Episode 604: Search For Closure

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I know I announced I wasn't going to verbatim these for the next foreseeable. The dialogue for this episode sucked me in. I'm sorry and given the ending to this one, the next episode isn't likely going to be any less verbatim either.--Maer

Air date: 02 Aug 2011
Present: Andy, Bobby, Kim, Maer, and Terri

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Rico and Motts are our passengers, couriering perfectly legal auto parts to Beylix. They’re kinda greasy and they spend the entire 16-day voyage trying to court our female crew members. They seem oblivious of the women’s deflections and outright refusals.

It’s a trying trip for our crew.

Wednesday, 11 Nov 2522
In orbit over Beylix
Kalidasa (Xuan Wu) system

We’re really glad the voyage is over. While still in space over Beylix, we’re hailed by United Reclamation Ship J-7. It’s armed. It’s an enforcer ship. We answer the hail. We tell them we have cargo. Their response:

UR J-7: Hold your position. Prepare to be boarded.

Since we’ve got perfectly legal cargo, we stop, hold position, and wait to be boarded. Joshua meets the boarding party at the airlock. Four men in the grey UR jumpsuits step aboard.

The second he sees them, Joshua has a sudden and strong vision of grey jumpsuited UR workers held hostage by the Lenore, just before they’re slaughtered. Thoroughly hinked, Joshua drags his feet going up the stairs, asking for paperwork. Flat-out stalling.

Kiera sees him and thinks he’s telegraphing that these people are the bad guys. For their part, the UR crew is puzzled by Joshua’s demeanor. Joshua is increasingly gripped by anxiety from the visions crowding forward in his head and the closer he gets to the top of the stairs, the more agitated he becomes. Kiera intercepts him.

Kiera: Are you okay? You have a fever?

She sees he’s highly agitated and concerned but she doesn’t understand why. The inspectors are also puzzled by Joshua’s behavior. Thinking that it would be best to simply remove Joshua from the possible source of his distress, she tells him that he’s needed on the bridge. The ploy doesn’t work. Joshua is fully gripped by his memories and Kiera’s arrival has made the vision complete. In his mind, Kiera’s the redheaded leader of the Lenore crew, armed and dangerous, and she’s going to kill the UR men to take over the ship. There is nothing he can do to stop it. There’s going to be shooting and bloodshed and death, and he’s going to feel these innocent men die …

Joshua: It’s all happening all over again … my life is, like, cyclical …

Joshua curls right up on the deck into a tight little ball, completely overwhelmed.

It’s the shortest damned inspection EVER.

Inspector: (hinked!) None of this looks like salvage to us. You can stay there, ma’am. We’ll just head back to our ship.

They leave. Fast. Kiera sees them out, secures our airlock, then goes over to Joshua (still on the deck) and nudges him in the butt with her foot.

Kiera: What the hell?
Joshua: Owww. What?!
Kiera: Get up. What is the problem with you? (offers hand up) Do you want to get up? Can you begin to explain to me what that was?
Joshua: Are they gone?
Kiera: Yes.
Joshua: You didn’t kill them?
Kiera: I didn’t what?
Joshua: You didn’t kill them?
Kiera: Have you lost your goddamned mind? What’s wrong with you? I will kill you if you don’t get your ass up off the floor. What is wrong with you? I’m not standing here. All right fine, you’re a crazy tā mā de báichī.

Joshua looks around the cargo hold to make sure there aren’t any bodies. He’s confused. He absolutely expected to see bloodied gunshot corpses on the deck. So, yeah … what’s going on? Where are the bodies and why is—? His head resets itself and the vision gripping him disappears. Joshua blinks and comes back to himself and he scrambles up from the deck.

Joshua: Hey, hey. What was that all about? I don’t understand.

Confused over Joshua’s behavior and not a little angry, Kiera stomps to the bridge to tell Nika. Joshua, thoroughly confused as to why Kiera blew up in his face, follows right behind her.

