Episode 106. Part 1

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Present: Mary, Terri, Bobby, Jay---
Air Date: 13 Jan 2009

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Sunday, 10 Jul 2518
Kuiper II Class, Summer’s Gift
New Lyon, Beaumonde
Kalidasa (Xuan Yu) System
12:30 hrs, local time

The op is over, the objective achieved, and we’ve a man missing and no way to search for him. Colonel Nguyen advises us to lay low for the next few days. If we blazed out of here now, the Feds will get suspicious about the timing, and target us as suspects for this morning’s terrorist activities.

So we lay low.

Rina finds out that although the Colonel’s men started the repairs, they didn’t finish them. Incredible. She curses them down through seven generations, picks up her tools and gets to fixing what she can on her own. At least it keeps her gainfully occupied and distracts her from obsessing about the man who’s missing…if only a little.

Christian spends the time buying provisions for our eventual trip out, and also looking for buyers for what cargo we have to sell. Namely the receptionist robot and the computer desk from Jamison Fairweather’s office.

Arden goes over the medical supplies, determining what’s low and needs replenishing, and what’s plentiful.

The newsfeeds are all abuzz with our morning’s activities and we keep our ears tuned to it, listening for any information as to how close the Feds are getting to us. The authorities are investigating the fire, especially since the subsequent explosion of a delivery vehicle seems to be connected to it. Suspicion is arson may be involved. Most of the stories, however, talk of the heroic efforts of the factory employees who, instead of fleeing, stayed behind or evacuated with sedate calm.

Word on the street is no one’s claimed responsibility for this terrorist act, but people are already speculating that Dust Devils are behind it, the pejorative term for hangers-on at the end of the war, eight years past, who are still fighting despite the fact they lost.

In the face of the publicity, Colonel Nguyen informs us he won’t be contacting us or accepting our calls, the better to keep the comm chatter down and off the Feds’ radar, protecting his assets. We do the same.

So…we’re stuck with some downtime.

As she’s surfing the Cortex to find parts for her repair jobs the following day, Rina notices something weird. The side bar for ads on the search engine has the departures board for Beaumonde spaceport, and being something of a shipspotter, Rina clicks on it in curiosity. Nothing shows but an announcement of the IAV Yamato and its departure from orbit for Georgia, a week hence. There’s more: the commanding officer of the ship is Captain Newman, the Yamato is a military ship of the Longbow Class, and it’s advertising its departure against all military and security protocols on a civilian board that should be wall-to-wall with ships, as normal for a spaceport as busy as industrial Beaumonde’s. The departure listings are empty, save for the Yamato.

Of course, such weirdness must be looked into. Rina tries viewing the source of the code to find out where this information is coming from. She digs and her screen floods with pop-up ads. Damn.

Nika and Christian put their heads together over the cargo and pay options. We’re pretty much broke and we need money. Given we need all the help we can get, Nika pulls out her fancy duds to go cargo shopping and Christian does something nice with her hair, something upswept and off the neck. He’s good at his job, she’s absolutely stunning and we land some profitable cargo. 120 tons worth of cargo going to various points in the Red Sun system. Going to New Melbourne. With an extra week to get it there or 5% extra pay if we’re on time. And if we’re willing to wait an extra 5 days, we can get an additional 40 tons of cargo to take with us.

Rina has had a chance to prioritize the repairs left undone on our ship and does the necessary repairs to make us spaceworthy. It’ll take 90 credits worth of parts and equipment plus four days’ of hard work, delaying our take-off, but at least we won’t fry to a crisp going through atmo. The rest of the work will be done as we can.

During the four days Rina’s doing the repairs, she finds a minute to take Nika aside and ask her if she knows anything about the IAV Yamato. Actually, she has, but can’t remember the particulars. She’s heard if it and though she’s seen quite a bit about it recently, she can’t remember where. However, it’s an Alliance ship, yeah, and perhaps it’s a flagship or there’s a big send-off...or… Her memory’s hazy. Beaumonde’s a pretty big Alliance planet but even so, it’s puzzling why they’re making such a big deal about this ship. Upshot: yeah, she’s heard the name, too, if not the particulars.

Rina: Do you have any friends who might know about it?
Nika: My friends are lying low, remember?
Rina: Hm. Well, look. I can’t keep my eye on the Cortex and fix the ship.
Nika: I’m gonna teach you how to fly anyway, so I can watch the Cortex while we’re doin’ that.

