After Imperial tax hikes, saying tensions are high on Ghorman is an understatement. The Commerce Guild have been lobbying to meet with Governor Samark for months, but he has been deftly rescheduling or pushing the meeting on to aides. This is all in an effort to buy more time for Senator Lenna Tardun to rally tax relief in the Senate, a daunting task considering the taxes have been raised to build one of the new Imperial Star Destroyers for the Sern Sector.
Tired of being blown off, the Commerce Guild invade the Governor’s office, managing to get past security on the lower floors. Reginald Karde, a senior aide to the Governor, calls security and steps out to placate what is turning into a mob. True to the political style of “If you can’t blind them with facts, dazzle them with bullshit”, Reginald begins offering excuses: the Governor is in a meeting, you don’t have an appointment today, and any normal excuses that would work in 99% of the cases when visitors come to call unannounced. When one of the other aides in the office left their comlink line open, the Governor can be heard calling for additional security, sending the delegates into a frenzy. Pushing Reginald back into his office, they shoot a blaster at the reception droid before storming the Governor’s office. The Governor is shot in the scuffle before his personal security detail and Imperial Stormtroopers arrive to arrest the mob.
As Governor Samark is brought to the infirmary for his wounds, the task of reporting to Moff Hector Qentaro is left to Reginald Karde. After explaining the situation, the Moff darkly vows that if the Governor cannot keep his people under control, then the Empire will. An additional regiment of Stormtroopers is being sent to Ghorman from Sern Prime, and taxes will be raised again to pay for this until the riots are put down.
Cut to the Clear Skies! tapcafe, a spacer bar near the Gibbernet Vibrion Industrial Space Port. The Guild of Freight Haulers has been on strike, picketing the space port because of the tax increases mandated by Moff Qentaro for sector defense. Since import taxes on alcohol have also increased, few people can be seen in the bars as the quality alcohol slowly disappears, replaced by local brews that are more akin to moonshine.
As Celia Askara, a human waitress, serves samples of Terk Kurlow’s latest batch of swill, a news announcement plays over the local holonet station explaining that the explosion at the Anslem Manufacturing Center has now been linked to the terrorist organization Sons of the True Republic. The Sons have also claimed responsibility for starting riots in Fashield, a city on the other side of Ghorman. This has prompted Governor Haggarson to request additional security from Moff Qentaro.
Freighter captain Deak Windsailor looks at his watery local brew in disgust and reminisces about better days.
Celia, a sometimes spy for the information broker Badger, overhears an interesting conversation between leaders of the Guild of Freight Haulers and someone she has seen on a wanted poster, one Ned Shagga. Shagga is a member of the Sons of the True Republic, and a 20,000 credit bounty has been placed on his head. She eavesdrops on the conversation as Shagga orders top shelf alcohol and attempts to convince the Haulers to allow a special cargo up to the Imperial Fighter Base on the moon of Lokfas. The Haulers, sticking to their guns, turn Shagga down. He buys them another round and then leaves.
The meeting is also noticed by Deak, who recognizes Shagga. Deak comments to Terk that clientele like the Sons will draw Imperial attention to the bar. If it ever gets out that he had visited the location, they might be seeing Imperial Stormtroopers regularly patrolling near by, which would scare away some of the more illegal business the Clear Skies! is known for. Terk takes Deak’s comments under advisement before commenting that he had bought good alcohol, but a taste of that bounty would sit better with him.
Cut to Chuska the Magnificent’s Wonderous Emporium, an import/export business that acts as a front for Chuska the Hutt‘s criminal empire in the city of Illistara. Mithric, a Falleen lieutenant in the organization seeks out one of Chuska’s hired guns, Navod “The White Hand” Andak. The Rodian mercenary is tasked with hunting down two people who owe favors to the organization, Deak Windsailor and Keltak Brendalor, a Herglec mechanic and freight hauler.
Navod starts at Deak’s normal haunt, the Clear Skies! Navod decides at first to play it cool, paying too much for a drink and asking for Deak’s where-abouts. Ever the good friend, Terk plays dumb with the White Hand until the merc mentions Chuska. He then immediately hands Navod’s credits back to him and points to Deak’s table. With Deak in tow, they head to the Herglic sector to locate Keltak.
Massive even by Herglic standards, Keltak has been picking up more mechanic work than freight hauling as a result of the strikes. When Navod mentions the job is for Chuska, Keltak hops on board, although he is sure to have misgivings about working while the rest of his people are rallying against the Empire.
The trio meets with Chuska and are told that they will be moving a load of spice to Sullust (a mere six days there and back). The spice is loaded into specially crafted containers to appear as a grain shipment. Their payments are reducing the debt owed to Chuska and his associates.
