SF Episode 4

GURPS Star Frontiers

Episode 4: Investigative Journalism

GST: 01:25 058.111
Local Time: Evening. 2 hours before sunset of a 30 hour day. “Weekend” day. 

Zade finally arrived back at her hotel room in Buckerton. She was glad to be back ‘home’. On the short drive back from Dobson Vehicles, she felt a bit isolated and alone. She did not like what had happened back there. This was supposed to be a boring assignment, some interviews, maybe some tough questions, but definitely not gun thugs and potential kidnappings. When she got back into her room, she shook her hands, trying to throw off the feeling. She flipped the vid-screen on and scanned through the newsfeeds, trying to put her mind on other things for a while.

Immediately her attention was drawn to the story of a body found murdered in the middle of a busy intersection. The victim had been identified as Alan Parsons, the man she had just met with earlier that day. He had been shot in the head and apparently dumped from a moving vehicle right in the middle of a busy intersection just moments before. She watched, horrified, and then her jaw dropped as the report showed the location, just a few blocks from her hotel!

She moved without thinking, because she knew if she thought she’d be too paralyzed to move.  He was alive this morning, showing her around, and now he was lying dead in the street.  Poor man.  She grabbed her purse and her glasses and was out the door, calling up directions to the location of the accident as she walked.

In no time she was staring at a typical crime scene, except this time someone she had been talking to today was the tragic victim.  She scanned the crowd, getting footage if nothing else, but tried to figure out who might be the detective in charge, if there was one on scene.  She had some information, they had some information, maybe they could work something out.

Inspector Iyer
Zade easily spots the official in charge of the scene. She approaches him and he nods at her as she walks up. “You must be Ms. Arabi. I was hoping you would show up. I have some notes from an interview with you earlier regarding an incident out at Dobson. I’m going to need you to turn that recording device off please. Follow me, we can sit and talk over here.” The Human motions to a crime scene hover van parked nearby.

Zade smiles and turns off her glasses.  “I usually like to keep that running, Detective, um...”  Her voice trails off as she extends her hand, waiting for a handshake.  

“Er, yes Iyer, Miss Zade.  Inspector Sethamura Iyer.”  He shakes her hand and releases it.

“But again, I’m going to have to ask you to turn the recording device off. I can see that it’s still on. You can either turn it off, or I can confiscate it for evidence. Your choice, ma’am. Were on the same side here,” Iyer continues, marking a few things on a datapad. Zade feels that he is an honest, hardworking man who believes in his job. She also senses that he is tired and feeling a bit anxious about something. He glances up, noting that she has not yet turned the recording device off.

She takes off her glasses.  “That’s odd, I gave the OFF command, but the indicator is still on.”  She shrugs and puts her glasses in her purse.  “Of course I want to cooperate.”  They continue to the hover van.  “I still can’t believe it - I was with him just this morning.  And then the robbery, and I still don’t know if Mister Parsons was a crook or a victim.  And now he’s dead.”  She looks into the swarthy Human’s eyes.  “So, what can you tell me about what is going on here?”

Iyer smiles.  “Perhaps I can, Miss Arabi, perhaps I can.  But first, why don’t we go over your experience this morning.  Then, I’d like you to take a look at the body, to make sure our Mister Parsons and your Mister Parsons are one and the same.”  He ushers her into the back of the hover van, where she takes a comfortable chair and crosses her legs.  She tosses her hair and looks at the inspector.  “Fine, I don’t mind going first.”  Her eyes lose focus as she recalls and relates the events of the morning.  “...I had just returned to my room at the Buckerton Arms when I saw the piece on the local news.  That was fifteen minutes ago.”  She takes a breath.  “Any questions?”

The inspector looks up several times as he takes notes on the data pad, “Yes, ok. Interesting,” he mutters. “If you will follow me, I’d like you to take a look at the victim.” He moves to climb out of the back of the van.

She follows the swarthy older man across the street to an area surrounded by police laser lines.  Iyer waves his badge at a cornerpost and punches a few buttons.  The laser flickers and he motions for her to cross.  There is a figure lying in the street, covered by a silver blanket.  He pauses at the side of the corpse, then looks at her.  She nods, and he flicks aside the covering.  The sightless eyes of Alan Parsons stare up at her.  He has managed his last project.

