Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by sail3695
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sail3695 If you do, I'ma do too.

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In Vino Familia

Part 5 of a JP/Collab from @Xandrya, @Gunther, @wanderingwolf, and @sail3695

At the Doc’s comment, Cal couldn’t help but notice she’d dove headfirst into the party spirit; that made him smile. More than that, it meant he needed to catch up. After a trip to the bar, Cal returned to the crew with a round of shots of something called ‘Synthquila’, one for each of them with an extra for himself.

“If it’s advice you’re lookin’ for, I’ve heard one or two of these will help your game after a certain point. But I’m no doctor,” he flashed a wink as he set down the tray of shots. “Here you go,” Cal placed a shot in each of the women’s hands, before joining Hook with a pair of shots; his last catch-up shot sitting lonely on the table for his return.

Joe took one of the shots and knocked it back without a problem. He was starting to feel the alcohol and it was making him very happy. He had a big smile on his face and could quite easily be talked into dancing or singing if that should be the case.

Abby looked into the amber gold what swished in the shot glass. She’d read in one ‘o’ her books that drinkin’ was akin tah datin’. “Dance with the one who brung ye,” said tha old prospector from “Gold Fever.” Not much of a yarn, but seein’s she had scant experience with both booze and boys, the girl took tha old man’s wisdom for true.

Til tonight.

Took two on board, she ruminated on the vodka that now held a two tah one lead over rum in ‘er bloodstream. Might’s well give ‘synthquila’ a try. The deckhand lifted ‘er shot glass. “We toastin’ anythin’?”

The crew wasn't slowing down any, that was for sure. She nodded as a thank you as Cal handed her the shot, a small smirk forming from his comment. Staring at her poison, Alana attempted to remember the last time she'd had this much to drink, and how she'd felt then. But her memory wasn't the best right now, so she looked over at Abby and raised her shot glass as well.

“To a night we hopefully don’t forget…”

Strand raised his glass, "And to a mornin’ we hopefully will... Don't s'pose you got a cure for hangover?" he asked of Hook by his side.

“The best way to take care of a hangover the next morning is bah consumin’ two or three shots of hard liquor, Cap’n!” Joe stated matter of factly with a smile. Then he tossed back another shot of rum followed by several gulps of beer. He smacked his lips and let out an exaggerated yet satisfied sigh. The ground did start to swirl a bit. He knew he was entering his happy drunk phase.

“No truer word’s ever been spoken,” Cal replied to Hook’s sage advice and knocked back the first shot, grinning at Joe.

Hook’s smile had spread. It was one of those contagious smiles that let everyone know Joseph Hooker was not just in a good mood, but a great mood. The music playing on the jukebox was getting to him. He started singing along.

Abby tapped ‘er glass down on tha pool table’s edge, then raised it to her lips. Smooth, was all she could think as it slipped right down easy like. Hook’s singin’, Cap’n an’ Doc was makin’ secret eyes fer one another, an’ if tha racket comin’ up from below told true, Yuri jest got beat at arm wrestlin’. She leaned on a handrail, crooked little smile teasin’ as she watched ‘er shipmates. “This is what it’s like,” the girl rekindled ‘er musings from last night, ”bein’ from someplace.” Jest ‘cuz that place moved twixt worlds in tha black didn’t make it no less home…long’s these folk was on board. “I won’t fergit,” she answered Doc’s toast in a whisper, afore joinin’ in tah sing with Hook.

Hook's response elicited a laugh from Alana. He was throwing 'em down like juice, which Alana found impressive in its own sense. Once they got to singing and whatnot, she placed the empty shot glass down on the table, the aftertaste a tad unpleasant but not long lasting. Looking over at Cal, she walked to his side and noticed the additional shot glass. "Trying to play catch up or just showing off?"

That brought a smile to his face. “Showin’ off? Now why would a Captain need to go and do a thing like that? Au contraire, I’m just doin’ my best to catch up, but just so’s I know how far I’ve yet to go, how many might that be?” He asked, finger wrapped and poised around the shot glass a–glimmer in his eye. “By the way, looks like you went easy on Hook; s’at ‘cause you made another win-win wager I ought to be jealous of? Just for the record.”

"Oh I don't know, that'd be between 2 and 20, somewhere along there..." she shrugged playfully, unable to detect the slightest hint of inebriety as them two interacted. And of course, once more he had managed to catch her off guard. Alana's jaw dropped in response, paying him back with a playful shove. "So you think a girl like me would have multiple wagers of that kind floating around simultaneously?" Alana looked him in the eye as she posed the question, eager for his response.

Cal evened up her gaze with one of his own, “I see no reason a strong, vital woman such as yourself shouldn’t keep her options open.” He offered a smug grin that touched his eyes as he followed up with, “Well, well! Looks like I’m behind by quite a few.” Strand raised a hand to the bartender with the universal sign for another round.

It wasn’t just Alana’s gaze that set him in a proper mood; tomorrow he had a clear direction in a job from Hafez Nadal. That direction would see the China Doll to her next port and keep her flying with all the supplies he’d been neglecting for the last two legs. That alone was enough to set a smile on his face.

But there was more than that now, standing among his crew. He wouldn’t cast himself as a sentimental man, but this bunch had surely grown on him. The one within arm’s distance even more so.

"You've got the talent for leaving a girl speechless, that's for sure," she retorted, poking him in the chest with a finger. "I can only imagine how much more of a handful you'll be once you stop babying the drinks." Alana leaned to one side to use the table as support, briefly looking over the rest of the crew and contemplating getting herself some water.

Joe listened to the song come on. He had heard it before and thought he knew the words well enough to sing. He started in when the song played,

“Well, in the North of Cackalacky,
way back in the hills.
Me and my ole paddy and had him a still.
He brewed white lightnin' 'til the sun went down
And then you'd fill him a jug and he'd pass it around.
Mighty, mighty pleasin',
paddy's corn squeezin'
Sh, white lightnin'”

He didn’t know all the words, but did his best, “Well, the "G" men, mmm…mumble mumble mumble.”
He did seem to know the verses a bit better, “Well, ah asked my old paddy why he called his brew
White lightnin' 'stead of mountain dew.
ah took a little sip and right away ah knew.
As my eyes bugged out and my face turned blue.
Lightnin' started flashin', thunder started clashin'
Sh, white lightnin'
Well, the "G" men, "T" men, mmm…mumble mumble mumble.” More indiscernible sounds. A lot of this next portion of the song got lost in shoults and mumbles that resembled the song the singer was singing.
“The "G" men, "T" men, Sh, white lightnin'” then he fell quiet for a few seconds and gave a shout, “Woop! Woop!” He raised his beer into the air and took another swig.

Joe Hooker was one man of many talents, but surely as the black was wide singing half-pissed weren’t one of them. That didn’t keep that infectious grin of his from passing along to just about anyone laid eyes on him, including the Captain.

At just that moment the jukebox switched up its rhythm to play something a little slower. A group of bearded men sang at full volume near the bar, and Cal raised his glass toward his crew.

The Captain’s baritone rose steadily as he intoned the first bar. “Of all the money that e'er I had, I spent it in good company…” Eyes met eyes as the group circled up, Hook, Alana, and Abigail. From the bar, the bearded men’s rendition of the soft and willowy tune took on a boisterous male bravado that Strand heartily obliged in, wrapping one arm each around each of the three.

“Of all the comrades that e'er I had, They're sorry for my going away…”

The bartender, watching the group around him degenerate into loud and cavorting fancy, stood up on the bar and placed hands around his mouth to project a warning:

“Last call on the deck!” to which the rowdy group of men only raised their glasses higher.

To that Cal assented with an emptying of his own glass, “C’mon you three, I conjure we ought to see how many pieces Yuri got himself into this time.”

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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Gunther
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Gunther Captain, Infantry (Retired)

Member Seen 3 days ago

The Right Hook

Brief cameo by @HeySeuss

Part 1 of 2

Joe Hooker had enjoyed himself with his family. He knew they weren’t really his family, but he didn’t care. For all intents and purposes, they were. His sorrowful heart longed for the days with his brothers and Penny. He missed her a lot. He didn’t talk too much about the McGinnis girl. She was his best friend on the farm.

He could feel the inebriation from the alcohol getting to him. The reverie of dancing and singing with the crew of the China Doll was over. He left the partying and found another hole in the wall to wallow in for a while. He wanted to be alone. The crew had departed their separate ways. He knew the night was not over for him, yet. Maybe it wasn’t safe for him to be alone. But he wanted to be alone damn it!

When he was alone and intoxicated, oftentimes his thoughts took a dark turn. ‘Why the fuck did you live, asshole?!’ Joe thought to himself. His internal monologue rebuked his very existence. This question plagued the man from Hera for the past decade or more. Everyone he loved was dead. He could feel the anger, the rage welling up inside him. He was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the ‘verse. ‘You are a no good, worthless piece of shit. Everyone hates you. No one will ever love you!’

The alcohol speaking to him was loud and clear. He staggered down the road finding a new watering hole to duck into. The sign read, “Twirling Ra__t.” He sidled up to the bar, shoved a stool between his legs to steady himself. “Rum!” He placed a few coins on the bar and waited for the shot glass. He eyeballed the room to see what sort of refuse inhabited this seedy establishment. It was late. He knew only the professional imbibers would have remained this time of the night or more precisely, the morning. He noticed he inadvertently placed the dubloon Cyd Skye gave him while they were on New Melbourne. He thought of the young aquamarine haired girl. But the thought quickly left him as he returned to the here and now. He placed the coin back in his pocket.

He was already intoxicated and just wanted to feel completely numb. It wasn’t enough. It never was. He knocked the shot glass back. The burning liquid slid down his throat easily. It felt good. “Another one!” The second and third shot glasses went down as quickly as the first. He was quite drunk before he walked in and getting all the more.

Hook played out his happy-go-lucky party going hand at the previous venue with his family. Now he was pissed. His brothers were taken from him. Penny, his love was gone. He would never know true love. No one wanted him and he couldn’t have her. He did not care anymore. The rage, the anger boiled higher and higher. He picked someone out of the crowd. ‘He looks like an asshole. Fuck him.’ Joe was definitely looking for a fight—someone to take his frustration out on.

The classic and most time-tested way to start a fight, or at least an argument that’d lead to a fight, was to order a beer, which Hook did, and then take that beer onto the dance floor, bump into the chosen target, and spill the beer.

“What the fuck man!?!?” exclaimed the random person picked for the moment, sopping wet shirt, eyes bleary, a big one, “You ruined my shirt!” He was already flexing menacingly beneath the aforementioned shirt, a blue polo to go with the salmon shorts.

It was a moment of truth, a split-second decision, and this guy rose up to the expectation; he took a swing right at Hook. Definitely not a martial artist, maybe a college wrestler at one time, so it was more force than skill.

Joe Hooker saw the punch coming, but his reaction time was delayed from the alcohol. Although his left arm was on its way up, he caught the punch in the side of the head. It knocked him back a bit, sobering him slightly. The body releases enough endorphins to keep you sufficiently awake to pay attention to what is going on when stress levels increase.

