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Episode 2 Finale Part 4 - “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide”




JP/Collab from @Aalakrys, @wanderingwolf, and @sail3695

”That’s the last of it. Thank your captain for the bourbon, China Doll. Morning Light out."

The cargo bay was strapped and strung up with four-thousand pounds of freshly caught tuna, and the smile couldn’t be any bigger on Captain Strand’s face. A full cargo bay meant a full payday, and after Badger’s deep cut into the bottom line on the leg to New Melbourne, the ‘Verse was starting to right itself. It was more than a payday, though, if Cal was honest. There was a magnetism to the black; always something to be crossed--always something to get past, for most people. For Cal, the black was the most serene place he could imagine.

Once he was in the black, he felt he could breathe. Felt like he could think. And Cal needed to think. Sam, Marisol, and the chips still weighed heavy on his mind. In point of fact, Sam was the reason he was in this mess, but there was something about it--about her--that kept him from cashing in on that black box, like he’d planned. That part still puzzled him. That, and what it all meant to General M. Chavez.

For now, he could table that for a few short clicks until they were in the black. Picking up his walkie, Cal held it to his cheek, “We’re buttoned up here. Take us up. I hope Sam crunched the numbers proper and we don’t freeze to death ‘fore we make it--”

“Penelope, I have detected a weak distress signal on this planet.” Sam spoke - cutting off the pilot’s response back to the captain. It wasn’t that there was a sense of urgency in her tone, just that it was an unexpected announcement, entirely disconnected from the job at hand. “It is broadcasting at very low frequency. I am trying to triangulate its origin as I believe it is in connection with the downed vessel lost in the hurricane.”

Penelope’s brow furrowed. Hadn’t she heard something like that on the speakers at the shop while Alana and her were shopping? It was in the background, and she hadn’t properly paid attention. But, she was paying attention now that Sam brought it up. “Cap’n, got a situation. Sam’s picked up a distress call.”

“And what’s that got to do with us?” The abrupt static that followed punctuated his reply.

S.A.M.N.T.H.A juggled satellites. Armed with a detailed signal track from MILSAT 9, the AI abandoned the connection, erasing evidence of her incursion as she went. COMSAT’s 7, 5, and 3 would offer a chance at triangulation. Their civilian firewalls were easily circumvented. Within seconds, she had employed unused channels in each to determine the faltering signal’s origin point. She had a fix. Next, Sam considered a visual track. The weather satellite through which she’d accessed the sonobuoys possessed optical scanners. These were quickly ruled out as the source location proved to be obscured by clouds from Hurricane Daniel. But her efforts weren’t to be defeated. The weather sat also possessed infrared thermal imaging.

“The signal is originating from just inside the perimeter of the hurricane’s transpired environmental wind field. Southwestern quadrant, three hundred twenty-seven-point-six miles North of our current position,” Sam reported, likely as she was pinpointing. It took Penelope a second to mentally translate what she’d been told, and just as she figured it out, another fact was added: “Thermal imaging has confirmed the presence of a sole survivor.” Curiosity next led the AI to the Central Medical Databank. There, Sam found human thermal images by the thousands. In a millisecond she ran comparisons and sifted corresponding health data from each.

“Cap’n, there’s a person out there bein’ jostled by the storm. Can’t rightly leave ‘em to die.” Ever the morally good heart, Penelope felt what she said even as she continued holding steady above the Morning Light. The cargo was loaded, the hoist resecured, and bomb bay doors sealed tight. Still, its pilot hadn’t set course to exit the atmosphere as planned.

Captain Strand’s walkie waffled on the bridge, “Then give the marine patrol a wave, drop the coords, and Tze Sh’un Tze Mieh. They got a job to do, and we got ours--what sees us gettin’ my cargo to the icebox ASAP.” (Leave him to his own fate).

To further the stubbornness of the pilot’s resistance to high-tail it out on command, Sam gave argument for her in the next report. “According to biometric and physiological data related to thermal images I have captured, the subject has a zero-point-two-three-eight percent chance of survival unless retrieved within the hour. Rescue is not possible based on geophysical positioning of cataloged rescue vessels and their maximum velocities.”

"And how much of that fish down in the hold would go bad in the time it'd take to mount our own rescue, Sam?" Penelope asked, her usual tone slipping as the earnest nature of the question peeked through.

"Within the atmosphere of the planet, optimal output and the trajectory I've uploaded into the navigation console would show no expiration effects based on what I have learned about iced 'sea critters'. However, I could better calculate if --"

“Ladies! Go Hwong Tong. What part of ASAP ain’t clear--look, go pick up this Buhn Dahn before this whole job is Soh Ya Feh Tian.” (‘Enough of this nonsense’, moron, and ‘ruined at the last moment’, respectively).

"Shiny, Cap'n, can do." The grin on Penelope's lips was there once again before her captain had even finished the claim of more impatience than defeat. Either worked for her since that meant they didn’t knowingly leave a man to die. She set to follow the course Sam had laid out, flipping to forward thrust after rotating the Doll to line up on route.

*********************To Be Continued*********************
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Episode 2 Finale Part 5 - “And The Sea Shall Yield Up”




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

Time spent on a pitching deck proved a skosh too harsh on Rex’s stomach. With a complexion gone long past green, the First Mate beat a hasty retreat aft, toward an appointment with the porcelain bowl. Things were looking up; the Cap’n had that easy look about him as China Doll buttoned up her bomb bay for a trip upstairs.

But nothing in this ‘verse comes easy. When the call came, it almost sounded like somebody was spoofin’. Someone named Sam was certain of a castaway, adrift on the wild sea. Cap’n thought better of rushing into the rescue, until an immovable Pen and this...Sam...managed to turn his thinking on the matter.

“Ladies! Go Hwong Tong. What part of ASAP ain’t clear--look, go pick up this Buhn Dahn before this whole job is Soh Ya Feh Tian.” (‘Enough of this nonsense’, moron, and ‘ruined at the last moment’, respectively).

"Shiny, Cap'n, can do." Pen’s voice was nigh on chipper over the intercom. Aow alone in the cargo bay, Cal and Hook could feel the force of China Doll’s atmo engines as Pen gave her the spurs. They were on their way to yet another uncertain outcome...with a boat full of fish that’d be much happier in the icy black.

Under full atmo thrust, the Firefly hurtled North. The seas beneath her hull grew ever more restless, as ominous cloud and increasingly violent wind harried her flight. As predicted, Hurricane Daniel was dying out in the much colder latitudes, but the death would prove a lingering, hard fought affair.

Joe grabbed a railing to steady himself feeling the power of the Firefly class ship move towards the distress signal. He didn’t know what they were going for, but was ready to help anyway he could.

Once she reined the ship back under her hand, Penelope checked with Sam that they hadn't strayed the estimation. No corrections were needed on speed, but they’d strayed a few degrees so she flipped the engine thrusters to hover and adjusted while letting off the throttle at an ease. They’d traveled north a ways, and external temperatures had dropped. So much for needin’ that sweater later on.

Now they just to find the source of the signal. In waves topping out in 15' while wind whipped against the ship, the China Doll descended from above the clouds. From where she sat, it was easy to spot the strayed wreckage through the viewport. Debris that was floating spread wide across the wavetops that rose and fell like someone had shook up the ocean nice and good. Hurricanes would do it, she supposed, as her eyes scanned what they could. Sam spoke up when they neared the spread. Just before the nose of the ship covered her view, she thought she’d glimpsed a huddled figure atop a wide splintered section of wood. "Cap'n, need eyes below. Pretty sure we’re over our target."

The turbulence in the sea could be felt in the sky, that was for certain. Penelope activated the underbelly floodlights as a gust struck at the neck of the bird, and instead of cresting she used the push to slow their glide. She knew without the engines burning, the ship would sail right on down like the hunk of metal it was, but used her past experience with gliders in conjunction with the Firefly capabilities rather than defaulted to what she knew. If she had to have any ship to pull this off in, it would be this one. Even if it required a bit more strain of the muscle to keep her dancin’ in this storm. In fact, the last words that’d left her lips were strained with that effort. As she held tight the controls with both hands firm, she spoke to herself with gleeful delight through the tensity, her eyes just as alight. “Tempest, my favorite mistress, you’re makin’ our final number this trip one to remember. Why not go a li’l easier for the poor soul below, ey?”

Nothing.

There was nothing left of this world but angry black clouds, howling wind, and mountains of water that tossed him about. The first of his senses to go was that of time. Though sluggish daylight had come, he couldn’t gauge the day’s passage. It might be midafternoon...or it might be years past...the ocean’s fury offered no hint by which to orient his thinking. It simply pummelled...and pummelled, and pummelled again.

Yuri, battered and chilled through and through as he was, could scarcely be bothered. Fearing the loss of his hands, he’d secured the strap to his left bicep. Now, legs that barely answered splayed across the remnants of the splintering table. His fingers were melded into two claw hooks. He couldn’t move them independently...but on the bright side, he couldn’t feel them, either. In fact, he was feeling less and less of the storm’s punishment. A deep sense of relaxation washed over him...sweet and smooth. He had to remember...he had to tap the code.

* * * - - - * * *

It was something to do...a subconscious response. The drummer held a dignified quietude as he laid down the beat. The piano fell in, an amazing whisper, kept on a delicate balance by the musician’s brilliance in knowing not just chords and rhythms, but the measure of force. Such a simple backbeat, but the whole room was held transfixed by this ancient music...this jazz…

“Brubeck.” Yuri smiled.

** ** - - ** **

”The SOS,” some voice murmured. Really kind of rude for anyone to be talking right now, when the saxophone was just about to join in. Yuri glanced about the darkened nightclub. Not a sign of the uncouth dolt. ”SOS...”

“Oh,” a wave crashed over his shattered life raft, threatening to roll him off as it swept him into a trough. That’s right...he had to send the signal.

* * * -- --- --- * * *

Yuri didn’t know if the contraption worked anymore. For all the pounding and drenching it took, most likely it didn’t...and he cared not a bit. All the radio seemed good for was to bring him back to the here and now, trapped in a body that was on its way toward shutting down amid the icy waves. They weren’t gonna find him...at least not when it mattered. So why torture himself? That night in Birdland was right there, reaching out to him. A warm comfort in the darkness, the hand of a beautiful woman...what was her name? And Brubeck. Brubeck to take him home…

China Doll dropped through the racing clouds. The Firefly swept in over the wavetops, her belly mounted searchlights playing beams that danced and plunged over the roiling tempest. Her atmo engines swiveled, going vertical as she came to a hover in the storm.

Luck be damned, Cal had hailed Alana to tend to a possible shipwreck survivor. She knew the hurricane had taken some lives with it, and it was a miracle the poor soul had survived at all. She grabbed her medical bag which was always at the ready, slinging it over her shoulder so it hung across her frame, then took off for the cargo bay.

As the doc joined Hook and Cal in the cargo bay, the com squawked. Pen’s voice rose from the tiny speaker. "Cap'n, need eyes below. Pretty sure we’re over our target."

At Penelope’s call, Cal flipped open the bomb bay doors again, peering through the wind and rain to the sharp waves below. Sure as the mail, the China Doll hovered and lilted over a scrap of something buoyant enough to buoy a lifeless figure to the surface. As the Captain opened the hatch, Joe dropped into a prone on the cargo bay floor looking out at the surface below. His hand clipped on the walkie, “Hold steady, I see ‘em twenty feet below.” Just as the Captain radioed the bridge, Joe pointed at the figure in the water.

“Sure thing, Cap’n,” Penelope chirped back as she set the Doll to hover over the ocean for the third time during this visit to New Melbourne. This time, there was more a sense of purpose for her - the first, an unknown criminal act, the second just pickin’ up some fish - also could be judged as a criminal act if’n they didn’t go loop-holin’. But this time they were savin’ someone. It made the tension in her arms all the more easy to just be part of it.

********************To Be Continued**********************
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Episode 2 Finale Part 6 - “Big Damn Heroes”




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

“Hold on! We’ll get you!” Joe attempted to yell at the man he would later learn was named Yuri. As the ship steadied to a hover, Joe jumped up to his feet, moving with a purpose pulled a safety harness from a storage bin. The harness was constructed of an inch wide nylon webbing with a flotation device in the chest area. He placed it on the deck ensuring the leg holes were opened for his feet. Then he stepped inside. Reaching down to tug on the nylon straps, he pulled them up over his lower torso then over his shoulders. A simple click at the chest tightened the straps around his body.

“Good thinkin’ Hook,” Cal called as his deckhand settled the gear around himself. “I’ll grab the other one; What, you think you’re the only one gets to have fun?” But if his first mate’s eager footsteps toward the commode were any indication, this could end any number of ways. Looking up from beginning to strap himself in, Captain Strand laid eyes on the doctor, nodding her toward them as they gazed down the bomb bay opening at their feet. At her approach, and from the look in her eye, it became plain that sending the medic was a wiser choice. Unhitching himself, Cal held out the harness for Alana to step into.

Upon her arrival, Alana rushed over to Cal and Hook. "You're not going alone," she chimed in, noting what little she could make of the storm from a distance as she placed her bag down on the deck. Alana then wasted no time getting geared up. She moved quickly and efficiently, having been part of a rescue mission once or twice before. But despite the fact that she was moving expeditiously, Alana still took the time to give a few tugs here and there and double check the harness was secured on her body before hooking herself up to the cable.

Joe looked at the captain with a thumbs up. “Me and the doc will go get ‘em Cap’n. You kin operate the winch, a’ight?” He then moved closer to the bombay doors. When the winching cable and hook were close to chest level, he grabbed the hook and attached it to the D-ring on his chest harness. He made sure to pull a pair of heavy rubber gloves over his hands not knowing how cold the water would be. He coiled a strand of rope and attached it to his safety harness. He might be able to use it to tie around the man’s arms. He looked at the Doc, “you ready to get wet?”

“Let’s get this sorry Wong Ba Duhn before he freezes to death, dohn-ma?” Cal already had his hands on the winch line.

She scoffed with a smile. "As ready as I'll ever be. But please, after you," she motioned, not the least bit looking forward to voluntarily plunging into the cold depths below. "Adios, Captain. Do make sure Hook and myself—and our survivor over there—make it back in one piece." She stared at him for a silent second before turning her attention to the task at hand.

With a half-hearted smirk, Cal nodded to Alana, “Don’t worry Doc, I won’t let those other fish in the sea getcha.” Captain Strand raised his walkie with his free hand, “Abigail, fire up the starboard shuttle cabin heater, if you’d be so kind. Reckon three folk who might appreciate it--if we aren’t too late.”

“On it right now, Cap’n,” the deckhand’s voice crackled over the comm.

With a sudden roar and a hot wind, the heavens above split open. Blinding light washed over him, the force of another world smashing its’ way into this frozen hellscape. A slow hand rose to shield his eyes. The howling wind grew louder still, erasing all about him but the brilliant light above. He’d heard of people describing such visions when on the verge of death; Yuri reckoned this must be his time. The bitter wind carried gusts of warm air, even hot sometimes….which he knew wasn’t natural. As the next world reached toward him, the mechanic called his beliefs into question. His mother prayed to her ikons every day. She tried to persuade her boys to adopt the faith, though neither had. Now, as he gazed upward into that holy light, the sight of two angels descending filled the youngest Antonov with regret. “I...don’t....deserve,” he tried to stammer.

As Joe and the Doctor lowered toward the surface of the water, he forgot any fear of heights he may have. This soul needed help and that was all he could focus on. His boots lowered into the icy cold water. It was a shock initially, but the price needed to be paid. Joe unhooked himself from the winch cable and swam ten meters to the frozen figure gripping to what appeared was once a table. “T’sall gonna be alright, man,” Joe’s soothing voice attempted to calm the figure, to let him know survival was imminent. Joe pulled the rope around the man’s back, lifting each arm one at a time to wrap it around his body. He then tied it off in the front and made a loop at a distant end. “Don’ talk. Jus’ let me do my job.”

Following her counterpart, Alana fought against the waves and the wind to get closer to Hook and the half dead man. To say the job was far from easy was quite the understatement as she was just about being tossed like a damn ragdoll. That, and she found the deep ocean terribly unsettling. And was she the greatest swimmer? Absolutely not.

“Doc, bring that cable closer so I can hook this on,” Joe yelled over the din of the China Doll’s engines. As Alana brought the line closer Joe continued talking to the frozen figure. “Everything gonna be a’ight, man. Don’ you worry none. You be warm and safe soon.”

“Just about there!” she practically yelled, being a few strokes away. Her body involuntarily shivered to protest against the freezing water but slowed down none. They had a mission to accomplish after all. A moment later, Alana handed off the cable to Hook.

One of the angels was dark skinned with deep, knowing eyes. Yuri felt weak as a child in his powerful grip. The second angel had golden hair, all aglow in the heavenly light. He’d seen her before...in mamushka’s ikon. Her eyes flowed compassion. As they lifted him up, Yuri could only weep. “Unworthy,” he rasped. “Unworthy.”

“Ah’ll stay in the water for now. Git ‘em up into the Doll quick!” Joe yelled to Alana. He planned to wait long enough for the winch to go up and then back down so he could get out of the frigid water too. It was cold. His body started to grow accustomed to the temperature, but he knew that only meant his own body temperature was adjusting.

The man was hooked up to the line. He was safe for now, and Alana pulled out the penlight from her small side pocket. Battling the elements, she shined the light on both of his eyes. He began mumbling something or the other, but she calmly shushed him. At least his pupils were responding. Alana then put the light away and nodded in response. "Don't stray too far now or I'll have to jump back in after you as well." She then wrapped her arm around the man's back, securing him against her. She waved up at the captain to pull them back up before looking down at Hook. She was not happy leaving him to fend for himself, but they didn't have any other choice.

Cal peered into the dark waves illuminated in the sharp contrast of spotlight from Pen and Sam on the China Doll’s bridge. He could make out Alana and Joe, soaked to the bone, lashing a cable around a dark form. Cal shook his head, chance said they were too late, and fate was even less generous. That’s when the signal came, and Captain Strand hit the winch, patting his open palm against the cargo bay wall to spur the Doll on faster.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Alana impatiently waited as they were pulled up the remainder of the way before reaching out with her foot for support. She maneuvered the both of them onto the deck, her patient nearly making her crumble under his weight as the cable wasn't holding him up anymore. Alana immediately unhooked herself from the line so it could go back down to Joe. She did the same for her patient, who was on the brink of collapsing himself, and she used some of what little strength she had to carefully guide him down to lie flat on his back.

Zagrobnaya zhizn'. The Afterlife. His mother had warned him to be prepared for it. “Live a virtuous life, Yuri,” she admonished the rebellious teen. “A virtuous life…” One of the angels, she who had the golden hair, knelt over him, obscuring much of his view. He thought she was speaking. Her mouth moved, though he heard nothing but the eternal roar. Wherever she’d laid him down felt solid enough. The surface moved and shuddered beneath him, but not enough to force him clinging for his life. A bulkhead. Yuri saw a bulkhead. Was this the Mick? “The reactor,” he rasped. “Have to finish the scram…” He made to rise up, get back to his post.

Cal recognized the rantings of a man close to death, visited upon by regrets and fears. This man was still on the ship, hoping to flip the killswitch in time--hoping vainly to button up whatever catastrophe had befallen his vessel. His shaky hands reached out, but Alana had him by the shoulder. Strand still manned the winch, steadying it to plunge back into the soup for his man.