Zade confirms that it is in fact the body of Alan Parsons, at least as far as she knows. They step back outside of the police line and the inspector turns to her. “Thank you for your cooperation. Now, what can I do for you? Of course you know that I cannot give you any sensitive information. Ongoing investigation and all that, but I will tell you what I can. That is, of course, if you keep my name out of your notes.”

Zade nods.  “Honestly, when I left the factory I thought I was done with this.  Some sort of smuggling operation using the plasti-crates that were supposed to carry the axle bearings for the Assault Rovers.  And the transport spacers.  What sort of ‘questionable’ things might one need transport spacers for, Detective?  Any ideas?”  She stares off into space.  “I still don’t know how involved Parsons was...”

The inspector looks around casually, then speaks low to Zade, “Well, from what we have uncovered, it looks as if some of the parts were being shipped WITHOUT the transport spacers because something else was being packed in there instead. Drugs would be my guess. They are giving some of the parts a chemical analysis to see if there was any residue, though I doubt there will be any. They would have been careful to make sure any contraband was sealed very well before shipping it, otherwise customs or someone else would have detected it.

Zade looks confused.  “So how would that work?  The ‘bad guys’ for want of a better term, show up at the warehouse and steal the boxes with the drugs and bearings in them?  I thought the bearings were manufactured in that facility.  But if that’s true, they stole the boxes before they could be shipped somewhere.  That doesn’t make sense.  Or the plasti-crates were shipped TO the factory, with drugs in them, but then where do the spacers come in - they wouldn’t be necessary until they shipped out...”  Her voice trails off as she tries to wrap her head around this conundrum.

Her face brightens as she has an epiphany.  “Wait a minute - I think I got it.  The bearings would have to be made in some orbital robo-fac, and if they were just dropped back down the g-well to the factory, might not go through customs!  If someone were to compromise the robo-fac, they could add the drugs to the crates there, by taking out the spacers.  Then when the bearings got shipped, they’d be damaged and the problems with the Assault Vehicles.  The drugs were extracted here and off they go!”

Inspector Iyer was already furiously tapping at his data pad before she was done talking. “I think you’re on to something here. Let me make some calls, excuse me for a moment,” he smiles at her and steps away, turning his head and holding his hand to his ear, he begins talking excitedly in hushed tones, nodding his head and gesticulating with his hands often.

Zade stands there for a few more moments, but the inspector is off, making calls and such.  She sighs and turns back to the hotel.  It has been a long day, and she still has to write up what she’s discovered, hopefully without a lot of conjecture.  She’d have to double-check that the robo-fac theory held water, both that that was where the bearings came from and the possibility that they were not checked by customs.  If that held, then she might really have something for Argl-Bargl to sell.

And then of course, there was Disc-Blitz Boy.  Whee...  At least she got to hang out on Clarion.  Maybe she’d have time to look up some old friends.

Zade makes her way back to her room and settles in to go over her notes, do a little research and do a bit of writing. After about an hour, her comm pings. It is Inspector Iyer. “Miss Arabi, you were right. I made some calls and checked into your theory. Security on the orbital facility has already apprehended those involved. We have also made some progress on some other leads and my men have apprehended several suspected members of the smuggling ring. Check your data feed for some pics I’m sending you. I’d like to have you come down to the station to give a positive ID on them if you don’t mind, but before that, I was curious to know if you would like to accompany us to the orbital facility to take custody of the smugglers and check out the facility. It’s the least I can do, seeing as you broke the case for us.”

Zade checks her glasses for the pics even as she continues to listen to the Inspector’s words.  Excellent, excellent.  “Absolutely, Inspector, it would be the best way to conclude the piece I write up on these goings-on.  Just tell me where to be and when!”

“Fantastic. I’ve already dispatched a car to your hotel. It should be there shortly.”

Zade sends a longing look towards the shower, loads her gear back into her bag.

No sooner than Zade had grabbed her bag, there was a knock at her door.

Odd, she didn’t expect someone to come to her door.  She pauses before opening.  “Who is it?”

As she calls out through the door, she hears the click of the latch and is able to step back just as the door crashes inward toward her. A bulky man, armed with a pistol of some sort come bursting through the door!

He aims the gun at Zade and mutters “Get on the floor, bitch.”

