Captain Jago Deckard looked around the bustling dock on Greenleaf, and grunted. His face wore the pained expression of a man clear out of patience, but that may have been the fault of his current counterpart. He had an athletic build for a man of his age, his squared jaw hidden behind a scraggly gray beard, which he scratched thoughtfully as he noted the time.
"I hate this ruttin' planet." He groused, his brow slick with sweat as his clothes, fatigue pants, and a black tee-shirt clung to him, damp with humidity. He already felt like they’d been there for months on end, time seemed to stand still on Greenleaf. Besides, if patience was a virtue, he was about as virtuous as a whore in church.
“You hate every ruttin’ planet,” a smaller figure with almond eyes and pigtailed hair mimicked as she hopped behind him like a rabbit. Serena may have been sixteen, legal age on a lotta planets in her own words, but due to her height and style of clothes, currently, a sweatshirt with floppy bunny ears hand sewn to the hood and a pair of cut-off shorts with sneakers, made her appear slightly younger. “Are we looking for crew? We could use more crew, “ Serena said hopefully.
“No, we’re not looking for crew. If we find crew, that’s just a bonus. We’re picking up.” Theodore Fox, one of Deckard’s regular fixers arranged the deal. Pick up. Drop off. Easy money.
“Cargo? Passengers?” the teen asked, giving her Captain a side-long glance.
“Paid upfront fare. Extract.” Jago scowled. "Go make yourself useful. Run down the list for me."
"Again?" She asked, dropping her head back dramatically.
"Again." He made a spinning motion with his finger as she tried not to roll her eyes.
Serena took an exasperated breath and ran down his list of requirements for anyone boarding the ship.
We're trying to keep the group small to give it the Firefly-crew-feel, but if you love Firefly like we love Firefly and would like a character, drop us a wave so we can chat. Pilot or a mechanic or any mercenary-oriented sort.
"No robots. No unattended children. No attended children. No one under the age of 18, 'cept me on account of I’m Grandfather clocked.” Serena began in a sing-song voice.
“Grandfather claused,” Jago corrected, not bothering to go into an explanation.
“Grandfather claused,” she corrected as she checked her nails. They were perhaps a bit too short from a nervous chewing habit, but nothing at all like old man claws. Jago himself wasn’t a fan of children, while he didn’t actively dislike them, he actively disliked being around them, but Serena came as a package deal with Vas Jat, and he- the Captain noted - had come in useful more than once. The Captain liked Vas, and Serena desperately wanted the Captain to like her too, but truth be told, she probably sparked the no-kid rule addition to the list. “No one moonbrained,” she continued. “No Preachers unless they leave their preaching at the port. No 'fanciable folk' who act like they never stunk up a latrine.”
"Exceptions?" He quizzed, crossing his arms.
“Nuh-uh,” Serena said, wagging a finger. “Trick question. Captains don’t make exceptions. No fanciable folk at all on account of they give you a rash.” She flashed him a smile, which Jago pointedly did not return."No passengers 'less there's exo .. exe... special circumstances. No purple-bellied Alliance soldiers on account of they bring trouble. No one Tim slept with and or married in a drunken stupor on account of they bring more trouble."
Serena’s white tennis shoe kicked at the ground as her face scrunched up into a frown. "No gorram pets," She recited sadness in her voice.
"That one's on you." Jago reminded her. "What kind of Sha Gwa don't know a polecat's just another name for a skunk?"
"This kind.” Serena jerked a thumb towards herself, her voice pitching in a way that made Jago’s skin crawl. “I still think the ship needs a kitten, please?”
“Add no whiners to the list,” Jago snapped, wondering what was taking Tim and the new charges so gorram long.
“And no whiners,” Serena repeated as her brow furrowed, mentally adding that to the list. Something always got added to the list when she was with Jago. Always.
“Going over rules again” Vas interrupted, adjusting a heavy pack stuffed with fresh medical supplies as he padded up the gangway.
Doc followed close behind Vas. "Could always tattoo it on her arm." The medic dryly suggested.
Serena gasped, holding her arm as she stepped behind the mohawked punk.
“No tattoos. Yet.” Vas assured.
"By the way, Cap, thanks for the advice." Doc said as she rolled the cigarillo from one side of her mouth to the other. "Taking out the mule was a good idea", she said, jutting he jaw towards Vas.
"Ya know I was talkin' about the four-wheeler, right?" The Captain enquired with a cocked eyebrow.
"What, and waste the gas?" Doc replied with a smirk.
Jago allowed a small chuckle to escape at the medic's frugality, probably the first one he'd managed all day. "This is why we're friends."
Vas side-eyed both Doc and Captain. “Is this even in my job description?”
“It is now.” Jago said with a chuckle, motioning for the punk to walk on.