Joshua: I wonder what her problem is? She just called me a nasty word. What was up with that?

Kiera strides right onto the bridge where Nika is signing off with the UR patrol boat. Damn, that was a fast inspection. Yay and thank you. She turns around when she hears Kiera enter the bridge.

Nika: (happy) Hey, good job you guys. What happened?

Kiera cuffs Joshua.

Joshua: Ow!
Kiera: He went completely fetal.

Arden looks up from the sensors console.

Arden: This is unusual for Joshua how?
Joshua: Ow. She kicked me.
Arden: Are you okay?
Joshua: I’m fine.

Nika looks at Arden, grins, and says of her other two crewmates:

Nika: “Mom, she’s touchin’ me!”
Arden: “Am not!”
Nika: (to Kiera and Joshua) What in the world?
Kiera: I don’t know. (sputters) Apparently it’s a negotiation skill that works wonders. I come walk up. He freezes. He hits the deck. In fetal position.
Nika: Joshua, what happened?
Joshua: Do I have to tell you in front of her?
Kiera: Fine! (covers ears) La-la-la-la-la!
Nika: Come with me.
Arden: You can use the med bay. It’s right next door.

Nika takes Joshua to her quarters and grills him.

Nika: What happened?
Joshua: You ever had—You ever had déjà vu?
Nika: Sure. Why?
Joshua: When they came on board … I don’t know. I was—I was convinced I was reliving it. Everything that … You remember the first, one of the first things that I did when I came on board we had that whole piracy thing? With the pirates that killed the United Reclamation people? Mary and all her crew? I was thoroughly convinced I was living it all over again.

He motions toward the bridge, just on the other side of Nika’s closed door.

Joshua: And that she was playing the role of Mary and was gonna kill’em all right then and there.

Long pause.

Nika: Do you need to see Arden?
Joshua: So he can kick me in the ass too?
Nika: How vivid of a flashback are we talkin’?
Joshua: She wasn’t kidding when she said I dropped fetal. I did.
Nika: Go and see Arden. Make sure you’re okay.
Joshua: Yes, Ma’am.

Nika goes back to the bridge and Joshua sees Arden as ordered. Joshua tells him what happened, describing it as best he can. Arden thinks that Joshua might not need his expertise as a doctor but needs a psychologist—training which he doesn’t exactly have. Still, there are some medical avenues Arden can pursue.

Joshua: Is there anything you can to do just to make sure my brain functions aren’t at least misfiring?
Arden: I can check your bloodwork and see if there’s something going on mentally. I mean, something physically going on.
Joshua: Okay. Just do what you gotta do.
Arden: It sounds like there’s some stress going on.
Joshua: It was a kinda weird situation.
Arden: And maybe some unresolved issues. Which unfortunately is outside my purview. I’m a medical doctor, not a mental/brain shrink.
Joshua: If you spend enough time on a ship, you’ll end up with a psychology degree.
Arden: No kidding. Or become committed yourself.
Joshua: Either way.
Arden: Which? Psych degree or psych condition?
Joshua: Pretty much either way.

They bring the doctor’s visit to a close and Joshua carries on with the rest of his day.

Later the same day
Spaceport B, Belix

We land and unload our perfectly legal auto parts. Rico and Motts pack up their gear and want hugs and kisses goodbye.

No. Go away. Leave your money.

As the men walk off, Rina says to her Captain:

Rina: Captain, can I suggest we charge hazard pay if we have to keep fending off passes from passengers?
Nika: What?!
Rina: Just a thought.

Paid our wage and relieved of their presence, we look around for jobs off this rock. It turns out that to ship any kind of salvage off Beylix, we’ll need a license from United Reclamation for the privilege. It’ll cost us 1000 credits of money we don’t have.

