The crew discovers they will be held liable for at least part of the damages inflicted to Port-Aux-Paix station during last episode’s ambush. The crew go to the downport’s control tower and contact Port-Aux-Paix dockmaster, Plinth, to try to negotiate the costs down. As they converse, a severe particle storm brews up and communication becomes difficult.
Suddenly Plinth puts them on hold to handle an urgent matter. When he reconnects, Plinth tells the crew that a gas freighter is in distress in the upper atmosphere of the Tortuga gas giant, and asks the crew to lift off in the Mafdet to assist as no other vessels are available. In return, Plinth agrees to waive the cost of the damage to Port-Aux-Paix.
The Mafdet has developed a strong electrical charge sitting on the landing field out in the storm. The crew quickly ground the ship out with a conductive cable and anchor system and are then able to safely board the ship and perform an emergency launch.
On reaching the upper atmosphere of the gas giant, the crew detects the freighter, and discovers that a small unknown ship, similar in mass to the Mafdet, has docked with it. Suspecting a pirate raid or trap, the crew approach cautiously. Ranso opens fire with the Mafdet’s sensor array laser, scoring hits on the aft of the smaller docked vessel, but also accidentally clipping the freighter with some of the beam. The smaller vessel seems to take significant damage, however the freighter begins leaking coolant and the crew realize time is of the essence.
The Mafdet quickly docks at the airlock on the opposite side of the freighter from the unknown boarding vessel. Finch, Claudia, and Ranso board the freighter and encounter no opposition as they work their way forward to the bridge. After securing the bridge, Claudia manages to override a lockout on the ship’s controls and starts to accelerate the freighter out of the gas giant’s lower atmosphere.
Meanwhile Finch and Ranso move aft, avoiding the central cargo area, and move on the bridge. They discover that Ranso’s earlier gunnery has damaged the reactor’s coolant and vented the engine room of atmosphere. Finch finds some sealant foam, and Ranso quickly patches the hull breach. FInally the group shuts down the main reactor, reducing the freighter to emergency power and life support.
Realizing time is limited, Ranso and FInch head up towards the freighter’s crew quarters. They find most of the crew of the ship tied up and locked in their own quarters, however no raiders are to be found. The lack of resistance is suspicious to the crew, and they quickly evacuate the captives back to the Mafdet as life support on the freighter will shortly fail.
As the last of the captives is safely evacuated, Rence, back aboard the Mafdet, detects that the unknown vessel docked at the other airlock has undocked and is making a run for it. Claudia sets the freighter’s autopilot to bring the ship up to a stable orbit for later recovery, and the Mafdet and crew undock to pursue.
The Mafdet quickly catches up to the crippled boarding vessel as it attempts to flee. Ranso and Finch do a cautious boarding, but again nobody seems to be aboard the small ship. Then Claudia detects the freighter is deviating from the course she left in the autopilot. Rence suspects that there may have been some raiders still aboard the freighter, and that they launched the damaged boarding craft as a distraction.
The Mafdet alters course and attempts to re-rendezvous with the freighter. Suddenly another large ship comes over the horizon of the gas giant in a head-on pass for the Mafdet. Ranso detects several missiles being launched and frantically shoots them down the the sensor array laser. He then returns fire, managing to inflict some damage on the Mafdet’s assailant. A second larger volley of missiles is launched, and again Ranso engages, but this time one missile slips through. Claudia frantically jinks the ship in a last-moment attempt to dodge, but the missile is closing fast. Finally Finch concentrates the Mafdet’s active sensors onto the missile in an attempt to jam its seeker, diverting the missile just enough to miss.
Ranso takes the opportunity to return fire, and manages to punch a hole in the cargo bay of the attacker just as it whips past and disappears over the horizon again. Given that they have innocent people on board and limited life support, Rence opts to break off the fight and return to Port-Aux-Paix. Before they leave, however, the Mafdet pulls alongside the escaping gas freighter and Ranso manages to tag it with a beacon Gyroc for later identification. The Mafdet then returns to Port-Aux-Paix and delivers the freighter’s crew to safety.