Episode 121. Part 1
Present: Mary, Terri, Bobby and Jay
Air Date: 12 May 2009
Sunday, 09 April 2519
Larson County Hospital
Larson City, Boros
Georgia (Huang Long) system
15:45 hrs, local time
We’re at the county hospital in the waiting room with Nala Earhart and her brother-in-law Lawrence Johansen. Nala’s two year old boy, Kevin Johansen, is deathly ill. The medical resident thinks the boy has been poisoned. Rina’s convinced the boy has been deliberately poisoned somehow by Nala’s in-laws as a way to pressure Nala to sell them her ranch, and that Lawrence’s presence in the waiting room is a coercive one. Always thinking the conspiracy angle, that’s Rina.
The others of the crew aren’t so bloody-minded. Arden looks at the boy’s medical records and work with the staff to find out how to treat him. Going by what he’s got to work with, Arden suspects lithium or cadmium poisoning, and suggests a detox treatment for Kevin to flush out the toxic metals from his system. Even as he implements it, the question everyone’s asking is “Where did the metal come from?” We’ll have to wait and see if Arden’s treatment works. If it doesn’t, the boy will have to be transferred to the next city with more suitable medical facilities. This would be Vanderburg, 1000 kilometers away. Far away…and expensive.
Seeing how tired Nala is, Christian bribes the head nurse 20 credits to let Nala sleep on a cot next to her son. Arden tells the rest of us to go back to Nala’s ranch and try to find the source of the poison. We synchronize our comms channels so we can talk back and forth across the distance. Arden stays behind at the hospital and the rest of us gather up and go.
Despite its name, Larson City is a sleepy rural ranching town and hasn’t a lot in the way of facilities or a commercial district. After going to Larson City’s general store for a metals testing kit, normally used for testing water and soil and such, Nika, Christian, and Rina go back to Nala’s ranch to find the source of the poisoning. They fly back in the shuttle and find that someone is already there. An Alliance military vessel is parked out front.
Rina: (instantly paranoid) Keep on flying. Fly right on by. Don’t even stop.
Nika: (to Rina) Stop. Just stop. This is my home. I own part of it. Stay on the shuttle.
Casting a practiced eye over the vessel, Rina can see that it has a pulse drive and is something like a scout ship. We also see it’s got weapons. Not a craft to be tangled with lightly. Uncharacteristically, the shuttle shows no regulation identifying markings. There is only a number painted on its tail: T8405.
Nika lands our shuttle nearer the house. We no sooner lower our the ramp when we see three figures emerge from the other ship—two military grunts armed with assault rifles and an officer. We step off the bottom of the ramp and the officer, a Lieutenant, speaks directly to Nika.
Lieutenant: This your property? You’re Nala Earhart?
Nika: Nika. C’n I help you with some’n?
Lieutenant: If you’ll stay in your shuttle a bit, ma’am? I’ll be back in a short moment.
The Lieutenant turns around and walks back to his ship, leaving behind the two riflemen who block our way to the house. We comply with the Lieutenant’s orders.
Christian: Why do I get the feeling we’ve just been pulled over by the cops?
Rina: License and registration, please? Do you have any idea how fast you were going, ma’am?
The humor falls flat.
Christian: We could get shot or we could go back onto the shuttle. What do you think?
Nika: Why don’t you tell Rina to go back onto the shuttle and arm up. I don’t want to start anything, but I don’t know what’s going on.
Christian: An Alliance officer…a gun in her hands… (Points to Rina) This is not a good combination.
Nika: They board our shuttle, she’s going to fight anyway. We might as well have her get ready for it.
Christian: She already is armed. She never takes her gun off. She sleeps with the thing on.
Nika: As far as I know, we’ve got no reason for the Alliance to be chasing us down, so I’m not terribly concerned about this. (throws a wide gesture at the vessel alongside, the ranch, the guards)
Christian: Nor am I. On the other hand, we don’t know what your sister’s done. I’m not saying she’s done anything illegal, but…
Nika scoffs. Oh come on, now. Nala’s a rancher. She’s not the type to go stirring up trouble.
Christian: Okay. Let’s go back to the shuttle. (to Rina) Come with me. You don’t shoot unless it looks like we really, really, really have to. Okay?
Christian and Rina board the shuttle and Nika waits at the bottom of the ramp.
We wait. The Lieutenant returns with two more armed guards. Rina stays aboard and Christian goes out to stand with Nika.
The Lieutenant wants Nika to follow him onto the Alliance ship for questioning. Nika balks, saying he can ask her the questions right here. The Lieutenant insists. Nika balks some more, saying she’s not trying to make trouble, but she’s got a nephew in the hospital sick and she’s got some stuff she needs to take care of in the house. The Lieutenant tells her she’s to come with him and he can do it nice and friendly or…. Well. Nika counters she’s more than happy to answer his questions.