“That’s how things get added to the list, Onii,” Serena told him, as she leaned her back to his. She rested her head in the space between his shoulder blades, mentally checking to see if she’d grown any since that morning. She wished she were tall like him and Jago, imagining the world to be a much more interesting place from that height.
The high-pitched whirl of a rented golf cart pricked their ears as Timothy Casey turned the corner. The cart strained beneath the weight of its occupants and their luggage, as well as the fact that Tim insisted that the accelerator touch the floor at all times.
“Room for three more?” A girl in mostly black with bright Aqua hair asked, smiling brightly as she slid out of the cart.
“I found them standing on the side of the road,” Tim kidded. “Hitch-hiking. Was gonna leave ‘em stranded there, but figured what the hell.”
“Hey Brav long time no see ne?” The tall man with reddish hair waved. “Poplap, getting taller every time we see ya.” He complimented Serena as he worked to unload their bags.
“Lekker!” Serena giggled happily. I knew I was growing taller! The teen greeted Mathias with a wave. “Hiya Cyd. Heyyy Isaac.”
“While I am all for happy reunions we do have a timetable to keep so unless you like the humidity … were are dusting off in a short.” Jago said. “Or stand there and watch as we leave y’all behind. Chop Chop ladies.” He said more urgently to hurry his crew along.
“You, me, Majong! Tonight!” Vas called back as he padded inside with the Doc. “It’s nice to see some things don’t change.” Mathias chuckled.
“C’mon,” Serena said, linking her arm through Isaac’s crooked elbow. She eyed his dozen hickeys warily. “Let’s get you squared away. We can catch up once the Lunar Veil puts her boots in the air.”
Cyd didn’t breathe a sigh of relief until the cargo bay door shut, and Tim Casey had them back in the black.
The click of lighter and the whiff of cloves crossed Cyd’s nose. “There’s always work to do.” Vas said exhaling a puff of smoke. “Want one?” He offered.
“Ja, cuz,” the girl said with a nod, helping herself to the one the punk smoked, grabbing his wrist so he held the burning cloves as she took a long inhale. Vas looked the same as always, just maybe a little more filled out, no more scrawny street rat. He had the same babyish face which was a stark contrast to the mohawked hairstyle he favored, but, Cyd noted, it worked for him. His mocha skin was a shade darker, kissed by the sun, most likely.
She exhaled. The cloves were sweet and warm, comforting as a blanket fresh pulled from the dryer. The Lunar Veil just felt like home. Even though she knew it wasn’t a long stay, it was a welcome respite to be back in their element with like-minded skollies.
“How are you guys really though, you look … stressed.” Vas prodded. Outside of the Temple there was only Serena so having an impromptu run-in with his ‘cousins’ was often a comfort. Less reason to be on guard. More reason to relax. They were as close to family as it could get.
“More stressed than the first time we met?” Cyd teased, taking the cigarette from him for another inhale of cloves. “Long job. Merch is hot, buyer backed out, baddies closing in,” Cyd confessed with a shake of her head. “But cuz, we just got back, I don’t want to waste what time I have here being negative. I’ll figure it out. How about you, all been lekker?”
Vas snorted. “It’s all good, the job ain’t easy and I know there is hardly ever anyone to talk about the nitty-gritty with. It’s been as good as it can be, it’s been more about Serena than me but that never stops them from throwing jobs my way. At least you're not in a mask and armor every time rain or shine.” The punk smiled taking in a long drag of a new clove cig.
“No,” Cyd agreed with a chuckle, “You have a point, but at least you didn’t have to share space with Mathias and Isaac." She giggled about the close quarters. "Truth be told, I’d have gone crazy without the sibs,” Cyd admitted. “Glad you two have each other. “
"Me too but seriously who would have thunk it." Vas gave a wry smile exhaling a cloud of scented smoke. "Me with an apprentice."
“Apprentice,” she repeated with a nod and a quirked eyebrow, “Noticed she calls you onii now - that’s … new. Brother, aweh?”
Vas stiffened ear ringing pink. "It was her idea … and … just happened …" The assassin fumbled. " … It's not that big of a deal …" He said trying to minimize it.
“It’s good, it’s good,” she assured him, “I don’t usually say this,” she lowered her voice and glanced in both directions, conspiring. “We adopted one of my sibs. Shhhhhh.” She pressed a finger to her lips in an exaggerated fashion, before taking another drag. “It’s like they say - family don’t start or end in blood.”
"Mathias is adopted!" Vas joked with fake astonishment. "Can't say I'm too shocked."
“The height gives him away,” Cyd teased back.
That got a laugh out of the punk. “Well, you’re on the LV now, we got your back so that's at least one worry you don’t need to carry around. You hungry? I assure it’s nothing I cooked.” Vas assured.
“I know the sibs will be, Cuz,” Cyd said, bumping her shoulder into his arm. “I’ll catch up. Something I need to take care of first.”
