Episode 707: Columbia
Air Date: 14 Feb 2012
Present: Andy, Bobby, Kim, Maer, and Terri
ARV Persephone: 20 Sep 2523
DEP Persephone: 25 Sep 2523 (we wait 2 days to avoid looking suspicious when we leave and to give our injured time to heal)
ARV Columbia: 05 Oct 2523 (10 days travel)
DEP Columbia: 07 Oct 2523
ETA Namira: 09 Oct 2523 (2 days travel)
Thursday, 23 Sep 2523
Durance class, Exeter
Eavesdown Docks, Persephone
White Sun (Bai Hu) system
Sometime during the day …
Joshua is currently Acting Captain of Exeter and at the moment, he's got the crew laying low. It would look suspicious, burning atmo out of here in a hurry as if we're fleeing a crime scene. Which we kinda are, considering we'd had a major dustup involving the creepizoid BTs at St. Lucy's while gathering physical evidence of the Sansa cover-up. Which explains why Joshua's Acting-Captain: Nika took on damage and surgery from the fight. Not entirely life-threatening, but still deserving of bed rest to heal. Rina's in worse shape, having taken a critical hit to her left leg, nicking a major artery. Both women are over an hour in surgery, Rina for almost two. Kiera gets on the table next, taking third place in triage. When all the medical emergencies have been taken care of, Arden is wiped and seeks his own hard-won rest.
Meanwhile, Joshua and Beglan take up the slack, taking care of port business and engineering and making our guest comfortable. For we do have a guest—a Reader we've rescued from the BTs custody. Joshua waits until we are underway to Columbia before investigating further. Of immediate concern is how we're going to make up for the medical supplies we've had to use, as well as lay in more supplies to handle the extra load our passenger will impose. After some discussion, we reluctantly agree to pilfer from the cargo we're contracted to haul to Columbia and sell it, raising funds to restock what we need.
Saturday, 25 Sep 2523
En route to Columbia Planetoid
The Reader wakes after we take off and Joshua gently questions him, keeping his mind open to Reading and Reading our guest in turn. Joshua comes away from that interview with a few facts, some of them very disturbing:
- Our guest is vaguely male, has the body of a child and the eyes of a lost soul—with a powerful Reader's mind to match. However …
- The Reader has no sense of self, nothing separate from the environment and the other minds in it, to the point that …
- He has not separate voice to talk or think in
- He does not use physical speech to communicate
- He seems unable to answer questions or communicate directly from himself, instead using sentences snatched from other people's heads to serve as a response.
- The Reader was altered by various means in vitro and post-natal into his Reader abilities and that the consequences to his physical (and mental) well-being are severe.
Further tests by Arden support point to #3 with even harsher facts. The Reader is all over internal lesions, non-cancerous but still alarming. The Reader has a hard time keeping food and drink down, and this possibly explains the stents installed in various places in his body for IVs. The Reader has been chemically emasculated, halting his maturation process. All of these things have harsh consequences: The Reader is slowly dying and we know of nothing we can do to halt his progress.
It is debatable if the Reader is even a person as we understand the term, but instead is simply a being enduring life by whatever means possible before death. We decide to call him Adam and we unanimously agree that there is no turning him over to Blue Sun. We will care for him and make him comfortable until we can either help him or get him help, or until he dies.
To that end, we keep trying with food and drink until we find what he can keep down. We let him sit on the bridge and on the pax deck gazing out at the stars because it seems to give him comfort as he hugs himself and rocks incessantly.
Beglan does double duty caring for Adam and the engineering duties. Rina is laid up for the duration to give her leg—and that nicked artery—a chance to heal completely. If it means strapping her down in med bay for the next few days, so be it. Arden recommends it, Joshua orders it, and Rina puts up with it. And when she's released from bed rest, a few of the crew stand ready with trank patches to put her under if she goes against the no-work rule as she heals. There are a few incidents which have the crew hauling her back to quarters unconscious, but only a few. The stubborn woman is learning not to push it too far. Even so, she's only partially healed up by the time we reach our destination.
