Mustered Out on Mertactor

149-1106

Meeting the Baroness

There are groans from the party members as the the alarm call that Arvor arranged for everyone at 8.30 go off. They all leap in the shower and get dressed in the finery that they purchased the evening before.

Max is looking pretty dapper in a simple black suit, white shirt, black tie, with slicked back hair and cool-looking shades. Once he is prepared, he heads down to breakfast as previously arranged (the novelty of eating real food still not having worn off yet).

As he walks past the door to Jie’s room, he sees a delivery man holding a parcel. “Good mornin’,” he says to Jie as he sees her signing for the parcel, still dressed in the complementary fluffy bathrobe. “You better ‘urry up, love. The car’s coming in 45 minutes.”

“No problem,” Jie says. “I’ll be down in 30 minutes.”

Max walks off to the lift but, as he waits for the elevator, he hears a scream coming from Jie’s room. He quickly runs back and pounds on the door.

“Jie? You OK, doll?”

“Errm … yes, I’m fine,” her voice comes between sobs.

“Well if you’re sure, I’ll see you in the lobby.”

“Yes … yes, I’ll be there,” she whimpers.

Max shrugs and heads down to meet the others, several of whom are still feeling a little worse the wear from the night before.

“A good fry up, that’s the best cure for an ’angover,” Max says as he takes his own advice.

It’s 9.50 now and the car is due in ten minutes. Arvor is pacing around impatiently.

“Where’s Jie?” he asks. “We can’t be late. It would be a major faux-pas.”

“I’ll go an’ get ’er,” Max volunteers.

He takes the elevator up to her floor raps on Jie’s door again.

“Doll? We gotta go. Like now,” he says.

“I just need more time,” Jie sobs.

“We ain’t got more time,” Max says. “It don’t matter if yer still naked. We gotta go.”

Jie opens the door. Max’s eyes go wide.

“Fackin’ ‘ell, I didn’t mean literally naked!” he says.

Jie just looks sheepish.

“We better go or Arvor’s gonna go mental,” Max says.

The pair of them say nothing as they take the lift down to where the others are waiting in the lobby.

Everyone just stares at Jie as she stumbles across the lobby in her 12" high heels.

They head through the lobby to where a gleaming white, long grav/limo is parked outside. The chauffeur opens the door to allow everyone to enter. He tries not to react as he sees Jie with the others, but can’t stop from raising his eyebrows.

Once everyone is inside, the grav/limo serenely lifts off, heading for the central spoke where it ascends up and up until it is at the very highest level. The forcescreen that normally keeps all of the riff-raff out of the private estate parts as the limo approaches, and it comes to a halt outside a very imposing large black door.

The chauffeur knocks on the door and then lets everyone out. The door is answered by a butler, who is obviously also very surprised at Jie’s chosen outfit. He leads everyone through to the drawing room – a vast room, furnished sparsely all in white. One wall of the room is all glassteel, allowing an incredible view of the smoggy surface of Collace below and the stars above it.

He pours thimble-sized cups of coffee for all that want it and then offers petits fours. He then leaves the party, telling them that the Baroness will be with them shortly.

Twenty minutes later and Baroness Anya Veeleesarkasian wafts into the room. She looks as if she is in her thirties, but holds herself with such decorum that she could be much older than this, keeping her looks through anagathics and plastic surgery. She is dressed elegantly in a long white dress. In one hand she holds a slim cigarette holder that must be half a metre long. In the other, she holds a couple of leashes, attached to which are some strange looking little pet creatures resembling a cross between an especially fluffy Labrador puppy and a miniature white dragon.

“Ah, Arvor,” her voice booms. “So good to see you again.”

She steps forward towards him and air kisses him from a distance of two metres.

“Now, you must introduce me to your heroic colleagues.”

The others all stand and the Baroness gives each of them a gentle shake of the hand. Jie is at the end of the line. The Baroness simply stares at her for a moment, which just sends Jie panicking more.

She remembers the old holovids where female serfs curtsied before nobility and so does the same. Unfortunately though, the serfs in the holovids are wearing skirts a lot longer than the few centimetres of cloth that Jie has around her hips, with the result that Jie’s attempted curtsy makes her look as if she is simply giving the Baroness a flash of her pink panties.

The Baroness is totally at a loss for words for a moment before she turns her back on Jie and addresses the others.

“Please, call me Anya,” she says.

She sits in an armchair and the butler is immediately by her side, lighting her cigarette and handing her a coffee.

There is a pause for effect as she looks at everyone and then proceeds to speak:

“Well, everybody, I just wanted to thank you for your excellent job back there on Pavabid. I am pleased to say that you achieved all of the objectives of your mission. Orobid believed the ‘visions’ and so has agreed to open up the world for iridium mining.”

This news is met by whoops and high fives from the less cultured members of the group (i.e. everyone apart from Grim).

The Baroness frowns and the party members calm down.

She continues to frown though as she continues with her speech.

“However, although you were completely successful with your mission, the same cannot be said for those bloody idiots in the Diplomatic Corps.”

She sighs deeply.

“No, although Orobid is planning on opening up the market for mining, our Intel tells us that he’s planning on giving extraction rights to those Trexalonion bastards.”

