Having recovered from their intense grilling, the squadron settled in to a routine of boredom and training waiting for their next assignment. Unexpectedly Lieutenant Tuvalo directs them to C deck to receive a briefing he doesn't appear too comfortable with. Upon arriving they appear to walk into a heated discussion between Major Dei and a senior officer who is introduced as Deputy Director Graydon Thrice, a handsome human male who looks like he can handle his own in a fight but with a distinctly official air. He is accompanied by a Bothan and a Protocol droid who sweep the wing and the room with what members identify as detectors for listening devices.
Unlike their last mission they are greeted with what could almost be considered an overly detailed briefing breaking out an assignment quite unlike what they've experienced to date. Thrice explains that a former Imperial Grand Moff Ardus Kaine was regaining his assets from his time as Grand Moff under the Empire and aligning them under his personal banner as the Pentastar Alignment. During the post collapse confusion many Moffs took their wings and sought refuge with criminal elements or setting themselves up as warlords. One such Moff was Ardus Kaine who escaped with his standard compliment of two Victory Class Star Destroyers and his Imperial Class Star Destroyer and his entire Executive Staff and their related units.
Thrice explained that Imperial Intelligence operates a division that functions under the auspices of reconciliation and reparations from former Imperial overlords but is in fact a covert information gathering force. Gamma Wing has been identified as high power assets that can be utilized to infiltrate a situation in which currently no New Republic assets are available to attend. Zorba the Hutt was able to convince Rann to join his operation and now that Kaine has "politely" asked Rann to rejoin his forces he has invited Rann and his men to the Winter Palace on Nal Hutta in a final attempt to convince him to stay a part of his organization. A wing in the Winter Palace has been converted by the Imperials as a makeshift headquarters, and Gamma Wing are expected to conduct a "black bag" operation (break and enter) with minimal violence to retrieve (but not destroy as that would tip the hand of Imperials) all information possible and exit.
Closing out the briefing, Major Dei appears unsettled but wishes them luck and that the Force be with them before the doors close on the briefing. Irys Bey'lar, the female Bothan aide to Thrice, explains that they are to submit their requisition requests which will be dispensed at 0400 hours prior to departure.
Making preparations each crew member go about their activities with Tazo-Rhi seeking out one of the more colouful Mynock team members. A former smuggler who decided he had enough of the criminal life and joined Mynock to put his pilot skills to good use. This smuggler instructed Tazo-Rhi on how to play the part of a smuggler, mainly by indicating that she needed to loosen up. Tazo-Rhi set immediately to studying how best to play at being relaxed. Kero checked in on their stricken colleagues paying particular attention to Stavros. Keth readied fall back gear for the mission, and they all hit the sack early for their early morning roll call.
Meeting the Bothan aide Irys Bey'lar, she reiterates they will be taking a tramp shuttle which will make rendezvous with the New Republic mole Zutton Mygraph, a Snivian "smuggler" who is in fact deep cover for NRIS and will be their handler and assist them on this mission and will provide them with cover identities and documentation.
Given a sign/countersign phrase they are dispatched in a tramp shuttle piloted by Warik who will remain with the craft to ensure it remains safe and maintain their cover as spice runners returning from a particularly good run being rewarded by their boss.
Stowing their gear they settle in. Tazo-Rhi tries (awkwardly) to impress her commanding officer with her assumption of a "smuggler" role. Kero quickly adjusts the tactic explaining that she should play to her talents. Meanwhile Keth explored the tramp shuttle and found several smuggler's compartments. All were empty save one which was loaded with Death Sticks. Loading his pockets he figured it never hurt to have some extra "Currency" with which to barter dirt side. The initial several hours were fairly uneventful, but a half dozen hyperspace jumps took the wing to the fringe of Hutt space. After a series of very turbulent jumps they were dumped to Normal Space in the middle of a nebula, with ion storms raging around them cutting this pocket off from regular communication. Very dangerous, because if they strayed in to the storms the ship could be torn apart. However, their target was there, a YT 1300 freighter welcoming like a home cooked meal. Unfortunately when communicating with the sign Zutton replies with something other than the countersign. This triggers the crew to prepare for battle.
Warik pulls alongside the freighter attaching docking clamps, and as the airlock cycles they are greeted with an empty hallway. Quick thinking and quicker wits spot the pending trap. Rolling in the crew make short work of the pirates holding the entrance, killing several of them but taking one prisoner to intimidate him in to disclosing the location of the rest of his crew, his captain and her first mate (as well as intimidating him in to relieving his bowels and bladder). Leaving Warik to bind and lock the pirate in one of the smuggler holes back on the shuttle, they move in to free their contact.
On reaching the stretch of hallway Kero adeptly slices in to the ship's computers and then proceeds scanning the rest of the ship checking for any traps. Girding themselves, the crew begin to move in to the hallway where they see Zutton and try and talk the pirates into handing him over, but this does not go well when suddenly what can only be described as a rat/lizard/man pops out of an air vent and drops a jerry-rigged flashbang in the middle of the room. After a frantic several minutes, the wing pull back with Zutton and Ricca (Zutton's compatriot who apparently keeps him out of trouble). Ricca takes a blaster and zips up into the vents and they launch a coordinated attack to clear the hall and reach the bridge (which lies on the far side of the trapped pirates). Eventually they over-power and take prisoner the pirate crew, but not before making enemies of the pirate captain.
After the confusion dies down Zutton explains the pirates boarded and took his vessel after coming to the aid of their damaged ship. Providing their cover identities for the operation he lets them settle in (but only after snorting in disgust at Kero's outfit, tearing a sleeve and smearing some coolant on it to make it look like something other than a fancy dress party costume).
Director's Commentary (September 17, 2016)
I wasn't actually the director of this session, nor did I write the recap. The player who normally ran Warik was kind enough to take over as guest director for a short adventure, which gave me a much-needed break at a busy time. I ran Tazo-Rhi, who was normally an NPC; I liked her character so much and her personality/accent was easy to get a handle on so it made a natural choice. I've always appreciated it when players are willing to fill in to help their director out, as it's good for long-time directors to refresh their batteries (so to speak) by getting a chance to just have fun and relax. I first used the technique in running seasons of Watcher (a Buffy the Vampire Slayer campaign) and it worked perfectly, as, just like the show, every writer/director has a different approach even though playing in the same universe. The technique can have drawbacks in campaigns that are less episodic, as the "main" director has to be wary of not allowing "guest" directors to introduce elements that can get in the way of the main plot. But that wasn't a problem here.