Episode 702: Brand New Day

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Air Date: 10 Jan 2012
Present: Andy, Bobby, Kim, Maer, and Terri

Part 2, Special Features

In the previous episode…

A Reaver ship has arrived in Angel airspace, has attached to Equinox, and our girl has been boarded by none other than Mike Carter—somehow transformed into an intelligent version of a Reaver. He wants nothing less than Rina and Arden handed over to him. He needs Arden to help him make intelligent Reavers like himself. He needs Rina for … well, they were once lovers and one can only hope he'll treat her well. Rina is ready to give herself up for the sake of the crew, determined to broker a deal to get Arden and the rest away free. The crew refuses to let her go and Joshua challenges Mike to a hand-to-hand fight for the woman they love. Mike accepts and the crew makes ready to escape …

Tuesday, 15 Jun 2523
Durance class Equinox
In orbit over Angel
Kalidasa (Xuan Wu) system

Before we send Joshua up to the hangar deck, we spend a minute thinking about how we can get away in the event Joshua wins. For sure, we're all thinking that the minute Mike Carter is dead, the control he has over the Reavers is gone and we will need to get the hell out of there to avoid getting eaten … or worse. And just in case some of the Reavers want to get a head start on the or-worse, Nika sends two of the Åbergs to the forward access hatch with rifles to keep any Reavers from dropping on us from above. The stairs leading down from the hangar deck are ably defended by Shyla and the others. Nika has Rosalie remain on the bridge to man comms.

Arden: Apparently Joshua has the idea that he is going to fight Mike in hand-to-hand combat and win the day. However I think we need a back-up plan involving us escaping with no injuries.
Joshua: I'm not against a back-up plan. We're not going to need it, but I'm not against it.
Arden: I don't think even on your best day you could get the unaltered Mike, much less the altered Mike.
Beglan: That's the trick.
Joshua: See? No faith.
Arden: It's not that I don't have any faith. I have plenty of faith that you're getting your ass handed to you.
Joshua: I win all the time and still nobody has faith in me. I'm going to win but a back-up plan is a good idea. If you can find a way to detach our ship, I'll be happy. I just got married. I want to live.

Nika asks Rina if there is a way to detach the ships. Rina comes up with a solution, but it's risky. She will have to manually reverse the polarity of gravitic envelope on our hull where the two ships meet PLUS Nika will have to fire the thrusters at the same moment. If Joshua isn't back below decks when that happens, he'll be sucked out into the vacuum of space when the ships separate: with our hangar bay doors gone, Mike's ship is the only thing between us and the Black.

Dare we do it? Are we insane for even thinking of doing it? Sending Joshua up there to fight a Reaver barehanded? Tearing our ship away and venting our hangar deck, killing everyone still in it?

Nika asks her engineer the million-credit question.

Nika: How long will it take?
Rina: Hard to say.

Our gravitics have been damaged by the chain gun. She can work around and through it, but it will take time. And to make matters worse, the System Defense Fleet patrol ships are on their way and we've heard of them destroying Reaver ships and their victims with equal sanction, regardless of the state of the survivors when they arrive. It is a Draconian measure to ensure no Reavers escape and no brutalized victims suffer one second longer than necessary. So if the Reavers don't get us, the SDF will. Our only option is to get away before they arrive and we can't do that attached to the Reaver ship. We have to separate them and to do that undiscovered, we have to make the Reavers look the other way. The fight between Mike Carter and Joshua Drake should do the trick.

God help us, we are insane.

We break from our huddle and get to it. Kiera's already decided to go up to the hangar bay with Joshua. She can either shoot the Reavers before they kill him or she can patch up his wounds afterward if he's victorious. Arden will accompany Joshua as well and preps a dose of adrenaline for Joshua so as to give him a boost against Mike. Arden also gets a dose of Chempliant standing by for himself, just in case he has to move superfast to get away or save Joshua. As everyone starts to move, Joshua points out something to Nika.

