OOC: JP from @psych0pomp
Rex heard other voices and movement throughout the ship, but he made a beeline for the bunks. He threw his bag past the bunker-like door and it gave out a muffled thump as it hit the floor. He more carefully brought Lucky’s cage down with the power of his arm strength and careful maneuvering of his body. As his feet landed one the ground, he was reminded of why he hated Firefly models. Damn bunks felt like a grave.
He didn’t have much in the way of luggage. It was what he could stuff into his leather pack and tow from ship to ship. He tended to Lucky’s cage first. Securing it to the hull with a thick chord and setting out some food and water for the bird. He undid the latch, letting the door swing down much like a drawbridge. It would give a place for the bird to sit and watch him. And Lucky did, after grabbing some processed bird food that cost more than Rex could consume in a week—in food. His black eyes watched the tall human maneuver through the room, and chirped up when Rex started whistling.
The clothes were packed away first. The trinkets, like a lucky golden cat (much to Lucky’s ire), a hand sewn flag with a mixture of galactic symbols, and a few books started to fill the empty space of the room. He even threw that plumb colored scarf over a light, adding a rather mauve ambiance.
Rex pulled his jacket off, placing it on the bed that he had made and adorned with a small blanket that had a lot more sentimental value than one might first realize. He stood there in the bright blue shirt with pink flowers adoring it. It was tucked in the front of his pants that displayed his belt with a bawdy buckle in front and a leather knife holder at his side—he’d hung his gun up, it was more a hazard on Rex’s person than anything. His arms were bare, tanned from the weather rather than genetics. Surprisingly, he didn’t have tattoos. He did have quite a few jingly bangles and tied pieces of leather around his wrists. They barely hid the puckered white scars that adorned both of his wrists. He ran his ringed hand through his hair, pulling his glasses off and setting them to the side. He rubbed his eyes.
Lucky fluffed up, content to be off the streets of Persephone. The bird started singing a repetitive ditty, and Rex joined in with his whistling—surprisingly matching the song.
Into the belly of the ship, the captain met empty hallways up to the gangway. Cal had half a mind to pop in on Penelope and see how things were going, or if they were still on reserve power while Badger’s mechanics buttoned up the boat. That’s when he heard a strange, yet familiar sound. It was the whistling that caught Cal’s ear.
Rex had been on the China Doll before. In fact, the pair had shared near on two years aboard the ship before the unfortunate circumstances which parted them ways. Seeing as Rex saw fit to show his face here again, and as a mate no less, Cal needed to look the man in the eye. And so it was with a kick to the hatch below that Cal summoned Rex from above.
Rex’s whistling came to an abrupt halt. Lucky was startled at the noise and flew towards Rex, landing on his shoulder and burying himself into the collar of the tacky shirt. “Occupied! Find some other bunk to kick at.” He turned to the bird, who was trying to find sanctuary in his short-trimmed beard. “How green is this crew that they don’t even know how hatches work? I fully expect to find one licking fire by tonight.” Before he could finish his laugh with his avain companion, another stern, summoning kick came from above.
He tossed aside the old book he was thumbing through and climbed up the ladder. Pushing the hatch up, he started speaking before he could see who was above him. “If you don’t stop, we’re at a perfect angle that I can punch you in the nuts, and if you’re a…” his words trailed off as he saw Cal above him. A smile passed across his lips. “Well, if it isn’t the man himself, Captain Strand. Not dead or fat, I see. Though you might be working towards one of those.”
Strand stepped aside while stroking his chin and watched the man climb out of the bunk. “See, now I’m confused.” He waited a beat. “Near on two years since I’ve heard the name Rex Black. I believe it was the night before the chicken-shit job, when you slipped out on a stopover in Ariel. After we fueled up I thought you was passed out in this very bunk, ‘til we touched down in Hera. You know, we sat there for hours with a mountain of chicken shit in the boiling heat waiting for your contact to show?” He arched his brow at Rex. “Poor Jesse and Phil had to scrub the la shi from the Doll and it still smelled like fowl for a month.”
Rex pulled himself out, closing the hatch behind him as he did. The ceilings of these ships were always lower than he’d like, giving a feeling of claustrophobic compression. So, he had a tendency to hunch. “Wait, what?” He asked. He started to thumb one of the beaded bracelets on his wrist in thought. “Look. That was a humanitarian mission. It was supposed to be fertilizer for a small colony planet out in the Border. Why the hell Mikkel wouldn’t show is…” He paused. “Well, at the time he was one of the Alliance’s most wanted. Or was that before the Great Bovine Escapade? Oh man, did you see that on your cortex? That shit was insane.”
