Episode 317: Yard Dogs

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Air Date: 27 Apr 2010
Present: Maer, Terri, Andy, Bobby, and Tony

Saturday, 25 Jan 2521
Impound Yard, Westminstershire
Londinium, White Sun (Bai Hu) system
Sometime after dark

We’re at the impound yard and Rick goes in to do a little recon. He walks up to the front office building and chats with the lobby desk attendant for a few minutes, noting the placement of the counter and the cameras in the room. Most of the personnel are busy relocating the goods as instructed by the Exchequer. Rick sees the counter is one long run nearly bisecting the room, with swinging doors at either end. Behind the counter are the offices and a hallway leading deeper into the building. Somewhere back there is the evidence locker. He thanks the man and walks out.

He tells us what he’s seen and Arden and Joshua go in next to suss out the alarm systems and the guard numbers. Arden inquires how he might find something and claim it from impound and he’s directed by the attendant to a terminal off to the side. Punch in the date and claim number into the search engine, etc. etc. Arden thanks him and a few minutes later calls out he has a problem, could he get some help, please? The attendant leaves the counter and Joshua strikes, putting the man in a sleeper hold as Arden takes out the main camera with a lobby rope stanchion. The other camera is pointing in the wrong direction and they leave it alone for the nonce.

They give us the high sign and Rick comes back, goes deeper into the building. When he comes across the lone guard in the rear office area, sorting keys to the various vehicles in the yard, and Rick claims he’s looking for the bathroom. He knocks out the guard while in the front lobby Joshua strips the desk attendant of his uniform and dons it. He drags the man out of sight behind the counter and takes his place, looking like a regular employee. Meanwhile, Rina’s at the smashed camera ‘repairing it’.

Nika joins Rick in the back area and followed by Ellis, Lazlo’s man, they manage to find the evidence locker. It’s secured by a card swipe and a biolock. Damn. They drag the unconscious back-office guard to the locker door and haul his arm up and slap his palm against the lock, swipe his card through the reader.

The lock pops open and we’re in. Rick and Nika stash the unconscious guard in the washroom. A short run of stairs lies beyond the locker door and Rick and Ellis descend them into the locker.

In the evidence locker, there are all manner of things that have been impounded. Drugs, guns, luxury items, odds and ends from various places and situations. There are boxes with labels. It’s like a larcenous Ali Baba’s cave of wonders.

There is a small Cortex box in the corner, probably where the catalogue of the locker contents is found. Rick sends Ellis out to call Lazlo that we’re in. Ellis goes back outside.

Shots ring out. Ellis has killed a guard. In the lobby, Joshua, Arden and Rina hear the shot. In the evidence locker, Nika swears and runs up the stairs to investigate. She sees Ellis standing in the corridor holding a smoking gun over a guard’s body. No witnesses, no crime, Ellis says. Big stinking pile of monkey feces! swears Nika in Chinese. Nika goes to the lobby and tells Rina to keep an eye out for anyone coming and then goes back down to help Ellis hide the body the washroom. Nika pauses to rinse the worst of the blood from her hands and keeps on going, cursing the while under her breath.

Great. The clock is ticking now and Rick starts looking for money and/or interesting weapons. Rick gets the gun locker open. On pull-out shelves are pistols and on larger racks are the rifles and big guns. All the weapons are somewhat non-standard. All the weapons are secured by plastic zip ties to the racks. He looks for grenades. There are none. Rick sniks his knife through the ties on a couple of nice-looking pistols and tucks them into his belt.

In a glass-fronted storage cabinet, he sees a bank of drawers or mailboxes. The cabinet is locked with a biolock and Rick has to haul the unconscious guard over to borrow his hand again. Pop goes the lock and Rick opens the cabinet up. In the draws and boxes he finds prong-flapped manila envelopes containing Alliance credit notes. These are electronically tracked and not of much use to us in the BOZ. Even so, the tracking angle would work to our disadvantage only where the tracking scanners are in place. That rules out practically everywhere in the Core from corner store to spaceport checkpoints, but further out toward the Rim where the scanners are less prevalent or even non-existent, they may be of use. He pockets a couple of the envelopes—not too many. He’s looking to get us gas money, not to make us rich. Two hundred credits lie in one envelope and he hadn’t time to count the amount in the other.. Rick searches on and finds a lockbox with ten platinum coins. Coinage is not legal tender in the Core but accepted everywhere outside it, so that goes into Rick’s pocket with the envelopes.

