Episode 417: Siege
Air Date: 02 Nov 2010
Present: Kim, Maer, Terri, Andy, and Bobby
Thursday, 25 Sep 2521
You Go Headquarters
Yan Wo, Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
0930hrs, local time
Yan Wo has no axial rotation. One side always faces outward, the other always faces Fury. Yan Wo’s distance from Blue Sun, however, paradoxically decrees the inward side actually receives more light from the gas giant it orbits than the outward side of the moon. As a result, the inward side is almost sunny, thanks to the huge degree of arc the gas giant inhabits overhead—nearly a third of the sky—while the outward side is dark. The weather is somewhat messed up as a result of tidal locking and orbital distance from the star, varying from unpleasant to nasty, requiring all inhabited areas to stay under domes. Most of the industrial ugliness is kept to the outward side, the more people-friendly installations on the inward. Yan Wo’s starport is on the inward side and that is where we’ve parked Summer’s Gift. In the two days since we’ve touched down, we’ve pulled ourselves together after our squeaker of an escape from Reavers and we’ve hired a crew to effect repairs. Rina’s been warned off working with the crew—her reputation would only make trouble and run up our bill.
You Go Enterprises HQ is also to inward and the city that sprang up around it is very Core-like—gleaming with steel and glass, soaring lines both curvilinear and straight. One gets the sense that it was made so to compensate people forced to relocate way the hell out here to the Rim, risking death by Reavers and lack of Core-side amenities and social outlets. Looking over what Yan Wo has to offer, we find the Cortex is reasonably up to date. We gratefully surf it, looking for cargo and clients. We have money, but it behooves us to earn more: to get our girl repaired and upgraded to have explosive bolt jettisoning systems, it will cost us 1,400 credits. That’s more than what we have in our coffers.
You Go has this moon wrapped up in its pocket. It’s pretty much a one-company town. Not surprising, given it was You Ge’s private moon. We catch sight of a transfer-plus job: we will be carrying four fuel tanks plus four half-container control devices to four different planets in the Georgia system, to outlying settlements there. A junior engineer would be sent along with the cargo to set them up as hydrogen power stations. Our payment for 150 tons for 7 weeks (3 weeks travel, 4 weeks set-up) plus the engineer passenger would be 1500 credits. It’s more than enough to pay for all our repairs AND get us that jettison upgrade. Joshua and Nika discuss it over paperwork and coffee in the passenger lounge.
Nika: Seems reasonable.
Arden: (passing through) Does it seem reasonable?
Joshua: Yes. Though it’s a fair question to ask.
Nika: We’re headed that way anyway. Might as well take it.
Assuming we’re going to be staying for two weeks, we’ll have to blow 40 of the 1,500 on the stay itself. There are dinners out to buy, shore leave amusements to indulge in, and such like that allows us to spend time away from the banging and clanking of the repair work on our girl.
Kiera is not idle during our downtime, either. She takes on clients looking for spa treatments. And there is one client who doesn’t want a mani-pedi-massage package but something a little more … specialized. She rings his contact number up.
Client: I’d like to talk to you privately. We could either meet on the ship or elsewhere.
Kiera: We can meet somewhere on the moon.
He wants to meet her in a not very well traveled area of the moon, somewhere off in a shuttle bay. Kiera agrees and prepares her weapons. She’s going but she’s not going unarmed. Knives, she decides. They don’t arouse suspicion like guns do and they’re easier to conceal.
The authorities on Yan Wo have cracked down on gun toting since their leader was gunned down by an assassin. There was a big trial and everything. Perhaps we caught it? The spaceport guards are vigilant in scanning us for weapons the first couple of days but now into day three without infractions from us, they’re content to wave us through when we leave our landing pad.
Oh, it’s you again. Hello, ma’am. Be careful out there.
Kiera walks through with her knives without a hitch.
The personnel’s reception of Rina, on the other hand is less cordial: Hey, we know about you. She’s not allowed to supervise or help with the repairs. The repair crews refuse to pick up a blessed tool until they see her leave the landing pad. And when she steps through the gate, she doesn’t get waved through but undergoes the standard weapons search.
So she remarks to Joshua as they leave to buy supplies.
Rina: I get frisked every single time.
Joshua: Well, not frisked frisked. Much. Per se.
