Wedding Planners was written by: Margaret Weis
Masunori Yatsumoto stood over the body of Cy Law, Captain of the SERENDIPITY, watching intently as the blood pooled on the dock and dripped slowly through the metal grating. It was beautiful in a way, watching the dark red fluid gracefully flowing along the cold steel of the pad. He felt enlightenment in watching the scene, regarding the thin line that humanity walks between life and death. He knelt close enough that he could smell the metal odor of blood mingling with that of the rusting metal structure. He whispered to Cy, as if comforting him, although the man had died the moment he was shot in the back of the head.
“For man death is something that cannot be avoided, and he knows not when it will come. This is the root of unlimited anxiety,” he said aloud, smiling at Cy. “We can not pass up death. It is the ultimate reality, and it belongs to everyone personally.”
The sound of heavy footsteps drew his attention to the airlock. A man in black combat fatigues covered by heavy armor stood in the doorway at the top of the loading ramp. His face was covered by a gas mask, and reflective goggles. A hood covered the rest of his head. He was holding a large belt-fed auto-cannon in his blue-gloved hands, resting longways across his chest.
Yatsumoto frowned and shook his head. He already knew what the Officer was about to say, and yet it needed to be said. “Report, Lieutenant.”
“We’ve rounded them all up, sir. They are being held in the Common Area on the Lower Level of the ship. They all claim that they have not had contact with the fugitives, sir. We found no one aboard that matched the identities of our quarry.”
Yatsumoto stood up slowly. “They are close, I can feel it.” He took two steps towards SERENDIPITY, and gazed across the way towards another FIREFLY on pad 49. After a moment, he turned his gaze back to the Lieutenant. His voice was devoid of emotion, all business. “Very well,” he sighed. “Summary executions for the entire crew.”
The Alliance Officer nodded. “Yes, sir.” He turned to walk away, but Yatsumoto’s voice prompted him to stop.
“Tear the ship apart, Lieutenant.” He turned to look at the other FIREFLY a second time. “These tramp freighter have nooks and crannies where fugitives could easily hide.” He paused, and cleared his throat again. “And find out who was piloting that Shuttle that docked on landing pad 49. I want to know why they took such an interest in our duties here today.”
The trooper nodded a second time, pausing only for a moment before heading back into the ship. “Consider it done, Commander.”
He stared out at pad 49. The registration codes were too small to read at this distance. But Yatsumoto’s sharp eyes easily picked out the logo on the flanks of the FIREFLY. “LIBERATION,” he breathed. “Soon you’ll tell me all your secrets, too.” 
Things were not smooth for Captain Benjamin Clemson. His ship was falling apart, a problem that they were rectifyin’ at that very moment. His crew was bellyachin’ and had a damn right to be, honestly. And on top of that, he had been forced to head out to the middle of nowhere in the barrens outside Persephone because his brainblown Ship’s Doctor had decided to spend the last three hours on planet commitin’ every wáng bā dàn crime he could think of with his fèn duī brain.
Not that he was against the idea of the Doctor gatherin’ up some coin to help pay the rent, but his antics had gone and guǎi mǎ jiǎo in a big sort of way. He had Randa and Quinn watching the Cortex, and flags where popping up everywhere that the Doctor and his gang went in that gorram shuttle. Digital captures had them wanted for questioning, buzzing the Alliance, and generally disturbing the peace. On top of that, he’d sent them into town to gather some supplies and run errands which resulted in them stumbling into an Alliance trap, and abandoning one of the crew who was busy being a wáng bā dàn at some whorehouse downtown. 
The good news was that Blake had been delivered to Badger, and then little man was happy. He’d paid right up, dropping 2700 credits in hard coin with little more than a little name-callin’. Actually, the more the though about it Benjamin expected Badger would, as usual, try to squirm out of the deal. But to his surprise, Badger paid without a quibble. What’s more, Badger already has another job lined up that paid a hefty sum. Benjamin may found this more than a mite suspicious.
