Episode 620: Hammerfall

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Air Date: 13 Dec 2011
Present: Andy, Bobby, Kim, Maer, and Terri

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, Special Features

Sunday, 02 May 2523
Black Tower, St. Petersburg,
Russian Cultural Enclave, Sihnon
White Sun (Bai Hu) system
2230hrs, local time

The Black Tower is empty. Nikolai Feodorovich Tigranov, Rina's youngest brother, is nowhere to be found. He and all the Tower prisoners have been shuffled into the Alliance's Elect program, a process by which people are physically altered by unknown means into super soldier/hunters. We've encountered their like before and there is something dreadfully wrong about them. Joshua and Arden have gained entrance into the Tower in the guise of laundry deliverymen and have learned the horrible truth. There is no one to rescue. Their entire mission has been rendered moot.

Now what?

Change of mission: Get as much hard evidence on the Elect and its victims, then pass it on to Omar Tennison on Persephone. Get the Tigranovs out of the Kremlin and lift off.

For the moment, they have a little cleaning up to do. There are the guards they've rendered unconscious that need to be hidden and there is the one guard who gave up under gunpoint who revealed the secret of the Tower. Then there is the matter of the extraction op in the Kremlin itself. Rina, Nika, and Kiera will need someone ready to get them away from the Kremlin once they've got the elder Tigranovs in hand.

Joshua: If we need to break them out, we have the delivery van and the uniforms. We even have two guard uniforms. So the question is, go in as guards or go in as laundrymen?
Arden: Why do we have to go in? I thought they had their own way out.
Joshua: Give me your honest opinion. Do you think their plan is going smoothly?
Arden: As smoothly as ours.
Joshua: So we need to break them out.

Which might be hard, considering they had no way of concealing comms on them before they walked into the lion's den. Joshua and Arden will have no way of coordinating their actions to theirs. Well, one problem at a time. For now, they'll tie up the loose ends in the tower as best they can and go on to the next problem when they're done. They shift the guard in the laundry van and on the loading dock inside, get the cooperation of the conscious guard not to say anything—which the man is completely amenable to doing. His job of watching an empty building is not a job he wants to die over. Joshua and Arden get back in their van and drive.

Joshua: We can go in and make a delivery, check it out.
Arden: What are we going to be delivering?
Joshua: Laundry.
Arden: But that's what we just did.
Joshua: Well, yeah, but there's more laundry to be had. I'm reasonably sure a place like that is going to need more.

So they drive around the block a few times to give the women a chance to set their plan in motion and then Joshua starts looking for a delivery entrance or loading bay for the Kremlin complex. Of course, in the usual manner of our crew's operational style, we have no set time to anticipate the pick-up and extraction. Joshua and Arden are just going to wait for the crazy antics and chaos to start, signaling the need for a quick getaway by the rest of the crew.

But first, they'll need to get the van in place.

They find that loading dock, off to the east side of the block-long building and they drive right up to it. A large archway on the ground floor marks the spot and under it to one side is the loading platform. A guard in an alcove station is opposite and as Arden pulls the van up to the iron gates leading to the Kremlin's inner courtyard, the guard looks up from some paperwork and sees them. Joshua is kitted out in his laundry uniform, his story prepped. Arden sits next to him on the bench seat, his doctor's bag at his feet, his gun within easy reach inside.

Meanwhile inside the Kremlin itself, Rina has found her mother and the two women stare at each other across the room. Her mother's fingers falter on the keys and Kiera sprints over to the piano bench and smoothly takes up the scales in case anyone else is listening for trouble. Natalia Borisovna Tigranova sits frozen at the piano and offers no resistance to Kiera's playing. Nika stands watch at the door.

Rina shakes off her paralysis and moves to the piano before the guard arrives to take them all away. She's only gone a few strides when she sees the expression behind her mother's eyes shift from shock to something like disapproving betrayal. It stops Rina in her tracks, everything she's planned to say dying in her throat. Rina's a kid again, bringing home a failing grade on a math test.