Joshua: This has nothing to do with self sacrifice but have you considered that it's not just our crew that we've got on board but the entire freaking leadership of the Independents? So if everything is ready to go and I'm not down, do not let me stop you from doing that.

Nika's ready to hit that button regardless. She's got if not all the high-ranking Independent leadership aboard, she's still got a fair amount. And her ethics as a pilot and a Captain demands she bring as many home alive as possible. So hell, yes, if blowing the seal on the hangar deck would lose her Joshua but save everyone else, she's hitting that button. But the real question is not what Nika would do, but what Rina would do. Can she bear the thought of Joshua getting ripped to pieces by her former lover? Can she even let Joshua go, leaving him to the mercy of a maniac without going up there with him? Can she leave him to that fate and work on the escape plan? Can she keep it together long enough to get the gravitics to do what we need them to do?

Joshua: Trust me. Believe in me, Rina. I can do this.
Rina: I know. The last time I trusted you to do this, you were locked up in the airlock with Beglan and a hopped up enforcer.
Joshua: Two pacifists locked up with a hopped-up enforcer and we won. See?
Rina: The thing that worries me is not that you go one-on-one with Mike, but that you're going one-on-one with Mike with half a dozen Reavers at his back.
Joshua: (evenly) I'll handle that. No matter what I do, no matter what I say, just trust in me. Believe in me.

She's torn. She has a gun for back up. She's got an emotional inside track with Mike. She has a fair amount of leverage. She can try to use it against him. But she's already going through all the outcomes—which way the fight will turn, what happens if Joshua loses and Mike gets her and Arden, what happens if Mike loses and Joshua cannot control the Reavers before they rip everyone to shreds … One hundred and one worst-case scenarios flash through her head. And for God's sake it's her wedding day. She'd planned to spend the rest of her life with Joshua, and he with her, and it looks like they won't get a chance to … unless she can do her job and ignore what's happening one deck up. And she realizes she can do that only if she trusts Joshua to do his job, which is fighting Mike and buying them time to survive.

Rina: All right. I'll make a deal with you. I'll trust you to win the day … (deep breath) … if you'll trust me not to blow us all the fuck up.
Joshua: I trust you in that. Sold. To gravitics with you.
Rina: Okay.

A quick kiss and that's it. Rina heads off for engineering and Joshua turns for the access hatch. Everyone else stares for a beat—whoa, that's it?—and then they start to hustle. Joshua has one last thing to say to Nika.

Joshua: You have my instructions. Don't eff this up.
Nika: What? I'm ready—
Joshua: I'm not trying to argue with you. I'm trying to tell you something important. I have my earbud on. If I win—let me say, when I win—I'll let you know one way or the other when it's time to make that launch. Either when I'm broken on the floor of the shuttle bay or when I'm standing triumphant over Reaver Mike Carter Superspy.
Kiera: That's true. The last breath he takes as his head gets ripped off can be used to tell them don't fire. That's good. I like your plan. (a beat) Those who are about to die, salute you.

And she does just that before pulling a rebreather mask around her neck.

Kiera: I'll try and kill him.
Joshua: I love you, too. All right. Let's get going.

Everyone has earbuds in. Everyone wants to keep track of everyone else. Nika spies Kiera's rifle and stops her.

Nika: Don't shoot.
Kiera: I can't watch and not shoot if he's losing.
Nika: If you're watching and he loses and you do shoot, the Reavers will go nuts on us.
Kiera: Then take this. (holds out her rifle) That's the best I can do.
Nika: Suck.
Kiera: I can promise that if it's in my hands I'll shoot him. Here, take it. Take the rifle.
Joshua: The other option of course is if I'm losing really badly, you might want to shoot me.
Kiera: I won't give you that kinda mercy.
Joshua: Fair enough.
Nika: She's mad at you.
Joshua: Fair enough.