So he remarks to Rina as he frisks her with his eyes.
Our reception is more cordial with the merchants we buy our supplies from, especially when they find out we’ve taken on the transfer job. Yan Wo is a company town and working for the company smoothes the way.
So Kiera makes that meeting with her mysterious client. He’s a plain-looking guy.
Client: I’m somewhat embarrassed. I’ve had some work done and I’ve changed my mind. I have some old photos.
He hands her the photos.
Client: I just want to go back to the way I was.
Kiera: (appraising) We can do that.
Client: You can do that?
Kiera: Mm-hm. (hands photos back) I can do that.
Client: Will we have to go to a hospital somewhere?
Kiera: We could do it on the ship if you can take the bangin’ of the container being taken off.
Client: We’ll do that.
He accompanies her back to her container. It’s been detached during her absence and someone has thoughtfully hooked it up with power. Nice! No banging and clanging while she does her prelims.
She puts her client in the chair and pulls the data from his data card … and she notices something odd. 1) The data card has a lot of file movement on it: wherever he went, they did full body scans, full face scans, 3D imaging, the works—all were non-medical scans. 2) The man looks like he’s a comp tech or a security guard. Basically nobody you’d look at twice. 3) He doesn’t bat a lash when Kiera names her price. And Kiera doesn’t come cheap.
Kiera goes through with the prelim. What would he like her to do for him?
The first thing he wants removed is a tattoo. That’s always easy, she assures him. It’s lasered. And all the while, there’s something bugging her about the guy. She talks on, letting the back of her mind work on the problem as she occupies the front of her mind with the prelims. She asks to see his tattoo. It’s a stylized eagle. Whoever did it, did it recently and with a low-grade ink. It’s not a prison tat or badly done, really. It was done quickly and well, just really lightly done. As if with removal in mind.
Kiera: It’ll come out easy. The laser will flash it off really quick.
She does a more thorough physical examination of his face and skin and something else pings her radar. His skin doesn’t have the usual responsiveness of everyone else’s to being pinched and pressed and prodded. In fact, he is very similar to Joshua—not in appearance but in that his connective tissues and his skin appear to have the same elasticity as Joshua’s. If she had Joshua’s sonic caelum, she could zip this client into a new face in half the time a normal procedure would require.
No blood. Quick-quick. Money-money.
Now Kiera’s heard of people in the Core getting blastomere skin implants. That’s nothing new or remarkable. It’s the combination of the blastomeres and the fact that the man’s obviously had work done to … what? Conceal something? Regain something? Something something.
Kiera: So, when did you get blastomeres additions to your skin to make things easier?
Client: Oh, I was injured. I had a burn injury.
Client: It was a fuel tank and my lawyers threatened a lawsuit and they got me one of the best plastic surgeons on Ariel.
Kiera: This makes my job a lot easier, that’s for sure.
Client: It does?
Kiera: Mm-hm. The skin heals real handily. It’ll be easy to bring you back to your original appearance.
Client: Oh, great!
He seems surprised and pleased. And is that a tinge of relief coloring his words?
Kiera: Mm-hm! You want it tweaked at all? Or … ?
Client: (blithely now) Oh, no, no.
Kiera: So match the picture? All right.
Kiera examines his photos again, before and after the work he’d had done. Normally when someone comes to a plastic surgeon to have work done, they want to end up prettier or handsomer than when they started. This guy did it backward. His old face was an appealing trifecta of high cheekbones, straight nose and strong chin. His current face is … unprepossessing and rounder in structure than the one he wears now. The only really similar thing across both faces is the fact he’s Asian. no wonder he decided to change back, the real question is why change in the first place?
It’s decidedly odd but Kiera has a rule—once you pay her cash, she has no questions. She also has no qualms about putting her client under and sneaking into Joshua’s quarters to filch the sonic caelum to do the work. True to his habits, Joshua’s door is unlocked and she ducks in and out without anyone noticing. She has her client looking like his old self in no time. It’s almost a shame to take his money for so little effort.
She hides the sonic caelum in her lab coat pocket as he comes out of the general anesthesia. He stirs, blinks awake, and tentatively feels his face.
Client: No sutures? No … ?
Kiera: Wanna see a mirror?
