Episode 509: Joshua Drake, This Is NOT Your Life ... , Part Six
Nika looks around the corridor she’s standing in—anything out there they can pry the control panel off with? No? She looks at the controls. It’s not secure as a brig by any means, but more secure quarters than usual, yeah.
Kiera: Do want to see if we can’t attract attention and get somebody to open the—
Nika: Oh, we can attract attention.
Kiera: Do you want to or else beat the lock and see if the fail safe’ll open?
Nika eyes the lock—how likely would it open just from her beating on it? Not very likely.
Nika: We’re gonna need to clobber somebody over the head and get their badge.
Kiera looks for someone who might look like they’ve got the requisite security clearance to get that door open. No luck. Nika’s not too sanguine about her ability to hack around the lock, either. Kiera keeps an eye out for traffic. They’re on the crew and operations deck, deck three, and luckily this corridor with its run of doors is off the main thoroughfare in terms of traffic. They’ve got some space to breathe and think of how to get past that lock.
Kiera: How good are you at breakin’ locks?
Nika: I’m willing to give it a try.
Kiera: I’ll stand watch and stand in the way. I’ll just look leisurely.
Nika: Okay …
Nika regards the lock again and realizes there’s no point in trying.
Nika: So, alternate options, here.
Kiera: Anything around we can use as a tool?
Nika sighs. She and Kiera are not the right team to do this—Rina or Arden would be. So there’s no hacking or breaking the lock. Which means they’ll have to get inside that room the regular way—using a card. The card they have doesn’t work. They need to get one that does. How do you get someone to open a door on a hospital ship so you can get at someone locked inside?
Hospital ship … has patients … who are sick, at times in critical condition …
New plan: Nika and Kiera will fake responding to an emergency inside Joshua’s room to get someone else with a working card to open the door for them. Nika starts looking for a crash cart, a gurney and some lab coats. With Kiera’s medical expertise and manner to lend their ruse legitimacy, within minutes they’ve snagged someone to assist and are hustling along to Joshua’s door again.
We’ve got a Code Three! We need someone to open this door!
Kiera: They did brain surgery on him and he’s suffering a seizure and it’s a manic button. Gotta get in there! And basically the monitors are going offline.
Orderly: I need to call my supervisor.
Kiera: We don’t have time!
Nika: This guy’s dying, hurry up!
Nika and Kiera are quite persuasive and the orderly waves his card over the reader. The light remains red. He waves it again and barks the magic words:
Orderly: Medical override!
The lock hums. There’s a click. The door opens. Nika and Kiera trade a look over the orderly’s shoulder. Is that all it took? Shouting ‘Medical override’? Shoot, they could’a done that without getting anyone involved.
Kiera: (to Orderly) Come and help us! Come in. We’re gonna need all the help we can.
She hauls on his arm and pulls him in while Nika gets that gurney in there.
Joshua’s lying quietly in the dark when he hears a commotion outside his door, followed quickly by light pouring in from the corridor beyond to the sight of his Captain and crewmate in white lab coats barreling inside with an orderly in tow and what that a—a gurney?
Kiera: (of Joshua) My God, he’s not moving! He looks like he’s dead! (to Orderly) He’s not moving, get over there!
Joshua takes his cue and lays there, eyes closed … waits for the orderly to draw near and then explodes with a martial arts blow, knocking him out. And Joshua staggers from the pain in his head … but the orderly is out cold and Joshua’s free to leave.
Nika: Joshua. Get on your feet! Move!
Kiera: (happily) Or Rex. I knew you’d wake up being somebody else. Get on the gurney.
Nika and Kiera haul him up onto the gurney and pull the sheet over his face. Just lie there and play dead. Not hard to do—Joshua’s head is killing him. The women pull the KO-d orderly into Joshua’s bed and arrange him in a sleeper’s pose. He’ll never pass inspection but in the event of a simple bed-check, he’ll do. Nika takes the orderly’s badge off him and uses it to lock the door, locking the orderly in. Kiera’s already out in the hallway, turning the gurney back the way they came. From under the sheet, Joshua clears his throat.
Joshua: Um …?
Kiera: Shh-hh. You’re talkin’. Stop.
She twitches the sheet closer over his face and they get the hell out of there at a fast walk. Coming through. Got a body coming through. Nobody stops them. They get all the way to the elevators, get that gurney inside, and once the doors are closed, they hit the right button for the repair deck. Kiera whips the sheet off Joshua and he slides off the gurney.
Joshua: I’m so confused …
Nika: Can you walk.
Joshua: Yeah. (tests his legs) I can walk.