Nika takes the rifle and gives Kiera her pistol. The redhead makes it disappear on her person—just in case. Arden gives Joshua a shot of adrenaline—just in case. Joshua heads up the access hatch under the watchful eye of the Åbergs and Arden and Kiera take to the stairs.

The hangar bay is crowded. Lagniappe still stands on the deck. So does Mike … and a full dozen Reavers, lining both sides of the bay. The situation gets relayed to the rest of the crew below and to be honest, they're not really surprised Mike brought back-up. Rina's got even more incentive to get that fix in. Her husband might be fighting more than just Mike. She makes sure her earbud is secure and works faster.

Joshua shuts the hatch behind him, sees Kiera and Arden enter the bay from the utility room aft. The Reavers along the hangar bay's bulkheads are like something out of a jungle nightmare—grunting and weaving in place like gorillas. They're breathing hard and it's obvious they want to rampage but they're holding back. Who knows how long that restraint will last and it's damned scary being in the same room with them. Joshua manages to stand his ground, as do Kiera and Arden.

Mike Carter steps through the line of Reavers, his sights set on Joshua.

Joshua: So. Long time, no see. You know, Mike. I kinda grok why you came back now. I mean, it's kinda gotta grate at you a little bit. You go off to play super spy and some pacifist who doesn't even know how to use a gun is shtupping your woman.

Everyone's hearing this over their earbuds. Reaction is mixed but on the hangar deck, Joshua's still going.

Joshua: And what's worse, it's by some Blue Sun product. It's like getting cuckholded by a can of soda, except a can of soda has fizz. But I must have been giving her something you couldn't have. Maybe the ubermensch is short on uber-equipment. Or uber-technique, for that matter.

The vibe in the room is ugly and Joshua can feel it beating against his mental defenses … but Joshua has a plan. Normally when he's Borrowing, he's Borrowing an individual or something highly specific, as when he does the ten-minute pick-up on a skill. This situation, however, is far from normal and what Joshua's going to do isn't even close: he opens his mind to the Reavers to see if he can Borrow them en masse.

Mike takes the taunting on the chin and unlike the other Reavers in the room, his demeanor is different. It's an odd sort of stoic anger, simmering away beneath the surface.

Mike: (evenly) Pity Rina isn't here to see what you've become. Or what you will become. Either way.
Joshua: That may have been too complex for me. I'm a simple guy. What I will become I'm pretty sure involves me standing with my foot on your neck.
Mike: Either way, you will lose.
Joshua: I'm not going to kill you. Where's the fun in that?
Mike: We'll see.

Mike has a Reaver weapon in hand, a cross between a club and a scimitar. He throws it aside and it clanks and scrapes across the deck… and Mike stalks toward Joshua. His shoulders shift and you can see the punch coming. Joshua's still at the forward hatch and advances out of the bottleneck, readying a punch of his own. Mike beats him to it, however, and clocks him a head rattling blow with his fist.


The blow sends Joshua back several steps but he manages to stay conscious. Joshua's mind is open and he's absorbing the Reaver mentality, including their unique reaction to pain. Mike's blow hurts like a sonuvabitch and it feels … good. Joshua's riding the pain/pleasure wave as well as suffering stun and doesn't see Mike's leg sweep coming. It connects and Joshua goes down. Mike cuts loose with a roar and the Reavers at his back echo him. The noise is horrific as are the mental impressions Joshua's getting from them: to the Reavers, Joshua's a mouthwatering snack lying prone on the floor, just a bundle of tasty succulent flesh …

One deck below, Nika winces at the noise over her earbud and advises the Independent leaders to start moving for the life pods off the crew lounge.

Mike closes in on Joshua to pound him through the deck like a tent peg. Joshua scrambles to his feet and lashes out with a groin kick. Joshua connects for an exceptional hit and Mike—despite his Reaver fortitude—doubles over and Joshua promptly slams his knee into Mike's unprotected head. Dirty pool but Joshua's not going to scruple—the stakes are just too high. On the bridge, Nika is following this over her earbud and opens a channel to engineering.

