Episode 313: Trade Off

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Air Date: 30 Mar 2010
Present: Maer, Terri, Andy, Bobby, and Tony

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Sunday, 01 Dec 2520
Meridian City, Meridian
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
1730hrs, local time

Arden catches Nika and keeps her head above water as he tries to find cover for them under the apartment complex. There is none. He injects her with one of the Frankenstein doses and holding her head above water, swims for the opposite shore of the river to put some distance between him and the Blue Sun goons. He drags onto land and begins resuscitating Nika. She comes to and together they make their way to the Gift. The landscape immediately around is farmland and Arden supposes he could just walk up to someone’s porch and ask to use their phone. Assuming they have one. Arden remembers he still has his comm and despite its dunking in the river, it still works. He opens a channel and finds a message waiting for him. He thumbs the accept button and listens to the recording. It’s Valerie.

Valerie: If you can get this, please call me.

Nika looks askance at the comm and her thoughts come through loud and clear: what the hell is wrong with this woman? We just had our butts kicked and she’s wondering when we’re going to pick her up?

Arden comms the Gift to see who’s still there. Faria picks up Arden’s hail. He seems unsure of the protocol.

Faria: Uhh…this is…um, Summer’s Gift?
Arden: Faria, this is Arden.
Faria: (sure now) Oh, hey. Yes, go ahead.
Arden: We ran into some serious trouble.
Faria: What?
Arden: (oh please) Yes. Amazing. Isn’t it?
Faria: I’m shocked.
Arden: Could you send a taxi to…wherever I…am?

That earns him a caustic look from Nika and they look for landmarks to give the man.

Arden: We’re about halfway to town on the other side of the river from the spaceport.

Huh. Come again? Nika sighs and takes the comm and tells Faria to send the taxi a few kliks up the river from the spaceport. They’ll be standing by the road. Can’t miss them. Has he heard anything from Rick or Rina or Joshua? No. Faria says he’ll do what he can do and Arden and Nika start walking for the road set a little ways off from the shore. They eventually get that taxi ride back to the Gift.

Nika: We need to figure out where they took Rina and Joshua. Call your… girlfriend back. Wait, if they’re tapping her phone, we can’t contact her by phone.

Finding Rina and Joshua ceases to be a problem when they arrive at the Gift. They find a photo taped to the outer airlock door: it’s of an H2 refinery with the words “Trade? Noon tomorrow” on the back. Holding out hope that the trade will involve living bodies instead of corpses, Nika, Arden and Faria agree to wait til the next day before trying to get their crewmembers back.

Monday, 02 Dec 2520
1030hrs, local time

It’s morning and Rick is languishing in his cell. As he lies in his bunk waiting to be bailed out, he hears a whine….like the Blue Sun sonic weapon but a quick check shows he’s perfectly fine and not bleeding out at all. Curious but unable to investigate further, Rick vents his frustration on the iron bars of his cell….and his cell door pops open.

Curiouser and curiouser.

He slips out of the cell block and enters the front office of the station…and sees four bodies on the floor glistening in their own blood and a woman, her hair in an incongruous head scarf, tapping away at one of the keyboards. He slips back into the shadows to watch and after a moment’s observation is convinced it is Blue Sun Blondie standing there. From his position, he can definitely appreciate the way her tight leather clothing hugs her curves.

He crosses the floor and looking past her, he sees she’s running through the surveillance camera footage. He sees her walking into the station wearing a dowdy housedress and scarf and sunglasses. He sees her talking to the desk cops.

Before Rick can get much closer she points a gun at him without looking, stopping him dead in his tracks. Then she looks up.

Blondie: Wait.
Rick: Sure. But you can put the gun down. I was just gonna grab your butt.
Blondie: (Is she amused?) At least you’re consistent.

She turns back to the camera feeds and rewinds the footage, hits play. We hear her voice in a fake Rim twang delivering her statement.

Rim Blondie: Ahm terra’bly sorry, but Ah’ve seem t’ have mistaken the identity of person Ah was accusin’. Ah want that poor boy not to have t’ suffah that. You get that down that Ah’ve recanted?
Policeman: Well, Ma’am. A lot of people change their minds after they—.
Rim Blondie: No, no. It wasn’t him at all. Ah just didn’t want people t’ know mah husband was beatin’ me.
Policeman: Oh, well that….well.

