Episode 701: Nuptials

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Air Date: 03 Jan 2012
Present: All

Part 1, 2, Special Features

Week of 07-14 June 2523
Lucifer's Landing, Angel
Kalidasa (Xuan Wu) system

Lucifer's Landing is a sleepy mining town perched on the rim of an impact crater. Not so sleepy these days, thanks to the influx of settlers seeking less oppression elsewhere, and the past two-three years has seen it grow. Rina and Joshua's pending nuptials further increases the number of people over the week following Equinox's arrival and the town becomes the scene of a bustling never-ending party. Lucifer's Landing hasn't a proper spaceport so most of the guests are parking their craft in Jibril and shuttle over, but a few do land their ships on the outskirts of town. Shuttle after shuttle arrives, cluttering up the town's shuttle pad.

The happy couple has already received a few waves from people in transit confirming their attendance, but by mid-week before the wedding, most of the guests have already arrived. Omar Tennison arrives with his granddaughter. Shepherd Faria shows up. The Åberg family shows up, as does Rosalie Trahan.

Of course, some people are missing. Mike Carter is one of them, as Arden is quick to point out to Joshua, much to the groom's annoyance. We'd lost touch with Mike after he'd been exiled to Miranda. Furthermore, a mandate of his exile had a failsafe implanted in his head—an explosive device set to detonate if he ever left Miranda's atmo. Invited or not, attendance would be a problem.

Guests continue to show. Shyla and Harry from Decatur in Blue Sun arrive. They've flown to Angel not on Decatur but on a fast courier currently parked elsewhere. Nika meets them when they disembark from their shuttle and catches them up on the news. There is a lot to catch up on and they talk long into the night after dinner. A surprise arrival floors Rina: her old crew, of the Dragonfly class Drakkar, show up toward the end of the week. The 7000 ton ship lands outside the town. Captain Rodney Wallin steps off with his XO Vince Marhje, pilot Keegan, gunhand Vanya, and passenger Sarah O'Malley. O'Malley is a registered Companion. Once she gets over her shock, Rina quickly fills them in on the years since she's flown with them. E.Z. Salazar shows up uninvited but not unknown to us. A wave from Dr. Joan Guan, formerly Drake, also arrives wherein Joshua's mother declares her intention to attend. Some of the crew are not happy at the news but Joshua gets them to promise not to harm her while she's here.

The sudden influx of people gives the town's economy a welcome boost. Of more immediate concern is how we're going to fit all the guests into our ship for the trip aloft for the actual wedding. Captain Wallin steps up and suggests docking with Drakkar in the Black. His ship is twice the size of Equinox and it can serve as spillover space for the ceremony.

Rina's mother, Natalia, is put off by the idea of a wedding in space. After all, it's well known that the only reason to get married in space is if you've knocked up the bride in space. It's not the sort of ceremony for planned legitimate marriages. Captains of ships are ministers of last resort. For Natalia's peace of mind, a Russian Orthodox priest should officiate. Nika's not offended in the least. She's willing to step down from the duty if there is someone else Natalia has in mind.

Nika: This does not hurt my feelings at all.
Joshua: I don't think your feelings are the ones she's worried about hurting.
Natalia: To be fair, Angel is a bit shy of Russian Orthodox priests.
Nika: Would you feel better if a Companion did it?
Natalia: … Ahhm ….
Joshua: No.
Kiera: Wow. People who sell sex and their bodies? No.
Arden: (agreeing) "Do you want the Priest of Satan to do it or Satan to do it?"
Joshua: Nika?
Nika: What?
Joshua: Do you want to do it? (off her look) Then you're doing it.
Natalia: (to Rina) Do you?
Rina: (fed up) Really, Mama.
Natalia: Is this an emergency?
Rina: No. And if you don't believe me, I can have Arden check me out and have you there.
Natalia: I don't think I trust him.
Kiera: Wouldn't it be a little bit more culturally sensitive if I checked you out and your mama was there?
Natalia: I'm not sure if either one of these doctors is entirely trustworthy.
Kiera: Ex-squeeze me? (eyeroll!) But yes.
Rina: Mama!
Natalia: I'm not saying they're bad people. I'm saying they would lie for you because they love you. Yes?
Joshua: She is right. About that part.
Kiera: Now that's a little strong.
Natalia: So you're saying you would lie? Or you would lie if you even mildly like her?
Kiera: Thank you. That's what I really wanted you to—
Nika: Shut up, Kiera.
Joshua: (shaking head) This is going to be amazing. I'm just going to keep saying that. Over and over until I can get you to believe it.
Rina: (steely) I am going to take a walk now. I am going to come back in ten minutes.

