Episode 602: Quarry, Part Four
Joshua: Oh, hey! Hey. Man … okay. Like … Am I, like … I’m peaceful. I got no weapons on me at all.
From her vantage point, Kiera puts the Fed solidly in her sights and starts calculating the distance for her shot.
Fed: Go to the car.
Joshua: All right. Um .. uh….
Fed: Move it.
Joshua: All right, all right!
Joshua stumbles toward the car. Inside the car, Rina’s still yanking wires but she listens carefully to their approach. She’s still down out of sight but she’s got her feet ready to kick the door open if the Fed comes up on that side. Joshua plays up being the slightly-dazed druggie. He stumbles some more, slowing the Fed down and buying Rina more time.
Joshua: It’s dark out here, man, like … Like … dark. It’s not like I got superhuman powers or anything. I’m makin’ my way to the car as fast as I can, like …
He’s not, really. He’s going pretty slow.
Fed: Keep moving.
Rina yanks the final wire and reaching carefully past her head, she trips the lock on the door on that side. She’ll either scramble out on that side or slam it into the Fed, whichever way the situation goes. She holds off drawing her gun, knowing any shooting will draw the attention of the other two Feds.
Kiera keeps the Fed nailed squarely in her sights.
Joshua is closer to the car and has to choose which side to approach. He moves closer and then turns, walking sideways as he talks to the Fed.
Joshua: Man, my girlfriend’s gonna kill me. Just … let me go. Like, she’s … she’s just, she’s, like, nice and all—and she puts out—but she’s a real bitch when I do something stupid. And you may have gathered, I do stupid crap all the time. But look, I can get you some of the weed, like, if you want the weed. I mean, you can take it in, like, a big bust or something. I mean, that’s how they say it in all the cop shows, right? A big bust?
Joshua gestures as he walks and Kiera can see the pantomime through her scope.
Joshua: I mean, the weed’s in my left pocket, man. You can get it out and everything. If you swing that way and—(thinks better of it)—no, I don’t swing that way, I’m sorry.
They’re both at the car now and the Fed gestures Joshua forward with his gun.
Fed: Put your hands on the hood of the car.
Joshua: All right, all right … Like, um … okay … you want me over here?
Inside the car, Rina knows there’s no shooting the Fed through the bullet proof glass, even if stealth was not an overriding requirement. The ricochet would bounce around and quite possibly kill her.
Joshua: Or like, over here?
Fed: Hands on the car. Spread your legs.
Joshua: All right, uh, I said I didn’t swing that way, already.
Joshua thinks furiously. What the hell can he do to let Rina out of the damned car without her getting caught? Inside the car, Rina scans the interior for anything she can use and spies the controls for the searchlight, the sort that’s mounted on the car to let patrols sweep dark alleys and doorways.
She engages her throat mike, opens a channel to Joshua’s ear comm and whispers.
Rina: Close your eyes, Joshua.
At the sound of his fiancée’s voice in his ear, Joshua lifts his hands to Heaven and implores at the top of his voice:
Joshua: Lord help me!
Rina turns that sucker on: FLASH!
The Fed throws an arm over his eyes, but it’s too late. The searchlight stabs his dark-adapted eyes and the man is dazzled. He staggers back. Unfortunately, Joshua looks at the cab of the car, checking for Rina inside, and gets hit obliquely in the eyes by the spotlight as well. He blinks and then goes hand-to-hand with the Fed so Rina can slip away.
Inside the car, Rina slaps off the searchlight and scrambles out of the car. Joshua gets a martial arts blow past the Fed’s defenses and KOs him on the spot.
Rina: Take his comm. You can fake his voice, throw the others off.
Joshua: That’s not a bad idea.
Joshua takes the comm off the man and Rina says to the Fed on the ground:
Rina: Good night, sweetie. (to Joshua) Let’s go.
Mission accomplished, Rina and Joshua do not linger but make tracks out of there. From her vantage point, Kiera sees Joshua take out the Fed and she swings her scope over to the two other Feds on the lip of the quarry. She sees them trying to raise their fellow Fed on the com and failing that, the two head back for the car.
