Episode 319: Colchester Endgame, Part Two

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Air date: 18 May 2010
Present: Maer, Terri, Andy, Bobby, and Tony

Tuesday, 28 Jan 2521
Colchester, Londinium
White Sun (Bai Hu) system
1330 hrs, local time

We’re on the catwalks at the top of the vast Library chamber, and aerials and broadcast equipment hang from above like manmade stalactites. Eyeballing them critically, we can see that the Cortex downage has affected even this facility and there is evidence that a lot of the above has been jerry-rigged and hack-arounded. All the easier for us to do a little modification ourselves. Namely, getting into a broadcast tower and getting our intel on Falkan broadcast to the ’Verse.

We’re going to call it the Colchester Wave.

Assuming we can get to it. There is a rectilinear maze of catwalks threading through the hanging garden of modules, towers and cabling and there is also a vast amount of open space for the unwary to fall through. It’s a long drop to the liquid nitrogen below us and a chilly welcome once we hit it. Luckily for us the catwalks have guard rails and we hustle toward a broadcast tower that we’ve chosen as our target.

Rina hears the humming buzz of the attack drones first and at first glance they look like nothing more than metal beachballs floating toward us. We know better, however, and our party splits into two groups along two different catwalks. It’s divide and conquer and the drones get first crack. A volley of flechette rounds shred the air and everyone ducks. Off to the side is the group that has Rina, Joshua, and Rick (carrying unconscious Zelle). More toward the center are Nika, Valerie, and Arden. Rick puts Zelle on the catwalk, draws his pistol and takes aim. Rina draws and aims too. Joshua is told to take cover—what meager cover there is afforded by the railing—and when they’ve got a bead, they fire. Rick misses his target, Rina hits hers and one of the drones falls into the fog of nitro below.

Arden snaps off his shot, choosing burst fire for an increased chance of hitting his target and misses. His assault rifle jams and he has to take cover to unjam it. Nika makes the decision to regroup and telling her party to run, she fires a burst and manages to score the drone twice.

She must have hit something critical, because it moves over her group and explodes. The railing is blasted and Valerie, knocked unconscious, sketches a slow-motion topple over the edge. Arden twists and extends in an amazing display of athletics and catches her at the last possible second, wrenching her back to safety. He picks her up and carries her.

The rest of the way to the broadcast tower is uneventful but we know that the reinforcements are coming. We check it out. The tower is like a giant cone with its apex pointing down toward the nitro and it’s easily forty feet long. A catwalk runs off ours and around the tower’s circumference, allowing access to the top portion of the tower. Peering over the railing we see there are two more circumferential catwalks halfway down and toward the bottom. The very tip of the tower is lost in a jumble of cabling and aerials and other things less identifiable. A door opens onto each catwalk and it quickly becomes apparent that we must either take the time to hack open the door on our catwalk and descend through the interior of the tower—alerting security that the tower has been breached—or we can rappel down the outside of the tower to the section we need to hack into for our broadcast.

Security has already been alerted to our presence if not our exact location and our breather masks are running out of air. Zelle is coming around and we wake her up, asking her what the best plan of attack would be for breaching the tower. She tells us breaking into the tower would offer us cover from the flechette drones, but rappelling down the outside would be faster—if not more dangerous. There is nothing to stop us from plummeting to our deaths by liquid nitro should we lose our grip on the ropes.

Rick and Rina elect to rappel and Nika, Arden, and Joshua agree to hold the fort on the tower’s top catwalk. Like Team Horatius at the bridge, this is the only connection point the tower has with the other catwalks and anyone coming for us, unless they come floating on a drone, would have to approach by foot via the catwalk that brought us here. If we play our cards right, we’ll be in and out before they find us. If not, the natural bottleneck will give Nika and her team the advantage. Valerie revives and they press her into watch duty along with Zelle.

Rick and Rina reach the level they need and Rina starts her hack. It’s not easy. She has to do it one-handed, her other hand holding on for dear life to her rope, and as her luck would typically have it, she fumbles and fries the data tab connector. The data tab, however, was not in the device at the time and there is still a chance to make the broadcast. Rick and Rina will just have to get to the nearest tower catwalk and break inside and make the broadcast from there.

