Episode 124. Part 5
Back at the Blue Sun HQ, the Blue Hands Team work Rick over for a couple of hours before they’re satisfied he actually has very little information to give up. Make no mistake, he’s being tortured—mostly via electric means with the tazer—but he still manages to ask the Team questions about their armor, their methods of questioning, their forbearance in killing him outright.
Blue Sun Woman: Don’t worry. If at any time we wish your death, it will happen.
Cuffed to his chair, Rick is pretty messed up and trying to stay conscious. He’s beaten and bloodied, burnt where the tazer got him a few too many times. He’s swaying in his seat like a punch drunk fighter and it may be that the only thing holding him upright are his bonds. He’s maintaining his cool, however, by making smart-ass comments, most of them lascivious and leveled at the woman. She tazers him for his trouble and Rick keeps going. He asks her for a date. Zap! He speculates on her figure under her armor. Zap! Hey, does this mean she likes him?
They torture him some more and then as Rick sags, bleeds and breathes, they turn their attention to Arden. They start removing the sensory dep equipment from him. Arden is stunned and disoriented. Thanks to the chemicals he’d been given, it sounds to him as if he were in a room confronted by five screaming adults, instead of one soft-spoken woman.
Blue Sun Woman: You’re quite the puzzle, Dr. Arden.
Arden: (pained) Not so loud. What?
Blue Sun Woman: We don’t like it when our own techniques are used against us. You will be providing us answers at some point.
Arden: (lost) Okay…?
Blue Sun Woman: But undoubtedly, you know as well as we do that what happened at Miranda was not a complete failure.
Arden: I’m…I have no idea what you’re talking about. Except there’s something about Miranda?
Blue Sun Woman: Of course, you would say that. Don’t worry.
Arden: But it’s true.
Blue Sun Woman: We’ll find out….everything… you’ve got. Even if we have to dissect you to find it out.
Arden: I’m sorry? Say that again? It’s ….too loud. You can ask me whatever questions you want, but I have no idea what you’re talking about so far.
Blue Sun Woman: So if I said ‘Erewhon Colony’, you would know nothing about it?
Arden: It’s where I came from.
Blue Sun Woman: Yes.
Arden: That’s about it. Came from there. Went back there. Someone tried to kill me. I left.
The Team look at each other for a beat.
Blue Sun Woman: How was it that you didn’t make it out to Blue Sun?
Arden: Didn’t make it out to Blue Sun? Um…I never wanted to go? I never had a desire to go? I never wanted to go?
Blue Sun Woman: (slowly dawning) You weren’t sent to Blue Sun, were you?
Arden: If my hands weren’t handcuffed to the chair, I’d touch my nose.
The Team trade another look. What does that mean, he wasn’t sent to Blue Sun?
Back in the Parliamentary offices, Gibbons wraps up his debriefing of Nika.
Gibbons: Do you know where they took your friends?
Nika: I have no clue. We just got on site just as they were pulling away.
Rina: No license plate, no nothin’.
Gibbons looks at Valerie Sampson.
Gibbons: Where were you before you were taken to the clinic?
Valerie gives him a street address to a building at Blue Sun Headquarters, just outside of Memphis. They took her to the clinic via shuttle into town.
Christian: So either they’re not planning on taking them back there. Or they have and they’re so confident in their security, they don’t care if we know. Because they didn’t try to retrieve her or retain her or kill her.
Rina: If we’re lucky, it’s the second.
Gibbons: Deanna. Write me up a warrant.
Nika: (to Gibbons) You’re serious?
Rina: Let the man work.
Gibbons: Do you want your friends?
Nika: (floored) Yeah, I want my friends but I didn’t honestly expect you to help.
Gibbons: Well, it’s kidnapping. We are a Verse of Laws.
Nika: Some days you could fool us.
Rina: (razor sharp) Nika? Chill.
Gibbons: I’m making a calculated guess that while your friends may be valuable, they’re not worth Blue Sun pushing this as far as they might.
Nika: Well I know they’re not worth Blue Sun keeping alive if they can’t tell them what they want to know.
Rina: Can we….speed things up just a little?
