Episode 509: Joshua Drake, This Is NOT Your Life ... , Part Five
Day Four, Wednesday, 08 Apr 2522
1000hrs, ship’s time
It’s Kiera’s turn to deliver her statement. The woman from yesterday has her brought to the Admin deck and shown to a conference room. She and Kiera are accompanied by a mousy looking woman, short, blonde haired, in a Naval uniform, with a data recorder, looks like a clerk. A junior officer, maybe. This junior officer seems incredibly cowed by the woman sitting at the conference table, who herself is as vivacious and charismatic as she was yesterday.
Interesting. Kiera sits down and the woman smiles at her.
Woman: How’ya doin’?
Kiera: I’m peachy. How’re you doin’?
Woman: We’re gonna try to make this quick, get you off this ship, get you back to your lives. I assume you’ve heard the good news. That Josh—the person you know as Joshua—Cmdr.Wise has been reunited with his father. And hopefully, he’ll get to see the rest of his family.
Kiera: (dry) Well that’s special.
Kiera’s supremely unimpressed. The woman doesn’t even pause but moves on.
Woman: What is your position on the Equinox?
Woman: Now we found you—you were apparently found you on the shuttle.
Woman: With some medical gear.
Woman: But you have some knowledge…
Woman: So you’re just steward but you do some medicine on the side?
Kiera: First aid or so.
Woman: Have you ever worked with Dr. Arden? In surgery?
Kiera: Define worked.
Woman: Assisted him?
Kiera: Well, I’ve held things in place when the crew’s been shot. Yeah, while he’s—
Woman: So you haven’t actually practiced any medicine.
Kiera: No. I’d like to say I don’t practice. I actually perform, but that’s okay.
Woman: So … what were you doing? Just holding things or were you actually …?
Kiera: Well, when somebody got shot, I was helping stitch them up. It’s just minor things. (gaze narrowing) What’re you fishin’ for?
Might as well call it like she sees it.
Woman: Well, I’m intrigued about the injuries Cmdr. Wise has. Do you know about them?
Kiera: I know that his shoulder got gnawed on by a Reaver.
Woman: We’re talking about his brain.
Kiera: His brain?
Kiera: What injuries does he have in his brain?
The woman pushes a button on the desk and a picture floats over the polished surface. It’s a picture of a brain. The injury’s pretty subtle and neurology isn’t Kiera’s specialty, but she can spot the difference between an uninjured brain and this one. Slices have been made to the sheathing of the amygdala. Kiera keeps her face composed in an expression of polite interest: okay, so the nice lady’s shown me a picture.
Woman: You’ve never seen anything like this before?
Kiera: No. I can’t say that I never did. What would it do if he did that to a person?
Woman: We don’t know. Perhaps it would make someone, say … emotionally sensitive, easily coerced. Cajoled. Perhaps convinced of evil stories of his past …
There’s a lotta perhaps in there.
Woman: Well one theory that we have is perhaps Cmdr. Wise was convinced through a battery of drugs, psychological techniques and surgery to believe some somewhat outlandish stories about his past, for reasons we haven’t quite figured out yet.
Kiera: So who do you think did this?
Woman: Well, it would take a highly skilled doctor, and perhaps a medical team of some repute, to be able to do it. But you say that you just perform some simple procedures, so you’re not really …?
Kiera: So you’re thinking that the crew is a highly skilled medical team and that Arden is actually a capable-enough doctor to have pulled that off?
Woman: Is he not?
Kiera’s tone is clear though her expression doesn’t change: Please excuse me while I laugh my ass off.
Woman: You think Arden is not capable of something like this? I mean, from what I understand, he almost single-handedly found a cure to Prion Disease.
Kiera: (calmly)All right. Let me spell it for you, ma’am. There are doctors who are doctors that you want in the field with their hands and their head and their hands in your body. And there are doctors that you want researching things behind a test tube and against the counter. Let’s just say he is one that you want with a test tube and a counter and probably not the one you want mucking around in your head.
