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And now, at Cape Canaveral in the year 2550…
Crumpton, aide to Omar Panderyn, waits near the archway leading to the tarmac for the shuttle to Antarctica.
Tilsworth appears from the direction of the East Corridor, pushing a cart with one squeaky wheel towards the departure gates, loaded with two large suitcases. He himself is dressed in a thick dark blue parka with a large furred collar, the hood of which is currently down. His cane is perched on the suitcases as the cart itself provides him support. He puts on a smile as he approaches Mr. Crumpton. “Ah, good to see you again, young man. I’m ready for my trip to the polar regions.”
“Oh, very good, sir, very good,” Crumpton says, clasping his hands behind his back. “But, uh, the hoverbus is waiting out in front of the terminal to take you to the Everglades.”
Kinako, having found herself with a surplus of job opportunities since the terrorist attacks, is padding around the Promenade in her sensible shoes and a white coat over her usual loosely-tailored suit. Sighting both Tilsworth and Panderyn’s aide, she beelines in that direction just in time to hear the latest change in plans. She approaches Crumpton, stops a polite distance away, and bows. “Kon’nichiwa, gentlemen,” she says, in warm, kindergarten-teacher tones. “Is something amiss?”
Maxwell comes strolling in from the lounge, looking fairly chipper, and occasionally munching a honey roasted peanut. Heading towards the ever embiggening crowd, naturally.
Raynaldus comes walking in from the lounge, not far behind Maxwell and watches where he is going. Then he notices the crowd and heads into that direction.
“Doctor,” Crumpton says with a smile to Kinako. “The bus is ready for you, as well. Tilsworth won’t be alone on Ulm Station. Might as well see if he can survive in the wild among friends, yes?” He glimpses the approach of Maxwell and Reynaldus. “Well! All aboard, yes, indeed.”
Tilsworth is rather unable to hide his shock at this turn of events. “Ahem… indeed. Perhaps I misheard. No matter… I am sure these provisions I have brought can be adapted for the new environment. I never travel without a sewing kit, you see.” he says, bringing back his smile. “Well then, young man, let us not waste time.” With that, he begins to push his cart towards the doors and to the hoverbus beyond.
Kinako blinks twice, and then carefully arranges her features into a -very- polite smile. “…ah, I should be more surprised at this development, perhaps, than I am. Kindly give me a moment to retrieve my luggage. You did not mis-hear, Doctor Tilsworth-san,” she murmurs, reverting to more formal language in the face of what is apparently a surprise ‘family’ camping trip. “I shall return momentarily.” She pads off.
“That won’t be necessary,” Crumpton assures Kinako. “Your luggage, that is. You’ll all have to make do with whatever Tilsworth has packed, you see.”
Maxwell nods “Well. I guess let’s be off, then.”
Raynaldus looks a bit surprised. “Wait, we’re going where? Did I miss a message? I can’t recall mentioning of a trip? I thought I was going to get a test first?” He then hears Crumpton talk about Tilsworth’s luggage and smiles. “Aahh… a survival trip. I should have known.” He says with a smile. “Thats been a while to be honest.”
Kinako purses her lips, and turns to face Mister Crumpton. “Then you will, at the very least, kindly allow me to retrieve my overnight bag, as Doctor Tilsworth-san and I are of vastly different professions and it would be impolite to deprive me of the necessary implements of my station. Not to mention a change of clothing.” Her vocal tones remain calm and polite, but the words are delivered as a statement, not a query.
“Can’t do that,” Crumpton replies to Kinako as a redcap arrives to haul Tilsworth’s bags to the bus. “Rules of the exercise. Expect the unexpected. Work with what you have. I’ll ride with you as far as the dropoff point, then I’ll bid farewell.”
Tilsworth pauses a moment as the rest are recruited to join him for his trip to his new destination of the Everglades, looking at his suitcases, and back to them, and the look on his face is one of confusion and perhaps a bit of shock.
Maxwell raises an eyebrow.
Raynaldus nods and looks to Kinako. “I understand if these rules for the exercise are annoying. But in the end there meant to for us to learn to survive with what we have. When where on the station in space, we’ll have to make do with what we have as well. We can’t just go to a store and buy what we need, or order something.”
