Through offering partial ownership in the ship, Captain Wu was able to hire a new crew. However, a new crew was only half of the equation. Returning to the Black required a job to make credits to keep flying. Having been stuck on Verbena for several weeks gave Chan Juan time to learn the “who’s who in the zoo” of the local shadow market. Chan Juan and her first mate William Lemont made contact with an acquaintance named Chester, who knew of an opportunity to make some coin, but Chester had a price of for the info. Despite turning on the charm it still cost 250 platinum to get the name Patrick Hong of APS Stellar from their “buddy.”
Even with the introduction from Chester, it took careful negotiations before Hong was willing to give the untried Lattimer’s Ghost and her equally untried crew a chance. Once convinced that Captain Wu could meet his expectations, Hong had 200 tons of mining supplies ready for shipment to Regina. He also had a return cargo of 200 tons of processed silver ore. The payment would be the standard 200 credits for the outbound trip, but there was a rush for the silver ore, so APS Stellar would pay a premium for the return trip of 250 credits. The trip would be five days at cruise speed each way.
As soon as the cargo was aboard, the Ghost lifted. To celebrate being back in business and her new crew, Chan Juan through a dinner party that night. Using some of the ships limited store of real food, rather than the typical protein paste and canned goods, the crew sat in the dining area and had a chance to relax and talk as much, or as little as was their way.
A completely uneventful trip later, the Ghost reached Regina. The “starport” was to say the lest, a bit sparse, consisting of only a bare spot on the top of a mesa for a landing field, three wind worn buildings, and a wind powered water tower. The ship touched down at twilight and was not met by anyone. Opening the cargo ramp, Chan Juan, William, Cindy Schultz, and Wong Li Ming exited the ship to walk over to the operations office. The scruffy looking manager introduced himself gruffly as Grady Smith and welcomed them to the “Hou zi de pi gu of Regina.” Smith then let them know that the APS Stellar shipment is overdue and asked, since the starport is obviously small and poorly staffed, “seein’ as how time is money and all, mebbe, you good folk could can help us both out by takin’ a look for them miners tomorrow? They’s good people an’ might need help.”
Chan agreed to do just that and Smith then added, “Again, seein’ as we are a small facility, would y’all mind stayin’ aboard your own fine vessel? We are a might short on space fer visitors is all.” Chan agreed to this as well and the four crewmembers returned to the ship. At this point Cindy spoke up forcefully. “Cap, I don’t believe a ruttin’ word that hun dan said. See, I’ve got a bit of training on stress response indicators in med school and that guy was lying from the moment his pie hole opened.”
Before Chan could reply, there was a piercing scream from the rear of the cargo bay. Racing toward the sound with weapons at the ready, they found the enigmatic Xavier kneeling over a bedraggled barely conscious man. Cindy moved next to man and barked for William to grab his legs to help her get him to the infirmary. Once there, the wild-eyed man grabbed Cindy’s arm as she passed the med scanner over him and he managed to croak out. “The w-w-warehouse.” Then blacked out. Cindy used every trick she knew to save the man, but it was too late. He died without regaining consciousness from extreme dehydration and exposure from the readouts on the med scanner.
Already predisposed to find out was going on from the manager’s shaky story a warning from a dead man was all the motivation they needed to do some investigation of their own, without waiting for daylight. Having the perfect distraction in the form of the ample charms of Li Ming to keep the two guards at the main entrance occupied, Wu, Lemont, Schultz, and Xavier would sneak into the side door of the warehouse to see what game was really afoot.
The stunning Li Ming easily entranced the guards and found that the warehouse was locked to protect the property of other shippers that used these same facilities. They’d love to take her on a tour, but orders were orders. With the guards otherwise occupied with small talk with Li Ming, the rest of the group easily sneaked unseen to the side door and Xavier just as easily picked the simple mechanical lock.
