Episode 114.

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Present: Mary, Terri, Jay and Tony
Air Date: 24 Mar 2009


Archivist's Note: Due to the increasing complexity of the game coupled with my decreasing free time and operative brain cells, I have had to replace my customary verbatim account for something a little more concise. It will take some time for me to construct a more streamlined format for the episodes, but streamline them I must. Thank you for your patience and I will do my best to keep the noise and dust from construction to a minimum. --Maer.

Wednesday, 30 Nov 2518
New Kinshasa, Lassek
Verbena, Kalidasa (Xuan Wu) System
12:47 hrs, local time

It’s a long strange trip to Verbena.

The apes wander in and out of their cages and container at will, and we’re grateful that they seem content to stay out of the more sensitive areas of the ship. Further investigation reveals that no one is actually expecting Dr. Taylor or her apes to arrive and for the balance of the trip, it’s a frantic race to find someone on Lassek willing to take the apes in. There is no way we can continue living with them aboard our ship—it’s not a healthy situation for man or beast. No hunting is allowed on Lassek, and the authorities keep private hunters off the moon as best they can. Lassek, however, has limited resources and sometimes hunters make it dirtside through offering bribes. We make contact with the General Director of the Lassek preserves.

Christian handles the negotiations.

Rina: So what did the doctor expect to do when she arrived and no one was expecting her to be there?
Christian: (exasperated) She wasn’t thinking, she was insane.
Rina: (eyeroll) Besides that.
Christian: (eyerolls back) Did you miss the part where she was hopped up on experimental mind-altering drugs?
Rina: It kinda makes me wonder if the papers she gave us were totally legal or if they were forged.
Nika: Oh, we already knew that. Or suspected that, let me say.
Christian: Yeah, but we were told that by the other guy who was hopped up on mind-altering drugs.
Nika: This is true. (groans) We have an awful propensity for running around with people on mind-altering substances.

The director of the preserve first insists on putting the apes through a six-month quarantine, and it’s only after Arden offers to administer inoculations and such to the apes does she relent. Taylor had packed the appropriate meds for the apes in her cargo, so we aren’t out any drugs we’d need for ourselves. A blessing. Once satisfied that our apes won’t wipe out the entire moon with some weird exotic disease, the Director gets on the horn and calls the area preserves to find someone who can take the apes. She finally find a preserve willing to take them, Dangerous Game Safari, an outfit that specializes in photo-safaris and exotic (but safe) jungle adventures for the wealthy and the curious. They have a lodge but they also are involved in animal rehabilitation, helping animals adjust to the wild before being released into it.

Nineteen days after leaving Persephone, we finally arrive at Lassek and are met at the spaceport by the director of the game preserve. The director is followed by an Australian guy who’s sort-of the major domo of the preserve. He gives us directions to the preserve and plans are made to fly there directly and release the apes.

Arden elects to stay behind in New Kinshasa to help treat and monitor both Taylor and Cesar through their injuries. The two girls want to stay and see the sights. Mike elects to stay with the girls to chaperone and bodyguard them. Therefore it’s just Christian, Rina and Nika who go in-country to the preserve.

We arrive at the coordinates given and see that the preserve is a sweet little set-up. A nice flowing river, with an ox-bow and clearing housing the actual buildings of the preserve. The preserve has a magnificent treehouse in a banyan-type tree, complete with a thatched roof. It’s a Disneyfied version of the Swiss Family Robinson’s treehouse, with all the amenities. To the side is a Quonset hut with generators for electrical power. Sitting on a smaller burned area is a rather expensive model of shuttle and a little beyond it is an Armored Personnel Vehicle with a machine gun mounted atop it. One has to wonder what DGS could possibly need an APV with a machine gun on it for.

On the shore opposite the compound is jungle, jungle and more jungle. Nika lands the Gift in the broad clearing made by the ox-bow, scattering wildlife as she goes. Placid water buffaloes graze placidly at the water’s edge. The ship settles on her struts and we open up the airlock and breathe fresh air for the first time in weeks.

Staff come out to meet us and we get things sorted out. The gorillas and the orangutans have had run of the ship, literally, for the bulk of their transit, so getting them off-board is as simple as letting them walk out of the airlock on their own power. They see the sunlight and the river and the grass….and walk out to explore. They’re tentative at first, being more accustomed to man-made structures and being contained indoors, but soon fan out across the ox-bow clearing. Nika helps the staff tag the apes. They’re implanted with low-range trackers, the better to keep tabs on their whereabouts, ostensibly for their safety. When that tricky job is finished, Rina stays in the clearing with them, keeping an eye on them.

