During the trip to Salisbury, Marsh and Xavier kept a close watch on Cortex communications traffic. Two days into the trip, Xavier mysteriously exclaimed “Mr. Universe is dead!”  She explained that Mr. Universe was the source point of the Broadcast. She then became very withdrawn and very occupied with a project in her cabin. The disruption of the Rim continued unabated, but the Ghost arrived safely 4 June 2518 on Salisbury without problems and, more importantly, the buyer was where he supposed to be. The cargo was delivered and again, more importantly, the Crew was paid properly. Chan even squeezed hard enough for a twenty percent rerouting fee to offset the costs of having to bring the cargo to Salisbury.

 

Chan wisely topped of fuel, water, and food, and even set aside 320 Credits to fully pay for all maintenance for the ship. These precautions meant the Crew would not get any coin for the cargo, but cash from the passengers to Regina had put real money in the Crew’s pockets for the first time in a very long time. After completing business with the harvest shippers, the Crew cast about to find more work. After two days of looking for cargo, the Crew feels some dé·jà vu in thinking the Blue Sun curse was keeping them from finding work again, but it becomes very clear that the cargo all over the Rim is becoming too risky to ship. Rumors abound of a huge spike in hijackings and piracy, added to the disruption of the Cortex means honest jobs are even less unavailable than normal.

 

Xavier’s odd behavior continued, keeping to the ship in her cabin and even taking most of her meals there. Cindy, Marsh, and Li Ming while out looking for work encountered half a dozen thugs running a shake down on pedestrians. One of the punks took a fancy to Li Ming, who uncharacteristically, took offense to his crude comments and replied with a blinding fast roundhouse kick that crushed the man’s nose. Fists and feet began flying with Cindy using her knowledge of anatomy to deliver a solar plexus strike that knocked one of the thugs out instantly. Marsh swung into action with a vicious rabbit punch that caught the leader by surprise and left him staggered. Li Ming followed up her initial attack with an elbow smash to the loud mouth’s nose that felled him as well. Cindy engaged a second man, but her attack was blocked. Marsh found two thugs attacking him and his incredible luck spared him again, allowing him to parry both attacks. Cindy, seeing her man in trouble landed a nerve strike that hobbled one of the attackers. Li Ming’s new attacker struck at her, but she easily dodged as did the nimble Marsh. Tired of being hard pressed, Marsh tried a knee strike, but the thug was able to parry. Likewise, Li Ming’s two attacked were blocked. Cindy landed a weak groin kick that kept her opponent staggered. Li Ming continued to attack with lighting fast combinations and was able to hammer her opponent unconscious. Marsh managed a weak punch. Cindy parried and flattened her opponent with a spinning back kick. Li Ming did the same move and crushed her attacker as well, then turned and knocked out the man she’d stunned earlier. Marsh traded blocks and punches with the leader for several seconds before marsh laid the man out. Breathing hard, the three rolled the thugs, finding a total of 24 credits that they used to purchase additional food on the way back to the ship.

 

After hearing about the fight, Chan ordered that the Crew stay in groups and go armed anytime they left the ship for the rest of the time they were on Salisbury. On day three (29 June), Cindy returned to the ship with good news. She’d found an ex-Browncoat that needed to get some mining and medical equipment to Ita, a five day trip. The man, Thomas Chambers, was in Cindy’s battalion, but a different company. She didn’t know him well, but a job was a job.

Xavier at this point finally left her cabin aglow with something she said would be news, but still not giving a clue as to what it would be. (Xavier’s initial roll for her project was INT d12 = 10, Hacking s12 = 8, Talented d4 = 3, Three Plot Points d6 – 6 net of 27).

 

Willis hesitantly raised the point to Cindy and Chan, of why would Mr. Chambers be willing to deal with a person reviled as a coward? Cindy said that Chambers knew about the Ghost and Chan’s reputations, but the cargo was desperately needed and he couldn’t be all that choosy and he was willing to overlook those inconvenient facts.

 

The cargo turned out to be only 40 tons, but Chambers was paying a premium of 200 credits for speed to get the cargo to Ita in three days. Chan agrees to take the run, but has Li Ming play the Femme Fatale to distract Chambers while Cindy inspected at the cargo. Cindy found solid seals that confirmed drilling equipment and medical scanners. Chambers paid 100 credits down with the balance due on delivery.

 

As soon as the cargo was loaded, the Ghost departed. As soon as they broke atmo, both William and Li Ming told Chan that Chambers had lied out right about the cargo and that something was queer about the job. Xavier took a look at the seals on the cargo, but they were physical seals and not electronic tags that would require a different sort of forging skills and tools, neither of which she had. Chan thought about the possible repercussions of breaking the seals and decided that not knowing what Chambers was doing was more likely to cause problems then the seals being opened and ordered William to find out what was what with the cargo. Willis and Xavier carefully opened all twenty crates, finding fifteen with drilling equipment and five with medical scanners, just as the crates were labeled. Xavier however, noted the heavy pipe crates had cleverly painted reverse threaded caps and inside were military grade assault rifles! Each crate held one hundred weapons and the medical scanner, when opened, held ammunition, three tons of ammunition of 80,000 rounds.

