Destiny: The Complete Episodes.   Posted by Into the Black.Group: 0
Into the Black
 GM, 465 posts
Sat 25 Feb 2006
at 23:13
Destiny: The Complete Episodes

Destiny

Destiny ….

If you would have asked Kale three years ago where he expected to be today he probably would have said dead.  But things didn’t always work out the way you thought … and sometimes that wasn’t a bad thing.  As fate would have it Kale had survived the war and found his Destiny.

Now he sat in one of the mismatched chairs circling the large table in the center of the dining hall of the ship that he had paid for in his own sweat and blood.  The protein pack sitting on the tables smooth surface has barely been touched.  He's sick of eating the bland meal, 'course there ain't anything he can do about improving the food situation, not 'til he could find his crew a decent job.  They could certainly use the money right about now.

Kale's father had always said: A man on an empty stomach is as good as worthless.  'Course his father also said if you got one finger pluggin' a grenade and another plugged in a woman, you drop the grenade 'cause a fine woman is worth it.  . . . He didn't always have the most sound advice.  Kale grinned at the memory of it, and picked up the protein pack once more as Ren, Destiny’s pilot meandered into the room from the bridge.  He took a quick look around and seeing the Captain crossed to one of the couches and slumped down.

“Hey Cap’, what’s the deal?”

"No deal yet, just some waitin' around.  S'posed to meet that ke wu de lao bao jun, Cortez at night fall.  Not lookin' forward to talking to him, but we need a decent job and Cortez always has an in." Kale ran a hand through his dark hair, and looked over at Ren.  "We also got a passenger s'posed to be dropping by anytime now.  Not too sure about him, but he offered enough money for passage that I wasn't about to turn him down." He grinned at the other man.  "Money talks."

Just then Kyoko walked in, moving gracefully as usual. She nodded to Reiner as she looked to the Captain. The calm at ease look on her face seemed almost serene as she moved to the counter and pulled out a kettle to make some tea.

"Captain, I wonder if you would tell me again why you refuse to discuss how long we will be planet side. I have to entertain clients to pay my rent." While it was technically true, her trust and the guild stipend would most assuredly keep that from happening. Still the captain didn't need to know it.

“I ain’t been refusin’,” Kale said, “Just ain’t had time.”

"I suppose then, denying me my clients will be enough to ask for you to give me a reduction in my rent?" Kyoko asked primly. "Or perhaps I could ask for some salaried compensation for the watches I stand, the aid I give the doctor and engineer in their duties underway?”  Kyoko said reminding him that she does pull her weight underway.

"Miss Monroe, I am not trying to deny you clients, just ain't got the time right now.  We all gotta make a living here and I believe the arrangement was you book clients when we stop off on planets ... for an extended period of time." he added hastily, realizing that they were indeed stopped ... on a planet ... right now.  "And hold just one second, I don't see how it's my fault that it takes you longer to figure out a client and get work then it does for me an' my crew." Kale shook his finger at the lady before him.  "and as far as salary is concerned, if you ever truly stooped yourself to a life of petty crime, I'd be more then happy to give you a cut, as it is though as I might mention you have pointed out on numerous occasions, you got your business to attend to and I got mine.  Let's keep it that way.  I like you on this ship, but don't like ya that much." Kale said with a grin.

Ren looked around nervously, “Should I not be in here for this?  I mean I could be plottin’ us a course for anywhere but this conversation up on the bridge if ya want.”

Kyoko ignored the pilots comment and stared down at Kale, a hard task considering she was half a head shorter than him, and shrugged. "I will remember that the NEXT time you need my .. clients to help you get suitable work."  Clearly deciding that the conversation was done for the moment she turned and headed back to her shuttle, many dialects being used as she muttered under her breath.

Ren watched her go feeling a bit anxious, he never had gotten to know the companion all that well and she certainly could be a testy one, Kale however didn’t seem the slightest bit phased.

"Ah, relax Ren, there ain't no problem here." he said, smiling at the man now sitting completely upright on the couch.

“’Course not.“ he said hurriedly, “So, right then, we go talk to the crazy man about a job, yeah?” Ren said getting back to being relaxed on the couch.

"Well, that‘s the plan." Kale confirmed.

“Hello?!” the voice came from the cargo bay.

Kale froze for a moment then looked at Ren. "This here conversation may not be a problem, but that unfamiliar voice out in the cargo bay most certainly is."  He stood up and quickly exited the dining hall calling out as he did so: "That best not be someone stepping onto my gorram ship without permission!"

Sure enough a young man with meticulously styled blonde hair and dressed to the nines stood on the ramp of the cargo bay.  He grimaced slightly looking around, a rather dingy piece of fei wu if you asked him.  But it was supposed to get him off-planet, which was something he needed ... now.  He adjusted the collar of his expensive linen shirt and looked up as a man he presumed was the Captain leaned over the railing of the second level deck looking over the cargo bay.

Kale smirked when he saw the passenger, he was so dressed up he might have been going to a ball rather then seeking passage on an 'ol girl like Destiny.  So this must be Kyron Bates, he mused, the man who had offered such a ... tasty payment in return for passage.  Kale smiled though, just 'cause he knew who he was, didn't mean he wasn't gonna give him a hard time about comin' onboard his ship without permission.

"I suggest you take a few steps back, boy, and get off the ramp to my boat." Kale said in what his crew would immediately recognize as a mock threatening tone as Ren came up behind him to see what was going on.

Kyron just stood there dumbly for a few brief seconds.  The Captain's face was set however and he did not seize staring Kyron down, so he slowly took a step or two backward down the ramp.  This was not the reception he had been expecting.  He cast a nervous glance over his shoulder as he did so at the bustling streets of the Eaves Down Docks, and spotted two soldiers heading down the street.  He immediately stopped backing up, trying to stay as out of sight as possible.

"Excuse but I'm, er, I'm Kyron.  Kyron Bates, I believe I booked passage with you.  That is correct, right?" puzzlement crossed his face and his light British accent rang through the large cargo bay.

While Kyron backed down the ramp Kale made his way down the stairwell and onto the metal flooring of the cargo bay, his boots clanging loudly.  "I know damn well who ya are.  First, rule of my ship though, you don't come onboard without asking first ... nicely." he added.  That'll do, he thought, got him off-balance.

 'Course Kale had also noticed the way the man stopped dead when he saw those friendly soldiers coming down the street.  And that meant only one thing - he was running from something, but he was paying good money for no questions asked - so Kale would ask no questions.

"You can step back up into the cargo bay, Mr. Bates, ain't no need to stand out in the street." he flashed a grin up at Ren who was still standing up on the deck.  The pilot refastened his gun in his holster and figuring the captain had everything under control headed back into the dining hall.

Kyron sneered at the Captain.  "That's quite a welcome, Captain." he said as he walked back up the ramp and into the cargo bay.  "Might I remind you I am paying you good money, too good of money if I might say so myself."  He eyed the man before him, trying to decide if he'd be trouble or not, trying to size him up.

"You might say so but that don't change a thing.  This here is my boat and if you want to be aboard her, no matter how much you pay, there are still some rules.  I ain't asking any question, am I?  I'm holding up my end of the deal." Kale said, not liking the mans attitude one bit.

Kyron nodded curtly at the Captain.  "Where shall I put my things?" he asked, "I will have them loaded on board once given a destination."  He tried to stand at his full height, although it was still shorter then the man in front of him.  You're the bigger man, he told himself encouragingly, you're the one with the money.  Plenty of money, he smiled at the thought of it.

"Passenger quarters are right through them doors." Kale said, motioning behind him.  "You can take any of the bunks in there that you like.  I'm sure you'll find all the necessary accommodations, ain't never had anyone complain." He studied Kyron then openly, trying to decide what it was that he didn’t like about him.  Could be just the pretty-boy hair cut ... but maybe it was something more.  Kale knew to trust his instincts.

Kyron was eyeing the Captain as he made no move to disguise his obvious study of him.  "Is there something I can help you with, Captain Galway?" he said curtly.  Not wanting to spend too long under that scrutinizing gaze.

Kale didn't answer right away, just continued to study the man before meeting his eyes.  "Just trying to decide if you're friend or foe." he replied honestly.

"I'm a friend." Kyron said, offering a charming smile.  "No need to worry." With that he spun on his heel and headed back down the ramp to procure his things and get ready to settle on board Destiny.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


When Ren returned to the dining hall he noticed Acacia had wandered in and grinned broadly.  “Hey ya beautiful!”  Acacia smiled up at him.

“What seems to be the problem?” she asked, noticing that Ren was re-holstering his pistol. “I don’t want you all to get beat up.  I’ll only end up having to reattach and sew things up.“

Ren laughed, “Nothing to worry about, it's just a fare not knowin’ how to walk on to a ship.”  He walked over to the couch then and slumped himself back down comfortably, picking up a manual for some ship or another and flipping through it - every once in a while stealing a glance at Acacia, who was calmly eating her small meal she’d just prepared.  She grinned at him mischievously.

“Are you feeling alright, Reiner?  Anything bothering you?  Perhaps an injury you need looked at?  I’ll be in my infirmary later.” she said.

Ren smiled, “Well, other then me arm being broke in two places, I’m fine as a feather.” he said jokingly, barely looking up from the manual he was perusing.

Acacia grabbed her bowl of protein and slumped down next to him, “Poor baby,” she said, lightly blowing on his ear after first checking to see if the coast was clear.  Her and Ren had been secretly seeing each other for months now and it would do no good for anyone to be walking in on them like this.  No one was around though so she smiled evilly, leaned back and continued to eat her protein.  “I wouldn't want you to be in pain.”

Shivering from the playful blow on his ear Ren said, “Sometimes I think you are the pain.”

“Me the pain?“ she reacted with mock innocence, she turned to face him and in a confidential yet playful voice added, “Now don’t forget my Hippocratic oath to do no harm.” she smiled, and Ren returned the grin.

Then, changing the subject he said, “So, the cap's hired an extra gun hand, think there might be some trouble in store?”

Acacia sighed, “I only know that extra guns mean that I’ll probably end up stitchin’ people back together.”

“That is one of your two jobs ya know... but I don't know... just makes me nervous a bit.” Ren said, while shifting a bit, mostly just to feel Acacia next to him. At least there is something comforting on this ship, he thought with warmth.

Acacia leaned in closer, ready to spring back though if someone walked in, “and what would my other job be?” she asked in a lilting voice, not wanting to talk about new hired guns. She was going to love to see what Ren had to say to that one.  Only job she knew of was stichin’ people up.

Whispering now Ren leaned in as well, “Bein’ the prettiest zhen de shi tian cai of a saw bones a man could ever call home.” He smiled intently into her eyes then for just a moment before regaining a more guarded pose.

Acacia sighed, she was lucky, this life was hard and it was truly a blessing to not be alone.  As usual though she couldn’t stop herself thinking of how much better it would be if her and Ren could just get their relationship out in the open.  “So . . . when are we telling everyone?  Think the captain would approve?  I can't get a read.“ She leaned over to his ear again, “These are important questions … cause I think I love you.”

“I uhh . . .” Ren looked away and blushed, “O, zhe zhen shi ge kuai le de jin Zhan.” He fidgeted a little, “I love you too.” he said and put his hand on hers.

“But?” Acacia prompted, knowing that it was coming.

“But . . . yeah, don't know how the cap' would take it though. He’s a good man, but he runs a strict ship…”

Acacia sighed in slight frustration, but knowing that she didn’t want to get into this with him just now she merely looked at him again before straddling Reiner. Wrapping her arms around him and planting her lips right on his. She then leaned back to his ear, “You definitely need to be in my room later … I can behave till then lover-boy” she pulled her leg back over and rested it sitting on his lap.  Yep someone should be walking in any minute now, she thought, not really caring however, this felt good - it felt right.

Ren absolutely melted.  “I'll be anywhere ya want, sweet heart.” he held her as close as he could.  Wow, she's never been this foreword in the ship before.... wait a minute  “I mean, I enjoy the attention, but isn't this, right here a sure fire way to get found out... unless you wanna get found out" He gave her a big grin, a kiss, and slapped her playfully on her bum.

Acacia smiled, crinkling her nose up. “I think I might be making you nervous, maybe I should leave my big strong ace pilot here alone to stew in his juices.” That oughta get him riled up enough. she thought smugly.  “So I guess I should leave then, okay?“ she doesn’t though, instead she snuggled even closer.

“Sweetheart, you make me a lot of things. Crazy, happy, frustrated, amongst others... but nervous? Me? Nah... Honestly though, I should go check on the cap' he's been down there awhile, startin’ to get a little worried.”  With that he gave her another kiss, swung her through the air and set her back down on the couch next to him before getting up.

Acacia grinned, “So then in about 2 hours in my room?” She said standing up behind him, of course she only came up about to his shoulder blades, “Ni ta ma de tian xia suo you de ren dou gai si I hate being so short.”

Ren laughed, “I like your height.” he said, and then pecked her on the cheek.  “Two hours.” he said and began making his way back out to the cargo bay.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The room had been pretty clean when Geoff had first got on the ship and been shown into it. It had been a nice and neat room that looked like it could have been sterilized by a medical officer. It would've been nice for it to have stayed that way. It's unfortunate then that the next inhabitant of this bunk would be Geoff Wolfe.

It didn't take him long to make the room look more like his. "More like his" meaning "like a gorram junk heap". The floor was littered with his discarded clothing and a few empty bottles of liquor that he had brought with him from the bar last night and drank very fast. Despite his drunken stupor, sometime in the night, Geoff had apparently had time and the presence of mind to put up some of his favorite posters. He carries them around with him from ship to ship and they give him a bit of comfort and familiarity to hold to. Not to mention the fact that, being posters of scantily clad women in provocative poses, they gave him a number of other feelings that he had learned to enjoy.

At the foot of the bed, his duffel bag sits nearly full to bursting. Clothing only takes up a small amount of room in the bag. Perhaps only a quarter of the bag's contents is clothing, meaning only about two changes of clothes. The next two quarters of the contents were the tools of Geoff's trade. In other words, guns, knives, and other general "make people hurt now" tools. Two pistols and a small box of shells for them, a knife, a crowbar, and a blunt object made of wood that he found in a bar brawl one time and decided to keep, to be specific. To top off the contents of his duffel, about three bottles of liquor that he brought with him from the bar. All in all, everything Geoff needs to live a pretty good life.

His bed had remained unmade, the sheets having been kicked off onto the floor as Geoff slept in his drunken stupor. The blanket and pillow, however, he had used and continued to use right now as his recumbent form lays under the blanket, light snoring being heard from beneath it. The fight of the previous day and the drinking binge in his new bunk afterwards had taken a lot out of him and he had slept long and deeply. At least, he had been sleeping long and deeply.

Now, with the sound of shouting voices from outside, he groaned and stirred under the blankets as he opened an eye slowly. "Ugh...what the ruttin' hell's goin' on? Wait a second...where am I?", he muttered to himself as he stood up and looked at his surroundings with still tired eyes. It took him a little while before his hung over mind could retrace his steps and piece together what had occurred the previous day, but he eventually did and a smile graced his face. "Oh, yeah. The fight with those guys. Got me a job. Hmmm. I get jobs like that a surprisin' amount, come ta think off it.", he muttered with an amused shake of his head as he gathered up his clothes from the night before and got dressed quickly.

When he was completely dressed in his loose gray pants, worn brown boots, sleeveless black shirt and, as the final and most important touch, his gunbelt, he nodded curtly in approval and went to his duffel. He extracted the two pistols, checking them and loading the six shooters before holstering them low at his hip, and the sheathed knife, which he placed through his belt at the base of his back. Geoff knew what he had been hired for, after all, so he thought it would be appropriate for him to show that he's equipped for the job and willing to use said equipment. After a final check over himself, he nodded again and grinned to himself as he exited the bunk, heading for the cargo bay that he had been led through yesterday and hoping that he'd find the captain or somebody else who could help him get acquainted with the ship.

He wandered around a bit before stepping into the cargo bay at a slow swagger, noticing the captain (or at least the guy he remembered as the captain) on the lower level of the cargo bay. He moved at a relaxed pace down the stairs and to the captain with a bit of  grin on his face. "Uh...cap'n?  Leastwise I hope yer the cap'n. Just wantin' ta see if I could get acquainted with this here boat o' yers. Don't want ta be gettin' lost in here, after all." he said in a lazy drawl and then looked down the ramp at the finely dressed Kyron gathering his things, "'Less I'm interupptin' somethin', that is."

"Ah, Geoff." Kale said, "You ain't interrupting nothin'." He cast an unsavory look down at the man walking down the ramp of his ship.  Then shaking his head he looked back up at the huge boy as he came strolling lazily up beside him.  "We were starting to think we lost ya." he said with a grin, "You been holed up in that bunk of yours since last night, 'course that's sometimes the result of a good fight and hard liquor." he winked at Geoff but then his face turned serious. "However it’s a might nice to see you out and about, we all pull our weight around here, ain't no one gonna be playing in their bunk all day."

Geoff nodded with a half grin on his face as he gave the captain a light salute. "Sure enough, Cap'n. I know how it works. I pull my weight or I don't have no job. I don't have no job, I don't ruttin' eat! That's the way o' the world, ain't it?" he remarked with a light laugh. Geoff then shrugged a bit and looked about the cargo hold with a nod. "Seriously, though, Cap'n. Don'tcha worry 'bout me. Ya hired me on ta this crew ta do a job and I'll do it, most likely with a smile on my face. I enjoy my work, after all." he said with a wry grin.

Kale smiled, "You'll do alright, kid."  He then walked to the small door on the right side of the cargo bay and opened it to reveal a small storage room.  There a ton of crates stacked up in there which he pushed aside before pulling off a false wall.  "Now about that tour ... This here is where we stow the big guns." he grinned at Geoff.  Behind the panel were a few, obviously makeshift shelves loaded with most of the weaponry on board Destiny.  "Thought it'd be a good place to start, 'course, I can see you already got some choice weapons.  A little extra fire power never did hurt no one though..." he paused, then smiled, "Well, you know what I mean."

Geoff followed the captain into the room and whistled a low appreciative whistle as Kale pushed aside the crates and revealed the makeshift shelves full of weaponry. "Ai ya....that is an impressive amount of weaponry ya got yerself there, Cap'n.", he said in a light tone as he walked up to the shelves to get a closer look at some of the weapons, "Some really good stuff ya got here. Now, I got my own, as ya pointed out, but I'll definitely be lookin' into gettin' my hands on these when the job calls fer it. Like ya said, a little extra firepower never hurt." He looked over some of the more impressive bits of weaponry, the rifles and such that Geoff couldn't afford normally and that he definitely couldn't carry around with him without drawing attention to himself, and a wide smile came upon his face.

"Heh. Ya know, if ya throw in some liquor and good lookin' women in addition to this pile o' weaponry, I just might consider workin' fer free....", he said wryly and laughed.


"That a promise?" Kale laughed, and carefully replaced the paneling and stacked the crates back up in front of it.  He backed out of the storage room.  "This here is obviously the cargo bay, air lock controls there," he resumed the tour, pointing to a control panel against one wall.  "There's another storage room like the one we just came out of through that door, and up them ladders are the engine rooms.  You been upstairs - bunks, bridge, shuttles.  Through those doors are the ladies bunks, passenger quarters, and infirmary." he placed his hands on his hips and just took a moment to look at his ship.  He smiled proudly, and said almost to himself, "Ain't no finer ship in the 'verse." then turning back to Geoff he added, "That about does it.  She ain't no cruiser, but she's the best."

Geoff followed the captain and looked in each direction he indicated, mentally noting his words as he identified where everything was. He then smiled lightly as Kale asserted that Destiny was the best in the universe. Geoff had heard that very same assertion from many other captains in his short career of moving from ship to ship. Whether this ship would actually turn out to be the best or not still remained to be seen to Geoff. "Yeah, Cap'n. This is a mighty fine ship ya got here. I think I'll like it here quite a bit.", he said with an easy smile.

Just then Kyron made his way back up the ramp, luggage in tow.  He said very little though as he took in the very intimidating and large man that Captain was now conversing with.  Kyron carefully skirted around the pair of them saying quickly, "I'll just be in my quarters settling in." and disappearing through the back doors.

Geoff watched Kyron curiously and noted that he seemed a bit nervous around him and the captain. He gave the man a quizzical look and furrowed his brows lightly as he passed, studying the man idly. He gave him a light nod in greeting and then looked back to the Captain.

"Kyron Bates." Kale said as the well-dressed man disappeared into the passenger quarters as Geoff nodded lightly, mentally taking note, it would probably be a good idea if he could learn the names of the people he’d be spending a load of  time with in the black. "Bought passage yesterday, a snooty hun dun<I> if I ever saw one, but I'm thinkin' he's most likely harmless." his voice was casual, but he knew that he'd be keeping an eye on the man, if only for the sake that he must be runnin' from something and Kale could do with a little less trouble, not more.

"You had anything to eat yet?  We got uh, protein, protein, an' …. more protein."

Geoff shrugged lightly to the Captain's offer of food and smiled,  "Heh. Such variety on the menu. Like a ten star restaurant." he said with a laugh, "But I ain't picky and I am a bit hungry so lead the way. I've learned that it's best ta get a meal when ya can. Never know when it could be yer last in my line o' work, <I>dong ma
?"

Kale laughed and nodded, and started clomping up the stairwell toward the dining hall, followed by Geoff.  As he swung around the corner he ran into Ren coming out toward the cargo bay.  "Ah, Ren, still aroun'.”

“Oh, hey Cap’, just comin’ down to look for ya, thought there might be a problem with that hou zi de pi gu fare you brought on board.”

“Nah, ain’t no problem.” Kale said, then he remembered Geoff and moved aside to allow the man entry into the room, “This here is Geoff, new recruit I was tellin' about." Kale said, "Geoff, this is Ren, pilot.  And that little vixen is Dr. Acacia Keese."

“Little Vixen, eh?  I'll ignore that one captain, or at least I'll try to the next time you are needin’ some stichin up.” Acacia said with a slight quirk of her brow before standing up,   “See you boys later.” she said and walked out, heading towards her bunk.

Ren watched Acacia go before turning back to the new guy, “Geoff, nice to meet ya, you must be the new gun cap' was jawin on about yeah?” Ren stuck his hand out in greetings to the new member of the crew.

Shaking the proffered hand Geoff smiles, "Pleased ta meetcha. Geoff Wolfe, like he said. And yeah, hired gun. That's me." he remarked with a friendly tone. The pilot and the doctor were definitely two people Geoff wanted to be on good terms with. One made sure he stayed alive in the ship and the other made sure he stayed alive after he had been on a job off of it so it wouldn't do to be unfriendly to either of them.

"Nice to see ya'll make friends." Kale said with a wry smile and walked over to the cabinets.

“One big happy family here cap'.” Ren said, and Geoff grinned lightly and shrugged following after the captain.

“Well, Cap’n, I’m usually the friendly type … ’less I’m paid to be otherwise, dong ma?“ he said with a chuckle.  He looked about the small room as he walked slowly across it, finding it a bit more comfortable than he expected and figured he'd probably be spending a lot of time in here if not in his bunk. It had a table to sit at and food so he'd be happy.

“Speakin’ of being paid …” Ren said, “Ships gotta run Cap‘, meanin’ we need some cred ... You thinkin’ on goin’ up an' talkin’ to that liu kou shui de biao zi he hou zi de ben er zibastard?” Ren said as he slumped himself back down on the couch, “Cause I'd be happy to go with ya, ya know, get off the ship for a spell.”


Kale pulled a protein pack out of one of the cabinets and tossed it Geoff who caught it and looked at it with a shrug.  He didn’t necessarily like the bland mixture of the protein pack, but he wasn’t choosy about things like that either.  He knew that eating this would be better then nothing.

Kale looked to Ren then.  "I ain't never taken you to see my good 'ol buddy Cortez, have I?" he said with a grin.

“Can‘t say ya have, but I‘ve heard all the stories.  He bein‘ one of your more level headed friends an‘ all.”

Kale laughed at that and considered the pilot for a moment, "I was gonna take Rhaef with me, but Rhaef always gets to see all the action, this'll be in and out.  Why doncha' come?"  he looked over at Geoff too, "You might wanna come as well, I'm sure Rhaef can hold down the fort while we're gone.  Ain't quite time yet, but sun's almost down."

“Thanks cap' it'll be good to stretch the legs a bit, nice fresh Persephone air an all.” Ren got up, and gave a long full body stretch

“Sure, Cap‘n.  Sounds good.  I could use a bit o‘ fresh air offa the boat myself.” Geoff added with a light smile, agreeing to accompany the captain to meet this Cortez guy, whoever he was.

“Good to hear.” Kale said.

“When we leavin‘?” Ren asked.

“Sundown,” Kale took a seat on the couch, “Ain’t got long to wait.”

“Good then.” Ren said with a nod, “…I’ll be right back, gotta hit the head.” he said and left the dining hall.

Kale waved nonchalantly as the pilot left and called after him, “You got ‘bout thirty minutes before show time!” then he proceeded to amuse himself by taking his gun out of its holster and spinning hit around his fingers, periodically catching it in his rough hand, before spinning it again.

Geoff nodded lightly and threw the protien pack down on the table, already finished with the tasteless meal. He walked about the room and took in some of the details for later use. He also took the time to look through the cabinets idly to see if maybe somebody had a stash of liquor somewhere. He knew it was probably a long shot to find alcohol in great abundance onboard, knowing that the captain probably couldn't afford it in large quantities and that more than a few crew members would be running around drunk if there was liquor aboard. Himself, included most especially.
Kale watched Geoff meander about the room, when he looked in the cabinets Kale spoke up, "Ya 'ain't gonna find nothin' of interest in there, boy.  Unless you fancy some more protien.  We're runnin' a bit dry righ' now."

Geoff looked to Kale with a light grin and a resigned shrug before moving to sit at one of the chairs at the table. "Well, that's a damn sham, Cap'n. It's okay though. I brought my own fer the ride. It should tide me over fer a bit. So long as I drink nice and slow. Heh. Though I ain't one used ta takin' it easy with drinkin'. Heh. You know about that though, seein' as how you were there in that bar last night." he said with a laugh.

"You take it easy with that stuff while on my boat.  Ain't nothin' wrong with a drink now an' again but I don't plan on havin' a ship all tied up in a fang zong feng kuang de jie." Kale said quite seriously.

Geoff just shrugged and nodded to the captain at that. "Fang xin, Cap'n. I know ta keep it in moderation when we're on a job. Business before pleasure and all that.", he said and then grinned wryly, "But it's nice ta have a bit of the stuff when we're deep in the black, dong ma? Otherwise, I may get a bit stir crazy. I don't get much action in the black, after all so it's natural ta get a bit antsy. That's what the liquor’s fer."

Kales grinned, he liked the kid.  And most of the time his instincts about people weren’t wrong.  "Well, Destiny here sees a lotta action, I promise ya, you ain't gonna be bored ... even out in the black."


