INT – mid-deck passageway, next to an open cargo bay window
Lag, Helton, Bipasha, and Cooper are looking at the growing crowd on the cargo deck of several hundred refugees.
Lag: I think we are being set up.
Bipasha: But I checked the contract source, it was good. The payment bond was posted!
Cooper: Well, it damn sure ain’t what I was expecting.
Helton: (to Lag) Why?
Lag: Every group I talked to said they were being driven toward here – all other routes closed, and posters and broadcasts saying here was the place to go. A regular campaign for the last five days. Led to believe there were a lot of ships here to fly them to safety, but always anonymous and unsourced.
Bipasha: That’s NOT what the news was saying back home.
Cooper: But WHY?
Helton: Doesn’t make a lot of difference for the moment.
Lag: Maybe it does. Knowing why they got sent here would shed light on what we should do. In the mean time, how many are there?
Cooper: A LOT more than we can take if sensors are right.
Bipasha: How many CAN we take? If we put some on A-Deck, we could-
Helton: NO. Can’t let them get into crew and normal passenger area. We don’t have anywhere CLOSE to enough security for that. Maybe a few more special cases, like families with children, on Mid Deck only.
Lag: Right. With that many, any sort of panic would be impossible to control if they are on all decks. We keep ‘em on the Cargo Deck, secure the side doors; not comfy for them, but safe for us. If we stack’em standing like spoons there… (does quick mental calculation) maybe 3000.
Bipasha: Then we take 3000.
Lag: We can’t.
Bipasha: You just said-
Cooper: We don’t have the oh-two capacity right now for that many people breathing for more than maybe thirty minutes.
Helton: How long to the refugee center?
Cooper: An hour minimum, if nothing goes wrong. And if we ARE being set up, WRONG is assured.
Bipasha: We could fly low, and keep the aft ramp down.
Helton: Piled with beans, remember? Besides, if we are low enough to not freeze them or depressurize them, that puts us in easy range of any ground fire. We don’t know what they have, or where it is. At that altitude, we’ll have to go slow, so it’ll take closer to twelve hours. That solves the air problem, assuming we don’t get one good hit that makes us ALL dead, but then we have water and sanitation problems. Packed that tight, we can’t water them, and they’ll just have to sweat and shit where they stand, and many of them are already in rough shape, so a riot and crush is likely. Any medical problems will just have to suck it up and stand there.
Cooper: Isn’t this thing armored?
Helton: If we have the cargo doors open, it may not do a lot of good. It’s great armor, but I’m not going to bet my life on it just yet against heavy ground-fire if I don’t have to. Impact from a ship is one thing, high explosives and hardened penetrators are another.
Bipasha: So why not 1500?
Lag: Still have to go low and slow, or high and fast and just let em pass out. They’ll still be stacked like so many dropped toys, and half of them will get crushed and suffocate on the bottom of the heap anyway, especially if we try to take more women and children, or the injured.
Cooper: Oh, fer fuck’s sake, how about a thousand, and make a dozen fast trips if we need to?
Helton: More than a couple of trips and we get seen enough to become a major target, especially if we HAVE been set up. You saw what they did to Trask’s flier.
Bipasha: So you are saying we might just have to leave a lot of them standing there?
Lag: Yes… And we can’t even tell the last one standing in line that we are coming back, or we raise the risk of returning even higher as word spreads. When I say ‘lift’, we go RIGHT THEN. No count-down. The drives ARE still hot, right?
Cooper nods affirmative.
Helton: Back to square one- how many, and what course?
Lag: If we knew who and why…
Helton: Piss anyone off lately?
Lag: Lately? (snort) You?
Helton: Right. Dumb question.
Bipasha: So, who could possibly gain from a refugee problem, and us dieing, if they are paying us to come here?
Helton: We only get paid on return and off-load.
Lag: Any number of politicians might use it for an event-point. Hmmmm…
Bipasha: Seymore and Darch Industries handle most of the local transport management contracts-
Lag: -and Councilman Darch just lost a son-
Helton: – so get us killed in revenge, he DOESN’T have to pay out the contract, AND it jacks up the demanded rate because of how dangerous it is, he takes a cut through insuring the ships HE knows won’t get shot, and if we are packed full it would make for HUGE news, and people would demand that they DO something. Revenge, political leverage, AND profits. So, NOW what?
Lag: The contract was quite specific on the refugee center. We have to take the NON-obvious approach to get there, because he can’t expect to set an ambush on every route. He’ll likely try to hit us soon after lifting here, expecting us to head directly for it, and we HAVE to lift from here, and have a backup on the normal approach near the RC.
Helton: OK. Cut it at about a thousand – with scrubbers and Allonia’s plants, we can make enough oh-two for that many buttoned up, barely, for a while – not fun, but somewhere this side of hell. Anyone watching us will think we still have room. Cooper, head low and fast south as soon as we lift. About 60 kilometers out go straight up and make a big circle around to the far side of things, then drop in and come in hot and low.
Cooper: Hot and low?
Helton: Well, as hot and low as we CAN go.
Lag: I’ll contact Kat and Harbin to get the intel guys up to speed with eyes on what’s moving unexpectedly, and keep us updated. If we know where they are, we can just go around them, and if they go where they aren’t supposed to trying to take us out, I can sell the intel to local forces for a good price, dealing with our immediate problem-
Helton: -fill the contract-
Bipasha: – get paid –
Cooper: – and piss off Seymore and Darch no end!
Helton: Sounds like a plan. Time to get inside THEIR OODA loop!
Ext – day – quiet 3rd story balcony with a view of the port
Two guys in paramilitary uniform watch the port. One has binoculars watching the ship, the other a hand radio. The ship is almost perfectly end-on towards them, so he can see inside the open cargo bay doors.
Binoc Guy: Looks like they are going for a full load. Packed in back, but still a lot of room up front. They are checking everyone. Haven’t heard from Lindsey saying she got denied boarding, so she should let us know soon when it looks like they are about to leave. Ah, there are a couple more being turned away. Gunna be a while.
Binoc guy put them down lets the binoculars hang from the strap around his neck. He and the Radio Guy turn and face inside, talking to someone there
Radio Guy: Hey, can you bring a cup of that out here!
Binoc Guy: Make that two!
A few moments later, a curtain parts and a younger guy comes out with two steaming mugs of coffee. He hands one to each of them.
Coffee Guy: Here you go… why didn’t you tell me it left already?
The other two spin around and look, spilling coffee on each other, and sure enough, there is a crowd of people and no ship. The radio guy looks around, the binocular guy puts them to his eyes and scans the horizon quickly.
Radio Guy: WHAT THE HELL?! WHERE?
Binocular Guy: where-where-where-THERE! SOUTH!
Radio guy: SOUTH!? What the fuck?! (then into radio) SHIP LIFTED, heading south!
Radio: (OC) South? Are you sure?
Radio Guy: YES I’m BLIPP’N SURE! I’m watching them fly south right now!
Radio: (OC) Got nothing on the scope.
Binocular Guy: They are flying REALLY low!
Coffee guy: Aaahhh, shiiiit.
Fade to black.