Of course, we could look around and find someone who’s looking to dodge the restrictions UR has placed on the planet … but we can’t afford to get caught at it. Remembering the armed enforcer ship in orbit and knowing we still have damage to our ship, we back off on any blockade running-style cargo runs. Even so, while the crew spends some of their pay on personal necessities and supplies, Nika spends some credits to advertise that we are available for work. When the broker asks, she tells him the size of our ship, our cargo capacity and the fact that we’re willing to haul cargo that doesn’t necessarily require licensing.

They also go to a bar. It’s a common way to catch a few drinks and the odd job or two. We hang out there for a couple of hours. The beer and drinks aren’t great quality and the bar food is mostly textured protein. Mindful of the Prion disease vector, Rina won’t touch it. The rest of the crew doesn’t have that much of a problem with it and they nibble at the faux pretzels and beer nuts along with their drinks. After a couple of hours of helping the local economy by drinking and eating, except for Rina who’s nursing her longneck, most of the crew has a buzz on.

Joshua: This one was crap. (holds up his beer) Get me another.
Kiera: Yeah, you drank it all down cuz it was so horrid, to save it from somebody else.
Joshua: Yeah, it was. (shoves it her way) Here. Try that.
Kiera: (sips) Eww.

Joshua’s pretty buzzed but even so, he’s watching everything and everybody coming and going, and so he sees the man enter the bar first. The man is tall, mousy, and nervous. He stalks to the bar, eyeing everything suspiciously and talks to the bartender. The bartender points our way.

Arden: Can we help you?
Man: You have a ship?
Nika: Lookin’ for passage?
Man: Maybe. Charter, perhaps? Short term?
Nika: All right. What do you need?
Man: Are you interested? It’s in the next few days if you’re available.
Nika: Yeah.
Man: So, what brought you to Beylix? You’re not with United Reclamation.
Nika: No, we’re not. We had cargo from somewhere else that had to come here.
Joshua: (lifts his beer) Perfectly LEGAL auto parts.
Nika: (eyerolls at Joshua) Oh. My. Word.

Kiera elbows the XO in the ribs.

Joshua: (to Kiera) Well, they were. (to self) Probably legal.
Man: So is he the pilot?
Nika and Arden together: No.
Man: Okay. That’s good. What kind of ship is it?

Nika tells him. The man looks dubious.

Man: Durance class. Hmm. I’ll have to take a look at it.
Nika: All right.

Joshua’s still going on about the auto parts. Loudly.

Kiera: (to Rina) Kiss him so he shuts up.
Rina: (to Joshua) C’mere, you.
Joshua: You wanna taste what I just burped?
Rina: You’ll feel better when I get done with you.
Arden: Get a room! Or at least a separate table.

The man takes in this side conversation and looks back at Nika.

Man: Is that the discipline you maintain on your ship?
Nika: (calmly) No. They’re on shore leave. Would you like a tour? I can take you to the vessel so you can take a look.
Man: At least to take a look at the exterior first.
Nika: (standing up) C’mon. I’ll take you back and you can look around.

Arden looks up as she passes him.

Arden: You want me to go with you? I’ll go with you.
Nika: Sure.
Kiera: (sourly) You’re leaving me with them? Thanks. So much.
Arden: Someone has to be the responsible adult in the group.
Rina: Somebody had to shut him up.
Kiera: You did. So stop kissing him. Get back to work.

Nika grabs Arden’s arm and she gets the two men out of there. They leave the bar and stroll back to Equinox’s berth. On the way they talk.

Nika: So you looking to book passage or do you need to move cargo?
Man: It’s a charter, so it shouldn’t make a difference to you one way or the other, right?
Nika: All right.
Man: I’ll tell you more if I find your ship acceptable.
Nika: That’s fine.

The man has a clipped manner of speech, bordering on the supercilious. Nika doesn’t call him on it, maintaining an easy stride and an easy drawl. When they get to Equinox, the man walks all the way around it, looking up and down the hull, keeping up a running commentary as Nika and Arden silently follow him.