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Acacia got into the cabin and shut the door, catching her breath. The whole thing had her all hot.  She took off her clothes and got into a silk dressing robe she had on the door.  Grabbing a book out she decided to pass the time by reading and resting on the loveseat.  My love should be here soon.

She didn’t have to wait long for a gentle rap to sound on her door.  Acacia smiled, looking up from her book.  She quickly closed it and walked to the door.  She opened it, and checked briefly to see if there was anyone around.  Seeing no one she grabbed Ren by the shirt and yanked him in right into a big kiss.

Enjoying the kiss greatly Ren let himself be in the moment for a good long while. “Hey ya sweetheart, that was a mighty fine hello.”

“Shut the door and get you cute butt in here,” Acacia said with a positive leer.  “You're early but I'm not complaining.”

Ren wasn’t complaining either as he quickly shut the door and got his but inside, “Came early cause the cap' wants me to go meet some crazy friend with him later. But this is a far better proposal.”

Acacia undid her robe, revealing the lingerie underneath, “So in other words, we don't have time to waste then do we?” She walked over to her bed and lounged on it, Ren grinned and crossed to her, he gently placed a hand on her cheek and kissed her passionately, allowing the moment to take them both over.

About thirty minutes later as promised, Ren carefully untangled himself from Acacia and made his way back toward the dining hall to meet up with Kale and Geoff, his only thought was of how much he loved that girl.

He entered the room and noticed the two men were still sitting around talking,  Kale looked up however noticing that Ren’s hair was a bit tousled.  12.  Looks like Kyoko won the bet, the crew had had a running bet on how many times Ren and Acacia would sneak off in the course of two weeks.  Today being the last day it looked like 12 was the lucky number. Kale grinned slightly to himself.  He wasn't completely thrilled with the idea of two of his crew members becoming romantically involved, but he would be damned if someone had to follow an order that didn't sit well with their very being.  He knew first hand how bad that could be.  'Course, he didn't have to tell Ren and Acacia that, much more fun to let them think they had the whole thing under wraps.

“Hey guys.” Ren said, then he smiled, “I got something I wanna grab, wanna share it with ya.”

"What is it, Ren?" Kale asked, Ren didn’t respond though, just disappeared into his bunk.

Stepping inside Ren closed the door and surveyed the room for a moment. Hrmmm... belarius engine grease i think... that should hit the spot. Ren then sauntered over to the cabinet under his bed and shuffled through a bevy of labeled mason jars. “That’s the one,” he said, picking out a particularly nasty looking brown liquid filled jar. He opened it, took a sniff, and suffered a full body shiver from the ensuing... zest. Closing the jar he headed out of his bunk.

“Thought we might want some moonshine to consummate our new member.” he said with a grin, stepping back into the dining hall. He plopped down on one of the seats around the table, opened the jar said, “Gon beh.“ with a mischievous smile on his face and took a swig from the jar. He then had a full body shiver, set the mason jar down and slid it across the table to Geoff, “Drink up puhn yoh.

Kale grinned as Ren pulled out the mason jar, took a sip and then pushed it to Geoff.  The man was famous for his mason jar drinks.  "You ain't seen this kid in action yet, Ren.  You're lookin' at a pro, ain't even your stuff gonna take him down." Kale said still smiling, and Geoff grinned lightly at the praise, well deserved he would say, of his drinking skills.

“Sounds like he'll fit perfect.” Ren let out a single ‘HA!’ and waited for Geoff to take a drink of the good ole' belarius engine grease.

Geoff looked at the mason jar with a grin and took it in his hand gingerly. "Heh. Well, boys, I gotta tell ya. I'm good at three things. One is fightin' and two is drinkin'." he said wryly and then chuckled lightly, "The third...heh, well that ain't meant ta be discussed in polite conversation unless I'm good and drunk. So let's see if this batch o' sauce ya got can do the trick!"

He then smiled widely, raised the jar to the two men in a toast and took a deep drink. Geoff is not one to do things halfway, after all. He put the jar down on the table with a lopsided grin on his face and a light cough. He blinked a bit and then laughed lightly as he looked to Ren with gleeful eyes. "Ai ya! Ya make this gorram stuff yerself!?" he exclaimed and then clapped a hand on the man's shoulder, "Ya know, ya might just be my new best friend 'round here, if ya can provide more o' this stuff!"

Kale laughed heartily with the two men. Then stood up, not taking a drink himself.  "Alright gents, I think that's enough for now, we got us a job to go get."

Ren gave Geoff a friendly nod and said, "Alright boss, I think we're good an' warmed up, where we headin?" He capped the jar, got up and waited for his captains orders.

"Ain't far, just off the Eaves Down Docks, seedy little tavern called the Lyin' Lair, but better known as Cortez's Lair to folks like us." He grabbed his duster off the back of one of the chairs where he had left it earlier and pulled it on.  "You go put that away." he nodded at Ren, "Oh and Ren, might wanna grab a pistol.  No big guns, these guys are business partners ... they don't always play nicely though.  Best be safe."

"Dang ran, cap'" Ren said as he pet his sidearm "I'm packed and ready, you shiny Geoff?"

Geoff nodded as he stood and stretched, grinning lazily. "Yep, all set. Never leave my bunk without them." he remarked as he gestured to the pistols at his hips, "Ahh, ya know, a good drink is always a great warm up before a job. Let's get to it then!" he said with a laugh. He was indeed very anxious to get up and get on with whatever would be laid before him. He was the kind of guy who thrived on action, after all.

"Shiny." Kale said with a grin, and lead the other two men into the cargo bay.

Kale then lead the way out of the dining room, with Geoff and Ren following close behind.  He was walking with a purpose now as he hit the lower level, this here was time for business.

"Charlie!" he yelled as he reached the ramp, he knew she was probably up in one of the engine rooms. "You tell Rhaef he's got the ship 'til I'm back if you see him!"  Rhaef would already know that but Charlie was a good person to leave a message with if you wanted someone to get it, "and oh," Kale added, "Kyoko won." He said, in reference to the bet that he and the rest of the crew had all placed.  Kale chuckled a bit at that and then headed down the ramp and out onto the Eaves Down Docks.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Somewhere, amidst the purring of the engines that keep the ship humming, is that space that is moreover considered Charlie's space.  If you saw her room, you would be rather disappointed; a bed, a dresser, nothing out of the ordinary.  It could quickly get mistaken as a guest room, were you to not know that it was taken.  That's because most everything of Charlie's has wound up here, put about in crates to the side, along with blankets and some thrown-about clothes.

Charlie sat with her back against a wall, hair pulled up in a mess as a crown on her head, and her blue coveralls covered in stains that could be either fresh or from two years ago.  Her toolbox was open, and she was slowly going through all her pieces, doing the cleaning she'd been meaning to do for days.  The oily rag, only marginally cleaner than the tools themselves, going over the metallic wrenches and such, wiping grease stains away as best as it can.  Nothing has necessarily been hectic for her, just that new passengers always cause a bit of commotion aboard this boat.

She could hear most anything that happened in here.  Anything that was really important to her, at the least.  The cargo bay was right below, and the bridge straight ahead; anything that was said above a whisper usually traveled well, and most things were said thinking that no one else was listening.  Not that she was a sneak, or anything like that.  There's just certain things that you can't help overhearing from time to time.

She'd stayed up since Kyron came aboard, sticking to her engines until she thought he would be elsewhere.  She had no grudge with him, nothing even close to that; after two years, she had learned when the Captain was being cautious about something.  Being that she preferred to stay away from any kind of scuffle, she found it easier to stay out of the room until things had cooled down.

Her thoughts were interrupted some time later though by the sound of Kale calling up to her and some of the crew setting out.

With the rest of the crew out of the way, Charlie slid down the ladder's rails and onto the catwalk, stretching out from toes to arms over her head, letting out a yawn.  The ship, when void of those out on a mission, usually got pretty peaceful.  She usually took these times to not work on the ship, and do whatever she felt was necessary.  At this point, of course, it was to change the greasy coveralls for the less-greasy ones.  It would be an idea to go find Rhaef and pass on the captain's message, but it was an understanding that he was in charge.  If Rhaef hadn't been alerted to the Captain's leave, then there were bigger things at issue than the chain of command.

With her clean clothes tucked under her arm, she decided that the better idea was to find food first...at least something small to nibble on.  Charlie moved down the catwalk to the lower floor, to get some food out of the dining room...

Charlie walked into the dining hall, dropping her clothes in an empty chair to free up her hands, beginning to dig through the pantry.  She brushed a hand on the top of Acacia's head, flicking red hairs into her eyes as she passed.  "Hey you."  She gave a quick smile, not bothering for much more as she passed by.

Acacia flipped her hair out of her eyes, “Hey Charlie, what's up.” she said, lounging on the couch. “A good day in the engine room?”

"Of course it's okay.  The day it's not is because I'm not here anymore."  she smiled, starting to poke around to find something that wasn't reprocessed garbage, but actually had some kind of substance to it.  It only takes a moment to decide that Rhaef won't miss any of his apples, taking one and rubbing the edge against her sleeve, somehow finding a clean spot that won't leave a dark mark on the red surface.  "Did they say how long they would be?"

“Nah, no one ever tells me anything, but if I have to patch ‘em all up I'm not going to be happy.”  Ren, better not get himself shot up, she thought.

Kyron strolled into the dining hall then and took in the two women. "Er, hello, I wasn't expecting... well of course there would be people about." Kyron straightened a bit.  "Kyron Bates." he introduced himself.  "I suppose you are of the Captain's crew?"

“What?  Oh, yeah … we are.” Charlie seemed a bit taken aback by Kyron’s introduction, holding the apple over her mouth as she spoke. She managed a bit of a smile, brushing a lock of dark hair out of her face.  Being not only around Acacia, but a well-dressed man, she couldn’t help but to feel like the ugly stepsister covered in grime and other things from the engine room.  “I’m Charlie.” she muttered the phrase out, taking a bite of the apple.

“And I'm Acacia, Acacia Keese,” Acacia said as she crossed over to Kyron and held out her hand.  “You just come on board?”

"Indeed." Kyron said, taking the woman’s hand and kissing it lightly. "I thought I'd come up here to find if there was anything decent about this ship, preferably in the form of food."

“Mostly we have protien, protien, and when want something new and different we have......mmmmm, more protien.” Acacia said laughing.  “So enjoy those apples now, they won't last.” She sat back down on the couch with her glass of water.  “So, ya like protien?” she asked.

"I can't say that I do, but I suppose it will suffice." Kyron said crisply.  So not the best accomadations.  The crew is friendly enough however, he mused.  He walked towards the cabinets and Charlie took that as her cue to get out of the way, sliding back toward the doors that would lead her into the cargo bay.  "'Scuse me, I can be in the way...I need to go get some stuff, so..."  Charlie took a step out of the doorway, giving them all a little salute and a smile.  "You know where to find me."  And without much more of a goodbye, the mouse made it's way back to it's hole.

“Aw, Charlie.” Acacia said, as the mechanic left, but then turned her attention to Kyron.  “So where you heading, Kyron?” she asked, trying to strike up conversation with the passenger.

"I have some business to attend to out on Beaumonde." Kyron said, taking a protien pack from the cupboard and handling it with disdain. "Your Captain said that it would be no problem to deliver me there in a timely fashion."

“I'm sure it won’t be, we have a top notch pilot, and an awesome mechanic, who you just met, and the crew works together very well, so I'm sure we will get you to your destination.“ she said.  She was proud of this motley bunch she worked with.  “So don't worry, you should do what I do and when they are flyin' … I just stay out of their way.”


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kale glanced back at his ship as he entered the mass of people still on the docks even though its nightfall.  A man on a horse trotted by kicking up dust and Kale coughed, then turned to his companions, speaking fairly loudly to be heard over the noisy docks.  "Ren's heard all the stories but I gotta tell ya, Cortez is ge zhen de hun dan, a few screws loose too if ya ask me.  He'll have guards, but don't pay them no mind, mostly fer show.  What you gotta watch for are the ones ya don't see, trust me, they'll be there, hidin' in the corners."

"Dark and mysterious? On top of the crazy? I can't wait..." Ren said while taking in fresh (ish) planet side air...

Geoff nodded lightly to the captain's words as he looked about the docks. "Fang xin, Cap'n. I'll keep an eye out fer that. That's my job, after all." he remarked with a grin and a nod. He had had to deal with clandestine meetings for jobs before, being a big and intimidating guy made him choice as a bodyguard, and he was quite used to watching his back at such places.



"Ain't worried, just cautious.  This should go smooth though.  Cortez an' I are on good terms." He dodged a kid that went running across his path, "Last time we did business he almost stabbed me with a samurai sword," Kale laughed, "Ah, good times."

"A sword? Rung Tse Fwo Tzu Bao Yo Wuo Muhn...  I don’t remember that story, how come I don’t remember that story?“

“Guess I didn’t tell it.“ Kale said with a roguish grin.

“So I should've worn my pointy proof jacket, huh?" Ren commented.

Geoff shrugged and chuckled lightly at that. "Sword, eh? Swords are okay, I guess. Ain't nothin' better than a ruttin' pistol at my hip, but a sword'll do the job. Plus, it gives a kinda satisfaction to the job that ya don't get with the shootin', dong ma?" he said with another light chuckle as he pushed his way through the crowd after the two men.

Kale laughed and pushed his way through the crowd until he spotted the familiar old rambling building.  Warm light and loud music could be heard coming from within the Lyin' Lair's walls.  He stopped outside of it. "Well, this is the place boys." he said and smiled.

Ren looked around at the shoddy construction of the place and then said "Great cap, I'm all filled with confidence"

Geoff just nodded as he followed after the captain and Ren, his hands automatically going to hang near his pistols. Geoff was always really sure to be ready for trouble. Whether or not he was the cause of the trouble or not, it seemed sometimes.

Kale walked through the tavern.  People were milling about everywhere, most in some state of drunkenness.  A scantily clad lady danced atop the bar to music being played from somewhere that he couldn’t see.

Ren looked around amused, then caught Kale’s eye as he looked back at his crew and nodded his head in the direction of a door at the back of the large room.  When he reached the door a man, apparently passed out in front of it cocked one eye up at him.  Not so drunk after all. Kale mused.  The man's sure to have some sort of device on him to alert Cortez of visitors.  Kale stepped over him and opened the door and passed through.

A dark hallway lay ahead.  He walked through it till he got to the end where two heavily armed men stood guard.

"Captain Kale Galway." Kale identified himself, "I'm here to see Cortez, talk a lil' business." the men said nothing but nodded him inside.

"Evenin’ gents... right proper establishment you have here" Ren said and walked back with Kale.

The room they emerged into was dark, and cast in shadows.  Against many of the walls were crates and the like.  Against the back wall was a table which served as Cortez's place of business.  And all along the back wall was where the man displayed his large collection of antique swords.  There were cronies lurking in the all the dark corners and guarding each of the two doorways.

"Hola, amigo antiguo." Cortez said, looking up at the three men stepping into the room. "Captain Kale Galway, you practice sword now, no?" he grinned widely, his gold tooth glinting in the dim lighting.

Ren eyed the man warily and looked over to Kale for his response while ever so slightly shifting his weight to make ready to draw his pistol. How long is it gonna take for this to go south? Ren thought warily.

"Can't say I do." Kale said, "Always preferred a good pistol to one of them fancy things, that's where you an' I could never agree, you jus'-" Kale was cut off abruptly as a small bladed sword went flying through the air towards him, the cool metal gleaming as it turned end over end.  He just barely stepped aside as it went whistling past his ear to land sturdily in the wall behind him.  "Liu kou shui de biao zi he hou zi de ben er zi!" Kale shouted, turning a fierce glare on the man standing behind the table in front of him.

Cortez shrugged mildly. "You are quicker this time." he said, "never underestimate the power of a blade, comprende?  Like a dog, it might bite.  Woof." he said in a deep, heavily accented voice.

“Whoa, hey now…” Ren said as he placed his hand on the heel of his gun, ready now to draw if things got any worse.  Cortez raised an eyebrow, noticing as the two men beside the Captain's hands went to their pistols.  Kale held his hand out to stop Geoff and Ren from doing anything however, keeping his eyes fixed on Cortez.  Cortez nodded his approval of Kale’s decision to stop his men from drawing their weapons.

"You are also smart. It's smarts that get you what you want." he took a sip out of an ornate goblet on his table and licked his lips, savoring the flavor.  "And what do you want, Captain Galway?"

"I ain't dancing no tango with you Cortez.  I'm here to do business, plain and simple." Kale said, his face is a mask of calm now and although his hand isn't on his holster his fingers are ready to spring at the slightest chance that some sword comes sailing through the air again. "Whattaya got?  Big bucks, Cortez, don't skimp on me."

Ren flicked his eye's nervously between the two, now realizing why he so enjoys piloting the ship … and staying on the ship …

"Ah, business man, eh?  And here I thought you were a cuerva común." Cortez said with a smirk.  "So you want the big bucks, no?  There's a man on Valon, grandecrate, grande secrets, grande money.  You pick up, you deliver.  Business, plain and simple." he quoted the man with another toothy grin.

Geoff was definitely not all that enthused about how things seemed to be going. A sword thrown at the captain he's working for never bodes well, after all. He  kept quiet as he allowed his gaze to travel around the room, watching for the unseen guards that the captain had talked about.

"How much money?”

Geoff's attention came to focus more on the conversation between the captain and Cortez when money came into the picture. Geoff, while not necessarily a greedy man, was always glad to hear about some profits that may be coming his way. He grinned easily and kept his gaze moving about the room, though he listened intently to the conversation now.

“And where am I goin' ta be taking his hunk of metal?" Kale asked, still eyeing the man coolly.

"Ah, ah, ah, Captain." Cortez said, wagging a finger. "Grande secret." he intoned.

"Which is just code fer 'you don' know', ain't that right?" Kale said.

Geoff gave a short laugh at that comment, grinning easily. He laughed, but also was a bit worried to hear just how much of this job seemed to be unknown, either because the information was "secret" or simply because of the informant's ignorance. He shrugged lightly at that thought, knowing that, if he was really honest with himself, the unknowns just made the job that much more interesting...

Cortez merely smiled. "I assure you, Captain Galway, it will be well worth your time and effort.  Best job I've got, right now, only for best crew though." he said.

"That ain't flattery, Cortez, that's just trickery.  Words don' mean a gorram thing to me.  Money talks, amigo, money an' big guns, ain't that right, Geoff?" Kale said, he was not prepared to take some scam of a job.

Geoff grinned wryly and nodded as he stood casually, his hands resting on the guns that sit in their holsters. "That's ruttin' right, Cap'n. Nothin' speaks louder, if'n yer askin' me." he remarked in a lazy and confident drawl.

"Ain't that just so." Kale said, "So what the plan here is, you give me the details of this here job, or you stop tryin' to scam me and set me up with something decent-like."

"Tsk, tsk.  You disappoint me, Captain Galway.  No scam for old friend." he snapped his fingers and a man came out from the deep shadows in the back right corner of the room, causing Geoff to arch a brow, grudgingly impressed with the skill the hidden guard had to have had to hide his presence so perfectly.  Geoff had never had much skill with the silent and hidden stuff, preferring the loud and outright style of doing things.  It was far more gratifying to do things that way after all.

Cortez whispered something in the mans ear, the man disappeared back into the shadows and Cortez looks back at Kale.  "I see we do not have the trust.  So I will aid that ailment." the man returned with a small box, Cortez took it from him and opened it.  "200 in unmarked.  Tempting, is it not?  So confident am I in this job that I give this to you now.  When you come back with rest of payment we will work out my cut."

Geoff could barely stifle the wide smile from coming to his face at the sight of the money. While it seemed a lot of money to him, Geoff didn't know if the captain would want to haggle for more or something like that. So he kept his face in it's usual lazy expression and waited to see what the captain said to Cortez's offer.

Kale eyed the man suspiciously, "Let's see it." he said, and the man at Cortez's side took the box and held it in front of Kale.  He took one out of the box, examining it.  It was the real thing.  "Well, ta ma de." he muttered under his breath.  Then looked back up at Cortez, "An' you just let me walk with this?"

"With understanding that you do job.  When cargo is safely delivered I am wired payment, you come back to me to receive the rest." He smiled at the Captain's raised eyebrows, "Oh, yes, there's more.  Grande money, Captain." Kale nodded and Cortez's man handed him the box. "See, not so hard."

Geoff grinned lightly and shrugged. "Well, that'll do fer now, eh, Cap'n?" he said with a casual tone.

Kale stashed the box in one of the many pockets of his coat and looked back at a Ren and Geoff, the faintest smile playing across his lips.  “You got yerself a deal.” Kale said.

"I was wonderin' if he could throw in that sword he threw. I mean, it's pretty nice and he did throw it away..."

Kale grinned at Geoff and said before turning to go. "Oh, and amigo next time you feel like throwin' daggers you pick yerself a new target." He nodded at Cortez, “Pleasure doin’ business with ya.  We’ll be in touch.”

Geoff shrugged and smiled to Cortez, giving the man a loose salute as he walked backwards out of the room. "Yeah, pleasure doin' business with ya. Seriously, it was a ruttin' blast havin' this time with ya. So that's a 'no' on the sword, right?", he said in a joking tone before waving his hands dismissively, "Ah, well, don't answer. I'll be back fer it when we're done with the job anyway. Wrap it up fer me, ok? Xie xie." He then moved to follow the captain out of the room, back down the hall and out onto the docks.

Ren sauntered out onto the docks behind Kale, happy thinking about the money and that not being dead was right pleasant as well... There is just somethin about that Cortez I don't trust... dunno... maybe it's the swords, he thought, then looking at Kale "Hey cap' don't got the best feelin’ bout this one... Everything ku?"

"'Course not." Kale said with a wide grin and pat Ren on the back, "But that ain't anythin' new now is it?  Money's real enough though.  Jobs most likely a suicide mission."

Geoff caught up with the two men and grinned widely. "A suicide mission? Heh. Those are my ruttin' favorite. That's gonna be a gorram good time!", he said in an enthusiastic tone of voice and laughed lightly.

"Oh great, mine too... come to think of it... ain't that how I met ya? Savin’ your ass from a suicide mission?"  hrmmm... think maybe I'll just stay on the ship for whatever it is in store for us. Ren thought as they meandered their way through the docks back to the ship.

Kale smiled, "Just a way a life." he said, "'sides, Destiny can get us to hell an' back, ain't that right?  We do this job, we get more pay, more pay means more of everythin' pleasurable." Kale spotted his ship from the streets and started cutting a course towards her.

Geoff shrugged as he shoved his hands into his pockets. "Well, I'm all for the pleasurable things in life. That includes the gettin' the money fer the pleasurable things. Ain't nothin' more fun than the gettin', dong ma?", he said with a chuckle. Inwardly, he was less then enthusiastic about being stuck in the black for any amount of time. He never had anything to do during that time and that always made it easier for him to do something stupid, usually involving liquor, a female member of the crew, or both. He'd have to make sure to watch himself.... Kale was trudging on ahead though.

"We get back on, you start setting course." he said to Ren, "We're headin' back to the black."

"My pleasure cap, Valon was it?" Ren said as he stepped over something awful on the street.  wonder if that’s pre or post cooked dog, he thinks.

"That'd be the one." Kale said to Ren and grinned at Geoff, and the three of them walk up the ramp to Destiny.

Once inside Ren once again felt safe. The metal walls around him fit him so much better than the open and chaotic outside. Home sweet home, glad to be in, glad to see Acacia for even a moment. he thought, as he headed to the stairs and up to the dining hall. "Hey cap' I'm headin’ up to the bridge, getting’ us off this rock."

As he reached the upper level Charlie stepped back onto the metal grating of the walkway, having climbed to the second-story catwalk that led to the higher shuttles, not to mention the engine rooms.  She sat there, watching the doors as she slowly made her way through eating the apple.

"Hey Mei Mei.,” Ren said, seeing Charlie, “Time to get the engines warmed up, we're headin’ off this rock... some border moon named Valon." he gave her a scritch on the head causing Charlie to smile and bump her temple against her knee as he passed.  She’d known Ren the longest out of anyone on board, excluding Kale and Rhaef, and to call their relationship anything short of “brother-sister” would be a lie to everything that had happened in the last two years.

Kale interrupted her thoughts though … as usual she thought with a grin.  "Destiny good an' healthy?" he asked her. "This is gonna be a bit of a trip."

Geoff was a little less enthused about that prospect then Kale and Ren seemed to be.  He wasn't made for the long stretches of peace and quiet in the black. He was made for bar brawls and loud crowds. He shrugged to himself though, knowing that he would probably have some action soon enough, if the job turned out like he thought. He then smiled to himself and looked about the cargo bay, wondering if there was a spot for him to stash some liquor in the wide open space.

"Of course, Captain.  When has she ever done us wrong?"  Charlie stood up, crossing her arms for a moment, and noticing the figure down stairs.  Leaning over and crossing her arms on the railing she asked, “You another passenger?”  She exchanged a look with the Captain.

Geoff laughed and shook his head lightly as he walked over to join them. "Nah, I work fer my passage, thank ya very much.  I'm Geoff, Geoff Wolfe. Cap'n hired me yesterday after a bit o' a rough spot in a bar. I guess I musta done somethin' impressive 'cause he hired me as an extra bit o' muscle. I don't rightly remember. I was drinkin' more than a bit, dong ma?" he remarked in a friendly tone as he held a hand out to Charlene to shake.

“Ah, Charlie, you ain‘t yet met Geoff.  New recruit, like he said.” Kale added.

A smile creeped on her face as she slid onto her belly on the catwalk, reaching out and just touching Geoff's hand.  "I'm Charlie."  She slid back up, and looked at Kale.  “I'm taking by your pace this isn't a 'go, go, go we're in a rush' takeoff?  Those are always a bit more harsh on her than I like...then again, how far out is Valon?"
"Ain’t too far off, just like making sure my 'ol girl is well." Kale said.

"Just like any other woman, Captain.  You treat her right, and she treats your kind right back.  You know that." Charlie said with a smile, and started to make her way back to the engine room with a light wave.

Geoff gave the woman a light salute as she left. "See ya later then." he remarked with a grin and then looked to the captain.

"You wanna close 'er up?" he said to Geoff, "You know how it works right?  Or do ya want a tutorial?"

"Ya might want ta show me. I was never trusted much with the mechanics o' things. My old captains were afraid I'd get drunk one night and open it up and kill us all. I'd never do that, but my previous crews weren't exactly the most trustin' o' people, dong ma?" he said, slightly more seriously and Kale laughed, that’s what was wrong these days, no trust.  Kale had always been of the thinkin’ that you had to trust your crew, they kept you flyin’.

Geoff glanced back in the direction that Charlie had gone, "So, what does she do on the ship....besides improvin' the scenery, I mean." he asked, and Kale cast a sideways glance at him.

