"It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can."-- Sydney Smith
Duane decides to find an exchange house to get some of the local money, but the Piasters aren't the official currency, the credit is (although the Piaster is accepted currency). He has to find some one to sell him some. He can get a few, no one has very many of them as they're worth $125 credits apiece, to buy them. He can get ten.
Tavi returns to the Bonaventure to see if anything new has transpired. Tavi: <to Max> "Any news?" The commo rings. Max: "Hello?" Voice: "Do you believe that we now have your girlfriend or do you require more proof? We'd be happy to provide more body parts if you want." Max: "I believe you." Voice: "Good. Now do you believe we are serious?" Max: "I never doubted it. Are you empowered to make decisions?" Voice: "What do you want?" Max: "How am I supposed to get 10 million credits?" Voice: "You have a ship, yes? Its' worth more than that, yes?" Max: "I can't sell the ship, I don't have the authority to do that. I'm just one partner." Voice: "Speak to your partners." Max: "You have one of them, the other is on Rhylanor." <pause> Voice: "What do you propose?" Max: "Before we go any further, I want proof that she's alive, now. Nothing happens until I know she's alive." Rapid fire Spanglic is heard, then the sounds of a woman being dragged kicking and screaming, literally. Female voice: "Don't hurt me any more, please, I'll do whatever you want." Voice: "Say hello to your friend." Amanda: "Who's there?" Max: "Amanda?" Amanda: <almost hysterical> "M-m-max?" Max asks her a personal question about her family that only she would know the answer to - it's her all right. Tavi: <muting the commo> "Offer them $50,000 credits. That leaves room for negotiation." This offer is not accepted well. Voice: "You seem very close, for business associates. I'm sure you can come up with something that is not an insult." There's a scream as Amanda is dragged away. Max: "Do not hurt her again." Voice: "That sounds like an order. Paying customers have the right to give orders." Max: "You'll get paid." Voice: "A woman like that doesn't come around every day. It would be a pity for you to lose her." Max: "If you ask for more than I can get, what good does it do you?" There's a gun shot heard over the com unit, then after a pause the man is back on the commo. Voice: "That could have been the sound of your friend dying. A million in gold. You have three days." Max: "How do I make contact with you?" Voice: "Keep your radio tuned to 76.25 MHz. You will receive further instructions." Max: "I'll get you your money. Don't hurt her any more. Please." Voice: "Three days." <click> Tavi: "There you go. A million credits. I don't know what your resources are..." Max: "I can get it." Tavi: "These guys were local, so they're ready to take money." Max: "Do you think you can help? I don't trust them to give her back , and I don't trust the police." Tavi: "I'll see what you can do." Max: "I can make it worth your while." Tavi: "I'll do what I can. Your interests may coincide with mine."
Tavi leaves the ship and goes to speak with her Imperial friend on the starport. He's quite pleased to see her, and suggests dinner. She manages to keep his mind on the business at hand, at least for now. Tech: "This must be your signal here...bearing, distance....Yeah, I can pin it down...I can't redirect satellite locations but I can pinpoint it to within 500 metres." He provides Tavi with a location on the starport mall, and the movement over the course of the conversation. The signal moves about 300 metres; could have been walking. Tavi: "What altitude?" Tech: "Ground level."
On her return to the ship, Tavi takes Sparrow off to one side. Tavi: "I don't know your skills or talents, but I have a question. Are you good at casing a place?" Sparrow: "Yes, I believe you could say that was in my skill set." Tavi: <showing on map> "The signal could have started here, and gone to here. They may have been in the mall itself, but if the sound effects were true, then it couldn't have been during working hours. Maybe a warehouse." Sparrow checks out the place, and it's not inside a building, it's in a large parking area off the mall. A parking area with security cameras. Ah. At this TL, that means dealing with humans. She comes back to the ship to tell Tavi, who has since been out and back to see Duane to update him on what's been going on, as Duane wasn't up to speed. Sparrow: "Tavi, you've got people skills, right?" Tavi: "Yes, you could say that." Sparrow explains about the parking structure, and the need to get the tape.
Dwayne returns to the ship, to offer his assistance to Max. Dwayne is howwified that a lady is in danger. The cop assigned to the ship has been eating food, breathing the oxygen, and not much else; he doesn't even bother to put on the headphones any more. As Max doesn't trust the police, he doesn't have any conversations around the cop.