Great, not twice in one day!  Zade starts to kneel, but the look in the thug’s eyes tells her if she tries to appease him, she won’t live to stand again.  She takes a deep breath, then launches herself forward, grabbing his gun arm with both hands!  He grunts, surprised, and tries to wrench his arm free, and finds that the diminutive reporter has a pretty good grip!  Zade smiles as she applies a hard twist to the pushy man’s wrist.  There is an audible crack.  He whimpers as his gun goes flying.  She twists as she pulls him over her hip and he goes flying to the floor.

Zade stumbles back and tries to run out the ruined door.  She almost trips over the gun, so she tries to kick it outside.  If she can just get some distance from the ugly, she can get the gun out of her purse and try to get control of the situation.  She reaches into her purse as she ducks out the door.

Assaulted by some thugs!
Out of nowhere, she feels a lash across her back, which explodes in agony.  She shakes her head and miraculously manages to shake off the black haze of oblivion.  She backpedals, still trying to get clear and get at that gun.  She starts screaming “Help!  Police!”  A Dralasite, grinning, steps forward and a stun wand flicks out again.  She feels the second shock course through her body, and the blackness returns.

Zade drifts back into consciousness, her head is throbbing like she got kicked by a robo-mule. She is sitting on the bed back in her room. Flashing blue and red lights are coming in through the open door. A police officer is standing in the door, talking to someone outside she cannot see. A medic is kneeling next to her, removing some medical apparatus. An empty hypo is laying on the bed next to her. “You’ll be fine ma’am,” the young Human man says to her. “You took a few nasty hits from that stun wand. Probably going to have some bruises, maybe a little scabbing. Looks like one of the hits burnt you a little.” He packs up the rest of his gear and hands her a glass of water and gives her a few pills. “These will get rid of the headache pretty quick. If you plan on facing a lot of thugs with stun wands, you should consider investing in an anti-shock implant.” He leans his head forward and taps the back of his neck. “Best credits I ever spent, well that and the waterproof boots. The vomit wipes right off ‘em.” The officer in the doorway chuckles at this last comment.

Zade chuckles in spite of her headache and immediately regrets it.  “Ow!  No jokes please, at least for a few minutes.”

Officer Barber
The officer at the door comes in as the medic leaves. “Miss Arabi, we apprehended both of your assailants. Looks like you had pretty much handled one of them before we got here. He was laying on the floor, holding his broken wrist, crying. The Dral tried to run, but we got him.”

Zade nods, shakes her head to clear it and winces again.  “Do you know them, Officer?  Any idea why they might try to pick on little old me?”

“Not sure, ma’am, but I’d assume they were part of that group you and Inspector Iyer were looking into. I just talked to him. He wants to know if you are still up for accompanying him or if you wanted to stay here and rest. He’s ordered us as escorts either way,” the officer responds. Despite her headache, Zade likes this guy. He seems genuine and wants to help her. “We’ll keep you safe, Miss Arabi.”

She smiles at the officer.  “Thank you, Officer...”  Her voice trails off as she waits for his name.

“It’s Barber, ma’am. Rand Barber.” He tips his hat to her.

“Well, Officer Barber, please tell Inspector Iyer that I would be delighted to accompany him on his little expedition.”  She pauses.  “Although that might be the medication talking.  But still, I’m still game if he is.”

“Great. If you have your things and you are ready, we can go.” He steps to the door and waits for her.

Zade looks around and gathers up her purse again.  She makes sure that she’s not leaving anything behind.  “Officer Barber, could you carry my bag?  I’m afraid that until that door is fixed I would feel uncomfortable leaving my things here in the room.  Thank you.”

Zade is worried after the attack
Barber grabs her stuff and puts it in the trunk of the police cruiser. His partner, Officer Zixt’Flix, a Vrusk, opens the rear door and lets her in. The ride to the station is not very long and shortly, she is back with Inspector Iyer. He apologizes profusely for the incident that happened at her hotel, saying he should have sent an officer with her in the first place, knowing that there were dangerous men still on the loose.

He spends some time briefing her on what his team had been able to put together with her leads while on the way to the police departments shuttle port. Its not much of a port, though it has several atmospheric vehicles as well as 2 transorbital shuttles.  Zade, Iyer, two other officers and the two man flight crew board the shuttle and within moments, are rocketing through the sky toward the lower orbital reaches of Kdikit, heading toward the zero-g manufacturing station. Iyer informs her the trip will take
about an hour.