Outside the locker, Nika and Rina and Ellis are nervously expecting the cops to arrive, attracted by the gunshot. No one shows. We relax just a touch, realizing the noise of the yard activity outside has masked the shot. Even so… Nika asks Ellis if Lazlo and his men are coming. Yeah, Ellis says. They’re on their way. Well, they better get here quick, because with that gunshot we don’t have much time. Well, says Ellis, what was I supposed to do. He was here. He spotted us. Nika throws him a sour look. You could’a just hit him.

Down in the locker, Rick trusses the unconscious guard up with the zip ties and pulling off the man’s shoes, gags him with one of his socks. On Nika’s suggestion, he grabs some more zip ties, gathers up the box with the electronics, checks the money and the pistols are secure on his person, and leaves. Something catches his eye on the way out, however.

There’s a wall-mounted cage filled with electronic equipment and Rick tackles that one next. It’s also locked but this time it’s a simple padlock. Rick merely takes a sturdy rifle and butt-strokes it off the hasp. After that, it’s merely a matter of appropriating a cardboard box from the many in the room and filling it with whatever looks interesting from the cage. Among the thing things he takes is something called an ‘enabler’: plugged into a databook it allows the user to hack into computers via remote. Another item is something called a ‘babbler’: an electronics countermeasure device that can be used to cover a ship’s nav signature. Both devices, needless to say, are highly illegal but awfully useful.

Rick hauls out of the locker.

Meanwhile, out in the impound yard, three crappy-looking vans pull up to the gate. Arden’s fully hacked into the system now now and keys them in. The gate swings open, the vans drive up. Their doors pop open and people start hopping out. Arden warns us the fireworks are about to commence. Looks like Lazlo’s goon squad has arrived.

Only it’s not Lazlo’s gang but a rival one.

Fireworks, indeed.

That’s when we make for the loading dock at the rear of the building—we can slip around the corner of the building for the Gift, parked off to the side. We round the corner and see that there’s a fight in progress out front: Lazlo’s gang has caught up with the rivals and like jackals over a carcass, they’re duking it out for their share of the spoils. Curses and fists and bullets are flying.

We dash from the building and duck behind a bank of parked hovercars, their chassis a metal wall between us and the altercation out front. Great. Now what? Nika’s of the opinion that Ellis called in the rival gang, though we’ve got no proof. The hell with it, the more bloodthirsty amongst us say. We’ve got what we came for, or nearly have it. Why not let the goons out front kill themselves and let God sort them out?

The Gift sits waiting for us. Her airlock stairs are retracted and the nearest hatch is about 10 feet off the ground. However, there are mobile boarding stairs stowed near the loading dock and Nika and Joshua run for them as Rina lays down covering fire. They push the stairs to the airlock. Joshua gets winged in the right shoulder by a stray shot from the battle out front.

Now of course this gets the attention of the rival gang and they start gunning for us. Arden and Rina start gunning right back.

Nika gets to the airlock and the door won’t open. She yells for Arden, our resident hacker, to get his butt up here and get the door open. She takes a hit as she dives down the stairs. Rick jumps up from cover yelling and pointing behind the gangs, the cops are here! And he throws his knife, planting it into a gang member, and Rick yells out that his knife is poi-oiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-sonnnnnnnnned!

All gloves are off as we trade bullets and epithets across the yard, while above Arden figures out how to get our airlock door open. And just in time, too, because the Federal Marshals arrive on the distinctive whine of their air skiffs. They hail us over loudspeaker to lay down arms and raise our hands.

Oh hell no. We run up the stairs and get inside the Gift instead. Rina races for the engine room and Nika runs for the bridge. Arden and Joshua go where they can be the most help and Rick mans the airlock, grabs a gun and starts prepping a story to delay the law on our doorstep. We have no way of locking the outer door against the Marshals but our inner airlock door is still intact and operational. And when Nika and Rina enter their respective domains, they find out that very little else on our girl has been left intact and operational. At least for purposes of take off. Flight and steering functions on the bridge have been disconnected and in the engine room our thrusters have been tampered with as if someone tried to take those auxiliary thrusters off-line and stopped halfway due to the difficulty.

