EXT – night -cargo bay loading ramp
It is dark and rainy. A beat up and obviously heavily damaged military vehicle with a light machine gun mounted on top is being loaded into the Tajemnica. One crewman drives, another ground-guides it up. After it gets into place near the ramp, and the driver hops out and starts helping the ground-guide with tie-downs to secure it into place. In the background, several more damaged vehicles and containers of cargo can be seen, secured. Some have guns, some don’t. From the side of the entryway, between the inner doors and the ramp door, a multi-joint articulated arm silently unfolds from behind a long, narrow hatch cover. It has several wires, hoses, and an ammo-belt feed tray mounted on it. It snakes out, and heads over for the top of the APC.
View changes to looking upward at the crewman working to secure the tie-downs. The mechanical arm is extending silently over their heads as they work and chat about how to make sure the hold-down is tight. The arm is seen retracting back over their heads and folding into it’s storage bay with the machine gun firmly affixed to the end of it, almost as if it’s holding it. The gun tips up, and fold away with the arm, with room to spare.
The crewman finish getting it tied down, and stand up. One of them looks up to the top of the APC, cocks his head to the side as he notices the gun is gone, looks as if he’s almost going to say something, he turns to his partner, and notices he’s not there any more, glances back at it, shrugs his shoulders, and turns to complete some other task.
Injured troops move slowly up the ramp into the loaded cargo bay. Some are missing legs, some arms, some have prosthetics, some don’t, a couple are in wheel-chairs being pushed by fit soldiers. They are filing in, by the vehicles, and up the stairs, or taking the elevator if in a wheelchair. Bipasha watches them mechanically, checking their names on her manifest as they board, and telling them where to bunk. Allonia watches them from the background on looking like she’s on the verge of tears. Some of the soldiers look happy, some look grim. Kaushik, Kaminski, Horkle, and some of the other recruits are carrying several duffel bags for the soldiers. Their faces show they are trying not to think about this being a possible fate for them.
INT – night – Mid-deck port passageway.
Injured soldiers shuffle down the passage, going into their assigned cabin as they get to it. Camera pans into a room, and shows a couple of guys getting settled in. One puts his duffel into the locker at the far end, a couple of bunks have people in them laying down already, one guy is sliding himself into a lower bunk.
INT – night – bridge
Cooper is at the pilot station, Helton command, Kaushik co-pilot (wearing full space suit), Kat at comm / sensors.
Cooper is just closing the pre-flight checklist.
Cooper: And, that’s everything! Only four check failures total, acknowledged as mission non-critical. A new record. Well, let’s see how she flies with a load. Aaaannnnd, powering up. Main power in the green. A-Grav and Harmon Drives show ON LINE. Here we go!
EXT – Night – Mil Base 1
In the dark of the night, the shadowy figure of the Tajemnica rises slowly, lit only by lights on the ground around it. It noses up a bit, turns a bit, and heads off into the distance.
INT – Night- Mid-deck Starboard Passageway.
Harbin is looking in on some of the injured troops. Most of the bunks are in use.
Injured Soldier1: This is the smallest berth I’ve ever been put on!
Injured Soldier2: when yo sleepin, makes no diff, though. An you sleep a LOT on those drugs!
Injured soldier3: Food’s best we’ve had in a while. Reminds me of home.
Injured soldier4: And those curves go’n round make’n sure we are comfy? Whoo!
Harbin grins and nods- he’s heard it all, and it sounds like normal chatter of good troops in good spirits.
Suddenly, the lights go up to full brightness. Everyone sort of pauses and looks around, wondering what’s up. Quinn walks down the hallway, past their door.
Harbin: Light back to 50%.
Ship AI (calm female voice): I can’t do that.
Harbin: Why not?
Ship AI: Proper pediatric ocular development requires a minimum of two hours Earth-normal full sunlight per day cycle, and periods of enhanced UV exposure for vitamin D.
Injured soldier1: Huh? Pediwhatic?
Injured soldier4: Means kids eyes need bright sunlight, dipstick.
Harbin: Well… Oh, whatever. Just don’t do it when he wakes up in the middle of the night, OK.
Ship AI: Of course not. At night, it’s dark.
Harbin shakes his head, and moves off to check the next cabin.
Lt Kat: (on intercom, OC) First Sergeant, you are needed at the new guest cabin, please.
Harbin: On my way.
INT – Night – Small guest cabin.
A small cabin, with bunk, open door to a small bathroom, storage cabinets, a fold-away chair and fold-down desk, and not much else except Kat, Harbin, Payton, and a injured soldier (CUSTOMER1, 25, reasonably handsome and clean-cut, obviously fit, missing part of an arm).
Harbin: Is there a problem?
Payton: Why’s HE here? (points to Customer1)
Customer1: The First Sergeant sent me here, like I said.