She stalks off before she and her mother can start screaming at each other. Now is not the time for that sort of thing. Behind her, Kiera reassures Natalia that as much as she would like to lie, the test won't. Kiera could show be happy to show her the test results if it would make her feel better.

Joshua takes this opportunity to make a discreet exit and catch up with his fiancée. When they're both out of earshot Rina blows a gasket. She's appalled and outraged that her mother just insulted two of the most talented doctors the profession has to offer and insulted the best damned pilot and captain to boot! These people are her friends. Family. How could she? When she's cooled down enough to be fit company, Rina goes back. It's not the first time Natalia's made uncomplimentary remarks about the crew and it's not likely to be the last. Somehow mother and daughter make it through the week without killing each other.

Monday, 14 Jun 2523
Near midnight

By the end of the week, the wedding day looms with the coming dawn. Those who have arrived in time will get to attend. Those who have not will just have to console themselves with hearing about it from the others afterward. One such person yet arrive is Joshua's mother. By the night before the wedding, we still have received no word about her progress but we know that she is scheduled to arrive on the actual wedding date. Joshua's anxious but also philosophical about it. It's out of his hands. His mother will get here when she gets here.

The day before the wedding, the partying starts early. Lots of food, lots of alcohol, lots of dancing, singing, and fun for everyone. It's an event the likes of which Lucifer's Landing has never seen.

They'd already gone through a quick rehearsal already. Just about everyone will have a part to play. Svetlana's youngest will be the flower girl. Lem will be ring bearer. Natalia will be the Matron of Honor. Feodor will give his daughter away. Kiera and Christian will be bridesmaids. In addition, Kiera will provide music with her guitar. Arden will be Best Man and the rest of the adult men in family and crew will be groomsmen. What was once supposed to be a simple affair has very quickly turned into something elaborate but so far, the happy couple have managed to refrain from eloping.

As night falls, the bride and groom are led off to their respective bachelorette and bachelor parties by their friends, and the festivities continue on without them. The evening wears on and the festivities wind down as the guests enjoy some of Lucifer's Landing's special crops—cannabis grows all over the crater walls here, along with a variety of orchids. The smoke starts billowing and it's not long before Nika steps outside for a bit of fresh air. This entire week has been nonstop hustle and bustle, partying and congratulations and catching up with old friends. It's time to stop and take a breather.

Silhouetted against the starlight at the crater's edge, Nika spies four people. She recognizes Shyla right away and coming closer, she sees they're talking to Omar Tennison, Oskar Åberg, and E. Z. Salazaar—the man we originally met under the name of Bradley Sims. Shyla spots Nika and beckons her over.

Salazaar: Captain Earhart. I was just talking about you.
Nika: (drawls) I was wonderin' why my ears were burnin'. What's goin' on?
Salazaar: We were wondering how you were faring, since cargos are so hard to find these days.
Nika: I think you'd know the state of the economy as well as anybody else. Not so well.

That is to say, we're broke. And that’s before we started racking up the wedding expenses.

Nika: Didn't know I was givin' y'all an opportunity to have a business meetin'.
Salazaar: The encrypted Cortex feeds we use for most of our discussions makes it less easy to get a feel for people, so it worked out well at this—well, it wasn't your event, per se, but Rina and Joshua's wedding has provided a nice opportunity for all of us to get together. And since you are a connection we all share, in addition to our allegiance, it was natural to invite you to this little discussion. Now that the war has started in earnest—officially—there has been, ah … how do I say this ….?
Shyla: When we were back in Blue Sun, I offered you a position on my ship.
Nika: Mm-hm.
Shyla: And you said no. But times were different then. There wasn't a war.
Nika: I'd be bored bloody stupid flyin' a capital ship because it doesn't constitute flyin', darlin'.
Shyla: I'm not saying you have to fly the capital ship. And I wouldn't put you on that. You could be squadron leader of our fighter squadron. There may be other positions in the Navy. After the Battle of Paquin we were able to make a few acquisitions that have bolstered our defenses as well as some other engagements. I wouldn't say that our Navy rivals the Alliance but that they have more ground to cover than we do.
Nika: I'll have to agree with you there.