Nika: Rina. How the hell're you doing?
Rina: (distracted) Can't talk to you right now, Captain.

She's up to her elbows in gravitics, yanking components, swapping out connections as fast as she can make them. On the hangar deck, Joshua lets the Reaver vibe soak right into him. Coupled with his innate optimism and overconfidence, there's not a doubt in his mind he can take Mike down. Joshua strides over to Mike and punches him. He lands a solid blow on him.

As fist meets flesh, Joshua sees Mike's expression change. It comes to life, as if the more he's hit, the more Mike enjoys it. As if pain actually makes him happy. That's a mite creepifying and for an instant, Joshua thinks that maybe he's just walked into a trap he can't get out of and he hopes Rina comes through with her fix so they can blow the seal … Then Joshua puts the doubts away and pulls out his Aikkido, and moves to grapple Mike and throw him across the hangar bay.

Joshua's successful and throws Mike. Mike goes flying and slams into Lagniappe's hull. As Mike slides against the metal, Joshua uses the momentum of his throw to spin around and deliver a devastating haymaker.


Mike wilts further. Looks like Joshua's got him on the ropes ... Watching from the sidelines, this is the first time Kiera's seen Joshua in a fight and not pumped full of lead. Or injured and bleeding and insisting he can handle it. Beside her, Arden's yelling for all he's worth.

Arden: Get him! Get him! Go Joshua! Go Joshua!

Joshua moves in for another blow and Mike blocks it at the last second. Mike scrambles up, bares his teeth and delivers a blow of his own on Joshua. The force sends Joshua back a few steps and costs him some amount of stun. The tables are turned and Mike pushes off Lagniappe and launches at Joshua, fists flying. He slams into Joshua, once, twice, and blood goes flying. They clinch and break, pushing off each other, looking for room to swing. Ripped and bloodied, they pause and stare each other down, panting from the effort, from exhilaration of pounding each other to a pulp.


The bloodsmell hits the other Reavers and they get more agitated and violent, weaving and jumping and howling in place. Something's still holding them back but there's no telling how long it will last. Kiera keeps an eye on those closest to her. Arden leaves the safety of the rear wall and moves along the equipment portside, hoping to get a better view of the fight. Of course, this puts him right in the path of several Reavers. One of them steps forward, all snarling menace, and Arden dodges it.

Mike growls and clenches his fist and throws a punch at Joshua. It's a solid hit but Joshua manages to stay on his feet. Mike lands another blow, more blood goes flying, and the Reavers roar louder. Mike stands growling low in his throat as the noise from the Reavers washes over him. He makes a gesture universally understood: bring it.

Joshua's rocky but he's still up. Two forces are tugging at him—blessed unconsciousness with its promise of relief and Reaver-borne rage. Joshua sees Mike's silent taunt and that tips the scales. Joshua spits blood and gives in to the bloodlust surging through him. He charges Mike for a tackle. Mike dodges. Joshua runs past him. The fight's less than sixty seconds old. Joshua has enough presence of mind to check via his ear com before he spins around.

Joshua: You ready to blow it?
Nika: I'm thinking not.

For his part, Arden realizes that he's got little chance of moving safely in front of the Reavers and leaves off moving to a better spot to watch over Joshua. He retraces his steps to the rear to stand with Kiera. If the Reaver follows him, well then, the Reaver follows him. And of course, the Reaver does.


The Reaver gets right up in Arden's face, snarling and bathing Arden with his putrid Reaver breath and spittle. It's very like a gorilla showing dominance and things haven't progressed to the limb-rending stage … yet. Thinking back on the one time we transported gorillas on the Gift, Arden mimics submissive gorilla behavior: hunching his shoulders, looking downward, basically making himself smaller, crouching as he steps back. Arden quickly fetches up against the rear bulkhead and there's nowhere else to go. The Reaver advances and roars. Kiera steps up and puts her hand on Arden's shoulder and stares the Reaver down with a soft growl, her non-verbal message loud and clear: back off, he's mine. She pulls Arden back.

