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Smokin'

All alone in the night

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The books used for this game are Babylon 5 Roleplaying Game and Fact Book 'Signs and Portents' and 'The Fiery Trial', both published by Mongoose Publishing and The Player's Handbook 3rd ed. published by Wizards of the Coast. All publications are published under the Open Gaming Licence and their use here does not, nor is intended to, challenge the relevant intellectual ownership.

Reaper Miniatures takes no responsibility for this thread, and asks the players to self-moderate.

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"Summers, get in here!"

 

The order was a sharp reminder of how most of the command staff perceived the Lieutenant. She hardly had time to admire the view from the office window before she found herself in front of the large mahogany desk.

Behind it sat a well built man in the impressive deep blue uniform of a fleet admiral. He looked a little out of place in this office, as if he didn't belong in the bowels of Earthdome but should still have been out on the deck of a cruiser instead of flying a desk. Several campaign and gallantry ribbons adorned his breast, including the Proxima Star and the Line Medal - the latter the one she knew he wanted her to see, another less than subtle dig. At the front of the desk a pyramidal tube declared this to be the desk of Fleet Admiral Martin.

 

Also in front of the desk, standing firmly at attention, was a second Earthforce officer. He was tall, even at attention the arrogant swagger of a starfury jock was evident and Summers could see there was a handsome face atop his Lieutenant Commanders uniform. He wore the badge of Internal Security, which made sense. Martin was the head of that branch of Earthforce,after all. Dark brown hair was swept back and he stood with a folder of paperwork in one hand. She had never seen him before.Matching his stance, she brought herself to attention and faced admiral Martin.

 

"Lieutenant Summers reporting, Sir"

 

"Summers, I don't like your record" said the admiral. "You had a chance, no, you had a duty, to fight on the Line and you chose to claim injuries prevented you. That strikes me as cowardice. However, for whatever reason he chooses to keep to himself, Commander Lewis here has requested you for this mission" The admiral gestured toward the man beside her. "Keeping you around here is bad for morale so he can have you"

 

Summers was shocked by his openness. She knew that many of her fellow personnel did consider her a coward and that her failure to fight at the Battle of The Line had cost her any chance of the succesful career in Earthforce she once looked forward to, but to hear it so bluntly was as sharp as a slap to the face.

 

She realised that the admiral had continued. "... and for a while now we've realised that these shipments of Dust have to have been coming through Babylon 5. It may be a wonderful monument to the chance of peace" - his disdain told her exactly what he thought of the truth of that statement - "but it's also a gateway for smugglers and criminals. The President himself has decided that we need to do something and that Babylon 5's own security aren't sufficient. They haven't managed to make a single arrest. That means Earthforce security, which means my office, which means you.

 

"The commander will fill you in on the leads we have. He is in command of the mission. This will be a covert operation, you are to wear civilian dress and you will not carry Earthforce identification. You will retain your sidearms. The first stage of your mission will be to travel to Babylon 5, see what you can dig up on this smuggling ring. After that, you have authority to investigate in whatever way you see fit.

 

"Now, as there is a chance that the station's security has been compromised we will only be informing the station commander, Commander Sinclair and his head of security Warrant Officer Garibaldi of your impending arrival. We have suggested that they tell no-one else. I suggest you report to them upon arrival. If you have any questions the Commander will answer them. Dismissed"

 

With well drilled precision, both Summers and Lewis turn and march out of the office. Once outside, the commander turns to Summers and smiles.

 

"Before you ask, Tex, I asked for you because I think you get a raw deal. I've seen your file, your medical file that is, and you wouldn't have been any good on The Line anyway. There's facing death and then there's suicide - saying 'no' to your president takes a certain courage. Also, you're not security - I need a fresh viewpoint on this one. So far, all our investigations have drawn a massive blank. We only found out about this Dust ring through sheer chance - one of the couriers had a traffic accident, of all things. Since then, we've been hitting bulkheads at every turn.

 

"We'll crack this case, you and I, lieutenant. We're leaving tomorrow morning, pad 9. We'll catch the shuttle to the transfer point at Io, then get a berth on a liner to Proxima. From there to Epsilon and Babylon 5. Get some rest, then it's a change of clothes and we're away. You'll have the voyage to read up on what we know - it won't take that long. Any questions?"

