Running at hard burn for twelve hours, the crew could only wait to see if there would be pursuit, but there was none. Chan called a halt to access the most likely course they should take next and to best sell their new cargo. There was quick consensus that the Mao sector was just too hot for them between the Alliance, the Neo-Brownoats and the proximity of Greenleaf with the vindictive Baron Chang Wen Shen. However, it was very obvious that the cargo of food stuffs would sell best on the Rim. 

The nearest world was Ita Moon, but as that is the birth place of the Neo-Browncoat rebellion, it was clearly a bad idea to try and sell back cargo that could be considered theirs on a world that friendly to the Neo-Browncoat cause. Returning to Ezra was currently a bad idea due to their recent escape from there and with Greenleaf off limits that only left Triumph, St Albans, Jiangyin, and Higgin’s Moon as options with all four worlds too poor to afford to buy the cargo.

As the crew debated over where to go, they received a wave. Marsh went to the bridge to check out from who then called everyone to the bride to hear. It was slightly garbled one way message for William from a Davis Monk on Triumph. His small settlement was under attack by slavers!  The group arrived a day earlier and initially tried to sweet talk the settlers into “jobs” for a new terraforming project, but when that failed, they returned with muscle and are grabbing everyone.  The wave ended as several burly attackers burst into the room and the screen went black. 

William is beyond furious as Monk is one of his best friends. He along with Jason Pettigrew’s bachelor’s party caused the fire at Lang Jiang’s Pleasure Palace three years ago when a pair of twin dancers took a liking to Davis. William didn’t even have to ask before Chan orders Hard Burn. However, Xavier supplies that even at Hard Burn; they are twenty-eight hours from Triumph. Not having much choice, the Lattimer’s Ghost leapt to maximum speed to do what she could to help.

The Ghost dropped into atmo at 1315 on 17 Aug 2518 and Marsh flared for landing on Monk’s settlement. Xavier and Willis stayed on the ship as guards as the rest of the crew, in full armor, swept through the homestead. The settlers did not go down without a fight as there were plenty of signs of a fight. There were dozens of spent shell casings and five bodies: Monk’s older brother Don along with four others known to William to one degree or another. Marsh found what passed for Monk’s office and listings of who lived on the homestead. Less the five dead, that meant seventeen people counting Monk and Jason Pettigrew were missing.

While making a final sweep, Li Ming heard a soft noise. Moving silently, Li Ming moved into position and checked fire on spotting a small boy hiding in a crate. As soon as he knew he was seen he burst into tears. Li Ming was able to calm the child who said his name was Henry Yi and that bad men hurt Uncle Frank so Mister Monk could talk on the Cortex. He added that the bad men took Mama and Papa away and the cows needed tending. Despite the burning rush to do something, the boy was right. Since the Crew had nothing to work with to try and pursue the slavers, the homestead needed some work to make ready for long term lack of care.

William and Marsh took care of the buildings while the others under Cindy’s directions got the animals set up for free ranging. While rounding up the pigs, Xavier spotted some unusual shell casings that Marsh recognized as belonging to a Dragonbane Pit Viper .41 caliber pistol a very rare and almost unique weapon. Clearly a weapon owned by the slavers. Cindy and Xavier knew that the weapon was exclusively made on Santo. Exactly how this information would be useful was unknown, but enough to have Xavier attempt a Cortex search. 

The homestead was ready for long term lack of care by 1800 and with Li Ming having become default nanny for Henry, the crew re-boarded the ship. As Xavier uplinked to check the Cortex, an adformercial was being pumped out as the uplink was established. William gasped and pointed at the feed of the Carney barker loud ad showing pit fighting. A new fad in the ‘Verse, but what was so shocking was the chain of contestants, in the background as the announced crowed about the new program starting tonight, Death Matches! One of the new fresh meats would face a hulking fighter called the Grim Reaper every night for the next week in a fight to the death! 

As the camera panned the line of captives, Davis Monk was fifth in line. As the fresh meat will fight in sequence, the crew realizes Monk only has five days to live unless they rescue him!  Xavier managed a partial trace on the hidden node transmission to detect it originated on Santo.  Marsh quickly figured that at Hard Burn, it would take thirty-six hours to reach Santo. Chan ordered immediate lift, but nothing would save the first poor sap on the chain that, thankfully, William didn’t know well, but that didn’t change that Monk was fifth and Pettigrew was sixth. 

During the trip to Santo, Willis was able to comfort William during the first half of the trip, but the anxiety as the hours during the second half of the trip. Li Ming had better luck in keeping Henry Yi comforted, visiting him frequently in the room the Crew had set up for him. Arriving 2300 on 18 August 2518, the Ghost set down with Marsh and Willis staying on board to keep the ship on hot standby for immediate departure.

