nice young man, a bit naïve to survive in such a place. Good thing his father left the droid as his bodyguard, I doubt anyone will mess with him as long as she’s with him (yes, I know it’s a she. Don’t ask). We collect 704 credits for our hard work, then head back to the Bucket. The others rest while I work on the Speeder bike with Toto.
Soncho and Winter Pax (under a disguise) leave to do some shopping together. I tell Toto to follow them and report in case of trouble, which puts Pand’Ora ‘s pack instinct at ease. They look for Pod Racing information, it seems it’s a thing here. They are told that Cheeto (a famous racer I guess) is sleeping at this time, and that they should come back next morning. Winter looks for more information about her brother Asher , with Soncho ’s help.
Around 1 am, the Wheel’s local news report an explosion on level 13. The explosion was centered on a hotel, which is mostly destroyed. Now we know what Brak meant… A smoky/hazy footage shows two stormtroopers moving through the area right after the blast, then closing a door behind them. There are a lot of civilian casualties, it is terrible. We regroup at the site and are stopped by the Wheelsec droids from approaching. I’d like to help the victims with my Medic subroutines, but the Wheel’s EMT teams are already on it and we can’t pass the security cordon.
Winter approaches one of the local security officers. We learn that some children were among the casualties, as well as some personnel in grey or white armor (Imperial?). The security detail does not believe there were stormtroopers. L’hrequ asks Soncho to perform a diversion while he uses his “powers” to sneak by the security droids. Soncho distracts one of them by pretending to be a medic, part of the relief effort, and starts searching for credentials through his numerous pockets when asked… Meanwhile, L’hrequ and Pand sneak inside the building (I’m amazed that someone that big can go undetected so easily. She is related to cats indeed). The inside of the building is in ruins, the explosion must have been quite powerful… There are body parts everywhere also… L’hrequ uses his thermograph goggles to look for the explosion epicenter: it’s definitely the lobby. They cannot find any stormtroopers corpses. They explore the place, but there isn’t much left to see or use. They think they see movement in the room behind the counter. They sneak toward the location; but the movement turns out to be light fixture hanging and rocking from the ceiling. It’s however an office with an undamaged. L’hrequ turns the computer on, but it’s password protected. I recommend via the radio to shut it down and bring it to me. They exit the hotel through a back alley.
We meet them back at the ship. I start hacking the computer with brute force decryption. The inferior mind of the device is no match for my mad subroutinz! The device’s security is quite good, but I crack it like a nut, and it is an Imperial computer indeed. The system lists all the imperial operatives that were or are staying in this hotel. This place is a spy nest: there are at least 12 of them at the moment (some of them are probably dead by now). One of them, codename 616, camed accompanied by a full platoon of forty Stormtroopers!
L’hrequ learns through the Holonet that there is no current direction of the Wheel since the last director died. Is the Empire controlling this place from behind the scene? According to the stolen computer, the mission is an observation one only. There is a list of people they were keeping an eye on, and we’re all on it (except Soncho ). They know we have bounty on our heads. We also find Waroon Dak and Remo on their watch list. We decide to give the computer to the former. The organics head back to bed to rest.
In the morning the final death count is at 68 people. We have a message from Dak to go see him. Winter puts her face on. We all go to the mostly empty bar (it’s quite early). We are escorted to Dak’s private booth, and meet him while he is having breakfast. He has good and bad news:
- The hacker I’m looking for is quite evasive. They need more time to find a lead.
- About Ganath, the planet we are looking for: it does exist, but according to some it us hidden by a massive radiation cloud. If that’s true, environmental suits will be needed by all of us for protection against that hazard. Other rumors claim that it’s a paradise inhabited by a xenophobic people. It is also inside of Hut space, which makes it hazardous to reach. Dak also has rough coordinates, so we can head over there.
We give the laptop to Waroon Dak and provide information we learned. He is very happy about this. Waroon Dak knew there were rumors about the Imperial presence on the Wheel but had no proof. Here it is, on a plater. Dak thinks the bomb’s objective was to bring attention to the Empire’s presence rather than eliminating them. Otherwise, why bomb the hotel’s lobby?
We shop before leaving for Ganath . We buy space suits and breathers for everyone. We are ready to go at 9am. I prepare the astrogation route without a hitch, then Soncho takes the ship out with ease through a very busy traffic. We fly in Hyperspace for 3 days.
As we get off FTL, we find a red planet, surrounded by a strange Aurora Borealis effects. The sensors do not even detect the planet, and we notice that it has no moon. We however detect four small ships with a curious design, approaching us. They seem armed. We turn the shields on. There is a lethal level of radiation surrounding the ship also, as we approach. I call everyone to battle station. Pand’ and L’hrequ head for the turrets, Winter for the firing solutions console. We are hailed, asked to be escorted down to the planet, in the name of Emperor Ematogayos Brand ! We decide to comply; they surround us with great agility. They send landing coordinates to us, with a very old fashioned protocol. It takes the Bucket 15 minutes to get to the coordinates, under escort. As we approach, L’hrequ explains that this emperor’s name is known to him. If he is the same person, Brand was a Jedi Knight, supposedly slain 10 years ago by Darth Vader.
The cloud gets thicker, until we even lose sight of our escort. As we get lower, radiation level is spiking and the ship shakes because of turbulences. However, after 60 seconds of descent, we see a blue ocean, a luscious continent and a huge city!? The radiation level drops to nothing instantly!! The planet looks like it’s out of a steampunk Holostory. Our escort ships are now using propellers to stay in the air. We finally see a landing pad. There is a lot of steam in the air, lowering visibility dramatically. Two dozen people are waiting for us on the pad. Blimps and flying sailboats powered by props or jet engines are flying around us. The technology around us is very primitive but quite functional.
