Episode 306: Blowing the Whistle
Air date: 09 Feb 2010
Present: Maer, Terri, Andy, Bobby, and Tony
Sunday, 03 Nov 2520
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
10:00hrs, local time
After some debate over what we should do next, we all agree that as long as Shepherd Faria is willing to wait a few more days before leaving for Muir, we should try to make the changes we’d made to the mine permanent. This means we have to present our evidence to the authorities, the Mining Guild and to Corone. And to do that we need compelling evidence.
Our next step is getting the goods on Dr. Gordon at the field hospital outside Lorngaard. Arden calls them up and introduces himself and offers to share what medical knowledge he has on the TSE. The staff at the field hospital happily arrange a visit for him. When we get there, we see it’s on the outskirts of the abandoned Naval base we’d found the Miranda Cache in, the same base that Col. Nguyen later took over for his own. We find out that Nguyen is now a General and the base is now refurbished into a working military base. The hospital, however, is outside the base proper and sits between it and a vast shanty town of tents. The tents are full of people who have nowhere to go and/or are stricken with the TSE. News of Dr. Gordon’s cure has spread far and wide and the good doctor doesn’t lack for any willing patients. In fact, word of the treatment as made it all the way back to Blue Sun Corp and the industrial giant has graciously extended a grant to Dr. Gordon to enable him to continue his research. This is especially welcome since the hospital has become something of a clearing house for TSE patients, taking new cases from all walks of life.
Arden is given a tour of the grounds. He shares what he has and asks some friendly questions in return. He finds out that Gordon gets patients for his surgery from everywhere, including military personnel. In fact, as the hospital staff tells him, they’re expecting a ship full of new patients to arrive soon, in a couple of days. It’s supposed to be a big one, a prison barge. He also finds out that today is not a good day for anyone to tour his facility where he conducts his treatment. Perhaps Arden could come back tomorrow? Sure. When Arden asks, he is told that Gordon’s facility is actually housed in an underground bunker a little way off from the rest of the hospital. Ah, thank you. We look forward to visiting it.
Tonight, actually, but no one at the hospital needs to know that.
Once night falls and sufficient time has passed to travel under cover of darkness, we load up in our Gator armed for bear and with a mission objective in mind. Take video of Gordon’s facility and/or find enough evidence to substantiate our claims against him. We have to hurry. We overheard information of a new shipment of patients coming in and if nothing else, we’d like to keep Gordon from conducting his usual sort of business on them.
The bunker is buried underground and the entrance is a large concrete ramp wide enough for a large truck to drive right up to the storm-cellar type doors. Looking closely at the concrete we can see scratches, gouges on the surface of the ramp, as if heavy metal objects had been dragged across it. Thinking it might be more useful as a surveillance camera, we duct tape the camcorder we’d brought to the door frame, so as to take video of anyone entering or leaving the bunker. We pick the locks on the doors and easing them open we turn on the camera and pass inside. We find ourselves in a corridor, as wide as the ramp, descending down into the depths of the earth. Red emergency lighting glows as far as we can see, until a right angle turn to the right cuts them off from view. That turn is pretty far down and we start making for it.
A little more than halfway to the corner, a short hallway opens to our right and light shines at the other end. Upon investigation we see it debouches onto a catwalk thirty feet off the floor of a vast hangar-like chamber. The chamber is easily 100 feet by 60 feet and is 60 feet high floor to ceiling. The catwalk runs the full perimeter of the chamber, punctuated with ladders going down at regular intervals. From our vantage point we can see the floor space below roughly divided into a treatment area made of many smaller cubicles operating theatres, curtained off with simple white curtains, and another separate area with several large computer rigs and desks from which to work them. Leading off the floor at various points along the perimeter are alcoves which may lead to other rooms. From our elevated angle it is hard to tell.
With the ramp corridor still unexplored and the facility spread out at our feet beckoning us hither, we decide to split up. Rina, Rick and Joshua elect to stay on the catwalk and take the ladders down. Nika and Arden take off down the ramp corridor again, to see what lies beyond the bend.
They find the corridor turns and continues to slope down and now that they’ve seen the dimensions of the treatment chamber, they realize the corridor wraps around the outside of the chamber, providing a way to deliver supplies by the truckload to the chamber floor. Also toward the bottom of the corridor they see to their left a vast ward filled with people in various stages of TSE and in post-operative care. The doorway into the ward is wide and the light spilling into the corridor is too bright to allow Nika and Arden to just sneak on by. There being nothing for it, they go back the way they came, there to join the rest of the party by the catwalk.
Meanwhile the catwalk party sees someone come out of one of the alcoves and start messing around with the computers. Listening in on the conversation he has with someone off the floor, we realize that Gordon’s been spooked by Arden’s request to see his facility and putting the request together with recent events at the bismuth mine, Gordon quite justifiably believes it’s time to pull out and get the hell out of Dodge. He’s ordered his computer guru to shift the files and/or delete them where necessary and to tell him when the job’s done. There’s a new batch of stitches going to the mine tomorrow and he has no intention of sticking around here after they’re gone.