Taking a deep breath, Rina walks forward, her voice low.

Rina:I don't have much time. I'm here with my friends. I'm here to get you out. You, Father, Grisha, Kolya. Stay alert. Be ready.

Natalia watches this woman approach, hears the words she says, and a cold anger steals in. She holds up her hand: stop. She speaks in Russian and though Kiera and Nika do not understand a word, her tone makes her meaning clear.

Natalia: (icily) You're in no position, you've no right to tell me what to do. How dare you come into this room?
Rina:(in Russian) I have a lot to answer for. A lot of things to atone for. Leaving is one of them. I'm here to make it right.
Natalia: I could forgive every sin except your silence.

Natalia turns away from her daughter and walks to the window, back straight and outrage written in every line of her. The salon is large, fifty by twenty feet and the distance is great enough for Natalia to make it as dramatic as possible. She is a prima donna, a master of the stage, and knows how to carry herself to greatest effect. Her icy demeanor is formidable.

Kiera watches this drama playing out but keeps her fingers on the keys and starts to sing, continuing the scales. Nika eyes her engineer from the door and frowns. This is going to go well. Rina sets her jaw and marches after her mother. She continues in Russian, hoping to break through the wall her mother's put up.

Rina:Too much has happened. I can't get into it now. The guard will be here any minute.
Natalia: Why should I care?
Rina:Do you want to be here? Do you want your son to rot in prison? Or do you want out?
Natalia: I have no idea what "out" means for you. To vanish away from everyone we know? Forever? Or for … fifteen years?
Rina:Seventeen, but who's counting?

Good god, but that guard is slow. Since there's still a little time, Rina makes the most of it.

Rina:All right. Condensed version—
Natalia: Don't try to explain. As I said, I can forgive everything but your silence. There is nothing you can do to justify that.
Rina:Is Father here?
Natalia: I won't let you get to him first.
Rina:(grim smile) Why don't we go to him together?

Rina knows that she's always been her daddy's little girl. Natalia sniffs.

Natalia: You should leave while you can. Before the guards come for you. Why am I not surprised you are chased by guards, the first I hear from you? Next thing you'll tell me is that your pregnant.
Rina:Funny you should mention that, Mama. I'm getting married.

Natalia's eyes blaze and Russian starts pouring from her lips, Russian Rina's never heard her mother use before. It's quite … inventive. Rina stands fast in the gale of her mother's fury, taking it on the chin but refusing to back down. Nika's watching this from the door, completely fascinated and appalled, and throws a look at Kiera: Crazy Russian drama. Rina catches the gist of what her mother's saying and answers back over her shouting.

Rina:He's waiting outside. I would love for you to meet him. At least someone's going to make an honest woman out of me.

Natalia falls silent a moment and nothing can be heard but Kiera going through the scales. Then:

Natalia: (calming down) Have you dragged your brothers into this?
Rina:Why yes, it was their idea, how we got in.
Natalia: (setting off again!) They knew about this? Before you—
Rina:No. Why are you always putting words in my mouth? I swear, Mother, you—
Natalia: You said it was their idea.
Rina:To get in. They came up with the idea. I just didn't waltz in the door. I had to bring a gift. Myself and two—
Natalia: So you implicated your brothers in your … criminal activities.
Rina:She didn't see them. All she knows is just us three. (frustrated sigh) Why are you always such a drama queen, Mama?
Natalia: I've had a lot of drama in my life. My only daughter ran off and never spoke to me for seventeen years. That provides a little drama in my—
Rina: I was busy!