It’s hot on Lassek, jungle-hot, and Rina’s being her usual twitchy self: she’s packing her pistol over her ballistic mesh vest. She’s been out here for less than twenty minutes and she’s already regretting the vest—it’s heavy and makes the humidity outside worse and she’s drenched in sweat. She grits her teeth and bears it: no way is she taking the damned thing off.

So she follows in the apes’ footsteps and a glint from across the river catches her eye. Anyone else would think it was just glare off the water, or something innocuous and shiny caught in the jungle growth. Rina’s immediate thought is: Hostiles. Sniper. Trouble. She hails Nika on her comm and calls her out to double check. Nika arrives and Rina surreptitiously points out the position of the shiny thing, mindful they may be under surveillance. Nika just rolls her eyes and goes along…and sees that there is indeed something over there and it ain’t something natural. They follow the apes around and try to scope out just what is hidden across the way without being too obvious about it. Rina suggests they investigate, maybe flank the position and take whoever’s hiding there from the rear. Christian joins them in the middle of this discussion and takes matters in his own hands. He openly heads straight for the bridge spanning the river to go investigate directly.

So much for doing this on the sly.

And if that wasn’t enough, a party of hunters—duded up in expensive designer safari and hunting gear—show up and eye our apes speculatively. Rina’s immediately convinced that the apes are going to be on their shooting schedule….and not by camera, either, but by gun. Coupled with the possible sniper across the water, she’s starting to ping right off her internal charts. She looks at Nika, Nika looks at her and catches the vibe off the engineer.

Nika: You’re gonna make me take the apes back on our ship, aren’t you?

Dear God in Heaven, please let it be ‘no’.

Rina doesn’t answer her, unwilling to admit it. Nika throws her hands wide and follows Christian across the river. Rina brings up the rear. They arrive at the sniper’s position soon after and find it empty—grass is bent down where the sniper reclined, but of the sniper himself there is no sign. Going further into the jungle we see a rude campsite and before we can investigate further, we’re accosted by the owner. The owner has a sniper rifle and looks as if he’s got no compunction against using it.

Christian recognizes the man immediately—he’s Rick Allen a famous wildlife ranger, who until recently had his own popular show on the Cortex. What the hell is he doing here? He tells us that he’s investigating DGS for unsavory practices, such as hunting animals down illegally. He’s been watching the compound for months and he’s almost got enough to hang the bastards. And then we waltz in, find his hideout and just what is he going to do with us now?

We tell Rick we’re not here to ruin his plans, we just want to get our apes out of here without any trouble. We can pretty much tell that they’ll end up as stuffed trophies on the wall if we leave them here. Can he help us get them back on our ship so we can find a different preserve to live in? After all, DGS isn’t the only game in town. Rick agrees.

Now all we need to do is somehow gather up the apes and convince them to go back aboard the ship so we can get the hell out of there. Since no one is to know Rick is here, Nika and Christian and Rina go back to the Gift without him. Rick will catch up with us later. Once across the river, we end up rounding up our apes and they are taken to the Quonset hut. When talking with Rick, Rina and the others had come up with a quick and dirty plan to blow the Quonset hut (because it obviously is DGS’s munitions locker, right?), sabotage the APV so it can’t be brought to bear on us, and in the ensuing chaos escape with the apes. We have to scrap that plan now that the apes are being held inside it. And when we escort the apes inside, we see it’s basically bare of weapons, being more a large informal holding area for animals with a workbench to one side. There is food and fruit waiting for the apes inside the cage and they go inside willingly, the enclosed space being more familiar to them than the great outdoors.

Great. Now we have to get the apes out of their cage and onto our ship somehow, crossing a wide meadow that has absolutely no cover against possibly irate hunters who may take exception with us stealing their coming morning’s sport out from under them. Not exactly a recipe for smooth sailing, no.

We wait til dark. We are invited by the DGS staff to dinner, a barbecue in the tree house, and Christian and Nika accept the invitation. Rina stays behind on the ship in order to join forces with Rick, and Christian supplies the staff with the cover story of sudden stomach trouble to account for her absence. Christian and Nika’s task is to provide a distraction so no one notices the jailbreak at the Quonset hut.

Rina’s plan is to take out the two security lamps at the Quonset hut, drill through the locks between her and the apes, herd the apes into the ship, and sabotage the APV so it cannot be used against us. A battery-powered cordless drill should take care of the locks. Rick will provide back-up and animal wrangling.