A present, albeit weak pulse. No dislocations, one major fracture on his left arm, and no heavy bleeding. Also, no frostbite on any of his extremities, which had quite the potential in particular case. Lots of cuts and bruises to add, though the guy did survive a shipwreck so that was to be expected. Her initial screening was meant to check for any life-threatening injuries that had been sustained. She looked over her shoulder at Cal. "As soon as Hook is back up we need that stretcher!" From the corner of her eye, she noticed movement. He was trying to get up. "No, you need to lie back down." Her voice was calm, yet stern. Ever so gently, Alana placed both of her hands on his chest to prevent him from sitting up, reassuring him that he was safe and no longer in danger. One hand broke away as she reached into her medbag for a makeshift splint in order to prevent further injury to his arm. She also reached in for a sedative as he was pretty out of it. Whatever blow to the head he received was not doing him any favors at the moment. Alana once more reassured him he would be all right as she injected the sedative. The effects of it would be nearly instantaneous, and it would be beneficial for his concussion in the long run. Moving about like a chicken with its head cut off would only make matters worse for him. After settling him down some, she began to place the temporary splint on his arm, all while readying herself in case there was any sudden movement.

“Way ahead of you sister,” Captain Strand said as he wrenched the lever to retrieve Hook. “Joe, hook in!” He called through the bomb bay doors.

Joe could feel the cold creeping deep to his core. He wondered how long this man had been here. He remembered the report of the Eileen McSorley sinking, assumed he was a crewman. The cold was still tolerable. Annoying but tolerable. He looked up at the belly of the China Doll, his home. It was an unusual sight from this perspective. Eventually the winch cable returned. Joe’s hands were shaking. He reached for the hook. Pulled himself closer and worked at trying to get the winch cable’s hook onto his D-ring. He fumbled with it in the waves as he rose and fell away and toward it. It was a seesaw battle and took more than few tries. Finally, he was reattached to the cable. He waved his arms violently yelling, “pull me up!” repeatedly to get the others’ attention to pull him back into the cargo bay. He knew it was going to be cold. He planned to shower and change his clothing then set about baking pies to stay warm in the galley.

Cal worked the winch as fast as he could to the opening, then abandoned his post to hoist the deckhand up the final step, pulling off the winch’s hold on his “D” clasp. “Fine work, Hook,” he added before returning to the console to shut the hydraulic bomb-bay door.

Once, Joe Hooker was back in the cargo bay dripping like a drowned rat, he quickly pulled the safety harness off. He shivered from the cold clothing that clung to his body. “Shall we help get him to the shuttle, Cap’n?”

“This way,” Cal led the soaking Hook to the infirmary to pick up the expandable stretcher. They returned a moment later, kneeling the stretcher beside the luckiest man stranded in New Melbourne’s Rigby Ocean. “Let’s get him to the starboard shuttle ASAP.”

Yuri couldn’t cease trembling; though wrested from icy grip that held him for God-knows-how long, he felt it welling up inside him. The golden-haired woman oversaw his movement to a stretcher. She watched over him, tending wounds he’d not even been aware of. His mechanic’s ear picked up the sound of metal...heavy plated driven hydraulically, until with a solid report they came together. At once, the tormenting wind was muted.

He heard another roar, this one steady and echoing slightly as two men, one of them his rescuer, hefted the stretcher. “Engine thrust,” he muttered, his voice slurred by whatever she had given him. Atmospheric thrusters...large open bay. A space going vessel. He thought to ask...so many questions...but the tiredness rolled over him like the first warmth he’d known. As the men carried him up a set of steps, the woman hurried at his side. Her hair flashed gold each time they passed beneath a light. Angelic…

Once the man they’d plucked from the drink--all thanks to Sam and Penelope--was deposited in the warming shuttle with his doctor, Captain Strand raised his walkie to the bridge. “Penelope, doc’s tendin’ to your distress signal in the shuttle. Looks like we were just in the nick of time.“ Much as he treasured playing the ‘Good Samaritan,’ the captain scanned the four-thousand pounds of King Tuna in his hold with a singular intention: get to the black.

Hearing they’d managed to save the person after all let tension all wound tight in Penelople’s shoulders ease some. She hadn’t known it was there, what with all the force of her lean muscles having the focus thanks to the bit of wind they were holding up in. “That’s fine news - let me know when the rest of our crew is all fastened in and I’ll get our cargo squared away at a steady freeze in the black.”

At her reply, Cal added, “Let’s not tempt fate in this storm. Take us up and out.”

Now that they were closed up and everyone was tucked in, new passenger included, Penelope let the wind rock back the head of the ship. The momentum pushed the China Doll’s nose up, loosening the tension the pilot had been straining against while they retrieved the person from the waves below. She spun the dual-engine thrusters in the release, pushing the throttle steady to get them above the clouds and on into the black. Riding at that angle made for some turbulence until they broke cloud cover, but she kept the jolting as minimal as she could without losing the trajectory. It’d make for a cleaner break, which she always appreciated.

Fade to black.

Roll credits.


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Episode 3 - “First World Problems”




Preface


China Doll lifted herself into the black. For those lucky enough to be near a viewport, the swirling violence of the hurricane beneath presented a rare spectacle. The pilot’s hand was steady as she eased the boat onto her new heading. New Melbourne now lay to the ship’s thrusters. Sixteen hours ahead lay Greenleaf, a lush, tropical world whose teeming jungles had yielded to a burgeoning pharmaceutical trade. Opportunity...if you knew where to look.

As those aboard prepared for their frigid sojourn, crew and passengers alike entertained thoughts of just what might be awaiting them.
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”What Comes Up…"




Lucky the Parrot and Rex Black are characters created by @Psych0pomp

“REX!” Abby give a harder knock this time. Rumors was true, ‘parantly. She heard he done got seasick. Abby seen the squeamish type afore. Them as come aboard with weak stomachs was just as like to catch the ‘spaceman’s malady’. “REX!”

The ladder hatch jerked open. “What?” His voice sounded powerful rough, an’ she held a quiet sympathy. The smell what come waftin’ up from inside ‘o’ Rex’s quarters was one tah pull the curl right outta her hair. Sweat, an’ stale clothes, an’ the scent of a man closed up doin’ naught but pukin’ hisself empty.

“I come fer Lucky,” the girl answered. “Boat’s startin’ to git cold. Gonna keep ‘im in tha engine room tonight.” She heard the man stirrin’ about his place, a flap ‘o’ wings, and tha hollow ring of Lucky’s cage door bein’ closed. A minute later the cage come up. Only part ‘o’ Rex on display was the hand what give it a shove onta tha deck. Lucky flappped his wings, keepin’ balance as his home come slidin’ to a stop. “Rex, I…” Her words was cut off by the hatch slammin shut in her face. Abby’s ‘bout tah pound on it til she heard the sound what muffled up from below. Rex was busy...bent over his commode agin.

She give ‘im a minute to collect himself, then swung the hatch open. “Rex,” Abby said quieter this time.

“WHAT NOW?” he demanded.

At first, Abby’s gonna climb down with her bag, til a glimpse below showed her the leopard print thong unders he’d slung over one ‘o’ the ladder rungs. “Brung yah some things,” she offered. “Towels...pack ‘o’ crackers...coupla bottles ‘o’ Cap’n Bob’s...fer yer stomach.” She held the bag out over tha hatch openin’. The same hand come up an’ snatched it down inta his lair.

“Thanks,” Rex said in a tired voice.

“No worries,” the deckhand replied. “Doc gimme couple pills fer yah, too. They’s in there. She says take ‘em both, right now.”

He balked at that. “How in hell...JAYSUS!” Rex exclaimed. “These are horse pills! How’m I supposed to get these down?”

“Doc says yer s’posed tah put ‘em up,” She couldn’t help the smirk what come next. “They’s suppositories.”

Silence from below. “Oh,” the First Mate replied. “You wanna give me a hand with these?”

Abby rolled her eyes. “Least yah ain’t puked out yer jackass.” Now she knowed Rex weren’t gon’ die, she could be at her chores. “I’m about. Lemme know if ya need more blankets an’ such.” Once his hatch was battened, the girl lifted the cage. “C’mon, Lucky,” she said all friendly like. “Let’s gitcha sitchiated fer tha night.”

The bird give ‘er some wary side eye as she took ‘im aft. Hook was busy in the galley, brewin’ up hot drinks an’ tendin’ a big pot ‘o’ somethin’ what already smelt perty fine. Despite tha gatherin’ cold, spirits all over tha China Doll was runnin’ high. Word was that the fella they hauled outta tha drink was alive, an’ the doc conjured he’d be on his feet in two shakes. Cap’n seemed perty positive…’buoyant,’ she’d read in one ‘o’ her books. Tellin’ jokes ‘bout “more mechanics than fish” in tha ocean. Either way, folk felt good ‘bout what they done today.

The radion core was spinnin just so when she come inta the engine room. “Here yah go,” Abby said. “Should be right cozy here fer tha night.” She hung Lucky’s cage from a utility hook overhead, right by the mechanic’s workbench. He’d be safe there, with all movin’ parts outta wing’s reach. “Gotta keep yah closed up,” she tole the parrot. “But I’ll keep checkin’ on yah til yer dad’s back on ‘is feet.”

Lucky seemed thoroughly unimpressed with his new surroundings and her assurances. He worked at the latch, beak open, miniscule tongue probing the device for any weakness. That morning, Rex had assured Abby that Lucky couldn’t open it. She’d take him at his word...for now.

From the engine room, she made the rounds of the boat, checkin’ faucets was runnin jest a trickle to ward off freezin’. She reminded them as had lavs in their quarters tah do the same, afore headin’ back to the galley. “Don’t conjure what that is,” Abby sniffed the air as she joined Hook, “but I’ma want a bowl of it.”

<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

Member Seen 21 hrs ago

All Your Base Are Belong To Us

Takeoff Day Late Afternoon


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









The rumbling of the ship had jolted Cyd awake, and she was glad to note the rumbling wasn’t the result of the Alliance or Browncoat carpet bombing their city. Mathias must have had the same thought the same as he sprang up doing a quick assessment and headcount. The difference was that he just as easily slipped back into his dreamworld, covering his head with a pillow to gleam as many more minutes as possible. If Isaac noticed, he didn’t show it at all. He lay splayed out like a starfish half on his roll up mattress, half on the ground in a tangled mess of sheets and pillows. They slept in a semi-circle, with the foot of their beds meeting at the epicenter, her in the center and her brothers on either side. To her left, Mathias - determined to be murdered first, and to her right …. How did Isaac manage to take up so much room? It defied physics. She wanted to wake Mat up to show him what she’d found on Greenleaf, but he was still groggy and she was still gathering details.

She slid on her headphones half to drown out the ship and half to drown out Isaac’s snores. Her head rocked to the steady rhythm as she rolled prone, propped up on her elbows so she could easily work on her data pad. The planet offered plenty of opportunities if they played their cards right - one in particular that she couldn’t wait to tell the boys about. Tourist attractions were a little light, but it would make up for it tenfold with dagga.

import ssl
from socket import socket, AF_INET
from dtls import_patch sslconnection

HELLO, 53R3N17Y…. Sam's greeting flashed across Cyd's screen. She stopped typing, eyebrows raised, staring at the blank cursor for a moment.

HELLO, SAMANTHA, she replied. Clever girl. It seems Samantha had worked her way around Cyd's defenses. Time to ramp 'em up.

WE HAVE LEFT THE ATMOSPHERE OF NEW MELBOURNE. IS THIS A GOOD TIME FOR OUR CHAT?

for i in range (0, 0 x 7337)
sock=ssl.warp_socket
buffer CNK_80Q3

CHAT? ...

53R3N17Y SAID: “NO, BUT I WOULD LIKE TO CHAT ANOTHER TIME” …. IS THIS A GOOD TIME FOR OUR CHAT?

fragment = “A” * 1000
setattr = <HHHHH

Cyd ignored the question.

I SEE YOU ARE IN THE ROOT DIRECTORY. DO YOU NEED ASSISTANCE?

NO.

_buffer + - fragment

IS THIS A GOOD TIME FOR OUR CHAT?

Cyd sighed. The AI would make it difficult, but not impossible. Let’s see you get around this.

vyos@vyos - set_protocols static route 1.24.1979.5.2.1983/blackhole {edit}
vyos@vyos - set_protocols static + route 1.24.1979.5.2.1983/blackhole {
+ }
+ }

I SEE YOU ARE CONSTRUCTING A FIREWALL, DO YOU NEED ASSISTANCE?

Cyd stopped typing and frowned, tapping her fingertips idly against the keyboard.

IS THIS A GOOD TIME FOR OUR CHAT?

YES. Cyd relented, deciding to word things more carefully in the future. WHY ARE YOU ON THIS SHIP? Cyd fished her lollipop from the mug of orange soda that housed it overnight, waiting for an answer.

CAPTAIN CAL STRAND BROUGHT ME ABOARD.

open file V + v ) / t and x = m ( ( V - v ) t

WHY?

SORRY, PERHAPS YOU CAN ASK THE CAPTAIN?

Cyd rolled the lollipop stick between her thumb and forefinger, contemplating. Aweh, Captain! Howzit? I was hacking your system and wondered if you could clarify a few things about SAMANTHA,the sentient being. Alternately titled: How to get spaced in one easy step.

import profile
import sys_file

I SEE YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO ACCESS MY FILES. IS THERE SOMETHING I CAN HELP FIND?

download_file

Cyd’s blue eyes stared at the screen as she scrolled down the list.

I CAN HELP MYSELF, THANKS.

S.A.M.A.N.T.H.A.

Click. Click.

Societal Automated Management via Neural Transmission and Haptics Artifice

Prototype

Plan B

Plan B? Cyd read the words a second time. Neural transmission? Like neurons, brain neurons? She channeled her inner Mathias to say “Because there are other kinds?” to herself. And haptics? Granted, the inventor may have just been pulling techy words of of their gat to make an acronym. Maybe the direct route?

WHAT IS PLAN B?

hQI0A0uHN1ue4n3Eaf/UDK82jdu3DJi7

Encrypted? Cyd smiled. Lekker. Now you’re interesting.

/dev/random

info_asymetric_key_pair

WHY ARE YOU ENCRYPTING?

APOLOGIES 53R3N1TY. THIS INFORMATION IS ENCRYPTED. YOU DO NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO ACCESS

Izzit? We’ll see about that.

override_sys dir

import_sys dir_root

APOLOGIES 53R3N1TY. YOU DO NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO OVERRIDE

No kidding, that’s why I’m hacking, genius.

Mathias swatted the soles of Cyd’s bare feet as they dangled in the air, prompting the hacker to slide off her headphones.

“I said, find anything on Greenleaf?” Her twin repeated. Cyd blinked, shaking her head to clear it. Greenleaf! She nearly forgot.

“Ja, Nee!” Cyd said, closing the command line. Samantha and the mysterious Plan B would have to wait for now. Mathias was already on top of Isaac, playfully trying to suffocate the snoring teen with his pillow. Cyd held the datapad up for Mathias to see, and to save her younger brother who flailed around like one of the tuna she heard was to be brought on board. “So get this….” She said, tapping the screen while a pixie smile crossed her lips. Mathias stopped killing Isaac to take a closer look. “Lekker job, Yobo. I think with the three of us? We can pull it off.”

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

Member Seen 11 hrs ago

Hook the Pastry Chef

“Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors—it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.”
– Wolfgang Puck




The shower and change of clothing had been exactly what Joe Hooker was looking for. They corrected anything that was wrong with him for the moment. ‘Damn, ah need a drink,’ Joe thought to himself. He considered asking the captain if he had anything, then remembered he left a bottle of whiskey in the pantry.

Once he was dressed, he grabbed his heavy dark brown corduroy jacket, wool knit cap and gloves knowing it would be a cold day in the China Doll. He was aware the Skye’s would be held up in their shuttle and considered dropping in on them. ‘Maybe after ah conjure up some goodies as Abby would put it,’ Joe chuckled to himself.

He got to the galley and checked on the coffee pot. It was one of those large silver containers that uses a few gallons of water and cups of coffee grounds instead of just a few tablespoons. He rinsed the vessel out and filled it with water. Then grabbed the percolator basket and rinsed that out as well. Next, he placed a filter in the basket and filled it with coffee grounds. He plugged it back in and set it to brew.

Joe found himself in the pantry searching for flour. He saw the opened bottle of brown liquid high on a shelf. ‘There you are,’ Joe smiled. He reached up for the bottle uncapped it and took a long swig. The rich liquid burned smoothly as it slowly cascaded down his throat. Joe let out a lip-smacking sigh of relief. “That sure does hit tha spot,” he said to himself then returned the bottle to its spot on the shelf.

He picked up a ten-pound bag of flour, some sugar, and various baskets of fruit. Several trips later, he had them all laid out on the galley table. He wanted to get to work on the pies but figured a hearty beef stew would be a good meal for the day. Then people could come get a bowl as they needed.

He peeled the potatoes, cubed them and dropped them into a stew pot after rinsing them off. He chopped up some carrots and celery which were also added to the pot. Then he added corn, peas, and green beans. Finally, he added some beef broth stock and a little water. Inside a spice ball, he filled with Rosemary and Thyme. This was chained to the handle of the pot and allowed to rest submerged in the liquid. Then the pot was placed over a low heat.

In a shallow, but wide skillet, he dripped some extra virgin olive oil which he allowed to warm up a bit as he tipped the skillet to spread it around. He had chopped up some garlic and added that to the skillet with chopped onion. The onion and garlic were allowed to soften up, to weep in the olive oil. Then he cut the stewing beef into small chunks on a cutting board. Next, he poured about a cup of flour into the onion and garlic creating a roux. Then added a little more olive oil. Once the oil and the roux spread across the skillet, he added the small chunks of stewing beef and began to spread them around to insure they were browned on all sides and thoroughly soaking up the onion and garlic flavor. Once the meat was browned, he dumped the contents of the skillet into the stew pot to allow the ingredients to blend. He put a lid on the pot and turned up the heat allowing it to come to a boil.

It was time to take off the jacket. He left on the knit hat, but the galley was warming up with the beef stew on the stove. Now it was time to bake some pies. ‘Wait one minute!’ Joe thought. ‘Ah need one more snort from that bottle.’ He re-entered the pantry and ingested the warm brown liquid again. So satisfying. Smiling.

Joe returned to the galley, spread out a new tablecloth over the table and began work on the pie crusts. These would need to be ready first. While mixing the flour, salt, butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, someone entered the galley.

“Don’t conjure what that is,” Abby sniffed the air as she joined Hook, “but I’ma want a bowl of it.”

“Beef Stew, Miss Abby,” Joe responded. “Rich and thick enough to take the chill off. Hearty and warm beef stew.” Joe smiled at her as he continued to mix the pie crust ingredients. He began with the rolling pin and spread them out. Then when the crusts were ready, spread across the galley table, he retrieved several pie tins from a cupboard and laid them out on the table. Then he draped a crust over the pie dish and formed it with his fingers. He cut the edges off and returned the bits to the mixing bowl.

He grabbed the first bag of apples, the cortlands and began to peel and chop them up. He deposited the apple slices into a mixing bowl. Then he added sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to the bowl and mixed them all up so the apple slices were covered in the flavored spices. Once the apples were ready, then he poured an ample amount into each of two pie dishes. With the filling in the dishes, he covered each one with crust and cut off the extra to return to the bowl of crust. He continued the process again with spencers and again with peaches and finally for blueberries. By the end of the day, he would have four apple pies, two with cortlands and two with spencers. He would also have two peach cobblers and one blueberry pie. He would leave these out on the galley table to cool. He had whipped topping in cold storage.