Kiera eyes widen at the outburst but goes on to the next set of scales. Good googley moogley, but this is gettin' good. Drama! Rina cuts a look at Nika. Nika shoots a look right back that says: I am not getting between you and your mama, honey. Natalia looks at Nika and asks in English, her voice steely:

Natalia: Now, did she recruit you criminals or did you recruit her?
Nika: (to Rina) I'm tryin' to remember who suggested the mutiny first, darlin'.
Natalia: Mutiny?
Nika: In point of fact, Ma'am, she's not a criminal. Well, at least not until we break you out of here. (a beat) I'm afraid, Ma'am, I don't really have any way to answer any of the questions you may have about your daughter's life. All I know is she's one of the very best friends I could have ever asked for and—.
Natalia: Has she met your family?
Nika: Yes.
Natalia: (rounding on Rina) Oh, so you did have time to visit her family.
Rina:At the ti—
Natalia: (points to Kiera) Have you met her family?

Oh, Kiera's sliding down the bench as far from those two as possible and still play.

Rina:Hmm, let me think …. (points to Nika) We were dying and needed a place to stay and her family took us in. Hmm. (points to Kiera) We were gravely wounded, our ship was barely functioning, we visited her father but he didn't lend us any money … I suppose, yes, we met her family.
Kiera: My family's horrible. Nobody enjoys meeting them.
Natalia: And these are things you don't think your mother would be interested in hearing?
Rina:What did they tell you when they shipped my body home? Were you reading the news at all? During the war? Did you not see the trial?
Natalia: When you say 'shipped your body home' … ?
Rina:Oh wait. I'm sorry. (snaps fingers) You said you didn't want to hear any of this. Excuse me.

Rina gives her mother her back and stalks off to the side, swearing under her breath in Russian. Yup, this is going well. Why the hell did she ever come home? From the door, Nika interjects.

Nika: Irina, that is not helping. C'mon. Your mother has every right to be angry.
Rina:(stalking back) I'm not saying she doesn't have every right to be angry. I'm saying she doesn't have to be a stubborn ass about this. We don't have a lot of time!
Kiera: But we need to get along with her because if we don't get her now we're all going to be caught.
Nika: Irina. Name-call later. Pot: Kettle. Ma'am? Do you suppose we could put off the very rightful behind-reaming until we can get your husband and your son out? (off Natalia's look) I think Irina absolutely deserves to be put under the microscope as much as you wish, but I would like to get you and your husband and son out of here first.

Natalia relents. She's still every inch the commanding figure but she unbends enough to answer.

Natalia: It is more complicated. There is my other son. Do you know about—?
Rina:Nikolai. He's in the Tower. We have two other people getting him out.
Natalia: If we were to leave …
Nika: The rest of our crew is already over there getting him.
Natalia: You've rescued him from the Tower?
Nika: We're working on it, yes, Ma'am.
Natalia: Have you?
Nika: We need to get in contact with the rest of our team.
Natalia: When he is safe. But if I leave and he is not safe, he'll be in danger. (to Rina) Did you not think of this in your plan?
Nika: It must be simultaneously—
Natalia: Oh, you haven't thought a lot about your family in seventeen years, so I'm sure you—
Nika: Ma'am! Do you want to get your son free?
Natalia: Imperatively speaking? Yes. Perhaps—
Nika: This must be done simultaneously or not at all.
Natalia: If you have failed and I go with you, can you guarantee my son won't be shot? Or tortured?
Nika: If we fail and you stay, the whole lot of you will be dead anyway.
Kiera: (playing scales) I don't know. He might be dead already.
Rina:(softly) Bite your tongue.

Natalia looks at all of them, clearly thinking it over. She looks at Rina.

Natalia: If I … If one of my family members is responsible for my son's death, I do not wish to survive.
Nika: That I can understand and respect, Ma'am.
Natalia: However, since you are so keen on being free, perhaps you should leave.
Rina:(steely) Not without you. Not without Father, not without Grisha. Not without Nikolai.
Natalia: Then I suggest you call your teammates, for your … tactical geniuses or whoever they are and find out if you're successful.

Nika checks the time and says:

Nika: Well, there are no alarms going off here at the moment, so they are en route back to the point to meet us. There are no alarms going off. If they had been caught, there'd be alarms going off.