Charlie and Kale went way back now, he was a bit over-protective of the girl sometimes, and as much as he liked Geoff, he didn't want to see Charlie hurt by a man with an appetite for women.  He was sure Geoff noticed his odd look, but that was fine.  "She's the mechanic, right good one too.  She's a real nice girl, too nice." he stopped talking there, but he was sure the message got through.  Charlie's too nice for you so be careful around her.

Geoff just continued to grin easily, but he noticed the look the captain gave him.  Ah, I see. Too good for the violent drunk with loose morals. Ok then. Sure enough. Don't want to be crossin' a line when it looks like ya may have a good thing here, Geoff. So keep that in mind, he thought as he followed after the captain, who not wanting to pull down the mood was smiling by the door controls.

"This one closes her up, this one opens her.  These ones here seal the air lock, and ramp controls are right below it.  Trust you can handle shuttin' her up." Kale said.

Geoff watched as the captain explained the controls and how they worked and then nodded. "Sure 'nuff, Cap'n. I got it. Seems simple enough." he said as he sidled up to the controls and did as he was told. Geoff can pick up most simple tasks easy enough and closing up the ship isn't all that difficult, after all.

There was a light static sound then followed by Ren’s voice over the comm system, “Attention everyone this is your friendly neighborhood pilot speakin'.  Please close anythin’ that might suck us all out into the vacuum of space, as we're takin’ off the minute Charlie tells me I can without blowin’ the whole ship up, that is all…”

“I love my crew." Kale said to Geoff in response to Ren's smartass remark over the intercom.  As Geoff closed up the hull, he started making his way up to the bridge then, climbing the stairwell towards the dining room.  As soon as Geoff had everything all closed up, he followed suit.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Ren had immediately made his way to the dining hall after coming back on board Destiny and was pleased to see Acacia there talking with their new passenger.  “Hey Doc, heal any good ones lately?”

Acacia looked up and it took all her willpower not to pounce on Ren, she was so relieved he had no bullet holes.  “Heya Ace, how ya doin‘, nope all the ones on this ship are all in one piece,  and I'm assuming you aren't dragging someone in here who is all shot up.”  Acacia said, trying to hide her relief.

"Nope, all shiny.“ Ren grinned, “Gotta go make the ship fly now... if I can remember how." he smirked as he grabbed the mason jar from the table and brought it with him as he walked through the room, lightly and seemingly accidentally brushing Acacia’s leg as he passed her.

Acacia's eyes lingered on Ren just a bit too long, “Yeah, ok have fun,”  she turned back to Kyron then, “See, I knew we would be off soon.”

"Charmed." Kyron said, as the pilot walked up to the bridge with a jar of liquor in tow. Very reassuring.

"Oh and Kyron... if this is your first time on a transport, you may want to sit down during takeoff, or ya might take a nasty spill." And with that Ren headed off towards the bridge, his true home.

He ain't kiddin'.  I took a spill the first time I was on for a takeoff.” Acacia said.  She settled herself on the couch.  She loved takeoffs now,  She really wanted to be up on Ren's lap during the takeoff though.  She remembered the time they had been able to sneak that once.  Nothing had gone wrong and it was such a sight.  But, with the passenger here, the rumors would surely start.

"I suppose I'll, er, take his advice then." Kyron said and sat beside the Acacia on the couch fiddling with the packaging of the protein pack.

Acacia sat beside the man in silence for a few seconds but realizing that no one else was coming in she decided to sneak up to the bridge with Ren, “I'll be back.” she said and ran up to the bridge.

Ah, Kyron thought, watching her go,  just what our pilot needs, more distractions.

It was only a short while later that Kale came stomping up the stairwell and trotted into the room, noticing Kyron sitting on the couch, “Came out of yer bunk, did ya?  Well that's nice, best be makin' friends." he said, pausing in the doorway.

"Er, yes." Kyron said, he set the protein pack down and turned to the Captain. "Captain Galway, I believe I heard your pilot mention Valon.  That is not where we're headed now, is it?" he watched the Captain's face, hoping that this was not their destination, he had said Beaumonde, Kyron expected Beaumonde.

"Most certainly is." Kale said, "Don't worry it ain't much out of the way."

Kyron looked at the Captain blankly. "It is a days ride in the opposite direction, explain to me how that is not out of the way?" Kyron said slightly bewildered, they could not possibly be going to some back water planet. "You said Beaumonde." he reminded the Captain.

Kale shrugged, "Guess I said wrong." taking in the other mans obviously worried look though he tried to adopt a more friendly approach. "Some business came up, we'll be quick and then we'll be on our way to Beaumonde in no time." He nodded at the man and then made way for the bridge.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Ren strode onto the bridge feeling right at home. He took a seat in the pilots chair and neglected to strap himself in, he always preferred to fly by the seat of his pants. Surveying the displays around him he slowly began manipulating the knobs, switches, and dials that would bring his flying home to life.

He wasn’t alone for long though as Acacia quietly snuck up behind him and she put her hands over his eyes, she whispered in his ear, “Guess who?” her hair just brushing Ren’s forehead as she leaned over him.

“Ha! Hey there... what are you doin up here?” Ren said, sounding a bit startled and making sure he didn't accidentally turn the engines on he then looked up behind him happily at Acacia.

Acacia doesn’t get a chance to answer as the mechanics voice comes over the comm, "We're online, Ren.  Don't take us through atmo too fast, though...we're not necessarily short on fuel cells, but depending on how backwater our next destination is, I don't know if we'll get a chance to reload there..."

Ren picked up the comm-link and replied,  "Sure thing mia mia, oh and hey, power was a little weird in engine two last time we took off, sure you handled it, but just wanted to let you know, so you can keep your eye open"

"Aww, someone not man enough to handle our little baby?  Everything is good here.  When we land in Valon, I'll get outboard the ship, take a look at things from there, make sure that everything is in shape.  Until then, try not to kill us...can you do that, baby bear?"

"Well I'll do my best, no accountin’ for skill though" he said with a laugh and set the comm-link down, “So, ya up here to see the sights, sweetheart?" Ren said to Acacia while going through the pre-flight check and slowly powering the engines up.

Acacia sat in the chair next to him, “I was thinkin‘, yeah I know that never ends well, but I was thinkin’ how you were alllll alone up here, so I thought, unless someone told me to leave, I was thinkin’ ‘bout watchin’ takeoff from someone's lap, ya know like we did the one time, when we took off from Whitefall?” she looked up at him hopefully and gave him her best, hopeful little girl expression.

Ren just smiled and allowed Acacia to reach over and rub his nearby shoulder. “Here we go baby, I know you are the best.” she said, and leaned over to rest her head on his shoulder.

"This is nice, risky... but nice" Ren said as he turned his head to kiss Acacia on the cheek.

Acacia whispered, “I guess we would just have to come clean.”  she giggled.  As long as no one was hurt she pretty much only had to keep her area in order, and help out with whatever the Cap came up with so for now she had the time open.  She rubbed her cheek on his shoulder and he laughed a little.

"And then we'd die... cause the cap' would have a fit, while I'm tryin’ to take us out of atmo, and then we'd crash... all poetical like..."

Kale was coming down the hallway now and could hear Ren and Acacia’s quiet voices up on the bridge, he grinned, then stomped loudly up the steps to warn them of his presence.

Ren jerked quickly away from Acacia and began checking random gauges, as Acacia straightened up as well.  At the same moment Ren said,  "Now I don't know if there are any medical supplies where we are goin' you best ask the cap' 'bout that"

While Acacia said, “Wow Ren, you were right, you really do get the best view from up here.” and started acting like she was sight-seeing.

Then again at the same moment they both tried to correct themselves, Ren saying, “Well, you know, there are windows here, can see out of 'em an' everythin‘, ya know for a doctor...."

And Acacia saying, “Now that Ren mentions it, do you think that we are gettin some med supplies?”  they both looked sheepishly at each other and Kale shook his head.  They were bad liars.

"Acacia, what are you doin' on my gorram bridge?" Kale asked as he entered the room. Smooth, guys. he thought with a wry smile as they both pretended to carry on two completely different conversations, it was everything he could do not to laugh.

“Oh Captain, I didn't know I wasn't allowed up here, Ren had told me the other day the amazing sight you get from the bridge as you go through the atmosphere.”   Acacia didn't move to get up.

"Ain't really no rule against it but I don't see a Doc havin' much business up on the bridge, pilots got some flying to do.  An' I dunno about med supplies, far as I know they don't got no decent medical facilities on that planet at all.  You runnin' low?"

“Nah, just always want to know, in case I have to use a lot on this voyage.”  Acacia looked back. “ Ren, I see why you decided to be a pilot - it is this view.  It is incredible.”

Looking out over the stars Ren said, "Well the view, and the insurance... great coverage bein’ a pilot mainly cause we rarely leave the ship."

Acacia looked at the Captain who was still standing behind them, “Captain, is there something I'm getting in the way of?”

"'S’pose not." Kale said to Acacia, he ran a hand through his hair and turned to Ren, "Looks like alls in order up here, smooth sailin' to Valon.  If you need me, I'll be in my bunk." he smiled at them both, "Enjoy the view." he said and left the bridge.

“So now we are alone, should I lock the door to the bridge?” Acacia said quietly once the captain had departed.  She looked longingly at Ren, she really needed to be touching him right now.

“This is my favorite part.”  Ren chuckled, getting up and grabbing Acacia by the waist, giving her a warm kiss.  He set her down and she straddled him on the seat and returned the kiss, before settling with her feet over the arm rest and lounging comfortably.
“Ah, let's ride the whole way like this.” she said with a small smile.

"As nice as that sounds, and trust me, it sounds nice... we should probably go be sociable with the rest of the crew and passengers." Ren kissed Acacia again and then set her down, stood up, set the auto pilot up to alert him if anything he ain't expectin’ came and then started to head out to the dining hall. Grabbing the comm on his way out he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, it's official, no one is piloting this crate"


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kyoko sometime later came into the dining hall, once again well cleaned and dressed. While she had hoped to get clients on the world they had just left, she had to admit that she had made a mistake in her confrontation with the captain. Without finding out where they were going she had no way of planning ahead. Her duties required her to do more than simply secure clients she was out here learning the 'byroads' these ships ran so to advise the guild on how to expand out here as society expanded.

She mulled these thoughts over as she walked into the kitchen and set a kettle on to boil, fishing out another of her rare packs of seasoned tea. She had made arrangements to get regular deliveries of a variety of 'essentials' over time, but they hadn't had enough time for the one bound to the last landing to arrive.  Something to think on for later, retaining agents who are willing to set up offices closer to the landing.

Geoff had been sitting at the table, having taken out the knife at his back and tossing it up and then catching it as it spun back down, when he noticed the arrival of somebody he had yet to meet. A very good looking woman, if he could believe his eyes. Considering he hadn’t been in the black long enough to start seeing things, he figured the woman before him must be real. He grinned as he snatched his knife out of the air once more before replacing it in it's sheath at his back. Heh. Well, now is as good as time as any to introduce myself…, he thought as he stood up and made a cursory attempt to brush himself off before approaching Kyoko from behind.

As he reached her, he slipped a hand low around her waist, pretty much placing a hand on her ass, and chuckled lightly. "Hello, there, pretty lady, I don't think we've met. Geoff Wolfe, at yer service. Now that we got the formalities outta the way, how’s 'bout you and I go somewhere ta get better...'acquainted', eh?” he said in a light tone.

Kyoko spun in place, her right hand taking the stranger's by the thumb and with practiced ease she had it in a lock and pushed him downward with almost casual ease. Her left hand was an open palm strike poised over his face. She smiled as she looked down at him

"My name is Kyoko Monroe, I am a licensed companion and I am suspecting you're the new.. hand hired for the crew. That means I'm off limits to you, and even if I wasn't.. you do not engage in negotiations with a companion in such a manner.. is that understood?" she asked politely with a smile.

Geoff hadn't been expecting such a maneuver from the woman, but, even if he had been expecting it, he doubted he would've been able to do very much about it. As it is, he fell to his knees, grunting lightly with surprise and pain as he did so. He looked up to the woman with a nod. "Ugh...uh...I gotcha, ma'am. Quite a social blunder I made, in other words. Sorry 'bout that. Never happen again unless invited. Ya got my word on it." he said and then smiled wryly, "So can I have my hand back now...unless yer plannin' on doin' somethin' of a pleasurable sort with it. That don't include breakin’ it, mind you...though I ain't really adverse to rough stuff, either..."

Rhaef wandered out into the dining room then, "Good, I see you two have met.  Had I known you were dancing I would have brought my harmonica."  Rhaef said, seeing Kyoko applying a wrist lock on the new hired hand.  "It seems like the Captain will need to rethink which jobs he gives to whom, now won't he."  He said as he coolly pours himself a glass of water.  "Perhaps you and the lady should exchange occupations, that is... since she's dishing out the pain and you're on your knees..."  Rhaef swallowed the water smoothly, refilled it and leaned against the counter so he faced the man and woman as they continue their martial waltz.

Kale came out as well then, having just headed off the bridge and hearing commotion out in the dining hall. He grinned as he heard Rhaef . . . well being Rhaef.  "I see you've met Kyoko." he said, grinning at Geoff, "I'm gonna have to ask ya to unhand him though, he ain't no use to me in a shootin' match if he can't use them hands ‘a his."

"Don't worry." Kyoko said as she let him go, letting gravity go to work. "I'm sure he can be his surly self without my aid." she added primly as she collected her tea and retreated to a corner to sip it daintily.

Geoff felt himself fall down and caught himself quickly with outstretched hands, wincing slightly as the hand that had been in the lock impacted with the floor. He stood up with a grin, rubbing at his hand lightly with a neighborly nod to Kyoko. "That I can, ma'am.  No help needed for that..." he remarked and then chuckled lightly. He then looked to Rhaef with a bit of a cool glance and a wry grin. "Ya know, that's some sort o' record ya set there, friend. Only been in yer presence fer a few seconds and already I don't like ya. Nicely done. It takes real talent to be quite that big a hun dun," he remarked with a chuckle.

Rhaef wasn’t listening however, now focused on the Captain, having not gotten to speak with Kale since he came back, "I never got to ask you how it went with our contact?  What’s the plan?"

"Well, you know Cortez." Kale said, turning his attention to Rhaef.  The two of them had dealt with the man together more times then he could count, it was Rhaef actually who had saved his neck from the samurai sword incident last time.  "Xiong meng de kuang ren as usual." Kale kept his voice light hearted but he knew that Rhaef could read the look on his face that said: You and I gotta talk- now.  He turned back to the rest of the group, "Well, if ya'll 'scuse me, I’m off to my bunk for a bit a shut eye." he cast another meaningful glance at Rhaef and headed back into the hall to his bunk.

Rhaef watched the captain leave out of the corner of his eye before finishing the rest of his water, washing the glass, and returning it to its home in the cabinet.  Nodding to Kyoko, he slid from the dining room and into the passage leading to the crew's quarters.

Kale entered his bunk and plopped down on the bed with a sigh.  The room was obviously a very lived in room as it has been Kale's home for the past two years.  Through a small door on the right hand wall a private toilet and sink (not necessarily very clean either) was located.  The bed was covered in a hand stitched quilt that was made by Kale's mother all those years ago and his firearms cleaning kit lay open on his nightstand beside his pistol.  Kale smiled at the room, it wasn’t much … but it was home.  He bent over then and started un-buckling his heavy combat boots, mulling over the events of the past hour or so in his head.  He half wished Rhaef had come with him to see Cortez, he could use the mans insight right now, he was a good reader of people, better then Kale truth be told and something about this whole job didn't sit exactly well with him.

As if on cue Kale heard a quick rap on his door, “Come in.“ he said and Rhaef entered Kale's bunk and quietly closed the hatch behind him.  Moving into the room he looked for a place to sit in the unkempt mess.  It was always somewhat of a surprise no matter how many times he came in here how the man's room looked perpetually like a 12 year olds.

"I'll stand."  Rhaef mumbled as he pressed himself against the wall beside the door.

Kale grinned, "Wasn't gonna offer you a seat anyhow." he said.  Then he sat up, swinging his feet over the edge of the bed and leaning forward on his elbows.

"What did Cortez have to say?"  the First Mate asked, looking at his captain through furrowed brow.  He was studying the man as he spoke concentrating on the details of the conversation as well as the things on the fringes that didn't seem to important but often were.

"Sure you heard we're headin' to Valon.  You been there before if I recall correctly, ain't much to look at, not a likely place for a job.  Cortez was extra friendly 'bout it, we know Cortez ain't a friendly guy." Kale leaned over and pulled the box of un-marked off of his bedside table and tossed it to Rhaef.  "Gave me this up front ... it's clean and everythin'.  He didn't give me no details either.  Said it was a simple trip, taking some crate from one planet to the next.  Too simple, yeh?" Kale looked up at Rhaef.

"What told you that?  The friendly criminal who freely gives away unmarked money, or the fact that he says 'Its a simple transport?’”  Rhaef opened the box glancing at the money then let the lid drop shut before tossing it back to Kale.  "I should have gone.  With the lumbering hulk and flyboy I felt another would make Cortez feel uncomfortable.  You know how he can be."

Kale smiled. "And you know, it seemed like it was startin' so well.  He threw a gorram sword at my head and I did the whole dark angry look.  Felt like real legit business deal ‘til he started flashin' that gold tooth 'a his and givin' me pretty boxes." Kale shook his head, and set the box of money back on the table.

He looks seriously up at Rhaef, "You shoulda come." then he ran a hand through his hair.  "Deal is, when we get to Valon I don't want no one settin' foot off this boat, not one little toe over the airlock.  Kyoko won't be pleased but that's the deal.  You an' I go in, we get the goods, and we get the hell off that planet.  Don' know what to expect but I don' wanna take no chances with my crews life." he flashed a grin at Rhaef. "'Cept fer yours of course, you could die and it'd be no sweat off my back."  Kale laughed.

"The sooner I die, the sooner you and yours follow me.  Whose gonna keep you from running this... fine vessel into oblivion if I'm not watching over you?"  Rhaef can't help as the corner of his mouth turned into a small smirk.

"Fang xin, you ain't that irreplaceable.  Wouldn't want you walkin' around with the delusion of self-worth." Kale said, falling into their normal routine of witty banter and tossing insults.

"I don't think you have anything to worry about.  I think I'll be able to squeeze my head back through the hatch."  Rhaef reached up and scratched the two day old scruff on his face.  "Any guesses what’s waiting in the crate on Valon?"

"I've been thinkin' on it but don't have any real guesses.  Valon's got nothin' but rocks and minerals far as I knew.  An' carrying those is completely legit business, wouldn't be somethin' Cortez would be interested in, and certainly not enough to account for that box a' dough.  It's a clean planet Rhaef, can't imagine what'd they be trying to get off it that was worth so much." Kale leaned back to rest against the wall.

“Clean planets don't make for clean business.  It looks clean, and therefore makes a good way lay planet for those looking to switch ships, packaging or disguises.  Easy to get lost amongst all the rocks and minerals... so to speak."  A deep sigh escaped Rhaef's lips as he pondered the situation.  "Were you given dimensions or status of the package?  Is it a reefer, a hotbox, a simple wooden crate?  Is it the size of your boot or your bay?"

"You're goin' ta love this one-" Kale said leaning forward. "I don't know." He scratched his head.  "Cortez kept trying to dance around the topic.  Grande secret he said.  Truth is, I don' think he knew either.  The only information he sent me was that we are to pull into Harsdale. Our contact is supposed to meet us there.  Then we're supposed to go with him, get the package - no questions asked - load it on our ship and take it ta where ever it is he tells us to take it to."

"And you agreed to this?"  Rhaef snorted, "No details on size or contents.  Our contact knows us but we don't know them.  And we're supposed to blindly accept whatever they give us...  sounds like a simple mission."  Running his fingers through his hair he looks over to Kale.  "If I didn't know better, I'd think you WERE trying to get rid of me."

"Two hundred up front did it, guess you can say I like shiny things." Kale said, "'side's I figure it ain't nothin' Destiny can't handle ... jus' gotta be cautious that's all." seeing the mans less then confident expression Kale said "Fang xin, this'll be fun."

"Yes, fun for all.  Horrah and whatnot."  Rhaef turned and reached for the door latch.  Before he opened it he looked over his shoulder and said.  "I'll see you in a bit, right now I think I need to prepare my last will and testament."

Kale waved off Rhaef’s last comment, stretched out and tried to get some shut-eye.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Geoff walked onto the metal grating of the catwalk on the second level of the cargo bay, sighing lightly and looking around lazily. He made his way down the metal stairs at a casual pace as he drew his knife again and began tossing it from hand to hand in an idle manner. As he stepped onto the wide open space of the cargo bay floor, he began to whistle a slow tune and walk around the place casually. "What ta do, what ta do? The interminable boredom begins...." he remarked to the empty space of the cargo bay.

It wasn’t so empty though, as Charlie’s head poked out of the engine room door, looking sideways at the cargo bay, long hair draping down like a curtain or a tail behind her.  The sound of a voice, especially coming from an empty room, is definitely something worth finding out.  Besides, when one was speaking and no one else was in the room, that could mean a lot.  When it's hired muscle, and they might be potentially crazy...well, that's definitely something else all in itself that could shape up as a situation...

Geoff continued tossing the knife from hand to hand as he looked about the cargo hold again. "Gotta be somethin' ta ruttin' do round here. Enough ta drive a fella crazy, it is...oh, hell." he said as he saw Charlie's head peeking out from the engine room, causing him to miss catching the knife and sending it clattering to the floor. He looked after it with a light curse before looking up towards Charlie.

"Uh...yo. Heh, uh...didn't know there was anybody 'round here. Ya know, otherwise I woulda been talkin' ta them instead o' myself. Which is probably what got yer attention in the first place, huh? Uh...now I know it may seem a bit strange, me talkin' ta myself and all, but I was a bit bored and there was nobody else about. I ain't to fond o' bein' stuck out in the black, ya see. Get a bit bored and stir crazy...uh...maybe crazy ain't the right word.", he said and then sighed a bit as he scratched his head, "Uh...look let's start over. We didn't get a proper introduction last time. Geoff Wolfe, hired muscle, hired gun and all around drunken thug, nice ta meet ya."

Charlie smiled a bit, stepping down around the stairs as Geoff began to explain himself.  He was speaking as if she didn't comprehend, which was far from the truth...hell, she already knew she was older than him.  Boys will be boys, of course.  "Don't act so nervous, or like you need to explain yourself.  I'm just up here all the time."  She pointed back to the engine room door.  "Ain't much for me to do around here except keep Destiny running, and she runs like a dream, so...not much for me at times but to stand around."

She finally stepped down onto the ground floor of the cargo bay, hopping the last few steps, her boots resounding loudly on the grated steel.  She had changed from last night's greasy coveralls into something more casual, but something that wasn't meant for the wear and tear...then again, she had said there wasn't a lot for her to do.  She smiled again, walking over to Geoff and holding out her hand to him.  "Charlene Bourdain, but just Charlie works...it works for everyone else."

Geoff shook her hand with a sheepish grin and a shrug. "Didn't mean ta be nervous or such. Want ta make a good first impression though and didn't think talkin' ta myself would do it.“

"Right, right.  First impressions and such, I know them.  You don't need to worry, I usually don't peg people myself...the quiet one, you know me."  Charlie nodded, shaking back before she let go.

“Well, nice ta meet ya, Charlie." he said in a friendly tone "So, standin' 'round aside, what do ya do ta keep all this peace and quiet from drivin' ya up the ruttin' walls? Because, if ya got any tips ta help me with that, they'd be most welcome. Like I said, I ain't much fer bein' stuck in the black. Peace and quiet just rubs me the wrong way..."

Charlie set her hands in her back pockets as she looked back at Geoff.  "There's not a lot to do out here.  Read, write, think...all those sorts.  There's not a lot of drink, nor a bar, so I suppose you'd have brought your own sortsa spirits with you.“

"Ah, well. Readin' and writin' ain't never been my cup o' tea and thinkin' never leads ta anythin' good, in my opinion. Now, I did bring my own liquor aboard, but the cap'n was pretty clear he didn't want me drinkin' too heavy. Normally that's what I'd be doin', dong ma?  Drinkin' myself into a stupor so I could be blank fer the trip, but the cap'n says no and I'll respect his wishes. It's his boat, after all, and I'm just happy fer the job."

“ Well, other than that not much else, it's why we're all so close up here...you get to being around a group of people for so long, you start to think of them as family."  She shrugged looking back around.

Geoff grinned wistfully, nodding slightly. "Ah, family. Y'all must be close then. Heh. Must be nice. Can't say I've ever known the feelin', but I figure it must be nice.", he said before shrugging a bit as well.

"Surely you've got family.  Everyone has family, everybody comes from somewhere.  I mean...less they're dead, then I'm sorry to be bringing it up."  Charlie looked at the grease on her hands, taking note as she wiped them off on the legs of her jeans, looking almost embarrassed over it.

Geoff grinned lightly and shrugged again as she spoke of family. "I'll be damned if I know if my family is dead or not. They left me 'fore I could even talk properly and the only thing I remember 'bout 'em is the sound of the walkin' away. So never had a family ta speak of." he said with a sigh.

"Sorry, I don't mean to bring up bad blood on the family."  Charlie frowned as she spoke, getting quiet again as she looked down at her feet, biting her lower lip for a second.  She managed to continue, still keeping herself quiet.

Geoff shrugged noncommittally about the family comment. "Ain't no bad blood ta have. Can't hold a grudge if'n I don't know 'em. 'Sides, there ain't no point ta holdin' grudges. End up hurtin' in the long run." he remarked.

"I'm gonna guess you're not from a small planet, then.  You've gotta understand, I'm from the low side of Whitefall, part of the smalls.  We didn't have constant entertainment, so you end up making your own."  She had a bit of a satisfied smile, turning around to sit on the last step of the catwalk, resting her arms on her knees.

"The rundown piece o' dirt I begrudgingly call home, it weren't too big or too small, really. Just busy 'nuff fer me ta find a fight or a drink or somethin' else ta pass the time when I was growin' up."

Charlie wasn’t sure if this was really a subject that he wanted to be talking about so she tried to get back on safer ground and began talking about Destiny again.  “Well it ain’t too bad sittin’ on board, the biggest excitement is when we dock, though.” Charlie added, “but even then, I don't leave much...it's when I'm the busiest."

Geoff sighed and clasped his hands behind his head in a lazy manner. "Guess that just means I'm gonna have ta wait 'til we dock fer any excitement then. I expected as much. Not much need fer somebody like me in the black." he said in a light tone, "Don't leave much? Heh. That's a damn shame. Missin' out, if ya ask me. Nothin' better than hittin' a new port and seein' what there is ta be seen. Of course, if I'm honest, I don't usually much remember my time dirt side 'cause it's my chance ta get fresh liquor and I take advantage o' that in a big way.”

