Episode 708: Namira
Air Date: 21 Feb 2012
Present: Andy, Bobby, Kim, Maer, and Terri
Saturday, 09 Oct 2523
Durance class Exeter
Namira Planetoid, the Halo
White Sun (Bai Hu) system
Warning klaxons and radar paints assault us an hour out form Namira. We're hailed by the facility and told to surrender our flight controls for the remainder of the trip in. We are pinging away with a transponder that flags us as an Alliance vessel from Corone Mining. We acknowledge and surrender our controls. And then we get ready to be smuggled inside as cargo.
The station itself is laid out something like a clock on the airless surface of Namira. At the center of the loose ring of buildings and landing pads is the control and command center—admin offices are here and other important functions. Along the perimeter of the installation, with overground tunnels connecting them are various labs and plants for the facility. There are buildings at one, two, four, six, seven, eight, nine, and eleven o'clock on the outer ring, with tunnels connecting them along the outside like the rim of a wheel and also each having a tunnel connecting them to the hub, like spokes on a wheel. Four landing pads are loosely arranged between the wheel spokes halfway between the hub and the rim at the three, the five, and 730 and 830 o'clock positions. Since it's a retasked mining operation, everything has an industrial look to it. This much is visible, at least, on the flight in. What we'll find inside is anyone's guess.
Kiera, Arden, Rina, and Joshua get into their assigned coffins with their assorted gear and make like corpses—albeit corpses with oxy masks. Beglan has faked an engine room emergency to justify our lingering at Namira for our crew to pull off the op. Nika is hailed by the Director and he looks askance at the change of ship. Where is Free Rider, he asks her. Nika tells him that they suffered some internal damage to their ship that made it impossible for them to make the trip. She'd just arrived with Exeter with a cargo delivery and since she needed the money and they needed to make a delivery, it seemed to work out for everyone. The cargo gets delivered. She gets to pay off some debts she owed. Win-win.
She also tells him about the need for repairs and she's patched through to the Chief of Security, a man named Murray. She explains the situation. Security Chief Murray says we have only one hour after the cargo is offloaded before we must leave. Furthermore, we must be past the 1000 kilometer mark outside the station in that next hour or they will open fire at us with their missiles. Since we were painted by their targeting radar on our way in, it's not an empty threat. This is a secure research facility and they are understandably jealous of their privacy.
The big cargo pallet is offloaded. Then the coffins are placed on hover-pallets and individually walked off the ship. Inside the coffins, the ride seems to have long stretches of near-imperceptible movement broken by sensations of turns. Rina tries to keep track of the turns but it is too easy to lose track without something visual to compare it to—there are not windows to the coffins and it's pitch black inside. For his part, Joshua laces his fingers across his chest and closes his eyes. It's a soothing almost therapeutic ride in near sensory-dep for him and he's almost disappointed when his coffin stops moving. Knowing that Rina's got grenades with her in her coffin, he prays she withholds using them. He starts counting the seconds off until he's sure the staff has moved away and the coast is clear. We've rigged the coffins to be opened from the inside and when he's reasonably sure we've been left alone, Joshua cautiously throws the latch on the lid of his. Nothing happens—no alarms are raised, no shouts or shooting. White mist seeps in through the crack and a powerful cold follows after it. He raises the lid all the way and sees he and the others have been taken to a huge walk-in freezer unit. Shelves on both sides stretch far forward and back, six or eight shelves high, and body bags have been deposited on them, bunk bed style. Taking a quick look around, he counts 60 bags on the shelves, spaced a little haphazardly about as if all the choice spots were taken first, then the rest placed wherever there was space available.
Rina notices the cessation of movement, primes her flashbang, and gives it a slow count to three hundred before cracking open her coffin. Like Joshua, no alarm is raised and the mist and the cold pours in. She opens her coffin and sees what Joshua sees, determines there is no immediate threat to overcome, and deactivates her grenade. Kiera and Arden exit their coffins in short order and together we head for the door.
Arden gets that door open after picking the lock and it swings outward from the right. Peeking around it, he sees a rather large room, with beds jutting outward from the walls to the left and right, and two lab tables with sinks forming a pair of islands in the middle. Directly opposite are the doors out. To the right and in the far corner are three people in lab coats conducting an autopsy on a body arranged on the bed in front of them. At the moment they are too engrossed in their work, talking amongst themselves and taking notes to notice the freezer door has come open on its own. Arden notes their position and closes the door to a crack while we decide how best to get past them.
Arden decides to move out first, ducking into the aisle between the two center lab tables. He crouches below the level of the counters, hidden by the cabinets underneath, and holds his pistol ready. Rina is right behind him with her pistol at the ready. Kiera takes to the end of the table behind her friends, her rifle slung low, and Joshua brings up the rear empty handed.