The Reaver roars, all but pounding his chest at her display of female dominance. It's damned scary, being that close to that messed-up, cut-on face, seeing rotting flesh stuck in his teeth, knowing that any second she and Arden could be nothing more than bloody shreds on the deck. Kiera moves Arden farther away but doesn't break her gaze with the Reaver. She growls low in her throat again.

Joshua feints and snaps a kick to Mike's leg. Mike falls for it and snap! Joshua takes out his knee. Mike howls in pain and staggers, his leg dragging but unbroken.

Joshua: Exes are such bitches.

Joshua's mind is open to the Reavers now and everything that's happened is making it worse: Mike just shows up and Rina's immediately ready to walk out the door and walk out on him. Even if it was for a solid reason, the fact that she didn't even put the matter up for debate but instead unilaterally decided to go—that just makes Joshua crazy-angry. Mike's always screwing things up for him, dammit. Joshua's really mad now and there's less artistry in his attack than brute force and rage. Mike's an easy target and Joshua grabs Mike and pulls him forward, leading with his other fist. Joshua connects and more blood goes flying.


Mike lashes out at Joshua, wounding him. Bloodlust is singing in Joshua's veins now and it gives him the extra boost to withstand it and stay on his feet.

Meanwhile, Arden's keeping up the submissive gorilla act. Kiera keeps her eyes on the Reaver and growls at Arden: back the hell up. Arden moves at her push and watches the Reaver in front of him, getting ready to throw a punch if the Reaver attacks. The Reaver pulls Arden out from under her hands and holds him against his chest. So far, the Reaver has done nothing more than assert dominance. He's not crushing Arden or otherwise hurting him, just …. taking possession of him, like a gorilla would take up a kitten. Maybe he intends to save Arden for later. Arden looks at Kiera and she cocks an eyebrow at him and glares: Don't move!

Arden doesn't fight but goes along, waiting for a better moment to strike and get free. Kiera backs down, knowing that a fight right now between her and the Reaver would put Arden in the middle and quite possibly kill him. Nevertheless, she keeps an eye on the Reaver and growls.

Mike gets a blow in. Joshua's Reaver boost allows him to basically shrug it off and throw a punch of his own. It lands and deals some damage, again thanks to the boost he's getting from the Reaver rage.

Joshua: Gonna mess up that ugly face of yours.

Joshua lashes out even as he taunts Mike and gets another hit in.

Joshua: I've proven to be the better man, Mike. Stand down.

Kiera and Arden are able to follow the fight and both being doctors, they gauge the fighters with a clinical eye. Joshua's hopped up on Arden's shot of adrenaline, the Reaver vibe, and righteous possessiveness. After all, Mike is here to take his woman away from him. Mike, on the other hand … Both the doctors notice that under the blood smears and the dirt, the man has an odd pallor to him. Arden and Kiera recognize the signs: Mike is bleeding out internally. Arden fills Joshua in via earbud, adding at the end:

Arden: Go for his kidney!

Up on the bridge, the sensors yark an alarm. Two armored missile gunboats are incoming. It's the System Defense Force. They're at long-range but it won't be long before mid-range. Nika hails the SDF boats:

Nika: (calm) This is theEquinox. Come back.

She hears the distinctive rustle of a hand covering the mike at the other end and catches the conversation: Uh, sir …

SDF: Wait, there's somebody still on those ships? (uncovers mike) Please forgive us.

The first half is surprised and the second half is solemn. Nika hears the tone and her stomach drops: The SDF has written us off and they mean to kill us along with the Reavers. She puts a little more force in her reply.

