Synopsis

1. After her crew is transferred, Sam is warned not to delve into the reasons why her hsip is delayed at the space station. Due to the delay, an important rondevous is missed and Sam and her cargo must re-route.

2. Supplies on-board are not fully adequate for the extended haul and back-up rations are broken out for the crew.

3. The back-up rations are slightly beyond expiration date and the tainted food causes the crew to become restless and bored.

4. Boredom causes the crew to explore areas of the ship normally off-limits. They learn that the manifest identifying the cargo as "human waste" is human corpses. Further investigation reveals that the cargo entered the vessel as refugees.

5. The ship also carries a small contingent of marines and technicians to assure that the cargo arrives at its destination untouched. The technicians are responsible for euthanizing the refugees and converting them to a slurry that is sold to biological weapons manufacturers.

6. The marines only know that the refugees are being transported to safety from a war zone.
The technicians are only aware that they are processing raw materials into pharmaceuticals, which is aided by being in space due to the zero-gravity.

7. None of the three groups normally interract with each other. The supply issue brings them into communication with each other.

8. Sam realizes that her former crew must have figured out what she has now discovered. She locates evidence that they were transferred to refugee quarters for processing. The delay in docking was a failed attempt to re-route the ship and break the cycle.

9. Sam and the respective crews realize that they are going to have to do more than re-route the ship if they are to be more successful than the last crew. They must pick up the next batch of refugees, keep them alive, get the ship and cargo to a neutral port and tell the story.

10. The first step is to get to port and make sure that the company sees no record that the crews are aware or have discovered anything. The techs are able to assure that the only thing that is transmitted during the journey is navigational and processing data. They work out a way to purge onboard records of anything out of the norm by using past trip data to forge new data. From this point on, there can be no communication or actions by anyone that they are wise to the company's business.

11. They dock. Again, they must be careful to maintain silence as they exchange cargos and enjoy a three day shore leave. Sam is above suspicion as she follows her normal routine of high-gravity exercise and bar jaunts.

12. Once underway, the crew begins to forget everything that transpired on the last run. With a metabolism higher than average due to her exercise regimine, Sam forgets more slowly than most. She realizes/remembers that the food is responsible. Before the crew succombs completely, she has to get alternative food supplies.

13. With key personnel from each group only, they decided the best neutral port to attempt. It's a compromise that is going to make most of the refugees sick and many may still die. The marines must figure out how to defend the ship and cargo from other company ships which they expect to pursue as soon as they change course. Sam and her techs modify a 'bot to transmit forged data to control to help mask the escape.

14. The escape is successful until about half way to freedom when they begin getting course correction data. Sam and the techs discover the mechanism, but then realize that there is another failsafe: a self destruct mechanism. The self destruct is not to destroy the ship at first, but to disable it.

15. Having disabled the disabling mechanism, another self-destruct sequence begins and it is more difficult to abort. Each system that goes into overload, when fixed, triggers another. As they are nearly to neutral space, Sam begins transmitting maydays and data about the ship. If the ship is lost, at least the message will be heard. If they can believe that they transmitters are working.

16. The ship is met by a ship from a rival company. After some tense negotiations, the new company decides that it will be good "business" to take Sam and crew to safety, use the data to destroy their competitor and perhaps get a piece of new business in the deal.

17. Sam and crew are not rewarded, but are assigned jobs in the new company in lieu of mutiny/theft charges.