“What’s the matter, Captain?” Quinn’s voice held an edge of annoyance to it. She was busy helping the mechanics run the wiring that was would solve the brownout problems for LIBERATION. It was a tedious job, and Benjamin’s preoccupation with thinkin’ wasn’t getting the job done any faster.
The Captain frowned, and fed more wire through the panel to Quinn. “Just thinkin’, that’s all.”
Quinn mumbled, the screwdriver in her mouth making it a mite difficult to enunciate properly. “That’s a problem, Captain. When you start thinkin’ it turns into something like herding cats.”
Benjamin laughed. “It’s just that Badger had us Blacklisted, and then brings us on for two high payin’ jobs in a row. I mean, your usual complicated transport of passengers is a going rate of … what … maybe 750 credits? An’ even if it were illegal cargo, we’d be lucky to pull 1500. And yet he drops nearly 3000 for the kid, and brings us on for a second job for nearly a much … plus a full tank of fuel?” He paused. “It’s fishy.”
Quinn stuck out her tongue. “Gift horses and mouths, Captain.” She grunted, and finished screwing another access panel into place. “Now if you’re done with your worryin’ we have work to do before midnight.”
The Captain nodded, trying to focus on the work at hand to get his ship into proper shape. The job Badger handed them involved chaufferin’ the stepdaughter of some well-to-do land baron on Persephone to her wedding aboard a luxury cruise liner, the Rim’s Dream. The girl’s name is Lilianna Fairchild. According to Badger, the job is simple — deliver the girl to the cruise liner in time for her wedding. Of course, Benjamin didn’t expect to be paid much for such a simple job. Enough to cover the cost of fuel, and room and board for the girl, her bodyguard, and chaperone. Turned out his expectations here exceeded. However, he wouldn’t be gettin’ paid until the girl was delivered to the ship. So time was of the essence.
At midnight, Lilianna arrived in a sleek, black limo with two more limos accompanying her—one filled with bodyguards and the other with her luggage consisting of two heavy crates, a good many suitcases, handbags, and hatboxes. Accompanying her are her own personal bodyguard, Seth Liang, and her wedding planner, Asante Okoro. Additionally, a young woman who could almost pass for Lilianna’s younger sister brought up the rear. She was simply introduced as Lilianna’s “assistant.” After introductions were made, Randa escorted Lilianna to her room and select members of the crew started hauling all the luggage into the cargo hold.
Although her security stopped several of the paparazzi from approaching the ship, the sudden flashes of cameras erupted out of nowhere. Someone must have tipped off the press to Lilianna’s secret rendezvous and these annoying reporters were looking to score an exclusive. One reporter managed to get past security, and made a mad dash for the ramp and airlock of LIBERATION. The Captain just smiled wryly as he hit the button to raise the ramp and it slammed shut before the reporter could get on board. As the airlock closed, the reporter shouted, “You’ll regret this! I’ll plaster the name of your ship all over the Media! Everyone will know who you are by tomorrow morning!” 
Once the Princess’s luggage was inside, the guards and the limos departed along with the reporters. Benjamin secured the airlock, and headed for the Bridge. Quinn did her job expertly, and LIBERATION headed out into the Black.
Lilianna was a walking headache. She did not make a good first impression. She expected the Crew to carry in her luggage, of which there was a considerable amount. When she removed her low-light spectacles and looked at her surroundings, she recoiled in shock and horror. Being well raised, she tried to cover her initial reaction, murmuring something like, “The interior is very…um… functional” and then “I suppose one gets used to the smell of … what is that? Cows? Dogs?”
The Young Miss Assistant said almost nothing. She remained quiet, taking in the sights of the ship as if she’d never seen the interior of a spacecraft before that very moment. He avoided eye contact with anyone, and gave the impression of being very shy. She followed Lilianna like a little lost puppy, remaining on her heels as Randa led them to their assigned quarters on the Lower Deck.
