Pimp my Firefly
BACKGROUND: After more than a month of costly repair work, Jahn is finally space-worthy once again. Under pressure from Alliance Federal investigators and hostile public opinion over the loss of the sabretooth, the crew is all the more eager to take to the black again. But repairs have all but cleaned out their credit accounts and the crew of Jahn Luhn Gohn is desperate for both work and cash. Luckily they find both in a rather unusual offer from the representatives of the one and only Bao-bei Xiongmao. All they have to do is secure the perfect platform for his state-of-the-art sound system, mount it, customize it and deliver it on cue to the upcoming public concert. Simple.
With Jahn crippled and their cargo lost, Rooster contacts the Alliance patrol boat they recently encountered to request assistance. After docking with them, Jahn is towed onward to Bernadette. There she lands at West Renshaw docks where the crew spends almost all of their remaining wealth on repairs. Over the next month the crew find themselves at the center of a fierce political conflict between Bernadette and the local federals, intense public outrage over the theft of the 'verse's last remaining sabretooth and several journalistic "investigative reports" which place blame more on Jahn's crew and the Alliance officials than on the cat-nappers themselves.
One first-hand documentary in particular, by the up and coming young journalist Constance Delphi, specifically blames Alliance officials for not properly screening the crew that was chosen to transport the animal. The chain of events from the alleged "reaver raid" on Whitefall up to and including the suspicious loss of the tiger itself are all detailed in the "investigative report", as well as comprehensive background info on Rooster and each one of the Sanchez kin. Lily's shady past, Marlin "cowardice" in Serenity Valley and Betty's multiple acquittals on various criminal charges paint a less than shiny picture of the crew. They quickly find themselves more and more unpopular with both the local authorities and the public at large. Having been trapped on Bernadette by Jahn's extensive electrical repairs and the investigation itself for over a month, the crew is more than anxious to return to the black and put the whole messy business behind them.
Meanwhile, the crew has come to the attention of a local media legend. "The" Bao-bei Xiongmao, it seems, has an idea for the perfect media event to drum up sales for his latest cortex release (and hopefully prop up his faltering music career). He has arranged for a huge music concert to be broadwaved live from Bernadette in just one week. Everything's been prepared, several popular guest artists have already signed on and the day-long concert is ready to roll on schedule. He just needs one thing to make it the media event of the decade...the perfect platform for his state-of-the-art free-floating boss-wave sound projection system.
And as luck would have it, "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao knows the perfect vehicle for his monster sound system. The literally "perfect vehicle", in fact. The famous red and gold Firefly class transport called "Kitty Scratch"...the personal transport and tour vessal of his bitter arch-rival, the sexy Santo singing sensation "Santo Kitty".
Once the bill for services is presented, Betty and Rooster check over Jahn to ensure all repairs have been completed to their satisfaction before signing off with the repair company. Now that the crew is almost totally broke they've little else to do but look for work.
While repairs were proceeding on Jahn, Lily made the most of her free time by consenting to various interviews and trying her best to take the brunt of the official investigation. Her attempts both to influence public opinion and assure Alliance officials that the crew had no part in the cat-napping meet with only limited success. While they are able to avoid being taken into custody, it is clear that both the Alliance investigators and the Bernadette public at large hold them at least partly responsible.
Almost immediately after transferring payment for repairs, Rooster receives a wave from an anonymous source promising a lucrative job. When Lily verifies the given address as a local bar on the seedier side of town, the crew arranges for Marlin and Rooster to make the meeting while Lily and Betty back them up from outside. The meeting with "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao's representative goes smoothly and it's clear to the crew that "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao's "people" wield significant influence locally. After details of job are laid out clearly and concisely, Rooster questions why they have been hired at all. Considering the well-laid plan that is presented, it seems the crew need do little but fly the ship to the rendezvous point and then on to Bernadette. Everything else seems to have taken care of. As it happens, however, the crew's public vilification fits perfectly into "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao's plans. The more nefarious the rumors surrounding the theft of Santo Kitty's Firefly and it's subsequent appearance at the public concert, the better for him. And he is, of course, certain that rumors will get around of involvement by the very crew suspected to have been in on the cat-napping of the 'verses only remaining sabre-tooth. This is, after all, a publicity stunt and the "cat" motiff too perfect to pass on.