The rest of the crew in carefully concealed body armor and discretely armed fanned out to find out what they could about the Circuit. Cindy and Chan tapped into their contacts to unload their cargo, as William, Li Ming, and Xavier tried to follow up on the Dragonbane pit viper pistol.  Chan found a buyer for the cargo in record time and used the proceeds to pay the docking fees and partially refuel the ship and to pick up some cigarras.

William called in a few markers and likewise quickly found that sales of the pit viper have been poorer than expected and that no more would be made. However, William turned on the charm and got his contact to yield that only five of the rare weapons were sold outside of the Core, two on Boros to a mayor and a sheriff, one to a now deceased smuggler, and a pair to the renowned slaver Ripper Rusinski. William thanked his contact and the three departed to head for the ship.  Less than half way there, both Xavier and William noticed they were being followed. Turning to face their shadow, they found three local toughs moving to circle them.

William tried to get the thugs to back down, but to no avail. William told them to make their move and all six combatants burst into action. As was typical, Li Ming moved first and her blinding fast attack struck her opponent with a flat palm to the nose bridge that caught the thug so completely by surprise that he was unconscious with a shattered nose before he could register that he’d been hit. William attempted a similar move, but his opponent blocked the attack and landed a weak counter punch in return. Xavier knew she was out of her league and concentrated on not being hit. Her strategy however wasn’t successful and she took a weak punch of her own, bursting into tears despite the weakness of the blow.

The thug closed in on Xavier and Li Ming attempt to slip behind him. However, as she moved, she kicked a tin can making a god awful racket causing the thug to wheel in time to face the gambler, and right into a perfectly timed spinning roundhouse kick that sent teeth flying and the thug crashing to the concrete. Williams’s luck continued to be bad and he continued to take a pounding with nothing to show for it. However, when the last thug realized he was the last thug, he decided to cut his losses and bolt. Rolling the two thugs yield a paltry 5 credits and 30 platinum, but it made up for some of the annoyance. The three made it back to the ship without further incident and rejoined the rest of the Crew. William added the small take from the thugs to his own small cash to top off the Ghost’s fuel supply. 

After a quick huddle, Chan made the call to have Marsh, Willis, and Xavier stay with the ship.  Marsh would stand guard as Xavier and Willis kept the ship on hot stand by in case the others ran into trouble. Chan, William, Cindy, and Li Ming would wear standard armor and carry side arms in an attempt to avoid any further problems. Knowing that spacers like to talk and that drunken spacers are the easiest to get to talk, Chan led the way to the entertainment part of the spaceport. It didn’t take long to find a spacer willing to talk and when Li Ming amped up the charm, the man spilled the name of Ripper Rudsinski and a load of fresh meat taken to a liner named the OddEasy.

Rushing back to the Ghost, Cindy and Li Ming took over guarding the airlock as Marsh returned to the bridge and Xavier did a check on the Cortex. All she could find was the ship was twenty-five years old and built for a now defunct ship line. Hacking into the spaceport’s system, Xavier found that the OddEasy departed two days ago. Cross referencing the ship’s specifications still on the Cortex from when the ship was launched to great fanfare as the OddEasy to the listed time of departure, Marsh quickly extrapolated that there was only one planet within range of the OddEasy’s speed.

Xavier dimly remembered that there was an Alliance navy base there and was thus unlikely to be the OddEasy’s destination. However, William recalled that there was a moon, while uninhabited, made a great transfer point because the Alliance figured no one would go anywhere near a moon near their area of operations. Alliance hubris was such that they didn’t patrol the moon figuring proximity would keep smugglers away. The really good smugglers however, figured this out and how to exploit the Alliance’s overconfidence. 

Not having much choice, Chan ordered Hard Burn in an effort to overtake the OddEasy as quickly as possible. Marsh outdid himself with his astrogation as he estimated the OddEasy’s course and picked up the old liner on sensors with some twelve hours before Davis Monk was due to face the Grim Reaper.

Cindy attempted to act as Li Ming’s agent to gain access to dock, but failed miserably. Xavier detected a targeting array locking on to them, but astonishingly, Willis successfully placated the crew of the OddEasy and Li Ming with William as escort were allowed to dock via shuttle only. 