Rick is more familiar playing Tarzan and swings onto the catwalk easily. Rina’s not as accomplished and ends up slipping nearly the entire length of her rope before she can arrest her slide. She comes to a stop practically even with the bottom point of the tower. It’s a long climb to the middle catwalk, but she wraps her legs around that rope, grips it in her boots and start hand-over-handing it back to Rick.

Meanwhile, the others are keeping an eye peeled for our adversaries and it isn’t too long before Valerie spots them quartering the chamber via catwalk. Nika’s group make themselves small against the cables and modules that adorn the outside of the tower, and at the far side of the catwalk’s circular run is a pile of junked equipment and debris interrupting the catwalk run. If need be, the team could take cover behind that.

It’s not long before Nika her team are spotted and they start taking fire. It’s a pair of Blue Hands agents. Beam weapons are used and Joshua’s hit first. Nika sights along the beam trajectory and gets a bead on the shooters’ position. She fires a burst round at them but fails to score any hits. The shooters split up to flank us. Nika shoots for one of them and she takes a shot across the chest, the beam cutting right through clothing to graze her skin. It burns like the proverbial bitch, but it’s not debilitating and she fights on.

Joshua ducks around the curve of the tower, using its bulk for cover, and catches up with Zelle hunkered down next to the debris pile. Her arm is a shredded mess and she’s fiddling with the bomb device one-handed. Wires stick out of it.

Joshua: You could have told us they’d be firing at us.

Zelle works on.

Nika’s taken enough fire to go unconscious. Arden shoots a round of burst fire and scores a hit. He makes his way to her and starts administering first aid.

Meanwhile down below, Rina manages to climb level with the lowest of the tower catwalks and Rick swings her onto it. The door to that level is locked. She gets to work on it.

Above in the holding action, the others finally remember that their assault rifles come equipped with grenade launchers. Arden figures out how to use his launcher. Joshua leaves his cover to find Valerie helping Nika, who’s reviving. More fire is exchanged, beam weapons and grenades. Arden’s grenades take out the adversary’s position and when the smoke clears we see one of the two hanging by a single hand from the catwalk. Arden shoots the man again. The Blue Hand agent falls into the liquid nitrogen below.

A sudden panicky shortness of breath grips Joshua, with a flashing series of mental images that blue hands touching him everywhere. He doesn’t think it’s Zelle, but he does think the Blue Hands are close.

Joshua: (low, anxious) I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. They’re coming. He’s coming…. We should get out of here… Out of the way…
Nika: What?
Joshua: Someone’s coming.

Not only is trouble coming, it’s coming down from the one ladder off the tower that leads up to the surface, to the Ministry building itself. There’s no going that way. The team quickly agrees going down to the next level to join Rick and Rina might be the best option. Zelle is staying behind, one-handedly swapping out the power pack on the bomb. There’s a ladder over the side going down one level and Arden and Nika lay down covering fire to give Joshua a chance to use it. Valerie approaches Arden around the curve of the tower and she’s got an odd look on her face.

Arden:(Hinked!) Valerie, what are you doing?

There is no reaction from his former lover and it looks like she might have been triggered again. Arden fires a warning shot over her head. The bullet ricochets off the metal of the tower and Valerie drops back. Arden runs forward, afraid that he’s actually shot her.

Something drops down onto the catwalk from above and Arden turns to see who it is. It’s the third Blue Hand agent Joshua’s warned them about. The Blue Hand agent has his sonic weapon out and it is screaming. Arden yelps and falls back. Valerie likewise falls back and then falls unconscious, succumbing to the combination of the sonics and her wounds. Arden jams the barrel of his rifle in the Blue Hand agent’s gut and shoots a burst point blank into him. The bullets bounce right off the agent’s armor.

Nika comes around the curve to investigate the screaming and Arden’s yelping. She shoots the agent with a burst and his armor just soaks the damage. The sonic weapon screams on and Arden and Nika start taking on damage from it.

Down below, Rina and Rick get their door open and look inside. The tower is hollow, rising all the way to the top catwalk above and plummeting past the bottom catwalk below. The interior is outfitted with ladders and equipment and cables—rather like it is outside. What Rina needs is a terminal to hack and plug the data tab into. There’s one on the middle level above and she and Rick make for it.