Thinking quickly, Rick tranqs the computer geek with his tranq gun and Rina and Joshua go down to the floor to retrieve the dart and see if we can’t salvage the files. The files are the evidence we need to nail Gordon. Rick stays on the catwalk to guard our rear. We don’t get far with this endeavor when we hear someone calling out from the alcove—Wilson, is something wrong?
Rina ducks into one of the examination cubicles and keeps an eye on Joshua through a crack in the curtains, while Joshua takes Wilson’s place at the computer console. He’s had less than ten minutes to observe Wilson and so can only approximate the man’s voice. His answer to Gordon falls flat and Gordon comes out to investigate. Rick shoots Gordon with his tranqs the second he comes into his sights. Bam! the man goes down. Rina ducks out, gives Rick the thumbs up and retrieves the darts.
Reasonably certain that there is no one else present, we go into the office off the alcove and discover amongst the plain vanilla furnishings a rather rugged and custom-made laptop. Obviously Gordon’s and closed up against prying eyes. The lock on it is complicated, requiring a code to open. We take it with us.
Out in the main area, Nika and Arden have joined Rick and once we’re all together we trade notes on what’s happened. Rina holds up the laptop and we decide to call this a win and get out while we still can. We get as far as the entrance to the catwalk access corridor when we realize we’re just a little too late. Two guards are running up from the bottom of the ramp corridor toward us. We duck back into the catwalk area and quickly come up with a plan. We’ll wait for the guards to pass us and then either evade them on our way out or….if need be….shoot them and leave. But first, where can we hide?
We’re exposed as hell on the catwalk. There is no time to get down to the chamber floor. The best we can hope for is to flank the access corridor on the catwalk and shoot anyone who pokes their head in.
Lady Luck is with us and she delivers up the first of the guards to us just so. We tranq him. Then Lady Luck turns on a whim, flubs Rick’s second shot to take out the other guard…There being no time to reload, Rick sinks his blades into the guard immediately in front. The man goes down, but not before he raises an alarm. A klaxon starts blaring and we know the jig is up.
Go-go-go! Bug out, now!
We run out into the ramp corridor. A rattling roar deafens us. Bullets walk their way down the concrete right for us and we all dodge out of the way. Some of our party make like a wall, Arden hits the deck. Looking up the slope we see silhouetted against the headlights of a vehicle someone standing on the ramp with a heavy machine gun. It’s smoking and it’s still got ammo left.
We storm the gunner and shoot our way out. Yup. The five of us against the machine gunner. Crazy long odds, but not long enough, apparently, to beat us. We emerge from the bunker, bloodied and stunned, but victorious. Behind us is an unconscious gunner, ahead of us is a flatbed truck with the keys in the ignition. We need a ride, we’ve got one. Arden pauses only long enough to snatch the ID badge from the gunner—just in case—before we pile in, taking care not to damage the laptop, and ride like hell for our Gator. One of us bails to drive the Gator alongside and as the dawning sun crests the horizon, we drive both vehicles via circuitous routes back to the Gift at Lorngaard’s starport. The truck is too big to fit through our container doors, so we get the meds stowed aboard our ship and drive the truck to a convenient parking lot and abandon it there. With luck it will be days before it’s returned to its rightful owners and hopefully no one can trace it back to us.
That done we inspect the cargo. It’s a fair amount of goods to paw through, about five tons in volume.
Inside the Kevlar-based shipping crates are literally tons of medical supplies. Reading the labels we realize that not only are there surgical drugs, but neural suppressants and immune-suppressants. Immune-suppressants are used to prevent a human body from rejecting implants. Neural suppressants do just as the name says, suppress neural impulses. Added together with the immune-suppressants, Rina comes to the obvious conclusion that Gordon is implanting wet ware into his surgery patients.
Well, okay. Maybe it’s a conclusion obvious only to twitchy paranoid Rina, but how else could you explain the stitches’ violent reaction to high-pitched sound? It practically turns any stitch into a berserk attack dog upon blowing a whistle. What military worth its salt wouldn’t want that?
Faria has returned during the night while we were out and has installed a new container on our ship, prepping for his voyage out to Muir. He comes upon us speculating over the cargo we’ve swiped—okay, only Rina’s really speculating over it—and asks us what’s going on. Did we get another job? Is that what all this is?
We all troop to the lounge, all dirty and bloody and tattered, to fill the good Shepherd in. It takes us a moment to settle down from the adrenaline rush of a successful caper but eventually we manage to lay out the events of the night to Faria.
Joshua: We-we, we broke in.
Faria: Broke into….?
Joshua: The-the-the military portion of the hospital.
Rina: The bunker.
Arden: Actually, it was where they did the surgery on the stitches.
Joshua: It looked like military.
Faria: (interested) Ah. And what did you find?
Nika: A bunch of stitches.
Joshua: A bunch of boxes (points to the hold)
Rina: (brightly) Laptop!
She holds it up. She puts it on the table and looks it over. It’s got a built-in code lock holding it shut. After a moment’s examination, Rina’s pretty sure that if the code is incorrect or if the lock is tampered with, it will trigger the laptop to automatically destroy the hardstored data inside.