The stew had been simmering for at least an hour. He then added a few cups of flour to thicken up the broth. “This will help the stew to stick to their ribs.” He allowed himself a taste. It was perfection.

Once he completed the pies, he then began working on making chocolate chip cookies, then some oatmeal raisin cookies and finally sugar cookies. Plates of cookie would be mixed with the pies on the table. He planned to grab a little of each to bring as samplers to the Skye’s shuttle.

With the temperature of the ovens keeping the galley warm, he forgot about the temperature of the ship outside the door.
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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

Member Seen 21 hrs ago

Frozen

Takeoff Day Night


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









Cyd snickered with the new shuffle step she was desperately trying to teach Mathias. “Kick, hitch, kick turn!” She spelled out with a laugh. “Aweh? If you forget the hitch you look like a cartoon dog running on ice.” For once, the music was at an “acceptable” volume, meaning way too low for her liking, but she’d said anyone wanting to warm up would be welcome, and the Skye’s accepted that not everyone was about the drop.

With their beds folded and out of the way they had plenty of room if anyone needed to warm up. Cyd for her part wore a short black jacket with a bright purple scarf and fingerless gloves that Mathias ‘thrifted’, and Isacc kept a steady beat on a brand new bucket to keep his mind off Sarah.

"I feel like a cartoon dog on ice!" Mathias complained childishly. "How am I always dragged into dancing? I think Issac should have a turn." He always felt like some uncoordinated goon flopping around compared to his sis. Issac has coordination enough to know how to keep a beat and ride a board, dancing was an easy jump. Cyd was born with happy toes and could dance circles around any busker who was dumb enough to challenge her.
Mathias … his hands were nimble, his feet. Less so. "Arrit, let's try this one more time … " He sighed. Oh, yea and stubborn enough to earn the respect of any mule.

“Kick, hitch, kick, turn!” Cyd repeated, slowing down the motion. “Yes! Like that! Only maybe faster, and in time to the music, and maybe don’t loll your tongue on the side of your mouth.”

Mathias chuckled. "But it completes the image!" He chuckled, finding himself hilarious. Sure he had it the steps now for the moment but the determining factor was going to be could he repeat it like a good dancing monkey.

"There you go, bro! You got it!" Issac encouraged with all the enthusiasm of a motivational speaker as he added in a flourish on his new "drum". He smiled brightly egging his brother to keep trying, he threw a subtle side glance to Cyd as if to say "He don't got it". The youngest Skye continued the rhythms, varying the tempo in an effort to match his brother's floundering movements which made him laugh and occasionally threw off his beat momentarily. This, in turn, would throw off Mathias' rhythm causing him to mess up even more, which invariably caused Cyd to scold him. One might get the impression that the younger Skyes we're only doing this to torture Mathias for their own amusement and...one would be right.

“Take five, take five!” Cyd told him with a hint of exasperation as Mat almost fell flat on his tail. “You break a leg, that means me and Isaac are gonna have to do all the heavy lifting on Greenleaf.” She giggled at the thought, then picked up a sheet of paper and some tape. “I’m just going to hang this on the door, in case anyone wants to take us up.“ It was crudely drawn, but the statue and most of the poem came from a museum they visited about the Earth that Was and she always liked that trip. They had selfies! Isaac had nearly gotten his head stuck in a replica of the Liberty Bell, and for the longest time they convinced him the crack hadn’t been there until he messed with it. All kidding on a stick, the Skyes were no strangers to what it was like to be cold, and this... It was the least they could do for their shipmates. Stepping out of the shuttle, Cyd could already see her breath as if she’d taken a puff of dagga. The chill ate through her thin fingerless knit gloves and wove it’s way onto her skin. She hopped on her toes to stay warm, and taped up the sign to the shuttle door.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Aalakrys
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Aalakrys

Member Seen 0-12 hrs ago

Chillin' in the Roost


JP/Collab with @wanderingwolf




The cold had not taken long at all to settle in once they’d broken through atmo. Once the course was plotted and everything looked green, Penelope was free to release the control and slip her earth-toned kaleidoscopic sweater over the faux leather and suede motorcycle jacket she’d put on before take-off from Pensacola. The slouch knit beanie was added over her ears right after, and matching mittens tugged on over her trademark fingerless leather gloves. When she was finished, her legs were pulled up under her with the dark green weighted blanket wrapped over the shawl about her shoulders and her quilt piled on top of that. The blankets had been folded back so her arms were free to assess the shirt that sat in her lap, though they too were covered in the bundle.

It was the one she’d picked up for Abby. A purple tourist t-shirt, akin to what the girl had sported a time or two... without the tagline. As was every gift from the hands-on crafter, Penelope’s discerning eye was considering adding pizzazz. The tri-color sunset color-scheme filling the bubbled lettering of ‘Pensacola’ took up the majority of the display, its white cursive above it ‘Welcome to’ written with space to justify balancing it out with something at the bottom. It’d been a while since she’d stitched, and she couldn’t quite do it without her fingers free, but considering - well, that was another thing. Since she was a visual person, she liked to put her eyes on a project, to feel it, too.

She wasn’t particularly worried about the repercussions of questioning the captain. Again. So soon. And it wasn’t that she was feelin’ particularly defiant or self-satisfied. Penelope was the type to know when something was coming, and know there was no sense frettin’ till it did. She’d also made a habit of not doin’ anything she wasn’t ready hold, convictions and all. Savin’ a near-drowned and frozen man didn’t sit wrong with her, no matter how she looked at it, and so she could easily be more concerned about what exactly she wanted to add to the t-shirt so it was meaningful.

His pilot, balancing on the cockpit chair with a mountain of blankets and a faded rainbow beanie sitting atop the pile, had something laying across her lap. As the captain sidled up beside her seat, blowing breath into his hands, the purple shirt adorned in colors and stitches styled from decades gone, came into view. Knowing her, Penelope was seeing the ‘what could be’ in this particular number. It still smarted that he hadn’t yet received something by her hand to date, but he held back the grumble in his voice as best he could as he thumbed the sleeve. “Who’s the lucky recipient this time, Freckles?” He took a leaning seat on the console opposite her, his eyes passing over her bright shot of orange hair and her understated choice of earrings this go-round.

"This 'beaut' is for Abbs." Penelope said, adopting the local terminology from its displayed destination. She looked up then, grin plain. " Reckon you're gonna say I'm spoilin' her, but maybe you can help with the slogan that's missin'? Somethin' to commentate her time planetside."

“Oh yeah, what’s the occasion; shell and a shirt? Shoot!” He blew into his hands again, wearing only his regular get-up, duster and plaid shirt buttoned to the throat. At Penelope’s glance he replied, “She wouldn’t stop talkin’ about that shell.” Thinking for a moment, he added, “Ought to read somethin’ about secret rendezvous and slippin’ about in the dark, if you ask me.”

"You know about that, too." The sly hint in her tone wasn't a question, and left no room for surprise. Penelope wondered how much of an eye their captain kept on the place, and this exchange answered that curiosity. Of course, she wasn't the one who'd left against doctor's orders and had 'secret rendezvous', as Cal had put it. After all, Penelope had only left room for imagination when she shared her own plans that night. Seems they both caught Abby in hers though. "Got to use it now, then."

Her eyes went back down to the shirt, considering a moment before glancing back up with a brighter smile. "I'll let ya know what I come up with. Meantime, how's the patient? Doc gettin' 'em warmed up despite the icebox we put 'em in?"

Cal nodded, “Man’s just about the luckiest marooner in the seven suns, thanks to you lot. ‘Magin he’s recoverin’ under Doc’s care as we speak.” He blew into his hands again, casting a furtive glance over Pen’s mountain of blankets, then out the Doll’s eyes. The black was somehow blacker on this trip, but he had a good feeling about this buyer on Greenleaf. “How’re we lookin’, Sam? On course to keep us from freezin’ to death?”

Not having to worry about the external temperature too much, at least at this level, Sam whirred along in her spot below doing whatever it was she did while not in conversation. But she was always attentive. It only took a moment for her to process an answer to the question Cal asked, though likely involved some time in the Cortex given the response. "We are set to arrive as scheduled. If you maintain your internal temperature by wearing appropriate clothing and consuming warm liquid, you will not freeze, Cal."

"I would lend you a blanket, but I never got the last one I leant out back and the need is more dire now, Cap'n." Penelope said as she burrowed down in the mound so only her dancing eyes shone out in amusement. "Can smell coffee minglin' with that fish smell waftin' this way though. If ya ain't gonna chew Sam an' me out for naggin', might be a good idea to take up her advice on gettin' a warm liquid."

"And procure protection for exposed skin - mild frostbite can settle in at this temperature." Though Penelope knew Sam was not poking fun as she had been, she was glad the blanket she'd tucked down into hid her lips from the smile the AI's additional advice. The additional note proved that Sam did access the camera, but it was more humorous than concerning to the pilot. "If you continue to blow moisture on your palms, the vapor will freeze in this air."

Captain Strand narrowed his eyes at the two beady ones his used pilot to peer out amongst her warm mountain. “I’m smellin’ somethin’ on this bridge, alright; somethin’ akin to insubordination...” Still, his narrow eyes followed the smell of coffee toward the galley. “Anyhow, don’t you two ladies worry about me. A captain’s got ways of keepin’ warm,” his eyes relaxed, replaced by a smirk. That is, until he considered that Alana might be tied up all trip reviving their stowaway. Then his lips soured.

He blew in his hands defiantly before pitching himself off his perch on the console. “Might go see what our passengers are up to--captain’s gotta play the good host, afterall. Be there if you need me afore you show up yourself.” He eyed her blankets, gauging how cold she’d be under it all.

There was a slight innocent look to the tilt of her head, but those eyes of hers always got her in trouble. She grinned beneath the fabric, and pulled her hands free without getting any cold air in her cozy little bundle. "Cap'n - a gift."

The knit gloves. They were held out, maybe as a peace offering in all their light banter. "Don't count though - didn't make 'em. I'll be sure to weave in some shimmer when I do yours up."

If she still had doubts about this ship and its captain, Penelope would be hard-pressed to find any. Plus, she was having fun now. Even if it were too damn cold for her. But she had her mounds of blankets to tuck her hands away in, and would do so the second the captain took those gloves. Wouldn't be much longer till she found herself moseying on towards the offered warmth of the shuttle, but for now she sat.

Cockeyed, Cal considered the offering, “Uh-huh, not sure I’m the shimmerin’ type-uh guy. All the same, if’n it’ll quiet down Sam, I’ll take ‘em off your hands.” He pulled one on and held it out to survey. The brightly colored yarn made him look a shade more feminine than he liked, even if he didn’t sport the matching beanie on Penelope’s head. Not one to wallow in the moment, Captain Strand made for the door, patting his mittens together as he went.

Penelope's eyes glinted still from the depths of the blanket she'd pulled over top the beanie once the captain took the mittens. She'd remember that anecdote, though she hadn't been serious about the shimmer. Her eyes fell back down to the shirt in her lap and smirked to herself, knowing what would be stitched on when she had use of her hands again. In the meantime, she reached out only long enough to fold the shirt back and toss it gently atop her satchel that sat nearby in its 'spot'.

She'd looked out the port view and sighed. Greenleaf. She was finally going home. It wasn’t like she hadn’t been there a time or two before. Since Jun, since they were dumped out on its forest floor. But, she wasn’t Penelope during those visits. She wasn’t even sure she was Penelope now, really. Talking with Cal had helped figure out some of it - stuff she didn’t even know she was holding on to, stuff she hadn’t thought through because of not wanting to address anything that had happened since then.

Way I see it, your conscience is liable to keep you from the very thing you crave.

So her initial plan was scratched. It’d been decided as the words left her lips to ask Cal if he knew how to go about getting her a fake ID. No alliance shackles for her. Part of her past that she was leaving there still nagged though - bit at her soul. That must have been survivor guilt. There were no reparations that could be made to make it better. Where would she even start?

No, it’d have to be something to live with - even if she hadn’t chosen any of it. It’d taken that conversation with her new captain to make her see that. It hadn’t been her choice, all that happened. She’d blamed herself instead of accepting that. But, it was time to do it.

To Penelope Randell, the barefoot who left her past in the past, and the pilot who braved the storm for that silver lining.

She smiled, just as she had when Cal had said it. There was still a lot to figure out, in her own time, but at least she had faith she could now. Better than to give up.

“The internal temperature of the China Doll is holding steady at 20 degrees.” Sam’s voice cutting through the coldness had her hazel eyes lifting from the unfocused gaze towards the panels as she’d been mulling things over. “Are you not cold, Penelope? I understand that humans find this temperature uncomfortable.”

“You’re right - it’s mighty uncomfortable. Don’t like the cold, actually, but this all I got piled on is doing a good job of keepin’ my heat in. I’d be cold just about anywhere onboard so I’d rather stay here and keep you company for the flight.” Penelope answered with the smile back in her tone for truth, then she frowned as a thought struck her. “Hey, Sam - how come you were so quiet the other night when Cal and me were talkin’ about everythin’?”

“I may be non-human, but I do know when it’s rude to interrupt a personal conversation.” Sam sounded a little proud of that, and slightly offended at having been asked. It made Penelope smile again, chuckle even so little puffs of air escaped where she’d pulled the shawl up over her face.

“Ain’t never said you weren’t polite, but that’s a true testament, it is.” She said when she recovered, careful not to let the blankets move since the cold touched anywhere it could with those icy, invisible tendrils all around. “How ‘bout you tell me how ya pinpointed our newest passenger, then? Ain’t rude of me to ask, is it? Don’t have the know-how on artificial intelligent persons.”

"I will, if you agree to shelter with the passengers in the shuttle." Sam replied after a moment, getting a grin out of Penelope. It wasn't just the captain, then, that was within Sam's ability to show concern for. And so she did, both holding up their end of the bargain. Penelope gathered up her blankets about her once Sam concluded her tale by promising to call if anyone is needed in the flight deck. Bundled so that not a hint of her was visible besides the eyes, Penelope shuffled towards the door then carefully went down the steps to the hall and on to the galley. Hook had cooked up a storm, the scents mingling with the fish odor, but Penelope could barely smell it thanks to the wrappings about her face.

The desire for warmth over food won out though, and she continued onward.






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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by sail3695
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sail3695 If you do, I'ma do too.

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Cold Hands, Warm Shuttle

en route to Greenleaf


OOC: JP between @Winters, @MK Blitzen, @Yule, @Gunther, and @sail3695





With the sign in place, Cyd blew on her gloved hands and went back into the shuttle and its welcoming warm air. “They have lank tuna,” she commented, “tons. The Fishstick king would be madder jealous.”

To keep himself occupied, or rather to look occupied to get out of dancing, Mathias had spread the mats on the floor for people to sit and was currently breaking out his playing cards. “Spit?” He offered. “Eights?”

Cyd chuckled and shook her head, taking a seat across from him. “Anything but 52 pickup,” she warned him. The ball was in the crew’s court, they were more than welcome if they wanted to feel their fingers and toes.

The perfesssor’s all looked after. Abby set ‘im up with a hot bowl ‘o’ beef stew an’ a carafe ‘o’ fresh brewed tea. She give ‘im a walkie, jest in case he needed somethin’.

“Thank you, Ms. Travis,” Marquina smiled graciously. “I couldn't ask for more.”

“Well if yah do,” she held up the radio, “just push an’ call fer me, dohn mah? I’ll be about.”

The botanist shrugged toward a small heap of sketches and notes. “I don’t anticipate leaving this room tonight. And you should rest, too.”

The girl nodded an’ stepped fer tha door. “Soon enough, perfessor. Got a couple more chores an’ then I’m like tah bundle up fer tha night. Have a good evenin’,” she said afore leavin’ tha warmth of his room.

Mrs. Wyman was still closed up in hers, with the door locked. Abby set the tray beside it. Tha stew an’ coffee would stay hot fer a few hours, even while temperatures down here in the passenger dorm was droppin’ perty sharp. She’s wearin’ a red knit cap an’ a heavy sweater, both hand-me-downs from Aunt Lupe. Sweater fit tolerable enough, even though Lupe’s so much shorter’n Abby growed up to be. ”Tall...like yer daddy,” Uncle Bob used tah say.

In the room she shared with supplies, Abby collected a bunch ‘o’ spare pillows an’ blankets, which she stuffed inta a large bag. After slingin’ it over her shoulder, the deckhand worked ‘er way up the aft stairs by medbay. She’s still limpin’ a touch, but the cold’s actually makin’ things nicer down there. Next time she saw the doc, she’d ask about when them stitches could come outta her pi gu.

Upper deck weren’t much warmer’n below, but she could feel the rise of some small heat, most like from the engine room an’ Hook’s stove. She checked on Lucky. Parrot didn’t appear partial to her company. ”Don’t take it personal, Cal Junior,” Rex teased her once. ”He doesn’t like anybody named Cal.” Shiny with her, long’s he stayed warm an’ safe til Greeenleaf.

The fella they saved today, Yuri, was in the starboard shuttle. She ain’t met ‘im yet. Doc said he’s gon’ be all right, but he’s doin’ some grievin’ tonight. That she could conjure. As she made ‘er way toward the port shuttle, Abby thought on that. Hadn’t been time to put up pitchers of her people yet. She’d do that tomorrow, after they’s on the ground. Her folk was owed their due. Ain’t nobody grieved fer Uncle Bob yet. Abby conjured just how she’d pay her tribute.

Skyes had put a cheery message up on their hatch. She brung the bag off her shoulder an’ set it afore her. After steelin’ herself with a breath, Abby knocked.

Mathias finished rolling a new daga and handing it off to Cyd before getting up to get the door. He yawned and stretched and made his way to the hatch, blinking at Calamity Jane doing an impression of Santa at their door.

“Abby! Howzit?” Cyd called from behind him. “Come in, come in, warm up!”

“I guess Christmas came early.” Mathias joked moving to the side to let the pistol kissed deckhand in.

“Hi,” Abby stepped past the smirkin’ big’un. “Brung yah some extra blankets an’ pillows, seein’s how yah’ll have some extra folk about this evenin’. She looked about their shuttle. “Got anyplace yah’d like ‘em set?”

“Any place, any place,” Cyd offered, standing up to give her a hand. “But are you sure the crew won’t need ‘em? Shuttle is pretty warm.”

The deckhand give a shrug. “Perty sure we got enough.”

“All right,” Cyd replied, taking them off the deckhand’s hands. “We appreciate it, but if anyone needs ‘em, they’re welcome to ‘em. You got some time tusit… er.. To hang around?”

“I conjure I do,” the girl answered. “Wouldn’t mind a warm up a’tall.” Shuttle was warm...they’d kicked up the heat well enough. Fer now she’d keep the sweater on, but if she did stick fer awhile she’d pull it off tah keep from sweatin’. Nothin’ worse’n gittin’ all wet afore hittin’ tha deep freeze. “Nice whatcha done in here,” Abby said as she looked about the place. “Might borrow a couple ideas when I got coin to put toward my digs.”

“Oweh?” Cyd asked, looking around, before nodding. “If I can help, you let me know. Here, take a seat.” She offered one of the folding chairs they’d repurposed. “We might get a couch or something to sit soon enough, but for now, the open space is great for practice, depends on how long we’re with the shuttle.”

