It is common knowledge that when you possess excessive contraband and are not you yourself a mafia boss, you should ditch your cargo as rapidly as possible.
Tandra Black had a solution for this: take your cargo to the Black Market on the Cheeda ring, unload it, and return with profits. Then we can do business.
There were several snags in this plan. First of all, the cargo was Xu blood, three large barrels worth that Tandra herself had stolen from our heroes’ ship, the Stellar Lady. Secondly, what Tandra was really saying was “Sell this for me and bring me the profits or I will kill Sunny,” whom she had… mind controlled?… into passivity.
Sunny Beaumont was her insurance policy. Our heroes had no such safety net, and as such were forced to accept Tandra’s proposition, and headed to Market. Stowing the barrels into the smuggling compartments of the broken Stellar Lady, they each took a sample of Xu blood as proof and at the behest of their friend Kleenorp took a bus to Cheeda. He gave them three things: bus fare, an encyclopedic xenobiology guide full of his own notes that proved mostly to be unhelpful, and the knowledge that he could shrink his size to that of a standard Earth cockroach, which he proceeded to do while “guarding” the Xu blood.
It seemed to Bridger that Kleenorp did not drink any of the blood, and certainly that is true, and certainly he did not also steal some for later.
At the Market, a bustling ring of thousands of stalls, Bridger ran headlong into an extremely tall and thin alien who calls herself Metra, which most likely in her language means “she of the sticky back”. Rue quickly discerned that Metra was working as a spy for the Xu, but unfortunately her back was quite sticky and she was extremely enthusiastic, and so our heroes found themselves swept away into the Black Market and shopping through stalls that were most definitely not also operated by Xu spies that definitely did not work with Metra.
An enormous green man of her species named Frank said hello along the way. Naturally this won’t be important later.
Niocia, a fuzzy drug merchant with a desire for Viktor’s muscles, fiercely negotiated a trade for cocaine that Bridger had found on the bridge of the Stellar Lady, most likely belonging to the vaguely worrisome and bad at his job Captain, Damien Bechtel. After much haggling and lying to Metra about meeting at a later date for more not-Xu-spy trade, our heroes ditched the Black Market in an effort to find a more legitimate dealer.
Instead, they found Frank.
Frank said that Metra should have just killed them, but since she didn’t, he would. Instead, Viktor punched one of his knees in, Rue snapped the other backwards (the way your knee DEFINITELY doesn’t want to go), and Bridger smashed a vial of Xu blood on his face and lit it on fucking fire.
It was a fitting end for a tall gumby man named Frank who worked for the fascist enemy demon army. Our heroes were satisfied.
Fleeing the scene before the authorities arrived, Viktor lost track of his sample of Xu blood, most likely because his shirt was too tight to sufficiently hold things in the pockets. They did, however, arrive safely at the merchant stall of a woman, Yrig, working against the Xu; she assured our heroes’ safety, and brokered a deal with them to harbor the blood safely while parts of it were sold to various actually not spy merchants. These deals were successful, there was rejoicing, and importantly, a wage was made that resulted in weapons and armor and Sunny being able to repair the fine Stellar Lady.
The time came to meet with Tandra again. She, pleased at the success and sale of the blood, offered work: meet her at her hotel in two days time, and she’ll have a job available.
The best laid plans, however, oft breathe fire on you.
At Tandra’s suggestion that the safest place for the remaining crew of the Stellar Lady is actually enslaved on Wyrd, Rue suffered flashbacks to her time on Mars: the farm, clawing her way from her grave again and again, how many times she had been shackled in Xu camps.
It wasn’t going to fucking happen. Over her dead body. Which she could provide, repeatedly.
So Rue attacked.
Tandra, a Shakarat cousin to the Wyrd dragons, shape shifted back into her natural form and let loose a gust of flame that engulfed Rue, who still did not fall.
And when Viktor and Sunny tackled her, instead of stopping, Viktor simply burned with her.
In the end, Bridger convinced Tandra to leave while Viktor and Sunny held Rue and her rage at bay, with Tandra suggesting perhaps they should control their Ghoul. She left, but Rue was inconsolable, a mass of fury and hunger and pain.
Being locked in the bathroom for an hour cooled her, but only after destroying everything her body was capable of reaching. The mirrors were shattered, faucets cracked and leaking, tile of the tub broken. When Rue bathed, her blood and skin came off with the water.
Bridger only had two questions for her:
What the fuck was that, and what the fuck is a ghoul?