She practically spits the name of Collace’s sworn enemy.

“So, as it stands, all our efforts in NavInt – and your efforts – have done at the moment is to hand our enemies billions of credits worth of mineral rights on a plate.”

“I am bloody furious, I can tell you,” she adds, as if it wasn’t obvious enough already. “And now the sodding diplomats need our help again to clear up the mess that they’ve made of this job.”

She pauses once again for emphasis.

“Well actually our Diplomatic Corps have had some success at least. They are now on very good terms with Orobid’s right hand man, Kanaleb – Prime Satellite of the Thearch, Minister of Conformity and Chief of all of Pavabid’s police.”

“Orobid never married and so there he has no heir. According to the Church’s writings, if the Son of the Star dies without a hereditary heir, then his position will be assumed by his Prime Satellite.”

Her eyes flick towards Jie and back again.

“To keep things simple, the summary is as follows. If Orobid dies, Kanaleb assumes power and Collace gets access to the iridium. Orobid lives and Trexalon gets the iridium – it’s as simple as that.”

“So you want us to assassinate Orobid?” Arvor asks.

“Yes,” Anya replies matter-of-factly. “That’s the mission, if you wish to accept it.”

The party members’ eyes are darting from one to another.

“As you probably understand, this is not going to be such an easy matter for a variety of reasons.”

“First of all, although Kanaleb is more friendly to us than he is to Trexalon, it doesn’t mean that he is our puppet – not by a long straw. He is very close to Orobid and would be devastated if Orobid was killed. In addition, he is a very devout member of the Church and this is more important to him than any money that we could hope to bribe him with. As a result, Kanaleb can have no knowledge of this job at all. If he does, then the mission will have failed and I am sure he would want nothing more to do with us.”

“Secondly, if he was to find out that the assassination was committed by offworlders, then we imagine he would refuse to have any more dealings with either us or Trexalon. Kanaleb was not so convinced about Orobid’s ‘vision’ to our understanding, but he followed Orobid’s decision.”

“So this job has to look as if it was committed by locals. As you know, Pavabid is one of the most repressive police states in the Spinward Marches. There have been a few resistance movements in the past but they tend not to last very long. The majority of Pavabidians have been brainwashed into believing the Church’s nonsense and so are quick to inform on anyone who tries to engineer the Church’s downfall. We have heard that there is an organization operating at the moment called the Pavabid Democratic Front – the PDF – but we have no contact with them. We believe that they would be the logical scapegoats for an assassination – and they would probably welcome taking responsibility.”

“But this adds a lot of logistical problems. If any offworld items are discovered in the course of investigations, the game will be up. Everything about this mission will need to utilize only local items.”

She looks over at Jie again.

“Right down to your underwear.”

There is a long pause, which is broken by Arvor.

“So how do you see the mission unfolding?” he asks.

“OK,” Anya continues. “To start with we can issue you with Pavabidian clothing and expertly forged documents – the latter being very important as Pavabidians can have their documents checked several times each day for no reason whatsoever.”

“If you want to take weapons with you, they will have to be of Pavabidian origin. You might decide though that it would be better to pick some up once you are on-site as anyone found with weapons will be immediately arrested and sent to a gulag – or worse.”

“We have a Free Trader registered on Tarkine to take you there. The crew will know very little about your mission – just that you are going to infiltrate Pavabid and they are to provide you with all assistance for getting out of Pavabid Down and then to wait for your return for as long as it takes.”

“On the way, you will need to practice speaking in Pavabidian accents, learn all of their colloquilisms and mannerisms, plus general knowledge so that you can all pass as locals if questioned.”

“At Pavabid Down, we have a local high-ranking customs official who we have blackmailed into cooperating with us. The plan would be that you would be packed into shipping crates and flown to the capital of North Jimarist, Twalarsk, some 3500km away. The customs official will ensure that the cartons are not investigated going out.”

“Upon arrival at Twalarsk Airport, you will need to break out of the cartons, exit the airport and disappear into the city.”

“On 161 – in 12 days’ time – Orobid will visit Twalarsk – this will be his only official function before he meets with the Trexalonian delegation to sign the deal for the iridium mining contract, which we believe is due to take place around 170.”

“Orobid’s floating palace will hover over the largest park in Central Twalarsk that day at noon and Orobid will ‘descend’. He will then travel around 3km by motorcade to a new cathedral which has been built in Downtown Twalarsk’s Central Piazza. He is due to arrive there around 1pm. He will address the crowd and the consecrate the cathedral before conducting a service inside, which will take around an hour. So a little after 2pm, the service will be over. He will say a few more words to the crowd and then head back to the park in the motorcade. Around 3pm, he will ascend back into the palace and it will be over.”

The Baroness looks a little embarrassed now.

“Unfortunately, this is all the planning we have been able to make,” she admits. “It’s practically impossible to obtain Intel on the ground. Our Embassy Staff are escorted at all time by a minimum of two members of the ‘Attitude Police’ and so have been next to useless for gaining any useful information. All of the Intel we have has been gained solely through monitoring Pavabid’s mass media.”

“So we don’t know the exact route that he will be taking from the Park to the Piazza or what security measures he will have. A massive police presence is sure to be in operation though. So you’ll need to make your own recon and planning one you’re in situ. You will also need to make your own way back to the starport, which is maybe going to be quite a challenge as there will obviously be pandemonium when Orobid is assassinated.”