Her tone is cautious and Salazaar takes up the conversation in the silence that ensues.

Salazaar: So another option is that we could fly your boat as a Merchant Marine. You could do jobs for us, keep you flying. Run cargo for the war. Possibly troops. Beats sitting groundside waiting for the fighting to stop.
Nika: It took you this long to get around to askin'?

The others trade looks all around. Uhmmm…

Salazaar: I wasn't entirely sure where you stood in all this, to be honest. But now that the lines have been made a little clearer, we thought that maybe you would serve if offered. Omar was suggesting another possibility, in that we could paint a big cross on your boat and you could deliver medical supplies. It's not as safe as it sounds.
Nika: No, it's not. (a beat) I'll do either which one you want.
Shyla: I would love it if you would fly either as a squad leader or run an escort ship for me.
Salazaar: Although in the Merchant Marine, we could give you missions that might be a little bit more, how should we say, requiring of your … particular style. Rather than flyin' in a straight line next to a big old ship like that. (nods at Shyla)
Nika: Really.
Salazaar: From what I saw on your ship, you've got something of a pirate democracy going there so we thought we'd talk to you first.

Nika starts to laugh.

Nika: Well, let me put it to you this way. We were sittin' in orbit when the EMPs hit.
Shyla: At Paquin?
Nika: Mm-hm. We were in the queue when that went through and so we've already had time to have that conversation.
Shyla: Okay. And?
Nika: I ain't up for flyin' escort. It bores me silly. Shyla, you got a ship that's big enough to handle itself and you told me yourself that it isn't really—
Shyla: There are lots of fighters.
Nika: There are. But I've also gotten used to—on many levels—bein' my own boss.
(sincerely) So as much as I miss you and Harry and am beyond glad that you came out here, I still can't take a position on that boat. (a beat) A part of me would like to. Boy, I see those fighters and I just drool.

Shyla nods. She knows Nika and knows the blonde is telling her the truth from the heart. Very well then.

Salazaar: Well if you're looking for something a little bit more, how shall I say … unpredictably violent, there are other roles available as well.
Nika: (chuckles) I'm listenin'.
Salazaar: I'm hesitant to recommend them because in special ops there are, how shall I say, occasionally moral questions that you might not be able to answer. We're more ethical than our enemy and that's easy enough to say, but … that doesn't mean we can't use the element of surprise and others where it's appropriate, up to causing death where doing so prevents it in the future. But special ops would be more military.

So what's it going to be? Merchant Marine? Special Ops? Med Ship duty?

Salazaar: You can fly unflagged and fed for yourself and trust me, we'll regard you as friendly. But if you fly one of our cargos, we'll treat you as a Merchant Marine whether you're flagged or not.
Nika: (slowly) If you'd asked me a week ago, I'da balked. Didn't like the idea of bein' flagged one side or t'other. I'm okay now, and I'll let you flag the ship.
Salazaar: Well, there will be a few requirements.
Nika: Such as?
Salazaar: You'll have to use ranks on your ship. For pay and pension purposes.
Nika: (Urk!) Uhnn… Pay and … pension?
Salazaar: Honor guard at your funeral, that kind of suff.
Nika: And what if I did …this?
Salazaar: We have some suggestions.

Shyla starts snickering behind her hand and Nika knows she's been hooked. Oh my stars, yes.

Nika: How does that fall under the rank structure and purview of the Navy?
Salazaar: During a time of war, you'll be part of the Merchant Marine but you'll be in part of the … military.
Nika: So like being in the Naval Reserves.
Salazaar: A little bit.
Nika: All right.
Salazaar: So your rank will be active, which means if you're transporting someone higher rank, they outrank you. If someone of lower rank, you outrank them. That's not to say that as Captain you don't have certain privileges, but this is war. It's not business as usual. You also won't have a whole lot of say in what cargos you take or where you're going. (a beat) You can always bow out. But bowing out's bowing out.
Nika: I understand that. And I understand what I'm getting into.
Salazaar: Of course, a ship like yours and a crew like yours, we would probably have reserved you for some of the more … special kind of jobs. You're armored. Everyone knows the special history of the Exeter. We all know how the ship singlehandedly saved the people of Athens. Certainly you would want to get in on stuff like that.
Nika: You're playing to my vanity. Not that you wouldn't win at this point. You've already got me on this side.
Salazaar: And the other benefit is that when you do get in trouble, you can call us up and we would come rescue you.