The Ghost and the rest of the crew had to stay two kilometers off the OddEasy’s port quarter with the targeting array locked on them the entire time. Security met Li Ming’s shuttle and while the gambler tried to distract the men as they searched the shuttle, they were more professional than expected, giving the hidden Chan a terrifying moment as they came very close to finding her hiding place. However, the Keepers as they were called failed to find Chan and departed after making it clear that trouble would not be tolerated. Li Ming smiled and agreed and asked for her and her body guard to be escorted to the ship’s casino. 

As soon as they reached the plush casino, Li Ming dismissed William to wait in the shuttle. Li Ming began working the crowd. When William got back to the shuttle, he hooked up with Chan and they began their infiltration of the ship to free Monk. While Chan and William made their move, Li Ming began to work her magic at the crap table and despite being goaded into making a few more bets than she planned, she had soon more than doubled her money before moving to the poker table. Seeing that her luck was only fair at best, she went back to the crap table and began a solid run that soon won five fold what she started.

Chan and William carefully sneaked onto the main deck to reach the corridor that led to the holding cells. Deciding on a direct approach, Chan played the lost guest as William continued in the role of bodyguard. Chan played her role to the hilt and kept the guard absolutely distracted, which allowed William to strike from complete surprise with a savage punch to the throat that collapsed his windpipe and killing him within minutes. The guard did not have any keys on him and William pulled out his electronic lockpicks as Chan drew her pistol to cover William as he worked on the lock. Despite the complexity of the lock, William was able to override the security system and get the door unlocked. 

When the door opened, William was stunned to find a second guard waiting inside. Chan however, exploded into action. Knowing a shot would draw security, she lashed out with a pistol whip on the man’s arm as he tried to draw a stun baton and disabled his arm. Chan tried a follow up hit, but the guard managed to just barely check the attack.  This left an opening for William to deliver a pile driver that knocked the guard out. Dragging both guards out of sight, William got the door closed without being detected, as Chan searched the guards and found the keys to the holding cells. Working extremely quickly, Chan got all the cells open and found not only Davis Monk and Jason Pettigrew, but twelve more captives. Thirteen came from Monk’s settlement with one young man by the name Todd Lian who claimed to have been snatched up while drunk on Bernadette.

Chan had to cut the reunion between Monk and William short in order to escapes.  Monk insisted that everyone be part of the escape or none would go. Fortunately, Chan was of the same mind about leaving anyone behind. William remembered from looking at the original Odyssey’s deck plans that the main maintenance access tunnel under what was now the arena but was once the ship’s stage. Todd Lian spoke up to say that while taking the main maintenance tunnel was an option, it was an obvious option, and proposed using the less obvious bilge inspection tunnel that he had located in the small cargo bay forward of the holding cells. Both William and Chan blinked, then agreed to Lian’s plan, but Chan made it clear that if he was double crossing the, that he would die in the bilge tunnel. 

William returned to the casino to let Li Ming know it was time to go. Li Ming walked away from the casino with 190 more credits than when she started. Before either group could reach the shuttle, an alarm sounded and Chan managed to cause a short in a breaker access panel that set off a fire alarm in the galley in an effort to divert the OddEasy’s crew. Totally confused by the twin alarms, the escapees safely reached the shuttle. 

Li Ming and William had reached the stairwell down to the boat deck when they were stopped by a pair of guards barking that everyone had to stay in place until the all clear. Li Ming nodded three times and William caught her signal. Li Ming played the damsel card and both guards were distracted. Li Ming snapped into motion with a spinning back kick that knocked her opponent out before he even knew he was under attack. William’s foe was more alert and the two exchanged a pair of ineffective attacks, fully alerted the desperate guard moved faster than would be expected and attacked both Li Ming and William with his stun baton, which Li Ming promptly knocked from his hand. Allowing both William and Li Ming to land solid blows to the guard’s head and knocking him out as well. 

Bolting down the stairs, they boarded the shuttle only to find that as soon as the shuttle detached, the OddEasy began firing. The OddEasy’s turret couldn’t track the shuttle so close to herself, so she fired at the Ghost which Marsh easily avoided. Li Ming had the shuttle pushing at maximum speed and actually closed on the wildly evading Ghost, which allowed them to try a combat docking. The OddEasy got off an almost perfectly fired missile, but Marsh’s phenomenal luck not only evaded, he did so while easily dancing out of the liner’s range, and with Li Ming doing her part also managed to complete the combat docking. 

As soon as Li Ming announced they were attached, Marsh hit hard burn and easily raced away from the OddEasy.  It took six days at Hard Burn to reach Triumph and another week before the crew could finally talk Monk and Pettigrew into letting them depart. Not having much, the settlers stocked the ship up with two weeks of fresh food to take with when the Ghost was finally ready to depart, Todd Lian would be going with the Crew, at least as far as Bellerophon.