Knowing they might have to depart with little notice, Marsh and Willis stayed on the ship ready to lift in a moment’s notice. Chan and William went to a go between they knew, a set of identical twins Fanty and Mingo as well as every other ne’er-do-well that they had ever dealt with before. Cindy went with Xavier to cover her back as she accessed the local Cortex node. Li Ming put on something exquisite and went to talk to some of her high roller contacts that she knew. The executive she met was more than impressed by Li Ming’s stunning outfit, but was only able to confirm it was some one in Blue Sun that flagged them. Exactly who the exec didn’t know however, the nature of the operation made it fairly clear it wasn’t a sanctioned deal from anywhere near Blue Sun’s top levels.
Chan’s contacts revealed that the flag was initiated by a supervisory level employee meaning it didn’t occur at the peon level. Narrowing the field to middle management was a start, but it still left thousands of possible sources for the flag. Xavier’s attempt to access the Cortex node failed and forced her and Cindy to have to flee the terminal Xavier was using, but they managed to avoid pursuit without being seen. Not gaining much real information, the crew met for dinner to discuss their options.
The disruption of the Highleaf operation is what started the whole problem. Knowing that the pirates operated between Persephone and Greenleaf gave the crew a focus for where to dig. Greenleaf, while the source of Highleaf, it also shanghaied the crew to stopping the pirates, implies they were victims. After a long debate, with Cindy and Xavier pushing to go to Greenleaf, the two women were out voted two to five to go to Persephone. In order to avoid another run in with Darius Nightblade Xavier put forth the idea of parking the ship in deep orbit and using a shuttle to bring the rest of the crew to the planet. Persephone was a six day trip from Beaumonde giving the crew plenty of time to prepare for a covert data gathering mission.
En route Chan figured out that since Li Ming had to stay on the ship, that the only other qualified pilot on the ship was Marsh. William, Willis, Cindy and herself only had the barest basics, while Xavier didn’t have any piloting skills at all. Starting immediately the entire crew began taking lessons from Marsh and Li Ming. On arriving in the Persephone area, everyone had a chance to improve their flying skills. Willis would stay with the ship and Li Ming as the other five members of the crew headed for the Eavesdown landing on the planet.
Chan and William made the rounds of the various people they knew, but despite Chan’s friends among the lower class, they came up short, failing to even gain any additional information. Xavier, Cindy and Marsh on the other hand had spectacular success. Cindy did not have Chan’s contacts, but she knew how to talk to people and after several hours of talking and an expensive hundred credits, she found the name of a pawn broker that “knew the right people”. Xavier managed despite Cindy being unable to locate replacement lock picks to replace those lost when she was arrested, to successfully access a local Cortex terminal and tap into the pawn broker’s files*. She was able to break the shop’s encryption enough to not only verify that the man was receiving regular payments from the Santo branch of the Blue Sun legal department, she even got the name of the contact – Lloyd Flannery.
Once the teams checked in Chan, William, Cindy and Xavier wanted to depart for Santo immediately. Marsh wanted to squeeze the pawn broker, but was overruled as he might warn Flannery. Returning to the shuttle, the ground crew departed to rendezvous with their ship. As soon as the shuttle docked, the Ghost was on route to Santo, unfortunately, it was a seven day trip to the planet and the new lead.
During the week long trip the raging debate was whether to confront Flannery directly or put him under surveillance. Eventually Chan agreed to give surveillance a chance even though she herself favored confrontation. Landing on Santo, the crew split up into teams, observers, questioners, and hackers. Willis stayed to do what maintenance that he could, given the budget shortage the lack of coin placed on him. Chan and William sought out their underworld friends, while Cindy took first watch on Flannery. Marsh covered Xavier’s back as she attempted to tap the local Cortex, and Li Ming got dolled up to make the rounds of the High roller tables at the casinos.
Cindy remained undetected, but failed to notice anything unusual with Flannery. Xavier again was brilliant and easily hacked the cortex discovering Flannery’s home address and the fact he had an off planet estate on Bellerophon, which should have been a bit outside the reach of a supposed mid level corporate attorney. She was so successful that she was able to plant a tracer on Flannery’s access code so that wherever he placed a call, they would know and be able to listen in*. Chan and William failed to locate any information, and while she did okay at the casino, Li Ming failed to gain any new information either. Her contact seemed to be willing to talk, but right at that moment he hit a major jackpot and got too busy to talk**.