Dwayne: "Is there anything I can do at this time of cwisis? I was a Mawine, and I am familiah with hunting, and I'm quite good at cwoss countwy widing." Max: "I don't know that there's anything you can do right now." Dwayne: "Have they asked for a wansom? Made any demands?" Max: "Yes, they have asked for a ransom." Dwayne: "And the local police?" Max: "They're either incompetent, or they're connected some how, or they just don't give a damn." Dwayne: "I believe the investors who sent me here are in for a wude suwpwise. They awe not in contwol at all here. Do you think the muwdew and the tewowists are connected?" Max: "From what the papers say it could be the same group, but I don't know if it's the same section of the group. I don't know." Dwayne: "Well, I'm sure evewything will wohk out. If thewe is any way I can be of assistance, you have but to ask."
On her way to use her "people skills" with mall security, Tavi stops off to check on alternatives with her techie bud. Tavi: "Have you heard of anyone hacking into the local mall's security system?" Tech: "That would require networking. They're only just starting that here. Most of the systems are self-contained." Tavi: "So I'll have to talk to mall security for this." Tech: "That's my recommendation."
Tavi takes a trip back in time, technologically speaking. She finds a couple of older, overweight men in black uniforms walking the mall. Tavi: "Could one of you accompany me to the Mall Security office?" Guard: "Is there a problem, miss?" Tavi: "No, I just need to speak with some one on an administrative matter." Guard: "Floyd, I'm going to show this lady where the office is." They go down a flight of stairs, down a ladder, past the sign marked "Beware leopard". (Well, okay, not really.) Tavi enters the office and finds a couple of guys drinking coffee and not really paying attention to the monitors. Tavi looks for someone with rank, and finds a rounded balding man with a stripe on his arm that the other one doesn't have. He's looking through his half glasses and doing the crossword. Guard: "Hey, boss? This lady wants to see you." He takes off. Boss: "What's an eleven letter word for steak?" Tavi: "Porterhouse." Boss: "Hey, that fits. Now what can I do for you miss?" Tavi: "Sheila Stevenson. I'm a private investigator, although I'm not working right now. My employer works nearby, and I'd like to get to know some of the security personnel, buy a few cups of coffee, establish a professional relationship. That sort of thing." Boss: "I see." Tavi: "How professional do you want this relationship to be, and what will it cost me?" Boss: "Hey, Harry. Go check out the escalator." The other man leaves. Boss: "Okay, so what's this about?" Tavi: "I need to look at some of your tapes. I don't need to take them, I don't need to copy them. And you can make some money. Now, if they have what I'm looking for on them, you can make more money." Boss: "Seems reasonable. All right." He brings up the tapes of the specified area and time for Tavi. Boss: "We haven't discussed the fee." Tavi: "Let's start with $100 credits Imperial." On the tape, a large vehicle with a big antenna can be seen moving around the parking lot. The security guy can't provide much info on the vehicle, but he can dupe off a copy of the tape. Tavi copies down the specs on the camera type, to help with the processing of the film. Tavi pays him.
Tavi takes the tape to her Imperial friends. They're not sure they can do anything - they do clean up the image as much as they can. The vehicle has big heavy lugged tires, and there's a pretty good chance that it's mud brown or olive drab, and has some white numbers on it. Tech: "This appears to be a military vehicle, or one painted to look like one." There's only so much they can do with the image. Tavi will order some gift certificates for the techs, from a starport techno shop. The main tech she's been dealing with isn't interested in hardware, just Tavi's software. She thanks him separately.
Later, Tavi gets a still picture of the vehicle, with the background hazed out. Either the pickup was a relay, or there was some one in the truck on a radio, bouncing the signal."
Dragon has been researching information on Roberto Escobar. Then she tries to track down anything on his sister Carmen, in Roberto's bios, or anything connected to articles on megacorps. No luck on Carmen. But! She finds a "Roberto apologist". In the newspaper, in the editorial section, she finds some one who's always writing in when the paper writes anything bad about Roberto. The writer is well-spoken, and seems to have a lot of information. The paper seems to be well-balanced, but when the government makes a statement the paper publishes, the author writes in and points out all the flaws. The letters are signed Prof. A. Augusta. Dragon checks on the good professor, and yes there is an Arturo Augusta, a Poli-Sci teacher at the university. Unfortunately he's not teaching this year (he's on sabbatical). Dragon, and her shadow Tim, go to the university in search of information.
