(53) Whisky Galore

The Misha Campaign (290-1121 to 293-1121)

58 / 2876 local (290-1121 to 291-1121) : Wonstar / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

    It's evening in the town of Starcom.  Edward "Shark" Teeth collects orders for the North Whipsnade Irish-style whisky from Nightshade's crew -- it will add up to a hundred cases.  Tonight he'll pick up the rental truck and collect the whisky, and then transfer it to the ship in a quiet spot in the countryside.  The cost was agreed to a thousand credits a case (twenty bottles each), and they figure they can sell it for an easy 150 Cr a bottle.
    The allocation of cases is as follows: Shark, 37; Callisto, 21 (including one for her whole use); Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead, 1; Kalida Siena, 6; Mich Saginaw, 10; Vonish Kehnaan, 5; the ship, 20.
    As for future plans, they discuss what to investigate next.  There are several Wonstar Development Corporation sites around the world, and Misha Ravanos suggests visiting one or two of them openly.  As for cover, that's not so clear -- Kalida suggests their love of scuba diving might be enough.
    But tonight they're going to the bar to buy illicit whisky.

    Shark drives everyone to The Last Cab -- a total of six people.  It'll be a strange looking bunch.
    When they arrive, Shark tells them to sit down at a table.  The bar used to be a taxi station, and has retained the layout of its former use.  The bar is where the dispatcher used to sit, while picnic table style seating is provided in what used to be the garage area.  Andy didn't show up last time until after midnight, so they've waited until 11 o'clock to arrive tonight.
    The place is fairly busy, a little busier than last night.  While the group settles at a picnic table in the middle of the floor, Shark pulls up a stool to the bar.  He's confident that his companions won't cause trouble, having briefed them on fight etiquette.
    Helia Sarina wants margaritas, of course, but the bar only serves whisky, beer, and rum.  The larian settles for a boilermaker, but the whisky tumbler won't fit inside the beer glass.  She pulls out a bright pink eggcup, fills it with whisky from the tumbler, and drops it in the beer.  The beer foams over the side, but she's deftly arranged it so it won't spill on her.  Helia's picked an outfit she considers appropriate for the setting, of course -- she's wearing her black leather catsuit underneath a brightly covered patchwork vest, a backpack, and a very brief bright red miniskirt, which with the sprayed-on fit of the catsuit leaves nothing to the imagination.  Her bright red button sandals have platform heels.
    The bartender -- Ben -- recognizes Shark, and asks him which one is his boss, although he quickly realizes that Misha is in charge.  Misha is not wearing his sword, of course, since it's part of the description of the person wanted in connection with the WDC killings.  Callisto looks the least out of the ordinary, while Kalida is noticeably classier than everyone else here.
    Kalida goes up to the bar and gets a beer each for her captain and herself.  Ben gives the whole group an extra round on the house.
    Shark waits for Andy, watching the customers from his seat at the bar.  Initially the clientele consists mostly of taxi drivers coming in and out, but towards midnight business picks up.  Shark notices there are a lot of regulars from the previous night.  Ben knows them all by name.  After midnight the entertainers filter in; one group is dressed in the same style as Helia, and they exchange waves and smiles.
    Shark walks over to the crew's table, and points out that the entertainers have come in, and they'd be a very good source for the scoop on recording companies.
    "Who's our business manager?" asks Misha.  The group exchange glances and suddenly all look at Kalida -- she obviously looks the part.
    Kalida asks, "So all we're looking for is a recording company, right?  Not performers?"
    "Well, you know," says Helia, "I am a star, after all."
    "You look the part," says Kalida quickly.
    Helia uncrosses and recrosses her legs the other way.  She is now getting the attention of the whole bar, getting second glances from everyone who comes in.  The rest of the table could have been wearing clown outfits and no-one would have noticed -- with Helia around, everyone else is inconspicuous.  Now if Misha had been wearing his large sword...
    Shark returns to his seat at the bar.

