I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today
BACKGROUND: "Do you know what your sin is, Miss Sanchez?"
After languishing in the Federal Detention Center in Renshaw on Bernadette for nearly six months the crew has still yet to be properly interrogated, interviewed or even granted access to council. For all appearances they've been forgotten and consigned to individual cells in solitary confinement. With only one hour of monitored cortex access and one half hour of exercise per day the crew are only barely able to keep up with events outside the Detention Center and have no contact with one another at all. In due course it has become apparent that the events surrounding the theft of Santo Kitty's Firefly and the Bernadette Free Concert are yesterday's news and no one likely even remembers their names anymore.
As May draws near one of the crew finally receives a visitor; an unassuming man who, despite his civilian clothes and modest manner, apparently commands a great deal of authority over the guards and the warden of the Detention Center. He immediately orders the crew to be relocated to a common cell, still separated from the Center's general population, and begins monitoring them covertly. Surprisingly he doesn't focus his attentions on Jahn's captain, Rooster, but exclusively on the crew's least threatening member...Lily Sanchez.
Any relief the crew experienced at being finally able to interact with one another again is short lived as guards inexplicably begin escorting Lily away every morning for interrogation. From which she returns each time more and more traumatized (mainly by some rather disturbing insights into her own character by her interrogator). Over the next two weeks the crew are able to piece together that the man is some kind of alliance agent and has taken a peculiar interest in them. Specifically he seems to be seeking information about the terrorist organization Yonsheng, which their adopted father once supposedly came into conflict with. To Lily's surprise he also names several of her old gang members, including her one time lieutenant, Alto Regus. Naturally Lily freely tells him what little she knows concerning Yonsheng (and everything else she could think of) but he continues to interrogate her every morning anyway. Further, he doesn't seem interested in putting anyone else to the same treatment, including Rooster who undoubtedly knows more than any of the Sanchez kin.
Nearly as confusing, however, are the physicals, blood tests and the large variety of other medical examinations that occur on a daily basis by a tightly regimented cadre of Alliance medical personnel.
Finally, after fifteen days of interrogation and invasive medical examinations, it all suddenly stops. For more than a week the crew hear nothing further of the mysterious man and still they continue to occupy the common cell. And still, no public attorney, no private council and apparently no court date.
Mid-April, 2518, after more than seven months of incarceration, the crew suddenly find themselves transferred under heavy guard to the Alliance cruiser "Weyland". After another week long wait in individual cells they find that they have reached their destination and are set to be transferred yet again. This time, however, they are able to gather from overhead bits of conversation that they have been remanded to Federal authorities on Santo. The crew hopes that legal proceedings might finally go forward (and bring the whole mess to some sort of end) now that they've been delivered to the proper jurisdiction.
En route from the cruiser to the Santo Federal Detention Center, with all four of them trussed up neatly in the back, the small shuttle transporting them experiences a disturbing series of mechanical failures. After fighting the shuttle for a bit, the single guard and the shuttle's pilot shock the crew by suddenly cracking open the airlock and abandoning the craft in mid-flight, sailing into the night on backpack-mounted floaters.
Panicked and struggling hard to free themselves from their restraints before the shuttle crashes, they all fail miserably against the reinforced nylon belts and plexi-cuffs (Marlin even manages to dislocate his own arm). Realizing a crash is imminent, the group hunkers down as best they are able and hopes the shuttle's safety gear haven't malfunctioned as well. In short order the shuttle impacts the surface of Santo with significant force, bouncing several times before coming to a rest. Thankfully the various safety devices built into the shuttle all work perfectly. Nonetheless all four of them are knocked unconscious and badly bruised.
Betty is the first to regain her senses some time later. She finds, to her relief, that the restraints holding the four of them have all been disable in the crash. Unfortunately Rooster and her kin are all laying unconscious directly on top of her, requiring quite a bit of effort to free herself. Checking the others and finding that they seem to be relatively intact she turns her attention to the shuttle. It, however, has not fared nearly as well being more or less totaled by her reckoning. Betty spends the next hour dragging Rooster and her kin from the wreckage and fails to find anything else within worth salvaging.
Eventually the others regain consciousness and Lily gives everyone a proper examination (including resetting Marlin's shoulder and knocking him out again for a bit). Upon pronouncing that they're all in surprisingly good shape, Rooster takes charge and herds everyone away from the wreckage before Federals show up to reclaim them. The crew hoofs it into the morning through the Santo wilderness.
