Episode 213: Show Stoppers
Air Date: 27 Oct 2009
Present: Maer, Terri, Bobby, Jay, and Tony
Wednesday, 29 May 2520
Paquin (Zhu Que) system
11:00 hrs, local time
On approach to Paquin, Christian starts burning up the waves arranging things before we kiss dirt.
Christian’s man on the inside with regard to the show is a former client and one of the judges, Stewart Valenci, a celebrity opera star, and his assistant is involved in the production of the show. Drawing on his experience with shows and making them, Rick surmises that security is going to be mostly concerned with screening people for weapons and that anyone seeing the show is a ticket holder. Breaking into a production booth may not be as hard as we feared. When Christian waves ahead to Valenci, he explains he has friends who’d like to see the show and also that Rick is very interested in seeing how the show is produced and could he possibly arrange some complimentary tickets for us? As one of the show judges, Valenci should have some to use at his discretion, no?
Actually, yes. Valenci arranges for seven tickets for our pick-up and wrangles a promise that Christian will visit him.
Christian also secures for cargo bound for Whittier. The show starts tomorrow. We get the job done, take off with legitimate cargo, and if we arrive earlier than the 3 weeks they need it delivered, it’s an extra 72 credits for us. The cargo is several tons of silver fox pelts. God knows where we’ll put them all but we manage to shoehorn them in.We will not be taking on passengers—if we’re going to be screaming out of here with the law on our tail, best not get innocent passengers caught in the crossfire. And since we’re not taking on passengers, it gives us more room for the pelts. It’s a win all around.
Before we make landfall, Christian disappears into his quarters for three hours to primp.
Rina: It takes him three hours?
Nika: Do you remember how long it took him to primp when he actually had a client?
Rina: Do you know how long it took me to get that crap off his face? Five minutes.
Rina snorts. Three hours? What could possibly require three hours to look presentable? She gets her answer when Christian exits his quarters. He’s transformed into a blonde bobby soxer, complete with cashmere sweater, poodle skirt, bobby socks and oxfords. He doesn’t look like a man in drag, he looks like a woman.
Jake: Lemme get my camera, lemme get my camera! (runs to get it)
Nika: I’m gonna…(eyeroll)…
Arden: You look pretty.
Rina: Hey, Christina. You missed a spot. (Mimes adjusting lipstick) Right there.
Nika: That’s just wrong. My femininity has just taken a serious beating.
Rina: Mine doesn’t have a problem with it. (laughs) It’s practically non-existent.
The ribbing is all good-natured and Christian takes it in stride.
We start planning our op. What if we just approach the production people with the chip and say it’s part of the Sister’s act, could they cue it up and wait for the high sign? Once the chip’s plugged in, we’ll just have the girls introduce it on stage and let it play. Finding equipment to play the chip may not be a problem, getting to the staff to agree might be. If the production crew refuses to play the chip, then we’re kinda out of luck.
Or we’re stuck taking over the production booth, playing the chip, keeping the booth secure against all comers for the duration, and then evading capture as we escape.
Can we sneak guns into the show? The guards won’t likely be armed with guns, but stun sticks. If we bring our guns, we’ll have leverage against them. Then again, we don’t need to bring lethal weapons if the opposition won’t be bringing any. The facility will have metal detectors/weapons detectors. If we want to bring our weapons, we’ll have to find a way to smuggle them past the detectors. Rina grouses she doesn’t have any weapons to sneak past the guards—her gun and her knife were confiscated by the Camdens on Aesir. Christian requisitions a gun from our weapons stores for her.
Christian says there’s no point in planning the last detail before we know what we’re up against. Let’s go visit Valenci and see what we can learn then. Michael Peale and the Wei sisters elect to lay low on the Gift. As for the rest of us, we table the discussion and go, taking Lem with us. We arrive in a rented limo at Valenci’s and he greets us at the door, calling Christian ‘Chris’.
Valenci is a statuesque and regal dark skinned man, with dignity and gravitas and a deep voice to go with. He asks introductions of Christian and Christian obliges. He introduces Nika, Rina, Arden, Jake and Rick.
Valenci recognizes Rick and politely asks whatever happened to his show? Rick explains that as the show increased in popularity, the show runners wanted to increase the extremity of the sport so that by the time the show shipped out to a world with an alligator colony, animals were put at real risk for their lives. He convinced some eco-conscious friends of his to rescue some alligators before he was forced to wrestle then kill them, and then sell the carcasses. When Rick returned from freeing the alligators, he discovered his show crew had been killed and authorities pinned the blame on him, citing it was a terrorist group action.