She pauses one more time.

“This is all of the information that I have available, I think, unless you have some general questions on Pavabid. So has anyone any questions?”

“What’s in it for us?” Max asks immediately.

“Oh yes, I nearly forgot,” Anya replies. “I am authorized to offer you Cr.250,000. Cr.100,000 in advance with a Cr.150,000 bonus for successful completion of the mission.”

“Can we use the hold of the Free Trader for shipping goods?” Max asks.

“Certainly,” Anya agrees. “It will help your cover. You’ll just need to keep a few tons free for the containers you will be using to get to Twalarsk.”

Max nods.

The Baroness looks at the others.

“So any more questions from anyone?”

Grim addresses the Baroness, “Milady, could we perhaps have several fake IDs each? If we need to use one set to establish our bonafides with anyone, perhaps some rebels or a dissident, who is in a position to help us, those identities might become compromised before we can arrange our departure, making a second, clean set of papers invaluable to our escape efforts.”

“It shouldn’t be a problem to provide you with several different IDs,” the Baroness replies. “Pavabidian technology is so primitive our forger was almost insulted that we bothered him with such an easy task.”

“Facial hair and long hair in general currently seems to be en vogue on Pavabid which makes altering your appearances that much easier. ‘Z’ in supplies can provide you with disguise kits.”

She pauses. “However, be aware that all of these items scream ‘espionage’. Knowing how through the police searches are on Pavabid, everything you take that will around suspicious will have to be hidden very carefully or they could get you into a lot of trouble.”

“We could all ’ave merkins what double as beards,” Max suggests.

“What’s a merkin?” asks Anya.

“A pubic wig.”

She wrinkles her nose. “Well desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose. I do hope that they are easy to wash though.”

Grim shivers at the thought of accidentally using Max’s merkin.

Again Grim addresses Milady, “Rumor has it that SuSAG has developed drugs which are very effective at speeding hair growth in men. I understand there may be side effects, but surely, if these drugs are more than fantasy on the part of balding Vilani men, then they might be worth acquiring?”

The Baroness nods, “Yes, I read something about that as well. That would be a better alternative for coming up with one look, at least.”

“The only problem though is that we haven’t got the luxury of time,” she continues. “With Orobid appearing in 12 days’ time, and the best part of 8 days spent travelling there, it gives you only four days spare – either preparing here or in the field. So speed is going to be of the essence.”

“I suppose you could use wigs for the photographs on the ID cards and grow the real thing during the trip,” she adds.

Arvor has been deep in thought during the conversation.

“So all I can think of is getting a locally made bolt-action rifle, have some kind of diversion – a protest or riot, and a single shot from a hidden spot,” he thinks out loud. “The hard parts will be setting that up in spite of all the security, and getting away afterwards.”

“I don’t think I would trust to being able to buy a decent rifle on the Pavabid black market with just a few days, so we ought to bring one in with us. With our resources, we should be able to get the real thing, and re-machine it for reasonable accuracy.”

“Milady – can I count on your resources to obtain a decent Pavabid made rifle? Not too improved, mind you, just a little filing here and there to make sure the mechanism is smooth and the rifling accurate. Then I want to remove the stock, and replace it with a hand-made removable stock that I can bolt on in the field, and have the trigger mechanism also removable. I suspect it will have to be a single-shooter for it to disassemble the way I would like. My thinking is to make it look (and forensic) like a local gun modified by a local assassin. We may have to abandon the gun after the shooting, or even leave it with a local. We can smuggle the rifle to the location in parts and assemble it just in time.”

“Getting “in” with the PDF will probably mean a trip to a Gulag city. I would imagine anyone sent there will not see the regime in a friendly light.”

“So there will be two initial things we would want to do: case the tour area for a couple of suitable sniper spots, and visit a gulag town to try to get in touch with the PDF.”

Anya listens and then speaks to the butler.

“Paakaa, fetch me my handcomp will you, there’s a good chap.”

“Of course, m’lady,” the butler says and fetches the computer, handing it back to her.

She spends a moment working through the screens and then nods:

“Yes, there are some heavy bore, bolt action, sniper rifles produced on Pavabid,” she says. “They are used by exclusively by the Pavabidian SWAT teams and so are produced in very small quantities. But they are good quality.”

“I think that Z should be able to rustle one up for you and make necessary alterations, but it will take him 24 hours at least.”

She then projects a map of North Jimarist onto the floor between them. Making contact with the PDF prior to the meeting would seem to be quite an ambitious plan though," she adds. “If you leave in 24 hours’ time, you will have just three days to prepare. The only way to go to Shebleharm before Twalarsk would be to make two flights and security on flights is sure to be tighter than any other form of transport. Smuggling a rifle onboard a commercial flight, even one that is broken down into smaller parts, could be quite a challenge.”

“Maybe you want to come up with a cover story now before we produce the IDs so that they look appropriate. Has anyone any ideas as to who you could all be and why you are traveling together?”

“Any other requests or questions at this stage?”

“We’re going to need lots of Pavabidian cash to grease the rusty Proletarian wheels…” Grim says.