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"No sir, not really." Summers manages to stammer. The thought of a fellow Earthforce officer giving her a break was something which surprised her so much, she almost forgot to respond. "I do have one question though Sir. Why couldn't I have met you years ago?" Summers' smiles, her eyes alight with glee, now that she'd overcome her initial shock. "I'll do my best sir. See you in the morning."

 

Summers waits to be dismissed, then returns to her quarters to prepare. Not that it takes all that long, her 'stigma' having taught her long ago to keep a bag packed at all times.

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Although she is bright and early the following morning, Summers is not surprised to see Commander Lewis waiting for her at Pad 9. It's a fine, dry day in Geneva, shining down on Earthdome like a smile on the face of God. Even the workmanlike lines of the shuttle have a grace and elegance to them today.

 

Lewis greets her, returning her salute. "Right, that's the last time you are to salute me - we're undercover, Missy, and in case you haven't seen the vids civilians tend not to be so formal." There is a smile on his handsome face; he knows she's nervous. "You're in civvies, good. Now, have you made sure you have absolutely no Earthforce ID on you at all? Good. Let's get aboard"

 

The explosive ascent from earthbound cares never ceases to be a thrill ride - even a routine trip to orbit sends the heart beating and the blood racing. The thrill of it! To leave behind gravity and the weight of terrible conformity and leap into heaven - To ride the stars! Even as a passenger, strapped securely into a less than comfortable bucket seat in an overworked fleet transport. The trip to Io is a regular run for the crew and there are no problems.

 

Commander Lewis passes the case dossier to Summers, inviting her to read up on the situation. "Seeing as we're going to be civilians together, you might as well get used to calling me Aidan. You're my 'business' partner, Miss Summers, or should I say Miss Greenwood - Elizabeth Greenwood. That's her - your - Identicard on the inside of the dossier. There's a brief bio inside - learn it. I am Aidan Rouse. Neither of these people actually exist but we've planted enough information in the EA computer systems to make it look like they do. You have a minor criminal record - I am, of course, a paragon of civic virtue" And as he laughs, Summers realises that he finds this mission immensely enjoyable.

 

The briefing is concise. She reads up on Dust, a wholly synthetic narcotic which, according to the reports, 'enhances the latent synaptic pathways of the brain, engendering and enhancing a telepathic ability. The user gains extremely unstable telepathic powers which invade the brain & thought patterns of those nearby, ripping memory and thoughts clear. Often those who suffer from this type of 'psychic rape' are left as though mindwiped, little more than empty, mindless shells'. It sounds horrendous.

 

Whilst the document is clear on the chemical construction, appearance and properties of the drug, there is scant information on this latest ring of importers. One courier, who records showed had made a regular trip from Earth to Mars every month, had looked left instead of right and stepped out in front of a vehicle. His satchel bag had contained several grammes of Dust; even such a small amount had a street price more than Summers could conceive. More importantly, the data crystal in his pocket held a record of a meeting with a 'Mercury' which had taken place on Babylon 5. Who or what 'Mercury' was was so far unclear.

 

What was clear was that in the few months since becoming operational, the smugglers had begun to use Babylon 5 as a regular meeting point. The courier had died before giving up any more information.

 

"Well, now that you know what little we know, what would you suggest our first move to be, Miss Greenwood? We've got a long flight ahead of us in which to plan"

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"Sir, er I mean Adian, you've read my dossier." Said 'Greenwood' a she re-read some parts of the briefing file in her hand. "I can make a Starfury do things most pilots never even thought possible. But I'm no investigator."

 

Seeing the slightly saddened look on Aidan's face, Missy continues re-reading the file and allowing the information inside it to flow through her mind and for ideas to form on their own. Her trained mind, used to see the invisible against the blackness of space, and used to treating every dogfight as a problem in spactial mechanics and geometry, she begins to apply those mental talents to the problem at hand. True, it didn't have much to do with spatial mechanics, but logic is logic. After about ten minutes, she looks up at Aidan.