Rick never found out exactly who was guilty for the killings. He suspects it was the company putting on the show. Pinning the guilt on Rick would discredit his testimony should he ever accuse the company of shady practices.
Ah. Thank you.
Christian introduces Lem to Valenci next, stating Lem is his adopted son. Valenci greets him and we get right along with the visit. Valenci is a good and gracious host and serves us drink and Hors D’oeuvres. Christian regales Valenci with a somewhat sanitized version of our adventures. Not that there’s much point in too much censorship—our faces were all over the Second Miranda Waves. And by degrees Christian leads us to the purpose of our visit. He mentions that Jake, as a reality show cameraman, is very interested in getting backstage at the show tomorrow night. We happen to be bringing a couple of contestants to the show, having booked passage with us, and they have gotten Jake interested in going. This would be a great opportunity for Jake. And here’s Valenci, one of judges of the show….
Rina: It’s a match made in Heaven.
Valenci: If you wish I can make the producers aware of your presence. They’ll probably want to do a cameo interview with you, pan you in the audience, ask if you’re enjoying the show, that sort of thing. And perhaps ask what your opinion is.
Christian: (miming holding up a mike) ‘As someone with absolutely no credentials to make an informed opinion, what did you think?’
Valenci: (smiling) This is ‘Voice of the Verse’. No credentials are needed.
Arden: That’s part of the fun.
Christian chuckles with Valenci and then admits he’s surprised to find a figure of Valenci’s stature involved in such a show. Valenci shrugs and says his agent insists on keeping his face on the Cortex on occasion. Valenci would be happy just doing live shows. Usually that isn’t an issue on Paquin, but with fewer and fewer ships arriving with greater gaps between each one, especially with the epidemic and such, it’s resulted in a loss of business in general. So anything that might drum up business would be welcome.
Which is true, Christian agrees. Travel and commerce is slowing down all over the Verse, not just on Paquin. And the quarantine on Blue Sun is affecting everything—not just politically, but psychologically.
Valenci tells us the leaders on Paquin have been making something of a crowing point that they are able to police themselves without any assistance from the Navy. So if the Navy were to stop showing up….or quarantine Paquin as they have Blue Sun…Paquin can take care of itself just fine on its own, thank you.
Which sentiment can be dangerous, if uttered within the hearing of certain ears, Christian warns.
Valenci agrees and goes on to observe that Paquin has always been one of the richest planets outside the Core and as such, can make good on that claim. Of course, he adds, one Navy cruiser would be sufficient to wipe out Paquin’s entire security force. Valenci goes on to say that his political contacts are saying that the Blue Sun quarantine is just an attempt to bolster people’s political ambitions here, that they really don’t anticipate anything large happening but if they can make the population think that the Alliance is turning its back on us, then they can take advantage of that for their own political aims.
Arden: Independence is breaking out all over.
Christian: Or opportunism.
Arden: Same thing.
Rina: What was it that Mike said once? “Opportunities are sometimes disguised as obstacles”.
Valenci asserts that he doesn’t believe the leaders of Paquin have any desire to be cut off from the Alliance but it makes good copy. It certainly makes for a good argument for increasing taxes to fund Paquin’s military budget. But, Valenci adds, he’s not privy to all their secrets. He doesn’t quite have the passage as the lovely and talented Christian into such circles. Arden says that Valenci is still quite the impresario. Valenci demurs, saying that such is not the so much the case these days, hence his being on the judging panel of a talent show. However, if we can make it back to Paquin in a month, he should be performing something worth seeing.
Christian promises we’ll attend, provided we’re not all dead or diverted somewhere else.
Valenci promises to let his PA know about us and she can arrange for us to get any of the tickets we want for the show. He can probably arrange for backstage passes, he can arrange for seven of those if we wish.
Oh, no. Just a few would be nice, Christian protests politely.
Which leads us back to the real reason of our visit—how to get ourselves in place at the show. Arden inquires about medical personnel assigned to the show and Valenci says nothing more than maybe a paramedic or two will be there. Basically all that’s needed is someone to handle fainters and the like. There’s a hospital not far away, so….
