Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Tunnels of Tonivar: Chapter 2 The Bromosian Gambit

Characters:
John – Akira Valdez, Ex - Merchant
Chris – Nimrod ‘Nim’ Higgins, Ex- Marine Commando
Jonathan – John Hawkwood , ex Marine

Akira Valdez and Nimrod 'Nim' Higgins survived an exciting treasure hunt on Tonivar/Cabria, as related here, befriended a group of Kiang revolutionaries, and relieved a Kalar-Wi officer of his ship. After dodging through Kalar-Wi Space, the newly renamed Harmony and her intrepid crew reached the Imperial world of Celephais where they were able to dispose of their valuable cargo.

In the aftermath of the excitement of selling the Kalar-Wi Honour Chest to Ghorman Holk of Holk, Garstil and Vorshu; Antiquarians, Valdez and Nim secured a load of ACRs and ammunition for the Kiang of the Harmony, and for the Phagouran Nak Prah Revolutionary movement back on Gaidon in Cabria Subsector. Nim then decided that having another human security specialist onboard could be an asset, given that Valdez’s plan was to trade around the Subsector, raising funds for the revolution. After a bit of hunting around, Nim and Valdez hired John Hawkwood, ex Imperial Marines, as Steward and Security.

While sorting out the munitions cargo, Nim and Hawkwood became aware that the Harmony was under surveillance from another group of Kiang. Tracking them back through the starport, Nim and Hawkwood discovered that these Kiang were linked to a small Kalar-Wi ship that had recently arrived in port.

While considering their options, Nim received an X-Boat message from his father, Osiris Higgins.
“Son, if you receive this then I may be in a spot of difficulty.

Gaspar Hourlanti and I have a lead on the whereabouts of Gilbert Chor. He wasn’t on Naltor, as we had thought. Seems that Sam and Isfan, his sons, have been having some dealings with Phorgan sa Vaspran, Minister of the Interior for President for Life Count Sakkan of Bromus. The Chors have a compound in the main town, Hasamton, as well as an estate just out of Bromus Downport.

If I don’t reset the auto tag on this message every two days, it will upload to the next X-Boat. If you get this message, I haven’t made it back to the Starport.

Remember, the Bromosians are xenophobic and touchy as heck. They have a couple of ex-Imperial SDBs deployed insystem and they don’t like people taking liberties.

See you soon, Son. Let’s show those Chor’s a thing or two.”
This message provoked some debate between Valdez and Nim as to where they should head next. Eventually, they agreed that they needed to get to Bromus and see what sort of a mess Osiris “Ossi” Higgins had got himself into. Valdez was aware of his old friend’s rather shady merchant history but he wasn’t aware of the details of the feud with Gilbert Chor. All Nim could recall was that the feud was long standing and Gilbert Chor had swindled Ossi out of a cargo, though the details were a little vague as they kept changing, depending upon what sort of mood Ossi was in at the time.

Picking up a spec cargo, the Harmony cleared Celephais Downport and headed for Udara IX, the system Gas Giant, to refuel before Jump. Detecting a ship in pursuit, Valdez had Tak Tai Nok and Von Dat Goh, the two Kiang leaders and bridge crew, change course for Udara VI, a small rocky world otherwise ignored by insystem traffic. Dropping into near orbit, they quickly selected a suitable spot in a crater, landed the Harmony, and set up an ambush under an overhang in the crater wall.

As the pursuing ship drew closer, Valdez and Tak managed to work out that it was probably the 150ton Kalar-Wi yacht that was in port with them on Celephais. Then, as the yacht put itself into an overflight orbit, it was suddenly jumped by a 300 ton armed merchant that had also been on an outbound vector. The two ships engaged and the 300tonner, the Diamond Angel, quickly disabled the yacht, causing it to crash into a mountain near the crater where the Harmony was lying in wait.

Hailing the Diamond Angel, Valdez found himself talking to Sam Chor, the ship’s captain and the son of Gilbert Chor, Ossi Higgins’ old enemy. Sam Chor told Valdez that he is just a simple merchant captain, but that after a bad experience during the Kalar-Wi War, he still considered the Kalar-Wi to be “the enemy” and that, as far as he is concerned, the Kalar-Wi will resume the war as soon as they are ready.

By this stage, Celephais Traffic Control was demanding that the Diamond Angel stand down and prepare to be boarded by System Patrol as, apparently, they did not share Sam Chor’s contention that the only good Kalar-Wi is a dead one. Sam, in response, ordered his ship to full acceleration and as it cleared 100 planetary diameters from Udara VI, the Diamond Angel Jumped outsystem.

After quickly checking the crash site of the yacht for survivors, the Harmony also headed outsytem. Von and Valdez determined that to get to Bromus, the Harmony needed to head for Byer’s Planet and then transit Kamperelian Space, via Ektra, to reach Omega Vasalai IX. After that, Bromus was just Jump-2 away.

