Episode 410: Search and Rescue

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Air Date: 24 Aug 2010
Present: Kim, Maer, Terri, Andy, and Bobby

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Monday, 28 July 2521
Kuiper II class, Summer’s Gift
Parliament, Deadwood
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
0930hrs, local time

We clean ourselves up from our recent adventure on The Victoria and take stock of what we’ve achieved.  We’ve rescued Carson Collings, Ensign, and he fills everyone in on what he knows of El Raton and of Kim Dyson, Oliver Dyson’s son. 

It turns out that Collings was part of the crew that El Raton had on his ship, the Neptune (formerly the IAV Alabama), and was there when the treasure ship, the IAV Dove, was found in the Orobouros of Blue Sun.  Collings wanted out of El Raton’s trade—which was basically pirating via fake Alliance inspections of passing craft—and took his share of the treasure and parted company with Neptune and her crew.  Collings did not have faith that El Raton would leave matters in such a state and so he hid his share, a bundle of paper bills amounting to a fortune, in the Evidence lock box in the Sheriff’s office in a sleepy fishing village on New Canaan.  Normally the lock box would be rotated out on a regular schedule by Federal Marshals on circuit duty, shuttling the evidence of crimes to the labs.  However, now that the Alliance and its Marshals are no longer operating in Blue Sun, the box would never be picked up and Collings share discovered.  It would simply sit in the evidence room of the Sheriff’s office, waiting for a pick-up that would never come.  It should still be there if we go to it.

Mind, it might involve breaking into the Sheriff’s office after hours and tampering with a locked evidence box must surely incur nasty legal consequences if we’re caught, but other than that, it seems pretty simple.  Easy money.

As for Dyson’s son Kim, all Collings can say for certain is that Kim seemed desirous of staying on with El Raton and did not leave the Neptune when Collings did.  Absent any evidence to the contrary, Kim Dyson may very well still be with El Raton’s crew when next we meet them.  The trick is how to arrange that meeting?

Collings does not want to run into El Raton.  He wants to claim his share of the treasure and go to the Core and clear his name: he’d left Alliance Navy service without leave—technically he went AWOL and the intervening time has transformed his absence into desertion and treason—and if he can point to El Raton as the cause, he may be able to exonerate himself.  He’ll have to avoid El Raton to do it, because he doesn’t think he’ll survive meeting the man again.

Joshua offers to Borrow Collings for the meeting with El Raton, saying we could disguise Collings as someone else in our party.  Nika refuses the offer, preferring to draw El Raton to us using other means.  She is not comfortable with the Borrowing skill set and does not like the risk it imposes on Joshua.  No, we’ll just have to find another way to accomplish getting El Raton.

And we will have to meet El Raton.  We have an obligation to Dyson to help him find his son.  Dyson is paying us to do it and he’s a much-needed source of income.  And that’s aside from the moral obligation to help the man. 

Of course, we have to take Kim Dyson’s wishes into account.  If he wants to leave El Raton’s crew but is being held against his will, of course we will mount a rescue op.  If he doesn’t want to leave and is staying of his own will … Dyson wants to mount a rescue op to deprogram his son.

If Collings’s retrieval of his money brings El Raton to us, good.  We can mount that rescue op.  If not, it’s still good, we still get paid, and we’re still alive to come up with another way to get Kim back.  Dyson offers to help Collings clear his name with the Alliance Navy.  After all, he is not without resources or contacts.  Collings accepts and we agree to take them to the Core.

But first, we need to start the ball rolling and get Collings to his share of the treasure.

New Canaan is a three-day journey away, given its position on the far side of Blue Sun’s star from Deadwood, but we still have enough fuel to get there.  Not by much, mind, but enough. We take on what supplies we can, make everything ready, and lift off.


Thursday, 31 July 2521
Mystic, New Canaan
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
0730 hrs, local time

Collings was a computer systems technician during his Navy career and when she finds out about this, Rina drafts his help in changing the registry board for Lagniappe. Collings agrees. Thanks to his career, both legal and illegal, he already knows all the usual mistakes people make in changing the boards, leading to their easy discovery and arrest, and he tells Rina how to avoid making those mistakes. 