59 / 2876 local (291-1121 to 292-1121) : Wonstar / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

    At about 00:30, Andy comes in.  He walks over to his table; the people who were sitting at it get up and move elsewhere, while someone brings a drink over to him.
    Shark approaches Andy.  They exchange greetings, and Shark sits down to do business.
    Shark says, "My colleagues and I are interested in that business deal we were talking about."
    "Yes.  Certainly."
    "I was wondering if you could move a hundred units."
    "That is certainly not out of the question.  At your convenience."
    "Excellent.  We have arranged for a truck.  We can bring it by.  Cash at that time, or...?"
    "Yes," nods Andy with a smile, "Cash at that time."  He pulls out a business card, writes something on the back, and hands it to Shark.  "That's the place.  In about two hours."
    Shark thanks him.  He notes that the location is different from the last time he visited Andy.
    Andy continues, "Those your friends over there?"
    "Yes, those are my... uh... employers.  Flashy bunch."
    "Who's the lady in the designer suit?"
    "Her name is Anne Bonny.  So you guys have some money, then."
    "That's the real stuff she's wearing, isn't it, not a knock-off."
    "Yes, it's the real stuff.  Would you like me to introduce you?"
    "No, that's fine.  But you might inquire if she's interested in a bottle of something very special, in line with her income.  Or yourself, if you've got that much cash, you know, you can turn this thing around.  I just can't move it out."
    "I see."
    "That would be a separate deal.  I'm not going to talk about that here.  But you might ask if they've got a quarter million to throw around for a bottle."
    Shark nods.  "Thank you.  See you in a couple of hours."

    Meanwhile, Helia and Kalida have gone over to a group of musicians in the front corner of the bar.
    Helia says, "Would anyone care for a candy?"  She takes a cloth containing several different pieces, and lays it out on the table.  Several of the entertainers take her up on it.
    Kalida starts the conversation.  "I've heard of the recording company Greengrass records.  What do you think of them?"
    "They're pretty legitimate and selective, not heavily into the mass market.  Pretty decent," says one of the musicians.
    "You can tell we're not from anywhere near here," smiles Kalida, "But the group I'm with, we're interested in perhaps purchasing a recording company.  Would this be a good company to approach, or are there others...?"
    "Dunno.  Do you want to make money, or further the cause of music, man?"
    "Yes," say Helia.
    Kalida says, "Both at once would be best."
    "Hm.  Well if you want to further the cause of music, it's a good one to do it with."
    Helia asks, "You're talking quality acts?"
    "Oh yes."
    Kalida mentions some of the band names she found in the music store.  The man nods appreciatively.  Kalida continues, "Very different music than where we're from.  I think it would cross over fairly well."
    "So where are you all from?" asks the man.
    Helia replies, "Well, I'm from a hole in the wall place that you've never heard of.  We've all travelled long and far."
    Kalida gets back to the subject: "Can you suggest any other recording companies?"
    "Yeah," says the man, "It would be great if you would buy Black Hat.  They produce decent music, but if you bought them you could fire all the executives and put in some decent people."
    Helia asks, "Are they your company?  Are you signed with them?"
    "No.  We don't have a record deal."
    "You don't?  Do you have a demo?"
    "No.  We play every night at the Blue Parrot down there."
    "We could see if we get a chance to go there."
    Kalida agrees, "Yeah.  We'd like to go listen to you perhaps."
    The man smiles.  "Sure, come on by!  Hey, we'll buy you drinks."
    Helia says, "Can't pass that up.  Do they have margaritas at the Blue Parrot?"
    "Blue margaritas at the Blue Parrot?"
    "Um.  I'm sure they could come up with something."
    Kalida and Helia thank the musicians, say they'll try to be by to listen, and go back to the table.  The man gives Helia a certain look as she gets up and leaves.  Helia flirts back and walks off with a smile.
    On the way back to the table, Helia tells Kalida, "There are only two types of men that appreciate me.  One of them are creeps, because they can't get past the part that I look like I ought to be 8-9-10 years old, and the other ones realize that I'm just a very short woman.  He was one of the second group, near as I can tell, so far."

