This adventure was originally posted to Freelance Traveller’s website in 2004, and was reprinted in the February 2013 issue of the magazine.
During a quiet layover, a recent acquaintance asks the players to help him procure a certain brand of liquor for an upcoming anniversary. Not surprisingly, neither the players’ new friend nor the liquor are what they seem.
Ideally, any world in the Imperium with sufficient population to support military formations large enough to belong to the subsector’s Unified Army. With a little work, referees can place this adventure in any location, however.
The player-characters are looking forward to a few quiet days. They could be waiting for a ship, a cargo, a job, or anything the referee may desire. It really doesn’t matter, all the players need be doing is enjoying their leisure time at the various bars, saloons, and cafes within the local Startown.
During these pub-crawls, one Arne Huppe befriends the players. Huppe, who insists on being called ‘Huppy’, is a jovial middle-aged man always quick with a back slap, joke, and the next round of drinks. Huppy will be dressed neatly in the clothes and cap of a local workingman. He is below average in height, bandy legged, and has a shock of white hair. His face and knuckles also reveal him to be a bit of a brawler.
Although he currently works for a local freight handling firm, Huppy is most proud of the hitch he served some 25 years ago in the grav infantry brigade that is this planet’s contribution to the subsector Unified Army. He still wears a lapel pin displaying the crest of that unit; the 77th Fencibles. During his time of service, the 77th—or ‘The Double Natural’, as the troops referred to it—deployed off-world as part of a ‘peace-making’ operation.
Huppy will eagerly chat up any Army or Marine veterans among the players, swapping stories about military life and combat. While as exaggerated as any military recollections, his stories should raise no real suspicions among the players. One thread running through his stories will be a certain type of scotch his specific unit—a transport company—drank almost exclusively during their deployment off-world. Known as “Von Kreuger’s Special”, Huppy and his comrades engaged in many an escapade while under the influence of ‘old Victor Kilo’, as they called it.
The players will come to realize that Huppy’s reminisces will be due in most part to the upcoming 25th anniversary of the ‘peace-making’ operation. A local veterans’ organization, the Imperial Legion, will be sponsoring a series of events to commemorate that operation. Huppy will be looking forward to seeing his old friends again. A couple of bottles of ‘old Victor Kilo’ would make the reunion that much better, but the planetary government heavily taxes off-world liquors. Huppy could probably swing purchasing a few liters, but getting enough booze for all of his old transport company is just impossible.
After bemoaning his inability to buy enough of the scotch, an idea will suddenly come to Huppy. The players, if they’re willing, may be able to help Huppy out of his predicament. And it won’t be anywhere near illegal!
In an Imperium of 11,000 worlds, everything is illegal somewhere. More importantly, everything is taxed somewhere too.
The Imperium’s support of free trade applies to the free movement of goods between Imperial starports and through the space in member systems. It does not refer to the movement of goods across the extrality line. Canon is crammed full of examples of worlds prohibiting or taxing off-world goods. This is where smuggling enters the picture.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of real world smuggling does not involve illegal goods. Smuggling is used to avoid taxes and tariffs more often than actual prohibition. The market for untaxed goods is vastly larger than that for prohibited goods, thus making the potential profits just as large at a much smaller risk. Use of an illegal substance must remain surreptitious while use of a legal—but untaxed—item holds no such problems.
This is not to say that SPA and local customs officials won’t be looking for untaxed goods as much as prohibited ones. It does mean however that there may be a bit more ‘wiggle room’ for the smuggling of untaxed goods.
Huppy’s idea is a simple one. He’d like the players to purchase the liquor for him and bring it across the extrality line.
As off-worlders, the players are allowed to ‘import’ a certain amount of untaxed goods across the extrality line for ‘personal’ use. Currently, each can bring in two liters of liquor duty free per visit. This doesn’t mean that the players can cross the extrality line dozens of times every planetary day with two liters of booze. To renew their duty free privileges they must first leave the system and then return.
Von Kreuger’s is currently selling in the starport for 100 CrImps per liter and the planetary government imposes a flat 200% duty per liter making any purchase of sufficient quantities of ‘old Victor Kilo’ well out of Huppy’s financial reach. With the players’ help, Huppy can buy enough booze for the reunion. Huppy will front the players 200 CrImps each, along with an additional 50 CrImps each for their ‘trouble’ that he insists on paying. The players will then pop into the port, buy the booze, bring it across the extrality line, and deliver it to Huppy. For an outlay of 250 CrImps per player, Huppy will be getting 600 CrImps of booze.
As Huppy will explain, “Pretty simple, ain’t it?”
On the appointed day, Huppy will meet the players, hand over the money, and make plans to meet them the following day at a local cafe. Everything will go smoothly up until the time players are supposed to meet Huppy. No matter how long they wait at the café; a seedy dive called the ‘Ham and Windmill’, Huppy will not show. The players now have a few options open to them.
- Find Huppy: The players can ask around but they’ll have no luck finding Arne Huppe. The staff at the bar where they met him will admit that Huppe had been a fairly new ‘regular’. The freight handling company he said he works for has never heard about him. Neither has the local stevedore union. No one at the local Imperial Legion post knows an Arne Huppe and the records of the 77th Fencibles will contain no one of that name.
- Sell the booze: The players have two liters apiece of some very pricey liquor. With Huppe gone missing, they may be tempted to sell it. Many establishments in the local startown will jump at the chance to purchase a 300 CrImp bottle of liquor at discount. If the players sell the booze, the final price they receive should depend on their haggling skills. As the referee will see below, the players’ customers will soon come looking for them.
- Have a snort: Why not have a few fingers of ‘old Victor Kilo’ for themselves? Huppy was always talking about it, so why not sample it? The first thing they players will notice is that the liquor smells horribly. If any are still stupid enough to drink it, they should become deathly ill almost immediately. Normal first aid for poisoning; regurgitation, etc., will be effective. If particularly stupid players ingest a large amount of the liquor, referees should feel no remorse in inflicting proportionate medical consequences.
- Dump the liquor: Once ‘Huppy’ disappears, some players will get rid of the liquor as soon as possible. Most of the others will want to dispose of it after the liquor makes them ill. Very few will turn the booze over to the authorities along with the story about ‘Huppy’. Whatever the players do with the booze, they’ll likely come to the attention of the law.
The liquor bottles obviously contain something besides ‘Von Kreuger’s Special’. The scotch has been laced with a controlled chemical compound. Many governments in the subsector control the compound because it is used as a reactant in the production of an illicit drug. Arne Huppe’s story about the 77th’s reunion was obviously a plan to smuggle the reactant on-world. The police officers investigating the players will inform them that enough of the reactant was contained in each bottle to make tens of thousands of CrImps worth of the drug in question. The ‘liquor’ the players brought across the extrality line could have manufactured close to a million CrImps of the drug.
The players should be cleared eventually of any real involvement in the drug trade. As one officer will put it, “Their story is so stupid, it must be true!” The players may find themselves on an ‘persons of interest’ list for awhile with all the problems that entails. Persons other than authorities will also be interested in the players however.
The people who the players sold any of the liquor to will come knocking. If the players are lucky, all they’ll want is their money back. If the players aren’t lucky, a few beatings may be in order.
Finally, Arne Huppe or the people he was working with may start looking for the players. They may have a few unanswerable questions they want answered.
As always, the referee should determine the course of further events.