 

"Aidan, I think it might be wise to try and incinuate ourselves with the criminal element on Babylon 5. Gain the trust of some of the local rank and file, and see if they can help us... covertly and most likely without their knowledge." She smiles, quite impressed with her plan, even if no-one else ends up being. "Afterall, turnabout is fair play, and getting the enemy to help in their own destructionn is an ancient tactic."

 

Missy thinks some more, as ever since Aidan told her about the smuggling ring and it's apparent newness, a thought had been bouncing around in her mind. "Aidan, there's something else I think we could pursue. The old addage 'The Enemy of my Enemy is my friend, at least until I turn round and blow them both out of the stars.'"

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"My thoughts exactly. I thought we should pose as buyers, looking for a regular supply, see if we can get an introduction to someone. Station security should be able to point us in the right direction - someone who knows someone who knows someone, if you follow.

 

"I can see you're unsure about expressing your ideas. I've brought you along precisely because you aren't an investigator - you'll think of things I wouldn't. What are you thinking about 'enemies of enemies'?"

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"Well 'Aidan', I was thinking that once we've figured out who's doing the smuggling, we could find another 'group' with similar interests and trick them into aiding us in stopping the smugglers, offer them the piece of the pie if you will, and then when the time comes, shut both operations down." Missy gets a strange, almost predatory, gleam in her eyes as she explains her ideas to her 'boss'. "But first we need to locate some friends within Babylon 5's underworld."

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"I see your file was accurate - Aggressive and confident"

 

The shuttle reaches Io, dwarfed by the gas giant around which the moon orbits, filling every porthole on the vessel. Slowly, revolving gently and gracefully into view the transfer station draws nearer. Awaiting them is their ride, the civilian liner Blomqvist which plies it's steady path between Sol and Proxima. Hyperspace, once you've experienced it for the first time, is incredibly tedious and there is plenty of time for the 2 investigators to become further acquainted and discuss their mission.

 

At Proxima, Commander Lewis decides that it would be preferable to arrive at Babylon 5 on a non-human ship, to aid the subterfuge. It's a decision that means a half day stopover until the Centauri transport Vorgal is ready to depart. There is no time for site-seeing, as the Commander insists on repeated study of the dossiers and reports, attempting every so often to catch Summers out with a question about Greenwood's background. However, the afternoon does pass and eventually the pair are secure aboard the alien vessel.

 

Even the fastest transports take about a week to make the trip and the Vorgal has seen better days. During the journey, Lewis shows Summers how to break down her PPG so that it will not set off the scanners aboard the station and how to re-assemble it afterwards. The days are slow, the journey in the only partially gravitasionalised vessel a disorientating experience but there is a gentle backward tug as the vessel decelerates, a flickering shimmering corona forms as the Epsilon jumpgate forges a link between realspace and hyperspace. The Vorgal emerges into the blackness of realspace, a blessed relief after many days of travel.

 

Ahead, with the sunlight shining from behind seeming to form a burst on it's surface, the planet Epsilon hangs motionless and seemingly dead. As planetary sunrise creeps across the surface, beams escape the shadows and lance out towards the distant stars. One of these beams explodes into the glitter of reflection and in a moments revelation what seemed to be empty dark space is filled with the floodlight mass of a structure.

 

"Two million, five hundred thousand tons of metal can sure look pretty when it wants to, eh Lieutenant?" whispers Lewis. He's right; it's a beautiful sight. The cylindrical body of the station, rotating steadily with navigation lights blinking is topped by an unmoving spine. Huge solar wings project from the body, vast but elegant and the whole structure hangs, as if strung from gossamer wires, in perfect geo-stationary orbit. The centauri ship swings around the front of the station, affording all her passengers excellent views of the station. Most of the centauri and other passengers have never been to this place before either and appear as excited and awed as the two humans.

 

The Vorgal is too large to dock herself. Instead, she is directed to a holding location and the ships shuttle is filled with the cargo and passengers which are disembarking. The short run from ship to station is made, heading directly toward the centre of the rotating barrel where the maw of the docking bay doors gape invitingly. Swallowed within, the vessel is lost to sight...

 

Stepping into the customs area after so long a journey is almost as good as feeling real ground beneath their feet. They wait in line, patiently, until it is their turn to pass through the sensors.

 

"Identicard, please" the security officer sounds bored but tries to hide it. There is a moments tension for Summers as he scans her card. "Thank you, Miss Greenwood." Relief as it clears. And they are out, through customs and into the busy public areas of the station.

