There’s a big difference as to how the party members are treated during this debriefing compared with the one they had with Broughton. As Dewart promised, the party members are treated well by the cops and they get the respect that they deserve forr being true heroes.
It is still, however, a fairly time-consuming exercise and so it is 2.30am before Dewart and the party members have completed their witness statements and are allowed to leave.
As they leave the police station and head towards the ATV where a bored-looking Max is waiting patiently for them, Dewart looks concerned, however. He asks them for a lift back to his precinct.
Seeing that Dewart has something on his mind, Taeva flicks on her pocket scrambler in case anyone is snooping on them.
“I have a bit of a problem,” Dewart says with a deep sigh.
The party members are all ears.
“It’s my daughter, Renee,” he starts. “She’s a good kid, but a bit of a rebel. You know what kids are like – she thinks that she can change the ’Verse for the better single-handedly. While she was studying Political Science at University, she started hanging with the wrong crowd – Swordies – rebels – freedom fighters – terrorists. Pick your own label.”
“I was with the precinct commander while he was interrogating the Swordies you took down at the Helm. Turns out that they are part of the same cell that Renee is involved with. The Swordies have spilled the beans as to the location of their safehouse and there’s a SWAT Team going in at dawn to clean the place out.”
“Naturally I’m worried about her. I am her Dad after all and she’s the only person I have in my life after my wife left me because of the drinking. She’s a feisty one – she’s not the type who is just going to surrender when the SWAT Team arrives, so I fear the worst.”
“There are other factors at play here as well though. As you know, I’m not well-liked in Schwarzstadt. There are plenty of people who think that I’m a Swordie sympathizer and, if Renee is found working with them, then they will have a field day with the information. My political career will be over and there won’t be anything that I can do with the tape on Broughton.”
“So what do you want us to do about it?” asks Taeva, knowing full well what the answer is going to be.
“I’d like you to go in there now and get her out of there,” Dewart says, laying it straight.
“And then what do we do with her?” asks Will.
“Well if you are planning on leaving Weiss as soon as possible, I thought you could take her with you,” Dewart answers. “Just drop her off at the next world you’re planning on visiting.”
“But isn’t that kidnapping?” Will asks.
“It’s for her own good,” Dewart replies. “It’s not going to be permanent – after all, I want her back here. Just give me some time to release the Broughton tapes and then things should change around here.”
Will still seems to be uncomfortable about this.
“Let me give you 250k,” Dewart says reaching for his datapad. “That’s all I’ve got. Half for you for looking after her and give her the other half when you drop her off. Then she can make her own way back.”
“Can you give us something in writing so they know that we are doing this at your request?” Will asks.
“Sure, I’ll record a video message and send it to you,” he agrees. “It will have to be a quick one though. There are just three hours before the SWAT Team goes in.”
The party members agree to the deal and get as many details as they can about the safehouse. They drop Dewart off at his home and get some rope from him in order to scale the building. He beams them a copy of the video message he prepared and then wishes the party members good luck before they head off to the safehouse.
It’s just 20 minutes away from Dewart’s place – a rundown block in a ghetto area. They scout the place out and see that there are four Swordies guarding the building, with one at each corner.
Leaving Max and the ATV to keep an eye from the outside, they head for the adjacent building. Taeva throws the rope up and easily manages to scale the outside of the building, jumping from balcony to balcony as she ascends. She holds the rope steady while the others join her. She then leaps across the gap between the building, landing effortlessly on the roof of the safehouse building. The others attach themselves to the rope for safety and all make their way over the gap.
There’s a locked door leading from a roof terrace, but it doesn’t take long for Taeva to crack it open. She then leads the party members down to the second floor where the safehouse is located, with Arvor following her.
They make their way silently down the stairs until they get to the last section of it where Taeva stops in her tracks as she sees a Swordie sat on the stairs. Taking aim with her gauss pistol, she carefully puts a shot between the Swordie’s eyes and he slumps over, before tumbling down a couple of stairs. Alerted by the thud, another Swordie comes to investigate. Taeva takes another shot, but this wound only injures the Swordie who screams out an alarm. The time for stealth is over.
The party members rush down the stairs. Arvor heads to the main corridor and peers down it, seeing a couple of Swordies lurking in doorways. He quickly takes one of them out. As the party members spread out either side of the corridor, one of the Swordies comes up the stairs, taking the party members by surprise. Arvor finds himself on the receiving end of the Swordie’s machine pistol which nearly drops him.
The others prepare for the other two Swordies who were watching the back of the building. Jie gets hit by one of them, but brings the Swordie down. Grim has a close call when the other comes through a doorway and ducks under his volley, but Taeva manages to take the Swordie down before he can do any more damage.
Jie, Grim, and Arvor manage to clear the remaining Swordies in the doorways, leaving the corridor clear. Carefully the party members make their way down the corridor, investigating the rooms as they go, but no more Swordies appear as they lurk in ambush for them in the safehouse at the end.
Jie is the first into the safehouse, and receives another blast from a machine pistol for her bravery before taking the Swordie down. Arvor enters the other doorway and he too gets hit again before taking the Swordie down.