In the administration office, Dragon passes herself off as a recently arrived student. Dragon: "I was really anxious to talk to Prof. Augusta, and I was disappointed to see that he wasn't here this semester. Do you know when he'll be back?" Secretary: "It's a crime what the administration did to him, forcing him out after all these years! And the man had tenure." Dragon: "What? I thought he was on sabbatical?" Not exactly. Turns out that a few weeks ago the professor was told to take time off "for his health". ("But I feel fine." "You do now...") Dragon: "That's awful! We need to do something. We should have a rally in his support." They're currently having a rally, in support of Habitat for Humanity, and the environmental issues - one rally at a time, as it ties up resources and rallies need live bodies or they're kind of pointless. Dragon manages to get the professor's message number (he's a small man in a bow tie and beard, according to the staff photos), although the secretary wouldn't give her the address.
Max is wandering around aimless on the ship, and finds one of Amanda's blouses in the common area (she's always been a bit on the casual side when it comes to tidying up). He gets a very far away look in his eyes, and takes it to her cabin. When he returns to the common area, the cop tells him they're out of milk. And pop. And... Sparrow tells Max she'll go shopping, and maybe he should call the police station and see if they can't send someone who isn't quite the eating machine Bernie is. Dwayne is going to go with her, but Sparrow is concerned about Max being left alone. By the time Max assures Dwayne, repeatedly, that he'll be fine, Dwayne has to hustle to catch up and is just in time to see Sparrow coshed on the back of the head by some elderly woman, and shoved into a car that speeds off. (Note: This is happening in the open air market on the starport proper, not where Amanda was taken.) Dwayne draws and fires on the car with his 12mm. The car continues, Dwayne is horrified to see Sparrow slump over in the back seat - did he hit her? The granny didn't get into the car, but is shuffling off into the crowd.
Dragon is near enough to hear the shot, and the cry of "Dwat!!" that can only mean Dwayne. She and Tim head that way. Dwayne has discovered a crowd of grannies, and can't figure out which one is the bad granny. Argh. Dwayne didn't see the woman from the front, and is standing there looking around in a very upset manner when Dragon and Tim arrive. Dwayne: "Ah, Miss Dwagon! Miss Spawwow has been abducted! Call the police!" Dragon: "I think the police aren't much help. We should call Starport Authority." Tim: "Whoa! That granny has a serious five o'clock shadow." Dragon looks that way, and sees a swarthy grandmother with a bushy mustache. As she watches, the man dumps the granny disguise and strolls off. Dragon has no problem following the man, who walks into a large building, probably a hotel or inn. Dragon stops outside, kisses Tim. Dragon: "I'm going inside. If I don't come out, tell the others where I went." Tim: "No way! I'm not letting you go in there alone." Dragon: "We can't both get caught. You're my backup." Okay, if she puts it that way, he'll wait.
Sparrow is in the back of the car, sandwiched between two big examples of the unwashed masses. One of them is holding both her hands in one of his, and wrapping her hands in duct tape. She's a bit dizzy from being hit, and flashes back to the time the Basque put her in a barrel, rolled her down a hill, and then attacked her. Sparrow's hands may be tied, but her head and legs are free, and she puts up a fight. She hits the one who's wrapping her hands in the upper leg, attempting to separate it from it's socket. And it's perilously close to bits he's very fond of. Hood: "You cunt!" Driver: "Get control of that bitch!" The car hurtles down the road at a high rate of speed. Sparrow gets the first blow again, and hits the one with the tape, side kicking him in the ribs. There's a cracking sound.
Dwayne has contacted the starport police, and used his title and everything. They took a few minutes to be convinced it was real kidnapping, but they're on their way.
The second back seat goon tries to hit Sparrow, but he misses. Goon: "Hold still you - " After Sparrow grabs and seriously dislocates the thumb of the man with the tape, she sees the door come unlatched. The driver leans back and tries to help by pointing his gun into the back seat and steering with one hand. This goes on for a while, until the inevitable happens. The driver is still looking over his shoulder when he drives onto the train track, not noticing all the bright flashing lights. There's a deafening crash as the train hits the much smaller vehicle.
The good news for the bad guys is Sparrow let's go of the man's thumb. The rear of the car is propelled through the air like a tiddlywink. Centrifugal force pops the unlatched door open, and drags the man with the bad thumb outward. He tries to grab on to Sparrow, scratching her arms and then he's gone. Sparrow doesn't black out, but everything goes red, and her feet feel like they weigh 40 pounds.
