A Wretched Hive

When we threatened to turn Vischera over to the Felucians he’d been experimenting on, he became very cooperative. I’m not really sure what we should do with him – we can’t let him go. He knows too much already. <he>

As you know, the facility you assaulted was rendition site and an orbital communications relay. We did not know, until now, that it also served as field station for research into black projects such as mutagens and biotoxins.

The mutagenic science was based on military research captured from the Separtists on Nelvana IV. The biotoxin research was something they cooked up on Felucia, a bio-weapon of mass destruction, intended to wipe out all Force-sensitive beings.

Vischera said the bio-weapon was a failure, and that he was likely years away from a significant breakthrough. It only worked on Felucians, and of those, it killed the only the weak and the sick. The Imperial Navy removed his biotoxin stocks, several freighters full, and then switched his priorities to mutagenic research, while cutting his resources. The mutated Felucians you discovered were the prototypes – his newest creation.

Major Varth’s Briefing

Vischera is a monster < looking at Verana – they clearly have had an argument >. So many of our officers lost their way during the war. I’m not sure what we’ll do with him in the meantime.

Before the Empire decided my conscience was a threat, I became involved peripherally in a top-secret plan known as the Sarlacc Project, when I assisted on several duty shifts for another officer, who was off sick. While the details of the project are not known to me, I was involved in the transfers of large sums of credits and resources to the project. Whatever the project entails, it is taking up a lot of the Empire’s time and effort. Moreover, I believe this Sarlacc project is destroying the lives of thousands of sentient beings; casualty reports crossed my desk on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, I don’t know much more than that. However, during my brief brushes with the project, I discovered that the Imperial Navy was hiding the program’s existence from the Senate by transferring resources through secondary sources. Resources were routed through the Corporate Sector through fake contractors and various other means through the criminal underworld to keep a trail from leading back to the project. One such secondary source was a Hutt crime lord named Darga. Like all Hutts, Darga is a slimy gangster whose love of credits is exceeded only by his love of power.

Part of my job involved transferring resources to Darga, in turn arranging for Imperial agents to take control of other resources from the Hutt’s organization. These were not simply credit transfers. The items traded were not specified, but physical resources were definitely exchanged. It’s not much, but it’s the only lead we have.

Captain Verana has charged me to uncover more about the Sarlacc Project, and he has authorized me to use you as my agents. We need you to travel to the planet of Cato Neimoidia and Darga the Hutt, in the city of Zarra. See if you can learn what he is trading and how it relates to the Sarlacc Project.

The Arrival at Cato Neimoidia

The blue whirl of hyperspace recedes as you enter the Cato system. In a few hours, you approach the greenish hazy planet of Cato Nemoidia. On your approach, the automated Message to Spacers hails The Banshee, you note how little space traffic there appears to be, closer to the planet.
p(oembed). Approaching Cato Nemoidia

The nav guides direct you toward a landing at the City of Zarra and you descend through the hazy atmosphere. Cato Nemoidia is the oldest of the Trade Federation Purse Worlds, and only the wealthiest of people were allowed to live on it. You see an ocean of white clouds, laced with of mountainous tree covered spires and archways poking above the cloud banks , with citys slung beneath and between them on massive bridge spans. The city is much bigger than you thought it might be, and the buildings are densely populated.

The city was once incredibly opulent, full of ornately carved palaces, crusted with intricate facades, with even the road cobbles carved and often inlaid into mesmerizing patterns, but now is a smoking ruin, ransacked and burned – a product of the Clone Wars. You cruise above crumbled towers and rubble strewn streets, with a sparse population wandering in the desolation.

The automated beacon directs you to a deserted spaceport landing pad that is relatively clear of debris, but you note with alarm as you cruise low, there are areas where you can see through the roads and see sky underneath. The light is beginning to wane. A female Neimoidian voice guides you in to land. You cruise past her starport control tower, which is dimly lit and has broken plasteel windows.

“Welcome to Zarra, Cato Neimoidia. Purse World of the Trade Federation. May your business bring great profits.”

<outside> It’s closing on the dinner hour. You smell the spices of cooking fires upwind in the breeze and you can see smoke rising from throughout the city and trailing off the side. There are tents and ramshackle shanties strewn amid the wreckage of the grander structures. You don’t feel the city swaying in the breeze, but you are aware of its position on the massive bridge. There is no horizon. Unlike in coastal cities you visited, you expect to see blue water behind that line, but there is only open sunset blooming in blue across the tops of the clouds. The entire city is shaded by a massive rock arch, which now seems impossibly large.

You see a robed figure approaching from the tower. You recognize the voice as the Spaceport Administrator, a limping female Neimoidian.