The surveillance dragged, but the tracer made things much easier than a standard observation would have been. Aside from one extremely close call while Marsh was on duty, Flannery had no idea he was being traced. Once again Marsh’s prodigious luck avoided disaster by tipping the crew’s hands. Chan was beginning to question the whole surveillance idea as the second, and then the third day passed without anything useful. However, it just so happened, that Chan was on watch when the crew got their big break on day four. Flannery went to a fairly off his standards cigar shop and Chan spotted him passing something to a man in the shop as he left that was definitely below his standing. Forced to think quickly, Chan commed the ship to have some one else pick up Flannery’s trail as she rushed to follow the second man. Xavier easily tracked the attorney, while Chan followed her mark to a pawn shop.
Chan called for back up and shortly, William, Cindy and Marsh arrived in the hover car. The four of them then entered the store. There were a total of five people inside when they entered and Chan stalled by haggling over pawning her multi-band. Eventually two customers left and Chan gave the signal for William to lock the door. Before William could move, the shop owners reacted, having seen the signal. Chan and Cindy reacted almost as one, lashing out with fists hitting the two men behind the counter. The man that blocked William’s move to the door proved to be stronger and faster than he looked driving a fist into William’s face drawing blood and leaving the first mate reeling.
Marsh in turn surprised the man that hit William with a pile driving punch to the man’s temple that sent him to the floor, “Never underestimate the little guy!” Marsh quipped to William as the man collapsed. Chan vaulted the counter and threw a quick combination, but the shopkeeper managed to block both strikes. Marsh saw the second man drawing his fist back to strike Cindy and he growled deep and low. Taking a running leap he vaulted the counter driving both feet into the man’s side hard enough that the sound of the cracking ribs was clear to all. The man slammed against the rear wall and slid down in a puddle at Marsh’s feet. The shopkeeper spun at the sound and again managed to block the two strikes from Marsh who was moving as fast as a cobra. However, with his eyes on Marsh the shopkeeper failed to see Cindy’s attack, which consisted of the brutally effective method of grabbing his hair with both hands and slamming his face into the counter shattering the glass and the man’s nose in one move. Still stubbornly on his feet, Chan delivered a one-two rabbit punch that finally knocked the man out.
A quick pat down and Chan found an item in the same pocket that Flannery dropped it in when at the tobacconists shop. The item was a data crystal and as soon as Chan had it secured the crew took off, with Marsh and William, in the hover car, Chan and Cindy on foot. When Marsh reached the port, Blue Sun security was conducting a sweep of the area. William was just barely able to bluff his way past them, once at the ship, William commed Chan and Cindy to warn them away. William ordered Marsh to lift and told Chan and Cindy to head to the top of the tallest casino in the area. Li Ming then used her shuttle to pick up the two women. Once in the Black, the three women docked with the ship. Hoping for a course from the data crystal, Xavier met them to let them know she had already figured out the crystal was a very high level security code, but to know the rest she would have to study the crystal in depth and that could take days. Needing time, Chan ordered the ship to her best haven, Verbena and hoped Xavier could figure out the crystal during the five days it would take to get there.
* Xavier's Hacking roll on Persephone consisted of her Skill (D12+D2), her INT (D12), and three plot points (D6). Her roll was D12 a 10, D2 a 2, D6 a 6 and her second D12 a 6, using her Things Go Smooth Asset, she re-rolled the D12 and got an 11 for a staggering total of 29! On Santo, her roll was just her Skill and INT and again her roll was amazing D12 a 12, D2 a 2, and the second D12 a 10, plus she added three after the fact plot points for a total of 27 and another Ridiculous success
** Li Ming had succeeded in her Fast Talk roll, but due to her Things Don't Go Smooth Complication, she had to re-roll and the second roll failed.
*** Marsh actually rolled a Botch on his AGL + Covert attempt, but thanks to his Things Go Smooth Asset (Major), he was able to re-roll and avoid being detected.