In the distance, Dwayne hears the train horn blow, and then a loud crash. Dwayne wushes to the twain weck. Er, Dwayne goes that way, to render assistance.
Elsewhere, Dragon goes into the building, following the man into the main lobby and to the right down a hallway. She doesn't get too close, but she sees the man come up to a room with yellow evidence tape. Several cops snap to attention, the man speaks to someone, and then goes into the room. Dragon is pretty sure they're still on the starport at this point.
The car slams to a stop. Sparrow is cushioned by the squishy man underneath her. He's not dead yet, just all soft on one side. One part of the car is over there, about the size of a large trash can, and the other part of the car is still being dragged, sparking, under the train. Dwayne goes to the largest piece of metal. There's a lot of blood leaking out of the car and pooling up. Dwayne darts into the hardware store across the street and buys a crowbar. He sees Sparrow, bent up and around the remains of the goon, and covered in blood and gore. Dwayne is able to extricate her, just as the crash team arrives to spray foam on everything. There's no serious physical damage to Sparrow's outsides, just scratches and bruises. She's even conscious. Dwayne: "Awe these the men who kidnapped you?" Sparrow: "No, I leapt into another car and crashed that one into a train!" Dwayne: "I suppose that I desewve that." He cuts the tape off her hands. Sparrow: "Thank you." The EMTs arrive, put Sparrow onto a stretcher and take her to the hospital. Dwayne goes with, and will call the ship to let Max know what happened.
Duane decides to hang out in the bar of the hotel he's staying in. The TV is on in the bar, and it's showing the aftermath of the train wreck. Duane is just thrilled to see the focus shift to "...the man who rushed heroically to the rescue...a highly decorated war veteran in Imperial service..." Yeah. Duane feels sorry for Sparrow; first she was hit by a train, and then she had to put up with the idiot fop. He has another beer, and drinks to her health.
Sparrow is given a fairly clean bill of health, aside from receiving treatment for her concussion and bumps and bruises. She buys a set of scrubs to wear back to the ship as her own clothing wasn't serviceable after the blood and EMT shears. Dwayne escorts her back to the ship, after the police take her statement. Sparrow: "Well, they kidnapped me from the market, drove like maniacs, and crashed into a train." Cop: "I see. Was there any reason for this that you know of? Anyone who wished you harm?" Sparrow: "Nope. I'm not rich, I don't have rich relatives, I've only been here for a few days. I did come on the ship of the person who was kidnapped three days ago, but I don't really have anything to do with the ship other than travelling on it." The cop takes copious notes, and nods constantly. He reminds Sparrow a lot of a turkey. It's rather hypnotic really. Once again, Sparrow is thoroughly unimpressed by the local police force. Cop: "Is there any where you can be reached if we have further questions?" She gives him the number in the ship.
Dragon, not wanting to wait forever, returns to the ship after picking Tim back up outside the hotel.
In the hotel bar, a commentator representing the government is on the air. "When will this end? The only thing that can stop these criminals is to use the one thing they seem to understand - force." He goes on to talk about "the necessity of a new levy to raise money to fund the anti-terrorist group's purchase of more advanced equipment....more police officers...identity cards...checkpoints...", etc. This place keeps getting less and less attractive.
A man in a suit approaches Duane. Man: "Excuse me, Mr. Flett?" He hands him an envelope and leaves. There's an MMC stamped on it. That would be the Menorb Mining Corporation. It's an invitation, handwritten for Sergeant Flett to meet with a representative of the company in his office, at 10:00 o'clock tomorrow morning, in the company headquarters. Signed Joshua P. Stern. Duane doesn't want to do that - he's trying to get in good with the rebels, he can't go off and meet with the opposition. On the paper with the invitation, he writes "You've got to be kidding. Can't you be more discreet than this??" He signs it and sends it back in a plain envelope.
Dragon and Tim get back to the ship, and tell the party what has transpired. Dragon: "It could be he was in the crowd shadowing the person you saw, or it could be he was the one who set her up. Or it could be she wasn't kidnapped for ransom, she might have been taken to be interrogated by the local authorities to find out why Amanda was kidnapped and what she was doing on planet, or what the other members of the group have been doing." Either way, he seems to have some connection with the police. Most of the investigative work even on the starport is handled by planetary police, as the STA is rather short handed. Max goes upstairs to where Bernie is now located (away from the crew areas), and asks for his help in remembering the name of a police officer, as he's met too many in the last few days. Max describes the man Dragon saw. Bernie: "Oh him. That would be Captain Mendoza, the head of the anti-terrorism group." Max thanks him and rejoins the group.
