Episode 713: Heimdall

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It was a combat heavy ep this time out and really didn't get talky til the end.--Maer

Air Date: 27 Mar 2012
Present: Andy, Bobby, Kim, Maer, and Terri

Saturday, 05 Feb 2524
Ark ship Amenoukihashi
Somewhere off the Verse ecliptic

The boarding party has cut through the sealed airlock doors and have somehow taken out all the battlebots we've sent to meet them—they've all gone offline and we cannot raise them. This means the party is somewhere at liberty on our ship and we don't rightly know where they are.

Except we do have Joshua and his sensitivity to their presence. He suggests searching the ship, using him as the proverbial mine canary to find them. It would mean leaving the bridge. We disable it by yanking critical boards and taking them with us. We lock the bridge up behind us and take to the ship, choosing to use the maintenance access tunnels to travel unseen.

We enter one of the tunnels, a vast four-pointed-star shaped tube, with pipes and ducting and conduits lining the walls until only the center of the star remains free. A catwalk runs the length of this empty space and this is what we travel on. Joshua's in front, Kiera backs him. Beglan goes next, backed by Nika in turn. Our two most vulnerable crew are therefore covered by our two best shooters. This leaves Arden and Rina to bring up the rear and since Rina's tough as a Russian tank, she takes rearguard position.

It's not long before we find something. The lights overhead go out and Joshua gets that nasty feeling in the pit of his stomach. We push on and from the light of a pencil torch borrowed from Rina, the front of the party sees an access door to the corridors of the ship has been burned through. It seems the enemy has gotten the same idea as we and they are travelling in the ducts as well. Rina spies holes that have been punched into a run of atmo venting and points it out to the rest of the crew. There being nothing more than holes that we can see, we push on, alert for any signs of movement from the other party.

The sharp eared among us detect a hissing noise and looking behind us, we can see clouds of smoke billowing from the vent holes a hundred yards or so behind us. It blocks off the light from that end of the tunnel, making it murkier where we are. We push on but Rina thinks she sees something or someone moving in the clouds to the rear.

Of course, Joshua's sick feeling gets worse. A figure does emerge from the smoke, wearing something like a burkha and from that we know these BTs are going to be the more non-human variety, super fast and hard to kill. Nevertheless, Rina yells a warning to her crew, draws her pistol and starts laying down fire. She will spend out her clip and leapfrog backward so Arden can take her place with his weapon. By this tactic she hopes she can cover her crew's retreat.

Which would have worked well had another figure not appeared out of the darkness in front of Joshua. It's another burkhaed BT. And unlike the rearmost BT, this one throws us a little surprise. It lobs a grenade at us while still at distance and the flashbang stuns and blinds everyone else in the party. Only Arden and Rina are left standing, protected by the lead the others had gotten on them during their covering action. Arden falls back to stand even with Joshua. Rina falls back to stand with Nika. Arden covers the catwalk forward and Rina continues as rear guard.

The BT at the front of the party advances and it's like watching a combination of Tarzan and Ninjas—it's not in a straight line and it's a little too fast for the unaided human eye to see. At best Arden can only catch glimpses. The BT is on the catwalk then zip!—bouncing off the ducting overhead, then zip!—swinging from the mess of pipes below. The BT has an inhuman fluid grace of the Augmented and yet if Arden had to lay money down on it, he'd bet the BT was female. It doesn't stop him from shooting when the BT draws her sword as she closes the distance between them. Arden actually manages to graze her with his shot.

Behind him, Kiera recovers and pushes past Joshua to shoot the Ninja BT. She misses. Arden shoots the Ninja next at point blank range but though his shot hits, it plinks! off what is obviously some sort of armor underneath that burkha.


While Arden dodges the Ninja's return strike and both he and Kiera miss their successive shots, Rina hears something from the corner of her ear—and is ambushed by a shrapnel weapon thrown by the Ninja to the rear. Luckily she's wearing her mesh and it soaks up the damage, letting only a little of the stun through.

