Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by MK Blitzen
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MK Blitzen Have Plot, Will Travel

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What Goes Up Part 7

Xengenics Lab, Khao Yai Greenleaf


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









Slipping through the chute for the first several floors was fun, but after a while, Isaac began to appreciate just how long they had to go in this fabric tube as the blood started rising to his head. He put up with it for a few more flights but it started to get pretty uncomfortable. "Hey!", he shouted up to his brother, "this is giving me a headache! I'm gonna turn myself around, k?"

"DO NOT. I repeat DO NOT do that. Just exit on the next floor … if you can or have the common decency to pass out and I will kick you repeatedly in the ass the rest of the way down." Mathias warned, ready to kick him anyway.

"Pssh. That'll be the only time you kick my ass!" The considerably smaller Skye laid the bravado on thick. Still, he considered his brother's suggestion and felt for an opening that might indicate another floor. He fished around and pushed off to the side, coming out, he guessed, somewhere around the 20th floor. The teen spilled out onto the balcony and staggered to his feet, stretching and cracking his back. "Oooh! Much better!"

“Lolo, c’mon!” Cyd said impatiently, checking the time. “Before something else happens.”

"Remember this time I can kick you in the head if you mess around! Now get back in the hole!" Mathias muffled voice chided from the cloth tube.

"Alright! Alright!" Isaac whined as he re-entered the cloth intestine, feet first and continued the rest of the way down.

The pair went down without further complaint or issue and quickly enough Isaac's feet finally hit dirt!

Cyd waited at the bottom, antsy as Issac on a random day until the diminutive “scientist” emerged from the tube with the help of a fireman who helped steady him on his feet. Mathias followed after, and the middle Skye was finally able to unclench her white-knuckled fists.

Isaac took the firefighter's arm in assistance as he exited the tube. "This man! He saved me!" Isaac laid it on thick, pointing to the hero "security guard". "Please," he implored, clutching the fireman's arm and pointing to Mathias's hand, "he's injured!"

Mathias twitched, resisting the urge to slap his brother upside the head. Mathias wobbled on his feet a bit. "I'm fine, really … " he said through his test with a strained smile. "... I'll be fine. You know white coats. Dramatic." He said with a forced laugh.

“We should have you looked over,” the firefighter said, nodding to a row of ambulances, helping out anyone with minor injuries.

"Really it's just a scratch." Mathias said downplaying it. He did not want to be here any longer then he absolutely had to.

“I’ll take him over,“ Cyd offered, “Least I can do for a hero,” She made a mental note to slap her younger brother upside the head later.

Mathias gave a sigh and relented. Seriously he could have hugged her right there and then. "Alright … alright … I'm going, I'm going." He said surrendering.

“They may want to check you too,” Cyd told Isaac. For head injuries, she thought bitterly. Cyd led Mathias by the elbow towards the row of ambulances, turning them down an Alley the minute the firefighters turned their attention away.
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Winters
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Winters

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What Goes Up Part 8

Alley a few blocks from the Xengenics Lab, Khao Yai Greenleaf


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










When they were out of sight of the crowd, Isaac slipped off the lab coat and helped his brother ditch his disguise. "C'mon! That was some quality acting. I genuinely sounded concerned for him!" Isaac smirked which quickly faded upon realizing how that sounded. "I mean, yeah, bro. I'm actually concerned, but….you know what I mean." He clarified through a weak smile.

"Smooth." Mathias said dryly. "I'm so shaving your hair off in your sleep." He promised with a wicked smile.

Cyd pulled a Dyson Tech shirt from her backpack for Isaac, and a black tee for Mathias, tossing them to her brothers respectively. “Hats, “ she insisted, tossing a ball cap to her twin and a bucket hat to her blonde little brother before tucking her hair into a light colored newsboy cap. “How’s the hand?” She asked Mathias, peering over to take a look. “Can you move your fingers? Your thumb? Make a fist?” Her sib complied, though he grimaced each time. “It doesn’t look too deep. We can patch you up in the shuttle, oweh?”

"Oweh. It aches like hell. Well take a peek a little later. No worries." Mathias assured his 'little' sister and he changed. "Nothing some TLC and a duchy can't fix."

Isaac pulled down the shirt and popped on the bucket hat, tilting it slightly when he caught a glimpse of his reflection in a dirty window. "Man...I make anything look good!" He complimented himself.

“If you’re sure you’re up to it – We still have time to make that tour. Air conditioned bus ….” she dangled the words like a carrot, a break from the humidity.

Mathias groaned like a child. "I do like air conditioning …" He grudgingly admitted.

Isaac sidled up alongside his brother, grabbed his injured hand and wagged it at his sister. "How could you even think of such a thing when poor Mat is wounded?!" He tsked at Cyd and shook his head. "Selfish. Taking him on a boring ass tour...in his state!"

"OWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW" Mathis whined, jerking his poor hand away cradling it protectively from … everyone!

Cyd rolled her eyes at Mathias’ histrionics. He could move all of his fingers just fine, his thumb was actually tucked in. Tough to tell if he wanted attention or just wanted to guilt Isaac. She could help with both. “Selfish, because I thought my baby brother would want to see the monkeys,” she said smugly, giving him a good shot in the arm on Mathias’ behalf.

Isaac winced and withdrew his hand, mimicking his brother as he nursed his own wounded paw. He completed the mimicry by childishly groaning "I do like monkeys…"

"But … you see them all the time … in the mirror." Mathias quipped and tugged on Isaacs bucket hat so it sat askew. "He thinks he's people!" He cooed looking to his sister.

Isaac's face scrunched in annoyance as he swatted away his brother's good hand.

“We’ll go for a few stops, take a few pics and then ditch.” Cyd bargained.

"Sounds good to me. To that and the AC." Mathias gave a broad grin. "Too bad there isn't a beach to chill out at."

“This is Greenleaf,” she reminded him. “Beach would be full of barracuda, or gators or some other big bad. But you know what else it has? Plenty of dagga. That’ll make you lekker up, oweh?“ Once on the bus, she was able to sit back, enjoy the cool air and finally relax, mentally tick the job box as complete.
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Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by sail3695
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sail3695 If you do, I'ma do too.

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”Of Mice and Pigs”




Thanks to @wanderingwolf for a few choice words.

If they’s a clipboard starin’ ‘er in the face, sure’n that meant she ain’t got the afternoon tah wander. And jest as certain, Cap’n left ‘er a note:

Kid,

Freckles and I are looking into a job. Don’t conjure where that’ll take us, but ‘til we get the 411 there’s no harm in sniffing the air for what else we might catch. Take afternoon watch on the lawn chair. If folk come nosing about, get their vitals and we’ll follow up. Don’t firm up any deals!

Your Brave and Beloved Captain

PS: I take that back. If the deal’s really, really good, firm it up. And no kissing strange boys, young lady.


“Huh.” Abby grunted, then headed for her room. She stripped outta her cleanin’ garb inta cutoffs. Tahday’s tee shirt was yella, with two black, greasy lookin’ handprints right over her bosoms.

Mookie’s Wheel and Chassis Works

Beaumonde


”Front end alignments are our specialty”


Uncle Bob always frowned when she wore that. He particular didn’t like so much leg stickin’ outta them cutoffs. “I declare, Chickpea!” he’d near spilt ‘is drink fer wavin’ the glass at ‘er, “What kinda sign yah think yer sendin’ ta ever’ man walks by?”

She’d smirked an’ patted the Colt on ‘er hip. “Dangerous Curves?”

That was tha only time Abby sassed ‘er uncle. Rememberin’ how he laughed still give ‘er a smile as she pulled a brush through ‘er hair. “Uncle Bob,” the girl said as she slipped on a pair ‘o’ canvas shoes. Sayin’ ‘is name again felt good. Felt like home.

Uncle Bob had ‘is failin’s, an’ he was a man had his share ‘o’ demons. Past few years done showed her straight up all his weaknesses. But even when he’s knee walkin’ drunk an’ shoutin’ at ‘er over this, that, or t’other, he’s never hateful or cruel. She could see the fear in ‘im durin’ them times. Fear he wouldn’t raise ‘er right…or keep ‘er from harm. While all else about his life broke moorings after Aunt Lupe passed, Uncle Bob never stopped tryin’ ta do right by his niece. An’ fer that, she would love the mem’ries of her aunt an’ uncle long’s she lived. Weren’t no doubt she’s in a better place now, with good folk all around an’ life tah taste, but who she was come straight from that old pistolero takin’ on a child he didn’t hafta. Abby mighta had doubts about Blackjack Bob O’Halleran bein’ tha fastest gun in tha ‘verse. That book he waved about might be wrong. But she’d keep them stories about his doin’s all the same. Them, and The Gunfighter’s Code. She’d try hard tah ‘member all ‘o’ that, too.

One ‘o’ his duels was fought right here in Khao Yai, at a saloon called Hap’s La Frontera. As she settled out front in the lawnchair, Abby checked ‘er cortex, an’ was all kindsa delighted tah learn the place still served liquor down on tha rough end a town. Tahnight, she’d wear her Colt, and go have a drink at Hap’s…fer him.

“You got a pretty smile, sweetheart.” The man was old…right close tah Uncle Bob’s years, but that didn’t stop lecherous eyes makin’ their journey all about her. “Pretty legs, too. Where you headed?”

Abby looked up from her screen. “Depends. Where yah goin’?” she countered.

His exploration of her thighs halted. “That’s not how this works, girly. I ask. You answer. Plain as day.”

“An’ I said ‘depends.’ Smart fella might read that as ‘open charter,” the girl replied. Spottin’ the beginnin’s of a grimace, she padded with “Yah look perty smart tah me. Yah got cargo, or just need a passenger berth?”

“I need,” he growled, “to put a riding crop to the backs of those legs…teach you how to speak to your betters.”

She already done sized ‘im up, but dropped one more fer tah make sure. “Spankin’s cost extra.”

“They do?” There’s the final tell. A look flickered in his eyes, a flame of lust fanned by wishful thinkin’, afore he collected hisself an’ tried maskin’ embarrassment with a growl. “Don’t toy with me, bitch.”

Biàntài, through an’ through, she decided. ‘Verse was overflowin’ with his type. Exactly what Uncle Bob warned me about. Abby tucked the cortex inta her pocket, freein’ the right hand tah lay near her Colt. “Don’t play yer kinda games, mister. Now step on.”

He took sight of the gun, and her hand resting close by. “Congratulations. You just cost your boat a sizeable opportunity. Easy run for big coin…gone. I’d hate to be you when your captain conjures just who it was you pissed off.”

“Yer prob’ly right,” Abby give a shrug, “An’ he gits tah spank me fer free.”

There it was again, a quick flicker cross the eyes afore his face gone all flushy with anger. ”Qù nǐ mā de, biǎo zi!” the man raged, balling his fists.

The deckhand took to her feet, gun hand now gripping the Colt in its’ holster as she squared off. “That’s on tha premium rate card,” Abby hissed. “Mister, yew really wanna walk on right now.”

He appeared tah pull hisself tahgether. “I conjure I do.” With a couple tugs at his collar tah hide ‘is moves, he glanced about, sure an’ true checkin’ tah see if anyone’s lookin’, til he caught sight of Ms. Wyman at the top of the ramp. “There’s a way things work in the ‘verse for girls like yourself,” he turned with a sniff. “Sooner you learn your place, the better off you’ll be.”

“Oh, I’m learnin’,” she answered as he took tah walkin’. Abby held stance fer a moment. When it was clear he wasn’t comin’ back fer Round Two, she spit on the ground.

Ms. Wyman descended the ramp. “Are you alright?”

“Tolerable,” The hardness left Abby’s gaze as she took in the passenger. “Headin’ out?”

“Since I’ve decided to ride along for a spell,” Edina smiled, “thought I might grab a few things from the market. Need anything?”

“Goin’ out my own self,” the girl smiled back. “Headphone shoppin’, an’ stuff tah make mouse traps.”

“Do we have mice?”

“Happens on cargo boats. Caught one. I’ma set up a couple bucket traps an’ see if we got more. Nothin’ tah worry about,” she added. “They’s more nuisance than anythin’ else.”

The passenger chuckled. “Believe me when I say I’m no stranger to rodents. Had full on rats at our place in Pensacola. A mouse is a welcome relief.” Edina paused a minute, then spoke in quiet voice. “You really did handle that jackass well.”

Abby’s eyes lifted, catchin’ sight of the man as he worked ‘is way from boat tah boat. “Mah Uncle Bob taught me ‘bout their kind.”

Ms. Wyman turned. For a minute they both studied the man. “What a pig,” she observed.

“Nah,” Abby watched him git turned away from an old sampan. “Pigs is nice.”

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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Winters
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Winters

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Number 7

Back on the China Doll, Late Afternoon, Greenleaf Day 2


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










“Almost done, almost done, promise.” Cyd soothed, as she firmly held Mathias’ hand in hers, ignoring the ‘ows’ and air being sucked through his teeth as she worked. The job was finished, selfies were taken, and the shuttle returned to it’s home port. All that was needed was a little basic first aid. As far as she could tell, Mathias’s cut wasn’t too bad. It didn’t hit any tendons, seeing as he could move his fingers and his thumb. Iodine stung like hell, but it would keep out the bacteria, and thankfully by the end of the Jungle-cruise tour, the bleeding had stopped. “Eggs,” she half asked, half ordered to her younger sib. Obediently or out of obligation, Isaac cracked two eggs into a bowl, handing the shells to his sister.

Back on Beaumonde, the alliance made sure nearly all med supplies went to the Blue Sun towns with the exception of New Huntsville for the Brewery, anywhere the money was. Most of the people who went to work in the factories did so not for the meager paychecks, but because living in the corporate city was the only place you could get medical provisions of any sort. Saint Lo wasn’t corporate. A hazy, dirty city with low income opportunities and plenty of brown-coats, it was last in line for supplies. The purple bellies would have swept it under the rug if they could. It forced the residents and medical centers to be a little resourceful and extremely creative, especially when tending minor injuries. Even though the shuttle had a decent first-aid kit with shiny packages and little instruments, sometimes tried and true wins out.

Using the brand new tweezers, Cyd carefully peeled the membrane from the inside of the shell, and placed it directly over the wound on her brother’s palm. It’d form a natural bandage, pulling the two sides together. It was probably deep enough to need a couple of stitches, but in a pinch, there wasn’t a body in Saint Lo who hadn’t used the egg shell fix at least once or twice. She absently rubbed the back of his hand with her thumb comfortingly. More than once she’d been accused of babying her sibs especially if they were sick or hurt, but they were content to be babied now and again, under the guise that it kept Cyd from worrying herself sick.

Satisfied that it was on the mend, that is the natural bandage dried bonding with his skin, she put a small piece of gauze over it and wrapped it loosely. “Poor thing. Good as new in a few days, though Yobo,” she cooed, kissing the top of his head for good measure. “Muti?” She asked, shaking a bottle of an aspirin-like painkiller.

Mathias waved it off looking like a cat who ate the canary and got away with it. "No need, had the best medic in the 'Verse patch me up. I'll be up to my old trick in no time flat." He boasted.

“Dis ń feit soos ń koeiI,” she snickered. It’s a fact like a cow.

Mathias chuckled, carefully flexing his fingers a bit. "Since we can relax the rest of the stay here, got any ideas what you wanna do?" Mathis said, stretching himself out. Work hard, party harder was the Skye motto after all.

“I was hoping you’d ask,” Cyd said, grinning from ear to ear. “Khao Yai has an underground. Never heard of the talent, but if you’re both up to it, rave on?”

"Cyd suggesting a rave? Shocker." Isaac said with an overly deadpan expression before snickering. The younger Skye tossed the egg shells and, not seeing the point in letting a perfectly good meal go to waste, fished out a small single burner induction cooktop and a small sauce pot from one of the shuttle's storage compartments. Using a pair of chopsticks, he scrambled and fried up the leftovers from the previous surgery. He squatted back down near his sibs, using the sticks to play "seek and destroy" sad he fished out hunks of cooked up egg curd from the pot to nom on. "So, what's the scoop on this rave? Apart from OONTS OONTS OONTS!-...and dancing?" He inquired, putting extra emphasis on mimicking the beat.

