Episode 315: IDP

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Air date: 13 Apr 2010
Present: Maer, Terri, Andy, Bobby, and Tony

Monday, 06 Jan 2521
Below the surface, Rubicon
White Sun (Bai Hu) system
0600hrs, ship’s time

The plan is made to infiltrate Blue Sun HQ outside Memphis on Osiris, access the records there to get information on Joshua Drake, Valerie Sampson, and also possibly find the drug Valerie had developed to counteract Chempliant compulsion. As an added task, any Flomoxipan found in the pursuit of our task would be welcome, since Joshua is pushing four days going unmedicated and is starting to suffer ill effects from the lack.

Blondie, also known as Zed, produces 3 Blue Sun employee uniforms as a cover disguise for Arden, Nika, and Rina. They will go to the Human Resources Division’s Medical and Pharmaceutical Department and hit the records there. Valerie will accompany us to help identify the drugs we’re after and Joshua will go in as a ‘prisoner’ subject to IDP—Intelligence Decontamination Protocol. They will walk in on their own two feet and be wheeled out in body bags to preserve our cover. Zed gives us the IDP paperwork. It will pass us through HQ with very little trouble. The downside is Human Resources is surveillanced top to bottom with security cameras. There is a bottleneck in the surveillance process, however. There is only one security office for Human Resources. Zed and Rick will go relieve whoever’s on duty and take over the office. They will oversee our progress on the monitors even as work to keep us from being found out. Because the IDP is seldom used, the warning bells will go off and people will investigate. If we’re to find what we’ve come to find, we’ll have to work fast once we get inside Human Resources.

Rina: What’s the response time?
Zed: I’ve never seen it used before.
Rina: Then how do you know it works?
Zed: I don’t.
Rina: (eyeroll) Par for the course. All right.
Zed: I see no reason why it wouldn’t work. I’ve also been one of the people enforcing it, so I know what happens when other people don’t comply. And so do they. So I suspect they will…comply.
Rina: Can you pretend to be handling the call and send the others away?
Zed: Unfortunately, it’s unlikely there will be no one there who chooses not to send a confirmation signal of some kind and while we can intercept that to a certain degree, undoubtedly something will slip through. That’s why I cannot tell you how long you will have. Minutes probably. But not hours.
Nika: So what are we looking for, exactly?
Rick: Drugs.
Arden: Joshua’s med records. Valerie’s med records. Processes to program and unprogram her. Genetic modifications. Breeding programs.
Joshua: Then drugs.
Nika: And the actual drugs.
Joshua: And drugs.
Rina: Flomoxipan.
Rick: So drugs should be your number one priority, right? We only have minutes. We’re not trawling the Cortex for hours. Arden: I thought we wanted the proof that Valerie was programmed by Blue Sun to do what she did. I thought that was what the primary goal was.
Joshua: I can-I can get Flom-Flomoxipan anywhere. I can’t get…
Nika: His medical records.
Joshua: My records, her records anywhere but here and I’m-we’re gonna have the one shot. That’s got to be the priority, at least.
Arden: That’s why I put it at the top [of the list].
Nika: Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m less concerned about finding the Flomoxipan than I am about the idea somewhere there are records that may say what you need to counteract what happened to Carter and Valerie. So I’m more interested in those drugs than I am about the Flomoxipan.
Arden: If I could download the medical formula for the drug—
Nika: Which hopefully should be in the medical records, but…
Joshua: Okay.
Rina: All right. We got our goal. Let’s get to it.

We’ll travel to Osiris in the gutted prison shuttle with the smaller shuttle inside. Once over Osiris we’ll leave the prison shuttle in orbit or at a La Grange point and continue to Memphis in the smaller shuttle.

We leave for Osiris on 06 Jan and on the way we catch up on the news. Chief item: Prime Minister Holbrook dies of poison. We watch a grainy video downloaded from ‘an anonymous source’ of Nguyen and MP Gibbons talking. As a result, there has been a shift, a coming together of various factions in Parliament which has propelled MP Falkan into a temporary leadership position. Under her hand, she declares a State of Emergency and the Parliament hastily passes the Articles of Proscription, allowing them to arrest anyone deemed an enemy of the Alliance.