“That’s true,” she nods. “I will give each of you Cr.10,000 in Pavabid Francs for expenses – Cr.60,000 between you which should be enough as costs there are low. Again though, you are going to have to hide the money. Cr. 10,000 is a year’s salary for the average Pavabidian and so you will have some explaining to do if it is found.”

“Let me also send Arvor the Cr.100,000 now as well,” she says keying money from her account to Arvor’s.

“As far as detailed cover, nothing works better than a uniform,” Arvor offers. “The kind that does not draw attention. For daytime “on the job”, I suggest we operate as Telco workers. So – Milady, I would also like a set of large plastic transfer / decals for Pavabid Telecommunications that we can use to quickly disguise a vehicle, and a set of uniforms for same telco. Then we can buy a truck locally of the appropriate type and overall colour, slap on the decals, slip on the uniforms and we are set. The team might be a little large for a single crew, so maybe we should have two of us as `work inspectors` who will have a second vehicle – a ground car, with the other 4 in the truck.”

“This gives us a good excuse to have ladders on board, and gives us access to drain covers, and pretty much any building. We can have tools (locally obtained – using our IDs) – which would be ideal for such things as eavesdropping on communications etc.”

“Is everyone ok with that?”

The others nod in agreement.

“I am sure that this can be arranged,” the Baroness says.

Anya looks at her watch. “Unfortunately I have another appointment in a few minutes, but I think that we have the basics covered now. I will pass all of this information onto Z together with Arvor’s commo number. Someone from his office will be in touch shortly to give you further instructions and to give you an idea as to when he should have everything on your wish list arranged.”

She gets up and shakes everyone by the hand.

As they start to leave the Baroness notes Jie’s very nice pebble textured cloak.

“Nobble hide I take it? From Tarsus? I believe it was harvesting season a few weeks back. I have a few outfits that look like that. Gifts of course. May I…?”

Baroness Anya reaches a hand out towards Jie. A collective intake of breath from the group is all that is heard. They didn’t know what calamity would occur but as sure as the sun would set tonight they knew Jie would somehow bring shame upon them.

Jie stands there like a trapped herbivore about to be slaughtered. Baroness Anyas’ fingers, however, just lightly brush the collar and feel the fine weave and exotic texture. “Very nice.” She says as she withdraws her hand and dismisses the crew.

Jie let out a breath that she did not know she was holding. As everyone begins to leave they bow in their own fashion (Taeva just gives her a curt nod and Grim spends a veeery long time kissing her hand). Jie is so elated at not having an embarrassing moment she decides to do the Imperial Marine Knee Bend that she had learned on Mille Falcs for passing nobility. She had done this a thousand times, she thinks, as she half steps forward and bows deeply, almost 90 degrees. She raises her right arm, bent at the elbow, above her head then stands erect again arms to her side. However she had never done the bow in a loose fitting cloak and her right foot had holds it to the floor. As she rises a pop pop popping noise comes from her cloak buttons and the newly loosened outer wear falls to the floor.

There had been a misunderstanding at the tailors. A severe one. Jie stands on 12 inch platform boots. The toes are covered by chrome remakes of the mud flap trucker girl in reclining position. The laces are tied all the way up to her mid thigh and end in miniature pom-poms. The boots themselves are a wrinkleless neoprene plastic the color of chewed bubble gum with canary yellow piping up the sides and raccoon tails tied to the top back. Her insanely tight shorts made of the same material have an electronic opening button in a strategic place on the front and the word “Lick o Licious” across the back. Her bra is made of steel and covered with some form of fake purple tiger hide except for the front. In the front is two twin dragon heads poking out from her nipple area staring at the Baroness with plastic ruby eyes.

The room is silent as Jie stands still as a rock, wishing she could die right now. As an excuse she says, “The tailor sent my other clothes back to the hotel before I got out of the changing room. I was running late.” Then the dragons open their mouths and two twin puffs of acrid smoke escape with a feeble pfftt sound.

“As I said before,” Speaks Baroness Anya Veeleesarkasian with a grin “I have a few outfits that look like that. Gifts of course.”

Chuckling to herself, Anya wafts away with her two pets following her and the butler lets them out. The chauffeur is waiting and quickly takes the party members back to their hotel. With great relief (especially Jie’s) everyone is able to go back to their rooms to dress in their normal outfits.

Once they are changed, they meet up in the hotel restaurant for lunch.

“I better get out of ’ere and start looking for some cargo,” Max says, ramming the last of the food down his throat like a starving animal. “Looks like we ain’t going to be stayin’ ’ere for long.”

While Max attends to the cargo, the others continue to discuss how they are going to carry out the new mission:

“The locals will lockdown railways, etc. following assassination so getting away -the most important part – needs serious consideration,” says Taeva.

“Just to give you an idea of what we are up against,” Arvor adds. “The police force on Pavabid is huge, but the average policeman is quite poorly trained and equipped. They all have mesh and either an autopistol or SMG pistol. The average beat cop is not terribly bright and isn’t expected to think for himself – just to follow orders.”

“There is no army, navy or air force as such on Pavabid – after all there is really no adversary for them to fight. Instead they have a very powerful gendarmerie – militarized police – with several different divisions with highly trained men (and women).”