After many hours of marching directionless across Santo in their bright orange Detention Center jumpsuits, the group finally comes across what are clearly well-tended farmlands. Avoiding the busier areas dotted with both manned and automated machinery, they come across a small ranch on the outskirts of the wilderness. After waiting hunkered in the brush until nightfall, tired and hungry, they make their way closer hoping to at least snag more appropriate attire.
Keeping the ranch under surveillance for a while and noting no unusual activity, they send Marlin in for a closer look. He spots the two guard dogs lounging on the porch and not only succeeds in approaching them without getting barked at, but leads them into the back yard and closes them in.
After a whispered conference the group allows Lily to boldly knock on the front door. When the farmer and wife answer, she tries to engage them before they can bring the feds down on the strange group of folk at their front door (wearing bright orange detention center jumpsuits, no less). Understandably frightened, they're not having any of it and the farmer immediately runs for the shotgun hanging over the fireplace.
Betty rushes in and covers the side door while Marlin tackles the farmer and wrestles the shotgun away from him. Rooster meanwhile manages to stop the wife from fleeing screaming out the back door. Lily exerts her influence and calms everyone down long enough for her to assure the two that they mean no harm. Following suit, Marlin returns the shotgun to the farmer once Lily convinces him to hear them out.
In due course (with some Plot Point expenditure) Lily manages not only to convince the two that they're not going to hurt anyone but that they've been railroaded by Alliance federals, even managing to convince them to help a little by providing some second hand clothing and a ride into town. Some tension arises when the farmer recognizes Marlin by name and is visibly aghast at his reputation. When he makes reference to the incident in Serenity Valley Betty loses her temper, threatening the farmer and demanding an apology. Lily again manages to defuse the situation, calming Betty and even eliciting an begrudging apology from the farmer to satisfy her.
After a long chat Lily has the two charmed and firmly in her pocket. She and Rooster then hit the cortex. Marlin keeps Betty occupied to keep her out of trouble while the farmer and wife dig up some old clothes for the group. Lily and Rooster find that their credit accounts have been frozen, though that's no surprise. They can't find any other reference or information concerning them however, though.
The group spends the night, getting some much needed rest and taking a "second wind" in the morning. They dress and hitch a ride into town with the now-friendly couple. None of them spot the utility vehicle that pulls onto the dirt road behind them and follows.
The group make it into town, thank the ranchers for their help (with all assurances they won't get them involved in any further trouble with the feds) and they part ways amicably. Rooster and Lily quickly hit the streets looking for someone who can provide false identification and a way off the planet while Marlin and Betty try to lay low. Rooster finds a professional identity forger, contacts him via public cortex terminal and arranges a meeting. They have to hoof it across several city blocks to reach the warehouse where the contact does his business but they manage not to draw attention to themselves.
On arrival they submit to a thorough scanning and grumble their way through the grizzled old ID thief's elaborate security system before finally meeting him. Lily uses all her skills to try to convince the man to help them out, on credit as it were, but he's apparently not the charitable sort. Nor easily persuaded. Marlin and Betty immediately double-team him, trying to intimidate him. But, again, the old timer proves intractable and tells them to shove off until they can produce some cash.
In the process of all this, however, he suddenly recognizes Lily from the copious cortex news coverage months ago and rethinks things. After a bit of consideration he offers for them to return tomorrow when he might have some work lined up. In exchange for which he might be willing to provide a decent set of false identification for everyone in lieu of payment. The group readily agrees and Lily takes the added precaution of trying again to charm the old timer before they leave.
Once they exit through security doors he rushes to contact the local feds to inquire about a reward for the group.
Outside the warehouse, which is located rather inconveniently down a dead-end alleyway, Marlin spots several Yonsheng thugs exiting the utility vehicle parked on the opposite side of the street. He moves to warn the others but none of them immediately understand his gestures. Betty, however, notices them soon after but by then they've already produced stun batons and are moving to block the exit to the alley. The group is still is dicey shape from the shuttle crash but elect to rush the men anyway since they're blocking the only exit out of the alley.