They have also formed a special group called the Unity Guard and have appointed Thomas Gideon as its Head. Rina recognizes Thomas Gideon as one of the leaders of the Lex Talionis. The Lex Talionis were chomping at the bit to help the Alliance out against this upswing in Browncoat activity and lo! Gideon’s the Head of the Unity Guard, someone whose loyalty to the Alliance and Anti-Browncoat position is beyond reproach. The Unity Guard will be travelling the Verse, looking for Enemies of the State, arresting them and, if necessary, using extreme measures.

The Verse just got a little bit harder for people like us to slip around.

Wednesday, 08 Jan 2521
Blue Sun HQ, Memphis
Osiris, White Sun (Bai Hu) system
1030hrs, local time

It’s a two day trip to Osiris from Rubicon. We arrive over Osiris and set the prison shuttle on a reliable course in orbit, then disengage and fly the smaller shuttle—blazoned with the Blue Sun logo—down to the surface.

On the way to the HQ in Memphis, we drop off the still-unconscious Malcolm Reynolds at a hospital. He’ll be taken care of by the staff there, left as a ‘foundling’ on their doorstep. Were we still in possession of the Gift, we could have had Faria care for him. We are not, and so we cannot. On the hospital doorstep Reynolds goes, and we proceed to Blue Sun HQ.

It’s a short hop to the HQ outside Memphis and we follow the monorail line we rode over two years ago to the protest riot and more recently, with Gibbons to spring Rick and Arden from Zed and Bruno’s custody. We arrive and find the HQ much like the last time we’d seen it but this time we fly past the gates and into the belly of the beast.

The landing platform of the HQ is a series of joined platforms that rotate and rise and lower as the platforms are called up to allow for landing and take-off. We park our shuttle on one of the platforms in short order and disembark. All arrivals are stopped at the landing platform’s edge to be scanned before continuing on, but upon seeing Zed approaching, the security team opens a door to the side that allows us all to bypass the scans, like royalty jumping to the head of the line.

Inside the HQ, it’s a pretty swanky looking place. It’s your typical Core side architecture, clean and gleaming. It’s a wedge-shaped building, conical and a little narrower at its base than at its apex. Inside it’s soaring and the wedge shape is echoed by the columns holding up the ceiling high, high overhead. Under the glass and steel ceiling are plantings and waterfalls—part of the water reclamation system—and the overall effect is a giant atrium, pleasant, airy and light. Hardly the den of corporate evil.

Which is kinda the point.

Here and there on the atrium floor are kiosks advertising many of Blue Sun’s myriad products. Cosmetics. Cola. Snacks. Free samples are available. We pass them by, thanks. Once past the areas meant to impress visitors, we ride the gleaming escalators leading underground and the décor changes to something less awe-inspiring and more institutional. Zed gets us through the various biometric checkpoints on her handprint and she passes us the IDP papers—our magic ticket past the obstacles we might encounter in this maze.

Zed: If it doesn’t, you’ll probably want to abort the mission.
Nika: Okay. Good to know.
Zed: You’ll probably want to show this to the first person you meet in there. What this means is you’re carrying information that no one must know. The employees in Human Resources will know they are not to question you.
Nika: All right.
Zed: If you get to a locked door, hold it up to the camera.
Nika: Okay.
Zed: If anyone asks you anything, don’t answer questions. Give orders.

Nika takes the papers. IDP is prominently displayed as is a barcode underneath. We’re doing this op without guns, God help us, and we can use all the advantages we can get. We also have no way to communicate with Zed and Rick once they split off from the rest of us—it would be unwise to use comms in a building where such channels would be monitored. Once we split up we will have to trust everything is going according to plan until we meet up again.

So of course, that’s not exactly what happens.

Zed leaves us with a parting comment to give commands if spoken to and not to answer questions. Looking around, we see there are several colored stripes laid into the floor. Rick and Zed follow one stripe, ostensibly to the surveillance station for Human Resources and we follow another to the Medical Records Facility. Valerie walks along beside us and Joshua’s led in cuffs between us. The cuffs are disabled, but should pass a cursory inspection, and we continue toward our goal.

Zed and Rick make their way to the security station for Human Resources and along he way she asks Rick about our chances.