As the Harmony dropped down into the Byer’s Planet system, Valdez had Von scanning the Traffic Control board for word of the Diamond Angel. Eventually, they learned that the Diamond Angel had transited the system a day before the Harmony, refuelling at the system Gas Giant and then Jumping on again. Valdez decided that it was worth trying to source a spec cargo before heading for Ektra as the lag time between the Harmony and the Diamond Angel was still within the margin of error on Jump (while the mean time in Jump is 168 hours, there is a small variance, and a long Jump by the Harmony while the Diamond Angel was short Jumping could put the two ships almost on top of each other). As it transpired, Byer’s Planet didn’t have a lot going for it and the Harmony pressed on.

Arriving at Ektra, Valdez was rather put out to discover a Kamperlian import tax on all goods crossing the X-T line. While he could offload some of his cargo for a small profit, the Kamperelian “Anti-Piracy” tax would mean he was trading at a loss. Refuelling, the Harmony Jumped for Imperial space.

Omega Vasalai IX, a barren rock settled by a religious community over two hundred and sixty years ago, had little to offer the average traveller besides the basic services of a waystation. While the crew of the Harmony serviced the life support and restocked the galley, Nim took a quick walk around the concourse. Near a tea shop, he thought he spotted a familiar figure, his father’s sometimes business partner Gaspar Hourlanti. Following Gaspar into the tea shop, Nim watched with interest as the old rogue was joined in his booth by an attractive younger woman. As Nim mulled over ways of introducing himself into their intense conversation, he noticed a casually dressed man with a military-style haircut entering the teashop.

As soon as Gaspar’s companion spotted the newcomer, both Gaspar and the woman hurried out the rear exit of the teashop. As the newcomer gave chase, Nim caught up with him just as he reached the exit. During the frantic fist fight that followed, the newcomer attempted to pull a gun from his jacket pocket, only for Nim to knock him out with a right hook.

After dealing with Starport security, Nim was permitted to return to the Harmony while the newcomer is arrested for causing an affray and having an illegal weapon. Arriving back at the ship, and reporting in to Valdez, Nim checked his handcomp and discovered an old number for Gaspar. Tapping the number, Nim was surprised when Gaspar answered. After a brief conversation, Gaspar agreed to come to the Harmony and talk to Nim.

A short time later, Gaspar appeared at the main hatch of the Harmony. He was accompanied by the young lady from the teashop. Once they were safely ensconced in the crew commons, Gaspar introduced his companion as Sheri Daxunn, Imperial Intelligence Agency. To Nim and Valdez’s amazement, it transpired that Ossi and Gaspar had been working for Agent Daxunn as contractors, investigating the mysterious Stranman Society.

Aras Stranman of Gamelea was Sector Admiral of the RimWorlds under Sector Duke Neal Zuro III. When the Duke died in 842 – 267 years ago – Stranman sought to play the honest broker between the various factions and then, in an attempt to forestall the looming civil war, permitted his Fleet Officers to elect him Sector Duke. Stranman lasted two years as Sector Duke before being executed. Seen as an honest military man providing much-needed leadership in a time of troubles, who was deceived, and ultimately betrayed, by treacherous and venal politicians, a persistent mythology has grown up around the person of Aras Stranman. A Stranman Society sprang up amongst retired military officers in the 990’s, as the Sector again approached a crisis in leadership, and claimed to draw inspiration from Aras Stranman’s actions 150 years earlier. Usually viewed as a debating society and grumbling club for disgruntled ex-officers, the Imperial Intelligence Agency maintains a watching brief on the Society as, periodically, the Society has spawned dangerous conspiracies.

That such a conspiracy is currently active is the belief of senior IIA analysts and Agent Daxunn, and others, are investigating. Daxunn was following up leads amongst some of the smuggler groups active in Miazan Subsector, and had contracted Ossi and Gaspar to monitor the Chor family’s operations to see if they were tied in with the Society.

Nim mentioned the X-Boat message he received from Ossi, and described the encounter between the Harmony and the Diamond Angel in the Celephais System. Valdez recalled that the Diamond Angel had loaded a cargo of G-Carriers at Celephais. Agent Daxunn looked concerned. Given that Ossi's message had mentioned a working arrangement between the Chors and the Bromosian Minister for the Interior, and given the equipment that the Chors seemed to be shipping to that rather low-tech world, Agent Daxunn could see the makings of a potentially nasty political situation, even if the Stranman Society was not involved. As the Harmony was already heading for Bromus in search of Ossi, Daxunn requested that her team be allowed to hitch a ride to determine what was really going on there. Beginning to wonder what they had got themselves into, Nim and Valdez agreed and then set about getting the Harmony ready to lift off.