Of course, having moved out of the freezer, it's mere seconds before we're discovered. Joshua stands up and confronts the three lab-coated techs and intimidates them into complying—which is to stand in the corner and keep their hands where we can see them. Arden, Rina, and Kiera standing up and pointing our guns at them convince them to do so. One of the techs tries to make a run for the big red panic button mounted on the wall next to the door, but thinks better of it when Kiera pulls her crazy-shooter face at him.
We improvise means to tie them up and get out of there. Of course, we can't just openly walk out in our current guise. We'll need to cover up somehow. The techs had given up their coats when we searched them for weapons, but there are only three coats to our four. Rina volunteers to play dead on a gurney, leaving the rest of the crew to walk openly through the place, ostensibly pushing her to the morgue. They retrieve a gurney from the freezer, empty a body bag of its occupant and place him on the shelf behind the others, and zip Rina into it. They leave a crack for the engineer to breathe through and get out of there.
They're making their way through the halls, pushing the gurney in front of them and blending right in, when Arden does a double take at a passerby. He blinks and recognizes Dr. Kell Lawrence, believed dead after the bombing of St. Albans, and Arden quite frankly gives the game away. For his part, Lawrence recognizes Arden and greets him, giving Arden a chance to recover. The two aides with Lawrence wait impatiently to the side. Arden tells Lawrence that we have something we need him to look at in his office, could he please come along? Lawrence goes to the bag and unzips it a few inches. Looking down, he sees Rina, who is looking up at him eyes open. She winks and he groks the ruse. Sure, he'll talk to us. Right this way. He tells his aides to go on ahead to the lab without him, he'll join them there when he's finished with this little matter here.
When we're safe in his office, he tells us a little about his work here. He knows of the research that went into the augmentation of humans and unfortunately, his neurological research into Prion disease had some bearing on it. At the moment, the facility is manufacturing something very like Chempliant that's designed for in-atmo deployment. Only unlike the usual Chempliant, it's got the retrovirus capacity to rewrite DNA and turn people into tragedies such as we've already seen. Arden is interested in downloading that research and everything else that's going on here and Lawrence says it can be had but it must be done from the mainframe at the center of the facility. He can get Arden in. Arden and Lawrence go off for the main frame, Kiera goes with. Joshua and Rina go in the other direction to hit the production floor to blow it up.
Back at the ship, Nika's one-hour grace period has run out and her explanation of our compressor coil being in need of repair cuts no mustard with Security Chief Murray. He marches right over with a security detail and commands Nika to open our ship for boarding and inspection. There being nothing she can do that otherwise wouldn't look suspicious, she complies.
She meets him at the cargo deck airlock and accompanies him as he paces the bay. He notes that we've got force field generators at the aft portion of our cargo bay and demands an explanation. They came with the ship, she says, and she never got around to dismantling them. Murray orders his men to fan out and search all decks and she follows Murray up the stairs to the pax deck.
Murray notices that there doesn't seem to be any crew aboard. Where are they? Nika tells him she left them at Columbia for a bit of shore leave. They were due one and since Namira was such a short trip, it seemed that no harm would come of letting them stay behind.
Hmm. Murray seems dubious but allows her explanation to stand. She follows him up to the crew deck where he orders Nika to call her engineer from the engine room. She does and Beglan duly complies, carrying the sabotaged compressor coil as evidence of our mechanical failure. At this point, Murray starts to question Nika more closely. Why was she somehow able to take over for the Free Rider and how was it that they just happened to suffer damage to their ship when she arrived at Columbia?
All the while he's asking these questions, he's getting closer and closer to the crew lounge and more importantly, the lifepods to either side of it—four of which have the bodies from the coffins we've commandeered. If he looked inside the lifepods and found them … the op will be blown sky high. Nika's sweating bullets on the inside, trying to think of a way to keep him from finding those bodies when Murray takes another step closer to the lounge and orders his men to search the crew deck more closely.
Going with the information that Lawrence has given them of the station layout, Rina and Joshua make it to the check point just outside the production floor. Rina is now kitted out in a lab coat borrowed from Lawrence and Joshua's posing as her lab superior. The corridor narrows at the far end to a single door, with the guard station behind thick glass to one side. The space between the guard station and the opposite wall is bathed in red light from a force field. Joshua strides up with purpose and demands to be given access to the floor. He's just discovered a flaw in the production process and he needs to inspect it immediately. The guard seems reluctant and Joshua insists there is no time, man! Let him through.
Playing the part of an impatient doctor to the hilt, Joshua goes right up to the biometric palm panel at the force field, slaps his hand down on it, and attempts to walk through the field as if expecting it to drop for him. It doesn't, of course, and with a ZAP! he's thrown back to the floor.
