[NOVA] Caught (K 3.2a)

edited October 2014 in NOVA

Ksenia, when you wake up, you are secured to a sturdy chair with the same milspec carbon-fiber zipties you used to restrain the soldiers in the main house. Your feet are double-bound to the legs of the chair, and your left arm is pulled behind and bound to the back. Your right arm has been removed—you can see it on a table near the door. A tight strap circles your ribcage just below the breasts, pulling you firmly against the chair's back.

Although the light is dim, you realize you are in your own bungalow, in the center of a 10x10 foot space that's been cleared of furniture. There are two soldiers guarding the door and another is standing several feet away, clearly waiting for you to regain consciousness.

Your head throbs, and you realize from the dizziness and nausea, and the pinpricks of light scattered throughout your field of vision, that you very likely have a mild concussion. It won't be a liability in the long term, but for now you're slightly confused and weak, and you will certainly feel the consequences later if you don't get some sort of treatment.

What do you do?


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    Frak. Mei beat me.

    Wait, is she dead? No... no no no

    They all die. Why did I care? So damn stupid. Weak, K, giving in. Now it's just you again.

    My frakking head.

    I try to keep up the pretense that I'm out. Good thing they didn't pull my leg. Never take butterfly knife out again, dumbass. I wonder if maybe I could twist my cyberleg so that it snaps the zips on my legs. Will it rip into my left leg? I'll test it quietly. Are they talking? Any radio chatter?

  • Ksenia, it's silent except for the ringing in your ears. Inside your throbbing head, too. No Cora, no Mei, nothing but your own confused thoughts. You slowly, slowly twist your right leg, testing the bonds, but it soon becomes clear that the flesh of your left leg will give long before the carbon fiber.

    A voice, probably the soldier who is just beyond what would be your reach if you could reach for anything right now, speaks. "The ultimate tensile strength of a basic weave carbon fiber is 500 kilopounds per square inch. You'll lose the foot you have left if you keep doing that."

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    I look up, blinking to try and see one soldier instead of three. "Well, what else have you got for me?" I was going for "badass quip", but it slurred out as "drunk chick at a bar".
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    The un-named soldier responds, his voice mellow and unconcerned. "So... how has your vacation been so far? Do you have any comments you'd like to share with management about the service or the amenities?"
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    I blink once, slowly, try to look in his eyes. I'm pretty sure I succeed, but he's sort of waving back and forth. I'm pretty sure that's me. "Frakked my girlfriend a few times, stabbed three of your buddies with a steak knife. It's been five stars so far." Just frakking hit me, you a-hole.
  • "Good. Good. I'm glad you've enjoyed your stay. For the record, what's your name? And who do you work for? And how did you know we'd be coming?"

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    Frak... what was my cover? If Mei's... "Where's Misty Brown? I'm her muscle."
  • The soldier ignores your question. "What is your name? Who do you work for? How did you know we'd be coming?" He walks to the table holding your arm and picks it up, holding it by the wrist.

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    "Monté Dirk," I answer, teeth clenched. "I work for Misty Brown. And I frak her from time to time. We didn't know you were coming, we don't even know who you are. Ayala's friends with one of Misty's friends... that's it."
  • The soldier takes a few steps closer, then takes your cyber-arm in both hands and swings it hard at your left side, connecting with serious force that drives your breath out from between your teeth. "What is your name? Who do you work for? How did you know we'd be coming?"

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    I slump over after he hits me, groan a little with the pain of it. "My name's Monté Dirk," I glare up at him, "Misty Brown is my boss. We don't know who you are." I'm trying to look at him like I'll never break, be Hard.

    Cora? Taban? You out there? Please be out there.

  • He swings the arm around a little, like he's about to take the plate in a baseball game, limbering up his shoulder. He just looks at you for a minute, Ksenia, with an almost friendly smile on his face. "Look, we're both professionals here, Monté. The information you provide has a freshness date that's quickly moving toward expiration, and you along with it. Tell me now and you might make it out alive." He swings again, connecting with the same spot, and you feel something crack. "You might need a new arm, though."

    "What is your name? Who do you work for? How did you know we'd be coming?"

