Episode 518: Why We Fought
Air date: 31 May 2011
Present: Andy, Bobby, Kim, Maer, and Terri
Monday, 20 Jul 2522
Georgia (Huang Long) system
After the excitement of the volcanic eruption on Ezra, our one day flight to Boros and subsequent two day delay parked in orbit is a welcome chance to catch our breath and rest. It’s the 20th of July when we finally kiss dirt at Vandenberg and we resume the business of cargo hauling.
While we’re in orbit, we notice that there is a fleet of Alliance ships in orbit with us. The presence of Alliance ships around Boros isn’t unusual per se. Boros is an allied world. What is unusual is the sheer number of Navy ships present. It’s the Third Fleet. They are responsible for the delay—our place in the queue is juggled to accommodate shuffling so much steel in orbit. The comm chatter is full of orders from traffic control to change position to this orbital pattern to that, and the Fleet jockeys to comply … not to mention everyone else who needs to move out of the way when the big ships come through. The Fleet normally patrols from Hera to Boros and back but apparently there is a huge transfer of personnel going on. When we kiss dirt, Alliance personnel are practically a purple blanket over Vandenberg. As we get secured in our berth and start pumping fuel and purging waste, we can see the Feds are looking into everything and questioning people steadily in the street. Papers are turned over for inspection. Some people are led away.
What the hell?
In terms of traffic, it looks like the Feds are interested only in ships space bound or incoming, but travel inside atmo is being given a pass. All the more reason to take Beatrix—no longer Trixie—back to her family in Cody as soon as possible after securing Equinox.
Tuesday, 21 Jul 2522
Morning arrives and the entire crew flies in Lagniappe to Cody. Sunny and Racy go with us. We’ve met Beatrix’s folks before. Her parents run a group set up for families with missing and exploited children.
Arriving in Cody, we’re met with a joyous reunion—the first such in our quest to return the JJB victims with their loved ones and it very quickly turns into something of a party. The streets are lit up and there’s a festival atmosphere. Everyone in town has turned out to celebrate. The crew gets into it and it does much to help us forget the craptastic turn our professional luck has taken of late. Nevertheless Rina, the resident twitch, keeps a sharp eye out for any funny business. Sunny is offered a place to stay with Beatrix’s parents in Cody until they can get in touch with her parents. She hasn’t anywhere else to go and she’s very grateful to accept their help.
She’s not the only person so touched. The crew is affected too and finally, we can feel as if we’d made measurable progress against the evil of JJB. As Joshua remarks to Rina in an aside:
Joshua: I’m happy to find someone else happy.
Despite Rina’s watchful eye for any trouble, nothing untoward happens. No gate crashers, no kidnappings, no disasters. Just fun and partying. A relief and a welcome change.
Nika: We don’t know what to do with ourselves.
Joshua: I do. I’m having fun. (cuts Rina a look) A lot of fun.
It’s late that night when we get back to Vandenberg, tired but pleased to have gotten a happy ending for a JJB girl at last.
Wednesday, 22 Jul 2522
Come morning, we gather everyone for a crew meeting to discuss what we need to do next. Racy and Giselle sit in.
We need to degrit Equinox and Lagnaippe. Joshua’s looked at the figures and it’s going to cost 200 credits and some time. Racy didn’t like the idea of settling in Cody and thinks Vandenberg is more her style. She’s going to need to start scouting for cars to run her taxi service on. Beglan wonders if some of us should go with her during her hunting forays of the used car lots. Nika agrees to come along with Racy and delegates the task of lining up another cargo job on Joshua. He’s fine with it and Rina offers to ride shotgun.
Nika remembers the dealer Christian sold our Miranda salvage to from a couple years back. Crazy Ito’s is right where Christian left it … but given the presence of uniformed and non=uniformed Feds on the lot, it might not be there for long. Ito himself is pulled aside in his office for questioning and Nika and Racy play it cool, like customers who are there to window shop. When the Feds finally leave, Nika approaches Ito. She’s got 300 on her for a car and she tells Racy its 250, holding the last 50 in reserve. Racy stays outside with the cars when Nika goes into Ito’s building. Ito himself remembers her and ruefully says he’s not in a buying position. He’s going out of business, he says … but … he might make one last sale. They walk out to the cars and on the way, Nika gently pumps him for information. What were the Feds doing on his lot? Is he in trouble?
Ito confides he used to be known as Captain Ito in the Independent Army. She’s being taken to the Core as a “material witness” in identifying Independent insurgents. He’s not under arrest or is a person of interest … but he cannot refuse to go to the Core. That’s what the Feds are doing in Vandenberg, he warns us. They’re here looking for material witnesses and such insurgents as they can lock up.
Can we offer you any help? Nika asks.
Can I do a bio scan of you? Ito replies in return.
Um … okay.