"Arrite don't be too long Cuz. Tea 'ell get cold otherwise." Vas said finishing his smoke before ambling back into the galley.
“I’ll be along,” she promised. “Save me a cookie, I know you baked! The whole ship smells like warm vanilla.”
"I'll get my sword." Vas joked as turn the corner. "Fend off the black holes you call siblings." To be fair, the boys were hungry creatures. He would know he was one of them
Cyd smiled and shook her head, disappearing into the closet-sized room allotted to her for the trip. What the Lunar Veil lacked in luxury, she made up for in charm and familiarity that Cyd felt welcoming. Plus, the room decidedly did not smell like cheese puffs, dagga smoke and boy. She pulled the Personal Encyclopedia (PREN) tablet from her pocket and sat down on the bed. “Let’s hope for a good signal,” she said to no one in particular as she deleted some unneeded files from her device. “And then make a call.”
Serena giggled with delight, feeling behind her ears as Mathias showed her yet another coin. “How do you do that?” She asked, wide-eyed.
“Magic of course!” Mathias said with a dramatic flair and exaggerated jazz hands.
“Magic isn’t real,” She chided, checking behind her ear one more time for good measure.
“Unlike ghosts,” Tim added, helping himself to a fresh cup of coffee. Serena glared at him in response.
“If ghosts are real magic is real.” Mathias said in a reasonable tone. “Therefore if magic isn’t real then ghosts can’t be real. It is a well-known fact that ghosts run on magic.”
Tim nodded in agreement then suddenly stopped and tilted his head as if he’d heard something. Serena narrowed her eyes at both of them in disbelief but decided that she’d be sleeping that night with the light on.
Mathias put his hand up innocently. “You could just … not believe in magic.” He offered.
“Then how did you do the coin trick? Or know what card I picked? Or had the exact word I was gonna say written on your hand before I even said it?” She scowled.
“I guess you’ll have to just have to … figure that out.” Mathias said stroking a nonexistent beard.
Serena looked at the deck of cards again, then back to Mathias. “If you can really do magic, can you saw Tim in half?”
“I’m a run-of-the-mill street magician Serena, not a full blown wizard.” Mathias pointed out.
“Onni can cut Tim in half,” Serena said mischievously. “But I dunno about back together.”
“Then I can haunt the ship two places at once,” Tim teased, wiggling his backside for emphasis. Serena decided that she definitely did not want to be haunted by Tim’s butt.
Isaac popped his head in from the entranceway to the passenger quarters. "This where all the action is on this boat?" he grinned as he walked in. His python bites and sizeable circles of surrounding skin were stained with mercurochrome, making him look like the shortest giraffe. Just then, his eyes locked onto the galley cupboards and fridge. "Oh my gawd, I'm so hungry!" He hustled over to investigate. "Is anything ready?" He asked as he popped open the fridge door not waiting for a response.
Cyd sat propped up on the cot, with another clove cigarette clenched between the first two fingers of her right hand, while her left hand idly tapped at the virtual keys splayed out on the blanket. She had a block of ice in the pit of her stomach that even the cigarette couldn’t warm up. She stared at the PREN, and took a long drag from the cigarette, the warm spices tickling her nose. Now or never, she lamented, pressing the key to dial, sending the wave. She practiced in her head what she would say, how she would ask, playing out the conversation with as many scenarios as she could image. Of course, that all went to waste the second she heard the male voice, her mind suddenly turning as blank as a sheet of paper from a brand new notebook. Cyd near choked on the clove cigarette, not exactly the opening she had in mind.
Rowan Randell was in the middle of what he felt was a very compelling and rational point about why he should stay home from work when his PREN chimed. His daughter, who was his combatant in this matter, had turned to look in the direction of the device that was no longer buried under discarded clothing and other miscellaneous belongings of his. Now that Penelope had returned home, Elias - his neighbor and newly close friend - had someone to continue the good fight while he was away at work. Fighting wasn’t exactly the right word, Rowan mused, as he moved to pick up the little thing expecting to see one of his other wayward children. Instead, he found himself looking at a blue-haired young woman, the surprise in his gentle cadence evident only in the slight hesitation of his greeting. “Hi, there. Mistake connect?”
Just as he asked, his genuine good nature in place in the smile he wore, something tickled at his mind as he looked at the young woman. Penelope distracted him only by her movement towards the kitchen, getting a brief glance from him.
“No, uh, no … Aweh,” Cyd said, less then smoothly, a flicker of recognition making her turn her head slightly. “I was looking for Pen? Penelope Randall?” This was far from the “Pen, please,” statement she had scripted in her head.
“Oh, sure, let me get her.” His voice brightened at the comment, happy to have that option now most likely. She’d been gone so long that the feeling left him giddy as he sat the PREN down. It left a sideways view of the neat living area while Rowan spoke to his daughter in the adjoining room, his voice trailing away. “Pen-nut, the wave was for you – what are you doing?”
