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Bhumibol “Tex” Wu

This profile was originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in 2002, and reprinted in the January/February 2019 issue.

Bhumibol “Tex” Wu C7NDF9* Age 247 Cr(Unknown
10 Terms Merchant Chef (Rank 4) (Ret.), 13 Terms Used Spaceship Salesman/Restauranteur (current)
Birthworld Thurston, current homeworld Earth.
DET 34; EXP 28; Lifeforce 41; Hits 5/9
Steward (Chef)-4, Broker-3, Trader-3, Admin-3, Persuasion-3,Vacc Suit-2, Forgery-2, Intrusion-2, Streetwise-2, Engineering-1,Robotics-1, Mechanical-1, Linguistics-1, Handgun-0, Pilot Submersible-0, Grav Vehicle-0, Brawling-0.

*Explanation of UCP: The STR in Wu’s natural arm is 2.The bionic limb provides a STR22(N),and the rules I was using had you average the values if using one of each; hence 12(C).

Wu’s natural DEX is only 4 (which I think is amazingly spry for a 247 year old). The bionic arm has DEX 10(A). Averaging them together gives 7.

Replacing his internal organs provided a hearty +15 END; giving a total of END 22(N). It also toughened him up with the equivalent of AF 8.

Bhumibol spent his early years on or beneath the surface of Thurston’s (B-969865CS, Outer Rim) New Kingston Bay aboard the family’s harvesting platform; one of the ubiquitous, lobster-like, sea-food harvesting submersibles; where he spent his time maintaining the large, slow, beetle-like trapperbots, and loading them with a delightfully unpleasant mixture of rotting chum (Trapperbots, being especially dumb, find even the simplest of maintenance-related tasks well beyond them), which they release at intervals into the water in efforts to attract the ‘coconut-fish’; a hard-shelled prawn-like creature native to Thurston, and about the size of your forearm; by all accounts delicious, and almost impossible to overcook.

Eventually The Imperial Explorer featured a slice-of-life article on the proud, tradition-filled independent processors and their tough, yet rewarding way of life on one of the most beautiful (and, by happenstance, photogenic) bays to be found in the Imperium. A few years later, Imperial Gastronomique followed with a cover article on the coconut-fish; how it could well turn out to be the next big trend in the culinary world (Including a quote attributed to HRM the Emperor himself, giving them high praise indeed).

Within a year of the Gastronomique article, an offworld trade concern attempted a buy-out of the local processors using both orbital and surface freelance “motivation technicians”. During one of these “freeform motivational seminars”, the Wu’s old Nemo-class harvester, the Ascending Lotus (which had been in the family for more than 130 years) was struck by a pair of torpedoes and destroyed.

At the age of 14, after a few weeks spent as a homeless, landlubbing orphan, Bhumibol boosted off Thurston with the first merchant ship that would take him; working as both a Cook’s Assistant, and a Drive Hand.

Having spent many hours helping both mother and grandmother with cooking in the galley of the Lotus (on occasion even being allowed to help prepare some of Great-grandmother’s secret recipes), Bhumibol’s cooking ability soon wrangled him the position of Executive Chef.

As a product of having grown up on Thurston, he had the characteristic accent, which, even to the denizens of the 57th Century, is still easily identifiable as that of the cowboy stories of old; and, since everyone “knows” that all cowboys come from Texas, Bhumibol wound up with the nickname “Tex”.

With no one to send money home to, and nothing to really spend his pay on, Wu would often loan fellow crew-members money (often at seriously usurious rates). Naturally, he also became quite good at collection as well.

From one assignment to another he’d routinely sneak aboard his trunk loaded with games of chance, and a surprisingly large selection of illicit narcotics and potent potables.

A stellar 40+ year career filled with delicious and memorable meals (as well as ruthless loan-sharking, pimping, and dealing) followed; during which Bhumibol managed to squirrel away quite an impressive nest egg.