Is it possible for Christian to get a tour of the place? Before it becomes all hustle and bustle at the venue? Rina pipes up that she’d like to go, she’d love to see how it’s all put together. Valenci assures us our backstage passes should be sufficient to get us inside for that tour but it would have to be his PA who conducts it. Valenci, alas, will be too taken up by his duties to lead the tour himself.
Of course, Christian says. Valenci needs to concentrate on his work. We understand. Nika extends our appreciation for everything Valenci has done for us. Valenci smiles and says he’s sure he can find a way to extract payment. And looks at Christian.
Who affects to be charmingly innocent of the innuendo.
Valenci laughs and tells us to think nothing of it. He likes to be something of a nuisance to the show staff because he doesn’t want to be invited back. So feel free to barge in, open doors that say ‘no admittance’, that sort of thing. We laugh back and say that we can arrange something to suit.
Oh boy! We’re in!
We leave to go back and plan. Christian spends the night with Valenci.
Thursday, 30 May 2520
07:30 hrs, local time
Christian stays late at Valenci’s, so we have to eat our own cooking at breakfast. We’re not up to Christian’s culinary standards but we get through it.
It’s decided that since the performers’s equipment cases aren’t scanned for weapons, so we can smuggle ours in with the Angel Sisters. All we need is a way to retrieve them and then take over the production booth. So we make good use of the passes to go backstage and scope out the situation. The others pass the time as best they can til the action starts. Rick and Nika and Jake go into town proper to do some shopping. Rina hands Nika a list of things she needs to replace from the kidnapping. Rina’s going with Christian to case the venue for the op.
As she takes the public transportation into town, Nika sees an ASREV landing at the spaceport—meaning either the Alliance or the Federal Marshals are here. Interesting. Nika hails the Gift via her comm and alerts us to the ASREV’s presence. Niiiice craft. She and the men part company once they arrive at the town, she to do that list, they to wander and take in the sights, maybe even hit a bar. It’s hours before we’re going to hit the show and we need to fill the time somehow.
Back at the ship, Rina and Christian ready themselves for their backstage recon. We’ve all donned our earcomms before leaving, the better to communicate with each other no matter where we are. We’ve also donned our vests and everything that makes us feel secure. Okay, just Rina is wearing a vest.
Christian takes exception to what Rina’s wearing.
Christian: You’re wearing coveralls?
Rina: So? They’re clean.
Christian: You mean, you’re the butch in this relationship?
Rina: Oh, hell yeah. You’re just getting that?
Christian: Why not cut off most your hair and spike the rest while you’re at it?
Rina: (mock growl) I know where you sleep little man.
Christian: At least take off the vest. It ruins the line of your clothes.
Rina: Who’s going to notice? I’ve got coveralls on. They’re baggy and hide everything.
Christian: Because walking around with armor on is a social faux pas.
Rina: (eyeroll) Look who’s talking.
Christian: What? The heels are only two inches.
Christian’s done up as a girl again, in an Old Earth 1920s female archeologist’s ensemble and turns his ankle to show off his ankle-length boots. Listening to this over our earcomms, Nika cuts an eyeroll herself.
Nika: My god, you two sure you’re not married? You sound like you’re married.
Rick just turns his earcomm off and he goes to find a bar.
He finds one. It’s a typical spaceport bar with the typical spaceport clientele. Rick grabs a seat and watches the people around him. It isn’t long before five men, four of whom wearing the uniforms of Federal Marshals and one who isn’t, enter the bar and talk briefly before splitting up. The Marshals grab a table while the non-uniformed individual takes a slow turn around the bar.
What’s that all about? Not sure yet, but it’s a good bet they came off the ASREV Nika warned us about. Seeing the plainclothesman stopping at the bar briefly before walking on, Rick moseys over next to the bar to order a drink. He catches some muttering about ‘purplebellies’ from the bartender. When Rick asks the bartender about it, the bartender grouses that the dang Feds’re always expecting bartenders to do their job for them, keeping track of petty criminals and what-not. Rick takes his drink back to his table and watches what the Feds do.
The Feds don’t even bother ordering a drink but split up into two groups when Plainclothes joins them. They leave and Rick stays a moment to comm Nika to tell her he thinks he just saw the Feds off the ASREV she’s told us about. He keeps it short, mindful that forces are on the ground and might be monitoring. Nika tells him she’ll meet him back at the Gift. Rick confirms and gets moving, saying to meet him off ship so they can arrive together.