Rina shrieks and rushes over to him, playing the part of a panicked associate (and lover), desperate to revive him. She yells at the guard to help her, don't just stand there, does he know mouth-to-mouth? The guard leaves his post and drops the field and Rina stands back. She's got her hand on her flashbang, the second his back is turned, she throws it.
The flashbang sends the guard unconscious. Rina and Joshua knew it was coming and though they were able to protect their eyes, there is nothing they could do for their ears. They're ringing and effectively deafened for the next hour or so. Still, it shouldn't keep them from accomplishing their objective. They drag the guard back inside, make it look like he's sleeping at his post. It won't fool anyone but the extra second or two it would take them to look is time Rina and Joshua can use.
For their part, Kiera, Arden, and Lawrence make it to the mainframe entrance and like the entrance to the production floor, it's likewise presided over by a guard station. One of the guards leaves his station to talk to the little party and his partner remains behind the glass, watching everything. Kiera tries to schmooze her way past the guard but Arden simply shoots him. Sighing, Kiera shoots the guard at the window. Both of the guards are wounded severely enough to go unconscious and after the doctors render aid to keep them from dying, Arden and Lawrence go ahead to the mainframe. Kiera stays behind to tend to the guard she talked to—he's still bleeding despite the first aid and she keeps him from dying. She also is able to play rear guard for Arden and Lawrence.
Kiera takes the guards' guns and their shotguns from them. She discovers that the shotguns are loaded with Chempliant rounds and oh, baby, those are going home with her! She fills her pockets with them.
Meanwhile, Lawrence and Arden make it into the mainframe room and find a sole technician working on something in there. Arden intimidates the tech by gunpoint to help him download the intel he's after.
On the production floor, Rina and Joshua find it occupied with automated robot arms handling the bulk of the assembly process, with humans at key points installing and double checking critical components. The people are wearing masks and clean room suits and Rina and Joshua maintain their cover as lab techs overseeing the process … and all the while they suss out how to blow up the factory floor. It's a munitions factory, there's plenty of stuff to work with. Even so, it's going to take time to figure out what to do.
Arden and the technician are still downloading. Kiera had given Arden a stun stick before he went in, to shock people unconscious to cover their escape. Of course, the tech is downloading and answering Arden's questions on how the mainframe is constructed. The actual nuts and bolts are buried in the concrete walls surrounding them, making them impervious to conventional attack. Arden sees that the download is pretty much complete. When the tech goes on to explain that the construction measures were put into place after the attack on the facility on Colchester, Arden stuns the man into unconsciousness.
Somehow, somewhere, their download must have been discovered—or maybe the tech pulled a fast one. Either way, when Arden and Lawrence leave for the corridor where Kiera's waiting for them, they find the display screens at the guard station have gone dead and the doors to the mainframe are sliding closed on their own. Arden and Lawrence run for them, slide for home … and make it outside just before the doors boom shut. The elevator they took down to this level is the only way out and the doors aren't responding to their pushing the button. Arden and Lawrence manage to open them and they climb up the elevator shaft to get out.
On the factory floor, Rina's found her explosive device: it's a mining loader parked to the side. The factory floor is a retasked mining cavern, and the loader is equipment that could not be evacced out of the space due to size or time or money. No matter. She pops the engine panel and while Joshua stands look out, she finds out the engine has just enough juice to let her make it overload and blow—igniting the fuel left in it and not so coincidentally the tons of volatile materials that go into making the product here. She makes the necessary adjustments and she and Joshua make their way nonchalantly toward the lift at the far end of the floor.
A search of the crew turns up Adam, our autistic rescuee from Pesephone, and thinking fast, Nika says he's her brother. He'd suffered a severe illness and the resultant treatments have left him in his current state. She's also currently working to raise money for more treatments to restore him to better health. That is why she's flying without the rest of her crew—she didn't leave them behind for shore leave, she left them behind because she couldn't afford to pay them AND save money for her brother's medical care. She's not proud of what she's done but her brother trumps crew.
Murray is understandably angry—sick brother or not, she did not have the right to endanger the cargo she'd been entrusted with by running on less than safe crew complement. If anything had happened and she hadn't had enough people on hand to see they survived to make it to Namira, she would have deprived Namira of valuable assets and equipment. Nika takes the dressing down with a contrite face and sincere apologies.
One of the guards calls for Murray to come and looks at something he's found. Murray turns his back to Nika to answer the hail, the guard with him does the same. Nika lifts the guard's stunner and stuns him unconscious with it. She grabs his shotgun and shoots for Murray … and totally botches her shot. In fact, the gun misfires badly, causing all the rounds in it to explode. Luckily for her they do not frag the gun in her face. Unluckily for her, the gun was loaded with Chempliant rounds. Nika recognizes the smoke, realizes what she's just breathed in, and runs to the nearest wall comm.
Murray shoots her in the arm.
