Mad lands Acorn at the Calhoun Space Port. Sheila Esposito is waiting at the dock for them. She greets the entire crew enthusiastically, but both Mad and Colt notice she winces slightly when Sebastian calls her “Marshal”. It is also apparent that she is missing her badge. When Colt asks her directly about it, Esposito blushes, but only says that she’s “on leave.” Dinner tonight will be on her, she tells the crew, and Sebastian can take her out tomorrow. She will return later that evening. After Esposito leaves, there is some speculation as to whether or not her “leave” is voluntary.
That night, Esposito takes the crew to a local steakhouse for dinner. During the nice meal and pleasant chatting, (although Colt remains fairly quiet), Esposito lets it drop that she’s been on leave for two weeks. She won’t elaborate further, however. She does let the crew know that their “friends” from their last stay on Ezra have been sent to Dyton. After dinner, Colt and Mad go out for a night on the town.
The next day, Colt and Mad convince Sebastian to get a nice set of clothes for his date with Esposito. Sebastian also buys a single rose which he presents Esposito with when she picks him up that night. The two go out for a dinner of dim sum during which Esposito explains her current situation to Sebastian. A few weeks to a month ago, a woman named Shandra Grant from Mansdell Crossing showed up at the Marshal’s office looking for her 18 year old son. Her son, Jakeson, had been picked up for disorderly conduct. The constable told Grant that he had sent her son on to Calhoun with the Federal Marshals. Esposito had never heard of Jakeson Grant so she started digging into the situation and discovered some disturbing pieces of information. Jakeson Grant was not the only person who had gone missing in Mansdell Crossing. Many more people, mostly men of a particular age and type, had missing persons reports on file. Esposito began to suspect the constable was involved in a human trafficking ring … one that also involved Adlai Niska. Upon reporting her suspicions to her superiors, Esposito was told to drop her investigation and her partner was re-assigned to a different planet.
However, Esposito could not stop looking into Jakeson‘s disappearance. She had given her word to Shandra Grant that she would find her son. She put in for a indefinite leave of absence to continue her investigations on her own. She is convinced that if she can get up to Niska’s Skyplex and search for information among the throng of people that frequent the ongoing black market, she will get some leads on Jakeson’s whereabouts. However, Esposito has no ship to make the journey, nor does she have a way to get onto the Skyplex even if she could hire transportation. Sebastian is moved by her story and suggests that his crew may be able to help. He will talk to them tomorrow. After dinner, Esposito’s mood shifts to a more romantic one, which makes Sebastian incredibly nervous. In turn, Esposito gets flustered and embarrassed. She takes him back to the ship.
Meanwhile, Colt and Mad go out for a second night. Neither one of them manages to secure company for the evening, so they spend the evening quietly drinking together. Colt tells Mad about his desire to reconnect with the members of his squad from the War. She is very sympathetic and agrees it is important for him to try. Eventually, the two head back to Acorn.
The next day at breakfast, Mad grills Sebastian about his date. Sebastian relates Esposito’s story to the crew. Colt has many questions which Sebastian answers as best as he can. Colt is clearly not enthusiastic about the idea of helping out the Alliance. Sebastian leaves to invite Esposito to lunch so she can explain her situation more fully to the crew and she agrees. Sebastian also contacts Shandra Grant to try and establish a Browncoat connection so that he can try to convince Colt that they should help Esposito. He discovers that Grant’s brother, Landon, fought and died with the Independents in the Battle of Sturges.
Esposito arrives at Acorn. Sebastian draws her aside to tell her about Grant’s brother. He tells her that she should make sure to mention it. As everyone sits down for lunch, it doesn’t take long to start talking business. At Colt‘s request, Esposito retells the events leading up to her leave of absence. Colt can tell that Esposito drops the part about the Battle of Sturges intentionally to try and persuade him, but he also gets the sense that she is truly a woman of her word. After a bit of discussion, the entire crew agrees to help Esposito. However, since it quite possible that Niksa’s people are aware of who she is and the investigation she was leading, it is decided that Esposito will remain on Acorn while the rest of the crew boards the Skyplex to gather information. Esposito goes back to her flat to pack a small bag, while Mo leaves to find a black market contact.
