Episode 206: Powder Keg

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Present: Maer, Terri, Bobby, Jay and Tony
Air Date: 01 Sep 2009

Tuesday, 27 Feb 2520
Santa Ria Mission, Shepherd’s Mission
Muir, Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
10:15hrs, local time

Basically, Shepherd’s Mission is attacked by Reavers and Iscariot makes his last stand, giving us the chance to get away. We leave but we have two Reavers on our tail. Nika flies nap of the earth and manages to do a pulse in atmo, taking out one of our pursuers and we manage to outfly the remaining one. But we’ve taken damage and eventually our navigation and our internal diagnostic systems fail. We’re flying by dead reckoning and hands-on-the-yoke, all the way back to Meridian, pinging away a May Day. Our May Day is answered by a PDF patrol cutter, who informs us our lower foredeck is on fire and we should heave to. They come aboard in NBC suits and a hand-held scanner/camera that takes a shot of little Lem, now with foaming spittle strapped down in med bay. Thanks to his presence on our ship, we’re told the PDF cannot help us. Desperate for aid, Nika drops the names Decatur and Shyla Kramer, and convinces the PDF staff to send a call out to both. No word comes back from Shyla, but Colonel Nguyen has asked for us.

Nguyen, from the Beaumonde job. He’s got a base on Highgate. He wants to talk to us. We may get the aid we need there and we’ve just enough fuel to get there. Having no other choice, we go. We manage to manually steer us in the right direction after a unwanted deviation into the Orobouros and land with just five hours of fuel left in our tanks. We’re met by a land vehicle and ordered onto it, and are taken to a military base in the hinterlands that looks damned familiar: it’s the base of the Highgate Cache and Nguyen’s taken it over.

Thursday, 29 Feb 2520
Military Installation,
Near Lorngaard, Highgate
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
11:20hrs, local time

It looks like a regular base now, with a tent town of a field hospital on the perimeter. It’s there that the TSE cases are being treated and Arden takes himself and Lem there ASAP. The rest of us are taken into a small building. It’s furnished inside with chairs and a bar and we’re offered drinks. Most of the crew are leery of taking food and drink in the quarantined system, but Rina promptly asks for a double vodka. The past several days have been nerve-wracking enough to warrant it.

Nguyen arrives and asks us point blank—where’s Mike Carter and why didn’t we bring the man straight back to him after we sprang him from prison. We’re floored. We didn’t know we were to take Mike to Nguyen—especially since it wasn’t made known to us, explicitly or implicitly, that Nguyen wanted Mike. We tell Nguyen what we know: we don’t know where Mike is. When we’re asked if Mike divulged anything to the enemy, we tell the man again that we don’t know what Mike told, only that he had been rendered incapable of withholding information directly asked for. Which might explain why Mike asked us to drop him off at Salisbury far away from anyone who knew him. We dropped him off there 02 Dec 2518 and haven’t seen or heard from him since. Rina vouchsafes that information with absolute conviction: Her lack of news from Mike is driving her to distraction.

At which point Nguyen asks us if we’re with him. It’s a loyalty test—and we hedge. We don’t know if we’re with him if we don’t know what he stands for….and Nguyen isn’t telling. Nika says her loyalty is with Shyla. Rina says her loyalty is with the ship she’s on. Christian and Rick give their answers and for a moment, it’s not certain that Nguyen will let us leave the room alive. Something convinces him to let us go, but he makes it clear we aren’t welcome on this base and we’re ordered to go back to our ship. Summer’s Gift lies 50 kliks away and Nguyen isn’t going to give us a ride back. It’s death to walk back on foot through the high scrub desert…and Christian talks Nguyen into giving us a ride back.


Arden shares his files with the docs at the field hospital and takes a look around. He realizes there’s no leaving the child with these people—no research is being done, just palliative care. We debate what to do. Having Lem aboard has made us virtual lepers—no one wants us landing at their ports and space stations for fear of the disease. Leaving Lem with Nguyen’s people would solve that problem, but it puts us in the unenviable position of abandoning an orphaned child who needs family as he’s dying. He’s been with us for months now, and we’re all the family he knows and has left. To leave him now would betray his trust. Rina cannot have that on her conscience and argues to keep him. Nika doesn’t want to face having to shoot the child when the disease turns him violent, but it’s unavoidable—she has to protect her crew.

There are no easy answers. Any choice we make carries hardship and/or heartbreak. In the end, we decide to keep Lem with us for a little while longer, in part because one of the doctors at the field hospital tells us something that influences our decision. The doctor that had results with the left-hand prions is still at St. Albans and still continuing research. We may be able to find help there.

So we're agreed--Lem stays with us. There's just one problem: the hospital already has him and they aren't going to let him go on just our say-so. Not without a compelling reason. We decide to officially adopt him.

We also find out that in the intervening weeks we’ve been in the Black, the source of the contaminated protein paste has been traced to a major protein farm on Sihnon. Accussations were made, insults traded, and the Sino portion of the Parliament has walked out in protest. The Parliament of the Alliance has been crippled, the military stalled with no new orders given. The Alliance machine is no longer running as it should, and there are several factions poised to take advantage of that.

Blue Sun may well be a flash point for another war and we really don’t want to be in it when the igniting spark flies. We make plans to get our ship repaired enough to make the journey to Red Sun and St. Albans, there to seek help for Lem. Beyond that, we’ll just keep ourselves clear of Blue Sun and politics and try our damnedest to make living as cargo haulers. Since Salisbury is in Kalidasa, the next system over from Red Sun, Rina shares that message she’d found on the online boards exhorting the Brothers return to Salisbury…and asks for a side trip to the Abbey to inquire about Mike, when we’re done with St. Albans. It’s a long shot, but perhaps we can find out what’s happened to Mike in the year-plus he’s been missing. Beyond that, Rina is reluctant to speculate. With our plans thus made, we secure the Gift and lift off for Lorngaard to effect repairs and to take up our interrupted career in cargo hauling. It’s not much, but it’s what we’ve got, and we’ll see soon enough if it’s enough to keep us breathing.

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