Episode 107. Part 1
Present: Mary, Terri, bobby, Jay
Air Date: 17 Jan 2009
Monday, 05 Sep 2518
Alliance VA Hospital
Serenity Valley, Hera
Georgia (Huang Long) System
08:15 hrs, local time
We are in place on the ground at the hospital and in the two days since our target’s arrival, we recon to find a way into and out of the locked wing.
In our reconnaissance we discover several things.
We find out that the Feds are shipping in a show for the soldiers’ entertainment, a big traveling production. Music, dance and, we hope, beer. The perfect distraction to lend us cover for our jailbreak. What we don’t know is when. Soon, in a few days. That’s all we know at the moment.
So we hustle.
As for the lay of the land, the VA hospital is the tallest building in the area, the immediate surroundings being the actual Memorial Cemetery for Serenity Valley. The main public portion of the hospital building is several stories tall, but the East Wing is a single story. And unlike the main building, open to the grounds, the East Wing is surrounded by a high wire fence barring access to it. There’s no real way to covertly observe from the outside who or what goes in and out where with regards to the Wing while on the ground.
Expanding our search, we scope out possible sniper points from which to surveil the Wing, and again come up empty handed. Though the main hospital building is taller, the high angle of view at close range creates too many blind spots, hiding the portions we want to watch. So the main hospital roof is a wash as an observation point. There is nothing else in the area taller than the hospital or on ground higher than the hospital we can use.
So much for the outdoors snooping. Time to go for the inside.
Rina hacks into the computer base at the hospital trying to find a paper trail leading to the East Wing, hoping to glean information as to what is going on inside it. After all, secret facility or not, it’s not possible that the Wing is completely self-sufficient. Some jobs must have been contracted out. We already know that the East Wing doesn’t have facilities to prepare food for its prisoners, using instead the hospital cafeteria. Given that, what else does the East Wing have outsiders do? Linens? Candy? Cigarettes? What?
Rina has to wade through a lot of Cortex activity, but welcomes it—all the soldiers calling and emailing home to reassure their families will provide cover for her activities. She looks for invoices for anyone going in to or out of the East Wing in the course of doing their business.
She finds a distinct pattern in the billing: once every three weeks there is a sudden uptick in accounts payable from a Dr. Campbell, an administrator. While all linens, bedclothes, IV tubing and such are provided by hospital procurement system and therefore billed through that department, there is a much larger sum of money billed to Blue Sun Industries, labeled under Miscellaneous, a sum larger than can be reasonably explained by so vague a description. Just what is Dr. Campbell buying from Blue Sun and why does it cost so damned much? Is Blue Sun providing personnel for the East Wing? For what? Laundry? Medical intervention? Torture?
Rina seriously doubts the bill is for keeping the Wing in candy bars.
She searches for the date of the last payment for Blue Sun. The last bill was dated yesterday, 04 September.
Nika suggests looking back through the records to compare expenditures before Mike was delivered to the Wing. It looks pretty much the same, given there are other prisoners inside in addition to the one we want.
What does that tell us? Not much about what’s going on inside the Wing, but a little about who’s behind it.
The hackery is pretty much a wash aside from that and we turn our attention underground. Specifically the steam and service tunnels running below the hospital.
We know that the East Wing wasn’t built specifically to house political/military prisoners, but was retasked for that purpose. So the original wing must still have the original infrastructure systems running through and under it. Before we can pursue this line of inquiry further, Arden comms us.
Arden: This is Arden. I’m still working and something unusual just came past. A dead body got shipped out of that section of the hospital we’re not allowed in…fresh, very fresh blood.
Nika: Where to?
Arden: They’ve taken it to the morgue.
Nika: Straight to the regular morgue? They don’t have one of their own?
Arden: It got sent to the regular morgue.
Rina thinks of what they’d discovered earlier—there is another morgue, a makeshift one, under guard and with authorized-only access. Obviously to keep any bodies of a suspicious nature under wraps. But the body Arden saw isn’t going to that one. Why?
Christian: We need to check that out.
Rina: Yes. If only to check to make sure it’s not who we think it is.
Christian: It’s not who we think it is.
Nika: It’s not.
Christian: We need to get down to that morgue and see what’s up with that body.
Nika’s no dummy and she turns to Rina.
'Nika: You’re not going.
Rina: (sighing) I’ll stay here.
Nika: I’ll go.