During our flight over, Arden tests the samples we took from St. Lucy's, hoping to find the cause or the vector for the genetic mutations afflicting Persephone. Kiera works alongside him and when the tests come back inconclusive—even with biopsies from the crew to serve as a control for the experiments—she concludes what we all do not want to hear: either the vector is very hard to detect or we're all infected.
Nika is not bouncing back from her injuries as she normally would and spends the bulk of the journey in her cabin when she's not required on the bridge for course adjustments. She takes over flying when we reach the asteroid belt proper. Otherwise, it's a fairly quiet and uneventful 10-day flight.
Tuesday, 05 Oct 2523
Columbia Planetoid, The Halo
White Sun (Bai Hu) system
0900hrs, local time
We dock at the station on Columbia Planetoid and it doesn't take long before our pilfering is discovered. For once, the cargo is checked against the cargo manifest and we come up short. Columbia holds us responsible and will not let us leave unless we either produce the missing cargo or cough up its monetary value of 400 credits.
We've got neither.
Now what? We can sell or barter what we do own, perhaps. We don't want to sell the shuttle. We don't have the hover car. We left that behind on Persephone. The crew has been paid recently but pooling it all we still don't have enough. We must find a way to pony up the credits, however—staying here is expensive.
We look beyond our ship for options. Corone Mining owns Columbia and it's your stereotypical mining company town. People work hard and play hard. There's a makeshift casino and gambling venue up and running—not a casino proper, more like a floating game of cards and such, usually anchored at some bar or other. Easy to strike and move in case it needs to get out in a hurry, but well-known and easy to get to. We debate risking our pay on the chance to double it … but ultimately keep our cash in our pockets and the gambling option is tabled.
Kiera goes through our stock of medicine to see if she can maybe make illegal drugs from them while Arden goes out to see if he can find a clinic or an orphanage to offer his services as a doctor. He's waiting to talk to someone at the dispensary when he spies a man in a snit. He's trying to run his ident card through a scanner and it's just not taking. The dispensary staff handling the transaction shakes his head.
Staff: Listen, buddy, you're just going to have to get this checked by the station head before we can let you leave with this stuff. This cargo's potentially dangerous and has controlled substances.
Man: It's just on my bill of lading. I just need to get this to Namira. I honestly don't care if it goes or not.
Staff: Just see the station head about it. It'll work fine.
The man stomps off and Arden spies a crew service patch on the man's sleeve: Free Rider. Arden recognized the word Namira and curious, he successfully follows the man to his ship to find out more about him. Sure enough, Free Rider is a Leviathan class medium freighter two berths down from Exeter. It's an industrial looking ship, about three to four thousand tons, about comparable to our ship. Arden finds a corner to hide in and comms Exeter.
Arden: Beggar, is …. I wanna say Kiera but … is Joshua around?
Beglan: No. Joshua is off trying to find some work, I think.
Arden: Kiera? Is she there, too?
Beglan: I think she's off trying to get involved in criminal activities.
Arden: (dry) How unusual. So …. Rina?
Arden: It's just you?
Beglan: Just me. And Adam.
Arden: Have Kiera or Joshua call me when they get back to the ship.
Arden cuts the channel and goes looking for the man he's followed. He finds him.
Arden: Excuse me, sir. I overheard your problem back at the dispensary. I'm a doctor and I'm crew on a freighter that's hopefully going to be getting out of here soon. Perhaps there's we can do to help you?
Man: Ahhhgh. I haven't updated my ident card and they're saying they can't release it to me.
Man: We have some drugs and such and they want to make sure that it's okay to take it to our destination.
Arden: What's your destination, if you don't mind me asking?
Man: Just another asteroid.
Arden: Okay. Well, I thought there might be some way I could help out and you could help out and we'd both come away happy.
Man: Do you know the Director? The Station Director?
Arden: Not personally.
Man: If you could do anything to speed the job up, that would be great. We just want to get our supplies over to them. Quite frankly I don't much like hauling this stuff anyway.
Arden: Yes, you mentioned to the clerk where you were going. I think that's where we're heading next.
Man: (looks askance) Probably not likely.
Arden: Why's that?
Man: We’re the only ship that supplies them. What are you bringing them?
Arden: I'm the doctor on the ship. I really don't know. I have to talk to the First Mate or one of the other crew about it.