He's joking now. Nika knows it and her chuckle is equal parts grim and amused. She shoots Shyla a sly look.

Nika: Well, I won't put my ship in the drink on Miranda, at least.
Shyla: (stung) What do you mean? We had a very good pilot. That wasn't my fault.
Nika: Wasn't me that landed in the drink. You had a crappy pilot.
Shyla: Well, we didn't have a double-secret transponder.
Nika: Uhn-hnn. Sure.
Shyla: We had more to land than that old shuttle of yours.
Nika: Hey!
Shyla: In any event, we're giving you the opportunity to crash your ship, or not crash your ship.
Nika: There you go. That's what I need. The opportunity to crash another ship.
Salazaar: Talk to your crew.
Nika: I will.
Salazaar: This is not an offer you can't refuse. You're free to refuse. But we'd like to have you in. We need all the good crews and pilots we can find.
Nika: I'll talk to them but I'm reasonably sure that we'll be signing on.
Omar: I'll tell you, things are working out differently so far. Aside from Paquin, we've had other successes and better strategy. The Core is tied up more tightly than it was than in the previous war. In the past war, the idea was to fight them on each planet. We're not doing that anymore. We're going to break their will and then they'll stop fighting.
Nika: Do we actually have planets in each system that are allying …?
Omar: The Core hasn't. But almost all the other planets are. The War Council got significant majority with the people of almost all the planets of the Rim and the Border.
Nika: So all the four systems have signed on.
Omar: Let me say, excepting the planets entirely controlled by the Alliance. Boros. Athens.

And Georgia? Shyla's the de facto representative of Blue Sun in this gathering. Omar's for White Sun. Salazaar is Kalidasa. Oskar Åberg is Red Sun. So … Georgia?

Salazaar: They're on board. They're just being more independent than even us.
Nika: That's the way we all roll. So how long y'all've been standin' out here, anyway? What do you know about this … Elect guard they're building?
Omar: Well … the Elect is what I guess you'd call their trailing edge technology. You know, proven? The Allliance has been experimenting, as you may have guessed, in a variety of areas. Psychological manipulation. Cybernetic. Pharmacological. And they continue to do so. We've heard tell of … Hybrid humans. Which are not fully human …
Nika: Yeah. We've seen them.
Omar: Those are the cutting edge. The Elect is more proven technology that they are willing to use on people they haven't either preselected or … built … from scratch, but are using psychological, pharmacological, and cybernetic tools to create … the 90-Second Heroes.
Nika: Oh, great.
Omar: I don't know if you're one for military history but there was a study done at the end of the U-War of the 90-Second Hero. Apparently there was a big push to get better body armor built because the thought was if you could keep someone alive for 90 more seconds in a firefight, that was enough to turn the tide. Like a very few soldiers who lived 90 seconds longer than the typical one could turn the tide. But guns are just better than armor. It's always easier to blow something up or burn it to the ground or break its gears or whatever it is instead of defending it against that. So they went to a different tactic. they figured out ways to make soldiers that wouldn't get scared. Soldiers who would just keep fighting despite injuries that would just knock most of us out or at least stop us in our tracks. That's what the Elect are. They are sometimes faster and enhanced in some ways, but they aren't designed to survive the battles. Just to survive a little bit longer. Just long enough to—
Nika: Is there anything left of them, or do you know?
Omar: Left of?
Nika: Of the people they were.
Omar: Well …
Nika: Rina's brother was taken.

Oh. Omar falls silent. Then:

Omar: I guess I would say if you were to encounter him, I would not expect to be able to capture him or retrieve him.
Nika: Fair enough.
Omar: We've had bad luck capturing them. That is something that we should warn you. There is evidence that some of them have been designed to prevent this technology from going into enemy hands. Self-destruct mechanisms of various kinds. That's why we say they're not designed to last every fight, just to last longer. I didn't say it's impossible, but the circumstances necessary—we've read some of the stories of the Alliance trying to capture Reavers. Hell, we've tried to capture Reavers in a way that have been successful and we have captured them but it's not been particularly useful from a scientific standpoint.