Christian: Can Arden go down to the morgue? He’s the most likely one to go—he’s a doctor and has a more realistic reason to go there. And he’s the only one of us qualified cut open the body and see if there’s anything inside it.
Gruesome thought, but true.
Nika: We are not cutting into bodies, people.
Rina: No, we’re talking Arden as a doctor cutting int—.
Nika: Arden isn’t cutting into bodies, people.
We argue the point. Bodies are autopsied as a matter of course. Nika’s adamant that we aren’t the party to do it. But one thing we agree on—we need to eyeball the body to ID it. We send Arden to the morgue. He goes. We immediately reconsider.
Christian: I will point out that Arden is the world’s worst liar. Actually, I don’t think I’ve met anybody who lies as badly as he does. I’m serious.
Nika: You do have a point. (comms Arden) Arden? Never mind.
Arden’s turned his comm off. We can’t reach him. If he gets caught, we’re screwed…and not in the pleasant way.
There being nothing we can do, we get back to business.
Nika: Look, we gotta make a move. We can’t just sit here.
Christian: Move number one: Going through the steam tunnels? Seducing the information out of a guard? How many guards are there, how many go in and out, and are there any others doing the same?
There are 30 guards, 10 on duty at all times and there are occasionally other types coming and going, although those others’ movements are less regular. More erratic. They don’t appear to have normal shifts. They are doctor types, but they don’t talk to the other doctors as regular docs are wont to do, nor do they sign off on the regular duty roster boards. We find out that they are both men and women, of different ages.
Christian surmises these doctors will be in high-stress situations and will be hitting the bars and clubs in their off-hours to blow off some steam. He could approach one of them in that setting and get them to talk about work. Nika demands to know which club, which person. Is he going to pick someone at random or wait til one of them gives him the eye? Christian tells her he’ll dress in tighter jeans and tee shirts, look the romance-novel bus boy hottie, and over the next 2-3 days, see if he can’t reel someone in.
Before we can agree to this, we get a chirp on the comms. It’s Arden calling us back.
Arden: (whispering) I’m in. Checking out the body. Appears to be puncture wounds, severe lacerations…
Nika: (quietly) Description. Description of the person.
Arden: Oh. He looks like a doctor. And I’d say he has a knife wound, maybe…
Rina: (cutting in, just as quiet) I need to know. Where was he knifed?
Arden: Uh, I think back in the other building.
Rina: On the body.
Arden: Between the third and fourth left ribs.
Rina: Third and fourth ribs….All right…
Nika: Instant death.
Arden: It was definitely done by someone who knows how to kill people.
Nika: Not that that would be a surprise with any of them. Arden, get out of here.
Arden: Hello? Oh….
We hear silence, the sort that only comes from shock. Then there’s a shuffle and Arden’s voice, mystified.
Arden: Who are you?
A sharp burst of static stabs our ears, then nothing. We can’t raise Arden on his comm. He’s gone.
Christian: Look at it this way. They’ll probably hold him in the same place as the other guy and we’ll rescue the both of them at the same time. What’s his work schedule like for the day? How long before he goes off duty?
Rina: Damn, I wish I smoked.
Christian: (unconvinced) Okay…
Rina: The thing is, smokers hang around outside smoking. And they talk. I got it—I’ll start.
Christian: No, you won’t.
Rina: I was thinking of going to the smokers’ area and saying, “God, what a rough day I’ve—could I have one of those?” and see what they say.
Christian: I’m going to be very blunt and say this with complete respect for your engineering skills and abilities…
Nika starts to laugh.
Christian: But you have the people skills of—
Rina: Of a badger with a toothache, yes. I know.
Christian: Wow. That’s actually nicer that I was going to be…
Rina: (snorts) I’m delusional that way.
Nika’s still laughing. God.
Christian: (of her plan) And that’s not going to accomplish anything anyway.
Rina: Fine. I’ll go hit my shift early and just keep my ears open.
Christian: For all we know, the signal went out because he was underground. We’ll just deal with one problem at a time and hopefully he’s not a problem. Let’s not jump to conclusions.
Nika: My hope based on the way he said that that it is possibly someone else here trying to pick up someone else from our little…ghetto in the back there, so maybe we’ve got a little unscheduled back-up.
Christian: For that matter, he may even be talking to the corpse.
Nika: That…is seriously possible with Arden.
Rina’s still thinking on the details.