“There is the Attitude division who are all plain clothed and whose main role is spying on the populace to root out anyone who might have ‘heretical thoughts’. An Investigative division who take on the detective work, and an Action division who are the only ones who have access to the hardware. They usually travel by APC – at least they have no tanks. In the air they make extensive use of helicopters – large multi-purpose ones. They also have aircraft, but none are purely offensive in nature. Again they are multi-purpose though and can be armed.”

At around 5.00pm, Arvor gets a call, with instructions to head down to one of the lower levels where they should go to Geeoorgii’s – a tailor’s shop and ask to meet with Aarnool.

The party members finish their drinks and then head off. Arvor passes the information on to Max, telling him to meet them there.

Geeoorgii’s is not far from the Silver Helm where they spend the previous evening – a more rough and ready part of the starport (but still several levels above the lowest levels of the starport where the real underclass scratch a living by any means they can).

Arvor asks for Aarnool and the shop assistant presses a button. A few moments later, a nerdy looking guy in his late-thirties appears from one of the changing rooms and beckons everyone to follow him. There is a false door in the back which leads into a corridor which is almost pitch black. Once everyone is in the corridor and the door to the changing room closed, he opens another door. As it opens, the party members are met by a bright light. As their eyes adjust, they see that the room is a hive of activity, with white-coated boffins all beavering away on various different projects.

An elderly, avuncular looking figure bounds forward.

“Arvor, old chap, what a pleasure to see you after all this time,” he says shaking Arvor’s hand in greeting.

“Good to see you too, Z,” he says, then introduces him to the other party members.

“Right, so we’re all busy beavering away on your list of requirements that the Baroness sent over earlier,” he says. “There’s nothing on the list that should cause us to have to pay out too much in overtime.”

“I have your currency all ready,” he says, opening a small attache case which is packed with currency, there being around 1000 Pavabidian Francs for each credit.

“We should have the Pavicom signs finished by the morning,” he adds.

He calls over to one of his minions who brings over a large, heavy rifle. It looks almost identical to the one that they were using a few weeks back to shoot the nobbles with. It’s 8 kilos – not exactly a stealth weapon, but very effective as a sniper weapon because of the large calibre ammo.

“We’re struggling to figure out how to break the rifle down without making it less effective” admits Z. “It would be simple to arrange using all our tools but, if we did that, it would be obvious that it could not have been done locally. I’m sure that we will crack it by tomorrow though.”

“We also managed to rustle up genuine Pavabidian telescopic sights as well to go with it.”

“But anyway, why I needed to bring you all here is to get your photos for the identity cards,” he continues. “We have already sourced several genuine Pavabidian outfits for you and are currently working on creating your Pavicom uniforms. Again, we will have everything ready for tomorrow.”

He summons a minion who wheels in a rack of clothes. They all look pretty hideous. For the men it’s mostly ill-fitting cheap suits. For Taeva and Jie, conversely, the simple dresses are all in bright primary colours.

The minion then produces some fake mustaches and wigs, to the general mirth of the party members. They are hideous. Taeva’s eyes go to the several beehive wigs on offer – now that could be a useful hiding place for some smaller items.

The minion produces some copies of the Pavabidian edition of Vogue magazine. The women are all plastered in cheap makeup, with eyes like pandas.

The party members spend a while going through the materials playing dress up until they and Z are happy with the different looks, at which point one of Z’s assistants takes their pictures with a large, archaic-looking camera.

As they are nearly done, Aarnool comes in escorting Max into the room. Max is grinning ear to ear, obviously very pleased with himself.

“Sorry I’m late, guys and girls,” he says, “But I got a good result.”

“My regular supplier with all the piping has another 30 tons for me that I can get for 70% of ’olesale. We made some good money last time we took piping to Pavabid so that should do well.”

“Then I found a bloke ‘oo really needs to shift 25 tons of three piece suites. They’ve got this weird paisley design, but they’ll go down a treat on Pavabid. I got them for just 50%. Should make a killing on them.”

“So if I can take the 100k that we just got off Anya, I just need Cr.37,750 off everyone so that I can go and buy them?”

Z coughs politely, but with some annoyance.

“If we can just finish off the photography, then you will be free to take care of your other business,” he says.

“Sorry, mate,” Max replies. He then proceeds to ham it up by dressing up in the most bizarre fake mustaches and wigs which he can find.

“Good,” Z says, clapping his hands. “That’s that taken care of. Aarnool should deliver the materials to you hotel tomorrow. I imagine that we will have everything for you early afternoon.”

Everyone shakes Z by the hand as he wishes them good luck, and then Aarnool escorts everyone back to the tailor’s shop. As they are down here anyway, they return to the Silver Helm to continue their planning. Max just has a swift pint though, collects the Cr.37,750 from everyone and heads back to the commercial district to make the deal.

The party members spend several hours at the bar discussing their options before deciding to head back to the hotel, wanting to be up at a reasonable time so that they have the morning free to go shopping for any materials that they need.

Comments

“I’m in.” says Grim, averting his eyes at all times from Jie’s hemline so as not to give her an excuse to s**t kick him later on… ;-)

149-1106
 

Grim addresses the Baroness, “Milady, could we perhaps have several fake IDs each? If we need to use one set to establish our bonafides with anyone, perhaps some rebels or a dissident, who is in a position to help us, those identities might become compromised before we can arrange our departure, making a second, clean set of papers invaluable to our escape efforts.”