“Ride the rails, rage a little, trade some kandi, drop some mandy? Come on, it’ll get your mind off you-know-who for a bit, and you like the oonts oonts oonts just as much.”

"Sounds like the best and only way to blow off some steam." Mathias grinned. "Who knows, maybe I get a bit of sympathy from a rave bunny. I should practice my sad face."

Isaac shrugged as he popped a bit of egg in his mouth. "I dunno, bruv. Ya look petty sad to me." He smirked at Mathias. "And who says I need to 'get my mind' off a anyone?" He added, rolling his eyes at the offending suggestion.

"No one … just you know. Say that when you have a sweet bunny pawing at you." Mathias said slyly.

“Even if you want to just trance out,” Cyd practically pleaded. “C’mon Lolo, We’ve been pretty much on since New Melboune. Don’t you want to just get bosbefok for a few hours? Shut it all down?”

Isaac lolled his head from side to side as he grudgingly concurred with his sister. "Fiiiine", he sighed, "we'll go. Check out the scene...maybe there'll be food." He raised his chopstick hand defensively. "I know...stay away from the brownies. I'm not making that mistake twice." He added with a crooked grin.

“I think Yobo has some red devils if you want a safer drop?” she offered. “I swear you can see the music.”

"Hey now … have you been peeking at my private stash?" Mathias asked suspiciously.

“Peeking” Cyd said, using air quotes. “Besides, what happened to all for one?”

"Not when it involves my secret stash …" Mathias said defensively "...that's why it's a secret. Duh. Like how we all know about Isaac's secret chocolate stash and say nothing about it."

"Note to self, moving my chocolates." Isaac scowled. "And flushing your purple pills." He snorted.

"Not sleepy time tea!" Mathias said with an exaggerated gasp. "Seriously touch my shit I will smother your ass in your sleep."

Isaac got up to clean up and pushed his butt at his brother. "Yeah, you'd like to be smothered in that ass, wouldn't you." He teased as he bounced his butt against Mathias's arm.

“Half a chromosome away from having sisters,” Cyd tsked with a shake of her head.


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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Aalakrys
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Hoedown at Hafez’s - Part 1
Afternoon, Greenleaf Day 2




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

Cafe Al-Baz was situated in the heart of Khao Yai’s trendy shopping and entertainment district. The exterior facade offered breezy patio dining along both adjoining streets, watched over by a prominent neon sign which hung proudly over the street corner. Today, that sign’s art deco fittings were dark, a mystery solved when curious passersby noted a placard at the main entrance.

Closed for Private Function. Reopening at Seven ‘O’clock.

“This looks like the place,” Cal said to his companion as he interrogated the easel. “Ladies first,” he said, with a turn of the handle, holding the door open for Penelope to pass. Whatever fun festivities lay ahead of them, he knew he’d at least make a good impression with the bottle of non-synthetic guava wine he’d been told was in high demand this year, according to the hawker he picked it up from.

Since Penelope had been Hafez Nadal's extended guest at one time in the past, she knew to expect a flair of lavishness here. Though her old friend had seen her quite wild from the jungle before, she was glad she'd made it back to the ship in time for a shower and fresh clothes after her accidental night back in the trees at the very least. As an added measure of consideration, she actually bothered the doctor a little for help with her hair. Now as she entered, she felt grateful to Alana's help keeping her locks from frizzing out and instead stayed as smooth befit such a snazzy place.

The doors swept open before them, permitting a refreshing burst of cool air. Two guardsmen, bedecked in traditional clothing with decorative scimitars at their waists, beckoned the captain and his pilot into the festivities. “Mr. Nadal welcomes the sayidi and sayidaty to this celebration. Most have dined, but there is abundance of food and drink. Please make yourselves comfortable and he will come to personally attend you.”

Captain Strand raised an eyebrow at the formalities paid to the pair, still cradling the bottle in his arm. “Thank you,” he replied to the men, a nod paid to each. He caught sight of a table replete with an all-you-can-eat buffet of meats and other treats and turned to his pilot. “Well, don’t mind if I do,” he said with a pitched brow in the direction of the smorgasbord.

True to form, Penelope's smile widened a little at all the extravagances as she walked along with her captain to the table. Here, her reservations slipped only in delight at seeing so many delicacies from Greenleaf spread out. She pointed out a few to Cal, helping herself to others, and telling her captain where they'd come from locally or how they were prepared. It was mostly genuine, though she also knew how to be less interesting to anyone with prying eyes. Boring, idle chatter. Too bad she sounded more than happy to share in her soft voice so long as her captain put up with it. She had gotten used to talking to Sam, after all.

Nodding along all the while Penelope articulated the finer points of each finger food immaculately dressed in banana leaves or other wrapped trifles, the Captain watched as his partner’s eyes lit up, the crinkle at her cheek right on the corner of her eyelid. There was a certain whirlwind about Penelope that caused one to stop and watch for a moment, but only for a moment before getting caught up in whatever caused her such joy. “Oh,” he’d exclaim in expectant delight at a fried plantain here, or a thinly sliced carne slathered in chimichurri. Moments later that sour face might return, bucking hard against the glisten in his eye.

One glance about the ornate room made it obvious that this party was on the wane. The attendees had all divided into their social groups. The men were gathered about the bar, or headed to smoke outside. Their wives and mothers were clustered near the dance floor, watchful of small children who darted recklessly about. Judging by the bored expression on the face of a hired disc spinner, none appeared interested in any dancing, beyond an old woman and a tiny girl. The child’s feet were atop her grandmother’s, and the pair held hands as the elder steered her charge about the floor. A photog hovered nearby, his lens starving for any subject that might birth a memory worthy of his pay.

A brief study of the young people showed that a dance of sorts was indeed taking place. The guest of honor was huddled with a gaggle of his friends. All the boys were slumped over, heads hung low as thumbs busily worked their cortex readers. Sitting across the way was a flock of young teenaged girls, similarly enthralled with their little devices.

Seeing all this splendid decorum and extravagance winding down had Penelope idly recalling a lifetime ago. She leaned over to the captain and nudged him with a glance to the dance floor. "If we'd come earlier, you coulda showed your moves, Cap'n"

He balked, “You haven’t been talkin’ to Abigail have you? You’re startin’ to sound like her: ‘moves,’ ‘clothes shoppin’,’ and the like.” Cal had just sidled into a chair across from his pilot, the hors d'oeuvres lined up across his plate like a battalion. “Tell you what, though, you ain’t wrong.” He removed his hat to place it across his knee. “Was a time I cut a rug across the ‘Verse in just about every cantina I could get into.” Taking in Penelope’s incredulous arched brow, he commented, “Somethin’ in your eye, Freckles? See, way I see it is ‘footwork’ ‘s ‘footwork,’ whether your squarin’ off at noon or for a waltz, get my meanin’?” He lifted his fork with a grin.

At that declaration, Penelope had no choice but to lower the beseeching brow that’d popped up in her clearly amused curiosity and wipe her hands clean on the napkin in her lap before offering one out to the captain. Her eyes danced freely as she made the suggestion to do the real thing. “I’d be remiss to let this fine opportunity to pass without experiencin’ it first hand, huh? Gotta warn ya, it’s been a while since I had need to put on my dancin’ shoes.”

She wiggled her strappy flat number bound around her ankle to note, the grin on her lips at her own expense. She weren’t the sort to go feeling silly, even if they were about to take to nearly empty dance floor. In fact, Penelope eyed the kids in hopes they’d join in on what she considered far more fun than the cortexes they seemed locked on. “Time to bring some life to the party, Cap’n?”
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Aalakrys
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Hoedown at Hafez’s - Part 2




Stolen Dance - Milky Chance

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

Cal regarded her from a tilted neck, jaw working through his mouthful as he surveyed her open hand, then the dance floor. In mirroring sentiment, the Captain wiped his hands clean on his own napkin before tossing it onto the table beside his barely-eaten line of hors d'oeuvres. “You asked for it; let’s see how you glide,” he said, hat on his seat, taking her hand and leading her onto the empty dance floor.

The last song ended as if on cue, and Cal squared up with Penelope, a glance toward the disc spinner. The bated breath between the first few beats of the next song saw Cal raise an eyebrow toward his compatriot, his right hand placed on her waist, her right hand in his left. A few seminal pulses in his frame tested their connection; the pressure in her follow was constant. With a glint in his eye Cal said, “You’ve done this before, haven’t you, Pen? You been holdin’ back on me.”

At the captain’s lead, Penelope was able to step just where needed so they had a steady rhythm that befit the song playing. Her usual easy smile stretched as she answered easily given their surroundings. “Don’t get much use outta legs flyin’ the Doll, but I couldn’t’a been a guest of Hafez’s for as long as I was and not learn ta dance. I was just tryin’ to figure up when you got time in, Cap’n.”

“I’m gettin’ my miles in right now,” Cal said as the song materialized into the steady clap and bass beat of the spinner’s audio. He led Penelope into a turn, a tension push and pull with a sudden stop mid-tempo. A shimmy started in his head, traveling down to his hip, then finally to his toe, before sending the signal to Pen through their joined hand for her to show her stuff.

The last time he’d danced like this was before Londinium, in a club on Zephyr, packed with late night trysts. He’d stuck out like a sore thumb from his hat to his boots. It didn’t take long before he was noticed by the club’s regular follows ready to give a new lead a spin. Only when his cortex read 0245, and his sweat-soaked plaid clung to his skin, did he finally call it quits with waves and moans–given he was due at 0300 for that next transport pickup.

As the steps the pilot made were in conjunction with the ever-present bass beat at first, she was all arms and hips sashaying as they moved. Penelope’s usual easy stride blended away into the music that seemed meant for her as she moved along to it with ease. Once the rhythm faded for a quicker tempo to take as the chorus returned, her eyes met Cal’s in a final turn just before she reached out with an extended arm to her partner.

Cal’s eyes widened, nodding his head just as the chorus began. He pulled her in toward him for a side-by-side tandem kick, “Look at those moves, Freckles; whoever said a Barefoot can’t dance?” After an eight-count of kicks, Cal led Penelope into a twirl, his hand keeping contact with her waist, before he joined her in a twirl to face her at the end. His head still bobbed to the beat as a grin he couldn’t stifle faced his high-flying dance partner.

There was a grace with which Penelope handled herself, a slinking and confident twirl here, a poised and preposterous wink there. He hadn’t met many of her ilk; hell, he hadn’t met a soul that bore semblance to Penelope Randell. His sidelong glance watched the genuine merriment on her face. The ease of her movements, especially given the confessions she’d shared with him just days ago. About her home. About her fear and longing. But there wasn’t a wink of that to be seen on the face Pen beamed now.

It was easy to get lost in the moment music and a good dance partner could provide, not to mention the familiarity of a party thrown by Hafez Nadal - even as tame as this one was as it started to die out. Still, it had brought back how the events breathed life back into her once coaxed out into them, and look at her now. Not even a care as she and her captain took to the floor for a bit of much needed unwinding with delightfully surprising compatibility in their coordination on the floor.

All eyes were now upon the adventurous couple who whirled and moved in thrilling syncopation. One pair studied the agile pilot in mixture of longing and resignation. Hafez Nadal had taken station along a far wall. His composure remained intact; nothing else would do. Yet, as sight of Penelope came welcome as water in his desert, the syndicate leader couldn’t help the sad smile playing at his lips.

The beat crescendoed, and Captain Strand stepped toward Penelope, his sign-posted wrist tucked behind his back. In one deft movement Cal turned into her, ducked bending double, and reappeared on her other side with a grin on his face. As the song played out its final bars, Cal watched the disc spinner nod, the flabbergasted faces of teenagers torn away from their ‘texes, the lens of the photographer, and so it was with a whisper that he asked, “Looks like we’ve got an audience, ready to take your bow?” A nice dip could be in order, if she were keen.

The kaleidoscope of her loose skirt swirled into the turn, and Penelope laughed aloud at the flourish with the question. It had been quite some time since the tickled sound escaped so freely, and she nodded. "We can't disappoint 'em now, can we?"

The song had that perfect lingering slow beat fade out that met with the depth of the dip she fell back into, guidance from her partner a trust to not let her fall from the hold and slow, lingering rise back upright. It was quite the sell, if she said so herself as her lazy lashes opened back up to the face of her wonderful dance partner. The rush of the swing dance was a nice transition into the tapered off beat.
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Hoedown at Hafez’s - Part 3




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

As the music faded and Penelope rose from their rather dramatic dip, Hafez Nadal applauded, forceful clapping that cued those in attendance to follow suit. “My friends!” he swept toward the pair. ”Sayidi,” their host grinned broadly as he shook Cal’s hand before swiftly moving to drink in the sight of Pen. ”Habibti,” Nadal’s voice took a gentle tone as his left hand touched her right shoulder. “Graceful bird. You have been missed.”

Penelope's warm smile radiated at seeing her old friend, her hand briefly meeting the one on her shoulder. She agreed easily, with a gentle squeeze to his hand. "It has been too long. Thank you for not only seeing we got settled in okay, but also inviting us to this party."

The host offered a courteous half bow. “You bring light to any room,” his smile was open and warm as he took a seat with them. “Captain, I congratulate you for your insight. Penelope is a rare creature. To recognize her wings speaks well of your own gifts.”

A rare creature, indeed, Cal thought to himself. He couldn’t contest the fact, and considering how she’d just cut the line on the millstone around his neck, he found himself nodding along to Nadal’s pronouncement. “She grows on you after a while, then she keeps knittin’ you mittens–well, I haven’t earned a pair yet.” His brow shot up in her direction to get a bright smile in return before she bit into a bird-shaped vegetable, then returned to Hafez. “If it weren’t for her, I’d have to eat crow. And if it weren’t for you, well,” he scooped the bottle of guava wine from beneath the table to present to Nadal, “Thanks.” It felt awkward, giving a man who obviously had everything he could ever desire, a gift as banal as wine from his own homeworld, but Cal didn’t falter.

Hafez accepted the bottle with both hands and a gracious nod. “You honor me,” his smile did not waver as he examined the label. “Such a vintage tastes all the sweeter when enjoyed with friends.” Nadal lifted two slender fingers, a signal promptly answered by a member of the house wait staff. “Please have the sommelier prepare this. My guests and I shall enjoy it in my office.”

“Very good, sir.” The waiter took the bottle, draping it in a hand towel as he hastened toward the kitchen.

“Please,” their host gestured toward their plates. “Enjoy your food. My grandfather founded this place. It would bring him joy to see you eat your fill. ‘Full tables, full bellies, loud belches,’ he used to say.” Nadal grinned at the memory. “The man could belch.”

Cal nodded, he had a feeling he’d get along with grandfather Nadal, though he might contest the man’s prowess at belching–considering Rex’s penchant. His fork moved ambitiously to the line that decorated his own plate as his eye followed Nadal’s gaze. He’d certainly worked up an appetite on the dance floor, after all.

Being the light eater she was, Penelope had already reached the limit of what her fill could be, even with all her homeworld delicacies and artistic renderings of finger foods representing the local splendor. Still, she nibbled and nodded along, not knowing the next time she’d have the opportunity and not wanting to pass it up after longing for it. The two men were looking out at the dance floor, so her eyes followed to see it sadly lacking even after their efforts. Though she wasn’t bothered none - she’d enjoyed herself in the process.

“Look at them,” the cafe proprietor’s smile dimmed at sight of the two clusters of teens. “At my fourteenth, I wasn’t going to be happy until I’d danced with every girl. Now,” he offered a rueful shake of his head, “they slump over their cortexes…like two pots full of dying weeds. My apologies,” Hafez placed a hand upon his heart. “The incoherent ramblings of a childless uncle. What business have I to bemoan the choices of our youngsters?”

“Reminds me of a ‘youngster’ I know. Just turned eighteen, matter-of-fact. Kid’s glued to her cortex; always taking pictures when she thinks no one’s watching. The ‘Verse keeps on spinnin’,” Cal offered by way of platitude, fork soon to follow.

Penelope gave her captain a side-long glance at the way he so casually made Abby sound like a typical teenager when she was anything but. There was a chiding coming his way. “Aw, Cap’n, that ain’t fair at all - she’s the hardest worker aboard, just a bit smitten, is all.”