And he seems to understand. He types in her recantation. And she pulls out a small USB-type device, plugs it into his computer console and FZZZT! everything goes on the fritz.

Blondie: It’ll take a second. (looks at Rick) So I was sent to kill you. Your usefulness to the company has… been expired.
Rick: (WTF?) My usefulness?
Blondie: You’ve done exactly what they’ve asked you to. Or asked of you.
Rick: Who asked me to do anything?
Blondie: Well. We didn’t exactly ask.
Rick: I can’t believe …. after all the moments we’ve shared that you would want to hurt me.

Blondie grabs Rick by the throat and Rick immediately embraces her. After a second or two, she accepts his embrace and well, sir, it’s right nice In fact, that throat hold of hers has changed to something else less threatening and more…friendly. Rick gets to grab her ass at last and it feels mighty fine. Danger. Desire. Lethality. All wrapped up in a single kiss. Then Blondie pushes Rick back and he lets go of her.

Blondie: We don’t have that much time.
Rick: (pulling together) All right, what do we have to do?
Blondie: (looking around) I believe I’ve scrambled all their security signals from this mess. I’m sorry. I’ve done far worse than this, unfortunately. (sighs) Your friends are in danger. I don’t have time to explain. I’m going to be missing soon myself.

Blondie picks up a nasty-looking police stunner off a nearby table and hands it to him. He takes it.

Blondie: You’re going to have to knock me out.
Rick: Okay. What do I have to do after that? Do you want me to bring you with me or leave you here?
Blondie: Leave me here. If they think that I’m helping you, then I’m dead. I’m probably dead anyway.

Blondie grabs Rick for another kiss. He kisses her back and grabs her ass again. Then she steers the taser toward her and tells him one last thing.

Blondie: Meet me at Rubicon.

And she triggers the device.


Rick tucks the stunner into his waistband and turns to leave and spies an open arms locker. There’s a grenade launcher in there, along with flash bangs and CH grenades. He quickly fills a duffle bag with weapons from the locker: a shotgun, an assault rifle, some pistols and their ammo join the grenades and the grenade launcher. He pauses only long enough to load the guns, then gets out of there with no one the wiser and heads out.

He’s not entirely sure where he is relative to the Gift. Meridian City is a fairly large city and the spaceport isn’t visible from here. There’s no getting on a public bus with a duffle full of weapons, so he hails a taxi back to the Gift.

Back at the Gift, Nika and Arden set out in the shuttle to the refinery and circling round it, they see that there is a fancier shuttle on the ground next to it, with four armed men guarding its open ramp. On a catwalk three stories above the ground stand Blue Sun Bruno and Joshua and Rina. Flying by them, Nika and Arden can see her right arm is in a sling and she’s got some other injuries as well. Joshua appears to be unharmed.

As the shuttle passes by, Rina can only stand and watch and hope it doesn’t try landing on the flat roof of the refinery’s superstructure. God alone knows if it’s rated to take a shuttle of that weight and size. She’s not going to be much help in evaccing Joshua to safety in case of disaster anyway: her right arm is in a sling, from injuries she sustained in yesterday’s fight, and furthermore her wrists are cuffed together. If it came to a fight…well, there are moves she could make but given her injuries, she’s not entirely sanguine about the outcome. Joshua seems unharmed, if a bit….zombified. Blue Sun Bruno had whispered something to Joshua as they’d been hustled to the refinery and just like that, Joshua glazed over as if heavily drugged. At the moment, Joshua stands blankly to one side without recognizing her.

Nope. Rina’s not sanguine about the outcome at all.

Nika lands the shuttle on the packed dirt around the corner of the refinery from the other guys on the ground. Just in case she and her crewmates need cover to escape. Meanwhile, Arden tries hailing Joshua and Rina on their comms channels and receives no response.

They disembark. Bruno calls down to them.

Bruno: Disarm. Then head to the lift.
Arden: No. Let our friends go. Then I’ll come to you.
Bruno: If you prefer this to be an armed conflict we can do that. (a beat) Let me start by breaking your friend’s fingers.