The fight continues on, with Beglan and Nika still stunned and blinking blind and needing protection. Arden gets wounded in his leg, an aimed sword slice takes out a tendon and he goes down. He's not quite hamstrung but neither is he going to jump up and do the tango. Kiera shoots and hits the Ninja and the Ninja goes down, unconscious. Kiera wastes no time but gets to working on Arden's leg to keep him from bleeding out.

At the rear of the party, Rina shakes off the shrapnel like a bulldog and shoots. She misses. The Ninja attempts a feint and actually fails, surprisingly enough, and Rina dodges the botched attack. Rina shoots in turn and misses again. The Ninja is just too adept at dodging the shots. Even so, Rina knows that mixing it up in hand to hand is too risky—fast as the BT is, it's still not fast enough to dodge a bullet once it leaves the gun. The Ninja slices at Rina's gun arm with its sword but the engineer sees it coming and dodges. Rina shoots and misses again.

Joshua, Nika, and Beglan finally recover from their stun and stumble into action. Joshua goes to the downed Ninja and searches her for weapons. He finds 5 grenades of the smoke and flashbang variety, the Ninja's toh (sword), and a largish device of unknown purpose.

Beside him Kiera is still trying to find the bleeder in Arden's leg and stem the tide pouring from it. Nika spins to the rear and fires at the Ninja past Rina. The shot goes wide of the target and pings off metal. Rina shoots and misses again.

Joshua hears boots on the deck. Looking over her shoulder, Rina sees him gesture "I've got this" to the rest of the party. As she turns back to the fight in front of her, Beglan moves up to aid Joshua, looking puzzled when he's handed the toh. He's not sure he knows how to use it. It doesn't matter in the long run—Joshua takes one of the flashbangs, arms it and throws it as hard as possible toward the sound of the approaching boots.

Joshua: Kon'nichiwa!


The distance and the smoke ameliorate the damage to our party somewhat and we can only hope it doesn't do the same for the troops closing in on us. Joshua's arm is strong enough and it looks like the advance has been halted … if only temporarily. That leaves just the remaining Ninja to our rear to deal with.

And Rina's still up and dealing with it, with Nika's help. While Rina's next shot misses, Nika's scores a hit. It's enough to make the Ninja miss Rina with another sword slash and the fight continues, with the women shooting and the Ninja dodging.

Joshua sees four burly figures kitted out in tactical armor advance through the smoke ahead. He tosses a smoke grenade to make it hard for them to see.

Nika's next shot misses and Rina manages finally to put a bullet in the Ninja, who goes rocky. The sword misses Rina's gun arm in turn and Rina manages to dodge out of the way.

Meanwhile, Kiera's on her knees and she's just managed to stop Arden's bleeding. She starts bandaging his wound for evac out of there.

Forty feet ahead, the troops step out of the last of the smoke. It's time to go.

Rina's gun clicks open on empty and she falls back to reload as Nika steps up shooting. She hits and gets a second shot in that misses. Still conscious, the Ninja reaches under the burkha for something while up front, Joshua picks up Arden. Freed from medic duty, Kiera grabs her gun to join Nika and Rina but Rina pulls off an exceptional shot and the Ninja finally, FINALLY goes down.

Dead as a doornail.

A quick search turns up the same as on the other Ninja, grenades and that odd device. Rina takes the Ninja's entire belt, grenades attached, to save time.

The crew retreats back to a door they'd passed earlier. They get themselves through it and Rina does her best to lock it behind them. Arden's started bleeding again despite Kiera's best efforts and she gets to work on him again. Nika hustles us further into the space we're currently in and we discover we've entered a huge shipping container. It's about 200 feet to either side and about 40 feet high. It's stocked with everything the sleeping passengers need to start fresh on a new world—agricultural equipment, shelters, tools, fuel, food, clothing … everything. Shelves measuring 20 feet high and long march along the walls in soldiers' ranks, making countless cul de sacs in which to hide. Nika searches for and finds one that has a three way intersection of aisles in the shelves, fronting an alcove in the bulkhead itself. It will offer us some protection from sightlines and a place to hide until we figure out what to do next.