“Elias said to make sure you took dinner with you, so I’m fixin’ it.” Her response could be heard, not far off. “I’ll finish it here in a minute, I reckon.”
Penelope left her father alone in the kitchen, glanced across the island that divided the living area from it and caught him nibbling. She was smiling over at him as she lifted the PREN. “That’s supposed’a be your dinner.”
Cyd couldn’t help but smile. The former pilot seemed to be taking to homelife, and it made her happy - genuinely happy - for her. From the small interaction, the raver knew Pen made the right decision.
Really, she hadn’t known who could’ve been sending her a wave through her father’s device. There was a brief consideration of her old crew, but she hadn’t been with them that long at all to warrant a goodbye call. Who it actually was, she was delighted to see. “What a pleasant surprise. Hi, Cyd, how’s things going?”
Cyd’s smile brightened. “Lekker, actually, big changes, change of scenery.” She said, dabbing the cigarette out against the hull. “What about you? Sibs and I miss you already but things going good with your father, aweh? Sounds like you're happy?”
“It is, and I am.” The smile that spread across Penelope’s face radiated the warmth of her voice that shifted to gratitude as she spoke on. “I figure I owe a big part of that to you. Did you make it out to see the waterfalls?”
“Ja, nee, no,” Cyd said with a shake of her head, holding up the bottle. “The ship decided to stay in port for a while longer, and we’d already signed for our next job, oweh? Big shindig, lots of staff issues, and it didn’t seem right to reneg the contract. Besides,” she flipped the bottle over to read the co-ordinates again. “The ship had bad juju for us, ‘specially with the one person worth stayin’ for gone.”
Penelope tilted her head slightly at hearing her old ship hadn’t departed, taking a seat on the sofa she was standing before so she could sit the PREN down on the tabletop. As she did so, she propped her chin against a palm as the other arm lay across her knees as she leaned down to stay in frame. Her concern that it had been her leaving them stranded without a pilot was only brief, as she remembered the captain saying he could handle the job but preferred someone else to do it. Besides, Cyd’s following comment got a twitch from her lips as warmth replaced the worry in her eyes. “Reckon it’s a good thing they ain’t goin’ nowhere. Just means we’ll hav’ta see them next time you’re here… Your next job in Osirius?”
Cyd nodded in response. It wasn’t, not that she could say that, but it dididn’t feel right to outright lie. “You know the sibs. We move around a lot, see the verse and all,” She paused for a moment, looking down at the pretty bottle before back to Pen. “Besides, we have to come back to Greenleaf. Maybe you’ll take me to the waterfall yourself, oweh?”
If the vagueness of Cyd’s answer regarding where she was next headed bothered Penelope, it hadn’t shown on her face. The Skye siblings may have warmed up to her a little in their short time together, but they were beholden to her in the way of their secrets or anything else. The pilot understood not everyone would - or could - be forthright, and it didn’t bother her none. Instead, she had been content at the fact Cyd had contacted her at all and that was good enough for her. The notion of her return to Greenleaf brought back at that full smile of hers as she said, “Reckon that means I’ll have to scrounge up a pair of gliders – or, a set?”
The lift of her eyebrow with the question had her cheer dim appropriately as she asked if it would be just the two of them, or the entire band. The original trip had been for the siblings as a way of thanks, and she wouldn’t take it back for her own selfish gain. That just wasn’t who she was, so the question was genuine as the earnest puzzling that started to factor as she considered the best place to find the gliders nowadays.
“Just two,” Cyd replied slyly with a chuckle. “The boys most likely will be just fine on their own for one night. Mathias will be anyway. We bring Isaac, he’s bound to get his big head stuck in something, that’s a fact like a cow.” Cyd looked to the bottle again. “But until then, maybe we can touch base, keep in touch? I want to hear all about the amazing things you’re taking care of on Greenleaf.”
Penelope removed the fingers she pressed to her lips to keep from laughing aloud at the mention of Isaac’s predetermined fate, the idea of which had to come from some past experience. The amusement shined in her eyes though as she nodded. “I’d like that, Cyd, so long as you swap some stories of your own. I can’t imagine Greenleaf would be as int’restin’.”
“Depends, I happen to know someone intr’estin’ on Greenleaf,” Cyd replied, tilting her head slightly as she set the bottle down. She raised her eyebrows and a soft smile settled on her lips.“Someone I’m interested in hearing about, interested in maybe gettin’ to know better, aweh?”
"Reckon I'd like that, too." Penelope said with a shade more soft as a hint of color rosed her cheeks. She tapped a finger against one and played at consideration to cover the slight blush, her eyes roaming to see her father leaning against the counter. He lifted his eyebrows and turns suddenly, as if just remembering her had something to do as she carried on the act. "Means I'll have to find somethin' to get into to tell ya about - and maybe my own wave link."