Nika's flat out bluffing. She has no actual idea how well or poorly Joshua and Arden are doing. Not that it matters just this second. Natalia has eyes only for Rina.

Natalia: And then you lied to me. What sort of people are you associating with?
Rina:To answer your question, Mama, these people are people I trust my life with.
Natalia: And your brother's life?
Rina:These are people I've died for. And come back for. And now I'm coming back for you. And Papa. And Grisha. And Kolya.
Natalia: So you have seen Sasha and Mitya?
Rina:Yes. They're coming with us, too.
Natalia: It doesn't surprise me that they would fall for this plan. And what of your plan to—will you get them out of the Enclave as well?
Natalia: And you have someplace for us to all go to?
Natalia: Where is this?
Rina:The Rim.

Natalia draws herself up, aghast.

Natalia: The Rim? So we will be eaten by cannibals? That is your plan?!
Rina:I didn't say Reavers, Mother. I said the Rim.
Nika: (dry) Nice, Rina.
Natalia: Don't you watch the news? It's full of cannibals!
Rina:Actually, I guess I shall have to revise my story. Yes, I have been too busy dodging cannibals and Reavers to call home to tell you how I am. (a beat) No. It's not as bad as you think. It's not as bad as what they are telling you.
Natalia: (contemptuous) So we'll live in some tent? Freeze to death?
Nika: What?
Rina:No. Actually Christian has quite a tidy little house. It's quite charming.
Natalia: Will we have electricity?
Rina:It's got electricity and indoor plumbing.
Natalia: (full voice!) So how were you unable to call me all these years?!!

Now this is the reaction Rina anticipated. Finally. She cuts a look at her Captain.

Rina:I told you to pack earplugs.

Kiera's contemplating yanking a leg off the piano and koshing Natalia unconscious with it but she's struggling too hard not to laugh so as to maintain the scales. Nika winces at the volume coming off the opera singer. Rina sees her Captain flinch and tries again.

Rina:Mama. Are you ready to listen to me now? Or do you just want to yell at me for a little while longer?
Nika: At the rate we're going, the guards will be here while she's yelling. So, you know …. (shrugs)
Kiera: Are the cells comfortable here, Ma'am?
Natalia: (softly) I am kept well.
Kiera: Can we stay with you when they arrest us?
Natalia: No.
Kiera: (jocular) Damn. (to Rina) Your mother is a bitch.

Nika peeks out the door. The guard who was with us is nowhere in sight.

Nika: Oh, shiii. He's gone.
Rina:Lock the door.
Kiera: Thank God I'm done singing. I hate singing in the key of A.
Nika: That does suck.
Kiera: (clearing throat) Uh-huh.

At which point an inner door opens and a hunched-over figure shuffles in. It's Rina's father and he's older and frailer than she remembers him. If the years have been hard on Natalia, they've been harder on Feodor Aleksandrovich Tigranov. Nika remains at the door, alert for trouble. Rina can only stand there and stare, relieved he's alive but appalled at his condition.

Feodor: Natalia, you must be sick. You sound off-key.
Rina:Papa, can you make her understand and shut up for two minutes while I explain?
He sees there are other people here. He looks at Natalia, lost and confused and not a little alarmed.

Feodor: What happened here? Who are all these people?

Meanwhile, back at the loading dock, Joshua softly comments to Arden on the lack of chaos as the guard approaches the van, clipboard in hand.

Joshua: We haven't heard anything from them, so I figure things are going smoothly. Of course, you'd think they'd get to a radio or something by now ….
Arden: You do the talking. I'm just the driver.

Arden shifts the van into neutral, Joshua gets out and starts talking in Russian as he approaches the station.

Joshua: We're here for the pick-up.
Guard: (checks clipboard) I don't have it here. Pick up is on Tuesday.
Joshua: (annoyed) Look. I'm here with the truck. I was told to pick up. What do you want me to do? Just let me get the pick up and go. Bureaucracy is going to slow us down.
Guard: Do you see any laundry? There is no laundry here.
Joshua: Well, it's got to be here somewhere. We've got the pick up.
Guard: It will be here Tuesday.
Joshua: You're always getting in the way. Yes?
Guard: Yeah, well … They should tell you Tuesday is day for pick up. Today is pick up day somewhere else. Chernaya Bashnya.