“She’s certainly that,” he took a moment to finish the bite in his mouth before replying further. “Abigail’s the hardest workin’ deck I’ve seen aboard the Doll, hands down. I’m merely commiserating with Mr. Nadal insofar as that thing’s glued to her hand more often than the mop.” He watched Pen’s face and added preemptively, “All’s fair in love and chores.”

Taking note of plates soon to be emptied, their host offered, “I’ve learned that sometimes a pause can aid the digestion. We might put that time to good use by discussing a bit of business?”

Captain Strand wiped his mouth on his napkin, having finished the morsels in descending order of ‘things-I-can-suss’ to ‘things-I-ain’t-never-laid-eyes-on.’ Contentedly, he nodded at Nadal’s sentiment, “I believe we’ve ‘danced’ around the subject, some.”

Oh, that meant they were moving, Penelope realized as the two men stood. She sat aside the napkin she’d used to wipe her fingers on, making to follow suit. It was time to find out just how well they knew these steps. It left her slightly anxious, being involved in something again. For the last year or so, she’d flown an honest trade ship port to port. No bargaining, no questions, just a destination, one after the other. Participating in the likes of Hafez Nadal’s business ventures had not worked well for her in the past, though this time her captain was making sure she was in the know. It was much appreciated.

After courteously pulling Penelope’s chair as she rose, Hafez led his guests through the cafe’s dining room. There were a few stops as their host was set upon by party guests who chose to gush their gratitude, or to make apologies for a hasty exit. He took it all with the practiced aplomb of a man well accustomed to owning the room. “Apologies, friends,” he whispered as they were shown to a service corridor. “This way, please.”

The office was well appointed, but not to gaudy excess. Hafez showed them to a pair of comfortable chairs perched before a burnished cypress desk. “A beautiful piece, no?” he asked. “Penelope, you’ll remember Aziz, the groundskeeper at my place? He built this from trees we had to clear for an outbuilding.”

Ever the aficionado of repurposing and the natural world, Penelope was enamored with the new life the groundskeeper had given the tree at Hafez’s introduction to the desk. She gently ran a hand over the edge in appreciation as she moved to her seat, looking over the decorative work inlaid in the front panel as she sat. “Aziz always did have a respectful eye for his work. He’s the one that taught me some woodworking.”

The last she’d said to Cal, easily falling into a conversational frame of mind that tended to happen when around the affable Hafez Nadal.

“Didn’t know you worked wood,” Cal said, chin upturned as he laid a smoothing hand on the cypress. To his delight, his palm glided over the varnish as he followed the grain. “Hell, first no mittens, now no finely crafted wooden furniture? What’s a Captain gotta do?” Cal sent a sidelong glance toward Hafez. Perhaps he was being too passionate, but he was in a good mood, all thanks to his companions.

“Ya didn’t want shimmer - can’t limit a girl’s creative freedom and then fuss about how long its takin’ to make ya somethin’.” Likely the dancing spirit was still in her as Penelope was more lively than usual, easily teasing back with a little more life to her soft manner. “‘Sides, ya won’t be needin’ no mittens down at the lagoon or anywhere else on Greenleaf for that matter, Cap’n.”

“I could provide a few planks with our shipment,” Nadal offered. “Now that you mention it,I do seem to recall one or two occasions in which Penelope brought the scent of fresh sawdust to the dining table…but forgive my rambling,” he apologized. “To business. To put it bluntly, Captain Strand, I’ve a shipment due on Osiris, and am in need of a reliable captain…one who understands the value of discretion.”

That brought sobriety to the Captain’s mood. Straight to the point; Cal appreciated that, at least. He tugged his chin downard as his mind ran through the possible scenarios. Thanks to Penelope, he had an idea of what Hafez Nadal may need to move. It’s always better to ask questions you already know the answer to: “And what sort of shipment might require such discretion?” His tone had changed to one of business. One that maintained the charade that this request could be refused.

“Pharmaceuticals.”

At his answer, Penelope’s easy smile faded as her eyes turned on Hafez. It had been like ice water was dumped on her, and she didn’t like the sensation one bit. Her natural brow ruffled, concern not common found in her smooth features etching her forehead with worry. There wasn’t accusation, or even hesitation, as she asked the obvious question: “What kind of pharmaceuticals?”

Hafez laughed. “The best sort,” he grinned. “Vanity drugs for the semi wealthy and socially insecure. Weight loss tablets, teeth whiteners, hair growth ointments, and every concoction one might imagine to enhance sexuality. First World problems, one might say?”

This answer cleared away the worry, at least from Penelope’s face, the rest would follow soon. Harmless, except in all the ways it was likely illegal and why her old beneficiary wanted discretion. In response, she hummed as she relaxed back from the position she’d unknowingly taken up - reclining into the chair once more.

“It is true,” their host nodded, “that these products are ‘off the books,’ but if one plies the trade with discretion, the gendarmes are not inclined to look twice. Pharmaceutical companies are required to run their production in preassigned lots which are then registered with the Alliance. However, a typical production run of any drug includes a small surplus to offset imperfections and packaging errors. When a lot is declared ‘complete,’ the surplus is then to be…disposed of.” Nadal chuckled. “We’re only too glad to render this service, and to offer these remedies to our known distributors. And that, Dear Captain, is where you come in.”

Cal leaned forward, “Alright.” Strand glanced at the desk again as he asked, “How much do you need to move?” If he were going in, might as well go in with his eyes open. At least Nadal was being moderately forthcoming.

“Twelve pallets, all contents sealed and shrink wrapped. Your manifest will read ‘non prescription medications,’ which affords you plausible deniability in the worst case scenario. Now then, as to the matter of your fee.” Hafez sipped from his glass, and with a contented smile, continued. “Standard charter rate, or do you have another figure in mind?”

It seemed Hafez wasn’t interested in turning the screw, which caused Cal’s eyes to narrow. Standard fare would see to the ship fueled, the crew fed, and walking around money. Hell, Hafez, on Pen’s good name, had just saved him from eating a huge loss. The deal was fair. “Standard fare ought to do.”

The proprietor nodded. “As to a timetable, I can have the cargo delivered the day after tomorrow. Say ten o’clock in the morning?”

“Suits me. I’ll have my men waitin’ to load it up.” Cal’s eye met Penelope’s for a moment. If she felt good about the deal, then so did he. His hand moved to his cortex, a couple lines of marching orders tapped out to the deckhand of the hour.

Penelope turned her ever-open gaze on Hafez at the unspoken final check for indemnity from her captain, the levity from earlier tucked away while business was being conducted and coming to its conclusion. He knew how deep betrayal could wound her, and though his line of work was fueled by deceit, she felt trust that he would not put the job at risk by hiding any ‘trivial details.’ Not when she was the pilot, and he’d done so much to keep her free. The warmth of her smile was reflected in her voice, meant as an assurance to her captain and gratitude for the trust she was able to still have in people thanks to the man she was looking at as she spoke. “Thank you, again, Hafez.”

“Then we are in accord. Tama!” Hafez offered his hand to the captain. After a firm shake, he repeated the gesture with the pilot, as a subtle knock announced the arrival of the cafe’s sommelier. She was a slight woman of olive skin and dark eyes who balanced a serving tray with practiced ease. “Ah, Djamilah!” the proprietor waved her into the office. “Impeccable timing, as usual. Please, please! Set that down on the desk.”

“Of course, sir.” The gift bottle now beaded up a mild sweat from its’ rapidfire chilling. The sommelier poured a small amount into one flute, then handed it to Nadal for approval.

He held it aloft, noting the color and the clarity from impurities or bits of cork. “A rich amber,” Hafez observed before his sampling taste. With an approving nod, he returned the little vessel. “It is good.” The nod given, she poured, filling each of the three flutes, which Hafez was only too happy to hand to his guests. “Permit me to offer a toast?” he asked.

Captain Strand accepted the glass with his calloused hands. “Surely.” Business behind him, a subtle smirk returned to his lips. His pilot nodded thanks as she received her own and turned her gaze back to their host, pleasantly expectant.

Hafez lifted his glass. “To friends, old and new. May we find good fortune in both business and pleasure.”

“Fi sihatik,” Pen said with a grin over her glass before enjoying the taste of something new.
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And Justice For All - Part 1




The offices of Attorney Leonard Booth were everything Yuri might imagine of a lawyer whose client extraction technique included mariachis. Terrazzo floors seemed to cower beneath the knockoff Persian style area rugs. Nowhere could the eye travel that wasn’t slathered in dull gold leaf, or propped up by a mishmosh of Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns. The lobby was dominated by a large screen which blared the latest “Booth the Truth” advertisements and tutorials in which the man himself explained what not to say to the local 5-0. A dozen wing backed leather chairs with ornate cherry wood fittings dotted the space. As they swept through, Yuri noted that nearly all the seats were taken. By members of the same gang, if the matching doo rags were any indication.

“Booth,” their leader rose as the lawyer nudged his charge past. “You gotta help my brother, man.”

Lenny stopped. “Aw, geez, Diego. Don’t tell me Ramon’s back inside?”

Diego nodded. “He didn’t do nothin’.”

“Good answer,” the attorney said. “Look, I’m late for a meeting with some suits. Lemme get lunch for your crew. Diane? DIANE!” he shouted for the receptionist. “Get my friend Diego and his associates some lunch while they wait. That shiny with you guys?” Seeing nods all around, he stepped closer to the young woman’s desk. “Hit the cortex for any charges filed on Ramon Guitierrez. Then call Lt. Traxler. Tell ‘im ‘no interrogations without I’m in the room.’ Capiche?”

Diane responded with the dead eyed stare of a battle hardened receptionist. “I know how this works, Lenny.”

“That’s why I’m gonna marry you someday!” Booth exclaimed as he ushered Yuri toward a conference room. Compared to the helter skelter mismatches outside, the more traditional business trim of this room was positively austere. Except, of course, for the gigantic screen which made up one entire wall. “Really something, huh?” Booth chortled as he directed Yuri to a seat at the table. “I got this whole place from a client. Guy’s company made “art” captures for the cortex,” he winked. “This was his screening room. You can see every pore…hey, Shenequa!” he greeted a woman of considerable size who was already seated. “Say hi to Yuri!”

“Hi. You’re late,” she looked at him over glasses perched low on her nose. “They’re shēngqì.”

“Just how I like ‘em,” Leonard Booth, Attorney at Law rubbed his hands gleefully as he took his seat between them. “Fire that bad boy up, hon.”

The enormous screen glowed to life. In an instant, the room was bombarded by an image of seven people, all side by side at a massive conference table. Yuri recognized DeVillers’ profile as he huddled in conversation with three immaculately suited men to his left. “Those are the company sharks,” Booth whispered. “Leave them to me. The other three? Lackeys who carry your boss’ water. They’re here to balance the table and look intimidating. Just keep quiet. I’ll do the talking, and I’ll nudge you if you need to say anything. Remember, this is poker…”Hmmmmph!” he cleared his throat loudly, drawing the attention of the remote group. “Hey everybody, thanks for joining in! You know my client,” he smiled broadly as he laid a hand on Yuri’s shoulder. “I’m Leonard Booth, representing Mr. Antonov. This lovely lady is Shenequa Robinson, my paralegal…”

“Howard Lang,” the senior attorney interrupted. “Representing Ogilvy-Norton. Mr. Booth, do you realize how long you’ve kept us waiting?”

“I sure do,” he nodded vigorously. “We were delayed en route…had a pop up meeting with some of your client’s associates. But, thanks to providence and Khao Yai’s uniformed law enforcement officers, we’re here in one piece, ready to proceed.”

DeVillers glared onscreen before Lang whispered a message. “Very well,” he began. “I’ll say that Ogilvy-Norton are relieved and pleased that your client managed to survive the tragic loss of the Eileen McSorley and her crew. We are, however, confused as to his abrupt departure from New Melbourne, not to mention an immediate retention of legal counsel.”

“Asked and answered,” Booth shrugged. “Mr. Antonov made all effort to contact Mr. DeVillers as soon as he’d been treated by the rescuing boat’s medic. As to being along for the ride,” he chuckled, “carrying shipwrecked survivors to the vessel’s next port of call is standard practice that goes as far back as sailing ships on Earth-That-Was.” Lenny grabbed a pad and stylus as he spoke. “And while Mr. Antonov is glad to learn of your client’s well wishes, perhaps if they’d chosen to show the love during that initial call we all wouldn’t be here charging our fees…but let’s move past perceptions. These are confusing times,” the attorney nodded amiably. “Both Ogilvy-Norton and my client have suffered a terrible loss. Nature can be a cruel thing, sometimes. No matter how we…”

“Spare us the preamble…Counselor,” said the legal team head. “It’s obvious that you and your client are attempting to leverage this grief stricken company for personal gains. Just tell us what you want.”

Booth lifted an open palm. “Well that’s the thing. You see, after doing his duty and then surviving the shipwreck, Mr. Antonov simply wants to live a quiet life. He harbors no ill will toward Ogilvy-Norton, and he’s not looking for anything more than you’re about to distribute to the bereaved families. How much is that again, Shenequa?”

She looked up from her screen. “A hundred twenty-five thousand.”

“A hundred twenty-five thousand,” Booth repeated. “Twelve point five salary, twelve point five hazardous duty bonus, and the standard one hundred thousand death benefit. As easy as that,” the lawyer gestured with both hands and a friendly grin.

DeVillers’ scowl deepened as around him, the attorneys chuckled. “We don’t pay death benefits to the living.”

“Good point,” Lenny nodded. “And if your fellas here on Greenleaf had been on their game, the death payout wouldn’t be in question.”

“Are you suggesting…” an attorney on screen welled up in practiced outrage until Booth cut him off.

“Have a sip of water, Counselor. What I’m…’suggesting’...is that my clients want only the best possible outcome to this tragedy, namely that Ogilvy-Norton experiences no disruption to your insurance claim processing, and that Mr. Antonov is simply given what’s promised in your client’s employee handbook.”

“Disruption?” DeVillers leaned forward. “Am I to infer that he thinks he might disrupt our insurance claim?”

Yuri opened his mouth to speak. A subtle hand squeezed his wrist. “Furthest thing from his mind,” Booth quickly filled the gap, “My client wishes to avoid that kind of unpleasantness altogether. In fact, he’s willing to take his story and all that he knows to the grave.”

“For a hundred twenty-five thousand?” The senior attorney was incredulous. “I’m certain your girl there has run the numbers on our insurables.”

“Yessir, she has.”

“And so,” Howard Lang, Senior Partner continued, “we’re expected to believe that your client will seek no further recompense, nor will he attempt to expose us to future liability? For a hundred twenty-five thousand?”

Lenny Booth grinned. “Guaranteed. You might’ve heard me mention ‘clients?’ Your junior partner did. He’s been tugging at your Number Two’s elbow since I said it.” He turned an eye toward his paralegal. “Shenequa, we got that feed? Share it with our friends,” he gave an encouraging nod.
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And Justice For All - Part 2




The screen switched to an impenetrable blackness into which probed a pair of bright searchlights. As the submersible maneuvered, the first images to be seen were bubbles, an occasional cloud of silt, and small marine creatures who gyrated and whipsawed their way out of sight. Soon, the depths ahead yielded a glow which brightened as the image capture drew near. A silhouette took shape, growing in scale as the beams of numerous searchlights played upon it. Brilliant flashes popped from each drone; photo captures revealing the subject in their artificial lightning. The Eileen McSorley lay upon the bottom, her hull crudely bisected atop a carpet of the reddish brown taconite she’d once carried. Yuri froze at the sight, but despite his horror, was unable to tear his eyes away.

Booth nudged the mechanic. “You don’t have to hang for this,” he offered.

Yuri shook his head as the view took in a closeup of the battered wheelhouse. “No,” he replied. “I’ll stay.”

DeVillers, his attorneys, and the young staffers were all transfixed. “How are we seeing this?” his voice had gone soft in wonder.

“Oceaneering Services,” Booth replied. “They were running structural viability surveys on a bunch of old drilling rigs til the hurricane forced ‘em in. My other client,” he continued as the submersible’s camera lifted over the bridge railing, “diverted ‘em to the wreck site. They’re catching full images, and something called hull stress metallurgy scans…whatever that means.”