Max: "The man you saw is Captain Mendoza, the head of the Anti-Terrorist Group." Sparrow: "How rude." Dwayne: "It could be the man was just following them." Max: "If he was following them, why would he just walk off and let them kidnap her?" Sparrow: "Because he's a lying sack of dirt." The group discusses what has transpired, the calls, etc. Dwayne: "Is anyone looking into the calls?" Sparrow: "Tavi thought she'd had some connections that might help, I think."
Speaking of Tavi, she meets up with Duane at the hotel. Duane doesn't mention the note he got. Tavi: "If you can get a meeting with your new friends over at the mall in the parking lot, I've got some connections that can help us monitor what goes on." She and Duane talk for a few minutes, then Tavi calls the ship. Tavi: "Any news that you can tell me over an insecure line?" Max: "Not really." Tavi: "I'll be back directly."
True to her word, Tavi returns to the ship. Max: "Would you care to join us in the common area?" Tavi: "Where's Bozo?" Max: "I moved him out of the way." Tavi: "Very good. The transmissions you received earlier today came from this truck <shows picture> that was driving around the mall parking lot. I suspect it was just a relay, and it was the only suspicious vehicle in the area, but it's pretty sure she wasn't in the truck. You may have been talking to some one who was talking to some one on a radio. Can we hear that tape again?" Max goes to make drinks while Tavi listens to the tape, not wanting to hear it again. Tavi: "I don't think it was faked at all, which means they couldn't have been calling from the truck. The vehicle may be military, or just painted to look like it by the rebels. On the other hand, putting pieces together, four of the fifty piece puzzle, you could imply that it's someone trying to line their pockets, either Captain Mendoza or someone else." Max: "Or it may be some one trying to drum up sympathy and support for their actions against the rebels." Tavi: "The police could just be inept, and it could be the military, or the military aren't involved and it's a faction of the police acting on their own." Dwayne: "Or the webels have penetwated both owganizations." Dragon: "Could be. However, we're sneaky, and the message came from that direction. Is there a police or military base out that way?" Not that anyone can tell. Dwayne: "Thewe awe fauna in the awea though." The others look at him curiously. Dwayne: "Well, we nobles awe viewed as silly, empty-headed people who like to wide and hunt, and don't cawe about local politics ow things like that." Dragon: "One of the problems is, if you're riding, much less hunting, you're required to have weapons, which you can't have. Can't have some one shooting back at the military. And if you can get weapons, you can't get caught with them on the planet, etc., etc." Maps are consulted, ideas are bandied about. Dwayne makes preparations to go hunting.
Max: <to Tavi> "May I speak with you?" Tavi: "Sure." Max takes her off for a private chat. Max: "Look, I don't know what your background is, and right now I don't care." Tavi: "We'll just call it military for right now." Max: "You seem to have connections and some knowledge." Tavi: "A few." Max: "My primary concern is getting Amanda back." Tavi: "Understandable, for any number of emotional and nonemotional reasons." Tavi figures since she can pilot the ship, if she has to get off planet in a hurry she can always persuade Max to act as navigator, even if it's at gunpoint; can't hurt to get on his good side for now. Max: "Once we get Amanda back, I want to know who was really responsible. I want to know who was behind it." Tavi: "That may or may not be possible." Max: "Will you help me get that information if you can?" Tavi: "I will look into the possibility. If it is possible, we can discuss terms." Max: "That's good enough for now."
The night passes. People sleep, or not.