“I did,” he replied, “put me to mind of ‘18 when we steered a head straight for some no-name town on Beaumonde,” Cal shook his head, “when the baron’s men showed, surrounded on all sides; they were lookin’ for a five-fingered discount.” He laughed, “I think you missed every shot, but they were all lookin’ at that neon green shirt you had on.” Strand scratched the back of his neck, “Gǎnxiè fú, one of us can shoot.”
Rex laughed. That caused Lucky to make a somewhat light trill as he turned his head towards Cal. It was almost as if the bird’s eyes narrowed, but maybe he was just sleepy. “I’ve always been honest about my skills from day one. Why do you think I dress like this?” He paused. “Though, remember that time I got trapped with that Mayor’s daughter, Beatrice or something, without nothing but my gun? I was halfway across the field when I turned to shoot. I pressed the trigger. And bam
the mayor’s goon went down. I was thanking Lady Luck that I’d finally figured out how to shoot. But turns out, it was you--like five feet behind me.” He tugged on his collar. “I still have that scar where he got half a brand off on my back. I was a little preoccupied at that moment. If you know what I mean. Speaking of which… did you and what’s-her-face ever work out?”
“Aw c’mon Rex, you know we can’t all be swashbuckling romantics out of some trashy holo like you.” Cal’s face relaxed. “Much as my pride hates to admit it, I could use your help here. I got a ship full of crew I don’t know and we’re runnin’ a job for Badger… Not my finest moment, but the China Doll’s still in the air, so that’s somethin’. This time I need to know I can count on you not to leave me holding the bag of bird shit when you’re out the door. Whaddya say, first mate?” He offered his hand to Rex.
“Badger?” Rex’s tone easily reflected the dubious nature of that deal. “Not your finest moment, indeed. But I’m not one to judge--obviously.” He extended his hand as Cal did. “I promise I won’t leave you high and dry this time. I won’t head out for a pack of year long cigarettes again.” It was then that he grabbed a hold of Cal’s hand and held it firmly. He drew the captain into a brisk hug, never one to enjoy a sterile greeting. Lucky took that moment to jump ship and hopped onto Cal’s shoulder.
“So, how green are we talking with this crew?” He said, pulling away. “Are we talking mint julep peach or so green a dog might accidentally shit on them?”
Cal’s eyes widened as the bird surveyed him from his shoulder, switching sides of its head probably to measure eye-plucking distance. “Let’s just say I met the doc while bleedin’ out the ear, the pilot kept me from shootin’ up a charlatan, and the deckhand hired the rest, even with all her personality.” Cal had raised a finger to Lucky’s beak height, maybe gauging to see if the bird felt the need to chew on flesh before he would scoop it up. “Damn, I could go for a pack of year-long cigarettes right now.” Then he moved closer to Rex, “Last job brought down a little more heat than I anticipated; partially why I needed Badger and t’ kick dirt ASAP.” Seeing as Lucky had deigned not to bite Cal’s finger, he ventured for a five-fingered pet of the colorful beast.
“Oh yeah, Cal Junior. I met her.” He smiled. “For a second there, I thought you had a kid, Captain. I was about to feel sorry for someone. Who? I don’t know.” There was only a beat before he really examined what Cal had said. “But it sounds like a decent group, even if it seems like you’re trying to pad your chances for romance.” He winked, still chuckling as Cal got closer. Lucky seemed wary for a moment, but allowed the Captain to give him a pet, even if it was only self-serving.
“Shit, Cal,” Rex said, keeping to their hushed tone. “What’d you do?” He then held his hands up. “Actually, don’t tell me. Just tell me what you want me to do when Badger arrives. We don’t want to spill the mint julep of our new crew all over him.”
“Hell, Don Juan, you never change, do you?” Cal said, impressing even himself with how good he was with animals. Retrieving his hand from the bird he rubbed it off on his shirt.
“Fill you in over a drink. For now, keep a handle on things here with the crew and passengers; I want to be in the sky within thirty of receiving the haul. The deck on the ramp knows to flag me when they show. ‘Sides, doubtful Badger will make an appearance. He only cares about one thing--” That’s when a crackly comm could be heard from the bridge, just a few paces away from them.“Cap’n,” Abby keyed the mic, “cargo bay. Yah wanted tah know when them last crates showed up.”
“Right on queue,” the captain said to his first mate. Scooping up Lucky from his shoulder, Cal unceremoniously deposited him on Rex’s shoulder. “I wanna be nose up in fifteen,” he called over his shoulder. With that Captain Strand disappeared through the porthole to the cargo bay below.