Stars Without Number, continuée.
When last we left off, Riaw was killed and cleaned away by a half-sentient single-issue robot. The wounded rest of the crew felt that they were seriously shorthanded now and posted job offers. Two new recruits showed up:
A new pilot, Iskal, another small person with opposable thumbs, signed up, so issue number 1 is under control: The Prospector can fly again.
In addition, a big, lumbering wide-bodied swordfighter signed up, Malm, war priest of Xero.
Since Riaw has died, Captain Z’net has disappeared and Drakan Mor was incapacitated, it fell to Katron the hacker to take up the mantle of acting captain and lead the two new recruits. He warned them never to cross the cleaning robot, never to stand in its way or make a mess. Then he sent them on a spacewalk together and disabled the dock’s outside cameras for a small time window so they could latch onto Jebediah Kerm’s little shuttle and install a tracking device. From now on, wherever he flies, the Prospector will know. One part of the puzzle in the job of Amber St.Cloud, although hardly enough to “neutralize Jebediah’s advantage”. Malm, as a sword expert, suggested that “neutralizing” could also happen on the planet’s surface standing right next to the spoils everyone sought. Just as a fallback option.
Might the dangerous cleaning robot be an option? No. He flat out refused to leave the ship ever again – probably on account of his previous crew marooning him.
Meanwhile, the call went out that Pasqual the chief engineer was missing, and his ship, the Burden of Usury, offered good money for hints regarding his whereabouts.
The prospector also got a cryptic message claiming that a job like the last one might be in the cards again. Are we up for it? Katron felt that he had to come clean, so he informed his new crew that it was in fact he and his friends who were responsible for the kidnapping of Pasqual, and he explained the whole kerfuffle. Iskal and Malm were understanding, even though they felt that such jobs were a slippery slope to tread. Anyway, they agreed to at least meet with the messenger to find out more details, which would help to judge the offer.
In lieu of Amber St.Cloud’s job, Iskal and Malm tried where everyone else had failed so far: Talking to Jebediah. They insinuated that they were open to sign up with him, as his crew. He scoffed at that, stating that he needed no crew. If he did, he could hire one any time, because he hinted that he had CONSIDERABLE funds offworld, from all his successful delves. If he wanted, he could buy a big rig full of help. But he preferred to work alone.
The two signalled understanding, and so he considered them again, and offered them another sneaky, shady job yet, on this station full of sneaky, shady jobs. He spoke of the Dalliance, the unfriendly little rival of the Prospector. He stated that he wanted the ship’s access codes. He did not have them.
(By omission, this suggests that he has the access codes to the other ships, and possibly the station.)
He offered a good reward, and so Iskal and Malm agreed to give it a shot.
Reporting this, the crew was gathered on the Prospector when a security team from the Burden of Usury showed up. Malm in his capacity as security officer, stepped out of the ship to talk with them, trying to shield acting captain Katron from them.
In fact, they were on a mission to find missing Pasqual, who had been seen several time with the former crew of the Prospector. It was rather easy for Malm to deflect questions in that regard, because he truly was not involved in any of those proceedings, and he pointed to dead Riaw as the main person to know what Pasqual was up to back then… although, sadly, with Riaw dead, the details would forever remain a mystery.
The commander of the troop asked to come aboard, just to make sure that Pasqual was not hidden there, or his body stashed there, and Malm asked permission from the captain and allowed the commander (and only the commander) to come aboard.
That security man was pretty good, asking pointed questions that were pretty effective in getting Katron into hot water. Luckily, Malm and Iskal were there to repeatedly catch questions that would be difficult for Katron to answer. Had Katron been alone, he would have entangled himself quickly… even so, it was a close shave, as his reactions bordered on the suspiciously defensive at times. But as a group effort the crew managed to feign innocence. And also, given that besides Pasqual, there were also the Prospector’s chief engineer dead and their captain disappeared, so it was possible to suggest that the Burden of Usury and the Prospector were fellow victims of some dismal string of events. Malm strongly advised to make sure that Captain St.Cloud was safe at all times, and vowed to do the same for acting captain Katron.
The security man asked to be allowed to inspect every room and every nook and every storage compartment. Malm insisted on going with him and watching him the whole time, which he accepted. Malm also strongly advised not to get in the way of the cleaning robot… it would be awkward to explain to his armed retinue why he was cut to ribbons suddenly, midway during an investigation. No, that would not do at all.
1 hour later, the Burden of Usury security man, Lt. Drake, was satisfied and left.
Time to meet Captain Ivan the kidnapper.