Hook reeled to the right from the punch to the side of the head. It was enough force for him to load his own right cross. When he returned to an upright position, slightly leaned forward, he swiveled his body around to the left as his right cross went straight for the man’s jaw. By rotating his upper body, he was able to generate more force to the punch. This was a learned technique. Maybe he learned it from Lenny or from his brothers, but it was learned nonetheless. He could never say he knows martial arts as some would call it, but he did know how to fight after years of training, accidental or intentional.

The punch landed right on the lips sending the blue polo shirt-wearing man staggering back into the crowd. Before another punch could be thrown, two muscle bulging men were on Hook and his target quickly. They grabbed the two, dragged them to the door and tossed them outside.

“You started this, fucker!” the salmon pants wearer yelled at Joe Hooker.

“You threw the first punch!” Joe slurred at the man. “Come on, let’s go!” Joe led the man away. He followed.

The two found a darkened alley to vent their hostilities, their anger. Joe turned towards the guy, rotating his body to the right unleashing a devastating right cross. Again, the punch hit the man’s lip. Blood spurted from the lip and landed on Joe’s shirt. The man stumbled back and charged at Joe tackling him to the ground.

Joe did not go to the ground. Joe was prepared for this move. He brought both forearms up and leaned into the man as he approached. When he latched onto Joe, his forearms impacted on the man’s shoulders. Joe spread his feet out behind him, to remain balanced and afoot. The other man was inebriated enough to prevent himself from going to the ground. Joe immediately jumped on top of him, straddling the man’s stomach and started punching his face. He wailed back and forth using left and right fists. He hammered into the man’s head, beating him mercilessly. Blood was seeping and spurting from various wounds on his face. At first the man tried to stop Joe by putting up his arms, when this didn’t work, he went limp. “You killed my brothers!” Joe softly screamed at the man. “you killed my family!” Blaming this random stranger for their deaths again at the injured man. “I hate you! You must die for what you did to them!” His fists were covered in blood. Cuts had formed on his knuckles from the pounding. Blood splashed up from the wounds that used to resemble a human head. They splashed on Joe’s clothing; his pants and his shirt.

Joe allowed his anger to take control of his body. He rocked back and forth, punching and hitting the man. Eventually, the blue polo wearing man lost consciousness and succumbed to his wounds. His face was covered in bloody bruises and broken bones. Blood seeping from various cuts and from his ears, eyes, nose and mouth. It is possible he killed the man, but Joe did not know. The extent of his wounds could only be defined as fatal.

He began to feel the effects of his effort, tiring from all the punches. He stopped what he was doing. He looked at his face. It was unrecognizable. He realized he had done something wrong. He struggled to regain his feet. He staggered back and let out a whimper. ‘What have you done, Joe?’ he thought to himself. ‘You killed him just like that Nánrén on Persephone. (tr: Nánrén = man)

Joe left the alley and staggered back towards the China Doll. He got about a hundred yards from the mooring dock where the China Doll was tethered and fell. He lay in a mud puddle off the road. It was dark. Nighttime. He was covered in mud and blood. The blood was more spattered in various places on his pants and his shirt. The inebriation was wearing off. The fatigue from fighting was setting in. He was spent and collapsed into the muddy soil passing out.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by sail3695
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sail3695 If you do, I'ma do too.

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The Road Home

OOC: These events take place before Hook tries to head for the boat. Rex Black is a character created by @psych0pomp. Cameo by Captain Strand, courtesy of @wanderingwolf.

Once they’d managed to wrest their mechanic from the arms of a woman on the dance floor, the crew of China Doll made their departure. Everyone chose to exit Bungalow Bill’s via the knotted rope, though few understood the act of climbing down required a level of care that alcohol might inhibit. Abby patted the dirt from her bottom as Yuri took the stairs, under the stern countenance of the Doc. As the little party trod the jungle path back toward Khao Yai, he fell in beside the deckhand. “How’re you feeling?” he asked.

Abby cocked ‘er head. “Tolerable well,” she said. “Thinkin’ a walk’ll do us both some good,”

“Just remember,” he whispered, “before you hit your bunk? Double dose of aspirin and two tall glasses of water. Might not avoid the hangover,” he added, “but it’ll make the morning better…dohn mah?

”Ku,” the girl answered. “Who was that woman yew’s daincin’ with?”

“Her name was Drucilla.”

“Y’all know each other?”

“We do now,” he smiled off into the darkness. Yuri caught sight of unanswered curiosity. “I met her at the bar. She’s a working girl.”

“Workin’ girl,” Abby frowned as she thought on that. Presently she smoked out tha meanin’, and with eyes wide she whispered, “Yah mean she’s a whore?”

“Simply put. Never really liked that word, though,” Yuri said as they walked together.

“But…” Now she’s all confused. “I conjured whorin’ was jest ‘bout sex. All yew did was daince…’cept fer a goodnight kiss.”

“You’re not wrong,” the mechanic smiled. “Most folk like her’ll tell you their entire coin’s earned between the sheets. But tonight? All I needed was a dance.”

“Yew paid fer a daince? Shoot, I conjure Doc an’ me both woulda said yes if’n yah asked.”

The smile became a good humored grin. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he chuckled. “But I had the right music, and a woman whose eyes I could gaze into without it getting creepy.”

“Well,” the girl give it some thought, “yah got me there.”

“So hey,” Yuri shifted the topic, “I heard a rumor that we don’t get cargo til noon tomorrow?”

“That’s what Cap’n says,” Abby nodded. “Got a couple small things comin’ earlier, an’ a passenger or two, so I’m on the lawnchair most tha mornin’.”

The mechanic nodded. “Is there a good time for you to walk me through preflight checks?” Ahead lay the lights of the city, and a dazzling clear sky full of stars. The crew found themselves on pavement once more. At this hour, many of the shops were closed, and the lights of personal dwellings were steadily winking out. His bunk would feel good tonight.

“Sure,” Abby piped up. “Gonna scare up breakfast ‘round oh-seven-hundred. Gotta clean tha lower deck lav at eight. I conjure we could squeeze a few minutes somewheres.” They came to the intersection of Harbor Street. As the crew turned toward the port, the girl said, “I got a stop tah make, first. I’ll see y’all back at tha boat.”

Yuri stopped. “You need company?”

“Meetin’ a friend. Don’t worry,” she give tha Colt a pat, “I’ll be along presently.”

There’s Cal, eyes all serious. “You remember what I told you ‘bout bartenders an’ waitresses, Abigail?”

She smiled, part from his expression, t’other part from the worry he’s showin’ her. “My drinkin’s done fer tha night, Cap’n…’cept fer lotsa water. I’ll be there in two shakes.” With a wave, she set off in tha opposite direction, toward Hap’s La Frontera, and tha chance tah learn more ‘bout ‘er parents.


Hap’s was still closed.

Shutters was all locked, doors was bolted, an’ ain’t a sliver ‘o’ light peekin’ out from between. “Gorramit,” Abby muttered ‘neath ‘er breath. Story was Hap’s was always open, so she’s curious as tah what might cause the old man tah miss their git together an’ close up shop like this. But that part didn’t matter. Now she was against tha clock. Skids up tomorrah meant she’s on post all day aforehand…

Abby stood on the warped front stoop, ponderin’ her next move. Across the street, Tampico Royale was goin’ full tilt, with music an’ folk caterwhallin’ echoes down tha block. Mayhaps she could go there, borrow a pen from tha bartender, an’ stuff a napkin with her message inta Hap’s mail slot…

The front doors burst open. Two stacks of hardened muscle emerged, dragging their near limp bundle until they could pitch him into the street. Then, both bouncers set upon the victim, raining blows and kicks upon the man who raised feeble hands to ward off the assault. A woman had followed them. She was naked, but for a sheer robe she attempted to clutch about her. “You piece of la shi!”, she screamed at the man, who covered his head as he tried to wrap himself into a ball.

Abby’s eyes looked on tha deadbeat an’ that gaudy floral shirt gettin’ all messed up. That shirt…she seen it. Hell, she done washed it a time ‘er two… “Oh, shit,” she muttered as she come inta tha street. “Whoa, fellas….WHOA! STOP”

One ‘o’ tha bouncers looked up. “Mind’jer business, Cutie Pie. Step on.”

She laid a hand on tha Colt. “He is my business!” Abby retorted as tha gun slipped free ‘o’ tha holster. “That’s my crew! Leave ‘im be!” The bouncers now stood straight, eyes on the skinny teeager with the big gun. “I’m talkin’ tah yew!” she barked.

From his place on the ground, Rex Black shook himself off, releasing a combination of bloody spittle and dust into the street. “Cal Junior?” he squinted upward. “That you?”

“Rex,” Abby’s eyes didn’t waver. “Why come yer out here gittin’ dusted off by these gorillas?”

“He didn’t pay!” the woman shouted as she clutched her robe together.

The deckhand rolled ‘er eyes. “How much?”

“Fifty,” the First Mate answered in unison with the woman who shouted “seventy-five!”

Abby cut loose a disgusted sigh. “Tell yah whut, fellers. I’ma put this away so’s I can go fer muh coin purse…but y’all git sketch an’ it’ll come out agin real fast. We good?”

The biggest ape waved a hand. “Yeah, yeah…we good.”

“Thank yew.” Once the Colt found leather, she set tah countin’ tha last of ‘er money. “Twenty…forty…sixty…five,” the girl pulled all her cash out. “Plus change…sixty-five twenty-seven.” Abby held the pay out fer tha whore. “That cleans me right out.”

“He owes seventy-five,” the second bouncer objected.

“He ain’t got it,” Abby tossed ‘er hair as tha money disappeared from ‘er palm. “And now I’m tapped. Looks tah me like y’all give my shipmate ever bit of a ten credit ass whoopin’. How ‘bout we call this done an’ even?”

The bouncers traded glances, then turned toward the prostitute. She was so engrossed in counting money that she hadn’t noticed the neglige gown had fallen open. “I conjure that’s as good as it gets,” the Alpha dog decided. He dropped to one knee, a thick index finger jabbing Rex in the chest. “Make sure you never show your face in my bar again…capiche?”

“On my mother’s grave,” Rex nodded solemnly.

The bouncer glared at Abby. “Take out the trash, girlie.”

“Shiny.” Abby bent over Rex, an’ took an’ arm for tah help ‘im up. “C’mon, jackass,” she grunted, “I cain’t carry ya back. Git up.” The man was powerful unsteady, wobblin’ to an’ fro til she th6wed an arm ‘round ‘is waist. He hooked a thumb in her gunbelt, an’ the pair of ‘em set off, staggerin’ a weak sorta zigzag path back toward the port. Rex was covered in odors…stale perfume, his own arm sweat, liquor, and a musky sorta stink she conjured must be what sex smells like if’n yah don’t wash. “Do me a kindness,” she said as she helped him along. “Take a shower when we git back.”

“Been at it for three days,” Rex slurred. “Sleep first.” After they stumbled together for another few minutes, he asked, “Did you take care of Lucky?”

“Yes,” she answered all annoyed, “I took care ‘o’ Lucky.”

His arm tightened around her a touch. “You know, Cal Junior, I do have fun teasin’ you…but you’re okay.”

