Episode 3: Shot in the Dark
In the small and dusty town of Groundhaul our crew members saunter through a pair of saloon doors. Immediately upon entering the drinking establishment three drunken locals, clearly miners by the dirt on their rugged clothes, pick a fight. They loudly complain about too many claim jumping outsiders around of late.
Valentine immediately knocks one of them out, using his sheathed sword and its scabbard as a blunt instrument. M spots a former contact from the criminal underworld and sidles up to him. Joleen takes a read on the man’s mind, he is convinced that his old life of crime has caught up to him and it takes M a moment to calm him down.
Meanwhile Grace draws her pistols and ushers out the remaining two rowdy locals out of the bar. M’s old contact does not seem to be related to the situation with young Zenith and her mother. Someone else must have M’s description and the information that will allow the crew to reunite the mother and daughter.
M’s old “friend” says that he knew his quiet life in hiding was at an end when he saw The Collectors in town. They are a high end and well known agency of bounty hunters, personal security, and sometimes mercenaries. Their customers are exclusively powerful and well connected residents of the Core Worlds.
During the ruckus Bobbi makes her self at home behind the bar and begins slicing up some watermelons. The bartender is confused but provides some information about the going ons around town; the fancy and powerful looking anti-gravity bike parked down the street belongs to a Collector who’s been asking questions. They were in not long ago looking for a particular woman matching Celeste’s description.
Valentine surreptitiously captures an image of M’s excitable acquaintance and transmits it to The Carl which is parked at Bandera. The shantytown and thruster burnt fields are what passes for a local star port. It is a hub for the local mining towns where ore and supplies can be loaded and unloaded and ships can refuel. On the ship Carlotta receives the image and runs a background check on the Cortex, she receives no immediate results. It probably doesn’t inadvertently flag any outstanding warrants either…
Stepping outside, Valentine palms a simple transponder of the sort commonly used by bounty hunters and repossession agents. His intention to tag the hover bike is spoiled as he is just in time to watch it blaze off. It heads towards the hills and canyons where the mining happens rather than back towards Bandera. The driver is wearing a heavy leather long coat with a pair of forward curved short swords peaking from underneath.
Valentine asks Grace to join him for some reconnaissance. They rent a pair of horses and follow the furrow the bike’s passage has left in the ground. They eventually lose the trail at the rocky mouth of a massive canyon which is home to many small mining operations.
Graden and Bobbie take their rented ground vehicle back to the ship, with a load of fresh watermelons. Once Grace and Valentine return to Groundhaul, they join M and Joleen at the Inn for the night.
In the morning M is awakened by a knocking on his door. A woman claiming to be Celeste’s cousin gives him coordinates. Celeste has fled The Collectors and is hiding in a cave that was not too long ago a base for a claim jumping operation. The bounty hunters learned about the general location of the hideout in the shipping offize that Hazel works in. She is convinced that they will be checking for her cousin there as they search the local mining encampments.
M, Joleen, and Valentine get the use of some horses and ride out towards the canyon immediately. Grace waits in town as Graden and the Doctor make their best effort to fly The Carl to Groundhaul to pick up the pilot and provide support for what has become an extraction operation. There is minimum damage to the vessel.
The advance party arrives at the cave’s coordinates and find that there are three of the hover bikes parked at the entrance. Joleen senses a distressed mind below the surface. Two of the bikes have removable power packs, on the way by Valentine takes them. Deeper in to the cave they hear a man’s voice. He is addressing Celeste and sternly advising her to come out of hiding, assuring her that there is no chance of escape.
Above, Grace brings The Carl down and Graden loads up the third bike, a much more expensive model than the other two. Immediately afterwords they deploy the ship’s hidden weapons and destroy the remaining bikes, hoping to cause a distraction for the others to capitalize on.
Rocks and dust begin a steady rain in the cave. A bounty hunter begins to panic. He’s revealed to be an out of shape man in a stained yellow flight suit, carrying a rifle. Valentine advances on him but from the shadows the figure he’d seen the night before intercepts, wielding his curved swords. The two clash with a blur of blades and shrieking of steel. Neither gains a clear advantage in the initial exchange.
Joleen reads the original speaker. Murry is a child prodigy who witnessed a horrific instance of violence in his youth. He applied his robust mind to law and order, supporting the Alliance as its ultimate expression.
M opens fire on the bounty hunters, forcing them to take cover. Brady, the unkempt pilot attempts to flee past the crew. However he comes to a messy end on the stolen motorcycle that Graden drives directly in to the cave from the hovering ship’s forward cargo bay.
Murry elects to hide deeper in the cave system with his enforcer and let Celeste past rather than fight from a disadvantaged position. Celeste is assured by M that her daughter is okay and the rest of the crew board their craft hastily to get far away before The Collectors can call in reinforcements.