So during the spare time Rina’s not doing repairs work, Nika runs her and Christian through the basics of flying from the bridge. Nika keeps an eye on the Yamato’s appearances online and finds outs that there’s nothing really remarkable about this ship. The only remarkable thing about it is it’s listed alongside the click-on ads. The fact that the Yamato is going to be leaving soon and that it’s a military ship and not a civilian luxury liner—read: a ship that would have a legitimate reason to advertise itself—is weird. The Yamato starts niggling at the back of Nika’s mind and for the next couple of days she works away at trying to bring it to the fore. Why is it bothering her, nudging her to remember something?

We end up discussing it over our meals together, the matter becoming something of a group effort. Rina tries a little hackery in tandem with Arden, digging past the surface code of the advertisement to find out the origination point for it. We discover that this ad has been bounced by a circuitous route through a long string of buoys in an attempt to hide this message, and if there’s one thing Rina knows something about, it’s the buoy network. Not only that, but this ad has our Cortex signature on it—in other words, it’s a message being sent only to us. She tracks the message’s path all the way back to its origination point—the Cordon Vert Cooking School on Beaumonde.

Furthermore, there’s a highly compressed file buried inside the code. Rina opens that sucker right up. It has the cargo manifests for the Yamato. It also has a shuttle service log—including an entry for one high-security medical shuttle from Beaumonde. Looking closely at the time stamp on it, she sees this particular shuttle docked at the Yamato the same day as the factory job, but after the factory was blown. That clinches it for Rina. If the sender of the message isn’t who she thinks it is, then it’s been sent because it concerns who she thinks it’s about. There’s not a doubt in her mind now: The Yamato is an important lead to Mike and she has to follow it.

The trick is convincing the rest of the crew to go along with her. It’s a tough sell. The Yamato is too big to take on in a ship-to-ship assault, even if we had mounted guns. There is no infiltrating the ship from the outside—everyone on the crew would be known and accounted for, unlike dirtside delivery van drivers. And the list goes on.

Christian: Do you want to go after it?
Arden: (off Christian’s question) Why?
Christian: (surprised) You just spent a good part of the day decoding the information—
Arden: I’m asking why this is important.
Christian: (To Rina) Yes. Why is this important? Obviously it is, and if you want to keep your reasons to yourself, I will take that as an answer.

Nika sits back and keeps her mouth shut. No help from that quarter.

Rina can’t say it. Nothing gets past her ingrained resistance to break his cover. She’s got a chance here and it’s slipping away, and she can’t say it.

Christian: If it’s important to go after it, I will support you and we’ll go. Assuming everyone agrees.
Arden: What’s so important about a shuttle that’s already left?

Nika stirs and looks at Arden:

Nika: Because they want us to go after it.
Arden: Who? The people who didn’t fix our ship?

Rina thinks: Is that why the repairs were left undone? Nguyen found out about the shuttle and pulled the repair crew to delay us on the ground, and to give his tech-heads the time they needed to send that coded message?

That’s pretty damned Byzantine, even for someone like her.

Nika: (affirmative) They don’t tell you things unless there’s a reason for them to tell you things.
Arden: They didn’t fix our ship.

Big fat read: Can we trust them?

Rina: Look, I get it. As far as I’m concerned, I’m going after that shuttle because I know who’s on it.
Arden: But the shuttle’s already there.
Rina: (frustrated sigh) Then we follow the Yamato.
Nika: Rina—
Arden: (no fuckin’ way!) We shadow a cruiser?
Nika: (continuing) We are not equipped to board the Yamato and take him back.
Rina: I know that, but why would they send us after it? What do they expect us to do?

Arden still wants to know what’s so damned important about this ‘guy’ on the shuttle. Nika lays it out for him before Rina can say anything.

Nika: The person we caused to have a head injury because of our mission…is relatively high up in the old hierarchies.
Arden: (he’s listening…) Okay.
Nika: Nguyen is letting us know what happened to him because I asked him to keep us apprised of that information. If he got it. The problem is we are not equipped to board a Longbow class cruiser to try to take him back. (Turns to Rina) Rina, you know there’s no way we’re taking him back from a Longbow class cruiser. You know that’s not going to happen.
Rina: I know that’s not going to happen—
Nika: You know I’m not going to risk this ship and the rest of the crew for that.
Rina: I’m not asking to—
Nika: And he would kick our asses for doing it.
Arden: For thinking it.
Nika: For even thinking it. Arden’s right. For even considering it, he would climb on board and kick us from here to next Tuesday.
Christian: We’re obviously not taking him off the Longbow cruiser, but it doesn’t mean we can’t—
Rina: Intercept the shuttle when it leaves again.
Christian: That’s not going to be possible.
Nika: That’s not going to be remotely possible.
Christian: We will be within range of the Longbow’s guns the entire time.
Rina: That’s true, so….God, what to do? I can’t think—I can’t think, I’m too close to it.
Nika: Rina, in all honesty, I asked Nguyen to keep us apprised of what he found out. It may just be information, flat and simple.
Christian: He may just want to let you know.

