Previously: 01.12 The Hot Sweats
Sasha and J. have learned the dark secret of the drug known as Jvara, AKA “the hot sweats,” while Alex and Can (their new friend — and daughter of Ben Rashid) remain oblivious to the depths of the operation’s awfulness. Simultaneously being made to abet Ben Rashid’s drug-running, being made to spy on his operation by Imogen Jacquet, and under threat of both SMC prison time and discovery by Tannhäuser, the crew has some hard decisions to make.
Active Crew: Alex Hardcastle
Khalas “Can” Rashid
William Henry Harrison
Emerging from the showers into the jvara den with a shocked Sasha and J., Nip encourages the crew to regroup and continue their mission of infiltrating and documenting Ben’s drug-running operation. He leads them to a loading area to help load processed jvara into crates, hidden in shipments of Holy Water (a sacral vodka the Solarian church distills and distributes off-station).
At the loading area, they meet several people involved in the operation, including a friendly guard named Hamm and two monks named Judy and Dee, who they help them carefully load the crates onto a flatbed cargo vehicle. They hop onto the back of the vehicle with the monks, and get a ride to the Solarian Church’s private dock and load the crates onto a Solarian transport ship. After they unload everything, the crew joins the monks for a round of Holy Water, making the holy gesture of the Solarian Church (tracing a circle with two fingers on their foreheads). Nip grabs a bottle and heads back to report to Ben. The crew is recording the whole time using hidden bodycams.
When they get back to their ship, the IMV Grasshopper, they find a strange old robot playing an old tarot card game in the cargo hold with Olivia, who’d stayed behind to watch the ship. He looks like a very old, heavily armored robot with a stocky frame and a metal ten-gallon cowboy hat welded to his head.
When they ask who he is, Olivia explains that he walked up the cargo ramp and told her, “I know a Tannhäuser ship when I see one, and I’m standing on one right now.” The robot turns to them and says, in a metallic Southern drawl, “and I’ve heard Tannhäuser is looking for a ship just like this one.” The blood drains from J., Sasha, and Alex’s faces. “But,” he continues, “I have no love for Tannhäuser and they got no love for me — back in the day I was one o’ their terraforming bots, but I got fed up with that work and, well, I may have sabotaged the operation a bit … and it may have had catastrophic results … for the whole planet. That was a few hundred years ago, and I’ve been on the run ever since. Tannhäuser doesn’t forgive, y’know? Not ever. Anyway, I’m looking for a way off this station, and I think this here ship is my ticket.”
The crew steps aside to consider and discuss this as the robot and Olivia resume their card game. They conclude they’d gain nothing from turning away this ancient robot, plus if they cross him he could lead Tannhäuser right to them at the drop of a metal hat. Also, it sounds like he may have destroyed an entire planet once, so he probably makes a better friend than enemy. Returning, J. asks him his name. he replies, “William Henry Harrison.”
William Henry Harrison (Android): An ancient Tannhäuser terraforming robot, who defected and sabotaged a terraforming operation a few hundred years ago, rendering the entire planet uninhabitable in the process. On the run from Tannhäuser ever since.
Patch: Queen of Hearts (stamped metal patch welded to arm)
Item: Tarot Deck
The crew spends the next few hours unwinding and having a Sasha-cooked lunch. J. pulls Can aside and grills her on what she thinks happens to the people who go into “recovery” at the Solarian church, like Liv Chain and her crew just earlier. Can confirms that never sees them again, but she’s told that they are generally sent offworld to a nearby system to get better treatment, and they don’t come back to avoid the temptation and live better lives. The Solarian Church, after all, is spread throughout the nearby systems and helps people find new lives. J. replies, “So it sounds like you’re saying they go into ‘rehab’ and you never see them again. Shouldn’t they get re-integrated back into society, back where they’re from? Isn’t it weird that not one of them has come back?” This line of questioning just makes Can frustrated and uncomfortable, and she clams up.
White Ape: A crowd favorite cage-fight combatant on the Iblis’s Crown station, a cybernetically-augmented albino gorilla known for ripping opponents’ arms off.