Meanwhile, Arden and Rina gather up all of our girls—luckily none were actually outside the recovery wards—and they all make their way to the repair deck. There are fifteen girls, including Lanie and Arden and Rina walk in the middle of them, using them as cover. They manage to cram into an elevator and take it to the right deck. The elevator dings! the doors slide open, and the girls and our crew spill out on to the repair deck.
Rina takes one look around, spots the airlock Equinox is docked at, and then strides forward of the rest, looking like she knows where she’s going and she’s got every right to be there. When she reaches the airlock, she can see the repair crew is actually in the middle of decoupling our ship, pulling wires and such out of our ship. She steps right up to the two repair crew standing at the airlock.
Rina: (brisk) Thank you. I was hoping you’d be able to get a jump on that. We’re here to take possession of our ship. They’ve released us and—
Repair Crew: You better get on quick. They’re gonna pulse.
Rina: Thank you, sir. (turns around) Everybody. On the ship. Beglan, spin her up.
Arden: We’re waiting for some crew members so the minute they get here, we’re ready to go.
Repair Crew: All right.
And that’s pretty much it. The Aceso crew pull their connections and we’ve got our ship back in our hands. Beglan goes aft to spin up our engines. Arden gets the girls situated for a fast take-off. Rina mans the airlock to watch for Nika, Kiera and Joshua’s return. In less than a minute of taking possession of Equinox, the elevator bank spits out Nika, Kiera and Joshua. Joshua’s a little shaky on his pins but he walks, quickly, keeping pace with Kiera and Nika. They cross the threshold of the airlock, we seal it up tight and IAV Aceso decouples our ship.
We power free of the Brigantine’s hull and all around us the other ships of the fleet go to pulse. IAV Aceso waits until we’ve reached a safe distance away and then she too pulses. We’re left alone in the Black.
Nika notices we’ve about 110 hours of fuel, just enough to get us to Paquin. She also notes that Lagniappe is showing on the boards as being docked in our hangar deck. Whew! We’ve even got our cat Jahn. One of the girls picked him up on her way out the door. Everything and everyone’s aboard that should be aboard. Nika doesn’t dither but sets our course and pulses for Paquin.
Day Six, Friday, 10 Apr 2522
We didn’t make the bonus for early delivery but we did make the delivery date. We get paid our normal rate. We fuel up and take off for Greenleaf. Nika wants to get us a little farther away from our last known position before we touch down and start on repairs.
Day Seven, 11 Apr 2522
En route to Greenleaf
Joshua uses the time to go all the way off his drugs, voluntarily finishing the detox he’d had forced on him on Aceso. He confers with Arden about it.
Arden: Do you want to stay clean?
Joshua: I didn’t go through through this gāisǐ de dà xiàng dàxiǎo de hóuzi tā mā de headache go back on now.
Arden: Okay. I’ll lock up the drugs in the safe.
Joshua: Did you by chance run into somebody …
And he describes the Naval officer who came to him in the middle of the night and handed him that slip of paper. Arden gets all of us together around the table so we can discuss it.
Joshua: She sorta had like … (gestures) … black hair… Naval uniform …
Rina: We were on a ship full of Naval people.
He actually sketches her portrait and shows it to us. Kiera looks it over with a critical eye.
Kiera: Yeah. I may have run into her. She was—
Kiera: Yeah, why?
Joshua: (firm) Tell me.
Joshua: Tell me. About her. What did you—was there anything unusual about her?
Kiera: Aside from the fact that she seemed to be paying awful close attention in that very special way that you seem to.
Joshua: That’s what I wanted to know. Thank you. She … she, not two hours, three hours before you threw me on a gurney and rolled me out of room—
Arden: We could have left you there.
Joshua: Oh no, I know. It’s not a complaint. It’s just a comment. (resuming) She said that she’d help get me out—I don’t know if she helped, I don’t know in what way she helped—but that she wanted me to help her. She said her people. It wasn’t her specifically. It was her friends. She gave me some coordinates. She said she was like me.
Nika: Like you … as in a Reader? Like you as in … a Borrower?
Joshua: I don’t know. You have to understand, I’m still a little confused about the whole deal. St. Albans—
Nika: In the meantime, while we’re on the ground and you are several days through detox, I think you should go ahead and finish it.
Joshua: I’m gonna finish it. Like I told him, there is no way that I went through all the gāisǐ de dà xiàng dàxiǎo de hóuzi tā mā de headaches to go back on.
Rina speaks up before he can rant on.
Joshua: St. Albans.