Gasps were heard from both conference rooms as the view peeked through a shattered bridge window, revealing two bodies that hadn’t been swept out when the ship’s death plunge rammed her into the bottom. “Shenequa,” Lenny said. “Cut it.”

Yuri’s eyes swept the tabletop before him. “My god,” someone from the Ogilvy-Norton group uttered.

“How did you find them?” DeVillers’ tone was sharpening to its’ usual accusatory pitch.

“Wasn’t hard,” Booth answered. “We had a fix radioed in by the…the ship that was behind it…I’ve got it somewhere…”

“The Moncrief,” Yuri filled in the blank. “From there, locating the reactor’s heat bloom led them right to the wreck.”

“Is the NMMP on the scene?” Lang asked.

Booth shook his head. “Just Oceaneering, but tomorrow morning, MP’s sending a team to look over our guys’ shoulders for some official finger pointing. So we’re short for time, gentlemen.”

Lang, the senior attorney, lifted his hand. “Wait a minute, Counselor. We’re hearing an awful lot about this other ‘client’ and his ability to control this situation. Just who is he and what is his interest in this?”

Lenny smiled. “He’s sorta the lynchpin to the whole operation. Because of his influence, Oceaneering’s discovery will back up your insurance claim, your reactor will classify the wreck site as off limits for the next five hundred years, and Mr. Antonov will disappear into the black, along with any knowledge he may possess. As Ogilvy-Norton’s newest partner, Adelai Niska can offer those services immediately…but time’s a wastin’ fellas! Whattya say?”

The lawyers and their client circled into a huddle. Yuri could see the sweat glistening on DeVillers’ brow as the color drained from his face. Clearly, he was being educated about just who it was come to call. The quietly heated exchange broke long enough for Lang to ask, “what are you proposing for Mr. Antonov? Ident change, or the like?”

“More like an internal records correction,” Booth said. “It’s alot easier to say that a Yuri Antonov went down with the ship, just not this Yuri Antonov…capiche?” As he was met with blank expressions, the lawyer chuckled. “Get one of your source box jockeys to make a few number changes and voila! My Yuri Antonov never worked for you. You can pull his settlement cost out of your “discretionary spending” account. Oh, and one more thing? Somebody call off the dogs here on Greenleaf.”

Onscreen, Lang cast a sidelong glance toward DeVillers, who responded with a curt nod. “Mister Booth,” the attorney collected himself, “we should like to call a brief pause to consult with our client. Would fifteen minutes suffice?”

“Bueno! I gotta pay the rent for those four cups’o’ coffee, anyway!” Lenny said brightly. As the screen winked to black, he ushered Yuri to his feet. “Now’s the boring part where I deal Niska into their little card game. No need for you to hang around for that.” He opened the door for Yuri, then offered Shehnequa a cheerful ‘thumb’s up.’ “See Diane on your way out. She’s got your new ident. You can start drawing funds on it right away. You’ve got a balance of twelve-point-five thousand all ready to go! Welcome to your new life, my friend!”

The whole day had been surreal. Yuri barely thought to ask about the disparity of his payout. “What happened to the hundred twenty-five thousand?”

The lawyer shrugged. “Simple. Twelve-point-five K for my fee…I did this on the cheap because I like you. Fifty K as tribute to Mr. Niska, and the other fifty? He tells me that your dear old mother is living under his care at the skyplex. That money covers her upkeep.”

“She’s working like a house slave for the man,” the mechanic growled.

Booth shoved hands into his pockets as they stepped into the corridor. “Feel free to take it up with him. In the meantime, I can have Diane set you up in a hotel…maybe book a passage? Niska did say he’d be glad to have you come to work running all those big spinny things that keep him in orbit. But hey,” he made a turn for the restroom, “I really gotta drain the lizard. Take care of yourself, dohn mah?”

Yuri Antonov tried to grasp the change now confronting him. Nearly killed aboard his own ship…then pursued by something Booth called a ‘wet work team’...only to end up escaping both Ogilvy-Norton and Adelai Niska with a few coins and his life. A life once more cast adrift. When the idea struck, the mechanic nearly laughed at just how well the notion seemed to fit. “Mr. Booth,” he said, “can you have someone give me a ride?”

Leonard Booth, Attorney at Law, halted his desperate retreat to face his client once more. “Sure. Where to?”

“The Trade Port,” Yuri replied. “I heard something about a job.” China Doll had rescued him once before. He wondered if they'd be willing to do it again.

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Lost and Found




Thanks to @wanderingwolf and @psych0pomp for lending characters and words.

” Listen to me, child.” Ba ba’s hands cradled her face, “You run. Run as fast as you can. Don’t stop til you’re safe.”

Mei Lin felt the tears come, and a quiver to her lip that wasn’t brought on by the cold. “No! I can help you! You’ll see!” Ba ba’s head turned at the sound of a heavy crash further up the ridge. The bear, now excited by the blood trail in their footprints, had picked up its’ pace. “Come with me!” the child whimpered.

“Go…GO!” She saw the moistening in his eyes as he shoved her downhill. “He’s coming!” Ba ba cried urgently. NOW!” She turned, half blinded in her tears, and began to stagger down the snow covered slope. From behind came the thumps of heavy footfalls, punctuated by the rhythmic grunting of the pursuing bear.

”Ko-dee-ak”, the word Ba ba used, darted across her mind. She’d seen bears only once before, when Ba ba took her to a traveling sideshow. They were funny, wearing silly hats and peddling tricycles around a ring. She’d thought them delightful. But this ko-dee-ak was nothing like them. He was a mountain, standing tall as the trees when he reared up, all teeth, claws, and roar when he’d struck their camp. She found her speed, racing downward into the thickening treeline, knocking snow from the overloaded boughs as she fought to keep precarious balance.

From behind her came a deafening roar, answered by Ba ba’s angry shout. ”Hā! Nǐ xiǎng yào lìng yīgè, nǐ zhège gǒu shǐ? Hǎo la…hǎo la!” He must’ve struck the bear with the crash kit’s knife. Hobbled by his shattered leg, weakened by the blood loss that their makeshift ter-ni-ket couldn’t staunch, Ba ba was putting up a fight. The sounds from above gave her hope. Maybe she shouldn’t run too far. He’d need her to circle back and help after he’d killed…

Then came the screaming, a gurgling wail that seemed to rise up from deep within. Like the bear, she thought, but…was that Ba ba?

“RUUUUNNNNN!”


“Beg pardon, ma’am?”

Abby glanced up from her novel. The man looked local. He wore the loose fitting clothes and broad brimmed hat over knee boots all scuffed from lotsa traipsin’. His beard was flecked in grey, trailing down a face gone ruddy and dark from years spent ‘neath the local sun. “Yessir?” she asked.

“Lookin’ fer work,” he said. “Got anythin’?”

“You mechanic? We’s needin’ a mechanic.”

The stranger shook his head. “No, ma’am. But I ain’t afraid ‘o’ hard work.”

Abby give a mild shake of her head. “Sorry, friend. Ever’thin’ else is covered.” She looked down the way. “Lotsa boats berthed jest now,” the girl offered. “Sure’n one of ‘em’s gon’ come up shorthanded fer launch. Look fer them’s takin’ on cargo first. They’ll be yer best bet.”

“‘Preciate that, ma’am.” The man give a tip of his hat afore settin’ off.

“May the road rise,” she said in kind. The deckhand just put ‘er eyes back inta Mei Lin’s flight down the mountainside when ‘er hip pocket commenced vibratin’. What’s he done now? the smile rose tah her lips as she anticipated more from Thomas.

_____________________________________

Message from: NOT YOUR BOYFRIEND

Hey Kid, we’re bound for CAPITAL CITY, OSIRIS. Cargo is 12 pallets. Skids up day after tomorrow, high noon. Do some Abby-cadabra and get my hold filled up. Extra points for passengers. Pen says hi. Girl knows how to dance.

Captain Slide


___________________________________

“Huh,” she said again tah his messagin’. Abby put Mei Lin aside an’ scooped up tha clipboard. After conjurin’ actual flight time she figgered out per kilo shippin’ rates an’ passenger fees. Then, she flipped over tah her notes of all them as come askin’. “Nope…nope…negatory,” the girl struck each name an’ destination off ‘er list. Next one she found herself hopin’ for:

Celia Winters - 1 passenger & 20 beagles - Londinium

Abby worked the chart, clockin’ in current orbits ‘o’ both planets ‘round tha White Sun. “Hmm” her brows lifted, afore she jumped on tha cortex to call Ms. Winters.

“Hey, Cal Junior,” Rex’s voice boomed out behind her as he tromped down the ramp. “Showin’ a little leg, huh?”

She give ‘im her “wooden indian” look. “Nothin’ gits by yew.”

“Not that, anyway,” he waggled his eyebrows over them sunglasses. Looked like Rex done dressed fer tha planet, wearin’ khaki shorts an’ a tropical print shirt the girl swore she could read by after sundown. “Important tanning tip, mei mei. Gotta lay on your stomach if you want color on the backs of your legs.”

“Smart talk from a man’s got tha pastiest shanks I ever did see.”

He grinned. “Ladies who ride the highway like a well marked onramp. Hey, what’s Cal Senior up to?”

“Him an’ Pen went inta town,” Abby said. “Linin’ up a job. It’s called work.”

“Take it from me,” Rex shook his head. ”Nàgè gǒu shǐ huì shāle nǐ.”*
*that shit’ll kill you

Abby come back, smilin’ all sweet as she asked ”Nǐ zěnme zhīdào de?”**
**how would you know?

“You need more sin in your life, kiddo. Anyhoo, tell him I’m lookin’ for him, wouldja?” Rex give out a big yawn, arms spread wide as he stretched. “Well, gotta run. Things to meet. People to do. Ciao.”

“Hasta.” She watched the man as he sauntered off. Seemed like Rex had a lucky star in the ‘verse. Set Abby tah wonderin’ if they both shared tha same one in their Cap’n.

Her call tah Ms. Winters went straight tah voice mail. “Ni hao, this is Abby from China Doll,” she said tah the voice recorder. “Turns out we’s headed fer Osiris. Not a straight run tah Londinium, but orbits look right tah make it a puddle jump if yah wanna change boats. Leastways there’d be time tah check with tha Cap’n ‘bout takin’ a side trip. Lemme know if yer interested.” That part wrapped, she set tah work figgerin’ out a couple package rates tah git tha woman an’ her dogs tah Osiris with the Londinium add-on. Cap’n would want the numbers. Right now they wouldn’t make nothin’ fer the side hop, but she conjured they might pick up somethin’ else ta keep both China Doll and her finances in the black.



When the shuttle dropped skids right fronta her, weren’t no way she couldn’t stare. Thing’s painted all metal flake purple with flames trailin back orange an’ read along her sides. Roof struts’d been chopped a might tah narrow out tha windshield an’ passenger windahs. They’s more chrome on it she’d ever seen. Whole thing glowed unnerneath like she had a reactor all broke open, til Abby conjured it’s naught but LED lightin’. Couldn’t see inside, what with them windahs tiinted so dark an’ all. Whole thing throbbed an’ shook so much she pondered how it weren’t leavin’ a trail ‘o’ screws an parts what done fall off.

Back door flew open, an’ music hit ‘er in tha chest. The real surprise was that fella Yuri, him as they rescued on New Melbourne, climbin’ out. She could see he’s still perty stove up an’ movin’ slow. He raised his right hand tah wave, a smile comin’ tah his face til tha shuttle’s passenger windah rolled down. “Hey, cabrón!”

“Yeah?” Yuri turned back.

“C’mere,” All Abby could see was sunglasses, a doo rag on ‘is head, an’ tha pen he waved as Yuri leaned toward ‘im. “For good luck,” he said as he signed Yuri’s cast. “You need some. Buena suerte, man.” He give the cast a friendly pat, afore lookin’ over his shades right at her. A mouth fulla gold teeth grinned, then ‘is lips pooched as he blew ‘er a kiss. “Oooh, mama!” he laughed as the shuttle went skids up an’ cruised back the way they come, music throbbin’ as it faded away.

“See yah made friends,” Abby set ‘er eyes on the mechanic.

“Yeah…yeah!” Yuri chuckled. “They were good guys. It’s Abby, right?”

“Sure’n it is. How yew keepin’?”

“Well enough.” He stopped before her. “Is the captain about?”

“Nah, he’s off handlin’ business.” She looked ‘im up an’ down. While it’s pain as day Yuri’d cleaned up since she last seen him, what with the cast, new bandages an’ such, she could also spot the tiredness rollin’ up on ‘im. “Yah wanna wait inside, mebbe have a bite an’ a sit down?”

The smile returned to Yuri’s face. “Do I look like I need it?”

“Our doc would give me all kindsa nasty looks if’n I didn’t offer.”

“Hey,” he said, “you told me the boat needed a mechanic? That still true?”

She nodded. “Ever mechanic on a Firefly?”

“No, but I do know the MSR reactor - radion core combination’s one helluva lot safer than the one I just spent three years keeping together.”

“They’s reliable, alright,” the girl opened ‘er clipboard. “Cap’n’s got tha last say on it, but if yah conjure tha goesintahs an’ goesouttas he’s like tah hire yah. Usual deal…full share, gun bonus if we gotta pull ‘em an’ such.”

“I don’t have a gun,” Yuri shook his head. “I don’t have anything, right now.”

Abby come up outta her chair. “Tell yah what. Lemme walk yah back. We’ll setcha up a room tah stretch out in. Got things like toothbrushes fer them as fergot tah pack ‘em. Might also have some clothes in tha lost ‘n’ found. Welcome aboard tha China Doll.”

“Thanks,” Yuri gave a grateful nod as he fell in at her side. “Nice to come aboard under my own steam.”

Once Yuri’s all sitchiated, Abby headed fer tha ramp. On tha way, she’s bangin’ out a message tah tha Cap’n:

_________________________________

Message from: IN YOUR DREAMS

Copy on Osiris. Might have a nibble for cargo, but nobody booking passage yet. Tell Pen I want details.

The Mop Queen

PS: Abby-cadabra. Just pulled a mechanic out of my hat.


___________________________________
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deegee

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Salad Water & the White Whale



JP/collab with @sail3695

To the uninitiated, the Twirling Rabbit and its’ patrons offered little to hold the eye. Them as come in was either smart enough not to fix their gaze on any one place or person for more than a cursory glance…or simply so dumb as to have a neon sign over their heads flashing “mark” as they gaped at the doin’s within its’ swinging doors.

The latest newcomer was a source of much musing and discussion among the regulars, provided you conjured the lingo. Water pouring off his hat brim was the first tell of an offworlder. The bulge in his coat over one hip, the second. But there were oddities that seemed to delay the verdict on this stranger. An odd flat stretch in a coat pocket which could be a big cortex reader, mayhaps a book. Clothes were all sorta rough, which gave one to think he was livin’ low. The battered shoes mighta thrown some judgments into that camp, but in a room like this, anyone stupid enough to believe that “clothes make the man” wasn’t bound to hold their chair for long.

He was on the short side…a point against purple or a badge. But the man’s face bore the main incongruity, way outta place with the shambles of his coverings. With barely an eye lifted, the old woman took this all in, as did her folk.

Coins dropped…loudly… followed abruptly with a name. That proved enough for McKee. He delivered his verdict, a single scrape of a chair leg on the floorboards. From the opposite corner came Heinz’s judgment, three deliberate shakes of the dice and a hard drop. Two votes for a detective, she acknowledged their opinions with a pair of fresh cards laid on the table.

The definitive vote was Meg’s. “Talk to her. Then get out. Don’t want none of yer trouble.”

Now that was interesting. Meg had stood that bar well long enough to smoke out any lawman, bounty hunter, or Federale who chose to blunder into her path. But this stranger she was kicking upstairs. Clearly, the barkeep read something up close that her two compadres couldn’t suss. In the Twirling Rabbit, when Meg said “trouble,” that was a word could offer several different meanings for the old woman to sort out.

Without looking up from her solitaire game, she pointed toward the empty chair. “Sit down,” she said. “Mind you don’t get my cards wet.”

