Episode 316: Bait
Air Date: 20 Apr 2010
Present: Maer, Terri, Andy, Bobby, and Tony
Monday, 20 Jan 2521
Blackout Zone (BOZ)
White Sun (Bai Hu) system
11:30 hrs, local time
We’ve reached Londinium. We’ve kissed dirt in the vast city known as Parliament in Westminstershire. We’re living in the Blackout Zone because it’s the one place the everpresent surveillance cameras can’t track us. We’re here to get our ship out of the 3rd District Impound Yard and the landlock on her lifted.
Joshua has figured a way to get our ship back: blackmail Westminstershire’s Officer of the Exchequer by threatening to expose the man’s pedophilia with little boys. But how to get the goods on the man without endangering a kid?
That’s where the fun begins.
Arden asks around, using his streetwise skills as he finds buyers for the medical drugs we stole from BS HQ. He manages to get guns for everyone in exchange for the drugs—though two are only replicas and don’t actually fire—and he also gets the name of the man who pimps the boys to the Exchequer: Lazlo. Lazlo lives in the 60s block of the BOZ and we go see him.
The BOZ has apartment buildings 100 stories tall and 10 city blocks long. The buildings are tall enough, massive enough, and close together enough that the street level rarely sees daylight. Between the shadows cast by the buildings and the smog from the air pollution, it’s dark on the sidewalks. Those with more money can live in the upper floors, above the pollution/cloud layer. Those with less live closer to street level and those with none make shift as they can on the streets themselves. The 600 block of the BOZ is no different from the other apartment blocks: dark, dirty, and dangerous.
Walking inside Lazlo’s, we get the sense that while it used to be nice, it is not a nice place any longer. The lobby is scattered with mismatched furniture and denizens of the streets, slumming or lounging in the sofas and chairs. It is reeking with stale urine. There is a bank of elevators at the far end of the lobby. Three seem out of order, one has only one door closed and seems to be stuck between floors, with one door permanently gone. The last elevator seems in great shape—it’s the elevator with a goon squad goon guarding it.
Joshua speaks to the guard, rather forcefully, that we’re here to see Lazlo. The guard blows us off.
We stake out the lobby from the chairs and when two slick looking dudes walk off that elevator we approach them. One is a little shorter than the other one but both are pretty seedy looking. One of them is lanky and is wearing mismatched shoes for some reason. Both have the tell-tale bulges that show they are packing heat, though no weapons are actually visible. They are talking as they exit the elevator, talking about the job they’ve been doing and who’s been pulling their weight and who hasn’t. The elevator goon steps quietly aside to let them pass, proof that these are, if not Lazlo and a Lieutenant, then people he’s been hired to respect. Joshua marches right up to them.
Joshua: Either one’a you Lazlo?
Lanky Dude: (crossly) Who wants to know?
Joshua: Well, I do, since I asked.
Lanky Dude: Who’re you?
Joshua: Name’s Josh. Got a proposition for ’im. A money-making proposition.
Lanky Dude: I might know Mr. Lazlo. A money-making proposition, yeah, you should talk to me.
Lanky Dude crooks his thumb at his own chest and his companion just rolls his eyes and waits it out. Neither man has bathed recently and they’ve got the appropriate amount of greased up sleaze to their overall look. Yeah, you get the sense that you’re smack in the middle of Guido-ville.
Joshua: Things like this probably ought’a go to the Boss, but I’ll be happy to tell—
Lanky Dude: The Boss is a busy man. What do you want with him?
Joshua: Yeah. Always is, isn’t he?
Lanky Dude: If you can make me interested, I might be able to make him interested.
Joshua: Well, we might have a way to …let’s say, give you access to supplies, maybe illegal supplies that were confiscated by the government that you can take and use for yourself.
Lanky Dude: ‘Confisicated supplies’…like, linens and things?
Lanky Dude: Drugs.
Arden: (chiming in) Cars.
Lanky Dude: Drugs and Cars.
Lanky Dude: Spaceships. And where is this supply of yours?
Joshua: Well, that’s our business.
Lanky Dude: And you think you can make this available to us?