We sift through the information again. More pieces of the puzzle click into place. The Yamato is going to Hera and the shuttle is going to Serenity Valley.

Nika: Oh, shit!
Rina: You were saying?

Hera and Serenity Valley were strategically important during the war and even though it’s now the site of the largest memorial cemetery in the ’Verse, Hera is also a gateway world to the Core. Anyone passing through Hera could go to the Core…and never resurface.

Rina: They’ll pick his brain clean and squeeze him dry.
Christian: The only opportunity we’d have is if we could infiltrate the facility where he is—
Nika: There’s no way in this ’Verse that we—
Christian: There is always a way.
Nika: (overriding him) —are infiltrating a facility that the Alliance is using to mindwipe people.
Christian: We wouldn’t be infiltrating the facility. The Yamato may transfer him to a planetside facility there which I doubt will be for mindwiping. For all we know, it could be an armed section of a hospital. Arden can do a very convincing performance as a doctor.
Arden: We could call in a favor.
Nika: Call in a favor from whom?
Arden: Mal.

It takes the rest of us a second to connect the dots.

Rina: Mr. Reynolds?

Would be nice, if we could just get in touch with the man. Since we can’t, he’s not an asset we can use right now. Back to what we’ve got to work with.

Which is a whole lot of nothin’.

Nika: Look…On de facto things you folks are deferring to me on a lot of stuff. This one I’m putting up for unanimous vote. We don’t go unless everybody says.
Arden: Oh, I’m going to say… “No, no. And Hell, no.”

Mike’s chance is slipping away. It’s up to Rina to sway the obstinate, and she knows she’s not up to the task.

Rina: (quiet desperation) I suck at speeches...
Christian: You don’t have to make a speech. How important is this to you?

Rina opens her mouth to answer, but Nika beats her to it.

Nika: (looking over at Christian) Life or death.
Arden: His.
Christian: His. How important is it her?
Nika: (You’re missing the point, guys) Hers.
Christian: Is it? I want to hear it from her, please.

A beat.

Rina: I’ve got to do something.
Nika: Are you willing for the rest of us to die for it? That’s the bottom line.

And that’s it, really. Indecision evaporates and Rina’s course is clear.

Rina: No. I’ll go alone if I have to.
Christian: You’re not going to be able to go it alone. If I might make a suggestion, if he’s important, they’ll keep him alive. Not pleasantly, but alive. It may be we’ll get further information down the road which will help us formulate some kind of plan.
Rina: That has crossed my mind. They can’t kill him immediately.
Christian: It may be that we’ll have support.
Nika: They’re gonna want him too bad, he’s got too much information. Not just about old Resistance information—
Rina: He’ll hold out as long as he can.
Nika: He’s got too much current infrastructure information.
Arden: Enough to mention us, involved in the last caper.
Nika: That wouldn’t even faze them.
Arden: It’d faze me. I’m not worried about them. I’m worried about me.
Christian: We’d be low on their scale.
Nika: I’d have to say I’m not even sure if they’d even ask him about what happened here. They’d be looking for infrastructure, current infrastructure, to what’s going on.

Still, the job on Beaumonde was a big one. People were killed and there was a lot of damage done to the facility.

Rina: But if you stack our little op against “Where’s the Resistance Mobile Headquarters?”… They’ve got bigger fish to fry.
Nika: Whatever else the Resistance is doing—
Christian: It’s not that far out of their way to ask about our operation.
Arden: And that’s my point. What happens on Hera versus what happens to me…one’s a little more important.

There is always the chance that information about us would be revealed during an interrogation about the events on Beaumonde.

Christian: (To Nika) Give me an idea how fast we can get to Hera and far the Yamato will be.
Nika: The Yamato hasn’t left orbit yet.
Christian: So, if we went ahead of it…
Arden: Could we still make our deliveries and make it there? (to Hera)

The Yamato is a bigger ship capable of going longer distances, but we’ve a bonus: we’re one speed class faster than Yamato, making us 30% faster. We’ll get to the Georgia system ahead of it.

Christian: Which may not be a problem for them, but we’d have to stop for fuel, for sure. And we don’t have the money for that. Well, barely any money for that.
Nika: We don’t have money for anything at this point. The cargo—
Christian: Is not loaded yet. We can cancel the draws if we have to.
Nika: I understand that. Get on the Cortex and figure out what’s going to Georgia.

And just like that, it’s decided. We’re going to Georgia and going after Mike. We wouldn’t have to go far out of our way to refuel—there are truck stops on the way. We dump the New Melbourne run and line up cargo for Georgia instead.

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