The group makes good account of themselves, taking stun batons away from a couple of the men though they're beaten up a bit in the process. Rooster goes down quickly and Betty manages to drop one of the Yonsheng with a double-blow with her baton to his head. Lily dives into the utility vehicle and locks herself in, even managing to start it up and slam one of the men with the vehicle and knocking him out. When one of the men drops Marlin and threatens him with a handgun, however, Betty panics and surrenders. Lily, somewhat irritated at the whole situation, jams the vehicle into reverse and makes street pizza out of two of the remaining three men.
The last man standing threatens Betty and Marlin with his gun, demanding her surrender. As she considers from the safety of the vehicle, two more utility vehicles squeal into the alley entrance from the adjoining street and disgorge several armed thugs. Lily reluctantly exits the vehicle and surrenders. The group are trussed up yet again and tossed into the back of one vehicle and driven away.
The group awakens in separate, poorly lit rooms strapped to hospital beds. Over the next two days they are each sedated and wheeled into an adjourning room out of sight, where they are kept for several hours before being returned...a bit sore in some disturbing places.
Once each of the Sanchez kin have been treated in this manner another full day elapses before a distant clamoring and sounds of people yelling and running nearby are heard. Soon after, a nervous blonde-haired woman, dressed as a nurse, darts into Rooster's room and frees him. She hands the keys to an ATV she claims is parked "right outside", as well as keycards to the rooms holding the Sanchez kin. She encourages Rooster to free the others and flee quickly because, "They're going to kill you. It's all gone so wrong! You have to hurry!"
Once she departs Rooster quickly frees the Sanchez kin, who decide they've had quite enough of not knowing what the hell's going on. They immediately make for the adjoining room to try and find out what’s happened to them.
They enter to find themselves in a laboratory with the blond nurse hastily at work on a computer terminal. Startled, she hisses at them to get out, take the ATV and run! The group immediately begin demanding answers and she responds only that they're no longer of any use, snarling "They will kill you if they see you! Get out!" She quickly becomes almost hysterical at their refusal to flee the place, casting nervous glances at the door behind her.
Marlin and Betty cast around for makeshift weapons and manage to fashion a couple of crude clubs. Lily attempts to calm the nurse with some success. She continues to warn to them there are "others" in the very next room. There's no time to argue! Marlin sneaks over to peek through the door just as it opens to reveal two doctors who are quite startled to see them there. The nurse immediately screams for them to get security, they've escaped!
The Sanchez kin instantly jump the two doctors and render them both unconscious with little fuss, though the fight spills over into the adjoining operating room. They barely have to time to catch their breath before the doors burst open revealing another doctor, a gun-toting thug and a well-dressed grey-haired man. The blond nurse escapes unseen out the side door.
Betty immediately launches the I.V. pole she's wielding, bouncing it off the thug's head, and tackles him on the fly. Marlin rushes and grabs the grey-haired man and Rooster chases the other doctor who's wailing down the outside hallway. After a short fight Betty and Lily have secured the thug's SMG and rendered him unconscious and Rooster has captured the fleeing doctor. The grey-haired man, however, is shot during his scuffle with Marlin and a kick to the head from Betty renders him unconscious. He dies moments later.
The group snatches up the SMG and handgun and take cover in the operating room to await further trouble. But nothing is forthcoming. After assuring themselves that the worst is apparently over, they drag the thug and doctor into the operating room with the other two doctors and start interrogating them in earnest. After some successful intimidation and some less than savory methods of persuasion the group manages to get the whole story from the doctors.
According to their captives Yonsheng discovered their existence when they recruited Dr. Marstead, who once worked for the Blue Sun corporation on several different government contracted research projects. The group are quite happy to find, when one of the doctors eagerly points him out, that the doctor that Rooster tackled in the hallway outside is the one and only Dr. Marstead.
After having his fingers threatened with some surgical devices, the good doctor is more than willing to fill the group in on Yonsheng and the Alliance's interest in them. Apparently he lost his position with Blue Sun years ago after a certain research project failed in a particularly embarrassing way. Long interested in controlling or improving humanity, in a socially progressive sense, the Alliance had contracted with Blue Sun and a young Dr. Marstead's own department concerning an exciting new project. Specifically, plans to produce genetically engineered individuals who could then be farmed for their improved genetic material. The improvements in question being such things as a genetic predisposition toward decreased aggression, improved intelligence or a simple compulsion toward social compliance, of course. However, the main goal of the project wasn't necessarily to create a DNA profile with any particular set of desired traits so much as producing traits so deeply engrained and powerful that they would dominate even down through several generations, regardless of breeding.