That was said with a slight eye roll as her gaze returned to the screen and her smile spread once more. "Peace be your journey?"
Cyd returned the smile, a genuine gesture, not the one used for busking or flirting, or giggling at a sib’s silliness, but the kind that started as a warmth in your chest and spread. “Peace be your journey, til we meet again.” Cyd closed the link and folded her hands, fingers interlaced behind her bed, and leaned back on the pillow. She pictured the pilot’s bright hazel eyes and pretty face, the soft feel of her lips when they shared a kiss at the rave. Cyd never was the sort to dwell on what could have been, but just for a little, she’d let her mind wonder. “Til we meet again,” she repeated.
When the image of Cyd flicked off the screen, Penelope sat a moment after seemingly in her own reverie. Her father cleared his throat from the perch at the counter, drawing her eye. He puffed up straighter. "Does this mean I finally get to enact my fatherly intimidation duties?"
"I think so." She laughed in mix glee and amusement as she fell back against the couch, getting her father's smile in return. He was happy for his daughter's delight, always. At least this Cyd had already proven she'd protect his girl if the bruising on face was anything to show for it, and that was fine by him.
“There’s peanut butter and crackers,” Tim offered. “Protein paste, some freeze-dried ready-to-eat … go on and open a can of something."
Isaac's shoulders slumped and his head hung below the fridge door as he whined. "But the last ship had cake." he groused.
"This is a Firefly, not a Five-Star restaurant." Tim reminded him with a cocked eyebrow.
Isaac sighed in resignation as visions of fancy eats fluttered tantalizingly out of his reach. "Peanut butter and crackers, please," he requested, defeated.
"I guess the magic just ran out." Mathias said with a shrug.
"What bullshittery are we talking about now?" Vas asked, going to the stove to make a round of tea.
Isaac didn't have the heart to explain to Vas the delicacies he wouldn't be having again any time soon as he gave a sad nod to the pilot in thanks, gathered up his snack and brought it to the table, finding himself a seat.
Serena took a breath in and recanted the conversation. “Mathias is magic, and since magic is real, ghosts are real and he can’t saw Tim in half but you can only then you can’t put him back together and his butt would haunt me, and Isaac was hungry but not for space food ‘cept peanut butter and crackers and it looks like Doc Pritchard got a hold of him and his hickeys.”
"You remember the last time you all brought on this nonsense?" Vas said with an arched eyebrow.
"No but I am genuinely curious now …" Mathais said with a broad grin and steepled fingers.
"Well, turns out their medic *really* likes using this stingy orange stuff." Isaac answered Mathias, his mouth full of crackers and peanut butter. "She even has a special sponge on a stick that she slathers it on with!"
“It’s true,” Serena agreed with a nod. “You do not wanna go to the med bay ‘less you absolutely have to on account of it’s not safe. Everything there is sharp, pinchy, or stings.”
"Not what I was talking about …" Mathais chuckled.
"Yea we long stopped wondering how you keep doing … this … " Vas said, waving at the whole of Isaac, "... to yourself."
"Let's be honest this isn't even the worst." Mathias pointed out.
For a moment Isaac considered being offended, but then simply shrugged in agreement and prepared another cracker.
“Definitely not the worst,” Cyd added, joining the party in the galley, helping herself to the cracker Isaac had just meticulously spread peanut butter on. “Did you have Doc take a look at that hand yet?” She asked Mathias, raising an eyebrow.
"The one we just finished talking about that has nothing in her place isn't sharp, pinchy, or stings?" Mathias asked innocently.
"She only amputates when absolutely necessary," Vas assured pouring hot water into his mug to let his tea brew.
“Are we sure about that, Onii?” Serena asked warily.
"No." Vas said with a shrug.
"Oooooohhhh!" Isaac turned to Mathias, his eyes widened as he hatched what he presumed was a brilliant idea. "If she has to cut off your hand, we should totally pickle it and say it's a cursed monkey's paw and sell tickets!"
Mathias turned to Cyd. "What's safe to throw at his head."
Cyd gave her twin a wry look. “What if it makes him worse?”
"Oh, we have long passed worse." Mathias chortled.
Kinneas returns to Silverhold after a job completed and money lavishly spent to recoup before taking on another job, but his plan may get upended
When Kinneas first was cast out to the border planet of Silverhold, he could never quite understand how the people could be content to live in such a way when places like Osirius, Bellerophon, or even Persephone existed in White Sun. They weren’t the most luxurious - no. He’d been at the center of high society - lived it to the fullest. People like the dungaree-clad men or modestly dressed women of Silverhold… he nearly felt sorry for them. Not for the fact that they lived such simple lives without the benefit of advanced technology just a ship ride away, but the majority of them fancied themselves pioneers. This was their land, their blood and sweat went into the mines they harvested ore from. They’d gripe about conditions, commiserate with each other over the way the Alliance eyed and nickeled and dimed them, but this was their planet. Didn’t matter the invisible hands that actually held paperwork owning the mines they worked with exploited the people who worked them.