    Shark rejoins the crew as Helia and Kalida return to the table.  As he sits down, a whisky and beer arrive for everyone, courtesy of Andy.  Shark says, "I've arranged our first transaction with Mr. Andy.  He is, based on you..."  Shark points to Kalida.  "...offering us a bottle of something very special for a mere quarter of a million."
    Kalida says, "A mere quarter million, eh?"
    "Yes.  He's unable to move it locally, and since we travel about, he thought we might be interested, because obviously you can afford it."  He smiles at Kalida.
    Kalida laughs.
    Helia is still stuck on the price.  "A quarter million for how much?  One case?"
    "One bottle," Shark and Kalida chorus.
    "Oh.  This special stuff?"
    "Yes," continues Shark, "And we can discuss that later if, say, you would like to accompany me on the pickup.  Um.  Captain?  It might be wise to have some heavyweight backup."
    Helia says, "Is there any way he'd take a bank draft?"
    "If you have a legitimate account under that name, that would be no problem."
    "He doesn't know what name I have.  Helia wasn't mentioned in the news."

    Shark asks Kalida, "Do you know of anything that might be worth that much?"

What Kalida knows (1)
(Referee and Kalida's player only)

    Kalida says, "We might want to discuss this in a more private place, not in the middle of a bar."
    It's time to leave anyway.  Shark stands up and says, "Shall I get the car, sir?"
    Misha says, "Time to go?"
    "You asked for a call at this time, yes," smiles Shark, and leaves the bar.

    The rest of the crew leave when the minivan arrives outside the door.  Helia is pleased that Ben rinses out her eggcup for her, and leaves him a very large tip -- and gives him a lot of candy, including some with some strongly alcoholic centers.

    Once in the minivan, with the radio turned up, they can discuss things freely.  Roger Jolly and Anne Bonny will take the truck and collect the shipment of 100 cases of whisky.  Since they'll be carrying 100,000 Cr in cash, Shark says he'll feel more comfortable with some serious backup -- for example, Teri Cralla with appropriate armament.  He then suggests using Nightshade as backup.  Misha is opposed to this initially, until he has been convinced that the ship itself doesn't have to be exposed, just Teri ready to shoot from the cargo lift with the ship stealthed.
    Shark then asks Kalida what the quarter of a million bottle might be.
    Kalida says that she could no doubt find someone who would be willing to buy it.  She doesn't know exactly what it is, but there are all kinds of things that are rare: "Maybe illegal, and have to be run around blockades, things made in such tiny quantities that maybe you only get one bottle a year, or a bottle a decade..."
    Shark says that the next question is whether the ship wants to invest in such an item, assuming it checks out, based on their gunner's view of its worth.  No-one else -- even Callisto, who's worked as a bartender -- knows what it might be.
    Kalida says that normally you'd only come across such things in the "right" social circles -- unless you're into ordering 10,000 Cr glasses of wine with your dinner, you would probably never hear of such bottles.  You'd never find it at a bar or restaurant, only in private clubs or in one's personal quarters.
    Shark says, "Oh, by the way, Andy recognized your clothing as the 'real thing.'"
    "Well," says Kalida, "He has taste.  I wonder where he's from?"
    "Another thing: Andy may know more about what's going on around here."
    Misha asks, "So, the question about this alcohol is whether it's actually worth that much money?"
    "That, whether it's worth it, and whether we want to invest time in Andy as a potential source of information."
    "That would be fine.  I'm also willing to invest that much money if in fact it's an investment and we're not just being ripped off.  And I'm willing to trust anybody if I know where they live."
    "We know where he is every night.  We haven't figured out where he lives yet."
    Misha laughs, "Well, find out where he lives."
    "That requires surveillance."
    "Or as long as you have a way to find him."
    "We have someone who's good at surveillance and following people.  Information services, as I recall.  Let's call on our IS department."  Shark is right -- Jaekovic Ils-Nevronne has more than proved his ability to deliver on his promised skills.
    Misha asks if they can take some sort of scan to pick up a signature for Andy, and track him through sensors.  It is explained to him that they can do that to a limited extent, but it would probably be quite easy for him to lose them.
    Still, the priority right now is to get the whisky shipment.  Robert Morris is not too bad at driving a groundcar, but in general it's a fairly weak point for the crew.  Shark will drive the truck, while Robert gets the minivan.
    Shark moves on to a full mission briefing.  Robert is to stay two or three blocks away with the limo.  Shark points out the locations he considers likely sniper positions.