Joshua and Nika discuss the realities and risks of Borrowing.  Or rather, Joshua reminds Nika that it is a viable option that he is willingly bringing to the table and Nika tells him that she dislikes it very much. She doesn’t like the fact it requires Joshua to change his face.  And on strictly moral grounds, Borrowing on command for Blue Sun is something he’s trying to get away from, she explains, and damned if she’s going to thwart that by having him do it on her command.  No, no way.  Joshua counters her argument by saying he’s trying to reclaim the ability from Blue Sun by making it his, and the only way to do that is to use it for purposes he decides are worthy.  That gives him an element of power Blue Sun consistently denied him.  He urges her to keep that in mind and to leave Borrowing as an option.

Otherwise our flight to New Canaan is uneventful.

The fishing village is located in the southern hemisphere of New Canaan but isn’t on the charts.  Once we’re in the right area, we have to scout for it via heat signatures.  Collings helps us out on that score and points out the cove its located in once we zero on the heat.  This section of New Canaan looks like New Zealand of Old Earth, all rocky cliff shores and shallow beaches.

We land and in minutes the Sheriff drives out to the LZ in her jeep to meet us.  She’s an older woman, lean and spare, a brunette with narrow features and no-nonsense attitude.  Her manner is friendly, however, and when we tell her we’ve got cargo for sale or trade, she’s glad and grateful. It’ll be more barter/trade than coin, she admits, but anything we’ve got is welcome.  The Sheriff also tells us that she doesn’t allow any weapons in town.  We’re free to walk about but not with weapons.

Rina asks if there is anything in town that needs fixing—she’s an engineer and has a workshop to fabricate parts.  The Sheriff mentions that the generator at the Sheriff’s office is not working, could she look at it.

The Sheriff’s office is the place we need to find the cash, and Rina promptly gets her tools. Nika reminds Rina to leave her weapons aboard Summer’s Gift and Rina walks off wearing only half her usual suspects.  Of course, she can sling a mean wrench and her fists are nothing to sneeze at, either, but those she can get away with carrying.

Joshua asks around and finds out that he can get the rest of our salvage cargo sold off at 70% of its value. Our cold storage locker aboard the Gift can hold 50 person days of food, so he asks for that in barter with the balance of the 70% in cash.  It will take a couple of days for the cargo to sell off completely but we’re in no particular rush.

Rina gets to the Sheriff’s Office and inspects the generator and sees pretty much right off that salt corrosion is the main culprit.  She cleans off the pertinent parts as best she can and while she waits for the cleaner to dig in and do its job, she snoops around the building a bit.  It’s a single floor, with the generator room in the back, flanked by the cell block on one side and the evidence room on the other.  The evidence room has a lock on it but that’s a traipse to disable.  Taking a quick turn around Rina doesn’t find the evidence box.  Instead she finds an evidence box-shaped blank spot in the dust liberally coating the shelves. 

Looks like the box is gone.  Question is—who took it and why?

The weather turns bad, Nor’easter bad.  There’s a fancy boat out there screaming a May Day and the fishermen are all coming home to harbor.  The Sheriff can’t convince any of them to go out and rescue, even for the money the distressed boat is promising.  We step up to the plate.  We have Lagniappe, we have the abseiling suits, and we have a kick-ass pilot who’s already flown us through a category 6 hurricane and survived.  This Nor’easter can’t be worse than that.  Lagniappe is equipped with abseil lines and two water survival suits, so we’ve got what we need to effect the rescue. 

Arden gathers his medical supplies, Kiera makes a thermos of coffee and as prepared as we’re going to be, we load up in our drop ship and home in on the distress signal.  The seas are nasty with impossibly high waves and deep troughs.  The distressed boat looks incredibly small against all that murderous water.  She’s got horizontal masts with rigid sail panels and propulsion pods aft that don’t seem to be working.  She’s also bobbing like a cork in the stormy seas and looks to be overwhelmed any second. We spot her and Nika hovers Lagniappe to scan the boat for life signs.  It’s a very tricky maneuver—the masts are whipping from side to side with the action of the sea, threatening to swat Lagniappe right out of the sky.  Nika manages to get close enough to the boat while still avoiding the masts and runs the scan.  Three heat signatures show on the boat and one more is in the water.  The man overboard takes priority and Joshua suits up in an abseil rig, hooks up to the portside winch line, and dives after him first, the line spooling out behind him. Arden slaps him with a stim as he goes out the hatch, to help him fight the effects of the water.

