Location: Envar Exports (Envar Town)
Lakir and Chuck leave the ship and the starport and enter Envar Town.
Chuck turns to Lakir and asks, "Ok, so where to?"
He replies, "Envar Exports. Play the 'retired scout' routine. You're just passin' through, lookin' to catch up on some scout gossip."
Envar Exports is across the "street" from Imperial Outfitters. The pair walk in and see a portly, middle-aged woman behind the counter. It isn't a store. There's a white board on the wall listing ship names and various commodities, manufactured goods, and other stuff. Most likely a brokerage. There's a door to an office right next to it.
The woman asks, "May I help you?"
Chuck replies with a question of his own, "Is this a brokerage?"
The woman puts on a polite smile that barely masks her irritation. "Yes, the only one on Envar."
"Oh, well, uh, I just got mustered out of the scouts—"
"I'm surprised they let you go."
"The war. I'm surprised they let you go. They need everyone they can get."
"Yes, well, anyway, who can I talk to about available freight and speculative cargo?"
"That would be Enli." She raises her voice, "Enli, there's a couple of gentlemen here to see you about freight."
"Be right there," a voice calls out from the office. Sure enough, in just a few seconds a tall, bald middle-aged man emerges from the office. He smiles and says with enthusiasm, "Gentlemen!" He shakes their hands as he introduces himself, "I'm Enli Gagidiki. I'm Envar's primary broker."
Chuck introduces himself and Lakir.
"Come in, please." Enli leads them to the room he came from. "Have a seat." He closes the door. Once they're seated, he continues, "We don't get many visitors here on Envar, especially traders. It's typically only scouts or suppliers. What brings you two here?"
Chuck answers, "I recently retired from the service, and I was just passing through."
"You're just passing through? With all due respect, Chuck, no one just passes through Envar. Before the war, that might've been possible, but now we're on the front lines. All real trade passes rimward of here. People come to Envar for a reason." He leans back in his chair. "So, how about you level with me."
Chuck looks to Lakir.
Lakir says, “Actually, that wouldn't be quite correct. There is a pretty heavy market these days for cross-border trade and legal high risk deliveries. Premiums rule form those that can perform. We've established a bit of a niche market and are looking to expand our customer base. Chuck here brings a lot to the crew, and we're hopin' that translates across a number of systems. This ain't the only backwater shithole looking to move cargo around in either direction. You either need the services we can provide or not. If not, we're sorry for taking your time, and we'll be on our way. We are on a timeline, so you best let us know soonest. You can reach us in the civvie side of the bay. We're the only ones there."
He nods to Chuck and stands to take his leave.
Enli says, "No, there isn't any legal cross-border trade unless it's to a client state. Not even to any of the other Imperial factions anymore. I don't know who you've been talking to or doing business with, but you obviously haven't been paying attention to the missives from the Bureaux chiefs. So either you're blissfully ignorant, delusional, or a liar. I'd like to think it's one of the first two. Regardless, I don't believe that I'll be doing business with you. Good drandir, gentlemen." He returns his attention to his work.
It's obvious this conversation is over so Lakir and Chuck leave. They make their way into the town square.
Chuck says, "Well, that could've gone better. Where to now?"
Lakir replies, "I was hopin' to see if the school cadre or students hang around town during their down time. And listen up for any rumours about missing ships, or ships that don't belong in system from any of the Envar clientele."
"That sounds like a trip to a pub's in order." Chuck checks his watch. "It's a bit early, but I don't think I've ever been anywhere where someone wasn't drinking."
Lakir replies, "Alright, let's do it."
Location: Envar Town
Chuck grins, then looks around. "Let's head down a level. I'm not seeing
anything up here."
The pair heads down the stairs. Chucks skips the first three levels and gets off the stairs at level four. He walks down one main corridor and skips the first two bars they come across. He heads all the way to the end. There's a airlock beneath the sign "Agu's Ale House". That would mean that it lies outside the main town structure.