Bruno takes up Rina’s left hand and dislocates her pinkie. She’d been expecting something of the sort and bites down on her lip and stifles her scream. Damned if she’d give Bruno that satisfaction. Her lip’s bleeding but she sucks it up.

Bruno: (over the rail) Shall we go for number two?

Arden capitulates. He leaves his pistol in the shuttle and starts for the lift. It’s a standard industrial cage lift and an agonizingly slow ride up. Nika murmurs as they approach their stop.

Nika: If push comes to shove…

Arden doesn’t appear to be listening and he doesn’t respond, except to curse in all the languages he knows under his breath.

On the catwalk, Rina watches Bruno take out a fancy New Tech pistol. She doesn’t recognize its type. He hands it to Joshua.

Bruno: If they attempt any violence, shoot her. Be ready.

Joshua aims the gun right at Rina. No recognition, no resistance, no remorse. Rina stares right back, refusing to retreat or beg, staying alert for an opening she can use.

As the lift rises, Nika speaks to Arden.

Nika: Again, if push comes to shove, this becomes your call.
Arden: I know.
Nika: Do you want us to go out fighting?
Arden: No. Do you think they’re going to give Joshua back?
Nika: I don’t know. I don’t even have a way to guess.
Arden: Me, neither. So let’s just see what happens.

There is a chance Arden can take. He’s pretty certain he knows the code phrase Bruno used to send Joshua asleep back at the apartment complex. Something that sounds like: oh sedah s’noi ee. The elevator jerks to a stop, the cage scrolls open and they exit onto the platform.

They see Joshua standing to the side, holding a fancy-looking pistol on Rina. Rina’s lip is bloodied, her right arm’s in a sling and her left pinkie has clearly got something wrong with it. Joshua’s looking rather focused on aiming. Rina’s looking rather determinedly back at him, despite the pain she must be in.

Bruno: Now isn’t this better than resorting to violence?
Arden: So we’re here. Now what?
Bruno: You come forward. We’ll send your … lovely… crewmate back.
Arden: And Joshua?
Bruno: Oh, no. Joshua stays. You wouldn’t want him now, anyway.

Silence, as that sinks in. Arden sighs.

Bruno: We’ll make sure that he’s taken care of.
Arden: I’m sure you will.
Bruno: He’s too valuable to be—

He gestures vaguely at the air: to be let go.

Arden: Apparently so am I.
Bruno: Yes.
Arden: So.

Arden looks over the rail.

Arden: Too valuable to keep me from jumping?
Bruno: I suppose we could just shoot you.
Arden: You could. But then you would have failed in your mission.
Bruno: Are you not coming?
Arden: I didn’t say that.
Bruno: Then come along.
Arden: No. I want Joshua and Rina to go.
Bruno: The alternative to my deal, where your friend returns to your ship—alive—is that I take you and Johsua and everyone else dies. I’ve got a shuttle full of troops down there.
Arden: Down there.
Bruno: Well, where are you going to go? Are you going to live here for the rest of your life? They’re not that good shots—they could just start firing bullets at these hydrogen tanks.
Arden: That would be fine. It means all five of us will die.

Meaning: Bruno dies too.

Bruno: Well, if that’s what you prefer.
Rina: (under her breath) Oh for fuck’s sake….
Bruno: If you prefer that to saving her…
Arden: I want Joshua and Rina to go.
Bruno: I don’t think you’re going to kill your friends.
Arden: I wouldn’t be killing them. You would be.
Bruno: I don’t think you’re going to do something that’s going to result in your friends being killed.
Arden: Like what?
Bruno: Like resist, at this stage.
Arden: I’m not resisting.
Bruno: Joshua. Shoot the young lady in the leg.
Arden: (giving in) Fine. Fine. Fine.

Rina realizes this is getting nowhere so long as Bruno has leverage. The hell with that. She steps inside Joshua’s guard, kisses him, puts the gun to her gut and pulls the trigger.

There is no sound of a gunshot—the gun is a gauss pistol. Magnetic. Silent. Throws slugs. Packs one helluva wallop.