The water is deadly cold.  The abseil suit offers some protection from the elements but it’s not really made for swimming in.  Joshua gasps from the temperatures and even with the stims running through his system, he’d best act quickly. He plows through the rough seas to the man overboard and discovers that he’s unconscious and only the fact that he was also in a survival/floatation suit saved him from drowning.  Joshua lashes the man to him, and comms Lagniappe to winch him up.  Unlike the abseil lines, the winch cable cannot be controlled via his suit.  Someone on the drop ship has to hit the button for him.  The rough sea and the wind and the rain batter the two men as the winch lifts them to the drop ship, making Joshua and his rescue spin on the line.

Arden is right there at the airlock to help pull Joshua and his rescue aboard.  Joshua stays long enough to help Arden get the unconscious victim prone on the deck.  Working quickly, Arden gets the suit open and finds the man inside is soaked to the skin.  Apparently he went into the water and was thrown the suit afterward before going unconscious.  Kiera works alongside Arden and she warns him she’s losing his vitals.  They’re losing him.  They prep him for surgery right there on the deck. 

Since neither Arden or Kiera can help Joshua with his line, Rina leaves the engines and takes up the task. Nika flies Lagniappe closer to the foundering boat, hailing them on the comms to tell them we’re coming in.  Joshua dives out and aims for the pitching deck far below.

The seas are too rough, the pitch and yaw of the boat too wild, the winds too tricky.  The boat has sailing masts and they snare Joshua’s line.  Now Lagniappe is hooked to the boat like a flying fish and is in danger of being yanked right out of the sky.  Joshua makes his choice, detaches the line from his suit, and drops to the deck.  The line falls away, Lagniappe flies free.  Rina sees this from the airlock hatch and curses.

Rina: Ta ma de, Nika!
Nika: What happened?
Rina: Crashed into the mast. He’s disconnected himself. He is on his own.
Nika: Aw, shi!

Rina knows that the abseiling equipment to starboard can be controlled by the person wearing it, unlike the winch line to port that Joshua used. Rina debates going after him in a starboard rig …

Rina: You need me on the engines but ... (torn) … rrnnnghhhhh …!
Nika: Go. He’s not going to get back up here unless he’s got help.

Joshua, meanwhile, has dragged himself upright on the deck.  It’s a beautiful boat, with the finest fittings and equipment and fixtures.  It’s a luxury sporting vessel, no expense spared, and it’s an odd design, a combination of flying craft and maritime one.  Joshua spied the flying thrusters aft as he came in.  They don’t appear to be working. Which is why it’s sinking.  Time to get a move on.

Joshua’s near the bow of the vessel and through the bridge windows he can see a gentleman frantically trying a cold restart of the engines.  A strikingly beautiful woman is with him and when Joshua lands on the deck, she runs out to Joshua’s side with surprising grace despite the rough seas. 

Woman: Are you hurt?
Joshua: No, I’m all right. How are you?
Woman: I’ve seen better.
Joshua: (standing) Yeah.  Whoever it is at the helm—you’re going to need to be ready.  One of my crewmembers is going to be coming and—
Woman: He’s not the regular crew. We’re the passengers.  The crew refused to go out with us.

Joshua slaps his suit comm on.

Joshua: Ship?
Rina: (over the comm) On my way.
Joshua: (to woman) She’s on her way. We’ll get you up and out of here.

He makes his way inside to the bridge as he talks, taking in everything, doing a headcount. So far he’s counted the woman and the man at the helm.  Are there any more people aboard?  We saw three heat signatures on the scan and Joshua’s count has come up a person short.