With no more targets in sight, the party members are about to start searching for Renee from room to room when a small shape appears from one of the other rooms and hits Grim with a volley, most of which doesn’t make it through his armor, however. Arvor wheels around and shoots the girl in the leg, the explosive blast of needles from his gauss pistol taking most of it off as she slumps to the ground, unconscious.
William immediately gets to work on Renee, giving her a shot to keep her unconscious and bandaging her ragged and torn leg before turning his attention to Arvor and Jie, who don’t seem to be in much better shape than Renee is. While Will is attending to the injured, Taeva and Grim quickly go through the rooms. There is a decent amount of plastic explosive and detonators on a table in one of the rooms at the end of the corridor plus a pretty decent armory, most of it comprising the machine pistols that most of the rebels were using. None of it is of the calibre of any of the party members’ weapons, however.
Once Will has finished patching up the injured, Taeva and Grim take one of Renee’s arms each and they make their way back to where Max is waiting on the street corner in the ATV. He then drives back to the Motel.
En route, Arvor calls Dewart:
“We took delivery, but the package sustained damage in transport. The damages were serious but not a write off. We will ensure full repairs are made at no additional cost of course, and we believe that it will be fixed as good as new.”
Dewart sounds worried:
“I really hope that the package survives OK. Please take care about it – it holds great sentimental value to me and I would be heartbroken if any was to happen to it.”
“You’ve kept to your side of the bargain and so I am keeping to mine. I will do whatever it takes to get your vehicle out of the shop. You need to hold tight for a few hours so that I can all around and call in a few favours. Rest up for a while and I will call you as soon as I have more information.”
At this time of night, the roads are clear and so it takes Max only another 15 minutes to return to the Motel. Unsurprisingly, Autumn is fast asleep, as are Axle and Bomber.
It’s been a long hard night for everyone, with only Will managing to escape the last nine hours without any form of injury. He plies Renee with some Medical Slow drug in order to assist in her recovery and to keep her calm and then he, together with the rest of the party members get a little rest.
They sleep through to around 10.30 when Arvor’s commo goes off. It’s Dewart:
“I spoke to someone at the shop. He thinks that he can help get it out of the parking garage. Can you meet me there at noon and I will introduce you to him?”
“Yes, that will be fine,” Arvor agrees.
He wakes up the rest of the party members to tell them the news.
Everyone is now keen to get away from Schwarzstadt as quickly as possible and so everyone packs their belongings into the rented ATV while Autumn settles up the bill. Once everything else has been taken care of, the still sleeping Renee, Axle and Bomber are transferred into the trunk of the ATV and Max sets off in the direction of the downport.
After twenty minutes of driving through the intense Schwarzstadt traffic, the party members are getting close to the downport. They notice, however, that there seems to be a great deal of commotion going on in the area as their ATV is passed by a succession of police cars plus some ambulances and a few fire tenders, all heading in the direction of the downport.
At the entrance to the downport it is gridlock as police have the road blocked off and are only allowing emergency vehicles into the starport. They wait in the ATV for ten minutes before everyone starts getting impatient.
“Why don’t Autumn and I stay in the ATV here while the rest of you go on foot to see if you can get in?” Max suggests. “I’ll give you a call as and when we can get through the blockade.”
The others agree and so leave the ATV, concealing their hand weapons, while leaving their heavy artillery hidden in the back of the vehicle.
They walk by the traffic and head to the gate where they find some harassed Downport Police officers trying to manage the traffic. They don’t seem too concerned with pedestrians, however, and so the party members are able to walk right by the road block and through to the terminal.
Once they are inside, Arvor calls Dewart:
“We’re at the downport now,” he says.
Dewart sounds stressed:
“Where are you?” he asks.
“Just outside the Astroburger,” Arvor replies.
“I’ll meet you in there in ten minutes.”
The party members head into Astroburger. It is lunchtime and they are all pretty hungry anyway.
They are just finishing their burgers when Dewart arrives. He looks even more stressed than he sounded on the commo.
“So what’s going on?” Arvor asks.
“The shit has really hit the fan big time here,” Dewart replies wearily. “The bigwigs who were in town for yesterday’s Imperium Day were taking a shuttle back up to the highport. Duchess Avaraja Astaarte Muktheswara of Glisten’s son, the 17 year old Count Alselm Muktheswara, is there together with several diplomatic flunkies and bodyguards, plus CEO Karl Harrison and Director of Security, Pietro Grissom, who were also onboard to see his lordship onto the royal yacht which should be taking them back on the royal yacht.”
“That was the plan, anyway. Twenty minutes into the journey, the pilot tripped the emergency switch to indicate that a hijacking had taken place and then returned here to the downport.”
“Half an hour ago, one of the hijackers called in with their demands. They are members of the Swordie Weiss Liberation Organization with a list of demands before they will release the hostages.”
“Firstly they are demanding the release of twenty political prisoners, some of which are the ones that we took down at the Golden Helm last night. Others are the ones that seem to have been the ones hiding in your cargo that got you wrapped up in all this mess in the first place.”
“Secondly they want a public statement across all local media admitting SDC’s ongoing ‘oppression of the people’.”