“I still want muh money.”

“You’ve got my word,” his voice took a serious cast. “I really appreciate you gettin’ me out of that scrape.”

As they wobbled along the dark street, Abby thought on his words, and them as she’d heard tonight with the rest of China Doll’s crew. Family. The word played on her mind as she kept Rex movin’ toward home. Family. Finally, she spoke. “We’s shipmates. I been told that’s how it’s done.”

“You had a good teacher.”

“The best.” She could see the port entry gate, just ahead. The pair hobbled forward, the much larger Rex draped over Abby as she struggled to keep him moving. For a time, the silence between them broke only for labored breathing and grunts. Eventually, Abby spoke. “Rex.”


“Gitcher hand off my ass.”
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by wanderingwolf
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wanderingwolf Shiny

Member Seen 2 hrs ago

Final Boarding Call

OOC: JP Collab that takes place as an intermission to the party at Bunaglow Bill’s, starring @aalakrys and @wanderingwolf.

Bungalow Bill’s was replete with charm, pool tables, drinks, and eclectic music, and it was only for a moment that Strand glanced down at the buzzing cortex in his pocket. In the iridescent blue light that spilled from the screen shone the few words from one Hafez Nadal. Cal’s eyes scanned the missive.

“Salutations Captain… Tomorrow, noon… As always, give my best to Penelope.”

The man sure had a flair, but there was business in his blood. The coordinates for their rendezvous were attached. Looked like everything was in order.

Cal glanced up from his seat beside the pool table. With a wave Alana’s way, he rose, coat over his arm. As he passed Abigail he intoned, “Steppin’ out for a spell, order me another?” He paused to catch her eye, “Just not a Vodka and Boom Boom,” and with a wink he stepped onto another of Bungalow Bill’s platforms to a higher deck.

He’d need a signal if he was going to raise the pilot. As he donned his coat, Cal extricated the short-wave comm set to route through the China Doll. Throwing the dial, a satisfying click set the walkie to life.

“Sam, you read me?” he dialed out the static in the seconds waiting for a reply.

“I read you, Cal. A little early for ‘drunk dialing,’ wouldn’t you say?” came the lilting Bostonian accent of the China Doll’s guest AI.

“I’m buzzin’ just fine, thank you. It’s Abigail you should worry about. Girl’s got a new favorite drink and boys linin’ up to order her another.” He shook his head, smiling.

“Any trouble?” Her tone was even.

“We’re set here. Need you to raise Penelope for me; put her on the frequency.”

“One minute,” came her cool voice, a digital gradation pulling her last syllable as she slipped off the connection to call the pilot

Penelope’s comm gave a series of chirps from atop the low table it sat upon as the AI attempted to hail her. The pilot herself was in the nearby attached kitchen showing Elias the proper way to prepare juice from the jalebi fruit they’d found earlier in the day while clearing away brush. Though he was tired, he was fascinated, the pair of them engrossed so the chiming didn’t register at first. Rowan, on the other hand, had glanced in the direction and found lights flashing on the communicator his daughter sat aside.

“Pen-nut, I think you’re being hailed.” He said as he moved to pick up the small handheld. There was a softness she recognized as sadness there, her hazel eyes meeting his to see it hidden in the smile he wore as he passed over the comm. But, it didn’t mean goodbye, not yet.

She wiped her hand and took the device, pressing the button to speak. “It’s past a decent hour to call the pilot in. Everythin’ shiny?”

Sam’s digital voice realigned into her lilting accent, “Apologies, Penelope, but the Captain wants a word with you. I didn’t detect cause for alarm; could just be he’s had a few and you know how he likes to talk business when he’s in ‘in his cups.’” She’d been waiting for an opportunity to use that idiom, the mirth in her voice betraying her casual tone.

Penelope wasn’t exactly expecting to hear Sam, wasn’t sure who would be calling her from the Doll, but it likely would’ve pleased her regardless of who had been on the other end. Her father and his neighbor were of course paying attention, Elias being the one who quirked a brow at the mention of a captain who frequented cups. She waved away the concern, for now, and leaned against the counter to respond as the men departed to sit on the couch and eavesdrop from a more respectable distance. There was a returned amusement that lingered in Penelope’s tone more often than not as she gave her reply. “I’d imagine you’d know better than me, Sam. I’d imagine I have more to learn.”

The comm chirped in response, “I know that he likes Mango wine, but that’s a relatively new development.” There was more she wanted to add, from her conspiratorial tone, but instead she added:

“I’ll put him through.” After a second of static, the lines were joined.

“You read me, Penelope?” Captain Strand’s voice was in good humor as he pivoted back to view the crew gathered around the pool table. A toucan of some sort flew over his shoulder then, and from a perch, its brilliant beak flashed as it turned its head this way and that to watch the man standing on the highest platform alone save for one tiki torch fighting the night.

With her back to her father and Elias, she couldn’t be sure the sort of expressions they wore. Penelope had spent more time catching up with her father’s life and hadn’t quite gone into the details of hers. Obviously he knew she was the pilot of a ship called the China Doll, but they hadn’t touched on that topic too much just yet. Now her captain, who liked talk business while on the sauce, was ringing her up late at night. She held her amusement in check though, the smile of her tone subtle as her casual manner of speaking. “Sure do. You and all that ruckus. Out enjoying the nightlife of Greenleaf, Cap’n?”

“And then some, Freckles. Shame you couldn’t make it. Hook cleaned house at the pool table, the new mechanic near broke the other arm, judgin’ by the sound of things, and Abigail’s got a new favorite poison called a ‘Vodka and Boom Boom.’” The comm cut out for a second as a particularly loud round of shouts heralded Yuri’s progress on the deck below. “But I didn’t call just because I missed the sound of your voice. I got a hail from Hafez.”

Penelope glanced over her shoulder to see concern etching both men’s faces in entirely different ways. She was concerned that Elias, whose protective streak extended to all the Randalls apparently, would have his brow permanently frozen in the quirk by the end of this conversation. Her father, on the other hand, likely felt bad for taking her away from what seemed like a questionably good time with what could possibly be another sort of family. She gave him a soft smile as she spoke without having to consider her words. “I can’t rightly say I’m sorry in this case, Cap’n, sweet as you put it. I figure there’ll be plenty of other near-bar brawls to miss with you lot.”

She turned back with an idle kick to the faded floor tile. “We still shipping out on schedule?”

Unbeknownst behind her, Elias’ brow dropped to meet the other in a creased furrow as he turned to Rowan and mouthed “Hafez? Nadal?” Rowan merely shrugged, unlikely even knowing who that important figure was given his general disinterest in anything political.

“No brawlin’, least not yet. Arm wrestle competition, but I’ll keep you posted in case we need a bailout.” Cal chuckled, feeling the night’s alcohol doing its work. “Job’s moved up a bit. We’re loadin’ at noon. Since you’re with family, figured I’d give you notice in case you made plans, shiny?”

“That’s plenty considerate of you, Cap’n.” Pen said as she studied the little crease that formed as she toed the tile with her shoe. She wasn’t sure how she felt about leaving sooner than planned, though she and her father hadn’t made any particular arrangements. They weren’t planners, but rather filled time as it came with any deadlines in mind. And hers just got moved up. “Gonna get back to it unless you needed anythin’ else.”

The static answered in sharp reply, “No nothin’ else. Rest easy and see you for pre-flight.” Cal could tell he’d pulled her away from something, so he wrapped it up with a simple, “Over and out.” The need to be with family was something the Captain conjured he knew little about, having left the nest in his teens with nary a look back. Still, the hole it made was something he still sought to fill, even today, so it was with a sobering thought he slid the comm back in his pocket. The toucan still sat on Bungalow Bill’s aluminum sheet overhang, cocking its bill toward the solitary stranger.

With a flip of the wrist, Cal’s cigarette case produced a paper cylinder. With an inaugural drag from the tiki torch, Captain Strand blew a slow plume toward the bird which dissipated in the clear evening air.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by MK Blitzen
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MK Blitzen Have Plot, Will Travel

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Do bop she doo

Greenleaf docks, late late late night day three

Cyd gingerly checked on the boys, who were both still sound asleep with little interest in rousing. They both groaned and protested, Mathias covering his head with Isaac’s pillow, Isaac covering his head with... Cyd briefly wondered where THAT came from. Kari, maybe? She shook her head. It definitely wasn't hers. Days and nights sometimes got a little jumbled when you’re hoog op. She managed to get some downtime sleep in after a brief exchange with the pilot and a quick cup of coffee to take the edge off. Now, hours later, sleep once again wanted to stay just out of reach, and Cyd briefly wondered how the pilot was holding up... How the pilot's pop was holding up. That had to be a shock. She hummed a few bars of Still Alive. Music. That's what was missing, She scrolled, looking for something appropriate for exploration.

The ship was quiet. “Toooo quiet,” Cyd whispered to herself, followed by a short, mischievous giggle that echoed in the cargo bay. She’d seen one or two other passengers milling around, but the entire crew had been gone unless you counted SAMANTHA. Cyd slid the length of the railing, before spinning on her toes, mulling over the benefits of being left on a ship nearly alone. Lookie, lookie. Big old empty ship at large. Lekker. Calf muscles be damned.

Thinking about it, Cyd did, in fact, count Sam, not really as a crew member, but more as a digital watchdog. All zeroes and ones, and bright, beautiful code begging to be looked at, but the next-hop should provide a bit of keyboard tap-tap time. Corridors and hallways! The rest of the crew were out and about. Pen, she knew, was visiting her father and explaining she wasn’t dead, which could take hours or minutes, depending on his reaction. Ladders and hatches! The rest of them, she’d heard had gone out to a kitsch bar, some treehouse tourist trap. Normally it would be the sort of thing she’d have pressed for. Pirate’s Cove, the Jungle Cruise tour, kitsch made the best photo ops. Bins and Boxes! But, Greenleaf photos had already been taken and sent, they were present and accounted for, so there wasn’t a real need for more, and the boys did need a little rest and recovery. Isaac was still banged up with snake hickies, riding the crash of his party favors, and Mathias’ gashed and bandaged hand wasn’t ideal for making bunny ears in photos. Catwalks and stairwells!

She scowled when the cortex rang out with a new message, cursing Isaac and his willingness to give out her number for waves until she saw the sender and subject line. It was enough to take the wind from her sails, and reluctantly she hopped down from the galley table to scroll the rest of the wave. Her shoulders dropped and she let out a puff of air, switching off the music in her headphones. “I know, I know.” Cyd said to no one in particular, filling a glass half full with water to take back to the shuttle. The sun would be coming up soon anyway. People were due to get back. She looked forward to seeing how everything went with the pilot and her papa, but that too would have to wait.

It was time to wake up the boys. “We got work to do.”
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Gunther
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Gunther Captain, Infantry (Retired)

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The Right Hook

Collaboration with @Xandrya

Part 2 of 2

The mild headache and nausea were a reminder of the previous night's fun. Alana wasn't sure how much she'd had, but it was enough for her to be unable to recall some parts. Against her better judgment, Alana decided to go for a walk. The headache would more than likely intensify, but hopefully some fresh air would relieve her nausea.