In his short time as an overseer of his… of the Revas-owned mines, Kinneas had come to listen to conversations between the men. Started participating in them. Got ideas of his own, but he didn’t share them. At least, he hadn’t until he started drinking with some of the men after end of shift. It was how he got on with a band of mercenaries that led him to finding more profitable work. And also how he found himself in the mess that awaited him when he returned home from his last jaunt off world.
It all started with a jostle to his shoulder as he made his way through the space port. Since it certainly wasn’t the Space Bazaar, he hadn’t been expecting the bump so his top-load canvas duffle slipped slightly from his shoulder as he glanced to see the offender. The local sheriff - a robust man filled with a sense of self-importance fueled by corruption and his cozy seat in the Alliance’s back pocket: Sheriff Jethro Perkins.
“See you made your way back here, Reed.” He clucked his teeth as he looked up. Most people had to look up to meet Kinneas’ gaze, and it was likely another thing that had set them off on the wrong foot. Another being his blatant disregard for the man’s authority.
“You know me, Sheriff. Can’t stay away from the tap house in town.” Kinneas’ eyes glinted as his lips twitched and he hefted the bag back up fully on his shoulder.
“Yeah, I know.” The man grunted. Kinneas was well-known by the locals of the Silverhold Colonies in the area thanks to some tavern tales. “Mark my words, Reed - this is your last warning. Keep out of stuff that don’t concern you none.”
“Hate to have to ask this, but want to make sure I’m towing the line and all.. wouldn’t I be the one to decide what concerns me?” Kinneas asked without a hint of his beguiling flash of a smile, instead sporting an earnest seeking expression, almost of concern. Then it faded as he waved a hand the moment the sheriff blustered, giving out a sigh and went into a blasé dismissal. “I know, it’s because I’m not a native and can’t understand that blind obedience for the sake of what is, is what’s what, and what will always be. We’ll say your words are marked and noted, so I’m free to go about my way and make merry before heading off to my hovel.”
“We’ll see you have a cell before long.” Maybe he wasn’t meant to hear it, but that was unlikely. Sheriff Perkins had grumbled it, sure, but he hadn’t lowered his voice too much as Kinneas turned to walk away seemingly without a concern.
With the Skye siblings dropped off, the ship was noticeably more quiet, especially the morning. The crew sat around the galley table to one side, as the tablet screen showed the scene on the news wave. The tablet displayed a violent scene outside of a coal mine, where swarms of people held chains and pipes and two-by-fours were chanting, some firing weapons in the air. A smattering of fires burned in the background, including what looked like a police vehicle
“At least fourteen are confirmed dead and several more wounded as riots continue to break out at the Black Burrow Mine causing Mulligan Industries to call for additional aid to contain the situation. Gideon Barnet, CFO of Mulligan Industries is still being held hostage, though no ransom has been demanded. Local sheriff, Jethro Perkins had this to add:”
“We still don’t have a motive to what sparked this revolt –” The camera cut to sheriff Perkins, a robust-looking man in his early sixties wearing a policeman’s uniform typical of the rim, if not tidier than most. His brown shirt was well pressed, his gray stetson was angled slightly towards the front of his forehead, About the only thing disheveled, if you could call it that, was the tin star pinned to his chest that was slightly askew. “But we’re looking to bring in a few people for questioning.” The camera panned to a series of black and white photographs as the sheriff rattled off names. The last photo was in color and depicted a tall man with long, wavy hair wearing a pair of fatigues, a crossbow slung over his left shoulder. “Kinneas Reed, the reported ring leader, is believed to be behind the kidnapping of Mr. Barnet. My men have orders to shoot on sight.”
Serena stopped picking the marshmallow bits out of Vas’ cereal to stare at the image on the screen, before the reporter came back on screen. “There are some locals who believe Reed, who comes from a mining family himself, started the conflict as a way to quell the competition spurred by the Mulligan Mining Industry, but it’s important to note he is considered extremely dangerous. It’s believed Mr. Reed’s background in the military on Valentine provided him with the know-how to be able to pull this operation off, including the capture of Gideon Barnet. The sheriff is offering a sizable reward for assistance in this matter. In the meantime, all the citizens of Black Burrow can do is pray for peace, and an end to these riots.”
Tim clicked off the report.
Vas looked at his cereal and then to Serena and back at his cereal. “Do you want cereal?” He ask nonchalantly given she had been picking at it from the moment he poured it.
“No,” she said, taking his spoon. “Just the marshmallows.”
“You planning on eating anything other than my marshmallow?” Vas asked dryly.
