Episode 211: What Must Needs Be Done
Present: Maer, Terri, Bobby, Jay and Tony
Air date: 13 Oct 2009
Wednesday, 15 May 2520
Red Sun (Zhu Que) system
09:45 hrs, local time
Our client is rather angry over our late arrival, but Christian manages to talk him down to the point he doesn’t demand a full refund. We take two days to settle business, get fueled up and have Rina do the monthly maintenance. With all the mods we’ve done on the Gift of late, maintenance is more costly. However, Rina has managed to work her magic and the cost for the month is halved to 125 credits from the usual 250.
Christian arranges five cargo tons of fox pelts as cargo. They are so beautiful Rina can’t resist asking to keep one for herself and given permission, chooses one. It lies on her pillow now, and she gets a lot of enjoyment out of stroking something soft. Too much these days seems hard and unyielding.
Christian also checks the Registry and arranges a contract with a young bride-to-be: it turns out that her fiancé wants her to have a night with a Companion before he marries her, ostensibly to give her a taste of what’s to come on her marriage bed. It seems odd coming from a woman from Aesir, the culture of which is close akin to Old Earth Scandinavian than the more liberal Core. Even so, Christian agrees on a date and a time for their meeting and we fly on to Aesir. On the way, he looks up what he can on his client and discovers Miss Hilde Dansmueller is indeed engaged to be married and her family owns and runs a fishery outside Malmo, Aesir, where we’re meeting Jake’s family.
Friday, 17 May 2025
Red Sun (Zhu Que) system
17:30 hrs, local time
Lem continues to improve and it’s amazing how far he’s come from the autistic and confused boy he used to be. So when we take off for Aesir and are met by Jake’s family we think nothing of taking him with us to meet them. Christian flies off in his shuttle to meet with his client at the Unification Monument on the outskirts of town.
It turns out that Jake’s family, the Abergs, have a decent sized shipyard/repairs business in town, and the Abergs are HUGE. About fifty cousins are in attendance to greet Jake home, to say nothing of all the aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers and his parents and siblings. Almost all of them are involved in ships mechanics in some way or another and it’s pretty apparent they were on the Independent side of the war. There’s a huge passel of children of Lem’s age for him to play with and several matronly women who delight in watching them so the others can celebrate Jake’s homecoming. Reasonably assured of Lem’s safety, Rina lets him mingle without her watching and the crew drag her away to what is fast becoming a barbeque-drinking party-reunion.
There’s just one fly in the ointment: Jake has asked the crew not to divulge his career as a cameraman, instead asking us to say he’s just an engineer. It seems he’s bucked tradition in his choice of calling and he doesn’t want to embarrass his family or deal with any questions from them about it. Rina chooses to stay sober, knowing her tendency to blurt out the wrong thing in social situations. Besides, she’s being her usual twitchy self and though the Abergs seem friendly enough, she’d rather be sober if anything untoward happens.
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew get thoroughly sloshed as they enjoy themselves. The party is in a great sprawling garage of a building, hangar-huge, and there is a warren of catch-as-catch-can rooms upstairs. And the nooks and crannies of the main shop floor are piled high with interesting junk and parts. It’s not long before Rina starts poking into them and not long after that an old grandfather sporting a beard, a wooden leg and bad breath joins her there. She greets him respectfully, he offers her a sip of something potent, and they start talking shop. It’s an enjoyable couple of hours.
Rina looks up afterward to see Nika body surfing the crowd, Arden semi-conscious in the corner from drinking too much and Rick talking about sharing his mushrooms.
Meanwhile back with Christian, he meets and greets Hilde and it’s pretty obvious that she’s uneasy and not a little hesitant to go forward with her session and Christian puts her at ease, stating he’ll do nothing she doesn’t want. He pours her tea and offers to talk. He does, however, end up working his magic and it’s some time later when two men barge into his shuttle to find her in a state of deshabille. The man in front is her fiancé, and his name is Wesley Camden.
Yes, of those Camdens. And he’s come for Christian to exact his revenge.
In short, Christian has been set up. And Wesley proceeds to have his goon beat Christian right the hell up. Christian gets a few seconds’ drop on everyone when he cuts the lights in the shuttle and dashes into the cockpit to fire off an emergency signal to the Gift. Then the goon has him in hand and brutally works him over.
Back at the party with the Abergs, Rina looks up from her lively discussion with the grandfather and sees the children and the matrons are gone. It’s late, after one AM and she asks the grandfather where the children might be. He tells her they’d be sleeping upstairs and she thanks him, then goes off to look. Everyone else is having a good time, no point in bothering them with this.
Upstairs is a warren and she starts getting worried when she doesn’t immediately find the children. She encounters a man during her search, somewhat better dressed and with better diction, and he tells her Lem is asking for her, would she come with him please? Thoroughly hinked by now, Rina pulls her handcom and tries to raise her crewmates, but no one answers. She pockets the comm with it still on and running and tells the man to take her to Lem. When his back is turned, she pulls a grease pencil from a sleeve holster and marks the walls as she goes, hoping to leave a trail for the others if they come looking for her. At this point, she’s pretty much figured it’s a trap and Lem is in danger somewhere and she’s the only one that knows.