Before they can move, they start taking fire from the inside. Three Fed Security grunts are on the topmost catwalk and for them it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. However, these particular fish are packing. Rick unslings his rifle and fires a grenade round right over their heads.

Rick: Pūjiē! (Cantonese for “F* you!”)

The grenade goes off. Boom! One of the Feds loses his nerve and scrambles out of there. The other two stand fast.

On the top catwalk outside, Arden shoots the Blue Hand agent again and this time, finally, the agent goes down on his knees. The sonic weapon falls from his hand and it goes silent.

Blue Sun Agent: (rasping) You’re not going to make it. There’s no way out of here… the exits are covered. We know how you got in here. It’s hopeless.

Arden stalks right over to the man and shoots him point blank—no pause, no mercy.

Arden: (to the agent) I’m sorry. I’m a little stressed at the moment.

Nika sees all of this with wide-eyed, slack-jawed shock: Arden has never been so bloodthirsty. Ever.

She goes back to rejoin Zelle and stumbles across Valerie. The other woman is in terrible shape. Nika hollers for Arden and he starts working on Valerie to save her. Joshua hears the commotion and starts back up the ladder.

Nika: You didn’t kick the body over the edge, did you?
Arden: (working) No.
Nika: Just askin’…

Valerie’s wounded badly. Arden flashes back to an incident when he was an intern and the ER was flooded by a security patrol ambushed by rogue Browncoats. Broken bodies bleeding out everywhere and not enough hands to stop the gaps, or blood to replace what was spilled. As he did then, Arden does now. He narrows his focus and shuts out the noise, the chaos, the fear of failure, the fact his ex-girlfriend is dying, letting his eyes and hands become the medium for his medical knowledge, his will to save Valerie’s life.

Down below, Rick runs inside the tower and yells at the remaining Feds

Rick: Throw down your weapons or I’m firing another grenade!

Guns rain down. The Feds run. There’s a terminal on Rick’s level and Rina scrambles inside and gets to work on it. It’s not a fancy terminal, used mostly to monitor data flow. It’s enough to get the job done. Rick guards Rina’s back while she hacks.

Outside and above, Nika checks the approaches to our catwalk against further ambush and finds them clear for the nonce. Arden works desparately to save Valerie but she’s fast slipping away. She dies within minutes. Joshua gains the catwalk and rejoins Zelle. She’s standing again and she tells him as he comes up:

Zelle: Make sure they don’t dump his body. Take his gloves.

When Joshua doesn’t move fast enough, Zelle barks.

Zelle: Dong ma? Get his gloves!

Joshua scrambles at the order, climbing over the debris pile to the Blue Hands agent lying dead on the other side of the catwalk’s debris pile. He gets those gloves off. Nika, meanwhile, spots the movement of troops on the catwalks and they’re advancing on our position.

Inside the tower, Rina’s hacked all the way in and she plugs the data tab in. Rick sees the terminal is rigged with a camera and plants himself in front of it. Rina steps out of the camera’s field of view—she’d just as soon not have her face broadcast to the entire ’Verse, thank you very much. Rick, meanwhile, is no stranger to the camera and he uses his showmanship to deliver a stirring speech as the data is broadcast.

What you are watching shows a plot between MP Falkan and Blue Sun Corporation to kill the PM Holbrook. Utilizing implanted wetware technology they were able to program Valerie Sampson to commit this crime and fabricated the evidence to pin it on the independents in the Blue Sun system:

This is just another example of the Alliance and Blue Sun manipulating other and deceiving the people of the verse. Blue Sun and the Alliance have been using brain implants along with brainwashing techniques to control people’s actions. Utilizing genetic manipulation, brain surgery and drugs Blue Sun and The Alliances have been on a quest to make a “better” person, resulting in the catastrophe of Miranda and many other horrors. All the while trying to pin there corrupt action on the Independence Movement. The Independents only wishes to separate themselves from the corruption that runs rampant through the Alliance.

It is time for the people of the verse to show the Alliance and Blue Sun Corporation that we are not ROBOTS! It is time to rise up and finally bring in real reform! It is time for all members of Parliament to be removed and to hold new elections!

