Episode 615: Heart's Defense
Air date: 25 Oct 2011
Present: Andy, Bobby, Kim, and Maer
Monday, 15 Feb 2523
Nouveau Lyon, Beaumonde
Kalidasa (Xuan Wu) system
Arden wakes up in a hospital room, hooked up to wires and tubes, with no memory of how he got there. Looking around it seems like a different room than the one he fell asleep in. He is alone. His crew is nowhere in sight. He unhooks himself and quits his bed and starts looking for something to wear. His hospital gown is backless and drafty and undignified. He pulls a spare gown on backwards like a coat and keeps going. Stepping outside his room, he sees a man in familiar looking robes sitting in a chair. Alive. Catatonic. Unrevivable. Arden eyes the man’s clothing and recognizes it: he’s back on Sophie, at Erewhon colony.
What the hell?
Arden walks on and finds more people in catatonic state. Looking out the windows of the hospital building he can see the bodies of the dead. Their attitude and condition—burned, injured—immediately make him think of Miranda … but he knows he’s on Sophie.
What happened here?
He tries to get outside. The building is in security lockdown. Why? Going back deeper into the building he encounters the cafeteria and there he finds people who are awake. The ones nearest the door look up at his entrance and comment mildly oh look, he’s awake. They’re eating red meat, somewhat cooked. What is it, Arden asks? Meat, they answer. Arden looks closer. It’s not just meat. It’s a human limb.
He must be dreaming. Arden pinches himself. He’s not dreaming. He slowly gets the story—Sophie has been Paxed. No one here knows by whom. No one here can tell him when. No one can tell him how he got here. Some of the inhabitants are obviously immune. Some are unaffected. Some go catatonic. And some have died of it.
An alarm sounds and the cafeteria residents head for the nearest outdoor exit. Arden follows. He sees one of the doors to the outside is locked down and amazingly has a small dent inwards. The window beside it is likewise dented. Arden gets the sense that this is not supposed to be possible.
One of the colonists offers Arden an asthma inhaler. Want some? they ask. What is it? Arden asks back. Chempliant, they say.
The man offering it to him shrugs: suit yourself. The alarm continues to sound and as he waits and watches, he sees other Erewhon colonists—now Reaverized—scrambling down from above over roofs and walkways, running for the prey they can see inside. Arden asks for the inhaler and takes a hit. He waits for the Chempliant to speed him up but instead he has a bad reaction. The entire world goes bendy. Sight and sound attenuates and warps. He can’t speak at a proper speed, instead going extremely slow-mo. What the heck is happening to him?
Outside, the Reavers are still advancing. Before they can actually touch the door or the window, a high-pitched whine pierces the air. The Reavers start to writhe and scream. The air around them bends and shimmers like a mirage. Arden realizes it’s a microwave weapon and it’s burning them alive.
Which explains the dead bodies out there.
Danger taken care of, the colonists lay hands on Arden and drag him deeper into the building. Two men hold down his arms while a third—a female whose line is named Emily—approaches with a chip-planter aimed for Arden’s neck.
Arden fights them off, knocking the implanter out of Emily’s hand. The others withdraw and Arden asks for water. He gets it. He asks what the chip was for. Emily tells him it will either make him sleep or it will make him better. Emily approaches again with a hypodermic in hand. Arden splashes the water at Emily, grabs the hypo, and empties it into the air. No way is he going to let them inject him with anything.
He tries to get away. They grapple him. He wiggles free and runs. He gets grappled again and is held fast. Another colonist approaches with a hypo. Arden eels free and grabs one of his attackers and uses him as a shield—shunk! the hypo goes into the human shield and the man goes down. Arden runs for the door again and again is pinioned by the colonists. They wrestle him to a chair and slap him.
Arden, they say. Arden.
Blinking, Arden watches as the world changes around him again. The colonist he knocked out turns into Nika. The person slapping him is Rina. Joshua is calling his name.
What the hell?
Dammit, why is he duct taped to a chair? Why is Rina hitting him? What’s going on?
Joshua fills him in. He’s had brain surgery. Kiera’s stopped it and had the doctors reverse the procedure and close him up. He’s in the lobby of the building we’re trapped in. Nika got knocked out by the sedative she tried to give him. Kiera’s gone off to find the Director of the facility. We’re surrounded. We have to negotiate our release or surrender to Blue Sun security.
Try to relax.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Kiera is still being held by the building security. She’s asking to see the Director and they’re stalling. They can’t do anything until the lockdown is lifted. Sorry. Got any cards, she asks? No, they say. What the hell kinda guards are you, you don’t have any cards to pass the time with? Oh, never mind. You got any paper? We’ll play hangman for money.
They scare up some paper and they settle down to play, waiting for the Director to show up.