Joining the dirtside world again upon retirement, Wu put the extra-legal activities he had learned while an employee of Rowe-Turokan Cruise Lines to work again; this time as a used-spaceship salesman.

With his still entirely unproven ties to Organized Crime, Bhumibol has been able to resell used and repossessed (stolen) ships pretty handily over the years; becoming quite the entrepreneur in the process, with a large chain of dealerships scattered across Known (and even occasionally Unknown) Space, and an almost supernatural number of commercials on the Tri-V anywhere at any time. His love of cooking still a motivating factor, he eventually added a restaurant to each dealership.

Mr. Wu appears to be an elderly Asian gentleman in his late 60s, but is, in fact, a very well-preserved, 247-year-old mercantile icon who has been in the Used Spaceship and Restaurant businesses now for more than 170 years. Fabulously wealthy for more years than he can remember, Wu has been eating anagathics like candy for the last 100 years or so. His past-shoulder-length snow-white hair is usually kept tied back. He also sports a thick, bristling mustache (think Sam Elliot); the ends of which he unconsciously twirls, like some old time movie villain, when concentrating. He is short, with an extremely frail build, and moves with the slow, deliberate gait of the severely old or infirm. His posture, however, remains perfect.

As we all know, however, appearances can be deceiving. Over the years Wu has had quite a bit of work done. After a stroke limited mobility on his left side, he had his left arm replaced by a custom pseudo-bio bionic arm of amazing strength. The slow, shuffling walk is, in fact, nothing more than an act; a default program used in public for his bionic legs. Just about every internal organ has been replaced long ago; his frail appearance belying his technologically enhanced constitution of a bull. In addition, his cancerous right eye (attributed to anagathic abuse) has been replaced with a bionic one with the works; allowing Wu to practically see through a bulkhead. A head full of schemes has made him a bit paranoid, so he has had a psi-screen installed inside his head.

When in public, Bhumibol is seen in some variation on the outfit that has been part of his persona for close to 200 years: a suit of ancient period (circa 19th Century, Old Earth) Chinese clothes, topped off with a fine 10 gallon cowboy hat. In private he will more often than not be found wearing an exceedingly plush, blood-red bathrobe, and fuzzy grey house-slippers.

It is a rare thing, either in public or private, to find Bhumibol without his entourage; his 3m insectoid lawyer, plus a trio of graceful, almost ethereally beautiful Asian women of undetermined age whom he calls his ‘nieces’. Every time he makes a public appearance, there always seems to be great speculation about these mysterious ‘nieces’; both in the celebrity press (such as IT: Imperium Tonight), and a numbingly wide assortment of adult-formatted talk-variety programs (such as After Hours with Ramen and Whipsnade). The girls are, in fact, top-of-the-line pleasurebots. While they could be used to fulfill any dirty old man’s dreams, Mr. Wu uses them primarily for companionship, as valets, and (thanks to some decidedly non-standard applications) personal bodyguards.

Wu speaks Chinese, Thai, and Galanglic from growing up on Thurston. He also speaks the clickety-pop-sounding language of the H’hrryn; a race of 3m tall insects with a head for minutia and order that would cause a Bwap to go screaming into the night.

Operating under the name “Mr. Wu’s House of Larb and Waffles”, his chain of restaurants, with their distinctive symbol of a cowboy riding a knife-and-fork-wielding Dragon in bronco-bustin’ fashion, can be found not only attached to each of his dealerships, but also on their own on the concourse of most Class A and B (and occasionally C) Starports.

The places are decorated in dark woods and deep green paint, with beautifully carved wood, and cast-metal statuary, and are kept spotlessly clean. Employees are known for their friendliness, and, unlike some food chains’ employees (like the surly, green-and-blue plaid-garbed workers at “Galaxy Pizza”, for example), are paid enough to be highly attentive. The menu is made up of about 3 dozen different items, including heavily-spiced Larb, the usual breakfast favorites (including waffles, of course), and something called, erroneously, “Bourbon Street Chicken”, among others. Every meal is served with sweet potato fries; and a lamington, mango sorbet, or tiramisu are always available as the house-standard desserts. While use of the menu is encouraged (for obvious reasons), just about any dish can be whipped up, given a little time. Conspicuously missing from the menu, and which can not be made special, is any dish having coconut-fish as an ingredient.