This time we stand up as one and bring about real change. Removing this corruption and limiting the power of the bloated corporations, so there will be no more conspiracies and no more Mirandas!

Mission accomplished.

Job done.

Well, except for the escaping. We’re still working on that one.

We all regroup inside the tower. As Arden raids the tower’s first aid kits for supplies, Rina pockets the data tab and then gets busy hacking into the Center’s comms. Listening in on the chatter, she finds out that there’s no going back the way we came in. Our shuttle’s been discovered, our path up the recycling chute retraced, and the hole Rina had cut into the Library chamber found. There is a DO NOT APPROACH order on Colchester’s airspace and of the Data Ministry building itself, all the entrances and exits have been sealed. However, there is an unlabeled craft waiting in the Library’s atrium topside. Rina hacks up floor plan of the building above us and announces she’s found us a potential ride. We’ll have to hoof it to make it. We can use the ladder up to the actual Ministry building above us, in amongst the mess of cabling, towers and catwalks overhead.

Joshua: It’s a Blue Sun ride, right?
Rina: Yeah, and they’ve got clearance to fly out of here.
Joshua: And we’ve at least one Blue Sun agent.

Meaning Zelle.

And the planning ensues, with pros and cons flying fast, gambits proposed and disposed. Nika gives it a minute and then speaks up.

Nika: We have a Blue Sun agent on the premisis. We have a pair of a Blue Sun agent’s gloves in the hands of one of our own members. You know, simple is always better. Why not let our Blue Sun agents take us into their custody?
Rina: And fly outa here.
Arden: Sounds possible.
Rina: I surrender. (puts hands up)
Rick: What do you think of that plan, Zelle?
Zelle: Well…there’s just one problem and that’s I’m going to need to wire this directly into the power systems feeding the data vault. Because the power supply got shot, probably when I got hit by the degausser. However...

And here she pulls off her remaining Blue Glove and hands it out to Nika and Rina.

Zelle: If you’d like to try, you can help me get down there and we can set it up, and we can meet you at the ship.
Rick: All right.
Rina: I’ll go.
Nika: Then you’re going to need this.

Nika hands Zelle back her glove. Zelle refuses it

Zelle: No, no. You guys get the ship. Secure it. We’ll meet you up there.
Nika: You’re still going to need to get through that obstacle course to get there.
Rick: You guys may have to take care of some of that on the way anyway.
Zelle: We’re figuring that’s your job, to clear the area.
Joshua: Yep. Yeah.
Zelle: Get the ship ready. Make sure nobody else is in there. I don’t know if they’ve sealed it off. The hope is that once we activate this thing they won’t be able to trace us anymore, so that will give us some advantages.
Nika: Okay.
Rick: Does everyone have grenades in their grenade launchers?

We check. Arden’s used only one of the complement of six each rifle carries. The other rifles we’re taking with us are full up.

Rina: (quietly) Somebody loan me a pistol. I’ll need a back up piece.

Nika hands hers over. Rina unslings her rifle and hands it to Nika.

Rina: Thank you. You can take this. Since I’m going with her. (hooks thumb toward Zelle)
Rick: No, I’m going with Zelle.
Rina: Rick’s going with her?
Joshua: Yes. Rick’s going with Zelle.
Rina: But I said I’d—

Rina sees the look on his face, on Zelle’s, and backs down.

Rina: Okay.
Nika: You want your rifle back?
Rina: You keep it. I’m better with pistols, you’re better with rifles.

The two guns go into Rina’s waistband, front and back, and she pulls her uniform shirt over them. Done. We’ll march out as prisoners and if that doesn’t work, we’ll shoot our way to the ship.

There being no time like the present, we decide to step off immediately in our charade and Nika turns over command of our group to Joshua. He’s got the Blue Gloves on and he’s going to be the lead agent. Nika will carry her two rifles and bring up the rear. Since she’s impersonating the second agent of the Blue Hands pair, she’ll wear Zelle’s glove. Nika orders Arden to leave his rifle behind. He’s a prisoner now, he can’t take it.