Once outside, Alana nearly went blind, squinting her eyes against the rising morning sun. She nonetheless set off in no particular direction, hands in pockets and her head low. Some wisps of hair had fallen around her face, but the rest of it was secured in place by a hair pin which penetrated through the center of her messy bun. That was her go-to style most of the time; it was quick and effective.

As she continued her walk, she noticed something off in the distance, or rather, someone. Alana's eyes widened momentarily before she broke into a full sprint. The body wasn't too far from the ship, so it was safe to assume that somebody could be one of their own. Once Alana approached them, she noticed it was Hook who lay unconscious on the ground. She sunk to her knees beside him and tried to shake him awake. "Hook! Hook wake up! Can you hear me?" She checked for a pulse, noting he was covered in mud and blood as she quickly examined him.

Joe could feel someone trying to rouse him. His eyelids were heavy, and his body desperately needed sleep. “Huh?” He moaned at the rousing. It was difficult, but he was able to open his eyes. The sun was on the horizon, not even quite up yet. It took several seconds for him to realize someone was there, trying to wake him up. Then he recognized Alana Lysinger. “Doc? Is that you? Where am ah? What’s going on?”

Joe struggled to get to his feet. He was unsteady and dropped to his knee on the first attempt. He paused briefly, feeling dizzy and nauseous. He regained his stance, climbing to his feet. Then dropped again to his knees. This time he vomited into the muddy morass that was his bed for the night. “Oh shit! Ah feel like crap.”

She couldn’t help but look him over once more, relieved he was alive and awake. Watching his futile attempts to get on his feet, Alana shook her head slightly and stood up over him, placing one hand on the side of his shoulder and the other one on his back to serve a dual purpose—offer some support as he vomited and prevent him from getting back on his feet.

“You’re not all that far from the ship, but it looks like you never made it back in last night. You’re covered in blood, Hook. What happened?” Her expression now serious, she couldn’t help but feel concerned for him. “Come on, tell me about it on the way back. I want to run some checks and rule out any serious injuries.” Alana motioned for him to stand up, helping him slowly regain his balance. She bent down and placed one of his arms over her shoulders, using her free hand to help guide him along. “You were out by yourself, right? I don’t recall seeing anyone else leave."

“We all gone out last night. The crew headed back to the ship, but ah didn’...” Joe admitted to the Doc. He had a hard time admitting to himself, let alone the ship’s medic, pausing and grunting as they went along. Primarily he felt shame for what happened. He knew that when he drank, he often lost control.

“Ah wen’ out fer another drink. I got into a fight. Most o’ the blood is his. I may have busted up mah knuckles a bit.” Joe tried to tell the story with brevity. “Ah am mostly thirsty and hungover. Ah guess ah got a bit drunk. Honestly, doc. Ah think he only landed one punch to the side o’ mah head ‘stall.”

As Hook went on detailing the events from the previous night, Alana looked away once he mentioned his fight, expressing disappointment the same way a parent would if they heard such story from their son. “I don’t mean to come down on you at all, but you’ve got to be careful out there. Never know who’s looking for a fight just ‘cause,” she went on, looking at him with a smile. “What would we do without the best chef one could possibly ask for? All kidding aside, I still want to make sure you’re okay,” Alana insisted, looking at the ship in the distance which was getting nearer. “If you ended up getting that drunk, whatever hits he landed on you could’ve gone over your head. I’m not doubting your skills, but none of us are immune in a brawl. It’ll be quick, I promise. I’ll also get you hydrated so you feel better later on the day."

“Yes’m, doc,” Joe smiled at her. It was not his usual smile, more forced than genuine. “Thank you, Doc.” Joe resigned himself to allowing the medic to check him over. He felt run down. He knew it was from the alcohol and not the fight. But he agreed he would appease her curiosity. He would definitely take a shower. He would also make a point to tell the captain he wanted to see a Shepherd.

The pair continued their walk to the China Doll. The ramp was down, and no one was in sight. Joe was thankful for that. He didn’t want to have to explain himself to anyone beyond the doctor. She was bound by some Oath, right? Or at least he thought. They made it to her medical bay.

After reaching the infirmary, Alana motioned for Hook to take a seat. "Have a seat there and remove your shirt, please." Before walking away to fetch some items, she clicked on a switch to frost the glass and allow them their privacy from any passerby in the vicinity. The setting also implied she was occupied and wouldn't be able to see anyone unless it was an emergency.

Joe began unbuttoning his shirt. He removed it slowly. His shoulders were mildly sore, but nothing out of the ordinary or unexpected. He placed the shirt on a hook near the door and took a seat on the examining table ready to be poked. “Ah’m sure ah’m fine, doc.”

Soon enough, Alana was standing in front of Hook shining a light into each of his eyes. "From the looks of it, you did more damage to him than he did to you." Alana then reached for cotton squares with a solution to clean off the blood splattered throughout. "That's good news for you though." As she worked on cleaning him up, she realized that most of the blood was the other guy's as there were no serious injuries on his person. That and the bloody knuckles were the two indicators.

“Thanks, Doc. Ah knew ah was OK. Can I leave now? I really want to go take a shower. Ah’ll be up in the galley making coffee and preparing breakfast if you ah interested.” Joe was ready for that shower and a nap. But the nap could wait.

Alana smiled, grabbing a handful of used up items to discard them. "You may go, Mr. Hook. I don't want to hold you any as the crew and passengers will want their breakfast after the night we all had. I will see you soon."

Once the immediate work area had been tidied up, Alana removed her gloves to input the data for her first patient of the day.

Joe left the medical bay to get a quick shower before beginning his day in the galley. He was run down, worn out and hungover. He hoped he would not see anyone else, or more importantly, no one would see him. The idea made him feel embarrassed.

Within the hour, coffee was brewing and coffee cake was baking in the oven to be covered in a melted sugar glaze.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by sail3695
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sail3695 If you do, I'ma do too.

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A Bigger Game

Rules was rules.

Rules was what kept the MC in order. Rules was what made the coin flow. And after finding one of their own dead in the alley outside the Twirling Rabbit, it was rules what kept them all alive while they sussed it out.

The Headhunters’ clubhouse was in full lockdown. Husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, not to mention an army of kids, had been shuttled from their beds into the direct protection of the MC. For hours, the air was filled with the smell of breakfast cooked for dozens of innocent mouths whose owners all wondered just how long they’d be stuck in this place.

In the table room, Root and his lieutenants hashed out their next moves, and waited for news from their eyes and ears all over Khao Yai. Momma Ellsbeth had handed over the bar’s security capture. The biker chief and his war council studied the images again and again.

“I know Lip didn’t help himself none,” Roach was saying, “but we all been around enough to spot a man lookin’ for a fight.” He backtracked the scene. “See right there? Dude’s sizin’ up his marks.” The image froze. In the bottom corner, Lip, the gang’s money man, jostled for a place at the bar. Not four meters away stood the dark stranger, eyes locked on their brother’s polo shirt with deadly intent.

Root pulled on his cigarette. “So this wasn’t a hit.”

Cheesedick spoke up. “I’m with Roach. None of the other MC’s was out. The Mau-Maus were throwin’ a divorce party for their V-prez and his old lady, and the Chupacabras were layin’ low since Booth got a few of their three-strikers out of stir. This guy,” he pointed toward the screen, “was a one-off.”

“Who is…this guy?” Root studied the face, a murderous intensity on the big screen. “Nips? We pickin’ up any cortex chatter?”

“Not a word,” she replied as she pushed some image prints across the table. “I put the capture out to all our friendlies and anyone who owes us. Hit all the banger turf, the port, and we got a couple barefoots watchin’ the jungle trails. He sticks his head up,” she continued, “we’ll know.”

The biker chief grunted his acknowledgment. “Word from the funeral home is ‘closed casket.’ Not enough of Lip’s face left to rebuild.” He straightened in his chair. “Til we got this guy, we’re buttoned up. Four man rides to check leads. Full pressure on the streets.”

A quick knock at the door announced Ellsbeth. The old woman entered, and settled into her customary seat along the wall. Though she didn’t warrant a place at the table, her confident presence was undisputed among the outlaws in this room. Root offered a grim, deferential nod to his mother.

‘Whatcha want us to do when we find ‘im?” Roach asked. “Make an example, or a quick kill?”

“Lip wasn’t patched,” the boss rubbed his jaw, “but he was still one of ours. Unless our boy’s runnin’ with a crew,” Root answered, “take him down where you find him. Blood for blood.”

“Copy that, Prez.”

Root’s eye landed upon a silent lieutenant. “C-mouth, pick three and saddle up. Sun’s up now. Cover every inch of ground around the Rabbit. I want to know…”

A persistent chirping interrupted the leader’s command. “Sorry, boss,” Nips grabbed her cortex reader. Tucking it to her ear, she turned away from the table, her conversation a hushed whisper whose intensity grew through body language and gestures. Though her brothers often found reason to stare, on this morning her usual distractions didn’t enter into their attention. “Thanks,” she said as her chair swiveled back to face the table. “That was one of Lucchesi’s capos. Our guy’s in the port. Rent-a-cop saw ‘im sleepin’ in a mud puddle, and took him for a sailor who couldn’t finish the walk home.”

The chief leaned forward, palms flat on the table. “And did the donut eater see where home was?”

“Yeah,” his lieutenant gave a single nod. “Said a woman came along and handheld him to a boat on Row J.” She checked her cortex as the vibration announced incoming traffic. “China Doll. Not twenty ticks ago.”

“China Doll?” Root asked as he caught his mom’s eye. “You sure?”

With a swipe from her screen, Nips ‘tossed’ an image onto the table capture. China Doll lay serene in the morning light, a pair of figures making their way up her cargo ramp. She zoomed in, clarifying to reveal an attractive blonde in the act of helping the blood streaked killer shamble his way forward.

“Now I got two beefs with that boat,” the chief grumbled. “C-Mouth,” he turned toward the enforcer. “Change of plans. We’re doin’ this on Lucchesi’s turf. His rules. No sleds, no cuts. Take the van. I want it quick and quiet. First one of China Doll’s crew you see, you shank ‘em and roll out. You feel me, L-T?”

“That’s a rodg.” Cottonmouth took to his feet, hand resting upon the haft of his knife.

“Cheese,” Root waved his cigarette. “You’re still Plan A. Get your posse ready for the black. Nips, you, me, and five watch the gate in case our boy’s crew try to chase C-mouth.” The MC president rose from his seat. “Roach…home guard.”

“You know,” Ellsbeth lifted a hand, “we may have better options.”

“Go on.” Root waved the henchmen off to their errands.

The old woman rose to speak. “You were planning to hit that boat when she broke atmo? Breach a hatch and take her when she depressurized?”

The biker chief settled back in his chair. “S.O.P. Put ‘er down on Bryson’s Rock. Pull the cargo, eighty-six the bodies and sell the boat to scrappers. Then we’re back at the table with Hafez.”

“S.O.P,” she nodded her understanding. “Predictable. Predictable for us, for Hafez, for Five-Oh. Tricks of the trade that no one expects an MC to ever grow beyond…which is why we’re trapped within our margins and losing out on upper tier employment.”