Chuck palms the iris open and enters. The airlock is decorated with a "specials" sign and a vending machine that sells gum. Chuck keeps on walking and enters a dimly lit bar. It's hard to see how many people are actually here, but there's at least four at the bar, which is off to the right. Two loners and a couple. There's a cracking of billiard balls and some laughter in the back, a separate room with a faux wood divider that's four feet high with spindles running up to the natural rock ceiling. Another room with tables is off to the left.
Chuck walks up to the bar and has a seat. Lakir joins him.
The bartender, an old guy with grey crew cut and squinty eyes, nods. "What'll it be?"
Chuck answers, "Got any Imperial Ale left?"
"Nah. Kids finished that up months ago."
"I'll take a Ranilson Red then."
"What about you?" the barkeep asks Lakir.
"The same, please."
After pouring up the beer, the barkeep says, "You guys are new. What brings you to Envar?"
Chuck says, "I'm a former scout."
"Once a scout, always a scout," the barkeep says. He rolls up a sleeve and shows a service tattoo.
"Cool," Chuck says, "I've got one of those." He rolls up his sleeve and shows his.
"Brother!" the barkeep says and shakes his hand in an arm wrestler's grip.
"So you opened a bar outside a training school."
The barkeep chuckles. "I consider it my job to offer real world advice after the kids get done having their brains scrubbed by what passes for education these days."
"I hear you," Chuck says. "Is it that bad here?"
"It's not the cheerleading that's so bad," he replies, "it's other stuff." He leans in close and says in a hushed voice, "Management is up to something."
He shakes his head. "Not sure. I overhear things. Guys come in and complain about work going on in the outer system, except that there isn't supposed to be anything going on out there. This is a training facility. The secret shit goes on at Ninnigam, not here. There were some belters in here the other night. They were spooked. I think it was about pirates. People are wondering why the navy doesn't patrol more often with the Ngath two parsecs away."
"I don't think you want to know the answer to that question," Chuck answers.
The barkeep nods. "I suspect as much. So what brings you here?"
"Salvage op. Insurance company wants us to track down a ship that should be in the outer system."
The barkeep shakes his head. "You armed?"
"Yeah, not with much. So, asking the Base Commander for help would be a bad idea."
The barkeep nods. "Yeah. Whenever I've seen him about town, he's struck me as twitchy. I tried to buddy up once; showed him my tattoo. He looked at me like I was some degenerate. Told me I was a relic and to stay away from him and the academy. He had a couple of goons with him to stress the point. So take my advice and steer clear of him."
Lakir says, "Huh. So, with that extra 'work' activity, you haven't seen an uptick in business. I know the port sure don't look crowded."
"No. Definitely no kick in my business, or any of the other places. I've run into them. We talk shop when we run into each other. Regulars tell me the same thing."
"Also heard of some local bein' rousted—and maybe disappeared—by the fuzz the other night for runnin' his gums about some system activity. Heard anything about that?"
"Just that it happened. The guy wasn't a regular here. Considering how this place is normally pretty laid back, it's damn suspicious."
"So that's pretty strange, all said," Lakir says. "We tried to have a conversation with buddy over at Envar Exports. Bein' in the 'trade' business, thought he might be lookin' to move goods. All we got was busted balls, on how 'nothing moves across the frontier' around here. If this place is so dead, from a trade point of view, what's the incentive to keep an office open? Not like this place is exactly rollin' in exports and trade to go through the hassle of maintaining a branch office. If it's strictly imports, I get that. But it still doesn't seem to rate a branch office. Damn bureaucrats."
"Enli's a good guy. I think you misunderstood him or his company. Envar Exports is a local import/export brokerage for Envar and Envar alone. It's not a branch of the government. It's just a small company, one of the few not owned by one of the big megacorps.
