Log 9

 

It ended up that Xavier cracked the data crystal in nine hours despite a botch in the second hour.  The crystal turned out to be a complex authentication algorithm. Xavier’s best guess was the disk would allow access to Blue Sun networks and provide an excellent opportunity to trace Flannery’s business doings and connections.

 

Touching down on Verbena, rather than wasting time looking for work that was unavailable to them, the money situation had become so critical that they did not have enough to cover repairs on the ‘Ghost, they were down to ten days fuel, and two weeks of protein. The plan was for Xavier with Chan and William as escorts, to attempt to access a local cortex node. Cindy and Li Ming would circulate around town to see what the latest buzz was on the street. Cindy rolled INT + Streetwise for a 17 and Li Min rolled her INT + Fast talk of D8 + D12 for a natural 19 to learn that any trying to do business with them would face some “shortage” of work that would make it hard to keep eating.

 

Li Ming could not get where or who was spreading this message. Across town, Xavier, Chan and William found an access node and Xavier was able to hack into the terminal completely undetected. The algorithm on the data crystal allowed Xavier to enter into Blue Sun’s network, copy the communications logs of Flannery and exit the network undetected. Signaling Cindy and Li Ming to meet at a bar for a drink, Chan was very nearly spotted, but managed to play the role of a streetwalker well enough to evade detection.

 

While at the bar, a woman came to their table and called Chan “the yellow bellied yellow woman of Abbeville.” Chan immediately recognized the woman and tried talking to her, but the woman, a Gina Taylor, was relentless in her comments about how she must have use slick words to avoid being shot for cowardice. “Well I’m certain your tongue was involved, but your mouth was probably too full to talk.” This comment brought Cindy to her feet, and it was instantly apparent that Taylor was not alone. The tense stand off exploded when Taylor rejected Li Ming’s offer of a drink with, “I’m not like your Captain ya painted hussy. I can’t afford a registered companion and even if I could, I like men.” Li Ming’s fist lashed out so quickly, that no one even saw her move. The sound of the impact was what snapped everyone into motion.

 

Taylor, reacting blindly to the two strikes by Li Ming somehow managed to block the two punches. However, preoccupied with the gambler Taylor was struck solidly by Cindy and one of Taylor’s friends counter punched Cindy. Chan landed a weak punch on Taylor, while William charged forward to deliver a powerful blow on one of Taylor’s friend’s, Xavier darted in and surprised Taylor’s second friend with a surprisingly effective blindside kick. However, it turned out Taylor had four more friends at a nearby table and the brawl quickly became chaotic. Li Ming struck at the man that had tried to hit her that William hit earlier. Chan delivered a punch that snapped Taylor’s head back and across the room. Cindy and Xavier double teamed Taylor’s second friend and laid him out on the floor. William pivoted into a crowd of four of Taylor’s friends slamming one man so hard into a second that the second man’s nose was broken.

 

The remaining two men turned on William and struck him from both sides leaving him reeling. Li Ming continued to hammer her opponent, but could not break free to help William. Chan knocked out Taylor with two pile driver punches and turned to help her old friend. Xavier again darted in and managed to distract one of the four attacking William. This gave the first mate time to shrug off the pounding and launch into an attack of his own and blocking both the uninjured attacker’s punches. William punched the man with the broken nose in the broken nose again and knocked him out. Cindy raced in to assist the first mate, but as she threw her strike, she stepped on a bottle and was flipped onto her back before the man could take advantage of Cindy’s misfortune, Chan attacked. Her one-two combination was blocked but Cindy was free to vault to her feet and deliver her own one-two punch. Williams pressed the one man remaining facing him doing trivial damage. The man Xavier distracted struck at her with full force and she managed to deflect most of the energy but still was left with a bloodied lip. Li Ming finally finished off her opponent and wheeled to assist Xavier, striking the man hard enough to leave him dazed. Xavier then delivered the knockout blow. Chan and Cindy doubled teamed another man, leaving only one of Taylor’s crew facing William. The man tried, but was no match for the first mate.

 

Every one breathing hard and several bloodied, the crew was about to take their leave when a weak voice spoke up. Taylor, still in a heap on the floor coughing and spitting blood choked out, “Fine you could always fight when someone was watching. Thing is have you learned to be stand up while alone? The annual wind race is tomorrow. I openly challenge you to face me in the race. You win; you walk away with some sort of pride. You lose, and you spill what happened the day you ran!” Chan, despite rumors to the contrary, was not one to back down from a challenge, agreed.

 

Taylor said she had a spare sled and it would be delivered in two hours. The crew returned to the ship and Chan looked up the wind race. She was aware of the race from her time between crews, but did not know the details. The annual desert wind race was on sail powered three wheeled sleds over a 500-mile course during a sandstorm. Typically 50 riders enter, but only 20 finish, the disconcerting part was only half of the riders who failed to finish survived.

 

As promised the wind sled was delivered in two hours. Willis found the sled to be in sad shape, but with extensive effort, Willis was able to get the sled fully operational by morning. Once Chan was lined up with the other racers, there was little else for the crew to do except monitor the race.  Marsh kept the Ghost on standby in case Chan needed help. Willis conducted the never-ending task of maintenance with Cindy lending a hand. Li Ming worked her way into the gambling tables with William acting as bodyguard. Xavier continued to tap into the Cortex and attempt back trace Flannery’s communications logs.

 

Chan’s wind race was a nerve wracking and exhausting ordeal. Despite her lack of experience, she was doing fairly well and managed to find herself in the lead pack on hour three. The lead quickly vanished as she barely kept control during hour four. Determined, Chan tacked perfectly in hour five and moved close to the lead again. During hour six she had a heart stopping moment and ended up on two wheels, only her position at the very edge of the winds allowed her to keep from crashing. Fighting clear of the storm itself, Chan spotted Taylor’s wind sled crash. Tacking immediately, Chan found Taylor conscious, but with a broken leg and swearing without pause. However, Taylor realized the situation she was in accepted Chan’s help.

 

The two combining strength to get Taylor out of her wrecked sled and into Chan’s. Just barely ahead of the storm, Chan figured out how to jury rig the safety harness to hold two people. Pressing her luck to the fullest, Chan got the over loaded sled moving in time to stay ahead of the storm. Despite the added weight of a second rider, Chan stayed ahead of the worst part of the storm for the next two hours.

 

During the final hour, Chan just barely managed to finish the race, the last of the 12 people in the race that managed to complete the race. As Taylor was taken to the aid station she told Chan, “We got a wave from a Blue Sun drone just before you landed, that’s how I knew to look for you. He said business would dry up if we did business with you. Don’t know why, but that’s small stuff compared to you saving me. Word was during the war in our battalion that you abandoned your post and couldn’t be counted on when it counted. Well that word was wrong. Regardless of what was said before, you have friends here from now on. If you need help setting people straight here on Verbena you have them talk to me.”

 

When Chat got back to the ship, Willis and Cindy had successfully kept the ‘Ghost’s engine turning. Li Ming had doubled her meager fifteen credits gambling, adding to the hundred Chan won for finishing the race. Most important of all, Xavier had cracked Flannery’s communications log to discover who he reported to, and that was a Phillip Keystone on Greenleaf.  The algorithm access showed Keystone to be the lead in Blue Sun and someone everyone wanted to talk to very badly.