"Well, when we hit dock, it's one of the few times I can get to work on the outside of Destiny short of a suit.  When we're drifting like this, slowly heading towards our spot, is when I don't have any work to do.  You'll see when we land in Valon.  Of course, you're probably out with the captain, doing the strong arm part."  She smirked a bit.  "Don't worry, I don’ envy you at all."

Geoff looked to her with a nod. "Ah, I see. Guess I could see how ya'd be too busy ta get off of the ship when we hit dock. Bein' in charge o' keepin' this boat runnin' is probably a big job." he said with a light laugh, "Heh. Definitely far more complex than havin' ta play the tough guy fer the cap'n. Uh...just outta curiosity, there a specific reason ya don't envy me that position? Like some sort o' bad track record fer the hired muscle on this here crew? 'Cause that may be somethin' I wanna know..."

"Most of our help...they don't die, they just leave after a while.  Maybe we're boring, maybe we don't take the big money...I don't know.  I don't really enjoy guns, you know what I mean?  I mean...hurting people isn't anything I've got a use for, less they're trying to hurt me..."

He shrugged again with a light grin. "Understandable not ta want ta court violence. That's why they hire guys like me. Ain't nothin' else I'm good at, but killin' and hurtin'." he said and then smiled widely, “Can't understand anybody leavin' 'cause o' boredom though. I mean, first time out, cap'n got a sword thrown at him. That's excitement right there!"

"A sword?" Charlie looked back at Geoff, eyebrows raised.  "I didn't hear nothing about a sword bein' thrown at him.  I'm guessing that means Kale is alright, though, right?" The thought of the captain being impaled didn’t sit too well with her.  “Everything went down with work, right?  I mean, no one's killed or hurt, and we're getting paid, right?"

He looked to Charlie with a reassuring grin, "Oi, yep. Everythin' went off fine. Nobody hurt and money in tow. No problem."

There was an audible sigh of relief from the girl, shaking her head and rubbing the back of her neck.  "Some days, I hear nothing...'course, when everyone else is getting on board, I'm going to work, so I'm not looking to see who's holding the blood in there body where and such."  She looked back up at Geoff, giving him a nod.

Ren walked in then looking bleary eyed with his clothes at bit askew, fresh from one of his normal "piloting" naps. Quickly scanning the bay he noticed Geoff and Charlie having a conversation, and feeling in a conversational mood he walked over "Hey mia mia." he said to Charlie and scritched her on the head "Hey Geoff, how ya'll doin‘?"

Charlie leaned into Ren's scratches, smiling up at him, losing her quiet demeanor.  Whether shy or bashful or anything else, it doesn't take much to get a smile out of the girl.  "Hey baby bear.  We're just talking about...well, I guess we were talking about home, or something like that.  Nothing else but."  There's a slight shrug, tossing her head to get some of the dark hair out of her face...

Geoff gave the man a light salute in greeting. "Hey there, Ren. I trust we ain't gonna crash into nothin' or else ya wouldn't be out here, eh?" he said with a joking grin.

"Even if we did no one would notice out here... honestly, I'm not sure, we could die any minute," Ren said with a smirk.

Geoff chuckled lightly and nodded to Ren. "Nice ta be so reassured 'bout our safety there, Ren."

Ren laughed, “How ya likin' the ship so far?  'tween me and Charlie here you're lookin at the heart and brains of the ship." Ren looked over to Charlie then and gave her a playful wink.

“Hearts and brains, eh?  Which is which. That might be information I need to know later, after all."  He laughed lightly and then nodded again. "But, seriously, it's a good ship and crew ya got here. The passengers don't exactly seem to agree with me, but that's ta be expected.", he said.

"I only met one of our passengers, the blonde boy...he seemed quiet.  Took a liking to Acacia pretty quick.  Suppose I can't blame him, though...you put her and I next to one another, well, there's not much of a choice."  She shifted a bit, looking back up at the two.  "We have more on board for passage than him?"

Geoff nodded lightly and shrugged, "Yeah, I saw him. Kind of a prim and proper lookin' pretty boy, right?  He didn't seem too enthused ta be here, 'specially when he saw me. Gave me a bit of a wide berth, dong ma?  'Course, most people give me a wide berth so it weren't unexpected." he said and then chuckled sheepishly, "There was another woman that I assumed was a passenger. She said she was a companion and I don't much think she'd be part of the crew based solely on that fact. I tried ta introduce myself and she didn't quite take ta me. It may have been my approach, but I can't really be sure 'bout that...heh."

"I think he's talkin 'bout the occupant of the shuttle... ya know... our fair lady" Ren said with a chuckle and a nod.

"Ah, ya, that's Kyoko.  She's our companion.  She's been on a few months, sticking with us to get from place to place.  She's a bit more prim and proper, but she's also close with us.  You can trust her."  She smiled.

Kyron had stepped into the cargo bay then having heard mention of himself as he passed through the corridor. Pretty boy? Blonde boy?. Really, he was sure that he was very near the woman's age who made the comment.  He despised being called a child, he was nothing of the sort.  He cleared his throat loudly enough to draw the shoddy bunches attention.

Charlie, who was about to say more on Kyoko stopped when she heard the man. She stepped up and stood next to Ren, crossing her arms as she looked back at Kyron.  She was in something other than grease and coveralls, hoping to look a little more like a lady and less like an oil rag.  "Sorry, we didn't hear you come in..."

Geoff looked up as well at the sound of the man clearing his throat and grinned lightly to the man, giving him a light salute. Well, well. Speak o' the fancy pants devil. he thought with a light laugh, Wonder what brings him out ta grace us common folk with his presence?

Ren quickly turned his head to see what caused the cough and was the only one to speak, "Hey Kyron right? How's the trip for ya?" he said with a grin on his face.

"Superb." Kyron said dryly.  Not much liking that he was the topic of conversation.

"Er... Good" Ren shifted uncomfortably on his feet, Core world dandies never suit me... always makin us folk feel less than, "Sorry 'bout goin out the way on ya, but you'll be there presently I'm sure."

"Yes, I was rather hoping it would be sooner rather then later." Kyron replied in his crisp accent, "however, I was informed that you had, er, business to attend to." his voice obviously said that he did not believe that a ship like this could actually be involved in any real business.

"Business is what keeps the boat runnin’ my friend, without it, Destiny don't fly" Ren said just trying to keep things friendly, just bein around this guy seemed to make conversation more stiff and difficult though.  What do they teach people in the core, how to be tight wads? he thought, Geoff wasn’t helping much in the being friendly department however.

He grinned a bit maliciously to the man and spoke up. "Oh, yeah. Plenty o' important business we gotta take care of presently. This boat is much in demand nowadays, didn't ya hear? 'Sides, a little side trip never hurt nobody. Why ya might get some sight-seein' in and get some nice stories ta tell the folks back home like a good little tourist, eh?" he remarked with a hint of amusement in his tone. Geoff was definitely not one to let himself be cowed by a fancy Core-worlder.

"Oh yes, a regular pleasure cruise to Valon.  As though anyone would ever intentionally go there." Kyron said in response to the giants comment.  Feeling very indignant at his tone.

Charlie stayed mostly quiet, looking back at the rest of her crew and keeping her eyes off of Kyron for the most part.  Next time, she's not going to even think about dressing into something nice...besides the fact that her nicest clothes were old slacks and something that wasn't covered in work stains, regardless.  "We're simply doing work, transporting goods to those who need them.  Nothing wrong with that..." Charlie said, thinking more along the lines of Ren and trying to keep things light.  Geoff just plowed on though.

He continued to grin. "Oh, come on now, friend. Weather's right nice this time o' year. Hey, I bet ya could even find a nice shiny rock as a souvenir, if ya wanted! Ain't that an exciting prospect? Hell, maybe ya could even shine it up real nice and show it off ta yer friends ta show that ya actually seen what it's like outside the core. Wouldn't everybody be impressed by that?" he remarked and laughed lightly.

Think he'd be nicer if he realized the people keepin him safe in the black were talkin to 'im... pompous ass. Ren thought about saying but instead cast a look at Geoff that said he wasn’t helping much and tried to be polite, "Yeah, Valon is a bit barren, but people live there too, we all be needin things..." You waste of a perfectly good pair of shoes, he nearly added on but thought the better of it.

Kyron completely ignored Ren’s comment and narrowed his eyes at Geoff, he had had enough of the mans attitude, and found himself slipping. "Do not - presume - to know me." he said coldly.  Hmm, so much for exchanging pleasantries.  He had thought that he would try to be civil.  Or as civil as you could be with the uncivilized.  This is why he wanted to do more business in the core worlds.  The benefits were always better.

Geoff's smile never slipped as he shrugged lightly. "Well, friend, I'll presume what I like, thank ya. Ya don't like it then that's a bit o' yer problem, not mine...", he said.

Ren’s eyes widened in amazement and Charlie looked between Geoff and Kyron, frowning a bit as she raised her voice slightly.  "Boys...can we be just a little nice?  Come on, we're all stuck around each other for a little while.  Please?"

Geoff would have said more, but Charlie's raised voice stopped him. He just looked to her with a light grin and shrugged again. "Heh. I'll play right nice. No problem. No problem at all..."

"Ah, so you must be the giant tamer." Kyron said with a slight smirk, turning his eyes for the first time on the poorly dressed girl beside the two men.  He really had never been any good at playing nicely.

Geoff shrugged and nodded. "Right ya are there, friend. That she is! Ain't ya never heard o' that old time story 'bout the beauty and the beast? That's what we got right here. The little beauty makin' sure that this here beast don't do somethin' everybody here might regret. Dong ma?" he remarked with a grin that was anything but friendly.


"Call me what you want.  I just don't want anyone starting fights.  When moods aren't straight, the boat can feel mighty small, having to brush shoulders with everyone else.  I just want things to be shiny..."

Kyron smirked, "Oh yes, I believe things are... shiny"

Charlie looked over at Ren, giving him a look.  The classic ‘do something’ one that she throws when things have obviously left her realm of control...

"Alright you two, you both have very long and manly pistols, why don't we all calm down and go have a drink, shiny?" Ren said with a hint of urgency in his voice. If this gets out of hand the cap's gonna be really pissed.

Geoff snorted a bit derisively, but kept his mouth shut this time. He figured that Ren was right. He had started out just wanting to get a rise out of the man out of sheer boredom, but now he was getting on the border of losing his temper. That wouldn't do at all. So he kept his mouth shut, crossed his arms across his chest and looked up at the ceiling in a nonchalant manner.

"Hey uh, Geoff? Ya wanna come help me pick out a new mason jar to christen? You seem like a guy who knows his booze." Only thing Ren could think of in the moment but hopefully some space would cool things off for a bit.

Kyron however actually laughed aloud, "Brilliant plan, get the giant drunk ... that'll most certainly make things less confrontational.  I'm sure he's a cuddly kitten when intoxicated.  This is all truly unbelievable." Kyron said, miffed. "First a pilot taking along his drink and his woman for take off, and now we want to give the angry man with the big guns some fuel.  It is a mystery that you are still able to conduct business."

"Look... air lock is right there if you don't like the ride, dong ma?” Ren snapped in a bent of anger.

Kyron grinned, "Oh, I'm not complaining."

Geoff bit his tongue and then sighed lightly as he looked to Kyron, knowing that he had crossed a line and should've turned back awhile ago. He had to try and patch up the trouble he had made. "Heh. Sorry...., sir. I'm new to the crew and ain't quite used ta the situation yet. Lettin' that effect me in a bad way. It won't happen again. Trust me, I'm the only bad tempered and surly one on this boat. The rest of the crew is right nice. So I sincerely apologize." he said in a grudging tone before turning to Ren and shaking his head to the invitation of liquor, "Ya know what, maybe later, Ren. I think I'm gonna go to my bunk fer a bit."

He then gave each of the people in the room a nod in turn. "See ya later, Ren. Charlie, good meetin' ya. ....Mister...I'll stay outta yer way." he said as he nodded to Kyron lastly. He then turned toward the metal steps and walked up to the catwalk and into the dining room on the way to his bunk.

Charlie frowned, taking a step away from the group and going up the stairs one.  She was looking to avoid violence moreover, biting her lower lip, trying to not say anything that would provoke anything.  After all, it seemed like anything would set this newcomer off, and the last thing she wanted was a scuffle.  She managed a look at Geoff as he left, getting a moment of eye contact and giving him a slight nod...and if she had had more time, it would have been an apology to boot...

Ren barely even acknowledge Geoff’s exit though as he continued to glare at Kyron, not normally hot-headed this man had tried his last nerve.  “Then what exactly are you saying? If your not complaining?”

Kyron shook his head, he was getting himself into trouble already.  It was always so hard to be friendly, and he knew that he wasn't even trying anymore.  Not smart.  Not smart at all.  He swallowed then looked back at the pilot as the other man stomped off.  "I'm just saying that the Captain might consider keeping a rather closer eye on the habits of his crew."

"You should go take that up with him then, I know he loves it when folk tell him how to run his ship..." Ren said tersely.

"It's my favorite.  Makes me feel all warm an' fuzzy." Kale said dryly as he entered the cargo bay having been woken up by the sound of voices. "I hear there's a bit 'o trouble.  Heard it all the way in my bunk.  You see this?" Kale pointed to his face. "This is my angry face.  Tends to crop up when I get woken up while I'm tryin' to get some much needed shut-eye.  So what seems to be the problem here, cause I assure you, it is not a good idea to piss off yer Cap'n or you'll be walkin home.  And the weather is not nice out there in the black."

“Hey cap' ain't nothin here but talk 'tween folk" Ren said the tension slowly slipping from his face. I hope he can figure out a way to calm this situation down, he thought.

"We were just discussing how lovely your ship is." Kyron added calmly.

She coughed a bit, looking back between the two before she made eye contact with the captain.  "Everything's shiny here, captain.  Just us getting acquainted with one of our new passengers, you know, getting to know the people."  She can change out every part of the ship and tune it within a day, but god bless her heart, Charlie can't lie to anyone who's known her long enough.  Something's got her uncomfortable, that's enough to say.

"Well ain't that somethin'." Kale said, looking from one person to the next.  "How 'bout next time yer all having a friendly conversation you check the volume.  This here room is nice an' big and echoes through the whole gorram boat." he watched Ren and Charlie shifting slightly where they stood but ignored them and turned to Kyron.  "I think you might want to keep the exchanging of pleasantries to a minimum, Mr. Bates, seems that somehow they ain't always all that pleasant."

Kyron merely nodded curtly at the man, “Yes, Captain.” he said and made his exit back to his bunk.

“Sorry, Cap’.” Ren said and skirted out of the room as well.

Charlie kept her arms crossed, watching both of the men leave.  "Sorry, captain.  I don't know if some of the new people are used to being at sea for so long, you know?"

"Eh, the man's a prick." Kale said turning to Charlie. "But a rich prick.”

"He's...he's just different, that's all.  Not used to traveling on something with no room service, but he is...which means he's either hiding something, hiding from someone, or a cheapskate.  I suppose it would be your pick as to which it was."

Kale smiled at Charlie and nodded his head.  Girl knew her passengers now, 'course it was all par with the life they had led for the past two or so years. “I was mostly worried about Geoff's temper when I heard the yelling, pretty damn pleased to see he's the one that left the room.  Right smart of him."

Charlie sighed, re-crossing her arms.  "How long before we hit land, let them get out and stretch their legs, blow off their steam?"

"Valon's about a day or so from here goin' hot." Kale said and looked at Charlie, "Think they'll make it?"

She managed a smile.  "It'll take a little work from the rest of us, keep things nice and shiny between the boys.  We don't need them getting rowdy over the stir crazy.  You know the new gun?  You need to help him find a hobby...I don't think he knows what to do to pass the time other than drink.  Things should be okay."  Charlie sighed, looking down at the clothes she put on...the ones that she'd now have to wash, and there was really no point in trying to look any nicer than she usually did.  "All this time away from land...kinda changes around your values at first, when you can't do things like walk outside..."

"Well, they could take a walk outside ..." Kale said with a grin.  Then his face turned serious. "Yer a smart girl Charlie, with a good heart." Kale said, smiling fondly at the mechanic. "We'll keep the peace, and I'll work on finding Geoff and hobby.  But fer now, I think I'm gonna get that sleep I was talkin' about."  He patted Charlie gently on the cheek, and headed back to his bunk.

"Yeah, captain...someone's gotta be, this far in the black."  She managed a smile, not commenting on anything else he'd said...it's late, and most simply want to get some rest.  Once the captain left, she slowly went up the catwalk to the second story, clambering into the engine room so that she could try to get whatever sleep she could get before they docked on Valon...


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kyoko sat down in front of the console, and smiled to herself. It was truly amazing how folk DIDN'T notice a companion that often, she had watched the whole event in the hangar. The gunman and gentlemen bristling at each other. Not even a day into the dark and folk are already bristling, she considered as she mulled her options over. Best to stay in her ship and let the others come to her for a bit, a companion's skills could be used to help them get at ease, but her presence could disrupt more than aide.

She looked at the console and considered what to do. She tapped on the keys and waited while the query she entered was processed. Valon.

There was a slight knocking at the opening to the shuttle, and Charlie's head popped in through the door, looking around.  "Kyoko?  You...are you here?”  She whispered just in case Kyoko was contacting a client, or even sleeping.

Closing out the enquiry and saving what she got, Kyoko got up and smoothed her robes into place. "Of course not Charlene, feel free to enter." Kyoko said as she pulled out the small sugar cookies and set the kettle to boil, always pleased to have the ships engineer visit. "Is this a social call, or do you want me to help you check the baffles again?” she asked with a genuinely 'happy to see you' smile.

"What?"  She quirked an eyebrow, stepping in again.  She was still dressed in her clothes from yesterday, one of the few things that she owned that wasn't a work setup.  However, it's easy for her to smile.  Kyoko was the only person on the boat that didn't call her Charlie, and after yesterday, anything that made her feel more like a woman was wonderful.  "Oh no, we're okay.  Destiny's running like a dream, I won't even think of doing any work on it until we dock on Valon.  Course, that all depends on whether Kale'll let me leave the boat.  No, I'm just saying...you know, saying hi and all."

"Of course.. I figured I would discover the tone of the visit first. Would you like honey with your tea?" Kyoko asked as she set out the tea settings, it was always refreshing to spend time with Charlene, she was so enthusiastic and joyful most times.

Charlie sat down, crossing her arms on her knees, leaning over as she sat.  "Honey, yes.”

"I assume you met our new crewmate? He .. introduced himself to me in the dining hall." Kyoko continued.

“I did meet him, the hired gun.  He's a bit rough, I guess...but I think he'll be alright.  I'm more worried that he's gonna get bored sitting on the ship, maybe have a few drinks and take off a shot, let the water in, you know?"  She shrugged a bit, taking a cookie off the tray and nibbling off the end.  "If the Captain trusts him, though, I trust him."

"We shall see," Kyoko said as she poured the tea and added a dollop of honey to Charlene's cup and a little bit to her own. "I would say that it might be prudent if you'd let me teach you a few holds, he was .. quite grabby with me. As for my views of the captain, they aren't quite as high as yours.. he knows I need a few days to work."

"He seemed nice with me.  I mean, he is rough around the edges and the like, but never got out of hand.  I suppose if it makes you feel safer, though, I would learn.  Maybe after we've done our business at port, back out at sea again, depending on how long we're out."  She set the cookie back down, picking up the tea and holding it between her hands, smelling it and letting the steam warm up her face.

"The captain probably just doesn't want to stay on the planet for long, it must be rough.  He probably just doesn't want you getting hurt.  He looks out for all of us like that...he's got good intentions, you just need ta trust them, that's all."

"Charlene.. of the three women staff members on the Destiny, who among us knows more about self defense?" Kyoko said with a wry smile, knowing that Charlene already knew the answer. "After all you saw me put that drunkard on Whitefall down with a single blow.”

"Yeah, well, Whitefall don't count.  I know how to stay out of the way of trouble there, being as I hail from the low side of it.  'Course, we weren't in the smalls, but that don't matter.  Acacia...she can handle herself.  I don't think she could take a man twice her size to his knees, surely like you could, but...that don't make me defenseless.  It just makes me...well, something else that doesn't have a word."  She managed another smile, taking a sip of the tea.

"Touche." Kyoko said as she sipped her tea. "I think the word is.. more diplomatic." Kyoko's smile is relaxed and with a bit of teasing. "So, what have you seen of our passengers?"

"I've only noticed the one, really.  Tall, blonde, and not very nice at all.  Who cares about him, though...feels fit to not give me a care, the way I see it, I can think just the same about him.  Besides, pretty boys this far out from port, there's gotta be trouble there."  She stuck her tongue out at the thought.  "I know we have more on board, but I haven't gotten a chance to meet any of them yet."

"I find it amusing that you find the gun man 'misunderstood' and yet the gentleman is 'trouble'. We really need to work on your perceptions my dear. In truth, I am surprised he is on board though, he seems more like the type to take more.. legitimate venues of passage."

"Well, Geoff belongs on a boat out here, way I see it.  He's just like the rest of us, trying to make a living.  Whether that means we'll all be getting along is something else, but he definitely belongs on a ship.  The new blonde boy that we have...I don't feel the same."  Charlie shook her head, taking another sip of the tea.  "He just...seems like he don't feel that he fits out here.  Probably accustomed to something with pillows and top shelf liquors, you know?  Means he's gotta be running from something.  When someone's looking out for their own neck, you know....no one else's is sacred."

"I thought I was supposed to be the worldly and cynical one." Kyoko teased as she finished her tea. "You decided if you'd be willing to try some of my outfits yet Charlene? I have a few older ones that are quite comfortable, for when you're at your ease in your quarters." Kyoko said going back to the old reoccurring conversation between them. She knew the girl could clean up well, it was just nigh impossible to get her to try.

"Oh, you know...those are your pretties, and I'm just gonna get them all covered in grease and other tar.  Clothes that aren't fit to do your work in are kinda pointless, you know?  'Sides, who've I got to impress out here?  You know...especially being up 'gainst the likes of you and Acacia..."  The last part is mumbled into her tea, taking another sip, not looking up at Kyoko.  She never said it to seem mean, or even to raise a fuss...just that she was an easy person to open up to.  "I'm sure you'll want them some day...or maybe you'll have a client who doesn't seem all that nice, and you won't want your best stuff ruined..."

"And I said they were old.. casual clothes. This time your logic doesn't meet the offer, and you will find.. that if you'd just let me work  with you a little, you could easily shine as well. I hear too often from you that you don't measure up." Kyoko frowned slightly "and trust me, you are quite wrong on that. I think you seriously underestimate yourself."

"Well, here you got our two new boys riled up on their first day, didn'cha?  I'm probably just gonna be another sister to all of them.  Not that I mind for some, don't get me wrong...but for some, maybe I wish, but that don't mean nothin."  She smiled softly, something different from her usual bright one...like she was thinking about someone.

"I'll let'cha if you really want, you know...but I can't put on makeup, I'm already covered in grime, it'd just be a mess.  Do my hair up, it'll just end up tied back so it stays out of my way.  I suppose a little something wouldn't hurt, though..."

"Charlene.." Kyoko leaned forward and lifted her chin up to look at her with caring eyes. "You are a strong able woman, and I just want to show you that you can be pretty as well. When you wish me to.. I can show you how to do the makeup and hair. And if the men of this ship look at you and fail to see the beauty that lays there below the surface that I see.. their loss not yours."

Charlie smiles big, pulling away, unable to hold back the smile that crosses her face.  "Don't be....ah..."  It's easy to tell that she's flattered by the prospect, as a slight pink comes out of her cheeks, even stronger by the dark smudges around them.  "Thank you.  I mean, I'm not meaning to sound like I'm saying I'm ugly or anything...don't be thinking me for the nasty stepsister.  It's just, I'm choice three and not one, you know?"  Charlie shook her head again, looking back towards the controls of the ship.  "So are you getting off at Valon, or did Kale tell you we're not going to be there long enough?"

"No word on our tenure there.. I thought perhaps to take the shuttle out for a quick flight.. Want to come along and see if we can find a nice spot for lunch?" Kyoko asked as she got up and opened a chest.

"Depends on how long we're at port.  I'm gonna take the chance to go down under the belly, take a look at some of the landing gear.  Ren mentioned something about it wasn't feeling quite right when we took from Persephone, and I'd rather find this problem on the surface than when we're out in the middle of nowhere."  Charlie finished the tea, looking back just in time to see Kyoko taking out the clothes, smiling again.

Kyoko pulled out the new clothes she had picked out for Charlene, the 'old clothes' she just happened to have. Sitting them down in front of the girl she smiled and looked at her with a resolute look on her face. "I will take great insult if you decline. So, you've no options but to accept.. and when you're ready, let me know and we'll discuss how to make you look your best.”  Charlie touched the material, looking back up with a smirk in the corner of her eyes.

"You....well, I know I can't turn them down, I guess."  She ran a finger along a seam, letting out a bit of a sigh.  "I'm just...I know I'm a dreamer about these things.  Like I said, when we're making berth for more than a day, and if the Captain don't have a million things that he wants me doing to make her run better...not that she can run better, of course, as I've got Destiny in the shape of her life.  You know what I'm saying, though."

Kyoko leaned over and kissed her on her forehead. "You find.. in my business, that heart matters a lot, and you've a grand one. Do not doubt yourself so much." Kyoko sighed internally, wishing she hadn't made the decision not to take ships company as clients. Charlene would blossom well with a little help and not all companion's services required sensual arts.

Charlie smiled again, finally looking down, managing the appropriate words for the situation.  "Thank you, Kyoko.  I know you don't necessarily like it here, or think that maybe you're losing business, but I do love having you around..."

"I came out here of my own choice, I had the option to stay at any house in the inner core. In fact chose the Destiny for a reason.. before the Captain owned here..” Kyoko smiled as she looked around the shuttle. "Let's just say.. it's got family ties to me.”

"You know, I'm just sure that sometimes you like being a mystery...I'm sure it's a story for later."  Charlie finally got up, setting the empty tea cup down onto the tray, looking back at the companion.  "I'm going to go start the pre-landing check, make sure we're prepared to touch down.  I don't know how far we are, and I'd rather have too much time to do it than too little."  She took a step back, but then stopped, making sure to pick up the clothes that Kyoko gave to her.

"I'll, uh...when we make berth, I'll try these on.  Way I see it, everyone can be asleep then, and they can't see...well, something that outta place.  Don't want to startle.  Then again, walking in anything with a skirt on a second story...that's just not appropriate, you know."  She managed another smile, bowing her head slightly as she took a few steps back.  "You know where I'm always at, though.  Come find me if you need me."  She does a last nod, stepping out the door and making her way back to the engine room...

Somewhere between recalibrating the o2 gauges to recharge on land and preparing a kit for when they reach surface, Charlie had been moving languidly, taking her time about the engine room.  As per usual, spending time with Kyoko gave her things to think about, and usually those things started to gravitate to how she saw herself.  She's no ugly, no...she never thought that.  She never thought of herself as one of the pretty girls, surely, but never would she call herself disgusting or anything else like that.

