3. Master and Commander
Date: 134-993 Imperial.
Location: Shanape system (1023), Shanape highport, aboard the free trader Avarice Rewarded.
Two days did not find Gani Hayeck, the absent master and commander. His personal communicator was out of service. The downport hotel he'd given as a contact knew nothing about him. His name didn't show in any local news searches. When he'd been gone 48 hours, Silea reported him missing to the highport authorities. They echoed the report to downport, who passed it to local law, and it sat in the databases for a few hours before a downport security employee looked into it.
Four hours later a highport security officer came to see them. It seemed that Hayeck had transferred to downport via grav shuttle on 130-993 as they expected. He did not check into a hotel at the downport or in the local area. He rode another grav shuttle back up to the highport and left the system in a low berth five hours later, aboard a jump 3 passenger ship bound spinward-rimward via the Harukaze system.
There was no evidence of foul play, he had committed no crime, and neither the imperial nor the planetary authorities had any official reason to take an interest in him. But it rather looked as if...
"He's done a bleedin' runner!" said Fish.
"Do you have any reason to think... ?" the security officer raised an eyebrow and invited the other two to pour their hearts out.
Silea glanced at Fish to quiet him and replied. "There's nothing... sinister as such. But times haven't been great aboard this ship. And I had a feeling that Hayeck might be quitting soon, with the new owner and all. I didn't expect anything like this, though."
"New owner?" asked the security officer, and they explained some more.
The Avarice Rewarded was owned, with five or six other vessels, by a private trading company based in the Delta quadrant. The company had bought it from a retiring owner-captain, and they'd acquired Silea and the Fish with the ship. The company put Hayeck in command, he'd talked his way into a speculative trading role rather than running a charter, and it had taken him about 18 months to make a thorough hash of it. The ship made no money and its maintenance was less than perfect. The captain had annoyed the laid-back Luriani and driven two less tolerant crewmembers (a gunner/deckhand/steward and a medic) to quit.
It had come as no particular surprise when the ship was transferred to a new private owner "in settlement of a debt", and the remaining skeleton crew ordered to Shanape for handover.
"And now your captain has... departed suddenly" said the security man. "Do you think you could have a look at the command data and see if there's anything important?"
He'd need a warrant to insist on that, but Silea was just as interested he was and she had no real objections anyway. "I think that's within my purview, as second officer with the captain missing" she said. She swivelled her chair and started tapping access codes.
"Air-bleeding bastard. He's raided the till."
The Avarice Rewarded had no money, no captain, no cargo, no business, no plan, six months to the next refit, half a crew, and a new owner due aboard any time now.