After lengthy negotiations, Rooster and the crew agree to the offer - steal Kitty Scratch, mount the sound projection system and rendezvous at the concert just as the live broadwave begins. Then disappear before authorities can identify and bind them, allowing "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao and his representative’s deniability in the theft and subsequent re-appearance of the vessel at the concert. If all goes according to plan it will be every bit the media circus "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao is counting on. If not...well, of course, he's perfectly prepared to deny any knowledge of the group's shocking criminal activities.
After receiving a hefty 200 credit advance, the crew fills Jahn's tank and wastes no time breaking atmo and leaving Bernadette behind. With the entire plan laid out in detail already, there's little for the crew to do in the interim. After a hard burn Jahn rendezvous’ with "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao's "people" onboard a private vessal deep in the black near Santo. From there they leave Jahn safely docked and are transported by shuttle to Santo to meet with the contacts who will arrange to get them on board Kitty Scratch.
On arriving at the Jin/Carlos Docks in Calabos City the crew immediately heads for the bar to meet their contact, hoping to avoid drawing attention to themselves considering all the their recent cortex news coverage. To that end Lily and Betty once again wait outside trying to lay low. The meeting inside the bar goes smoothly and the Rooster and Marlin receive the details on how "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao's troubleshooters intend to get them aboard Kitty Scratch. Apparently the local chapter of M.A.R.E. (Mothers for Appropriate and Responsible Entertainment) has enjoyed a miraculous recruiting windfall recently and their numbers have nearly doubled with the addition of forty civic-minded young mothers (all hired and placed by "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao's people). In addition the local M.A.R.E. chapter has decided, with significant prompting by many of the new recruits, to stage a very public protest this evening at the Jin/Carlos Docks when Santo Kitty boards her personal transport to leave for a scheduled appearance on Sihnon.
While the meeting goes on inside, Lily and Betty find themselves in close proximity to a group of very drunk men who seem to have misplaced their car. Lily decides to intervene and advise the men to seek a public conveyance, considering their inebriated state, while taking the opportunity to expound on the evils of alcohol. Naturally, this quickly degenerates into a loud, slurred and colorful spectacle in the street outside the bar, which Betty manages to quell rather quickly by beating all three men unconscious. In the process Lily is slightly bruised in the tussle, though Betty emerges without a scratch. The two of them, over Lily's protests, drag the men into the alley out of sight while they wait for Rooster and Marlin to rejoin them.
When the men return and find the sisters have managed to involve themselves in a drunken brawl in the street the crew decides it best to get back to the docks and lay low again until time to sneak about Kitty Scratch.
In short order the time comes for the crew to make their way with Chan Long, one of "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao's troubleshooters, to the protest already under way. Everything goes according to plan, with Santo Kitty and her entourage delayed in boarding by the very lively protesters and soon deciding to reschedule their departure altogether. Chan Long and the crew manage to make their way past several harried dock security guards as well as the maintenance crew, all of whom have their hands full trying to placate a horde of angry mothers protesting the lewd and lascivious musical stylings of Santo Kitty.
Marlin displays an outstanding knack for circumventing both dock security devices and Kitty Scratch's own locks. In short order the crew have boarded the garish Firefly and set about securing the cargo doors. After securing the area, Marlin and Betty sneak ahead of the group to give the ship a quick search for any other occupants. On the bridge, as expected, they find three crewmen in the process of shutting down the ship (having received word of the hasty rescheduling). Marlin and Betty manage to get the drop on all three and intimidate them enough to bring them quickly under control. When Lily, Rooster and Chan Long arrive, however, they find that the three crew members all recognize him. Apparently Chan Long once worked for Santo Kitty and seems to have "changed sides", so to speak, after some bad blood between he and the sexy singing sensation herself. An outraged argument, with a respectable round of mutually threats and insults, erupts between Kitty Scratch's crewmen and Chan Long, which Lily barely manages to get under control before it gets out of hand.
Taking Chan Long firmly in hand, Lily and Rooster secure the bridge while Marlin and Betty escort the ship's crewmen to an empty passenger dorm where they are securely bound and locked in.
After a quick prep for take off, Lily and Rooster manage to receive clearance for departure without drawing any more attention than necessary. Betty manages to take off and break atmo without incident while Lily and Rooster give Kitty Scratch a quick once-over and Marlin keeps an eye on the ship's crew locked up below.