“Greetings, travelers. The spaceport fee is 200 credits.”

Your group’s first task was to locate Darga’s palace in the ruined city. The process of gathering information from various cityfolk revealed that the city had fallen to organized crime. A vagrant lead to a cantina, which lead to Shass the trader, who pointed out where Darga’s man, Raden could be found.

On your way to Raden, you tangled with Kessra and the Vipers, a group of separtist mercs turned swoop gang. You took out the gang, but Kessra got away, vowing vengeance.

Raden was a Devarionian scoundrel who had been extorting businesses across the city. Capturing him involved a viscious firefight, in which he activated his rigged excavation droids as distractions. He was hurt very badly in the fight and surrendered. When he did so, his thugs ran.

With your blaster stuck in his ribs, he agreed to take you to Darga, but he warned you that Darga doesn’t like outsiders, and would likely kill you all.

Switch’s Response to your request for info
Switch responded to your request for information:

“Greetings, and thank you for your report on Felucia.

Normally Imperial contracts are spread thin, sharing economic benefits widely. This Sarlacc Project may be an exception. Starting with the smallest suppliers, Imperials have been systematically terminating their arrangements with black market agents, while increasing the resource transfers between the remaining suppliers. I suspect they may be in the process of consolidating their suppliers, with Darga at or near the top of the chain.

Darga is a newcomer, and is establishing a power base quickly, likely as a result of his dealings with the Imperials."

Episode II: A Wretched Hive, part 2

After defeating Raden, you freed his two prisoners: Etho, a Twilek engineer and her Mon Calamari captain, Aqueela. Their ship and medical aid cargo had been stolen by Raden’s crew when they arrived on Cato Nemoidia, the local crime gangs likely tipped off by corrupt Imperial customs pickets.

Sirona called you back to the ship for a message from Switch. The message indicated that Darga was a young Hutt, a fast riser in the crime world, likely as a result of his Imperial dealings. He was rapidly expanding his enterprises.

The next morning, you forced Raden to escort you to Darga’s palace, and you threw him at the Hutt’s mercy. Darga was as impressed with your bravado as he was disappointed in his former thug. You discovered that Raden had missed out on stealing a Separtist arms cache, and so in desperation, had arranged to hijack the medical aid shipment. Unfortunately, the medical supplies were not as valuable on Cato Neimoidia as guns, and these could not be fenced easily. He was banished until he could get together a replacement weapons shipment.

You feasted and gambled on gladiator fights, and Darga asked you to stay at his court for a few days so he could see where you could best fit in his organization. You noticed that his Nemoidian major domo, Igren Demos, was watching you intently, focusing especially Talina.

For your first task, Darga asked you to execute Raden. You proposed an alternative – to have him fight Kayle in the gladiator ring. Darga thought that was a great idea, but upped the ante, and put your whole team in the ring with his current champions – stun settings only. The fight turned dirty when a Gamorrean snuck a swipe with the vibro axe when nobody was looking. Immediately, it became a live fire fight, and the crowd went wild. You took a beating, but shortly gained the advantage in the fight. The Gamorrreans became desperate and began lunging with devastating swipes. Talina jumped high into the air and flipped over an axe swipe, causing one of the Karg brothers to cleave another. Victory for Something Fishy!

A bit later, the Iron Slavers delegation arrived, complaining about the poor condition of the slaves they’d been purchasing from Darga. While they demanded a refund on their last 4 shipments, you spotted one of their Twilek slaves flipping a pill into the drink that was being served to Darga. When you revealed the poison to Darga, the slavers withdrew their request. In gratitude, Darga sent you to the finer quarters and offered you wider access within his palace.

During the night, Six Six arrived to tell you that he also serves the robot crime lord, Switch, whom you met at Sel Zonn. Six Six gave you a communications file Switch had intercepted from an Imperial communications relay. You decrypted the file, which showed that the creepy major domo Igren Demos had sent a number of messages to an Imperial relay. The most recent message specified the day’s proceedings – noting that the “slavers were unhappy with their merchandise”, and also that “the prisoner would be acquired shortly”. It added as an addendum that “there may be another person of interest”.

Episode II: A Wretched Hive, part 3

In the middle of the night, a Nemoidian servant named Mondo gathered your group together within your posh guest quarters and delivered a message. He indicated that Darga the Hutt had asked to meet with you immediately in his aviary. It was to be a secret and private meeting. The aviary was one of the few places where Darga was known to have private time. The message had been given to him straight from Darga’s personal dancer and attendant, Teela.

