The Cerberus found themselves being approached by two ships once they entered the Drotor system.
“We have an audio transmission,” Lucy reported. “They give us two minutes to patch them through.”
Ophelia nodded. “Unidentified ship,” it said. “We are the official gatekeepers of Drothos. Give your name, affiliation and reason for being here.”
“Captain Ophelia Wester of the Cerberus,” Ophelia answered. “Independent but technically affiliated with Akumil. We’re here to pick up some cargo for Earth.”
The response took nearly ten minutes. “Understood. Be prepared for inspection on your way out.”
“Acknowledged,” Ophelia stated. The two ships backed away.
“They seem to be unusually high strung,” Yuri observed.
“That’s a good way to put it,” Ophelia said.
“It’s to be expected with this system,” Lucy stated.
“For what reason?” Yuri inquired.
“Drotor garners a lot of controversy,” Kat answered.
“Because they still allow slavery,” Alison elaborated. “You get a lot of people coming in to try and smuggle some out. I actually donate to a group called ‘Exit Drotor’ that finances expeditions of volunteers and mercenaries for that purpose.”
“Don’t tell any of the authorities that,” Lucy cautioned. “Or random people you run into.”
“I know,” Allison said. “I’m not an idiot. Well, not a complete idiot, anyway.”
“Is there nothing that can be done?” Yuri asked.
“Trade embargoes and other sanctions from various worlds,” Ophelia said. “But the Drothos Empire spans six inhabited worlds and, right now, they’re still willing to ignore public opinion.” She sighed. “Right now, we have a mission. I’m taking us to Drothos Prime. We’ll try to get a lead on Mister Tawaig. I want you in teams for safety. Kat, Farah and Leon will go together. Lucy, Yuri and Allison will go together. Keep us updated and report anything that you learn or any sign of trouble, no matter how minor.”
Kat glanced through a listing of wanted criminals. “Looks like our boy has quite the bounty on him,” she observed. “And he’s got a coranus with him.”
“Aren’t they basically just snake people?” Leon asked.
“Kind of,” Kat answered. She picked up her communicator. “Kat to Ophelia, we found a last known location for him.”
“And that would be?” Ophelia’s voice asked.
“The asteroid field that separates Drothos four from Drothos five,” Kat answered. “He may have a hideout there. You should also have Paul prepare some anti-venom. It seems that he’s accompanied by a coranus.”
“All right,” Ophelia said. “Return to the shuttle and wait for Lucy’s team. We’ll follow up on your lead as soon as you guys get back.”
“Understood,” Kat said. She carefully hung her communicator at her waist.
“I don’t really get it,” Farah mused. “What’s a rich boy doing robbing ships?”
“It’s probably for kicks,” Leon said.
“The rumour is that he takes their cargo, sells it himself and uses the money for people who really need it,” Kat explained. “But that’s never been reliably confirmed.”
Leon shrugged. “Just ask the bastard when we catch up to him.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t suggest torturing it out of him,” Kat teased. “Whatever happened to your excessive edge?”
“We can’t torture him,” Leon answered. “We’re only allowed to stun him.”
The trio made their way to the shuttle. They were quickly joined by Lucy’s party and made their way back to the Cerberus. Farah noticed that Yuri’s hand was trembling while Allison gently held it. Yuri also had a strange look on her face.
“Yuri, are you pouting?” Farah asked.
“Negative,” Yuri answered.
“She’s upset because some arsehole tried to buy her,” Allison stated.
“He was very observant to notice that she’s an android,” Lucy said.
“He thought that I was a robot,” Yuri corrected her.
“Isn’t an android technically a type of robot?” Kat asked. Yuri glared at her.
“I’m taking us to the asteroid belt,” Ophelia said. “Kat, take the squad out and we’ll link the Cerberus’ scanners to your fighters. Hopefully, that’ll increase our coverage area enough to find this guy.” She picked up her communicator. “Grace, he’s probably got some type of shielding to block scanners. I want you to work on piercing that.”
“It won’ be easy without knowing what he’s using,” Grace grumbled. “But if I check the static I may be able to see some indication but differentiating between that and the regular background noise may be difficult.”
“I may have a more effective method,” Lucy interrupted. “What if we make him come to us instead of spending who knows how long sifting through the scanning noise to find him?”
“I’m listening,” Ophelia said.