Kinako sighs quietly, and folds her arms across her chest. “If the -station- is ill-equipped, Lionheart-san, I will very firmly decline further employment,” she says, with all of the force of a ball of feathers bound together with slightly dampened talcum powder. She pads quietly back over to Crumpton, frowning again. “If anyone on this trip is harmed because of a lack of adequate medical supplies, unpleasantries shall be exchanged. Kajuaruna amerikan’nansensu.” She straightens her white coat, shoulders her purse with a look that openly challenges anyone to try and take it from her, and walks towards the awaiting bus without a further word.
While the redcaps manage Tilsworth’s bags, Crumpton asks the older man, “Ready to go, sir?”
Tilsworth has managed to recover himself, taking up the cane from the cart as the redcaps gather up his luggage and returning his support to it. “Yes, young man, I’m ready to go. No sense wasting time, let us get to the task set before us.”
Maxwell munches the last peanut from his packet and nods. “Indeed.”
Raynaldus nods and watches Kinako walk with an understandable amount of possible anger in her about the task at hand. “I shall hope the station is not ill equipt m’lady. If it is, then some people messed up badly.” he says then walks towards the waiting ride.
The redcaps lead the way, then get to work loading the bags into an open compartment on the passenger boarding side of the hoverbus. The bus driver is a gaunt woman with stringy white hair worn under a blue baseball cap emblazoned with a green letter Y. She’s got an eyepatch over the left eye and a shoulder holster with a slugthrower tucked into it. “Piss now if you gotta,” she informs the group. “One on board’s out of order. Blame that raw chihuahua they passed off as ropa vieja last night. Holy Jesus. And maybe sit in the first three rows, unless you’ve got a filter mask.”
Kinako selects a seat towards the front of the bus, lips pressed into a thin, almost bloodless line. She smoothes her white coat across her knees and rests her hands in her lap, fingertips together. “Namu myoho renge kyo,” she murmurs a few times, between slow, deep breaths.
Tilsworth looks up to the.. eccentric bus driver, and manages a smile. “Rest assured madam my bladder is fully evacuated.” he says as he steps aboard the bus and finds himself a seat in the second row back.
Maxwell sighs slightly before boarding the bus and finding a seat across the aisle from Tilsworth
Raynaldus As he arives at the bus he waits for the rest to step in first, making sure they get to choose their seat first. Then he steps in and picks the seat across from Kinako in front of the bus.
Crumpton climbs aboard, settling into a seat in the third row, opposite the driver’s side. She settles into her seat in the front and starts final checks on the bus for travel status. “Hydraulics, good. Solar cells, full charge. Electrolytes, on the mend.” She picks up a cylinder of orange liquid, takes a gulp. Then she pats the gun. “Security officer, present.” She glances into the rear view and tells her passengers: “Buckle up, pilgrims. We’re rolling out shortly.”
Kinako opens one eye and checks to ensure that her belt is properly buckled.
Maxwell takes a moment to untwist his belt, and secures himself in.
Tilsworth settles his cane to where it won’t fall, and buckles his belt securely.
Raynaldus buckles up and checks to make sure it’s secure. Then he looks up and thinks to himself a bit outloud. “If we get back from this I should start making a bakcpack of sorts with important survial stuff in it. Just in case.”
The doors hiss shut. The driver checks the luggage status light. Still yellow. She flicks on the comm and says, “Let’s get a seal back there, boys.” A clunking sound, then the light goes green. “All right. Off we go.” She engages the drive and the hoverbus eases forward.
Crumpton glances back through his window to see Omar Panderyn standing with the redcaps and a pile of suitcases.
“Told you no one would get out and check,” one redcap says to Panderyn.
Panderyn nods, then offers a credit chip to the redcap, saying, “Per our agreement.”
“We -will- get back from this, Mister Lionheart-sir,” Kinako says, in between cleansing breaths and murmured invocations of the Lotus Sutra. “If only to lodge a very strongly worded complaint with station authorities regarding the severe lack of honorable protocol.”
“I’m sure we shall be fine, my dear. In fact this is rather exciting… I do enjoy a good puzzle.” Tilsworth says.
Raynaldus nods to Kinako. “Good point, m’lady. We will get back from this indeed. Such positive thinking is a good start.” He says and looks to Tilsworth. “Puzzles? Thats one way of lucking at it. Your a fan of solving puzzles, sir?” He ask kindly.
Maxwell nods “Puzzles are nice, but I confess I prefer abstract puzzles than a sudden swamp vacation.”