Suspicious of a trap, you entered the massive aviary, filled with birds, trees and exotic plants. As the door closed behind you, a shrill whistle was blown somewhere in the shadows of the far side of the room. Immediately, you were attacked by six Nemoidian Kreehawks – large black birds with oversized insectile eyes. Once the birds were dispatched, a lone shooter began blasting at you from the darkness. Spotting the attacker, you realized it was Kessra, come to claim her vengeance. After you killed her, she doors opened, and a stream of palace guards and Darga himself streamed in.

Darga claimed no knowledge of the meeting, and within a few moments, Tila the dancer and Mondo the servant who delivered the message were discovered, dead. Igren found that the bodies had no blaster burns – that they had been found at the base of the stairs, with a wine shelf tipped onto them. You were suspicious that Igren had staged the whole thing as a trap, but when you indicated your suspicions to Darga, he laughed, saying that Igren had helped him make a lot of money with his business dealings, but that you overestimated his ambitions.

The next day, Etho placed second in a droid races, which featured advanced neural interface technology for the drivers, allowing them to take over the droid chassis. Igren Demos, the reigning champion, won.The group gambled.

At dinner, Kaev tailed Igren to a secret meeting at a service door, where credits were exchanged, and where Igren accepted an oblong, rounded capsule on a repulsor sled – large enough to fit a human. He directed his men to stow it in a guest quarters sublevel.

Darga revealed that he wanted your group close when the Imperials arrived tomorrow to discuss business. He explained that his enterprises had expanded rapidly through his Imperial dealings, and that he was looking for shrewd business managers to run various aspects of his organization. Tormorrow would be a good test.

That night, Igren posted Gamorrean Guards at the guest quarters entrance. Just as Talina was dozing, she heard someone in her dream – an old woman’s voice – calling out for help. “Are you there?” it said.

Just then, the doors were kicked open and assassin stormed in, blasting. The assassin strike team consisted of 4 quarren, a dagger-wielding twilek poisoner (the slave girl from the Iron Syndicate), and the black, scarred wookie with matted dreadlock hair. When the fight was over, the Gamorreans returned, chewing on fresh sandwiches from the kitchen. After Aquila had some words with the guards, they explained that they’d just gotten hungry and gone for a sandwich. Darga had them dragged to the dungeons.

When he was confronted about the safety of his guest quarters, he was, for the first time, apologetic, but he also noted sternly that in his business, one has to stay on their toes. “These Corporate Sector Bureaucrats we work with here. If you start to get ahead in the business, someone’s going to come for you.” He mentioned that he was impressed with your ability to deal with both assassination attempts, and that each time – you demonstrated to his court that you are ruthless enough to handle your enemies. “Tomorrow,” he said, “I’ll see more of your business acumen.”

You retired for the evening. As Talina slept, she heard the voice calling out to her again – an old woman. “Help me!”

After the breakfast session, demos announced ”Great Darga, I present to you the delegation from the Celestica.”

Three men and one woman entered the room. They were dressed simply, in crisp labourers coveralls. The three men each carried an identical blaster carbine, and were, as far as you could tell, triplets. Clones.

Darga rolls his eyes toward you and then back to the newcomers.
“Always a pleasure to serve the Empire! What can we do for you today?”

“I am Victra Sinde," said the woman icily. "The transfer of refined tibanna gas from your holdings to the Empire has proceeded sufficiently so far, but we have entered a phase of our project that demands much more. Accordingly, we need you to increase your production of tibanna gas immediately. You will be compensated for your trouble, however with a quantity of gas this large, the Empire will also want something back.

a) We propose a volume discount – and 80% increase in payment to you, in return for you doubling your shipment to us. The payments would be made according to our current arrangements – with allotments to saleable assets, biological resources, some credits, and select security strikes on targets that you, in your wisdom, think would threaten our arrangement.

b) I have been authorized to offer you a 100% increase in payment, on the condition that you take the entire payment in the form of “biological resources.”

c) Alternatively, perhaps you would be interested in a personal Imperial security retinue. I have seen the condition of this city and this base. I can have an entire Imperial regiment stationed in the city, and a flight of Imperial starfighters to escort you when you travel offworld."

Your group impressed Darga with your advice to choose the first option, thinking that the security retinue would usurp his control over his organization, and that the condition of “biological resources” would be unpredicatble. Darga was so impressed that he upgraded your quarters again so that you now stayed in Demos’s quarters. He, as a punishment for the “security breach” was stationed in your old ruined quarters, destroyed in the firefight.

Outraged, Demos saw to the orders, storming off.

The codestick also granted access to a more secure portion of the palace. Taking advantage of the opportunity, and having gotten a fair amount of information, you wandered a bit – in search of the voice that had reached Talia in her sleep.

You encountered Gome, the elderly Neimoidian traffic steward, who revealed that Darga was planning a trip to Bespin shortly, in about a week —that he had business with the Imperials on Cloud City.