She’s not going to try hacking the lock, no sir. She announces her findings to the crew.
Rina: Who do we know that’s really good with computers?
Arden: Nobody on this planet.
Computers, alas, isn’t really Faria’s thing either.
Rina: (to Faria) But do you know anyone? Whose thing it is?
Rina: I mean, are you in contact with everybody who used to be in your unit? Certainly you had a sneaky cyber-guy….right?
Faria: Unfortunately, I don’t think I have too many people I can call from my unit for that.
Rina: (Uh huh) Hm.
Nika offers up the fact that the PDF is going to be interested in what Gordon’s outfit has been doing, considering the fate of the PDF soldiers that fell under his knife. Surely the PDF would have personnel able to open the laptop up without destroying the data.
Rina: Then why don’t we give a certain Captain a call?
Nika: I don’t know what she’s got aboard. (clears her throat) We got Nguyen’s people right next door.
Rina: Do we want to be in hock to this guy?
After all, the last time we had anything to do with him, we’d been duped into blowing up an entire factory, complete with workers. Then again, we wouldn’t owe him anything, since this time around we’d be turning in something he’s interested in. Could be he’d end up owing us. The real question is—is the PDF interested in the info because it’s a bad thing or if it’s a good thing? Then there’s the uncertainty of it all—we have no guarantee that turning over the evidence to the PDF would result in Gordon’s operation being shut down.
If we got the Miner’s Union involved, gave them the heads up as to how lower quality workers were taking over the jobs of union members, we wouldn’t even have to turn over the laptop to get them involved. Copies of the Blue Sun papers should be sufficient to get them aboard. The unions have a personally vested interested in keeping their territory clear of competition and interference from outside parties and they have considerable pull with politicians.
All of this doesn’t get the laptop open. Neither does it secure it against being taken. We can take care of the latter by locking it up in our arms locker. Tomorrow would have to see if we can find someone to take care of the former.
Arden grudgingly argues that while he doesn’t personally agree with Nguyen’s philosophy, he thinks that he’s independent-minded enough to be offended by the idea of people being used as work slave/guinea pigs for Blue Sun. Hell, anything to do with Blue Sun, really. And let’s not forget the target of the factory bombing wasn’t the workers inside, but the exposure of Blue Sun’s chemical agent that destroyed people’s free will, Chempliant. Nika is willing to buy that argument, even though her trust in any figures of authority is pretty much shot.
Arden: I’m right there with you, but I really don’t consider him a figure of authority.
Nika: But out here, he is.
Arden suggests we tell Nguyen anyway, since we don’t have what it takes to force the mine to cease its nasty practices but he does.
Arden: (to Nika) Hey Captain. Is it okay if we do that?
Nika: I am ignoring that entire conversation.
Arden: Well, that way I can say you told me to it.
Nika: (grudgingly) Yes.
Arden: I’ll call Nguyen.
A depressed silence takes the floor. Then:
Joshua: (softly) Not to be rude, but I still have to get my job back. I’m sorry, but I do. I made a call while everyone was busy arguing—.
Arden: I’m listening.
Joshua: No, it’s not a listening thing, it’s until you make a decision about—
Faria interrupts with the suggestion that we could make arrangements to have a meeting with all three: the PDF, Corone Mining, and the Miners Guild. It’s a good idea. We simply present what we’ve learned and let the big dogs hash it out. Faria gestures toward the laptop, still sitting on the table.
Faria: The answer is in this box.
Nika: Sure! I can go with that. What the hell’re we gonna do with the computer anyway? I mean, ultimately. We’re just a small shipful of people who are trying to do some good but in our hands, that information is not entirely useful anyway.
Arden: Let’s set up a meeting with all three of them.
Nika: Let’s make a phone call.
Joshua makes the call to arrange the meeting. As Jackson, this could only help him build his credit with all involved once Joshua relinquishes the man’s identity. He specifies a location that is neutral territory to all three parties.
Faria: I think I can arrange something.
Joshua: (evenly) Of course you can.
Joshua gets on the horn and makes his calls. He has to give up little pieces of information to the three parties to get them on board with the program. To the Miners Guild, he engages their interest in the poaching of job opportunities rightfully the Guild’s, despite the mine being a non-union operation. The fact that untrained people are being brought in to replace trained miners is a clear and present danger to ALL, union and non-union members alike. Surely this cannot be allowed to continue.
With Corone, their stance is that this is an internal mine issue. It really should be kicked upstairs to the execs at corporate HQ. But as their representative on the ground, would Joshua (as Jackson) be up to sitting in on the meeting. ‘Jackson’ answers in the affirmative. Blue Sun has been using Corone as a way to cover some very unsavory practices without Corone’s knowledge. It’s Corone’s mine, not Blue Sun’s. If this knowledge went public, the damage could be very bad for Corone.
For the PDF, Joshua offers the news that we have something to nail Blue Sun, a trail of evidence leading to something very ugly. Nguyen doesn’t take much convincing.
All three parties—the PDF, Corone Mining, and the Miners Guild—are effectively swayed by Joshua’s arguments and the meeting is on.
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