While Kiera gets that leg wound treated, Rina looks over the two unknown devices taken off the Ninjas and discovers they are portable EMP devices. Now we know how they took out our robot welcoming party… and it gives Nika an idea: we'll sneak onto the enemy ship, plant the EMPs on the bridge and in engineering and set them off, crippling the hostile ship and giving us some leverage. Nika orders everyone to take a break but takes Rina with her as they two scout out the container for all exits, entrances, and resources we can use.

Kiera resorts to surgery by first aid kit on Arden's leg. She's skilled enough to save his leg and his life—he's on the mend and shaking off the shock. He's unconscious, however, and we need him up and moving in case we have to bug out. Kiera takes a chance on an adrenaline injection but amazingly enough it doesn't wake him up. He's still unconscious.

On their recon tour, Nika and Rina find three doors that clearly vent into space, two to other storage containers at fore and aft, and three doors to the corridors of the ship. Nika orders us to move through the containers in the chain and we devise a stretcher for Arden to increase our speed and his safety during transport. Joshua mans one end and Kiera takes up the other and they hustle with the rest of the crew out of there. We travel in the direction we think the hostile ship will be and when Nika thinks we've gone far enough, we quit the container for the corridor.

Joshua's first to step out, hauling the stretcher, and steps into an ambush: four tac-armored troops are waiting for us just outside, their guns at the ready. One of them cracks open his faceplate and Joshua's surprised to recognize the person behind it:

It's Anna, the appointed Alliance Regional Governor of the Russian Cultural Enclave on Sihnon. She's the woman we pretty much stole Rina's family out from under, and Joshua is understandably shocked to find her out here in the middle of nowhere.

Before anyone else can do anything, Anna speaks.

Anna: So ... I was told the truth.
Kiera: By whom?
Anna: Put down your weapons.
Joshua: (with relish) Already done.

We're taken prisoner, still carrying Arden. We're stripped of our weapons and roughly searched. A process that makes Rina extremely twitchy but she manages to keep herself together. Everyone's divested of anything that could be used as a weapon. Rina hates losing her pocket tools and her usual suspects but she's still got her wits, her tongue, and her hands. It's not a total wash.

Once our captors are sure we're harmless, Anna has us taken at gun point by eight of her troops and marched off. On the way, she barks an order over the comms on the status of the ship's computers.

Anna: Is the Computer on yet?
Tech: (via comm) Working on it, Miss … Ma'am? Sir?
Rina: 'Your Bitchiness?' (off Nika's look) Hey. This is the woman who sentenced my brother to death. She's not getting any respect from me.
Nika: (shushing her) I know, I know.

Following a map on a tablet, Anna leads us to an observation deck of the Ark ship. The view is stunning, affording us a vista of the massive Ark and the Black. We're pushed up against the glass in a rough line. She leans against the bulkhead and looks us over with a critical eye.

Anna: Do you want to tell me if there is anyone else on board or do you want me to find out?
Kiera: I want to eat your spleen but other than that? No.
Nika: (serious) No, there's no one else on board.
Joshua: So … Why are you here, Anna?
Kiera: How are you here?
Joshua: I'll settle for why.
Anna: (gloats) Our assignment was to commandeer this vessel. And … I believe I have succeeded in that.
Joshua: Who sent you? I'm afraid I didn't hear that part.

Anna gets comfortable against the bulkhead and in her serene confidence of the situation, commits the Cardinal Sin of Bad Guys.

She starts monologuing.

Our activities when we met her last had cost her her cushy position in the Russian CPE. She'd fallen from favor with her bosses and was forced to take employment in Blue Sun Corporation. At first she resisted, having contacts of her own, but eventually she gave in. And they, in turn, sent her off to take the Arkship. The preferred mission was to take the ship and take it where Blue Sun instructs her but if necessary, she could also destroy it and everyone aboard.

And now, she's succeeded in taking the ship and as a completely unlooked-for added benefit, she's discovered that the very people who directly led to her downfall are on board. Being Russian, she'd sworn Rodovaya Vrazhda on us. And the Universe has handed us to her on a silver platter. Not only will she go home to Blue Sun clothed in glory, she'll get her revenge, too.