Man: I wonder if that's what this is about. Maybe I should talk to the Station Director then.
Man: (stepping away) I gotta talk to my Captain first and find out—if they're trying to replace us with some other ship, see?
Arden: I don't think so but do you mind if I go with you to your Captain? (off his look) I'm not trying to be sneaky or troublesome or anything. I'm just curious to …. (sighs) … Look. The truth is we're stuck here and we're trying to come up with extra funds. Maybe we can help each other out.
He's not buying it and Arden can feel the opportunity slipping away.
Arden: You're welcome to come to our ship. I'll tell you what our berth number is. You're welcome to bring your captain and come with. Whatever. I tried to get in touch with my First Mate but he's out.
Man: What are you trying to talk to the Captain for?
Arden: I …. don't. I just want to make sure you're not trying to do something bad to us. (off his look) I'm not a businessman. I don't know this stuff. We're in Berth 3C. Our Captain is Nika Earhart. We're interested in helping you if we possibly can. You can let your Captain know that but have him or her call us before actually going to the Station Director.
And having done enough damage, Arden says goodbye and gets back to our ship. Once there, he waits for the rest of the crew to get back from job hunting to tell them what he's found. They come back empty handed. Basically, Arden tells him, there's a cargo of controlled substances bound for Namira and since the crewman hasn't updated his ident lately, they won't release it to him. He also tells them that the other ship is the only ship going to Namira.
Arden: I basically gave him the impression I was trying to horn in on his business and at that point I gave up and told him to have his captain talk to our captain.
Seems doable, Joshua thinks. If we can get the Free Rider to front us the money to clear our ship, we could haul their cargo for them. There's just one snag.
Nika: Well, I've got some bad news. Namira is a no fly zone. If we go in, we're gonna have to come in hard and fast or—
Kiera: And you totally get off on that.
Nika: Or silent running. I'm not saying we can't do that, I'm just saying we're not just going to be able to shuttle up and they'll open the door for us.
Arden: (smirks!) So it's either hard and fast or slow and gentle?
Joshua: Someone put the pieces together for me.
Arden: I'm having trouble seeing the pieces.
Kiera: This ship, they go to Namira and come back from it right?
We look them up in the registry. Hmm. It's one of their jobs, but they do a variety of supply runs here and there.
Rina: Did you not say that Free Rider is the only one who goes there, yes?
Arden: That's what he said.
Rina: How close is their ship to ours?
Arden: Two berths over.
Rina: No. Configuration. Swap out the transponder.
Arden: Don't talk to me. I'm a doctor.
Rina: They will think Free Rider is us and open right up.
Nice try, Rina, but the ships look nothing alike. Besides …
Kiera: Why would they let us walk on board and steal their transponder?
Rina: I'm not saying steal. I'm saying work a deal with them.
Joshua: So far, we've got the problem that they've got everything that we want and we've got nothing. So, it's a hard trade. But maybe they would be willing to …
Kiera: (to Rina) Why are you looking at me?
Rina: Did you not tell me once that we were going to see your father at Namira?
Kiera: Nooooo. He said to go by and look at Namira.
Rina: Ahhh, so he's not there.
Kiera: Gosh, no. Why would he spend time on there? There's no pool.
Rina: Can you give him a call? Perhaps make it … (gestures sliding right on in).
Well, you know. He's into secret pharmaceutical research. What better place to do it but tucked away in a non-descript asteroid in the Halo? So says Rina's paranoia. Snickers go around the table at that one.
Joshua: I hate to say this but this mission is supposed to be secret. Having anybody call ahead and say, Oh by the way, could you make a reservation for three in a jail cell?
Kiera: So, let me get this straight. The cargo the other ship is trying to take, they can't load because they won't release it?
Going by what Arden saw, that's not exactly the case. It just looks like they're hassling the Free Rider crew. It's not clear that they can't load it, period. Just that there's a bureaucratic delay. Looking on the Cortex about the crew, the Free Rider appears to be a contracted vessel which is a subsidized transport vessel plying the Halo, bringing replacement workers and supplies back and forth. To a lesser degree, they also carry ore in their 400 ton bay.
