Episode 308: With Friends Like These

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Air date: 23 Feb 2010
Present: Maer, Terri, Andy, and Bobby

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Part 2

Tuesday, 12 Nov 2520
Kuiper II class, Summer’s Gift
Meridian City Space Port, Meridian
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
0730hrs, local time

Brian is going to kill Arden.

Well that was the plan anyway. Long story less long: The morning after the Lockdown on Decatur, Brian shows up at our airlock door around 0700 hrs with breakfast on a tray, gifts for crew in a satchel and an engagement ring in a box for Nika. Not that he shows her the last all at once, no. First he pours her a coffee and fixes it the way she likes it, serves up the breakfast with a heartfelt apology for being such an ass, and THEN shows her the ring.

At first, startled and won-over she says yes—he’s offering her everything she wanted: she doesn’t have to leave the Gift to stay with him on Decatur, but he’ll come with her instead. A relief, because she’s come to realize with the events of last night that she no longer belongs on Decatur. She’s changed too much to fit in and the politics on that boat no longer mesh with hers. So of course, she says ‘yes’.

And then Brian’s enthusiasm carries him away from the plan and Nika realizes that he’s not quite….right, yet. He’s like a 12 year old being given the keys to the hobby store of his choice and he’s not really up to marriage…or anything else as demanding. However, when she points this out, he gets (understandably) angry and accuses Arden of alienating her affections.

Then storms down the corridor of the Gift' to kill him.

Luckily he wasn’t as successful as he’d hoped. Nika yells at Brian all the way down the corridor to reconsider, to leave off. Don’t do this. Arden hears the commotion and has his gun ready at his side by the time Brian’s fist hits his door.

Unbeknownst to anyone else aboard, Joshua’s in his bunk, curled up and mouthing every word exchanged as they’re uttered by their owners. He’s somehow tuned in to everyone on the ship, they’re talking in his head and it hurts. Dear God, it hurts.

Rick sleeps on, oblivious to everything, having spent the night drinking with the Marines on Decatur and recounting the tale of how he’d taken out the four saboteurs and oh, yeah, pistol whipped a Reaver to death. The drinks and the compliments and the BS flowed like water and at the moment Rick is thoroughly out of it. He sleeps through the entire altercation in crew quarters.

Rina’s in the engine room and as a courtesy to the sleeping crew, she habitually keeps the engine room door closed at this hour of the day. It takes a minute or two for the ruckus outside to filter through and when she sees what’s going on, she’s out of there like a shot. As she passes through the workshop for the main corridor, she picks up a really big pipe wrench. A 36-incher, minimum.

Brian has Arden in the doorway of his cabin.

Brian: So! First you incapacitate me….and then you try to make your moves on Nika.
Nika: (Oh no you didn’t!) Brian!
Arden: I didn’t throw you on a grenade.
Brian: Saving your lives.
Arden: Your point being?

Brian ripostes with a stiff finger thrust against Arden’s chest. Arden takes some stun from the blow and steps back.

In his cabin, Joshua moans and curls up into a tighter ball. And, in his cabin, Rick snores on. Outside, the scene continues.

Nika: (furious!) This is ridiculous. Why don’t the two of you go outside on the deck and have a pissing contest instead, see who can pee the farthest?
Rina:I’m not mopping that up!
Arden: I’m not doing anything.
Brian: You didn’t quite kill me the first round. Let’s see how you do this time. You’ve got the gun.
Nika: (catching up) ‘You’ve got…’—What?!

Brian swings at Arden. Arden dodges in an all-out defensive move but is unsuccessful. Brian connects and slams Arden back into his room. Arden hits the bulkhead inside.



Arden’s still conscious and by a miracle, the gun in his hand doesn’t go off. Brian stalks inside, murder in his eye.

The fight is on.

Rina hustles forward but there’s no room in the cabin for her to lend Arden a hand. Arden throws his gun aside and tries a martial arts dodge to avoid Brian. Brian misses and Arden wins free.

Nika: Brian, you gotta stop this.
Arden: Remember your blood pressure.

Nika throws an arm across the cabin door to keep Rina from braining Brian with her pipe wrench. Arden attempts to pin Brian in another martial arts move. Brian gets a blow in and Arden goes down.

Nika: (deadly serious) Brian, if you put another hand on him I swear to God I will get Harry in here and drop you like a rock.

Brian looks at his fist and then at Nika. And at her words a look of utter betrayal crosses his face. Then he pushes his way out of Arden’s quarters as Nika restrains Rina.

Rina: (furious too) You’re gonna let him WALK?!?
Nika: (steely) Shut the fuck up. Check Arden.