Joshua: Is there anybody else?
Woman: Yes. (boat lurches) Khan is below deck right now.
Joshua: Is he capable of moving? Is he okay?
Woman: I think so. He’s trying to work on the engines.
Joshua: As soon as my crewmate gets here, we’re going to start carting you off one at a time.  And you’re going first.
Woman: Did you see the captain? He went overboard—
Joshua: We got him. Our doctors are working on him even as we speak.

He’s eyeing the weather out the bridge windows and watching for Rina. C’mon, c’mon. What’s taking her so long?

Rina suits up from the middle locker and abseils down.  She fares better than Joshua, making it to the boat without ditching into the drink or fouling the line.  Spitting rain and salt water, she hauls down some slack on the line and secures it to the boat, and looks for Joshua.  She’s near the bridge and spies him through the windows.  She joins him and sees the man at the helm frantically working the bridge controls, yelling down a comm: No, that’s not working! Try the other one!

Clearly they need her in the engine room.  She takes off below decks.  Once she’s there in the boat’s engine room, Rina finds one of the passengers trying to coordinate repairs with the bridge.  She lends a hand and the successes start outnumbering the failures.  They aren’t out of the woods yet, but the trees are beginning to thin.  They’re taking on water, however, the sea sloshing ankle deep in the compartment.  They don’t dither but work as quickly as they can to revive the engines.

The storm is getting heavier and the weather is making Nika nervous. She’s tethered to the boat and if the boat capsizes ….   But if she detaches the line, her crew will have no way to get back aboard.  She leaves the lines as they are and prays the boat stays upright.  She jinks Lagniappe back and forth to match the boat’s tossing and manages to keep everything above water.

Behind Nika on the lower deck of Lagniappe, Arden recognizes the patient: it’s Frederick von Braun, Valerie Samson’s ex-husband and rival for her affections during Arden’s college career.  What the hell is he doing way out here?  No time to speculate, they can sort it out later.  The patient is prepped for surgery and Arden goes in.

Down below on the boat, Joshua’s got the female passenger tied securely to him and using Rina’s line, he slaps the suit’s controls for the line recall and starts hauling them up.  Their feet leave the deck and they swing and spin, and lashed by the wind and the rain, they make it safely aboard.  Joshua stops only long enough to see the woman safely to a seat and buckled in. 

Joshua: Stay still. There’s a lot of crap going on right now, so please stay still. I have to go back and get your crew.

And he dives out the door again.  Kiera leaves off the patient for a moment to offer the woman hot coffee from the thermos she’s made, then goes back to helping Arden. The surgery continues and they turn a corner.  The operation’s successful and absent complications or Acts of God, the patient will make it.  Arden starts closing up and Kiera’s right there with him.

Back in the engine room, it’s hard work, hard done, and the conditions are making it harder.  They’re taking on more water and in the space it takes for Joshua to get the first passenger off, the water in the engine room goes knee-deep.  Rina’s hampered by her abseil suit and the cramped quarters of the compartment.  She can feel the boat shudder and she knows if she doesn’t act soon, it’s headed for Davy Jones’ Locker.  That’s when she realizes that if she can lower the folding masts, the rigid sails can act like airfoils and the wind outside can be harnessed to lift the boat above the water.  In fact, now that she thinks on it, the design of the boat makes it clear that the masts and the sails are made to do exactly that. 

Rina does the math in her head. It takes seven minutes one way on the line, fifteen minutes per round trip.  Three people left on the boat.  Three round trips.  Forty-five minutes.  If she does nothing, the boat will go down in half that.  She asks the passenger sweating with her in the engine room if they can lower the masts. 

Passenger: Yeah, when we fly that’s how it works. 
Rina: Okay, can you do it now? 
Passenger: I don’t know how this thing works!
Rina: (pissed) What do I look like? A walking encyclopedia? I don’t know how it works either.
Passenger: I’m not a pilot.  You should call Oliver upstairs. He’s …he knows more about this stuff.

Rina plows through the water to the comm and hails the bridge.

Rina: Ahoy, Captain of the boat. We need to make the masts horizontal to stabilize the ship. We’re taking on too much water otherwise.
Oliver: Right. Right-right-right. Okay. Uh… Masts.  I watched this …. Yeah.  (a beat) It’s not doing anything.
Rina: It’s not doing anything.  (no surprise)  Keep trying. (to passenger) We need to fix that too. Show me where it is.