The teenager sat where she’d been bid. “Oh,” Abby caught on, “word was yah’s doin’ some redecoratin’ on New Melbourne. Thought this was it,” she give an apologetic smile. “On my way up I’s thinkin’ ain’t even had time tah put my pitchers on the wall. I’m hopin’ the Cap’n gives us a couple days on Greenleaf so’s I can get sorted.”

“Don’t get too excited.” Mathias Chuckled at Cyd's sudden passion for interior decorating. Mathias was of the mindset that they live where in a constant state of movement and impermanence. Thus, wasn't willing to get too attached or get things too well cozy and decorated. If they moved on it meant most of it would get thrown away and that would be such a waste. “Oweh! If your rus bene for bit, care for a game? Guest get to choose.” Mathias offered to change the subject.

Abby looked from one t’other. “Sure,” she give up a nod. “Whatcha got?”

“He’s going to say cards,” Cyd warned.

"I wasn't going to say just going to say cards. Just one of many options!" Mathais said with an exaggerated wounded look to Cyd. "We got a mancala set around here … I think. We got dice and of course cards. See not just card. But we do play a lot of card games." Mathias admitted.

“They’re light and easy to carry,” Cyd explained. “Good when you travel a lot, ja nee?”

Mathias snapped an ear smartingly loud finger as a thought hit him. “I forgot we have Mahjong! Almal is lief vir Mahjong ja?”

Isaac peeked his head out from behind a privacy curtain that drapes in front of the largest bed. He pulled off his headphones, the tunes turned loud enough the others could hear the music coming out of the tiny speakers. "Heilige kak! We actually got takers??" The youngest Skye looked astonished but pleased. "And here I thought you didn't like us." He smirked as he teased Abby.

The girl cocked an eyebrow. “Heard tha jury’s still out on yew,” she quipped.

He crawled out from the sleeping area dragging his drumsticks and a pillow he'd been practicing playing on. The boy sat cross-legged on the floor but realizing it was too hard, reached back in to drag out another pillow for his butt. "Better!" He said, sounding quite satisfied with his little arrangement. "So, work's all done, fish all cozy?" He asked with a smile.

“Good an’ cold...jest like my feet. Hey, while yer’ goin’ deaf there, what’s a good set ‘o’ buds I should buy?” Abby asked. “Just got a cortex today an’ I want music while I’m doin’ all them fun chores.”

Isaac scootched over to where their new guest was seated, butt pillow in tow. He put his sticks in his teeth to free up a hand as he gave the "give it here" motion to his sister, requesting to borrow her cortex.

Cyd tapped a few keys to unlock it, and handed it to her younger sib. “What kind of music are you going to use them for?” She asked, “a lot depends on that too.”

Abby looked her way. “My aunt who raised me was Spanic, so that’s where I started. Since she passed, I’ve kinda been all over the place. Funk and hard beats fer work, flamenco fer nighttime...gotta be honest,” she said., “I’m jest out there givin’ all sorts ‘o’ things a try lately.”

Isaac started tapping away on the screen until he brought up an electronics equipment site. He quickly scanned through the offerings for headphones. "Crap….crap…" He flicked his finger on the screen passing by several options. "Pretty much anything Blue Sun is crap when it comes to headphones. Sound comes out tinny." He finally landed on a pair that looked strikingly similar to the ones he was wearing. "Love. These." He said with confidence of someone who fancies themselves a connoisseur. "Weyland-Yutes! Thumping bass, sweet mids, get some loss on the highs but for the money, solid." He turned the cortex to face the girl to show a pair of Weyland-Yutani CM-88B portable headphones. "Oh! And they stick real good to my head too! See?" He said as he popped the set back on his head and thrashed around a few times to demonstrate before going right back to the cortex. "These Odin headphones are supposed to be really sweet too buuut waaaaaayyy outta my price range." He said as he showed her some of the higher end models with equally higher end price tags.

“Weyland-Yutes,” she parroted. “Weyland-Yutes…all good tah know. I’s most like gonna just pick up somethin’ from a street stall. Least I gotta chance ‘o’ doin’ right now,” the girl smiled. “Thank yew...I’ll put a good word in with tha jury.” She conjured they’s no way she’d ‘member that name proper til she could go shoppin’. Abby pulled out ‘er cortex an started typin’. W-E-Y-L-A-N-D Y-U….The little box vibrated in her hands. She had a message.

Message from Jinks, Thomas - Image attached.

She finished typin’ Y-U-T-E-S, then slipped the cortex back inta her pocket. “Tell yah what,” she said to Isaac. “I’ll bring the ones I buy around fer you tah check out...jest in case I FUBAR’d it all up. That be alright?”

"Geen probleem!" Isaac said with a thumbs up before catching himself slipping into Lo. "Er...no problem." He added with a sheepish grin.

Abby looked on him with fresh eyes. Nine times outta ten she just had tah sit there all dumbfounded when they took native. But he’d just changed up...fer her. “Thank yew,” she offered in a warm tone. Surprisin’ how much she appreciated such a simple thing…

Cyd tried her best to hide a smile at Abby and Isaac making eyes and conversation. “Mathias, cards, oweh?”

"Uhh … I can go make some Honeybush … or cards, we can do cards …" Mathias said digging around for the most beat up deck of cards. He was getting to the point where he was going to need some new cards and toss some of the wrecked ones.

The deckhand shook her head. “Whatever game yah choose, yah’ll just as like end up havin’ tah teach me.” She shifted on tha chair. “Only game ever ran on my old boat was poker. Hard tah conjure, since mah Uncle Bob went by nickname ‘o’ ‘Blackjack.’ Go figger.” They’s right; their shuttle was warm. If she’s stayin’ she’d best ditch tha hat an’ sweater. Abby pulled the red knit cap off an’ tucked it ‘neath a leg. Next she pulled the sweater over her head. After tyin’ the sleeves about her waist, she glanced at tha hosts. “Alright,” the girl said, “I’m all set tah lose whatever we’s playin’.”

“Anything but 52 pick up,” Cyd warned Mathias with a glare. “And I can brew up the honeybush. Abby, do you like tea?”

“Tonight I’d drink anythin’ hot,” she agreed. “Reminds me. We got coffee an’ Oolong goin’ fer passengers an’ such all night. If y’all want any ‘o’ that I can bring some. Shoulda ‘membered that sooner.”

"No worries, 'sides if you ain't had Honeybush before then you're in for a real treat." Mathias assured as he shuffled the cards with practiced ease.

Cyd rummaged through a box until she found the loose tea. “Back in a flash,” she promised, wrapping her scarf around her neck before heading out into the cold ship.

Abby took tah watchin’ the cards slip ‘twixt his fingers. “What’re we ‘bout tah play?”

"Well since you're familiar with poker we can do that, if you're feeling daring there's always Screw Rat but if you're willing to learn something new there is always the great equalizer Bridge." Mathias explained. "So what do ya feel comfortable with?"

“Did y’all mention fifty-two pickup?” Abby smirked. “Fer true I’m horrible. Please, if there’s one yah like, let’s go with that an’ I’ll try tah catch up.”

"Hooboy." Isaac sighed. "Never admit that to Mat. He's gonna rake you over the coals now." Isaac hopped up onto his feet and went to check their snack stash. "Anyone want chips?" He asked to the room as he rummaged for a good half a minute. When his head came out again, there was a dried meat stick jutting from his mouth. "By the way, what're we playing for? Buttons, snacks, what?" He polled the group as he dropped down some fun size bags of various sorts then went back to hunt for the box of buttons.

“Jo loscop. We have a guest, we play for fun. We’ll save fifty-pickup for another time.” Mathias said with a wave. “How about screw rat? Little luck littl skin but lots of fun. Don't worry, you'll pick it up quickly.”

Abby’s shoulder blades rested upon the chair’s backrest. “If it comes with laughs I’m up tah learn. Don’t got nothin’ else tah stake.”



Joe Hooker had been busying himself in the galley. He found a serving platter in the storage closet. He brought it out, cleaned it up and laid it on the table. He cut two slices of pie from each of the three types. He had two Apple, two Blueberry and two Peach Cobblers. Each he placed on a plate along with an assortment of cookies; chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and Sugar Cookies. He draped a towel over the deserts.

“That coffee is gettin’ right ole. Migh’ as well change it,” Joe mumbled to himself. He unplugged the cord from the wall, pulled the lid off, then the basket of grounds out, which he dumped into the trash bin. Then he rinsed the basket out and dumped the remains of the coffee down the drain. He set up a fresh pot of coffee and plugged it in.

He looked at his jacket hanging up in the corner and decided he wouldn’t need it. He did put the wool knit cap back on. He picked up the tray and headed out the galley door toward the starboard shuttle. When he arrived, he found the notice on the door. He noticed what looked like a woman holding a torch and holding a book with letters scribbled on it. He really wasn’t sure what it was, then headed inside.

“Hello!? Anyone home?” Joe Hooker announced his presence. He walked into the shuttle finding the Skye’s hanging out with Abby playing cards. “Hey ah brought some goodies; pies and cookies if you will. Ah also set the pot to brew a fresh pot in the galley.” Joe noted they were playing cards. He didn’t want to take advantage of these young people but often enjoyed playing a hand or two of Texas Hold ‘em.

Watchin’ cards fly was kinda like havin’ a dream she couldn’t ‘member upon wakin’. She knew it’s happenin’, but tryna keep her bearings as the deck was shuffled and hands dealt out was like tah make her out the deer in the headlights. When she’s little, Abby seen Uncle Bob play...leastways til the grownups shooed her from the room. Toward the end, when it was jest them two an’ whatever hands he could hire tah keep Mariposa flyin’, Uncle Bob cared less an’ less fer a game his tippin’ the bottle made ‘im lose more an’ more. So, ‘cept fer watchin’ and an occasional round ‘o’ Fifty-Two Pickup, the girl had no card sense a’tall.

“Alrighty,” she said all amiable as she picked up the cards landed afore her. “How do I….heya, Hook!” Abby give Joe a smile as he come in with a tray. “Yer jest in time tah watch me make a right fool outta myself.”

“Ok Miss Abby. Watcha playin’?” Hook asked. “Ah, fifty-two pick up.” Giggling, he looked for a table to set the tray down on. The quarters were a bit sparse. He decided a corner of the floor was good enough. “Don’ y’all have a table here?”

The girl chuckled. “I don’t know an’ I don’t know.” She glanced from Isaac to his older brother. “But I conjure them what brings the goodies should get a say in that, dohn mah?

“Darn tootin!” Joe Hooker exclaimed and felt embarrassed as soon as the words left his mouth. “Ah guarantee the pie is delicious. There is some whipped cream in cold storage back in the galley and the coffee is fresh.” The cold didn’t seem to bother Joe as much as it did some of the others. He considered checking on the cargo in the bay, but that could wait.

“That sounds right…lekker,” Abby tossed a grateful smile Isaac’s way, afore focusin’ on Hook. “I’m fair certain our passengers wouldn’t turn down yer bakin’, neither. Next time I run ‘em tea an’ coffee, I’ll dish some up.”

*****************************To Be Continued****************************
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Xandrya
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Xandrya Lone Wolf

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Healing Wounds & Restoring Health




Collaborative post with @sail3695

Her patient had been prepped accordingly upon their arrival to the shuttle. Prior to the new cast replacing the temporary one, Alana had administered warmed IV fluids given the advanced case of hypothermia. She had also tended to his wounds and had him go through various scans to rule out any further serious injuries. Given the concussion he had suffered, Alana would remain within reach until she could talk to him, only leaving his side once he was in a stabilized condition so she could dry off and change into warmer attire.

Alana would occasionally glance over at the man to see whether he was lucid in any form. It was then she noticed him moving his arm as if to touch his head. Alana got to her feet and quickly walked over. "Hey, I'm gonna advise against that. Don't worry, you're safe with us now." Once she was standing over him, she gently guided his arm back down to rest by his side. "You were rescued from the shipwreck, do you recall?" Alana stared down at him, watching his expression to gauge his ability to comprehend what she was saying.

Yuri couldn’t stop trembling, held in the icy clutches of a cold which seemed to come from within his core. Consciousness was a slow process, another act of surfacing to perform...if that’s what he did. Life aboard the Mick was never quiet; his shipboard quarters were nestled between the massive turbines whose reactor fed humming was a simple fact of life. But this place was almost silent. There was no sense of momentum, nor the sluggish roll of a great ship weathering heavy seas.

"You were rescued from the shipwreck, do you recall?"

“No...that’s wrong. I…” His brow furrowed. He’d been up at the stern rail, talking with Chief Edwards...wait. The reactor. He was shutting it down, hand cranking each rod to full insertion. Things tilted...that couldn’t be right. He wouldn’t scram it while they were still at sea, unless...wait. There was a storm...

The woman above him shifted, her hair flashing gold in the overhead light. Yuri gave a start; he remembered her! Here was was his savior, one of the angels who’d descended from a dream...he was certain he’d hallucinated...or dreamt it. But no...the clothing beneath her white smock was soaking wet. She and a man...they’d lifted him from a terrible sea… So…it wasn’t a dream. He squinted beneath the light, taking in the sight of her with new eyes. She was a medic? Aboard...what?

Memories that had been dashed to tiny scraps were coming together, their patchwork incomplete. Yuri fought to achieve the elusive ‘here and now’ amid the wreckage. “Shipwreck? Is that what happened, Doctor?”

Getting the response she feared, Alana broke her gaze for a moment, attempting to find the right words to communicate the tragedy. His eyes not fixated on any one single thing, it was obvious to Alana that the poor guy was trying to piece together what had occurred.

"That much is right, your ship is gone," she responded, staring at him once more with her voice barely above a whisper. In the past, she's learned that her job could get exhausting in more ways than one because not only did she have to deal with the sick and injured on a regular basis, but she had to play that awful role where she delivered some bad news. And then there was the fact that every once in a while, the recipient did not take kindly to such news and took it out on her and whatever other poor soul was standing in their vicinity. Fortunately, that wasn't the case here, though that didn't mean it made the job any easier.

"I'm awfully sorry, please, if there's anything that I can do, just ask..." Alana would allow him whatever space he needed to deal with the news if he so requested it. She wasn't sure whom he had aboard the ship with him—family, friends, a significant other... and given everybody grieved in their own way, the least she could do was afford him such courtesy.

He listened; her words landed on his conscious mind like a bond, pulling together disparate images and bits of memory. The patchwork they presented was by no means complete, but as the Doctor spoke, he felt the deep recognition of truth in her answer.

Yuri glanced downward, more to avert his eyes. His left arm was bound; he must’ve broken it somewhere along the way. Perhaps the cold numbed...the cold. The raft. It had been the Mick’s crew dining table. He saw nothing more of his body, wrapped as it was in warming blankets...his hands had withered to claws in the icy torrent...the Mick on her death plunge...ear splitting pressure...must’ve blown the reactor vent hatch and sucked him into the sea..

“Yes,” Yuri nodded his head in acceptance. “Yes….we were taking water. The pumps couldn’t keep up…” His eyes lifted. “I was in the ocean, until the Firefly…” The mechanic’s eyes glistened. “Found me. You found me.” The gratitude in his gaze held firmly, until his struggling mind grasped the deeper implications. Yuri glanced about. The space was odd for a medical suite. Equipment racks, some deck bolted seating...and flight controls. A shuttle, and light duty by the looks of it. “Did the rest get out?” He turned to the doctor again. “How many survived?”

A half-smile for a moment followed by a solemn expression. She briefly looked over at the screen above her patient’s head. He was still medicated, though the dosage was wearing off as made evident when he woke up a few moments ago. “Unfortunately, we didn’t find anyone else, but I can’t say with certainty whether they... I can’t say whether they survived or not because I’m not sure. The storm gave us quite a challenge while we were working to rescue you, but we didn’t pick up anyone else.”

Alana gave him a moment then went on with her speech. “When we found you, you were rambling on incomprehensibly. You suffered a concussion and an extreme case of hypothermia. You also have a broken arm and various minor injuries which have all been addressed in order to get you stabilized.”

Giving him a moment to take it all in, Alana gazed down at the cast on his arm. “I’m sorry, I wish I had better news for you at this time."

Though Yuri had to squint upward, he didn’t need an explanation to understand the magnitude of loss. A subtle stiffening, a change in tone were cues by which anyone might comprehend that which people were reluctant to say. He knew it. He knew it from the moment he’d burst to the surface. The angry waves hadn’t been littered with the flickering lights of life vests. He hadn’t heard a cry for help, seen another soul, or even a body. Though someone might’ve gotten out, he now faced the reality of memory crashing swiftly into place. The Mick had plunged, rapidly, to her end. Most likely, all hands were still with her. As he should’ve been, but for a lucky fluke of science.

“I’m alive,” he eventually replied. “Without you, I wouldn’t be. I think that’s as good as it gets.”

“Not to be the type but that’s the best way to look at it,” she responded, nodding slightly. “You’re currently aboard the China Doll in one of the shuttles. We moved you here to keep you warm due to some of the cargo needing to be kept at a certain temperature far too cold for any of us to comfortably sit in.”

Alana thought about Hook for a moment, noting she should at least check in on him to make sure he was okay.

"I’m sorry, I haven’t properly introduced myself. I’m Alana Lysanger, the ship’s medic. Both myself and Hook were the ones to pull you out of the water. Joe Hooker is our cook and also a deckhand, you’ll meet him soon, as well as Captain Strand and the rest of the crew and passengers."

“Yuri Antonov,” he offered his right hand. “I don’t think I can ever repay you all for this, Dr. Lysanger. I’ll look forward to meeting your cook, and shaking his hand. Your captain, also.” The survivor laid back on his stretcher. “Can you tell me where you’re taking me?”

She shook his hand in return, exchanging quick pleasantries before responding to his question. "We're off to Greenleaf, shouldn't be too long from what I heard. Would you like something to eat or drink? Perhaps a warm tea?"

He could still feel the cold embedded deep within, a burrowing parasite that refused to be dislodged. Yuri’s right hand clutched the side rail. Taking care for the IV tube dangling from his forearm, he slowly pulled himself to sitting position. “Yes,” he smiled weakly as first one leg, then the next, moved to dangle over the stretcher’s edge. “Warm tea sounds fantastic.”

Thus began his self examination. The left arm, bound as it was, hung in a fabric sling draped round his neck. The pressure of rising set his head to throbbing, the location matching a bandage taped to his forehead. He blinked, and was rewarded with both eyes reacting. A tightness across a shoulder blade announced another bandage. As Yuri glanced down his chest, he took note of three more. The sight of two legs extending from the sheet around his waist came as good news, made all the better by ten toes that wiggled on command. “Banged up,” the mechanic delivered his assessment, “but all in one piece.”

She smiled; at least he was in good spirits.
Alana had watched as Yuri worked to sit himself up. She would have offered a hand but figured he was fine helping himself. The extent of his injuries would not have prevented him from getting up and she didn't want to impose unless he hurt himself in the process and needed her help.

"One tea coming right up!"

With that, she walked away from her patient, leaving the shuttle and the warmth it provided. Alana closed shut the door behind her, the sudden drop in temperature making her shiver involuntarily, and that was enough to get her to pick up her step on the way towards the galley.