Nika: Take the pistol, put it where it can’t be seen, but the rifle’s stayin’.
Arden: The rifle’s staying here?
Nika: The only way we’re gonna make this fly is if you are in custody.
Joshua: Wait, do Blue Hands agents normally carry assault rifles?
Zelle: Blue Sun people don’t seem to carry weapons at all. Well, other than the sonic device.
Rick:Just say you confiscated them.
Nika: Then I’ll keep them on my back... (adjusts the straps, looks at Joshua) ... and you take command.
Joshua: All right.

Before we leave Zelle asks Joshua a question.

Zelle: Do you want to try to learn some techniques?
Joshua: (sighing) No, but yes.

She draws him to the side out of earshot and Arden goes to the terminal Rina’s hacked into, to see if he can’t arrange for distraction elsewhere in the facility. Nika moves next to him.

Nika: (quietly) I’m sorry about Valerie.
Arden: (hacking away) Me, too.
Rick: At least her name will be cleared. Hopefully. With all that information being shot.
Arden: Personally I wish that she was still wanted, but alive. But that’s just me.
Nika: Well, folks....

Nika turns to Rick.

Nika: This is the longest shot we’d taken in quite some time, so if you guys get out and we don’t…it’s been nice servin’ with you.
Rick: I’m not worried about us not getting out. We’ll be fine.
Nika: (gallows laugh) Well, then I’ll worry about us not getting out.
Rick: Remember, you have grenades.
Nika: Yeah, but to carry the charade off, we’ll have to not use them.

Once you get attacked? he asks. Then yes, we’ll drop the charade and rock on. Nika’s got her two rifles, Rina’s got her two pistols and Arden’s armed with a hand gun too.

Rick: I guess if you don’t want to be captured, you could bring a couple of spare grenades and blow yourselves up.
Nika: Oh, doesn’t that sound wonderful?

Ehhh, no.

Rick: (smirk) I’m going into the nitrogen. That would probably be awful, but...whatever.
Nika: Since we’re splitting up as a team, do me a favor. If we don’t get out, please go send a message to my sister and let her know what happened?
Rick: (serious now) Of course.

A few minutes later, Zelle and Joshua return. Joshua looks different. Cold. Emotionless. Sociopathic. A Blue Hands agent.

Joshua: (coldly) Let’s go. Now.

Nika dons Zelle’s glove. The prisoners raise their hands. We all fall in behind Joshua, and Nika brings up the rear. When we regain the tower’s topmost catwalk, Joshua grabs the sonic device the third Blue Hand agent dropped and casually puts it in his pocket. Most normal thing in the world, yes.

Obviously one of the techniques Zelle passed on to him.

Nika: You two. Move fast. Get to the shuttle quickly.
Rick: That’s the goal.
Nika: Don’t dawdle.

There being nothing left to say, we part company on the catwalk and the Blue Hands party begin their ascent to the Ministry level. We stop at the door the Feds evacced through and wait until Arden has given every one a first aid once-over. He gives the wounded stim shots to overcome the effects of their wounds, though they’ll pay for it later when the stims wear off. Rina, for once, is the least damaged, and she takes a pass on the stims. Of everyone, Nika’s the worst off, practically stumbling on her feet. Joshua grips her shoulder, tells her to stay steady and hustles us through the door. And we walk right into a whole lot of Federal grunts, armed and itching to shoot something. Joshua doesn’t even bat an eyelash but exudes that creepy-assed vibe of a Blue Hands agent as he looks down his nose at the Sergeant in charge.

One could swear the piss is tinkling onto the deck, front rank to last.

Sergeant: (to his men) Hold your fire. So….? (gestures to us)

Joshua’s voice is colder than January snow.

Joshua: Prisoners. What’s left.
Sergeant: What do you want us to do, sir?
Joshua: Escort us to our ship.
Sergeant: All right. Two by two. Down the hallway.

And we’re escorted pretty as you please to our waiting ride.

It’s not a comfortable walk for some. Rina’s surrounded by the enemy and she’s got nothing but two pistols and a bluff to see her through. She grits her teeth and keeps it together. Behind her, Nika starts to flag. Joshua strides over with purpose and clamps down on her arm.

Joshua: Steady.