Esposito arrives back at the ship. Mo returns some time later after talking to a contact named Fenhong. For the right amount of platinum, Fenhong has given Mo a secure frequency for first-time visitors to the Skyplex. He also told Mo about what to expect upon arriving. As long as weapons aren’t visible, then it is okay to carry them. However, guests who don’t “place nice” or are considered “non-compliant” are dealt with permanently. Arriving ships are externally scanned before docking and each first-time visitor is given a complete biometric scan.
Mad invites Esposito up to the cockpit so she can enjoy the view of the stars. Once everyone is settled, Acorn lifts off. As the ship approaches the Skyplex, Mad uses the secure frequency to request permission to dock. After stating their business (and dropping Fenhong’s name as a contact), Mad is given the coordinates to dock. Following directions, the crew leaves the ship one at a time. Armed guards in grey jumpsuits and riot gear await them. Each person is required to place their hand on a biometric scanner. After the last crew member finishes, one of the guards directs them to a lift. They crew has a 24 hour pass to the Skyplex. They are limited to this docking ring and the market floor of the main deck.
The crew heads down in the lift. The doors open upon a huge marketplace. There is a pleasure sector, a market, a commissary, a gymnasium, a halo-rec area, as well as lounge suites. The crew starts looking around for a good place for Sebastian to try and access the Skyplex‘s computer network. The first maintenance panel they find is too public and is watched by cameras. Sebastian suggests that the halo-rec area would be a good place to search. It doesn’t take long before a maintenance door is found. Sebastian and Mo head back to Acorn so he can grab his databook.
Upon returning, Sebastian hacks the electronic code to open the maintenance door. Mo stays close to the door. Colt finds a good vantage point to watch the surroundings and blends into the crowd. Mad also finds a good point to keep an eye on things, but purposefully uses her natural ability to draw attention to herself. Sebastian finds a small terminal inside the door. He sits down and gets to work. Upon hacking into the Skyplex‘s docking records, he finds two places that stand out from the rest. Ships periodically arrive whose place of origin is listed as either “Sarkaya” or “Dante”. These locations are a complete mystery to the crew. Cross-checking against Esposito’s list of dates, Sebastian is able to see that two days before Jakeson’s arrest, a ship from Sarkaya docked at the Skyplex. Within a few days after the arrest, the ship departed again.
Not finding any other information, Sebastian tries to insert a “back door” into the Skyplex‘s computer system in order to more easily access it remotely. Upon hitting “enter” on the last keystroke, the entire computer shuts down. Sebastian figures it’s only a matter of time before security shows up. As he alerts the rest of the crew, Sebastian quickly wipes down the surfaces he touched then bolts out of the room. He and Mo make a bee-line for the exit, keeping their heads down. Colt follows at a distance behind. Mad remains in the halo-rec room to see what happens. Colt notices a pair of security guards heading up the corridor they are traveling; he tenses as they then pass the group, making their way toward the halo-rec room. When the pair of security guards enter and start making their way to the maintenance door, Mad slowly works her way out of the room.
The entire crew reconvenes in the marketplace. They are all aware that it may be only a matter of time before they are linked to the computer terminal in the halo-rec room. They split up to try and ask around about Sarkaya and Dante. Also, since it will look odd not to return without any purchases, Colt goes about securing some purchases for the ship—learning the hard way that the underworld deals in metals, not credits. Everyone Mad talks to only tells her that it is best if she just forget about that name. However, Mo finally finds a merchant that tells them (for a price) to ask Captain Irene Valus. She flies a ship out of Hera and can usually be found in the halo-rec area.
While Mo and Sebastian transport the purchases back to Acorn, Mad and Colt head back to the halo-rec area. They find Captain Valus at a video faro table. She is one of the ugliest women either has either seen. Barrel-shaped with a head of flaming red hair, she bristles a bit when Mad offers to buy her a drink. Once she realizes that the two of them have a business proposal for her, Valus takes them into a private room.
It takes a bit of haggling (and a bit of platinum), but Valus tells them that Sarkaya is a man. He hails from Hera and runs a place named Yuva. Yuva is a small, out of the way town on the eastern hemisphere of Hera, but it’s not too hard to find. It’s not a restricted place to visit, but strangers will be noticed just like in any other small town.
Mad and Colt head back to the ship. The guard asks if they will be returning to the Skyplex. The two are given an access code that will be good for two months. Upon getting clearance to leave, Mad pilots Acorn away from the space station, but does not immediately head back to Ezra. There is a lot of information to discuss and plans of action to establish before moving on.