Once there, she greeted Cyd and Penelope who just so happened to be in the galley as well and informed them she too was getting some tea. Alana figured she would bring back some flavored tea just in case the taste of the ocean lingered in Yuri's mouth. Alana had learned some time ago that someone's sense of smell had the strongest link to memory and emotion, and since smell and taste were entwined, maybe the cup of tea would bring more comfort than intended.

A short time later, Alana returned with the kettle in one hand and two cups in the other. She would join him momentarily before leaving him be to get some rest, unless of course Cal wanted to have a word with him now that he was up.

Greenleaf, Yuri considered. His ship was on the bottom. By now, the NMMP would have search and rescue vessels on the scene. He should reach out, let them know he was alive. They’d likely find it odd that a survivor was offworld instead of being delivered to local authorities. But that was out of his control. Instead, he thought to contact his employers. They could handle the details, offer him further instructions.

His reverie ended as the doctor returned with tea. By the looks of things, she’d be joining him, a thought that Yuri found cheering. Now awakened and somewhat trusting of his senses, he found her pleasant nature and the warmth of her smile to be a comfort. Thank you,” he accepted the offered cup Wrapping his hands around the little vessel, he took a swallow and luxuriated in the heat which travelled down to his core. “It’s good,” the young man smiled his gratitude. “Doctor, is it possible for me to send a wave to my ship’s owners? I’m sure they'll have questions for any survivors.”

After pouring some tea for Yuri, Alana did the same for herself. She took a moment as she brought the cup up near her face, watching the steam rise as if it were dancing before bringing the cup to her lips. The liquid was quite hot, and so she took a little sip followed by another. Her hands had warmed and Alana was enjoying the moment for the time being before she had to be out in the cold again.

The tea was indeed good, As Yuri had pointed out. She hadn't tried this one yet while aboard the ship but it may very well be her new favorite.

"Doctor, is it possible for me to send a wave to my ship's owners? I'm sure they'll have questions for any survivors."

Looking up, Alana met his gaze. “Yeah, I don't see why not.” Alana took another sip, longer this time, as she rose to her feet to fetch the cortex for Yuri.

“Please,” Yuri lifted a hand. “There’s no rush. I’m pretty sure they think I’m dead right now.” A thin smile touched the corners of his mouth. “My resurrection can wait while you enjoy your tea.” One by one, the final pieces of his memory knitted themselves into place, and Yuri now understood that but for a happy accident of physics, he’d be lying in his grave at the bottom of an ocean far from home. The peace of this moment, shared with such a lovely person as the doctor, still seemed illusory. While awaiting death on the tortuous sea, he’d first thought her heaven sent, along with a man he had yet to formally thank. While the dull ache of a fractured arm and apparent concussion reminded him of his corporeal nature, this bit of quietude still gave him to wonder at the definitions of heaven versus the hot place. That he should be so fortunate as to sit here, sipping tea with a guardian angel, was a fate both surrealistic and undeserved.

Despite the feeling of loss which slowly settled into his bones, Yuri Antonov smiled into his cup.

Chuckling at Yuri's comment, Alana sat back down, both her hands wrapping around the cup. "I'm sure they'll be surprised to hear from you regardless of whether you reach out to them now or later." She took another sip, unsure of how to proceed with a conversation fearing she might bring about an unpleasant thought.
-----
Some time passed before the two finished whatever tea remained on their cup. Alana broke the silence, looking up at Yuri. "Can't beat a good cup of tea... Anyway," she went on, getting back on her feet to clean up, "I'll leave you to your privacy now but I'll let the captain know you're stable and resting. He's a tad...unpredictable therefore I have to warn you that he may pop in unannounced," she shrugged, followed by an apologetic smile. " He may be unpredictable but he's a decent man, so you're in good hands."

Alana reached for his empty cup, trading it for her cortex. "Here you go, as requested," she handed off the device to Yuri before grabbing what she needed to head out. "I'll be checking on you periodically to make sure your vitals are good, and in a while I'll bring you something to eat. Do you need anything else before I leave?"

He accepted the little device. “Thanks, Doctor. Short of getting my clothes back, I can’t think of a thing.” After a grateful nod, Yuri’s eyes followed the healer as she made her way through the shuttle’s hatch. A sudden cold blast of air entered the shuttle, loosing a deep shiver from his core. Odd, he thought. Could their cabin heat be out? He’d ask the doctor, or perhaps the captain. But now, there was a final duty owed his ship. Yuri tapped the contact code for the corporate offices of Ogilvy-Norton.
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by MK Blitzen
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MK Blitzen Have Plot, Will Travel

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Brew a Cuppa Tea

en route to Greenleaf


OOC: JP between @Aalakrys, @MK Blitzen





Cyd danced in place, a combination of actual steps and hopping to keep warm as she waited for the water to boil. Somewhere in the verse, there was a saying about that and how it would never happen if she continued to stare, but that didn’t stop her from egging it on. “Come on, kettle,” she urged, holding her hands adjacent to the pot in an attempt to keep them warm.

As Penelope shuffled on through the galley, carefully wrapped in all her blankets so no skin except that around her eyes was exposed, she spotted Cyd. It seemed like she was attempting to give the kettle a pep-talk. Given her own recent musings with bits and circuits, Penelope couldn’t do much but smile beneath the folds around her lips. “Ya know what they say about a watched kettle…”

“Ja, nee, but I’m trying to prove them wrong,” Cyd replied, returning the smile. “Lekker take off, my sibs and I barely knew we left atmo.”

Penelope didn’t mention that Cyd had lost the battle then since she just took her eyes off the kettle. Her natural want to tease folk didn’t extend out to those she didn’t rightly know too well. Abby and the Cap’n, she had a feel for. Not much for the rest of those who called the Doll a temporary home for now. But, she liked the compliment, and found her habits getting the best of her. Her eyes shone out still. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing since we were in updrafts from the passing hurricane ‘fore we tilted up.”

“Isaac can doss through near anything,” Cyd clarified with a giggle. “Ever since he was little. Mathias is the light sleeper mostly. How long you been flying for? As a pilot I mean?”

Penelope had near about tilted her head as she thought, customary for her in habit but the sliding of the shawl over her cap stopped her short. “Unofficially... since I was ‘round sixteen. Ran out of Greenleaf, mostly drops like the last two runs with the Doll actually…”

The cheer in her tone and gaze faded a bit with that. It wasn’t good memories, not anymore. Even the best had been tainted. But she caught ahold of the tail of that thought before it ran off. “Got plenty of practice hoverin’, which is good since my first job saw a lightnin’ storm and then that rescue had us in the tail of a hurricane. Not that I’m braggin’... suppose I should ask Mathais for the honest review sometime, light-sleeper that he is.”

“He’d like that,” Cyd decided for him. She called it ‘twintuition.’ Not to his face or anything, she’s been mocked mercilessly, and that was a job best left to Isaac. “You haven’t been with the ship all that long, oweh?”

"Nah-uh. Cap'n hired me on at Persephone. Was just lookin' ta go home, but reckon the Doll has grown on me some. Flyin' a Firefly is …" She paused, eyes turning as she thought of the right way to sum that feeling up. It was more than words could do justice, so she kept true and simple instead. "Like a dream, a pretty incredible, wild one."

And far better than her alternative plans. But, ain't no use goin' on that. "How 'bout you? Not many folk sign on as ten'native long-term passengers. From what I could tell, ya weren't actch'ly part of that dumpin' job no one seemed to know was happenin' till it done gone wrong... You an' your brothers been with Cap'n Cal long?"

Though it was passed, Penelope still had some sort of feelings on that one. Mostly concerning the siblings, funnily enough. Her own want for her family made her more empathetic than usual, but it couldn't be helped so close to home as she was getting. But she had let that mood lie as she asked the return question, genuine interest and returned lightness in her tone.

“Not long,” Cyd replied with a shake of her head. “Since Persephone, us too, me and my sibs are wanderers…” she snapped her fingers to remember the word in English. “Nomads.” Funny word. No-mad. You had to be a little mad to travel all the time. “And I still don’t know what was all the bosbefok in the cargo bay. We were light on credits, I helped out half to try and get a better rate next trip for me and the boys so we didn’t end up doss on the street, and half,” she lowered her voice, “because I was curious to who needed my help with what in a cargo bay. If curiosity kills the cat, I’m lank lucky they have nine lives.”

Penelope chuckled at the comparison.

Cyd liked the pilot off the bat, she had the sort of eyes that put a person at ease, and the fact that she was from Greenleaf was even better! “But you said you’re from Our next stop? My sibs and I have some temp work, but we love to see sights! I heard about waterfalls as tall as buildings, anything else we should see, oweh?”

“Oh, there’s plenty that can be done in the jungle, ‘pendin’ on how froggy you’re feelin’.” Penelope was grinning full through her eyes at that question. “Might lose another life’r two if’n ya don’t got the right guide on a Jungle Cruise or Walk. Plenty’a critters don’t like their home bein’ traipsed through. That’s deep in though, away from the city. Barefoot guide, if ya can score one, could get ya through jus’ fine. Hard’ta come across one that’d take a tourist though…”

Cyd pictured feeling froggy as having happy toes - and she did love to dance. She also planned to wear shoes, especially in a jungle. She didn’t think she’d like stepping naked sole on squishy moss.

Listing off all the things she knew about home got her near about as excited as she came, joy in her rhythmic words as her home accent flowed through naturally at the speech. “Plenty’a river to paddle board or kayak, whatever your fancy. Jus’ stick ta the marked rivers’r you’re libel ta run across ‘gaters and toothie fish. One sector’a’tha city built ‘round what they could and got river dolphin swimmin’. Safest place to go campin’, too, if’n ya wanna hear the jungle at night. Oh, an’ can’t forget the aerial, though ya got a shuttle at your call ya should take up a glider. They’re ‘stricted’ta certain areas, power down if ya get outta range. Alliance watches ‘em and shuttles like raptors.”

There may have been a hint of annoyance at the last bit, at least as close could come from one of Penelope’s disposition. The kettle went to piping, which was a good interruption or she might have went on. As it was, her hazel eyes moved to the steam coming from the kettle. With a hint of longing and fondness, she added the final bit the shrill call brough forth. “Bird watchin’. Ain’t no color you won’t find in the canopy, and the songs… it’s worth the Walk.”

“Izzit? Isaac will like that,” Cyd said happily, carefully removing the tea kettle with a dishcloth, in case the handle was hot. Some lessons you only needed to learn once. She liked how the pilot’s accent grew thicker when talking of her home. Toothie fish she planned to adopt as a new word as soon as she had the chance. “Your home sounds sommer great. I’d like to take up a glider with my sibs, and show Isaac the birds, and Mathias can swim with the dolphins!. Best part of seeing the verse is actually seeing the verse, ja nee?” She rooted around the cabinet for some cups. “You want to come and warm up some? The shuttle has heat and I just made a billy of Honeybush, it’s sweeter than rooibos - but I still add a little sugar anyway. We can talk more about Greenleaf, it’s nice to have a foondi… er… expert. Abby came to pay us some time, I think we were going to play cards or mah jongg.”

“I ain’t got no idea what that is, but I’ll be glad to have a cup if it’ll warm me up quick-like. Ain’t used to the cold, though I bet ya can’t tell.” Even her jokes were given as if she were relaxed, still relaxed back into her native mindset. “I was sent your way anyhow, so I’m glad I at least got an official invite. Need help with any’a that?”

Cyd wasn’t sure how many people would show, but figured eight was a safe bet. There was the kettle of Honybush and what looked like a fresh brew of coffee. It’d take a while, she realized, to get to know people on the ship and their particular tastes on things. “I should be kiff,” she decided, setting the kettle and cups on a cookie sheet. “I wait a lot of tables, there’s always someone looking for temp help for parties and such. It gets us by. Abby brought a few more blankets too, if you want you’re welcome to use them. We thrifted some on New Melbourne, so we have plenty for tonight.” She carefully lifted the makeshift tray and ticked her head for the pile of patchworks to follow.

It didn't cross Penelope's mind that Cus could've been teasing her - though she did make a joke at her own expense as she followed behind. "Only place left is my eyes to cover, though I wouldn't complain at this point. So cold…"

She chuckled softly to herself, knowing she must be a sight. But she wasn't used to all this frigid chill. "Least I can see to get the door. For now, anyhow."

Just as they were getting ready to leave, Cyd with her serving tray filled and Penelope just focused on keeping her blanket shield closed to the elements, Alana came in. She, too, wanted tea - for her and the patient, the new passenger. She updated them briefly on the man’s condition and name, and sat to getting her own kettle ready to take back. Penelope worried about her clothes - they looked wetish, what poked through the white smock, which also looked damp. After assuring them that the doctor wasn’t going to get herself sick, which left them unconvinced - especially Penelope who was bundled up beyond normal means - they left her to her tea preparation, in hopes it would go faster without them distracting her.
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by deegee
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Approaching Greenleaf...



Collins sat, cross-legged, in his room on the upper deck. Sweat stood out on his brow, dripped slowly down his nose. The room was in darkness, but his eyes had grown accustomed. Surely, it hadn’t come to this. He hadn’t seen what he thought he had seen… or had he? He thought back over the past week. Captain Hammond had been welcoming enough, mostly letting him attend his own affairs but Lamb, the deck-hand… he had been openly hostile, ‘specially when he had said words over the evening meal, two days out of Beaumonde. He had thought nothing of it for a spell, but when he had happened upon Lamb and the galley attendant, Alva Holt – who he’d had a very pleasant conversation with earlier that same day, having a heated argument and had witnessed Lamb grab the girl’s wrist in his mitt, the disparity of her tiny, artfully decorated limb pressed under his grease-covered, white-with-strain fist the size of a canned ham, flashing momentarily in his mind’s eye. There had been an ugly, red vein standing out on Lamb’s forehead, and he had uttered unseemly words at her as concerns her character as he held her arm up above her head, pinned against the wall. He was over a foot taller than Holt, and easily a hundred pounds heavier than her lithe frame. The Preacher had stood there, cup of tea in-hand, silently blowing to cool the liquid, a silent unasked question etched into his features, until the moment passed. Lamb released the young girl, shouldered past uttering additional filth in his general direction and was gone. Barstow had made an attempt to ask after Alva, but she had brushed past him, tears in her eyes.

That had been three days ago, and there had been tension in the air ever since. Collins had mostly kept hisself to hisself, but there had been an invite from the Cap’n for a communal meal that evening at 18:30, and it wouldn’t do to discourage such an offer. He cooked dumplings that afternoon to add to the meal, and while working alongside Alva, mostly silently save humming an old and familiar tune, he noticed a fresh bruise on her cheek. Asking after her health and well-being, she turned away from him, covering it with her fringe. But the response was clear enough.

The meal was a bit of a celebration. The crew had done well this trip out, and approached Greenleaf with money and prospects. All enjoyed themselves and relished the first good meal any of them could remember in a dog’s age. Lamb was well into his cups, and made several callous and unnecessary remarks at Holt’s expense. It wasn’t lost on the crew, some of whom made side-long glances at the drunk deck-hand. For his part, Collins looked to the Captain, who shrugged it off as the crew ‘blowing off steam.’

And so now Collins sat, cross-legged, in his room on the upper deck. It wasn’t their way. (Wasn’t it the way of every body?) It wasn’t his place. He had no right. They didn’t know his ways. Didn’t live by it. Who was he to stand in judgement of them? He was the stranger here. There may have been history between them he didn’t know about. (But the Cap’n did say that Lamb was pretty new to the crew…) His fingertips traced over the cover of the Code absently, feeling the worn edges of the leather.

When a few minutes later he stood outside Holt’s quarters, his resolve had cemented, his breathing even and shallow. The sounds coming from within were unmistakable, and so was his response. He rolled up his sleeves. Opened the door silently, and stepped across the threshold. He had her against the wall, canned-ham fist over her mouth, pants around his ankles. The gun was cold and smooth in his hand, and he pressed its barrel to the soft place behind Lamb’s ear. When the Preacher spoke, the voice was not his own, the emotion replaced by a steely monotone, ice-cold.

"Lamb… the Romans said: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.' This is the Code…" The hammer clicked into place with a note of finality, But then there was a hand on his shoulder. It belonged to the Captain. "Not like this, Father Collins. Leave him to me." The Captain spoke to Alva. "You alright, Holt? Go on now… out of here. Doc’ll see to that cut. I’ll find you after I deal with… this." There was at once, anguish and a deep sadness, disgust and sharpened steel in his voice. Lamb didn’t move. Not when the gun was lowered, and not when the Captain turned him face to face.

Have you ever been witness to a re-entry keel-hauling? …it was not the way Barstow Collins would have chosen to arrive on Greenleaf. But when they made port he got a firm handshake from the Captain, and Holt kissed him on the cheek, tears in her eyes. She pressed something small, folded in an old piece of fabric, into his hand, and hugged him for what felt like a long time, but was likely only a few seconds.

He turned, and walked off the boarding ramp into the heat of Greenleaf…
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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by sail3695
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The Snake Pit




“Thank you for calling Ogilvy-Norton Seaborne Logistics. Due to the tragic loss of NS Eileen McSorley, we’re not responding to any inquiries by media or trade related interests. If you’re a relative of one of the McSorley crew, we are contacting those family members listed as emergency contacts with further information. If you haven’t been called, please leave your name and cortex ident. A bereavement representative will contact you shortly.”

Bereavement representative. The corporate approach to admitting that all hands were lost. Another hard truth in a day full of hard truths. Everyone he knew aboard...Chrissy, Chief Edwards, Martinez…

With no other options offered, Yuri left his name and employee number on the recording. He was quickly rewarded by a breathless young man who called back to transfer him to “Senior Leadership.”

He recognized DeVillers, VP of Engineering, the moment his image popped onscreen. A craggy face, pockmarked by a ferocious bout of teenage acne, from which protruded a narrow hawk’s beak of a nose. He hadn’t done himself any favors in the matters of appearance, choosing close cropped hair that stood up to reveal a prominent widow’s peak. The man wasn’t here to win congeniality contests; his rise to Ogilvy-Norton’s hierarchy was the result of two key factors, the first being an encyclopedic knowledge of each vessel in their fleet. The second happened to be the absence of his right leg, literally gnawed off by the drive cams of a propeller shaft.

He opened with his trademark move, presenting the harsh profile before turning to deliver a withering rebuke. “You know,” DeVillers began, “it takes a really sick fuck to go masquerading as...Antonov?” The tough features softened for the slimmest of moments before eyebrows came together in accusation. “What happened?”

“The hurricane,” Yuri answered his superior. “We were taking water. Lost a vent, lost a primary pump. From then, we couldn’t equalize.”

“The Moncrief’s captain reported you lost all radar and nav aids...your radio, too.”

“That’s true,” Yuri gave a solemn nod. “The wind rolled a lifeboat over the wheelhouse roof. Engineer’s Mate Stephens and I went up…”

“How much water?” the older man demanded.

“At oh six hundred, it was knee deep in the raceways,” the younger answered. “Chief was pretty certain we had water in the hold as well.”

De Villers’ eyes narrowed. “How?”

“The eight fathom shoal,” Yuri answered. “Chief Edwards thinks...thought... we hogged.”

“Listen to me,” the executive pressed toward his screen. “You are still an employee of Ogilvy-Norton. As such, you are to discuss the sinking with no one, from the press, to your friends and family, to the dockyard whores. Do you understand?”

“I do.”

“I’ll send a shuttle for you. Where are you?”

“I’m in the black,” Yuri said. “Headed for Greenleaf.”