Nika can think of a few instances where we've run into Reavers and have encountered evidence of them being captured for purposes known and unknown. One such operation had us meet Joshua. As for the information about the Elect, it's probably a good thing Rina wasn't here to hear it. She'd go ballistic. So Nika only nods and the silence stretches until Oskar Aberg claps his hands and speaks up.

Oskar: Anyway, this is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let's not talk about who's reiving who.
Nika: I definitely need another drink. I'll talk to the others after the wedding.
Salazaar: After?
Nika: Well, I'm reasonably sure where they stand already and I'd rather let Rina and Joshua have their day.

They return in time to find Arden and Shepherd Faria verbally wrangling. Faria has Schrodinger, the Gift's cat—luckily not aboard when we lost our ship. Arden wants her back. But you already have a cat, Faria points out. I don't care, snaps Arden. I want my cat. Where is she? On Shepherd's Moon. In Blue Sun. Faria offers to arm wrestle Arden for the cat, and plants his cybernetic arm in the classic contest pose. Um, no thanks. Arden subsides and the matter is shelved and the partying goes on.

Tuesday, 15 Jun 2523

The big day has arrived. We load up the wedding party and the guests and take Equinox and Drakkar aloft. Once in the Black, Nika expertly docks with the larger ship and everyone gets busy setting up the wedding chapel in Equinox's cargo bay. Chairs rattle and clack as they're unfolded and arranged on the deck. A dias of sorts is arranged using cargo pallets and an area rug. Rina is taken off to one of the first class cabins on the pax deck to prepare for the ceremony and Joshua is likewise given a cabin. There's hilarity involved in keeping bride and groom apart and not a few jokes about ninjas crashing the party. Joshua doesn't much appreciate the wedding being the butt of jokes, and his mother still hasn't arrived though we've received word that she is en route.

The guests are seated as Kiera plays and when the processional chords are struck, the wedding starts. Nika is on the dias in her Merchant Marine uniform of green tunic and black slacks. Joshua stands in his tux to the right. Kiera, bridesmaids, and groomsmen are likewise decked out in their formal wear and everyone's got something fine on. Orchids and greenery from the crater festoon the hard surfaces of the ship, softening the space a bit. Svetlana's youngest scatters some more as she precedes down the aisle. Everyone's in a good mood, loving even, and Joshua can feel it washing over and through him. A movement to the side catches his eye and snapping out of the pink haze he's in, Joshua focuses and sees Beglan motioning to him. At his nod, Beglan comes up and hands him a datapad, which Arden intercepts as Best Man.

Incoming Wave, blinks the message on the screen.

Nika looks askance at the men. The procession's started and they're reading messages?

Joshua: Beggar. Who's it from?

Beglan taps the screen and a Blue Sun seal shows up. It's a collect wave.

Arden: Do we really need to be taking this thing at this moment? (off Joshua's look) I'll accept the charges.

Tappity-tap. Ping! The message plays.

Message: Incoming transmission from BS-127.

There's a glowing Doppler effect and it dissolves to reveal the stately figure of Dr. Joan Guan.

Guan: The Captain says we're about an hour away from Angel. If we miss the wedding we'll see you at the reception.

There is nothing more to the message. The time stamp on it puts it at thirty minutes ago, so Joan is about half an hour away. There being nothing more to do, Arden turns the pad off and puts it aside before Joshua can see it. This sets off a flurry of whispering at the dias. Beglan is shocked that Arden could be so callous.

Beglan: After all, this is Joshua's mom and surely you'd think that Joshua would want to see her message and she's on her way in. She'll be here in half an hour.
Arden: There's nothing we can do about it right now.
Nika: (hissing) Boys! Behave!

Because Rina's about to make her entrance. She's on her father's arm and is coming down the cargo deck stairs. The dress is simple, strapless, and chiffon instead of the standard satin. It's red, a color in keeping with the ancient Russian tradition, and there is no veil. She has a beaded necklace festooning her neck, effacing her collarbone scar, and a bouquet of white orchids is in her hands.