    Robert drives the mission team to the truck rental.  Shark and Kalida -- Roger and Anne -- climb into the truck, and leads to the address on the card.  A street sign is an immediate casualty of Shark's driving, as he pulls the articulated 18-wheeler out of the rental place.  Still, it looks like the sign has been hit before, and they have no more problems reaching the address.
    This warehouse is a couple of blocks from the previous one.  Shark updates the others as to where the snipers are located -- right where he expected them to be.  Shark stops the truck, gets out, and goes up to the door.  As he approaches, Andy opens it.  Shark pulls the truck in as directed.
    Shark is out of practice with such a large truck, and it takes a couple of tries to back it in correctly.  There are plenty of hefty guys around with sufficient forklifts, and they start loading the truck immediately.  The hundred cases are already stacked separately; the warehouse contains many more such shipping crates.
    Shark walks into the office with Kalida.  He introduces Anne and Andy, and they proceed with the transaction.  Andy doesn't count the money in the suitcase.
    Immediate business out of the way, Kalida says, "Roger was saying that you had something else that might be of interest."
    "Yeah," smiles Andy.  "Something that I can't move around here.  I got it in settlement for some deal I'd made.  I came by it legitimately, but it's not something I want to pay taxes on, you know, not on such a large transaction.  But there's no market for it here.  Around here there's some people with the money, but they don't like this style."
    "Depending on what it is, we might be interested."
    "Have you ever heard of Blockade Bourbon?"
    "That's what it is."
    Shark is surprised that he's never heard of it.
    Andy continues, "It's the hand-blown etched bottle.  Natural stopper, original stuff.  A hundred years old.  Now I don't know the exact chain it came through, but I've satisfied myself that it's genuine, the real thing."
    Kalida nods.  She know it's really cheap at Andy's asking price.  If they were to take it to Capital, they could probably sell it to the Emperor's household for five million -- and they wouldn't ask where it came from.
    Andy continues, "Bourbon doesn't sell here.  It's all the Irish style.  But you're obviously well travelled.  I'm sure you know people on Rhylanor you might be able to sell it to."
    Kalida answers smoothly, "I might be able to find someone."  Even at Rhylanor or Mora, they could move it quickly for two or three million.
    Shark is a little startled at Andy carefully naming a specific world, as if it were significant to Kalida, but he know it isn't her homeworld.
    But Andy is looking only at Kalida.  He says, "Obviously I don't keep it here, but if you're interested we can arrange a meeting..."
    "I'll need to talk to the rest of the group," says Kalida.
    "You know how to reach me.  It is a pleasure doing business with you."
    Shark and Kalida walk back out into the warehouse and climb into the truck.  This time Shark has no problems maneuvering the big rig.  He tells everyone else that they're heading out of town.
    Vonish is piloting Nightshade.  Shark tells him to meet them at the rendezvous, and continues out of Starcom into the farmlands.

    In the middle of nowhere, Shark brings the truck to a halt.  He looks all around with his PRIS binoculars, using all his skill to try to see if they're being observed.  He sees no-one, except Robert pulling up behind them in the minivan.
    Vonish lowers Nightshade's main cargo lift and locks the ship in position.  Shark backs the truck up to the lift perfectly, and offloading takes place.