There’s a scramble to hook up the barest minimum to get our ship spun up to burn atmo and we do it in record time. Nika gets the maneuvering systems plugged in, gets steering back. Cursing all the way, but she gets them back.

The Marshals start knocking on our door and Rick fakes them out while locking the inner airlock door. Help, he mouths, as if he can’t shout through the glass. I can’t get the door unlocked. We’re stuck in here! We’re trapped! Get us the fuck out! Rick mimes frantically trying to open the door and the Marshals buy it, hook, line and sinker. The Marshals nod and indicate they understand and Rick mimes a response: What? I can’t hear you!

Joshua enters the engine room to tell Rina we’re going to need countermeasures to dodge the Air Traffic Control and since he was custodian of the box of electronics once aboard he’s pulled the babbler out of the box and gives it to her. She’s up to her neck in quick-and-dirty repairs to get us flying and he lends a hand. It takes a few minutes before she’s free to install the babbler. She figures out how to plug it in and turn it on.


Anyone tracking us is going to get nothing off our signature. Under the babbler’s cover, we fly to the LaGrange point where we left Zed and Valerie and our prison shuttle. We make it to our rendezvous, link the Gift to the prison shuttle and reunite with Zed and Valerie.

Sunday, 26 Jan and Monday, 27 Jan 2521
La Grange Point, Londinium

We spend the next two days putting things to rights, reinstalling all those systems that got yanked, inventorying all those things that got confiscated. All our food and our cooking equipment—pots and pans, knives and cutlery, dishes and tableware—all gone. All the meds and pharmaceuticals in med bay got confiscated. Rina checks the atmo vent where she’s stashed Joshua’s emergency supply of Flomoxipan and discovers the Feds had missed them. She gives the supply to Joshua, grateful she’d had the foresight to purchase them in the first place.

Valerie and Zed have our ship’s shuttle painted up to look like an official Fed shuttle for our Colchester op. We should be able to use it to fly to the Data Facility. There are comet buoys deployed to warn of incoming comets and their radar/alarm net will provide us a sensor shadow to hide the Gift when we leave in the shuttle.

Sometime during the two days as we take stock and prepare for the op, Valerie takes Joshua aside for a private talk and says she’s worried about being a liability. She confesses to a two-day blackout when we were on Londinium, when we were off framing the Exchequer. Joshua says she’s probably no more a liability than he is. Valerie isn’t so sure. Another thing that’s odd: while part of Valerie thinks it’s a bad idea, another part of her is excited to be a part of this mission. Joshua empathises with her and as soon as he can after he takes his leave of Valerie he tells Nika of their conversation. Nika tells Rick and everyone agrees to stay hush about it to Valerie.

By the end of the two days, the shuttle’s fully painted with a false ID on the hull. We have the weapons Rick managed to take out of the weapons locker—all of two pistols. And we have the despooling worm.

Zed draws Rick aside after Joshua tells us of Valerie and she verifies that Valerie did indeed black out for two days. Furthermore, Zed says Valerie tried to hack into the data we got out of Blue Sun HQ. Zed also warns that Valerie’s involvement with Blue Sun goes back further than we originally thought—she was part of the development process for Paxilon. Since before the death of Miranda.

So what caused the black out? Zed doesn’t know, but said Valerie tried to use the comms to call someone. She stopped the woman but isn’t sure if she stopped them in time. More and more it seems thatValerie’s fears are not unfounded and as the time for the Colchester Op approaches, we are uncertain if she really will be aliability. And if that isn’t enough, Zed remarks that our escape from the impound yard seemed really too easy to be true. Were we lucky? Or were we allowed to escape? If so, why and by whom?

Until we get to Colchester, there’s no way of knowing. All we can do is keep going forward, plan for the worst, hope for the best, and as always, keep our options open.

Go back to: Bait | Go forward to Colchester Endgame, Part One
Back to Season One: Foundations
Back to Season Two: Hitting Our Stride
Back to Season Three: Things Fall Apart