She hands him one. He looks into it. It takes a few minutes before he puts it down. And as he’s inspecting his face, she’s just ticking off all the points on her mental list—he’s coming out of the anesthetic fast like Joshua, his skin is recovering fast like Joshua, he’s pretty calm about the change like Joshua …
So who the hell is in her chair? Another Borrower like Joshua?
Client: Very good. (sighs) Nice to get out of here.
He hands her the money.
Client: It’s my last platinum, but it’s worth it.
Kiera: I feel guilty takin’ it but it was worth it for me, too.
A quick glance at the platinum pieces shows her it’s all in smaller denominations. Not pennies, exactly, but more like nickels. Kiera watches a moment as her client slides out of the chair far sooner than a normal patient would and checks another item off her list.
Kiera: So, I got a question. Why did you make yourself look so nondescript? Cuz you obviously were a handsome man.
Client: My … ex didn’t want people knowing I was here until I was sure that nobody I knew was here.
Kiera: Mmm. Yup. I understand exes. Yup. Understand it. (nods) Well. No questions asked. Take it easy on it. Y’all should be okay in the next few days. You’ll probably ache just a tiny bit.
As she talks, she’s gently ushering him out the door. When he’s gone, she shuts the door and huffs in frustration. If Rina had been more amenable, Kiera could have had faked documents ready for her client and made more money. But no. The engineer had refused to go along with the arrangement.
Friday, 26 Sep 2521
The crew is invited to take part in the training session on how to set up the power stations we will be delivering. Frustrated by not being able to work on our girl and having seen everything there is to see during our supplies run, Rina is all over the offer like white on rice. The sad fact is, Yan Wo might look all Core-side and fancy at first glance but past the surface it’s mostly flash on naught. Sure they’ve got the shiny buildings but the contents don’t match the outside, as if they forgot to complete the job of making the moon a Core-side transplant. Everything is clean and pretty, but there’s basically only one of everything. One restaurant, one general goods store, and so on. And inside, it might not match the expectations one derives from the outside.
Take their medical facilities—outside: Core, inside: only the most basic equipment and supplies. Looks like a hospital, works like a clinic. They have a med comp, yes, but it’s practically the only one on the moon and there isn’t anyone on the dirt with another one to sell. Arden’s hopes of purchasing a new one with his fistfuls of cash are disappointed. Boros, for all its frontier trappings, is a better prospect for purchasing the comp than Yan Wo.
So we go, quickly getting waved through the security gate. The noise from the repairs work is louder out here and Nika grimaces as we wait for Rina to pass through the gate. As usual, she’s getting a more thorough inspection.
Nika: Okay, my head hurts now
Arden: You know my cure for headaches, right?
Nika: Take two aspirin and see the doctor in the morning?
Arden: No, no. (leers) It’s to make the blood go elsewhere.
Nika: (laughs) That works, yeah.
Rina finally gets through the gate and when we’re around the corner, retrieves her usual suspects from Joshua. We continue on to the training session. When we get there, we’re introduced to a youngish looking guy, the junior engineer tasked to train us and then go with us with the equipment when we leave. His name is Beglan Shea and he’s fresh-faced and earnest. However, there’s something odd-seeming about him. He’s got more on the ball than he’s utilizing and it’s clear that he could get a better job if he applied himself. That being the case, what’s a guy like him doing here?
He’s almost ridiculously polite. When we arrive at the hydrogen facility, there’s a moment when he and Joshua get stuck in an After-you/Oh-no-after-you exchange at the door. Kiera rolls her eyes and gives the pair of them a shove and walks in.
Nika: Can we go now?
Beglan Shea gives us a tour of the facility, showing us the hydrogen plant, the fueling station, the works. There’s even a tank in storage and he runs it through the process as a demonstration.
Beglan: It’s a hydrogen tank. It’s not exactly rocket science.
Nika: Technically it is rocket science.
Beglan: (nodding) Well, rocket engineering, really, more than rocket science.
Joshua: Beginner’s rocket science.
Nika: Oh, good. It’s rocket science for jocks.
Beglan: One of the things we have to teach people is corrosion, why you have to clean these things off, spray it off first … (mimes wiping something)
Arden: Basically so that bad things don’t happen.
Beglan: Yeah. This isn’t just their fuel cell, it’s a giant tank filled with liquid hydrogen so it’s somewhat more important to take care of it properly.