She went into one of the boxes she had in the room, wiping her hands off on her pants before she pulled out the dress, holding it up and looking in front of the mirror she hung on the rear wall.  She sighed, imagining what she would look like without the grease smudges along her neck and chin, or her hair done up to stay away from her face.  Just a dream, that someday they'll land somewhere for long enough that she'll feel ambitious enough to actually dress up.  Maybe she and Kyoko would have a night out, just the girls...maybe even Acacia, who knows.  Just a dream...

Rhaef opened the hatch then and entered the engine room quietly as always.  Before he could dog the hatch to the engine room he saw Charlie holding up the dress and admiring it thoughtfully.  This is twice in as many days he had found himself in a voyeuristic situation without intending it.  This is a private moment.  He silently told himself.  One he was not invited into.  But to leave now would be all the more awkward.

"Preparing for the excitement and elegance that await us on Valon, I see."  Rhaef said, before lifting the glass to his lips.  His dark eyes peered over the edge of the container holding Charlie in his gaze, not allowing his uncomfortability to show.

Charlie gasped and let the dress fold over her arms and tossed it back in the box in a hurried motion.  She was not so much embarrassed as she was shocked, but it didn’t t show as she managed to keep her back somewhat turned, looking at the closest gauge to where she stood.

"Rhaef, I didn't...you, uh...Yeah, Valon."  She muttered something else, drooping her head for a second.  She'd been caught...there was no hiding it.  Charlie looked over her shoulder at Rhaef, giving him a slight smile, cheeks still a bit red.  "This a social call, or you need some figures for the landing procedure?"

"No longer being the pilot, and having no desire to be the esteemed Captain, I find no need to know the figures for the landing procedure.  That is unless it is headfirst and painful, then by all means, tell me first."  Rhaef's face was deadpan as ever as it held her gaze before once again lifting the glass to his lips.  Licking the remaining moisture there, Rhaef took a step toward the mechanic.  "I actually don't know what brings me here, but I can see I am intruding, so I will leave you to your work."

Rhaef turns and heads back out through the hatch from whence he came, returning to the cargo bay.

"Rhaef, you're..."  She started to say something, but he walked off.  She let out a sigh after he was gone, rolling her eyes and turning back around, crouching over the box and slowly folding the dress.  It wasn't the one that Kyoko had just given her, of course...she'd look at it soon, when she knew that no one was going to burst in on her.  Of course, she knew when that was...however long it was from now.  She let out a murmur, sitting back and folding her arms on her knees, resting her head on her arms...



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


A loud buzzing sound awoke Kale, the sound reverberating through his head.  Without rolling over he reached a hand out and started slamming it down on the bedside table, aiming for the alarm clock ... and missing.

"Gorram, buzzing, le se ..." he mumbled, sitting up now and properly leaning over and shutting the blasted thing off.  He had set the clock to wake him up a few hours before they were supposed to arrive at Valon.  Plenty of sleeping time, even with the interruption of his crew, but Kale liked his sleep and was always grumpy when woken up.

He swung his feet over the edge of the bed and stretched his arms over his head before relieving himself, splashing some water on his face and throwing on some clean clothes.  Then he headed out to the dining hall for a bite to eat.

He yawned as he entered the room and noticed Geoff sitting at the table and digging into a protein pack, washing away the taste, or the lack thereof, with the half bottle of liquor he still held in his hand.

"I see the breakfast of champions is taken.” Rhaef commented, with a smirk, “... I guess I'll just have water."  Rhaef moved to the spigot, retrieved a glass and filled it.

Geoff just looked up to Rhaef with a lazy gaze and shrugged before going back to his meal. He nodded to the Captain as he entered and then made his way out to the cargo bay with the intention of acclimating himself with some of the weaponry there.

Rhaef meanwhile sat down at the table after finding a bit of something to eat himself.

"How's the last supper comin'?" Kale asked the man without looking at him, he opened a cabinet and looked at its contents.  Protein, a hell of a lot of protein.  First thing they do with the money from this job was get some real food.

"My thoughts exactly.  Pull up a chair and join me."  Rhaef said through his teeth as he continues to draw whatever flavor and nutrients he could from the jerky in his teeth. "When will this lovely vessel be docking on the exotic planet of Valon?

"Soon, my friend.  I estimate an hour or so, although Ren would know better." Kale said, joining Rhaef at the table.  "Let's just hope it's as simple as Cortez seems to think."

"I think the chances are better for me having close personal relationships with everyone onboard this vessel."  He said, Rhaef had seen a lot of strange faces come and go over the last few years aboard Destiny, and he could list the names of most of them still from memory, but he couldn't remember ever having more than a three word conversation with any of them.

Then he raised an eyebrow and glanced in the direction of the doorway as Kendra, their other passenger, walked into the room.  She smiled shyly in the direction of those present and walked over to the cabinet, opened it looking for something to eat. Grabbing a protein pack and bottle she sat at the table and began to eat. Eyes down cast, seriously and quickly eating her meager meal.

Kendra looked up and glanced at Kale, in a hushed, nervous and anxious voice she asked, "What is the purpose of stopping on Valon?"

"Oh, nothin' to worry 'bout.  Just a bit 'o business." Kale said to the woman as she joined him and Rhaef at the table.  "Routine transport of goods, passengers ain't the only thing this here boat delivers."

Kendra’s lips turned into a half smile, almost a smirk, "Yes, I see."  Finished with her meal, she stood up, scooted in her chair(as much as possible), grabbed the empty bowl and cup and headed over to the sink. She washed the dishes and returned them to their proper place, looking for the kettle for tea and unable to find it Kendra turned to the men and asked, "Do you drink tea? If you'll tell me where the kettle is I will make some for all who would like." The nervousness gone from her voice.

Kale shook his head, "Not for me.  You want tea you ask the Companion, she'd be the only one keepin' tea on board this vessel."

"The kettle should be in the cabinet to your right."  There that was more than a three word conversation.

Looking at Kale he shrugged, "Tea has many beneficial properties.  You should try it sometime."

Kendra nodded to Rhaef and began rummaging about the kitchen.

"See, now I don't understand why you and Kyoko ain't better friends.  You two could sit around having tea parties.  You do have a nice hat, righ'?" Kale remarked. "...beneficial properties ..." he muttered, taking a bite.

"What makes you think we aren't close friends... very close friends."  Rhaef asked, giving Kale a lazy eyed look.

Kale offered Rhaef a grin and turned to Kendra, "It ain't gonna be no problem for ya if we take a little stop?  I'm sorry for the inconvenience."

“No problem at all,” Kendra said, and then giggled slightly, “You’ve got goup on the side of your chin.” she said, and grabbed a napkin to wipe Kale’s face.

Rhaef lifted himself out of the chair and walked to the sink, rinses the glass and returns it to the cupboard.  Without looking at the Captain he made his way out of the Dining Hall and into the passage leading to his quarters.  As he left he said, "I'll be ready by the time we touchdown."

Kendra finishes making her tea then and slips out of the room leaving Kale alone, "Wow, don' even have to open my mouth and I clear a room." Kale mused and took another bite.  He wasn’t alone for long however as Kendra came back inside and took a seat on the couch, propping open and book and beginning to read.

Kale glanced at the woman as she sets about reading her book.  Then he got up, tossed the protein packs wrapper and started to head to the cargo bay when he caught a whiff of something ... meaty.  Following his nose he walked through the shuttle bay towards Kyoko's room.

Kale didn’t even knock as walked through the door into the warmly lit, heavily scented, silk covered room.  "Yes, I'll have the beef stew and a side salad - oh an' a glass a wine." he said, standing just inside the doorway, as he took in Kyoko leaning over a small heating coil and warming up a pot of stew. "Now see, that just ain't right, you eat like a gorram queen while the poor little peasants starve." he sat down on the velvet cushioned chair.

"You didn't knock." Kyoko said calmly as she set her bowl and tea aside. She got up and poured a cup of tea and set it by the Captain. "I still have some the stew left, it's freeze dried, but I am afraid I only have the one apple, and if you want it, you'll have to fight me for it."

Kale grinned, "If I would have known we was havin' a tea party, I woulda brought my hat." he then watched her return to her seat as he picks up the dainty cup, making a show of how out of place it looked in his large, calloused hands.

Kyoko looked at Kale. "I seem to recall this very annoying man, the same one that said my aide in navigation, maintenance and medical functions on board didn't merit him giving me a stipend for my work, yet I'm still expected to somehow entertain clients without time ashore or forewarning of where we are going. The same annoying man who complains when I do appear in front of passengers in the galley and the same one who promised I would have my privacy in this shuttle." Kyoko said as she returned to her meal, the lacquered chop sticks working delicately as she kept her eyes on the captain.

"What a low down dirty hun dun!" Kale said in mock outrage, "I assure you, Kyoko if I ever meet this man you recall I will defend the injustices done against you." he then took a sip of the tea, and smacked his lips together. Pleasantly surprised he looked at the cup in slight astonishment.

Kyoko glosses right over the captain‘s sarcastic comments, "I also suspect if I did take clients from the passengers you'd charge me a finder's fee." Kyoko said calmly. "Aside from criticizing my preference to have a private meal, why else have you come by captain?"

"Ah, now see, now yer just bein' overly friendly." Kale said, and leaned over trying to lift the lid of one of Kyoko's trunks that sat beside his chair.  He knew the companion had wine hidden about this shuttle an' it was just funny the last time he found it.  Of course, this time the trunk was locked.  He folded his arms across his chest and looked back at Kyoko, preparing himself for battle. "We reach Valon soon, and as I'm sure there are a ton of fine gentlemen on that big hunkin' rock of a planet we ain't staying more then a few hours ... don' want anyone leaving the ship." he winced and held his hands up in mock fear of how Kyoko might respond.

"I'll consider it." Kyoko said firmly as he moved to search her room. "If you really want something to drink captain, perhaps you should rethink your rule on alcohol onboard." she said as she sighed.  "Are we going to have a protracted stay AFTER you latest endeavor?"

"Ya know, if I knew where we was headed I would gladly answer that." Kale said rubbing the back of his neck and ignoring her comment about the alcohol.  He sat up in his chair and faced her, "I truly ain't trying to hinder your business, Kyoko, just lookin' out for me an' mine.  Don' know if it'll be safe ... don' want any complications or impromptu rescue missions," he chuckled, "Not that you can't take care of yerself."

"Then you'd best speak to your new gunman." Kyoko said calmly. "Before I break his wrists." she sighed as she returned to eating. The captain was definitely starting to wear on her inner calm.

"I keep hearing we have to get that kid a habit ... well one besides drinkin' and getting grabby with the women." he then stood up, "It has been a pleasure as always." he said and executed a clumsy replica of a bow and headed out of the companions shuttle.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Geoff walked slowly down the stairs and onto the wide floor of the cargo hold. As he had walked, he heard the sounds of voices from the engine room, but had chosen to ignore them and move on with his business. It wasn't his place to intrude on anybody's conversation. The people on this ship were as close as family and he was still the new guy, after all. He shrugged to himself and headed for the storage room that the captain had showed him earlier. He stepped into the room and pushed aside the crates and pulled aside the false wall to show the shelves of weaponry that he had seen yesterday.

He grins lightly at the sight of the weapons and gave out a low whistle again as he picked up a particularly impressive rifle and inspected it closely. "Yep. Definitely gonna be likin' it here..." he muttered lightly to himself.

Unlike the usual loud banging around that accompanied her entrances, especially after being walked in on, Charlie has been reduced to her meeker side for a change.  She came down from the engine room onto the catwalk and sat on the edge, her feet hanging off the edge.  She found Geoff, smiling and calling down to him.  "Hey.  Haven'cha found anything to do with your time yet?"

Geoff had just walked out of the storage room, after having looked at some of the heavier weaponry and then covering it up again with the crates, when he heard Charlie speak out from above him. He grinned in a friendly manner as he shrugged to her. "Well, I was just takin' a look at some o' the cap'n's hidden toys in there, but that can only pass the time fer a little while. Even I can't be lookin' at guns fer a long time, after all.", he said with a light chuckle, "So, other than that, no. Ain't found much ta do. How’s 'bout you? Ya got anythin' planned ta take the edge off o' the boredom 'round here? 'Sides talkin' ta me, that is. 'Cause, I'll be honest, I ain't never been called a sparklin' conversationalist in my time and a pretty gal like ya can do better."

She smirked when he complimented her, leaning against one of the railings to talk to him, her hair like a curtain around her head.  "I find my own way, you think I would after years on Destiny.  I’m not one to get bored very often...things just leave you time to think.  Then again, I ain't much of a drinker, so I can't say that's much for passing the time as well."  She chuckled a bit, looking around the ground.

"I was doing my thing, then Rhaef walked in on me...which wasn't much of anything at all, I mean, of course, but that's over for now.”

Geoff grinned lightly and shrugged again. "I see. Well, I can tell ya that drinkin' is good fer passin' the time if ya don't mind large chunks of time goin' missin', dong ma? Heh. Can't say much fer thinkin' though. Not much fer it...", he remarked lightly, not saying anything about Rhaef walking in on her or anything like that. He figures that isn't any of his business so he'll just leave it.

“Well, until we touch dirt, I just hang about.  I enjoy the quiet.  All that sortsa stuff.  When you go onto the surface, maybe you should get a dog.  That'd help, right?"

Geoff chuckled as he looked to be thinking something over. "A dog? Heh. Ain't never been much good with the animals. 'Course, the only animals I've had any contact with are the type trained ta take a bite out o' guys like me who are on a bit of property that I shouldn't be..."

“Well, see, that's why you need the experience."  She managed to smile even bigger than she was before, as if it was an obvious conclusion to that point.  "Maybe something like that would do you good, give you something to start learning to pass the time.  I think you'd be a great little papa to a little white pup...I'm getting smiles just thinkin' about you running around with one.  But that's just 'cause not much is cuter."  She slowly swung her legs, looking over the rest of the cargo bay.

"I don't know if the Captain would like it, though...little yipping keeping him up, little feet padding across the floors, echoing out through the boat.  He'd probably threaten to boot it out the airlock.  Maybe the idea isn't such a grand one after all, but that's just an idea."  She shrugged again, scratching the back of her head.  "Then again, out here, I don't know what else you could want."

Geoff smiled at how enthused she seemed about the idea at first and then laughed lightly as she talked about how the captain may react. "Heh. Ya make the prospect sound so nice, ya know. Maybe I could try and hide it from the cap'n. Let you have it in the engine room when the cap'n sleeps so that he can't hear it over the hum of the engines, eh?" he remarked with a light chuckle.

He then smiled wistfully as he looked up at the cargo bay's ceiling with a sigh. "Heh. Well, I could think of a number of other things I could want out here, but no use in wishin' fer things that I can't have and may not even be allowed. Did enough o' that in my youth, dong ma?" he said and then shook his head lightly.

"I reckon what you're saying...troublemaker."  She said the last part to the side, smirking as she did.  "You don't have to go explaining yourself here on these terms.  Look at where we're at.  We're on a boat, a million miles from everyone's home, out in the middle of nowhere.  We're travelers, that's what we are."

She slowly pulled up her legs, standing back up on the catwalk.  "Everyone on this boat, whether they'll admit it or not, we're running from something.  It's not just work.  You've gotta get a hobby, otherwise you'll start thinking about it."  Even though her words were a bit heavy, she still gave her same smile, having her natural ability to make everything sound cheery when she said it.  "No need to share any of it, no need to bother with any of it.  Just know you're at home here on Destiny."  She gave him a last smile, stepping back into the engine room...

Geoff smiled a bit softer than usual after she finished speaking and shrugged as he watched her go into the engine room. "Ah...I see. Thank ya for that. It's always nice ta have a home. Always nice..." he said in a soft tone and then sighed lightly. The way she spoke, he can really start to understand what she means about people being close around this boat. They're all the same at the core, running from something or hiding something in their past, and that may bring people closer than anything. He smiled lightly to himself as he moved to the stairs and took a seat on the first step. He enjoyed the cargo bay better than anywhere on the boat, he found, so he sate and relaxed for a bit, not having anything else to do anyway.

‘Course, he could only sit still for so long, which wasn't all that long at all actually.  So he stood up and stretched lightly as he made a slow circuit around the cargo bay. After about the 4th walk around, he grunted lightly and shook his head in exasperation as he stomped up the steps and towards the dining room. "Ta ma de! I have got ta find somethin' ta do!" he remarked as he headed into the dining area.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Ren ambled in looking quite sleepy, noticing the new face unexpectedly in the dining room he said startled, "Ai ya! Umm... Hi... who are you... didn't know we had any other passengers.“

Kendra glanced up from her book, “Hello, I'm Kendra and you are?” she extended her hand out to shake with his.

"Ren, the pilot" he said chuckling and grabbing her hand gladly. "So, where ya headed?"

She shook his with a firm grip. “I'm headed as far away as possible. How long have you been flying this contraption?”

"Bout a year or so... “

"Ah, just the man I wanted to see." Kale said as he emerged into the dining room, "What's the status on our whereabouts?" he asked Ren, interrupting his conversation with Kendra.

Geoff stepped into the dining room shortly afterward, giving a nod to the people inside and took a seat on the couch. He realized that he had basically just traded one place to sit and be bored for another as he had just been sitting out in the cargo bay, but that thought hadn't exactly struck him until right now. Made him feel kind of stupid when he thought about it. So he decided not to think about it as he lounged lazily on the couch.

"Should be there any hour now sir... depending on the weather" Ren said with a smile on his face. "Bout' to head up to the bridge and check the cortex for any alliance activity in the region."

"That's my man." Kale said, "you come up with anything suspicious, you tell me."

"Sure thing" Ren said with a tip of his non-existent cap. He then wheeled around and headed towards the bridge.

“Nice to have met you!” Kendra called out after him.

Kale looked around the room now, realizing that there was quite the crowd. "Well, this certainly seems the place to be rights about now, now don' it?"

Geoff chuckled lightly and nodded to the captain. "Well, it's got all the food, places ta sit and my bunk's right over there should I pass out drunk. What's not ta love' bout this place?" he said with a lift grin.

"All the food' ain't much at all.  Cabinets are lookin' pretty bare right about now and I have no way of reckonin' how long it'll be once we're through here that we stop off fer supplies." Kale looked around the room, and then back at Geoff, "Now I don' feel safe with anyone leaving this here boat but we gotta do somethin' about our food situation.  Seems unfittin' to have empty shelves when I got a box 'a money burnin' a hole in my pocket.  Reckon' you could handle yerself planetside, Geoff?  Pick us up what we be needin' and haul back?"  to be honest Kale was a bit worried that what Geoff saw as what they were needing and what he saw weren't quite the same vision, but he was the only one capable enough to handle himself and strong enough to carry back what he got.  An' if he was gonna be part of this boat, Kale had to give him the opportunity to earn trust.

Geoff smiled lightly and nodded as he sat up on the couch, scratching his head. "Hmmm. Well, I reckon I could be doin' that, Cap'n. If I do say so myself, I'm pretty ruttin' good at gettin' bargains. Though that may be more on account o' my size than anythin' else. Ya may want ta be givin' me a list o' stuff also. I ain't never been the best with makin' the right choices in buyin' things." he said with a sheepish chuckle, "If'n I had a choice 'bout it, I'd be buyin' nothin' but liquor. So ya best be givin' me a list o' what we need....though, if'n we got some extra cash, ya mind if I buy some liquor? Just a little, dong ma?"

Kale grinned at the man, walked to shelf by the couch and swiped a piece of paper.  He sat at the table and started scrawling down what he knew they were out of.  "Now Harsdale's supposed to be real peaceful like, so don' be pickin' any fights, don' want to draw any unwanted attention." he chewed on the end of the pen for a moment thinking, then added a few more items, grabbed the paper and crossed the room to Geoff.  "You get all this... and you can grab a bottle, one bottle.  Also, get somethin' nice fer the crew.  Somethin' real if they got it, somethin' that don' taste like protein." he looked at Geoff seriously, "You get the goods, and you get back to Destiny, dong ma?" he said, using one of the mans favorite phrases he had noticed.

Geoff took the list from the captain and nodded to him. "Fang xin, Cap'n. I'll get it done without trouble. Nice and smooth and quiet like. Everythin' just right shiny.", he said , "Ya can count on it, Cap'n."

"I'm going as well." Kyron said, stepping into the dining hall.

Kale looked up sharply as the high brow passenger stepped into the room. "Oh no you ain't.  No one's leaving this ship 'ceptin me, Rhaef, and Geoff."

"Captain Galway, I am not a member of your crew.  You cannot order me about.  Since you insist on delaying my trip to Beaumonde I have some necessities that I require - I will purchase them here." Kyron said curtly.  The Captain was not going to hinder his mobility.

"Ya know, I could make sure he stays put if ya want, Cap'n...." Geoff offered, although not exactly keen on the idea of having to spend time with the hun dun.

“I also have some things to get, I would like to go too.” Kendra piped up.

"I am a paying passenger, and Valon is an Alliance friendly planet, I see no need for being unable to step off this ship ... unless of course your business is less then reputable?" Kyron said with arched eyebrows.

"Well, ain't that somethin'.” Kale said looking from one passenger to the next,  “Hell, why don' we all go, it'll be one nice big fun outtin'!" Kale said, narrowing his eyes at Kyron.  Then he looked apologetically at Geoff.  "Alrigh', you go with him, but I want you back here, in thirty minutes tops."

Geoff looked like he was about to protest, but just grumbled lightly instead. "So I gotta be babysittin' now too. Ok. Great..." he muttered as he stood up and shook his head, buckling his gun belt and putting his shirt on. He then nodded to the captain and shrugged. "Fine then. When do we ruttin' land so I can lead the gorram sightseein' tour on their souvenir run?" he remarked.

Kyron smiled snidely, "Why thank you, Captain.  Although, I was not asking permission." with that he did a slight bow and walked out of the dining hall and back to his quarters to gather what he needed.

“If Harsdale is so peaceful, it should really not be a problem.” Kendra said, feeling slightly bad about asking to go now since the Captain obviously wasn’t very approving of the idea, she had some things she needed however.

Kale glowered at the Kyron’s back and waited until he was out of ear shot before turning to Geoff.  "You know what I said about not pickin' no fights?" he asked, and pointed in the direction that Kyron just left. "That one steps one toe out of line and I'd be mighty understandin' if you accidentally shot him, things like that just can't be helped sometimes." Kale turned and started heading to the bridge.

Geoff grinned to the captain and nodded in agreement. "Sure enough, Cap'n. I gotcha. Accidents happen all over in heated situations. Can't tell a ruttin' friend from somebody wants ta gut ya, sometimes. A bullet may find an accidental home in his brainpan. It happens..." he said and chuckled lightly.


“Captain, what is it that we are here to do?” Acacia asked looking to Kale.

"It's a simple pick up Acacia, unless Ren has somethin' to tell me that I don' wanna hear.  I'm goin' to the bridge, see about landing this ship." Kale left then and was shortly followed by Kendra.

“Don’t worry, Geoff, I’ll be real quiet - you won’t even know I’m there.” she said and was gone.

Geoff gave the passenger he hadn't met a nod as she left, hoping she could keep her word about being quiet. Even on a rather uneventful place like Valon, things could happen that nobody could foresee.

“Hey um... Geoff right?  Who is going out on your little pickup as you put it?” Acacia asked, she wasn't dumb, there was something nefarious afoot.  She just hoped Ren wasn't going out to get shot up.  She walked over and sat on the couch next to him.  “It is just, I'm guessing you talent is in the physical persuasion field, so we haven't had need of someone in that field if this was just a simple pickup.  Just let me know so I can be prepared, are all you going out there going to be in need of sewing up when you get back?”

Geoff looked to the doctor with a shrug. "As far as I know only the cap'n and Rhaef are goin' on the actual pick-up. I was just supposed ta be pickin' up some supplies, but now I gotta lead the ruttin' tour group inta town." he said with a shake of his head before shrugging again, "As fer the actual pick up, we really don't know nothin' 'bout the details. It's a big mystery and that ain't good. No details 'bout cargo or anythin'. All we know is the place. So, if I was you, I'd get yerself ready fer some stitchin', just in case. Too much unknown leads ta trouble..."

Kendra came back into the room then with a laser gun now holstered at her waist, an odd contrast to her long peasant skirt.  She noticed the other two’s eye on her and shrugged, “For protection.” she said.

Geoff looked to Kendra with a light laugh and a nod. "Yeah. Protection. Same reason I carry these 'round. Nothin' more..." he said as he gestured to the two pistols holstered at his hips.

Kendra snickered, “You sure about that?”

Geoff put on a mock shocked expression and shook his head. "Well, now, of course! I mean, what do you think I am? Some sort o' drunken thug that goes 'round armed for any other reason 'sides protection? Why, I almost take offense ta that..." he remarked and then chuckled lightly with a smirk on his face.

“With all this talk of protection, I am definitely making sure I have gauze ready“. Acacia said with a sigh.  At least Ren isn't going so we will have some private time, she thought.

Kendra, smiled pertly, “I don't know you, maybe you are a drunken thug that goes around botherin' people.” she said, with a quirked brow.

Geoff grinned amiably and shrugged to her. "Maybe I am at that." he remarked.

Then Kale’s voice sounded over the comm, “This is your Captain speaking, we are due to land on Valon shortly, no one is to leave this ship unless yer on the sightseeing tour Geoff's leading ... and that means none of my crew."

Geoff shrugged as he looked up at the sound of the comm, "Ah, yes. I'll so enjoy showin' the sights. I mean, ain't nothin' I'd rather do. Well, I'll be out in the cargo bay when yer ready, ma'am. Make sure ya grab hold o' the stuffed shirt on yer way if ya can." He nodded to her and the doctor before walking out of the dining hall and into the cargo bay followed by Kendra.

Acacia straightened up and made her way towards the bridge instead.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Having left the dining hall Ren stepped onto the bridge and immediately felt at home. He plopped himself down in his seat, pulled out the key board and began surfing the cortex for information on Valon and any Alliance activity in the region. He had been searching for a few minutes before he stopped for a moment and looked out into the  black.  Perfect, there really is nothing better than that, open space, a great crew, a beautiful woman at my side, what more could the 'verse give a man? he thought. The worlds he visited were no more than stops on a larger journey through the black, his only home was the bridge at the controls of Destiny.

“What's the word?" Kale said as he entered the bridge, coming to stand behind Ren's chair and leaning over his shoulder to look at the terminal.

"The word is Shiny cap' ain't nothin doin‘, light Alliance presence but no where near us" Ren said while prepping the ship for landing, only dicey part of the whole flight... that's why it's my favorite, he thinks.

"Shiny's a good word to hear." Kale commented, "We're all go for landing then, righ'?"

"Good to go cap'" Ren said absent mindedly as he went through the regular and well practiced pre-landing procedures.