Zed: Do you think the crew will be able to do this without breaking character?
Rick: We’ll see. Hopefully. It depends on who does the talking.
Zed: I didn’t want to tell them while they were going down there, but an IDP might activate another pair of agents like myself. If that happens we’re going to need to find some way of stopping them or distracting them.
Rick: Okay. Where will the agents be coming from?
Zed: I don’t know. Hopefully they’ll be signaling that they’ll be moving in.
Rick: Okay.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew follow the line to Human Resources. We go through a couple of security points and no one stops us. We don’t even have to show our papers. The guards are just there to keep an eye on traffic going through. No one says anything to us and we don’t have to talk. We reach a door and it whisks open. We find ourselves moving into a very high-tech, non-descript area—there are no identifying marks or signage—and once through the door, we notice something interesting. The light blue line we’re following is disappearing from the floor, as if it activates only in proximity of our party or more likely, our papers. Nika has point, Arden has the rear. Rina has the middle with Valerie and Joshua. Nika starts memorizing our way in, the better to find our way back out in the absence of readily available markings. She picks a wall and starts counting doors. When we make a turn, she finds the corresponding wall and keeps on counting.

It’s not long before something goes sideways. Joshua stops in his tracks in front a door in the hallway. It has no markings on it, nothing to distinguish it from its fellows. Nevertheless, it’s a really familiar door and it pulls Joshua to it.

Joshua: (softly to self) I know this door… I know this door….
Rina: I think we should stay on target.

She makes to hustle him along but Joshua’s already opened the door.

Beyond the door is a service corridor. The smell hits us first. Musty. Obviously disused. It’s dark, lit only be emergency lighting. It’s a jarring contrast to the white and shiny we left behind. The corridor is familiar to Joshua, he’s not sure why or how, and he takes the lead.

Rina clears her throat to alert Nika of the abrupt change in plans. Arden calls Nika’s name. Rina turns and glares at him.

Rina: Every damn heist you gotta start yellin’ her name. Will you shut up?!
Arden: It’s her name.
Rina: We’re on an op, you fiend.

And Joshua keeps on walking. We quickly follow him single file. The walls aren’t perfectly square but slanting on one side as if following the outer geometry of the building. Joshua walks and looks and all the while he’s getting the sense that something’s not….hmm… not right with the place. He’s not sure what. Joshua continues down the hall, despite, and he’s looking around at things and just as clearly recognizing and reacting to things that….aren’t there. Memories of lessons and events he’s had here come back to him—etiquette, learning to use chopsticks, his first date—as do the locations of the lessons. He keeps up a quiet running monologue and we get the gist that this is the Academy that he used to live and work in. It’s creepy, because this is obviously a section of Human Services that hasn’t seen use in maybe a decade, based on the dust covering everything. We ask him how long it’s been since he’s been here. Six months, he says, basically since he joined us.

And then it gets creepier: Joshua says his apartment is right over here and he leads us up to a door. We enter and nothing but an empty room awaits us. There is not furniture but a pallet to one side and a fine coating of dust covers everything but from Joshua’s reaction, it’s as it was when he last saw it.

Joshua: I hate that art.
Arden: What art? There’s no art on the walls.
Joshua: If I take my cooking equipment, would somebody carry it for me since I’m in handcuffs?
Arden: Your cooking equipment?
Joshua: Cooking equipment.
Nika: (that’s enough!) We’re going. Now. Joshua. Come with me. We’re going now.
Joshua: Yes, ma’am. It was nice to see it again. For one more time.
Nika: We’re going now. Let’s go.
Joshua: Yes, ma’am.
Nika: Look at it later. Back on task.

Meanwhile, Rick and Zed arrive at a security area, breeze through it on her ID and they get to the monitoring station. Two guys are there watching the screens and she tells them they’re relieved for the day. Come again? You’re relieved. Uh…you mean we can go? You’re relieved. Hey, let’s go. Wanna go to town? Yeah, man.

The men scramble out of there in response to Zed’s glare. She and Rick take possession of the monitors and watch for the rest of the crew….or trouble.

Zed: Huh. I don’t see your friends on here. That was quick.
Rick: Maybe they got sidetracked.

Maybe we did. Joshua certainly is. He’s still muttering about it being nice to see his apartment again as we lead him out to the hallway. And this triggers a memory of getting manhandled out of there before. Despite the restraints and our hands on his arms, Joshua plants his feet and refuses to go. He starts resisting us, unable to distinguish memory from reality.

Joshua: No, no, no, no. Don’t take me out there. Don’t take me, don’t take me, don’t take me.

Nothing we say snaps him out of it, not a command, not a request, not even a kiss from Rina. In fact, it has the opposite effect—it brings the past even stronger to the fore. Joshua remembers the horrible moment when he Read Adriana when she dumped him and all the anger and despair and hurt comes crashing back. Get away from me, he yells and Joshua shoves Rina against the wall.