Cut to Mary, a Z-95 pilot of the once famed Aleph Prime Wing of the now defunct Ghorman Defense Forces. Ever since the Imperials had taken over sector and system defense, the GDF had been relegated to secondary roles such as assisting Imperial Customs. Mary and three other squadron mates go on duty with the Customs Light Frigate “Customs 1” and are immediately tasked with diverting a freighter who had made a run past the frigate.
Opening coms, Mary speaks with the freighter, who raises energy shields and powers up weapons. Mary decides to fire a shot across the bow of the ship in warning, but the freighter pilot decides to fight back, firing dual blaster cannons. Mary jinks her fighter out of the way, calling in for reinforcements from her squad while firing on the ship. As her wing mates catch up, the freighter is damaged enough to cause the pilot to re-think his plan. They land at the Aleph Prime air base and are promptly arrested. The Duros pilot had been smuggling in electronic components needed by one of the manufacturing facilities, in clear violation of mandates laid out by the Imperial Tax Bureau. Mary takes her fighter back up into a holding pattern above the planet waiting for the next freighter to run.
Cut to Celia, who is now off her shift. She heads over to one of the smaller import/export businesses run by Badger, her “other” employer. She offers Badger the information on Ned Shagga, and he pays out her “usual rate” with the stipulation that she gets a portion of any additional payment since this has the potential to be lucrative.
Cut to Reginald, acting Governor. While there are several different com devices in the Governor’s office, one that is hidden begins to ring. After locating the comlink in a hidden compartment in a drawer, Reginald answers as the Acting Governor. After a bit of bantering back and forth between the caller, who has a distinctive accent, Reginald discovers that the Governor is being sold information. Instead of offering credits for the information, Reginald offers an information trade. It had come to Reginald’s attention that a Gamorrean freighter loaded with glitterstim was being allowed past customs. If that sounded like a fair trade, Reginald would give the caller the time and location of the delivery… for whatever purposes they might use it. The caller agrees and information is traded. Reginald finds out that a wanted terrorist, Ned Shagga, has been spotted in the Space Port sector. What Reginald plans to do with this information is not known at this time.
Cut to Deak, Navod, and Keltak, who have arrived at Chuska’s warehouse to locate the grain shipment. Deak and Navod watch awestruck as Keltak lifts the eight 90+ kilo containers by himself and load them into his speeder truck. Deak and Navod then follow Keltak to the space port.
There is a bit of a problem though, when a loaded speeder and a known member of the Guild of Haulers is seen working while the rest of the Guild strike. The Haulers move to block the speeder, calling Keltak a scab and pelting his truck with rocks. Several people climb on top of the truck and Keltak seriously wrestles with the idea of pushing through the crowd, possibly injuring many.
Instead an alternate plan is devised. If Deak and Navod can get through the crowd, they could meet up outside the city for a smuggler’s pickup. Navod, gun within easy reach, pulls the speeder slowly through the Haulers as Keltak turns around and leaves the city. They meet near an industrial complex.
Cut to Mary, who is informed by Space Port control that an illegal cargo drop was occurring outside of the city. Mary brings her Z-95 down into atmosphere. As the tax increases and the Haulers have brought most business through the space port to a halt, illegal pickups have been occurring more and more. But still, the law was the law and Mary was obligated to enforce it. She hails the freighter, the Coral Ishii and speaks to her captain, Deak Windsailor. She informs him that he is breaking the law and would need to bring his freighter to the GDF Aleph base for inspection.
Thinking fast, Deak concocts the story that this illegal pick up was actually the idea of Governor Samark in order to get past the Hauler’s strike. Mary contacts the Governor’s office to verify the story. A bewildered temp transfers the call to Acting Governor Reginald Karde, who fields the call and with his usual aplomb, confirms the shipment, and instructs Captain Windsailor to report to him on return for debriefing. The Acting Governor’s credentials then get the Coral Ishii past the GDF and Imperial Customs screen. The Coral Ishii jumps for Sullust.
Cut to Celia, who is seeking out Brinol Farstriker, one of her few close friends. Brinol is an Epicanthix mercenary who was meeting an employer in a bar close to Clear Skies! When Celia shows up, she locates Brinol at a booth in the back speaking to none other than Ned Shagga. Shagga hands Brinol a credit chip and then shakes his hand, leaving the bar. Celia walks over and asks what the meeting was about, and uncharacteristic question for her as she tries not to dig too much into Brinol’s business. Brinol informs her that he has a new employer. Celia asks if his job had anything to do with moon Lokfas. When he confirmed that it did, she mentions that his employer had been in the Clear Skies! earlier trying to work a deal out with the Haulers Guild. She then warns him to be careful with his new job.