Rina shuts the fuck up and checks Arden. She’s got some training in first aid. Arden has a broken nose and a few other minor injuries. She revives him and gets ice for his bumps and bruises.

Nika follows Brian out to the airlock. Brian leaves the Gift, as well as everything he brought with him. Nika shuts the hatch behind him and then goes to check Rina’s progress with Arden. She finds the two halfway to med bay and lends her shoulder for the rest of the journey there.

Arden blearily asks about the fight.

Arden: What the fuck brought that on?
Rina: Testosterone poisoning.

Nika sees them to sick bay and while Rina’s working on Arden, she asks:

Nika: Are you going to be okay? I need to make a call.

Arden waves her on. She leaves. Nika passes the dining table on her way to the bridge and pockets the ring before anyone can see it. Once on the bridge she opens a channel to Decatur, asks to be patched through to Kramer and waits for her to pick up. Harry actually comes on the line.

Nika: Ohhhh, so did not go well.
Harry: Why, whatever are you talking about?
Nika: I don’t know how bad Brian’s temper is at this point? But he left here just about as pissed as I’ve ever seen him, and ah…you might want to check in make sure he’s okay.
Harry: (confident) I’m sure that he’ll be fine.
Nika: Yeah. That’ll make one of us.
Harry: Did it resolve things? Everything resolved? Are we going to have some sort of ceremony?
Nika: No.
Harry: I suspected as much.
Nika: You could have warned me.
Harry: But it wouldn’t have probably worked had I warned you. Right?
Nika: Thanks, Harry.
Harry: Nobody was killed, right?
Nika: No.
Harry: Then it worked out well.

That’s Harry for you. She keeps her own counsel and lets you stumble through your own damned mistakes and learn from them.

Nika: Hmmmm. There are days I hate you, woman.
Harry: Any relationship you can walk away from…..

Yup. Learning from your mistakes. Like this one.

Nika: As much as I was looking forward to breakfast this morning, if you wouldn’t mind giving my regrets to Shyla, I think we’re just going to undock and head for the planet’s surface.
Harry: (calmly) All right.
Nika: Unless anybody’s got something they need to do here, I’m just going to need clearance to undock when we’re ready.
Harry: I don’t see any other ships on the list so you’re good to go.
Nika: (thinly) Okay. We’ll get back to you.
Harry: When you’re ready, we’ll be here. (A beat) And he’ll be fine. He will.
Nika: Talk to you later.

Nika cuts the channel and sits in the silence of the bridge.

Back in the med bay, Arden gets Rina to leave off and go check on Rick and Joshua. After some urging, she goes. Rick has actually already stumbled out. What happened? Did he miss a fight? You snooze, you lose, man, Rina confirms and goes on to find Joshua. For his part, Rick sees the abandoned breakfast and the coffee that Brian had brought and tucks into it. No point in letting it go to waste, right?

Rina knocks on Joshua’s door.

Rina: (quietly) Joshua?
Joshua: (muffled through the door) What… What?
Rina: You okay in there?
Joshua: No, but I’ll be all right.
Rina: Get you anything?
Joshua: Have they stopped?
Rina: Yes. He’s gone. Can I come in?
Joshua: Could I stop you?
Rina: (worried) Shithead…

Snark isn’t his style and alarmed, Rina goes in and finds him curled up in a tight ball of pain on the floor. The emotional crap flying around the ship is hammering his brains into guacamole.

Rina: (to herself) …Jesus Christ…(moves to help him) …Let’s get you up here….
Joshua: (curling up tighter) Don’t…don’t-don’t-don’t…(firmly) Don’t touch me. Don’t. Just go.

Joshua can’t bear to be touched by anyone right now, especially not Rina. She gets him into his bunk and leaves him with painkillers and water.

Closes his door. Walks away. Hates herself for doing it.

Nika checks on Arden in the med bay and sees he’s still amongst the living. He’s already set his nose and is sporting two black eyes. He’s going to look hideous for a week or so and be in a lot of pain, but he’s going to live.

Nika: Are you okay?
Arden: (slowly) I hurt. A lot. (gestures aft) What was that about?
Nika: (halting) I really can’t talk about it right now, okay? I’m sorry.
Arden: Uhnnnn….he’s left, right?
Nika: Yes.
Arden: You need to find him and resolve whatever this is about?
Nika: Nope.
Arden: ‘Kay.
Nika: We’re done.

Whether that means she’s done with the fight or done with Brian remains to be seen.

Nika: Do you have anything left on board that you need to do?

If there was anything Arden wanted to do on Decatur, it’s to use their scanner and do a follow-up scan on his brain. Specifically to see what changes had been wrought on his brain by the Chempliance on Pericles Station. Joshua had also expressed an interest in getting his head scanned as well, concerned that he might—like Dr. Gordon’s patients—be installed with wetware that could make him dangerous to his newly adopted family, the crew. However….