When the shuttle arrives at the zero-g manufacturing facility of Dobson Security Vehicles, the security team is waiting for Inspector Iyer at the airlock. A Human and a Yazarian were in custody and turned over to the police. They were shown a container that had been intercepted. The plasti-crate was packed with small plastic containers, about the same size as the transport spacers. These containers were not solid plastic,
Police Shuttle
like the spacers, but hollow and full of small, bright yellow pills. “Hmm, Jumpstart. This stuff is nasty. You ever come across this stuff before?” he asks Zade. Zade had heard of the stuff. I powerful stimulant, mined from certain comets, supposedly. It made the user hyperactive and full of energy for a while, then caused them to crash and have blissful dreams. Minor memory loss was a common side effect of the drug and often led to a user taking too many doses. An overdose could cause a brain aneurysm, though the most common complication was known to be serious constipation leading to bowel problems. Users were known to take a dose of the drugs, then as it started to wear off, take another one, to prolong the heightened energy level. This pattern would be continued for multiple cycles, sometimes even days at a time, until the users brain just could not function any more without a break and turn itself off. Permanently.

After securing the narcotics, Iyer inspected the rest of the facility, paying particular attention to the two smugglers workstations and bunks, finding little evidence pertaining to the smuggling operation, though he did find a hidden stash of Jumpstart in the Yazarians personal belongings. He then went into the security office where he and Zade viewed several videos depicting the two smugglers unloading the drugs and placing them in the containers containing the parts, removing the real  transport spacers and disposing of them. Iyer looks at Zade, “Great job, thanks for the help, I appreciate it. You got a good eye there.”

Zade smiles at the compliment.  “Thank you, Inspector.  It’s certainly been an interesting experience.”  She waves her hand at the arrayed drugs.  “When I got the assignment to check out the safety problems on some assault vehicles, I never thought it would end up a story about drug smuggling.”  She looks at the detective.  “Okay if I get some pictures and video for my article?  And are you sure you wouldn’t like some positive press exposure?”

Iyer shakes his head vigorously.  “No thank you, Miss Zade.  I’m just happy to do my job.  But feel free to take your media of the drugs and such.  He steps back to give her room, while making sure that he does not end up on camera accidentally.

Zade takes as much footage as she feels she needs (Photography and Video roll) and then Iyer conducts her back to the shuttle.  She is quiet the whole ride down, composing her final article in her head and on her glasses.  She decides that there should be a factual article for her original assignment, satisfying Argl-Bargl and the basic contract.  But the pursuit of the facts, the danger and the tragedy, that she could turn into another article, a feature maybe.  She runs through the five W’s for the Wheel, Track and Hover piece quickly.  She takes her time, though, on the feature.  Reporters were supposed to stay transparent to the story, but dang it, she was almost killed, several times!  In one day!  Soon the parts of her experience are swirling in her head, and seems to come together nicely.  Now she just needs to get back to her room, enter the copy on her comp and run over them one more time, and send them off.  

Whew!  Long day...

Eventually, Zade gets her stories wrapped up and submitted to Argl-Brgl. He is quite happy with the results and surprised by two stories. He quickly goes into his plans to cross publish them and gets lost in some grand plan. Fortunately, Zade still knows how to handle him and she brings him back on task. He credits her account with the regular amount amount times two, with a bit of a bonus thrown in for good measure. That will cover her expenses for the month easily and she only worked for about a week.

Argl-Bargl then tells her that travel arrangements will be made for her to get underway to White Light. There she is to write a story about the new Disc-Blitz team, the Valentia Monarchs, as well as get a personal interview with Eusser Rogonz, a young, top-of-the-game player who is currently stepping out into other entertainment formats, most notably acting and public speaking. She was not looking forward to the next assignment very much, but at least it got her to White Light. She had spent notable time there growing up and even spent some time at one of its universities. Hopefully she would have time to catch up with some old friends while there.


Zade's CP reward for this episode came in the form of Combat Awareness [5]. This is an advantage that I got by breaking Combat Reflexes into 3 component parts to allow some characters to develop their fighting reflexes over time.

  Combat Awareness - You never “freeze” in a surprise situation, and get +6 on 
  all IQ rolls to wake up, or to recover from surprise or mental “stun.” You get 
  +1 on initiative rolls. (Leveled part of Combat Reflexes 1/3) 

Combat Reflexes were on Zade's Development Plan, so it was a good addition. Two good fights got her to thinking more about what to do in dangerous situations!

My text in bold (+Jason Woollard)
+Arne Jamtgaard is normal text.

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