How delicious.

Joshua: Wow. You really are Russian, I guess. All about, like, killing yourself and the entire Verse for a little bit of vengeance.
Anna: I was briefed on this mission. I wouldn't be killing myself. I would be killing a quarter million Japanese.
Joshua: And pretty much most of the Verse. Because they're going to be the cure for the plague.
Anna: (smiles) Since you're going to die anyway … I find it interesting that you are so confident you know what is happening.
Joshua: (brightly) I don't know what is happening. Tell me. I'm all ears.
Anna: Blue Sun is aware. of course, of this … what do they call it. Mutagenic Plague.
Joshua: Are they now?
Anna: However, they understand that this is not as terminal as you'd think. For many months Blue Sun scientists have been looking into … treatments. There may be … casualties but most people will be able to manage with the help of Blue Sun pharmaceuticals.
Nika: Of course.
Anna: Think of it. Billions of people whose very lives depend on getting the medications.

Blue Sun could write its own ticket. Nothing could stand in its way then. If a few hundreds or thousands or even millions have to die before the cure is widespread, oh well. The cost of doing business and the rest of the Verse will fall into line to stay alive.

Anna: It's another reason I saw the wisdom in joining Blue Sun. Of course my medication would be covered as part of my employment. (looks at the Ark ship, shrugs) It's possible these people's lives would be saved. We'll see. Of course, they would have to be infected as well. Although that looks like it's probably an inevitable consequence of just living in the Verse.
Joshua: Yes, thanks to your current employers. It's their plague.
Kiera: (evenly) Yes.
Anna: (shrugs) Well, you know … While there are negative consequences there are positive consequences.
Joshua: Yeah?
Anna: I believe that people will be less inclined to be … ah, independently minded … when they realize their absolute dependence.
Joshua: Okay, so where are the positive consequences?
Anna: There will be no more rebellion.
Kiera: How did you know this was here?
Anna: How did we know? We intercepted transmission. We have spies throughout Veridian and others. Did you think you could keep it quiet?

True. They've already demonstrated their ability to infiltrate Veridian by substituting Mary Beth Sullivan with a Borrower sleeper agent.

Joshua: So, um, how does this blood finches thing work again?
Anna: I have been promised my vengeance.
Joshua: Wait. By your employer?
Anna: But there is perhaps … some intelligence to be gained first.
Rina: (groks how) Oh, yay.
Anna: Once my engineers have taken what is necessary and if they have determined it is possible to divert this vessel to where it needs to go—if it is, then that is to be the plan. If not, we may need to alter minor bit and then send fuel ship over. So you can … rent … your lives for little bit.
Joshua: (snorts a laugh) I was already doing that. Go on.
Anna: Really, is not so bad. (a beat) You are … Drake, is that right?
Joshua: Yes, that's me.
Anna: Yes, your profile shows … (looks narrowly) … Your father was insistent that we keep you alive at least long enough for him to talk with you…. (shrugs) … The rest of you? Not so.
Joshua: Excuse me?
Anna: I only need one or two of you for my purposes.

No, not that. Joshua meant the other thing. The father-wants-to-talk-to-him thing. Nika manages to put it in words.

Nika: Why after all this time would he want to talk to him?
Joshua: Wait, wait, wait-wait-wait. What?
Anna: You are not friends with your father?
Nika: He's not.
Anna: Then perhaps that is why he should speak to him.

How? Joshua is stunned at the news—no surprise there—as he'd thought for years that his father had died on Miranda. The intel recovered off the Colchester chip said so. But what if somehow his father managed to stay alive? Arden chooses this time to come to and Joshua pulls himself together.

Joshua: All right. Well. I wish you pleasure with that whole getting your vengeance thing.
Arden: (muzzily) Did somebody say something about blood finches …?
Joshua: Is my dad here?
Anna: (smiles) Oh no. He is at station where we are taking you.
Joshua: Where is that?
Arden: (muzzy) Where is she taking us …?
Anna: Ahhh … You don't know station.
Joshua: Actually I don't.
Anna: Well. Blue Sun has many resources.
Joshua: (oh please) No.
Rina: (yah please) Really.
Anna: Some of which are publically known. And some of which are not.
Arden: (muzzy) And some of which are no longer with us … cuz we blew them up …!