Duane is in his hotels lobby when he's approached by a man in a double-breasted suit. Man: "Sgt. Flett?" Duane: "Yeah?" Man: "I was wondering if you would step outside with me. There is some one who would like to speak with you." Duane follows the man outside to a large, very much not inconspicuous car. The back door is opened. Joshua Stern: "Duane, right? Why don't you join me. I'd like to chat." There's a man in a suit, leaning back all relaxed on the seat with a cut crystal glass in his hand. Duane gets in, if only to avoid any more of a spectacle out on the street; so much for low profile. Joshua: "What are you drinkin'?" Duane: "I'm not. And when I said discreet, I meant discreet. This isn't discreet." Joshua: "Well, I'm not hiring a spy, am I? You're a mercenary. You work for the highest bidder don't you?" Duane: "If the job is acceptable." Joshua: "You think you were going to cozen up to those rebels?" Duane: <irritated> "Not now, no." Joshua: "I'm tellin' you, those rebels are smart boys. I've already brought in people to try that. Experts. They didn't get to them, and neither will you." Duane: "So what are you after?" Joshua: "I'm looking for a couple of hard cases to go in there and give Escobar some real trouble and avoid the Imperial inspectors. Some one who can do a better job than the local police." Duane: "From what I've heard, it wouldn't take much to be better than the police. Can you get me in with my gear?" Joshua: "Probably." Duane: "How close can you get me?" Joshua: "Within a 100 klicks, probably." Duane: "How seriously do you want Escobar taken down?" Joshua: "We want him down, but we don't want it to look like off-world mercs did it." Duane: "Two hundred and fifty." Joshua: "Two hundred and fifty rounds riddling the body?" Duane: "No, two hundred and fifty grand." Joshua: "You must think highly of your skills." Duane: "I know who I can count on." Joshua: <grins> "I like the cut of your jib. Two hundred and fifty on delivery of proof of Escobar's demise." (Now Duane is double-dipping.) Joshua: "I'm guessing a draft on a Stern-Metal Lic. account will do?" Duane: "Uh, no. I prefer to avoid doing this through a bank." Joshua: "What then?" Duane: "Dacars, bonds, cash." Joshua: "Dacars don't grow on trees. Bonds I can do. Bearer bonds okay?" Duane: "Fine. Do you have information on which of your mining operations were most recently hit?" Joshua: "Yes. We have a study on that, all the statistics, locations, all that." Duane: "And what about your security people?" Joshua: "They're good people." Duane: "What have they been running up against?" Joshua: "All this stuff will be in your briefing packet if you take the job. I need some one who understands not just crime, but revenge. Someone who can think outside of the box. Some one with negotiable attachments to the rules of war, shall we say." Duane: "I understand, but I still prefer to know who I'm going up against." Joshua: "They're well-organized, and they have support of the locals because some of the planetary forces have gotten too heavy-handed, burned a few villages." Duane: "And they have some offworld sympathizers, I've heard." Joshua: "Yes, a few altruistic souls." Duane: "Do you know who they are?" Joshua: "We know of two mercs who are goodie-two-shoes, and only fight for the "right" causes. We'll get you their names." Duane: "Is there a pattern to which site they target next?" Joshua: "The patterns seem to be completely random, almost as if they're using a computer to randomly generate the next target. They do have a contact who works with smugglers. He actually works for our company, but we've allowed it to continue as he's been useful as a source of information. His name is Jacomo. He's a businessman. He runs a bar." Duane: "Which bar?" No, it's not the one Duane got into a fight in. Joshua: "Jacomo's. Do we have a deal?" Duane: "Yes." Joshua: "It's a pleasure doing business with you. I look forward to hearing from you soon." Duane: "You won't be hearing from me." Joshua: "Of course. Charles, you can drop him off here."
After he's dropped off, Duane walks to the starport, picks up his gear, and sets himself up to wait where he can observe the Bonaventure, but not too close. He's sitting there trying to observe the ship without being associated with it, and he's attracted the attention of a hooker, who attempts to ply her trade. Duane: "Maybe later." Wanda: "I might be busy later." Duane: "Nah." Wanda: "You haven't even seen the merchandise." She opens her jacket to display her assets and hands Duane a large manila envelope. That's a new approach. She leaves Duane her business card (just in case he gets lonely later) and leaves. Duane checks out the contents, carefully. The envelope contains a photo of bearer bonds, fanned out so the amounts can be counted, as well as photos of Escobar, and a lot of intel on estimated area of operation, sites that have been hit, etc., etc., etc. Lots of intel. Duane goes over the info and tries to pick out locations that might mesh with what he understands of Escobar, and what his tactical skills tell him. Places that can hold and support the number of people Escobar travels with are marked. Duane can see a couple of places that might make sense to the mining people, but not to a smart rebel. Escobar isn't stupid, and Duane knows that. He eliminates the bad possibilities off the top. Escobar has an interesting past. A graduate of Rhylanor Military Academy, several terms in the Imperial Army. Then Escobar was charged with insubordination in an incident involving indigent personnel being rounded up on an op, and was allowed to resign his commission. There are notes from his commander. Duane picks the spot he'd choose, marks it, and calls the hooker.