While the man is talking, Joshua's taking careful note of the area. There's no one else around that he can see. It appears the man in front of him is the only one on duty. He spots the security camera. It's aimed at the van. The loading dock has double doors on its rear wall, very likely a freight elevator. The guard station is on the other side of the entrance from the loading dock and the gated arch to the interior courtyard lies between the two. There are also other doors going into the building here and there. The guard is at his station's podium, about ten feet away and a few feet above the driveway. There is a wall comm behind it. Hmmm… Joshua continues his act as a disgruntled deliveryman and walks closer.

Joshua: First, and more important to me, my pay is going to be docked. Secondly, you're going to get into trouble. I assume your pay will get docked and no one will be happy. So maybe you could check your list or whatever it is. You have another list, I'm assuming. If it's not on that list, it has to be on whatever it is over there—looks like a … speaker thing. C'mon, you're screwing me up.
Guard: Where is your badge?

The guard reaches for the phone on the podium. Joshua is close enough now to grab him and twists the man's arm up behind his back. A second later, he has the guard on the ground. Arden grabs his bag and jumps out of the van. He pulls a tranq patch out of his bag and preps it. Slap! goes the patch and Out! like a light goes the guard. Joshua takes the guard's keys and card badge.

Joshua: There's got to be a way to get the gate open.

There is a book and a button on the podium. Joshua eyes the camera angle again—totally on the van. It will have missed everything that happened at the guard station. Joshua would rather put the guard in the van but doesn't want the camera to record it. Turning the van around and backing it up might look suspicious. Joshua casts about for another place to stash the guard and keeping clear of the camera's range of view, he starts opening doors. There are stairs leading up to a higher level of the building and there's a door underneath them. Joshua opens it up and finds nothing but horse riding gear. There's enough space in there to stash the guard and Arden and Joshua get that done. Then:

Joshua: Up the stairs? Or through the courtyard. We'll be more much more noticeable in the courtyard wearing our uniforms.
Arden: I'm following you.
Joshua: Stairs.

The guard's keys come in handy and once past the door the men see they've entered a service corridor, complete with servants who pay them no attention. Joshua and Arden step inside and start negotiating the maze.

Back in the Tigranov salon on the second floor, Rina's expecting the guard to show up any second and she starts contemplating going out the window. It's not too far down to the ground below. Natalia, meanwhile, is explaining to her husband what is going on. She thrusts a finger at Rina.

Natalia: Behold, the Prodigal Daughter.
Feodor: (squinting through glasses) … Rinushka … ?

Recognition hits him hard. He starts to shake, as if gripped by a seizure.

Nika: Kiera.
Kiera: Da.

Feodor staggers to the piano bench and Kiera intercepts him, lowers him gently onto it. She checks his vitals. Feodor has eyes only for his daughter. He speaks in Russian and his voice is weak from shock.

Feodor: But you're … dead. I saw your body. It was …
Rina:(stricken) It wasn't me. That's why I couldn't come back. I'm sorry.
Natalia: (in English) Yes. It is her. She has returned. She wants us to go away with her.
Feodor: Go … away?
Rina:Oh, Mama, you make it sound like we're doing something wrong.
Feodor: But if we go off, what about Sasha and Dmitri and all of them? They …
Rina:They're coming with us.
Feodor: They need us here to protect them.
Rina:They're coming with us.
Feodor: Are you sure it's … this is … Irina? You don't look like her.
Rina:Do you remember the lathe I nearly destroyed when I was three?