“Nuh uh.” She replied, moving aside the dull, boring brown bits in favor of a pink heart.
Vas slid the cereal under Serena. “I’ll make myself something else.” He said getting up.
“And that ladies and gentleman is the shitstorm we are being paid to walk through.” Jago announced walked in with a yawn refilling his cup. “Stealing your cereal again?” He asked the young punk who was scrambling an egg.
“Shhh I don’t even like cereal but she'll forget and keep munching on it.” Vas whispered.
“You're guna burn them eggs …” Jago warned.
“No I ain’t … Am I?” Vas said taking a closer look at the eggs in the pan.
“I swear to God kid you a living crime aginst the culinary arts.” Jago huffed taking over before he filled galley with some kind of oddball smell. If water could burn that kid would burn it.
Vas watched with keen interest as Jago attempted to save the eggs and after watching him turn a knob, add this and that, Vas had a plate of pretty nice looking eggs. “Gorram witchcraft is what that was. Thank you!” He said taking his plate back to the take.
“Yea ‘cept you try to stone me and I’ll shoot you.” Jago said moving to work on his own breakfast.
“So we being paid to stop a bunch of ornery miners?” Vas asked mouth full.
“No, we’re there to extract the VIP they got hostage. You’ll know how it is that far out, Alliance is a slow-moving machine that runs on paperwork, red tape, and bureaucracy. That's why folk like us exist.”
“What about this Reed guy, you think he’ll be a problem?” Tim asked from behind his coffee mug.
Jago took a long sip thinking. “Lesse if we can pull his record. I’d prefer this not devolve into a shootout but a fella like him can make the job like this a lot harder. It may come down to how we make our approach.”
Tim tapped a few buttons, with a nod, setting to work. “I’ll see if I can pull anything up on the layout of the mine while I’m at it.”
“ ‘Preciate it.” Jago nodded. “Vas, you and pigtails are on gun duty, ‘member it’s a mine so low cal, no explosives. Do a mask check while you’re at it.”
“Yes Captain.” The pair chimed.
The smell of coffee and eggs got Doc's stomach grumbling. She pushed away from the table and headed over to the coffee pot to pour a cup. "Guess I'll be packing for worst case" she said to the Captain as she began mentally inventorying the trauma supplies she'll need to prep. Given the state of the place and the body count that's already amassed, keeping that VIP alive might turn into a messy prospect. She grabbed a fork as she made her way back to her seat. As she stepped behind Vas and Serena, she stabbed at a bit of egg still on the punk's plate and popped it in her mouth.
"Heeeeeeey!" Vas whined.
Doc shrugged sheepishly with a smirk. "Smelled good."
"Kinda the point!" The punk said put out.
"Hopefully it won't come to that." Jago mulled, ignoring the antics of the crew.
Serena brought the cereal bowl to the sink to give it a quick rinse, wiping it and her hands dry with a nearby dish towel.
“We’re looking at about a jump of about 60 hours, give or take,” Tim calculated, "but I’ll try and shave off as much as I can.”
"Do what you can." Jago nodded as he watched Vas trying to defend against Doc's persistent attack against his eggs.
“Hey Onii?” Serena asked from her bunk as her brother readied their gear.
“Hmmhmm?” Vas said checking his knives over before putting them back, putting some to the side for sharpening.
“What masks are we checking for?” She asked, leaning her head over the side of the bed.
“Rebreathers. It’s a mine, we don’t know if they got it rigged or something. Plus there also sorts of gas pockets you gotta worry about or worse, some bendan (idiot) turning off the air pump while were doing our thing … you would be surprises how quick carbon dioxide can build up.” Vas explained. “Better safe than dead right.”
“Definitely better. I thought he meant masks like at the temple,” she explained. “I was wondering what they’d be doing in an old mine on Silverhold.”
“Naw, temple masks are for temple work.” Vas reminded.”Who knows, mining silver? No real use in wondering. Less you think it’s relevant to the mission at hand or you're bored.” He chuckled.
“No. Well, maybe. I dunno. Just wondering why they were rioting over. I hope it’s pink diamonds.”
“Pink diamonds are pretty but I think it’s a silver mine. Not that it matters but mining from what I hear is dangerous work. Real dangerous, you can do everything right and the mine can still kill worse sometimes you roll unlucky and never live to your golden year's cuz of whatever sickness you might get from a lifetime underground and bad air. I mean … the poor mules …” Vas tsked shaking his head.
“And canaries,” Serena added. “Onni? If we find a canary in the mine can I keep it?”
“Do you know how to take care of birds?” Vas asked raising an eyebrow.
“What’s to know? You give it food and water and it flies around and sings pretty songs.”
“Lots, birds aren’t like cats or dogs or bunnies. I never own one but they have different needs. You should read up about it, you might find it's not for you. Besides you see a canary in a mine, it’s best to leave it where it is.” Vas said casually continuing the checks.