Joshua: I wouldn’t be coming here if I couldn’t.
Rick: We know we can.
Lanky Dude says nothing for a moment while he considers it and us: a rag tag crew of three men and two women, looking none to spit-shined themselves.
Rick: I mean, we’re not talking about big ships, we’re talkin’ about smaller pulse-capable vessels. Shuttles.
Joshua: We’re talkin’ a big score.
Lanky Dude: Shuttles. They got hovercars?
Joshua: Yeah. It’s a big score. That’s really the core of it. Big money to be had.
Lanky Dude: All right.
Joshua: We know Lazlo’s a man with connections who gets things done.
Lanky Dude: Yeah, that’s true. You’ll be here tomorrow, this time? I’ll see if I can get Mr. Lazlo to talk to you.
Arden: Your name is?
Lanky Dude: Name’s Marcus.
Joshua: All right. We’ll be here.
Marcus: All right.
Joshua: You be here.
Business concluded, we walk off and grab a meal as the locals tend to do around here—either at the government run soup kitchen where the Alliance distributes surplus food or at one of the many cheap noodle shops and noodle cart vendors. Since the government surplus tends to run to protein paste and Rina’s personal nemesis, tofu, we decide to splurge on the noodle shop. Today there’s something extra floating in the broth along with the vegetable peelings. Could be bug. Could be beef. Hell, it could be Jimmy Hoffa. We’ve learned not to ask but suck it down. Once done, we pass the time as best we can til the morrow’s meet with Lazlo.
Tuesday, 21 Jan 2521
We arrive at the apartment building and it looks as if the loiters from yesterday haven’t moved an inch. The same guy at the elevator is there and we greet him. He makes no response and as we pause, he phlegmatically asks us if we’re done, then pushes the button to let us aboard. The doors slide open and we enter it. The elevator’s control panel is disabled—pulled off the wall, actually—with wires hanging out of it. Rina starts for it and Nika discourages her with an elbow to the ribs: leave it alone! Rina grouses about popped stitches, thank you so much, but she acquiesces and the wiring survives the trip up unmolested by her urge to tinker.
It’s a squeaky ride. One of the guide wheels of the elevator screams against its track. Rina plugs her ears, pained at the off-key squeal, and endures as best she can. It’s a long thirty floors up. The noise stops as the elevator comes to a halt and the doors slide open to reveal a hallway. It’s slightly less squalid, the dirt is much fresher here and there’s a weaker taint of urine to the place. Poking our heads out, we spy a man standing in front of a non-descript apartment door. Joshua leads us to him.
Joshua: We’re here to see Lazlo.
Joshua: I’m not carrying.
Nika gives hers right up. Arden does too. Joshua looks at Rina and his message is clear: Do it. She grudgingly turns over her pistol.
The guard raps on the door and it opens up to reveal a man just inside with a sub-machine gun aiming right at us. He keeps his eye on us as he tilts his head to the side and calls out.
SMG Guy: Who are these people? Marcus?
Marcus: (inside the apartment) Yeah, uh….three guys and two ladies.
SMG Guy: Yeah, okay.
He motions us inside with the gun and we move along smartly. We notice that it’s much nicer and relatively clean and it’s got High Klass art of the sort one can expect of a swingin’ pad. Shag carpet. Chandeliers.
We get led to a seating arrangement next to the windows and drawing closer we can see the furniture matches, unlike the lobby below, and that the air is sunny and clear, unlike the street below. We’re thirty floors up and the difference shows. It’s also a long way down to the pavement and Rina avoids standing or sitting next to the windows, leaning against a sofa instead. Nika nudges her into an upholstered chair—don’t insult the host, idiot!—and takes a seat herself.
Aside from Marcus and the SMG Guy, there are two other occupants in the room. One is an attractive looking moll lounging at the bar in the corner, made up and dressed to accentuate her assets. The other enters the room wearing a satiny bathrobe and rubbing his hair dry with a towel, obviously just exiting from the shower. It’s also obvious from everyone else’s reaction that this is the man to see. He looks over at us easily and opens the meeting.
Lazlo: My associate tells me you may have means to acquire some merchandise, is that right?