Christian and Nika get all dressed up and coiffed and go upstairs to the treehouse. Rina stands by on the ship til Rick knocks on the airlock door. She lets him aboard and together they pack what tools they’ll need for the op: drill, flares and flare gun, miscellaneous tools. Once Nika and Christian are installed, Christian alerts them via comm that they’re in. Rina sends back two clicks and she and Rick set off for the Quonset hut.

Rina has Rick cut the wires of the security lights while she goes at the padlock on the front door. Rick kills one of the lights… but someone in the tree house notices quickly thereafter that it has gone out. He descends the treehouse via lift to investigate. Christian alerts Rina and Rick they’ve got company coming. They both take cover around the corner of the hut and Rick shoulders his sniper rifle and shoots the staff member with a tranquilizer dart. It wings him. The drug will take some time to take effect and Rina gets back to work on the locks, realizing she can’t wait. She drills through the lock and gets inside.

Rick shoots at the staff member again, and misses. The staff member hears the dart go by and heads back for the lift to get reinforcements. The lift hums and the staff member starts riding up the 40 feet to the treehouse level. Rick tells Rina that they need to cut the power to the treehouse now. She swaps places with Rick, handing him the drill so he can keep working at getting the apes free, while she goes around the back of the hut where the generators are. She’s thinking to sabotage them, but as luck would have it, there’s a simple on-off switch mounted where she can reach it.

Flick! The generators fall silent and the lights go out. And a scream from Nika follows. There’s our distraction.

Rick gets through the lock and hustles the apes out of there. Meanwhile, Nika plays frightened female in the dark, tying up the head staffer in charge. The hunters, a bachelor party or so Christian has found out, are half-drunk and perplexed over the sudden darkness but aren’t really sober enough to be alarmed. Nika does a good job in distracting the head staffer.

Meanwhile Rina and Rick are having no luck in getting the apes back aboard the ship. The apes have other ideas. Namely—heading for the river and the jungle beyond. After several fruitless tries to redirect the apes, they have to give up and let the animals fend for themselves as they will. Besides, Rina and Rick have other things to worry about—they are taking on enemy fire. Rina ducks behind a landing strut and lays down covering fire for Rick.

Head staffer has sent another staff member to go investigate what’s keeping the initial guy, Anson, so long. Meanwhile, Rina’s gone aboard the Gift and snagged another rifle for Rick and an extra clip for her gun. There is no hope of getting the apes aboard now, not with guns shooting in their direction. Now it’s all about keeping the DGS people contained and unable to call for help or to grab some weapons to kill us with.

Upstairs in the treehouse, Christian starts a fire by adding booze to a gas fireplace. Whoosh! Flames shoot upward for the ceiling. People yelp and either mill about in a drunken panic or they finally see through our ruse. Rina decides to shoot her flare gun at the treehouse, hoping to add to the pandemonium—the perfect cover for Christian and Nika to use to get out from under.

They actually do, and run aboard as Rina and Rick lay down covering fire. We end up killing the head staffer and the remaining staffer makes it to the APV. We let him go. We also have to leave the apes behind—they are long gone into the jungle by now. Rick asks for us to drop him off at his base of operations, hidden in the jungle beyond the river. We take him to it and land the Gift in yet another small clearing. We help Rick dismantle what he needs to take with him and bring it aboard. He also asks to bring his two pets along. They are two pygmy alligators, the sort they make purses out of. Only these two are not destined to become designer accessories. After a moment’s pause, we agree to let yet more livestock aboard. Rick stows them in a secure location and we jet the hell out of there. We fly for New Kinshasa, leaving DGS behind us in flames.

Once at New Kinshasa, we make like nothing’s wrong. We load up on fuel. We take on supplies. We gather our missing crew. Arden is pleased—Cesar will pull through despite his severe head injury and Dr. Taylor is getting the psychiatric help she needs. Mike and the girls have survived their sojourn into civilization and no one got kidnapped. Introductions are made all around for Rick and our missing crew, and a contract is quickly drawn up with Rick renting one of the cargo containers to live and work in for the time being. After finding out that he can grow plants and fruits and vegetable with the equipment he’d brought on board, and that he can keep his miniature alligators in a secured terrarium, the contract is signed. Rick and his alligators are now part of the crowd we’ve got on our ship.

Thus settled, we stow our purchases and gear, and make ready to leave. Next stop: Angel to drop off the girls with Summer to start their new life together.

Back to Season One: Foundations