And she’s pretty much right. The man opens a door to the outside and there’s a car waiting, its passenger door open and inside is Lem, frightened and calling for her, and held by a goon. Rina is offered a choice: get in the car, or the boy dies.
She gets in the car.
She pulls Lem away from the goon and after hugging the boy, she backfists the goon in the face, hoping to disable him long enough to get away. She didn’t take the other guy into account and he slides into the front seat and threatens her with his gun and his ultimatum: behave or die. She decides to behave, thinking as long as she’s alive, she’s got a chance to save herself and Lem.
The car flies off to a mansion in the steep fjord walls above the city of Malmo and comes to a stop in its front courtyard. She’s ordered out at gunpoint and roughly and thoroughly searched. All her weapons and pocket tools are taken from her and she manages to suffer the search without causing trouble. She silently says goodbye to her beloved Tokarev, knowing that it’s well and truly lost to her now. Even if she did manage to get out of this alive, she doesn’t have any hope she will be in any position to get it back. The search done, she and Lem are shoved unceremoniously inside a stone walled cell. The door is at the top of a flight of stone steps and on the floor a story down is Christian.
Stripped to his trousers, barefoot, beaten and bloodied. Alive, but in a world of hurt. Wesley Camden lingers to gloat and torture Christian with threats against his crewmate and son, and Christian lets the man have his fun, the better to gain more information he can use to escape. Wesley tells Christian that he’s been a hard man to catch and surprisingly good at hiding. However, when Christian adopted Lem, he left a clue as to his whereabouts, a clue big enough to lead Wesley to him. And now, Christian is his. How perfect. Wesley ceases his monologue before he spoils Christian for the fun to come, he takes his leave. He pulls Hilde along with him, she manages a whispered apology to Christian, and the couple make their exit.
The door slams shut.
Back at the party, Nika finally starts to wonder where Rina and Lem are and when she can’t find them at the party, she starts getting the other crewmates together to look for them. Arden doses himself with adrenaline to shake off the effects of too much alcohol and he, Jake, Rick and Nika go upstairs to find the children. They glimpse out the upper windows a sleek black hovercar flying away from the building. It’s not in keeping with the general style of vehicles Jake’s family keeps for their use, and there are not many rich folks in town. The only people likely to have such a vehicle would be from off world, or from one of the few wealthy families. They shrug and continue their search.
They find the room where the children are supposed to be sleeping, and find the matron asleep, possibly dosed with some tranquilizer. In questioning those still awake, they learn that Lem was taken away by his ‘daddy’. The man described looks nothing like Christian.
The crew immediately call Christian to see if he does indeed have Lem. They cannot raise him or the shuttle. They home in on the shuttle's pinger and find it abandoned, it's hatch wide open and evidence of a struggle inside, complete with bloodstains. An inspection of the craft shows that a fire axe has been taken to the cockpit controls. The shuttle isn't flying anywhere. They start putting two and two together and now the search is on to find the car they saw flying away. They discover the name of his client and coupled with the information they get from Jake’s family, about the Camden's buying out the Dansmueller Fishery, they realize that the Camdens might be behind the three disappearances. Nika gets the crew into the Gift’s remaining shuttle to go find where the Camdens might be staying.
Back in the cell, Rina’s prowling around the stone room looking for anything she can use to break her son and her friend out. There is no furniture in the room, nothing she can bash apart to use as a club if their jailers make an appearance. The door hinges are on near side of the door and the lock is a thumblatch lock, but Rina’s got nothing to pry the hinge pins out with or to take apart the lock. Lem has a small buckle on his belt that might serve as a screwdriver, but realistically, there’s no knowing what waits for them outside their door if they do manage to get out. There’s some wood debris in the room, some rubble, indicating it may have been used as a rubbish room, but there’s nothing but maybe a handful of nails and a couple short lengths of wood that they could use.
Rina turns her attention to the walls and floor next. The floor is solid rock, cut out of the living mountain forming the fjord. Three walls and two-thirds of the floor and ceiling are made of it. The last wall and a third of the floor are made of wood, incongruously enough, as if the mountain ran out before the room had, and it’s in the wooden wall that they get a break: there is a narrow window, about eight feet up. It’s glazed with a wood frame and Rina gets Christian to boost her up there so she can bust it out and grab some of the glass and wood for weapons. She comes away with two small pieces of glass, about 2 inches each, that can be used as shivs. She tears her handkerchief to strips and wraps one end of the shards for a makeshift handle. She got a good look out the window while she was up there and sees it faces outward toward the fjord and the town. If there were some way to signal friendly forces outside…
Rina strips out of her orange coveralls and getting another boost from Christian, she hangs them flag-like out the window, anchoring them on the broken glass. She’s standing in her jog bra and her exercise shorts and boots as a result, but at least now she’s got some hope that help might be coming. Sooner or later, the crew will miss her and Lem and Christian and they will come looking. They’ll recognize her coveralls and investigate. There being nothing left to do but wait til morning, she and Christian and Lem huddle together and sleep as best they can.