Joshua: Yes, that is correct.
Lazlo: And you need me for what?
Joshua: Basically we’re offering you a chance to trade in one of your clients for a free romp through, let’s say a…say, the candy jar, basically. A chance for you to get access to stuff people aren’t normally going to get access to. We just need one of your clients.
Lazlo: One of my clients.
Lazlo looks around at his people before going on.
Lazlo: And what is this candy jar you’re talking about?
We know that now that we’re this far in, we have to play it straight. Yanking this guy’s chain will get us killed.
Joshua: Here’s the deal. Our ship, which is locked in, is in the government impound yard.
Lazlo: An Alliance impound yard.
Lazlo looks around at his people again.
Lazlo: Have you seen the people I work with?
Lazlo: They’re not exactly Federal Marshall material.
Joshua: Yeah. I get that. But. One of the people that comes to you, or so I’m told, to feed his habit…I believe he likes younger children—boys, in particular—he has the means and the access to get us inside the yard.
Lazlo: I had a hunch he might be up there somewhere. I knew he was somebody but I wasn’t sure.
Joshua: The thing is, we want to use him to get into the yard and get our ship. Everything else inside the yard? Inside the evidence lockers? We don’t give a rat’s ass about.
Lazlo: So, I’m a businessman.
Lazlo: And when I do a deal, I like to get something in return.
Lazlo: One of my clients, you’re saying, could be persuaded to let me into this impound yard.
Joshua: That’s what I said, yeah.
Lazlo: So what do I need you for?
We knew that was coming and Arden speaks up.
Arden: We’re the ones willing to take the risk.
Lazlo: What risk?
Arden: If he goes to the authorities, the only person he can finger is us.
Lazlo thinks on this a minute.
Lazlo: So you would be the one confronting him, is what you’re saying.
Lazlo: That is something.
Rick: We’re confronting him. We’re blackmailing him.
Arden: We want our ship.
Rick: And in exchange for your help arranging for us to know where he’s going to be at, you get everything else at the impound yard when it’s unlocked.
Arden: And what you do with him afterwards, we don’t care about.
Lazlo: You’d be taking away one of my customers, so…. doing something with him is really not in my interest.
Nika: I think what you can take out of the evidence and impound lockers will net you far more liquid assets than what you’d make off of him, even over the course of a lifetime.
Lazlo seems a bit more open to this aspect of the plan.
Lazlo: (Guardedly) Hmmm….a big score….You got any images of this impound yard?
Joshua hands the pictures over and Lazlo looks at them, then holds one up and points to something on it.
Lazlo: Hey, Dog. C’n you see me in one’a these?
Dog aka SMG Guy: Is it a Volker?
Lazlo: Shut the hell up. Lookit this one.
Joshua: That’s your sorta style.
Lazlo: We’d have to be able to move them out…and we’ve no place to keep the vehicles here….well, it’s….
Nika: I’m sure you have a contact at a warehouse you could go to, to trade for the use of and have your guys move the vehicles to the warehouse. Hell, you could probably trade one of the vehicles for the use of the warehouse for a couple of days.
Lazlo: Don’t sweat it.
There’s a long pause as Lazlo sizes us up, us and our deal.
Lazlo: I’ll agree on one condition. Just opening the doors to this place, there’s still going to be Federal Marshals.
Lazlo: Can you guarantee that we’ll be able to get these things out? What guarantee do you have of that? What are you doing to make sure that happens? I can give my guys guns and they can go in there shooting, but one phone call and we’ve got Federal Marshals flying in from every sector of the City.
Nika: If you’re willing to sacrifice some of the payoff, we can put the Marshals in place to move some of the cargo around.
Basically our intention was to have your client move some of the smaller ships off the property to get some of those guys off the impound yard. It would give us far fewer people to handle. But it means you’ll have to sacrifice some of the vehicles that are sitting on the lot. Not anything that’s in the evidence lockers, which is probably far more lucrative anyway.
Rick: Just say ships of a certain size can be moved to a different location and have them start moving them out. That way they’re also not suspicious of other people coming in.
Lazlo thinks on this for a second.