They turn around and go back inside and sure enough, Ito bioscans Nika. He waits for the results and in a minute he’s looking them over.
Ito: Oh, so you got your amnesty papers as well.
Ito: Let’s walk while we put the scan on the Cortex…
Meaning he’s doing a fuller check on her. They walk. He talks. She listens.
Ito admits interrogating him would put people in danger. And it’s pretty much likely that he’s going to be interrogated. Can we help him get his friends off planet? Before he’s made to give them up? Say, drop them off at Regina? Not many, there’s only 6 of them. Nika asks for details.
We will get two sweet armored LEO vehicles with all the mods in place for only 100 credits each. We can pick them up tomorrow morning in the daylight—nothing by night. Too suspicious. He’s under surveillance now. When Nika pays for the vehicles, she’ll be slipped information on how to contact a party who will give her the locations and the code words for extracting the six sleeper agents in and around Vandenberg. Utmost secrecy, of course, is crucial to a successful extraction and we are not to contact Ito again after taking possession of the vehicles.
Nika agrees. Looks like we’ve got ourselves some passengers.
She shakes on the deal and agrees to come back the next day, peeling Racy off the LEO vehicles on her way off the lot. Once she’s out of earshot, she comms Joshua to tell him there’s been a change in plans. We’re not degritting our ships. We need the money for something else.
Joshua copies that and cuts the channel. He and Rina are walking the streets of Vandenberg on that job hunt. Rina’s walked off-ship without her usual suspects on. In fact, she’s donned an off-duty shirt and is even wearing a skirt and boots. Practically a girly girl and looking every inch a girlfriend on Joshua’s arm. As a departure of her usual, it’s pretty significant. As protective coloring amongst the Feds on the ground, it’s only partially successful. They look the part of a couple on a stroll, but they still get stopped on the street by a patrol.
They’re asked to produce their identification papers.
Joshua doesn’t have a valid ID—the only one he had was for Lt. Cmdr. Wise and it went up in smoke with Summer’s Gift. Not that he could say that, exactly. Rina’s ID was lost prior to that, not long after hiring on to the MakeMake. Being a real one costs about 4000 credits to replace under the table, it was something she’d learned to do without. In truth, this is the first time in months she’s been asked to produce it. Both Joshua and Rina truthfully admit they don’t have them on them at the moment, not anticipating the need to have them.
They’re taken aside, questioned, photographed, and frisked. Rina suffers it without decking anyone and Joshua keeps talking, hoping to fend off an arrest. Like Rina’s attempt at camouflage, it’s only partially successful. They aren’t hauled off to the hoosegow but neither are their photos deleted from the camera. They’re going to end up in a record somewhere.
They don’t linger but get off the streets, hightailing it back to Equinox. Any cargo hunting will have to be online. Nika and Racy return from Ito’s lot and another crew meeting is called to brief everyone on the mission. As it gets underway in the conference room, Rina boots up the cortex link on the smart table and starts running a search with her contacts on Ito. What can they tell her about him? Anything? Meanwhile, Nika fills everyone in and we fine tune the details.
We will be given contact information, she says, an email address we’re to reply to. We will get a reply back, with the necessary locations of the sleeper agents and the password to use to let them know their ride has arrived. We will drive out to the designated meeting places, get the agents in our newly purchased LEO vehicles and drive back to Equinox. We’ll drive them right into our cargo hold and close it up. From there we will transfer them inside our hangar bay to Lagniappe and fly out to Nala’s ranch. It will look like the Captain’s gone back home to visit her sister—a common enough occurrence whenever we’re dirtside on Boros and something we’ve only just recently done. Given that the flight will be in-atmo, the Feds will likely give us only a cursory glance and let us fly on unmolested.
Once we’ve established our alibi, we’ll take off in Lagniappe and rendezvous with Equinox somewhere else far from Vandenberg, redock with Equinox and run the blockade off Boros.
Rina gets on the Cortex and searches her contacts for info on Crazy Ito. Arden finds a cattle cargo for Eris, one of the moons off Hera. It’s the equivalent of 300 tons. It’s not quite a rush job. We have time to decide on this one. However, if we take the cattle, it will interfere with the extraction mission. Nika advises against taking the cattle. We’ll fly empty to Nala’s ranch with the story we’ve already devised: Hey, we’re in town. Can we visit? We can land EQ in the back pasture and no one will think it odd.
It’s a good thing we’re all agreed on what we want to do—the pick-up of the vehicles is the next thing on our to-do list. Nika decides to not wait til daylight but pick up the cars this very evening. Joshua and Rina have to stay behind—they’ve been photographed by the authorities and cannot afford to be spotted. Nika picks Racy to come along, because the girl obviously knows what she’s doing when it comes to cars. Arden and Kiera come along, too. The four go to Ito’s to pick up the vehicles. Ito himself is not there but an assistant is with the paperwork ready for us to sign. Ito is waiving the 100 credit sales tag on the vehicles, having come to a gentlemen’s agreement that if he isn’t there to take the cash in hand personally, we aren’t personally responsible to pay for the vehicles. It’s all done with a wink and a nod and the assistant doesn’t bat a lash as Nika takes possession. We drive the cars off the lot—Nika and Racy in one, Arden and Kiera in the other.