Root scratched his jaw. “I don’t like where this is going, mom. We gotta show strength. One of our own was cut down…”

“...by some offworld bèndàn who just signed away his crew’s future,” Ellsbeth interjected. “Blood for blood” is still a viable move, but it shouldn’t be your first.”

“What have you got in mind.?”

“You’ve just been handed a bargaining chip,” she said. “Pick it up, and others will follow.”

Root fixed his mother with weary eyes. “I hate it when you talk in riddles.”

Ellsbeth smiled.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by sail3695
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sail3695 If you do, I'ma do too.

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Special Delivery

“Snakeskin,” Abby cocked an eyebrow as she checked tha order on ‘er clipboard. “Two pallets. Hunnerd fifty.”

The driver offered his coin. “Here you go.”

She took payment, then wrote out a receipt. “Bein’ picked up on Osiris by MacMillan Leather Goods,” she read aloud. “Jest over three an’ a half days’ flight…gonna put us in ‘bout midnight on Tuesday. They can come git it next mornin’ after eight.”

“I’ll let ‘em know,” he tossed a friendly wave as he climbed into his truck. “Safe travels.”

“May tha road rise,” she replied as the truck coughed an’ rattled away. "That’s one,” the girl pondered as she jacked an’ strapped tha pallets inta place. Second truck was comin'…some kinda cosmetic skin cream that Cap’n said keep an eye out for. Tha big haul was due in at noon. A dozen pallets full ‘o’ stuff like hair growth tonic, boner pills, somethin’ called ‘skin re-jeoo-vin-aters,’ an’ scads ‘o’ diff’rent diet pills, pain pills…even stuff tah keep yer dog from gettin’ all anxious. ”They got a drug fer ever’thin’,” the deckhand shook ‘er head as she settled down front in tha lawnchair tah wait.

She parked tha clipboard on ‘er knees, afore pullin tha cortex outta her pocket.

Sooo…hung over today?

Abby smiled an’ put ‘er thumbs tah work.

Nope. Right as rain. Yuri gave me a good tip.

Yuri Yuri Yuri! Ima get jealous.

He’s a good kisser, too.


It was hard tah type fer all her gigglin’.

JKJKJK. You know who I’m saving all my kisses for.

Oh yeah. So when do you get that puppy?


A high revvin’ truck engine caught ‘er ear. Abby looked up from her messagin’. A white cargo van come whippin’ up, swung it’s nose away from tha boat, an’ then backed right up tah tha ramp. ”Ain’t wastin’ no time,” she conjured as she got tah her feet.

Back doors come open an’ three fellas jumped out. “Hey,” Abby greeted ‘em. “Y’all deliverin’ some kinda..”

The flashlight clocked ‘er straight on tha left temple. Abby staggered; her cortex an’ clipboard gone flyin’ as she tried tah reach fer tha Colt. A boot caught ‘er in tha solar plexus, takin’ all ‘er air as a fist pummelled straight intah her right eye. She thought she had tha Colt…thought it was in ‘er hand, but as she collapsed in tha dirt, it weren’t nowheres in reach. Tha boot come again, this time given’ her such a kick as tah knock away ‘er senses.

She kinda felt hands on ‘er. They’s pickin’ ‘er up, afore piitchin’ ‘er like a sack 'o' taters. Hard rubber deckin’ pressed intah her face. Her hands was pulled behind ‘er an’ zip tied at tha wrists, but loopy as she was she couldn’t figger a move tah save ‘er life.

Doors was slammin'. Voices all from folk she couldn’t see, face down’s she was. “Call Root,” one falla barked. ‘Let ‘im know we got one.”

Abby weren’t sure, but it felt like they’s movin…fast. An’ then it all went black.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by sail3695
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sail3695 If you do, I'ma do too.

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Story Note

The scene of the crime…

Anyone who glances toward the foot of the cargo ramp will notice the following:

The lawnchair is knocked over, on its’ side.

The clipboard is lying open, its' pages flipping in the breeze.

Abby’s cortex reader is several feet away. A closer inspection will reveal the following message:

Is it something I said?

Finally, Abby’s prized replica Colt Navy revolver is lying in the dirt.

There may be tire tracks, but no sign of the vehicle that made them.

<Open Tag>
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Aalakrys
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The Road Not Taken

This takes place while the crew is at the bar

The release of the button at Penelope’s last words clicked loud in the silence that filled the room now that the static of the comm and Cal’s voice wasn’t taking up room. There was a bittersweet turn to her gentle smile, as she sat the handheld aside on the counter next to her. Her hazel eyes lingered on it only a moment before flickering to her father and his friend, and the moment their eyes locked that pressure she felt building against the pit of her stomach vanished.

The next morning…

On the flight deck of the China Doll, nestled in the less conspicuous place her Captain had placed her, the little black rectangular box that housed Sam now sported a hard half pit of a Greenleaf fruit. Dried and preserved in filament, it was painted with a simple silhouette of the giant kapok tree. Etched around the piece was ‘Greenleaf’ in the similar style of the shell from New Melbourne adjacent.

Sam herself had enjoyed the process as Penelope told her of the Grandfather tree as she sealed it on. It was after, when the pilot had said goodbye that the AI went back to thoughtful whirring. At the question of ‘goodbye’, just a bag was hoisted over a slender shoulder, Sam had stored the young woman’s words.

“Tell Cal that maybe he was right, and I should’a left that road not taken… but neither of us know where it goes, and I’m luckier than most to get another chance. Next time the Doll docks in Greenleaf, look me up - know ya can, Sam. I think I’ll go to roost for a while in my roots. And, I reckon I should let ya know not to worry about Hafez - I already explained it to him on the way over. Think he’s happy I’ll be stayin’ on planet a while, so he said he’ll send ya someone if ya can’t find a pilot. Best’a luck, y’all.”

And so, the message waited on the China Doll's captain when he reported back in on deck - or, if Sam was generous, after he slept the night out off. Penelope couldn't know. She was snug in the sheets of her old bed, in her old room, the contents of her bunk at the China Doll sitting in a heap to the side. She'd get to that later. It was time to enjoy being home.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by sail3695
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sail3695 If you do, I'ma do too.

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One Walked, One Was Dragged

JP/collab from @wanderingwolf and @sail3695

Rex Black is a character created by @Psych0pomp

For Rex, the act of opening one eye required superhuman effort.

Though his mouth was sticky dry, his cheek and the underlying pillow, were soaked. He groaned at the weight of what he felt certain to be an anvil sitting on his head. The pain radiated downward; his body threatened open revolt as he clawed himself up to a sitting position. Rex blinked, dulled wits slowly coming to grips with the alien surroundings. He was in one of the Doll’s guest berths.

A small trash can stood by the bed. There, on the night table, lay 4 aspirin tablets. Standing guard were a pair of tall glasses, beads of condensation sweat trickling down their sides. As a man in the desert might do, he gulped the first, water cascading down his chin as he drank the glass dry.

He waited for the signs of a rebellious stomach. When none came, Rex downed the aspirin. This time, he sipped from the second glass as the cobwebs cleared.

“The kid,” his voice rumbled as if he hadn't spoken in years. She must’ve put him to bed. He had some memory of last night…couple yahoos throwin’ down in the street til she came along. Money…something about the root of all evil. If he remembered right, it was his other root that brought the evil down upon him.

As if on cue, Rex’s bladder throbbed an overload warning; time to drain the lizard. A quick lurch across the corridor had him in the lav to enjoy the first sweet relief of a morning he’d rather forget. After tucking ‘the weapon’ away, he busied himself with a few righteous splashes of water from the sink. The face staring in the mirror had more to mar it’s image then the customary red rimmed eyes and three days’ stubble. There was a puff to his cheek. His lower lip was swollen and flecked with dried blood. Yeah, now he remembered. He’d had himself a time, alright. And the kid had come out of her pocket to square him up.

After a quick face wash and fingers winnowing his hair to some kind of order, he made his way across the cargo bay. This hour of the day, Cal usually had the deckhand’s little pi gu parked in her lawnchair to scare up fares. “Hey, Cal Junior,” Rex squinted, blinking in the harsh morning sun as he stood in the opening. “They say sex sells. That why you can’t make any bookings?”

When no answering retort came, he shielded his eyes. It didn’t take more than a glance to conjure that whatever took place here, it was sure no Yúrén jié. “Kid? ABBY!” he shouted. Only the clipboard answered with a silent rustle of pages. Now awake and sharp, Rex hurried aft, toward the nearest intercom.

“Cal,” he keyed the mic. “Cargo ramp. We got trouble.”

From the pilot's chair, Cal leaned over one of Penelope's parting gifts, a pair of knit gloves he'd donned for the freezing ride to the Greenleaf. He slipped one on as he sipped coffee from a tin cup with the other. Rex's concerned voice echoed off the steel bridge, chasing away the early morning stillness.

"Roger," came the reply as Strand stripped off the glove and made his way through the crew births. The tone of Rex's call, being so counter his regular nature, was warning enough. As he approached the ramp, the scene Rex stood among began to tell a story.

The first mate looked up from his study. “Never been a gumshoe,” he said to the silent figure atop the ramp, “but it’s all pretty clear. Can’t suss out tracks, but somebody hauled her outta here on the double quick.”

Strand watched the pages of the abandoned clipboard curl and fold in the morning breeze. "Looks that way," came his reply from tight lips as he took in the chair, the colt, the cortex. A few steps carried the Captain to Abigial's device, which blinked an incoming message:

Is it something I said?

Looking up from the cortex at the tracks that led away from the ramp, Cal added "Close this up and get everyone together in the galley; I want to know what's goin' on. Meet me on the bridge in five." Strand turned toward the bow, taking the cargo bay stairs two at a time. "Maybe Sam saw somethin'..." he hoped in vain.

“Yeah…shiny,” Rex’s eyes followed Cal for a moment. As the captain disappeared into shadow, his first mate picked up the clipboard. Abby’d had one delivery…the two pallets strapped in the aft end of the bay. One-fifty in coin…enough to steal, but he couldn’t see anything beyond a street holdup for that.

After folding the lawnchair, he lifted Abby’s revolver from the dirt. With surprisingly gentle hands he wiped the dust away with a shirttail, before slipping the gun into his pocket. Rex Black lifted his eyes to sweep the surrounding port for any sign of the missing girl. When none came, he collected the things and headed inside.

Once there, he flipped the intercom to ‘shipwide address’ and keyed the mic. “Attention, all hands and passengers. This is the First Mate. The Captain’s called for a meeting, fifteen minutes from now, in the galley. Be there.”

<Open tag>
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by MK Blitzen
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MK Blitzen Have Plot, Will Travel

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You Bellowed?

The Galley, Sometime morningish, Greenleaf Day 4

OOC: JP between @Winters, @MK Blitzen @Yule

“It’s hard to say,” Cyd chuffed, giving another dejected look to the cortex. “It all depends on our next destination. Pen didn’t say where we were headed, and I don’t want to trip anything up jacking into the navigation system. I can ask her when she gets back from this meet-up with her Dad.”