Lazlo: (to himself) All right. It’s a smaller take on the big stuff… (louder) You get me one of my men into the evidence lock up in the building.
Lazlo: Well then, the rest of your plan sounds like it might be possible.
Nika: We’ll take one of your guys with us.
Rick: We’ll get him in the lock-up, no problem.
Just one thing.
Rick: We may need to borrow a couple of your guns.
Lazlo: That might be arranged. Okay. (A beat) I may have to talk to some people about this before I… It’s a courtesy. I’ve been doing my business and—
Arden: You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.
Nika: This could raise a little hell in a lot of various places, yes.
Lazlo: And it’s not exactly my territory. But that also means that if there’s a third party involved, that if you try to turn on me…
Nika: No. We’re fine with yourself. It’s fine.
Lazlo: These people have reach beyond this shire, beyond this planet.
Nika: Like I’ve said, we’re not interested in anything else in there but our ship.
Joshua: You don’t have to worry about that. We have one goal.
Lazlo: All right. If it’s the guy I think you’re talking about….
Just to be sure, Joshua describes the Exchequer and asks:
Joshua: That the guy?
Lazlo: Sounds like him.
Lazlo in turn pulls up a picture on his ‘box and turns it around so Joshua can see the screen.
Lazlo: This the guy you’re talking about?
Lazlo: So what’s your plan? He’s coming in four days. At least that’s the schedule. We may be able to push it off a little bit, but he gets a little nervous. I guess it takes a little preparation on his end to clean up his schedule.
Joshua: Yeah. We’re well aware of that. So the idea is basically getting hard evidence with what he’s doing and threaten exposure.
Lazlo: Like a camera rig?
Lazlo: We have the possibility for that. We can put a camera in the room and after he’s banged around with that boy for a little bit, we could pop out the data tab and he’ll know what’s up.
What a… colorful way to put it.
Joshua: Yeah. Um…
Nika: It’s the simplest way to go about it, yes.
Rina: Distasteful, though.
Arden: I guess it’s the only way…
Joshua: Distasteful. Yes, so, hard evidence that we’ll threaten to expose him with and get what we need off of him to get into the impound yard, to make the call so the Marshals and the employees are busy moving the ships. We’ll have to keep him out of action so he can’t call in while this is going on.
Lazlo: Well this is the Blackout Zone. You can’t call from here.
Joshua: Just keep him from getting into his car and leaving the Blackout Zone to make a call. Just keep him out of action while we go do that.
Rina: (to herself) I say we handcuff him to a pipe overhead and play piñata.
Joshua: Once we’ve got our ship and you’ve got whatever you want out of the impound yard—
Nika: We’ll all just scatter.
Lazlo thinks on it.
Lazlo: All right. So let’s see if I’ve got this straight. You get the evidence on him, you and one of my men get in his car, get out of the Blackout Zone so you can contact the impound yard and send the orders?
Lazlo: Yet somehow… I guess I’ll have to get my men outside so you can contact them.
Lazlo: All right. And then you’ll get in there and take care of any leftover personnel, break into that vault, and you get your little ship.
Nika: And you get everything else.
Lazlo thinks some more.
Lazlo: All right. I guess we can do that.
Arden: This guy you’re sending in with us. Could we meet him?
Lazlo: Let’s make it Ellis. He’s pretty reliable.
He gestures at Marcus, the lanky dude from the lobby with the mismatched shoes. He nods. Hello, Mr. Ellis. Pleased to meet you.
Lazlo stands. Our meeting is over.
Wednesday, 22 Jan 2521 to Friday, 24 Jan 2521
The next day, we get a call from Ellis.
Ellis: We got a problem here.
Joshua: Of course we do. What?
Ellis: The Boss isn’t so thrilled about having us all come down anywhere near—it’s too close a connection.