So much for that idea.

We try to pin him and get him out of there. He fights back. Nika tries commanding him to stand down. He doesn’t. Our voices translate in his head as the interns and doctors from his past telling him everything’s okay, just relax, everything will be fine. Which he doesn’t believe for a gorram second.

Joshua: It’s not going to be fine, it’s not going to be fine. I’m not leaving again. No.

He fights back even harder despite the handcuffs, using his martial arts knowledge to elude our grasp. Not even a direct entreaty from Rina gets through to him.

Joshua: Dr. Mark, I’m not going. I’ll be fine. I’ll just go back to my room.

He actually turns around and goes deeper into his apartment and starts looking for something, opening drawers and cabinets that aren’t there. Just grabbing empty air. He’s frantically looking, asking where is it, it’s got to be here. Nika attempts to help him and Joshua dissuades her from helping him, it didn’t work out that well the last time someone helped him. No, he’ll find it, he’ll be able to find it without help….It’s somewhere in here.

We’re running out of time. In the end, Rina has to move behind him and knock him out. She draws back her fist, swings, connects and down he goes, cold cocked. We hoist him up between us and get the hell out of there and back on track.

It seems forever before we get back out to the main hallway and get to our first guard station. The guard there sees our approach with a ‘what the hell is this’ expression on his face. It’s an expression that changes once we show him our IDP. He looks, sees what it is and the lightbulb goes on. Then he turns his chair around so he can’t see us and the door beyond the station opens.

Lights overhead flash subtly, as if signaling the end of intermission at the opera, and we walk through the door into an area that’s carpeted in office cubicles. There are people in labcoats looking at computer screens and to a man, they all shield their eyes and turn around to avoid seeing us. Maybe one or two peek through their fingers to see if we’ve gone—oops, no, still there—and turn right around again.

Wow. Zed wasn’t kidding about the efficacy of the IDP. But now that the IDP has been shown, the clock starts ticking. They’ll send people to verify it and we need to have obtained our info and be gone before that happens.

Nika shakes off her surprise and hustles us through. She successfully remembers our pre-planned route to our objective. We enter a hallway lined with shelves holding recorded material and another guard attempts to tell us we can’t be here. The IDP makes him duck and turn away, just like the others. We keep on walking. One more set of doors should get us where we need to go.

It turns out to be something like a morgue, except there are no morgue drawers for bodies. Instead, there are several tables and bins to put personal items into here and there. There is an empty coat rack with four hangers on it. It’s not a large room, maybe 15 feet by 20. At the far end is another door that actually has a sign on it: Forensic Evidence.

We lay Joshua on one of the tables—it’s perfectly sized to hold a body, something we don’t dwell on much—and get busy. There’s a terminal in this room and Arden and Rina start hacking it.

Back at the monitoring station, Rick notices something on the screens out of the corner of his eye and disengages from Zed long enough to take a good look. Sure enough, it looks like the IDP has activated something. A ticker tape scrolls computer-ese gibberish along the bottom of one of the monitors.

Zed: Okay. That’s probably it. (to herself) Think of where the groups are going to be located… If there’s a group in the building, they’ll probably be…human resources…

She pulls up a 3D display showing different sections in different colors. She taps some buttons.

Zed: This should stop it from going anywhere past here, but the IDP alert has definitely gotten through. There’s no general alarm yet.
Rick: Okay, I’ll just keep watching the monitors.
Zed: Do you have a plan for when you… meet us?

Meaning the other Blue Hands.

Rick: For stopping the other agents? Um. No. Not really. Do we have control of all the other emergency services from here? We could have a fake fire alarm and have the fire suppression systems go off?
Zed: We can’t activate the suppression systems here. We can generate alarms. Would alarms stop me from my appointed task? Not unless I thought—it would have to be pretty bad. An alarm would actually get me to go faster, since I would assume somebody set off the alarm to distract me from what I’m doing.

She sighs and thinks some more.

Zed: But that might be… if we had an alarm somewhere and then a…
Rick: Could we have an alarm go off somewhere else and contact the agents and tell them the IDP individuals are now in some location or other where the alarms are going off?
Zed: Possibly. It might work if we tell them it was a false alarm. That might get their attention but I’m not sure how long it will keep them gone. If worse comes to worse, movement by a stranger might be sufficient to get them going, but that is a dangerous distraction.