Woman: I don’t want anyone mucking around in my head, but so you’re saying that under normal conditions a person would object to the sorts of things that Dr. Arden was doing to his brains. Is that what I understand you said? You said that he’s the sort of doctor you wouldn’t want mucking around in your brains. Isn’t that what you said?
Kiera: I said in an average day, yeah. So but your inferring that you think he actually did it anyway. Isn’t that what you’re saying? I’m taking your words, you see.
Woman: Perhaps not. Perhaps there was someone else—.
Kiera: Oh, no. Don’t back off of what you just said. You just accused him whole-heartedly of actually doing brain surgery. So I’m kinda curious. What do you think he did?
Kiera is in her element and the verbal sparring match is on. The woman leans forward and says conspiratorially:
Woman: Well … I think he may have done these … marks … on the amygdala, here.
Kiera: (leaning in) What do you think for?
Woman: Well … perhaps he discovered something during his research on Prion Disease that damage to this part of the brain might make someone behave differently. Or perhaps lose memories. Or be susceptible to suggestion.
Kiera: But that would infer that—Rex, you called him—actually had Prion Disease because randomized studies like this on just a regular non-affected human wouldn’t prove to be useful at all, would it?
Woman: I’m not saying he had Prion Disease, although …
Kiera: Oh well, no. You just kinda inferred that he did, because you said ‘in his research on Prion Disease’ that it might have—
Woman: I didn’t. What I’m actually suggesting is that perhaps he discovered something about how the brain works.
Woman: Or perhaps he was testing how the brain works. And perhaps he failed. To be quite honest, perhaps he got nothing, this character. In which case, to be quite honest, if that happened—
Woman: If this was an experiment that failed—?
Kiera: Then I would have left them probably somewhere no one could find him instead of flying around with him in my back pocket.
Kiera’s got a point—if you want to hide your medical mistakes, why let them live? Why keep them around to implicate you? The woman pauses and looks back at the clerk. Kiera sees the clerk give a minute shake of her head.
Huh. What’s that about? Kiera looks at the clerk and the clerk averts her eyes.
Woman: (faces Kiera) I assume. So … I guess I’m on a bit of a fishing expedition here because I don’t know what sort of stuff can go on in his brain. All I know is that a promising young scientist who perhaps had some classified information disappeared and showed up in some unusual conditions, including being on the ship that the crew of another ship that did some rather … interesting … things on Miranda and also were—so you understand how that would be of interest to us, right?
Kiera: I could see where it’s that.
Woman: You think that this is a crazy goose chase, to imagine that there might be some connection between these events?
Kiera: I think it’s a little bit of a stretch. (she stretches in her chair) But then again, I’m just not good at puttin’ puzzles together.
Woman: You’re just a steward who just dabbles in medicine. Nothing that means anything at all to worry about. Isn’ t that right?
Kiera: Yeah. I’m a steward who dabbles in shootin’ things and fixin’ things and stuff.
Woman: A Jack of All Trades.
Kiera: I’d like to think of that, yeah.
Woman: Ah, so you ought to be able to fix the engines on the ship.
Kiera: Lord, no. That’s not somethin’ I’ve ever been interested in.
She shakes her head.
Woman: Oh, I thought you said you were interested in fixing things.
Kiera: Not in—
Woman: What sort of things are you interested in fixing?
Kiera: Hmmm. (thinks) The Universe as we know it. I like to make it a better place.
Woman: You’d like to make the Universe a better place, personally?
Woman: I guess there’s a few of people who think things could be better. I understand.
Kiera: Mm-hm. What is your name, by the way?
A subtle wall goes up and Kiera has to strain to catch the woman’s quiet reply.
Woman: My name’s not important.