He stepped toward the table, removing his hat and carefully setting it aside, so as to avoid sullying her space, the aged and worn green felt of its top belying its years of faithful service. Likewise, he shrugged out of his coat, draping over the back of the chair before him. He ran his hands through the thatch of unruly salt-and-pepper at his temples before sitting opposite the woman, fixing her with an even look. Lastly, he slowly drew his sidearm – with the left, ‘wrong’ hand, and placed it handle-facing-her on the fuzzy green surface. Lastly, he withdrew the ancient leather-bound book from its place of honor in his satchel, and placed it side-by-side with the weapon before sitting as asked.

“ ‘magine you’re the type of soul who, like meself, likes to see all the cards on the table. Name’s Collins. You mighta heard just now – I’m looking to flush out some vermin that needs dealing with.” He inclined his head toward the barkeep, back over his right shoulder. “Your friend thought I should ask you about Jonas Flint, Ma’am…”

He could feel eyes burning into the back of his head. Could smell cold steel ready to be pulled from oiled leather. Could sense the itch in their trigger fingers. Without his coat, the starched, grey collar of his shirt stood in stark contrast to the piece facing her, but both were well-worn, and oddly – not out of place on this figure. He tried to read this woman before him, but her face bore little emotion, save a faint glimmer in the corner of her eye.

“A friend of mine once told me the story of the magistrate Chen Shu-ku, from Earth-that-was. I keep wishing that it was so easy to trap prey. But it ain’t, is it? Do you know the tale?”

The old woman turned a card, laying it face up in one of the sequences before her. “Your magistrate relied upon superstitious ignorance.” Her eye took in the cleric’s collar. “Looks to be your grift as well…though not entirely.” A card landed near the pistol. “The ‘verse is full of men huntin’ other men for one thing or t’other,” she mused aloud, “but a Padre who lives by the sword…bit of a rarity, I’d conjure.”

She flipped another card, a mild contentment upon her face as it fell into one of her sequences. “You’re not the first Ahab to saunter in here, but I must admit to some small vexation.” She paused her game, lifting her eyes to finally meet his. “I’m curious,” she said, “why you thought to search for your whale in this room?”

“Been a long while since I read any fiction, and I’m no scholar. But if I’m getting your gist, you’re calling me & mine a lost cause. Ahab was mad, a man devoted to evil deeds and revenge. He was doomed from the very beginning, because he fought his fight against the forces of nature.” The clergyman leans forward, elbows on the card table, pleasant smile on his face. “I came in here because it had the look of filth and decrepitude about it. ‘Zactly the sort of joint a no good ri shao gou shi bing like Flint would piss in a cup and pass it off as ‘shine.” The smile broadens. “There’s a great deal about this place and your ways I may be ignorant of, but your read on me was wrong: I am the force of nature. And Flint ain’t no whale. He’s a dead man walking. Bleeds just the same as any other.”

“Jonas Flint.” She dropped three cards in rapid succession, then frowned at the result. “So now that I’m familiar with your game, only one question left. Why should I play along?”

The question took him a little by surprise. It honestly hadn’t dawned on him that anyone could require an ulterior motive, other than doing what was right and just. He didn’t have much to hide, and certainly had nothing to lose. “Well, Flint likely has his hands in more’n a few pies. Honest wit’cha, I have no idea if he calls the shots, or if he’s a hired thug, or somewhere in between. But I have no interest in his business. When I’m done what I need to do – you want to pick the pieces that fall to the floor? Add it to your empire, or sell it to the highest bidder? Fine with me. …my claim to him ends with his neck. Anything he’s a part of – I give you my word, I’ll see to it you get the spoils.”

He knew every eye in the joint was hinging on her next word, or movement. A lesser man, or a man without faith might have been scared. But the Padre was at ease. Today wasn’t his day to die. The path before him might have been partly shrouded, but he knew enough to know he had several more sunrises to see.

“And the streets shall be paved with gold,” she chuckled as her cards landed upon the table. “The promise of future reward is so much dust.” She lifted her eyes. “But we may still do a touch of business.” The old woman cast a glance toward the bar. She lifted an index finger, which set Meg to work preparing tea. “I know enough about your whale to keep you in the hunt. I’m willing to trade that information if you’ll provide me with what I need to know.”

He didn’t have to think long. This was the first potential lead he’d had in ages. “Sure, I’ll play 'long. What is it you need ta know?”

“Simply put,” the woman’s impassive gaze held firm, “I need intel on a Firefly that touched down yesterday. It’s called ‘China Doll.”. She paused to eye the man for any sign of reaction. Finding none, she continued. “I want a basic profile of her crew… who might be capable of putting up a fight, who might not…and the types of weapons you see on display, if any.”

Meg arrived at their table, bearing a tray with two cups and pot of steeping tea. The old woman poured a cup as she finished. “Bring me that information,” she offered, “and I’ll divulge what there is to know about Jonas Flint and his cohorts. Care for tea?”

Father Collins puzzled over the information presented to him for a moment. This woman had connections, obviously – maybe only here, on Greenleaf, maybe in the wider Black. With her connections, she must have the means to get the information she seeks. Many questions rose in his mind – mostly of the ‘who?’ ‘why?’ and ‘what?’ variety. Something wasn’t right, and normally he followed his gut when something like this seemed off. But the prospect of intel on Flint was something he highly prized, and whatever these poor folk had done to pop up on the old woman’s radar, he didn’t envy them the position. He regarded the salad-water as it approached the table.

“Only drank tea once, in a hospital. China Doll. Sure. I’ll find out what you ask. And when next we meet for a face to face, I’ll weigh the worth of what you provide on Flint, and you’ll get news worth what you give me in reply. No more. You provide good intel, you get good intel. You got a landing pad or a berth where I can find this ‘China Doll, Ms…?’

“I’m known as Ellsbeth.” She dropped a lemon slice into her cup, then carefully poured the tea. “Rumor has it they’re berthed on row J. I’m confidant that you can take it from there.” With delicate hands, she lifted the porcelain to her lips, eyes returning to the cards arrayed before her.

He thought a spell before adding wordstuff to the mix. He knew that Ellsbeth was some manner of unsavory. He couldn’t tell how, or what she was involved in, could be whoring, could be slaving, could be murderous, could be thieving. Could be a mix of any of the above. And if she was involved with these folks aboard the ‘China Doll,’ then no doubt they were the same sort of folk. And if they was the same kind of mean-spirited, no-good, thieving, whoring, murderous Hwen Dan folk as Ellsbeth, then this was bad karma setting things right. And it meant precious information on Flint. He tried to separate his desire for retribution from tainting due process… but chances were his intuition was right. “Alright Ellsbeth. Row J. A Firefly, China Doll the label. I’ll have a look, get acquainted. If they’ll have me, I might catch a ride, it’ll give me a chance to gather what I need to know. You understand if I prefer to send you wave with your information from planetside, rather than from the ship… once they get where they’re going…”

He eyed her for any signs of balking at his considerations. “Might be offworld a spell. You never know with these tramp freighter crews. But once I get planetside again, I’ll give you what you need.” He began picking up the Code, wrapping it back into its worn cloth, and placed it back in its usual spot in his bag, and slowly retrieved his shooter, holstering it. “If there’s nothing else, Ellsbeth, I’ve got a transport to catch.” He extended his hand in offering.

Ellsbeth collected all the cards, a casual eye lifted upon the stranger. “Make hay while the sun shines,” she answered.

Pleasant sort. Collins shouldered his bag, flicked the brim of his cap at the barkeep, and strode out of the Twirling Rabbit, on his way to the docks. Mebbe pick up some kind of real protein on his way…
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Aalakrys

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Books, Blankets, Bolts, and Beans - Greenleaf, Day 2
later afternoon/early eveningish




JP/collab from @Aalakrys and @sail3695




Once Penelope departed Cafe Al-Baz with her captain, they parted ways for Cal to do any last minute preparations for his night out and for her to hum along the way back to the China Doll. Her thoughts never wandered too far from what she saw along the way, taking in the subtle nuances of her homeworld. When the path could divert back to familiar trails, she took the one that led her to her new home and steered her thoughts to present little joys.

The party had been nice - fun, even, with the dancing - seeing Hafez again … odd. She’d never been quite sure how she felt about what had brought them close, and wasn’t about to spend time thinking on it now. Instead, she wondered more at how to describe the delicacies at the party to Sam once she returned to the flight deck. Taste was something more challenging without a basis of comparison… but she’d made it work before.

When she made it to the ramp and found Abby sitting pretty in the lawn chair, she felt all was just right. Somehow, even when back on the planet she’d longed to step foot back on, there was a comfort in seeing the young girl being dutiful as ever. That scowl she wore naturally faded some when Penelope lifted her hand in greeting as she came up alongside her. “How’s the chair ridin’ treatin’ ya, Abbs?”

The deckhand closed ‘er book. “Tolerable…tolerable,” Abby give Pen the sorta smile meant trouble. “Folks is folks. Some good, some? Yew conjure. Heard we got work. How’s tha party? Her mouth’s jest shy ‘o’ goin’ full on cheshire cat with tha pilot.

“Brought ya some party back with me,” Penelope said as she reached into her cloth bag to pull out a fancy cloth napkin and handed it over. “There was all sorts of delicious food.”

“Thank yew,” the teenager accepted the little bundle. “I might save it fer our new mechanic. That fella Yuri…him as we pulled outta tha ocean? He come back tahday, askin’ ‘bout joinin’ the crew. Still looked powerful beat up, so I got ‘im a passenger bunk tah rest til Cap’n gets back.”

“Well, ain’t that serendipitous,” Penelope smiled brightly after a moment of wide-eyed surprise registered. “That’ll be a nice treat for him, for true. The Doll might be in need of a mechanic the way I been havin’ to fly her - an’ our next job might call for some more…”

She looked off as she thought on the possibilities, reminding herself that she was trusting that the job was fine reeled her back in though as her smile returned. “Cap’n ain’t got ya on that chair the full stay, does he? There’s some places ya gotta see, ya know.”
“He tole me we got a goodly amount ‘o’ cargo.” Abby shifted in ‘er chair. “If I can git us a couple more shipments an a passenger or two he’ll probably let me off tha leash.” The knowin’ smile come creepin’ back. “Mebbe I’ll go daincin’...”

“Won’ do no good makin’ your fella jealous by showin’ off your moves for some city boys ‘fore he got to see ‘em.” Penelope returned with a spreading grin of her own. “But your secrets are always safe with me.”

So Pen weren’t gon’ just give it up without a fight. “I conjure he wouldn’t mind me practicin’,” Abby could barely hold off laughin’. “How’s ‘bout yew?” she teased. “Ever git some daincin’ practice in?”

“Abby, a lady don’t right go practicin’ with just anybody then go yappin’ about it with tha girls,” Penelope attempted to chide, but smiled all the way through it then could barely make it through the rest without laughing between her words as she added: “Ain’t proper, it ain’t.”

There were tears in her eyes from the melodical laughter of her words, but she shook her head and said, “Alright, alright - Cap’n went yappin’, I take it. He tell ya that he knows a few steps, too? Surprising man, that Cal.”

“He ain’t tha only one!” the younger chortled. “But naw,” Abby give ‘er a grin, “I think that’s right nice! He said you’s a great dancer…what? It’s sorta sweet!”

Penelope’s lifted brow smoothed as she tilted her head, toe of her flat kicking thoughtfully at the dock. “Well, there’s all sorts’a partners one could go dancin’ with. Reckon it was ‘bout time I got back on the floor.”

Her smile returned near instantly though, as her hazel eyes turned back on the deckhand, a playful little glint in her eye. “But you keep mind what I said ‘bout practicin’, young lady. I got to see about ‘roundin’ up blankets I left all about in our hurry to make it planetside an’ warm up a spell.”

It was all kindsa nice havin’ someone lookin’ out fer her, tah say nothin’ ‘o’ gittin’ poked at ever’ now an’ agin tah be a “young lady.” Aunt Lupe’d like that, Abby mused til the talk moved tah Pen’s blankets. “Got two of ‘em,” she said. “Washed, dried, an’ folded up on tha galley table. One yah loaned me…an’ Rex’s. Thought yah might want that’un double clean afore yah set fingers on it.”

At hearing that the blanket she thought gone forever was washed and waiting in the galley, the smile Penelope wore full of amusement shifted to pure warmth. “That’s our Abbs, goin’ above and beyond ‘fore we even know we need somethin’. Thank ya.”

She patted Abby’s shoulder as she passed, intending to head on up and collect those two before double-checking all the other places she’d strayed while in the cold to make sure she hadn’t left any behind. The final stop before taking the haul to the little space of her own would be the galley to collect the last bit. A little smile touched her lips as she idly thought of her home away from home - at home.

As she visited the engine room and made her way to the nose of the ship, she let her mind wander only so far as to consider how that meeting with Hafez seemed to bring her to terms with her past. That part of her past, anyway. There were no lingering feelings of uncertainty that would’ve plagued her before. Just the opposite, in fact. The year or so away doing routed deliveries on schedule, disconnecting and reassessing had been just what she needed. That, and whatever had snapped her reality into place in the conversation with her current captain.

Just as she entered the galley, her pondering was done, and instead she was humming the tune from the party absently and thinking of dancing. When her hazel eyes came to rest on the stranger, she tilted her head in curiosity only just a moment before recalling what Abby had said. This could be the man from the ocean. Or a passenger. Both, even, since he technically wasn’t hired yet. Still, she smiled easily as always. “Findin’ everything ok? Hook, the hand that usually is around the kitchen, must’ve gone off somewhere.”

Yuri turned at the sound of a woman’s voice. “Hello.” There was something surprising about her, an easy cordiality that took him unawares while setting his mind at ease. “I thought a cup of coffee might answer while I await the captain. I’m Yuri, by the way,” he said as the pot dispensed a thickening black ooze which smelled every bit as old as it looked.

“Penelope.” Penelope’s breezy tone faded as she cast a concerned look at the contents of the cup, skeptical if he should be drinking that, and the easy stride she’d been taking towards the blankets piled on the table was detoured to that cup instead. She held out her hand for it, and prompting poured the liquid out once he handed it over as she shared the news. “Might want a fresh pot for that wait - could be a minute. Cap’n already dealt with one matter of business today, and his plans for the evenin’ could keep him plenty occupied…”

While she’d kept the details of what exactly his plans were to herself, her tone not exactly alluding to anything one way or another, Penelope was busy preparing the new pot by collecting the tin of beans to be ground before taking it and the pot to the sink to be dumped and washed. “Abbs said you were lookin’ to join the crew, and seemed optimistic enough to give ya a bunk you were supposed’ta be resting on…”

At the friendly teasing, she glanced over to let him know it wasn’t a chiding.

“Thank you,” he gestured with his bound arm. “I didn’t conjure that making a pot of coffee would be a two handed job.” He chuckled at the mild taunt, responding with a shrug. “I’ll pass out soon enough…Penelope. Wait,” Yuri looked upon her as a realization took light in his eyes. “Abigail…Abby…does she call you “Pen?”

“Yeah, I reckon so.” Penelope said as if it just occurred to her, but went back to placing the beans into the coffee grinder.

The mechanic rested a hand upon the counter to steady himself. “So then, you’re the pilot? The one who rescued me?” He knew it the instant the words had left his mouth. He wasn’t a medic, but Yuri conjured enough to know that the surreal fog these past few days served to protect him. The doctor might explain it as a bulwark, a suspension of belief to avoid further shock to a battered mind and body. There would come a time, he knew, when he’d simply…crash. His mission now was to slow that descent without coming off as completely moon brained.

With deliberate pacing, Yuri made his way around the counter toward the pilot. “Penelope,” he offered a hand that trembled despite his fervent rallying. “You found me out there,” Yuri’s voice quavered so slightly. “I can never repay what you…and your shipmates did for me. Thank you…thank you.”

Penelope had turned at the question to look at him, a tilt to her head as she regarded him in the approach around the counter. She couldn’t very well say it was Sam that had actually found him, though it had taken restraint not to since she was free to offer up praise where it was due in most cases. Besides, the intensity in the gratitude threw her slightly, enough to still her tongue and think. Setting the grounds now in the tray into place, she dusted her hand off and took the one he offered with that hesitant smile coming out. “Wasn’t thinkin’ it was somethin’ in need of repayment, but if I can hold that bunk rest over your head then I will.”