We remove our unnecessary space suits, and exit the ship. We are approached by guards wearing “steam backpacks and face masks.” There are a lot of them: 40 or so. An alien with a large head, small beady eyes and angular features, approaches us and talks. He writes down on his paper pad with a feather quill as we give our names. Winter explains why we’re here. It seems the man is a Magistrate or importance (mostly of the –self kind I believe). He tells us we are going to meet the Emperor “who is fair, and sometimes merciful.”
We are escorted by many guard to the Emperor’s palace. The place is massive and impressive. Someone or something is hovering above the stairs leading to the throne. The room seems like it was built by or for giants. We follow the magistrate toward the floating shape, which turns out to be Brand himself: the emperor has no legs nor hands and floats above the floor. Cybernetic devices end his amputated limbs. From his face, he is human… Were he complete, he’d be six foot tall. As we reach the stairs, the Magistrate tells us to kneel. We do, then the magistrate, but not the guards. The Emperor apologizes for our poor reception; they do not receive many guests.
We explain Winter Pax ‘s brother’s story, with Rossi being the source of our woes. The Emperor seems to react when the Togorian is mentioned. He thinks hard for a while, then tells us to rise. He asks what we intend to do when we find our brother, then tells us we can’t be allowed to leave the planet no matter what, lest we bring back more people. The Emperor explains that the locals as xenophobic and an influx of outsider would turn their society into chaos. We are therefore trapped here… The Emperor has sworn to defend this planet and will not let us leave. He is disturbed that Rossi could get in and out without him knowing, and he wonders why the Togorian chose this planet for his actions.
The Emperor recommends that we go to the foreign quarter to look for Rossi. As we get ready to depart, the Emperor wants L’hrequ to stay a bit longer and talk with him in private. We leave the two of them to talk.
After an insane amount of time (enough for me to complete 3925 Sudokus), L’hrequ joins us and the Magistrate escorts us to the gate leading to the foreign quarter. He explains that his people use Gold Ducats for currency, but credit is used in the Foreign Quarter. After a fifteen minutes’ walk through a very primitive city populated by autochthones we reach the foreign quarter. A change in scenery indicates we have arrived: no more locals, but a wide mix of alien species. The place looks like a Mos Eisli market. Pand’ notices that a Kubaz wearing a cloak seems very interested in us. She bolts to follow him as he turns around and runs away. We follow her. She ends up in a dead end and he alien is nowhere to be found. It is noon-ish, we decide to look for a place to look for information. We get the information from a young female Rhodian named Ophalia who looks at L’hrequ intently. She has been here for a long time, 5 years indeed. She is happier here than she ever was before, spending her former life in the confines of a ship. She informs us that there is a cantina with rough people where we could find the intel we are looking for. There, a Bofin called Deaken knows everyone in the Quarter and may be able to help us. Ophalia then hits pretty obviously on L’hrequ, who politely declines the offer.
We get to the place, called the Stranded Cantina. There is no doorman, so we just get straight in. It’s dark inside, and quite packed with customers. A band plays a slow, sad song. The bar has a large aquarium, in which a female amphibian alien is swimming. We locate Deaken , sitting at the bar and drinking a blue cocktail. A large Ortolan bodyguard sits next to the Boffin, a rifle slung over his shoulder. Pand’ , Winter Pax and I approach the Boffin, the others pretending to be on their own, and ordering food from a booth. Winter Pax explans she is looking for a Togorian. Deaken is quite sleazy and thinks she is looking for some kind of furry prostitute (I heard this is a thing among class A pervert organics). When we mention Rossi ‘s name, Deaken claims he hasn’t heard from him (or pretends so). After we call bullshit, Deaken explains that to meet Rossi, one has to join his gang, which means taking a very tough potentially deadly initiation. If we pass, he’ll take us to Rossi. To save time, Pand’ drops the A-Bomb, explaining she’s the Togorian’s wife and that Rossi would want to see her. We learn that Rossi ’s the kingpin, and Deaken the recruiter for the gang. He won’t make any exception for anyone, the initiation trials are the only way to get to our objective.
We gather to discuss options. Winter Pax wants to check around to learn if Asher was seen in the Foreign Quarter at all (I seriously doubt it). No one has seen the brother at all. I inquire with the local droids, who have their own Union here, as they consider themselves the equals of organics here. Not bad… I talk to a silver protocol droid who explains that Rossi is the kingpin here. People who are desperate to leave the planet end up talking to Deaken . If they take the initiation to join the nameless gang led by Rossi, they then disappear: either they join the gang and no one ever sees them again, or they die during the initiation. It seems that Rossi’ answers to someone else: Deaken referred to him as the big guy… The Foreign Quarter has about 300 people living in it. The city has more than 100,000 total. The corpses found have typically been terribly burnt, with often missing body parts.
It seems that this Initiation would be the only way to get to our quarry. Winter is not thrilled by the idea to be forced to do that, but it seems that Rossi ‘s gang has all the cards. I think the only alternate would be to put together a surveillance of the Cantina and try to follow the bread crumb trail to the Togorian. This would be very difficult as well, because we are new here, but we are resourceful.
Once again we are so close, and yet so far from our objective. I turn down my frustration by 20% and move on to planning our next step.