Seth was all business. He was wearing combat fatigues and a heavy armored vest with no patches or insignia. He carried two pistols – on one his hip and another on his thigh – in well-worn holsters. A fine looking Jian was strapped on his back. He made it clear that he planned to not let Lillianna out of his sight, and demanded that she be locked in her room without permission to leave – and no visitors in or out. He also wanted to be placed in a room next to her, perhaps so he could monitor her using listening devices … who knew for sure?
Asante on the other hand, was kind, cheerful, and pleasant. It was obvious that she took a shine to the Captain right away, although he made it her business to flirt openly with any of the male Crew. She was dressed in no-nonsense business clothes and low-heeled shoes. She wears dark-rimmed glasses. She has a leather satchel and one piece of luggage, which she carried herself.
The next morning, Asante made a big deal out of preparing a delicious meal for the Crew and its guests. Everyone enjoyed sampling the food that would be served at the Wedding Breakfast. It included fresh foodstuffs that the Crew hadn’t tasted in a long while: eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes, orange juice, and cow’s milk.
After breakfast, Doctor Edwards made a point of escorting Lilliana throughout the ship. Apparently the two knew each other, although it was clear that Lilliana was only somewhat familiar with the Doctor. But when you’re in a strange place out in the Black, a friendly face is a comforting thing. Lilliana mentioned something about how sad it was that the Doctor has lost his job at the hospital over some kind of accident. The Doctor had quickly changed subjects, focusing on comments about her mother and stepfather. When the Doctor dropped Daniel’s name, it obviously upset her but she kept her outward calm like a practiced diplomat. In the end, she asked to speak with the Doctor later and retired to her room. 
At that point, things started to go south. First, Quinn noticed that there was a glitch in the Communications System. It looked like someone had been on the Cortex since they departed Eavesdown Docks shortly after midnight. To make matters worse, it seemed to pulse and bounce its signal. Quinn thought it might be some kind of tracking device designed to piggyback on to the ship’s Navigation and Communication systems. Although Bejamin did his best to track the device down by following Quinn’s instructions, nothing was found. In the end, all they could do was shut down the Cortex connection, but Edwards advised against it claiming it would alert whomever was “listening” and prompt some kind of violent intervention. 
Long story short, they were suddenly between the inevitable rock and hard place. But before The Captain could make a sensible decision on how to handle the situation, the proximity sensors alarmed, warning of an incoming vessel. Quinn scanned the ship, and moaned.
“Can you tell what it is?!” The Captain seemed a bit nervous.
“We’re humped.” moaned Quinn. “It’s HARD BURN. They’re coming in fast.”
A second proximity alarm sounded, and Quinn leaned forward, her eyes widening.
The Captain gestured wildly. “What?!”
“A missile,” she said with dread in her voice. “They’ve fired a gorram missile!”
NEXT: INTERLUDE ONE
GAMEMASTER SESSION NOTES
 Doctor Edwards decision to “buzz” the platform brings LIBERATION to the attention of Masunori Yatsumoto, an Operative of the Parliament. Although this does not have immeadiate consequences, it does put the ship on the radar, so to speak. This is why LIBERATION is no longer a “needle in the haystack.”
 These events took place in “Green Horns.” Edward, Abel, and Mack caused some trouble in Eavesdown that attracted unneeded attention.
 Again, LIBERATION gets some media attention as the ship which is transporting Lilliana. This draws the attention of many different eyes across the ‘Verse.
 Doctor Edwards is suffering from some psychosis here. He attempted to use his ARTIFICIAL READER distinction to trigger SECRETS, SECRETS. He made a MENTAL+KNOW against Lilliana but failed the roll. Therefore, a Complication of PARANOIA was put into play at D6.
 In “Green Horns” Mack was approached by a mysterious woman who paid him to put a tracking beacon on LIBERATION. Mack agreed to do so figuring that once they were out of Eavesdown Docks and in the Black, he’d destroy the beacon. However, due to Mack’s laissez-faire attitude and behavior, he failed to worry about the beacon. He was too busy drinking, playing cards, and looking at pictures of rabbits on the Cortex.