    The inside of your head is simply a roar of static, from the blow to the head and the sharp pain of his blows. If Cora or Taban can hear you, which seems doubtful, there's no way for you to tell.

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    Frak me that hurt. I can't wait to break this a-hole's neck.

    "Ensign Ksenia Cribbage, Polity Psi Corps. Serial Number 052-884-621972." I rattle it off and spit blood on the floor.
  • edited October 2014


    He gives a disappointed sigh and tosses the arm aside. It crashes against the wall. He moves around behind your chair, unsheathing the carbonoid knife you so recently took from Ayala's cache. You feel the sharp, sharp blade touch the first knuckle of your left pinkie finger.

    "What is your name? Who do you work for? How did you know we'd be coming?"

    One of the guards on the door speaks up uncertainly. "Sarge?"

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    I do my best to control my breathing. I don't want to lose my pinky, I really don't. But there's nothing I can tell him. ""Ensign Ksenia Cribbage, Polity Psi Corps. Serial Number 052-884-621972."
  • Ksenia, you feel the knife bite into your skin, slicing through flesh, tendon, ligament, and neatly severing the tip of your pinky, precisely at the joint. The pain is incredible, and you can feel the heartbeat-driven pulse of blood from the wound increasing as your pulse soars.

    "Sarge" asks his questions again, and you give your answers. Through the pain, you feel the knife move down a knuckle and again sever the finger at the joint. Once again, he asks and you answer, and he grunts when you grit out the same response through your teeth, in the same cadence.

    Sarge re-enters your line of sight, dropping the knife on the table that formerly held your right arm. "Seventeen, take care of that finger," he says to the soldier that seemed to question him earlier, "I need to make a call." He strides out the door, which closes behind him.

    Seventeen moves to a med kit and pulls out the necessities. Soon enough, he's stopped the bleeding and dulled the pain. He moves back to his post at the door.

    It's hard for you to tell precisely how long it's been when Sarge walks back through the door. When he does, his expression is impassive, but something in his eyes is... afraid? uncertain? uncomfortable? He stops at a bag near the door and pulls out the device that releases the zip cuffs.

    He stops three paces from you, then stands to attention and snaps a crisp salute. "Master Sergeant Aaron Knapp, Polity Joint Special Operations Command, ma'am. Sorry for the misunderstanding." He touches the screwdriver-like device to the locking mechanisms, and the binders release, one by one. Then he steps back and returns to attention. The soldiers at the door both look as if they might pass out.

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    My left frakking eye welled up and a few tears leaked out. Alright, a shitload of them. I screamed both times. Hard. My throat is sore, actually. That was... it was just a pinky! Why didn't my pain tolerance kick in or something? God. I hurt. My whole body aches from tensing up like that.

    When Knapp releases me from the bindings, my body slumps forward. I catch myself from falling out by putting my left elbow on my knee. The pressure makes my pinky, my whole hand throb with pain, but I hide it as well as I can by sucking air through gritted teeth.

    That a-hole didn't break me then. I'm sure as frak not broken now. I plant my feet and push myself up. Head swimming, it's not easy. Balance is frakked. I want to stand proud, though. I hunch my shoulders forward, hand out for a second until I'm up. I snap off the best left-hand, pinky-missing salute I can manage. "I'm here, on furlough, with Ensign Taban Mei and some civvies on our crew. Where are they, Master Sergeant?"
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    "Ma'am, I assume they're wherever you left them, ma'am. We are engaged with those in the main house, ma'am. The Major is MIA."

    You absolutely recognize the tone and stance of this man. He has the demeanor of a highly competent noncom in a situation that he realizes has gone completely FUBAR through no fault of his own. MSgt Knapp will continue to take decisive action on his own recognizance until someone gives an order.

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    "Master Sergeant, are you trying to attack the residents of Mr. Ayala's estate? If so, I'll need you to pull your men back." I'm pushing my worry out of my voice, and stalking over to pick up my arm from where "Sarge" tossed it. I'm putting it back on.

  • Ksenia, Master Sergeant Knapp considers you for a moment. You're not in his chain of command, but the entirety of that chain is currently MIA. You were captured taking a bead on his men with a sniper rifle, but you are an officer of the Space Corps. He has orders and previously agreed protocols in place, but they do not cover the current situation. If you want to take charge here, let's see a roll.