Ow! That hurt, man …. owwwwww …
Knowing she's got seconds left, Nika yells down the comm to Belgan: Beggar! Cut the lights! Right now!
Beglan does as ordered and the entire ship is plunged into darkness. Nika puts her back to the wall as her blindness-born phobia of the dark kicks in. OMG OMG OMG…. and then her knowledge of the ship's layout kicks in right after. Nika learned this ship when she was still blind when we first acquired it. She has the advantage over Murray and his men—she knows where everything is. She doesn't need the lights on to see where she's going. She starts to move, hoping to outwit Murray.
Kiera, Arden, and Lawrence make it back to the main surface level, prying open the elevator doors, where they discover that guards are waiting for them. OOPS! They let the doors fall shut, jam them with whatever's at hand, and slide right back down the way they came. As the sounds of banging echoes from above, Arden remembers that mining facilities have their tunnels and chambers all connecting to each other to facilitate emergency evacuation. Which this situation qualifies as—they need to get away in a hurry, before it's discovered what they're carrying. There will surely be a way to get around the guards. They start searching and find what they believe to be the connecting tunnel they're looking for. It's behind a locked hatch. The wheel for it is sticky and resists moving. They put their backs into it.
On the factory floor, Rina and Joshua nearly make it all the way to the lift tube when they see through the clear doors that guards are waiting for them. Faking legitimate business, Rina and Joshua turn right around and go the other way. The loader is whining now, louder and louder, warning those nearby that it's going to blow. The alarm is raised and people start to hustle out of there, engaging the guards and keeping them from giving chase. Rina and Joshua spy a bank of escape pods, originally intended for fast evac in the event of catastrophic emergency, and dive into one for shelter.
Meanwhile on Exeter, Murray orders Nika to stop what she's doing and come out with her hands up. Nika tries to resist him but the Chempliant has its hooks in her now and she has no choice but to comply. She does, however, manage to hold on to her gun.
You're not taking my brother, she says. You can drop that, Murray counters, meaning her gun.
Nika tries to resist but nope, she drops the gun.
Murray comms one of his men: Reynolds—
And Nika charges him, cutting off whatever he was going to say.
Murray shoots. She dodges. He misses.
She tackles, she hits, he's stunned. Unfortunately for her, he's wearing armor. He's not a complete moron.
Stand down! he shouts at her.
Sit your ass down!
Nika is able to resist this time, but Murray has a gun on her now … She feints then sprints for the stairs down to pax deck, just behind her in the crew lounge.
Stop! he yells.
Nika stops, the Chempliant freezing her in her tracks. Dammit!
Murray says to the air: The lights come on or your captain dies.
The lights flash on. Murray blinks to find himself looking down the barrels of two pistols and a big assed shotgun held by Arden and Kiera.
Kiera growls at him: if he doesn't drop the gun, he's toast. Arden urges the man not to drop the gun but to place it gently on the deck. Yeah, whatever, Kiera adds. Just give her an excuse to shoot him. Murray does as ordered and slowly sits down. Good boy, Kiera praises him.
Arden says to Nika: Get the ship out of here. Nika wilts and then scrambles up. She's got to get her ship and her crew out of here. Of course, there's a land lock on our ship. She gets Arden to working on it. Meanwhile, Kiera escorts Murray and the guards off our ship. Bye-bye, boys. It's been a slice! Arden is hacking furiously past the landlock and sees an escape pod launch itself into space from facility number six just seconds before the facility itself explodes.
Arden gets that landlock off our ship and Nika hauls ass out of there, hoping to God that Joshua and Rina are in that lifepod. Otherwise she's just abandoned two dear friends to their deaths by fire or torture in enemy hands.
Joshua comms Exeter via the escape pod to get picked up, pretty please.
The explosion has damaged the station's missile locks. Arden tries jamming the station's comms and manages to do it, further flummoxing their ability to send bad stuff our way. Nika pulls a barn swallow and intercepts the life pod before punching our engines and getting us the hell out of there. We've a thousand-kilometers to go before we're out of range of Namira's missiles and we make it.
Now what? We need to get away before Namira scrambles her people our way … but where do we go? We haven't the fuel to get back to Georgia or Kalidasa or Red Sun. White Sun is closest but there's nowhere we can go there. And Columbia is likewise off-limits.
The only place in range of our limited fuel is Pericles Station. At last word, it was still being fought deck by deck by Alliance and Independent forces who want it for themselves. It's been a long while since we've had word of its status and we have no idea who will be waiting for us when we arrive, but go there we must. We have no other options.
We turn our sights on Pericles. And pray that friendlies will be there when we arrive.
Go back to: Columbia | Go Foward to Land of the Lotus-Eaters
Go back to Season Seven, May 2523 to --
Back to EPISODES or TIMELINE