Something that goes BOOM! if you’re not careful around it. Of course, it’s not five minutes before Rina starts jiggering with the design. She pulls out one of her little notebooks and a pen and starts scribbling away in it, then holds up the page to show Beglan.
Rina: Of course if you modified it you can get this much more out of it than if you—
Joshua: (pulls her back) Shh-hh. Paying attention. Shh-hh.
Beglan: Well you have to consider that they’re building these on a large scale and you have to consider the cost of changing the apparatus that makes these things. And then what happens when the next person comes in and tries to fix it. But, you know, I appreciate that. It’s slow to get changes like that made here. And then there’s a problem—
And that’s all it takes. Beglan launches into an explanation that is much more sophisticated than Rina’s implicit question and everyone gets a glimpse of the mind behind the polite exterior. It’s obvious the man is wasted in his position and clearly he could be doing more elsewhere. Rina leans over to Joshua and says:
Rina: I like him.
Nika: (eavesdropping) Better watch it.
It’s not clear if her warning is for Rina or Joshua. Then again, it could be for her. Beglan Shea’s got a pronounced Irish accent—as befitting his name—and Nika’s currently enthralled by it. She’s not so much turned on by the man’s looks, she just likes his voice. She closes her eyes and revels in it.
Nika: Could you just turn out the lights and talk me to death, please?
Grinning, Rina decides to get some of her own back from Nika’s needling.
Rina: Just put a bag over his head, Nika. It ain’t nothin’ you haven’t done before.
Beglan: (blushing) You’re gonna make me blush with that sorta talk.
Rina: (relenting) Actually, your face is still too pretty for the paper bag.
Beglan: For the what?
Rina: Never mind.
And it takes a minute for the crew to work through the chit chat that follows. Arden is bored with the small talk and ignores it as he stands there and looks around. We’ve been in hydro facilities before—most recently on Meridian, where Joshua shot Rina. Or Rina shot Rina. (The jury is still out on that one.) The logos painted on the pipes are different and we’re standing inside a cavernous room housing the equipment to protect it from the variable weather outside but pretty much everything else is the same. Way over to the side, Arden notices a red light flashing over the door we came through and it’s shut now, instead of open as we’d left it. Arden looks to see who’s closest. It’s Joshua.
Arden: Um, Nika?
Apparently Joshua’s not good enough.
Arden: Was that light on before?
Nika: (turning around) What light?
Arden: The light over the door that’s flashing red.
Nika: I don’t know. Why?
Arden: Because I don’t think it was a moment ago.
Nika: Wow. Twitchy McTwitcherson’s right there. Ask her.
She points to Rina. Beglan catches up with the side conversation and looks at the door.
Beglan: No, that light was not on.
Arden: (pointing) And that light over there is red now, instead of green.
Beglan: Huh, that’s not …
He trails off and consults a security console. It’s screen is flashing a message: You Go Security Alert. He taps the screen and reads the text that scrolls across it. He turns, his accent making him seem insouciant.
Beglan: Just relax. It’s not on this level, but …
He turns back to the keyboard and types in a few things. Pulls up something. Reads. Sighs.
Beglan: Well ... We might have to get comfortable. There’s some kind of incident going on in the corporate offices.
The corporate offices, mind, that’s attached to the building we’re currently in. Rina straightens up and focuses.
Rina: (brisk) What kind of incident? What floor?
Beglan: It’s a security incident and they’re not telling me.
Rina: What floor? Relative to us?
Beglan: Above us. We’re kind of in the basement.
Rina: Oh, shite.
Cuz for some reason, the designers of this place thought it was a good idea to have a liquid hydrogen processing facility in the basement of their corporate offices, instead of farther away. If the hydro plant went up …
Beglan: Why we’re in the basement?
Nika: Why is she wondering? (points to Rina)
Joshua: (to Nika) Why did you have to ask that question?
Nika: You know? You’re right. I don’t wanna know.
They watch Rina as she starts looking around the room. You can practically see the woman switch gears from engineer to twitchy lab rat, head wires sparking, trying to figure the way out of the maze.
Nika: All right, Twitchy McParanoid-Pants …!
Rina: (over her shoulder) You say that cuz you’re jealous.
Joshua: Don’t worry, I’ll do my job.
Joshua goes over and takes Rina by the arm, pulls her aside: calm down.