Lieutenant: They’re not my questions, ma’am.
Nika: And just who would like to see me?
Lieutenant: My superior.
Nika: And your superior is?
Lieutenant: I’m not at liberty to say.
Nika: (angry now) His name is classified?
She glares. He stands fast.
Christian explains that we’re here on a mission to save the life of an innocent two year old boy. The Lieutenant counters that as far as he’s concerned, as long as Nika comes with him, the rest of us are free to do what we came to do.
Nika: (re: the Lieutenant) He’s a complete idiot.
Lieutenant: You’re not helping your case any, ma’am.
Nika: My case? What case are you talking about?
Christian: Is she under arrest?
The Lieutenant admits she is not—but he has authority to bind her under law if she refuses to comply with his orders. Each minute we stand here arguing is a minute we’re not looking through the house to help that little boy…
Nika agrees to go, telling Christian to call Tracy, her stepmother, and tell the woman what is going on. Tracy may have a lawyer we can call on if need be. Christian asks if she wants anyone to go with her onto the other ship. Nika refuses. The Lieutenant asks Nika to give up her weapons and she does so. He asks her if she really wants to get her family involved in this by calling up that lawyer. Nika tells him the lawyer is a good ol’ boy who’d take three days to get here anyway, so why not? The Lieutenant escorts her across the ground to the other ship and two of the grunts stay behind to keep an eye on our shuttle and us.
Christian boards the shuttle. Rina’s fidgeting in the pilot’s chair.
Rina: Christian. What’s going on?
Christian: They want her for questioning.
Rina: For what?
Christian: They won’t say. Someone above the rank of Lieutenant wants to talk to her.
Christian: I’m guessing aboard that ship.
Rina: Has she been arrested?
Christian: No. He’s not binding her by law, but in effect he is. She had no choice, but it won’t appear on her record. I’m going to call her family and tell them what’s going on.
Rina: (impatient noise) Then are we free to search the house?
Christian: Yes. You go do that. Be polite to the men you want to harm, please. We don’t want to make this worse, okay? They were after Nala, not Nika.
Rina: Then why are they taking Nika?
Christian: Because she’s her sister and part owner of the land—I think. Look, I don’t know for certain, but they asked if she’s Nala. Go start testing. You’re going to be much better at it than I am.
Rina: Give me the test kit.
She leaves and makes it past the guards without a hitch.
Meanwhile, Nika is taken aboard the shuttle and searched for weapons. They pat her down and wand her, take her earpiece and any weapons she’s carrying. She doesn’t make an issue of it but calmly lets them do their job. The Lieutenant escorts her to the med bay and asks her to have a seat.
Nika sits. He leaves. She waits.
Christian calls Arden up via comm and tells him what’s happened, to wake Nala up and tell her that the authorities have just taken her sister. Arden does so and Nala gets on the horn to Christian, asking what the Alliance is doing at her place, she’s done nothing wrong, what do they want. Christian tells her what little he knows. He reassures her that the ship is still on the ground, Nika hasn’t left the planet and while he understands that things are not their best right now and he means no disrespect, but is she sure there is no reason for the Alliance to be investigating her or her land?
Nala offers to get up and go in her sister’s stead and Christian dissuades her from going, telling her to stay with her son unless the Feds specifically ask for her. Could she please contact her lawyer, in case the lawyer can come up with something that would help in Nika’s release. Also, we are still going to search Nala’s house for poison that’s making her boy sick. Nala agrees turns the comm over to Arden.
Christian tells Arden that he and Rina have permission to look over the house, it’s not a crime scene. Arden leaves the room to ask Christian privately that he’s suspicious of a set-up: don’t the bad guys usually arrange it to make the good guys take the fall? Who were the parties interested in buying up Nala’s ranch—her in-laws, was it? Christian admits it’s not outside the realm of possibility. And like what’s happened to Potemkin on Bernadette, if Nala is arrested, her assets would be liquidated and the proceeds used to pay for her defense. Christian reminds Arden to have Nala contact her lawyer and ends the call.
Arden checks the waiting room and sees Lawrence Johansen is still there. Arden gives the man an update on Kevin’s condition. During this, Nala comes back from making her call. She tells Lawrence what’s happened to Nika and the man offers right away to get her a lawyer if she needs one. After all, this is no time for quibbling over family matters, it’s time to stick together. Nala thanks him but declines his offer of legal assistance, she’s got her own lawyer, thanks.
