The merchant vessel we boarded continues on its way out of the Imperium toward the Brotherhood of Knives. Hat continues to recover from his wounds, while Rav and Khuil work off their passage debt. In his spare time, Rav works at sharpening his investigative skills, in the hopes of be able to unravel the mysteries of situation like the on encountered on Gath. Khuil also prepares for a repeat of Gath on a some-what different basis, by boning up on heavy weapon usage. Rav and Khuil notice that the regular crew of the ship are remarkably close-mouthed. Thus, one night at dinner, Khuil and Rav are left with only one person to talk to, another passenger named Phineas. Rav exchanges news with Phineas, and learns that Phineas is heading out to the Brotherhood to open his own company. Rav asks Phineas to keep an ear open for jobs for the group, since the group has a collection of skills that many independent businessman would find useful. The two exchange contact information. Khuil continues to plot Hat’s demise… in retaliation for his behavior back at the hotel bombing, as well as contemplating the exhaustion of his fresh meat supply.
The merchant vessel stops at a re-fueling planet at the edge of Imperium space. As the ship is going to be staying there for about a week, Phineas, Khuil, and Rav decide to check out the local scenery. As it turns out, the local scenery isn’t all that appealing to look at. The “spaceport” consists of a series of concrete slabs separated by blast walls, though the spaceport is still protected by an Imperial Marine complement. A small town has grown up next to the spaceport. In appearance the town resembles an Earth 1800s era North American boom town, though with enough modern conveniences to avoid putting much hardship on the group. Khuil and Rav head to the bar. The bartender regales the duo with tales of the elusive “Snipe”, a local creature that, though never seen, is responsible for the routine deaths of local livestock, with the not-uncommon death of people as well. The bartender even describes the “Great Snipe Hunt”, a local event where the populace at large goes into the wilderness to try and hunt snipes. According to the bartender, the latest version of this event resulting in a higher-than-expected casualty rate, with the sheriff, his deputy, the coroner, the dispatcher, and an individual by the name of Bessie among the dead.
At this point, Rav hears a group of locals attempting to restrain their laughter in response to the bartender’s story. Bringing over some drinks, Rav and Khuil strike up a conversation with the locals to find out what they were laughing about. The “Great Snipe Hunt” is apparently a story the bartender likes to use to mess with travelers for his own amusement, and does not actually exist. However, according to the locals the snipe itself is real. Further conversation with the locals reveals the following facts:
- The town is about 370 years old, and has been quite poor for its entire existence. The common-acknowledged goal of many of the citizens is to somehow save up enough money to start a new life else-where.
- The sheriff, his deputy, and the dispatcher are all fine. The coroner did indeed go missing 9 months ago, though the locals think that this was more to do with the coroner amusing himself with the sheriff’s wife than anything.
- The snipes do hunt livestock, leaving behind chew marks and acid burns. The snipes have apparently been killing livestock so fast that its been impossible to breed the livestock fast enough to keep up, and new livestock have to be shipped in from off-world.
- Bessie is apparently a cow, not a person. (very important fact!)
After their conversation in the bar, Khuil and Rav wander the town, making note of the general store, the butcher shop, and a hotel of reasonably good quality. Khuil and Phineas stay at the hotel overnight. The next day, Rav and Khuil go shopping. They first visit the butcher shop, where they learn that during the night, Bessie was kill by a snipe (oh no!). Khuil buys 30 lbs of assorted meat, though he worries about keeping the meat fresh. It turns out he didn’t need to worry, as the general store, which the duo visit next, has a vacuum-sealing service. Rav and Khuil also buy two assault rifles and ammo to round out their combat supplies. Phineas, meanwhile, has spent the day thus far at the bar. He later finds Rav and Khuil and lets them know about a rumor he picked up at the bar. Phineas wasn’t able to find out specifics, but he did hear rumors of unusual ship traffic and cargo movement over at the spaceport. The trio decide to take a casual look around the spaceport to look for anything unusual. They begin with the ship the group came in on, noticing several facts. They see members of the crew in a hushed conversation with someone. The crew members were acting furtively, and making some effort to avoid being overheard, which prevents the group from seeing who the crew members are talking to. Further examination of the other ships in the spaceport reveals several trends. Many of the ships currently in the spaceport are well-armed, and obviously outfitted for speed. There seem to be fewer crew out on liberty than one might expect, and the crew members the group does see are all universally armed. From what the group can tell, the only cargo any of the ships seem to be off-loading are cryo containers. The group can’t get a good look at the containers without catching the attention of the various crews, so the group moves into town to try and track the containers movements from that location. At the town’s main gate, the group observes a wagon with cryo containers being moved out of town by some of the locals. The cryo containers do appear to be livestock containers.
Finding the cargo situation unusual, the group now has to make the decision whether to simply wait out the week and continue on their journey, or to investigate the cargo situation in a “Great Snipe Hunt” of their own…