He clasped her hand, gratitude conveyed through a single shake and a smile that rose to his eyes. “Trust me…ten hours adrift in that ocean really makes you appreciate your rescuer.” The mechanic released his grip, allowing the hand to fall free at his side. “And yes, I’m certain your doctor would agree with you on bunk time.”

“So..China Doll,” Yuri said. “Abigail…Abby…mentioned she’d been covering since your last mechanic. She said that things seemed pretty normal. What does the pilot think?”

“Pretty normal?” That little smile of hers hinted that she found amusement in that opinion from the girl who had gotten shot in the rear, but didn’t disagree. At least aloud. Instead, she flipped the coffee pot on and then turned to look back at him as she leaned back against the counter. “Are you askin’ if I think we’re worth workin’ with? Because I might be a little biased.”

“Um, me too?” he laughed. “The best thing I can do for the folk who scooped me up is to tend to this boat’s aches and pains. Is she handling well?” he asked as one eye drifted toward a thin stream of fresh coffee trickling into the pot. “Does everything feel…normal?”

“Well, ain’t you forward - askin’ after how the Doll’s performance feels.” Penelope’s smile curled at a corner as she turned to give that mug she’d set aside a rinse then started off towards her originally intended destination: a fresh pile of blankets, the colors all that was needed to know it was hers. Better than having a name on it. As she went though, she did actually answer as was right in the best interest of the ship. “Used to pull to the right, but some passenger had Abbs workin’ down in there. Diagnostics didn’t report nothin’ after we hauled you up on the way here. Was going to run a simulation once all was settled - which is what I’m actually on my way to do once I get these put away.”

Penelope lifted the bundle in her arms, turning as if to show him. It was more to assess if he was the sort to invite himself along, but at least she could bar him on grounds that he weren’t officially a crew member yet. Between Sam and his need for sleep, it felt more responsible to send him on his way if he tried.

Yuri nodded, his smile bordering on the sheepish as he conjured her telegraphing. “Sorry,” he admitted. “I get pent up in the nuts and bolts, and next thing I know I’m diving head first before you can say “boo.” After beating a tactical retreat to the coffee pot, he poured out an aromatic cup. “It’s a right pleasure meeting you, Penelope.”

“I can understand that…” Penelope said, not even close to being consoling. She understood, that distance in her gaze only thoughts of the black for a moment before she smiled back. “Don’t know about nuts and bolts, but that ‘feelin’’ business… So far, Doll’s been plenty providin’.”

“If Cap’n is of his right mind and takes ya on, I’ll let ya know how that diagnostic goes. Till then…” She nodded down at the coffee cup in Yuri’s hand, giving a slight shrug since the bundle kept her arms full. “I would say go easy on that, but it’s decaf. Ran out of the good stuff on the way over since we were’a icebox.”

“Oh.” he stared down into the cup as the neutrality of his face waged a battle against his lifelong caffeine prejudice. “Well,” Yuri observed as he lifted the mug in a pseudo toast, “wouldn’t kill me to knock off the rocket fuel for awhile. Cheers.,” he offered.

As the first limp swallow crossed his lips, the mechanic surveyed the galley space and the uch more comfortable environs of the passenger lounge. “I might as well get comfortable,” the smile returned as he angled for a chair that gave the impression of swallowing him whole. “Good luck with the simulation,” he tossed a friendly wave toward Penelope.

She gave a nod before heading her own way with the bundle of blankets. As she walked off, she called back: "Get some shut-eye, potential new guy. Gonna need it."
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by sail3695
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sail3695 If you do, I'ma do too.

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The Nickel Tour




JP/collab from @deegee and @sail3695

I’ll be gorramed, Abby smiled at ‘erself. Sneaky Pen, she conjured on jest how the pilot done maneuvered ‘erself right past the girl’s questions ‘bout dancin’ with the Cap’n. This ain’t over. Smile stuck tah her face as she picked up ‘er book once agin.

The ko-dee-ak was smart; apparently he’d fallen through thin river ice before. He ran along the bank, pacing Mei Lin, each heavy grunt expelling a puff of vapor to mark his progress. The left bank offered her no escape, it’s jagged bluffs affording no handhold for her to climb. And so, she ran upon the snow topped ice, her lethal pursuer showing no signs of relenting.

A shadow fell over the page. Abby glanced up. The man was nigh onta her height…thirtyish? Fortyish? Hard tah tell, but ‘cept fer tha vicar’s collar he showed tah be livin’ on tha low. “Howdy,” she shielded ‘er eyes with tha left hand. “Bound fer Osiris, mister?”

He didn’t immediately reply, but nodded a greeting. Osiris was a central world, wasn’t it? He smiled down on the young woman sitting cross-legged on the ramp of the ship. “What’cha readin’, Miss?” he inquired, glancing down at the book in her lap. “Not too many read actual paper pages anymore.” He took a bit of the jerky he was pressing between calloused fingers, softening it a little before the next bite. It was strong, and more than a stick of it would have been too much for his palette.

She closed the novel, pressin’ the rolled dog ear cover twixt thumb an’ forefinger tah show ‘im. “Mei Lin in tha Wild,” Abby answered afore tuckin’ it away. “I like them paper books. They’s cheap. Sometimes a page been tore out, so I git tah guess what mighta happened.” The clipboard popped open.

“Osiris, is it? Mebbe so, mebbe so.” He offered her the small paper bag with three more jerky sticks inside. “Go on. I’m full up.” He glanced past the girl’s wild mane of curls into the hold of the ship, then back to see the colt revolver at her hip, in oiled leather. “Got room, do yeh?”

Abby nodded. “Sure’n we do. Setcha up in a single or a double. Takin’ off day after tomorrah.” She give the stranger prices fer both a single room and the bigger double. “China Doll’s a fine boat…an’ we got us a cook can really git tha job done. Yah pay now, we can take care ‘o’ ya…but no real cookin’ til we’re in tha air…mostly PB and J ‘less tha cook finds somethin’ special, dohn mah?

“I surely do. I think I can scrape together enough to afford a single. An’ mebbe I can help out a little around the ship to help pay mah way? I’m happy to roll mah sleeves up.” He hands over a small coin bag with all his savings. It is nearly the amount Abby has quoted. “You say we take off day after next? Like to have a roof over mah head tonight, if it’s all the same to you… but mebbe I can rustle us up some eats for the evening meal ‘fore I come aboard.” He checks the sky. “...still time afore night falls on us. How many mouths to feed?”

“No bother with that. Most of ‘em’s scattered about town.” She counted out tha coin, her brow furrowin’ as she struck bottom. “Yer a might shy,” Abby said as she conjured percentages. Discounts wasn’t somethin’ yah thought of when it come tah passengers, but if she’s bein’ true, what tha man could pay weren’t outta line with deals she done fer cargo. “I reckon we’re good,” the girl stashed the coin away as the clipboard come open. “Can I have yer name, mister?”

There was no hesitation in his reply. “I’m Collins. Pleasure’s mine.” The girl fascinated him, frankly. She was all of what – fifteen? Fourteen? And looked like she had barely spent a day planetside in her entire life. The pistol at her hip, the grease stains on the thighs of her pants, the complexion that asked for a touch more sunlight… all of it added up to what Brother Christopher would have called a ‘Bilge Rat.’ Collins wouldn’t use the term aloud, as it ran a 50/50 chance of running him afoul of the girl.

Fact was, he was just interested in how someone could live their life in the Black. He didn’t like space travel that much, hadn’t experienced it till only a few years ago. “And what can I call you, Miss?”

“Name’s Abby,” she said on takin’ tah her feet. “C’mon, I’ll walk yah back.” The girl led their new passenger up tha ramp. As she moved, she give ‘im the well worn spiel. “Welcome aboard tha China Doll, Mister Collins. It’s perty easy gettin’ along. Cap’n says stay outta tha cargo bay, the engine room, cockpit, an’ any sleepin’ room ain’t your’n, less a body invites yah.” The after hatch swung open. “Them stairs’ll take yah up top. Galley an’ a nice sittin’ area are up there. Coffee an’ tea’s always on. Sometimes Hook…he’s our cook…lays out a tray ‘o’ cookies or such fer latenight snacks.”

The deckhand beckoned Collins down the short staircase aft. “That’s Medbay. Doc’s name is Alana, an’ take it from me. She knows her la shi. Patched me up a short spell ago. Lav’s right there,” she pointed out a doorway. “Three commodes, two showers an’ sinks. No worries about who’s usin’ ‘em, but they’s womenfolk aboard might appreciate yah knockin’ first, dohn mah? Got another sittin’ area,” she pointed out the sofa an chairs restin’ underneath her chalk orchid. “An’ that’s all she wrote!”

The pair stopped in a space where two short corridors could be seen. “Yer room’s in tha starboard passage,” Abby pointed, “second door on tha left headin’ aft. Mine’s last door on tha right,” she offered. “If yah need somethin’...spare blankets an’ such, don’t be askeert tah knock. Now make yerself tah home.” The grey collar caught ‘er eye once more. Hadn’t interested her afore, but now he's gon’ be flyin’ with ‘em, made sense tah git her bearin’s with Mr. Collins. “Beg pardon,” she asked. “You some kinda shepherd?”

He followed diligently along, noting lefts and rights, trying to take in names… cookies… knock first… He paused at his door, smiling back at the young woman. “Xie Xie, Miss Abby – I ‘preciate the lay of the land.” He tossed his meager kit – really just his pack, and his gun belt, onto the bed, and turned back to her as she asked him about his collar. “Somethin’ like that, yeah.”

Weren’t her way tah put questions tah them didn’t wish tah be asked, an’ Abby picked that up right quick from the shepherd. “If yah need somethin’, I’ll be back out front til sundown,” she siad afore turnin’. “Rest easy, Padre.” Once back in ‘er chair, she noted Collins’ room an’ what he paid fer tha trip. ‘Neath his name, she added Shepherd. After some ‘o’ the folk done flew on China Doll, she conjured Cap’n would like knowin’ a man spreads the Word found ‘is way aboard.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by MK Blitzen
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MK Blitzen Have Plot, Will Travel

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Ready to Rave

China Doll, Evening, Greenleaf Day 2


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









Mathais was always digging to the bottom of his dresser which really was just a set of milk crates stacked in a corner. Scattered around were various outfits and random clothing and he was only just digging into the 'Party' clothing. He pulled out a pair of leather pants, frowned, making a face and tossed it aside. Like hell he was wearing anything leather in the freaking Jungle!

He was shooting for airey and comfortable! Not lose half his weight from sweating! Mathais continues to dig, putting out a net shirt. He seriously considered it and put it in the maybe pile.

The makeshift curtain that separated a portion of the shuttle pulled back to reveal Isaac in a shiny, brightly colored pleather outfit. He posed proudly as he looked for feedback. "So...what do ya think?" He shifted between a couple of stances as he pulled up the pleather hoodie and gave an exaggerated supermodel pout.

Mathias had a devilish grin spread on his face. "It's perfect." Emphasizing with a pair of thumbs up.

Isaac opened his arms as if to say "I know, right?"

“You know it’s still hot, oweh?” Cyd asked, looking up from her datapad. “You’re going to be lank chafe ten minutes in.”

"That's generous." Mathis muttered.

"Pssh!" Isaac scoffed. "Y'all just reek of jealousy." He said as he wrinkled his nose. He walked up to his brother, his face about chest height, leaned in and gave a few sniffs. "Yup," he looked up, "jealous." He added as he gave a poke to Mathias's chest that shifted into a mime of an explosion with his hands as he backed away mouthing "Boom!"

Mathias looked to his sister. "Imma let nature take its course. You know, like a documentary."

Cyd was a little softer with her approach and made a note to pack a little baby powder for the inevitable. It was so much easier when she would just set out his clothes for the day.

"I feel like I should bring our emergency kit … but then he won't learn." Mathis said looking truly conflicted.

Isaac couldn't be bothered to listen to his siblings' sidebar. He was too busy admiring himself in the mirror, trying out different poses and pouts that in his mind were guaranteed to break hearts. "Sorry to disappoint, ladies," he muttered to himself in his little one man roleplay, "but this one's taken." Just because he was unavailable didn't mean he didn't relish in the attention.

Cyd shot a side glance to her brother, preening himself in the mirror, thinking heat stroke may have set in early. s “You want me to paint your face up, Lo lo?” She held up an eyeliner pen and some neon grease make-up.

"Cool!" The offer pulled Isaac's attention away from his imaginary fans as he trotted over to his sister. He spun a chair nearby backwards and straddled it, leaning his arms against the top of the back. He then rested his chin on his arms giving Cyd a steady canvas on which she could work.

“What’ll it be? Dayglo dragon? Clockwork Orange? Dealer’s Choice?” She asked, dabbing a sponge into the paint. “Something that says sorry bunnies, I’m spoken for, “ she snapped her fingers, and stepped to his left. “Right side single, left… you’re spoken for, oweh? Yobo, you’re up next.” She dabbed the white paint onto half of his face, and with the fine tipped brush, she outlined half of a sugar skull, dabbing orange, green and blue in the mix around his eye.

"Should I get the lasso? Tie him down while you finish?" Mathias chuckled and he laughed at their makeshift table as Issac squirmed away.

Cyd worked quickly, Isaac wasn’t known for his patience or for sitting still, and after about 20 minutes, he managed to escape with only one small spot smudged before she had the chance to spray it to keep in place.

The moment Cyd finished, Isaac was already moving to hop out of the chair and admire her handiwork in the mirror. "Lekker!" He gave his approval in an awed exhale as he craned his head and neck in all different angles to get a better look at his sister's design.

"Who knew all this time all we needed was a mirror to keep him entertained." Mathias snarked while watching his baby brother preen himself.

“It’s a fact like a cow,” Cyd agreed, patting the stool for Mathias next. “Yobo, sit.”

"Do I have to? I'll just get all sweaty and it'll smear and get messed up …" Mathias said in what might have sounded like a whine.

“Nobody goes to just blend in,” she reminded her sib.

Mathias groaned and Ultimately relented. “Fiiiiinnnnnnne.” He said draggin himself to the mercy of his sister.

“Should I get the lasso?” Cyd teased.

“Phss … like you could catch me, Beep beep …” Mathias snickered.

"He's more the 'leash' type anyway." Isaac chimed in, still admiring himself in the mirror. He was trying to decide if he looked more awesome hood up or hood down as he checked over and over again.

“Only if she’s very pretty and the safe word is ‘Keep Going’.” Mathias winked at his little brother.

“Aikona,” Cyd chastised, flicking her brother on the forehead before applying a hefty amount of eyeliner to his left eye. Before long, he had a dream catcher surrounding one eye down to his cheek. “Close,” She ordered before hitting him with a hefty dose of setting spray. Standing back to admire her work, she gave a smile as her seal of approval. Just his outfit remained. “You should wear mesh,” she decided.

“I knew you were going to say that.” Mathias smirked cracking an eye open after she was done.

Cyd would have said it was twintuition , but Mathias never would have let her live it down.

Isaac bounced back over to his sibs and leaned on Mathias's shoulder to inspect Cyd's art. He pursed his lips as if in deep consideration and gave a small nod. "Nice." He complemented. What he really meant was Glad it's not better than mine.

"What can I say Cyd missed her calling as an artist. Could be doing an entire art gallery of elaborate body paint on naked men and women."

"Yeah," Isaac agreed, "artists are weirdos like that."

“Coulda, woulda, still might,” Cyd said playfully, liking the idea of that. She tossed a dry make-up sponge at Isaac. “Depends on how good the night goes.”

"With the way Isaac's dressed? Probably end the night with him getting hooked up to a saline bag." Mathis said getting up to put on the net shirt Cyd recommended.

“Still wouldn’t be the worst rave we’ve been to,” Cyd answered with a chuckle.

"Jungle rave? I admit I'm curious how they do. Gotta be some really interesting party favors." Mathias mused with a broad grin.

"Five creds there'll be a naked chick with a snake." Isaac added with a smirk before pausing. "Too obvious?" He added, laughing.

“Seen it on Santos,” Cyd reminded him.

"Hmm … Santos." Mathias said fondly.

“Let me go get painted up,” Cyd said, fixing her hair into a loose ponytail, “then we’ll go make some bad decisions and good memories, oweh?”

