Shortly after breakfast (which is a lot better than the slop they served on Mithras) everyone is taken out of their cells – together this time – and they are led back into the main interview room. Chief Inspector Broughton is waiting for them.
“Sit down, everyone,” he says brusquely.
“Right, well you’ll be pleased to know that you are not going to be charged for any crime for the … incident … that happened upon your arrival in system.”
He pauses to allow the party members to either cheer in relief, or look pissed off from the whole experience before he continues.
“But,” he adds, “This whole business could mean that your ship has to be impounded for ‘quite a long time’ for evidence purposes while we continue with the prosecution of the guilty parties. You know, these things can drag on for month … years even, and you wouldn’t want that, would you, now?”
“So maybe we can do one another a favour?”
There are sighs all round until Grim asks, “What favour?”
“Well a couple of week ago, we brought in some other terrorists we’d been keeping an eye on,” Broughton explains. “While under interrogation, then revealed that there are some board members of the SDC – the government on Weiss, if you will – who have been taking bribes from terrorist organizations.”
“Unfortunately, it would appear that these individuals have hired someone to break into the station and make off with the evidence, which is quite an embarrassment to us all. We need that evidence back.”
“So the deal is this … you get me the holodisk back, and you get your ship back – it’s as simple as that.”
“Fully repaired, of course,” asks Grim.
“I can’t agree to that part,” says Broughton. “It wasn’t SDC Security that messed up with your ship. That’s an IMoJ matter. Go speak to them about getting compensation. But if you had checked the cargo properly, then none of this would have happened.”
“I did check it,” Max mumbles. “Some of it anyway … just not the ones the bastards were ‘idin’ in.”
“So what information do you have about the thief?” asks Arvor.
“We’ve spoken to a number of informants,” Broughton explains. “It would appear to be the work of a local thief by the name of Magnus Svensson. We know he drinks in the Silver Goblet, but that’s all we know.”
“I have arranged the return of your arms and armor and I will issue you permits for carrying them,” Broughton says, unlocking a cabinet, inside which are all of the party’s weapons. Jie rushes over to pick up her beloved Black Betty and begins to strap on the power pack.
“But be discrete with them,” Broughton sighs. “Walk into the Silver Goblet with that on your back and everyone in Schwarzhaven will know that you’re up to something. This place is just a big village – word travels fast here, so keep a low profile.”
The party members murmur among themselves.
“Now is there anything else you need to know? I have a lot on my plate at the moment what with the celebrations starting in a couple of days.”
Realizing that they are not likely to get much else from Broughton, they shake their heads.
Broughton spends a couple of minutes issuing everyone with their permits and then takes his leave.
“Good luck, everyone,” he says. “Here’s my number. Call me when you have the disk.”
He then shows them out of the room.
The party members leave the police station, free to finally be out of the cells finally. For Karolina, however, the feeling of freedom is very shortlived.
Time seems to slow down. The first anyone knows that something is amiss is when they hear the ‘BOOM’ of a large calibre handgun going off, next Karolina is crumpling to the floor. Then they see two masked men on a grav/bike pulling away, the one on the pillion carrying a Swordie heavy handgun.
Will rushes to see to Karolina while the others all draw their weapons to bring down the freeing grav/cycle. Taeva unleashes a full burst at the driver which drops him and he tumbles to the ground. The gunman on the pillion leaps forwards to try and keep control of the vehicle, but Grim takes him down too with another burst from his gauss pistol.
Max tells Autumn to go and get Broughton and she heads back to the police station.
Will looks up and shakes his head sadly. “She’s dead, I’m afraid.”
He looks down at the corpse again and then something occurs to him. “Hey, Arvor, take a look at this. Does the bullet look like it came from one of those heavy handguns to you?”
“Definitely not,” Arvor says, investigating the wound. “A shot from one of those heavy handguns would have taken most of head off. This is surgical, right between the eyes. It came from a heavy gauss rifle, I would say and fired by a professional.”
He looks around.
“I would say that it came from up high – somewhere on the building on the other side of the road.”
Grim is scanning the building top. He can just see another grav/bike disappearing with two more riders on it. It’s a long way off already – no chance to follow it. Grim does manage to shoot off some images of the riders as they depart though, albeit from a long distance away.
Autumn comes out with Broughton. Broughton takes one look at Karolina’s corpse and sighs.
“Bloody hell, can’t you lot go five minutes even without getting into trouble?” he moans. “Anyway, I don’t have time to look into this right now – not until after the celebrations – I haven’t got the manpower for it. You’re on your own with it.”
With that, he turns and heads back inside the station.
“Fackin’ ’ell,” Max exclaims. “We’ve been on some shitty planets before, but this one makes Avastan look like Paradise.”
“We should check to see what ships have arrived here from Mithras over the past couple of days,” suggests Taeva.
“I will take a look and see what I can find out,” says Autumn.
She spends a while studying the information on her handcomp before she passes the information on to the other.
“There are four ships which have arrived here in the past couple of days,” Autumn says.