“You would think someone would give us a head up on where the ship was gorram heading.” Mathias groused. “When is Pen anyway? I didn’t hear any flitting and I didn’t smell any patchouli and I’m pretty sure we take off soon.” He pointed out rolling a coin between his fingers. “Kinda need a pilot for that.”

"Pen, Pen, Pen." Isaac rolled his eyes as he came out from behind the dressing curtain the trio set up in the shuttle. "Ever since this whole…" he waved his hand trying to think of the word, "puma thing…or-" He paused, not feeling like that was right. "Or...Dad? I dunno, that night was fuzzy. Point is, she's all you guys talk about ever since." he griped.

“One day you’ll learn to appreciate it when you meet folk that don’t talk down at you like kak on the bottom of their boot, or with suspicion for no reason other than you exist. She is nice to us. I respect that.” Mathias explained.

"Great, can we meet those folk after breakfast? I'm starving!" The youngest Skye whined.

“Attention, all hands, and passengers. This is the First Mate. The Captain’s called for a meeting, fifteen minutes from now, in the galley. Be there.”

"But breakfast!" Isaac gasped in dismay, seeing his dream of waffles, sausage, and strawberry shortcake evaporated before his eyes.

“Do we spoil him? I feel like we spoil him …” Mathias chuckled looking to his twin.

“Ja nee,” Cyd said with a wry grin. “We spoil him. Breakfast is one of your four favorite meals of the day, Yobo. Is everyone presentable?” She eyed over the sibs. Isaac looked like he’d gone one-on-one with a Python, like anyone not from Greenleaf would believe that. And Mathias - she’d rewrapped his hand that morning, the eggshell membrane was working its magic but it’d still need time to heal up.

“By presentable do you mean no one in this room smells like sex, vomit, or puma piss then yes … we are presentable.” Mathias nodded.

"Keepin' the the bar loooooow!" Isaac concurred with pride as he slid his flat palm outwards in a smooth motion.

Cyd sniffed the air just to make sure, grimacing, then deciding it wasn’t bad, it was just boy. She nodded in approval. “Lekker. Let’s see what’s bosbefok, and get Isaac something to eat. Maybe it’s about the next hop, so we can firm up the job,” she added hopefully as she slipped the datapad into her thigh pocket for safekeeping.

Mathias stood up stretching. “Wonder why they're calling everyone together. You don’t think it has anything to do with the shit they tossed overboard, the dead fed, or the crazy chick who chucked herself in the middle of the ocean during a raging storm? No, I doubt it … nothing weird on this ship … like it never happened, right?” He snorted. “I bet the Captain’s mobbed up. He has to be.”

Isaac's mouth dropped open. "Oh my gawd….that would make so much sense." He whispered in astonishment.

“Right!?” Mathias said mussing Isaac’s hair.

"He is far too good looking to be mobbed up," Cyd insisted. And who among them wasn't a little skelm?

The trio piled into the galley and found it empty at the moment.

“Guess we're the first ones here. Who wants bacon!” Mathias said, arming himself with a skillet.

Isaac's hand was first to jut into the air as he waved it frantically to ensure his brother would see.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by sail3695
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The Terms

JP/collab from @wanderingwolf and @sail3695

Rex Black is a character created by @Psych0pomp.

The First Mate made all haste to join his Captain on the bridge. As he bounded up the stairs, Rex could hear Cal in earnest conversation with the mysterious Samantha AI. He’d never voiced curiosity over the oddity…over their years, Cal and Rex had learned the art of “some things better left unsaid,” As he stepped onto the bridge, he saw no need to go challenging that norm today.

Cal was bent over the pilot’s console, palms resting on its’ surface as Sam captured the inbound transmission.

“Hey…China Doll.” The face onscreen was that of a man in his middle forties. A chiseled countenance was made all the more daunting by a scar whose path from forehead to chin was broken only by a patch worn over the left eye. “You took two things from us. Now, we got something of yours.”

The image shook, then whirled at a dizzying pace as the stranger redirected his capture. A compartment, dimly lit, scattered with refuse and various scrap parts, was the scene in which China Doll’s captain and first mate caught sight of their missing deckhand. Abby lay on one side, her head lolling to the deck. Arms pulled behind her back told of her bound wrists. The capture moved in, jittering slightly as her face was framed in the image. A large welt crept from beneath her hair and down her left cheek. The girl’s right eye was swollen shut, her face a macabre mask completed by tousled hair and a duct tape gag firmly over her mouth. Her open eye revealed both fear and fury as she offered a subtle shake of her head.

“Damn, they really did a number on her,” Rex whispered to the stone-faced captain. Cal didn’t need the overture his first mate offered to cotton the twist of this particular knife. After a few moments of seeing red, Strand shook his head to square up to the man who held Abigail’s life in his grimy palm.

“She’s alive,” the voice cut in as the vid jerked away toward her captor. “If you wanna get her back that way, here’s what you’re gonna do.” The erratic jittering of the image settled as the kidnapper seated himself at a table. “You poached the Osiris run from us. I’m pretty sure you don’t conjure just what you’re carrying, so you’re probably doing it on the cheap. You’re gonna load it up, and you’re gonna haul it all the way to the drop…just like you told Nadal you would. Couldn’t be simpler, right?” His face broke into a crooked leer. “We’ll be there, and so will she. You deliver without any Alliance or cops taggin’ along, and your little lost lamb will make it home. But we catch one whiff of tomfoolery…I conjure you know what happens next.”

The capture whirled again to offer a glimpse of the deckhand.

On a screen adjacent to the capture, a colon-backslash appeared in apple green with the words: “Probability of rape, loss of limb or life to Abigail Travis: 87.33%.” Cal’s eyes bounced from the grim cautioning of Sam to the capture of Abby’s stubborn expression, even beneath the duct tape and bloodshot eye.

“One more thing.” The image lurched again. This time, a still capture swam into view. Joe Hooker was front and center, his face a mask of rage as he clutched a handful of another man’s blue polo shirt. The cook’s right fist was slightly blurred on it’s way to deliver the next blow to his opponent’s face. “That guy,” the kidnapper’s voice spoke once again. “Have him at the meet. He skips out, you can kiss your little girl goodbye.”

Cal fixed Rex with a look which his first mate knew to mean ‘bring me the hide of Joseph Hooker.’ Without a word, the solemn-faced mate backed off from the capture into the inky, black bowels of the China Doll to deliver the cook to the captain.

The grizzled face appeared once more. “We conjure you touch down in Capital City next Tuesday at midnight. Don’t be late.” He fumbled with his capture, palm covering the screen as he struggled to cut the feed. “Get the Angel ready. Tell C-mouth to…”

As the feed died, Cal slammed a heavy fist onto the console, sending his tin cup to the floor of the deck, and with a swift kick, all the way down to the crew berths.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by MK Blitzen
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MK Blitzen Have Plot, Will Travel

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So long, and thanks for all the fish…. sticks.

The Galley, Lost track of time

OOC: JP between @Winters, @MK Blitzen @Yule

Cyd’s cortex rang just as Mathias put the first pieces of bacon in the preheating pan. He swears that keeps it from shrinking, and at the prices of actual pork bacon, there wasn’t a carnivorous soul who could blame him. Isaac salivated at the first sound of sizzling, the sweet maple scent wafting through to his nose. The youngest Skye sibling all but floated through the air with hearts on his eyes like a Saturday morning cartoon dog.

Cyd actually hoped it was one of Isaac’s female friends, even though the pit of her stomach, churning with anticipation of breakfast, she knew it wouldn’t be. Not after the last message.

You’ve been compromised. They were careful, but apparently not careful enough. Shit had gone sideways, fast, and the siblings always knew this could be a possibility, a probability, even if she hoped for a different outcome. “Whatever the ship’s vrot – ” she said half-heartedly, letting the words hang.

Mathias nodded understandably and took the frypan off the stove. It was time to go. Isaac’s bottom lip practically quivered.

“But… the bacon!” he lamented.

“I’ll miss the food too,” Mathias said, tousling the boy’s hair. Isaac playfully slapped his hands away.

The Skye’s were packed long before anyone else arrived in the galley. Cyd took one last look around the China Doll’s shuttle. It’d only been home for a few days, but it was pretty nice, she thought, while it lasted. She took the sign welcoming the crew in from the cold as a memento and made sure the dongle was safely tucked in her pocket.

Mathias nudged her shoulder and ticked his head towards the door. “Time?” He asked.

“It’s time,” she confirmed.

“Are we leaving all the fish sticks?” Isaac asked, his eyes wide.

"What are we going to do with a dozen boxes of fish sticks?" Cyd chuckled. “It's kind of like payment. We never did find anyone to take rent."

Wish you all the best, China Doll.

Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Xandrya
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Xandrya Lone Wolf

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Bad News to Come

Wide awake as she was, Alana was looking to rest a little while longer. Not that she’d get any sleep as she was more interested in putting her feet up before handling any more responsibilities. At least, that was the plan prior to being called down to the galley. Her curiosity piqued, she wondered what type of pressing matters had Rex sounding all serious and authoritative. She supposed she’d find out soon enough.

With a small groan, the woman rolled onto her side and propped herself up into a sitting position. She then bent down to pick up one shoe with as much enthusiasm as a child walking into their least favorite class. She’d had plenty of water up to that point—which usually got the job done—yet the looming sense of sickness which came in waves every so often was still driving her mad. Alana had somehow managed to avoid that panicked rush to the nearest waste receptacle up to that point, but that was probably due to her being distracted from finding Hook all banged up. What better time than now though to take her own advice and fight fire with fire. She had 15 minutes, so a pit stop to the infirmary would almost make her brand new, especially since she had enough of the supply in stock.

Once the left shoe was on, she grabbed the right one to repeat the process before she was heading out her quarters. The moment she stepped outside, Alana’s eyes darted back and forth. It was quiet, unusually so, especially after such an announcement. She stood in place for a moment then made her way to the infirmary, coming to the conclusion that they were moving slow as sloth, and rightfully so given the events from the previous evening.

Once behind closed doors, for the sake of her own privacy, she sat down and rubbed her eyes, her head angled back to be supported by the bulkhead. Alana was getting a little worried now. She hadn’t yet seen Cal and usually he was the one to make one of these all-hands calls, unless he had busied himself with something so early in the morning but then again, whatever matter had prompted the urgent request would have taken precedence. The young woman sighed, opening the small packaging before gulping down the two tablets with some more water and then proceeding to leave again.

On the way, Alana heard some clanking noise or the other, but it might as well have fallen on deaf ears. Such noises weren’t the least bit uncommon given the ship life, so it certainly didn’t interest her. She did however perk up when the smell of bacon finally hit her as she entered the galley. Quite inviting, yet sadly enough it sat unattended for whatever reason. Alana decided to instead grab a granola bar before finding a seat opposite the stove, the smell of bacon still lingering in the air.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by sail3695
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She listened tah this fella…this ‘Root’ as he’s called, givin’ tha Cap’n what for. Didn’t make no sense to Abby as she’s dumped on tha floor. Them as took her done slugged ‘er somethin’ righteous. Her whole head was throbbin’ away an’ one eye weren’t comin’ open. She didn’t taste no blood, so nobody walloped ‘er mouth…yet. The girl struggled tah dust away ‘er cobwebs, while tha spy from Uncle Bob’s shows was tellin’ her how it was.

