Five Minutes To Midnight

Episode 3: Going to Shit

Having defeated Hu Gang and the small cadre of Sweepers, Flick Blackwood commandeers the hoverbike and takes Lina, the woman with the burned face, back to Blackwood territory to the care of the Fu family.

On the way, Lina and Flick speak. Lina offers use of her contacts in Manufacturing to sell the drugs on, when they’re found, but doesn’t trust the Blackwoods enough to just hand over the names. Flick makes no promises.

On arrival, the door is answered by Fu Alex, the eldest of the two Fu daughters, whose eyes are red-rimmed. Flick checks her memories of local gossip, and recalls hearing about an argument at the Fu household: Mrs. Fu recently lost her arm in an industrial accident, and the Lotus have offered to replace it, but not unless the family convert. Flick promises to speak with Xiu Xao on their behalf, and Mr. and Mrs. Fu agree to give Lina shelter.

The rest of the Blackwoods make their way through Qing territory to the unclaimed area where Tanuki Tower is. They run into a cadre of guards; they tell them they’re on their way to the Sweepers, and the guards offer to escort them.

Realising that their story is about to proved false, Vincent prepares a diversion, creating a small toy out of scraps of cardboard to entertain the guards while Firebug sneaks off to create a fire as a diversion. As the guards rush off to fight the fire, the Blackwoods sneak away and on to their destination.

Outside Tanuki Tower the Blackwoods spot two figures lurking around in the shadows; they confront them; they turn out to be Calicos, who Monty scares off. Flick arrives, and they ascend the tower.

Firebug checks the door, and confirms it’s clear of tripwires or traps. She crowbars it open, and takes a shotgun blast to the left bicep from an old hermit, Mr. Lo, living inside, who is ranting about the Reticulans and how they won’t take him away. Monty uses his talents as a midwife to calm the situation down while Hilly attempts to extract the shot from Firebug’s arm and clean the wound; unfortunately, the poor light and tense situation mean that she accidentally mangles a tendon in her arm in the process.

Mr. Lo inhabits the upper floor of the water tower, which he has been using as his cistern. He has jury-rigged a wireless radio from spare parts, and believes that the faint voices he’s picking up on it are aliens who are speaking prophecies to him and threatening to abduct him. Although they’re clearly not that, and are too indistinct to properly comprehend, Hilly notes that it’s surprising that any transmission is going out on radio frequencies.

While Hilly is distrcting Lo by listening to him blather on about Reticulan prophecies, Vincent and Flick go about trying to find the Tanuki stash. Vincent succeeds in finding the dossier hidden at the bottom of a stack, but manages to knock the stash into the tank in the process. The Blackwoods struggle for some time to recover the satchel of drugs, even going so far as to empty the tower, but are eventually forced to concede that they’re lost. Frustrated with the situation, and angry that Mr. Lo harmed one of his family, Vincent has Flick restrain him while he takes Lo’s shotgun away and shoots out the radio.

The Blackwoods decide to decamp to Hongmen territory for some R&R, go over the letter that they found in the dossier and get Firebug’s arm looked at. Monty takes a closer look, and is able to diagnose which of the tendons have been severed — this will assist should the Blackwoods negotiate for a prosthetic. Meanwhile, the dossier turns out to contain a lovenote to Loser Kai, warning him of the then-impending Qing/Sweeper attack and urging him to flee with the note’s author.

On the way back, Flick is handed a Parkourier mission from the proprietor. She’s to deliver to Sweeper Fly. The rest of the Blackwoods come with for protection.

Sweeper Fly is running the Sweepers’ food warehouses. He knows that the Blackwoods got into a fight with Hu Gang earlier tonight, and demands Gang’s Sweeper identification back, which Flick hands over. He’s not angry about Flick scuffling with Hu, but he does want reassurance that this isn’t a sign that the Blackwoods have sided with the Tanukis. Vincent says that the Blackwoods aren’t siding with the Tanukis, they’re just picking over the remains. Fly asks if they’ve found anything, and offers to beat Saul’s price on the dossier, telling them that Saul’s days with Steve are numbered. He offers to open trade with the Blackwoods, if the logistics problem can be solved. Vince suggests that the Blackwoods secure the unclaimed territory southeast of their own, which would be enough for the Sweepers to trade with them.

Vincent says that if they find the dossier they will sit on it — they won’t hand it over to Saul or Fly just yet.

With that, the Blackwoods withdraw to their home turf, to pick over the dossier they’ve found. In particular, in response to the note Vince attempts to set up an anonymous mailbox on the Grid with a large neon graffiti-tag above reading “K. YOU NEED TO KEEP YOUR PROMISE.”.

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