In other words, don’t crap where you sleep. Seems that even the likes of Lazlo, pimp for pederasts though he is, would rather have the actual deed done farther away from the 60s block. Ellis names an apartment building on the outskirts, closer to the farms, where squatters have carved a place to live. We could set up our sting there. Lazlo will handle the Exchequer’s side of things, informing him of the change in venue. Lazlo doesn’t think it would hink the mark unduly, since Lazlo’s done business there before. Ellis tells us not to worry about the Exchequer. The official likes ‘roughing it’. When we ask about the Exchequer’s guard compliment, Ellis tells us he’s seen only two, plus the driver. He doesn’t know if there will be more in the car. Sometimes he likes to take the boy for a ride, Ellis says of our mark.
Before we end the call, Rick asks Ellis to set him up with some knives. The slashing kind or the throwing kind, asks Ellis. Throwing kind. Yeah, he might be able to set him up with a knife or two. Joshua thanks Ellis and tells him that we’ll get things set up at our end. We get directions from Ellis and go scope the area out.
The area for the sting is on the outskirts and it is closer to the farms but it’s still pretty much part of the city. Just not as tall. Four story buildings dominate here, red brick rowhouses that stretch from one end of the block to the other without a break. Tall stoops lead to the first floor apartments above the basement units, sidewalks are lined with trash cans and urban decay. Looking around carefully we choose a building and find a room where we can set up the camera. Arden has some experience with surveillance and offers to help set up the cameras.
Next item on our to-do list is getting in touch with Faria. He was on our ship when the assassination went down and we must assume he was either arrested when our ship was impounded or he escaped and is currently laying low. There might be a problem, however: our last message to him would have told him to go to Ariel, several worlds away and not where we actually are. Still, we search for him. Faria didn’t have another ship at his disposal and would be unable to leave Londinium on his own. Going though the messages left on the local bulletin boards we manage to sift out a few posts with references that seem like the kind Faria would make, and from those we manage to reach him.
We have a phone number. We call it. He picks up.
Faria: Well, well. If it isn’t my favorite assassins. You’re alive and not in bags, I take it, somewhere.
Rick: They let you go, since you were booked as a passenger and not crew?
Faria: Yes, I said I had no idea what you were up to and they seemed to buy it. Although I don’t know if they’re watching me.
Rina: Does he have Shrodinger?
Yes, Faria has the ship’s cat with him and she is doing well.
Faria: I take it you’re…on-planet.
Rick: It’s probably best I don’t tell you where, at the moment. I just wanted to make sure you were all right.
Faria: So. What’s the plan. Can we meet and talk?
Rick: Yeah. But we’ll have to meet in the Blackout Zone.
Faria: Ah. Blackout Zone. How about the Saint Sabine Sanctuary? It’s a mission, of sorts.
Rick: Pick the time.
Faria: If I can find a ride, I can get there in an half an hour or two. Today or tomorrow.
Rick: I’ll be there. Today, in an hour. And I’ll stick around.
Faria: All right.
Rick tells the rest of us about the meet but advises that only one or two should go with him. Rina and Joshua volunteer to go. Nika elects to stay behind with Arden.
Saint Sabine’s is a place trying to offer assistance to the poor people of the BOZ. The main area is basically a cafeteria-like soup kitchen. It’s fairly empty at the moment and Faria is off to the side talking to a down-and-out person when we arrive, counseling him. Faria sees us enter and taking his leave of the person, wheels over to an empty table. We join him there. Faria looks us over.
Faria: Hm. You look relatively….
Joshua: ‘not dead’?
Rina: Works for me.
Rick: Were you followed?
Faria: I don’t think so. I think they’re relying on more sophisticated means, so hopefully here in the Blackout Zone we should be safe.
Rick: So I guess my first question is do you want to come along with us when we leave?
Faria: Well. It’s complicated. I assume you didn’t plan on killing the Prime Minister.
No. Rick fills him in. Valerie was somehow programmed to carry out the assassination. It must be some part of her wetware. And so on and so forth. Faria admits he fears that if he accompanied us, he’d only slow us down and Rick acknowledges that it might go bad for his old friend if he were ever caught in our company by the Feds.
Faria: I’m relatively old and blown up a bit and I’m not afraid of jail or worse, but…
Rick: We’re taking steps to clear our names.
Faria: You’re taking steps to clear your names. I’m trying to think of how you can do that.
Rick: There’s some information that might be available, proof who’s responsible.