“…For a captured spy, the equation is simple. A violent capture equals a violent interrogation equals a death sentence. Despite what they say, despite their bargaining, the hostage taker’s goal is to end your captivity in blood. Do your best to make it theirs…”

Didn’t right kin how she might do such a thing, what with her wrists bound behind ‘er back an’ such…an’ a knot ‘o’ fear what grew outta her stomach an’ terrified her still. They’s part ‘o’ her wanted tah cry…wanted tah beg these folk whose boots was clompin’ all around her fer some kinda mercy…but no. She’d be gorramed if she showed that side tah these Joo Fuen Chse.

“Get her up,” Root ordered.

Hands grabbed her, near jerkin’ an arm right out tha socket as she’s picked up an’ dropped inta a chair. Abby got ‘er first look at ‘em. Despite what they done tah her face, she couldn’t help but sneer as that Root fella leaned over her. Soon’s tha tape come off ‘er mouth, she had one ready. “Is it ‘Dress Like a Pirate’ day? I can getcha a parrot.”

“Funny kid,” the MC president squatted at eye level. “What’s your name, Sweetie?”

“Notcher sweetie.”

“Shiny,” he said as he reached for the printed capture. “Let’s try another one. What’s this guy’s name?”

She looked on a pitcher ‘o’ Hook. By golly, he was wailin’ tha ever lovin’ tar outta some fella. But what really caught ‘er was his face. Granted, she ain’t known Hook any too long, but tha look on him reminded ‘er of tha bear what killed Mei Lin’s pa in ‘er book. All kinda wild fury in them eyes…

Root lowered the capture. “So you know him, then.”

“Nope.” She seen Root glance tah his right an’ nod, afore her head was knocked all pigglety. Took awhile for them stars tah clear out til she could lift ‘er face an’ look ‘im in the eye.

“You wanna tell me again?”

“Yeah…yeah…I know ‘im,” Abby tilted ‘er head tah coax a mem’ry. “Fella got one ‘em Asian names….goes by ‘Yu’. She paused, thinkin’ on it. “First name is uhhh..,I’m thinkin’....ummm…oh yeah,” her eye brightened. “Fuk,” she answered. “That’s it. Fuk Yu.”
Next blow like tah rattled ‘er teeth out.

“Enough for now.” Root stood up as the girl slowly shook her head. “Time to bounce. Cottonmouth, get her on the Angel.”

“Copy, Prez.” As Root and the others left the room, the man named fer some kinda snake leaned over her. “Wanna go for a ride?” Afore Abby could answer that, tha sack come down over her face.
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The Reckoning - Part 1

JP/collab from @Gunther, @wanderingwolf, and @sail3695

Rex Black is a character created by @Psych0pomp

Cal waited.

His hands occupied themselves with the hinge of his silver cigarette case.


Of all the people they could have taken; her the youngest, brightest kid onboard.


That eye, swollen double. That jaw, taped shut. That gash across her cheek.


And Joseph Hooker lay somewhere in the middle of it with the leader’s condition: “Have him at the meet. He skips out, you can kiss your little girl goodbye.” The thought made his blood boil. Joe's face on that capture. His blurred fist as it painted a target on Abigail. Even as it sent them all straight into Da Shiong La Se La Ch’wohn Tian. (tr: The explosive diarrhea of an elephant)

He pulled a cigarette from the case.

"You shouldn't smoke in here," came Sam’s a resolute voice from behind his shoulder.

"I'm the captain. Mean's I get to do what I want." The lighter's flame punctuated his statement.

"That stuff will kill you, you know."

"Somethin's gotta." He took a long drag, "But not afore I hear the part Hook played in bringing this la shi to my door."

Finding the cook was more challenging than he reckoned. Usually about this time, Hook would be in the galley, putting the spurs to some sort of lunch plan. But today, there was just a woman he’d not seen before. On any other day, the sight of some pretty would’ve changed his course a bit…but not today. Not after what he’d just seen. “Beg pardon, ma’am,” the First Mate said. “Have you seen Hook?”

Edina Wyman turned from the frying pan she’d found lying next to the stove. “No,” she gave the familiar face a smile. “Just got here myself. You’re Rex.”

“All day long,” he nodded as he shook the offered hand.

“Edina,” she answered the unvoiced question. “I got on at New Melbourne. Gonna fly with you to Osiris. The friendly smile held steady, though she noted a more serious veil behind the man’s eyes. “Care to share what’s on the captain’s mind?”

Rex turned. “That’s for the captain to say, ma’am. Can I ask a favor? If you see Hook, Let ‘im know the Captain needs him in the cockpit?”

“Count on me,” she said to his back as he hurried off. “Nice meeting you, Rex.”

Well Hook had been in the galley earlier. He started a pot of coffee and was going to work on making some coffee rolls, but then decided he needed to take that shower instead. He was a bit exhausted from the night he had, but cleaning up took priority.

Once the shower ended, he strolled back to his quarters unaware of what was going on in the ship. He needed to get dressed before he returned to the galley to make the coffee rolls and anything else the crew or its passengers might need.

“Hey, Hook,” Rex caught up to the man. “Captain needs you on the bridge. Now.”

“No problem, Mistah Black.” Joe went back to his quarters. He dressed in navy blue coveralls, his usual work boots and then slipped the gunbelt containing the Ruger Redhawk in its holster. The gunbelt was just a standard appliance he was accustomed to wearing. He had it on him the night before, but never considered using it.

Within a few minutes, He was up on the bridge, “You wanna see me, Cap’n?”

………….To Be Continued…………
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The Reckoning - Part 2

JP/Collab from @Xandrya and @sail3695

Something was definitely up. Except for conversations she’d had with Abby the deckhand, Edina really hadn’t cultivated relationships beyond friendly nods and cordial greetings. Still, even a neophyte like her could sense the tension in the air as one by one, Hook and Rex hurried past on their way to China Doll’s bridge. Like her, the doctor appeared none the wiser as she sniffed for bacon and settled for a granola bar. “Good morning,” she offered a smile to the medic. “We haven’t met. I’m Edina Wyman, one of the passengers.”

Crunching away at her breakfast for the day, Alana gazed up to a woman entering the galley who introduced herself as Edina. She swallowed the mouthful before her expression brightened in kind. "Pleasure to meet you, I'm Alana, AKA the doctor." She stood halfway up to shake the woman's hand before sitting back down, the opposite hand motioning towards the bacon. "Food's been cooked but no one has claimed it yet; the reason for this meeting must be quite something I imagine."

Learning this boat…understanding her systems and how they interacted, was exactly like his first listen to a new jazz capture. He’d often compared the Mick’s workings to Monk, Garner, and Coleman. But his first day as China Doll’s mechanic was pure Miles. She was an intricate weave of unknowns and mysteries. He knew the functions of each system, but as any of the greats would say, “knowin’ what a horn is don’t tell you what you’re gonna hear.”

But he’d been given some great clues. SAMANTHA’s shipwide schematic was music on the page, to be studied and savored in depth. He’d already put hours into the living diagram, identifying the necessary interface junctions to further integrate the AI into the boat’s functions. Then, there were some pretty helpful notes in the engineering log. A previous mechanic, somebody named Baker, had left a well written list of procedures and settings. The guideposts had made preflight check remarkably simple. He thought they might’ve been written for Abby, but the concise language lent its’ own stylings to the music that was China Doll.

So engrossed was he that he nearly missed the call for everyone to meet in the galley. With systems and numbers playing the tune in his head, Yuri made his way forward, to find two folk already seated at the table. Dr. Lysanger was munching a bar of some sort as the other woman sipped at some aromatic coffee. “Good morning,” Yuri greeted both as he reached for a mug. “What’s going on?”

"I was hoping you'd tell us...and good morning to you too."

“Not a clue.” Smiling at the doctor came naturally to him. Despite her obvious good looks he wasn’t one to forget the kindness she’d bestowed upon him after hauling him, broken and shivering, from a cruel sea. If there was one person who warranted a grateful smile, that was Alana Lysanger.

The previous evening had been fun. From what she could gather, Yuri had had a hell of a night, though it didn't show then. Maybe he was one of the lucky ones who bounced right back without much of a struggle. "Haven't really seen the others though I'm sure some are moving more sluggish than the rest."

He nodded as coffee splashed into his mug. “I was wondering about that. Anybody seen Abby this morning?” His grin waxed mischievous toward the medic, before greeting the third member of their company. “Did we meet already? Yuri Antonov,” he offered his good hand. “The new mechanic.”

Taking the last bite, Alana crumpled the empty wrapper in her fist. The thought of having some caffeine crossed her mind as she mindlessly watched Yuri pour himself his beverage, but the combination with the meds would not work in her favor.

“Edina Wyman,” she accepted the offered hand. “She was up and about. I heard something heavy being shoved around in the cargo bay, so I guess she survived your big night.”

A quick nod followed in response. "I believe we all survived, no casualties there."

She found it funny, referencing a night out drinking the way they did. Of course,given the age gap, if anyone could survive their big night it was Abby. "Gotta give it to the girl...up nice and early doing all that physical work. The captain sure picked a tough cookie with her."

Yuri chuckled and tapped the cast on his left arm. “That’s good news, seeing as she’s my extra hands until I can get out of this.” Suddenly reminded, he leaned toward Alana. “Is it true that on Osiris they’ve got bone repair tech that’d heal this back in a single day?”

Alana rested her forearms on the table. "You bet they do," she confirmed with somewhat of a smirk, her voice then lowering some. "Word is, the right connections will get you in and out at lightspeed. But otherwise, the wait for the procedure isn't terrible."

More hearsay than not, Alana was relaying what she'd heard from someone who'd apparently heard it from someone else. "Lucky for you, instead of that tech fixing you up, you've got one of the best doctors on this side of the 'verse to care for you."

Edina clinked her coffee mug against Alana’s. “That’s what I heard from a certain deckhand.”

"And that deckhand would be correct," she played along, shooting Edina a smug smile as if she herself had just cured every disease known to man.

The mechanic’s jaw dropped. “You’ve got…” he stammered. “You can do that here?”

Alana then shifted her gaze. "Yuri, there isn't any miracle I can't perform..." Taking a sip, she shrugged her shoulders as if she were speaking matter-of-factly.

He glanced from one toward the other. The two women smiled sweetly as their victim wrestled with the dilemma. He was obviously being put on, but to call them on their ruse…especially the doctor who just days earlier had plucked him from a sure death…bordered on the sort of faux pas one simply didn’t commit on their first day of work. In the end, it was parental wisdom that came to his rescue. Yuri smiled and shook his head. “My father warned me that you hunt in packs.”

"While there are strength in numbers, you should never turn your back on the lone-wolf types neither. Edina can back me on that, isn't that so?"

Yuri didn't stand a chance. He was clearly outmatched and for his sake, he better hope someone else walked into the galley soon.

“She’s the doctor,” the passenger laughed at the mechanic’s bemused expression. “And I conjure our resident lone wolf should come bounding up those steps any sec now.”