Kiera: See? I don’t have anything to call you except for ‘Ma’am’. (a beat) Really, it would be a lot easier if you’d cut to the chase. What do you want me to say happened on that ship for the few months I was on there and that way I can just articulate it however you want me do to it. Instead of fishing. (off her look) I mean, you could just put forth the theory—I’m sure you got some slide or she’ll write it down for me—(nods to the clerk)—whatever her name is either and y’all can say whatever it is you want us to walk away believin’.
Woman: What I want you to walk away believing?
Woman: I don’t care what you believe. I think we’re done here. You seem a bit agitated.
Kiera: Oh no. I’m perfectly comfortable. See that’s what you think—
Woman: You think I’m a tv villain? I’m just trying to find out what’s going on.
Kiera: No, but what I’m kinda tryin’ to figure out is your questions are kind a diggin’. And I’m not hostile. What do you want to know about? Do you want to know about him or do you want to know about me or do you want to know about the crew? You’re tryin’ to find out if I helped Arden do medical experiments on not-Joshua or whatever his name is.
Woman: Cmdr. Wise.
Kiera: Whatever. (a beat) Anyway. No, none of us did any experiments on him. Is he still a good man? Is he crazy? No. He is a very good man. Very very good man.
Woman: Were you aware of his drug addiction?
Kiera: (sighs) Yeahhh, but I was also aware he was tryin’ to wean himself off of it.
Woman: Yes, for two years, apparently. Unsuccessfully.
Kiera: Well, I don’t know about two years.
Woman: There were still drugs in his system when he was picked up, so … obviously, it’s been a while.
Kiera: Nah, if he took ’em, he took ’em without me knowin’. I been pushin’ him into tryin’ to not be on ’em. But … (she shrugs)
The woman looks again at the clerk and again the clerk shakes her head: no.
Woman: So you weren’t brought in to assist in any sort of … shall I say, supervision of Cmdr. Wise.
Kiera: (long suffering) Lord help me if I only could have supervised him. He didn’t listen to nobody. So, no. There was no supervising Cmdr. Wise or whatever you call him. I hired their ship to come pick me up when I was rescuing a group of enslaved girls on Angel. They came by, they picked up, and I intended to get off the ship. And I never did get off.
You can see the woman on the other side of the table try to do the math. Enslaved girls? Rescue?
Woman: So would you say you’re sort of … freelance do-gooders.
Kiera: Yeah, I would say they were a bunch that freelanced it. Doin’ good.
Woman: You. I mean, you were rescuing … ?
Kiera: No. I did it for money.
And Kiera looks closely at the junior officer from the corner of her eye. The junior officer gives the woman a look. Very much an Are-you-shittin’-me? look. All right, that’s it. Kiera looks the woman across the table square in the eye.
Kiera: Why do I get the feelin’ y’all are havin’ a conversation while you and I’re havin’ a conversation?
Woman: What’s that?
Kiera: You and she keep havin’ significant glances. (gestures) So you’re either holdin’ hands and in love or y’all’re havin’ a communication.
Woman: Hmm. Do you feel like people are doing this around you a lot or is it just now?
Kiera: If I lean over—(leans over)—and say yes, I feel like people talk behind my back, would you write that down, too? You could.
Woman: I’m not writing anything down.
Kiera: I know. But you are. (leans back) In your head. There’s notes. Hey, I’ll tell you anything you wanted. You want to decide I got paranoid schizophrenia and I need to be dumped somewhere, that’s fine, too.
Woman: Do you want my honest evaluation?
Kiera: I would love to have your honest evaluation, Ma’am.
Woman: I’m not a trained psychiatrist.
Kiera: I can tell.
Woman: But I’m a student of human behavior. And I would say you have that special kind of sociopathy that makes you able to lie without any mental or physical reservations.
Kiera: Not a bit. Good job.
Woman: However, I think that we may yet have learned some things here. So I appreciate that. I’ll escort you back to your friends.
Kiera gets up from the table and goes where directed and comes back positively bouncing. When she’s alone with the crew she says with some enthusiasm:
Kiera: Now that was fun!
Nika looks horrified.