Christian and Rina arrive at the show, with Lem to provide the boy a fun trip and us some protective coloring. Christian leaves Rina to scope out the security and the layout while he minds Lem and takes a reading on the mood of the people: how perceptive they are, how the guards are handling their jobs, how excited they are. It’s Christian’s opinion that getting in is going to be easy—it’s getting out from under the guards that’s going to be hard.
The production booth—actually the booth dedicated to the cortex feed rather than the stage lighting or sound—is above the floor, above the top balcony on its own catwalked mezzanine. It’s an enclosed box with one way in or out, although there is enough of a ledge if we need to exit through the windows to the outside. It’s pretty close to the ceiling, actually up against it and Rina eyes it as a possible emergency exit if things go south. Over the stage proper there’s all kinds of crap hanging off the ceiling, but over here? Maybe AC ducting? We doesn’t rightly know and when we get right down to it, if we have to hide in the ductwork, we’re already trapped and dead.
It would be much better to pull off the job with as little fuss as possible and walk out before everyone below gets wind of what we’ve just done. Rina is fairly certain that she can disable the alarms on the fire escapes so we can leave by that route and bypass regular security altogether.
We go up to the production booth and poke our heads in—Hi! we’re on a backstage tour, whatcha doin’ up here? The staff are distracted—Christian can be very…distracting and with Lem in tow, we look perfectly innocuous. While Christian and Lem point and ask about all the pretty lights and switches—playing the tourists to the hilt—Rina looks around. She immediately does a headcount: the both can hold about 6 people and 3 or 4 of them would actually be tech crew manning the boards. So, 6 people to control and contain at most.
Of the boards themselves, it’s obvious that plugging in the chip and taking over the broadcast feed is going to take more than a single flip of a switch. The boards have protections built-in and it will take a little time to get past them. Assuming we get no help from the staff.
The recon done, Christian extricates us graciously and we get out of there, finish the tour, and head back to the Gift.
Rick is still on his way in when he notices two uniformed Federal Marshals stopping at each docking berth’s console. It looks like they’re checking the flight plans of the vessels. When they get to ours, they seem really interested in where we came from rather than where we’re going. We didn’t think to file a false flight plan or hide our manifest. They ring our airlock.
Arden’s on the bridge and answers the hail. They ask if the captain is aboard. Arden truthfully answers no. The Marshals state it looks like we came from the Skyplex and asks what our business is here. Arden says we have a crewmember who’s interested in the upcoming show.
The rest of the crew can hear this conversation over our earcomms and we make haste back to the ship before Arden blows it.
Is there a problem? Arden asks. The Marshals hedge, saying they don’t know. Have we seen a picture of this man? They hold up a databook to our airlock camera and Arden sees Michael Peale on the screen. Arden manages not to blurt out a positive. Instead he says that it kinda looks like the guy we had problems with back at the Skyplex. Really? they say? Yes, he was bothering one of our passengers. Can Arden open up? They’d like to talk to us.
It’s just Arden aboard. And Peale. And the two girls.
Arden comms the passengers on a separate channel and tells the girls to get ready to join him and for Peale to hide. Arden goes down to let the Marshals aboard and they say that we have information they need and they’d like to talk to us. Arden says he’s like to talk to them, welcome aboard.
At which point Nika and Rick come up to the airlock and Nika asks what’s going on? The Marshal in charge looks her up and down and asks who the hell are you, lady? We all say she’s the Captain. Nika repeats her question and the Marshal interrupts her, asking if she has recently come from the Skyplex and if she’s had trouble with a man named Peale. He holds a picture up.
Yup. That’s Peale. We tell him that he was bothering our passengers. The Marshal says he’d like to see our ship and ask us some questions. We usher them aboard and say we can get the girls themselves to tell the Marshals what happened. One of the Marshals comms something and by stretching his ears, Arden makes out the message: Sir, we have something of interest on Pad Seven.
Great. We don’t have much time.
The girls are waiting for us in the lounge and Nika introduces the Marshals to them, telling them that they’re here to see about that guy who was stalking them on the station, the guy we chased off? The girls get it immediately and support Nika’s statement, saying yes, it was very scary, they don’t know why he was doing that. Nika chimes in that we ran him off and came here and we haven’t seen him again.