"And he's right about there not being any legal cross-border trade, except with client state worlds and maybe some non-aligned vargr worlds. The Emperor got tired of the Ngath providing sanctuary to all of them damned pirates. And those 17th Disjuncture vargr are just crazy.
"Now if you told him 'frontier', he probably thought that you meant cross-border, and that would explain any misunderstanding. No one wants to think that Envar is a frontier world. That makes them think of recently settled worlds over past the Marches. Envar's been an Imperial world all the way back to the first one. It may be a backwater, but it's been around a long time.
"But if you know something he doesn't about cross-border trade, well, Enli's not the kind of guy to defy a decree from the Emperor or the Bureaus."
Someone waves to the bartender from the other end of the bar. "Scuse me, fellahs."
Chucks turns to Lakir, "You good?"
"Yep, good to go."
Chuck downs the rest of his beer and pays their tab, along with a healthy tip. He says goodbye to the bartender, then he and Lakir leave the bar.
"Where to?" Chuck asks.
"Back to the ship," Lakir replies.
NPC: Chuck, Uengghae, Kagak, Captain Su Daagudakur and her crew, Ushin
Location: Miishakaal, parked at Envar Down
While the crew is in the midst of preparing the ship for departure, and the two
captains are working on their course, Lakir and Chuck return to the ship. They
immediately go see the captain.
"How did it go?" Gvarokh asks.
"Could've been better," Chuck answers. "Envar Exports was a bust. Found a bar a few levels down run by a retired scout. He says that guys come into his place complaining about work in the outer system, except there isn't supposed to be anything going on out there.
"He also said that the Base Commander was odd, didn't appreciate the Scout brotherhood and all. Even threatened him to stay away from him and the academy."
Vlad, who arrived in the lounge upon hearing that Chuck and Lakir had returned, says, "That doesn't sound like a true Scout at all."
Chuck turns to him and replies, "No, it doesn't."
Chuck then turns to Lakir. "You got anything to add?"
Lakir lets out a long sigh. "Seems like a lot of in and out going on in the system, not recorded and clandestine. With no 'strangers' comin' to town, it looks like an outsystem log exercise. Helps to keep the profile down. What we didn't see, or get to talk to, were any scouts from the school. Not too sure how that looks, from a 'curriculum' and course loading point of view." He looks with raised eyebrows at Chuck for feedback. "My experience, there's always a student somewhere lookin for a drink, regardless of the time 'O day."
Chuck shakes his head. "It depends. If the rules are that strictly enforced, no student is going to risk it. With everything we've heard about the commander, I would say that," he looks at his watch, "no student is going to be drinking during this shift. If you want to wait until 8:00, we should be able to find someone."
Lakir continues, "Otherwise, this place sucks. And we should be ready for a hot exit 'cause I don't think leaving this system is going to be straight forward. We should expect trouble from the time we light off to the time we hit jump. I've got a BBBAAADDD feelin' about this."
Dougok growls. "This place stinks like carrion. We can stay around and sniff out the corruption, but I think we know enough to pass on to our patrons and let them investigate. I say we leave now before the jackals decide to take us down. We have a job to do."
Lakir adds, "Well, either we can hang around for a few hours waitin' for some students to hit the bar and Chuck and I can get another intel run or we can just get on with it and blow this joint."
Gvarokh replies, "Let's just go. We aren't going to find anything more useful at this point, and we ought to go while we can."
Afterwards, Chuck asks, "Anything happen while we were gone?"
Gvarokh explains that Ushin was spooked by his trip to the Starport Warden's office. He wasn't spooked by the discovery that piracy is indeed on the rise, but rather by the fact that the assistant who aided him recommended that Zirunkariish just write off the ship as a loss as the outer system was too dangerous.
He further explains that Vincent wanted to hack the academy's computer network, but as things on Envar are a bit on the primitive side, that would've entailed breaking into the scout base to plant a router. The plan was deemed too risky.
And now it's time to ship out.
Next: Searching Envar's Outer System