The crew cracks up. Cuz really, what else can we do?

Joshua: You're going to have to forgive us. We're all a little lightheaded from being captured here.
Anna: Yes. Laugh. Enjoy your … final days.
Arden: (louder) You don't have much of a sense of humor these days anymore, do you, since we got you canned, fired, and almost killed.
Joshua: Wait, did you say 'anymore'?
Arden: Oh, well there is that.
Nika: So far I haven't met a Russian that has a sense of humor.
Arden: There is a sense of humor. It's just a dark bleak sense of humor. (to Anna) So where are you taking us? Which station?
Anna: (playing along) Is super secret station.
Rina: One we haven't blown up yet. Yay.

Joshua tries to Read Anna and runs into a mental firewall just like the one he encountered when he tried to Read JJ Sullivan on Sho Je Downs. By that he figures that Anna has an anti-Reader in her party or perhaps Anna is taking drugs that are capable of blocking his abilities. Joshua says nothing and keeping a straight face, pulls back into his head again. Given her long career in Alliance Intelligence, Anna is no small reader of people herself (though reader with the lower-case r) and she notices something about Joshua's demeanor.

Anna: Any problems?
Joshua: It's good. I'm very impressed. I'm sure that being a Blue Sun product, I won't have any bad side effects or any … like … (gestures) …
Anna: Yes. Well you'll see perhaps that … things have changed.
Joshua: I heard that in the last iteration and the iteration before that and … (waves it off)
Arden: And the iteration before that.
Joshua: It doesn't really change, you know.
Nika: Yeah, it just went from Reavers to Beast People.
Joshua: Different plans, same old effed-up plate. Evil.

The conversation is interrupted by a breep from the ship's intercom and a voice announces over its speaker that they've restored control of the ship.

Joshua: (to Anna) So now what?
Anna: We will take you to our … brig.
Joshua: Yay. Brig.
Arden: Can I go to the med bay instead?
Anna: You'll live.
Arden: More than I can say for you.
Joshua: Cowboy up.

Her guards hustle us off the observation deck and watching carefully, the crew notices that they move … funny. Nothing too outlandish or anything but almost as if they've got artificial limbs or something. They are marching a touch too stiffly, almost too ceremoniously, to be normal. There are no logos or names on the armor, either. We aren't given much time to speculate further, however, and marched onto Anna's ship. Arden is carried by stretcher. Kiera manages to convince the guards to let her treat Arden in the ship's med bay. The guards agree and watch her like a hawk. When she's done, she and Arden join the rest of the crew and they're shoved into a 15 by 15 foot cell. The door swings shut and it's official.

We're screwed.

Rina takes several turns around the room, noting details, cataloguing what we've got to work with. The three benches running along three sides of the room are metal, about two feet wide with foam pads on them. There's a metal toilet/sink combo unit in the corner. The metal cell door has a small slit to observe the prisoners from. It swings open and shut but the hinges, naturally, are on the outside. Overhead there are light sconces in the ceiling, an odd fixture that has a concave surface that sinks into the surface. Underfoot are the standard deck plates.


Rina examines everything she sees, looking for some way to break them apart to use as tools or weapons. She takes stock of her clothes and her boots—could she rip something off to use as a garotte or use her boot buckle as a flathead screwdriver? She's not alone. Is it possible she can get the others to help her pry up a deck plate and hit the first guard who walks in with it? As things stand now, the door is the only point of entry and exit. It's a natural bottleneck. There are six prisoners versus one guard. They could jump him and take his weapon and make their escape … But it would mean getting the crew on board with the idea and Rina doesn't want to bring it up until she can edge the odds further in their favor. So she keeps pacing and thinking and examining. It beats the hell out of waiting for someone to shove her out the airlock. Or torture her to death. Or torture her to death and then shove her out the airlock. Or rape her brains out as torture and then shoving her out the airlock. Or … No, better she do something more constructive with her time, thanks.