Kiera: This is just like the interrogation they did to me when I flunked out of college the first time, when Dad brought in had three psychiatrists talk at me and try to explain to me why I failed and flunked outa college and it was all problems(feral grin) It was awesome.
Rina: She misses being able to sharpen her wits on a worthy opponent.
Kiera: They are honestly, truly, absolutely without a doubt either pushing and/or convinced that Arden over here has done major surgery on Joshua—poor little thing that he was—and has been doing if not evil experiments to see if you could mind control him, trying to use him to find as a basis of a paper how you solved Prion Disease.
Arden: Yeah, I know.
Kiera: Very interesting.
Arden: No. I wouldn’t put it in the column called ‘interesting’.
He’d put it in the column marked ‘Chinese Curse’. It remains to be seen if it will shift over to the column marked ‘Oh God, oh God, we’re all gonna die’. Kiera rolls her eyes.
Kiera: On top of it, did any of you get anyone else in on the interrogation? I got Captain Friendly—or Mrs. Friendly—and …
Arden: They brought in a Reader then.
Kiera: Oh. Yeah. It was like this cute little conversation. They were havin’ significant glances and I was just like, “It was nice of them to have a three-way conversation without her sayin’ anything”.
Arden: I bet.
Nika: Okay, I’m not likin’ that. (ticks off her fingers) Because that means they know about Readers. And then—
Kiera: Well of course they know about Readers. I had one replace me.
Arden: You had one replace you?
Kiera: (what-ev!) Yeah. Long story. Keep going.
Arden: I have nothing else to do in this med bay.
Actually, Kiera’s referring to the time her Father hired a Borrower to cover her absence when she’d been kidnapped by the underworld. Not entirely a Reader, per se, but enough to convince Kiera that they are everywhere. Not that she actually says any of this to the crew. Rina, of course, knows this story since Kiera confided it to her during our layover on Boros. Rina keeps her mouth shut on it. Nika groans softly to the side.
Nika: Okay, we’ll come back round to that in a minute. Um, see we have a concern here. The fact that they’re gonna put you in jail and going to attempt to send Joshua to a mental facility somewhere in the Core for—
Arden: For his own good.
Nika: For his own good, yeah.
Rina: God, I hate that paternalistic—grahhh … !
Kiera: Oh, they’re going to send him to a mental facility?
Nika: (sighs) Yeah. Cuz he’s suffering from delusions.
Arden: Otherwise known as the truth.
Kiera: Ohh! He’s hearin’ voices and they think he’s on drugs. All right. Fair enough. They probably think he had a nervous breakdown.
Nika: But there’s another problem.
Arden: Only one?
Nika: Is he actually Rex Wise?
There. She’s said it. The elephant in the room that no one will acknowledge.
Kiera: I— … (gives up)
Rina: He might have been at one time. He might have been born Rex Wise but he’s made himself to who he is now. He should have that chance to live it.
Nika: Okay, so … I know nothing about the Rex Wise identity here. Is it an identity he took?
Rina: (pissed) Well, to hear Captain Happy to talk about it, he was born that.
Nika: Yes, no. Marina. What name was Joshua using when we met him.
Rina: (softly) I remember Joshua.
But you can tell she’s already thinking back across the two years, searching for otherwise.
Nika: Joshua Drake is the only name I know. Is that the name of the guy he was impersonating at the time?
Kiera: Was he impersonating somebody?
Rina: (lightbulb!) No.
She recounts an off-hand comment Joshua made about his face, about three months after joining us, about how the officer’s face could have been as ugly as sin—meaning the officer he was impersonating on Trafalgar.
Kiera: So he was impersonating somebody.
Nika: What I’m asking you is if it’s a possibility he was impersonating Rex Wise at the time we picked him up and he gave us the name of Joshua Drake, but … Dear God, cuz … Dear God. What happens then? Where is this guy’s actual son? If it’s not Joshua, and it is Joshua, oh God help us. Omigod.