"An' there wasn't anything suspicious?" Kale asked, it didn't seem right to him.  Two hundred up front and there wasn't even heavy Alliance.  What made this transport so damn special?

"Ain't even my job to know sir... though I am a might curious... oh and no Alliance to be seen." Ren did worry about the job but figured this was the worst point to bring up questions about it.

"Alright, well you get 'er down." he said and walked to the microphone, pulling it to himself he, set the transmition for ship wide intercom.  "This is your Captain speaking, we are due to land on Valon shortly, no one is to leave this ship unless yer on the sightseeing tour Geoff's leading ... and that means none of my crew." Kale replaced the mic and gave Ren a quick grin before heading to find Rhaef.

Kale walked briskly through the corridor leading to the dining hall, rapping on Rhaef's bunkroom door as he did so.  "We're getting ready to head out, I expect you in the cargo bay in 10!" he yelled through the door and continued into the dining hall where he saw Charlie.

She sighed as she wiped her hands off on the coveralls she wore again, still filthy with oil and grime.  Her hair was done up in an impromptu fashion to stay out of her face, hanging every which way but in her eyes, exactly how she needed it to be.  Landing was one of her more stressful times, as there was a lot of things that needed to be done...as well as instruments that needed work once they were on the ground.

Precisely the reason she was here, looking for Kale.  She had heard his declaration about no one leaving the ship...and that was something that she had best address before things get complicated on entry.  Kale would probably understand that she had work to do, but if he didn't agree and yelled at her, there's a good chance she might cry...

"Captain?"  she spoke up, standing in the doorway.

"Hey, Charlie, you lookin' for someone?"

"I'm lookin' for you, Captain.  You on the intercom, you know, saying that no one else should be bothered lest they're on the mission.  Are we setting down at the port on Valon, or just some spot where no one'll find us?  I mean...Ren mentioned something about the gear being shaky on our last entry, and I want to look at it.  We were hardly on Persephone but an hour or so..."  There was a bit of concern as she spoke, watching the captain.

"You wanting off the boat, lil' Charlie?" Kale asked, sighing.

"Aww, don't act like I'm asking the world of ya, Captain.  I just want Destiny to stay in one piece, you know how it is.  I just-..."

“Ladies and gentlemen please buckle in, sit down, or do somethin so ya don't fall on your ass, we're about hit atmo and winds are lookin a bit tetchy down there. Thank you for flying Destiny space lines" Ren’s announcement came over the intercom, Charlie rolled her eyes as she set a hand on the doorframe, knowing the first entry was always the one you were unprepared for.

"Are we setting at any kind of port?  She could stand to be fueled, you know...unless you're planning a short hop or an extremely slow drift to our next destination, we could end up dead in the water.  I'm sure none of us want that, right?"  She managed another smile, trying to win the captain over on this one.  He was tired, she could see that, and the last thing she wanted was to be a bother...

Kale braced himself in the hallway as well.  "Yes, we're setting her down in Harsdale Landing." he rolled his eyes, "and you might as well go ahead and get off her, everyone else is.  Who am I ta stop ya, I'm just the Captain of this here ship." seeing Charlie look like she as about to say she'd stay, he smiled at her. "'Don worry about it. Just be real careful-like.  You see anythin' suspicious you get back on board, dong ma?"  he pat her on the shoulder, and almost lost his balance as the ship jolted as they hit atmo.

Charlie’s feet nearly skittered out from under her, and it took both hands on either side of the door to keep her on her feet when they did.  She let out a nervous laugh, looking around the exterior of the ship, and then back at the captain.

"A little easier, Ren!" he yelled, then turned back to Charlie, "You keep this 'ol girl nice an' healthy for me."

"Don't worry captain, I'm sure things are going to be okay...I'll just do my work real quick on the gear, a quick check on systems, all that.  When we set down, you tell me how much coin we have to fuel, and I'll make sure we get that as well...unless you got someone else staying behind on the boat."  She smiled again, raising an eyebrow.  "Is anyone staying behind, or am I going to be ship-sitting?"

"Nah, you got Ren an' Acacia, and Kyoko as far as I know.  Though," he leaned in to Charlie and spoke lowly, "I don' know if Ren an' Acacia will be comin' out of the cockpit." he chuckled slightly, "they'll probably be busy bein' all stealth like."

"Captain!"  She spoke as if shocked, but playfully.  She smiled again, shaking her head.  "I think it's sweet, someone finding someone out here, things blooming.  They'll tell us when they're ready, just you wait."  She smiled again, stepping back out the doorway, leaning her head over her shoulder as she spoke.

"Be careful when you go out, captain.  Whoever you're dealing with, if they offer up engine parts by any chance...on the slim chance they do...we'll need to be replacing the fuel lines to the starboard engine sometime soon.  Not today, I'm tellin' ya...but sometime in the next few months, we're gonna need to land and give me half a day to do it.  Keep it in mind, if you find yourself, you know...shopping."  She let out another smirk, popping out through the door.  She wasn't above asking the captain for things the ship needed, dropping them as hints here and there.  It was something they needed, and one way or another, they would end up getting.  It was really more a question of when, hypothetically....

Kale smiled as Charlie left and knocked on Rhaef's door again. "Rhaef, now would be nice to get on out here so we can get our cargo and get the hell off this rock!" he yelled, and walked into the dining hall, sitting on the couch to wait.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Acacia crept up onto the bridge looking around, she stood by the doorway quietly seeing how long it took before she was noticed.  She watched out the window at what was going on out front.

In a big booming voice and with a joking grin on his face Ren bellowed, "Who is creeping into my chamber?"

“No one of importance, at least I don't think so.” she said, shutting the door behind her.  She came and sat next to Ren.

"How ya doin doc?" Ren said as he turned in his chair to face her. The most welcoming face I’ve ever known, he thought when he caught her startlingly beautiful and intelligent eyes.

“Pretty good, so Ace, when we landing this tub.”   She always loved it when he looked into her eyes.  Something about it always made her feel completely naked in front of him every time he did it.  Calm down, no jumping on him while he is landing, you don't want you both to die in a horrible fiery crash. she thought.  She leaned on the panel next to the chair, carefully avoiding any of the buttons.

"Thought 'bout orbitin’ for the next week or so... ya know... it's kind of a pretty planet from up here... but yeah here in a sec the fun begins" Ren quickly gave Acacia a peck on the cheek as he leaned over her to check the landing azimuth, "Ya see that... too deep or shallow, we burn up into a cinder." he said pointing at the display.

“Ren sweetie, I’m all in favor of not burning up, also I tend to not like thinking about it, so if I am being a distraction, let me know.”   Acacia said standing up, walking over and leaning on his shoulder.

"Not at all love, not at all" Settling himself back in his seat Ren pulled the straps from the side of the chair across his chest and fastened them tightly, he then looked to Acacia and said, "Might want to buckle up, ride gets a bit bumpy up here" giving her a little nudge.

He then picked up the intercom and said, "Ladies and gentlemen please buckle in, sit down, or do somethin so ya don't fall on your ass, we're about hit atmo and winds are lookin a bit tetchy down there. Thank you for flying Destiny space lines."

Ren does his best to put her down into atmo, expertly using the wind and Destiny to cut through the high atmospheric weather, when they finally break cloud the port stretches out before them, within a few minutes Destiny is safely down and Ren began a post flight check of systems, enjoying Acacia's company the whole time.

Acacia wasn't paying much creed to the warning and decided to risk the landing standing behind her man.  She stumbled a couple of times but kept her balance, after Ren was done with the post landing stuff she came over and straddled him, and flung her arms around him and gave him a huge kiss. after one kiss she pulled her head back, “Nice flying Ace.” and wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him again.

Enjoying the warmth of her arms around him and the weight of her Ren stayed silent for a for a few seconds enjoying the moment, "Mmmm. baby, that was the best part of the landing right there. You headin’ off the ship or are ya stayin around?"

“Nope staying here, what about you?  Care to join me in the staying here?”   She hoped to God that she didn't sound dopey again.  She seemed to be queen of the bad come-on’s.

"That suits me just fine, don't wanna get out on that dust ball when the scenery and company are way better right here in our little can." Ren began to relax, allowing his eyes to adjust to the change in light being on the ground brought.

Acacia interrupted each of the following phrases with a kiss, “That......was....the correct.....answer...you wonderful... wonderful .....man.”   Acacia rubbed her hands through his hair as she did.

"Now... that... is... what... I... call...a checkup..." Ren said, returning the favor, "Now, what do ya want to do? Stay here, or relax in the fine comfort of the dining hall?"

“Well it isn't very comfortable in here but it is very private, and after this I'm not sure I can keep my hands off you, no matter who is around, but I will let the choice be yours,  for now I'll be right here.” Acacia said as she leaned against Ren and snuggled her head against his chest, her hair just below his chin. She sighed contently.

"Well then, let the snuggling commence" Ren said as he pulled Acacia even closer.

“It is too bad not everyone knows cause this would be much more romantic if we could do this while we were in the black, with all the stars twinkling.” Acacia slid herself down so her butt is right on Ren's crotch, “What I want I know you won't do.” She said looking up at him.

Ren groaned a little in pleasure and put his hand on Acacia's hips then said, "Baby you know I love you... just don't want the extra pressure while we're on a job, ya know?"

“So he doesn't want pressure?” Acacia said, grinning her best evil grin, “maybe I should just get up then.” She very slowly started to get up, and started to try to creep away. god I am so tacky, but I guess I wouldn't be me without the stupidness. she thinks.

"Oh no, no, no, no you get back here little girl." Ren said chuckling as he grabbed her by the waist and planted her firmly on his lap. "You don't get away that easy"

Acacia let out a yelp when he grabbed her, and let him place her on his lap again, it was really where she wanted to be anyway, “Little girl?  I'm not that little, I mean, I know I'm quite petite, but little girl? I think I'm almost hurt.” She sat on his lap arms folded refusing to look at him but also trying desperately not to laugh.

"Awww... poor baby, you've got great qualities no matter your size" Ren said half jokingly, half lovingly as he poked his head next to hers and kissed her on the neck.

Acacia just leaned back and rested her head against Ren.  She couldn’t help but feel small next to him.  She scooted up long enough to remove the lab coat she was wearing.  She  then smoothed out her skirt, and lay against her lovers body, she listened to his heartbeat - it was very soothing.  “Have you ever wished that a moment could last forever?  Cause this one is very nice.”

"This one is definitely not bad" Ren said just enjoying the few moments he finally had alone with Acacia.  It really would be better not to pretend anymore... but just not yet, he thought as he sadly pondered the state of their relationship.

Acacia, from the warmth of Ren’s body started to drift off a little.  She felt the little bit of energy she had begin to sap out of her.  “How long till someone comes up here and ruins this?” she asked with a yawn.  She closed her eyes and kept listening to beat of Ren's heart.

“We got a while I bet, everyone’s got jobs to get done.”

“Mmm.” is all that Acacia said.  She was definitely falling asleep.  Ren slowly began to stroke her hair and as he did he began to doze off, feeling content and happy as Acacia did the same.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Geoff stepped out onto the metal catwalk above the cargo bay and walked at a casual pace down the stairs. He took a seat at the last step and then sighed lightly as he drew his pistols to make sure they' were ready and loaded and, when he was done with that, drew his knife and ran a thumb across the blade to test it's edge. It drew a bit of blood and Geoff nodded in approval as he sheathed the blade and flicked the drop of blood from his thumb before pressing it and his forefinger together to stop the light blood flow.

Kendra came down the stairs as well and said, “I’m ready.”

Geoff looked to Kendra from where he sat and nodded. "That's good. Now all we need is ta be on land and I can get ta leadin' this little parade o' ours..." he said with a short laugh. He looks about the cargo bay as he waited and spotted the companion and suddenly felt a bit of an ache in his hand. He knew it wasn’t actual pain so much as a mental reminder of what that woman did and how that meant Geoff should stay out of her way. Aversion therapy is quite effective on one such as Geoff and he picked up lessons in pain quite quickly.

Kyoko smiled at Geoff and waved to him with a wry smile. She could tell by his touch to his hand that he was recalling their last encounter, perhaps he wouldn't hold a grudge. The drunk on Whitefall did, he had to take a hell of a beating to stay down.

Geoff grinned back and waved gingerly, trying his best not to show discomfort. As a whole, he knew he had had the manhandling she had dished out coming and wasn't all that angry about it. He was just taking a lesson and a clue from the experience and deciding to stay as much out of the companion's way as he could.

“And down we go!” Ren’s voice came over the comm as Destiny touched down.

Geoff spent the landing time seated on the steps, holding onto the railing lightly. It was lucky that he had been sitting already or else he would've ended up on his ass sooner or later during the landing anyway. When they were finally on land, he stood and stretched looking about the cargo bay. He sighed once again and muttered, "Ruttin' babysittin'. Just ruttin' perfect..." before cupping his hands around his mouth and yelling out.

"Alright! We landed! Now, all of ya that are gonna be takin' part in Geoff Wolfe's guided tours o' the 'verse, come on down here so I can get some gorram things clear! I ain't gonna be repeatin' any o' this so hurry up!" he yelled out and then stood in the middle of the cargo hold and waited for his tourists...

Charlie walked into the Cargo Bay, heading for the airlock controls and arming them, humming to herself.  She had no intention of opening the doors just yet, of course...but things needed to be ready for when they were ready for them.  "I'm not here for the tour, just getting some things ready, you know."  She smiled at Geoff, looking over her shoulder.  "You showing off the stores, taking them to a museum, something like that?  Or maybe just playing protector to some of the finer blood on the ship?"

Geoff shrugged and smiled to Charlie as she showed up on the cargo bay. "Aw, really? Ya ain't goin' on the tour? Damn shame. I have knack fer findin’ the fun places." he said with a laugh before shaking his head, "But, I'm just goin' ta be gettin' supplies and I'm gonna be...escortin' these fine people along with me."

She laughed a bit, flicking another switch and causing one of the overhead lights to come on.  She turned back around to Geoff and Kendra, giving him a smile.  "I don't know how much you've been on a ship, so let me just tell you...this is the best part.  Close your eyes for a second."  Charlie turned back around, holding her head back and hitting the button for a second, letting the bay doors open about four or five inches.  Instantly, the wind howled and shot through the processed atmosphere, and the warm breeze was strong enough to pick her hair up and sway for a few seconds.  It was warm, like it was summer...not like the ship, which maintained somewhere much lower than a summer day, that could be said for sure...

Geoff grinned lightly, knowing exactly what she meant about this being the best part. Even putting aside the feel of the wind from the outside and being able to breath in fresh air for once, this point symbolized a brief break in the monotony of the black. It was always a very freeing experience for him. It always got rid of the bit of stir craziness and boredom that he usually feels when in the ship.

Kendra smiled at Charlie, and walked to the door, shut her eyes briefly, caught a whiff of natural air, letting the warmth caress her bare arms, enjoying the warm breeze as it tousled her hair.

Charlie rubbed her arms, trying to cast away the goose bumps under her sleeves that had appeared.  It was one of those things that couldn't be avoided, as it was her favorite thing about landing.  If she had a regret about anything, it was that she didn't get the warmth of the sun on her face, unless it were through a window and coming out of the blackness.  She took a moment to look around, seeing Kendra for the first time now, giving her a bit of a smile.

"Hi there, I'm Charlie..."  She managed to beam another smile, giving her a slight nod.  "I'm sorry we don't have the time for, you know, a real hello and the such.  I've just got work to do, and y'all got your tour, so don't let me be stopping you."  Charlie scooted away from the controls, passing by Geoff and motioning to them.

"I know you know how to work them.  I'll let you open the doors when you're ready to go."  She gave him another smile, heading off and bounding up the stairs, her boots echoing against the catwalk and resounding through the Cargo Bay.  First thing was her tools, along with some other necessities, and then she was going outside..

Kyron followed shortly after, walking into the cargo bay, he gave the giant a look of disdain.  "I suppose you find yourself clever." he commented and walked right past the man to stand in front of the airlock and wait to be let out of this piece of fei wu.

As Kyron spoke up, the feeling of happiness at being at port was a bit diminished. Geoff turned to him and gave him a smile that was anything but friendly. "Oh, I find myself many things. Clever, witty, able to shoot a man from a couple of hundred yards away and make the body disappear. I'm a man of many talents..." he said and then shook his head and sighed as he raised his voice again, "Ok, listen up! You two tourists are bein' let off the boat only 'cause I'll be with ya. Now, here's the deal. You will be stayin' where I can see ya. You will be comin' back to the boat when I say so. You will listen ta what I say to ya. The penalty fer not doin' this is....well, it's somethin' that we don't need ta be discussin' 'cause it won't much matter when the time comes. Dong ma?"

Shi a, lao buhn.“ Kendra said.

Kyron however cast a withering glance at the giant. "I will be going where I please, when I please.  You are not baby-sitting me.  And empty threats mean nothing, dong ma?” he said the last clearly in mockery of Geoff.

Geoff smiled real friendly to Kendra, giving her a nod that said he was grateful for the cooperation. He then turned the smile to Kyron and drew one of his pistols and pointed it at him. "Oh, let me assure ya that it ain't an empty threat. See, ya got two choices right now. Either you will listen ta what I say and play nice or I will shoot out both yer kneecaps and drag ya around ta do yer shoppin'." he said and cocked the hammer back on his pistol, "So...what's the choice, friend?"

Kyron stood calmly as the man pulled out his gun and aimed it carefully at him, his eyes boring into him.  "How civilized, shopping by gun point because the oaf doesn't know how to take control any other way.  I'm sure you got through life by sheer intimidation of your size and guns, but just to be perfectly clear, you do not scare me.  I, however, will 'play nice' because holding conversation with you wearies me."

Geoff continued to grin and shrugged. "Hey, friend. Don't knock what works. My guns and my size pay the bills and keep fella’s like you outta my hair. 'Sides, I tried the talkin' but yer fancy core world learnin' done just scared the bejiggers outta dim witted and thuggish dullard like myself." he said with a wry grin, "Just ta be clear, though, I don't need ta be scarin' ya. I just need ya ta know that, should ya step outta line, I will kill ya....and I will enjoy it."

He then nodded lightly and holstered the gun as he cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled again, hoping his voice carried throughout the ship. "Oi, Cap'n! I'll be needin' the cash ta pay fer this stuff..." he yelled and waited for the captain to answer.

Kale stepped onto the second level catwalk, and called down into the cargo bay to Geoff "What do ya mean money, you ain't payin' fer all that outta your pocket?" he grinned and stomped down the first flight of stairs and then tossed the box to Geoff.

Geoff chuckled as he caught the box. "Well, Cap'n, I'd be happy ta pay fer it all as soon as ya pay me. Other than that, the bank o' Wolfe is closed." he said as he moved to the door controls to open them up.

"You guys be careful, hear me?  I don' want no need fer the doctor to be stichin' anyone up." Kale said.

“Oh, don't worry Captain, we'll be just fine. We're in good hands.” Kendra said with a look to Geoff.

 "That’s right, Cap'n. Everything's just shiny between all of us and they're in good hands, as she says."  He then turns to the two passengers as he walked to the ramp. "Come on then. The captain said 30 minutes and that's all yer gettin' so let's hurry it up..." he remarked and walked down the ramp and onto land, much to his happiness.

Rhaef entered the cargo bay then as if he was going to the shops and kiosks that await some of the passengers, with hands in pockets and apparently unarmed.  He nodded his head at Kale, silently gauging the Captain's movements and stance to assess his mood and preparedness.  "Did I keep you waiting?" Rhaef said, looking out the hatch at the terrain that awaits them.

Kale just looked at Rhaef as he entered the cargo bay, not even bothering to answer his smart ass remark.  "Alright," he said, continuing down the stairwell, his hands checking the pistols holstered at his hips. "let's do this."

He crossed to the ramp, and looked outside.  With the exception of their ship it looked like all the others at the landing belong to Blue Sun, transport freighters to carry away the minerals. "Well, our contact should have no problem spotting us, we stick out like a sore thumb." he said and headed out.  He turned to Geoff and Charlie, "Any problems you contact me, we should be back in no more then an hour." he then walked down the ramp, motioning for Rhaef to follow.

The skies were grey and the buildings of Harsdale were built right into the rock wall of the mountain.  The wind was blowing something fierce as Kale emerged from Destiny, taking in the very few other ships in port.  His coat flapped in the heavy wind as he looked for someone who looked like they were looking for someone.  "Be ready for anything." he said in a low voice to Rhaef.  Then he spotted a man in a black coat standing by himself, "You think that's our man?"

Still standing just to the rear of the Captain, Rhaef voiced his opinion.  "Well, he's definitely not a miner, and that makes him a good candidate for being a xiong meng de kuang ren."  Rhaef squinted in the gusting winds, scanning the scattered buildings and bystanders for someone, or something linked to the man before them.

He seemed to be the one however as he began approaching Kale and Rhaef.  He was unarmed, there was no need for unpleasantness, he was just a messenger and he was to show the two men that no harm was intended.  Of course, he was not pleased with this, if the two men turned out to be a danger to him he had no means of self defense, but his life mattered very little to the man who sent him.

"You are Captain Kale Galway." he said, it was not a question, he had seen pictures of every member of Destiny's crew and knew what to expect.

Kale nodded at the man in black, “And you are?”

"It is not important." he said bluntly, "You will follow me, you are to speak with Bosik directly." There was a tinge of fear in his voice when he mentioned the mans name.  He turned on his heel then and began walking away, his long legs carrying him swiftly, not bothering to see if he was being followed.

Rhaef ears intently listened to the exchange, while his eyes continued to watch the surrounding town for whatever might be there, occasionally glancing into the stranger's eyes.  Making a mental image of his face, he made certain to not forget it, incase he had need to find him again.

Kale glanced over at Rhaef, they shared a brief exchange of looks, and then followed the man.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Acacia woke up and noticed that Ren was still sleeping under her.  She stirred and slowly woke up. Leaning over she kissed him on the forehead, picked up her coat and walked out, she walked through the dining area and the cargo bay figuring she wanted to go talk to Kyoko.

She knocked lightly on the door and heard Kyoko call out from inside, “It’s open, feel free to come in.”

“Hiya, Kyoko, how ya doing?” Acacia said as she walked in.  She leaned against the wall.  “Do you have any appointments planetside or you hanging around on board this time?”   She smiled friendly at the companion.

"I've been grounded by the captain, a dainty flower of my species wouldn't flower here apparently." Kyoko said as she rose, smiling to her friend. "Would you like something?  I still have some rice cookies, if you like.”  The companion smiled softly, the doctor's discrete affair was quite entertaining and she was hoping that she had come for 'advice' since Kyoko didn't feel like being seen as 'meddling'.

“Thanks.“ Acacia said taking one, “So, I was wondering since you've helped me before, I'm worried that our captain and companions will comeback kinda holey, so I thought I'd ask,” Acacia sighed, she seemed a little annoyed, she didn’t intend to but all of a sudden she found herself saying what was really on her mind,  “I wish I could stop sneaking around.  I think the captain wouldn't have issue, don't you agree?”   She had tried to hold off talkin about her relationship … it didn’t work.

"Would you be referring to your orbital maneuvers with a certain pilot?” Kyoko said with a teasing smile as she motioned for her friend to take a seat.

“Orbital maneuvers?  I've heard it called many things but never that.  Should I be satisfied, with having someone care for me even if I have to worry about hiding it?”  Acacia asked as she sat down.

"I would discuss it with the other person involved, but trust me, only the most obtuse of the crew don't know… and that doesn't include our gallant Captain. Why do you think I suggested some of my books for your reading last month? I find it…refreshing to see a new love blossom like that.”

Acacia almost choked on the rice cookie she was eating. Everyone knew?    “Everyone knows?  What? How?  I thought we were really careful.”   She leaned forward, “what does everyone know and what do they think?”

"It's a small ship, and you two have been rather smitten with one another. And, I might add, I am a companion, I have been taught to read people for a living. One of the reasons I do not play cards, it would upset the captain if I won back my rent payments. Would you like something? A glass of wine perhaps?" Kyoko shut down the terminal, privacy would have to wait till later, she figured the doctor wished to discuss matters of the heart and she was more than content to do so. Given that was one of the many things she did with clients.

“Sure,” Acacia said faintly, then shook her head still in disbelief. “I understood you knowing, but everyone else?  You have any ideas?  I mean I love Ren, in fact I have never loved anyone like I love him.  I want to spend every night in his arms and I want to spend every day at his side.  Does that sound silly?”

Kyoko opened a trunk and carefully pulled out two elegant glasses and a well preserved bottle, making the whole set up and pouring a ritual as she mulled over the considerations. She handed one glass over to Acacia. "You and Reiner are both colleagues of mine, and like I said this is a small boat, so everyone eventually hears things in a context that makes it apparent. The question is, do you two want to come out and make it open. That way you don't have to needlessly hide your affections. I would say it would be for the best to do so. Not to mention.. you two could openly share a cabin.”

“I want to, but I think Ren is afraid of the repercussions, I think he doesn't want the captain to think badly of him.  I keep asking him, but he keeps dragging his feet, I don't want to push him… Cause I don't want to lose him.”  Acacia ran her hands through her hair like she always did when she got nervous.  “but besides you, what have people said about us I mean, have you even heard anything?”

"Discuss it with him, he's got a right to voice his concerns, but I stand by my appraisal of the captain. Very little dealing with his crew slips by him.” Kyoko said, in a factual way as she sipped a bit of her wine. "How is your wine? Would you like a bit of cheese with it, I have some nice samples.” Kyoko gestured to the trunk. "Not like I'm teaming with clients at the moment and we should get to one of my supply stops soon.”

“It is nice, sure.” Acacia let a bit of the moodiness into her voice.  She leaned back into the chair, sighing loudly. “I've had to tell family members that a father, a mother, a husband, a wife, or whoever … I've had to tell them that won't get better.  I thought that was the hardest thing.  I don't want anyone on the ship to think poorly of me.  I'm worried I will have no respect given to me anymore.  I have talked and talked about this with Ren, I …”  she wiped a small tear from her eye, her brothers always teased her about being too emotional.



Kyoko sat beside her and offered a handkerchief. "Nonsense, you have the respect of us all. Now don't you dare build up this. Why don't you and I discuss ways we can get our friend the pilot to open up enough for you two to come out in the open. Or I could simply find you two on the flight deck one night... I have nearly walked in on you two several times during a late watch." Kyoko brushed Acacia's face off. "Why is it the women on board this ship are so worried.. the two of you are strong, beautiful women, both you and Charlene have no reason to doubt yourselves."

“I don't doubt myself,”  Acacia said, taking the handkerchief and sniffing, “Wait, what does Charlie have problems with me?  I wouldn't want her to think badly of me either, in fact I feel bad about not talking to her more, it seemed like when I came on the ship I talked to her all the time and then when I started with Ren I seemed to spend less time with her.”   Acacia looked a little more composed.  “So, on to discussing more things, what is your ideas, cause I would rather tell it to people rather then have it discovered.”