Rick gets it immediately.

Rick: So the blue gloves prevent you guys from being affected by the sonic device?
Zed: Well, as you can see, it’s more than just the gloves.

And it is. She’s sheathed neck to…however far down…in the blue stuff under her clothes.

Zed: Until someone shows up, we’re not going to know if they’re on to something.

Meanwhile back with the crew, Joshua’s still out like a light, Arden and Rina are hacking into the terminal, and Nika has Valerie peek past the door into the Forensic Evidence room. Valerie looks and comes back that it’s like a closet filled with stuff. Nika tellsher to look for what we came for, then stands guard over Joshua and watches the door out. Joshua starts coming around. He’s feeling the need for the Flomixipan but otherwise is back in his right mind.

Joshua: My head hurts…and I feel like crap…

And he feels something else: … two by two… hands of blue…

Joshua: Nika.
Nika: Yeah?
Joshua: They’re coming for us.
Nika: How long?
Joshua: What do I look like? A watch? I don’t know. They’re close enough that I can feel them. In my head.

Arden looks over his shoulder from the terminal.

Arden: This is coming from the person who saw art on the walls that wasn’t there, remember.
Joshua: What?
Nika: Never mind. They’re doing their thing over there. You and I are doing our thing.
Joshua: (looking around) Um. Where….where am I? Where are we?
Nika: You don’t want to know.
Joshua: I do want to know.
Nika: Can you give me any kind of sense for how far away people usually are when you can feel this?

Back at the monitoring station with Rick and Zed, Rick sees something moving on the screens and rewinds through the video feeds—wait, too far, go back!—and settles on the correct spot. He and Zed see the agents board an elevator, then walk off it into a little café. He pulls back the camera distance a little and sees that the café is in a vast atrium, all sunny and bright. It’s the atrium we walked through upon arriving at Blue Sun HQ and watching a few seconds longer, Rick sees the agents approach the escalators we took down.

We don’t have much time.

Zed: Okay. That’s good. That means they’re going to pass by where we left your friends.
Rick: What should I do?
Zed: Distract them? This is where you have to ask yourself how important your friends are to you. We can get out of here….

Implying leaving us to hang.

Rick: I’ll go distract them.

He grabs a high-tech carbine from the monitoring station and after a good-luck squeeze of Zed’s ass, Rick goes off to find a suitable ambush site for the distraction. He finds his way back to the path we took going in easily thanks to his tracking abilities. He plans to hide and allow the agents to pass him, then come out from cover to shoot one of them in the back of the head and induce the remaining agent to chase him. At that point, Rick can lead the agent away from the rest of the team. Only one problem: there’s nothing to hide behind. Rick only has an intersection of corridors to work with.

This way leads to the escalators and the corridor they empty onto leads straight along, which is the path the agents took. We had taken the left turn and off on the right turn, the corridor descends again to a mini-car internal train system. Each car will hold at most four people. While interesting to know, it’s not exactly what Rick needs right now.

Rick looks around for something more suitable than a corner to hide behind.

Back at the room inside Human Resources, Joshua tries to explain how his senses work.

Joshua: I’ve never really actually felt them. It’s usually line-of-sight, like…
Nika: Okay. (to the others) It’s time. Let’s go.
Joshua: But Blondie did say that no walls and no barriers could stop me from Reading when I’m off the drugs and things and….I’m off the drugs, like… Wow.
Arden: We’ll have to hope Rick and Zed can corral them and slow them down.
Joshua: I’m sure we have a few minutes. What’s in the Forensic Room?
Nika: Oh, c’mon. Let’s go.
Joshua: (a little louder) What’s in the Forensic Room?
Nika: Valerie, whaddya got?

Valerie calls out from the room.

Valerie: I’m working on it.
Nika: We’ve only got a couple more minutes, so hurry.
Rina: Work faster.
Joshua: (to Nika) Can I go look? Please?
Nika: Yeah.

Joshua gets off the table and goes to help Valerie. He sees an evidence room with rows and rows of boxes with bar codes on them. We don’t have a scanner handy so we need to look inside the boxes physically to see what’s inside them.

Valerie: Well, it’s…an odd bunch of collections here. I’m expecting to find the Ark of the Covenant back there somewhere.

Joshua starts flipping box lids up. Nika joins him in the search. Arden and Rina keep on hacking.

Valerie: Interesting.