Toward morning, the door rattles and Hilde Dansmueller walks in alone. She’s sorry about all of this and she’s appalled at what’s happened. She’s also offering to take Lem away from this, because no matter what else she agreed to go along with, hurting an innocent little boy is not one of them. Christian knows he’s going to be kept alive for more Camden amusement. Of Rina’s fate, he has no illusions, nor does she: she’s dead. It’s best that Lem isn’t around to see it. Rina and Christian give Lem to Hilde, and Christian uses all his remaining charm to convince the woman not to lock the cell door when she leaves. He’ll give her a count of five and then try to escape, he explains and to our relief she agrees. She leaves with Lem and we give her the five-count.
Sounds of a scuffle drift through the door before the five-count is through and we yank the door open to see what’s gone wrong. A guard has Hilde by the hair in one hand and Lem by the scruff of the neck with the other. Rina takes one look and launches herself at the guard, intending to lam him into the ground like a frakkin’ tent peg. She gets a hit in, but it’s not enough to take him out. Christian yells at Lem to bite the guard’s hand. Lem does and scuttles free and Rina’s facing down the barrel of the guard’s gun. He shoots, but the shot goes wild as she manages to disarm him. She does not, however, manage to grab the gun before it falls out of reach underfoot.
Meanwhile Hilde is proving a handful for the guard, tying up one hand as he fights off Rina with the other. Rina is still going at it, taking hits and staggering but refusing to back off. She’s past caring what happens to her now—the only thing that matters is killing the bastard that kidnapped her adopted son. When it sinks in with the guard that Rina is the woman to watch out for, he throws his punches to match hers and together they have a regular little donnybrook. Hilde makes for a tight squeeze in the corridor and neither brawler is able to do much damage for the lack of swing room. Even so, the guard manages to beat Rina unconscious a second before he falls to the damage he’s received.
When the combatants are down, Christian can finally close in and pick up the gun. He’s got a child and an unconscious woman to evac out with him and he’s barely in good enough shape to stand upright. He drafts Hilde into dragging Rina along with him and together they all make it to the front courtyard of the mansion. Rina is almost too much for Hilde to handle, and the engineer takes more damage from getting banged into stuff on the way out.
During the early morning hours when Rina, Christian and Lem were sleeping in the cell, Nika and the rest of the crew spent the time flying around searching for the car. Then Rick gets the bright idea of calling traffic control to ask after the Camdens—he claims he wishes to get them a present for the impending wedding and using his celebrity status, he worms out of traffic control the Camdens’ flight schedule. They are going to take off around ten in the morning. Rick thanks the man and cuts the comm channel.
The crew now has a time table, and they fly back to the Abergs to enlist their aid. The Abergs aren’t too happy about some Coresider family buying up a locals family business, no matter it’s because the happy couple are getting married. It just doesn’t sit right with the community. And now it seems they’ve taken people hostage? People the Abergs invited as guests? Nope, they aren’t happy. They mobilize their hovermules and load up their guns while Nika flies off to find which mansion in the hills belongs to the Camdens.
Arden is the one who spots Rina’s coveralls flapping like a distress signal from a small window. Having ascertained her probable location, Nika calls the Abergs in for reinforcement and flies the shuttle into the courtyard for an extraction. She arrives in time to see Christian carrying Lem and Hilde dragging Rina into the courtyard. And from a door on the upper levels, several armed guards pinning them down with their guns. Upon seeing the shuttle, one of the guards ducks inside and comes back out with a LAW rocket. He aims it at the shuttle and warns Nika silently off.
Nika refuses to leave.
The shuttle hovers six feet off the ground and Arden and Jake leap out to get their crew mates on board. Arden grabs Lem and throws him inside, nothing doing. He and Jake hoist the unconscious Rina in next. The guard with the LAW rocket dithers and Nika announces over our external PA that if he shoots, the shockwave from the explosion will turn everyone in the courtyard to a red smear. Before the guard can call Nika’s bluff, the Abergs rise into view, their fleet of hovermules bristling with angry relatives and weapons. The guards retreat, all the way into the house and taking the LAW rocket with them.
Christian lingers on the ground, asking Hilde to come with him. She cannot seriously think to stay, now that she’s betrayed the Camdens by helping him, can she? It appears she has faith in Wesley to be lenient with her. She refuses to go. Christian climbs up into the shuttle. Arden stabilizes Rina's condition. No longer in danger of dying outright, with adequate care she should revive an a few hours. With the Abergs following, Nika flies us out of there and we come down off the mountain. It remains to be seen what follows us as a consequence.