The Avalon departed from Nexine with a full cargo hold and headed for Palique. Despite the potential ramifications of having worked for Paliquan dissidents Julio decided to trust in the good impression he had made on his first trip there. The journey was uneventful and the ship made planetfall in good time. Captain Battalitor set to work contacting local brokers to shift his cargo while his crew went about prepping the Avalon for the next trip.
Alex decided to go looking for other, more diverting, work. In the course of trawling the underworld dives around the starport he spotted a man tailing him and tried to lose him. His pursuer was close and moved quickly to catch up. Drake almost drew his weapon and opened fire before recognising the man as Sergeant Victor Van Janson – an ex-army trooper who had worked closely with Drake on one of his extended counter-intelligence operations. Van Janson greeted Drake and warned him that one of Drake’s recent victims had hired him to kill him. The crazed zealot Pontifex Volenz had very accurate information as to Drake’s recent whereabouts and was anxious to deliver divine justice for the theft of one of his cult’s most sacred relics. Victor had decided to take the job in case it happened to be his old friend and couldn’t be sure if he was the only heavy entrusted with the mission as the Pontifex appeared to have deep pockets. Alex thanked Victor and said he would put in a good word with the Captain if he wished to hitch a ride with the Avalon. On hearing that the Avalon was captained by Julio Battalitor Victor was somewhat shocked. The two had worked together back on Cagaro during Vic’s mercenary days – indeed the Sergeant had been part of Battalitor’s security detail for a time. To find the Marquis reduced to captaining a tramp freighter operator was a surprise. He went to meet Battalitor and the good Captain, mindful of the large profits he was making, decided that an additional trustworthy security expert was just what the doctor ordered.
Alex had turned up a contact who claimed to have work for discreet operators with a jump-capable vessel. Julio took the reins and got in touch with Matthew Rexel. He was the CEO of Rexeltech – a company with a presence in several systems across the sub-sector specialising in planetary surveys. Rexel asked for a meeting as soon as possible and the crew obliged. He told them that one of his survey vessels the ‘Brook’ was over a week late in returning from a routine mission to the planet Sinai (one jump from Palique). The crew were there obtaining biological samples for a Biotech company. Rexel was very concerned as Captain Cole of the Brook was a personal friend of several years. Beyond that the vessel and equipment on the expedition represented over 200 MCr of Rexeltech assets. He asked Julio to jump to Sinai, find the brook and do what was necessary to get them home. He offered to cover costs and chip in 50,000 credits as a retainer with bonuses based on how much help the crew needed to render the Brook and how much of their cargo they recovered. Anxious to build a relationship with a wealthy businessman Julio accepted. The crew spent some time gathering information on Sinai and picking up necessary supplies – including a disarmed gun skiff – and they departed with all haste. Julio put his trades on hold to give the mission priority.
The jump to Sinai was text-book. Initial scans showed no sign of the Brook so Nelson took the Brook in to orbit around the planet. Al Barani picked up something on the planet’s surface that could well have been the Brook. Attempts were made to hail them but no reply was received. Further scans showed some short range encrypted messages originating from the area around the suspected Brook. Another attempt to hail was made. This time Alex mentioned that the Avalon had been sent by Rexeltech to assist and a reply was almost instantaneous.
Captain Jenson Cole confirmed the location of the Brook, said that they were having some trouble and offered landing co-ordinates so the Avalon could come down to assist. At this point the Avalon received another message from the surface (likely from a portable transceiver). A woman’s voice told them not to trust Captain Cole. The Brook jammed the signal straight away and Cole explained that the voice was Kate Anderson – formerly the Brook’s xenologist and science officer. Cole blamed her for the Brook’s current predicament and claimed that she was some kind of hippie saboteur who had tried to kill them all. He promised a fuller explanation once the Avalon landed. Despite some misgivings the decision was made to land and meet with the Captain.
The crew cautiously approached the Brook and found Cole and his team engaged in repairs. The Captain explained that the Brook had crash-landed over a week ago after suspected sabotage by Anderson. She had become uncooperative over the course of the week as the crew removed samples from Sinai and Cole suspects she is part of some extremist eco-terrorist group. In the course of the crash one crewmember was killed. Two of the captured samples escaped and both Anderson and the security chief – Zolo Rennick – went missing. Cole does not think that Zolo is working with Anderson but rather that he is having a mental breakdown due to post-traumatic stress from his time in the Star Marines. He supplied some recorded radio transmissions from Rennick which seemed to indicate he was taking care of a wounded marine comrade in a war-zone. He had been having bad nightmares over the previous week and seemed to snap when the brook crashed.
Cole outlined the help required of the team. He needed to recover Subject Five (a large reptile) and Subject Twelve (a plant). Rennick had to be found and recovered safely. Anderson took several critical jump drive parts with her when she fled and these had to be recovered. Once this was accomplished the repairs to the Brook could be completed and they could jump home.
Mission 1 – Finding Zolo Rennick
The decision was made to find Zolo Rennick first. Rashid attempted to get in radio contact using his knowledge of Star Marine codes and procedures. Rennick replied but was paranoid and delusional and refused to cooperate. He was not far away but had holed up in the thickest jungle on Sinai and would be tough to find. Though Rennick had already seen the Avalon land Warren suggested using the ship’s boat (an ex-navy vessel) to stage a fake extraction to see if Rennick would try to either reach them or hijack the boat.
Rasid, Alex and Warren concocted a message with extraction co-ordinates and the tried to contact Rennick again. This time they had more success and he replied. He said that his injured squad-mate could not move and needed a stretcher to reach the boat. He gave directions from the boat to his position and requested assistance. Vic, Alex and Rashid suited up and went in. The followed a stream up through the tick jungle for several minutes. It led to an old volcanic crater with a bubbling water lake at the bottom. As they approached Rennicks position they spotted several traps that Rennick had constructed. The fact that he had not warned them about the traps put them even more on alert.
Rashid was caught in a snare trap and almost triggered several grenades that had been attached to it. Vic spotted them and managed to disable the trap but Rennick took this opportunity to attack from his hidden position. He dropped a frag grenade between the pair and opened fire with his assault rifle. Rashid dived for cover but Vic trusted in his combat armour and tried to drop a stun grenade on Rennick’ position. It went wide but forced Rennick to fall back into his trench for cover. Victor and Rashid tried to flank the deranged marine while keeping him under suppressing fire. In the meantime Alex had crept up through the thick undergrowth and when Rennick popped up to fire was able to disable him with a well-aimed stunner shot. Nearby they located subject Twelve – an inoccuous looking plant – and began to speculate that the plant was using some kind of psionic or pheromonal control over the marine. The crew cuffed Rennick, put the specimen plant in a container and got the pair back to the boat before returning to the Brook.