"That should be our family motto." The eldest Skye mused.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Aalakrys
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Aalakrys

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Peace. Love. Unity. Respect.

China Doll Galley, Evening, Greenleaf Day 2


OOC: JP between @Aalakrys, @MK Blitzen





Cyd stared into the small mirror set up on the galley table with one blue eye staring back at her just as intently. On the right side of her face she’d painted one half of two tiered butterfly wing in pretty neon orange, yellow and blue colored face paint surrounding her eye. Now with a steady hand and fine brush, she outlined the design in a day-glo white. There were far too many flying socks and butt jokes in the shuttle to concentrate, and she’d donner either sib if she had to start over.

“Pretty,” Penelope said mid-stretch as she walked into the galley to see the design-work playing across Cyd’s face. The pilot had just finished up a simulation with Sam checking over the Doll’s logistics and whatnot, leaving her hankering for some sustenance. As she moseyed on over to help herself, idly noting the continued absence of the deckhand that practically lived in the galley on the way, she asked: “Fun plans tonight gettin’ ya all decorated up?”

Cyd glanced up from the mirror. “Aweh, Pen, plans for a madder jol!” She replied excitedly winking from her butterlfied eye. “Er, a rave. Me and the sibs. Day-glo will look lekker if you’re rolling.”

“Looks, ah, that way now, I think,” Penelope didn’t sound certain, but continued on her way to find out what she could scrounge. Her skills were definitely not aligned with cooking, but she could slap together an edible concoction when pressed. As she rummaged, she asked: “Goin’ into the city or takin’ the party underground?”

“Underground, oweh? You’re welcome to tag with me and the sibs, I don’t know the DJ, but I have extra kandi.” She held up her left arm, with brightly colored plastic bracelets stretching from her wrist midway down to her elbow. “Just a bunch of bravs and bunnies, loud music, a little bit of drugs, or … a lotta bit of drugs, everyone loves a rave.”

The cupboards looked a little low, which wasn’t surprising given all the good food they’d been eating as of late. It was unlike anything Penelope was used to, flying transport as she did. Maybe it was a good indication that Cal and Rex managed funds well… or a sign that they flew through coin as swift as it was earned. No sweat for her though. Not much was. And Penelope had just found a carrot to shred into the can of soup she planned on heating as she listened to Cyd. “I only been the once, and it was on business - wild sort of fun, it looked. Place called Primordial.Or Primal… Primal Instinct?”

The lid of the can popped off as she completed the name, and she looked down at the contents just about as pleased as she had been about any other meal. As she moved on to heating it, she continued talking with a grateful smile at Cyd for the offer on the tail end since she’d been keen to actually participate. “Folks - ah, bravs and bunnies? - worked there were painted up all tribal in that glow paint and wore next to nothin’ but foliage design. Always meant to go back… or, to any sort’a ravin’.”

“Oweh?” Cyd asked. “This is underground, pop-up. folks wear what skin they’re in. It gets mad hot, so shorts, bikini, tape, whatever says you. Like paint.” Cyd dramatically showed off her butterfly wing design - then giggled at her own antics. “Says who you are.” Sliding out the seat next to her for the pilot, she held up the pallet for Pen to see, and asked: “You want to try?”

It might have sounded mad to some people, but Penelope was definitely following what Cyd was putting down. The colorfulness of a butterfly suited her, too, she thought as she considered the offer. Her eyes on the chair and spoon tucked between her lips. “I ain’t got any more plans for the evenin’, an’ it sounds fun.”

She sat the spoon aside and flipped off the heating plate as she moved away to join Cyd at the table, musing along the way. “I never much thought about what says who I am… but all the rest makes sense now on the leaf-like clothes.”

“If it’s who you are,” Cyd said with a wink of a butterflied eye. “So… who is Pen, the pilot? First things first. Single or taken?”

Penelope laughed as she took the seat, finding amusement in most things was natural. Cyd made it easy though, the animation and life in the other woman more pronounced if possible by the vibrant wing on her face. The grin on her face had her eyes dancing along in the infectious levity of her company. “I don’t have no commitments to nobody - ‘cept the Doll’s next job, but that ain’t what ya meant.”

Cyd smiled, and dabbed a sponge in some primer. “Right side. Left side means your heart and someone else’s have a matchy beat-beat-beat..” She pointed upwards towards the ceiling, indicating for Pen to look up while she dabbed some primer beneath the eye and onto her cheek. “No commitments,” she repeated, making a note to herself. “Tell me something true. Three words. Who are you?”

The cool sensation of make-up being applied against her cheek was a first, or at least a first in a long time, but she followed directions as given and thought of the last time. It was nicer this time around. “Huh… “

The question gave her something else to think about. There were things she liked, and things she did, and things she was good at… but three words that described who she was. That was honest? That was a lot. And the ceiling could look nicer with some kind of decoration… Without moving, she looked over her cheeks down towards Cyd, that glint in her eye still. “I feel like I’d need some’a them drugs ta answer that question.”

Cyd giggled, pointing down this time so she could put primer over Pen’s eyelid and brow. “A mystery, even to you, oweh?” She said playfully, tapping her thumb to her chin while she thought. “Favorite colors then. I like things that come in threes.”

Penelope sighed, “Can’t go choosin’ one color over another when they all have merit. Can’t appreciate one without another to compare it to, and some don’t work in certain lights or in certain settin’s. Ain’t their fault. No reason to like another more for it when the one could be much better in another palette.”

She thought for a moment, going back to Cyd’s first question and still coming up empty. It weren’t that she didn’t know what the other woman was getting at, because she often asked similar questions of her little creations as she toyed with them. Not expecting a vocalized answer, of course. Applying it to herself, though, that was interesting. “Reckon I’m more the sort to just be me without thinking on it too much.”

Cyd gave that a moment’s thought, pursing her lips, tilting the girl’s head slightly to the side. Hazel would pick up any colors she used, but the colors she used would determine if the pilot’s eye would shine green or blue or gray. She was close enough that inhaling brought the faint scent of citrus, lemons and grapefruit, it was light and pretty and very much suited who Cyd thought her to be. With a smile, she had her idea, and dipped a brush in some emerald grease paint. “Sometimes,” the girl with the aqua hair said thoughtfully as she dotted the paint along Pen’s face, “it doesn’t need to be about who you are, or what you want to show the world.” She worked the rest of the way in silence, using yellows and pinks and whites, something small, right above the eyebrow, then held up the mirror for Pen to see.

Cyd gave her small clusters of white flowers with hints of pink and yellow, situated on green leaves, and accented by tiny white stars. Pink like grapefruit, yellow like lemons, green for her home planet. “You can wash it off if it’s not your style,” she offered. “I didn’t want to give you anything big. A pretty face shouldn’t be hidden, oweh?”

Despite her own artistic ability, Penelope didn’t assess the work alongside her eye with any airs. Her soft smile was true as her gaze went from the pleasantly delicate and simple piece to Cyd. “I like the touch of stars you added in. Suits me just right, I think, though sayin’ it out loud might seem like I got a big head now you done said that.”

Her grin spread at the last, this fun-poking side of her apparently sticking around. First Abby, then the Cap’n, and now Cyd. Penelope hadn’t felt this at ease in a long time. “Reckon I should go get dressed - or, dressed-down, from what ya said. Don’t want to keep ya.”

“Dressed down, it’ll be lank hot, oh, and last thing,” Cyd said before the pilot left. She searched her arm for a decent starter, yellow, pink and white plastic beads that matched Pen’s make up. “Your first kandi. You can keep it or trade it if you wanna roll.” Cyd handed over the ‘jewelry,’ then collected her paints and supplies. “Madder dancing!” she called shuffling as her rave sneakers flashed blue, pink and green.

Penelope looked at the little beads in her palm, head slightly tilted, then up to see Cyd moving away. She smiled at the energy of the other woman. “Alright, thank ya. I’ll bring ya somethin’ for it. Meet ya at your shuttle?”

“Lekker!” Cyd called back, already dashing off to tell the sibs they had a plus one for the night.

The pilot turned and went the other way, back towards her bunk to find something loose and light. It wouldn’t be difficult as most of her clothes were of that sort, the ones she’d backed away with her when she left Hafez’s estate. As she rummaged through the colorful assortment, she made note of worn or faded pieces in the limited collection. That sense of permanency settling into her decision to stay on with the China Doll past Greenleaf, her homeworld was trickling into other decisions as well.

The last crew she’d been with, she never did anything on shore leave with them. And now she was looking forward to whatever sort of adventure she’d just signed on for with the tentative long-term passenger. The smile spread across her face at the notion as she pulled up the crochet bralette top she’d worn on her travels of New Melbourne’s beaches and accompanying cut off mid-rise shorts. That would work, yeah? Only one way to find out.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by sail3695
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sail3695 If you do, I'ma do too.

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Cutting Ties




Shadows grew long as Greenleaf’s sun touched the horizon. Abby took tah her feet, an’ after a couple good stretches, folded up tha lawn chair fer tha night. Weren’t necessarily a bad day. After all, she conjured they got a new passenger an’ a mechanic. Ms. Winters ain’t called back about haulin’ them beagles, but they’s still time.

Fer now, the deckhand had some other chores.

First come Isaac’s bucket, what she found holdin’ the mouse in tha engine room. Abby walked it tah tha galley, her mind set on scrubbin’ out tha inside. There, she seen Yuri, sittin’ at tha big table. He had a knife in the good hand, usin’ his cast tah flatten out a sleeve on his coveralls. “Hey,” the girl said. “Whatcha doin’?”

“Screwing up,” the mechanic chuckled as his eyes rose from his work. “I need to cut this patch off my sleeve,” he gestured toward a black embroidered shoulder decoration. The word McSorley stood out in bold white print. “More difficult than I conjured, I fear.”

“Here.” she flipped her jackknife open. “I’ll git ‘er in two shakes.” As he sat back, she set about slippin’ tha blade twixt tha patch an’ his sleeve. While she’s bent over ‘im workin’, Abby seen names signed on Yuri’s cast. “Booth tha truth?” she chuckled. “He one ‘o’ them fellas dropped ya off?”

“Lawyer,” Yuri nodded as the knife made short work of removing the patch. “Got me cut loose from my old job.” He examined the patch. “I’m supposed to get rid of this and never say a word about it again.”

She pocketed ‘er knife. “Sounds a might sad. Hope they give yah money fer that.”

“Some,” he reflected. “Sharks on both sides of the table. Hey,” he changed the subject, “have you seen the captain?”

“Nope,” Abby shook ‘er head. “Heard tell him’n the Doc had someplace tah be. D’ja eat yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Pen brung some food back she got this afternoon.” Abby gestured toward the fridge. “Got muh name on it. Yew can have it, if yah want.”

“Thanks,” Yuri’s eyes followed her toward the sink, “but what’re you eating, then?”

“Gotta head out.” Abby washed the bucket, bein’ careful not tah run water on the decorations Isaac done stuck on the outside. “Doin’ a little dumpster divin’. I’ll buy from a street cart after.”

Yuri’s brow lifted. “Dare I ask?”

“Mouse traps.” She run a towel inside tha bucket. “Gotta find a couple more like this’n, so’s I can catch ‘em an’ then set ‘em loose out yonder.”

“You think there’s that many aboard?”

“Hope not. But Uncle Bob…him as raised me…always said if yah see one, they’s a hunnerd more yah don’t.”

The mechanic responded with an amiable shrug. “Can’t argue with that logic. For all the trouble we had on the Mick…” he halted, remembering the new rule of his path.

Abby seen the light go right outta his eyes. Whether he’s brought silent ‘cuz what some lawyer fella said or if’n the mem’ry jest hurt too much tah say, she couldn’t suss. “I conjure two traps,” the deckhand said to close tha gap. “One hereabouts tha galley. T’other nearby tha shuttle they caught tha first’n.” She carried tha bucket as she made fer tha shuttle catwalk. “Need anythin’ while I’m in town?”

“No…but thanks,” Yuri called after her. He listened to her footfalls, the soft padding of her canvas shoes as they faded aft. As the silence descended once again, Yuri lifted the discarded patch. He nestled it in the plan of his hand. My life-that-was the former Engineer’s Mate pondered this last little scrap. “Sounds a might sad,” he repeated the girl’s words as the patch slid into his pocket.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by sail3695
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Wailin’ Youth




Thanks to Youtuber Davie504 for character inspiration.

Khao Yai at night was kinda nice. Even the rundown end ‘o’ Port Street Abby’s traipsin’ had a comfortable feel to it. Hadn’t taken ‘er no time tah scrounge up a couple five gallon buckets tossed out from a job site. They’s all splotched with dried paint, but she didn’t conjure them mouses would care a whit, long’s tha smell ‘o’ food’s bringin’ ‘em in.

Her own supper done jest that. Rich aroma of curry floatin’ down the street made the girl follow ‘er nose to a family run food stand. Two credits later, she’s sittin’ on tha curb, eatin’ like a queen outta a little paper carton. Two - three workin’ folk perched alongside ‘er, an’ while nobody said nothin’, all them slurps, grunts, an’ belches they shared put ‘em all in fine humor tahgether. Is this what it’s like? she pondered, bein’ from some place? That’d take some ruminatin’, seein’s how all she ever ‘membered was livin’ on a Firefly. Mariposa was ‘er home place, she supposed…but far’s she knew, that boat weren’t around no more. This was Pen’s home place. Mayhaps she’d ask ‘er ‘bout how it should be feelin’.

Once she’d et, her next stop weren’t but a couple blocks away. WORLD OF BASS read a sign what weren’t lit up. She thought tha shop mighta been closed, ‘cept fer lights on inside an’ a fella sittin’ behind tha counter. When she let ‘erself in, Abby’s surprised at just what a narrow little place it was. One wall was hung with bunches ‘o’ long necked bass guitars. She conjured them black boxes all heaped underneath was amplifiers. T’other wall was full ‘o’ shelves, lotso little boxes an’ widgets, tiny bags with somethin’ she took fer guitar strings. They’s bins full’o’ picks, polishin’ cloths, instrument cases…an’ all of it sittin’ under a powerful coat ‘o’ dust. And right there, amongst all that chaos, she spied what it was brung her inta tha shop.

WEYLAND-YUTANI
PROMIX Professional Grade Headphones
CM-88B


Since she come in, the fella never paid ‘er no mind. He’s wearin’ a pair ‘o’ them “Weyland-Yutes” what Isaac called ‘em, an’ playing one ‘o’ them bass guitars with no sound comin’ out. Abby moved intah line ‘o’ sight, give ‘im a quick wave.

Fella stopped playin’, looked ‘er up an’ down an made hisself sound all kindsa annoyed as he said “What?”

“Beg pardon,” she set ‘er buckets down. “I come here lookin’ fer some…”

“No banjos here,” the fella’s nose turnt up at her twang. “Mountain Music, Seventh and Long. Go now.”

Most times she’d come back hard on that kinda putdown, but tonight? She din’ know. Mayhaps it’s tha good food, or walkin’ about put her tah rights, but this fella’s ‘tude suddenly struck ‘er all devilish an’ such. “Well, shucky-durn,” Abby poured it on thick as hotcake syrup, “Ah ain’t never been tah no place what’s called “World of Bass” ‘thout seein’ a single fish. Where ye keep ‘em, mister? Gotta tank out back ‘er sumthin’?”

Fella’s lip curled. “Bumpkin,” he spat the word. “Bass. Bass. Long A sound.”

“Yew mean them guitars?” She gaped, wide eyed, at the instruments. “They’s right purty. But not what Ah’m lookin’ fer.”

“Good. Leave.”

She pointed at them headphones. “I want them…Wailin’ Youths.”

His eyes trailed her finger, then slid back upon her. “Weyland Yutani,” the fella huffed. “You can’t even say it. Why would you need?”

“Uh…music?” she played at bein’ all genuine wide eyed an’ such. “Tah use when I’m workin’?”

He sneered, lookin’ all over her legs an’ tha “front end alignment” tee shirt she’s wearin’. “What work?”

Not tha first time a man conjured her fer whorin’, but tha distaste wrote all over his face made this time sorta funny. “Deckhand,” she answered plain. “On a space goin’ boat.” Abby held out ‘er hand. “Care tah count calluses?” That’n made a crack, she seen of the humor spark ticklin’ his eyes. “Name’s Abby. Friend ‘o’ mine tole me Wailin’ Youths is tha way tah go fer good sound won’t slip off my head whilst I’m workin’...movin’ boxes about, moppin’ decks, scrubbin’ toilets an’ such.”