149-1106
 

At the Hotel
*Jie gets the package from the tailors and goes in to her room to change.
*After every one leaves Max is sent back up to bring her down
*Jie says she must goto the Tailors right now and correct a mistake, she will meet the party at the front door of the Baroness’s estate.

Before the meeting
Jie’s taxi arrives just in time to meet the others as they stand in front of Baroness Anya Veeleesarkasian’s home. She bursts out of the door and hits the pavement at a dead run, her outer cloak whipping in the cold breeze. She then looks up and sees that she is not too late as she slows her pace and joins the others. Arvor asks why she was so late and Jie mumbles something about the tailor shop and a misunderstanding of some sort. Taeva asks to see her new professionally made outfit and William nods vigorously in agreement. Jie just shakes her head no and buttons the outer wear so that no glimmer of clothes beneath could be seen. She looks very sheepish and is unusually silent as they are let in by the chiseled featured guards, the others suspect it is due to the fact that she is bereft of any type of armament or weaponry. In the foyer the butler reaches for her Content Not Found: nobb-hide-cloak and she violently spins away from his grasp as she hisses “I will kill you!!”

A long awkward pause

“I mean to say I will keep it on.” Jie says apologetically “Religious reasons.” She pulls the cloak tighter around her neck line.

After the Meeting
All seemes to go fairly well with the late morning meeting. Jie, like any good strong arm bodyguard type, keeps silent pretty much throughout the proceedings and begins to believe she can make it out of here without incident. As they start to leave the Baroness notes her very nice pebble textured cloak.

“Nobble hide I take it? From Tarsus? I believe it was harvesting season a few weeks back. I have a few outfits that look like that. Gifts of course. May I…?” Baroness Anya reaches a hand out towards Jie. A collective intake of breath from the group is all that is heard. They didn’t know what calamity would occur but as sure as the sun would set tonight they knew Jie would somehow bring shame upon them.
Jie stands there like a trapped herbivore about to be slaughtered. Baroness Anyas’ fingers, however, just lightly brush the collar and feel the fine weave and exotic texture. “Very nice.” She says as she withdraws her hand dismisses the crew.

Jie let out a breath that she did not know she was holding. As everyone begins to leave they bow in their own fashion (Taeva just gives her a curt nod and Grim spends a veeery long time kissing her hand). Jie is so elated at not having an embarrassing moment she decides to do the Imperial Marine Knee Bend that she had learned on Mille Falcs for passing nobility. She had done this a thousand times she thinks as she half steps forward and bows deeply, almost 90 degrees. She raises her right arm, bent at the elbow, above her head then stands erect again arms to her side. However she had never done the bow in a loose fitting cloak and her right foot had holds it to the floor. As she rises a pop pop popping noise comes from her cloak buttons and the newly loosened outer wear falls to the floor.

There had been a misunderstanding at the tailors. A severe one. Jie stands on 12 inch platform boots. The toes are covered by chrome remakes of the mud flap trucker girl in reclining position. The laces are tied all the way up to her mid thigh and end in miniature pom-poms. The boots themselves are a wrinkleless neoprene plastic the color of chewed bubble gum with canary yellow piping up the sides and raccoon tails tied to the top back. Her insanely tight shorts made of the same material have an electronic opening button in a strategic place on the front and the word “Lick o Licious” across the back. Her bra is made of steel and covered with some form of fake purple tiger hide except for the front. In the front is two twin dragon heads poking out from her nipple area staring at the Baroness with plastic ruby eyes. The room is silent as Jie stands still as a rock wishing she could die right now. As an excuse she says “The tailor sent my other clothes back to the hotel before I got out of the changing room. I was running late.” Then the dragons open their mouths and two twin puffs of acrid smoke escape with a feeble pfftt sound.

“As I said before,” Speaks Baroness Anya Veeleesarkasian with a grin “I have a few outfits that look like that. Gifts of course.”

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LOL!

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Stupid textile stuff. It’s supposed to be Content Not Found: nobb-hide-cloak

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Damn, I don’t know what I’m doing! ah well.

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“I shouldn’t be a problem to provide you with several different IDs,” the Baroness replies. “Pavabidian technology is so primitive our forger was almost insulted that we bothered him with such an easy task.”

“Facial hair and long hair in general currently seems to be en vogue on Pavabid which makes altering your appearances that much easier. ‘Z’ in supplies can provide you with disguise kits.”

She pauses. “However, be aware that all of these items scream ‘espionage’. Knowing how through the police searches are on Pavabid, everything you take that will around suspicious will have to be hidden very carefully or they could get you into a lot of trouble.”

“We could all ’ave merkins what double as beards,” Max suggests.

“What a merkin?” asks Anya.

“A pubic wig.”

She wrinkle her nose. “Well desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose. I do hope that they are easy to wash though.”

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So all I can think of is getting a locally made bolt-action rifle, have some kind of diversion – a protest or riot, and a single shot from a hidden spot. The hard parts will be setting that up in spite of all the security, and getting away afterwards.