    Now that they're secure, Kalida tells the others that it's Blockade Bourbon, and if it is indeed real it represents a massive investment.  Almost no-one else on the crew has heard of it, not even Vonish, and it's mentioned in none of Helia's books.  The Grand Admiral alone has heard of it -- he knows it's very desirable, but he's never seen any.
    To prove it's real, says Kalida, is a matter of accumulating physical evidence.  First, the bottle is very distinctive; performing chemical tests on the glass and etching is the next step in determining authenticity; the stopper is sealed with a wax that can also be tested.  This particular bottle does not have a provenance, only leading from the person Andy obtained it from.  If the tests say it's genuine, it can be assumed to be so.  The facilities are available on Nightshade, but according to Robert there is no record in the data banks of what tests to perform.

What Kalida knows (2)
(Referee and Kalida's player only)

    Obviously they'll have to buy it on faith and then test it.  Robert points out they essentially did the same with the North Whipsnade whisky they've just brought on board.  They run a densitometer scan of the crates, and the readings are consistent with them all containing the real thing.  Still, Helia insists they should perform a taste test, too.  Kalida suggests they just take some bottles back to the hotel, and do the taste test after driving back into Starcom.

    Shark has no trouble driving back to the rental place, but Robert is not so lucky.  He's finding it hard to follow the unmarked road at night, and drives into the drainage ditch at the side.  Fortunately, no-one is hurt.  Shark looks over the situation, and says they can either try to get it out, or call a tow company -- after all, they have rented it.  Robert opts to drive it out.  He almost succeeds, but it will take quite some physical effort to help the limo out of the ditch.  They can't manage it -- while Robert's doing all the right things behind the wheel, the others just can't apply enough strength to get it to bite.
    They call in Teri.  Vonish flies the ship over, and Teri hops out in battledress.  She easily helps the truck out of the ditch, and then pulls herself out of the soft ground.  She steps back into the invisible ship, and the ground convoy continues into town.  Shark offers Teri a bottle of North Whipsnade from his private stash in thanks, and she gracefully accepts.
    The journey is still tough for Robert.  This time he drives off onto the shoulder, but just saves it before sliding into the sharp ditch.  Shark and Kalida, safe in the large truck, make snide comments.  Robert slows down, and gets to town safely.
    Even when they aren't flying gravcraft, this crew still ends up crashing...

    Back at the hotel, they discuss the quarter million bottle of illicit hooch.  Shark asks what Kalida thinks the Archduke would pay for this -- it might get them out of trouble for the black ship.  It would be a great big chip in their favor.
    Misha suggests just sending it to the Archduke under the name of Akim Gavrolovitch.  That, however, wouldn't buy them any favors.
    Robert suggests that they could send it to Marquis Marcus Crestworthy to give to the Archduke, and then call in favors through him.  The Marquis could give it in the name of the captain and crew of Nightshade.
    Shark laughs, and says that if and when the Archduke hears about the black ship, it will probably include the information that they're calling it Nightshade.  That would not, however, cancel out the time lag in communications, and would probably not be enough to save their skins.
    With that final thought, they party until dawn...