Another guard enters the room. Tall, beautiful dark skin, muscular, he orders the guards to take Kiera prisoner. What?! she exclaims indignantly. I’m a doctor. She holds up the lapel of her stolen doctors coat as proof. Sorry, the new guard says. Got my orders right here. He holds out a datapad to the other guards. They take it up and tap the screen to verify.
The databook emits a blinding flash and a loud bang, stunning the guards. The new guard remains unaffected. It’s Raven, saving Kiera’s bacon. He grabs the datapad and both he and Kiera hustle toward the elevator. It’s biolocked down.
Damn. Now what?
Downstairs in the lobby, our crew quickly runs through their options. Surrender to Blue Sun? Hell no. Escape? How? And can it be done without bloodshed? Do we take a third as-yet-unformed option and run with it? Standing to one side, Dr. Joan Guan, née Drake, watches all of this unfold, her face inscrutable. Right now, absent the Director—Guan Zwang, her husband—Joan is our only chance at negotiating our freedom and right now, she’s a very hard sell. She’d given Rina a choice earlier: drop everything to save Joshua, or abandon Joshua to his fate and save her friends. Rina, being Rina, took a third unoffered option—rescue her friends so they can help her rescue Joshua—and failed the implicit loyalty test. Convinced that Joshua would be safer in her own hands than that of the crew, Joan Guan refuses to release him to us. She insists that we give ourselves up and leave Joshua with her.
Joshua argues against it. Arden tries, but fails. Rina demands to know why Joan gave her son up to Blue Sun’s experiments. Joan strikes back by demanding how Rina—herself a professed parent—could abandon her child on a Rim world with no guarantee for his safety. That shuts Rina up and Joshua tries again to get free. Or barring that, more information from Joan while we can still talk to her.
Upstairs, Raven goes back to one of the downed guards and takes his hand between his, palm to palm. There’s a glow under his fingers and Raven releases the hand. Puzzled, Kiera watches as the man puts his hand against the biolock again … and when the door opens, she realizes that somehow Raven scanned the guard’s handprint and used it to open the lock.
Wow. That’s one helluva nifty built-in. What else does this guy have on him?
They take the elevator down to the lobby and rejoin the rest of the party. Outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, the night is awash in blue and red from the security vehicle lights. The little army outside is holding off storming the castle, however, as negotiations inside are still ongoing.
Arden and Joshua and Rina are still at it with Joan. Nika says not a word, knocked out cold by a combination of sedatives and powerful muscle relaxants. Had she been conscious, she would undoubtedly have ripped into Joan for turning an innocent child over to Blue Sun hands, to be tortured and experimented on. Why would Joan do such a thing?
For years now, there has been a movement afoot to pacify the entire Verse. Like Miranda, only without the bad side effects. Some were engineered to be immune to it, like Arden. That is why they operated on his brain. They wanted to find out information on the immunity, apparently, or what it was that made him tick. Other people were altered like Joshua was. How his modifications would have served is less clear. Joan is cagey as to the details, saying only that in a Verse full of pacified sheep, she wanted her son to be more than the milling herd. She wanted her son to be better.
She believed, all those years ago, that this future will come to pass—that it is unavoidable. As a parent, she wanted to give her children the best advantages possible to survive it and come out on top.
Wait a minute. Children? She had more than just Joshua? Did she give them up to Blue Sun, too?
Joshua’s brother did not pass the tests for the treatment. Only Joshua was given to the program. Joshua is staggered. His brother? Where is he? Joan says she doesn’t know. His brother is … Well, let’s just say that Ezekiel is mired on a quixotic quest.
Wait a minute, Rina says. Ezekiel? Joshua lays a hand on her arm to quiet her. Kiera looks up sharply at the name and repeats it. Ezekiel? She and Rina trade a look and the wheels are spinning—they both know this guy, they’re pretty sure. They say nothing more. It’s not the time or the place for that.
Arden is getting impatient and frustrated by the stonewalling and his sarcasm starts eroding what goodwill we’ve managed to build with Joan. Kiera joins him and pulls him to the side, distracting him while Joshua and Rina continue talking with the doctor. In a last desperate effort, Rina implores Joan to give Joshua the chance to live his life by his own choice. Blue Sun had taken that away from him, had taken his very selfhood away from him, controlled him like a puppet with embedded psychological triggers and altered flesh and bone. Had, in fact, turned him into another model of sheep, a prisoner at their beck and call—surely the opposite for what Joan had hoped for him. When Rina’s done, she’s on her knees at Joan’s feet. Joshua backs his fiancée up, saying that this is the woman he’s going to marry, come hell or high water. Joan relents.
Will she receive an invitation, she asks. Yes, swears Joshua. Very well, she says.
We quickly come up with a plan to exit the building through the sewer system access in the basement. We need to get that biolock of the elevator. We’ll need the Director’s passcode or bioscan data to do it. Joan agrees to get her husband down to the lobby. Once there, she’ll have him call off the security and broker a deal for our freedom.
