Icarus returns to Persephone, where Annabelle leaves, telling the crew that she’s off to track down Fiske, and will be in touch. Willem puts a “want ad” out on the Cortex, advertising the need for a Ship’s Doctor.
The ad pays off, in the form of Kai, an academy-trained doctor from the Core Worlds (
Speaking of Aida, she and Leda went shopping for “dresses with some serious slink.” While in the shop, they notice two men, shabbily dressed and obviously packing guns, trying very hard to be inconspicuous.
In a Dress Shop.
So, Aida and Leda get the idea to sneak out the back door. Unfortunately, it’s locked. Forgoing stealth, Leda pulls a gun and blows the lock, and they barrel into the alleyway behind the store…and right into the waiting arms of Badger, everyone’s favorite “sad little king on a sad little hill”, and three more of his armed thugs.
Badger says that he’s got a message for the Captain. He says that word has it that Icarus was the final vehicle for the famed Simon “Apocalypse” Chow, and, given that he and Badger were such “good friends and boon companions”, Badger would like to have Chow’s cat, as a “momento of their friendship.” The girls are to tell Willem that Badger will be along later that evening to collect the cat, and would be very put out if the ship wasn’t there when he came to call.
Leda and Aida go back to Icarus, meet the new crew members, and tell everybody what’s what. Panic ensues about how Badger knows about the cat. The original crew members tell Kai and Gideon about the cat, and the fact that it appears to be carrying a small amount of “non-specific human tissue” within its body. Kai offers to do a biopsy to discover more.
Willem realizes that Badger would never have given advanced notice of his visit, so he must be up to something. The question is, what? Did he tell them that he’d show up later to throw them into a panic, so that he can show up early and unprepared? Is he cleverly warning them that word has gotten out about the cat? Or is he looking for them to run, and therefore confirm that they DO have the cat? Questions, questions.
Kai performs the biopsy, and discovers what the cat is carrying. She immediately wishes that she hadn’t.
She tells the crew that the cat is carrying a lump of non-specific human tissue (similar to a cluster of stem cells). This tissue is genetically engineered, and most likely cloned. It is used as information storage…the ‘blank template’ portion of the DNA is being used to encode data…so essentially, this lump of goo is a data disc of sorts. To read the stored information, they would need a DNA scanner, which is something that can only be found at large hospitals or government installations.
The really bad news? The engineered tissue is tagged “property of the Blue Sun Corporation.”
Gideon eyes the cat. “They got any rivers on this planet?”
Aida and Jules check the Cortex, making sure that Badger didn’t get his information on them from there. They find no references to Chow, the cat, Icarus or its crew….but witness a news update that indicates that Badger has just been “picked up for questioning.” Almost on cue, they also get a wave from the Eavesdown Docks harbourmaster, who tells them that they’ve been selected for a random customs inspection, and that customs officials will be arriving soon.
Curiouser and curiouser. A customs inspection at night?
While the crew wastes an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what to do, the inspector shows up. Only it’s not a Customs Inspector…it’s a single Federal Marshal. They decide to play it cool.
The Marshal inspects the ship, using a device that Willem recognizes from his days as a covert operative– an IR scanner that tracks heat signatures, and can be set to a specific temperature. If he has set that to the body temperature of a cat….
Luckily, though, the cat’s body temperature was lowered when it was put under for the biopsy. The Marshal finds nothing, and leaves.
The crew decide to get the hell out of Dodge (or, er….Persephone, in this case). To avoid arousing suspicion, Willem decides to go talk to his friend Carmen, who is a local businesswoman, and who can give them a fake cargo manifest, so it doesn’t look like they’re leaving one of the busiest ports in the ‘verse without a paying cargo. He heads out to her place, with Leda and Gideon in tow.
Along the way, they are attacked by four men in a hover-mule. They take cover behind a Good Dogs stand, and a firefight ensues, which ends rather abruptly when Leda plugs the driver with a shotgun, the hover-mule crashes full-speed into the stand, and Gideon and Willem dispatch the survivors of the crash almost immediately thereafter. With no idenitification, the three surmise that these men work for Badger, and might have assumed that the crew is somehow responsible for his recent arrest.
The crew decides that discretion is the better part of valor, and, cargo manifest or no, they get the hell off-world as soon as gorram possible, with two new crew members, and a cat carrying secrets stolen from Blue Sun.