Valerie hands Joshua a box and he sees a picture of a younger ‘Arden’, or someone who looks a lot like Arden, but a little younger. There is a data chip with the picture and Joshua pockets both. Valerie goes on to a section that has filing cabinets and starts opening them up.

Valerie: Jackpot. I think I’ve found the drugs.

One of the drawers is full of them and Valerie starts rifling through the vials and bottles.

Valerie: If I can find the… Why can’t I just remember the chemical composition of my own creation? (paws through the meds) It’s on the tip of my tongue. I’d recognize it if it were there… but I can’t.
Joshua: They wiped you clean.
Nika: Well enough.
Joshua: Well, no. Yeah. I mean, wouldn’t you? If you were them? I mean, assuming you were evil. Keep flipping through the boxes. I’m not leaving without, I’m not leaving without my records.

We keep searching.

Meanwhile Rick has a restroom to lie in wait for the agents and as he’s peeking out the door, one of the agents passing by notices. Oops! Rick ducks back in as if obeying the IDP, stashes his carbine in the last stall and goes to the closest urinal. He whistles to cover up that he is not, in fact, using it. The two agents enter. Rick turns, zipping his fly, and washes his hands at one of the sinks.

They question him.

Blue Hand: What section do you work in?
Rick: I’m from security.
Blue Hand: Do you know about the IDP?
Rick: No, sir. I was just relieved from duty and was getting ready to go to the city.
Blue Hand: Okay.

And the agents turn and walk out. Rick grabs his carbine and leans it just inside the door and walks out, looking for the agents. They’ve moved on and Rick reaches inside and retrieves the gun. And then continues following

Back in the Forensics Evidence room, we have to input some of Joshua’s biometrics before we can find his files—he’s not listed anywhere under the name Joshua Drake. Valerie is still going through the drugs and having no luck whatsoever, she calls Arden over to help her find what she’s looking for.

Valerie: I can’t find it. It could be right in front of me and I can’t find it.
Arden: (to Rina) You got this?

Meaning the terminal.

Rina: Yeah.

Arden helps Valerie. She tries to explain what she’s looking for but she hasn’t the medical chemical terminology for it and her description is rather like medical chemical charades. It could be like this, but it’s more like that. It’s in this chemical family, but…

Back in the hallways, Rick is stealthily shadowing the agents and when they reach the rail cars, he finds a spot to park himself and aim for that headshot. He braces and sights down the carbine, squeezes the trigger and shoots. Prays those blue thunderoos they’re wearing beneath their clothes aren’t proof against his weapon.

Rick’s shot misses. It’s a coruscating ball of energy that goes right past the target and hits the wall beyond. Lightning arcs and sparks off the light fixture overhead. His cover blown, Rick shoots again, hits his original target, and the fight is on.

The man Rick has shot doesn’t fall. His blue body armor saves him from a lethal shot. Rick falls back and shoots again, hits his target and the man goes down. The second Blue Hands agent advances for Rick, pulling out wand device from his pocket. Rick shoots at the agent, misses, winks at him, and falls back down the corridor for the escalators going up. He hits the treads up the escalator and keeps on going, climbing it as he is carried by it. The Blue Hands agent is still a bit down the corridor at this point, running to catch up, but Rick gains the atrium level first. Rick steps off the elevator and looks for a place to hide and shoot the agent in ambush. There are lots more pedestrians around and Rick will have to shoot carefully to avoid hitting a civilian.

Rick conceals the carbine under his jacket, tight, and finds a spot to hide with a good line of sight for the escalator. The Blue Hands agent steps off the escalator and sweeps the room with a searching gaze. Rick decides to work his way through the atrium to get to a spot less crowded with pedestrians. And as he goes, he learns a few things.

The HQ building is a huge building, triangular and wedge shaped, surrounded by a huge lake. There is a bridge leading from the building across the lake to the far shore, where the city streets of Memphis begin. A force field wall shuts the city off at the lake’s edge. Going out that way is not an option.

Rick decides to circle round to the escalators down again, thence to join the crew and evac out on the shuttle we’ve parked on the roof. Rick decides to avoid people and if asked, he’ll say it’s official security business and they don’t need to be concerned with it.