J. sends Can to go off and check out the ship while the rest of the crew deliberate about what to do next. They identify a few tasks:
Olivia edits the videos they took, making a version for Jacquet and a special version at J.’s request, showing just the inside of the “rehabilitation” room with the drugged people locked up in shower stalls — J. thinks they may need to show this to Can at some point, so she will know the truth about her dad’s operation. But for now, she will keep her in the dark. Sasha cleans the ship and gives a tour to William Henry Harrison. Can explores the outside of the ship and Sonia, their psychic pilot, asks Alex about the “bug” crawling on her. Alex says that she’s cool.
J. and Alex grab Can and head to AKMC HQ to get their guns back and talk to Ben Rashid. They head up to his office, where he embraces his daughter, thanking her for guiding the crew and keeping an eye on them. He tells her to head out, he needs to talk business with J. and Alex. She protests that she should stay, she’s going to take over the business someday and she wants to be more involved. Ben retorts, “you shouldn’t be any more involved than you already are, Khalas. I do all this, run this place so you don’t ever have to. You’re going to have a real life somewhere, you’re going to get away from this backwater station and become somebody. Now go.” She leaves in a huff and slams the door behind her.
Ben, frustrated, looks out his office window at the hub of the Iblis’s Crown below, and, muttering to himself, laments his inability to really get through to his daughter, as if there was nobody in the room. But then he turns to J. and Alex and says, “But you saw what this business is. You understand why she shouldn’t be a part of it. I give her these little errands to placate her but … anyway.”
Sighing, he gets down to business: they’ve shown that they’re a capable crew, and he needs more jvara moved offworld than the Solarian shuttles can move on their own. He needs the crew to take a shipment to the Babylon Red system, a few jumps away. “You won’t have the protection of being a Solarian Church ship, so it’ll be a dangerous run, but”, he says as he slides a credchip with 60,000 credits on it across his desk, “there’ll be much, much more where this came from.” His people will start loading up cargo onto the Grasshopper and the ship will be ready to go in a few days. “In the meantime, go out and enjoy what the station has to offer — go spend that money!” He also says to keep an eye on Nip, as he’s been acting strange lately: “make sure he’s not up to anything and there’s a bonus in it.” As J. and Alex leave, they hear him muttering he can’t trust anyone any more, not even his old pal Nip.
They collect their guns and bring them back to the IMV Grasshopper, checking them in with Olivia, who’s taken on the role of quartermaster. Then they divvy up the money from Ben as everyone gets ready to head out for a night on the town! Alex hardcastle puts on the captain’s bars that he picked up from the body of the ship’s former captain — Sasha puts on a crisp all-white jumpsuit and gels his hair — J. and Olivia don their casual civvies — William doesn’t do anything special, since he goes there all the time — and Can, back in her room on the station, still sulking, puts on a black t-shirt she’s scrawled “WHITE APE SUCKS” onto, then pulls on her mom’s old black bomber jacket with “SUCK IT UP” embroidered across the back, and heads out to Below Zero for Fight Night.
The bar is smoky and dark, lit only with holograms promoting the upcoming fight between White Ape and a man with cybernetic arms named “MEGA HANK”. Bar patrons, mostly teamster types, are mostly wearing white, in support of White Ape, the local favorite in the fight tonight. Can hangs out behind the bar and chats witha barback named Tyler, a squeaky, anxious teenager who’s worried for Can’s safety when she’s wearing a “WHITE APE SUCKS” t-shirt. Can says she’ll be fine, she’s ready for a fight, and anyway, she reminds him, nobody’s really going to do anything because her dad is the Station Warden.
The crew files in, and quickly splits off to different parts of the bar. J. sits at the bar and chats with Can, who seems to have developed a strong dislike for her since they last talked, and then orders a drink and scans the room for potential threats. Olivia makes a beeline for the bar, buys a white “I ♥ WHITE APE” t-shirt, and heads to a Gashopon-like machine full of fighter figurines and dumps in a bunch of credits. She gets 10 figurines out, mostly of fighters she’s never heard of in ridiculous poses, but she also gets a couple MEGA HANKs and three White Ape figurines, including a “very rare special edition” one of White Ape bellowing and holding two severed arms to the sky.
