Ares Shield Episode 4: Hard Time
Hard Time begins on Silverhold, in the small cattle-town of Lincoln, with a little R&R for the crew in the form of a horseshoe game, a bb-q with real steak and watermelon, and a few bawdy jokes while they await the arrival of their new medic, Israel Pasalewe.
Things turn serious soon enough as Pasalewe yells at Damian. Only Womack's quick intervention coupled with Catri's appearance in the cargo bay prevent Shanti making a bid for freedom amidst the fields of Lincolntown- and results in her making a promise to herself that she's sure to later regret.
Womack reveals that their next intel requires Tiberius, Mancoon, Marlowe and Zenobia to go undercover in the nastiest prison in existance- Andersonville on Krane Penal Moon. Their targets? An ugly pair of vicious fighters known as Adam and Evil Man, both surgically altered for the fighting arenas.
As he contemplates the hell he's sending his people into, Womack is confronted by Hightower, who questions his motivations, knowing that Scarlet wouldn't like the path that he's placed himself and his people on.
When Womack doesn't answer, Hightower leaves him alone to visited by the ghost of his beloved Scarlet. Only to her does he admit his true motivation.
Before briefing Zenobia and Marlowe on their part of the mission, Womack and Zenobia again come to an uneasy truce. How long will this one last?
In only a short time, Tiberius, Mancoon, Zenobia & Marlowe are prepared and transfered, in chains, to the ship that will take them to Krane Penal Moon. Behind them, the ship seems too quiet, the ones who remain behind holding worry and fear in their hearts, Miss Cory Bell more than the others.
(It's of note here that even though Zenobia's sister, Mathilda, called shortly before the mission Zenobia said nothing of the mission, or the danger that she would be in, instead acting purely "the big sister".)
I do not have the words to describe this utter brilliance. (and just trying to write the gorram summary brought tears to my eyes!)
Instead, I give you: The Link to AndersonvilleThe Link to the Tribute Slideshow Vid at Youtube
Lastly, and perfectly, on Serenity:River Gets the Message Through
Meanwhile, onboard the Ares Shield:
Israel Pasalewe discovers blood testing equipment in the Infirmary autoclave and goes to Womack. Concerned that someone is doing DNA ident testing possibly to uncover Cory's identity, they confront Shanti. When she admits that she was experimenting on her own blood, Womack is satisfied, although she conveniently sidesteps Israel's question of what she was testing for.
Damian and Cory have a little chat about taking down Niska, resulting in Cory requesting Damian's help to prepare her for what she might face if Niska captures her. Damian agrees, but before they can act on it, the Ares Shield gets a call from Adelei Niska himself.
Womack, in his fury and grief, kinda loses it. Cory steps in and diverts Niska's attention, hinting that she's an Operative and will be the one undercover on Krane Penal Moon.
Meanwhile, Bugger Jones, surveilling Andersonville, gets kinda wrapped up in the happenings there and intervenes by opening the doors: Riots, blood, madness, and Reavers all ensue.
It soon becomes apparent that Niska's mission is partly a distraction, as Bugger & Lync come under attack, forcing them to flee for their lives, but not before Bugger transmits the happenings at Andersonville as a pirate broadcast.
Womack and Hightower plan to go into Andersonville, but Womack, having a moment of doubt, admits the reasons for Shanti and Damian's presence to Cory and enlists her emotional support. There's kissing. (Oh yes, indeed.)
Pasalewe interupts them, and there's more kissing.
Aftermath: Womack, Hightower and Pasalewe enter the prison to rescue the undercover agents and return with Zenobia's childhood friend, Mouse, who is grievously injured. For the first time, Shanti and Israel are forced to work together to save a life, leading to a mutual respect between them.
Unfortunately, the quick resolution to the prison case derails Damian and Cory's plans for a "session", as Zenobia returns sooner than they had anticipated. Shaken by her encounter in Krane Penal Colony, Tildara relies on Cory's love to see her through. I think there's some kissing...
Shanti, shaken by the events herself, makes a decision and goes to Womack intending to trade her favors for his help. Lost in his thoughts, he temporarily confuses her with Scarlet's ghost, revealing more of himself than he intended. Shanti explains that she wants to go home to Jinye, but can't until she knows that no one is searching for her. Womack agrees to alter her official records, but in return asks her stay with him on the Shield until he can personally make sure that Sandoval won't find her. There's kissing... but I promise this isn't a kissing story.
As the weary refugees from Krane Penal Moon leave the Ares Shield a mysterious beautiful woman pauses to thank Womack for his help. With the unknowing aid of the Ares Shield, the second lieutenant of Adelai Niska has escaped Andersonville, escaped the undercover agents, and walked away undiscovered.
In summary: "Hard Time" leaves us with the knowledge that Womack has kissed two of the women and at least one of the men on the Shield. :unsure: