Gainful Employment II
THE EX-BLUE SUN AGENTS:
Starbolt Class Personal Transport "Unity Prophet", Outbound from Persephone
After the team has recovered and reassured themselves that nothing untoward has occured during their incapacitation, they decide that a proper bit of rest is in order as they're still at least three days out from Athens. Reasoning that they're just far enough off the standard shipping lanes as to be relatively safe they forgo taking shifts at watch and hunker down for a solid eight hours of sleep. After setting the various ship's alarms to alert them in their quarters (or at least attempting to) they settle in for the night. Sleep comes easily after the harrowing events of the day, though they are each wracked by vivid dreams as the memories of the Independence soldiers continue to surface and integrate with their own.
THE YOUNG READERS:
Blue Sun Medical Research Laboratories, Persephone
After nearly a week of patiently waiting in the secured wing of the Blue Sun Medical Research Laboratories, the Readers were more than eager to begin the Advanced Post-Graduate Program. Untroubled by the vague rumors of past horrors, they easily accepted the assurances of the facility staff that the medical procedure had been refined to the point that any debilitating side-effects were negligable. As the following two weeks progressed, however, they found that such assurances may have been slightly exaggerated. Though they immediately note that their inherent empathic abilities have indeed been greatly enhanced, to a rather astonishing degree in fact, they are discouraged and a little disturbed that their very perception of reality has been skewed to the point that even basic social interaction is hampered. The Readers soon find that even interacting with the medical staff itself proves difficult and requires a fatiguing measure of concentration in order merely to communicate appropriately. As the treatments progress, the Readers find themselves withdrawing more and more from the milieu and keeping almost exclusively to one another's company.
Bedridden, recovering from their fourth and second-to-last treatment series, the Readers wake and greet the day to find the staff in rather an anxious state. It would seem a high-ranking official of some sort, very likely an Operative by all accounts, has come to the Research labs. Something is definately brewing and the Readers astutely expect to find themselves in the middle of it. In due course the medical attendants hustle in to usher them from their beds, still bandaged and a bit woozy, leading them down the hall to the staff conference room. There they are left in the company of the Parliament Operative who's caused all the uproar.
Without preamble the Readers are informed that a situation has developed that would be best served by Operatives of a particular age group. As it stands there are no such Operatives available and the Parliament must rely on younger, and consequently lower security level, Agent trainees. Specifically Team Bravo Six, the PC's team. Though they haven't quite completed their treatment series, it seems there are no other teams in the area available for a mission with the time constraints that this one has. While this puts the Readers in the difficult position of being required to undergo their first mission without having technically completed all of their treatments, there is quite an attractive upside to it all. A successful resolution of the mission will earn them the very coveted Operative status and the Parliamentary Clearance that comes with it. Naturally the Readers are quick to accept the assignment, never mind that the option to decline isn't really an option at all.
Finding that their meager belongings have already been gathered and several medical staff have been assigned to tend to them in transit, they are quickly hustled out the back exit of the Laboratories and onto the Alliance shuttle waiting there. They receive their briefing from the Operative accompanying them and from their mission director via secured cortex, en route to the Alliance cruiser Magister.
According to the brief, several months ago the Federal Crime Prevention Division detected an interesting pattern of disappearances occuring on Athens. This pattern, localized and almost cyclic, proved on closer examination to have all the subtle signs of a violent serial criminal at work rather than simply another common rim world killer. Typically, of course, disappearances of any sort wouldn't appear at all troubling coming from any of the less civilized rim worlds. The appearance of a serial criminal out on the rim, however, was an entirely different matter. Generally, the border worlds may suffer quite regulary from such criminal madmen, considering the nature of those societies, but the core worlds were largely successful at detecting them long before they ever escalated. The rim worlds, on the other hand, simply didn't have the peculiar social pressures needed to produce this particular brand of criminal. A methodical, very likely sociopathic, serial rapist or murderer cropping up in a part of the 'verse where violence is largely conducted above board and with little or no real forethought was, therefore, quite noteworthy. It was even more interesting considering the nature of Athens in particular, being relatively low in any kind of "settled" population and very high in hard pressed itinerate workers and temporary residents (what with the huge restoration and salvage operation still ongoing there). The F.C.P.D., of course, found the phenomenon interesting enough to actually dispatch an investigator to look into it. As it happens, the pattern of disappearances stopped abruptly before the investigator could even arrive on Athens, leading the administrators and profilers at headquarters to assume the criminal had finally tripped up and been apprehended for some related criminal act by local authorities. While the file remained open, of course, and the F.C.P.D. continued to oversee crime stats from Athens, it was largely assumed to be at an end for the time being. Until the investigator that had been dispatched failed to rematerialize.
Two months of inquiry, followed by direct investigation by F.C.P.D. agents and, finally, Alliance Federal Marshalls failed to turn up the first clue as to the investigator's fate. But they were on hand to witness the startling upsurgance of terrorist attacks that have plagued Athens ever since. Granted, Athens had it's fair share of terrorism during the early days when Unified Reclamation first moved in but those small bands of disgruntled Independent holdouts had all since been rounded up. This new brand of terrorist is decidedly more aggressive and bent on consistently suicidal acts of mass carnage. Most confusing, those identified (to date, all posthumously) have no discernible connection to one another at all. Young and old, from all walks of life, denizens of Athens seem to be abruptly disappearing and reappearing among the ruins of this or that large-scale terrorist act.
The identification of one young woman, Susan Annette, who was reported missing and who has just been spotted on board a passenger vessal outbound from Athens, has prompted Team Bravo Six's quick deployment. Susan is the daughter of Hared Annette, a mid-level researcher stationed at a very top-secret Alliance bio-research facility somewhere on Athens. And it seems one of the Alliance's dark secrets disappeared right along with her just three weeks ago. A vial containing a particulary deadly bio-weapon.
THE YOUNG READERS:
The Celestial Harper, nine hours from Beaumonde
Arriving covertly on board the Harper via Alliance fast shuttle, the Readers are greeting by the ship's captain and first mate. Assured that no other ship's personnel or passengers are aware of their arrival they are issued a triple-bunk room and given a brief orientation. They are further informed that the ship will arrive at Beaumonde in less than nine hours, where it will be met by the Alliance cruiser they just left and quarantined.
Once they have secured their belongings and standard issue gear from the shuttle, they depart immediately for their room. There they review what information they have on Susan, all the criminal data compiled so far and the details of the bio-weapon she is assumed to possess. Assured that they are as informed as needs be to begin, they access their personal cortex terminals. Having reviewed their orders, they collectively decide to initially move on Susan undercover, in order to read her and determine what they can about the organization behind the terrorist attacks. Consulting the ship's captain directly over the comm system, they are told that two security officers currently have Susan under surveillance in the ship's small recreation area, along with about twenty other passengers. The Readers collect their gear and move out.
On spying her there, the PC's determine that Susan is roughly their age and send Eric to initiate contact, posing as a teen looking to make friends with someone his own age on the ship. Though he spends some Plot Points on the effort, he fails the attempt to initiate even casual conversation, decidedly turning Susan off any inclination to interact with him. He does, however, get an exceptionally good "read" on her, determining that she is harboring a very dangerous secret of some sort which generally feels compatible with her suspected possession of the missing bioweapon. Further, an attempt at reading her emotional state succeeds as well, despite the rather short period of interaction, leaving Eric with the strong feeling that she is strangely anxious about her own health and that her anxiety is rapidly escalating.
Having decided to maintain distance from one another for the moment, in order to prevent their target from discerning any connection between them, Eric falls back from Susan's irritated glare and engages in one of the hologames across the room. Consulting over sub-dermal transmitters, the team agrees that their non-existent social graces are going to effectively render any further attempts to get info from Susan impossible. Falling back on their second order they decide that getting her out of the recreation area and somewhere secluded is their next course of action. Taking the more passive route, they decide to hang back until she returns to her room and ambush her somewhere along the way. They are surprised when Susan suddenly approaches Pamela.
Jessica and Eric listen in over their sub-derm comms as Susan attempts to elicit Pamela's aid in retrieving something from her room. According to Susan, she's just meet an especially attractive young man whom her parents strongly disapprove of and has made arrangements to meet him here soon. Unfortunately, she left her medicine in her room and fears that if she leaves the recreation area to retrieve it, she'll miss her chance at the much desired rendezvous. All of which, of course, Pamela can clearly determine is a hasty attempt at deception. Taking the opportunity to get a general read on Susan, however, Pamela is unable to gather anything more specific.
She readily agrees, managing to do so in a relatively coherent manner, and receives instructions on exactly what to bring from her room and, to Pamela's surprise, the keycard to the door. Pamela departs, giving Susan her assurances that she'll go immediately to retrieve the inhaler and deliver it promptly. Eric remains, keeping her under surveillance, while Jessica sneaks away to help Pamela shake down the room. Along the way Jessica makes note of the two plain-dressed security guards loitering casually in the hall outside the rec-room and correctly guesses that avoiding them is likely the reason she's employed Pamela to retrieve the inhaler.
Taking only enough to time to search the room without giving their target cause to become suspicious, they easily locate the inhaler. Jessica, furthermore, finds reservations for the hotel Susan is apparently planning to stay at on Beaumonde as well as tickets to a major sporting event taking placing just two days after their scheduled arrival. Beyond this they are able to determine nothing more than the fact that she seems to be travelling with very little in the way of personal effects. Nothing more than a couple of sets of clothing and basic toiletries. Nor are they able to find anything like a vial or bioweapon. The inhaler itself is naturally suspect but it seems that Susan has two others, identical to it, in her suitcase.
After agonizing for a moment over whether to deliver the inhaler as promised or take it to the ship's infirmary for analysis, giving Susan ample cause for suspicion at the delay, they decide at last to deliver it and see what develops. Jessica rushes ahead to enter the rec-room as casually as possible and avoid any obvious connection with Pamela. Pamela delivers the inhaler as promised, receiving Susan thanks and an abrupt cold shoulder. To their alarm the PC's immediately witness Susan take a dose of the inhaler before securing it in her pocket. They are anxious that they may have delivered the bio-weapon to a suicide terrorist in the middle of a crowded room. Recalling the detailed briefing on Susan Annette he recently viewed, Eric can remember no mention of a medical condition that requires any regular medication.
Jessica easily slips away without drawing attention to herself in order take position near Susan's room, while Eric and Pamela prepare to follow at a distance when she returns there. Their plan to ambush her in the hallway nearly falls flat, though, as it slowly becomes apparent she has no intention of leaving the area. After an hour has passed and most of the passengers retreat to their rooms for a last night's sleep before the ship arrives at Beaumonde, the team begins to worry that Susan may simply intend to wait there until then. Deciding to give it another hour before taking more direct action, as there are still a few passengers around, they are relieved when Susan at last stretches and leaves the room.
Tailing her just out of sight, Pamela and Eric wait until she reaches her door and Jessica gives an "all clear" before springing around the corner with unfolded stun batons. All three team members immediately hustle up to Susan to level blows and knock her out quickly. Though she detects their approach and does her best to dodge, she is laid low almost instantly by the combined stun baton attacks. As she drops unconscious to the floor, the team quickly grabs the dropped door key and opens the room to drag her inside.
Once inside, the team secures Susan with simple handcuffs and Pamela attempts to rouse her. When this fails, she retrieves her MedAcad bag from their room and returns, giving her a shot of stimulant and bringing her quickly to consciousness. Eric sets in on her immediately, dropping Plot Points on a solid round of interrogation. He is moderately successful, learning that Susan is traveling to Beaumonde to take up position as a sleeper agent, intending to lay low there until she receives orders to take action. The action in question being, as expected, releasing the bio-weapon on the populace. When confronted with the tickets to the sporting event, she clams up and refuses to say anything else. Attempting to push harder in order to learn where she's stashed the bio-weapon in the meantime, Eric fails to get anything else out of her.
After a lengthy consultation, the team decides that determining the contents of Susan's inhalers takes precedence. Leaving Jessica to watch over their captive, Pamela and Eric make for the ship's infirmary hoping to get at the rudimentary lab equipment there. On arriving they find only one nurse on duty at the late hour and Eric attempts to distract the nurse with vague physical complaints so that Pamela can sneak into the neighboring lab. Moments later Pamela is startled when she quickly and easily discovers all three inhalers contain nothing but water. Slipping back into the infirmary, unnoticed by the nurse, she joins Eric and they hustle back to Susan's room.
When confronted with the water filled inhalers, Susan provides no information beyond a visible surprised reaction. Eric, however, gets a clear and vivid impression from her that she is not only startled to discover the inhalers contain nothing but water, but she's clearly now paralyzed by simultaneous terror for her own health and rather desperate refusal to believe their claim. Using his insight he again pushes for information, eliciting only a quavering assertion that they are lying and the irrational insistance that the inhalers do contain Trioxin. At this Pamela readily recalls that Trioxin was referred to in the mission briefing as the chemical agent used to keep the bio-weapon in a dormant state, even in an infected subject, but only so long as it remained dormant. The team quickly realizes the Susan most likely carries the bio-weapon in her own body and, as the inhalers clearly do not contain Trioxin, it may well have already become active.
Pamela springs for the ship's comm to contact the captain and request that he clear the nurse out of the infirmary. The team then hauls Susan to her feet and force-marches her directly there. Arriving, they find the captain waiting alone as requested (as they're hoping to keep the situation as contained as possible) and they seal up the infirmary behind them. Pamela hastily sets about drawing blood and trying to determine whether or not the bioweapon has become active. In short order she announces that it hasn't but can't make even an educated guess how long they have before it does. The team decides at last to take the most conservative route and simply shoves the woman into the isolation room, sealing her in until Alliance officials can interdict at Beaumonde. Pamela tests herself, the rest of the team and the captain as well...just to be on the safe side.
After making a reasonable determination that both the target and the bioweapon are secured, Pamela waves the Magister to report and the team receives orders to secure the infirmary and the captain of the ship until they arrive at Beaumonde. There the Operative overseeing the mission has arranged for the Celestial Harper to come under quarantine for a mild outbreak of a common pneumonia strain.
In less than twelve hours the Celestial Harper has arrived at it's destination, suffered a short but inconvenient quarantine and been cleared by Alliance Emergency Response. Susan Annette is spirited away to the Magister, destined for an extended stay at the Blue Sun Medical Research Laboratories on Persephone, with the team recalled along with her for debriefing.
The captain and first mate of the Celestial Harper, sadly, are found dead the next day. The captain an apparent victim of a murder/suicide at the hands of his jilted lover, the first mate.
THE YOUNG READERS:
Alliance cruiser Magister, orbiting Persephone
As the Magister detours to nearby Persephone to drop off Susan Annette at the Medical Research labs there, the special medical team under direction of the Operative successfully treats her for the bioweapon she carries. After assurances that she is no longer infected, the Operative launches into a protracted interrogation session using every trick in the book, including torture and mind-altering chemicals. As the interrogation drags on, the PC's are forced to endure a short stay over in Persephone's orbit while awaiting the results. Finally, after nearly forty-eight consecutive hours, the Operative reappears and shares his findings with the team.
Most compelling, to the Operative's reckoning, is how very little he was able to gain from the "interview". Normally, the methods he employed would have successfully extracted whatever information he may have desired from even the staunchest prisoner. Susan, on the other hand, proved surprisingly difficult to get any information at all from. In fact, even after a harrowing two-day session, he was only able get references to Archopolis, and small town named Erindale and something about "training sessions". Reading between the lines a bit, it seems likely to him that they may be dealing with a terrorist group that employs some truly advanced form of mind control techniques against abducted citizens, rather than conducting their own operations themselves. Even this, though, he is unsure about. Susan was apparently quite well prepared by whomever programmed her to resist interrogation, clearly by someone very familiar with the process.
He is, however, able to shed some light on the mysterious water filled inhalers. Apparently Susan's programming didn't quite take for some reason, in regards to her mission to carry the bioweapon onto Beaumonde. It would seem Susan still retained some reservations over allowing it go active and thereby taking her own life. The programmer, aware of this, had simply circumvented her concerns by providing her with the inhalers, which she believed contained Trioxin to keep the bioweapon in a dormant state until she received orders to stop taking it. He then gave her the tickets to the sporting event, supposedly to meet with a contact there. However, by the Operative's calculations, the bioweapon would have been active and highly contagious by then. Thus Susan, completely unaware, would have carried the extremely virulant organism into the arena and likely infected several thousand spectators during the event.
While Susan Annette is hastily shuttled down to Persephone, the Operative and Team Bravo Six transfer over to the Alliance frigate Excelsior to execute a full burn back to Athens. Whatever organization is behind all this still has the bioweapon and will very soon become aware that Susan has been apprehended.
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