Kiera: (via throat mike) Incoming.
All Joshua hears in his ear is static, maybe some pops. When Kiera gets no confirmation from Rina or Joshua, she can tell her signal didn’t get through. Watching the remaining Feds through her scope, she sees that they are on an intercept course for her crewmates.
Kiera comms her friends one more time. She doesn’t get her friends but her signal does get through to Nika.
Kiera: Dammit, Nika, they’re on the move and I can’t get ahold of them. They’ve disabled one and the car, and the two are heading for them. Maybe. I’m still watching. Hold target until it looks like they actually see our guys?
Nika: Do not fire on the Feds unless it is absolutely required for Rina’s or Joshua’s physical safety.
Kiera: Standing by. Out.
Nika: Keep me apprised of what’s going on up there. We’re loading up the last two trucks going out.
Kiera settles in the watch and wait. Nika turns to Mary Hogan.
Nika: Car’s been disabled. You should be in the clear. As soon as my crew get back, we’re going to take off.
Hogan: You have people up there and you’re just going to let the Marshals up there arrest us?
Nika: No. As soon as you guys are in the clear, I’m taking my people and taking off.
Hogan: So they’ll arrest us.
Nika: They can’t. They have no way to follow you. Their car is entirely disabled. Along with the comms.
Hogan: All right. Unless they just walk down here. Or you’re going to wait til...?
Hogan: What if they come down here now?
Nika: Then I guess we’ll knock their asses out and leave them in the gravel pit. We’ll make sure you got all your trucks clear before we’re gone.
Hogan: Okay. (a beat) We’re going to have to take them out because they might have taken photos or something. Have IDs on us.
Nika: Did you or did you not say to me you did not want this to be about dead cops?
Hogan: (terse) I don’t want them dead. I want them taken out of commission.
Oh. Are we arguing semantics, now? Really?
Hogan: I thought you said that you were going to save them.
Nika: (on her comms) Kiera.
Nika: Have Rina and Joshua—
Kiera: I can’t talk to ’em.
Nika: Oh, crap.
Kiera: If I could … why? What do you want me to have them to do?
Nika: I want them out of commission.
Kiera: You want me to take them down? And tell them … ?
Nika: You see, that’s the thing I don’t want to order them to do, because quite frankly I do not want them dead. I want them unconscious and on the ground before these people go. She’s concerned about them having pictures so I want Rina and Joshua to get the equipment off them and check it.
Kiera tries contacting her friends with her comms and again she gets no answer. She keys Nika’s channel.
Kiera: I have no way to tell them anything right now.
Nika: (sighing) Okay, then we’ll just have to get the trucks in the clear and then go after them.
Kiera: I got my sight on them. I can try and lame them a little bit. Make it easier to take the stuff off them.
Nika: I would really like this not to end in bloodshed at all if possible. Cuz right now, if we were all to get arrested, it’d be for smuggling. And you know what? That’s—
Kiera: Much easier.
Kiera: I’ll keep trying to get them on the comm.
Kiera signs off on Nika and keeps pinging Rina and Joshua. Nika turns to Hogan.
Nika: I’d like to know who turned them on to the landing site, frankly.
Hogan: Hmm. How could that have happened? It’s possible somebody here made us. There’s a bunch of people here.
Nika: Yes, there are.
Hogan: Lotsa trucks. Somebody just watchin’ “Hey, some trucks goin’ into the hole”…
They’re loading up the last of the said trucks as they puzzle it out. Kiera keeps pinging away at Joshua and Rina’s comms, and watching the action through her scope. She sees the two Feds stop, stare around as if getting their bearings, and then they both move off in an intercept course for Rina and Joshua. Kiera opens the channel to Nika and mutters into her mike.
Kiera: Aw, hell. I may hav’ta shoot ’em, Captain.
Nika: (grim) You know the drill.
Kiera: Yes, ma’am.
Joshua hears a spit of static in his ear from the purloined comms and then a voice comes in. It’s one of the remaining Feds.
Fed: Joe. Respond. Joe. We’ve got two figures moving out.
Joshua: (faking it) Hold right there. Hold right there. Got something bigger going on. (hisses fake static) And … (static) … (cuts the channel)
Joshua keeps walking and looks around for the Feds. He can hear them now, but he can’t see them in the dark. He doesn’t want to tip the Feds off that he knows they’re there but he gives Rina the heads up.
Joshua: I think we should walk a little bit faster. And by a little bit faster, I mean a lot faster. They’re after us, yes.
Rina: If nothing else, they can chase me and you can come up behind them.
They start moving faster. Joshua keys his comm, hoping to get Kiera on the line. No luck. Rina eyes Joshua and leans in with a suggestion.
Rina: You wanna split up?
Joshua: It’s either that or turn around.
Rina: Split up and turn around and get them.
Joshua: I’d rather not turn around and get them.
Rina: Split up.
Joshua: Split up. And book.
On the crane, Kiera’s still trying to get through to them. She can see them split up and she can figure out what they mean to do. What she doesn’t want to happen is to have her crewmates get all the way to the bottom of the quarry and within comm range, only to send them back up to take care of the Feds.
On the top of the quarry, Joshua splits off from Rina and the Fed follows him easily, running in a line to intercept. The other Fed peels off after Rina with the rifle. No one is making any effort to hide their movement—their intentions are already pretty clear.
Joshua tries an evasive tactic, calling out to the Fed behind him.
Joshua: Your partner is bleeding out in the car.
Joshua doesn’t listen for a reply but immediately tries to lose the Fed on his tail. On the crane, Kiera chooses the Fed with the rifle as the more immediate threat and centers her sights on him, ready to take him down if the man stops and centers to shoot. Rina starts circling around and gets a drop on the Fed following her. Blows are traded and it very quickly descends into some down and dirty fighting. Dirt thrown in faces, jabs to the throat and eyes, punches below the belt—no holds barred. The Fed’s fist goes wild and his blow swings wide. She ducks under his arm, pulls her wrench from her pocket, swings and clocks him upside the head.
Blood goes flying and the Fed goes down. Rina checks him, finds him alive but unconscious. Not dead—just like her Captain ordered. She searches the man for restraints, finds his handcuffs, and cuffs his hands behind his back. She rolls him onto his side so he doesn’t choke on his blood, then scrambles up to circle around behind the remaining Fed. She takes his rifle with her. Kiera sees Rina’s got the situation well in hand and swings her scope around to Joshua and the Fed on him.
Joshua, meanwhile, is leading the Fed on a merry chase. The Fed is shooting now and Joshua is dodging for all he’s worth. And staying in character as the flunkie pothead.
Joshua: Why do you have to always make this violent, man?
Joshua turns and tries to get the Fed in a grapple. He misses in the dark and the Fed lands a blow on him. Joshua takes some stun but stays on his feet and tries for another grappling pass. This time, he does exceptionally well, grappling and getting a punch in on top.
Kiera watches through the scope and comms Nika with the sit-rep.
Kiera: Well, Cap’n. Rina as per usual has clocked the guy and knocked him unconscious with a wrench. And Joshua’s dancing with another man. Again. While being shot at.
Nika comms the ship and spots Sims standing there watching from the cargo ramp.
Nika: Beggar, get the engines spun up. Arden, have us ready to take off.
Sims: I assume we’re waitin’ for them?
Nika: Yes. Mr. Sims, you’re with me.
Nika fetches her rifle and strides back off the ship.
Sims: Should I get my gun?
Nika: No. You’re probably fine for now. If you need my pistol, you can have it.
She calls over her shoulder to Hogan and points to the trucks.
Nika: Comm back when they’re in the clear. If the trucks clear the pit and they are not chased, let us know so we can go ahead and lift off.
Nika hustles off for the ridge with Sims to make sure her crew is all right. Meanwhile, Joshua’s winning his grapple with the Fed. That’s not to say no damage is taken—there’s hurtin’ enough to go around for both of them. Joshua’s still got the upper hand, however, and he gets a sleeper hold on the Fed. The Fed struggles and weakens and goes out like a light. Joshua eases him to the ground and checks him. Yup, unconscious but still alive.