Deanna: (typing quickly) I’m working, I’m working.
Rina: Thank you.
Christian: Sir? No matter what happens, I have to say it’s been an honor to meet you.
Gibbons: Let me get working for you.
Nika: I’m terribly sorry I’m not part of your constituency now.
Christian: (continuing) There will certainly be excellent marks for you in your profile.
Gibbons: I must say my position affords me a certain amount of safety but there are things afoot from which not everyone is really safe. However, I’m hoping this should do it.
Christian: Should we try calling his brother?
Nika: I SO don’t want to get Otto involved.
Christian: I realize that. I’m just wondering if worst comes to worst…?
Nika: If his warrant doesn’t turn up anything, that might be a prudent course of action.
Gibbons: Well I can get an Operative—
Christian: No, it’s just that this one has a personal interest. It’s less to do with him being an Operative and more to do with him being Family. Even if he doesn’t realize it yet.
Nika: Lemme ask you—what exactly are you investigating?
Gibbons: I’m investigating the Miranda Wave and the lies around it.
Christian: You mean the mass murder of millions of people?
Rina: Last I heard, it was thirty million. Minus one-tenth of one percent.
Gibbons: Yes. So you appear to know quite a bit of what happened.
Christian: Well, the Wave was fairly…
Christian: We were close enough that we caught the whole thing, I think.
Gibbons: Well, what we know is what this one medical person claims. We don’t know much more than that and the battle reports from outside the Cortex relay station.
Christian: And it’s too dangerous to send a fact-finding mission there? Or is there too much political resistance to do it?
Gibbons: There is some political resistance.
Christian: Blue Sun’s Members of Parliament.
Gibbons: And there are many good political reasons not to want to open that Reaver can.
Nika: Which brings us around to why you’re willing to risk your political career by doing this.
Gibbons: (quietly) Some people do believe in doing the right thing.
Nika: That’s not what I’m asking. Do you realize that by helping us you’ve basically hammered your career into the ground? Unless you find what you’re looking for and can blast it wide open…
Gibbons: In our unicameral Parliament, there is no Loyal Opposition. However, it is not monolithic. The tide can change. And some of us, especially the constituencies out on the Rim, believe that the center will not hold with this Incident. At the very least, it needs to be exposed.
Nika: So what information would be useful to you?
Christian: Everything we know.
Gibbons: I have some other feelers out there.
Nika: (to Christian) We may be heading somewhere that can net him some really good information.
Christian: This is true. We also have a sample of the drug they used on Mike.
Gibbons: That could be helpful. We’re somewhat aware of what this Chempliance can do, it’s the Paxilon-D and the Paxilon-E which are less known to us.
Christian: The Paxilon-D being what was used on the Miranda, according to the Wave.
Christian: Paxilon-E would be the next generation. (to Nika) Actually, I can understand why he’s doing this. If this thing doesn’t see some sort of action, it’s enough to reignite a resistance into a full-blown war…with the right pushing by individuals interested less in reconciliation and more in going back to—
Nika: If this Paxilon is what they used on Miranda, then what in the world is it going to do to Arden? Is he going to turn into one of the guys that just attacked us tonight?
Christian: We’ll have to see.
Gibbons: Or it might render him a zombie unable to act until he dies from lack of eating. Either way, speed is of the essence. How’s that coming along?
Deanna: (looking up) I’m just getting it approved by a Justice now, sir.
Christian and Nika and Rina move off to the side and discuss how we might be able to get Gibbons the ammunition he needs to fight the good fight. Rina opines that if we agree to be Gibbons’s errand boys and he sends us to Blue Sun, then we should get a better ship. Christian cautions her to take things one at a time. After all, our enemies will be looking for us in a better ship. Nika adds that since we were already committed to going out that way, we could work for Gibbons, too. Christian counters that if our friends are not alive, there’s little point in this kind of speculation.
Gibbons asks us to accompany him to Blue Sun Headquarters so we can ID our friends when they are brought out. We leave with him and a sizeable security detail, and arrive at what for some of us are the familiar grounds of the Headquarters. A bunch of Blue Sun Security guys come out to match Gibbons’ Federal officers and a silent virtual shoving match ensues between the two bodies of enforcement.