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"Come on, Elizabeth. I think the first thing we should do is get ourselves some quarters and then we can see about getting started. I know this place in Red Sector that rents out good rooms." 'Aidan' shoulders his small satchel bag and leads Summers off toward the nearest transport tube.

 

They don't make it... in a narrow corridor between Blue and Red sector several packing crates have been left. As they approach, Summers notices that the 2 men who seem to have followed them have reached into their jackets. She hears the unmistakeable hum of a PPG pistol charging. Commander Lewis has heard it too, and turns in a flash but he is too late.

 

Caught absolutely unprepared, she can do nothing as a flashing sphere of plasma explodes in Aidan's chest. She cannot even attempt to dodge the shot which, luckily, streaks past her face and detonates on the wall behind her. Then combat reflexes take over and the second shot flies over her head. Scrambling, desperate, she crawls behind a packing crate as a third plasma ball dissapates on the floor behind her. At least one of the men seems to be approaching.

 

*********************************************

"As always, Mr. Handy, your services have been most welcome. I shall seek to employ you when I return next month"

 

Jack is just about to reply when, just around the corner of this narrow corridor which should take him and his client to the docking bays, comes the noise of PPG shots.

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"Down!"

 

Matching actions to words, Jack shoves his client down, then hits the deck himself.

 

"PPG's. Several of them. ####." Jack turns to his client, speaking in hushed tones. "That means either Security or a well-connected criminal group. Either way, I don't think we want to get involved. Let's go back and find another way around."

 

Before backing away, Jack risks a fast peek around the corner to see how many bad guys there are and whether they're coming this way, or tied down in a firefight. Whether you walk away from a fight or get youself killed often depends on how good (or bad) your intel was -- and knowing nothing is the worst possible intel there is.

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Taking a quick look around, Missy realises that she's got no usable weapons nearby and that it'll take far too long to reassemble her PPG to be of any use to her.

 

Peeking up to take one last look, Missy makes a dash from cover, sprinting in the opposite direction to her assailants' approach. She tries to keep her body low, and weave from side to side.... fully aware that it's costing her speed but could well mean the difference between life and death.

 

"Gotta get round that corner, or something. I need to put distance between them and me, and I can't do it running like this."

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Surprised by her sudden movement, the unknown assailants shoot wild. Knowing that she is abandoning her partner but can do nothing against 2 armed men, Missy heads as fast as possible for the corner of the corridor. Just as she makes it, she sees a man's head poke around to look down the corridor. All the man can see is a young woman scuttling desperatly towards him.

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Yanking his head back from the corner, Jack turns back to his client. "Let's move, fast! They're coming this way!" Extending a hand, he helps his client to his feet and they start running back the way they came, away from the sound of the shots.

 

Since the known threat is behind them, Jack takes the rear, checking his six.  He's not worried about the woman he saw around the corner -- she was running broken-field, which means she was expecting someone to be shooting at her. She's probably not a threat -- if she'd had a gun, she'd probably have been firing from cover rather than running out in the open like that. But she'll be coming around the corner any second now, and whoever was shooting at her is probably going to be following close behind.

 

This is why I always wear my flak jacket on the job, Jack thinks, you never know when the ####'s gonna hit the fan.

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"Oh ####! I hope that's not another one!" Missy thinks to herself as she sees the head poke round the corner. But, realising she has no choice but to chance the fact that he didn't immediately bring a weapon to bear, continues running, trying desperately to get round the corner.

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There is a shout behind her but she hears no more shots come her way as Missy throws herself around the corner of the corridor. This is Red Sector and the corridor begins to broaden.

 

Standing about 20 yards away she sees a human male, well built and bulky, standing poised and alert. Behind him is a smaller man in a suit, cowering in fear and clutching a small attache case in both hands. The first man looks a dangerous customer, well able to look after himself. The bulkiness of his upper body is obviously from some form of padding or armour.

 

Two sets of eyes catch each other in that instant of first contact...

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Missy immediately sizes up the man in front of her, and puts her hands up in a gesture of peace and in order to appear non-threatening.

 

"Don't mind me, I'm just running from gunfire."

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