By the time Kitty Scratch breaks orbit and prepares for hard burn, docking authorities have already alerted the local Alliance cruiser of the ship's theft and two patrol boats are already en route to intercept. As Betty and Rooster prepare to execute some creative maneuvering, Chan Long and Lily patch some very expensive bits of Newtech gear into Kitty Scratch's NavSat system, pulse beacon and landlock controls.
Meanwhile Marlin, after giving the ship a quick search for any gear that the crew might find worth taking, returns to the passengers dorms to resume his vigil over the tied-up crew. There he discovers a previously overlooked crewmember in the process of freeing his fellow crewmates and is quickly embroiled in a fight. Hearing the ruckus, Lily and Chan Long, having just completed their work, race to help. In short order a respectable brawl is underway in the passenger dorm, soon spilling out into the passageway and eventually down the steps into the common area.
Unaware of the excitement down below, Betty and Rooster give it their all and manage to avoid visual contact by either Alliance patrol boat while Lily and Chan Long's modifications keep them off their sensors. With Rooster providing navigation and Betty delivering some impressive maneuvering, they manage to break out undetected and soon execute a hard burn toward the rendezvous point and out of range of the Alliance cruiser's sensors.
Placing the ship on auto-pilot the two of them stroll leisurely down below decks to inform the rest of the crew of their success, only to find Lily and Marlin already unconscious and Chan Long, weary and bloodied, on the loosing end of the fight with one of the two remaining crewmen. Rooster quickly rushes to help him while Betty, noticing the other crewman racing toward the cargo area, runs to catch him. Rooster easily overcomes the crewman who's attempting to beat Chan Long unconscious while Betty barely manages to tackle the last remaining crewman before he can reach the weapons locker.
With Rooster's help she quickly overcomes the crewman and holds him while Rooster binds him again. When they return and help Chan Long to his feet, the three of them work together to quickly bind the other three crewman and drag the lot back into the passenger dorm to lock them in.
While Rooster rests from all the excitement, Betty tries to tend to Marlin and Lily. Her lack of medical training shows and Lily is further injured by the rough handling. Betty, disgruntled, grabs a handgun from the weapons locker and watches over the battered crewmen, once again bound and locked in the passenger dorm, while she waits for her kin to recover. Rooster, after a good rest, returns to the bridge to watch for any more surprises.
In due course the crew stealthily rendezvous with "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao's private space terminal in orbit over Bernadette. There they find Jahn has already been quietly flown in and docked with the terminal. Betty carefully guides Kitty Scratch into the repair bay, parks the vessel and gives the signal to pressurize the bay while Rooster and Chan Long finally manage to rouse Marlin and Lily.
With less than twenty-four hours before the live broadwave begins, the crew scrambles to turn over Kitty Scratch's crewmen to the space terminal crew and begin installing the sound system. To their dismay they find that the terminal only has a crew complement of three, none of whom can break free from their work long enough to aid in installing the system or help with customizing the Firefly.
Chan Long and Rooster get busy installing the sound system as well as system software while Lily and Marlin (still badly bruised from their earlier beating) hurriedly paint on the altered logos and weld on the lights, holographic projectors and buffer panel boosters. In a remarkable display of teamwork (and some plot points), everyone completes their assigned projects just in time to get Kitty Scratch to the concert on schedule.
Over Lily and Rooster's objections Chan Long herds the captured crewmen back onto Kitty Scratch again claiming they can't be left on the terminal. He placates the Jahn's crew with assurances that the captives have been generously bribed to ensure they fail to positively identify who kidnapped them and stole the ship.
With everything ready to go, Rooster hustles over to Jahn and takes off with her. He quickly swings wide of the space terminal's orbit, contacts Bernadette docking authority and manages to secure a West Renshaw docking platform relatively close to the concert. The rest of the crew, meanwhile, leaves the terminal in Kitty Scratch and enters atmo without contacting docking authority at all. In the process Betty is unable to raise the space terminal crew for a departure vector but Chan Long informs her they've been ordered not to communicate with Kitty Scratch.
Betty, without Rooster's aid, has difficulty entering atmo with all the modifications to the outer hull of the ship, despite the buffer panel boosters. In the end, though, she manages not to melt off anything useful and breaks cloud cover without further incident. Almost a hundred miles out from Renshaw, she swings into clever pattern of evasive maneuvering designed to throw off the inevitable intercept aircraft of the local docking authority long enough, hopefully, for Kitty Scratch to take up position over the concert crowd.