Arden: We don’t have enough information.
Kiera: Well, no, and they ain’t exactly going to let us do a DNA study on the Captain and on his son.
Arden: I would imagine they’ve already done that.
Kiera: Yeah, but you don’t know how much they wanted it to match or not.
Rina: Records can be hacked.
Kiera: If we did it, I’d be fairly certain we’d be lookin’ for it not to match and I’d be surprised if it did.
Arden: The Captain is acting like …
Nika: He knows for sure.
Arden: He knows for sure, so I imagine they’ve done the DNA test and it matches.
Nika: So, either Joshua is Rex Wise, which is entirely possible, or he was impersonating Rex Wise.
Kiera: Yeah, but they couldn’t change the DNA profile then.
Arden: Didn’t somebody say something about an intelligence officer?
Arden: Which would be a perfect cover for a Blue Sun—
Nika: Right. That’s why I’m saying Rex Wise was apparently an intelligence officer who was doing—
Kiera: So what did they let you guys know? We need to put all our information on the table.
Nika takes a deep breath.
Nika: Mostly she was asking me leading questions about whether he should be gone and put away for a while, where he could be supervised and observed and to make sure that he’s off the drugs and he’s delusional and blah-blah-blah.
Arden: I got the leading questions on what did you do to his head.
Kiera: Yeah, I kinda figured. They just kinda basically said that—
Arden: (mimicking) ‘So you’re saying you did do brain surgery.’ ‘No, I did not say that. I said I never had to do brain surgery and I never did.’
Nika: Well, actually they asked me one question where I went, ‘Really?’ Because you never left Arden alone with Joshua long enough to do brain surgery? Well I left him alone to do surgery, but no, there’s stitches and I didn’t really ask but I could show them the zipper… (hooks a thumb to her chest)
Arden: I don’t even have the equipment to do brain surgery.
Well … not exactly. Kiera’s used the sonic caelum and she knows that scarless surgery is what the sonic caelum is made for. So the lack of stitches on Joshua’s head is not conclusive proof that the surgery was avoided, but it would take knowing how to use it for that purpose in order to get away with it and she’s not thinking Arden would know. So she says nothing on that score. The crew talks well into the night over what they know, what they suspect, and what they can do about either.
Day Five, Thursday, 09 Apr 2522
0400hrs, ship’s time
Joshua’s still locked up undergoing detox. He’s spent the day watching the Wise family home movies for a distraction, wishing he had a Cortex feed, and somehow getting through another 24 hours without the drug. And now he’s dreaming and the dream isn’t pleasant ….
Back in the Academy, people have come to get someone. He’s an adult now, and one of the people at the Academy, a young girl, is trying to get him to protect her. Joshua reassures her that it won’t last long, just relax … and the guilt is stabbing him as he says it. And then intense pain slams through his head, as if he’s being pummeled by a prizefighter or standing too close to the speakers at a rock concert. Joshua opens his eyes …
…and there is a figure in a Naval uniform standing over him at bedside.
Joshua: G-g-gahhghh! (breathes) … Ow. Who …? Who are you?
Joshua struggles upright, tangled in the sheets, and the figure leans in. It’s a woman and her voice is a mere thread of sound.
Mystery Woman: I’ll help you escape if you will help me.
Joshua: (matching volume) Going back to the question—who are you?
Mystery Woman: I’m like you.
Mystery Woman: In a moment, things will arise that will make it easier to get out.
Mystery Woman: You need to find a way to contact your crew.
Joshua: Okay …
Mystery Woman: Tell them to leave.
Joshua: Tell them to leave without … us?
Mystery Woman: We will join you.
Joshua: Okay. Later …
Mystery Woman slips a piece of paper into Joshua’s hand. She leans closer and Joshua can feel her breath on his cheek. Her voice is even quieter, if such a thing is possible.
Mystery Woman: You have to … I’m helping to rescue you and your friends. You have to help mine.
Joshua: Who are your friends?