Not that the troops are looking at us all that much. Blue Hands agents are not to be messed with and the troops with us are not in a messing-with mood. We take a short ride up the elevator, step out and follow a corridor into a vast cubicled space, obviously an office of some sort. Papers are scattered on the desks, coffee cups sit abandoned. It’s obvious this place was evacuated in a hurry. At the far end is the atrium where a ship waits. It’s a smallish ASREV and watched over by man at the atrium door. He is decked out in the gold epaulettes of an Alliance Officer and unlike the Sergeant, he seems unimpressed by the presence of Blue Hands agents. Joshua hits him with a cold gaze.

Joshua: (flat and cold) We’re taking the vessel. I assume our flight path has been cleared.
Officer: I do not believe you are authorized. There was just one prisoner you’re supposed to take.
Joshua: (very cold now) I am authorized to do what I need to do. And part of that is taking this vessel and the prisoners I have. Stand aside.

Joshua’s demeanor is rather scarily lethal and the man stands aside.

Officer: Well... You’ll have to do some paperwork. Joshua: You will do whatever paperwork you need to do. I’m getting on this vessel.


And that’s it, really. We march right up. Joshua holds his Blue Gloved hand up to the hatch and the damned thing just slides right on open. No buttons pressed.


Hustling aboard, we see it’s like the usual military ASREV ship. Instead of cargo space, however, it’s got what look like holding cells and it has higher tech computer systems. There is no luggage that we can see, no personal items left behind. The Blue Sun insignia is prominent throughout.

Joshua: (evenly) Get us ready to go.
Rina: (sighs) All right.

Nika’s injuries and fatigue are momentarily forgotten when she sees how sweet the cockpit is. There is no engine room but there is an engine console aft and Rina’s croon when she sees it is downright reverent.

Nika announces she’s spinning our engines up. Joshua joins her in the cockpit.

Joshua: (still cold) Where are we going?
Nika: Summer’s Gift. Or where she’s supposed to be. I’m spinning us up.
Joshua: Spin us up. Take us off. They’re not coming back. (a beat) You heard that, right? They’re not coming back.
Nika: What?!
Joshua: They’re not coming back. Spin us up. Take us off. He knows. She knows. They’re not coming back.
Nika: No.

By now the rest of us are catching on.

Rina: What?!
Joshua: They’re. Not. Coming. Back.
Arden: Why?
Joshua: What she has to do.

Meanwhile, Rick and Zelle have reached the Core. Zelle stares at it and speaks.

Zelle: This thing is probably not going to…. We’re not going to be able to set a timer on this thing. We’re just going to have to let it go.
Rick: Yeah.
Zelle: And at….at this range, even an EMP like this, it’s probably still gonna kill us.

Zelle sighs and turns to Rick.

Zelle: So, this wasn’t exactly the tropical planet you were talking about…

Rick quietly laughs.

Rick: At least it’s an interesting venue.

They stand together on the catwalk overlooking the glowing orange core and they can sense the troops moving closer to their position. Working quickly with her remaining hand, Zelle hooks the device to the power source feeding the core and holds up the two bare contacts needed to complete the circuit. She holds one in her fingers, Rick takes up the other in his.

Rick: (quiet affection) At least we’re not robots.

He puts his arm around Zelle, kisses her long and deep, then enfolds her fingers in his and presses the contacts together.


As our purloined ASREV lifts off, there’s a pulse and the lights go out across the entire facility. A split second later the EMP hits our ship. Rina bites off a Russian gutter curse and engages the back-ups. Nika throws us into pulse while still in atmo and we scream the hell out of there. No one follows us. One of the advantages to flying a Blue Hands ship is the fact it’s allowed to fly where it wants and when it wants without filing a flight plan first. We point our ship toward Summer’s Gift and home.



28 January 2521

The dust settles at the Ministry.

The lights come back on.

Two people are carted out on stretchers.

One of them has only one hand.

… Fade to….

A med-evac ambulance flies away from the Ministry.

Inside it, a male hand hauls one body up off the deck, then another.

Bodies. Of two ambulance drivers.


End of Season Three.

Go back to: Colchester Endgame, Part One | Go forward to Hot Cargo, Cold Cash
Back to Season One: Foundations
Back to Season Two: Hitting Our Stride
Back to Season Three: Things Fall Apart
Go Forward to Season Four: Trials and Errors