Entering the warehouse, the crew found two things of interest. First, several dozen large crates all stamped “APS Stellar” and even more interesting, an obviously non-Alliance patrol boat with heavy scoring on the hull that could only come from weapons fire. Leaving Lemont to guard the air lock, the remaining three crew boarded the patrol boat. Xavier quickly found the nearest computer terminal and used her own special charms to coax the computer to tell them what was really going on. Easily hacking the computer core, Xavier found the ship was named the Raven and has been operating as a pirate vessel for several years. The pirates tried to intercept a large freighter shortly after it departed Regina four days ago, but the freighter was surprisingly and illegally armed. The Raven was forced to destroy the freighter, but not before the pirate’s pulse drive was crippled leaving them stranded. Putting down in a remote part of Regina, they took over the starport. Realizing the only actually starport employee the crew had met so far was the dead man in the infirmary. Chan ordered everyone back to the ship to gear up for what had to be done.
Once back on the Ghost, Chan had to make some tough choices. Not knowing her crew all that well, she had to make her best guess as to who would be best to assist. There was never a discussion whether the crew would do something, just who would do what. Keeping Sylvester Marsh and Xavier on the Ghost, the rest of the crew would retake control of the starport. Wong and Willis Thorton would actually take over the ship, while Wu, Lemont, and Schultz took out the guards in front of the warehouse and opened the large hanger sized doors. Once clear of the hanger, Wong would use the patrol boat’s firepower to subdue the pirates.
The approach to the warehouse did not go smooth from the very beginning with both Lemont and Thorton stumbling over rocks and making noise. The guards split up to investigate the sounds with their weapons drawn. Never willing to admit a lack of talent at anything she does, Li Ming slithered next to one of the guards as silent as a shadow. Striking with her brass knuckles, she had her man down before he even knew she was there. The second guard spotted both Cindy and William forcing both to fire. The guard went down hard, but the damage was done. The sound of gunfire in the otherwise silent night was more than enough to alert the rest of the pirates.
As soon as Li Ming moved to attack the guard, Thorton bolted for the side door of the warehouse to reach, as Lemont raced to get the large main doors open, with Cindy and Chan covering the big man. Lemont got the first of the huge doors open as Thorton boarded the Raven with Li Ming on his heels. Cindy and Chan spotted the first of the pirates from the other buildings and took them under fire. A short exchange of fire took out the two men, but not before Chan took a hit, that was thankfully stopped by her body armor. Lemont got the second door open while Chan got her breath and reassessed the their attack plan. Knowing how large the crew was on a patrol boat and how few of her crew were available to oppose them, Chan ordered everyone to board the Raven as quickly as possible.
As the three crew outside the hanger reached the Raven’s airlock, Li Ming manned the patrol boat’s bridge and Thorton entered the engine room. Chan, William, and Cindy split up as they boarded with Cindy heading for the infirmary as the other two moved to join Li Ming on the bridge. Once she started the engine ignition sequence, Li Ming sealed the airlock to keep any unwanted passengers from altering the plan. Slowed by the hit to her armor, Chan lagged behind William in the race for the bridge. As she paused next to a ladder, she heard a hatch leading to the crew quarters opening behind her. Wheeling about she attempted to fire her shotgun at the man standing there, but the weapon jammed. Dropping the useless weapon, she drew her sidearm with lightning speed; she was able to drop the stunned pirate before he could fire. Alerted to other possible pirates onboard, Chan moved into the crew quarters and ran into a second pirate. One shot to the head and the ship was now fully secured.
Thorton was able to speed up the engine start sequence, which was a good thing as several other pirates had reached the Raven’s airlock and were trying to over ride the bridge security lock out. As soon as Li Ming exited the hanger, Marsh lifted with the Ghost. Li Ming pivoted the patrol boat about and fired a short burst from the auto-cannon. This left only one pirate still standing and he was more than ready to surrender.
With Chan and Cindy keeping the remaining pirate covered from the airlock, William disarmed the man and convinced him to tell where the actual starport employees were located. Flying into the desert, to those coordinates, they found only four surviving starport employees out of twenty left stranded in the desert. The crew contacted the local authorities and turned over the six pirates that lived through the attack that recaptured the starport. Backed up by testimony from the survivors, the pirates were bound by law for a very quick trial and execution. The nearest Alliance cruiser dispatched a repair crew and took the Raven back into official control.
The crew of the Ghost loaded up their cargo and returned to Verbena on time. On hearing of the group’s actions, Patrick rewarded the group from his discretionary fund with a bonus of 500 credits in addition to the standard shipping pay.