(Dutch: De Piraten van Pandarve) (part 3)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk
Storm and Rann travel back to find Ember. She is gone, though they do find her bow. Rann is certain she is dead--there are many dangers in space, after all--but Storm can't convince himself.
They travel on to Vertiga Bas the Pirate Planet to see if they can find Rann's daughter. Around the planet there is a swarm of ships. Rann explains:
The two locate the ferryman. He operates a hot air balloon that transports people from "orbit" to the only landing zone allowed to visitors--for a price. Rann grumbles about the cost, but he pays it.
A Vertiga Bas official greets them when they arrive. He tells them the laws of the Theocrat hold no sway here; there is only one law. For a price, he explains: Do nothing wrong. This actually means: "don't get caught by the police doing anything that might be considered an offense." These who break the law of Vertiga Bas are branded with a yellow circle, and anyone who gets two yellow circles is ejected into "orbit" by a catapult, there to die of thirst and hunger.
Storm and Rann don't plan to stay long. They make their way to a bar to try to find information. Storm asks the barkeep if he knows of any ships that have arrived recently with slaves to sell. The barkeeper informs him that asking questions is "considered anti-social in Vertiga Bas." After Rann pays him, the man becomes more helpful: in the Market of a Thousand Jars there is a slave market and a new ship has just unloaded its wares.
Arriving at the market, Rann immediately sees his daughter:
The slave trader tries to get in Rann's way and gets punched for his trouble. That action earns Rann a yellow circle brand:
Rann's daugher goes up for auction. Rann bids 300 credits and wins, but he doesn't have the money on him, but he assures the auctioneer he can get it. In view of his status as a newcomer, they give him one hour to come up with it, otherwise the girl will go on the block again.
Rann doesn't know how he can get the money in that short amount of time, but Storm has an idea.
TO BE CONTINUED