Since Kiera's father is interested in a bit of reconnaissance of the place, maybe we don't have to go there in the guise of a ship making a delivery. Maybe we could go there as passengers of Free Rider or maybe as replacement miners and take a quick look around? Joshua's not too keen on the idea. It exposes us too much to the crew and the situation would quickly become unmanageable. Even so, how can we use them to do what we need to do? Which is getting a look around Namira? We know that Free Rider goes to Namira. And it's the only ship that goes there. It's big enough and tough enough for the job. Hmm… how tough?
Joshua: Okay, I see where we're going with this.
Arden: Yeah, I do too.
Beglan: That's one way to do it, but it would be a shame if something happened to that ship.
Beglan: Because if they can't make their runs, then they can't get supplied.
Kiera: (to Rina) How good are you feeling? How would you feel about trashing the ship?
Rina: Our ship?
Kiera: Their ship.
Arden: You sabotage their ship and they can't go, so we'll go in their place.
Kiera: Because their ship is messed up.
Arden: Because you'd done something to it.
Rina: When do you need it done by?
Arden: I doubt it's as simple as throwing a wrench into a turbine, is it?
Joshua: Or sugar in the gas tank. Banana in the tailpipe. So I'm asking you …
Rina: Yes, dear?
Joshua: We need to break a ship.
Rina: (affirming) Not ours.
Arden: Not ours. We already know how to break ours.
Joshua: We do, actually. All the time. No, we need to break the Free Rider. Can you break it?
Can she break it? Oh, please.
Rina: I'm pretty sure I can break it.
Arden: But can she get away with it? That's the question.
Rina: I think I can, yeah.
Joshua: We can provide a distraction or something. Maybe.
We need to figure a way to get that damage done that won't make the other crew immediately think of us. We can't simply invite them over for drinks and dinner to get them out of Rina's way. We have to find a way to get them off the ship though. Damaging their reactor core containment is a surefire way but that would put the entire station at risk and we're not out to hurt anyone. Kiera and Rina come up with mucking up the sewage lines, causing backflow into Free Rider. The crew can't fly the cargo if the crew can't be on the ship to fly her, right? And the damage done doesn't have to be dangerous, just messy, unpleasant, and will take a long time to clean up.
How to do that? Rina figures it would be easiest to get at from outside the ship, via the stations sewage intake line. Standard operating procedure has ships empty their sewage into holding tanks for reclamation and treatment. And just like with refueling lines, external lines for sewage are hooked up to the ship from the outside. If Rina messed up the outtake valve or the in-line pump …
She'll need to minimally disguise herself as station crew. Since the dock crew wears coveralls, it's not a hard disguise to put together. And since no one on Free Rider has met Rina, seeing her face wouldn't give the game away.
And so it goes. Rina goes over in the dead of night and messes up the sewage line, then finds a place to hide while waits for the call for repairs to go out. It's not long before the crew comes tumbling out wearing breather masks and she walks up to make repairs.
Crewman: What's happened in there? It smells to high heaven.
Rina: (sighs) Sorry, sir. It's the air hose. There's a leak or something wrong with it and—
Crewman: Get the damn thing fixed! My ship smells like a sewage bucket.
The man's clearly the Captain. Rina cuts an eyeroll at the man's brusque tone.
Rina: Yah! Hello, that's what I'm here for, dude. Talk to the wrench, man. I'm workin' on it.
Captain: Wilson. You're stayin' on deck.
Wilson: What?! Why me?
Captain: You know why.
Wilson: Jeez ….
The Captain has the rest of his crew line up and he deals out the cashy money to each person so they can find lodgings elsewhere. Get a room, get a room, yadda yadda. He looks really pissed off. Wilson's not much happier either. And when Rina actually puts her hands on the ship, she's not too happy to see that it's been a long while since the ship's been serviced. It's been long enough that the treads on the fasteners of the access panel she needs jam right up … and then strip when she puts her back into it.
Damn. She's going to have to find another way to get at what she needs to sabotage the ship. She'll have to go inside.
But first, she'll have to convince Wilson to let her aboard. She continues to swear and mess things further on the outside, until it's clear to even Wilson that he'll have to let her aboard. He's gone back inside and she hails him via the airlock comm. When he answers, she explains that there's something wrong with the outside panel and she's going to need to get to the damaged parts from the inside. When he balks, she tells him sure, fine, live with the stink, it's his funeral. He agrees to let her aboard.