Nika: Guys, do not fire on these vessels. I have civilians on board and they are okay. We are in the process of attempting to contain our situation.

She hears the rustle of a hand covering the mike again.

SDF: Captain? They're not dead or whatever yet.
Nika: This is Captain Earhart. Please put me through to your Captain if you can.

The hand comes off the mike again and this time another voice comes on the line.

SDF Captain: Captain Earhart, we cannot let your people fall.
Nika: I understand that—
SDF Captain: Take what measures you can and say your final words.
Nika: Listen to me. Do not fire on these vessels. I am in the process of attempting to separate the two of them and when that happens you are free to fire. I have the situation contained at the moment. Please give us the time we need to get our ship free.
SDF Captain: Hold on.

The channel goes dead. Nika hits the channel for engineering.

Nika: Rina, you've got to hurry. They're gonna take on the both of us.
Rina: Yes, Ma'am.

She's got to isolate the necessary hull sections and set them to reverse polarity. She'e in the middle of making the connections manually when SNAP! a coupling fries and she swears, strips it off and grabs a fresh one and starts splicing. Beglan takes up the other half and strips right along with her.

Back on the bridge, Nika sees the SDF boats slowing down to medium range in a flanking maneuver and our sensors yark again. We're getting painted with missile guidance radar.

Up in the hangar deck, Joshua hears Arden's report and has enough presence of mind despite his Reaver madness to follow along. Joshua doesn't think he's been hitting Mike hard enough to cause him to bleed out internally. What's going on? The puzzle makes the Reaver mind in Joshua recede a bit, allowing Joshua to analyze his opponent's condition. Mike seems to be favoring that leg but he's not trying to protect his kidneys or other vital organs the way someone would who's hurting inside. And yet … there's an odd sort of … greyness, a sickly cast to Mike's color. Mike attacks, nevertheless, and Joshua dodges. Mike's haymaker goes wide, missing him, and Joshua spies something really odd—Mike has stents implanted in his brute muscular forearms, as if he's regularly been given blood. Or maybe receiving blood.

Joshua: Running a little light on blood, Mike?
Mike: (raw) I'll be drinking yours.
Joshua: Really?

Mike lunges with another haymaker attack and Joshua twists out of the way. Mike misses him by a cat's whisker. Is Mike looking to kill himself? Suicide by cop, of sorts? Suicide by Ex? Mike throws another punch and again, Joshua dodges out of the way. Is Mike slowing down? Or is he trying to trick Joshua into hitting him hard enough to kill him?

Joshua: I'm not going to be the gun in your mouth, Mike. If you wanna die, it's not gonna be me that's gonna do it.

Mike attacks and this time he lands a blow. Joshua takes some damage but the strength gained from the Reaver mind has him remain on his feet. Besides, the puzzle in front of him keeps nagging at him, making Joshua feel like he's missing something. He retraces his steps to the port side of Lagniappe, coming back into view of Arden and Kiera again. Joshua tries an attack but misses and Mike stalks Joshua, following him to the port side of the hangar bay. Joshua takes advantage of this, falling farther back to draw Mike to him.

Mike comes into range and Joshua grabs him, pushing him back again … But Mike plants his feet and doesn't budge. In fact, now that Joshua's in range of him, Mike gets a hard lick in and again, blood goes flying. Only this time, it's Joshua's. Joshua throws a punch in turn and slams it home hard enough to push Mike ten feet away to the deck.

The Reavers, already hooting and snarling like a gruesome cheering squad, see Mike go down and they start jumping, getting even more agitated. The Reaver hanging onto Arden starts stroking the doctor's head like a pet … or perhaps a favorite snack. Kiera doesn't like this change in the Reavers at all and puts her hand on the butt of pistol she's packing.

We're now a minute and a half into the battle. Mike's bleeding freely from his wounds and looking a bit worse for wear. He's hurting but he's still defiant, still snarling, and struggling to get up. Joshua thinks back …. he hasn't heard any word through his ear bud that we're ready to separate. He needs to buy us some more time, try to keep the Reavers from going berserk and ripping everyone aboard to shreds. He's got to draw the fight out a little bit longer.