Rina: Where do the bodies go? The bodies they want to hide. Where do they go? Who picks them up? Who hides them?
Christian: Hides what?
Rina: The bodies.
Nika: We have the morgue that’s not actually a morgue, down there with the guards. We gotta check that out.
There are several morgues at the hospital, including a battle morgue, where the battle casualties are stored in coffins. These bodies were the unfortunate who arrived as DOAs. This morgue is easily gotten into. There is the regular hospital morgue where all the usual bodies go and people have access to in the usual manner.
Then there is a secondary morgue. When asked about it, no one seems to know what it’s for, but for some reason some people are sent there, though no one’s clear as to why. Perhaps the bodies are sent there because they need forensic autopsies done? This secondary morgue is a converted gymnasium, which is kinda weird but perhaps some good will come out of this it helps us learn how the person died or how they’d responded to treatment or….you get the idea.
And one thing to note about the hospital overall: it’s not a busy metropolitan hospital with a jumpin’ ER with casualties pouring in at all hours due to car crashes, on-the-job accidents, criminal activity or heart attacks. This is a VA hospital where less urgent cases are taken care of, where rehab takes place. It is, in a word, sleepy.
Or sleepier, anyway, and no one seems to be too curious as to what happens behind closed doors.
Arden’s shift ends in about four hours. There’s enough time for us to leave the ship and do a quick search for him. We go in with our hand comms and our micros in our ears, neither of which would look out of place at the hospital. Nika tells Christian to start his shift early and take a walk-through of the hospital. Our shifts don’t overlap and his starts first. When Rina starts hers toward the end of Arden’s shift she checks out the duty roster board and sees Arden hasn’t checked in at the end of his rounds. He is currently scheduled to do surgery. She goes to check the ORs via the operating theatres, trying to see if Arden’s tied up in surgery. No such luck. She can’t spot him in any of them. Maybe he finished early, maybe he had to rush through a procedure….Maybe not.
Rina has a badge and a clipboard, her bag and her tools—no one’s likely going to bar her from going anywhere in the hospital if she can convince them she’s there to fix something. So she does just that, cruising the hallways and nooks and crannies with that clipboard, ostensibly checking repairs and work orders, inspecting work done or work left undone.
She can’t find Arden anywhere. She reports in to Nika and Christian. They have the same news. Nika’s of the opinion it means the enemy have Arden and are holding him somewhere. Christian suggests that perhaps the regular hospital security are holding him for being somewhere he shouldn’t and that we should check the security office.
Rina copies that and walks by the door of the security office, her ears perked for anything going on within. Like Arden’s voice, maybe, protesting his innocence, why are they keeping him here, he’s done nothing wrong….you know, something conclusive?
She gets an earful.
Someone is in there talking calmly and authoritatively. The Whisper of Command. Rina eavesdrops, coming into things mid-sentence.
Command: —monitor wave transmissions from the hospital grounds.
Security: What? How? We can’t do it yet. We don’t have the equipment for that.
Command: Find a way.
Footsteps approach and Rina turns away, looks busy with her clipboard and a fire alarm mounted on the wall. Someone passes her and she glances up. A male figure of average height, clad in a doctor’s white coat. Salt and pepper hair, cut short. A thin almost ascetic face with dark eyes, thin nose, thin lips. Moderately strong chin. She doesn’t know him but damn, if he doesn’t remind her of someone. Something familiar about the voice. Surreptitiously watching his back as he strides away only reinforces that odd familiarity and intrigued, she tails him.
She follows him all the way to the East Wing, where she sees the man take out a badge/key card, wave it at an indeterminate spot on the wall, and go inside through the door. Rina gets another look at the man’s face before the door hides him from view and again she’s struck by this strong sense she’s seen the guy before. Nothing comes to mind and then he’s gone and she’s got to move.
Rina checks the time. Nika doesn’t come on shift for another two hours, but Rina doesn’t think this can wait. She calls it in to Nika, telling her everything she’s found out so far.
Rina: They’re going to start trying to monitor ’wave transmissions to and from the hospital grounds. When that happens our communications are fucked. I think I recognize one of the doctors—I think I can recognize him if I see him again. And he’s got a key card pass getting into and out of the wing we are after.
Rina: I haven’t found Arden yet, I’m still looking.
Christian: If they have Arden, how long before they find out about our ship?