She gets aboard and gripes about the smell. It's pretty eye-watering. She successfully begs a breather mask off him and claims that the problem is with the bilge pump and that she'll have to get at it from its power source. Which is in engineering, cuz everything goes through engineering, Kinda like shit rolls downhill, you know? Wilson leads her to engineering. She spouts technobabble all the way. He keeps an eye on her once she gets there. Rina messes with this and that, keeping a running monologue of complaints and technical jargon going. Finally she asks him to go to one of the heads and jiggle the flush handle for her. The minute he's gone, Rina works quickly, opening up and sabotaging everything she's picked out while faking repairs for Wilson. When he returns she chews him out for making the problem worse—she told him to jiggle the handle, not flush! They both evacuate the engine room and she gets off the ship. When the coast is clear, she fixes the station's sewer line. Rina leaves Free Rider's berth, ditches the station coveralls, and makes her way back to Exeter.
Kiera and Joshua have found a place to conduct a stake out on Free Rider, waiting for the moment when the other crew throws in the towel. Sure enough, a few hours later, Kiera and Joshua see the Captain and a crewman leave. They follow them over to the admin section of the station. They watch as the men go into the Director's office to talk to him. Since Joshua has been here before over the matter of the shorted cargo, it's not hard to justify lingering in the waiting room with the receptionist—he says he's here to negotiate the credit penalty. She pencils him in and he and Kiera sit down to wait. It isn't long before the Free Rider Captain and his crewman—a supply officer, if Joshua's remembering correctly—come out, looking unhappy.
Crewman: What are we going to do?
Captain: We'll order the part. We'll contact the people at Namira and let them know that it's gonna be late.
Joshua: (stepping up) Excuse me. Namira, I heard you say?
Captain: Yeah. Who are you?
Joshua sees the man bristle at the mention of Namira and he immediately backs off. Kiera gives the man her thousand-watt smile and tries a different tack.
Kiera: Sounds to me like you boys had trouble.
Captain: Oh, engine trouble. Stupid station's responsible for system backflow and they're …. (waves it off)
Kiera: This station is hard. They're accusing us of losing cargo and now we gotta pay up for it. We might be able to do a deal. It sounds like you're out a ship and I need some … cash to get my ship off the ground. Cuz they think we took it. But they're not going to let us leave until we make it good. do you have a run you need to do we can sub for ya?
Captain: So you got a ship that can run cargo?
Kiera: (smiles again) Yeah.
The Captain stops and considers it.
Captain: Yeah … Namira's a two day trip. It's really short.
Kiera: I don’t even know where that is. What's there?
Captain: It's an old mining asteroid. It's some kinda research center now.
Kiera: Is it a hard flight or anything? Our pilot's okay but she can't handle anything hard.
Captain: I don't think it's anything difficult. They got some security concerns but I'm sure they'll want to get their stuff.
Kiera: I think we can do you a trade.
She goes to the receptionist and asks to see the Director about the money we owe the station. The receptionist shows her and Joshua right in. Kiera takes the Free Rider captain and supply officer in with her. The Director looks up, puzzled and not pleased.
Director: What's all this about? Why do I have so much trouble with ship Captains all of a sudden?
Captain: Actually, Captain, I think we got your problem solved. (points to Kiera and Joshua) They owe you money, right? We're moving cargo. My ship can't take the cargo. They're willing to take it.
Kiera: Cuz we're obviously empty now.
Joshua: And we want to get moving.
Kiera: It's a win-win.
He looks at everyone narrowly.
Director: Let me check. (punches a button) Myron, call Namira and get their Director there.
There's a brief delay and then a screen on the wall lights up. An older man shows up. Grey hair. Beard. Soft spoken.
Namira Director: Director, what's the problem?
Director: Sir, our transport for you that has those supplies of yours? It has mechanical problems.
Namira Director: I saw the requisition. We need these immediately.They can't sit in some warehouse for weeks and weeks.
Director: Yeah, we don't get supplies here very often and sometimes they don't come out like we're expecting. We can order the part for the ship but it would be a month before we get it or anything.