Mystery Woman: We’re on the same side.
Does he believe her? So much has happened in the past few days—finding out he might be someone’s son, having no memory of it though everyone insists it’s true, now someone comes to him in the middle of the night and implies that his gut is right, and that he and his friends need rescuing, need to bug out …
Mystery Woman: You have to resist thinking about this conversation.
Joshua: Put it behind the door. Okay. (a beat) I don’t know who you are.
Mystery Woman: When you escape, you will know that I’m on your side.
And then she leaves. Joshua lies there in the dark, his head spinning from the strange turn of events and the detox. He takes stock. Captain Wise is still Captain Wise and is still his Dad. Right? And this Mystery Woman. What did she mean when she said she was like him? Like him as in, being held kinda captive? Like him in that she’s running from someone? Like him as in, she’s a Reader? Why would she help him and the crew? What does she believe he and the crew can do for her? She said he was to leave with his crew without her, that she would join them. How?
The paper is cool and dry and crinkles in his hand. Is this a trick? Is this some sort of test to temp him? To see if he really believed he was Rex Wise, that Joshua Drake, XO of Equinox was nothing but a fiction, something to cast off like an old pair of shoes upon coming home? Or is this Mystery Woman the genuine article—his golden ticket out of here? Did he trust her? Was Joshua willing to gamble on the kindness and cooperation of a complete stranger and take the opportunity given?
Joshua lies back and closes his eyes and wills his thoughts to stop, to be still, so he can think.
Yes. He trusts her. Joshua tucks that piece of paper into the waistband of his skivvies and waita for his opening to move.
God, his head is killing him …
Elsewhere on the ship, Rina’s lying in her bed staring into the dark and trying not to go stir crazy. She’s been five days on this ship, now, five days without seeing Joshua and though Nika assures her that he’s being treated well, the crew’s speculations on the Feds’ motives aren’t making her feel easy for his future. Institutionalization. Observation. Supervision. How soon before all that turns into … psychological manipulation? Experimentation? Dissecting his br—
She falls asleep with her thoughts going morbidly round and round. Something about the overall vibe of the ship penetrates her slumber, however, and she blinks awake and pays attention. Her stint in the Navy had attuned her to the subtle ebb and flow crews impart to their ships and right now the flow is picking up in intensity. Not a GQ, nothing like that, just … an increase in purpose. It hits her then—it’s that controlled chaos that grips a military unit getting ready to roll after standing still. That is what she’s feeling.
She looks around the ward—dark, on low lights for night shift. Two nurses, male, are standing duty at the nurses’ station to the fore. Her crewmates and their passengers in bed and sleeping. She checks the time on the nearest monitor. 0400 hours.
Something’s put the ship ascurry in the middle of mid-watch? Something is definitely happening. She slides out of bed and goes over to Kiera—being nearest—and shakes her friend gently awake. She whispers in the redhead’s ear, hoping the nurses to for’ard can’t hear her.
Rina: Wake up.
Kiera: Dammit. Not a gun.
Rina: Something’s happening. Get the others ready to move.
Rina steals off to look for a weapon … gives it up. At this point, she’s more dangerous with her bare fists and she’s got five days of pent-up frustration to vent. She ghosts over to Nika’s bed to wake her Captain up. Kiera rolls out of bed in a slither of sheets and pokes Arden on the other side of her.
Arden: (muzzy) … wha-aaat … ?
Kiera: (hissing) Wake up'. Somethin’s going on.
Arden: Like what?
Kiera: 'I don’t know. Crazy Russian girl says somethin’s happenin’. Get up. I am not sufferin’ her alone.
She gives him a shove. Arden checks the time.
Arden: (aggrieved) At four in the morning?
Kiera: (Through her teeth) I repeat, I am not sufferin’ her alone. Get up.
Arden: Fine. I’ll get up.
Kiera: I’m gonna pinch you, Arden…
Arden: I’ll go wake up Beggar.