    Difficulty: d10 (it's a charged situation, and it's crucial that you protect your friends)
    (Rolled: 1d10. Rolls: 6. Total: 6)
    MSgt Knapp: d8 (he's inclined to keep following existing orders until his actual CO changes them)
    (Rolled: 1d8. Rolls: 2. Total: 2)
    Ksenia is Captured: d10 (stepping it back, but you were recently a prisoner, and for good reason)
    (Rolled: 1d10. Rolls: 4. Total: 4)
    So Much Pain: d8 (trying to hold it together against a concussion and the pain of your pinky)
    (Rolled: 1d8. Rolls: 2. Total: 2)

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    1d8 Duty - I'm respecting the Corps right now, not raging against these men. I'm counting on them following chain of command
    1d10 Leadership - Hell yes, I'm pulling rank
    1d4 Temper Distinction - I am suuuuper pissed right now. Rage is seething off me. (gaining a PP)
    1d6 Asset - Snake Without a Head
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    (Rolled: 1d8. Rolls: 3. Total: 3) Duty
    (Rolled: 1d10. Rolls: 5. Total: 5) Leadership
    (Rolled: 1d4. Rolls: 1. Total: 1) Temper Distinction
    (Rolled: 1d6. Rolls: 5. Total: 5) Asset
  • I'll spend a PP to buy it up to a 13 to win. There's a 1 out there for you.

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    As he deliberates, I'm affixing my arm. I'm doing it with as much cool confidence as I can exude. If he's got a mission that overrides my order, that's how it goes, but then I will worm my way into saving my crew regardless. We have no part in this.
  • Ksenia, MSgt Knapp makes his decision. He speaks into his radio. "Stand down, stand down. Await further orders."

    "Ma'am," he addresses you, "If you'd like to take a seat again, Private Jaronsen is a field medic and should be able to help. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. If you don't mind, I'm going to take Private Del Rio and look for the Major so we can sort things out." He waits for your consent.

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    I give him a curt nod, letting him go. As I'm plugging my arm back in, I call sharply, "Sarge. Why don't you inform me of your team's mission while Jaronsen looks over my wound?" I'm looking right at the a-hole who tortured me.
  • Knapp straightens. "Respectfully, ma'am, take and hold the island while Major Brownlee does whatever she's here for. As to what she's here for, ma'am, fuck if I know. Force authorized if there was significant resistance, but lethal force only under imminent threat of lethal attack ourselves." He pauses, runs a hand over his face, the first moment his perfect demeanor has cracked. "Permission to speak freely, ma'am?" At your grudging nod, he continues. "Those were our orders, but I'm fucking out of the loop about the objective. The Major's orders were Ultraviolet, and we're just exceptionally well-trained grunts to her. I saw you there, with a sniper rifle pointed at my men, right after Major Brownlee went off comms, and I fucking panicked. I really am sorry, and I won't blame you if you strangle me with that arm of yours, but I'd prefer if you'd let me find Brownlee first."

    Jaronsen has been evaluating you while Knapp spoke. He's efficient, but hardly gentle, and you wince several times. He speaks up now. "Ma'am, in addition to the finger, I believe you're mildly concussed and have at least one cracked rib. If you would pull down at least the top of the suit, I can bind your ribs. Can I get you a t-shirt?"

    This is your own bungalow, Ksenia. Clothes are the least of your problems.

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    I listen to Knapp give me the rundown. If I wasn't so sorely pissed about losing my pinkie, I'd laugh. I've been in his position: mushroom, thrown in the dark, fed nothing but shit.

    I shake my head, "I'm sorry about your men. Really, I am. They are well-trained grunts, and that's no insult in my book. I was a ground pounder for two tours before Psi Corps lifted me up into their officer ranks." I glare up at him, "But when a girl drops you her name and digits, you don't remove body parts that are relatively significant." I grit my teeth as Jaronsen works at my ribs. Frak it, I struggle up and pull off my clothes, look at him, "Do what you've got to do, Private." Not the first time I've been in a bra and panties with some grunts, but the last time I was losing at poker.