You proceeded deeper, to a dank and ruined bedroom, where you discovered Denia, an old Jedi master – trapped in an induced coma since The Clone Wars. She’s been injured in the war when a ship crashed nearby, and was unable to wake up once the damage to her body had been repaired. She sensed that a dark presence was alert to her consciousness, and was warning the palace.

Quickly, you ran to escape, even as the cell doors began to burst open, spilling Gamorrean jailers, and as they began pouring into the flooded corridor. Fighting them off, you climbed a set of secret stairs into a hidden entrance to the throne room. There, you eavesdropped on Demos’ holo conversation with Inquisitor Draco, who pledged to arrive shortly, with The Assiduous (the same Star Destroyer that approached Felucia). He was a handsome man with a lightsaber hanging from his belt.

You fought against Demos and his guards, and witnessed the awesome power of a Jedi Master in battle. Demos suprised you by using The Force himself, but you defeated them all and used his computer to summon The Banshee. You used the lift to get to the hangar just as the rest of the palace guards came storming into the throne room, and escaped to hyperspace before the Assiduous could arrive.

Briefing: The Resurgence, Pindaar System.

The Banshee arrived at its lonely rendevous point at a dead moon orbiting the gas giant Antar, in the binary Pindaar System. It glided into The Resurgence’s hangar bay.

Your new guests are received with some gratitude for their efforts and helped along to the bacta tanks for recovery. “The Empire’s ability to create enemies becomes our gain,” says Admiral Varth. Captain Verana agrees. Jedi Master Denia is helped to the infirmary, and you note the feeling of confidence that she brings to the ship.

In the sterile briefing room, you share with Admiral Varth and Captain Verana the following information:

• Darga the Hutt trades his tibanna gas for the empire’s “biological” resources and sundry assets and contracted services.

Varth’s analysis:
“By doing the bulk of the trade as chattel, it’s harder to trace illicit activities. Credits can be tracked easily, especially in large amounts. Chattel is harder for bureaucrats to track – it’s off the books. You can seize it from one place and deliver it to another without ever tracking it. On the other hand, it can be intercepted and seized directly, and it’s likely bulky – and that is it’s greatest weakness.

Tibanna gas is used mainly as hyperdrive coolant and also as a part of ship mounted weapon ordnance it its weaponized form. It’s legal to buy – at least for the Empire to buy – so why they’d go to the trouble to hide their acquisition is a mystery. They must hiding something from The Senate – something embarassing, or something frightening.

• The Imperial delegates asked Darga to double his gas shipments and grant a volume discount. They were prepared to offer substantially more “biological resources” in exchange, providing he took the whole payment in that form.

Varth’s analysis:
“I agree with your theory that the biological resources may indeed be slaves, given that you observed the Hutt’s involvement in that trade. The Hutt could sell the slaves downmarket for credits, which would come from his underworld contacts rather than from the Empire.

Might also be bioweapons or a biologically farmed narcotic. All of which might produce the kind of casualty reports I saw, relating to the Saarlac Project. Whatever it is, it sounds like The Empire has a lot of it, and they want to dispose of it quickly and recoup some of their cost outlay for whatever they are doing, thus diminishing its bureaucratic trail."

• Darga has expanded his fortune greatly since his Imperial involvement, a nd you have heard that the Empire may have been consolidating its dealings with him, terminating their arrangements with other smaller black market suppliers (sometimes violently). [you don’t mention that you heard this from Switch]

Varth’s analysis:
“Normally Imperial contracts are spread thin. Consolidation within the black market suggests secrecy – fewer wild cards among the criminal scum, less open ends to worry about. It is also an opportunity – if the Empire’s heavy-handedness has soured the underworld against them, then this consolidation of their interests with Darga could be a vulnerability. Take out Darga, and it might represent a long term setback for their project.”

• Darga agreed to double his monthly shipment of tibanna gas. The next exchange will take place in Bespin at Cloud City, where Darga apparently has some interests. It will happen in about a week.

Varth’s analysis
"A week to double his entire output in time for a monthly shipment? Hard to do for a mining franchise, but not for a smuggling op. If Darga plans to make that shipment, he’s going to have his goons double their tibanna skim. They are going to push hard on the mining franchises.

Something about the surge in gas demand makes me nervous.

Cloud City is our best opportunity to crack this thing open. Darga will be there and so will his shipment, along with the Empire’s trade goods. If we disrupt the shipment or get Darga, we could deal a swift strike for the Resistance. At the very least, we have the ability to find out what’s being traded on the Empire’s side. Maybe that will give us another lead on the Saarlac. Let’s get Darga and finish this."

A Wretched Hive

Dawn of Defiance Nefandus