Kiera sees the threat is neutralized and starts climbing down from the crane. Rina catches up with Joshua, pulls the handcuffs off the Fed’s belt and secures the unconscious man’s hands behind him.
Rina: You okay?
Joshua: (easily) Yeah, I’m fine.
Kiera joins Nika and Sims for the climb up. When they crest the lip of the quarry, Nika gets the word in her ear from Hogan—We’re all safe—and when she joins Rina and Joshua waiting next to the unconscious Fed, she issues new orders.
Nika: Search him. Search them. Where’s the other one?
Rina: (pointing one way) Back that way.
Joshua: (pointing the other way) Back in the car.
Nika: Okay. We need to make sure they don’t have any photos, they don’t have any surveillance, they don’t have any anything.
Rina: Yes, ma’am. Joshua, take care of this one. I’ll go back to the one I clocked.
Joshua: Right. (searching the Fed) … Cell phone … camera … get his wallet …
Rina hands Nika the rifle. Nika notices that scope on the rifle has a recorder on it. Good. That’s one recording device they don’t have to look for.
Nika: (at the rifle) Spoils of war.
Joshua: (straightening) … can handle myself.
Nika: You did just fine. Just make sure they got nothin’ to identify who was here and then let’s get the gorram hell outa here.
With Sims’ help, we grab the Feds and put them all in the car with the first guy. Rina handcuffs that one too with his own cuffs. A quick search of the car and the remaining equipment turns up nothing in the way of recording devices. Done, we check the unconscious men one more time. The Fed Rina clocked with the wrench has a broken jaw.
Nika: Oh, Christ. He’ll recover?
Rina: A broken jaw won’t swell up and block his airway, will it? (off Nika’s look) What?
Nika: You could have used his friggin’ nightstick—(points at it)—as opposed to a friggin’ heavy metal wrench. (frowns) All right. Let’s get out of here, people.
Nika strikes out for the edge again. Behind her, Joshua closes the car door and turns to the others.
Joshua: Well, that was fun. (to Kiera) Thanks for having our backs.
Rina: (softly) Thank you.
Kiera: No problem. Y’all did fine.
We leave them in the car, knowing that someone will come looking for them soon and by then we’ll be long gone. We all scramble off the top of the quarry and hustle aboard Equinox. Nika lifts off and makes a circle overhead to check the surroundings out, to about three-quarters to a mile radius. She checks on Hogan’s trucks and makes sure that there’s no one being stopped, or that anyone’s rolled over. She sees nothing amiss. Hogan and her trucks got clean away.
Duty done, Nika speeds out of there. She pretends to have communications issues with traffic control on her way out. She ignores their commands to stop and report, but plows on. We gain the Black and pulse for Persephone.
Nika: There any place in particular you need to head?
Sims: I’ll tell you when we get there.
Joshua: Okay, that seems reasonable.
Sims: You can dock at any dock you want. It doesn’t matter. If you can dock there.
Rina: (to Nika) Yeah, if you remember the last time we tried to dock there, when we had that cargo to deliver to Osiris.
Hmm. Yeah. Docking dirtside might be problematic. We aren’t flagged and that might make docking difficult. We know Badger. We could call him.
Joshua: That’s assuming Badger’s still working. Last time we saw him, he was running from the law.
Rina: I could wave Omar. He knows everyone on Persephone.
Nika: You could wave Omar, yeah. It would be nice if we could. Once we get close enough to check the local Cortex feed for cargo, that would be nice, too.
Joshua: Cargo? That’s crazy talk.
Nika: We need a job, man.
Rina: Something that pays.
Joshua: Yes, there was some sarcasm involved. Yes, we need a job. Unless you want to sell the rifles. All the rifles …
Kiera: Bite your tongue.
Sims: If the things are still where they are, your cut would be … quite significant. (grins) At least get you enough fuel to get you out somewhere.
Joshua: That would be good.
Nika: (to Sims) What do you do when you get off Persephone? You go someplace safe to go? I don’t necessarily need to know where.
Sims: If everything goes according to plan, where I go will not be important. I’ll have enough to afford anywhere.