Joshua's facing forward, drawing out the moment where he can finally turn and see her. Nika eyes the datapad and grits her teeth. Dammit. She steps off the dias.

Nika: Ladies and Gentlemen, I need to—
Arden: (to Nika) Really?
Nika: To pause the ceremony for just a moment.

The assembled crowd starts to mutter and stir as she strides down the aisle. Kiera plays her guitar a little louder. Nika hits the stairs and intercepts Rina and her father midway down the final flight of steps.

Nika: (low) Joshua's mother is about half an hour out down the pipe. Do you want to postpone or not?
Rina: Let's wait.

The bride turns right around and goes back up the stairs. Okay. Nika gets back on the dias.

Nika: My apologies, Ladies and Gentlemen. We're going to postpone for about thirty minutes. It turns out the Groom's mother is actually going to make it. She's about thirty minutes out and we would like to allow her to dock so she can be part of the ceremony. Kiera, if you wouldn't mind, drinks for those who need them? I know we're a little stretched for supplies, folks, but please, by all means. Most of what we've got up here is water but if you need it, it won't be but thirty minutes at the most.

At this point the PA breaks in.

PA: Drakkar to Equinox.
Joshua: (to Nika) That's you.
Nika: If she's inbound, maybe you should go to the bridge and see if you can hail her and see if you can find out where she is.

Joshua quits the hold for the bridge and Arden goes with him. Kiera gets the drinks going and sees to the guests comfort. Nika gets that call patched through in her quarters.

Nika: This is Equinox.
Keegan: Hey, this is Keegan over on Drakkar. There's something funny comin' in on the long range sensors. It must be headed for Angel. It's headed in our direction. I just thought that you'd—
Nika: Yes. The Groom's mother is inbound. Can you keep an eye on that vessel and let it know that we are in orbit? And if anything looks funny, please let me know.
Keegan: All right.
Nika: I don't trust that ship as far as we can all spit. So keep a very close eye.
Keegan: Ohhh-kay.

Nika goes back to the cargo hold and circulates amongst the guests, helping Kiera and Beglan with the drinks. On the bridge, Joshua is nervous—to be expected. He's getting married—but is managing it well. In the bride's dressing room, Rina waits with her father. The minutes pass and another ship arrives. It's a very fancy yacht. Dr. Joan Guan is finally here. That said, there's another ping on the sensors behind her. We can't get a very good reading on it but it does seem to have some sort of engine problem. It's leaking radiation. And not surprisingly, the yacht is sending out a distress beacon. Joshua gets the ID off the signal and hails the yacht.

Joshua: Blue Sun 127, this is the Equinox.
Yacht: We appear to have a tail coming in behind us. This is one of the Independent vessels. We need you to call it off. Call it off! It is not responding to hail.
Joshua: (Switching comms) Captain?
Nika: (from wall comm) Yeah. What's going on?
Joshua: So my mother's arrived. She also seems to be trailed some sort of ship that's leaking radiation that they say seems to be from the Independents that they need called off.
Arden: And it's not responding to hails.
Nika: Bloody hell. Hold on.

She turns around, scans the cargo bay. She catches eyes with both E. Z. Salazaar and Omar Tennison and points at them.

Nika: You and you. Come with me.

They come right over.

Omar: She got cold feet?
Nika: No. I need to know what you know about the possibility of Independents masquerading as Reavers because I got a ship leaking radiation coming inbound right behind the yacht.
Salazaar: That I don't know.
Nika: Get somebody on the Drakkar.
Salazaar: But that's not our ship. What do you want us to do?
Nika: Go get the Drakkar's Captain and send him back over and get us uncoupled.

Unknown to her on the bridge, Arden's already on the horn to Drakkar to do just that. She's looking for Drakkar's Captain, Rod Wallin, as she's speaking. She spies him and motions him forward and he gathers his crew over. She takes them and the Independent leaders with her and takes them upstairs to the conference room, where she outlines her plan.

Salazaar: What are you trying to do? Escape?
Nika: This ship doesn't have much. All we have are defensive weapons. Drakkar has no weapons. We're not going to be able to face off with that thing if it's actually Reavers. We have to distract it and get it off the ship coming in. And we have to make sure they do not land on the planet. No matter what happens.

Part 1, 2, Special Features

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