Arden: They don’t have what I need to do a brain scan here, so yeah…I’m fine.
Nika: Okay. Lemme check with the others and make sure.

She finds Rina in the passenger lounge with Rick, helping herself to the coffee that Brian had brought. She fills Nika in on Joshua’s condition when Nika joins them. They tell Nika there’s nothing they need to do on Decatur. Survey done, Nika gives us a heads up on our departure. Arden hauls himself to the bridge and asks her again if there isn’t anything she needs to take care of on Decatur before we leave.

Arden: Because who knows when we’re going to be back this way. It’s the last I’ll say it.
Nika: There is no resolving it right now.
Arden: Okay. Then I’ll leave you to fly the ship.

There is the distinct vibe of disagreement coming off Arden but he leaves his dissenting opinion unvoiced and soon we’re undocked from Decatur and on our way dirtside.

Arden sees the gift with his name on it and opening it discovers a case with a hypo gun and half a dozen vials of a yellowish liquid, with a tag attached inscribed with a single word: Frankenstein. It’s an adrenaline-laced medication favored by field medics to revive and stabilize patients until they can be evacced to a safer location.

Arden comments it’s a nice present. Rina tells him to sit down, she’ll get him coffee. While he’s drinking it, she looks for and finds a package labeled for her.

She unwraps it carefully at knife tip and uncovers a nice gun case. She flicks it open with her blade. Inside the case is a Tokarev and extra clips. And just for a second, she wonders if….no. The nick on the left side of the grip isn’t there. It’s not hers. Not the one Mike gave her. Still…

Rina: How’d he know I’d lost mine?
Arden: (nodding toward the gun) Don’t lose this one.
Rina: (jerks her thumb toward Decatur) You know, I can finish what he started.

She stares at it for a minute, closes the lid, sets it aside… and walks away. As much as she’d love to have a Tokarev back in her hands, she’s not going to accept anything that was bought with Arden’s blood.

And the crap keeps happening. Prepping the engines for departure, Rina discovers the Gift’s ITCV (Incidental Tritium Capture Valve) needs replacing. It captures any incidental tritium from the hydrogen we use for fuel so as not to contaminate the fusion reaction that runs our ship. It’s not something Rina has to throw the kill switch for, but neither is it something we can afford to leave for long without repairing or replacing. If the tritium is allowed to build up …..Well. Best to replace it sooner than later. She comms Nika on the bridge.

Rina: We got a light on back here. Drive carefully. Get us on the ground. I need to check it.

Since she’s got no spare on hand—as usual—she has to find one someone willing to sell one to her. Once we’re on the ground, she helps Arden back to his cabin. The others get busy with the business of loading up on fuel, food, the Pony Express data book, and so on. Rina looks around on the local cortex and finds a garage that might have it: Gregorian’s, a repairs garage run by Russians. This might work in her favor, if she can strike up some cultural solidarity.

Before she leaves, however, she needs money with which to buy the part. That means she needs to talk to the ship’s steward, the man who holds the purse strings. Joshua’s still holed up in his cabin and she softly knocks on the door and sticks her head in.

Rina: (very quietly) Joshua?
Joshua: (pained) Yes?
Rina: Hate to bother you but I need some money for parts.
Joshua: Okay. How much do you need? All of it?
Rina: Fifty. I’ll try to bargain him down. It might not be that much.
Joshua: Here.

He hauls out of his bunk and hands her what she needs.

Rina: (softly) I’ll bring back the change. (A beat) Do you want anything?

Joshua shakes his head and closes his door in her face.

Rina: Right. Peace and quiet. Okay.

Since the emotional atmosphere aboard the Gift is just too tense, everyone elects to go with her to get some air, even Joshua and Rick.

Gergorian’s is a pretty substantial garage, taking up an entire city block. They repair just about everything—mules, hovercars, you name it. Approaching the main work floor Rina can hear the usual noise of a busy garage: pneumatics hissing and chattering, the clank and rattle of tools and chains. The flurries of curses and good-natured abuse, the occasional calls for tools or an extra hand—just about all of it in Russian, though there’s a smattering of Chinese and English too.

Rina: Privyet! (Russian, informal: Hello!) Anybody here?

There’s no trouble translating the chorus of whistles that greets them when they cross the threshold and mindful of Nika’s current tender emotional state Rina drawls to the crowd, her accent a little thicker than usual.

Rina: Settle down, boys. You act like you’ve never seen a man before…

The whistles turn into laughs and one of the garage men approaches Rina.