In that sense the project was a success. Unfortunately Dr. Marstead just couldn't help himself once he was presented with technology that would allow such genetic manipulation. He tinkered a bit, hoping not only to succeed with the project's stated goals but to produce the desirable "perfect man" the Alliance would need as well. Which is where things went wrong...
The results of Dr. Marstead's tinkering, while possessing genetic traits that are truly astounding in their ability to dominate in breeding, didn't quite have the more desirable specifics he was hoping far. In fact, far from being particularly "socially progressive" traits, they have proven to be rather...anti-social and decidedly undesirable, as it were. The impressive criminal records the Sanchez kin have managed to accumulate so far bearing clear evidence of that.
Not only did his attempts at genetic perfection utterly fail but the initiative that he'd shown wasn't exactly met with enthusiasm by the Alliance officials on hand, nor with his department's supervisors. He was severely punished for his unapproved creations and lost any chance at the promotion he'd been working toward. Compounding his misfortunes, he quickly lost any hope of salvaging his career at all when Isaac Sanchez and the crew of the fast courier Jahn Luhn Gohn raided his research vessel and made off with the cryo-preserved infants that had caused all the trouble in the first place.
As to Yonsheng's involvement with Lily's old grifter gang, it seems they were already in the middle of a protracted and devious scheme for revenge against Lily Sanchez when Yonsheng stumbled onto them. Eager to make themselves of value to the ruthless terrorists, Alto Regus not only gave them everything he had on the Sanchez kids but even sold them on a convoluted plan. He promised to simultaneously secure much needed finances for the terrorist group and insure the Sanchez kin would be locked in place long enough for them to prepare a laboratory for them. Alto and the other grifters had already manipulated events on Persephone to prepare for their arrival there and thus set them up for the sabretooth tiger transport job just so they could snatch the tiger out from under them and gleefully watch them twist in the wind. They simply proceeded with their plans, this time with the aid of some well-armed Yonsheng thugs. With their plans to use the captured tiger in some lucrative cons no longer viable, they simply turned the tiger over to Yonsheng. With the abandoned medical facilities they had already taken control of and the semen samples the grifters were quick to lay hold of, they could produce dozens of fertilized sabretooth embryos. These, in turn, would nicely finance Yonsheng's more ambitious goals when sold through Alto's contacts as well as allowing Yonsheng's doctors to practice the procedure they had planned for the Sanchez kin before they were even brought in.
Having gotten all they can from the doctor, Rooster and Lily hit the computer terminals and gather what little data that hasn't already been purged. Marlin scrounges around for any hardcopy on Yonsheng's activities and overall goals but finds very little. They are furious to find that the "genetic material" the doctors harvested from them earlier has apparently already been shipped off.
Meanwhile Betty expresses her displeasure with the whole situation, displaying her less desirable genetic predispositions on the captives and rendering them unconscious.
After a last look around the place for anything else that might prove enlightening they find nothing else. They do happen to find, to their surprise, the kidnapped sabretooth tiger heavily sedated in a small room off the operating room. Seizing the opportunity, they hastily decide to liberate her as well. The group bind and gag the doctors and the thug, take the weapons and data and find some strong sedatives for the tiger. They then hoist her onto a gurney, strap her down as best they can and make for the back door of the place.
At last they wheel the gurney down the hall and out the back of the building...where they find dozens of Alliance federals have swarmed the place and most of the fleeing Yonsheng personnel already in custody.
ACT IV: After a short but tense standoff with the well-armed and armored Alliance Federal strike team (outnumbering them nearly three to one and only holding their fire for fear of hitting the sabretooth), the Sanchez kin finally surrender after much cursing and grumbling. The operative who interrogated Lily soon appears once they're securely bound and orders the medic to remove the tracking device he had implanted in her neck weeks ago.
Ignoring their attempts to question him, the operative departs with the strike force, the sabretooth and the Sanchez kin in tow. The session ends with the group being tossed into a nearly shuttle for transportation back to the Alliance cruiser "Weyland" while the strike team begins raining incendiary rounds down on the laboratory they only just vacated.
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