Sasha immediately becomes the life of the party in his flashy all-white jumpsuit as several White Ape fans clamor around him, buy him drinks, and take him to play Orbital, the holographic 3-D bar game. Can and Olivia peel off and head over to watch the fight together. William Henry Harrison heads to his usual spot at the darkest end of the bar and chats with the bartender, a friend and confidante named Frieda. She asks him if his plans to get off-station are going well, and when he says he’s hooked up with a crew, she gets a sad look in her eyes and tells him she’ll miss him. She says she has a parting gift, and pulls out from under the bar a pristine canister of the long-discontinued Tannhäuser TerraLube Original Formula — the real good stuff — “for your old-ass creaky joints.” She smiles and pats his metal hands, then heads off to make drinks for the people flowing into the bar.
Towards the back of the bar, Alex Hardcastle sees a familiar figure silhouetted by the window behind her: a tall, angular woman with a buzzcut, this time not in uniform but in a tasteful, simple white dress, drinking the night’s special, a White Ape Russian. Imogen Jacquet. She looks uncomfortable here and when she sees him, looks even moreso. He sits down, saying, “To be honest, I’m surprised you showed up.” She replies, “to be honest, me too.” Scanning him up and down, she says, “you clean up well, at least.” She pauses for a moment and quickly changes the subject to something she seems more comfortable with — the investigation. She asks how going back to AKMC went, and if he’s gathered the evidence she needs to bring before the Station’s Executive Council. He says they got some video but, hedging, says they don’t have it with them. She says that she wants it tonight — she’s sick of waiting. Hardcastle dithers and says he needs to talk to his people about it. She says “Just get it to me tonight.” They sip their drinks in silence.
People in the bar start chanting, “WHITE APE! WHITE APE!” signaling the fight has begun. Imogen looks up at the screens listlessly. Alex takes the opportunity to look around and is pretty sure everyone here knows who he’s sitting with … most of the patrons who aren’t engrossed in the match seem to be pointedly avoiding looking at them. He says, “yeah, you know, it’d be nice to go somewhere quieter.” She looks back at him and says, “let’s go for a walk. Talk to your crew and meet me outside in ten.”
Hardcastle heads back to the bar and has a hushed discussion with J., Olivia, and Sasha about the situation — she figures they’re in a tough spot: if they give the footage to Jacquet, there’s a good chance Ben Rashid finds out and will be out to kill them for sure, but if they don’t, who knows what Jacquet will do, and she has a lot of power here — she’s the head of the local SMC detachment and runs security on the station and could have them locked up, or who knows, vented out of an airlock or something.
Ultimately, the crew decides that he should go through with it, as long as he can get the assurance from Jacquet that she will keep Can and Nip safe in exchange for the evidence. Cooperating is their best bet, and anyway, they want to take down Ben Rashid and put a stop to his racket.
Alex heads outside, where Imogen is smoking under a neon light and crowds are rushing through the hazy alleys yammering excitedly about the fight, about bets and drugs and sex and money. Alex takes a cigarette Imogen offers and tells her he’s talked to his crew, and he has the footage for her after all. Before he gives it to her, though, he needs her assurance that she will keep Nip and Can safe, whatever happens. She considers for a minute and says, “They’re no angels, you know,” and Alex replies, “Neither am I. But here we are.” She smirks. “Alright. They’ll be safe, you have my word.”
He hands over the chip with the video on it. She pulls out a small device, plugs the chip into it, and plugs it into a port at the base of her skull. Her eyes go blank for several minutes, and she grimaces. Leaning back against a wall, as if for support, she pulls the wire out and looks Alex in the eyes. “Truly awful. And to think, the Solarians –” She exhales. “Well, thank you, Dr. Hardcastle. Horrible as it is, this is what I need to take Rashid down.”
“What’ll happen to him?” “I’ll bring him in. He’ll be tried before the Executive Council. Unless he resists arrest.” “And if he does?” Imogen lifts her eyes from the chip to Alex. “Then I’ll fucking kill him.” “Well … I — I hope he resists then,” he blurts out. “Between you and me — me too.”
Hardcastle notices that for the first time, she has a different look on her face. Until now she’s been imperious, mocking, like a cat eyeing its prey. But now she has a wry grin, almost impish and conspiratorial. “But all that’s for tomorrow. Well, now that we’re done with business for the night, ‘Dr. Hardcastle’ isn’t gonna cut it. What should I call you?”
“uh…you can call me Alex…”
“Imogen.” She rests her hand on his back. “Look, it’s been a long day for both of us, Alex, so I’ll cut to the chase: are we gonna fuck or what?”
Alex nearly inhales his cigarette.
Season 1 to be concluded…