The Warrant is shown. We are allowed in. The armored Feds go deeper into the complex for our friends. They find the room where Arden and Rick are detained. They are alone, their captors long gone. The Feds cut the handcuffs off the prisoners and help them out of there. Rick is still conscious and mumbling.
Rick: Where’s that blonde cutie that was here a minute ago? I was this close to picking her up.
Nika takes one look at Arden and Rick when they come into view and asks Gibbons:
Nika: I don’t suppose there’s any chance you could sweep our ship, too?
Gibbons: One thing at a time.
Arden: (weakly) Would someone please tell me what’s going on?
Christian: Hold on a minute. I want to ask you something: How many times have you and Nika had sex?
Arden: I…haven’t been counting…?
Christian: (satisfied) He didn’t answer the question.
Nika: He asked his own question. I think that would have been enough for you, thank you very much for broadcasting my private business in public.
Off to the side, Arden moans as voices rise.
Arden: (in pain) Stop talking to me…..God, my kingdom for sensory deprivation.
Rina: (gently) I could knock you out.
Gibbons joins us.
Gibbons: Well that was pretty quick. It only took fifteen minutes to get a Censure Notice leveled at me for this Act of Impropriety.
Christian: I hope the judge who issued the warrant is okay.
Gibbons: Not to worry. It’s a Censure. I’m not bound by law or anything, but we have to leave. We aren’t going to be able to do a search like we wanted.
Nika: We got our friends. That’s all I wanted.
Arden: What…happened to Victoria?
Gibbons: You mean Valerie?
Nika: Do you see why I can’t take him seriously? When he can’t remember the name of the woman he’s had sex with—
Arden: I’ve just been tortured. Leave me alone.
Christian: She’s alive.
On that note we gather up to go, supporting our injured friends between us out of the Headquarters and into the air of early morning. Rick turns and hails the Blue Sun guards as we walk away.
Rick: Tell Blondie that this is from me!
And Rick blows the guards a kiss.
We get him out of there. Arden blearily looks over at Rick.
Arden: There’s something very very wrong with you.
Rick: You never know when it’s gonna help us, man.
Christian: (to Rick) You know if that’s really what you’re into, I know some people to introduce you to…
Gibbons takes us to his manor to regroup. It’s on a hill overlooking Memphis. As living spaces go, it’s very nice. We try to decide what to do with Arden—he’s our only doctor and he’s certainly not in any condition to treat himself. But dare we take him to a hospital, considering what Blue Sun’s done to him? The matter resolves itself. After about an hour from Blue Sun’s headquarters, the sensitivity receeds to the level of a bad hangover. Arden’s still sensitive, but no longer preternaturally so.
We introduce Arden to Gibbons and Hill, inform him that the MP had basically saved Arden’s life by pulling strings to get him out of Blue Sun. And when Arden is up to talking, he tells all of us what happened. How the drug made him super-sensitive, how the Blue Sun goons were surprised that Arden hadn’t been called to Blue Sun system like a lemming…
Arden: Because of my gene line.
Arden: Before the Miranda Wave.
Chrisitan: Wait a minute. Before the Miranda Wave?
Yup. Rick confirms it.
Arden: They thought I should have gone with all the others. That I would want to.
Nika: So…. all of your genetic stock went to Blue Sun before the Wave?
Arden: I didn’t say that. They thought I should have gone.
Christian: Wait, wait. They all kinda disappeared at the same time, right?
Yes. Right before Miranda was slapped with a news blackout, before Miranda was declared a blackrock.
Christian: Obviously your entire crèche did not make up the entire population of Miranda.
Arden: No, but that added to the fact the Paxilon didn’t have m uch of an effect on me other than making my senses go haywire makes me believe that my genetic line was bred to be a police force for Blue Sun when they were going to control whatever it was they were going to control—
Nika: You mean like Otto?
Christian: I wonder if he got away from them?
Nika: I wonder if he’s trying to figure out why you did, too. Because maybe you’re the only other one who has.
Arden: May be.
Christian: Fascinating. We should talk to him.
Arden: Interesting question.