“Thirdly they want Three MegaCredits in small denomination chips.”
“Finally they want a minimum J-2 capable ship with fuel purifiers fuelled up and parked outside jump diameter that they can all transfer to in order to get their escape – plus enough fuel for the shuttle to get there as they realize that there is not enough fuel onboard to get to jump radius at the moment.”
He shakes his head.
“All the authorities here are running around like headless chickens as normally this would be Grissom’s job to clear up as Chief of Security. No one wants to take control of the situation in case they screw it up and any of the important hostages get killed and so their career will be over.”
Dewart sighs deeply.
“Until this mess is resolved one way or another, I can’t see how I can get anyone to sign off the release of your ship.”
The party members spend a while discussing ‘the mess’ with Dewart.
“Well we have a J-2 capable ship,” says Arvor. “Perhaps we can volunteer it to the the terrorists’ transport out of the system?”
“That shouldn’t be too hard to arrange,” Dewart replies. “I can’t see too many other people volunteering MCr. 60 worth of ship for a job like this.”
“Before we jump in though, let’s have a plan for sweet revenge,” says Will. “It’s quite possible that they don’t need a crew, just a ship. Perhaps we could be the stowaways this time and surprise them? You could have a skeleton crew deliver the ship and that crew could then shuttle back with the released hostages.”
Dewart nods. “That can be arranged. With the CEO’s life at stake here, they will be ready and willing to use all of the resources that Weiss has to offer, including the planetary navy.”
“Maybe we can dress in Hostile Enviroment Vacc Suits with our weapons and hide inside our fuel tanks?” Jie suggests. “We could use the drones as cameras to the inside and observe our enemies then go through a portable access hatch to start the big surprize? Perhaps a variation on this theme?”
“The tanks are modular and are almost empty at the moment,” Grim comments with a nod. “It shouldn’t take me too long to seal off some connecting pipes and also fashion some sort of access panel that we can creep out of.”
“And I think that I can reprogramme the ship’s computer so that I can control the bridge from my handcomp.”
“I’ll add a few traps as well to even the numbers up a bit,” Taeva comments. “And we should definitely rig up some tranq gas to the life support system to knock out as many of them as you can.”
“The plan sounds fine to me,” agrees Dewart. “Just remember that we don’t have an infinite amount of time to do this. I can stall them for a few hours saying that we’re in the process of getting everything arranged, but if we try and delay too long, they could start killing the hostages.”
With the outline of the plan having been agreed, Dewart takes his leave. “I’ll just run the plan through with whoever is supposedly in charge of this mess. Stay here and I’ll call you when I have the greenlight.”
Taeva calls Max to fill him in on developments.
“No worries, girl. Autumn and I are gonna go back to the motel with the passengers. Best of luck and give us a call when your back.”
Thirty minutes later and Dewart calls Arvor:
“OK, it’s all arranged as per what we discussed. Your ship is in Hangar 6. The guards there have been ordered to allow you entry. Keep me informed as to your progress so we know when to allow them to take off.”
Everyone heads off to Hangar 6, where they are overjoyed to be reunited with the Princess. She’s still in the same scorched and beaten-up condition that they left her in. They enter the ship and are relieved to find that, even though the cops on Weiss are mainly sneaky, colluding bastards, at least there is no petty pilfering as, although someone has had a good rummage through everything and there are clothes and other personal belongings tossed all over the floor, at least nothing appears to be missing. Upon entering the cargo hold, they are overcome with the stench of rotting venison as the refrigerated containers were left open and unpowered.
Knowing that time is of the essence, everyone sets to work immediately. Taeva starts rigging up the tank of tranq to the life support system and then starts to set charges in key area of the ship, trying to keep them out of sight. Will works feverishly at the ship’s computer, programming in overrides and syncing up the files with his handcomp.
Grim, assisted by Arvor, starts to cut a hole in the roof of the cargo deck into the fuel tank and then they start to seal the ducts to the other parts of the tank.
Without having any specific tasks, Jie gives a running commentary to Dewart about their progress. As the hours pass, Dewart is getting more anxious as the terrorists are getting increasingly nervous and threaten to start killing hostages on the hour from 18.00 onwards.
A tender arrives to recharge the life support system and to restock the galley.
By 17.15, Grim and Arvor have finished creating the hidey-hole above the cargo bay. The join is far from invisible but fortunately, due to the damage that the Princess sustained when it was fired upon by the Gazelle that was hastily fixed up by Grim and Taeva, it doesn’t look to out of place.
The party members clamber into the hidey-hole and Jie calls Dewart for a final time to tell him to let the skeleton crew come onboard and that they can launch at will.
Will’s handcomp glows in the pitch blackness inside the cramped hiding place as he flicks between the cameras around the ship. He sees the three members of the skeleton crew come onboard and take up positions. Ten minutes later and they feel the ship shudder as the pilot taxis the ship out of the hangar, heading towards the runway. The ship stands still for another ten minutes before all can hear all the thrusters firing as the Princess takes off.
The party members try and get comfortable as they can for the long and uncomfortable journey to jump diameter with some of them getting a little sleep before what is likely to be a very long night.