    I sit down heavily. "Brownlee's Ultraviolet shit is dead wrong, Knapp. She busted into that house, took everyone prisoner, then called up the planetary government and threatened them with the lives of the dignitaries staying with Mr. Ayala in exchange for their government not agreeing to join the Polity. Either she's off the farm or playing a long con. Ultraviolet makes me think the latter." I suck in a breath when Jaronsen works on binding me. "I really liked that pinkie, Knapp."
  • Ksenia, Jaronsen begins to wrap pressure dressings around your rib cage. He pulls out a hypospray and inserts a vial clearly marked as a Corps-issue bone knitting stimulator. He holds it up for your approval before pressing the injector to your skin. At your curt nod, he presses it down and you feel the familiar cold, sharp sensation. When he speaks, he's more medic than soldier. "The concussion is another thing altogether, and there's no way I can reattach your missing pinky bits..." He gives a look at the Sergeant, "With field kit."

    Knapp blows out a breath. "It's fucked up, ma'am, that's all I know." There's more there that he's not saying. You know this even through the static in your head and the pain of the stimulator starting to work.

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    I look down at my hand, then back up at Knapp, "That's all you know? For frak's sake, soldier, give me what you got. I think both got the short end of the stick here. Least we can do is show our hands and divvy up the pot."
  • K, Knapp seems to deflate, somehow. "Either the Major's lost it, or the stakes are so far above my paygrade that I can't see them, ma'am. Maybe we should find her and figure it our?"

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    "I have a pretty good idea where she was about fifteen minutes ago." I tell him. I look over at my coreman, "Jaronsen, can you grab me a tank top out of the top drawer over there? And the second drawer has my shorts, too."
  • Ksenia, Jaronsen does as you instructed, trying for a smile when he brings them back. The slight burn of the bone-knit injection has faded, and the binding job he did on your ribs has you feeling much more comfortable. You could've kicked ass a few minutes ago, but now you have some confidence that it wouldn't hurt too badly if you did. Tomorrow is not going to be a good day, though.

    Sergeant Knapp looks at you expectantly, clearly waiting for you to lead the way.

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    "Master Sergeant," I say as I push myself up to my feet, groaning as I struggle to get my tank on, then step into my shorts. "I figure a pinkie is worth a shitton of free beer. Don't you?" I head over to my dresser and pull out MY FRAKKING BUTTERFLY KNIFE and put her where she will be for the rest of time and always. Then I grab my 9 mm and a holster.

    "Let's go find your Major." I say a I lead them out.

  • Knapp nods. "At least a shitton, ma'am." You head out toward where you think Mei left Brownlee, a picnic table in the sand, hidden from the path by a stand of trees. She would have been found soon, regardless—you hear a stream of invective from fifty yards out. Loud, varied, creative invective. In several languages.

    When you finally come in sight, Major Brownlee is sitting atop the table, completely naked and struggling against the zip cuffs binding her hands and feet. Her hands are behind her, forcing her breasts forward as she curses and struggles. She sees you and the two soldiers with you. "Two! Get these fucking things off of me right now! What the hell is that woman doing with you?" Her rage is almost primal, she's quivering and you wouldn't be surprised if steam started shooting out from her ears.

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    "That woman is Ensign Ksenia Cribbage, Psi Corps." I'm not letting Knapp answer for me. I am not cutting her ass free. Knapp can do it. "What's this op, ma'am? Where's Misty?" She has some nice muscles. She's actually more attractive that I thought when I saw her... you know, with clothing. Whatever. Mei's super hotter. Zoo is, too. I need to focus. Shit, Cora's not my excuse right now.
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    Knapp gets the restraints off just in time for you to mention "Misty." When you do, Brownlee's eyes soften for a moment, then snap open in increased rage, which you wouldn't have thought possible five seconds earlier.

    Number One

    "That bitch! What the hell did she do to my head, Dirk or Cribbage or whoever the fuck you are! Psi Corps? She screwed my mind and then my body and FUCKING TIED ME UP NAKED!" She's going to come at you in a second Ksenia, unclothed as she is. She really looks like she needs to hit something. Repeatedly.