Christian: (to us) Can we talk to him now? I think we’ve gone far enough in this investigation that he can stop being vague and tell us something.
Except we don’t have a way of contacting him.
Arden: He said he would contact us. And I don’t think that Otto was an Operative of the Parliament.
Christian: He said he was.
Arden: (sarcastically) And I am sure he told us the truth.
Gibbons speaks up for the first time.
Gibbons: When people become Operatives of the Parliament, they lose their normal identity. If you have some of his genetic material, I might be able to—.
Christian: (pointing to Arden) It’s going to be almost identical to his.
Gibbons: I might be able to track him down.
Nika: He may be following his own agenda in all this. He may be an Operative of Parliament but what he’s got going with Arden may in fact be his own agenda.
Gibbons: That would be highly unlikely. Operatives of Parliament are conditioned to be absolutely loyal.
Christian: Operatives of Parliament do what they believe to be in the best interest for the Alliance, right?
Gibbons: Yes, but it’s not merely a casual opinion about it.
Christian: No I realize that. What I’m saying is if he thought that Blue Sun was a danger—and what Blue Sun was doing was a danger to the Alliance, he might do things that he might not necessarily report to Parliament.
Nika: And on top of that, if they’re using chemical methods to ensure loyalty at that level—
Gibbons: No, they wouldn’t.
Nika: Or brainwashing or whatever, if he’s resistant in any fashion to those kinds of techniques the way Arden is resistant to the Paxilon, for whatever quirk in his genetic make up, it could just flat be that his loyalty has allowed him to be skewed just enough.
Arden: I’d like to stress that everything I just said for the past five minutes is just conjecture. I have no proof.
Christian: That’s a lot of conjecture.
Nika: A hell of a lot of conjecture and almost no facts.
Christian: I think it’s safe to say that with Arden’s brain they’re not using mind control because that level of skill requires free thought. To a point, at least.
Gibbons: Blue Sun, I believe and what I’ve been able to get from my sources, has been involved in –well, mind control might not be the correct word, but Chempliance is a form of mind control—they have been involved in behavioral control of various sorts for a while, in addition to engineering in other ways.
Gibbons: No, not genetic but … well, perhaps genetic as well.
Nika: I don’t know—Sophie might be a genetic experiment on that level.
Gibbons: I don’t know about the Sophie story, but we have managed to get some information—well, I’ll have to give you some very classified information at that point.
Arden: What if my crèche had been specifically ordered?
Christian: They were called to Blue Sun. We know that a ship was called to Blue Sun. The ship’s name was Zarathustra.
Rina: And Zarathustra disappeared somewhere in Blue Sun.
Christian: (aside to Rina) You can get a whole bunch of people aboard and ship and then you hijack it.
Rina: Absolutely. Blue Sun has already shown that they are adept at hijacking people in transit and making them disappear.
Gibbons: There are people in our government working with Blue Sun that believe people can be made better.
Nika: Here’s a quick question for you, and this is just absolutely conjecture: his response to Paxilon-E. If his entire crèche, his entire line, is resistant to this particular drug and is resistant in some way to -D as well, what if his entire line went out there and they are the beginnings of the….(gropes for the right words)… Reavers have to have some kind of organizational skills. Something must remain of them being human or they wouldn’t be able to man a ship and fly it. They wouldn’t be able to come together and take over somebody else’s ship and recruit more.
Christian: They would if they had to have specialized roles.
Gibbons: So you think this group of clones is somehow masterminding Reaver activity?
Nika: I’m suggesting it as a possibility.
Gibbons: From the stories themselves, it’s exceedingly hard to pull fact from fiction.
Nika: You should talk to a few of us who’ve seen them.
Gibbons: But you’ve heard countless stories, undoubtedly, and half of those have to be false.
Christian: All I know is they are sadists. They are sadists beyond anything that I’ve seen.
Gibbons: But they do not rise from the dead, but I have reports from the military—.
Christian: No, they die.
Nika: They die, but it’s just damn hard to kill ’em.
Gibbons: But there are plenty of stories that say they can’t die.
Christian: No. They can die. They’re people. They’re human.
Gibbons: All right.