"No, I'm just saying two skilled and talented women in their professions seem so unsure of their personal lives. As for what to do.. I suggest putting a little of your feminine wiles to work on this. Persuade your man to see things your way.” Kyoko pulled out a book on massages and turned to a specific section. "I think as a doctor you will find this… enlightening and very good at persuading the male to do as you ask." she explained as she got up and let the doctor look over the entry by herself.

Acacia looked down at the book, “Kyoko I don't want to trick him,  I'm worried it wouldn't be real, it would be not legit.  I want him to want to do this on his own.  But, like you said I think it is a matter of time before we get caught.  Especially if every time the captain has him going somewhere I have to almost bite my tongue so hard it almost draws blood, just to stop me from either sayin' or doin' something.”  She kept looking at the book though.

"Then just talk to him about it.. work things out with him. I was just offering options, use that though.. I'm sure you'll both find it enjoyable. I have been hired to spice up things.. by advising a spouse, from time to time, so I know how well it works." Kyoko smiled smugly. "It is good to see you are thinking about this relationship, though I think you two need to do more than just think about how it is going. Openness is good for it, trust me on that.”


‘I'm not sure how good I would be at this,” Acacia said, still flipping through the book, “I never studied much massage therapy when I got my doctorate.” She flipped the book  “So, then explain how to do this then.”

"Well I think it best if you read over it a bit more before you ask any questions. If you aren't sure then.. well I'm willing to let you demonstrate with me." Kyoko said calmly. "I am sure that you will figure it out though ..As for your big problem, just sit him down someplace private and discuss it out with him.”

“Okay.”  Acacia tried to push all this to the back of her mind then to think about later, and looked back up at Kyoko, “I was serious earlier that I might need the help of an aid treating some possible injuries.  Do you know where Charlie is at by the way I haven't seen her in a long time I'm worried she spends too much time down in her pit.  Being the only women the three of us should do something together.”  Acacia truly enjoyed the company.

"Don't worry about Charlene, I keep an eye on her." Kyoko said calmly, "got her a nice outfit to try on.. one of these days we need to do a girls night out on a core world.”

“With this boat I’m not holding my breath about making a core world anytime soon.  Why do you know something that Kale isn't tell anyone else?  It would be fun.” she brushed some hair out of her eyes. “I'm going to miss confiding in you if the relationship is public though, you really have been so much help,”  Acacia stood up and gave the taller woman a friendly hug thank you.

"Not a problem, and as for a Core world trip.. I'm sure my contract with the captain, which he didn't read too closely, will cover that.” Kyoko said with a wide smile. "Worse to worse, I can charter the Destiny.”

“I'd love to see his face when you pull that one.” Acacia said with a smile.  “Any particular destination in the core worlds you are partial to?”

"Most likely Ariel, since it's the guild house I operate out of, and I'm sure I can find someplace nice.. perhaps a spa for us?" Kyoko asked, clearly looking for the doctor's approval in her plan.

‘I haven't been to the core since I finished my schooling on Osiris, and a spa sounds like heaven, course unless your paying, the captain doesn't pay me enough to enjoy a day at the spa.”

"My treat.. all the way, a class A resort I'm thinking.. zero g pool, companions giving you full body massages." Kyoko smiled warmly. "Someone tall, dark and handsome feeding you grapes while we relax in the sun."

“Oh my I am already feeling my muscles relax at the thought of that.  By the way do you know about how long they will be off the ship right now?  Cause I have a idea of how to try to convince Ren.”  Acacia had a brain storm it might not work, but at least it would be a nice time.

"Best you talk to him in on the Bridge, I am thinking if this is one of the captain's harebrained schemes we might need to lift off quick." Kyoko said as she pulled another bottle out and handed it and some cheese to Acacia. "Sparkling fruit juice, but it's a nice touch.. and it's the last of my brie, but I figure this and a few scented candles might set the mood." She winked to her as she pulled out the candles.

Acacia's head perked up at some sounds coming from the cargo hold.  I think I might have to wait but, I will use everything you say.  Can you keep this in here for now.  I'm a little curious as to the sounds going on outside.   She sticks her head outside to see what is going on.

Kyoko leaned back and smiled as she bottled her wine and tucked it way. As she watched Acacia leave she talked to herself. "I bet the captain has a lynch mob after him by now."



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Geoff stepped out of the ship, giving a glance to the captain and Rhaef as they were approached by a man in black. He shrugged only and gave the men a wide berth as he walked into the port and stopped to give his tourists a chance to catch up with him. He looked around with a smile on his face, glad to be in any port at all.

Kyron, didn’t wait for Geoff though, he simply walked right on past him and into the small town of Harsdale.

Geoff cursed lightly as Kyron strolled past him and seriously considered shooting the man right then. The only thing that stopped him from doing that is that he didn't want to draw attention to himself and, despite his thuggish leanings, he was not one to shoot a man in the back. Instead he just grumbles as he followed after Kyron, the other passenger in tow.

The city wasn’t really too much to look at, most of the buildings were built right into the side of the rocky mountain and were as grey as the sky giving the place an overall rather gloomy feel.  There weren’t really too many options as to where to do your shopping either.  Just a Sheriff’s office, what looked to be a library, a barber, a general store and a few others that weren’t recognizable by first glance.

Kyron walked into the city proper, eyeing the shabbily dressed citizen's and the sub-standard buildings.  He hated border planets, and he had seen his fair share.  Every time he was forced to set foot on one however he could feel himself cringing.  So completely uncivilized.

He glanced around before finding the general store.  General store, perfect, now he could purchase food items right along side gardening tools, and went inside, not bothering to see if he was in Geoff's eyesight.  If he wanted to keep track of him then he'd just have to follow him around.

Geoff was getting more and more irritated with the core-worlder's attitude as he walked quickly down the main road, glancing over his shoulder every so often to check on Kendra. His gaze always came back to Kyron's back, though, and he was really considering rethinking his whole "don't shoot a man in the back" policy. He restrained himself though and followed Kyron into the General Store, feeling more and more like this was a baby-sitting job than anything.

A few people milled about the store, a pair of old woman stood by the fruit, and few gruff looking men stood by the register talking to the owner, a very gruff looking man himself.  Everyone looked up as they noticed the three new people enter the room.  They look away quickly but their eyes kept darting back.

Kyron could feel the eyes looking over him as he stepped inside.  It was not uncommon, most people from border worlds were not used to strangers.  Even less used to ones as prosperous as himself, this had played into his favor many a times, but he did not need to worry about that this time.  He walked coolly to the back of the store where he noticed the electronics, he was in need of an new routing wire for his terminal, he dearly hoped they would carry what he required.

Geoff let Kendra in before he entered himself. He looked about the place with his lazy gaze and grinned lightly to the people around, giving a light salute to them. He took a quick glance towards Kyron to note where he was before heading for the counter, not minding the gruff crowd. In fact, they seemed to be much like him in their demeanor and he found himself feeling quite at ease around them.

He came up to the counter and whistled sharply to the owner at the register, smiling in a friendly manner. "Howdy there, mister. How ya doin'? Now that we got the pleasantries out the way, I need ta do business." he said as he pulled out the list and showed it to the man, "Ya see this list? I need the stuff on it. Do ya got 'em and, if not, ya know where I can get 'em? Also, those fruit there, they good? 'Cause I'm supposed ta pick out somethin not in a pack or a can or what not. Somethin' real, ya know? So how’s 'bout it, friend? Can ya help me out here?"

The man looked Geoff up and down, made a slight clucking sound, looked at the list and then said, as though Geoff had forced him to speak, "Yeah, we got’s that stuff,  you look down that aisle there," he pointed vaguely in the direction of the rest of the store, "you should find it."

Geoff grinned at the owner and nodded as he put the list away. "Thank ya very kindly fer yer help, friend." he said.

"Those are some fancy pistols you got." one of the men standing by the counter commented, he was missing both his front teeth as he grinned.

Geoff turned to the man, “Yeah, I s'pose they are. Though, fancy or not, they get the job done, dong ma?" He chuckled at that and then headed for the aisles to start looking for the things on the list.

Kyron meanwhile looked with distaste at the selection.  All shoddy pieces of equipment, he'd be replacing the router again within a month.  He grabbed what he needed and headed to the front of the store to make his purchase.

"That all fer you pretty-boy." the man said, and started clucking his tongue again, an obvious habit. "It'll be 20 credits."

"Twenty?" Kyron asked with arched brows, "It is hardly worth that much, I could find an item of much better quality at a more dignified store in the core for half that price.  Do not try and scam this piece of fei wu off on me."

"Well this ain't no fancy core planet store now is it?" the owner said in a husky voice, "Pretty-boy like you best run home and cry to your mama."

"You need not remind me." Kyron said coldly, "I should expect no less from an ignorant liu kou shui de biao zi he hou zi de ben er zi.  It amazes me really how you can manage to run such an establishment seeing as you are quite obviously handicap in your mental well-being." He did not need to put up with some nobody calling him pretty-boy.

The man’s eyes blazed into Kyron.  "I take a might of offense to that." he said darkly.

"Why don't you say that again?" one of the other men said, his hand slipping closer to the pistol at his hip.

Geoff looked up then from picking up his items, from the sound of it, the owner wasn't taking to kindly to Kyron. That was understandable. Geoff didn't take to kindly to him either. He stifled a laugh as he heard the owner's "run home and cry to mama" remark and shook his head lightly in amusement. He continued to pick out items as he figured Kyron had the sense to keep his attitude in check when he was clearly outnumbered.

Then he heard Kyron speak and knew that there would be trouble. "Sorry, Cap'n. Looks like I may not be able ta get these supplies after all..." he muttered as he put down his load of items and put a hand by his pistol, the other gripping the case of money quite fiercely. As he saw one of the men's hand go toward the gun, he moved toward the counter quickly with his pistol already aiming at the man's head. "I wouldn't recommend yer hand touch steel unless ya want a mighty pretty hole in yer head, dong ma?"

Kendra too had noticed the verbal fight breaking out and stepped slowly backwards, her hand read at her hip as well if there was trouble.

Kyron turned as he heard Geoff speak and then looked to the man standing beside him, his hand was indeed by his pistol.  "Were you going to shoot me?" Kyron said coldly, "Ni men dou shi sha gua."

"Wasn' goin' ta.  I aim ta!"

In one swift movement the other man who hadn't spoke or touched his weapon, and who Geoff did not have his gun trained on grabbed Kyron’s wrist, twisting his arm up behind his back while pulling out a pistol and pressing it to the mans forehead. "You wanna die, pretty-boy?"

The other man looked at Geoff, "I suggest you lower yer gun or we'll splay this man's brains all over this store."

"Hell, we'll splay this mans brains anyway!" the two of them guffawed loudly.

Geoff groaned and gave Kyron a glare. "Ya couldn't shut yer gorram mouth, could ya? Ya just had ta be the core worlder hun dun that you are, didn't ya?" he growled as he pointed his gun to the ground and he shook his head in exasperation. He looked to the gruff men with a helpless shrug as he stepped to stand in front of Kyron and the man holding him, leaving the man he had originally had his gun trained on behind him.

"I really can't blame y'all for wantin' ta shoot him. I mean, I've entertained the notion a number o' times myself. Ya know what? Go ahead and do it! Hell, I don't like him anyway. Look, I'll do it for ya! Here hold this fer me!" he said as he threw the box of money to the man he had had his gun trained on and drew his second pistol with the now free left hand.  As he drew his second gun, he raised the first one he had drawn in his right hand and shot right beside Kyron's head aiming at the man holding him. With the second pistol, he aimed over his shoulder to the man he had tossed the box to and shot three times at him.

Kyron shut his eyes tight as Geoff took aim at his head, The bloody oaf is actually going to shoot me! he thought in panic.

A few seconds later Kyron was still standing with his eyes shut, two bodies lying on the ground on either side of him.

The owner came back up from where he had ducked behind the counter.  "You just shot the sheriff!" he shouted.  Everyone in the store started making noise, the old woman ran out into the streets and started yelling.  In a matter of moments the quiet store was in complete chaos.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Instead of continuing into the city proper the man in black lead Kale and Rhaef in the opposite direction, there was only a thin, rocky road this way that wound around the side of the mountain.  A sheer rock wall rose up hundreds of feet to his right, and a cliff dropped off hundreds of feet down to his left.  "Don't look down." he commented wryly to Rhaef.

Finally the man stopped at a door in the face of the cliff side, he punched in a pass code and the door hissed open.  He motion for Kale and Rhaef to follow him inside.

The room was spotless... immaculate really ... and looked more like a librarians office then someone trying to smuggle something off planet.  There was a desk directly across the room from them where a chair sat facing away.  Kale could not see its occupant.

"Leave us." a curt voice from behind the chair said, and the man in black slipped out of the room.  Statton Bosik slowly spun his chair around to face the two men who had just entered his office.  "So you are Captain Galway, I presume." he said.  His tone was crisp and curt, he looked at Kale and Rhaef as though analyzing them intently and said nothing more, waiting for their reply. "This is when you answer me, and we exchange greetings." he informed the men.

Rhaef's eyes scanned left and right taking in any other exits, doors, or chutes, anything that can be used as an escape route.  From here his eyes drew in the details of the room, placement of furniture and any pictures or objects that might give him insight into the man they were now speaking too.  He didn’t comment however, letting Kale talk for now.

Kale looked evenly at the man seated at the desk across from him.  He was older then himself, dark skin and white hair, very well kept.  He was dressed in high-collared clean white shirt and Kale suspected he had some nice fancy slacks on his lower half.

"You must be Bosik." Kale said, finding the mans insistence on proper greetings a bit hypocritical considerin' the greeting he had just received.

Bosik cocked an eyebrow, not much caring for the Captain's tone. "Statton Bosik." he replied. "Mr. Bosik to you." his tone was calm but there was just a hint of danger to it.

"Greetings Mr. Bosik."  Rhaef said, rather drawn out with a bit of a drawl.  He was testing the man.  Rhaef knew his role to Destiny, and this was it.  Watch the Captain's back, but becoming a different persona was also something he used to lighten tense situations, and get a better reading on someone like Bosik. Someone who had all the cards in their favor.

"I must say your office is the nicest we've seen since well... ever."  Rhaef put on his best disarming grin, hoping to ease the tension even more.

Bosik nodded his approval in the direction of Mr. Sorandash, slightly surprised by the mans pleasant demeanor, seemed out of place given what they had managed to dig up about the mans history.  He watched him intensely for a moment, studying him like one does a lab rat.  Then he turned his attention back to the Captain.

"I have one crate, large, but it should be no problem.  My men will bring it to your ship, it will be waiting you there upon your return.  However, I wished to speak to you in person so you may fully understand what your part in this endeavor is."

"Well, that's mighty kind of you considerin' we were wonderin' that ourselves." Kale said, not liking the way the mans eyes analyzed the two of them.  "What is that we're hauling around for you and where is it that we're takin' it?"

Rhaef maintained the large grin as he continued to look at Bosik, waiting for his response to the question that he and Kale had been pondering since they had been asked to take this job.  "Oh I hope its Osiris, its been forever since we've been there." He said.

"Londinum, actually." Bosik replied. "As to the cargo its contents are of no concern to you, the crate is locked and coded.  If there is so much as a hint that someone might have been touching it, there is no deal and your lives are forfeit." Bosik said calmly ... dangerously.  He examined the men again with his cold eyes, "I'm sure there will be no problems though, am I correct?"

"That was my second choice."  Rhaef exclaimed, pointing playfully at the man in the chair.  "And don't you worry about your package Mr. Bosik, we ain't had no reason to go pokin' round no crates yet, so I don't see why yours would be any different.  Plus I promised his Momma I'd look after him, and if his life is forfeit.  I guess I'd be breakin' that promise, now wouldn't I?"

Rhaef's smile, still as big as ever began to fade.

"I'd hate to face his Momma after that, I can only imagine the things she'd have me do to make it right..."  After a long second looking into Bosik's eyes, the smile erupted once again, accompanied by laughter.  "No Worries, Mr. Bosik.  I'm sure it won't have to come to that."

Bosik was again taken aback by the mans demeanor.  He folded his hands carefully on his desk, the man was playing him, a stupid game.  He shook his head in disappointment.  The human race was lost, people were a disgrace to humanity itself.  "Get my cargo to Londinum, a man will meet you there.  Your payment will be wired." He looked down at his paperwork, then back up at the two men.  "I have nothing more to say to you, you may leave."



"Well you have yourself a nice day, Mr. Bosik and we'll be sure to take right nice care of your crate for you."  Rhaef put a hand on Kale's shoulder.

From the moment they walked into this place, the First Mate had a feeling the man in the chair was not in a friendly mood.  Either he didn't like dealing with people of the Captain's ilk, or he was just looking for someone to bully.  Knowing the Captain, it was only a matter of time before lead was flying and they were dying.

Rhaef was never fond of playing the game he just had, but with situations like these, you get in and out, and don't do anything to drag it out and give them more ammunition to fire at you on the way out.  Kale would have challenged Statton to a pissing contest before it was over.  With tension like that, he'd take getting out of there looking like a fool.

Kale looked to Rhaef, shrugged slightly, and gave him a look that clearly said, see now didn't I tell you it'd be nice and simple?.

"Pleasure doin' business." he said, and turned to leave the office, following the cliff side road back to Destiny.

Rhaef's hollow smile lasted one half of a step past the door, before he came up shoulder to shoulder pressing the pace a bit, but not so fast as to look suspicious, just purposeful.

"You wanna get on the wire and get your crew back to the boat?  Or are you thinking of purchasing some real estate?"  Rhaef said, harsher than intended, his mind reviewing the encounter that just took place.

Kale just ignored Rhaef’s sarcastic comment as they stepped back onto the landing.  "Now see Rhaef, what I tell ya, ain't no one comin' back from this job with any bullet holes or scuffles at all, nice an' simple like." he spotted the man in black standing beside a ground transport, crate in tow.

"I'll remember to write that below your name on nice pretty slab of stone."  Rhaef's eyes moved from the black clad man to the crate, considering it's size his mind quickly raced with the possibilities of what was in it, then moved to matters at hand.  "I hope they got the supplies.  I can't live off those protein packs."  .

Kale grinned at Rhaef's comment, then sized up the crate. "Go ahead and give Geoff a call, we'll need help loading this thing." Kale said, the crate was pretty damn huge.  The man in black said nothing before taking off on his transport.

"Attention, the Captain requires strong backs, and weak minds.  Come in Geoff."  Rhaef spoke into the comm, eyeing Kale the entire time.  The Captain knew he hated doing this.

"Captain?"  Charlie stepped out from under the ship, squinting as the sun came into view.  She was baring more flesh than usual, but considering she usually was in her coveralls, it didn’t take much to be considered "more than usual."  She smiled at him and Rhaef, holding a hand over her eyes as they adjusted.  "How'd the mission go...you bring me back anything shiny?"

"Geoff's bringin' the shiny stuff, but the mission went well." Kale said, smiling down at Charlie, "Nice an' simple." he said again, pointedly at Rhaef.

"Yeah, I can see that...I'm just hoping no trouble's following.  I still have to bring in my box and such."  She smirked, looking at the crate.  "You need help gettin this thing in there, or is this something meant just for the strapping men folk we have here on this ship?"

"Oh look, that must be Geoffrey now."  Rhaef shook his head as he pointed in the direction of the market where people are running and screaming out of.  "Kale, you might want to think of getting your pilot to get this vessel fired up."  As soon as the last word left his mouth he began moving toward the market.

"Ta ma de hun dan" Kale said under his breath, then into his radio.  "Geoff, mind telling me what in gods name is goin' on over there!"

"Uh...yeah, we got a bit of trouble here. Uh...I may have just shot the sheriff of this here town. Actually, yeah. I'm pretty sure I did. Ya might wanna be gettin' the boat ready to be in the air pretty damn fast." Geoff’s voice came over the comm.

"I guess that means I'll bring in my tools.  You want me to go make sure Ren's ready to go, you guys get the crate?  Or you got something else important you need me doin?" Charlie asked.

"Yes, get Ren, tell him it looks like we're gonna be headin' off planet a might earlier then planned.” Kale said.

"On it, Captain."  There was a point that Charlie knew that small talk wasn't very prudent...this being one of those times.  Charlie ran underneath the ship, grabbing her toolbox and hefting it up with both hands, grunting as she lifted it.  She moved as quick as she could, the large box banging against her shins, causing a groan every time they hit her.  She managed to keep going, though...fast as she could, passing by Kale and Rhaef, doing her best to stay out of their way...

“Rhaef, help me with this!" Kale barked orders, rushing to the crate and grabbing one side.  But Rhaef had already taken off towards the town.

"God damnit, Rhaef!" Kale shouted as the other man took off towards the town, and tried futilely to move the crate himself, he talked into his comm. "Um, some help would be nice!"


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Geoff had been quite proud of himself until he had heard what the store owner said. "I just shot the what now? The sheriff?! Oh, ni ta ma de tian xia suo you de ren dou gai si!!" he shouted before looking to the two passengers as the store erupted into chaos, "You two! Get back to the gorram ship! Now!!"

“Attention, the Captain requires strong backs and weak minds.  Come in Geoff.” Geoff’s radio said, followed shortly by Kale’s voice, “Geoff mind telling me what in gods name is going on over there?”

Geoff grabbed his radio and spoke into it. "Uh...yeah, we got a bit of trouble here. Uh...I may have just shot the sheriff of this here town. Actually, yeah. I'm pretty sure I did. Ya might wanna be gettin' the boat ready to be in the air pretty damn fast." he said before looking to the store owner.

"Look, here's the thing. We were gonna do nice business and all, right? Now things got all outta hand. So I apologize for this in advance." he said and then pistol whips the store owner as hard as he can. After doing that, he holstered his guns and grabbed the case of money. He ran back to the aisle and grabbed all the supplies he could...plus a few bottles of liquor....and a hat. He's always wanted a hat. He did this all fairly quickly and then rushed out of the store.

Kyron heard screaming, at the same moment he realized that he was not dead ... in fact, he was not hurt at all.  He opened his eyes as Geoff hit the store owner over the head and headed out the door.  Kyron grabbed his router, looked at the dead men on either side of him and took off running after Geoff, Kendra racing after him.

Geoff, Kyron, and Kendra all come crashing into Rhaef as he runs up to the entrance to the general store.  “Hey Rhaef,” Geoff said, tipping his newly acquired hat as he approached, “Bye Rhaef!” he said as he ran by.

Cai bu shi!” is all Rhaef can manage as he falls in step behind them, quickly gaining since he isn’t bogged down with goods, or a hat.  Rhaef came sliding into position on the opposite side of the crate from Kale, just before the others came into view of the ship.

"Are you gonna lift or what."  He managed between deep gasps for air.

"I am!" Kale grunted, the thing was ridiculously heavy. "Ren, I better start hearing the engines purring or so help you-" he muttered under his breath.

Geoff came running up to the ship then, seeing the captain and Rhaef trying to move a large crate. He kept right on running past them though, his arms loaded with food stuffs and liquor. The hat was already on his head and he thought it looked damn nice, by the way. He passed them by on the ramp with a light shrug. "Sorry, Cap'n! Be right back ta help, just need ta drop this stuff off!!" he yelled as he ran into the cargo bay.

Kyron was right on his heals, not slowing at all … he really didn’t feel like dying today.

The damn crate was too heavy, and there wasn't much of a handhold on the heavy bastard either.  But seeing Geoff run right by, (along with the fact that his adrenaline had been pumping nonstop for longer than he wanted recollect), Rhaef pushed and heaved the  box further and further onto the ship, until finally it cleared the lip of the rear hatch door.

"Down"  He managed before lowering his end.

“Geoff shot the sheriff!” Kendra sang out as she ran up the ramp as well.

“Two minutes!” Charlie’s voice came over the comm, which must have meant she had reached Ren and they were getting Destiny ready to take off.  And none too soon.

A few very large, very intimidating men, with very large, very intimidating rifles are just now coming onto the landing and it looked like they were aiming at Destiny and her crew.  Gun shots filled the air.  Kale summoned every ounce of strength he had to get his end up into the ship and was grateful when Geoff came running to his aid having dropped off all the goods on the dining hall table.

He shoved Rhaef out of the way, and took the mans place, "You hurry up and start on the closin' off the doors! Heavy liftin' is my department!!" he grunted as he lifted as hard as he could. The crate was a heavy one, but he got it up with about as much ease one would expect from somebody Geoff's size. "C'mon, Cap'n! Let's get this sumbitch in!"

Rhaef rushed to the controls and began closing up the bay doors as Destiny took off, the men still firing shots off at them.  "Pull up the ramp and shut the airlock!" Kale shouted as he and Geoff got the crate in place. "Ren, how’s it comin?"

Charlie ran up the stairs then, hitting the catwalk as fast as she could with her quick limp, muttering to herself the whole way.  If she hadn't done this run a million times, she might have fallen and broken her neck.  Thankfully, Destiny was like an old friend at this point.

Rhaef secured all loose ends and without hesitation slapped the button to bring the rear hatch closed.  Standing over it he watched as the opening got smaller and the mob of people got closer.  With a hiss of air, it sealed and Rhaef turned, grabbed the nearest rail and held on.

Kale braced himself as well against the crate as he felt Destiny lift into the air.  Right across from him, leaning on the other side of the crate was Geoff.  "You mind tellin' me why the in the gorram hell we was makin' a speedy getaway!" he said through a clenched jaw.

Geoff leaned against the crate to brace for take off and grunted to the captain in answer to his question. "Told ya! Shot the sherrif! I didn't know he was the sherrif at the time though!!" he said.

"Why was you shootin' anyone!  Thought I made it pretty damn clear that we were ta bein' doin' this nice an' simple like." Kale shouted back, to be heard over the roaring of the engines.

"Well, I wouldn'tve shot anybody if the core worlder hun dun coulda kept his gorram mouth shut! The damn locals were all riled up by him and his ruttin' attitude! It was shoot them or get shot!" he yelled back.

Kale doesn't even respond as he felt his leg giving out beneath him and pain shooting up it, he reached a hand down and it came up bloody. "Ni ta ma de tian xia suo you de ren dou gai si!" he shouted and collapsed to a sitting position.  In the rush of the moment and the thrill of adrenaline Kale hadn't even noticed the wound to his leg, he looked at it closely, just a graze, but it hurt like hell. "Get the Doc!" he shouted, and Kendra sprinted out of the cargo bay, "And you!" he pointed at Kyron, "You are to stay in your gorram bunk ‘til I say so, that is an order and you WILL follow it!"

Charlie stepped down the ladder, being careful to not walk on her bruised leg.  She looked down at the commotion, having heard the tail end of Kale and Geoff yelling at each other.  She was about to speak up for at least one of them when she noticed the captain on the floor, immediately rushing down the stairs as fast as she could, keeping her hands on the rails as she took three steps at a time.  "Cap'n!  You okay?"