The layout of the spaceport and city is a touch unusual thanks to the weather. Everything is pretty close to everything else. One, there’s the spaceport, which is kinda small. Two, we have the shops and the corporate offices just outside the spaceport. And three, there’s this vast underground complex—the one we’re currently standing in—running below everything to protect it from the weather. Tidal locking, you know, plays havoc with the climate.
Arden: So … they can increase the gravity of a small object but they can’t impart a spin to it. (taps the floor with his foot)
Joshua: It’s a much bigger object.
Beglan: Yes, it’s much bigger—well, they have altered the spin to some degree. But for whatever reason it’s not—
Nika: It’s planetary physics. Let’s leave it there.
Beglan: But no, it’s worth noting that unlike traditional colonies, this was not given the 24 hour day, 365 day year that other planets and moons were given. This is a private planet. This is not a colonization project. This moon is owned by You Go.
Arden: So You Go terraformed it, not the Alliance.
Beglan: Yes. And for their purposes they didn’t think they needed to do so. For some reason they chose not to.
And that’s why we’re in a largish hangar-sized room with processing equipment at one end and big tanks filled with liquid hydrogen at the other. There are ships that scoop the hydro from the gas giant, bring it here, transfer it to get it purified, put into tanks and shipped out. Some of the tanks are huge themselves, destined for the big ships. Others are smaller. All are explosive.
Beglan picks up a comm and as he’s calling in for news, says to us:
Beglan: I’m sure it’s nothing serious.
He patches through to a headset and though we cannot hear what’s pouring into his ear, we can see his expression change.
Arden: (to Nika) This don’t look good.
Beglan returns to deliver the news. Concern colors his tone, as does his Irish accent.
Beglan: Huh. Well … I’m sorry to say that some people were killed. Apparently there’s, um … some kind of terrorists or something goin’ on over there. Security’s not sayin’ a whole lot, but … um …
Beglan: The terrorists themselves have put up a notice. They’re from some group called the … Lex Talonus, or something like that nature …
Nika: (pissed) Oh, good Heavens—!
Rina: (breathes) Yebani v’rot.
Belgan: I don’t know what to expect. They seem to say that they’re going to take out the… They think that there’s many people from the Blue Sun government who are usin’ office space here, that they’re going to blow up the building if certain people are not surrendered to them to stand trial.
Joshua: Um … how likely is it that your company is going to surrender them for trial?
Nika: Who are they asking for?
Beglan: I’m sure that it’s not gonna happen. They’ll not negotiate with terrorists.
Kiera: Can you override so when the building blows up we’re not in between a whole bunch’a bombs?
Beglan is thrown by Kiera’s statement—both in content and the matter of fact way she delivers it.
Beglan: This—well—I, I don’t think we’re in danger.
Joshua: (oh contraire!) They’re going to blow up the building. You don’t know who they are, but they will blow up the building. I have no doubts about that in my mind.
Beglan: If they’ll blow up the building—
Rina: (steely) They will blow up the building.
Beglan: I doubt it will get all the way under here.
Rina: We’re under the building.
Beglan: There might be safe places for us to go.
Kiera: (yeah, right!) Right beside the hydrogen tanks.
Beglan: The hydrogen tanks are not safe. Away from the hydrogen would be the best bet.
Good to hear him say it. For a minute there, it looked like his grasp of the obvious was faulty. Rina draws breath to say something but Joshua stops her.
Joshua: Let the man talk.
Beglan: But they’ve activated the security system and it’s locked us down a bit. So it may take a bit of work to … (gestures walking out)
Joshua: Let’s do it, then.
Nika: Where in the building would be a safe region to be?
Beglan: I don’t know. I’m not an architect.
Nika: Besides that.
Arden: In orbit.
Nika: (annoyed now) All right. (to Arden) You. Get on the computer, see if you can get past it and find out what’s going on.
Nika: Get us out. You have computer hacking. Go. Get on the computer and see if you can get us out of the basement with the hydrogen tanks, okay?
Arden sits down at the terminal and starts hacking into it. He gains access to the security grid and decides against shutting down the system to the entire complex—it would call attention to our presence. Instead, he uses the grid to look at the area just on the other side of the two doors leading out of the tank room. Beglan watches over his shoulder.