Arden continues with his report and tries to suss out the man in front of him. Lawrence Johansen seems genuinely concerned for Nala and Kevin, Nika and the ranch. Arden gets no impression the man is secretly pleased about their misfortune. In fact, the man offers to help with Kevin’s treatment on the spot, saying if the boy needs to be moved to Vanderburg for treatment, he can get him there. Arden thanks him but advises that it’s more important to stabilize the patient rather than move him at the moment. Lawrence lets his offer stand, saying that should the situation change, Arden has only to say the word and he’ll get right on it.
Certainly not the attitude of a man interested in a hostile takeover or a land grab.
Arden apologizes and admits that Lawrence is quite different from what he’d been led to believe the Johansens were like. After all, the only side he’s heard so far has been Nika’s and….
Lawrence: Oh, you mean my brother.
Lawrence: You know, sometimes I think I lost my brother back in the war. When he came back, he wasn’t the same. I think something happened to him out there.
Nala gets up at this statement and stands off to the side, staring at the wall. Obviously, JJ was and still is a sensitive subject for her. Especially now, with Kevin so sick.
Arden concurs with Lawrence. War does that to people, he says. Arden goes on to say he served in a veteran’s hospital and saw what war can do to people, and the injuries they suffer both mentally and physically. Arden continues, trying to draw the other man out, looking for any clue as to the Johansens’ real motives. The impression he gets is the Johansens are a big and influential family in this community and they find the Earharts too stubborn and independent in the face of adversity and others’ offers to help. But regardless of any past disagreements between them and the Earharts, Nala and Kevin arepart of the family and the wrangling between grown-ups shouldn’t be inflicted on the child.
Basically, they’re decent folk, like everyone else.
Before Arden can dig deeper, the head nurse calls him back: Kevin is having problems. Arden goes back to his patient—STAT.
Meanwhile, his call to Nala concluded, Christian leaves the cockpit and strikes up a conversation with the guards outside our shuttle. The two guards are standing at the ready. One is eyeing the house as if expecting Rina to come out any second with guns blazing, and trying to keep an eye on the shuttle, too. The other is cleaning some grunge of his rifle. A combination of bored on the one hand and twitchy on the other.
Can’t have that, nope.
Christian offers them something to drink, it’s a hot day. They turn him down, military-polite. Christian admits he’s very confused. This gets the guards’ interest: oh, yeah? Yes, Christian continues. We come here, find the place deserted when we’d expected welcome and family. We find the nephew is sick and after seeing him in the hospital, we come back to the ranch to find a very fine Alliance craft parked there ahead of us, manned by some of the Alliance’s best—obviously—and our pilot is brought aboard for questioning. And really, just what’s a body supposed to make of all this, anyway?
One of the guards nods and leans in close.
Guard 1: Well, yeah….this is not like a normal ship.
Guard 1: Yeah. I don’t know what your friend got into, but it must be something pretty serious because these are not…well…the Lieutenant Commander is the Captain of our ship, but he’s not in charge.
Christian: Who’s in charge?
Christian: I suppose that person isn’t like…..
And Christian launches into a description of Arden as an older man. The guard recognizes him immediately.
Guard 1: So you do know something about this.
Christian: No, not specifically.
It’s pretty obvious by now that Swordsman is on that shuttle with Nika.
Since the guard is waiting for further response, Christian shaves the truth and admits that our ship’s doctor and this mystery superior are somehow brothers….but not in the way that Christian understands. Arden said his brother was in the military and stationed here.
Guard 1: Oh, he ain’t military. He’s attached to the Parliament.
Christian nods like one surprised and then offers the guards something to drink, yet again. And the guards decline again. Christian bows and thanks them for their military service, then walks leisurely to the house to help Rina in her investigation. And not so coincidentally, fill her in out of earshot of the guards. Rina’s inspecting the kitchen.
Christian: (undertone) We are. So. Humped.
Rina: (No shit!) Ya think?
Christian: (hunkering down) It’s worse than we thought. Remember our friend with the sword?
Rina’s expression is eloquent: hell, yes.
Christian: (rising) You keep doing what you’re doing. I’m going to call Arden.
Rina: (recovering) Do that.
Christian suits action to word and Rina continues her tests. The water is fine. The house paint is fine. Nothing suspicious shows up on any likely surfaces or objects as a contact poison. How the hell was the kid poisoned? No clue. Rina keeps looking and testing. She starts taking samples of the food in the larder, including the baby formula. She’ll have to take it back to Arden for suitable testing—what she’s got in her kit isn’t up to the task.
On the military vessel, Nika’s getting anxious—she’s been sitting here too long, something’s gone wrong—as someone enters the med bay. Tall. Dark. Handsome.
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