She's not the only one seeking distraction with thoughts. Joshua wonders aloud just what is going on with that mandated meeting with his father. Last he heard, his father had contracted a terminal case of the deads. That aside, there is another more pressing matter to worry on. He's back in Blue Sun hands, the people he escaped from over three and half years ago. Three and half years of freedom, and right now, he's thinking his chances of extending it is pretty much shot.

Joshua: I should have known it was Blue Sun. Blue Sun never gives up their toys.
Arden: They never do.
Joshua: Blue Sun is going to kill off everyone here.
Arden: I know your theory of non-violence and you can't continue it if you want to get out of here.
Joshua: … I …
Arden: She deserves it. (Meaning Anna) She deserves it.
Joshua: No, I'm not trying to argue with you.
Arden: Good.
Joshua: It's just … Blue Sun is going to kill off this ship.
Arden: They're going to kill off the free cure, so they can supply their own expensive cure.

Nika shushes him, warning him to be careful what they say. For all we know, the cell is bugged. Arden rolls his eyes. Nika gives up and flops down on the bench to grab a nap. Joshua and Arden and Kiera talk on.

Joshua: I wonder what side effects we'll have or what choice we'll have as Blue Sun and/or genetically modified toys? So it's a win-win for them.
Arden:' I wonder if their … answer … has the same side effects as our answer has.
Joshua: I don't know.
Arden: That's a good question.
Joshua: I would think not.
Arden: I hope not.
Joshua: Defeats half the purpose, doesn't it?
Arden: I don't know what that purpose is. Total domination of the Universe? No not really.
Joshua: Seems to me it does.
Kiera: (sighs) Yeah. My dad's dead.
Nika: I'm worrying about it.
Joshua: Hm?
Nika: Her father. (nods to Kiera)
Kiera: I'm thinking my Dad's dead
Joshua: Why?
Nika: She's figuring they took him out to get this far.
Joshua: No. Listen to what Anna was saying. She's saying she wants a cure. She wants the cure that Blue Sun can sell. I don't think they're at the point that they need to kill him. It was their plausible deniability.
Arden: He is a technocrat and his death would cause some sort of problems. And besides, they think he's probably some sort of tool they think they might be able to use. Never discard a tool that you can use.
Kiera: So they'll keep part of me alive, then. To use against him.
Arden: That's why Joshua and I are still alive.
Joshua: Yeah …
Arden: At least for now.
Kiera: At least for now.

At the moment we're all alive. Alive and locked in a cell on a ship not our own, at the mercy of a Russian who's sworn to have our blood. And all the while our bodies are ticking time bombs, with mutations just waiting to explode internally to kill us.

So yes, we're alive. But only just for now.


(as he throws a grenade at approaching enemy)
Joshua: Kon'nichiwa!

(on Anna's official title of the expeditionary unit)
Anna: Is the Computer on yet?
Tech: (via comm) Working on it, Miss … Ma'am? Sir?
Rina: 'Your Bitchiness?' (off Nika's look) Hey. This is the woman who sentenced my brother to death. She's not getting any respect from me.

(on the matter of Blood Vengeance)
Joshua: So, um, how does this blood finches thing work again?

(on the crew's possibly short future)
Anna: So you can … rent … your lives for little bit.
Joshua: (snorts a laugh) I was already doing that. Go on.

(after being bombshelled about his father...)
Joshua: All right. Well. I wish you pleasure with that whole getting your vengeance thing.
Arden: (muzzily) Did somebody say something about blood finches …?

(on the subject of Blue Sun's vast resources ... )
Anna: Some of which are publically known. And some of which are not.
Arden: (muzzy) And some of which are no longer with us … cuz we blew them up …!


Kon'nichiwa = こんにちは = Koh-nee-chee-wah = Hello Sound clip


Rodovaya Vrazhda = родовая вражда = roh-doh-vah-yah vrazh-dah = blood feud Sound clip

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