He pulls the paper from his pocket and gives it to her. The crew crowds in to look at them. Rina notes that there are no seconds, just degrees and minutes and Nika dryly comments that seconds aren’t always needed.
Arden: I do have a question though.
Arden: Are your abilities affected by not being on the drugs.
Joshua: I don’t know. I actually haven’t—I couldn’t Read anybody before … (gestures aloft: IAV Aceso)
Arden does a bloodwork on Joshua, to track his condition. The results show some Flomoxipan in his system but nothing else. He shows Joshua the results and Joshua thanks him. And Joshua tries again to see if he can Read anyone. He chooses Kiera for his next try, just a quick scan of her surface thoughts and the headache spikes him hard, leaving him nothing conclusive beyond pain. At this point, Joshua almost doesn’t care if he can no longer Read. Since he’s joined our crew, having the ability is almost more trouble than it’s worth. He eases off and concentrates on recovering, content for the moment to let the ability resolve itself, or not, as he recuperates.
The crew discuss what to do next. Should we try to disguise our ship? Paint over our names on the hull? Nika rolls her eyes at Rina’s suggestion.
Nika: And quite frankly what are they gonna do? Come after us and try to claim we kidnapped him?
Arden: The father might.
Nika: By the time they catch up with us, there’s no way they can prove it.
Rina: All right. Voice of reason. I’ll buy that.
Arden looks at Joshua.
Arden: What’s the possibility that the father might chase after you.
Joshua: Is he really my father?
Nika: We don’t know
Arden: I don’t know. You tell us.
Joshua: I don’t know.
Nika: I’m not sure we’ll ever know.
Joshua: He said the DNA matched, but …
Nika: They did do a DNA test.
Arden: (to Kiera) Told you.
Joshua: Yeah. They said the DNA matched but that doesn’t necessarily … I mean …
Rina: How do they know it was yours?
Nika: He doesn’t. Here’s the thing—even if the DNA did match, as we talked about before, they could falsify those records.
Kiera: All right.
Nika: So, you know, we still don’t know if he is Rex Wise or if he was pretending to be Rex Wise.
Joshua: I thought I was pretending to be him. I mean, I’m kinda confused…
Rina: You are who you are.
Kiera: So, Joshua, you really were pretending to be Rex Wise, then.
Nika: We don’t know that. He could have been being himself and not—
Joshua shakes his head.
Joshua: No, yes. I was Rex Wise on the Trafalgar.
Nika: Yes, but you could have been on a mission as yourself because it was your mission.
Joshua: Yes, I’m not saying that’s not true. I’m just saying that the fact that I know is that I was Lt. Cmdr. Rex Wise when I was on board the Trafalgar.
Nika: I wasn’t sure of that, but … (shrugs)
Kiera: So, when they were talking to you, what felt more real?
Joshua: I don’t—I don’t know. He felt like my dad. Now, is that true? I don’t know.
It wouldn’t be uncommon for part of his preparation for Borrowing to involve going over family photos, researching the family, who they were, where they lived, what they did—the works. It could be that feeling of familiarity came from that, the prep-work, and not any real familial connection.
Joshua: It’s certainly possib—it, it … I don’t know. I don’t think he really was my dad, but I will say this. He believed it. When I was there, I believed it. I kinda … I kinda miss … wanting to believe it.
Arden: You know it’s more than probable that your cover was Rex Wise, when you were on Trafalgar.
Joshua: Yeah. No, it was. I was being him and I don’t—it wouldn’t surprise me if… They don’t—sometimes they make things up and sometimes …
Arden: They could have gone into the med database and changed things.
Joshua: And they could have gone into the mad database. Certainly, if that’s true, he’s dead.
Nika: See, that’s my concern. How did he get dead? If that’s the case.
Joshua: They killed him. That he volunteered for Secret Mission X, at Secret Mission Institute—well, no, it’s not that he got killed on it. Well, maybe he did, but it’s more likely that Blue Sun had their hands on Secret Mission X and found it easier to kill him and replace him, than it was to try and brainwash him. Maybe they didn’t need him.
Arden: Maybe it’s something to look into in the future.
Kiera: Joshua, when you say you were on the Trafalgar and you were Rex Wise and these guys … (gestures to the crew) … showed up, what was your motivation for leaving? Because if you believed you were Rex Wise …?
Yeah, why did he break cover?
Joshua: I had—there’s always, always, there has to be, when I’m pretending to be someone, when I’m Borrowing them—there’s always me at the base. Buried deep. It has to be, because I have to have something to come back to. And I had been given enough information and I asked enough questions to know that something was going on with my situation. That it wasn’t right. And when the opportunity came, I took it.