Back at the Forensics Evidence room, Rina is still downloading the files we came for. We’re loading, loading, loading….loading….and we’re done! Rina pulls the thumb drive off the terminal and hands it to Joshua on the assumption that no one will be searching a dead body if we get stopped by security. Arden finds a generic version of Flomixipan in the mess of pharmaceuticals we’re pawing through and injects him with a dose. Valerie is still going through the meds, trying to find what she’s looking for. They realize they haven’t enough time to inspect each item and read its label and instead they end up dumping the contents of the box into a bag scrounged from the room’s contents. We’ll take it with us in Valerie’s body bag and sort it out later. And we’re out of time. We have to go. We have the files on Valerie and Joshua saved to a thumb drive. We have drugs with the Carter cure amongst them somewhere. It’s time to zip Joshua and Valerie into the body bags.

And so we do. Valerie and Joshua get zipped into body bags and the body bags go on a gurney. The IDP works its magic and makes people look the other way when they see us coming. No one tries to talk to us or stop us.

Until we run into one of the Blue Hands. We leave the Human Resources section and approach the point where we parted company with Rick and Zed. And there, picking himself up off the floor is the Blue Hands agent Rick shot with the carbine. He sees us and orders us to stop. He questions us and Nika brazens it out.

Blue Hand: What do you got there?
Nika: Business.
Blue Hand: Why do you have it out here?
Nika: I have my orders.

Blue Hands stares at her for a second and then over at us. And the body bags.

Blue Hand: So those bodies have been decontaminated?
Arden: Yes.
Blue Hand: I’m going to need to see your identification.
Nika: If you have any questions, Agent Zed is the agent in command.
Blue Hand: I need your identification. I see that IDP order, thank you. If the bodies have been decontaminated, then the protocol is over. If it isn’t over, in which case, I’ll clean up.

Arden steps away from the gurney and does the old pocket macarena and shows him something like an ID. Blue Hands is not fooled and out comes the sonic weapon. It whines to life, our ears start to hurt and our noses start to bleed.

Nika rushes him and starts throwing punches. We all follow suit. Rina slams the gurney into the agent. Valerie slams into the agent as well, body bag and all. Joshua hears the sonics and works his way out of the bag. Joshua tries to use Aikido on the agent but is unsuccessful. Arden pulls the fire extinguisher off the wall, setting off the fire alarm, and slams the agent with it. Woo! Go, Arden! Nika yells ‘Get him!’ and rushes the agent. Arden and Joshua follow suit and pin the agent against the wall. Arden hits the agent with the extinguisher again.

The agent falls and the sonic weapon shuts down. Joshua slides unconscious to the floor, overcome by the sonic beating and we hoist him to the gurney. Rina picks the sonic weapon up to keep it from being used on us again. And we get the hell out of there.

Elsewhere in the building, Rick is circling back and avoiding the other Blue Hand agent. He’s almost done circling when he hears fire alarms going off. Yup. That’s our crew, getting into trouble again. What to do? Rick decides to watch the crew’s back against reinforcements. There is still a Blue Hand agent at large and one agent is more than enough to cause a lot of damage. Rick is in a good position to hide and surveil the escalator for the other agent and sure enough, he spies the man going for them.

Rick hasn’t a good shot at the man, his target being more than medium range but a little extra time aiming should help. Rick lines up his shot, waits for the right moment….and squeezes the trigger.


And the shot hits the agent square. Scratch one Blue Hands agent. Rick scrambles up and runs to the escalator to get to Zed and gather the crew. And that’s where our paths cross again. He meets us on the up escalator as he’s riding the one going down.

Rick: Get to the ship. I’m going to go get what’s-her-face.

Not to give Zed’s name away or anything.

We agree and keep on going. Rick goes to the monitoring station and on approach sees Zed talking to a man in a suit. Rick doesn’t stop but heads for the nearest exit. Nice try, but it doesn’t work.

Suit: Who are you?
Rick: There’s a fire alarm going off in the building.
Suit: (heavily) Really?
Rick: We need to get security down there.
Suit: You should exit the building in a safe and orderly fashion.
Rick: Okay.

Rick obeys and on the way out glances at Zed, looking for any cue from her. Like, “This will be over soon” or “I need you to kill this guy”. She has steady calm, however, and her expression gives nothing away. Zed backs up the Suit’s order and Rick keeps on going, playing a good little cog in the Blue Sun machine. Albeit a cog carrying a bad-assed gun.

Rick ditches it in the men’s room on the way out. Too conspicuous.