“Toilets,” he said all offended. “You want these for scrubbing toilets. Just leave,” fella pointed toward tha door.

“Did yer daddy set yew up in this business?” she teased. “I see yer wearin’ a pair fer yer work.”

He laid the box on ‘is counter. “I don’t ‘scrub’ things.”

“Don’t gotta tell me,” she couldn’t help ‘erself as she commenced tah writin’ ‘er name in tha dust. “A…B…B…” until he snatched the box away.

“Price is sixty.”

“Sixty?” She cocked an eyebrow. “Cortex says I can git ‘em all day fer forty.”

“Cortex also says there are hot women just waiting to meet me. You pay extra…price of stupid. How long before you drop them into a toilet?”

“I reckon that’s fair.” Abby come around tha counter, eyes set upon another small box. He’s watchin’ ‘er as she blowed a cloud ‘o’ dust off tah read.

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FIELD PRO Waterproof Earbuds
CM-72E


“I’ll give yah fifty fer both,” tha girl offered, throwin’ a hand up tah stop ‘im runnin’ ‘is pie hole. “An’ I’ll clean yer shop.”

“Shop doesn’t need cleaning,” he sniffed.

Abby laughed. “Mister, only place don’t need cleanin’ in here’s where yer pi gu been polishin’ that stool.” She looked about. “Got a broom? Rags an’ such?”

“In the back,” he surrendered. “Somewhere.”

She give ‘im a smile as she nudged ‘er head toward tha bass on ‘is knee. “Y’any good?”

“Why?”

Abby looked over all them guitars on tha wall. “World ‘o’ bass,” she grinned as she said it proper. “I’ll show yew mine if yah show me your’n.”

His stone face cracked a smile. “Let me plug in.”



He was good. Real good. Laid down music kept her movin, sometimes coaxin’ her tah laugh the way he’d make the beat match her stroke with a rag or a vacuum. Cleanin’ things was somethin’ come natural. She could let’er mind just float while her body took care ‘o’ business. An’ this…cleanin’ out a dusty old music shop…was becomin’ way more fun than she ever conjured. Proper cleanin' took 'er near three hours, but felt like jest a few minutes. She's almost sad when the job was done.

“Gotcher back room tidied up,” Abby offered. “Took out all yer trash. Found these under a pile ‘o’ boxes,” she lifted a thin sleeve held a pair ‘o’ dark wooden drumsticks. “Where they belong?”

“In the trash,” he answered. “No drums here.”

Her brow furrowed. “Yew sure? Ain’t never been opened.”

The fella shrugged. “Left over from when this was my father’s shop.”

“Can I have ‘em? I know a drummer,” she said.

He give a thin smile. “Do you clean apartments?”

Abby crooked a smile ‘o’ her own. “That’ll cost yah one ‘o’ them guitars.”
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by MK Blitzen
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MK Blitzen Have Plot, Will Travel

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RAVE ON!

Khao Yai City Underground, Evening, Greenleaf Day 2


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









“You sure you want to wear that, Lolo - this is your last chance to change,” Cyd warned right before they left the ship.

Isaac took one last glance at a reflective surface and practiced a few poses under his pleather hoodie, throwing a pout, flashing a peace sign. Satisfied, he gave a confident head shake to his sister. "Nah, I'm good."

Mathias was already prepared with the basics in a string bag, including water, a few ‘party favors’, and some basic first aid stuff. It was a jungle out there, literally.

Cyd looped an arm through Isaac’s, and another around Mathias. Pen said she might catch up, she might not, the pilot was like a leaf on the wind,, she thought with a smile, even though Greenleaf had little to no wind what-so-ever. The air was so humid that you could see a haze around the moon and every street lamp, her skin was already damp by the time they left the Firefly class ship in favor of a party. “This is gonna be lekker!” she said happily, her sneakers flashing with every step. Kandi - plastic beaded jewelry ran half the length of one arm, right for giving, left for getting.

"Speaking of fun!" Mathias chimed in with a clap, the colorful beaded bracelets decorating his arms rattling a bit, as the thump of music drew closer. "What's your poison tonight?" He asked spinning around to face his siblings. "Down or up … who's riding high to coast on the beats and light? And who is staying on the ground to feel the beat in the bones and grind of the crowd?" He asked with theatrical flair.

Isaac looked to his brother and raised a pointer finger as if summoning a maitre d', "I'll be going up, my good man.

“Down if you please,” Cyd chimed in with her preference. “These are my shuffle shoes. I need the drop!” Plus it would be easier to keep an eye on her sibs. Mathias might be the oldest, but that was in boy years.

Mathias produced a little baggie with a green colored pill inside with a snap of his fingers. “Jelly Belly for Cyd …” said passing the treat to Cyd. “... and Cross My Heart for Isaac … drink lots of water.” He said pulling a baby blue pill in a baggie out of thin air.

Isaac admired the innocuous little tablet as he held it up to the light. "A tiny little tiny thing like this….” he said as he drifted his pill next to the one in Cyd's hand, “and you’ll be floating on a cloud.” He then tapped his sister's pill with his like two champagne flutes as he downed his with a loll of his head.

“Are you rolling?” Cyd asked her twin after her Jelly Belly dissolved.

“Let me swallow this Red Devil and answer that for you …” He said putting the thin round wafer on his tongue. “ … now we are ready to party!”

Cyd giggled, the spring in her step getting livlier as they got closer to the source of the music. “Let’s make some bad choices,” she shouted as the Jelly Belly started working its magic, and the three siblings folded into the crowd.
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Aalakrys
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Aalakrys

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Walking After Midnight




Mist hummed in the night air all around Penelope, soft and loose, thick and gentle. The moisture was too heavy to sway on its own; humidity of Greenleaf made the notion of a light mist a fantasy. The small rainbow tablet that had dissolved on the pilot’s tongue earlier on in the evening had nearly run its course, but stepping outside had brought a whole new wave of sensations. An age old appreciation coming to the forefront of her mind as she moved on out into the once familiar streets, hands threading through the thick air as she went, feeling each tiny bead of water so acutely as it brushed her skin it was almost like swimming in air.

Fascinated as she was, her feet had carried her away once more without her much planning its course. She knew it so well that when she closed her eyes to hear the new music of a light rain starting to hit the rich canopy of rooftops and jungle alike. A peaceful lullaby after the wild rhythmic chaos that was the rave she’d left behind.

The enchanting enhancement of ambiance all around halted just as Penelope reached forward to part large waxy greenery obstructing her path, the second-nature of it giving her pause as her hazel eyes settled on the tiny section of green space allotted to a base-level family dwelling. Her lips formed a small ‘oh’ in surprise, though the word hadn’t slipped her lips even in a whisper - no chance of it being heard over the rain that was coming down. Or was that still the drugs?

She swallowed, scanning the exterior floor-to-ceiling window wall to see it entirely dark inside was a relief. The haze of her mind was preventing her from calculating any concept of time, let alone when now just happened to be aside from a bad time. Very bad. In fact, there wasn’t a good one when coming here was concerned.

The foliage she was hidden by consumed her when Penelope’s hands fell on reflex, pulled in towards her chest as she took a step back. Being free from decision had been a crutch for so long now that when it came to making one, her mind seemed to idle out - much like it did now, with no part due to the little rainbow pills.

First, had she been seen? Coming here, specifically. The entire walk, she’d been in her own little world - different than her usual style, at least. Normally, she’d at least notice things other than the way the air felt. Her mood had been too good, too relaxed - carried on from the release of inhibitions likely as far back as opening up to her captain about her own predicament.

As she took in the overgrown green-space from her hiding spot, Penelope fought to speed up the process of getting her brain in the right sorts. Distracted by observations of what she could make out in the darkened house - curiosity making its way ahead of logic as it was bound to do when she weren’t holding the reins tight enough - were slowing her down a might bit though.

Okay, focus, Penelope - now, ain’t no way to tell if someone was takin’ note of my passing through. Late as it is, most of these folk are sleepin’... everyone inside is. If anyone is still here… hard to tell.

From the neglected state of the patio, she wasn’t sure. At the thought, a heaviness settled about her shoulders as if the weight of the rain coating her bare skin had been stacking and finally registered. There had been so much avoidance for years, and standing here before this darkened living unit seemed to bring all that up at once.

A light flicked on from deep inside the quarters. Penelope looked up just as the light went out, then another came on. She pinpointed it as the light above the stove, the furthest back room in the small unit. Someone was moving around in the dim light, too far away to identify. Her hand closed around the large waxy leaf as she pulled it up as if to shield her face, an unnecessary additional camouflage.

Obscured to one another, Penelope was free to watch the figure going about whatever it was that they were doing before moving closer into the sitting area. And then to the window-wall. Penelope’s eyes widened as she took another half-step back, pulling the leaf with her as the ever-present city light illuminated the figure as it strode outdoors onto the covered patio area.

The gasp that escaped her lips at the sight of the man as he lit up a cigarette hadn’t been what got his attention. It was the large leaf slipping from her grasp and righting itself with a flap, rustling the nearby plants and sending the settling dew flying. “Penelope?”

There was no possible way he’d seen her. She was too far back in the wild thicket. Without thought on either party’s part, they both bolted - her away and the man she’d seen trailing after her. Though she was still feeling the effects of the drug in her system, especially now that her heart was racing again as her feet pounded the payment in turn, she still had much more agility on her side than her pursuer. And when she reached the forest, there was no way he’d catch up. He never would follow her out into the jungle.
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by sail3695
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”In Memoriam…”




Seein’ the chase lights an’ neon of Tampico Royale screamin’ ‘DRINK SPECIALS!’, ‘GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS’, and ‘LADIES DRINK FREE!’, t’weren’t no challenge tah conjure how nothin’ else on tha block would catch even a stray glance from folk passin’ by. With all that flash ‘n trash goin’ on, the peelin’ paint an’ weathered grey boards of Hap’s La Frontera jest didn’t stand a chance…less you’s lookin’ fer it.

Abby was, an’ despite ‘erself she near walked right past. She stepped through them swingin’ doors an’ stopped, sizin’ up tha place.

Despite the crumbling exterior, Hap’s La Frontera offered a careworn charm to those few who might cause its’ rusty door springs to creak. A broad mahogany bar swept the left wall, behind which numerous shelves told of a once robust selection of bottles. The walls held ornate tapestries which had begun to sag under their own weight and the daunting humidity. There were graceful fans suspended from a high ceiling, but the absence of clientele negated their use. The girl’s eye caught vacant Faeroe and poker tables. A staircase mounted the saloon’s right wall, leading up to a traditional whores’ balcony that cut across the barroom’s innermost wall.

An old piano sat untouched on the stairwell wall. Like every other piece of wood in the place, it revealed its’ exposure through a warp in its’ top. The final clue as to the old saloon’s former grandeur lay in its’ stage. A compact deck which held dented clamshell footlights, the little stage looked to be a variety space that might accommodate solo and small group performances. But, as the empty poster case outside would attest, those boards hadn’t been trodden in a very long time.

A tabletop fan shuddered at one end of the bar, it’s roar pushing a bit of air upon the handful of regulars. A rotund man in shirtsleeves soaked through with his sweat moved about, pouring shots. At sight of the teenager’s entrance, he ambled toward the foot. “What can I do ye for?”

Abby come aware of the half dozen sets ‘o’ eyes turned tah look her up an’ down. Fer a minute, she wished she’d changed outta them denim cutoffs and added layers tah her top. “Yew Hap?” she asked as she stepped up tah tha bar.

“Ever’ day,” he replied. “You drinkin’?”

She looked across tah them bottles on display. Ever’thin’ looked brown an’ prob’ly taste like kerosene goin’ down. Most like, she weren’t gettin’ no ‘Boom-Boom an’ vodka in this place….so whiskey it was. But that’s why she’s here, she had tah remind ‘erself as a familiar bottle hove inta view. “Yeah,” she answered tha old barkeep. “I’ll take a shot ‘o’ Blue Ribbon.”

“You sure, little lady?” The bartender give her the curious eye, an’ she could feel all them old fellas watchin’ ‘er.

Abby give a solemn nod. “My Uncle Bob used tah drink it. Told me about this place, so I thought tah come here an’ raise a glass in ‘is mem’ry.”

Hap wiped a shotglass with his rag, an’ reached fer tha bottle. “You’re the doctor.”

Abby studied the brimming glass he set afore her. Uncle Bob used tah warn ‘er ‘bout drinkin’ whiskey…his kinda whiskey in particaler. ”A good whiskey’s fer sippin’, Chick Pea. But this?” he’d waved tha bottle at ‘er, ”is pure-dee rotgut. Only one reason tah drink it…so’s yah best knock it back in one swalla.”

She smiled at tha mem’ry. Uncle Bob tole her lotsa stories an’…anec…anecdotes… ‘bout life, workin’, gunfightin’ and such, most times when he’s drunk. She always hadta clean up after, but afore he passed out he could be right funny. She lifted tha glass. “Uncle Bob,” Abby said, then lowered glass tah tap on tha bar afore she took tha shot. Fire burned all the way down. She choked, then doubled over, coughin’ an’ gaspin’ fer air as all them fellas started laughin’.

A hand slapped ‘er back as a voice chuckled “don’t pay them rubes no mind. Ain’t one of ‘em started any different.”

After one-two more coughs, Abby straightened back up. “Whew!” she gasped as her eyes watered. “Y’all like drinkin’ that?”

That set tha whole bar tah laughin’ again. Hap give ‘er a glass ‘o’ water an’ said, “long’s it does the job, young’un. Pardon me for askin’, but your uncle used to come here? Can I have his name?”

Abby gulped the water. It sorta helped with her blazin innards, but didn’t do nothin’ against the freight train ‘o’ that alcohol hittin’ ‘er. “Yeah, Uncle Bob said he come here sev’ral times. Tole me he had tah shoot a man out front once…”

“Blackjack Bob!” Hap’s eyes done gone wide. “You’re Blackjack Bob’s niece?”

“Sure’n I am. Name’s Abby Travis.”

“Travis. Your daddy was Jim? Yolanda’s your momma?”

“Yessir,” she weren’t sure if it was this surprise connection knockin’ ‘er off balance or that glass ‘o’ booze. But when them words landed, her jaw dropped right open. "Yew knew muh folk?"

“Yup,” Hap nodded afore his smile faded. “Did you say Bob passed?”

“He did,” she nodded. “Few weeks back.”

“Blackjack Bob O’Halleran,” Hap's eyes seemed th wander far off fer a spell. “Wǒ huì diào jìn shǐ lǐ de. And gorramed if you don’t take right after your daddy…’cept of course you’re lots purtier.” After things fell quiet, he spoke again. “I’m powerful sorry to hear about Bob,” the old man reached for the bottle. He laid a row ‘o’ shot glasses down, pourin’ each one full up. After dolin’ em out tah all them’s at tha bar, he raised his. “This here’s Abby. She’s Blackjack Bob O’Halleran’s niece, an’ she come here tah drink to her uncle’s memory. To Blackjack Bob,” he said, “Gunfighter, boat cap’n, and an old friend.”

“Blackjack Bob!” all them fellas roared.

“Uncle Bob,” Abby tapped 'er glass, an' swallowed that whiskey right down 'thout chokin'.

As tha second drink’s burnin’ it’s way through ‘er, he leaned forward. “You got some time tomorrah? They’s things I should show yah. Pictures and such.”

“Yeah…yeah!” she said. “Got work durin’ tha day, but I could be about near supper.”

Hap smiled. “Shiny. That’ll gimme time for to dig it all out. Your drinks're free tonight,” he reached toward the bottle. “Want another?”

Abby shook ‘er head. “Best not. Had two an’ I’m liable tah start singin'. Should git back tah my boat.” She collected her buckets and what she’d packed inside. “Thank yew, Mr. Hap,” she lifted ‘er free hand. “See yah tomorrah.”

Hap’s eyes followed the young woman through the swinging doors. “Jim and Yolanda’s girl,” he muttered to himself. “I’da never seen that comin’.”

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