Joshua: C'mon Mike.

Joshua kicks Mike while he's down and lands an exceptionally vicious hit on him. The pitch of the grunts and screams from the Reavers changes, getting wilder. Knowing he can't actually kill the man, lest Mike's control over the Reavers fails, but there's nothing keeping Joshua from putting Mike in a world of hurt. He follows his kick with a hard stomp on Mike's arm. There's a crunch and Mike's arm is out for the count. Joshua retreats a single step.

Joshua: Submit now, Mike. Make it easy on yourself.

Mike stands with difficulty, his snarl ragged but not one whit less fierce … and launches himself at Joshua. Mike rips and tears into Joshua but he's already weakening and the damage isn't as great as it might have been. Joshua manages to stay on his feet under the Mike's weight and throws a punch into him. They break the clinch and Mike swings again and he misses. Joshua follows right up with another blow and it's devastating. Mike wavers and Joshua hits him again. Mike is rocky, weaving in place, bleeding from a stent, from his nose … and of course, there's the internal bleeding destroying him from the inside out. He is, in short, dying. He comes at Joshua, still in the fight. Joshua dodges him handily and offers him yet a third chance to stand down.

Joshua: I've beaten you. You just don't know it yet.

Joshua feels a growing sense of anticipation from the Reavers all around him. They're really close to losing it. Mike staggers and swings at Joshua and misses. Mike spins, scans the Reavers and Joshua can feel the command waiting on the tip of Mike's tongue …

And …

The light goes out of Mike's eyes and he falls where he stands. The last restraint on the Reavers aboard is unconscious at Joshua's feet. Joshua reports via his earbud:

Joshua: He's down.

Mike is out and there's nothing holding the Reavers back.

In the engine room, Rina gets a hunch on how to shortcut the process. It might mean we'll lose the armor plating on the top hull of our ship—but we've already lost plating there already, thanks to Mike's ripping off our hangar bay doors—and we'll definitely lose the atmo up there. There is no doing this halfway. Either it will work or it will fail. The steps start falling into place in her head and she mutters a running monologue as she hustles to make it happen.

Rina: I can do this I can do this but it will go either two ways. Either it works and everybody dies up there or it doesn't work and everybody dies up there. (louder) Nika, you better tell them to get ready to move.
Nika: Hold on. He's got Mike down.
Rina: Arghh—!

She can't wait. Either she does it now or she doesn't do it at all. She's run out of time. Shyla is manning sensors on the bridge and confirms it.

Shyla: I read missile lock.
Nika: Shit! (to Rina) Blow it!
Rina: Yes, Ma'am.

Now the fun begins.

Arden, Kiera, and Joshua have heard everything over their earbuds. Kiera pulls on her rebreather mask. Arden struggles against the Reaver holding him. Thinking quickly, Joshua pulls up from his memory the pitch and tone of that weird call Mike used to make the Reavers stand down. Knowing that a mistake would mean getting everyone killed—knowing that the seal is about to blow and kill everyone anyway—Joshua makes a last second bid for survival. He fixes the sound in his head, sucks down a deep breath … and cuts loose an unearthly howl.

It goes up and down a dissonant scale, dragging across the nerves, cascading shivers down the spine. It's baby whales dying. It's tortured souls screaming in hell. It's madness incarnate.

The Reavers go stock still as if galvanized. You can see the switch flipping in their heads. They blink and then start scrambling up the walls to their ship above us. The Reaver holding Arden takes our doctor with him but Arden squirms free. He drops to the deck and he and Kiera move for the stairs.

Joshua screams, his body arched like a bow, until he runs out of air. The last note rattles in his throat and he staggers, takes a breath, and grabs Mike, dragging him for the access tube.