The cars are SWEET: watertight for submerged engine use, armored, and gifted with independent suspension for each wheel. They’re an all-over primer coat grey from, well, primer coat, but OMG, they’re sweet. We drive them around town to get a feel for them and for the road conditions we’ll meet tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Joshua and Rina get a signal from outside the ship. Joshua answers. It’s the Port Authority. They need to inspect our vessel. There are Feds standing on the tarmac with a couple of miligrunts.
Joshua answers their questions. They put us on the inspection list. We’re 37th in the queue and they’ve only just started clearing it. We’re going to be here awhile.
Joshua Reads the Fed: Can he be bribed?
Bright side: We aren’t landlocked.
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew is taking our new acquisitions out for a spin, driving in the city and basically seeing how they handle. They handle just fiiiiiiiine. That night a Nazi-esque curfew is leveled on the city and our extraction team finds a place to hole up til morning. Rina and Joshua and Beglan stay aboard Equinox.
Thursday 23 Jul 2522
The extraction team grabs breakfast at a diner. Meanwhile, back at Equinox, Rina plugs in the anonymizer to our comms and sends the email as per instructions. We get back 4 sets of GPS coordinates—the locations our our extraction targets.
Glacier is the code word we’re to use to identify ourselves to our targets.
In two emails, we have a pick-up time of 1400hrs: one target at Mama Mia’s Café, another target at a One-Hour Cleaners.
In two emails, we have the pick-up time of 1430hrs: one target at a landfill outside of town and another target at Unification Park.
Rina comms the info to our extraction teams via a secure channel she’s rigged up.
The extraction teams take a 1400 and a 1430 target each, work out the routes through the city, and take off. Nika and Racy will take the café and the landfill targets—those being closer together—and Arden and Kiera will take the cleaners and the park targets.
Arden and Kiera get to their first target at the Laundromat. Kiera goes in and gives the password to the person manning the counter. That person turns around and says “Chris, it’s time to go.”
A 50’s man and a teenaged girl leave with 2 heavy garment bags—laundry on hangers.
Kiera gets her targets into the car and stows the gear they’ve brought with them, and gets in beside Arden. He drives to the next location—Unification Park. They discuss their strategy for finding their next target there.
Nika and Racy go to Mama Mia’s first. Nika goes in and takes a seat at the counter. She gives the password, is told to go around back. Nika gets a coffee to go as a cover for anyone surveilling her and Racy drives around back where a waitress is taking a cigarette break. The password is given again and the waitress fishes a bag out of the trash. She gets in.
They pull out of the alley and drive casual. They notice that they’ve picked up an aerial skiff driving over the block. Are they blown? They can’t be sure. Nika and Racy quickly devise an alternate route to the landfill.
Kiera and Arden make to the park. Arden bails and Kiera will meet him on the other side of the park. He has his PDA with him and plugs in the GPS coordinates into it to find the exact location of the extraction target.
The results are a bit inconclusive—the target is close, too close to pick out from all the others in the park. Arden is going to have to do a little discreet snooping.
He goes to a pushcart selling gyros. He gets one and sits on the edge of a big fountain to eat it. He chats up the people lounging there, asking if they know where he can get Glacier Ice Cream, he’s heard it’s fantastic. Nobody rises to the codeword. He checks the time. 1430 hrs arrives. No show on the target. 1432 … 1433 ….
The longer he lingers, the greater the op will be blown and everyone taken by the Feds. If he leaves, he may be leaving the mole behind to the Feds’ tender mercies. Does he abort the extraction or stay?
Arden waits for a little longer.
Nika tells Racy to drive the waitress to Equinox and Nika will go to the landfill … or … she tells Racy: “Head for the landfill. Lose the skiff.”
Racy executes a U-turn into oncoming graffic, dodges into an alley, down an embankment … and loses the skiff. Woo!
Back in the park, Arden approaches homeless people, which attracts the attention of a Marshal on the street. A homeless guy tells Arden where he can find Glacier Ice Cream. Not sure if the guy is completely in his right mind, Arden decides to verify the directions. Who would know better than the local law enforcement? Arden goes to the Marshal and asks for directions for Glacier Ice Cream.
Marshal: Ident card, please.
Arden: I don’t have one. It got lost. I’m a spacer.
'Marshal: Will you come with me, please.