And speaking of being conspicuous, so are we. We’re bloodied and shaky due to the sonic weapon’s effects and blood being what it is, it’s bound to attract attention. Arden administers First Aid to Joshua, enough to get him stumbling to his feet. We unzip Valerie from her bag and get her upright. While we’re waiting for the elevator, Rick joins us. Then Zed catches up with us and takes charge of the crew, clearly playing leader should anyone actually inquire. There’s a tense moment when we’re all waiting for the carousel to revolve and bring our shuttle down.

We casually board and take off, dripping blood onto the deck.

Zed: Well… If things go half this well on Colchester, it will be worth it.

Arden starts laughing and sinks to the deck. At the yoke, Nika chimes in.

Nika: Oh, my God….
Zed: Unfortunately, your antics were caught on surveillance.
Nika: Of course they were.
Zed: I tried to run a thing to erase them but that’s when I was met by one of my superiors. So unfortunately I was unable to remove what I started on there. But it’s not going to be an effective block, so…they’ll probably be able to trace it and find out that someone in the security room had done that. So I’m not sure what that means for my cover.
Rick: So that means you’ll never go back to Blue Sun.
Rina: Personally, I think it means we’re fucked.
Zed: Here’s the thing: unless we’re successful, then yeah, we’re humped. There’s no… there’s no coming back.
Rina: (whispers) I’ve been there, done that before.
Zed: Unless …we went.


Rina: I say we go.
Joshua: (from the rear of the shuttle) No pressure…
Nika: What did that guy say in that movie? “I always wanted to fight a desperate battle against impossible odds.”
Arden: Good luck with that.
Joshua: I need to watch that movie.

No one chases our shuttle or attempts to shoot us down. We dock with our waiting prison shuttle unmolested by the law or Blue Sun. Nika puts us on a heading out of Osiris airspace and turns us for Londinium.

During the ride, we compare notes on how we did. Rick somewhat scathingly asks if we could maybe come up with an exit strategy that involves a little less collateral damage next time. And oh, did we even think to search the evidence room for weapons or ID badges we could use to effect our escape? Um, no, although Rina remarks she’s getting used to working as a walking wounded. Some competitive ribbing ensues.

We examine the intel we’ve smuggled out. Arden is able to open up the files we downloaded about him and looking over the data we find it’s one long report of his medical student days on Osiris. Every class, every activity, every night out… everything he’d done is reported in detail. At the end of the report we find this chilling comment: Report taken off suspected insurgent. The insurgent, Deborah Seymour, was sent to surgical reeducation.

Deborah Seymour is Reverend Jim’s daughter. Deborah, who became Queenie on Muir.

So she was observing Arden? Why? By whom? An insurgent agent. An agent? For an insurgency? What insurgency? All we can tell is the report was pulled together from her notebooks after she was discovered and captured and sent off for ‘surgical reeducation’.

We try reading the chip on Joshua next and find that we don’t have the right data reader required. Reading the data will have to wait until we get to Colchester. To give us time to heal up from our wounds, we make a 1 day flight last for 4. During that long flight, Rick continues to yank our chains over our performance in comparison to his and tempers get a little hair-trigger. Nika and Arden both threaten Rick with bodily harm if he keeps it up. Rina asks Zed to hump the naturalist blind so as to shut him up—we won’t watch, honest.

We fill Joshua in on what happened when he had his mental break. He doesn’t remember much and what he does remember seems like the dreams he’s been suffering from med withdrawal. Those dreams being disturbing enough, he hasn’t shared them with any of the crew and having perceived this incident as a dream, he hadn’t thought it was real. Until we told him. Great. And Rick isn’t making the situation any more comfortable for Joshua by remarking the next time we’re on an op, perhaps we should leave Joshua off to the side somewhere safe if he ever has an episode like this again, so as not to be a danger to the crew or to himself.

Arden snarks back that the next time we go on an op, we’ll just have Rick go in alone. Let him do all the work, since he’s so self-evidently awesome. It’s a jab, but it’s a teense off the mark, since Rick isn’t actually sniping at us as crew. The character of Rick’s comments seem weighted toward Nika needing to brush up on her Captaincy skills. She groks to it and tells Rick if he wants the Captain’s chair, he should have at.

We’re all wounded and hurting, save Rick, and we decide to proceed slowly to Londinium, stretching the one-day voyage to four so we can heal up. Thus decided, Nika plots the course and adjusts the speed. We lick our wounds and gather our strength for the next step—getting Summer’s Gift back from the Feds.

Go back to: Libertas | Go forward to Bait
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