I don’t think I would trust to being able to buy a decent rifle on the Pavabid black market with just a few days, so we ought to bring one in with us. With our resources, we should be able to get the real thing, and re-machine it for reasonable accuracy.

Milady – can I count on your resources to obtain a decent Pavabid made rifle? Not too improved, mind you, just a little filing here and there to make sure the mechanism is smooth and the rifling accurate. Then I want to remove the stock, and replace it with a hand-made removable stock that I can bolt on in the field, and have the trigger mechanism also removable. I suspect it will have to be a single-shooter for it to disassemble the way I would like. My thinking is to make it look (and forensic) like a local gun modified by a local assassin. We may have to abandon the gun after the shooting, or even leave it with a local. We can smuggle the rifle to the location in parts and assemble it just in time.

Getting “in” with the PDF will probably mean a trip to a Gulag city. I would imagine anyone sent there will not see the regime in a friendly light.

So there will be two initial things we would want to do: case the tour area for a couple of suitable sniper spots, and visit a gulag town to try to get in touch with the PDF.

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Again Grim addresses Milady, “Rumor has it that SuSAG has developed drugs which are very effective at speeding hair growth in men. I understand there may be side effects, but surely, if these drugs are more than fantasy on the part of balding Vilani men, then they might be worth acquiring?”

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{Grim shivers at the thought of accidentally using Max’s merkin}

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In terms of cover,

Birth place:
Arvor will ask each member of the team to copy a couple of phrases that he speaks in his Pavabid accent. He will attempt to match each team member to an area that he / she might pass from. Once this is assigned, the labs can make a wafer for each of us to teach some local details about birthplaces, as well as dialect training.

Residence:
We should all live in Twalarsk, in various residential districts. We will each need to learn our district – shops, bus routes that kind of stuff. We will use the wafers to study during the jump.

Employment:
As far as detailed cover, nothing works better than a uniform – the kind that does not draw attention. For daytime “on the job”, I suggest we operate as Telco workers. So – Milady, I would also like a set of large plastic transfer / decals for the biggest Telco on Jimarist that we can use to quickly disguise a vehicle, and a set of uniforms for same telco. Then we can buy a truck locally of the appropriate type and overall colour, slap on the decals, slip on the uniforms and we are set. The team might be a little large for a single crew, so maybe we should have two of us as `work inspectors` who will have a second vehicle – a ground car, with the other 4 in the truck.

This gives us a good excuse to have ladders on board, and gives us access to drain covers, and pretty much any building. We can have tools (locally obtained – using our Ids) – which would be ideal for such things as eavesdropping on communications etc.

Is everyone ok with that?

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I agree with only 3 days, stopping off at Shebleharm would be cutting things pretty fine. One possibility is that two head for Shebleharm with no incriminating evidence, while 4 go directly on to Twalarsk as originally planned – with the decals and the gun.

On the down side – we would be splitting the party, and incurring a bigger risk. There would be one group without a native Pavabidian “spokesman”.

On the up side, we might obtain local support, some interference during the escape.

I am divided on this one. Group vote?

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For the second cover, we should choose something that makes sense for us to be heading to Pavabid Down. There probably be roadblocks, and extra airport screening. This is where PDF contacts would be useful if we go that route.

How about we are cleaners / sanitation workers at the starport – and we took a pilgrimmage to Twalarsk to witness the Son of the Star speak? We can have a battered minibus, and an excuse to be travelling back to Pavabid down, and IDs that have us as residents of the area – as well as travel permits to Twalarsk – and a second useful uniform to use.

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Arvor can have some fun teaching the crew some religious songs. “Bringing in the sheaves…”, or perhaps “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot…” anyone?

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Nick – how is Pavabid wrt: employing women – outside jobs, positions of authority etc?

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Nick – is each square really 1000 km? The place is HUGE! They would be at home in Canada.

An overland journey of 4,000 with 1,500 over rough roads would take about 4 days minimum, probably more like a week.

I once travelled from Toronto through Quebec and on into Labrador. 1,800 km of good roads took 1 1/2 days. Then we were on un-metalled road for about 1,500 km, which took 2 1/2 more days. And those roads were still pretty good. Throw in really poor roads, the odd ferry crossing, landslide etc, and we would have quite an adventure just making it!

We recently did a road trip of 3500 km – and we did it in 7 days (assuming all stops were just overnight) with one driver. If we were going flat out, we might have done it in about 40 hours of straight driving. This was all on highway, with two border crossings (there and back).

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So for our exit if we are forced to take overland – train tickets from Twalarsk to Brownport (via Pelligry) would be useful if the minivan approach is deemed impractical (due to distances).

Possibly a 24 hour sleeper from Twalarsk to Habbaging, and another from there to Pelligry, then 10 hours to Shebleharm, and another to Brownport. Then we would need a ferry to Southport – another 24 hours, and a bus (probably) into Downport from there.

This begining to sound really cool – feels like it could pan out like some WW2 movies with the gestapo searching the train for escaped POWs – except on the scale of the Trans-Siberian express.

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All we need to complete the picture is a motorcycle half-track to make the run from Brownport to Southport (and some Spetznaz with skis and machine-guns)!

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Taeva will take:

dismantled needletto: handle as grip reinforcer of a bag, the spike as part of the metal rim frame for a bag

another case will use two yawara bos as grip reinforcers

Sadly she will probably have to make do with spme basic ordinary lockpicks disguised variously as jewellry and in bag rims, makeup etc (assuming they have any)

A few throwing spikes should be concealable too as bag rims.

Armor is out of the question presumably

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Just be sure that anything that could be left behind – and then analyzed by local security must pass as 100% local.

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Yes, if my math is right /24 = 1165 Then each square is actually 1165km square, so I rounded it down to 1000km each. So you’re right – the continent is huge. The map area is roughly the same area as the US, with Pavabid to Twalarsk being the same as LA to NY.

So it is really huge! Thus the detailed info on transport links as it’s not going a quick stroll there and back.

All major industries on Pavabid are state-owned, so the phone company would be Pavabid Communications – Pavicom for short.

Pavabid is very similar to 1967 Soviet Union and so women are an important part of the workforce (although there aren’t so many of them in executive positions).

Yes, you’re getting the idea of much of the adventure now – The Great Escape!

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Cash, Milady. We’re going to need lots of Pavabidian cash to grease the rusty Proletarian wheels…

2nd Arvor on Telco identities for first half of mission, they’ll also be giving us a reason to carry tools.

If we’re caught, we’ll have to burn Grim beyond recognition (he has Imperial Army tattoos) and Arvor’s Wafer Chip will be a bit of a giveaway (I leave it to Arvor if we should burn him). So let’s not get caught.

Grim has Linguistics skill, so he should be able to pick up the accent a little faster during Arvors training sessions.

As to the assassination itself, it’s usually the getaway that’s hardest, so lets plan some major diversion(s). Arvor and Taeva (as Spotter/backup) can be in the sniper nest while the rest of us are causing chaos?

As to the fake “exit” IDs, lets have two sets, one as Arvor suggested for Downport maintenance, the other as Security, to give us better access through security in case of trouble? We’re already carrying multiple IDs, at least until we can hide the other sets in a safe place (apartment, Telco van floorboards, etc.), so getting caught is already a prison sentence…

Grim/Ian

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The locals will ockdown railways etc following assassination so getting away-the most important part-needs serious coonsideration

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Wait, I’ve got a better idea for the getaway IDs: ambulance/emergency personel! No one questions them after a terrorist attack/assassination!

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I can go back and change the uniforms and signs to ambulance if that’s what you want to do.

Please let me know if there is anything else you need for the mission, or anything else you want to buy before you leave – or anything else you want to do before leaving.

Can everyone take off 37,750 for the trade goods?

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William quietly speaks with Max about the paisley-suit cargo, wondering if he could get a look at them before loading. In general, he leaves the spy stuff to the spies. Secretly he’s wondering what role he can usefully play in this mission. If Grim’s ambulance/EMT idea flies, at least he can pose as a competent medic.

Another option he considers for the get-away is: cops! If Pavabid is crawling with gestapo, why not join the crowd? William once attended a halloween party dressed as a prominent noble dressed as a prominent evil empire cop. It was a big hit with the press at the time, although his grandmother wasn’t too thrilled.

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“Sure, mate,” Max replies. “You can come wiv me tomorrow morning when I check the cargo before I oversee the loading onto the ship.”

“From what I understand from Anya though, we are going to be OK for takin’ whatever we want out of the starport and onto the plane that will take us to Twalarsk. The challenges start wiv us gettin’ out of the airport before disappearin’ into the city.”

“Looks to me that we got a lot o’ problems we need to sort out to do this job. An’ looks to me that most of ‘em we need to decide wevver we’re gonna use stealth or bullshit to solve them.”

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Lets go with both sets of decals – EMT and Telco, so we can switch during/for getaway. A reasonable alternative route would also be by sea – a fast boat would get us to Southport as quick as going round by rail.

I wouldn’t eliminate rail as a possibility. They didn’t cancel all train and air for Kennedy’s assassination – I would imagine that they wont do it for Ovobid either. There will be tighter inspection and certainly delays and searches – both organized and random, but that will be true of all transport types – expect roadblocks etc. A set of forged train tickets won’t cost anything as an alternative. If we are quick about it, it’s possible we could be on a departing train before the order goes out. Then we would have the fun of seeing if our cover will hold, or jumping off before we arrive at the next town!

Quite another way of doing it would be to “go to ground” relatively close to Twalarsk, for a week or two until the hunt is called off, and then to assume cover number 2 and quietly make our way to the Downport.

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The next morning William accompanies Max to the starport to help oversee loading the paisley. Paisley has always intrigued William; probably it reminds him of Jennie Lueng, she of the fuzzy sweaters (that she called jumpers in her cute accent) in biology. Jennie had a thing for amoebas and parameciums and, well, paisley just triggered that memory. William recalls fondly his western-style paisley shirt with the fringed yoke and pearl snaps…

“Max, old chum, do you think anyone would miss this 36 regular?” he asks. "Maybe I’ll see Jie’s tailor about making me an “advanced cloth” suit when we get back. Paisley beats even a sweater vest you know."

Max casts poor Will a queer look. “Not that there’s any’ting wrong wi’d that, mate.”

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NickPendrell

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