Rina’s down on the deck, removed from the equation. She’s still conscious and while Arden tries to grab the gun, Rina attempts to sweep Joshua’s legs out from under him. He dodges, she fails and passes out. Joshua outmaneuvers Arden and keeps the gun. Bruno comms his people below, telling them there’s a bit of a situation going. He then tells Nika if she can drag her girlfriend to the lift, our business here is completed. Meaning Rina. That’s if Nika wants her still. If not, he can have Joshua slit her throat….

Arden tells Nika to take Rina and go.

Bruno: (to Nika) Why don’t you tend to her? We’ll leave first.
Nika: (flatly) Knock yourself out.

Arden is ordered into the lift down.

Bruno: Get in the lift.
Arden: Do you want to take the stairs?
Bruno: No. Joshua, you first. Shoot him if he resists.

Arden gets in the lift under Joshua’s eye and starts to complain about his discomfort about enclosed spaces. Bruno offers to sedate him. Arden declines. They ride the elevator does down.

Arden: So why am I so valuable?
Bruno: Honestly, you don’t seem so valuable to me.
Arden: Then you can let me go.
Bruno: I would. Were it my decision.
Arden: It could be your decision. Otherwise you’re no better than the guy with the gun, here. (gestures to Joshua)
Bruno: Are you offering something?
Arden: No.
Bruno: What do you have to offer in exchange? Perhaps I’d be interested.
Arden: What kind of things would you be interested in?
Bruno: (verbal eyeroll) I thought as much.

Back on the catwalk, Nika renders enough first aid to keep Rina from kicking it. Down below on the hydro plant’s grounds, Rick has made his way to a good observation point. He’s seen the shuttle, the four armed guards, and our shuttle parked around to the side. He hears no gunfire coming from the stacks of the plant, assumes the negotiations are going well.

Looking through his binoculars, he gets a good look at the guards, their grouping, their weapons. He sees the lift descending and its occupants disembark. When they are halfway across the tarmac to the shuttle, Rick sees that Joshua’s got a gun and is pointing it not at the man in Blue Gloves as he’d expect, but at Arden. Not good! Rick needs a distraction if he’s going to get his crew out of there. He loads a CH grenade into the grenade launcher and fires it into the knot of shuttle guards, taking them down and out.

Rick brings his shotgun and pistol with him as he runs to Arden, Joshua and Bruno. Even though Rick hadn’t shot the flashbang in their direction, they are still stunned unconscious by it. Rick doesn’t hesitate but shoots Bruno in the head at point blank range.

Scratch one Blue Hands agent.

Rick quickly frisks the man for weapons—or anything interesting—finds and pockets the sonic device. Then Rick stows his pistol, tucks his shotgun under one arm and starts dragging Joshua and Arden toward our shuttle.

Nika is busy keeping Rina from dying on the platform and the hiss of a launched grenade grabs her attention for a second. She looks, she sees, and goes back to tending Rina. Satisfied her crewmate isn’t going to die, she hauls Rina up in her arms and starts dragging her for the lift.

By degrees Nika and Rick get the crew into the shuttle. Once aboard, Nika orders Rick to secure Joshua, to tie him up.

Rick: Why? What was going on?
Nika: (angrily) Code words and his brain went ‘pttpthh’…(gesticulates)…and…yeah, no. Bad. And Valerie, so far as I know, is still either in a trap and really is in trouble or she’s just a complete patsy and—.

Nika fills him in on the details as they fly back to the Gift. Arden comes to during the ride. More filling in ensues.

Rick: We won’t have to worry about the Blue Sun guy, at least. Unless he’s got a clone. Cuz he’s definitely dead. Definitely dead.
Arden: Unless his partner’s someplace.

Rick remembers Bruno’s partner. He also remembers what she told him. He keeps it to himself. Arden turns to Rina and Joshua to see what medical attention either of them need and the ride back to the Gift is otherwise uneventful. Arden gets his patients to medbay ASAP. He stabilizes Rina and gets her settled. Joshua revives strapped to a table in the wardroom, with no memory of events past being put under at the apartment complex.


And the surprises keep on coming. When our patients are taken care of and we’re ready to lift off, who should walk out of one of the first class passenger cabins but Valerie Sampson.

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