Okay, so, back on topic...
I have been notified of an apparent player drop-out from my current group, "The Mammalian Slave Trade
" (shameless plug - still recruiting). The player has not posted for over two weeks, and in fact has not logged in to E for two weeks.
Obviously, this is a real-life issue dragging her away. There is a chance she has left E permanently without telling anyone, but equally she could easily return at any time.
The player's character was involved in a sex scene with three other characters when she disappeared. I have made my decision public to the other players on the OOC thread and PMed it to the player in question, in the hope that she comes back.
I have ruled that her character has passed out from the (rather extreme) sex she was being subjected to. The character will remain, unconscious, in the room with the others until one of two things happens - either the player returns, in which case the character revives, or the story moves on, in which case the character will be returned to a slave cage. As there are more cages than slave characters, it is assumed that a lot of the cages are filled with NPC slaves, and the absent player's character simply joins their ranks.
I find this to be a very elegant solution to the problem of dropping out slaves.
As for the crew of the pirate ship, well, a simple announcement from the ship's AI (controlled by myself) that the character has been called away to other duties. In either case, the character can simply be assumed to be somewhere on the ship, until such time as the player returns, if they do.