    It's the afternoon before the crew stirs.
    Shark says that the first item on the agenda is how to approach Andy to purchase information, and what information do they tell him?  He won't ask why,  but they need to have a why in mind.  They want to know who is currently behind the Wonstar Development Corporation -- who is the leadership?  The question is how to get that information out of him without applying thumbscrews and fish oil.  "Actually," says Shark, "The Admiral can probably give him an injection so he'll babble all night and not remember any of it."  He calls up Bridgehead on the commdot.
    The Baron says, "I have something better than that.  Something administered in food or drink, that makes someone want to tell everything as well as tell the truth.  I'd have to mix in some sort of cocktail that would make him not remember.  That would be tricky, but I can do it."
    Mich laughs.  He remembers the babble cocktail.
    Misha and Shark agree, however, that not only is inviting Andy to some sort of party to question him not straightforward, but it's downright unfriendly.  Shark would never be able to drive a taxi here again.
    Shark reminds them why Andy might be a useful source of information.  He says, "He seems to be somewhat connected with not only the underground, but the elite.  He says he got the bottle from someone in settlement of a debt.  That's one heck of a debt.  So he knows someone with means, is in a position to collect and is surely actively collecting rumors of anything illicit going on in his turf."
    Misha says, "So we want to ask him a question that will get him to talk about the WDC without actually asking about the WDC.  If we actually ask about the WDC, it'll put him on his guard.  OK?"
    Shark nods.  "My interrogation skills run out at that point."
    Kalida says, "If we could steer the conversation along so we could idly wonder about the shooting at that building, that at least gets the WDC into the conversation.  But I don't know how we'd steer that into what we need to know."
    Shark smiles, "Pump him and dump him, and leave on the next ship -- our ship -- out.  But assuming that he gives us some information, we may have to keep him for a day or so while we talk to other people.  Then we dump them all together.  On an island.  Without clothes."  He laughs, then continues, "So what can we do other than a snatch and grab and drug and dump?"
    Misha asks, "Well, what have we told Andy about why we're here?  Nothing?  Good.  The best I can come up with on the subterfuge thing is something like there's a company that we're interested in buying, but we discovered that it's indirectly owned by a company that's a front for Wonstar, and just pretend like we're totally ignorant -- who's this Wonstar?  What do you know about Wonstar?"
    Kalida says, "That would give us a good reason to ask about them."
    Shark says, "And as our business manager...  come on, you dress the part, I'm just a chauffeur, I can't do that!"
    Misha says, "So, make up a fictitious company that is a front for Wonstar."
    Callisto says that there might actually be one.
     Shark suggests using an offworld company as the front, and say that they came here because it's the corporate headquarters, and that's why they're really here.  He adds, "I don't want to use a company he might know about, or know that there isn't such a company."
    Kalida suggests using a company from Jewell, that she can say is owned by Wonstar.
    Misha points out that puts them right back where they didn't want to be -- saying they were here to investigate the WDC.  "But let's just do it.  Let's invite him up here, and just tell him that in the course of our investigation we've come across the name Wonstar Development Corporation.  What does he know about it?  We can even come up with a couple of other names of big companies, and throw them at him too."
    "Fine," says Shark.  "You find companies, and I'll go get him and invite him to brunch tomorrow or a late dinner."  Consensus favors the latter, even though it won't be until after midnight.  Shark continues, "We'll invite him over to finalize the purchase of the bottle, and we can bring this up during conversations.  And you want to do it tonight?  OK.  Just in case, would the Grand Admiral have his cocktail ready -- and I'd like to study your notes on it later, Baron."

60 / 2876 local (292-1121 to 293-1121) : Wonstar / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

    Shark heads to The Last Cab.  About midnight, Andy comes in and sits in his usual place.  Shark goes over to him, and says, "Anne and Edward would love to talk to you further about that collectible of yours."
    "Yes," says Andy.
    "Would you like to join us for a late dinner at our suite?"
    "Actually," he says, pulling out a card and writing something on the back, "How about breakfast tomorrow?"  He hands Shark the card.
    "I will pass this along."
    Shark tells the rest of the group what transpired with Andy, and on the way back he drives past the address -- as a good driver should, to check out the place, he tells himself.  It's about twelve blocks away, a block off the main drag just like The Last Cab.  It's an all-day all-night place, called the Black Moon Diner.  Plate glass windows, lots of stainless steel.  It's fairly quiet right now.  Across the street is the back of some nightclubs.  There's a hardware store and an auto repair shop in the same block, with a gas station in the next block down.  He takes a photo to show the others back at the hotel.

    In their rooms at the Grand Imperial Regency Hotel, Shark tells everyone about the meeting with Andy the next morning.  He says that he told Andy that Anne and Edward wanted to meet him, and as driver he will probably have to stay with the car.
    Misha says that as Shark's paranoid streak is running, he wants full backup -- the ship hovering above, and Teri on the ground.
    Shark drives the ten miles out of town, and brings Teri back to the hotel.  Obviously this needs to be done during darkness, as Teri is to bring her full gear.  The minivan is big enough for her to suit up in the back.
    Shark drives by the Black Moon Diner several times at random intervals, and together they pick out a good spot for Teri to hide nearby.  Teri installs herself in hiding, and Shark returns to pick up Edward and Anne.  No-one else will be along this time.