Wanda: "Hello?" Duane: "I've just come up with some free time. Can we meet?" Wanda: "Sure." She knows of a hotel that's nearby, clean and with hourly rates. They arrange to meet. Duane stops at the library to make a copy of the map he's marked and takes it with him. After that he heads for the hotel to meet his new friend. She's already acquired a room, and they go up. Duane takes out a hundred credit note and offers it to her. Wanda: "Hey, I don't turn down a C-note." Duane wanted a place to stay for a while that wasn't connected to him, which Wanda has provided. Duane: "You never met me." Wanda: <taking the money> "I understand. No problem. Now, about that free time of yours..." Duane doesn't accept the offer of short term affection, but does pay her for her time. Money for nothing? No problem. Once he's alone, Duane hires a messenger to deliver a note to Tavi's hotel room, asking to meet her as soon as possible, in his new room.
Tavi receives the message, way too flipping early in the morning! Single digit o'clock?! What was Duane thinking? Tavi does her morning ablutions, gears up and goes to meet Duane.
At the ship, there's a call for Max. A female voice he doesn't recognize. Voice: "Is this Maximilian?" Max: "Yes?" Voice: "I can't talk long. You're looking for Amanda." Max: "Yes, I am. Do you know where she is?" Voice: "Yes.122 D 6 min 32 secs North, 7 D 43 mins west. Start there, and don't trust the police." Max: "I don't. Thank you." Voice: "This has gotten out of hand, it's got to be stopped." <click> Bernie: "Who called?" Max: "Ship business." Bernie: "Okay, I'll review the tape later." It's an old fashioned reel to reel, in a room that might just need to be cleaned later. With a big magnet or something.
Tavi meets Duane, who show her the package but without the picture of the bearer bonds. Tavi: "Okay, I don't know where you got it, but the intel looks promising." Suddenly there's pounding on the door. Tavi instantly appears on the far side of the bed, down on one knee, with gun drawn. Gee, she's awfully quick. Duane answers the door to find a tall offworlder in a bush jacket. Duane: "What can I do for you sir?" Jameson: "My card sir. Jameson Safaris. I understand you were interested in taking a closer look at our local flora and fauna. I thought this area might be good." He pulls out a map as Duane lets him into the room. Jameson: <showing a flat photo> "This is the native jaguar." The picture shows Roberto Escobar in camo, talking to some men. Duane: "When did you see this jaguar?" Jameson: "A couple of weeks ago." Duane: "Do jaguars have a large territory?" Jameson: "They do tend to roam a bit. I've run into this jaguar several times, purely by accident." Tavi: <pointing at a spot on the map> "What about this area here?" Jameson: "Nobody goes up there, mostly military training camps and the like." Tavi: "Ah, no jaguars up there." Duane: "I've heard some of the locals have imported some offworld wildlife." Jameson: "Yes, well, that happens. In spite of the customs, that sort of thing does happen. And these creatures can have a negative impact on the local wildlife." Duane: "Sounds dangerous." Jameson: "I understand you're an experienced naturalist, and will know what to bring along." Tavi: "Is it permissible, when one is on safari, to bring defensive weapons?" Jameson: "No ma'am, only licensed guides can carry those." Tavi: "So you'll be armed?" Jameson: "No ma'am, I'm just a driver. The government recommends taking along a licensed guide, but does not require it." Arrangements are made to leave that afternoon. Jameson leaves.
Tavi: "Don't take this wrong, but my room or your room?" Duane: "Neither. We can stop to pick up your stuff, but..." Tavi: "Get your stuff." Duane: "I've got my stuff." Tavi: <raises an eyebrow> "You pack light." Duane: "You haven't seen what's under my coat." No comment.
At her room, Tavi's little red light is blinking. She struggles to use the primitive telephonic device, and eventually gets the message from Max, asking her to meet him back at the ship for dinner. Ah see, his girlfriend's out in the jungle for a few days and all those humours are building up...NOT! Tavi deletes the message. Tavi: <to Duane> "So far you and Dragon and I are the only ones who know what we're here for, correct?" Duane: "Yes. I've found other options for profit as well." They go to the ship, and Tavi goes in.