While Betty manages to avoid docking authority aircraft long enough to enter Renshaw airspace, Lily and Marlin sprint to the cargo area to prepare the starboard shuttle for their getaway. There they find Chan Long already in the process of doing so, though he steps back and let's the two take over. Once they begin, having turned their backs to him, he produces a stun gun and easily renders both the already battered crew unconscious. While Betty continues on into Renshaw airspace, unaware of what's going on below, Chan Long proceeds down to the passengers dorms where he quickly executes the four captured crewmen tied up there.
Meanwhile, Rooster has docked without incident at West Renshaw docks where he awaits the Sanchez kin to join him once the job is done. It isn't long, however, until he finds Jahn landlocked and a horde of docking authority security officers appearing out of nowhere. He is bound by law and escorted away while docking authority prepares to ambush the Sanchez kin on their return.
Once Betty and Kitty Scratch reach the concert and takes up position a safe distance above the crowd Betty springs into action. She quickly patches the sound system into "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao's broadwave, activates the garish hologram, laser and light display on the hull of the ship and initializes the navigational program that will keep the ship dancing a graceful orbit above the crowd while blasting "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao's performance across the length and breadth of the entire city.
Instantly the crowd below recognizes the ridiculously decorated Firefly as Santo Kitty's well-known transport Kitty Scratch and fully realizes the implications of "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao's singing panda symbol splashed all over her hull. The crowd roars wildy, cortex cameras pan for close-ups and concert officials scramble to determine what their official response is to all of this. "The" Bao-bei Xiongmao's publicity stunt is in full swing.
Quickly exiting the bridge to rendezvous with her kin on the shuttle for their escape, Betty comes to face to face with Chan Long who's already opening fire with his stun gun. Struck once before she can react, Betty's amazing reflexes kick in and she's drawn down on Chan Long before he can fire a third shot. Several shots are fired as both gunners dodge back down their respective ends of the passageway, until Betty manages an impossible head shot out of nowhere dropping Chan Long like a rag doll.
Stumbling onward to the shuttle, Betty finds her kin laying unconscious within. Taking only a moment to verify they're relatively uninjured (at least, no more injured than they were to being with) she takes control of the shuttle. Quickly fleeing the scene, she blasts off to rendezvous with Jahn and Rooster while docking authority interceptors are still trying to get authorization to enter Renshaw airspace.
Betty arrives at Jahn, only to find that docking authority security officers are already onboard waiting for her. Like Rooster she's quickly overwhelmed and taken into custody, though she manages to cause a few minor injuries before going down. Lily and Marlin prove even less difficult for the security officers to handle, being conveniently unconscious already. Bernadette docking authority later credits anonymous sources for information leading to the successful interception and arrest of the Sanchez gang prior to their escaping from the West Renshaw docks.
Over the next two weeks the Sanchez watch the events surrounding the Renshaw Free Concert incident unfold on the cortex from their jail cells in Renshaw. "The" Bao-bei Xiongmao denies any knowledge of the theft of Kitty Scratch, blaming overzealous employees for arranging the "unfortunate and misguided criminal enterprise" without his knowledge. Despite no solid evidence linking "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao to the theft of the ship or the deaths involved, Santo Kitty is able (and suspiciously well-prepared) to launch an effective public opinion campaign that quickly and neatly scuttles his career.
Chan Long, identified as a "private consultant" and "loyal employee" of Santo Kitty Entertainment, is listed alongside the four original crewmen of Kitty Scratch as murder victims of the "Sanchez gang". He is hailed as a model employee of Santo Kitty Entertainment and his failed, but noble, attempt to retake the ship from "murderous pirates" earns him the personal praise of Santo Kitty CEO, Rans Pearlman. Sources within Santo Kitty Entertainment say he will be sorely missed. They further deny "vicious and irresponsible" rumors that Chan Lang broke from Santo Kitty Entertainment and sought employment with "the" Bao-bei Xiongmao prior to the incident.
The Sanchez "gang" ends the episode awaiting arraignment on multiple homicide charges, conspiracy and theft of a private space vessel. Meanwhile Santo Kitty Entertainment reports record stock earnings for the quarter.
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