Foreman: (heavy Russian accent) What can I do for you, ma’am?
Rina: I am looking for an ITCV. Ours crapped out.
Foreman: For what?
Rina: Kuiper II class.
Foreman: Kuiper II? Hmmm…
Rina: Have you got one?
Foreman: Those use, uhm….7-12…ahhh, lemme look.

He consults his databook.

Foreman: Don’t see many of these. Oh, we see Kuiper class, but they don’t break down much. You know, if the light’s on, you just, you know….

He mimes tapping it.

Foreman: You tap it a few times and it’ll be fine.
Rina: I’ve done that already.
Foreman: Have you tried running cleaning fluid through it? Is messy but it probably do trick for six, seven weeks.
Rina: Not yet, but ehhhhmmmm…

She grimaces and waggles her hand in the universal so-so gesture.

Foreman: Well, I don’t have one.
Rina: (of course not) You don’t.
Foreman: We could remove it for you and try cleaning it, see if that helps, but if it’s a problem with gaskets then that’s not something we can fix here.

But he can order us one. It’ll take five or six weeks. We can’t afford the port fees while we wait. So that’s not an option.

Foreman: (grinning) You try dealership?
Rina: (snorts back) Dealership? Dealer is in jail.
Foreman: I kid you. Kuiper class is…not much dealers left for that.
Rina: All right…well. I will try the cleaning fluid idea.
Foreman: You are mechanic on this ship?
Rina: Da.
Foreman: Well….you know if your ITCV is going, you might be having issues maintaining your hydrogen temperatures. Have you looked at your temperature gauges?
Rina: (growling annoyance) Oyyyy…..we’re coming up on monthly maintenance anyway but…..grahhhhhh…..
Foreman: Do you have originals?

Are you kidding? With all the stuff we had to scav and replace on Miranda? Not likely.

Rina: This ship? This ship is….spit and bubblegum.
Foreman: Ahh.. But what brand gum? (waves) Just kidding. We might have whole assembly. I will see what we have.

The man calls out to the floor.

Foreman: Yurgei! Do we have tritium assembly?

The answer comes from somewhere under a car.

Yugei: For what?
Foreman: Kuiper class.
Yurgei: Bozhe moi! Go shi deirma piece of crap…..

And a gearhead debate ensues as to which variety of this versus which lifehack of that would best suit a ship that’s virtually obsolete in the way of parts. It’s conducted in Russian and Rina follows it easily, but keeps her mouth shut.

Yurgei: What about that M-33?
Foreman: Oy….
Rina: M-33?
Foreman: There was man here looking to sell a ship. Salvaged ship. We don’t have interest in big salvage. Perhaps when it sits in dump for six months we go salvage for parts, but…(shrugs)…he was looking to sell whole ship. Or parts and salvage. I think he is over at main city dump. You might be able to—M-33 is not perfect match.
Rina: I can make it fit.
Foreman: You’ll have to widen space fot it.
Rina: I can do that. Yeah.
Foreman: And if you get a tritium leak….
Rina: Don’t go there. Don’t go there.
Foreman: Is poisonous.
Arden: Tritium isn’t poisonous.
Foreman: Tritium reacts to lithium…..
Arden: Oh, well that would be poisonous. but if you feel confident with working with it—
Rina: Yes.

She swats Arden: shut up you!

Rina: Please ignore my self-made assistant. He is ship’s doctor. What does he know from ships? He has strong back. I get him to carry for me.
Foreman: Then perhaps we should demonstrate tritium. You want to try?
Arden: You are not funny.
Foreman: Some say you experience moment of exquisite pleasure.

Just before you die.

Nika: (laughing, mimicking accent) Exqueesit pleh-zhure. The leetle death.
Foreman: (chuckling) And then, is not so good.
Nika: And then, the Beeg Death.
Arden: It’s not poisonous. It is toxic but it’s not poisonous.
Joshua: Well, I’m glad we got that cleared up.
Arden: (persisting) It can’t be poisonous.
Rina: Arden. Zip it.

The laughing dies down and we get back to business.

Foreman: Yeah. Is at main dump. I think. It was last time I checked. Unless he got it flying, in which case is no longer there.
Rina: Who shall I say send me?
Foreman: (slyly) You can tell him Gregorian send you.
Rina: All right. Thank you, sir. (turns to crew) Let’s go.
Arden: (to Rina) Don’t take my ear. Ow. Ow. Ow-ow-ow…

We thank him and take off. Rick speaks up about a local nursery he’d seen advertised on the local cortex, saying he wants to check it out. We offer him a ride and he waves it off, saying he’s cool. We trade goodbyes and part company. Since the main dump is several miles away, we return to the Gift to fetch the Gator.

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Part 2

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