Rina blows the seal.

There's a thunderclap as the charge of the grav envelope changes polarity, the hangar bay shudders, and the atmo starts to whistle as the seal breaks.

Nika punches the engines and everything starts to shake.

The whistle is a roar and the atmo starts sucking everything that's not nailed down toward the ever-growing hole overhead. Joshua's grip on Mike is a plus, actually, since the extra weight keeps him from flying. Kiera runs for the utility room door. Once behind it and down the stairs, she should be safe. Arden turns on the threshold to check how Joshua's doing. He sees him trying to drag Mike to safety. Arden shouts against the roar.

Arden: No! Leave him here!
Joshua: I'm fine!
Arden: Leave him here!
Joshua: (clearly joking) But he's wearing mesh! I have to have it!

Kiera realizes Arden isn't on her heels, reaches back and grabs him by the shirt and pulls him with her. She yells at Joshua.

Kiera: Walk faster!
Joshua: I am! Whaddya want from me?
Kiera: Faster! Faster! Faster!

Joshua's hauling at Mike's dead weight for all he's worth for the hatch. Twenty feet … fifteen feet … ten feet. Arden turns for the stairs—if Joshua's grabbing Mike, well … there's nothing he can do about it except offer the new bride his condolences for her loss. He screams at Kiera to get inside and shut the utility room door. With one last look at her friend struggling with Carter's body, Kiera ducks through the door and shuts it. It slams to and the seals engage and Joshua's avenues of escape are cut in half.

She hits the stairs on the fly and starts screaming before she makes it all the way down. She comes through loud and clear in everyone's ear.

Kiera: Open the hatch! Open the hatch! Let the man through!

She's careful not to mention that Joshua's bringing Mike with him. She doesn't want the Abergs to shoot Joshua by mistake. Arden's already readjusting to the situation and is anticipating what he can do for Mike if the men make it through—maybe he ameliorate or even reverse what's been done to him? He can't tell until he has a chance to examine the man.

In the hangar bay, the roar starts dying down. The hurricane pull is weakening. The air is getting thin. It's getting hard to breathe. Joshua's vision is starting to swim and the Reaver boost is ebbing. The adrenaline Arden's given him just moments before is still with him and it gives him the strength to push on. But there is no arguing the cold reality that Joshua has only seconds left before he's out of atmo and will start to decompress in the vacuum of space.

To make matters worse, the grav is going out on the hangar deck, making it harder to move. His grip on Mike is the only thing anchoring him to the ship. Joshua's made it to the hatch but now he has to make a choice. Opening that hatch is a two-handed job and he needs his feet on the deck to do it. He can hang on to Mike and die, or he let the man go and get through the hatch and live.

Joshua's had time to observe the man who was Rina's lover and by now he's got a handle on him. Mike is still alive, but he's dying. Would he want Joshua to save him? Mike's every word, every nuance of expression and gesture, every move taken and withheld, everything Joshua knows of Mike replays through his head in a flash.

Mike was comfortable with who he was, with no regrets, almost at peace. Dying didn't seem to bother him. To the best he was able, Mike had fought the good fight, had stayed the course, had kept the faith. He'd done everything he could for the cause he'd believed in. And dying, his life poured out in final offering, it is time for his departure.

Joshua: I hope you find the peace out there that you had a hard time finding in here, Mike.

As the last of the atmo flows out the ruined hatch in our hull, Joshua wishes Mike Godspeed and lets him go. Then Joshua plants his feet and hauls on the hatch wheel with the last of the air in his lungs. Alerted by Kiera and the others, the Åbergs are ready to catch Joshua as he opens the hatch and in a sucking whoosh! of escaping atmo, he falls through into their waiting hands.

Joshua: Nika! Go!

Going would be a good idea—we have missiles incoming. It's official: the SDF isn't satisfied with destroying Mike's ship. They're gunning for us too.

Part 2, Special Features

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