Where the restaurants are concerned, Wu stresses to his employees that the customer is always right. In addition, his “Kids Eat Free” (up to 2 children) policy has gone a long way in guaranteeing repeat business.

An oddity of this chain is that, regardless of which restaurant you might visit, the Assistant Managers always seem to be human, and always seems to possess the squared-away, hard-as-nails look of an Imperial Marine. No need trying to work out the probability of such a thing occurring naturally; the reason is simple; each is, in fact, a surplus black-budget pseudo-bio warbot acquired thanks to a contact high up in the IN’s Quartermaster Dept. Their main purpose is to stand at ease just a bit too closely to any table with obvious toughs or troublemakers; the thing’s focused, steely gaze usually un-nerving the miscreants before anything serious occurs.

Another oddity is that, while Wu has publicly been quoted as wanting Ramen and Whipsnade’s “hearts and lungs pickled, and eat them”; and another time wanting to “set them on fire” after they all appeared as guests on an episode of Celebrity Bowling, they can, in fact, both eat free at any of Wu’s establishments in perpetuity.

Behind the register sit the various in-store merchandise; Buddhas of many different styles and materials, as well as a mind-numbing selection of incense are always available. More restaurant-themed items, such as an assortment of 10-gallon hats and popular t-shirts also sell well; the two most popular shirts saying “Life is suffering… Have some Larb”, and “Life is suffering… Have some Waffles” on the front; the back sporting the dragon and cowboy icon along with the restaurant’s name and location.

While Wu’s used-ship dealerships may move the occasional new-from-the-shipyard craft, the volume of business centers on used ships and repossessions (which, more often than not, are stolen, and either chopped and reassembled, or resold whole). With the high turnover and the nature of the used-spaceship business, there’s no real way of telling just what or when something may be available; though if told you’re looking for something specifically, Mr. Wu has been known to look into things personally. When doing so, his chances of happening to run across just the thing desired is almost supernatural. Parts and service are also available at all dealerships.

As these ships end up costing only a fraction of their original values, Mr. Wu is able to sell them for prices that would drive most reputable dealers (new or used) out of business. And since everyone likes a deal, his business has continued to flourish.

An oddity of all Wu ships, regardless of TL or type, is that each will have some volume that has been made into a small shrine to Buddha.

Always the Bounty Hunter, Skip Tracer, and Salvage Recovery Specialist’s friend, Mr. Wu is not one to take late mortgage payments or out-and-out skip-outs lying down; vigorously and gleefully applying the full weight of his considerable resources to having such problems solved as quickly as possible.

Author’s Notes

Mr. Wu originally entered my campaign as a somewhat shady, easy source of cheaper-than-normal spacecraft. Growing up and having spent most of my life in Southern California (Orange, CA, if anyone is interested), I modeled him (pretty obviously, I might add) after that late-night viewers’ bane, the man who’d “eat a bug to beat any deal”; Mr. Cal Worthington.

I wanted to change him slightly from the TV Hick I and all of my players had grown up with, to something just a bit harder to nail down. As a fan of Big Trouble in Little China, I thought Lo Pan was just too cool—both the feeble, chair-bound geezer, and the menacing, Fu Manchu-esque version , so I decided to have Wu dressed in the same type of period garb as well. Also being a Simpsons fan, I’d always liked Springfield’s most evil of schemers; decagenarian Montgomery Burns.

So, to paraphrase some dialogue from the film Platoon, I guess Mr. Wu is a child born of those 3 fathers.

Also, while it may appear that Wu’s stats are somehow off or broken from the stock MegaTraveller point of view, keep in mind that I used the Bionics rules from Traveller’s Digest #9 (the ‘Earth’ issue) to work up his gear.