Give him his due, Arden’s agile as a cat and quits his bed with nary a thump. Meanwhile, Rina’s filling her Captain in, ducking down on the far side of the bed from the nurses’ station, whispering.
Rina: We need to get the girls. We can’t leave them behind here.
Nika: Leave them behind—what are you talking about?
Rina: Sh-hh! Sh-hh! Sh-hh! Listen!
She pauses expectantly and you don’t need the lights on to know she’s waiting for everyone to hear what she hears. Which would be … what? exactly? Arden and Kiera and Beglan and Nika all look at her and the Captain says it first.
Nika: Crazy Russian girl. Yup.
Rina: Don’t you hear that?
Rina: (tense, barely audible) Look, people. It’s four o’clock in the freaking morning and what are they they doing running around?!
Arden: Um, ship …. things …?
Rina: Not that kind of ship things. There’s something going on.
Nika looks toward the corridor and sees … huh. Her engineer just might be on to something.
Nika: She’s right. They rarely do ship things at four in the morning.
Kiera: Not at four in the morning.
Rina: (FINALLY!) No. It’s deep in the middle of mid-watch. Are you crazy? There’s something going on.
Kiera: All right, so what are we going to do?
Rina sighs and goes limp, then straightens.
Rina: I don’t know. Captain, do we get the girls and get the fuck out of here, try to break Joshua out?
Nika: How precisely would you like us to go about doing that?
Rina: Give me a minute. There’s stuff to work on in here.
Kiera: Rina, you do realize that some of the girls are staying with some of the guys in some other rooms? If you want to escape, we don’t want to let people know about it? (drawling) ‘Excuse me, can I borrow the whore you’re sleepin’ with?’
Rina doesn’t bat a lash, even as the others stifle a laugh at Kiera’s comical yet cutting observation.
Rina: At least get Lanie. We’re at least obligated to take Lanie with us because she wanted to leave and go back home.
Nika: I’m not suggesting we leave anyone. I’m asking you—(deep breath)—
Arden: How are we going to smuggle twenty people off a spaceship.
Nika: That! Thank you, Arden. Thank you. For putting it into words for me.
Kiera: Why don’t we go get Lanie since she’s over here and promised her she’d go home—
Nika: And what makes you think that—what, are we just going to overwhelm them with numbers as we bolt through the hallways?
Rina: You saw Joshua, did you not? You know which room he’s in.
We spy a figure approaching the entrance to our ward, making to move on by it. He’s in uniform, carrying bags. Suitcase-sized containers, actually. Kiera wanders over to the entrance, rubbing her eyes sleepily and hails the guy. She’s an attractive woman and she’s got that mussed up look like she’s just tumbled out of bed. Which she has. He stops.
Kiera: I want some water. (stretches fetchingly) Excuse me … I want some water.
Man: Oh, please move along. I got to get on the shuttle.
Kiera: On the shuttle?
Man: Yeah, I’ve been in training here, but I got to get back on my ship.
His speech is the sort of a man in a hurry, but unwilling to be rude to a pretty lady. Back in the ward, the rest of us hunker down behind the beds and watch from beneath. Go, Kiera, go!
Kiera: Oh. You’re not flying off with this ship?
Man: I assume it’s going to leave too.
Kiera: Oh … okay. Where y’all goin’? An’ I want some water.
Man: Ahh, I don’t think I’m allowed to say that, ma’am.
Kiera: C’n you get me some water?
Man: Um …
Kiera: Do you know somebody who c’n get me some water?
Man: I gotta get to my ship. (hooks a thumb that-a-way, starts to move) Before I’m left and then I’ll be in big trouble. So I’m sure somebody here will help you. Good luck!
Kiera: Oh …. Okay …. C’n you point me the right way?
She’s saying that last to his back as he hustles down the corridor for his shuttle. She rejoins the rest of the crew.
Kiera: (to everyone) Fleet’s takin’ off. He was going to his ship.
Rina: (to everyone) I told you.