Their revelry halted with the metallic ring of the cockpit hatch. The corridor soon echoed with the sound of bootheels. The three fell quiet, expectant faces turned forward to catch sight of their captain.

…………To Be Continued………….
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The Reckoning - Part 3

JP/collab from @Gunther, @wanderingwolf, and @sail3695

Rex Black is a character created by @Psych0pomp

Rex spoke from his place beside the cockpit’s entrance. “You want the room, Cap?”

“Stick around.” Cal’s voice held the cold edge of a scythe. “Dog that hatch.” As Rex sealed them into the cockpit, the Captain’s eyes fixed upon the cook. “Caught a wave a couple ticks back,” he said as he stepped clear of the pilot’s console screen. “You might oughta have a gander.” As Hook watched the video, the captain pulled a fresh cigarette. When the image cut to black, Cal released a cloud of smoke. “Now talk.”

Joe watched the video of what he had done last night. If it weren’t for waking up in a mud puddle this morning, he would have thought it a nightmare. “Ah dunno what to tell ya, Cap’n,” Joe watched the capture. The proof was right there. He couldn’t get out of this. “When everyone leff’ las’ night, ah went to another place. Ah was drunk. Ah muss a’ been feelin ready for a fight. Sometimes when ah gets drunk, ah get angry and let mah feelins go. Ah found this fella and he was an asshole tah me. He took a poke at me. Knocked me upside the head. The bouncers kicked us out. We went to what ah thought was a deserted alley. When we got there, we started tah fight. Only, ah got the advantage right away and ah muss have let loose with all mah anger.” Joe was very ashamed of his behavior. He couldn’t look the captain in the eye. “Ya think when ya do somethin like this, it would take that anger away, but no. Ah juss felt bad. Real bad. Is that guy alright? Ah dunno. Ah was pretty out of it.” Joe was losing it. His eyes were welling up. “Tell me that guy is alright.” Joe was filled with remorse. He needed to sit down. He reached for one of the seats on the bridge and dropped into it.

From his place leaning against the entry hatch, Rex couldn’t see the cook’s face to read truth in him. He just had the man’s words and body language to feel his way through to anything that might help Cal and their kidnapped deckhand. “Man said we took two things from him,” the First Mate replied. “Spent a fair good time talking about the cargo. Judging by his interest in having you at the meet and the beat down they gave the kid, I conjure it’s a safe bet you killed one of theirs.”

Joe dropped his head into his hands, elbows upon his thighs. He felt horrible upon hearing the man he beat died as a result of his injuries. “Not again,” he mumbled to himself. He shook his head in anger. “Cap’n the night before I met you on Persephone, ah did the same thing. It's the alcohol that does it ta me. Ah lose control of mahself.” Joe was very upset with himself. “Ah need to see a Shepherd before I die. Ah juss hope no one else was affected by mah lack of control.”

Cal pulled on the cigarette, hardly taking any smoke for the way his teeth clinched the filter. When Hook’s tale came to an end, he expelled what little smoke he had managed to inhale. “Sam,” he said as the ruined butt was ground under a boot heel. “Backtrack that wave.”

The AI complied, whirling the kidnappers’ video in high speed reverse. The captain watched, his jaw locked down tight, arms folded as the biker, Root, seemed to jabber like an animal from a kids’ capture, before an abrupt scene change.

“Stop.” Cal turned to face Joe Hooker. “How about that for someone else?” He pointed toward Abby’s face, frozen on the little screen. “Mayhaps you don’t recognize her, all bruised and swole up as she is. Care to take a guess?”

Joe looked at the capture display. He struggled to see it properly. He recognized the red hair. Obviously it was a female. Since he had not seen her yet this morning, it could be only one person. “Oh mah lord. Is that Miss Abby?” Joe was shook to the core. “We gots to get her. Who has her? Is this someone akin to the fellah I kilt?” Joe felt very bad. He was shook to the core. “We gots to get her, Cap’n! What do they want? Me? They can have me. Ah’ll trade places with Miss Abby!”

Rex feigned a diffident shrug. “Might come to that.”

“No,” Cal’s voice was firm. “This pooch was screwed before you threw hands in a bar. That’s not to say you didn’t make things a whole lot worse.” His eyes took in the screen. The girl was just a kid…just a gorram kid. “Hook,” he said, holding his gaze, “mark my words. If I’d had half a mind of your little homicide fetish you’da found yourself off this boat on New Melbourne. Not sayin’ that won’t happen on Osiris, but for now, you’re in this thing with us all the way. I need every gun hand I can get,” he faced off with the cook as he spoke. “What I don’t need is hot heads, drunkards, or moon brains who freelance a trigger before I say. You can take it as fact that this la shi is business you’n me are gonna settle, but that won’t come ‘til after we get her back. So tell me straight,” the Captain demanded, “can this boat count on you doin’ your part?”

Joe felt really bad about the situation. He knew it was his fault. His and his alone. He felt bad for Abby and wanted to help get her back. He looked down into his hands as if the answer were written there. Alas, it was not in the palms of his hands. Then he looked up at the captain, right in his eyes. In a very deadpan serious tone, “Yes sah!” He hoped he could stop the drinkin’ and the killin’. Maybe a shepherd could straighten him out. If the captain needed him to do more killing to get Abby back, then killing is what he would do. He didn’t like it, but it appeared to be a damn necessity to fix things straight.

Cal’s eyes were a combination of mistrust and cold resolve. As a long moment passed between the two men on the now silent bridge, he finally spoke. “Enough for now. Let’s go.” The cockpit hatch whined protest as Rex pulled it open, permitting his captain passage to the galley.

……………To Be Continued……………
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The Reckoning - Part 4

JP/Collab from @Xandrya, @Gunther, @wanderingwolf, and @sail3695

Rex Black is a character created by @Psych0pomp

Cal entered the galley, followed by Rex and Hook. He moved to the head of the table, jaw set, as all eyes were upon him. After waiting for the first mate and cook to take their seats, the Captain rested hands upon a chair back, took a breath, and spoke.

As soon as Cal made himself seen, Alana instinctively tightened her grip on the mug with hands cupping either side of it. The expression on his face alerted her as to the gravity of the situation, and what awaited them was going to be far from good news. She glanced at him nervously, not moving in her spot as she waited for an explanation.

“Here’s how it is. Our pilot left the boat. She’s got family and a yen to mend fences. Can’t think of a finer reason for quittin’ the life. Rex here’ll steer us to Osiris. But,” Cal’s eyes swept across the attentive faces, “we got big trouble.”

The very air seemed to thicken as he laid out their situation. “Turns out the plum job we landed put us crossways with a bunch ‘o’ bikers who had prior claim. Tough enough gristle,” he admitted, “but it didn’t help when one of theirs got killed in a scrap with one of ours. Now they’re lookin’ for both blood and money…and to make sure they get it, they shanghai’d our deckhand right off our cargo ramp.”

Edina gasped. “What?”

His words hit her immediately.

"She's gone..." That was Alana's first response. It made sense now, the fact that Abby didn't seem to be around. And then she realized something. Alana turned to Hook, recalling her little rescue mission from earlier that morning. Gently pushing the mug aside, she leaned in closer to him. "Did you have anything to do with this?" Her voice was low despite her seething rage.

Yuri felt the blood draining from his face as a single word passed his lips. “Bikers.” He’d had his own experience with their kind. The 88’s were one of Niska’s chosen dirty work squads. When not on the job, they roamed the Skyplex, amusing themselves by choosing low value targets whose suffering wouldn’t rouse the great man’s ire. He looked up, eyes riveted upon the captain. “What they’ll do to her…we’ve got to get her back…now…what do you need?”

Rex’s palm slapped down hard upon the table. “Quiet…quiet! Let the Captain finish.”

“They sent us a wave. Abigail’s alive. We saw her,” the Captain answered the question before it could escape anyone’s lips. “And we’re gonna do everything to make sure we get ‘er back in one piece. Now, these bikers,” he continued, “want us to load and haul just as we planned, and that’s what I intend to do. We’re gonna carry the cargo to Osiris, make the drop, and get paid, all easy peasy normal. They tell us we make that go off without Five-Oh or the Feds catchin’ wise, they’ll be there to take coin and hand over our girl. I aim to make that meetup.”

She’s just a child, Edina shook her head. Fear took hold, a great icy lump which seemed to spread from her core and up her back. Just a child…

“Roger that,” Yuri blurted out. “The boat’ll be ready.”

"It can't be that easy..."

Cal hushed them with a raised hand. “Here’s the thing. Bike gangs ain’t exactly Reavers, but once their blood’s up it can be a might hard tellin’ one from t’other. Whole thing could go smooth as a babe’s bottom, or it could turn all kindsa bad..killin’ bad. Rex, Hook, and me…we’re bound to see this through. But you’ve all got a choice.” The Captain’s eyes traveled from one person to the next, their silent urgency conveying an unmistakable message. “You can pack your kit and step off now, and there’ll be no ill will between us. But if you stay,” his brows gave a slight lift, “I conjure you’ll end this chapter with a pistol in your hand. Can’t speak beyond that.”

The cigarette case saw daylight, it’s silver flashing as he flipped it open. “Anybody got a mind to leave, now’s your moment.” He turned, his face in profile as the match flared in his cupped hands.

A rescue mission or two...she'd partaken in that before. And now it wasn't even up to debate, despite the challenges they had to face. Alana glanced at the others. She knew her choice, and whatever they decided on went over just as well. "I hope you have a solid plan worked up prior to the approach. I'll get working on some med kits in case, you know... this thing goes belly up against them trigger-happy freaks."

The mechanic nodded agreement. “Sounds like we’re on a hard burn to Osiris,” he met the Captain’s eye. “I’ll make sure you’ve got all the power you need, coming and going.”

Sensing a lull in the conversation, a visibly shaken Edina Wyman looked up from the nervous study of her hands. “I don’t know a thing about what any of you do,” her voice trembled slightly as she looked from one crewmember to the next. “But I’m not afraid of working or getting dirty…and I have my own gun.” As Yuri gave her shoulder a squeeze, she said, “Let’s go get Abby back.”

Cal regarded these people, his eyes softening with fresh appreciation. “Shiny. Ms. Wyman, I think we got a couple passengers didn’t show. Could you check the Skyes’ shuttle…and that preacher man? Let ‘em know what’s what. They got questions, send ‘em to me.”

Edina joined the others as they took to their feet. “Right away, sir.”

“Much obliged. Rex, cockpit. One-Arm, spin her up. Get us off shore power. Doc,” Cal glanced toward Alana, “you got kit to test for chemicals? Think I’ve got an extra job for you.”

She nodded to confirm, some slight urgency in her tone. "Whatever you need, captain; I'm at your disposal." Even though Alana sounded as sure as the night is dark and the day is light, a lump formed in her throat. The crew was diving into the unknown with quite a lot at stake, and that was chipping away at her confidence little by little.

The Captain nodded. “I’ll fill you in when we break atmo. Hook,” his gaze landed on the silent cook, “you’re with me. We got cargo in five ticks.”
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