Just as a by the way, having discussed some things with some nature guys, no one goes along this area <indicating the red line on Max's map> because it's all military installations. No local flora or fauna there." Max takes Tavi to the bridge and plays the message. Those coordinates are near places Escobar has been operating, but in the area Tavi was told was a military reservation. Tavi writes down the coordinates, and two coordinates along the red tracking line so she can reproduce it on Duane's map. Tavi: "What that place might be, is somewhere under the radar, or it might be a setup." Max: "I've only got 48 hours to get them the ransom money." Tavi: "I hope to be back in that 48 hour window. If I'm not back before the ship has to leave, have my gear delivered to this address on Regina." She gives Max the address on a piece of paper. Tavi: "If you can, when you arrange the drop off if I'm not back, call this guy. <gives him paper> There aren't many of them here, but a clean drop with Imperial coverage may mean you hand over the million credits and get her back. Not a perfect solution, but better than nothing."
Tavi leaves the ship and meets Duane, and together they meet up with Jimmy Jameson to go through customs. There is some hesitation over Duane's knives. Jameson: "What is he going to do in the jungle with a knife? The rebels are going to steal his knives and do what??" Tavi's pistol is a no-go. Nothing doing. The luggage is gone through very carefully. Tavi left all her grenades and other high tech gear on the ship, but has her Corathi claw blade with her, and that's allowed. It might be an issue in town, but they're going into the wilderness. The firearms are left in a locker.
Off into the woods in the Uni-mog vehicle, with the eco-tourists. Yeah, right. Jimmy's being well-paid, and doesn't want to know what they're really doing, since then he'd have to lie about it if asked. Tavi spends the time trying to pick up on how to drive the vehicle, just in case. Duane sharpens his knives. And he and Tavi nap occasionally.
Dwayne comes out to talk to Max, and make sure he's okay. Dwayne: "Any news?" Max takes Dwayne into the cockpit and plays the tape of the recording. Max: "The idiot upstairs hasn't played back the tape yet. Could I ask you to possibly distract him for a few minutes while I make sure he doesn't get to it?" Dwayne makes a call and finds out what the best local bakery is, calls them and orders fresh brewed coffee and pastries. After the delivery, the appropriate doors are opened to make sure the fresh coffee smell wafts up. Bernie comes a runnin'. Bernie: "Are these fresh cream puffs? And éclairs?" Much eating. Dwayne is concerned about the man's cardiac health. Meanwhile, Max goes upstairs and tampers with police equipment. Specifically, he gets a big magnetic core from engineering, and ends up spending most of the next 15 minutes getting it unstuck from the tape recorder, then repairing the scratch. Right now he really wishes Geoff and Ezbeki were here - Ezbeki would know how to tamper with even old-fashioned police equipment. (Obviously Max is being adversely effected by all the stress if he misses Ezbeki.) Bernie: "Are you going to eat that?" Dwayne: "Oh no, go ahead." The relish with which Bernie sucks the raspberry jelly from the middle of the jelly doughnut is remarkably like a wild animal sucking the marrow from the bones of its prey. Max returns. Dwayne: "Well, I shouldn't keep you from your post." Bernie: "Oh jeeze, yeah I better check out the gear. It's probably time to put a new tape on." He comes right back down, looking unhappy. Bernie: "We've got a problem. I think some one's been tampering with my gear." Max: "What?" Bernie: "Come here." He opens the door to the cabin, and the reel is stuck to the wall. Bernie: "It appears it's been magnetized. I went to take it off the reel and it flew out of my hand and stuck to the wall." Right next to the invisible "Bang head here" sign, no doubt. Max: "I gather it doesn't normally do that." Bernie: "No. Someone doesn't want us to hear what was on that tape. Some one perhaps with something to gain. I've got to call this in, it may be someone on board this ship." Max: "There are only so many people on board this ship. If anyone was up to something suspicious, surely you would have noticed. I mean you are the officer in charge here." Bernie: "Like you said, there are only so many people on board. There should be a record of who's been coming and going through the hatches. First I should call my superior and get a few more officers down here. I'm beginning to wonder if your young lady was taken by the rebels or someone in it for their own profit. I don't want to use my radio, just in case. Can I use your commo suite?" Max: "No. I've already made things worse because they think I was 'cooperating with the police'. I'm not going to endanger Amanda any further. You want to call, make it from off the ship." Bernie: "Fine. I'll be right back." He walks away like someone with crosshairs on his back. Across the street, he makes a call from a public phone.