Feodor rises and moves for Rina. He looks her over, not in disbelief but trying to absorb the changes in her appearance. He murmurs that there are plastic surgeons in the Verse, it's not impossible …

Feodor: And you were … recruited by military intelligence? Is that what happened?
Rina:In a manner of speaking, yes.
Feodor: Why … why now? Why have you returned? I mean I'm glad … But what brought you back?
Natalia: (long suffering) She's getting married, Papa.
Rina:There is no perfect time to come back for you and tell you, so I had to do it now.
Feodor: We have not seen this … this person. You have a …?
Rina:He's right outside.
Feodor: Outside the door?

Feodor starts moving for the door.

Rina:The building, Papa. He's getting Nikolai.
Feodor: (stops) Is … Is Nikolai here?
Nika: Not yet.
Feodor: So he's still in the … still in the Tower.
Rina:We are trying to get him out. We're—
Feodor: I saw him yesterday and he was good.

What? Startled, Rina looks at her mother and the expression on Natalia's face confirms it: Feodor's mind is going. Nika slides a look at Natalia as well and catches the news.

Feodor: He was … we were going to contact a good lawyer and he will be fine. This is a temporary thing. (comfortingly) Don't be afraid. We will—if you are with the Military Intelligence, then perhaps you have some strings you could pull for us. I'm sure they wouldn't want anything to happen to you.
Rina:Papa. Papa … I'm … on leave. They don't know I'm here.
Feodor: Yes, but once you meet Anna—she was Military Intelligence. You might know her.
Rina:(pained) Not the same military.
Feodor: Hm. Oh, right. You were Navy. She was Army.
Nika: What year is it?
Rina:(to Nika) 2523. Where have you been?
Feodor: Your friends. They are very strange. They don't know what year it is?

Feodor tugs his tunic straight and offers his hand to Nika.

Feodor: Hello. Feodor Aleksandrovich Tigranov. I am at your service.
Nika: I am so pleased to meet you.
Feodor: You are … working with my daughter?
Nika: I am. My name is Nika.
Feodor: And you are also Military Intelligence?
Nika: After a fashion.
Feodor: (to self) After a fashion …
Nika: I fly for them.
Feodor: Something is going on. (to Rina) Something is going on. You just— Something is not right here.
Rina:We can't go around telling everybody who we are. We have covers to maintain.

Nika sighs and looks at Natalia.

Nika: He's been doing well, it looks like.
Natalia: He has good days and he has bad days. He had a trauma. Seventeen years ago. When she died. He never fully recovered.

Forgive Rina for disappearing? No. Not now. Not soon. Maybe not ever. Natalia sinks that proverbial knife in and gives it a twist.

Natalia: Papa, how is your project coming?
Feodor: Ahhh, still having difficulty. It's mocking me. Clockwork … function … But is all right. I'll ask for some more wiring. Perhaps it will do. So… oh, yes. (to Rina) Have you seen Kolya? Are you bringing him as well?
Rina:(pulling together) No, he will be joining us later.
Feodor: And the rest? Sasha and …?
Rina:Yes, we will get Sasha and Dmitri and everyone.
Feodor: Do they know that you are back?
Rina:Yes. They helped me come up with the plan.
Feodor: We shall have the cooking staff make us a fine meal. Break out some good—
Rina:Let's do that on our ship, hmm?
Kiera: I think we need to go outside for a picnic. I love picnics.

Because, Lord knows, we've got to get out of here. The guards will catch us soon.

Nika: We have a brilliant chef.
Kiera: Absolutely.
Rina:And it is May, Father.
Feodor: Is it May?
Nika: Perhaps we can ask your son to join us on our picnic.
Rina:Grisha. That would be wonderful. He can tell me about his latest painting.

The crew gets ready to move, closing in on Feodor and Natalia.

Nika: That would be a wonderful idea.
Kiera: I think it woul be great.
Feodor: (to Natalia) Who are these people?
Natalia: It's okay.

The doorknob rattles on the salon door. Someone's trying the lock. The guards are here. There is no more time. Rina sighs and looks at Nika.

Rina:Tell me you packed grenades.

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, Special Features

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