For the assassination and who was really behind it, he means.
Faria: Don’t take this the wrong way…
Joshua: ‘but feel free to take it the wrong way’…
Faria: You don’t trust your… Blue Sun agent, do you? You know she’s hiding something.
Rick: I’m sure she is.
Joshua: When have we been in a situation when anybody wasn’t hiding anything from us? You’re hiding stuff from us, I’m hiding stuff from me…
Rick: I’m sure that anything that she’s told us has some positive spin for her or for Blue Sun.
Faria: Don’t…I don’t know how much of it is falling into their plans or not, but I think you should be suspicious of horses delivered by Trojans.
Rick: I agree.
Joshua: You are the strangest Shepherd ever.
Faria: I might be of more use to you heading in another direction. If they think you’re going to contact me, and you have, I might be able to draw their attention elsewhere.
Rick: Just keep doing whatever it is you want to do and they may follow you around thinking you’re going to meet us off-planet. They probably think we’re not stupid enough to come back here for any long length of time.
Faria: They don’t know you as well as I do.
Rick: Very true.
We laugh. Because, really, what else can you do?
Rick: But we’ve survived this long.
Faria: And you feel good about what you’re doing?
Joshua: In what way?
Rick: The end goal will be great.
Joshua: Assuming the end goal is what we think it is.
There is that.
Faria: I’m just saying don’t let your fears or your hopes ake the place of your conscience. We’re all gonna die. You’re probably going to die trying to do what you’re trying to do. It would be a shame for you to die having done things you can’t forgive yourself for. That’s all I’m saying.
Joshua: I get it, Shepherd. I have no plans to do anything I can’t live with.
Faria: Whatever you may think about the Alliance, whatever troops are guarding some information or whatever, these are just regular people. They may stand in your way, but they’re not evil.
Rick: (agreeing) They’re just doing their duty.
Faria: That’s all I’m saying. Since I won’t be there to counsel you.
Joshua: You’re preaching to the choir, sir. I have no wish, no desire to—If we walk away from this without having killed or hurt a single soul involved, I would be happy to have it that way.
Rina: (to herself) There’s someone I think I could kill.
Faria: It’s a big ’Verse. You might be able to walk away. That may always be an option. To clear you name would be nice, but….
Rick: We could always disappear again.
Faria: It’s a big ’Verse.
Rick: Well this is more than clearing our name. So…when do you think the agent will turn on me?
Faria: Turn on you? I suspect if she wanted you dead…
Rick: Well, turn on us.
Faria: That will happen at some point. Is this plan to clear your name her plan? You might want to have your own plan. Just in case. That’s all I’m saying.
Joshua: (to himself) Yeah… No. Yeah.
Rick: All right, let’s come up with a way we can keep in touch with you with some fake Cortex address or something.
Joshua: Morse Code.
Faria: All right.
We take our leave and go back to our BOZ bivouac, each thinking our own thoughts.
With regard to Zed, Rick has been talking to her throughout the shuttle ride to Londinium about the coming mission and more than just the coming mission, but about other things as well. He’s been trying to get a bead on her motivations and possible hidden agendas, looking for anything suspicious outside of her being part of the Libertores. She’s not been particularly forthcoming about what she’s done or what her future plans are beyond ‘once this is done, we should plan for the future’. Rick’s impression is she’s got a kind of fatalism to her, the sort that soldiers have when they know they’re going to die on the mission, a peculiar cavalier attitude that presupposes that should the mission fail, she’s going to have much more pressing things to worry about than the more mundane details of everyday life. She doesn’t seem too upset about the prospect and it’s hard to ascertain if it’s because of her training as a double agent or if something had been done to her to remove her ability to feel emotions like worry or anxiety.
Even so, with regard to her personal life, she resists telling Rick anything concrete. Part of it is her reluctance to tell him anything that would make him hate her. As a double agent, she’s had to do some pretty gruesome things. Another reason is she’s undesirous of making attachments to anyone when she’s not sure she or the other person will survive the coming mission to enjoy it.
And always at the back of his mind, Rick knows he may end up having to kill her to protect himself and the crew.
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