Good question, since we haven’t told anyone we’ve got one. We take public transportation to and from, making like apartment dwellers for the sake of our cover.
Rina: He’s not doing surgery and he’s not changed jobs on his board….
Nika: As much as I hate doing this on short notice, I really think the sewers are our best option at this point and we should make plans to get in there through them.
Christian is on the ship with Nika and he puts his paintbrush down.
Christian: Okay. Now.
Nika: If nothing else, she can take the acetylene torches down there and start cutting through the barriers. And make sure there’s no security thing while we’re doing our jobs today, and then tonight after dark we can go through.
Rina pulls out her map of the place, and after checking the coast is clear, starts mapping the sewer lines and access points on it. Christian advises her to look for an outdoor access point to allow us to get our guns and equipment past the security checkpoints and onto the grounds with us.
We aren’t parked on a land-lock spaceport facility, so we’re free to move our ship off the pad and park her elsewhere to our advantage. Christian and Nika discuss this while Rina does some sewer crawling. There is a public utilities access point half a klik away from the hospital, outside the high fence surrounding the East Wing. Rina gains the tunnels easily from there. It’s a long trek to the Wing from here, and the tunnels are likely blocked off for security reasons, but eyeballing them may give us a clue as to how to go around them. Rina goes back to the surface and rejoins the others. We choose an hour when we’re off the clock and go below to investigate.
We find the barriers.
Heavy duty metal grating made of thick bars, sunk into the concrete all around. Attached to vibration sensors. Luckily it doesn’t seem to be set up to deliver a lethal dose of zap: no rodent carcasses litter the concrete floor, no scorch marks anywhere. A mercy. At least we won’t get fried when trying to disarm it.
Based on the barrier’s construction we have no option but to physically cut through the bars with a torch. It doesn’t take long to find the power conduit supplying the juice for the sensors. Rina examines the set-up and realizes there’s no way she can rig a by-pass loop, faking out the sensors as we interrupt the circuit. It’s set up to go off at any change in conductivity. So…we’ve got vibration sensors and a conductivity sensor.
Regardless, we’ll have to cut through the barriers with the damned things still on.
Looking around, Rina notices that these aren’t primary sewage tunnels. There’s some water runoff, but there’s no actual sewerage. No waste pipes, no access to said pipes….they must be in secondary tunnels not on the map.
She also finds intra-hospital communications lines and starts looking for the line that leads to the security office. The conduits run from the green line to the main hospital. She taps a line, routes the data through her data book and starts to analyze it.
She’s got a data line sending status reports. “Systems Nominal….Systems Nominal….” etc. She records a 10-minute loop, in case she finds a way to fool the security office into thinking they’re seeing real time data. Assuming she can fake the time stamps on each of the status reports. She looks for signals from the card-access doors, or any doors.
As fascinating as the hackery is, we realize that all the hacking in the ’Verse will do us no good if people can detect the noise of our cutting through the barriers without using the sensors. We are going to need a distraction sufficient to keep people from looking too closely at our little corner of the tunnels.
We exit the tunnels before we’re discovered and hie back to the ship to discuss what we’re going to do. Further examination of the hospital plans reveals the East Wing has a fire exit leading to the outside, and a ladder to the helipad on the roof.
We look at what we’ve got to work with and come up with a plan.
- Looking at the hospital floor plans, we see that the cafeteria shares a corner with the East Wing. If we can find a way to sabotage or damage a plumbing fixture in such a way that the repairs require jack-hammering through concrete to finish the job, we’ll have neatly negated the utility of the vibration sensors on the tunnel barriers. We’ll still have to find a way around the conductivity sensors, but that shouldn’t be too hard.
- We decide the cafeteria grease trap is the best option and Rina invents a timer bomb for Christian to introduce to the holding tank at the start of the show. Once the fire starts and the damage done, the repairs will commence and the way will be clear for us to cut through the barriers.
- On the day of the op, we will park our ship off the spaceport and somewhere convenient for a quick getaway.
- Rina and Nika will infiltrate the East Wing via the tunnel, cut through the barriers and find a way to the upper levels, and from there find Arden and our objective and get on the roof.
- We will have Christian standing by at the ship with the shuttle to pick us up off the East Wing helipad. Rina will rig a comms hack to let him listen in on the hospital security feeds, so he can warn us if trouble’s coming our way.
- With luck, we’ll get away before anyone knows what we’ve done.
We’ll need a lot of luck.
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