Kiera: We’re all leaving.
Rina: We need go now.
Arden: Nika. Can you get back to where Joshua’s room was?
Kiera: Was there any card to get in?
Arden: How hard can it be to lift a badge off a doctor here in this bay?
Rina grumbles at the lack of proper tools for the job and Kiera reminds her she’s got her fists.
Rina: I don’t want to bash the control panel to the door to bits.
Kiera: I just walked through the door.
Rina: No, no, no. His door. It’s going to be locked.
Rina: I need something for a screwdriver …
Nika: Who’s usually on duty in a medical ward? Orderlies, right?
Rina: All right. I knock one of them out, take the badge.
Arden: There might be more than one.
Kiera: Yeah, there might.
Rina: But that’s what the rest of you are for, right? How many of them are there?
She looks, starts counting. Kiera asks Lanie, who’s woken up and joined us, if she would consider helping us distract the staff, given she’s so devastatingly attractive.
Lanie: What’s the plan?
Rina: We’re getting out of here is what the plan is. We’re going to get Joshua, jump on our ship, and we’re going to get the fuck out of here.
Lanie: So you need me to distract them?
Lanie: We can probably do that.
Rina: Thank you.
Kiera: I figured that would be up your alley.
Nika: And an ID badge. I need an ID badge to get to Joshua. But other than that?
Lanie: I don’t know who’s the best at that …
Nika: (wry) None of your girls are pick pockets?
Lanie: Well-lll … I’ll see what we can do.
Lanie quickly gets three of her girls together and they come up with a plan. The three dress and primp and go up to the nurses’ station and ask the man if they’d like to judge them in an impromptu beauty contest.
Oh, would they?
The men agree to judge and it’s not long before the women are draping themselves over them. Laughter, jokes, a few squeals. A few minutes later, the girls wander back. One of them sighs and shakes her head, saying:
Girl: I don’t know why we do these competitions. It’s never fair.
She holds up an ID badge in her two fingers with a sly grin and hands it to Nika.
Nika: All right.
Rina: Thank you.
Kiera: All right guys. Move. Cuz we’re movin soon.
Nika: (to Rina) Get the girls.
Kiera: (to Lanie) I’m thirsty, let’s go find some water. I been standin’ around here and ringin’ this nurse’s bell til I’m ’bout gone crazy.
Nika: Right. You guys get everybody to the ship, get the ship spun up.
First things first. We distract the two nurses at the nurses’ station and knock them out, tie them up and dump them into a bed each, cover them up to make them look like they’re one of us, sleeping. Arden draws the curtains around all our beds to hide the fact that we’re not in them. Nika and Kiera split off to spring Joshua while Rina and Arden and Beglan take Lanie and the girls to the deck Equinox is moored on.
On the way to Joshua’s room, Nika’s mapping all the angles. Where’s our shuttle? Is it with our ship? Kiera points out that she and Joshua were rescued off it. Hopefully it’s docked in Equinox’s hangar deck, but Nika says it’s no guarantee the Feds stowed her aboard or towed Lagniappe along with them when they took us on.
Nika: We might be losing the Lagniappe.
Kiera: Well, Rina, she was Navy Alliance, she might be able to find the docking ports pretty easy.
Nika: All we’re worried about at this point is gettin’ everybody onto our ship so that when the Fleet jumps, we don’t jump with ’em.
Kiera: All right. Let’s go find water.
Nika: Because, we’re gonna have to get a shuttle and get the hell out.
Nika rides the elevator to the correct deck, disembarks and makes it to Joshua’s door without any trouble with her memory. The Aceso is stirred up like a kicked hornet’s nest—people going every which way as they ready for deployment. Controlled chaos. There is enough activity to allow Nika and Kiera to more or less go openly to their objective, though they have a couple of close calls and manage to duck out of sight in time. They make it to Joshua’s door, Nika pulls her stolen badge, and runs it past the card reader.
No reaction. She tries it again. No reaction.