Namira Director: What else can you do? Can a shuttle make it?
Director: A shuttle ain't gonna make it that far, sir. However we have another ship, a supply ship coming from the Core. It's a Corone ship. They could take it for you.
Namira Director: (pause) Very well. The cargo is classified. You're going to have to have your station people load it and they're not to unload it. Or touch it. Is that understood?
Kiera: Win-win, yeah.
Joshua: Yes. I got no desire to touch your supplies. Whatever we gotta do to get the money.
Kiera: Yeah, and I'm lazy. Less work. We don't have to load it. We don't have to unload it. We just have to sit there? Awesome. We'll get the ship warmed up.
Namira Director: Work it out, Director. This is not my concern.
The screen goes dead. All righty then. The Director sighs.
Director: (grim) Here's the thing. I've got your ship's pinger on record. You know and I know that that cargo just did not walk off your ship. I'm going to let you know for your own benefit: this is not cargo you want to try to sell anywhere. If you're caught with this, be it the Rim, be it gorram Blue Sun, you are not going to be able to walk away with it.
Kiera: (nods) Deliver the cargo. Come back.
Director: You don't have to come back but I want to hear from them the cargo got delivered—no, I don't want to hear it. You want to hear from them that the cargo got delivered.
Joshua: Okay. We got it covered.
Director: You don't know who you're dealing with, here. These people are bad news.
Joshua: Yeah, I gathered. All right.
Kiera: Whoa, are they, like, crime boss people?
Joshua: (waving her down) Ayuhhhhhh … I'll take your word for it that they'll cut off our nuts or something—or cut off her nuts—and she doesn’t even have nuts.
Kiera: Okay, let's go ahead and get the ship prepped up and we'll tell the Captain and get the bay open so they can load it for us. This is actually awesome. I don't have to unload it. I don't have to load. No passengers.
Joshua: (pushing her for the door) Yeah … lazy.
We get over to Exeter and make her ready to take on cargo. It arrives in short order, all 200 tons of it, and they give us the flight plan to take us to Namira. Complete with access codes to get us through the no-fly zone. Joshua and Kiera eyeball the cargo as it's loaded and when we get underway for Namira, Kiera takes special pains to warn the rest of the crew of the dire consequences if they fiddle with it.
Kiera: (to Rina) Touch them and I will break your fingers. Do not open those.
Rina: (unfazed) All right.
Kiera: Unless you can open them and they can't find out.
Rina: You wench! … (whaps Kiera)
Joshua: Okay, now I'm curious.
Arden: I say we don't. (a beat) But I'm curious too.
Rina: But I s—
Joshua: Let's study the boxes carefully and see if we can't figure a way to open one. We don't want to do this half-assed. We don't want anybody cutting off our metaphorical nuts.
Beglan wisely bows out of this, as does Nika. But the rest of the crew goes down to the cargo deck and starts scoping out the possibilities. There are two main pallets and we peek under the tarps. We find a lot of mundane supplies. Food. Meds. New Tech medical equipment. Lots of shiny to tempt Arden, who's been jonesing for a portable med scanner for months now.
Joshua: (to Arden) Don't touch it.
The other pallet has what appears to be four medical coffins, sealed with medical biohazard symbols on them.
Rina: (wilts) … Oh no …
Joshua: (to Kiera) Don't. Don't touch it.
Arden: Don't touch what?
Joshua: Don't touch the coffins or the portable scanners. You can't have a portable scanner.
Arden: Why not?
Joshua: Because they will cut your nuts off.
Arden: I think it's a fair trade.
Rina: (eyeing coffins) Kiera. Why did your father wants us to go by and check this place out?
Kiera: He didn't say.
Joshua: He said he thought we would find it interesting.
Arden: And if we wanted to be heroes.
We look at the coffins more closely. They have the ACDC seals but they are from Albion, a Core world. Rick Allen was from Albion. Hmm. Joshua asks our doctors if this is the sort of method by which they would transport bodies and they confirm it. Yeah. You'd transport bodies this way, sure. And Nazi gold.
Joshua: So they're transporting bodies.
Arden: And medical scanners.
Joshua: It's always medical scanners with you.