“So we arrived at 0300 on 013,” she confirms. “A Far Trader, the Empress Conchita arrived four hours later from Mithras at 0700; then a Type-S, the S-IG502 arrived at 13.00; another Far Trader, Dannehur’s Dreamer arrived at 20.00. Finally, one more Far Trader, the Empress Marketa arrived at 20.00 last night.”
“All of them are still docked at the highport.”
“We should check them all out immediately,” Grim replies. “Four is too many for me to check on my own. Fancy coming with me, Max?”
“Sure, mate,” Max replies, looking sadly at Karolina’s dead body. “’Opefully it will be a bit safer up at the highport.”
“Can we leave you to sort out those two over there?” he adds, nodding towards the downed bikers.
The others nod, so Grim and Max hail a cab to the downport in order to get a shuttle up to the highport.
“We should get all of the bodies taken over to a cheap motel,” suggests Will.
“I’ll find us one,” says Autumn, checking on her datapad.
Jie uses her comm to hail a cab big enough for everyone. While waiting for the grav/van to arrive, she uses her medic skill to administer a light sedative to the already unconscious assassin-helpers. After that, she busts into her own stash of Tarsus Grog and splashes some of the potent alcohol around the necks of her captives.
“OK, I think I’ve found something that should do,” says Autumn. “The Odin’s Arms Motel.”
As the cab pulls up, Jie hefts the two drunk seeming bikers onto the seat and gives directions to the motel. As the others pile in, Jie mentions loudly that Axle and Bomber (pointing to the sleepers who now smell ripe with booze and look like they beat each other up) better not get caught by the local cops next time they pull an all-nighter or we won’t bail them out again!
The driver is not very impressed.
“They better not bleed all over my cab or you’ll be paying extra for me to valet it,” scowls the driver.
Autumn tosses him a Cr.50 chip.
“Now stop fucking moaning and just drive,” she says.
Jie tells the same kind of story to the desk clerk at the motel. The receptionist hardly looking up from reading his datapad though. From the look of the place, having half-dead people through the door looks like an every day occurrence. Jie and Arvor then carry their ‘inebriated’ friends to the room.
Jie happened to like Karolina’s no-nonsense attitude and winning smile and is saddened that she was gunned down right in front of her as she stood helpless. Jie looks to the two would-be assassins now tied and bound to heavy chairs and knows that they hold the key to avenging her ignoble death.
She pulls a lighting fixture right out of the cheap plaster walls, yanks out a span of electrical cable and peels back the protective plastic coating from the wire.
She then closes the thick, soundproof door.
Will waves some smelling salts under the two bound bikers and they slowly start to come around, slowly start to realize where they are and what has happened, slowly start to realize who their captors are and they look mighty pissed off.
Jie gets started on the interrogation.
“So tell us everything about the people who hired you,” says Jie.
“Fick dich!” says Bomber before spitting in Jie’s face.
Jie immediately starts to get medieval on him. The Swordie starts to scream with the pain, but Swordies are pretty tough cookies compared to the average Impie and it isn’t easy to get him to talk. It’s the same with the other one.
For over an hour, Jie increases the pain intensity trying to get some information out of them, but to no avail.
The party members head out of earshot for a discussion as to their tactics.
“These Swordies have a reputation for being tough guys,” Arvor says. “I don’t think the brute force approach alone is going to get them to talk – much more and we’ll only succeed in killing them. I think we need to try a more psychological approach – to mess with their heads.”
The others agree and so start to work on the pair of them as a team, with Arvor acting as bad cop, Will as good cop, while Jie and Taeva continue to smack them around when necessary.
Eventually, by mid-afternoon, they have managed to extract some information from them. The bikers say that they met the assassins in a grav biker bar called Highway to Hell late the night before last. There were two of them, a man in his late-thirties and a girl in her early-thirties. They didn’t give their names, but they were well-spoken Impies; very professional and well-groomed; obviously professionals. Both of them were tall and thin; dark-haired. They offered each of them Cr.20,000 to make the hit – half paid in advance with the other half due upon successful completion. The second half of the payment was put into a safety deposit box, details of which would be phoned in after the job was done.
They were given a picture of the woman who they were supposed to hit, which is in Bomber’s pocket. Jie retrieves it. Upon looking at it, it’s immediately apparent that it would have come from security cams on Sternmetal’s area inside Mithras downport, as Karolina is flanked by the party members, all still dressed in their prison guard uniforms, dusty after their night in the desert.
Meanwhile, Grim and Max have taken the shuttle up to the highport. They agree that Grim will check out the Empress Conchita and Dannehur’s Dreamer, while Max will investigate the Empress Marketa and the Scout.
They stop off at Duty Free to pick up some bottles to offer their potential new friends and then head off to the targeted ships.
Grim heads over to the Empress Conchita with a bottle of whiskey and a broken power plant distributor coil to see if their Engineer is friendly and in a chatty mood.
“My god, man, do you know the best place not to get ripped off buying spares around here?” he asks.
“I know what you mean, man,” the engineer sympathizes. “The Swordies can be complete bastards. The sooner we’re off this shithole planet, the better.”