Kiera sees them walking to the Fed’s hoverbike. She’s been driving around the perimeter the entire time. She comes up with a plan to help Arden escape. She drives the car right into the bike, slams on the breaks, storms out and yells, “HOLY FUCKING GLACIER!”
She immediately stages an emotional tirade about how her husband is going to kill her—lookit the scratch on the car! OMG, are you okay, sir? I didn’t hit you too did I? OMG OMG OMG!
Faced with hysterical female, the Marshal tells Kiera to put her hands on the vehicle. Arden pulls a trank from his med bag and slaps it home while the Marshal is busy with Kiera. Arden misses—oops!—and the trank hits the man’s armor.
The jig is blown now. Arden goes to disarm the man. The Marshal gets the drop on him, draws his weapon and aims it to shoot. Arden moves to disarm anyway. He dodges the Marshal’s shot and it misses.
Back at the ship, Joshua and Rina are playing cards, waiting for the extraction teams to show up … waiting and playing cards and now, starting to worry.
Arden tries to disarm the Marshal again. He is successful and readies a fist to cold cock him. Meanwhile Kiera looks for any takers for the code word.
The Marshal grapples with Arden. Arden escapes and puts him in a hammer hold and slaps another trank on him. This time it hisses on the man’s skin and as he crumples Kiera hears him whisper: “Put me in the carrrrrrrr……”
He’s our target.
The other targets in the car are a bit … well, let’s just say that this is the weirest extraction op they’ve ever seen. As for the 30 other people in the park, they stand by and watch but thankfully, they do absolutely NOTHING. One wonders if they’re glad someone’s taking on a Fed.
Racy parks under an overpass to see if they get nabbed. If not, they’ve lost the skiff. Nika compliments her on her evasive driving.
Racy: We’re gonna be a little late.
Nika: Just get us there.
Nika and Racy get to the landfill. They’re 15 minutes late. Will their target still be there? God, we hope so. Nika gets out at the gates and asks the attendant about Glacier National Park? Obviously this can’t be it. Could he give her directions?
She reconnoiters into the landfill, sees two people. They respond to the code word and go with her. They need to stop at the recycling center on the other side. They climb in the car. Nika tells Racy to drive for the center. Once there, the targets dig out 3x3 shrink wrapped containers—4 of them—and put three in the trunk and keep one with them in the car.
Racy drives them back to Equinox.
Back with Arden and company, they make tracks for Equinox. Arden drives while Kiera slaps the Marshal with a stim patch. He wakes up. He needs to pick something up at a public storage facility. When they get there, small boxes are brought out and loaded into the car. Then the Marshal directs Arden to a furniture store. He buys a bedstead and ties it to the roof of our car. Thus disguised, we ride right over to our ship and drive into the cargo bay.
Joshua’s waiting for them there.
Joshua: Let’s get our passengers aboard the shuttle.
Kiera: And their stuff.
Joshua: How much stuff do they have? (looks, sees) Oh—!
Nika and Racy drive aboard. Joshua tells Nika about the inspection. Do we continue with our shuttle plan or zoom out of here in Equinox? Do we move the moles’ packages into the hidey hole? Do we put the moles in there too?
Nika thinks blasting off is a bad idea. We will visit the ranch and come back for the inspection. Or as far as Larsen City.
We fly Equinox out of there, clear a local trip to the Northern Continent with traffic control, and fly to the ranch.
Nika gives them the night to reset at the ranch. Our extraction targets—now our passengers—want to know who arranged the extraction. Ito, we tell them. Making our plans for the morrow, we decide to avoid the inspection. Our cars are conspicuous. One of them will go to Racy as we’ve agreed. Racy will drive her car to Larsen City to make a start with her taxi business there. We give her the keys to the undamaged car and thank her for her help. We also give her cash for fuel—100 credits. Racy leaves and see her off.
Thanks, Racy, and best of luck to you.
Nala gathers us together and tells us of current events on Boros. More Feds are obviously here now, but Nala’s a widow of a Fed soldier: that gives her some advantage. She’s not sure what she and the ranch will do but she says the ranch could be a refuge to others.
Way to go, sis! You gotta hand it to Nala—it takes guts to sign up for the Underground Railroad right under the Feds’ noses. But then again, nobody has ever accused the Earhart women of being timid.
Friday, 24 Jul 2522
We lift off from the ranch at 0400hrs. Nika orders Rina to ready the crybabies in our weapons bays. Arden helps her in the bay portside while our passengers man the one to starboard.
Joshua’s manning sensors on the bridge and we get pinged as we go through atmo. We’ve been made. Joshua warns Rina and she shoots off two crybabies.
Nika evades. Crybabies cry. Pursuers fooled.
Nika shoots between our chasers for a random planet NOT in Regina’s direction. We will come out of pulse when we get there and reset the course for Regina. That’s for later. For now, we’re basking in the glow of an extraction op successfully accomplished.
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