Beglan: There are areas in case of fires that should be reinforced … let me think of… We can hide there for a bit but I just feel bad for the other people. I don’t know who—
Joshua: What other people?
Kiera: Drink alcohol and remember them later. Let’s get out of here.
Beglan: Perhaps we should get some medical supplies in case of injuries and make our way down to a safe area.
Arden: I have my medical bag.
Beglan: They might torture us, since they’re terrorists.
Nika: I’m more concerned about who they’re lookin’ for.
Joshua: I’m less than concerned about that.
Nika: I’m not.
Joshua: I think it’s an unhappy coincidence.
Nika: (yeah, right!) Let’s hope.
Usually we’d be reining in Rina’s runaway paranoia right about now, but she says nothing. Which is pretty amazing, considering our associations—We, who foiled the Lex Talionis attempt to capture Mike on Highgate. We, whose engineer is on their watch list. So what are the odds that the Lex Talionis would just unknowingly hit an installation we also happen to be at?
Beglan: You can look at the terminal yourself. They’ve been broadcastin’ what they want.
We hustle over to the terminal and huddle around it to watch. Sure enough, a middle-aged man identifies himself as Ito Nakatomi and he has a list he’s reading from. We actually recognize some of the names from Mike’s trial: high ranking members of the PDF, other people in the Blue Sun body legislative. He also mentions a couple of people who may be Lex Talionis members who were held on Highgate after some incident there. (Never mind which, thank you … ) He is asking for the members to be released and the others to be surrendered to the Lex Talionis or a representative of the Alliance. Otherwise they will blow up the building.
Nakatomi: If you don’t think we’re serious …
Pictures of several dead bodies replace his head and shoulders on the screen. Interestingly enough, one of the dead people is Kiera’s client from the day before ... before she worked on him. How is that possible? Of course, Kiera is the only one who recognizes the body and she doesn’t say anything about it to the others.
Joshua turns from the screen to Beglan.
Joshua: Lead on, sir.
Beglan: Here’s the thing… If we go in there and seal ourselves up, we’ve got four hours of air. So we don’t want to go in until we’re sure that things are going bad. I suspect if they’re going to blow up the corporate headquarters, we could hear something about it or know from video feeds where there’s trouble before we go into the chamber.
Joshua: Okay, that seems a reasonable plan to me.
Beglan: If we go in now, we’ll be locked in for too long and …
Nika: Are they going to evacuate the rest of the building?
Beglan: I’m not sure they can. I believe the security system was shut down by the terrorists.
Nika: Right. That means we’ll have a building full of people, including us, that are all locked in.
On the screen we can see the terrorists have gathered the majority of the people in the building underneath a large observation dome with gardens and executive suites at the top of the building. We look at the pictures closely, hoping to find any details that could help us. The pictures are time and date stamped with our current time and day of the week and beyond the glass of the dome, we can see the weather outside has turned stormy. Clouds roil just on the other side of the glass.
Joshua: So we sit still.
Kiera: I guess we’re gonna wait for the door. You have any luck with it?
Arden’s on the one door likeliest to let us out onto a corridor that might lead us back to our ship. He’s hacking into the lock mechanism. Meanwhile Nika’s asking more questions. How many people in the building? Oh, about a hundred. How many terrorists are there? We do a headcount of who we can see in the feeds. About half a dozen.
Arden gets that door open handily enough and with a hiss, it slides aside.
Arden: Door’s open.
Nika eyes the door with a critical eye. It’s heavy duty, likely a blast door—considering what’s on our side of it, it makes sense. She sticks her head past the jamb and looks around. There’s a corridor outside but nothing that looks like a way immediately to outside or our ship. We’re too deep into the facility for escape to be that easy and we’re not sure of the path out of here. She regards the door again. If it closed behind us and we had to double back to the tank room …
Nika: Keep this door open.
She goes back to the feeds to watch the broadcast for a little longer, hoping to glean more intel on the terrorists. Who’s rotating in and out? How long before they return? How many swap places? And so on. Watching it for an hour or so, it appears to be the same basic five people. Some are moving around. One has something like a lawn dart, but with a safety tip, and it sticks to the roof of the dome. A little light comes on. Those with demolitions experience (read: Rina) thinks it’s a wireless detonator. It’s well out of people’s reach, being 30 feet overhead.
Rina: Oh, that’s not good …