 

Chan at this point had a difficult decision to make, dump the cargo, deliver it, or steal it. Asking the Crew’s opinions, Xavier and Willis agreed with Chan to space the load and incinerate it with the pulse drive’s backwash. William, Marsh, Li Ming, and Cindy were fine with going ahead and delivering the cargo. Marsh figured that the cargo wasn’t their business, while the others wanted to find out who would be taking possession of so many weapons.

 

After thinking about it over night, Chan chose to continue with their mission. Willis protested, but when Chan explained knowing who was getting the weapons was critical to stopping their use, the mechanic backed down. The cargo was painstakingly restored to as close to how it was originally packed as they could get it. Marsh and Xavier both suggested planting a tracker in the cargo and Chan agreed.

 

After building a solid tracker, Xavier hid the device and had Chan see if she could find it, which she did easily. Xavier tried again and Chan found it just as easily. On the third try, Xavier finally found a good hiding place. Rather than insult anyone’s intelligence, Chan decided not to even attempt to pretend the crates hadn’t been opened. Instead, she would lie abut figuring out what the real cargo actually was.

 

On arrival on the Ita moon, the ship was met by eight tight lipped men in two ground trucks. The only thing the men would say was thanks and paid Chan the rest of the shipping fee for the cargo. Fortunately, despite her poor standing with the Browncoats, Chan spun a story about why the seals were broken so believable, that the men swallowed the yarn completely. The men departed and Xavier activated the tracker.

 

The confusion and accusations on the Cortex continued unabated, so the Chan, Cindy, and Li Ming armed themselves to take a check on what the local rumor mill was spreading.  Cindy found there was a meeting that night on a farm in the hills south of town. Xavier confirmed that the cargo was heading south. The three women returned to the ship to wait for the meeting.

 

That night, Chan, William, Cindy, and Li Ming boarded the hover mule to attend the meeting. Each carried pistols. Li Ming also had her derringer and brass knuckles, Cindy and Chan likewise carried brass knuckles, and all worse ballistic mesh armor.

 

Arriving at the farm, they found several dozen others gathered near the barn talking quietly and waiting for the meeting to start. When the barn doors opened, the former Browncoat guards insisted that all weapons be checked before anyone could enter. Li Ming’s suave speaking skills learned that tonight the Independents would rise again. Entering the barn, only Cindy’s and Li Ming’s brass knuckles made it past the guards. A female guard rudely found Li Ming’s derringer, but the gambler surprisingly smoothed over the guards and was allowed to enter.

 

After a few minutes, the fifty odd in attendance are met by the Boss. Chan is suppresses a gasp as the Boss turns out to be Lieutenant Colonel Jessica Taylor-Leigh, Chan’s ex-Brigade Commander! Taylor-Leigh had always been a firebrand for the Independent cause and learning she wished to re-kindle the war isn’t that much of a surprise. That she had enough followers to actually attempt to rise up against the Alliance, however, was staggering in its implications. Taylor Leigh began to speak and does so with a passion and easily whips the crowd into a frenzy. William quickly recalls the parallels to a notorious dictator of the 20th Century renown for phenomenal oratory skills, one Adolf Hitler.

 

Taylor-Leigh failed to win Chan, William, or Li Ming’s support, but Cindy was enraptured by the charismatic woman and this was noted by all three of her comrades. Taylor-Leigh took time to acknowledge the Crew’s part in assisting the “Cause” drawing some uncomfortable attention to them. Despite her obvious passion, even Cindy was able to detect the subtle undercurrent in Taylor-Leigh that pointed to something other than altruism in her words, something that made her dangerous. This revelation shook some of her glow from Cindy, not all, but enough to keep the medic loyal to Chan. Knowing that supporting Taylor-Leigh would only trade one oppressive government for another, Chan chose to stick with the devil she knew and told Taylor-Leigh “We were told something other than the truth before taking the job. We did that job and got paid for it. Our part is done now.”

 

The crowd murmurs were cold and someone shouted “Still a coward!” Before Taylor-Leigh stepped in saying “Remember my friends that it was the good captain that has helped make the coming rebellion possible. Be kind to her reasons for choosing to leave. Let her and her friends depart in peace.”

The crowd fell silent, but as they Crew were reclaiming their weapons, Taylor-Leigh added “You may know us, but do not forget that we know you as well. It would be in your best interests to remain silent on what you know. Speak to freely and you will soon discover the limits of our kindness.”

 

Chan nodded and the four returned to the ship as quickly as they could. As soon as the mule was secured, they departed Ita.