Payton: Why? You said no kinky stuff.
Harbin: The contract said only acts that would not be considered unusual, and no abuse or damage. Has that happened?
Payton: Nothing’s happened yet!
Harbin: Lt Kat, perhaps you should explain the contract she made.
Payton: I KNOW what I SAID!
Harbin: As do I. Perhaps you did not SAY what you MEANT.
Kat: (pitched voice to AI) Display Miss Smith’s contract with Harbin on the wall, please.
The contract text pops up on a wall screen.
Kat: You offered lots of sex in exchange for transport. Stipulations include type of sex, medical review, how often, consequences for failure to perform, use of standard definitions, destination and transport conditions. Nothing is said about WHOM you are to have sex WITH. Prostitution is legal in this system. It’s a perfectly valid inter-personal contract.
Payton: THAT’S NOT What I was offering!
Harbin: But it IS what you said. YOUR words. So, the “on demand” schedule is: One at a time. Five to ten minutes between each one for clean-up and recovery, depending on how long they take. Six two-hour shifts per 24-hour cycle. See all of them that are so inclined once before any repeat customers. Lottery draw for order.
Payton: NO WAY will I do that.
Harbin: You know the penalty for failure to perform?
Harbin points to and highlights the sentence on the screen.
Harbin: “Disembark immediately” doesn’t mean “at the next stop.” It means NOW.
Payton: We’re is space right now, so I can’t-
Harbin: It means NOW. The first step is a big one.
Payton’s eyes get big. Harbin’s tone says he’s serious.
Kat: Look at it this way. Would you rather have hours of sex with this old goat (nods towards Harbin), or a bunch of young studs like this (nods to customer 1), most of whom won’t last three minutes if you are really trying, will be eternally grateful, and a goodly percentage of which are likely virgins? You’ll make a LOT of friends. And the contract says no-one can talk about it. The First Sergeant here will make sure you are NOT abused or injured.
Payton looks at them, considering her options. She looks at the smiling Customer1, then back at a somewhat scowling Harbin. She nods.
Payton: My mom always said to be careful around soldiers.
Harbin: Be careful with ANYONE who will hold you to your word. Even more careful of those that don’t.
Kat nods to Payton and Customer 1, then waves Harbin out the door. They exit, and close it behind them. Bipasha is standing in the passageway.
Harbin: (dryly) “Old goat?”
Kat: Seemed an appropriate tack at the moment. No offense – just perspective for her.
Bipasha: All straightened out in there?
Kat: Yes, I’m sure he will be shortly. Legal mater settled, too.
Bipasha: How’d she take it?
Harbin: Several ways, most likely.
Bipasha looks at him as if to say “SERIOUSLY, now.”
Harbin: Very well, all considered.
Kat: Would you have really spaced her?
Harbin shrugs, looks inscrutable.
Bipasha: Hmmm… sucks to be her.
Fade to black.
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Creepy – so that darned ship DOES have a mind of its own…..
Yeah… sorta. Consider: monks had the crystals, they got shipped unexpectedly to Helton, Quinn lifted them and installed them at the ship’s request. What sort of people do the Monks of St Possenti mostly work with? How many memory crystal sockets were in Quinn’s cubby, and how many are now filled? What sort of ship is this, and what sort of people is Helton working with? What did the ship AI say to Allonia about her genetics, and how “other” gets treated?
Heh. Yeah, a few of those questions/insights are rattling around inside my noggin right now (sorry there’s not room for more, but just found out a local air museum has a working ME-262 on hand for the next couple of days….my lunch may have to consist of a drive to see….and drool…). Methinks Payton will also be a LOT more circumspect in her contractual wording in the future.
This stuff will keep – go see the ME-262. VERY cool. Surprised to see one is still flying.
Yes, I expect that it will be a memorable learning experience for Ms Smith.
Unfortunately, work lets out at 5, and I couldn’t bring myself to sneak out at 4:30. Darn morals. Got to watch the P-51, C-47 (with invasion stripes and karate-chop action pilot!), B-17, and B-24 fly overhead, though. The 262 must’ve been in their hangar, the door was shut for the day. Dangit! The ’51 was interesting, though….it was a two-seater model, which I’d never seen IRL before. Beautiful ships, all of them, and a pleasure to watch!
Oh, too bad. Seeing the old jet would have been cool. But the others are pretty slick as well. first time I saw a B24 I was sitting at an intersection, window rolled down, beautiful sunny day, and I heard that distinctive multi-engine radial sound, and I looked around in a light-speed rubber-neck wondering WHAT THE HECK!? I saw it come screaming in over a low ridge about a hundred feet above the trees, sunlight glinting off it. Just SWEET looking. Never forget it. I’d love to take the kids up for a ride in one some day when they are older, know the WW II history a bit more, and can appreciate it nearly as much as I do.