More water pours into the engine room.  Rina’s shown the controls, she starts sussing the mechanism, and devises a work-around. 

Aboard Lagniappe, the rescued woman has wrapped herself in a blanket and approaches Arden. 

Woman: Is there anything I can do?
Arden: Do you have any medical training?
Woman: A little bit.
Arden: Keep your eye on his vitals and make sure they don’t change.
Woman: (undertone, of the patient) The fool …
Kiera: Arden, do you want me to let you minister to him since you’re the doctor and I’m just a nurse?
Arden: You did better than I did on that.

True enough.  She’d been quick with the patient and her smaller hands had been a plus during surgery.  In the pilot’s seat Nika rolls her eyes and shouts back.

Nika: Can we chill out on the Admiration Society and get somebody up here?!
Arden: You need help up there?
Nika: This is not simple.  Get them up!

Arden mans the airlock winch to port and watches for Joshua.  He’s nowhere in sight.  That’s because he’s on the bridge with Oliver.

Joshua: Are you actually doing anything? Because I’d like to get you off this ship somewhere safe. What are you doing?
Oliver: We’re trying to get the wings down and out to maybe help hold the ship up long enough to get off this thing. Because we’re sinking.
Joshua: I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I’d boarded the Ship of Obviousness—
Oliver: Is Frederick alive?
Joshua: I don’t know. We’ve got two fantastic doctors who are working on helping him. But what can I do to help, if anything?
Oliver: I don’t know.
Joshua: (on his comm) Rina?
Rina: (over the comm) Yeah.
Joshua: Is there anything I can do to help? Because our guy on the bridge is doing something and you’re doing something. What about the other guy down there? Is he doing anything?
Rina: Yes. He’s working on the engines. (snap! crackle! pop!) I’m working on getting the masts horizontal.  The controls are broken so I have to fix them.
Joshua: How crucial is he?  The guy down there?

Meaning Khan, who’s working beside her. Rina considers what she’s seen of him so far, knows he’s not an engineer.  She can fix the mast controls and ignore the engines or she can fix the engines and leave off the masts entirely … but she can’t do both and he’s not up to fixing one while she repairs the other.  There’s no point in keeping him on the boat.

Joshua: What are you doing?
Rina: Too much at once.
Joshua: If you’re going to do the sails, do the sails.  But I’m on the bridge, the ship is a lost cause. I want to get people off of it.
Rina: Then I say we ditch the ship.  (to Khan) We’re going.  Now.
Joshua: I can’t take the both of you. You work. I’ll get him.
Rina: (to Khan) Go. Get out of here.

She pushes Khan up the stairs and gets back to work.  She has to choose: try to fix the engines or continue with the mast controls.  More water pours into the engine room and she chooses the mast controls.  The cold and the wet is getting to her now, slowing her down and making her fingers clumsy.  Nevertheless, she devises yet another work-around and starts putting it in. 

Topside, Joshua takes possession of Khan and has to fight the man to get him secured.  It couldn’t have happened at a worst time.  The winds and the sea simultaneously lift Lagniappe in an updraft and send the boat into a trough.  Joshua’s feet leave the deck with a sickening lurch and a wave washes him and Khan overboard.  Joshua grabs Khan in the nick of time.  They don’t drown.  Joshua’s still tied to his line.  Nika sends Lagniappe higher, lifting them both out of the water and though they crash through a couple of waves, they both make it aboard the drop ship.  True to his nature, Joshua is more thrilled than terrified and says to Khan:

Joshua: (enthused) You’re never going to experience anything in your life like this again! Remember it fondly.  Sir, it’s okay to throw up if you need to.

Arden takes Khan further inside and starts stripping him out of his wet clothes and wrapping him in a blanket.

Aboard the boat, Rina can hear the groan and squeal of the hull as stress factors start tearing the craft apart. The water is much deeper in the little engine room and the mast controls are resisting her fix.  The sea pours in through the open hatch and engine room floods to the ceiling.  Rina takes a deep breath before the air disappears completely and works on.  She is so close to getting it to work.

Only now she’s running out of air.

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