Having just finished a trade deal and traveling to their next stop, the crew of the Claudia intercepted a distress message. being transmitted by a small courier ship in the process of leaving the atmosphere of a nearby moon.
“They’re dead,” she said. Sebastian polled the crew and it was unanimous – they’d go to the rescue. The crew instructed her to land on the planet and that they’d be right next to her within moments. She landed back at her former campsite and ran to the Claudia as soon as the bay doors opened.
The camp was abandoned, the fire still smoldering, with the exception of two dead bodies. The first was killed execution-style in the center of the camp, while the other – a former Browncoat – was shot in the back as he attempted to run for the cover of the tree-line.
The tracks told the story of what had happened. Three killers had taken out everyone in the camp, save two – the woman who’d escaped and her sister, who’d been taken by the killers.
Atticus took point and started tracking the killers as the sun set, while Seb minded the ship and the woman who’d gotten away.
To hedge his bets at not being seen as he led the group, Tuttle took an item from his pack – a compact cloth-like object rolled into a short cylinder. Unfurling it, he stepped into it and it enveloped him, the suit bending light to help hide him from direct visual contact, especially in the dark of night.
Theh path wasn’t difficult to follow. As it turns out, it was indeed too easy. As Evelyn marched with the group, Atticus stopped her just short of triggering a trip wire attached to a mine. In the midst of disarming the mine, an important part snapped off, triggering the explosion with only a slight delay. It should have worked like a charm, but the mine was older and hadn’t been well-maintained at all. Evelyn was able to get out of the blast radius of the mine and under cover of a shallow ridge.
Continuing further along the trail, staying off – but not too far – of the beaten path, the crew eventually saw a bonfire in the distance. Using binoculars, they could see the three men near the bonfire with the woman toed to a stake off fo the side.
The three split up. Evelyn remained at a decent distance with a rifle, Atticus made his way through the grass and darkness until he was within spitting distance of the bonfire, while Kwon Lo Shi kept the bonfire between him and the men – men dressed in Browncoat uniforms – as he crept up.
Evelyn took her shot when she got it and one of the men by the bonfire fell, less his head. The other two drew their weapons and scanned the area as best they could around the fire.
Tuttle called out to them to reason with them, but they responded with only their need to “kill the witch.” Kwon noticed that the two left, as well as the corpse on the ground, all had a tattoo on the back of their right hands – a dagger through the center of a diamond shape.
When it became obvious that the men wouldn’t be giving up anytime soon and that they would kill their hostage, Kwon attacked. Within moments, the man nearest the fire was on the ground with a broken neck.
Atticus shot and put a round through the center of mass of the last witch hunter. As he lie there bleeding, he asked only that Atticus hunt the witches in his stead and that he was their brother.
Sebastian touched down in the clearing, picking up his crew and the alleged witch. She and the other survivor explained that she did sometimes have good runs at gambling – really very good runs, in fact. She wasn’t a witch, but luck seemed to follow her wherever she went.
The bodies of the killers were taken aboard the Evelyn. The body of the last, who had talked to Tuttle, had one last spark of life that he used to touch a nearby computer panel, displaying a list of names. “Hunt the witches, brother,” he instructed.
As the two women took off in their ship, the were immediately intercepted by an Alliance dreadnaught that had just entered nearby space and taken aboard.
Witch or not, someone wanted that woman badly enough to send not just any ship, but a capital ship to take them prisoner. And how did the Alliance know about them in the first place?
The plot was certainly getting thicker by the moment…