Arden: You wear ballistic mesh and I'll give up medical scanners.
Joshua: oohh ...
Kiera: Tempting, tempting …
Rina: (quietly) Well, if you're willing to hear another medical conspiracy theory, I've got a couple of ideas.
Arden: Let me get some coffee first.
Joshua: Spit it out.
Rina: In general terms, there might be people in there.
Joshua: I'm assuming there is.
Rina: (continuing) In suspended animation, who are either test subjects for illegal experiments or they are—
Arden: They're too small for suspended animation.
Joshua: I was about to say. Doesn't have a power source, so that kills that one, right there.
Arden: It could be zombies and they don't need to breathe anymore.
Rina: There are drugs that will simulate death.
Arden: It's probably containing biomedical supplies. Like drugs prepped to control the miners' heads.
If that's so, then why not put it in with the rest of the medical supplies on the next pallet over?
Rina: Or maybe—
Arden: Or maybe these are for someone waiting to transfer something back.
They've got tape sealing the lids down. Is there a way to remove it so we can look inside and then replace the tape to make it look like we didn't look inside? Kiera volunteers to try and she aces it. For once, Rina is the voice of caution. Do we really want to open it up, she asks? What if there's a plague inside and once it's opened, we'll all get infected. Joshua counters with the fact that our two doctors have pretty much said we're infected already with whatever's afflicting Persephone.
Joshua: So I'm not so much worried about plague as the immediate …
Arden: Cessation of life.
Joshua: Yeah, that's pretty much it.
We look inside.
We see a dead body. Specifically, a naked human male body. Kiera and Arden can't take the body up to med bay to examine it. It's too big to get up the stairs without incurring some sort of damage and of course they can't autopsy it, but there are things they can do that won't leave traces. Arden surmises that the COD was bad anesthetic. It's hard to tell how long the man has been dead. Decomposition was held off by the casket seal.
They go back and see if there's any information left behind in the coffin. There's paperwork. They carefully fish it out and read it. The charts say the COD was … huh. It's a 15-character alphanumeric string and a date. Back checking the date on the Cortex, we find the date corresponds to the food riots on Albion.
What would the facility at Namira be wanting with someone who died in the food riots on Albion? Albeit one that doesn't have any signs of wounds or anything. And Beglan brings up a very good point: Namira seems to be a pretty high security place. What are we planning to do when we get there? Just deliver the cargo and turn around and go back home?
Joshua states we're going to look around. But … um … remember that little detail where Namira is a high security place? They won't just let people walk in off the street to take a look around. If we're going to look around, we're going to need a plan.
We come up with one.
We'll disguise ourselves as bodies in the coffins and once we're taken inside by the very people we're going to investigate, we'll get out of the coffins and take that look around. Of course, some details have to be worked out. Like, how do we get out of the coffins once we're inside them. Rina will have to rig up an opening device for each coffin. What will we do with the bodies that are in the coffins now? Kiera suggests we put them in cold storage by modifying one of our escape pods. And Joshua strongly suggests we determine our goals before we get into the coffins.
- We will sneak around and see what we can see.
- Arden will take samples to test.
- We will gather information on what Namira is doing.
- We will take information on our samples.
- We will blow up the facility if necessary.
Arden, Kiera, Joshua, and Rina will be the infiltration team. Arden and Kiera will take separate coffins, Joshua and Rina will go in one coffin to free up the fourth coffin to carry our gear. As to the gear, the team quickly devises a list.
Everyone will wear earbud comms and everyone—except Joshua—will go armed with a pistol.
- Arden will take his medical bag, databook, thumbdrives, and lockpicks.
- Kiera will take an extra pistol and two extra clips.
- Rina will take along her tool bag, her databook, an extra pistol, two extra clips, two flashbangs, and will be wearing her usual suspects.
- Joshua will be taking his usual awesomeness, times ten.
Having decided on our course of action, we hustle to prep the coffins for our op. We will have to carry our own air supply, since the coffins are airtight and we will have people needing to breathe inside them. The dead bodies are respectfully removed to the escape pods on the crew deck and the temperature in the pods are lowered to keep the bodies preserved. That done, all that's left to do is wait until we arrive at Namira … and whatever secrets await us there.