Man: Lot of damage you have. Fire damage. Or plasma damage. How did you get plasma damage on your ship?
Nika: Had a little run in with the Alliance.
Man: That’s not Alliance weaponry. It looks more like you had heat damage. Fly too close to a star. Are you a licensed navigator? Do you have a licensed navigator?
Nika: Yes, I do. We have a licensed navigator aboard.

The navigator is Nika, but she doesn’t mention that. Most pilots are licensed to navigate, so it’s pretty much understood. The man, however, either doesn’t know or doesn’t understand, because he goes on in an accusatory tone.

Man: And did the navigator navigate your course next to that star?
Nika: I did.
Man: You did this yourself? You damaged your own ship? That’s not standard. Hmm. I don’t know. I don’t know.

He stares at the hull and walks around some more, his tone still critical.

Man: Are those bullet marks?
Nika: (unruffled) As I said, we had a few run-ins.
Man: Okay. Hmm. Is anyone after you?
Nika: Not at the moment.
Man: Hm. All right. I’ll see the inside.
Nika: All right. Come on upstairs.

She leads him through the cargo bay for the stairs up.

Man: Look, I’m unarmed. So you don’t need to use violence if you plan to kidnap me or something. I don’t have my money with me.
Nika: Smart man.
Man: Hm. I used to think so. But here I am.

And somehow it sounds like an insult to our ship rather than a dig at his intelligence. Nika refrains from comment. He insists on seeing the cargo deck before going up the stairs. Nika walks with him and Arden follows. The man walks aft and stops short of the rear cargo bay.

Man: Force field generators in your cargo hold? That’s unusual. Why do you have those?
Nika: Because occasionally I run things that need it.
Man: What things need a force field generator? Slaves?
Nika: No.
Arden: No.
Nika: Not in this lifetime.
Man: What things then? What things need a force field generator?
Nika: Why do you need to know that?
Man: I want to know the sorts of people I’m traveling with.
Arden: It’s the way the ship came. We never used it.
Man: (unconvinced) You never used it?
Arden: I never used it.
Man: Hmm.
Arden: You’ll have to ask our engineer if it even still works.
Man: (lengthy pause) All right. Let’s go up.

As with the hull and the cargo bay, the man looks at everything and finds things to criticize.

Man: Hmm. Looks like there’s been some amateur plumbing work here.
Arden: This ship has quite a storied history.
Man: Oh, yeah?
Nika: It spent a lot of time in the Black.
Arden: It ran supplies for the Browncoats back in the day. It sat in a junkyard for a while. Some bad people had it. Some good people had it. We’ve inherited it and are trying to do good with it.
Man: Okay.

He looks into a second class cabin and then a first class cabin. Hmm. Nika and Arden take him to the crew deck and again, he looks into a cabin there. They show him Arden’s cabin and introduce him to the ship’s cat, Jahn.

Man: Hmm. Cat stays up here? In crew deck?
Arden: In my quarters.
Man: You never let the cat out of your quarters?
Arden: I let him out of my quarters. It’s where he sleeps.
Man: I would like to see the bridge and engineering.
Nika: Sure. Escorted, obviously.
Man: Why?
Nika: Well I’m not going to let you walk my bridge and engineering unescorted, am I?
Man: Why not? You have a history of unescorted people on your ship before?
Nika: Because being out in the Black can be a dangerous place. And I don’t like to let unescorted people in sensitive areas of my vessel.
Arden: Being on a planet can be a dangerous place.
Nika: Would you like to see engineering?
Man: Yes.

As Nika leads him down the aft corridor, he says:

Man: If I do charter, I’ll need unfettered access.
Arden: Define unfettered access.
Man: Well, I don’t want to be locked out of anyplace. If I charter a ship I don’t want to be … what’s the word for it? Held prisoner somewhere on the ship.
Arden: Well the medicine cabinets in sick bay are always locked.
Man: (impatient) I have no interest in your drugs, Doctor.
Arden: You said unfettered access. I just want to make sure we understand each other.
Man: I have no interest in them.
Arden: Then, good.
Man: But once again, I don’t want to … Who knows what you might be doing in there.
Arden: You’re welcome to come into sick bay whenever you want. You’re just not getting into the medicine cabinet. Unless there is a need.
Man: I’ll have to look at the medicine cabinet.
Arden: You can look at them all you want. You’re not—

Two overly meticulous people arguing semiotics on Nika’s deck? Really? Tā mā de, y’all.