Nika: And ran like hell.
Joshua: And basically ran like hell. And I did something I don’t do very often and hadn’t done very often at that point, which was basically pop out of Borrowing. I don’t do that very often. Or I hadn’t, at the time. We were trained to prepare to come out, to always take the time.
Kiera: So when you escaped and the Reavers were chasing you and they showed up—
Joshua: It was as Joshua. It wasn’t as Rex.
Kiera: It wasn’t as Rex. It was as Joshua. What made you pop out?
Joshua: Not wanting to see people hurt.
Kiera: See, that’s what I’m saying. I wasn’t there so I don’t know. I get to be objective and not have the emotions with it.
Arden: And it was an adverse reaction to the Blue Hands people. I often have that.
Joshua: I didn’t want to see people get hurt. Which meant saving all of your lives.
Kiera: That’s what I’m trying to figure out. You had emotion, they had emotion. I don’t have any emotion to this. It gives a way of looking at why you did what you did and what triggered it.
Joshua leans back.
Joshua: I’m not a slave to the Borrowing.
Joshua: I can make those choices. Or at least, I hope that I can make those choices.
Rina: There has to be enough of him conscious to be operational as an operation. You can make operational decisions and not give away his persona.
Joshua: Right. If I was completely Cmdr. Wise, then I would be doing exactly what Cmdr. Wise would want to do and not necessarily what is in Blue Sun’s best interest.
Rina: Mission parameters. Right.
Joshua: So there has to be a part of me that’s always aware that I’m—that something’s going on. Was that part of me, that part of him, that saw the opportunity to help, that saw the opportunity to run. I hadn’t been, or at least in my mind—I don’t even know if it’s real—I haven’t really been off-planet all that much. Not in the Core. I didn’t know when I would have the chance to do that again.
Rina: I’ve always wanted to ask you …
Joshua: I’m here.
Rina: When we were there, on Trafalgar, you had on you drugs that could counteract the sonic weapon. You dosed yourself and you dosed me. And you and I both went out there to retrieve Jake’s camera and our crewmen who had fallen, and was that part of Wise’s mission parameter to have that on him? Or was that slipped to you by Zel?
Joshua: I’m not sure I remember off the top of my head.
It would be nice to know. It made the difference between falling to the sonics and dying, and making it out of there alive.
Joshua: I don’t actually remember off the top of my head.
Rina: I’ve always wanted to know.
Joshua: Does it matter?
Rina: If it were something that Wise would normally carry, it would have implications and if it was something that was slipped to you by Zel, it would also have different ramifications. So …
At this point there is no telling. And off to the side Kiera asks Nika about the possibility of submerged personalities and their inconvenient resurfacing. After all, Joshua just admitted to having to submerge is true self during Borrowings in order to carry out the mission tasks. What does that mean in terms of consequences? Nika cannot answer her.
At this point, we have a lot of questions without clear cut answers. Not even Joshua can be 100% sure he understands how his abilities work, much less how they can fail or go wonky. And being there isn’t anything we can change the situation as it currently stands, we table the discussion and get on with making a living.
Day Eight, Sunday, 12 Apr 2522
Five Suns Fruit Company Plantation
Lanie’s family are orchardists and their orchard, Five Suns Fruit Company Plantation, is extensive. It’s a veritable tropic paradise of fruit trees, green, lush, and bountiful, tucked into the rainforest of Greenleaf. The girls we’ve rescued adapt quickly to the environment. Lanie is met by her oldest brother, who’s running the family farm now that their father is gone. Their father was murdered by their mother after Lanie was taken and their mother is in prison for her crime. Her brother isn’t entirely certain why their mother killed their father, but we can all guess: she killed him for selling Lanie off, or letting her be taken. What mother wouldn’t? We have no proof, however, and the family doesn’t know where their mother is incarcerated in order to ask.
As a crew we’re stunned. It was not the homecoming we’d hoped for Lanie and we can only stand there in sympathy when she hears the news. Lanie’s brother is shocked as well—he did not expect Lanie to return as a woman. He knew her when she was his brother, Roland. It makes for an awkward moment or two. The two brothers in charge of the plantation come to grips with the situation and welcome Laney home. She is their sibling, she’s family, and this is her home.
She has also brought along 14 unattached women, which the brothers appreciate as well. They make all of us welcome and give us a place to rest and heal up emotionally from the events we’ve recently suffered. Surrounded by decent people, a soothing tropical climate, and food you can pick right off the trees, there are worse places to recuperate, but none better.