Down he comes. The negotiations start anew. Some manner of deal is struck and since we have no intention of agreeing to it, knowing it a ruse, we shake on the deal. Raven is part of our party and handshakes with the director and not so coincidentally, steals his hand print. In a flash, he repeats the trick with elevator, turns off the lock, and we all jump inside as Joan grabs her husband to keep him from stopping us.
In the basement, we make short work of the access hatch and take off as fast as we can run, walk, and drag the unconscious members of our crew. It’s dark down there, but the height of the sewer tunnel is high enough to allow us to go upright. We know the clock is ticking. Doubtless the Director is telling the security folk outside where to find us. Or maybe Joan’s managed to convince him we’re elsewhere in the building. Whatever. We have to get the hell out of here. We reach an intersection and before we can decide which way to go, the way ahead his blocked by two sinuously moving figures in robes and ninja gear—the Bhurka Brigade is back.
We’re armed only with the stun sticks we took of the guards earlier in our botched escape. Kiera and Arden rush forward and engage the ninja on the left. Raven tears open his guard uniform and slaps some small liquid tubes into three little ports centered in his chest. He draws a deep breath and exhales in ecstacy---AH! That’s the ticket! and he launches himself at the ninja on the right.
Rina falls back and dips up handfuls of the explosive sand remaining in her pockets, mixing them to arm their explosive properties. She dribbles it in a pile on the floor and picks up a rock to throw at it and ignite it.
Mixing it takes a precious minute and the ninjas make fast work of her friends. Kiera suffers sword wounds, as does Arden. They get their licks in too, but the ninja is still up. She’s disarmed of her sword but keeps on fighting. Raven gets several solid blows in, lightning fast, but he’s also unarmed against the ninja’s sword and suffers wounds as well. The drugs in his system enable him to remain upright and fighting. Joshua grabs up a dropped stun stick and runs to Raven’s defense. At which point Rina looks up and sees her fiancée running headlong into combat.
Several things happen at once. Joshua gets a stun stab in. Rina runs flat out and scoops up the ninja’s sword like an outfielder catching a ground ball, brings the blade up in a sweep and slashes the remaining ninja across the back. The ninja staggers and hits Rina a vicious blow with his sword. Raven falls back. Joshua steps in with the stun stick.
Once, twice, thrice ... and the ninja finally falls. We quickly search the ninjas for weapons, find stun and smoke grenades. Raven, for reasons known only to him, picks up one of the ninjas and sets off on his own. Rina crumples. Joshua curses. He picks her up and gets her around the corner out of the blast zone. Kiera and Arden grab Nika and follow. Once everyone’s out of the way, Raven goes back and pulls the pins, runs back under cover before everything explodes.
We don’t linger to watch but haul ass for the nearest surface access and crawling out into the open air again, we hail Beglan on our comms to pick us up. Raven’s limo arrives minutes later and we run, stagger, and drag ourselves over to it. Piling in we drive straight for Equinox only to find it surrounded on the pad by fifty burly men with nasty looking wrenches and pipes. They see us coming, smile, and part to let us in. At the closed ramp of our ship, James Brion is waiting for us. Apparently he somehow got word of our predicament and set himself and his men to guard our ride out.
We exit the limo. Raven shows up unexpectedly and takes possession, thanks us for the databook, and peels out. We thank Brion as his men depart, and we get our injured aboard to med bay. Which would be Arden, Kiera, and Rina. The engineer is bad off, but thanks to Arden’s quick thinking in the tunnels, she’s not dead. Working in turns, the two docs keep Rina from dying and once she’s out of the woods, turn their medical attention on themselves. The balance of the night is spent patching up our hurts and getting rest as we can.
Tuesday, 16 Feb 2523
Kalidasa (Xuan Wu) system
Nika revives and flies Equinox back to the other side of Beaumonde to Westhaven. We have some unfinished business with Fanty and Mingo. Joshua and Kiera/Beglan go to the Maidenhead bar to get our pay. Joshua is a man on fire. He’s not surprised when Fanty and Mingo admit they turned us in to the Blue Hands when they came looking. It doesn't matter that the bar is filled with people in Fanty and Mingo's employ. It doesn't matter that they could all turn on us in a heartbeat like a pack of hyenas. No. What matters is getting our satisfaction. Not only are we getting paid, Joshua tells them, but they’re going to pay our hospital bills. His friends and his fiancée got seriously injured on their behalf. The least the twins can do is pay for what they’re responsible for. The twins demur and try to weasel out of it. Joshua is adamant. Fanty and Mingo see there is no arguing with him. They give Joshua a tip on a good surgeon on Urvasi at Heaven and recommend that we mention he got the recc from them. They fork over 1600 in pay and Joshua leaves.
With money in our pocket and a completed job behind us, we pull stakes and burn atmo for Urvasi and Heaven … and hopefully a respite where we can all lick our wounds and breathe.