Nika: Arden.
Arden: What?
Nika: Stop.
Man: I don’t care if you’re with me. I’m not asking to be let in by myself at the moment. But I want to have free access while on the ship. That includes access to airlocks, access to vacc suits if necessary—
Nika: Airlocks and vacc suits you can do. Bridge and engineering you’ll be escorted.
Man: That’ll be up to you. If you’re there, yes.

And if she’s not there? Does he mean that he’ll walk in anyway?

Arden: That’s not unfettered access.
Man: Well, since you’re here … as I said, I don’t want—If I need to go to the bridge, I want to go to the bridge. If you’re there or if you want to go with me, that’s fine. But I don’t want to be locked out of anywhere.
Arden: See, that’s where I have a problem.
Nika: (calmly) It’s a non-issue, since bridge and engineering are always manned.
Arden: The bridge isn’t always manned. Sometimes there’s no one in there.
Nika: Clearly you haven’t been paying attention to the schedule, Arden.
Arden: Apparently not.

They step into engineering and Nika is spared the need to reply. The man looks around, spots Beglan on duty, and takes a turn around the space.

Man: Hmm. (pokes around) Um-hm. (to Beglan) You’re the engineer?
Beglan: I’m the assistant engineer.
Man: Can you open some of these panels for me?
Beglan: I don’t know. Captain, can I?
Nika: Yes, you can.
Beglan: Well, then. I guess I can.

He does. The man looks inside. Hmms again.

Man: Hmm. You have had some serious problems in here. (straightens) How old is this ship?

Nika gives him a rough estimate.

Man: (critically) Mm-hm. You don’t have regular maintenance at a spaceport. I can tell.
Nika: Is that a problem?
Man: Well, for you. It’s your ship. Or so you say, anyway.

Silence. The man doesn’t seem to notice but goes on.

Man: Is your Chief Engineer open to some advice about proper engineering protocols. (gestures) Because this is a mess.
Nika: I’m reasonably sure that my Chief Engineer is well aware of the protocols in question but you’re more than welcome to speak with her about it. If you know engines, I’m sure she’d love to talk to you.
Man: Well, I did do a bit of engineering work in my day. (looks some more) Mmm… you’re probably losing some … yeah. Well … it’s up to her. Ah, now your bridge.

Nika escorts him.

Man: Very large bridge for such a small ship.
Nika: (proudly) It is, isn’t it?
Man: Is it armed?
Nika: Is the ship armed?
Man: Mm-hm.
Nika: In fact, it is.
Man: What kind?
Nika: With defensive weapons.
Man: Licensed?
Nika: No.
Man: Are you this up-front with all the inspectors that come on board your ship?
Nika: No.
Man: That’s wise. Well …
Nika: But you have me curious, so—
Man: Are you a good pilot?
Nika: Yes.
Man: Because I might be in the need of a good pilot. So you tested the tolerances of this vessel? I see you flew through a star. Either it was intentional or unintentional. Was it intentional or unintentional you went through the chromosphere?
Nika: Intentional.

And chromosphere is no laughing matter. It’s the burning layer beneath the surface of the star and far hotter than the surface itself.

Man: So you’re used to pushing the limits of this vessel.
Nika: That would be an understatement.
Man: So for a week charter, what would it cost me?
Nika: Depends on where you want to go.
Man: I’ll pay for fuel. Plus a fee.
Nika: So you’re just looking for the charter cost itself?
Man: I’m thinking about a thousand credits.

A thousand credits?!


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