“Indeed… but a puzzle is a puzzle, and this is a puzzle nonetheless. We have been given a playing board, the pieces are arranged, now our time to plan the solution is approaching.” Tilsworth says.
Kinako takes another slow, deep breath. “It is not the challenge that unsettles me, Doctor Tilsworth-san, what I am upset by is the lack of respect, and generally cavalier and dishonorable behavior. If it is simply too much to ask that team members be notified in advance of where they will be required to be at a given moment, that bodes very poorly for the performance of this project.” She takes another breath, and exhales. “Coddling is not necessary, but a good team should at least feel moderately valued.”
“Team needs to be a team before value can be judged,” offers Crumpton from his seat further back.
“Quite true, young man, and I do see the value in what you are trying to accomplish. We come from different backgrounds, different cultures even. How will we work together? It is true, in space, on a station, if critical situations occur, we must know we can rely upon one another.” Tilsworth says. “Such situations can occur any time, from anywhere, and perhaps may not meet our preset expectations… we must be able to adapt.”
Raynaldus nods agreeing with Crumpton and Tilsworth. “And thats just the thing I already learned years ago. I’m actualy curious to see what this situation will do for this team.”
The hoverbus starts whirring speedily down an upper tier of Interstate 95, southbound, in a commercial transport traffic lane marked by purple guidance lights.
“We should reach the dropoff point in about fifteen minutes,” the driver announces, before taking another swig of orange liquid. “Want any tunes? Stereo’s shit on this thing, but I know a few Joplin tunes.”
“Kindly be mindful of the fact that my presence has been unceremoniously required,” Kinako replies matter of factly, “Twice. I apologize for my present state of displeasure but will not dismiss it until the situation merits. Intent does not excuse dishonor, and dishonor does not inspire loyalty.” She fixes Crumpton with a mild Look before returning to her meditative breathing.
“You want off, Dr. Kinako?” Crumpton inquires. No malice in the tone, just simple matter-of-fact inquiry.
Maxwell idly hums a vaguely hopeful sounding tune while watching the passing scenery.
Raynaldus is about to say something but then Crumpton speaks and Raynaldus desides to remain quiet for not.
“So, I guess that’s a big fat no on the Joplin tunes,” the driver mumbles grumpily. “Y’all bitches are missin’ out. Whatever.”
Tilsworth patiently waits for the bus to arrive at its destination, adjusting his glasses as he looks out the window.
Kinako exhales. “Not as of yet; I will not leave these gentlemen without medical assistance,” she replies, without opening her eyes.
Raynaldus smiles to kinako. “glad to hear it miss.”
Maxwell nods “It’s appreciated.”
“Good,” Crumpton offers simply, shortly before a bullet cracks through his window and strikes him in the neck. He tumbles over into the aisle, gasping as blood spills from the wound. More salvos strike the hull of the bus, spanging off metal and shattering glass – mostly toward the rear.
“Shit!” the driver proclaims. “Swampers! We got Swampers!” She’s watching on sensors as a hostile target ascends from below and to the right, closing distance and trying to match altitude.
“Ten to ji no kamigami!” Kinako blurts, opening both eyes and pulling herself over the aisle by grasping the tops of the seats. She drops low and approaches the fallen Crumpton, yanking on the hem of her coat hard enough to tear it. “Is there an aid kit on board please. I need a pressure bandage!” She finishes tearing away a section of coat and folds it into a square, moving to press it to Crumpton’s wound.
Tilsworth quickly attempts to get to the floor, cane forgotten as he attempts to protect his head as best he can. “My word!”
Maxwell struggles for a moment to get his belt undone, and more or less falls onto the floor. “Well, I’d say we’re probably well united in not enjoying this trip…”
Raynaldus quickly takes of his belt and gets to the floor as well and looks around. “Any weapons on this vehicle?”
“Was a first aid kit,” the driver reports, jerking a thumb back toward the rear of the bus. The rectangular container mounted on the bulkhead is now peppered with bullet holes, coagulant fluids and synthblood spilling from within. She aims the bus toward a higher altitude, clear of the marked interstate lanes and toward commercial air traffic, where it may become dangerously cold and hard to breathe. “Hillbillies ain’t gettin’ my other eye.” She locks the autopilot into position, then yanks the pistol from its holster and stalks down the aisle, stepping over Crumpton on the way toward the restroom.