Joshua: And things always go smoothly, so we have nothing to worry about.
Sims: Well … I don’t think that should be an issue.
Sims gives everyone a look and turns back for the passenger deck and his room. Nika stares at Sims’ back and slides a look at Joshua.
Nika: I would really like you to engage him in some actual conversation and find out what the hell’s going on with him.
Joshua: Yes, ma’am. That’s what you pay me the big dollars for.
Nika: I can’t decide if he needs help, if he’s just kinda on his own and we’re the first people who’ve been nice to him, or what.
Joshua: I’ll go talk to him at some point.
Nika: I would just like a better feel for him.
Rina: How about a friendly game of cards? (nods at Joshua) You, me, Kiera, him?
Joshua: Hnnnn… Ignoring the fact that Kiera might shark him of whatever money he has—
Joshua: (to Kiera) Is that not a true statement?
Kiera: You told me not to shark the passengers. I’ve been very honorable.
Joshua: You have been. You just haven’t had a lot of opportunities.
Kiera: No, hell, I’ve had a lot of opportunities.
Rina: Strip poker?
Joshua shakes his head.
Joshua: I’d like to talk to him rather than that.
Nika: One of the things I’d like to know based on what you’ve already said is, primarily you mentioned early on that you thought he was hiding something still. That the general gist of what he was telling us was the truth. I would like to see if you can draw him out and find out is he actually on the run from the Alliance, is he just on the run from … you know, the fact that he’s the only person left who knows where this cargo is, or ….is there something else going on there. It makes me uneasy that he was as easy with what happened in your dream as he was.
Joshua: Actually that doesn’t bother me in the least. When I mentioned it, he was startled. Which is an indication that if he was the guy that was in my dream, he is a very cool customer.
Nika: That’s the thing that disturbs me. Thing was, if that was something that happened during the war, you know what? that you can easily justify it to yourself. If it was something more recent … (sighs)
Joshua: Did the war ever end, Captain?
Rina: Not for me, it didn’t.
Nika: Yes. But that makes me a little nervous in terms of getting this treasure—or that he considers a treasure—and what we’re walking into at the end of that.
Joshua: I get it. (He does, really) I get it. I’ll talk to him.
We break up the impromptu meeting and settle to life in transit. Next stop, Persephone. ETA: 25 Oct 2522, 8 days from now.
Monday, 19 Oct 2522
En route to Persephone
1803hrs, ship’s time
Rina is surfing the narrow beam Cortex and visiting her usual suspects. She pokes around the various channels and looks around the ones she believes are trustworthy and she comes across something. It looks like some unusual code words being tossed about, in the manner of people in the know very casually asking about something. They are asking if people are ‘on the Ark’.
She gets asked: Are you on the Ark? Is she on the Ark? Rina stares at the words on the screen for a moment and then types:
—Yes. I’m looking for Preacher Man. He was supposed to go with me. Anybody know him?—
Rina remembers reading the report of Salisbury Abbey being found abandoned over the summer. No one knows why it was abandoned or where the inhabitants went. Given the Biblical reference inherent in the name of this newfound Cortex community, this is as good a place as any to start looking for answers.
Which Preacher Man are you talking about?
—He said he would come in out of Kalidasa and go with me, but he ain’t here. Anybody seen him?—
Nobody knows anybody who goes by the moniker Preacher Man.
—Dammit. That ecumenical subversive gave me the slip! I can’t believe that.—
Then again, it could be he is on the Ark and going by his real name. Rina checks the channel she’s on. She’s pretty confident it’s secure. Since sideways references aren’t getting her anywhere and the channel is safe, she directly asks after him.
—Is the Abbot of Salisbury with you? I’m looking for him.—
If he boards the Ark.
She gets a direct message in her inbox. She opens it and the message is short:
The Flood’s a-coming.
She stares at the message, her finger hovering over the delete button, and then saves. Something is brewing, gathering momentum online. She makes note of the name and the location, and continues surfing and checking the other places she frequents on the Cortex. But at the back of her head, the cryptic message repeats like a mantra:
The Flood’s a-coming.
The Flood’s a-coming.
The Flood’s a-coming….