Nika: The whole idea that the Reavers have been mindless killing machines is very clearly false because they do in fact crew on ships. They can fly ships, they have somebody to take over other ships.
Christian: No, they are not mindless.
Nika: So, again I am merely suggesting that something in his genetic makeup and maybe in some other people on Miranda might in fact have been the start of this….organizational set up.
Certainly it’s wild conjecture, but so is everything else we know at this point.
Gibbons: Because of the censure, I’m going to be under some scrutiny. So I’m not going to be able to give you much assistance. My traveling to Meridian—where my constituency is—will be ill-advised at this stage.
Meridian is in Blue Sun.
Christian: We are going to Blue Sun. Specifically, to Highgate.
Nika: We have cargo headed for Highgate.
Gibbons: You do?
Christian: We will. Once we get to Londinium.
Nika: That’s what I was speaking of earlier when I said if there is a way we could help you find the information that you think you need, we may be willing to do it.
Rick leans over to Nika.
Rick: They know we’re going to Londinium, just so you know.
Meaning the Blue Sun interrogators.
Nika: It’s in the Cortex anyway.
Christian: We file a flight plan when we leave major ports.
Rick: So we might need to change it.
Gibbons drags the discussion back on topic.
Gibbons: The Naval encounter with the Reavers was mostly successful. They’re still swarming that area. It’s very dangerous to be flying near Burnham Quadrant.
Nika: Which is why they need supplies.
Gibbons: I understand. I’m talking about getting closer to Miranda to find out what’s going on.
Gibbons looks at his Chief of Staff.
Gibbons: Are we all in with this group?
Deanna: Well…Christian has shown himself to be reliable and competent.
The rest of the crew save Christian smirks. Oh, yes, we’re sure he’s very competent. Christian holds up his hand, and the snickering stops.
Christian: I want to say this. I want you to consider for a second that we have a skilled hunter, someone who is trained in animal tactics. While they may have human minds, they probably also act in a very animalistic fashion.
Nika: Surely the ones who chased us were pretty feral.
Christian: (continuing) A doctor who is wrapped up in this in ways we don’t understand. An engineer who quite frankly under other circumstances have a job on any luxury liner, and a pilot who can take a ship that flies like a brick and make it fly wonderfully. And then there’s me of course.
The implicit point being—we’re pretty damned good at what we do and can take care of ourselves. Recent events notwithstanding.
Arden: Has anyone investigated the clinic and found anything? Like the ear bugs?
Gibbons: Even if the police have reported anything, I’m afraid at this stage it’s not safe for me to start using Alliance Federal officers. There are things I might be able to do, but I have to warn you of something if you’re heading out there. Apart from the obvious.
Christian: The system’s no longer under quarantine, right?
Gibbons: Officially it is. But it’s not heavily monitored.
Christian: So the cargo we picked up isn’t illegal? Or is it, it’s legal to pick up cargo for the system but illegal to take it there?
Gibbons: No, it’s legal. Running cargo is legal. It’s just Miranda that’s quarantined. Highgate’s not. Blue Sun system was briefly quarantined, but now it’s not. However, there’s one other thing. (A beat) I had some…suspicions about this after the Wave and through some contacts, I sent another group in. But it’s been months since we’ve heard from them.
Through some other contacts? Another group got sent in? Anybody want to bet he’s talking about Harbinger?
Christian: This other group wouldn’t happen to be aboard a…ah….
Nika: I’ll give it to you: Harbinger.
Gibbons: How would you know this?
Nika: It’s my former ship.
Nika: And I have heard from them.
Gibbons: You have? We’ve got nothing. For months.
Nika: Just recently. Not much. No information. Just enough to know they’re still alive.
Christian: That’s one of the reasons why we’re going there.
Nika: That’s exactly the best we can tell you at the moment.
Rina: The message originated off a Cortex buoy repeater in Blue Sun system.
Nika: It the Cortex five days late.
Gibbons: That’s well outside Cortex range. The repeaters in Burnham Quadrant were shut down years ago.
Nika: No, it hit the farthest beacon in Blue Sun five days late.
Christian: Out of curiosity, you said there was a battle outside a Cortex satellite? Near Blue Sun?