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    I don't like what she's accusing Mei of, and I'm still pretty pissed about what the frak she's doing, but if she's going to hit me... I let her hit me. She's a superior officer. I'll take it. I do not get out of the way. Her men can drag her off me. I know my concussion will get worse, but I'd do the same thing in her shoes.

    I'll explain about Cora when she's ready to listen. That isn't now.
  • Brownlee staggers toward you, Ksenia, clearly still regaining circulation in her feet. She is furious, ready to swing at anything, but something about you, standing there clearly hurt and stiff, but ready to take the hit, looking every bit the Marine you once were as you grit your teeth against the anticipated pain, something about you stops her. She turns her head to the side and spits, then goes to her clothes and begins to dress. As she does, she speaks in a clipped tone. "My op is above your paygrade, Ensign, and if you have fucked it up beyond repair, I will have your head."

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    I don't offer excuses, and after what she did to Mei in full view of her soldiers, she doesn't have a leg to stand on. I'll let her rant. She doesn't seem interested in sharing what the hell "her op" is, so I'm not going to give her a chance to piss me off by asking and letting her rail on me.

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    Brownlee finishes dressing. "Two, report."

    Knapp clears his throat, looking from you to Brownlee. "Ma'am, our men in the house are restrained, to the best of my knowledge." There's a highly uncomfortable moment before he continues. "By Ensign Cribbage and unknown others, if my guess is right. We've got teams surrounding the house now, but I had them stand down when the Ensign made herself known to me, and you were off comms."

    He actually winces as he waits for the Major's response.

    She draws a breath, releases it, draws another. "What time is it, Two?" He tells her. "I have been out of commission for 16 minutes, and you allowed things to fall this far to shit? Give me your radio."

    Knapp hesitates for a single, telling split second, then removes his radio and hands it over.

    "This is Number One. Team leaders, report." She looks you in the eye. "Cribbage, it seems both you and your girlfriend have fucked me. In the ass. Not literally, of course." She swipes a hand across her face.

    Team leaders begin responding.

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    She wasn't frakked in the ass?

    Well, that's good, I guess. Could've sworn Cora...

    "If you explain the goal of the op," I say calm and even. "I'm friends with the owner of this house. I think external comms are still down, we could continue your... hostage negotiations." I still have no idea what the hell she's up to here.

  • Major Brownlee frowns and looks at the two enlisted men, then comes to a decision. She blows out a breath and starts talking.

    The mission? Truthfully, it's like something one of those conspiracy nuts would dream up. You know. "Mars Meteor Shower: Random Tragedy or Polity Ploy?" That sort of thing. According to Brownlee, Agira 2 was about to withdraw from the annexation talks. The "hostage crisis" was intended to give them something to push back against, a reason to actually continue so they wouldn't appear to be capitulating to terrorism.

    Messed up as it is, it occurs to you that it very well might have worked, if some combination of the universe and Ezekiel Church hadn't randomly dropped you and Mei onto Ainhoa Island at this particular moment. Hold the hostages for a day or two, then "surrender" to the inevitable reaction from Polity regular forces.

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    This sort of holds together. I've definitely heard of worse missions. Sounds like it came out of a committee up top. The kind that probably never had boots on the ground. Poor Brownlee. I've been handed shit sandwiches and told to eat up and grin. It's never fun.

    "Listen," I say after a moment, when her ranting dies down a little. "The people in there are good folks. Why don't you let Mei and I "drive you off", and we can reveal that we're Polity to them. I promise I have Ayala's ear, and he can influence those politicians to push, and push hard to throw in. We can still salvage this."
  • "Can't do that, Ensign. But, I'll move my troops out of the main house, and you can inform the Agirans and Polity that you're on-site and can mediate negotiations. You seem steady, and if you're Psi Corps it should set off alarms in the right places when you show up on camera. My operational parameters continue, but we remove force from the equation. I won't work with your Misty or Mei, or whoever, though."

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    "That works well enough." I let the slight to Mei go. No reason to pick a fight when we're almost out of this hot mess. "I'll head into the house now, you pull your men back." I'm not going to dilly dally anymore about this. I'm heading to the house, just like I said.
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