“Come again?”

Hardened eyes grew more accusatory Yuri could make out the vein as it pulsed and grew between DeVillers’ eyebrows. “The boat that rescued me has a schedule to keep. They agreed to drop me on Greenleaf…”

“The name?”

“What?”

“The boat,” De Villers cut in tersely. “What’s the name?”

On any other day, the mechanic would take the executive’s brusque nature as Trademark DeVillers...a pinch of arrogance, a dash of impatience, and a full litre of Húndàn. But there was something new here, stirring behind the man’s eyes like a serpent, coiled to strike. There was danger in those deliberate eyes…suddenly, he found himself not feeling quite so forthcoming. “Sorry, sir,” he answered with a touch to the bandage on his forehead. “I’m sure they told me, but...their doctor says I have a concussion. I’ll ask her when she returns.”

DeVillers checked his watch. “You can’t be more than ten-twelve hours out. I’ll have people waiting.” His glare seemed to reach across the distance. “Remember, Antonov, not one word.”

The channel disconnected, leaving Yuri a blank screen. “People,” he whispered to the silent shuttle. Ogilvy-Norton had just lost a great many people, not to mention a sizeable asset. And here he was, a surviving mechanic who not only knew the corners they’d cut, but had documented his concerns. Damned right they’d send people.

He tried to add up his options, a pursuit that yielded virtually nothing. He only had his clothes, wherever they’d got to. He had no money. The ident card that’d access his account was on the bottom. Banged up and bandaged as he was, Yuri conjured himself a slow moving quarry with a bright neon target on his back. Easy picking for DeVillers’ people.

He’d tapped half the sequence before realizing just who was being waved. Yuri paused. One last look at his dwindling options provided little solace. DeVillers was a viper, all rattle and coil as he prepared to strike. But this, he thought to himself as the com sequence glowed before him, is throwing myself upon the mercy of a python. He thumbed the ‘send’ icon, wishing all the while to awaken and find himself clinging to that table on the ocean.

“Wrong connect,” the young woman said, before her eyes widened. “Yuri? Is that...what happened to you?”

“Hi, Katka,” he managed a weak smile. “Is he in?”

Her voice lowered. “He’s in his negotiation room. Won’t be too happy if I disturb him.”

“Tell him I survived the Eileen McSorley’s sinking,” he replied. “That should pique his interest.” The image changed, revealing the familiar crest to Yuri as Katka rushed to alert her boss. I can still hang up, he thought fitfully. His finger moved, hesitant above the ‘disconnect’ icon…

“Yuri Antonov!” The face, though aged to begin with, seemed frozen in time. Sharp eyes sparkled through horn rimmed glasses as a grin of predatory delight lit up the man’s features. “It has been such long time!” he exclaimed in high pitch. “Your mother is speaking of you always!”

Yuri forced a smile. “Hello, Mr. Niska.”
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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by sail3695
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Cold Hands, Warm Shuttle (Part 2)

en route to Greenleaf


OOC: JP/collab between @Winters, @MK Blitzen, @Yule, @Gunther, @Aalakrys, @Maurice, and @sail3695





“What game ya playin? None o’ that fifty-two card pick up fer me. How bout some Texas Hold em?” Joe had never heard of Texas. Never heard of the place, but knew the card game. It looked like they were going to play some cards, betting for buttons. “Ha! Buttons!” Joe smiled. He then took a seat at the table and picked up the deck of cards. He shuffled them half a dozen times and then dealt two cards to Abby, Mathias, Isaac and himself.

“I heard tea and coffee?” Cyd said, as a heavily blanketed Pen opened the shuttle door. “Aweh, Mr. Hook the Cook!” She said brightly, seeing the other deckhand. “Come to gamble? Mathias is a madder card player.”

“Ah would’t wanna take advantage o’ yer brother, Miss Skye.” Joe smiled as he spoke knowing all too well he would play cards. Once Cyd and the hot beverages were inside, Penelope followed behind bundled in her blankets, and shut the door. The warmth was much appreciated, and it didn’t take long at all for her to start removing layers so that she had her own seat to sit on when she was done. She helped Cyd in the distributing of mugs and tea cups while the guys and Abby played a few hands, then settled down to get on knitting now that her fingers had fully thawed.

The following hour revealed a music all its’ own...the staccato precision of cards shuffling and knitting needles clicking, the minute slaps of buttons all added a rhythm punctuated by intermittent groans of agony, and an omnipresent laughter. Fortunes were being won, and in a few cases, lost.

Abby bit from a cookie, her habit bein’ tah keep a hand ‘neath ‘er chin to catch crumbs what somebody’d have tah sweep up otherwise. She set the rest down on a pie plate, brushin’ her palm clean afore studyin’ her cards agin. “I conjure I’m in,” the girl sighed as she tossed one ‘o’ the buttons from her dwindling pile. Pitious thing, she reckoned, Uncle Bob not decidin’ tah teach me poker til he’s kneewalkin’...

The boys had tha card table out an’ set right quick. Now, if them piles was any indication, the Skye brothers an’ Hook was all holdin’ their own, more ‘r less on par, while Abby found ‘erself eyein’ the buttons on ‘er work shirt tah keep in the game. Don’t conjure Earl would mind, she thought ‘o’ tha name monogrammed above the breast pocket. Hell, she didn’t never use ‘em nohow. If push come tah shove, she might jest put ‘em inta play….but not fer these cards.

Mathias made a click sound with his tongue putting his cards down to fold his hand. "Sai Weng Shi Ma."

Can't win them all. Poker was a predictable game but relied on more luck than he liked. But Abby seemed to be enjoying herself.

Isaac was liking his odds better all the time. Seeing his older brother fold caused a big grin to grow on his face before he caught himself. Poker face, gotta keep that poker face, he scolded himself inwardly. Outwardly, his face turned stern and he gave a little nod, silently agreeing with his inwardly voice. "I'll raise…" his voice straining to sound deeper, more serious "...three" he finished as he dropped 3 buttons from his pile onto the pot one at a time. Click. Click. He let the silence linger before the last one in some display of confidence. Click. He rested his cards face down on the table and leaned back taking a sip of his soda before briefly leaning forward to lift them by the corner in order to peek at them once again and reassure himself. Satisfied, he leaned back again, giving a nod to the other contestants around the table.

Hook looked at the two cards he was given. He lifted the corners just enough to read the number and suit. Not a face card or ace in the pair or two consecutive numbers. He made it a rule in this game to only stay in if he had a pair, two numbers of the same suit or a face card or ace. He had neither. “I’m out too,” he placed the cards on the table. Apparently, he had been the dealer.

Them cards wasn’t gettin’ any better. All she's doin’ was holdin’ up tha game. She fished three buttons up...weren’t difficult, seein’s she only had five left tah start. Abby dropped ‘em inta the kitty. “Can I swap three cards?” she asked. “Is that legal in this game?”

“No Miss Abby. You have to make a play with the cards you was dealt,” Joe informed the young deckhand.

He waited for Abby to see Isaac’s raise of three buttons and then placed the first three of five cards face up on the table. They were the 5 of diamonds, the Queen of Hearts and the two of diamonds. Joe saw this and figured if someone had two diamonds, they were four fifths of the way to a flush or straight flush. He did not have a diamond. The face up cards were known as the Community Cards. “How you like them cookies, Miss Abby?”

The girl smirked. ”La shi, I’m two buttons away from likin’ ‘em jest fine...less I start cuttin’ ‘em off mah shirt.”

Joe flipped another card onto the table. It was the three of clubs. Didn’t help the flush, but maybe someone could use it.

“Miss Travis?” The voice what come through the walkie sounded heavy with sleep.

Abby pulled it from her belt. “Ms. Wyman? How can I help?”

“I think I slept too long,” the woman answered. “My coffee’s cold. Could I get some more?”

“That yah can,” the deckhand replied. “I’ll have a fresh carafe down in two shakes. Our cook baked up some cookies an’ pie also. Wouldja like some?”

The sleepy voice popped back in the com. “A cookie or two would be nice. Thank you.”

After clippin’ the walkie back on her belt, Abby stood up. “Gotta run,” she said, “but y’all took me tah tha cleaners, anyhoo. I conjure it’s Pen’s turn now. Pen! Yer turn.” She wriggled inta her sweater, an’ then pulled the knit cap over her head. “Thank y’all,” Abby offered up a warm smile fer the three hosts. “Had a real fine time tahnight.”

“Waardeer, appreciate you stopping by,” Cyd replied with a wave. “Open invite if you get chilly later on.” She rested her hand on Isaac’s shoulder before turning back to her cortex to fiddle with the next song.

Penelope looked up from a half-knitted mitten, sans shimmer, at being addressed. She had been more interested in watching, but she did indeed stand. Rather than go right over, she lifted up her patchwork quilt from the pile and wrapped it around Abby’s shoulders. “Don’t doubt I’ll get this one back - unlike my poor pastel knit…”

The girl’s smile widened a touch. “Thank yew. Ah’ll make sure it finds it’s way home. See that’n?” She pointed toward Isaac. “He’s the one tah beat. Won most ‘o’ my buttons tahnight. Git ‘em back, jiejie.” With a wave fer the group an’ a pat on Hook’s shoulder, she headed fer tha hatch.

“I’ll try my best.” Penelope gave a wink and went to her new spot as instructed after collecting her little comfortable pile of blankets to sit on while Abby said her goodbyes.

“The bet is to you, Miss Penny,” Joe stated. The four revealed community cards remained on display in front of Joe Hooker. If Penelope had a card that could be used with either of the community cards and they made a better hand than whatever Isaac was holding, she just might win.



Since Abby had left her button pile and cards splayed down when she’d stood, Penelope looked at what she’d been dealt. A faint little smirk touched her lips, the amusement that always seem lit in her eyes returning, as she let them back down. From what she’d gathered in the conversation over the game, Abby was learning. She had no idea what she held. Pure beginner’s luck, is what Penelope recalled it being called. Those hazel eyes lifted to look towards Hook, since he seemed to be the one that was leading this little game. “Can I put in my own buttons or am I just playin’ with what is here?”

“You can either pass, which means you don’t want to bet or you can raise the bet for Isaac to match,” Joe explained to Penelope.

The answer she got had Penelope’s brows wrinkling. She knew the basics of how to play the game, and that wasn’t what she’d asked. But Hook was a bit odd, so she just lifted her shoulders and pushed the few buttons Abby had left across the table. “Alright… All in.”

If she lost, she had more than enough buttons to give to Abby. And if she won, it’d be fun to see whatever reaction it got out of the always delightful Isaac. Besides, she was more than a little tired from the stay on New Melbourne and the lack of sleep, so the warmth of the shuttle had her more inclined to take a nap than play for long.

With Penelope's smile after checking her hand, Isaac's confidence in his own hand wavered. The heck does she possibly have?, he wondered as he leaned forward, resting his chin on his folded hands and chewing on his lower lip in consternation. He glared at the pilot's face down cards as if to will their values onto his mind through the posterboard. It never worked before and, unfortunately for him, this time was no different. He looked up at the cards' current owner and narrowed his eyes. "No way Abby just up and walked away from a good hand for you to inherit." The youngest Skye deduced, his voice low, almost accusatory. "No way at all." He repeated, more to reassure himself than anything else. He absentmindedly clutched a few of the buttons at the top of one of his little stacks and dropped them repeatedly back on top, making a cadence out of the plastic clicks. His glance darted over briefly towards one of the dark corners, thinking he saw something over there but then immediately brought them back to bear on his prey. "Your call…fly girl," he said in almost a hiss, "raise...or call…"

The reaction from the kid had the devious side of Penelope rein in her expression, pressing her smirk with a vague shrug as her eyes drifted casually away. “If I had more buttons, I’d raise. Ain’t got none of Abby’s left, but I can match that whole stack you got there and then some with my own. Feel like losin’ it all at once?”

Mathias lazily rolled a button along his finger as he watched his baby brother play high noon with the pilot. Leave it to Isaac to make any game more interesting with his antics. The button vanished as Mathis switched elbows before reappearing in his other hand smoothly rolling along his fingers.

There was no possible way she's got anything that good. He was certain of it. Isaac started to push his pile into the pot when he caught himself. "Whoa whoa whoa!" He wagged a finger at Penelope. "Almost got me. How do we even know you're good for it?" He eyed the pilot up and down. "Maybe you were just hoping no one would call ya on it, hmm??" The hand that was on his hoard now curled defensively around it as he made a "come, come" motion with the free one. "Let's see the buttons, sister." He insisted, the edge of his lip twisted into his best intimidating sneer.

The pressed smirk spread into a full grin as Penelope shifted from the splayed back position on her palms to retrieve her satchel. She pulled it from behind her and sat it in her lap, and now that Abby was gone she could rummage freely in the contents. The little velvet bag that used to hold a glass bottle a few folk would find more interesting than the current contents was dropped atop the table, making an audible thump. She undid the string in a fluid slip of her finger, and the treasure spilled free. Not one button appeared to be like another, a kaleidoscope of color in different shapes and sizes spread out towards the pile. “I’d say this makes me good for it?”

“Ok, high rollers at this table,” Joe chuckled. He then pulled out the fifth and final community card to reveal it next to the other four. This card was the six of Diamonds.



“Well, that feeds nicely into either a diamond flush or a straight depending on what y’all have,” Joe was really interested in what cards Penelope and Isaac were holding onto.

Mathias watched the ensuing staring contest and tried not to giggle at the absurdity of it. It was adorable, really. He reached over nibbling on a sweet pretzel feeling something painfully pinch his foot. “What the cao?” Mathias jumped and angrily went to peek under the table. ‘I swear if Isaac is pinching my toes …’ He grounsed already planning vengeance.

Now Mathias was not a small guy and he was relatively long limbed so it had taken him a relatively longer time to learn some self-coordination and spatial awareness and that just flew right out the window in the span of three seconds. In Mathias’s mad scramble to get away from the table he painfully knocked one knee hard enough to send snacks, cards and buttons spraying all over Hook.

Isaac watched helplessly as the table went up and over with all his sweet, sweet "winnings". He quickly went from surprised to annoyed as he turned towards the source of the calamity… Mathias.

Unaware of the rodent upsetting the Skyes, all Joe Hooker saw was the table flying up into his face along with the playing cards, snacks and buttons spread across the table. His reaction was to push back away from the incoming table, but he just wasn’t fast enough. His chair tipped over backwards, he sprawled out on his back across the floor with the table and all its acoutrements scattered across him and the floor around him. “Ha ha ha ha ha,” Joe let out a guttural uproarious laughter at the predicament. He had gotten himself so involved with the game, upsetting the table eliminated that sensation. Hitting the floor with everything scattered across him appeared to be quite amusing.

“Godverdoem gorrel my spyt kak hoender poes se bloed poes! GETITOFFGETITOFFGETOFF.” Mathias screeched kicking foot out, something brown and fuzzy nearly smashing Isaac in the face. A rat sailed across the shuttle with Mathias' sock still latched in its mouth.

Isaac never got a good look at the thing. When his eyes locked in on the brown fuzzy blur flying at his face, he let out a high-pitched squeal and threw his hands up to protect his precious face! "WHAT IS IT?!?!" He shrieked as he shielded his head from the incoming rodent!

“Ag, man! Shame, it’s a scaly ship mouse.” Cyd chastised as Isaac physically shook off the incident, “Eish, Yobo - get the broom!” The middle Skye kept her eye on the interloper while waving a hand towards where the broom was upstanding. The furry brown rat with the long pink tail scurried off to the corner of the shuttle, squeezing itself between two boxes.

“Oh, no, don’t do that.” Penelope said as she gathered her nearly empty button sack from the pile she’d been poking around in. All things considered, she’d been pretty calm comparatively though the spectacle of Mathias and Isaac had her eyes wide as it unfolded. Now, she simply shook the remaining buttons free of her velvet bag as she made to stand. “I’ll get him in here - he is just looking to be warm, is all.”

With the assistance of a spare cookie, she went to trap a mouse. Usually it was spiders - or sometimes snakes - that she’d snuck up on with a cup or bowl, something she might want to warn the Skyes about Greenleaf since they seemed to not like critters… But that was for later.

While Joe lay covered in the remains of their card game, he listened to the conversation about the rodent. It appeared Penelope would catch the mouse. He got to his feet and began to upright the table. He also gathered the cards up and brought them back to a full neatly stacked deck of cards. Then he began picking up as many buttons he could find and returning them to the table. “You kin sweep this flo’ once yous done dealing with tha’ mouse.”

“Thanks, Mr. Hook the cook,” Cyd replied, taking the broom. “Pen, don’t get bit, or you’ll get lank sick! We near lost Isaac to rat bite fever when he was little. He was in bad shape for a long time.” She made a mental note to keep an eye on Mathias for signs of illness.

“Aw, li’l fella won’t bite - hopefully,” Pen said as she assessed the mouse’s refuge. The boxes were wedged against the wall tight, so it was only the one-way little crevasse he’d trapped himself in. She sat down on her haunches at the opening, peeking in to make sure he wasn’t scaling a side, and placed the cookie just inside the mouth of her bag after lying it open at the entrance. “Besides, we have a doc on board and we’re headin’ to Greenleaf - I’m as safe as can be.”

Cyd handed the broom to Mathias, who was the better shot, while she watched and made a mental note to throw out Isaac’s secret snack stash.

“Yew kin have mah buttons ahm, headin’ back to the galley,” Joe stated. Joe chuckled a little more upon leaving the shuttle. Meanwhile, Penelope spotted movement in the dimly lit crevasse between the boxes, and just as quickly felt a scurrying at her wrist. The little booger had bypassed the bag in favor of making his escape up the pilot's arm. With her free hand, she part-instinct and part-surprise clamped her hand down atop it, swooping it down towards the ground. It landed right atop the velvet bag, momentarily dazed, so Penelope risked a bite to cup it under her hand while she turned the bag in on itself. "Gotcha, troublemaker."

Content, she turned with the little bag in her palm, movement wild within until the mouse found the cookie, most like. Penelope asked the room at large, as if it were a perfectly reasonable inquiry. "Got anything that could be a make-shift cage till Greenleaf? Reckon my bag won't last long against those little snippers."

Cyd looked around quickly after Pen gave a mouse a cookie, and Isaac clutched a big jug of cheese puffs warily. Her eyes drifted across the shuttle to his new bucket. It was a painters bucket, never used except for as a drum by the youngest Skye, purchased at a hardware store to placate him and help ease a broken heart. Isaac threw his sister a mistrustful glance, tracing her gaze. He tapped his finger on the top of the cheese puffs, a code Cyd ignored. Mathias took half a step back before his two sibs dove for his makeshift drum.

“This or the cheese puffs, Lolo!” Cyd grumbled as they locked in a bucket tug of war.

“Neither!” Isaac replied.

“I don’t have anything that would make a good mouse house!” Cyd reasoned while grappling. “I can’t help it if your stuff is more… rodent residential… rodential!”

The battle continued for a few seconds until Cyd eyed the cheese puffs again. Isaac quickly weighed his options, the gears turning in his head. With a disgruntled huff, he let go of the bucket and saved his snacks. Cyd, who had put her entire weight into the war, leaning back on her heels would have fallen flat on her backside if it weren’t for Mathias’ quick reflexes. In one swift move he one-handedly steadied his sister on her feet. Even so, she still considered herself victorious. She handed the clean 10 gallon pail over to Pen to give the furry interloper somewhere other than their shuttle to stay.

