The HighandDry checked in at Tarsus spaceport, cleared customs, and registered for oceanic fuel replenishment during its stay, and then made for the Drake Ranch, several thousand kilometers to the west.
Shara met them with news about the money troubles facing her father’s ranch, and the hunch that both he and the manager had that these problems – a few years in the making – were deliberate. Beyond that, her father had gone missing a few days beforehand, while she was away bidding on licenses for an upcoming, and financially crucial, hunt.
The three, along with Shara, took off the next morning in the ranch’s Air/Raft and conducted a search of the areas where her father seemed likely to be found, and ended up making their way into the massive swamp the reached out from the southern coastal lands near their property.
Hal noticed a few feline predators circling a tree and after chasing them off found the body of Shara’s father lodged high in its branches. After getting the corpse down, Hal and Scoutster Sam tracked broken branches and a slight blood trail deeper into the swamp while HP and Shara, clearly shocked and barely holding on, took the remains back to the ranch.
A few hours later Hal and Schblapdorf saw an Air/Raft skimming the trees a little to their south, and unsuccessfully hid – which prompted the thee-man crew to begin shooting at them. A brief exchange of shots – including laser blasts from one of the intruders – ended with the vehicle nosing down into the soft mud, it crew knocked out from gunfire.
Later that night, after the constabulary had dispatched a small team to take statements and investigate, the group was left with the need to plan a funeral and burial, and questions about who those men – taken into custody – were, why they’d attacked them and presumably Shara’s father, what the purpose of the sonic stakes they’d found in the swamp was, and how the might all relate to the problems facing the ranch.