No, he didn’t, but it’s an excellent fishing cast and Gibbons bites.
Gibbons: It used to be the home of a Cortex pirate known as Mr. Universe.
Nika: Right. The one who sent the Miranda Wave.
Christian: I don’t suppose you might be able to get the position of our message, to see if it was sent from there?
Nika: If you get me a map, I could tell you. I don’t have a star map in my head.
Christian: I’m just wondering. There are a lot of coincidences in this entire thing which are odd, but I was just wondering if maybe a stop there is in order, too.
Nika: That’s also quarantined, is it not? It’s not the first time I’ve run a blockade, but…
Gibbons: Because of the censure I won’t be able to assist you directly at this time.
Rina: Then can you assist us indirectly?
Christian: Stop. Let the man talk.
Gibbons: If you have cargo for Highgate, I suggest you take it. I believe that despite my censure, Blue Sun is not going to do anything here now. They, too, know they’re being watched. However, you should be careful once you’re in the Black.
Nika: And you should seriously consider getting a bodyguard. Or eight.
Gibbons: I already have bodyguards.
Arden wants to know who owns the broadcast company Jake’s show is airing on. Christian tells him the director is an independent hoping to get picked up by a company so as to broadcast the show. Either way, Christian recommends we tell Jake his contract is over.
Christian: There’s no way we can bring a civilian into this.
Arden: We’re civilians.
Christian: We can’t take someone unknowing into this.
Arden: We can tell him.
Rick: Yeah, we can tell him he might die. He’ll probably love it.
Nika: Having someone to document it might be useful.
Gibbons: And broadcast it.
Rick: It would be helpful to have someone broadcasting information back. I could do it.
Nika: (to Christian) As you pointed out, helping people on the Rim was the whole reason we took him on in the first place.
Gibbons: It was the Miranda Wave itself that got us started in this. There might be more waves that need to be sent out. Christian: So the question about Blue Sun is: would it be better to go on and hide in plain sight, as it were, or switch ships, throw them off our trail?
Gibbons: I don’t think you should stay on Osiris much longer.
Christian: Oh, no. We’re leaving. Tonight.
Gibbons: I don’t have to tell you it wouldn’t be a good idea to contact me directly…
Nika: No. If you could set up an anonymous account, we can keep you updated.
Gibbons: I’ll see what I can do.
Rina: I might be able to rig something.
Gibbons: (to Christian) Since Deanna is a client of yours, perhaps you can arrange some means of communicating? Christian: I can send messages to the Guild, certainly.
Gibbons: She can make special requests of you?
Christian: Of course. We’ll work out a communication code. That isn’t a problem.
Gibbons: All right.
A method of communication is quickly worked out, we decide that though we’d dearly love a ship with more firepower we’ll keep going on the Gift, and we take our leave of Gibbons. As we walk out into the lightening night, Nika mutters to the general air:
Nika: I shall, in fact, kick Mike’s ass if we ever see him again. Actually, kick Christian’s ass. (rounding on Christian) Cuz when Mike said to me, “Do you really wanna know what they’re doing?” you said, “No, you really don’t want to know,” and I should’ve said ‘Yes’. We might have actually had a clue far far sooner.
Which exchange reminds Rina of her gun, duct taped to the bottom of the newspaper vending machine in the industrial part of town. Mike gave her that gun and it’s the only memento she has of him. She goes back to get it and finds with relief it’s still there. On the walk back to the Gift, Rina has ample time to wonder over Nika’s parting remark. What did she mean by Mike’s query? Why did Christian talk Nika out of finding out more?
It’s not something she can pursue now, at any rate, and Rina files it away for future reference. Assuming they have a future, going as they are practically naked into a system filled with Feds, quarantined sectors of space and not so incidentally, Reavers. But still, any mention of Mike is something worth looking into. If she’s lucky, she’ll be able to ask him herself. It’s a slim-to-none chance, but as Christian already pointed out, far too many ‘coincidences’ have pushed us in the direction of Blue Sun and at this point, something as farfetched as finding Mike in the middle of all this may not be so far-fetched after all.
Long odds, but better than none.