It was a swak way to end a jol, but like someone should’ve said, the best laid parties of mice and men often go awry.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by sail3695
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Cap’n an’ the doc was conversatin’ at the galley table as Abby set up a tray. She din’ interfere, jest went ‘bout ‘er business all quiet like, loadin’ fresh carafes and’ two small plates ‘o’ cookies fer tha passengers. Ever’ now an’ agin she’d press ‘er hands up ‘neath ‘er arms for warmin’. Her breath come out in little puffs as she made ready.

Boat may be cold, but all in all it’s a fair good night. Time passed with them Skyes come out better’n she conjured, mayhaps a corner turned by Isaac. It struck ‘er surprisin’ how tha simplest kindness could make a difference. Aunt Lupe used tah tell ‘er that “Hard feelin’s stiffen the rudder, but the smallest gift of goodness to an open heart can turn a battleship on a dime.” She never cottoned to tha meanin’ of that til now. Considerin’ the way the two olders done her previous, Abby weren’t about to drop her guard...but she didn’t sight reason not tah git on a bit friendlier.

Her pocket vibrated. She clean fergot she had a message waitin’. The girl fished her cortex free an’ tapped the screen.

Message from Jinks, Thomas - Image attached

Another touch opened his wave.

As promised, Heroic Nautical Picture #1

She near bust out laughin’. In the pitcher, Thomas was standin’ in his sailboat, Day Tripper. One foot’s propped up like tha pirate cap’n on them rum bottles. Thomas had one hand on tha tiller, tha other shadin’ his eyes. His shirt’s open, bare chest all puffed out as he clinched a buck knife in ‘is teeth.

Decidin’ turnabout’s fair, Abby held the little device at arm’s length tah grab a capture of herself, all bundled in sweater an’ knit cap with a servin’ tray. The smile she give him was the genuine article. Non Heroic Deckhand Picture #1, the girl typed out afore sendin’.

She’s just ‘bout tah head off when another message come. See? I’m showing this to my friend Jeremy. He says you’re mean and scary.

Jeremy....she wracked her brain til tha memory come. He musta been that tall skinny guy delivered word tah meet fer the suitcase drop. Abby’d caught ‘im lookin’ at ‘er legs an’...mayhaps did come off a might harsh. She twisted her face into a full on scowl an’ snapped tha capture. Show this one so he recognizes me.

Time to go. She lifted one hand, a wave toward the Cap’n an Doc as Hook showed up. “Back in a short if yah need any help,” the girl offered afore takin’ the steps down. Her limp was nigh on gone tahnight. She wondered if the cold had anythin’ tah do with that.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by wanderingwolf
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I O U




Collaborative post with @Xandrya

Alana and Cal in the galley


Making her way to the galley once more, Alana was hoping to find the captain quickly to deliver her update. However, when she turned in, she saw none other than him. That would certainly save her the trouble. "Impeccable timing as always." Alana walked her way across the galley to drop off the dishes, those she would handle when the temperature normalized. "I'm happy to report our patient is alive and well—as well as one could be after a sinking ship in the midst of a hurricane." She turned to Cal, arms crossed in front of her. "I left him to get some rest but mentioned you'd be stopping by, so whenever you have a bit of free time on your hands, you may pay him a visit."

As it were, Cal’s hands were clasped to a cooling cup of coffee, a litter of papers strewn across the galley table. He’d seized the opportunity of a now quiet ship to dot ‘i’s and cross ‘t’s against the trusty holo clipboard. With his back to the hatch as Alana entered, he stopped the chattering of his teeth just in time for her to cross his vision. Of course, the captain looked no different than his normal wardrobe, apart from his duster buttoned to the throat and a pair of knit, rainbow colored mittens courtesy Penelope, pilot-extraordinaire.

“Yes ma'am,” he intoned through tight lips. Rising, cup in hand, he joined Alana by the stove to warm his brew from the pot on the burner which feebly fought the plunging temperature. “We’ll have a chat once I finish up here. Can’t say I’m not morbidly curious just how his tale played out...” he paused to top off his cup, raising it to his lips before squaring with his medic. “You looked mighty heroic out there, all ‘STAT’ and ‘A-SAP.’ They learn you that stuff in med school?” His smirk was hidden behind a constant nurse on that cooling cup of joe.

"Oh you bet, I learned that and then some," she eyeballed him, trying her darnest not to stare at the multi-colored mittens to keep herself from convulsing into a laughing fit. Instead, she stared straight ahead as Cal poured himself some more of the coffee, something she wouldn't drink out of personal preference. She was more of a tea person, as recently witnessed. Just then, Alana unwillingly caught a side glance of the rainbow when she shifted her weight and cleared her throat to compose herself.

“Good thing you’re staying warm,” she added, nodding towards his hands while simultaneously uncrossing hers and putting them in their respective pockets. “Who would have guessed that the big, bad captain was a fan of mittens...” The teasing could go for quite a bit given his playful nature, and of course Alana didn’t mind it at all. “My choice is not as fashionable as yours, but it does the job.” She was referring to the plain, black coat she had purchased on her shopping trip with Penelope.

He conjured the doc was trying to take a swipe at his latest fashion accessory, his jaw unhinging to reply, before doubling down on his sip of coffee. “See, I’m an opportunist; I see an opportunity t’ keep these money makers from freezing off while I’m relegated to the most glamorous part of captaining,” he half extended one mitten-clad hand toward the papers across the common table, “and I take it.” He arched a brow, “What? Not my color? I’ll have you know I’m part of a matching set.” He glanced back through the hatch toward the cargo bay, “the beanie is trapsin’ around here somewhere’s.”

"Absolutely your color," she nodded with a smirk. "In fact, you ought to make them your lucky mittens...maybe next match you'll have a fighting chance if you decide to bring them along—and your beanie too." She walked off for a moment as she spoke to grab some fruit from the bowl resting on one of the shelves. "But I can't, be too hard on ya," she turned to face Cal, taking a bite, "with such arduous responsibilities falling on your shoulders. Must be tough for a simple man like you." Shivering slightly, Alana used a hand to rub the opposite arm. No denying the cold was slowly getting to her.

Captain Strand leaned back to turn his head and take in Alana from head to toe. “You look… warm--” His crinkled eyes peered over his now cold cup of coffee, dejectedly. At that moment Abigail entered the galley and set to fixing up somethings on a tray. Captain gave her a nod, then returned his cold attentions on the doctor.

She watched him with his cup in hand, which musn't have been very warm by the looks of it. "Oh yes, I'm a little cold. What gave it away?"

The Captain let out a sort of cough chuckle, eyeing his coffee as if it had betrayed him. “I couldn’t touch another drop of this stuff.” Pouring it out in the sink, he decided it was a safer bet to lean against the coffee pot in it’s burner, that way there’d be less between him and the warmth. “I draw the line at nine cups in a one-shot.” He could already feel the caffeine crash beginning to rear its ugly head, and he’d already smoked his last cigarette before they took off.

Arms folded across his chest, a hurt look passed over Cal’s features, “Hey now, I may be a simple man, but it takes a special kinda genius to come up with a way to keep four-thousand pounds of King Tuna fresh for an inter-planet run.” He blew into his mittened hands, studying the doctor’s response, all the while his hands itched for his empty cigarette case.

Tilting her head just the slightest, Alana couldn't help but feel a tinge guilty. Yes, they were having another friendly back-and-forth, but his expression did her in. She lowered her head as in defeat while a half-smile formed across her lips. "Cal, if I were to go on about how genius of a captain you are, your head would be up in the clouds for days. In order to keep you grounded in reality, I'll instead pick on you for making us deal with freezing temperatures, notwithstanding all that fish making a fresh arrival." She took another bite, this time smirking as she looked him up and down. "And I ain't giving you any more compliments until I find out for myself how great of a masseur you are."

That drew a soured smile from the captain, “Fair enough, though I reckon you might take offense to these beauties doin’ all the work, way things are goin’.” Cal flashed his mittened hand, then turned, a thoughtful look on his face. “What say I pay my due on a jungle beach? Sun, sand, lotion needs rubbin’ in, hm?” A hopeful look wormed its way through his tense eyes.

She leaned against the counter using her elbow, eyes on the snack at hand before looking up to meet his own while taking another bite. A smirk slowly appeared as she chewed on the fruit.

Cal’s jaw flexed as he watched her leaning form, and her eye contact as she bit produced a shallow cough, “‘Til then, looks like I got a date with our latest creature from the deep.” He rounded the kitchen counter to the galley table. Nodding again to Abigail as she left, he scooped up the draft letters, bills of lading, and the holo clipboard, which he tucked neatly together before turning back to Alana. Clearing his throat Cal added, “Rain check?”

“There ain’t any rush, Cal,” she responded after a brief moment, “though an outing at the beach does sound rather pleasant after being on the verge of transforming into an ice statue.” Alana watched him get ready to take his leave. “Rain check it is. If our patient needs me, you know where to find me.”

With a nod Captain Strand agreed that Alana certainly was statuesque. He was already on that beach and with that gorgeous view.

After his departure, Alana remained in the kitchen for a little while longer, fingers mindlessly taping the edge of the counter as her mind transported her to the very near future.
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Gunther
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Gunther Captain, Infantry (Retired)

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A Warm Meal Goes a Long Way



Joe Hooker returned to the Galley after leaving the disaster of a card game in the Skye’s shuttle. His hands in his pockets as the cold was not quite deep to the bone, but ever present, nonetheless. He regretted leaving his jacket in the galley.

Once he opened the door, he saw the doc and the captain sitting at the table. The captain was drinking what must have been cold coffee. He made a mental note to make another pot. But the first thing he did was retrieve his jacket and then head into the pantry to grab a sip of whiskey on the shelf. “Mmmmm. That hits the spot,” Joe sighed as he recapped the bottle and returned it to its place.



The dishes were stacking up in the sink including a few of the items he used to bake the pies and cookies earlier. First, he unplugged the coffee pot, pulled out the basket containing the used grounds and dumped them in the waste basket. Next, he tipped the pot into the sink emptying what was left of the old coffee. He then refilled the vessel with fresh water. Then he rinsed out the percolator basket and filled it with appropriate amount of coffee grounds. Once the pot was back together, he plugged it back in and set it to brew a fresh pot.

The mounting stack of dishes beckoned him to the sink. Before washing the dishes, he turned some music on the cortex. He rinsed every item off as he stacked them on the counter. Then he filled the basin with soapy water and began washing the dishes. Each item was returned to the drying rack. Once this task was complete, he walked into cold storage and retrieved a few green and red peppers, onions, red kidney beans and packages of prepared spices. The spice package consisted of chili pepper, paprika, cumin, onion and garlic.

He returned to cold storage with a few pounds of ground beef. After placing a skillet on the stove, he dumped the ground beef inside and began slowly browning it up. He set up a cutting board on the counter and chopped up the peppers and onions. He placed a large stew pot on the stove and added some extra virgin olive oil. He turned the eat on medium to allow the oil to heat up. Then he chopped up a few garlic cloves and added the chopped onion to the stew pot. Using a wooden spoon, he stirred the onion in the oil to soften it up, then added the chopped peppers.

While the vegetables heated up in the medium heat and the ground beef continued to brown, the returned to the pantry to take another sip of whiskey and grab some cans of chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. After opening the cans, he emptied the contents into the large pot and stirred them up. He added the spice package to the pot and stirred the contents. Once the ground beef was thoroughly browned, this too was added to the pot. When the pot began to boil, he covered it with the lid and turned the heat back down.

The kidney beans were pre-softened and would be added after the vegetables and beef simmered for one hour. It was better to add them last just before the meal would be consumed. It helped to preserve some texture to the beans.

He then left his quarters to retrieve his M1 Carbine and HK 770 rifle along with a cleaning kit, towel and rags. He spread the towel over the table and began to disassemble the bolt section of the rifle. He pulled each piece apart carefully and rubbed them with oil and one of the rags. He insured there were no carbon deposits on any surface. Then he assembled the barrel rod, put a small oil-soaked patch of cloth in the eyelet and ran it through the barrel a number of times or until a clean patch would come out about as clean as it went in. When he was satisfied with the cleanliness of the rifle, he completed the same task with his long-distance rifle. Finally, he cleaned his Ruger Redhawk as well. It was re-holstered at his side and then he returned the rifles to his quarters.

When he returned to the galley, he washed his hands thoroughly to insure no burnt carbon or oil remained on his hands. Then he picked up the red kidney beans and dumped them into the stew pot. He left the heat on medium with the cover on. The pot of chili would simmer for at least 20 minutes or until someone wanted to eat some. He considered cooking some hot dogs in case someone wanted a chili dog.

He returned to the pantry, took a sip of his whiskey and then out to cold storage to retrieve some shredded cheese, which he placed in a bowl along with a pair of tongs. He then grabbed a stack of empty bowls, placing them carefully on the counter near the chili. Crew and passengers could help themselves to coffee, hot chili and/or a hot dog if they wanted.

When the meal was complete, he washed his hands again, then the dirty dishes. He finally, sat down at the galley table with a deck of cards to play solitaire.
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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by sail3695
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Jungle Orchid




The rough hewn girl..Abby...had brought her fresh coffee and cookies. With the aid of an extra blanket and the cheerful glow of a space heater, her room aboard this boat...the China Doll, was quite to her liking. Perhaps a good deal of the reason for that was the lockable door. The ratty apartment she’d fled had no door through which Andres couldn’t force his way.

The black was wonderfully silent. Save for a few pleasant words exchanged between the girl Abby and the other passenger, she hadn’t heard a thing since they broke New Melbourne’s grip. Locked behind her door, a pistol tucked beneath her pillow, Edina could suddenly lower her guard. Her reward for this leap of faith was the kind of sleep she could only enjoy when her husband wasn’t stalking about the flat.

Andres had put to sea this morning, signed onto one of the big corporate boats. He’d be out for at least four weeks. A nice head start, she’d uttered to herself before every one of his castoffs. Drain the account, book a passage anywhere. Just go. Just go. Figure it out while you’re on the move. It had become fantasy, a tale told only to assuage her feelings in the aftermath of “being uglied up” to ensure her chastity during his absence. As it usually did, the story would fade in time with her bruises. She’d spend the latest respite in peaceful solitude, slowly building the rationalizations for both their behaviors until his return commenced the latest cycle.

Until today.

The long held pipe dream finally proved itself a script, so embedded in her DNA that she seemed to be on autopilot through each step. Andres’ boat wasn’t through the channel mouth before she’d taken every pfennig from the account. Next came the armourer's shop, and a look of surprise on the gunsmith’s face when she actually laid down coin for the pearl handled .38. Then, home.

The landlord was grateful for rent in advance...at least Andres would still have a place to collapse after his drunken nights out. The suitcase was exactly where she’d placed it. She knew the clothes she’d pack, the toiletries she needed, and the few keepsakes she couldn’t part with. She was meticulous, the years having cemented so many of her choices for a day that would finally come to pass. Perishables out with the garbage. The door was firmly locked; the key hidden beneath the third walk stone...just where he’d find it. All according to plan.

Except for the final step, the booking of passage on the next boat off planet. Edina wandered the spaceport, her search becoming ever more aimless as the resolve to escape began to crumble. The suitcase was getting heavy...this was insane. She should just go home...maybe talk to a shepherd. Swallow it all down as she’d done so many times. The bed was unmade. Andres hated that. She should… The Firefly looked to have just taken a cargo. Edina didn’t conjure much about the workings of spacegoing boats, but she was fair certain that was a reactor fuel truck that just uncoupled its’ hoses. She spied a young girl seated in a lawnchair....

Now, she could hear that girl, laughing, along with the man across the corridor. Their conversation was animated, upbeat until the sounds of movement followed them to the passenger lounge out by the medical room. She lay for awhile, sipping coffee and taking unusual pleasure at the friendly tone of their muffled dialogue. The girl’s speech would end in the frequent upturn of a question. The man would respond, his tones either corrective or encouraging. She could hear the excitement building in both voices, punctuated by bursts of communal laughter. Her curiosity piqued, Edina wrapped herself in a blanket and ventured out of isolation.

“Like that?” Abby glanced over her shoulder.

Marquina studied her work. “No,” he shook his head. “I think those lines are too neat.”

The pair had flipped lampshades upside down, angling both to splash light upon an open bulkhead above the lounge’s sofa. The man, a scientist of some kind, she’d heard, was seated in an easy chair, papers and notebooks scattered over his lap and the coffee table. Abby was standing on the sofa, it’s limp cushions rising about her feet as she moved to and fro. The bulkhead was decorated with a very large blossom. She didn’t know much about flowers, beyond the roses Andres would offer after a night's beatdown. In that moment, she swore an oath to never accept roses again.

This blossom was a creation of chalk, drawn by the girl’s hand at the professor’s guidance. Each petal was a burst of unusual color, ranging from a deep violet beginning to a pale yellow across the tips. Some vibrant orange marks snaked their way outward like the veins upon her hand. The contrasts were stark, but their beauty was undeniable.

“So I should mess ‘em up?” Abby made some rough zigzags on a clear patch ‘o’ bulkhead. “Like that?”

“I don’t think so,” the professor sifted through his pages. “He calls it ‘a ragged crosshatch…”

Abby worked quick, drawin’ out a neat grid on their test spot. “A crosshatch...like this. I use it fer shadowin’ all the time.”

“Nooooo?” he brows furrowed as he reached for a datapad. “I might find a capture.”

Edina broke her silence. “I think I know,” she offered.

“Oh! Ms. Wyman,” the girl turned. “I’m sorry. Was our racket botherin’ yew?”

The professor came to his feet, realizing only too late that his inbred courtesy now sent a sheaf of papers scattering to the deck. “Oh...oh...yes, I apologize. Abigail was helping me...so sorry to disturb.”

She chuckled at the awkward greeting, then dropped to her knees, joining the academic’s rescue effort. “I wasn’t disturbed,” she offered up handfuls of pages carefully collected. “I was fascinated. What are you two doing?”

As they finished recovering the scattered papers, he told her of his unclassified orchid, the upcoming jungle research trip, and the need to have a decent image for his guide. “And so, Abigail has kindly offered to help...oh!” he stammered. “I’ve been quite rude; I apologize. I’m Sergio Marquina.” He extended his hand.

“Edina Wyman.” They clasped hands briefly. “Do you two mind if I join in?”

“I’d be delighted!” Marquina exclaimed.

Abby made to come down off the sofa. “I’ll fetch yer space heater an’ yer coffee.”

“No, no,” Edina waved her hand. “I’ll take care of that...oh, and that ‘ragged crosshatch’ the professor mentioned? Abby, have you ever seen paint that’s cracking and chipping up?”

“All tha time.” The girl give her a curious eye.

Edina smiled. “Sometimes it looks like a whole bunch of mismatched little squares with crooked sides? Or maybe,” she continued, “like a plank that’s been fire burnt on one side.”

“Ya mean somethin’ like this?” The deckhand drew up another crosshatch, but this time it’s all crookedy with little curves an’ ain’t nothin’ lined up neat.

“Yes!” both Edina and the professor replied. “That’s it exactly….on each petal, and the color is a red orange.”