The Marshal says his supervisor is going to join us in a few minutes.
Sure. No problem. What’s going on?
The Marshal says the agent on the way in will tell us.
Rick offers them a drink while we wait. They decline; they’re on duty. Rick offers to show them his aquarium. It’s a completely self sustaining system. One of the Marshals accepts the invite and Rick takes him out to the arboretum container. The Marshal recognizes Rick as a celebrity and Rick tells him of the show, Extreme Adventures, while describing the system his aquarium uses.
Meanwhile, Jake, Christian, Rina and Lem arrive at our ship just as a sharply dressed man steps up. He sports fancy sunglasses and a bulge in his fancy sports jacket. Christian eyes the man and suspects the man is wearing special armor under his clothes. Christian doesn’t say anything but parks our rented mule a reasonable distance from the airlock and we all walk in, Lem in hand. Christian takes charge of the man and Rina takes charge of Lem.
Can we do something for you, sir? The man turns and sees us and says, oh, are you with the ship? A member of this crew?
Ah, yes. Someone went inside to talk to your Captain. Shall we go inside? Oh, what are your names?
His manner is more approachable than the other two Marshals. We answer his questions as we board. This is Christian, this is Marina Kseniya Sebastien and this is our adoped son, Lem. And this is our fellow crewmate, Jake.
Since Christian still looks like a woman, this raises an eyebrow, but the man asking the questions makes no comment on it. Jake stays on the lower levels and the rest of us go up to the lounge. When the unknown man arrives in the lounge the effect on the Marshal is subtle but immediate: the Marshal stiffens to attention.
The questioning begins anew and Rina excuses herself to take her son to the galley for a snack. She doesn’t like the Feds and the less she sees of them the better. And back in the lounge, the rest of the crew tells the Supervisor what happened at the Skyplex.
Edited, of course.
We say that we saw Peale harassing the girls outside their dressing room, we intervene and tell the perv to shove off and he does. Christian adds that he went away muttering something about….he had to talk to them, it was very important, that their music spoke to him. You know, the usual creepy stalker stuff.
The Supervisor shows us another picture, this time of a dead body and as we look he swaps it out for a picture of the body when still alive. It’s the bounty hunter we killed. Another picture. This one is of the bounty hunter’s partner, whom we left stripped to his skivvies in the elevator. Do we know these gentlemen?
Yes. We saw them at the bar. They were watching the girls’ performance.
And when did we take the girls on as passengers?
After the incident at the bar. They came over to thank us and we offered to take them on as passengers when they said they needed passage to Paquin.
The Supervisor warns us they’re looking for Peale because he’s a suspect in a murder case. And we’re here to see the show? How long were we staying?
Yes, the show and we’ve cargo lined up for lift-off in a couple of days. It’s a priority cargo, we’re looking at a bonus if we can get it delivered quickly.
Perhaps. They tell us we have to stay here in case they need to interview us. After all we’re material witnesses in a potential crime.
You had interactions with the fugitive and we may need to ask you for further details in the case.
Oh. Okay. That’s fine.
We’re sorry for the inconvenience.
No,no. We understand.
We don’t suppose you’d mind if we search your ship? Just in case he snuck aboard. There were only three ships that left around the time that the crime happened and it would be unfortunate if you were hiding him.
Sure. Go ahead. Rick even offers to show the men around to the different areas of the ship.
No, it’s probably best if the crew stay on one place and let the men search the ship. You’ll be perfectly safe. We’re sure our men will be able to take care of anything that arises. It’s not a particularly large ship. It shouldn’t take very long.
Go ahead. Please. Feel free.
Half the men are detailed to the lower deck and ordered to search their way up.
We sit. They search. We talk.
Arden asks if it’s all right if he goes to his quarters to clean up for the show. Nika asks Christian if he’s going to wear his gown to the show and Christian replies he’d planned on doing some shopping for a new evening dress, but alas, that’s now out of the picture thanks to the dely. He’ll have to make do with something old. Nika says she can stay with the engineer while he goes get dressed, since she doesn’t need as much time getting ready as he. Christian reconsiders and sits back down, saying he’ll stick around til the men need to search his shuttle. Because it’s a consecrated space, they’re going to need special permission to enter it.
The Supervisor is talking to someone over his comm. We hear him say “I don’t know” and “Yeah, we’re gonna landlock it.”
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