The engineer willingly takes a break to drink some whiskey and to chat with Grim. He learns that they are from Glisten on their way back from tramping to Grote. This arouses Grim’s interest but, upon checking dates, he realizes that the ship didn’t arrive on Grote until after the Princess left and so couldn’t have had anything to do with the murder there. The engineer is very open and doesn’t appear to have anything to hide.
He chats for a couple of hours and then heads off to check out Dannehur’s Dreamer. It’s a similar story here. The engineer is also pretty chatty. The ship is registered out of Ffudn and covers a circular route including Tirem, Crout and Centry before arriving on Mithras. They don’t cover Grote and so they also seem to be clean.
Grim spends another couple of hours chatting with him, by which time the whiskey has definitely had some effect. His handcomp pings to announce he has a text. It’s from Max.
“I’m done. Meet me in AstroBurger when you’re ready.”
Grim says farewell to his new friend and then heads off to meet Max.
“How did you get on?” Max asks him.
Grim shakes his head, “I don’t think that either of them are the ones. Their dates and routes don’t work. What about you?”
Max rubs his chin. “The Empress Marketa all looks kosher to me. She’s just a freighter and said that they were stuck with customs most of the night, so there wouldn’t have been enough time for them to set up a hit.”
“I ain’t too sure about the Scout though,” he adds. “My natural charm and a bottle of whisky weren’t enough to get onboard it. They were quite rude, in fact – they told me to fack off and leave them alone.”
“Have you heard from the others dirtside?” Max asks.
“No,” Grim replies. “We better give them a call to find out how they’re getting on.”
Max gives Jie a call and the two groups swap notes with one another. They spend a while trying to decide which avenue to pursue – the Scout ship which could very well contain Karolina’s killers or Broughton’s job which will get them their ship back. They decide that, before they can do much more, they need to get access to their ship, so the Scout will need to wait. Arvor asks Autumn to check if the Type-S as filed a flightplan. It hasn’t yet, but Autumn says that she will keep a look out for it.
Grim and Max leave the highport and take the next shuttle back down to the downport, and then take a cab to the Odin’s Arms Motel.
Leaving Autumn and Max to look after the captives, the remainder of the party members hail another cab to take them to the Silver Goblet.
To no one’s surprise, the Silver Goblet is a rundown hole of an inn in a rundown blue collar area. Arvor, Taeva and Grim head into the inn. It’s early evening now and the bar is half full. All of the clientele are Swordies and the Impies get some strange looks as they enter into the bar. However, when the party members start buying drinks for the locals, they calm down. It would appear that the locals’ love of alcohol outweighs their dislike of Impies.
Once the Swordies are fairly well lubricated and definitely non-hostile, Arvor starts to ask about Magnus Swensson. They soon learn that Magnus was indeed a regular, but that no one has seen him for a couple of weeks. They tell them that Magnus used to work for the Weiss Mining Corporation GmbH. until he was fired a couple of years ago. They suggest they look for him at his home, which they tell him is 37 Kleinstrasse.
After buying another round for the information, they head off to Magnus’s address, which turns out to be just a couple of blocks away. The address turns out to be a tiny tenement in an even more run down area. There are no lights on in the house. The simple lock proves to be no challenge to Taeva’s lockpicking skills and they are soon inside.
Magnus’s housekeeping skills seem to leave a lot to be desired; accumulated trash and tens of empty bottles litter the place. The party members all don rubber gloves and start to go through it looking for clues. There is no computer inside the house and so they go through all of the other items.
It is Grim who stumbles across a potential clue when he finds a photo album which contains many photos of Magnus. One of the last photos is of Magnus and a large group of other miners, under which is written, “Me and the boys on the last day of mining before they closed #602 down.”
The party members check online to see if they can find more information about the mine. It takes them a while, but Arvor eventually finds details of the mine hidden inside a WMC annual report for 1105. It confirms that the mine was closed down a couple of years previously and gives its location around 200km east of the city.
Deciding that it would be a perfect location for someone to hole up for a few weeks, the party members decide to check it out the next day. Their work now done for the day, they hail another cab and head off back to the Odin’s Arm Motel.
Shortly after entering into the cab, they get a call from Autumn. She tells them that the Type-S has filed a flightplan – the ship is due to depart in a couple of hours. This leads to another debate among the party members. Most are in favour of leaving the ship to concentrate on the Magnus job, but Arvor and Grim decide to take a look at the ship before it leaves though. They get out of the cab and grab another one to the downport while the others continue on back to the motel.
Grim and Arvor rush to catch the hourly shuttle that will get them to the highport before the Scout’s time of departure and then relax a little as the shuttle makes the 45 minute journey to the highport. They head straight for the Type-S’s berth, but find that the airlock doors are shut already. They wait there until departure time in case the assassins are still not onboard yet. But when the time comes, the Type-S pulls away from its dock and heads for jump distance. The party members will have to wait to get their revenge.
With nothing else to do now, Grim and Arvor take a shuttle back down to the downport and then take a cab back to the Motel. It’s been a long day and so everyone has an early night, knowing that they will be up early in the morning.