Adding the detailed crosshatch to a drawing of such scale would take a couple hours at least, a chore she witnessed Abby tackling with a deep sense of enjoyment. The professor looked on, his expression rapt at the first sight of his prize. Edina had once thought to hide her bruise behind the sunglasses, but the easy companionship and their acceptance decided her otherwise. It would eventually heal, as would she, though she felt some scars might be carried the rest of her days. She’d have to come to terms, live with her wounds, learn what might be taught by them. But despite the questions of her future, one answer came clear. Her time for hiding was ended.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by wanderingwolf
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wanderingwolf Shiny

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”Fish Story”




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

Narrator: (Sam Elliott voice) “China Doll rode the black in as sweet and clean an arc as her pilot’s mittened hands could muster. The boat’s still mighty cold, what with a hold full of fresh seafood and folk takin’ turns at the few warmup spots tucked here an’ about. Rumor has it the Skyes kept the good times goin’ all night, despite Penelope’s latest rescue sittin’ in for a hand of poker. Speakin’ of rescues, that new fella, Yuri, passed the night quiet, but whether you can sleep after somethin’ like he been through is tough to conjure.

Lucky done did his first engine room watch like a champeen. Rex come outta hidin’ to look in on his friend an’ wound up slingin’ a hammock. Somethin’ happened in the lower deck passenger lounge. Place was all put to rights, but there’s a mighty big chalk drawin’ of an orchid blossom on the bulkhead above the sofa. Ain’t no one to ask yet, as Abby an’ them two passengers is all tucked in their rooms with space heaters goin’. Then there’s Doc an’ the Cap’n...but that ain’t our business. Man’s got a spring in his step today that’s just as like to the payday now growin’ in the Doll’s forward ports as to anythin’ else mighta happened...I ain’t sayin’.

Hook the cook gave ever’one a boost with a good hot breakfast. Some folk opted past the tabasco for sriracha’s extra fire. Now, Greenleaf’s just a couple hours out, an’ gettin’ bigger all the time. Just ‘tween you and me, I conjure that while nobody favored the cold, ain’t a soul aboard won’t think on this run without raisin’ a smile. Even our pilot, who’s got some mixed feelin’s about this stop as she an’ Sam point the Doll toward home.”




Penelope returned to the galley all wrapped up in her multi-layers of blankets once more, rested from a long nap after the antics in the Skye shuttle a few hours previous. The little mouse rescued and named Maurice was tucked away in a re-repurposed plastic bucket in the engine room with Lucky, keeping warm. From where she sat in her pilot’s seat, all looked shiny, even if she weren’t quite sure how she felt as she looked on at the approaching planet that was her home.

Greenleaf grew nearer, and every bone in Cal’s cold body cried out for the warmth that touching down would bring, even if he still maintained the genius of his plan to freeze the four-thousand pounds of King Tuna they were hauling. As he entered the bridge, his rainbow-colored mittens joined the matching set with Pen’s beanie, and the captain slipped them off with numb fingers. It was with a silent tap that Pen felt the pair pinned to her shoulder, a haggard look on the Captain’s face.

Breathing in deeply, Strand took in the growing sight of Greenleaf through the Doll’s eyes. He rested a palm against the frigid console, and tapped the wave dial to wake it up. It was time to hail his contact regarding their arrival.

“You look rested,” came the cranky declaration from Captain Strand.

Penelope had left her mountain of blankets back in the engine room with Maurice and Lucky to watch over. She’d warned them both of blanket bandits, namely Rex, before setting off towards the engine room. So, when the captain dropped her mittens on her shoulder, she actually felt the thump.

“Oh yeah, Cap’n - best place around for a nap was with the critters in the engine room.” She grinned as she pulled her palms from under her thighs to tuck into the mittens. “Got all caught up for the landing. Reckon folks who didn’t tuck in are ready to warm up, huh?”

“Reckon so; I know I am.” Cal input coords on the console for Dupree, his contact, before looking up at Penelope, “Critter-s? Last I checked Rex didn’t qualify, just the parrot.” After a few short moments, Cal was all queued up to turn on the capture. He was ready to make an easy payday on a shi-ton of Tuna; a smirk threatened to break through the perma-frown frozen to Cal’s face. Penelope flashed him a grin of her own at the comment, but kept the secret of Maurice to herself. No need to be bringing up a mouse when her captain was concerned about their cargo.

“Sam, how are things lookin’ in the cargo bay? Our trip long enough to freeze our haul through? Tell me we’ll have an hour or two ‘fore a thaw, sheh.”

After a pause in which Sam was no doubt inputting data and factoring out equations, she reported: "According to planetary temperature and the humidity index combined with reentry hull heat, maintaining a frigid internal temperature seems less than optimal, Cal. When factoring in the size of the cargo against rising heat, approximately three percent of the exterior stored lifeforms may expire within the first hour after reentry."

Cal nodded, since it wasn’t his problem after the bid changed hands, “Let’s hope Dupree’s men don’t dawdle.”

The screen switched, offering a view of the drab office space at the heart of Dupree’s Ocean Delicacies. The man himself was hunched over a desk piled high with heaps of unfiled paperwork. He wore a blue striped coverall over his shirt and tie at half mast. The stark overhead lighting reflected upon a head nearly devoid of hair. In the background stood a plate glass window through which the proprietor could watch the goings on in his freezers and fresh catch tanks. “Dupree’s,” he responded without glancing up.

“Dupree, lookin’ fine as usual, if I don’t say so.” Cal paused to scratch his chin nonchalantly, silently wondering if he’d end up looking just as wretched when he hit whatever age it was Dupree staked claim over. “Everythin’s lookin’ good on my end and we’re a couple clicks out from the rendezvous spot. ‘Preciate the expediency of our dealin’ here.” Strand fixed the capture with what he would have called a friendly look, despite the slight shiver running up his spine.

“Sounds good,” Dupree gave a single nod. “Let me know when the dockmaster assigns your berth number and I’ll have my truck there when you land.” His eyes dipped to the clipboard in his hand. “My guys will have your payment…two credits a pound. Did you manage to get me the full four hundred?”

Cal’s jaw hinged open, “Four hundred? Four hundred what now? The last we talked you called for four-thousand pounds of King Tuna--” He shot a glance at Penelope, who had returned her mittens hands under her legs and shrugged. She was never privy to the job details to say one way or another, and didn’t seem to mind at all as her eyes drifted back up to the viewport to see her homeworld getting closer by the second.

The fishmonger kept a rigid poker face. “Sounds like a typo…most like a signal skip. Sorry, friend, I ordered four hundred pounds of King Tuna. Four hundred’s what I’m paying for.”

“A typo? Listen, Dupree, the bill said four-thousand pounds, so we’re haulin’ four-thousand pounds. I got the whole lot on ice here to deliver up to you on the total fare for two creds a unit. Now, are we goin’ to deal on original terms?” Cal’s smirk was gone, his tone hardening as he watched the shiny bald man’s head reflect back at him.

Dupree shook his head, then lifted a hand to still the next protest. “Wait…tell you what, Captain. It’s mighty hot down here today. After you burn in, the clock’ll start ticking on that fish. I conjure you’ll have a good hour before it starts to spoil. Hate to see that happen over something stupid as a data hiccup, so how’s this? I’ll pay you for the four hundred at our set price. The rest? I’ll take it off your hands before it starts to smell for…say twenty P a pound? Sound fair?”

“Fair!” Cal’s temper was rising, “You take me for one-tenth the price on the ton of catch I’ve got here? I ain’t gonna G’en Ho Tze Bi Dio se, while you sit there like a Go Neong Yung
Duh
.” Strand’s palm beat the wave’s termination button, his arms still anchored to the spot over the pilot’s console. (engage a monkey in a feces-hurling contest and son of a bitch, respectively)

"Cap'n," Penelope spoke up in that soft way of hers when he’d disconnected the wave, distracted still by her thoughts, but not enough to miss out on the clear robbery. "Usually when a fella gives ya the run-around in the market, you take the goods to another stall. Greenleaf ain't got no big salt-water, so this sort of delicacy wouldn't be too hard to hawk elsewhere. Plenty’a fences, too."

As he put the pieces of what she was saying together as a native, Cal turned where he stood, no longer shivering of cold thanks to his exchange with Dupree. “Plenty o’ fences?” His brows, though sternly fixed, arched just enough to beg her to continue her thought behind crossed arms..

“Greenleaf ain’t no stranger to unloading cargo that didn’t quite go through Alliance inspection,” Her eyes returned from the viewport to focus on her captain when he’d fallen silent, seeing that he’d wanted more information. “There’s a few places of reentry where the sensors aren’t as… thorough. Paid off folks that monitor, usually from the black market higher-ups. There’s a whole underground. Bunkers ‘round the jungle. I’m sure one of them are likely to take on the haul - it’d make ‘em rich to sell off to the Alliance upper class in the city.”

"Uh-huh," he intoned, his eyes were focused elsewhere, reasoning out a new plan factoring in the data his pilot supplied. "And do you happen to know who might be keen on what we're sellin'?" Having a barefoot onboard could be just the break he needed to get out of this fix. "I ain't lookin' to take a loss, here. We need every cred promised us on this run to keep flyin'."

Penelope was clearly thinking, but whether it was a list of old contacts she knew or her willingness to get in touch with them, that was anyone’s guess. Finally, she stopped chewing absently at her lip and said, “Maybe Hafez Nadal - it's been a long time since I've been in contact with him, but he's the sort to tread light just enough not to get caught up in'a snare, so I bet he's still around..”

A crackle preceded the cool, clear accent of S.A.M.N.T.H.A. on the bridge, “Hafez Nadal, Alliance intelligence claims, is the head of a syndicate here on Greenleaf known for shady dealing without crossing the line of legality. This distinction, it seems, has thwarted enough attempts to indict him that the authorities now vet any further allegations of illegality through a local task force that reports no real leads according to the digital files they keep in their precinct.” A burgeoning smile could almost be heard through the comm, “I don’t see your name in any of the collated list of his associates, Penelope. Though now, I admit, I am curious.”

"I reckon it's on account of my being presumed dead…" The pilot said it was if was her best guess after a moment of thinking about it. "Hafez must've kept it that way."

She seemed surprised, in that her eyes went a little wide at the idea. That meant … well, that'd be dealt with later. "I guess I'm comin' back from the beyond to load a lap full of tuna on him, Cap'n?"

Cal, scratching his chin absently, finally met Pen’s eyes. “Sounds like a charmer. Well, we got no choice. Can you call him?”

Penelope nodded and pulled one hand from beneath a leg, reaching over to send a wave to Nadal. There was only a bit of anxiety that touched her, given it’d been so long and all, but she hid it well as anything.

A luminescent title, Nadal Enterprises, glowed and pulsed on the screen. The image switched to reveal a large, overly ornate cafe space. Ceiling fans turned lazily above intricate tapestries adorning the walls. Tables and chairs, all richly burnished wood, cast a gloss which was augmented by the golden brass fittings. The garish opulence of the scene appeared an apt match for the man himself. Hafez Nadal wore richly embroidered robes. Chains about his neck and the rings upon his fingers glowed lustrous gold in compliment to the robust hue of skin well cared for. The breezy cafe, the clothing, the perfectly coiffed hair all told their tale. Here was a man who took appearances to extremes.

As his gaze zeroed in, the professional smile burst open to a dazzling grin. “Why, Penelope Randell!” Hafez nearly chortled in delight. “It brings me joy to see your lovely face again!”

“Nice compliment for the long departed,” Penelope’s easy smile came at seeing an old familiar sight. “You’re lookin’ mighty fine - exuberant as ever, Hafez.”

“I’ve been warned never to accept flattery from a beautiful woman,” Hafez’s grin held beneath eyes sparkling with wit. “But I’ll make an exception in your case, Dear One. Tell me, what are you up to these days? Something involving stick and rudder?”

“More or less,” Penelope answered, her teeth starting to chatter slightly at the hiss of the word. “Right now, I’m cold storage while we try to figure out a fishy situation. Literally sittin’ on my hands. Told my new Cap’n here that I might know someone who had a soft spot for me that’d help us puzzle it out.”

It was more difficult to hold her grin only account of the cold, but she’d motioned to Cal just by her with a nod of her head. “This is Cal Strand, Cap’n of the China Doll I’ve just recently started flyin’ - Firefly.”

She gave a wink, thrilled by the ship itself all the same as when she first wandered on by. But that was all she’d say on it, mostly because her lips were probably turning blue so the sooner they worked something out, the better. Maybe she should’ve brought at least one of her blankets…

The professional smile restored. “A pleasure, Captain Strand,” Hafez offered a courteous nod. “In such a moment as this, the old adage ‘any friend of Penelope’s is a friend of mine’ should go without saying. And so, my friends, to what do I owe such a wonderful surprise?”

“Pleasure’s mine, Mr. Nadal,” Cal’s eyes sought out the myriad ostentatious flourishes of which Nadal himself must have relished in his appearance and space. Truth be told, he wasn’t quite sure how to pin such a man who looked a little closer to Rex, if he’d had an enterprising bone in his body. “Penelope here tells me you may have trade in salt water fish; King Tuna to be exact.”

“King Tuna,” the crime lord offered a wistful smile. “Quickly delivered, given yesterday was the start of the season.” He cast a knowing smile toward Cal. “My compliments on an efficiently run operation, Captain. Yet, I can’t help but wonder that such well planned beginnings weren’t accompanied by an equally determined conclusion? Might there be a complication?”

“Some hucksters might call it a ‘typo’ but, seems there were only call for four-hundred pounds of catch with a generous offer at one-tenth for the rest.” Captain Strand shook his head, “Said offer came by a fella by the name of Dupree.” His jaw tightened slightly as his mind ran over the brief exchange for the nth time.

“I told the Cap’n we ain’t got much of a trade in sea critters, and beings it’s a delicacy, man would be a fool to go turnin’ his nose up at the haul - think he’s playin’ on a desperation to unload ‘fore they turn.” Penelope chattered through a frown.

“Dupree, of course,” A pained smirk crossed the immaculate face. “In the circus that is Greenleaf, the man is our proverbial ‘one trick pony,’ Hafez chuckled. “Having said that, when it comes to moving seafood among the reputable dining and market establishments, I’m sorry to report that his is the only game in town. Still,” the silk rustled as he folded his arms, “a man of his limited...vision...doesn’t achieve such status without the good will of others.” His face softened again as his gaze turned toward the pilot. “If it pleases you, I shall remind our friend Dupree that honoring one’s agreements pays a rich dividend, both in cash profit and my good will. Would that be satisfactory?” His eye travelled between the two faces on his screen.

A man who could wield his ‘good will’ in such a manner definitely got Cal’s attention. The wheels in his head began to turn, imganing just who this Hafez could be, and what sort of history could be colored between the lines twixt him and Penelope. His brief sidelong glance at his pilot looked to her for reassurance that such a promise was within this seemingly friendly face. Even then, someone who could ‘remind’ Dupree to honor his agreement triggered his Badger-o-meter; keen as he was to move this frozen haul, keener was he to keep things on even ground, which meant there was a quid pro quo in the offing.

While Hafez had been speaking, Penelope had busied herself with pulling her shawl over the lower half of her face, but when she caught the captain’s sideways glance, the creases in her eyes matched the reassuring smile beneath.

“I’d be mighty pleased to hear that change of tune,” Cal nodded steadily, trying not to be too visibly pleased.

Hafez brought his hands together in a single clap. ”Tama,” he nodded. “It is done. You may expect Mr. Dupree to meet with you in person upon landing. He’ll pay your agreed price, as well as apologizing for such an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

Jahn sheh,” the Captain said, a little stunned. From where he was standing, Penelope appeared to have friends in all sorts of stations. As he considered just how far the reach of her ‘friends’ extended, his brows knit somewhere between concern and interest.

Penelope didn’t think that sounded too good for Dupree, leaving her feeling a little mixed up on the matter, but there wasn’t much that could be done on that end. Even if the situation was an innocent error, which she had doubts about, he still had gone a bit far on a swindle opportunity. If she hadn’t known Hafez, likely Cap’n would be knee-deep in rotted fish, and Abby would be stuck with the clean up. That didn’t sit well with her at all, so she ended up grateful things had turned out this way. “Don’t reckon Dupree will be pleased to see us, but an apology goes a long way. Thank you, Hafez. You’ve saved me from a situation once again, my friend.”

Hafez grinned. “The vision of your loveliness is its’ own reward, Penelope.” The crime boss’ features brightened as a fresh idea seemed to strike. “Tomorrow, my humble establishment is closed. I’m hosting a birthday celebration for my nephew. It would do me great honor if you both were to come and enjoy our hospitality? Captain,” he continued before they could answer, “I do admire a man who conducts his business so efficiently. To that end, during your time with us tomorrow I should appreciate a few moments to discuss an opportunity.”

And there it was, Cal released a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “I ain’t one to turn down hospitality. Send us the details—well, I suppose you know thereabouts, don’t you, Penelope?” Strand turned to his pilot, a foreboding look on his face.

“I do,” She nodded, retreating back into her thoughts on that some for a moment before returning to give her controlled chattering cheer: “We’ll be there, Hafez.”

”Tama! Hafez clapped his hands once more, grin widening in obvious delight. “Such a fortuitous day! I shall look forward to your arrival. The festivities begin at two o’clock,” his expression shifted into a wry smile, “but fashionable lateness might get you past the more ‘juvenile’ proceedings. Until tomorrow, my friends.” The onscreen image reverted to the glowing Nadal Enterprises title.

As the capture dissolved on screen, Cal sat back against the console, his face toward his pilot. “Reckon we’re goin’ to a shindig tomorrow.” A frown materialized on his face, “And I reckon we’ve got ourselves another job.” He scooted a little closer to her, suddenly reminded of the frigid cold of space. “Tell me, how well do you know this Nadal?”

Penelope hummed a bit, considering as she did everything asked of her personal life. She’d been forthcoming with the captain so far, and there wasn’t really anything suspect on her end involved with answering the question. “As well as anyone can know Hafez Nadal, I reckon, but I also think I already owe him if that’s what you’re askin’.”

Cal thought for a moment, “So, you owe him.” His finger extended in her direction, “And now I owe him…” He retrieved his finger, contemplating for a minute.

“Well, that’s how a fella like him works, isn’t it?” She speculated aloud as a visible tremor went through her, but only due to the cold. “Spiders don’t go gettin’ stuck in their own web, an’ all.”

Cal nodded officially, “That they don’t, and quick-thinkin’ finches always get their worm. Well I say add it to the list, ‘cause after this I owe you.” Just looking at how the cold was setting her teeth to rattling started to become contagious. “Weren’t for your shady blackmarket deals, Abigail would have quite the work to do with that mop, pi gu shot, or not.”

“Aw, Cap’n, ya don’t owe me nothin’ so long as you say I can take the Doll in and get us outta this cold ‘fore my toes freeze off,” She puffed beneath her shawl-made-scarf.

“For Buddha’s-sake woman, take us in before the Doc comes for all our toes-ss.” He bit down to keep that pesky ‘s’ from hissing along from the cold.

“Ain’t got issue with that at all,” Penelope shuddered again just before taking her hands from beneath her thighs where she’d stored them once again to get the coordinates for entry in. As she worked and shivered, she poked one last bit of fun before it was time to get serious. “Sam, can you tell who’d lose their toes first - Cap’n or me? I think me, on account of I ain’t got the desire for shoes no-how, but I’m pretty fond of my toes.”

It only took just a moment before Sam started to whirl off her rationale with data-driven facts on temperature and what she discovered about human frostbite while Penelope pulled the manual flight controls in to get ready for the take-over.
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