Serena let her head hang further, her arms following in defeat. Onii was always suggesting she read about something. “Then can I have a cat or dog or bunny since they're easier?” She asked, perking up.
“That's relative and you know it … why are you even asking me. You know this ain’t my ship to be okaying that kind of thing. Where you gonna get food or let it go to the bathroom plus ship ain’t all that big so everyone is going to have to be dealing with a critter running around.” Vas pointed out. “How about next time we're at the Temple we see about getting you a chicken?”
“On account of it won’t be my chicken,” she lamented. “If we had a cat, we wouldn’t have to worry ‘bout ship mice.”
“It would be your chicken, just one we can leave at the Temple. We can see if they got pretty one with fancy feathers and it can lay eggs for you.” Vas said cheerfully. “Besides cat’s like to wander about, what if it wandered into Jago's room?” He asked throwing the Captain under the kitty bus.
“Then there would be no mice in his cabin?” She tried.
“There ain’t no mice in his cabin right now.” Vas joked. “They all know better.” He chuckled. “Learn from the mice, Serena.”
Serena slumped her head again in defeat. “Can I at least name the chicken?” She mumbled.
“It wouldn’t be your chicken if you couldn’t now would it.” Vas said as if it were obvious. “I’m gonna name it Tim,” she decided, stifling a yawn as she settled back onto her bunk.
“Why Tim? Chickens aren't that annoying.” Vas asked scrunching his nose.
“I know,” she giggled. “It’s on account of it’ll annoy Tim.”
“Yea but why punish the chicken?” Vas laughed.
Serena giggled and rolled over to her side. “G’night, Onii,” she said, still giggling. “G’night Chicken Tim.”
“Tomorrow you're sharpening knives!” Vas added neatening his workspace.
Serena let her head drop back on the pillow, suppressing a grumble. “All right Onii. At least it beats reading, “ she said with disdain.
“We're still doing that tomorrow too.” Vas said under his breath, half hoping this would be the one time she would selectively not hear him.
Serena groaned loudly and covered her head with the pillow.
Tim stayed with the ship. Tim always stayed with the ship, but then again, Serena had seen Tim in a fight, and his way of fighting was mostly covering his face and trying not to get hit, so maybe, she thought, that was for the best. “Gun check, mask check, gun check, mask check, gun check,” she said under her breath as her boots scuffled along in the dust.
Dust was everywhere on Silverhold. The hot winds blew it around, redistributing it from the makeshift street to the porches and storefronts, leaving a sepia haze over everything, that, Serena noted, make it look exceptionally old-timey.
“What are you muttering?” Vas whispered with a quirked eyebrow the duo bringing up the tail of the pack.
“Just reminding myself of what tasks are ours,” Serena replied, putting an extra step in her march to keep up with Vas.
“No, no, those were my tasks that I already did … yours was to sharpen the knives.” Vas clarified.
“I know,” Serena said. “But sharpening the knives doesn’t have a rhythm I can march to. Sharpen the knives,” she repeated, trying to take a step for each syllable, ending up taking tiny little steps. “See?”
“I have … no retort for that.” Vas admitted.
“You two divas don’t chit-chatting? Can we look like a bunch of actual Merc - Pigtail please don’t make that face you look like you need a restroom.” Jago said flatly.
“He’s not wrong.” The punk snickered. "We can work on your war face later." He said with a sympathetic pat.
Serena scowled for a moment but consoled herself by thinking it may involve war paint, and she decided she’d like hers to be in the shape of a butterfly, or maybe even a bunny! “I do look like a merc,” she insisted, showing him her one braid instead of the usual twin pigtails. “This is my merc hair.”
"Very intimidating," Doc said with a smirk as she made her way down the loading ramp at the rear of the crew. She already had her tinted goggles set firmly in place to keep out the dust as well as a small nose plug rebreather in her nostrils. To keep any crud from blowing into her mouth, she had tied a handkerchief around her neck which slung loosely at the moment so as not to get in the way of her smoking. "Well…" she gave the place a once over, "ain't this homey."
“Nothing like mercury poisoning to say welcome home …” Jago snarked. “ … Seriously don’t drink the water here.” He warned. “And you, no licking random shit,” Jago added jabbing a finger toward Serena.
“Oh stop it was one time and she's grown and learned from that! “ Vas defended.
"Stunts your growth, diminished cognitive function," Doc pondered aloud, "I'd wager she hasn't grown or learned *because* of that."
Serena would have disagreed, but she was never quite sure with the doc if she was being insulted or not. She found that sometimes, it was best to just look pensive and nod.
“Maybe we'll do a blood test … later. Just to be sure.” Vas said innocently.
"Ah, quick to give someone else the needle, eh crybaby?" Doc mockingly shook her head at Vas as she trotted up to the middle of the pack.