Ren‘s voice came over the comm then, "Breathe easy, we've broken atmo, now someone has a story to tell me and someone else needs to tell me where I'm flyin‘."

Kale gritted his teeth and pulled up the radio, "Londinum." he said, trying to maintain control of the situation, while taking deep breaths to calm the pain.  He ripped a piece off his shirt and started wrapping it around the wound to stop the blood flow.

Geoff cursed and went to kneel by the captain, looking to the wounded leg. "It ain't too bad, but it'll hurt like hell. Come on, let's get you to the infirmary, then." he said, offering the captain a hand up and a shoulder to lean on so he could get to the infirmary.  Hoping Kendra could find the Doc.

Kale accepted Geoff's arm and allowed the big man to pull him up and help walk him to infirmary, through gritted teeth he said, "I thought I said to shoot the pompous bastard, not the town sheriff." he said with what he hoped was a smile but was probably more of a grimace.

"I woulda loved ta shoot him,” Geoff said as the two of them entered the small, clean room, “but I ain't one to do as such to an unarmed man in cold blood. 'Sides, on the plus side, I got us all the supplies without charge. Not to mention this damn fine hat..." he remarked as he helped the captain to the examining table so he could lay down or sit.

Kale tried to laugh but ended up groaning instead, "Just get the Doc, will ya?" he said as Geoff helped him up onto the table and he sat with his leg stretched out in front of him, his shirt which he had wrapped around the wound starting to turn red.

Acacia walked into the room just then, “Looks like she found us.” Geoff commented.

Wow with all my talk it looks like something did happen. she thought as she jogged over to the Captain.  “Captain, what happened? You aren't looking so good.”

"Really? I thought everythin' was shiny?" he managed sarcastically, he didn't mean to sound gruff, but if just came out. "I think its just a graze." he said, more kindly.

Geoff nodded to Acacia as he got out of her way so she could do her work. "Well, then. I'm gonna go put away the stuff, maybe get a drink and possibly go break the core world fancy pants's arms. See ya later, Cap'n. Doc." he said and then left the infirmary, knowing the captain would probably be in good hands now.

Acacia shook her head.  “Take your pants off or cut of the leg of the garment so I can get a better look.”  she said.  “I just figured I was going to have to stitch up some sort of battle wound.  You need to stop being in places where you are going to get shot.”  Acacia walked over to the counter and grabbed some bandages and cotton as well as some sutures.

Kale didn’t have the strength to sit up and pull of his pants so he leaned forward, pulling a knife from his boat and cut his pant leg at above the knee to reveal the wound in his calf.

Acacia pulled the fabric away, and off completely, leaving it lay on the floor of the infirmary.  She examined the wound.  It seemed to be oozing a bit of blood still.   She watched how the captain was able to move the leg some, then walked over to the medicine cabinet and got some antiseptic ointment,  “You are a lucky man, it seems the bullet missed hitting an major artery, also it seems all the ligaments are still intact, tendons too. I won't lie, this will sting quite a bit, but bullets aren't always the cleanest things so need to make sure you don't get this infected.”  She doused a large cotton swab with the liquid and dabbed it on the wound gently using a pair of tweezers, so as to not touch it with her hands.  She slowly cleaned the blood away from around the area.

Kale gritted his teeth as Acacia cleaned the wound, always his least favorite part, stung like hell.  "Lucky woulda been getting out of there with no bullet wound, just once I would like to not need your assistance in the infirmary after a job.  Nice and simple like, that's all I wanted." Kale said in response to Acacia.

Acacia grinned, “Now, Now, Captain it is nice to make a woman feel needed. So what happened?” She said as debated whether or not this wound needed stitches.  She decided no then went a grabbed a large gauze pad and taped in place or the wound. After she did that she took some clean bandages and wrapped it around the wound several times.  “Be glad the bullet wasn't in there so I didn't have to go fishing it out.”

"Oh, I'm glad, I'm all sorts of glad, see?" Kale said, and offered her a very sarcastic smile. Then he looked down, and mumbled, "Sorry, I just don't take to kindly to being shot."  He looked back up at the doctor, "Apparently our core worlder decided to have a friendly conversation with the locals, and we all know what a personable person that hun dun is ... apparently almost got his brains shot out before Geoff did some fancy shootin' of his own - killed the blasted sheriff.  Seems to have caused a bit 'a hard feelin's." Kale explained, the pain subsided a little now that the wound was cleaned and bandaged.

Finally finished Acacia walked to the sink and started washing her hands.  “I'm sure there is more to it, but I don't need to know the details.  Did you finish what we came here to do, whatever that was.”  She said drying her hands off.

Kale smirked, "That we did." he said, "was the easy part too.  Cargo’s sitting all nice and comfortable like in the cargo bay, just have to take to Londinum and get our pay."  Kale swung his leg over the edge of the bed, stretching it out in front of him, then gingerly starting to stand, testing its strength and the amount of pain it was going to cause him.

"Well, thanks doc." Kale said, "I'm going to go and make sure the rest of the ship ain't falling apart like me." He walked slowly out of the infirmary, trying to give his leg a bit of a break.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The captain was off in Acacia's hands...the ship was up in Ren's hands...and things were out of hers, as they most often were.  Not much use for a mechanic less something needed fixing other than people and getaways, and since everything was running in shape, there wasn't much more she could be doing.  That is, less it turned out that the captain had a mechanized leg that needed to be re-serviced, accounting the bullet that went through it.  There were no odds of that, though...or anything else.

Charlie sat down at the bottom step, leaning against the railing and cupping her face in her hands, let out a long sigh.  She didn't even get to say goodbye to the surface...not that she often did, considering the nature of most work that they took.  Not that she was complaining, she had a good cut and loved her crew, but there are other things that she hasn't had in at least two years.  She can't remember the last time she went swimming in a lake, walked barefoot through the grass, or anything for that matter.  She would have to tell the captain, one of these days, they needed to stop somewhere that they could take a break.  Some place with a view, maybe with a beach, or anything else like that.  They needed a vacation.  This is what she had to tell him.  Of course, she'd meant to tell him over a year now...

Geoff walked out into the cargo bay, cursing a blue streak under his breath. He was quite irritated with how things turned out and blamed himself mostly. It was his job to take care of things during the little outing and he apparently couldn't do his job. Of course, he also put a share of the blame on Kyron and intended to do something about that pretty damn soon. For now, he sighed lightly and shook his head as he moved to the supplies he had gotten and kneeled beside them, starting to scoop them up into his arms.

He noticed Charlie sitting at the step he had placed his supplies by and furrowed a brow  as he saw her look quite depressed about something. "Oi, Charlie? Ya ok?" he said, "The captain's gonna be fine, if that's the problem..."

"I'm fine, I'm fine.  No worries about me."  Charlie looked up at Geoff as he passed, giving an odd smile, like she was somewhere between crying and laughing.  "Nice hat.  I'm guessin' that they teach you that there's always time for fashion?"  She brushed the hair out of her face, letting out another sigh.

Geoff grinned and took the hat from his head and held it gingerly in his hands. "Well, yeah. Always time to look good. Though, really, I was just grabbin' what wasn't bolted down. We needed supplies and I got 'em. I wish it had gone a bit smoother though. I knew I shoulda just shot the damn core worlder through his knees so he'd be forced ta stay on the ship..." he said and then sat down by the stack of goods he had placed there.

"I'm hearin' ya blame this all on the suit and tie.  You think it's all his fault, over'n over?  You tellin' me that you in no way provoked any of this that happened?"  She managed a slight laugh, shaking her head.

"Heh...actually, if'n I'm honest, I know it's my fault too. I mean, it was my job ta be lookin' out and makin' sure things went smooth. I didn't do very well there..." he said with a light shake of his head before shrugging again, "But not much ta be done 'bout that now, I s'pose..."

"Never said that I was blamin' ya for anything.” Charlie said and sighed again.

Geoff picked through the goods and grabbed one of the four bottles of liquor he had managed to grab and opened it up. "Ya sure yer ok? Don't sound much like it. Sighin' and the like are usually signs o' not so good feelin'....or way too good feelin'.  Kinda doubt it's the latter right now though." he said as he took a drink.

"I left a wrench behind.  Nothing I can't replace next time we stop.  I also get a bit homesick on these stops we make, here'n there, wishin' I could have a bit more time to spend on the surface.  You know, silly little things like that.  I wouldn't call myself in a stir or nothin', though.  Nothing you should get yourself worked over, or that I will me."

She cast her eyes at Geoff, looking up at him and holding out a hand.  "So, you gonna offer me a drink, or'm I gonna have to outright ask you for one?"

Geoff smiled, and handed her the bottle. "Heh. I understand where yer comin' from with the missin' the land. After awhile, ya thirst for real air and sky over yer head and grass under yer feet. Though I don't call it homesick. I just like it planetside....most times. Not when they're with the shootin' at me...."

"It's like this every time out. I just, you know...I miss the little things."  Charlie took the bottle, motioning to him with it as she spoke.  "I'm from Whitefall, y'know...smaller settlement, quiet folk.  Wide open spaces far as the eye can see, a thousand ponds you can drop your cloth and take a dip in anytime, or even just pace about and lettin' your bare feet touch the grass here and there.  Call me...oh, I don't know, sentimental or something.  I just miss it, here'n there."

Charlie leaned her head back and took a pull off the bottle, making a face as she swallowed the alcohol and it went down her throat, leaving a trail of fire the entire way.  She shook her head, taking a deep breath as she handed it back to Geoff.  "You don't need to be listening to all this, I'm just talkin'.  I'm sure that it's not such an interesting tale in the landscape of things..."

Geoff grinned as he took the bottle back and shrugged. "Oh, I dunno. I think it's pretty interestin' ta hear 'bout a nice place fer once. I 'specially enjoyed the part about droppin' cloth fer a swim. Ya do that often? ...'cause it sounds like somethin' I'd wanna be 'round fer." he said with a wry grin and then took another drink. Way things were going the bottle would be drained rather quick.

She shook her head, clearing her throat...some liquors you'll never get a taste for, that's for sure.  "Now don't you be so anxious, Geoff.  You can't say things like that to a woman outright, we're just talking about the finer things, not 'bout anything dirty.  I'm sure you'd enjoy it just the same, a chance to find someplace secluded and just float."  She smiled again, looking up as Ren entered.

"Hey guys, why'd we have to get off world so fast?" he said with a slight air of concern on his voice.

Charlie shrugged and motioned to Geoff, "Ask him.  You know me, all I saw was the bottom of the ship and the engine room, same's always..."

Ren looked quizzically at Geoff "Story to tell? Cap' sounded angry on the com."

"Well, what can I say? Things went a mite bad when the locals didn't take kindly ta our core world friend. There were strong words exchanged, followed closely by bullets bein' exchanged. Problem was that one o' the corpses ended up bein' the sherrif. Then things went ta hell. I really shoulda been more careful 'bout who I shoot..." he remarked with a shake of his head, "Anyway, folks don't take kindly to their sherrif bein' shot, seems like, 'cause a mob o' people came and one of 'em got a shot off at the cap'n. It was only a graze though so he's fine. Doc's takin' care of him"

Ren's eyes grew wide as Geoff recounted the story, as he finished Ren chuckled nervously then said, "Right, well... so the hun dun got loud, riled up the locals, and gun play ensued, sounds like us.. good to know no one is dead an' all, but wasn't this supposed to be a quiet easy pickup... I mean, even for us that’s a bit noisy."

"Nothin' for you to be worrying, Bear.  We're in one piece, have our quarry, our supplies, and even came out with more coin than we first thought...as I understand it.  'Sides, you know well as I, how many towns we got out there that we've said we won't be going back to until they forget us?"  She smiled, patting the side of his leg.  "You know, nothing that's not unordinary for a day in our life..."

Geoff shrugged and finished off the liquor in the bottle with a final gulp, placing the empty bottle down beside him. "True enough. I mean, I did get us this nice pile o' supplies here without charge. Plus the liquor and this mighty fine hat here." he remarked, "So, in the end, things turned out all right...well, compared ta how they coulda gone."

Ren grinned a little, calming down, he then craned his head to look into the infirmary while saying, "Good to know things are shiny, such as it is, mind if I have a swig of that?" motioning to the bottle the two were trading, "Oh, and that is a mighty shiny piece of loot on you're dome, Geoff."

Charlie rubbed her bare arms, the coldness of space beginning to set into the processed atmo, the air from Valon mostly dissipated along with the warmth that it brought.  It did, on the only upside, remind her of why she usually wore her coveralls at all times.  The ship had a tendency to seem extremely cold, and if she spent more than an hour in the engine room, the ship seemed like a freezer in comparison.

"Just cause we're alive and have extra coin don't make what happened today a victory, so don't be settlin' into that mindset.  I won't scold you, as you'll probably hear from the captain 'bout it."  She nodded, rubbing her bruised knee.  "You'd best be figurin, next time we hit a town, we lay low.  Y'know, if Kale 'n Rhaef hadn't been done with their business, we'd have to hold them off for who knows how long.  I'm just saying, today could've been a bloodier day, y'know?"

Geoff shrugged as he grabbed a new bottle, the old one having been finished, and opened it up before passing it to Ren. He then turned to Charlie with a sigh. "Well, in my experience, so long as nobody's dead, we won. That's all ya can ask fer in the end." he said before sighing, "But I get yer point..."

"Hell I never said it was your fault, Geoff...all I care, it could be that blue blood, who we'd be dumping out the back door first chance we got.  All I'm saying is this day could've been twice as bad, had your confrontation started five minutes earlier..."

"Yeah, I s'pose..." he said with a shrug before digging through the pile of random food stuffs he had grabbed and picked out an apple. The damned things had been hard to keep  grip on so Geoff had only gotten a few, but he had noted that Kendra had gotten some so it probably didn't matter much how many he got. He took the apple in hand and drew the knife at his back to begin cutting slices out of it. "But I guess stuff like that comes down to luck..." he remarked as he ate a slice from the knife and nodding in approval before sheathing his knife and gathering up the goods in his arms.

Charlie looked up at Ren, rubbing the back of her neck.  "Where'd Kale say we're going next?"

Looking down at Charlie Ren smiled a little and started rubbing her shoulders to help her ease the tension of the day "Londinium, mia, and if I knew there had been that much of a fuss I would have charted a much more indirect like course."

She closed her eyes as Ren began to rub her shoulders, smiling again, and leaning her head forward.  "Probably be wise, the indirect route is what we like.  The indirect route is what we do."  Charlie chuckled a bit, turning her head to look him from the corner of her eyes.  "We'd have it no other way.  Give us a life of solitude and silent routes, an' may the solo path be our shining light."  She closed her eyes again, turning her head so that she could continue to enjoy the shoulder rub that she didn't even have to ask for.

Geoff nodded and stood up, "Uh...I suppose I'll be puttin' this stuff away. Ain't no one else gonna do it..." he said with a light sigh. In truth, he felt a bit uncomfortable around Ren and Charlie, looking so close and comfortable together. Such relationships of a familial type were not familiar to Geoff and made him just a bit uncomfortable. He was still new here, after all, and part of him felt that he may not have won any friends by causing trouble his first time out. "Well, then. See ya." he said as he headed up the stairs and to the dining area.

“Night, Geoff.” Charlie called after him.

Ren waved and then his gaze focused on the crate that Kale and Rhaef had brought onboard.  “Wonder what’s in the box … guess we’ll never know, huh?”

Charlie let out a sigh and leaned back on Ren, "There's no telling what's in there...doesn't look too expensive or anything, so I'm not assuming that it's anything more than that.  Whoever we're heading towards, I hope it's worth something decent.  Then again, usually is if they're willing to ship it non-standard, right?"  She smiled again, observing the box.  "Probably full of gold...or bones...or maybe both, who knows..."

"Golden bones? Now wouldn't that be a sight?" Ren said half heartedly, "Well whatever it is I sure hope it don't give us half as much trouble as pickin it up did, speakin of which, was it really that passenger ya think or did our new boy get a little trigger happy?"

"Truth told?  I have not the bothersome which would."  She smirked, shaking her head.  "Geoff's rough around the edges, that's for sure, and most likely could rub someone the wrong way.  I heard him threaten to shoot the suit before they left.  Then again, I'm sure you've met that particular passenger...he could rub anyone the wrong way."  She let out a sigh, slowly standing up and stretching out her arms.

"Bear, I've still got levels to set before I get some shut eye, not to mention the need to actually get to that shut eye sometime this day.  I can assure you're gonna take care of yourself, I suppose...have a bad dream, you can come and wake me up, you know that."  She smiled, ruffling his hair slightly.  "Get some rest yourself...somewhere other than the pilot's chair, you look like you could use some pure rest.  She smiles again, heading up the steps and into the engine room, humming to herself as she limps around the catwalk and up the ladder...

Ren just smiled at her as she left the cargo bay, following her with his eyes and the protective look of an older brother. He then got up walked down the steps into the cargo bay proper and inspected the crate for a moment, shrugging he turned around and headed back up to the bridge.

He stopped off in the dining hall however, "Hmmm, wonder if we have any steak... hey wait, didn't they steal some good stuff from Valon?" he said to himself as he stopped himself from reaching for a protein pack and searched for something crunchy, juicy, and non-protein like. Finding an apple he chomped into it happily and slumped down on the couch.

Kale entered a few minutes later to see Ren sitting comfortably on the couch eating an apple, "Well, looks like everything's back in order." he commented, standing by the table and looking around. He crossed to the cabinets and grinned, "See this is what I like to see, fully stocked."

"Good sorta stock at that cap', shame the way we had to get it though." Ren said through a mouth full of apple. Nothing, not even the captain, was taking him away from his tasty right now.


"I'd say a bit unfortunate for the fine folks of Harsdale, but by the way you're eatin' that apple I take it there's no complaints?" Kale said with a bit of a chuckle and picked up one himself, "Now this is the genuine article." he took a bite.

“Can't complain that much, when the way I hear it is twasn't really our fault to begin with, and this apple is to tasty to care dong ma?" Ren said with a chuckle,  "Looks like smooth sailing between here and Londinum by the way."

"Well, I still feel uncomfortable about the trip, don't like bein' to close to the core, and Londinium is as core planet as you can get.  Don' know what we got on board so I don't want to take no chances of being stopped by the Feds." Kale said, sighing and taking a seat at the table.

"Should keep pretty clear of everything cept' what I can't see... plotted a wide course 'round established blue-belly patrol routes and what not, so hopefully we'll get there all nice and quiet like." Ren said with an air of confidence, knowing that he could only control so much about a flight, but what he did do, he did to the best of his ability.

"Well, let's hope it stays all nice and quiet-like." Kale said taking another bite, "I think I've had quite enough excitement ... at least for the next few hours." he nodded then as Geoff came into the room.

He took a seat and picked up an apple for himself, taking out his knife and cutting into it. "Howdy, Cap'n. Howdy, Ren." he said simply before lapsing into silence to eat.

"Oh hey Geoff, how's yer gun hand? Itchy?" Ren said with a wide grin between bites of his apple. Ren of course meant no offense, he was just testing the other man to see how he handled a little ribbin'.

Geoff grinned between eating slices of apple. "No, I don't think so. I'm pretty sure I scratched that itch back planetside." he remarked with a shrug.

"Well, best not be scratchin' no itches once we hit the core.  The Alliance doesn't take too kindly to friendly shoot outs." Kale commented, Ren just chuckled.

Geoff nodded to the captain and sighed a bit as he put down the apple. "Yeah, I know that pretty well. Don't be worryin' 'bout that. I'm nervous enough 'bout bein' on a core world without lookin' fer trouble." he remarked with a shake of his head, "Just fer the record though, I ain't likin' this job one bit. First the mystery and now a core world? Ain't nothin' goin' ta go right 'bout this job...."



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Charlie finally comes out of the Engine Room, yawning as she stretched out her arms, dressed in something than coveralls again.  She'd been wearing them for a good portion of the day, as she'd been working it on trying to get equipment sorted out and up to speed.  Now it was time to do the things she was supposed to do earlier.  She came down the stairs, favoring one leg over the other still, humming to herself.  Somewhere in the course of take-off, in her rush to get the elements set up, she had forgotten her tools as a whole.  They on their own had decided they would make best outside the box, than inside, at some point during that particular daybreak.

She reached the ground, turning the large box over as she crouched, picking up other bits that float at the bottom of the box (screws, springs, coins, rags) and dropping them back in.  Her eyes couldn't help but to drift to the crate that was taken in last night, wondering what's inside...

Suddenly, a slight sound came from somewhere in the cargo bay.  Charlie paused in what she was doing and looked around.

"Cap'n?" she asked, peering up to see if he was around but he'd disappeared into the dining hall.

The noise came again, muffled.

Charlie looked around her shoulder...something in the Cargo Bay?  There was a moment of goose bumps traveling up her spine, at the prospect of something having snuck on board.  The sheer chill of the thought was something else, but then again, she was under the ship all day...she could clearly see the bay doors.  Anyone that came in, she would have seen, and she saw the whole crew.

She brushed her hair back from her face, looking up at the crate it sounded like it might have been coming from there.  She raised an eyebrow.  Noise?  Yeah, whatever.  Nonetheless, something worth taking a look.  Charlie turned fully around, taking a few steps around the crate, gently touching the edge as she looks over the side.  "Hello?  Passengers?  Ah, who's there?  I can year y'all..."

The sound came again, a soft thumping sound.

"Ah jeez..."  Charlie leaned in closer to the crate, putting her ear against it, speaking more to herself than the box.  "Hello?  You better not be mice, eating at protein.  Surely they'll say that's our fault, damaged goods'n all."  She tapped a few times on the side of the crate, as if telling it to be quiet.

As soon as Charlie tapped the crate the soft thumping got far more persistent.

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.

Along with the thumping this time was another muffled sound that resembled ... it was almost like a voice.  Like a muffled scream.

"Oh...oh no...that's no..."  Charlie muttered to herself, feeling around on the box, trying to figure out how it was closed.  Control panel...latches...nails...hell, even tape, there had to be some way that they were keeping this thing shut.

She stopped herself, muttering to herself, putting her head down.  Mind her own business...right?  No, this sounded like a person.  Surely, were she stuck in a box, she would want someone to let her out, legitimate property or no.  If at all, this was karma testing her.  "Don't make any dumb mistakes, Charlene..."  She muttered under her breath as she tried to open the crate.

Of course, to her amazement...the lid didn’t come off.  She muttered, pulling again, but it's on there...good and tight.  "What the...no, no, you're supposed to come up when I lift.”  She spoke in a hushed whisper to the box, as if scolding it, feeling around the side.  Of course the part she hadn't looked at would be the part that had the code to open it.

Charlie slipped around the other side, looking at the pass-code system.  There would be a way she could tug the wires out of the side of this, like hotwiring a boat, but she could be sitting here for a good twenty minutes doing that.  That would officially constitute as snooping.  Besides, this didn't sound very friendly...or, god telling, something that should wait.  "Ah...hold on a, uh...a second...box.  Person.  Whoever, just...stay."  She muttered, holding her hands out as she took a few steps backwards.  Yeah, this...this definitely called for help.  She turned around and poked through the doors to the Dining Room, looking for the captain.

Charlie stepped into the dining room, seeing the captain and tapped on the frame of the portal, leaning against it.  "Hey Captain, how ya doing.  I was just wondering, since amidst the gun fire'n account of you gettin' shot, I never really asked.  You, uh...what's in this crate, anyways?"  The whole thing came out as a long-winded question, biting her lower lip at the end, trying not to sound alarmed.  She'd been on this boat with enough people that stayed constantly armed to know better than to sound like things were wrong.  Everyone loves a hero, and there were a lot of men on this ship that simply needed some love.

Ren looked up at Charlie wondering what the hell she was talking about, the cap' didn't know, and it's bad form to ask... Ren, of course knew this from painful experience with a certain crate containing a not so pleasant form of monkey, so he had to ask himself what was Charlie getting at... but knowing when not to talk he stayed shut waiting for the Cap' to answer.

“Don' know, an' frankly I don' care.  As long as it don' blow us up it can stay nice an' undisturbed ‘til we get to Londinum." Kale said, then took in Charlie's appearance, she seemed nervous and fidgety ... never a good sign, it meant something was up, Charlie was never good at fooling anyone.  He narrowed his eyes slightly, in suspicion and worry, "Why you ask?"

Charlie smiled, shaking her head.  "I know, silly me askin' and all.  I mean, all it is just big, you know.  Black...four sides...you know, like all the other boxes we carry for people we don't know, right?  So, maybe I'm just noticing for the first time, bein' round the engines and all...do all the other boxes we have carry things that're screaming inside?"  It's hard to tell if she's being sarcastic or honest, but one thing is sure...she doesn't look like she's joking about it.

Ren immediately got up and headed to the cargo bay without a word.

Geoff looked up quizzically to Charlie and then to the captain. "Ya see? Screamin' boxes are not good things. Just like I said. This job ain't gonna be right..." he remarked as he stood, still eating a slice of apple.

Kale sat straight up in his seat, "Were you touchin' the cargo?" he asked.  "What'd you hear lil' Charlie?  Whattaya mean screamin'?"

"I just...it's like there's somethin' in there, you know?  And I figured, I'd better ask you...I never come in town, so how'm I supposed to know what's actually in the box, right?"  Charlie's eyes had gone wide as the captain suddenly looked up at her, like she'd done something wrong.  The first thing he asked was "were you touching the cargo."  Yeah, she'd done something wrong.

"I'm...I'm sorry, I'm not meanin' to break things...I just was pickin' up my tools, and, you know...I heard it.

Geoff watched after Ren as he jumped from his seat to the cargo bay and looked to the captain with a shrug. "Uh....Cap'n? Maybe ya should be tellin' Ren that messin' with the screamin' box may not be a good idea. Just a suggestion." he said before eating another slice of apple. Geoff wasn’t going to do anything about anything until the captain said to.

Kale cast a glance at Geoff, then looked back at Charlie, she was dead serious. He immediately got up and followed Ren out into the cargo bay as Geoff and Charlie followed.

Ren was already standing by the crate looking at it as Kale came banging down the stairway, "You said it was screamin'?" Kale shouted back at Charlie, as he reached the bottom and came to stand beside Ren.  He bent down and put an ear to the cargo.

"Don't worry cap' I ain't touched it, but I am confused by what's goin on in here" Ren said as the captain bent down next to him.

Charlie followed Kale down the steps, holding onto the rail so she wouldn't have to limp it down on her swelling knee.  "I mean, we usually carry things that scream?  I mean, I remember when we moved that...that thing...but this isn't hollerin' like that.  You can hear it close, it's more like, you know...something worse.  Like the 'help help' kind, not the I'm gonna kill you' kind..."

As everyone entered the cargo bay the banging became even louder, although still very faint and muffled.  There was wordless shouting coming from inside.

Geoff followed slowly behind everyone, his hand hovering close to his guns. He did not think that banging and yelling from a box was generally a good thing and things that aren't good usually need shooting. That's what Geoff was around for...

"Ai ya huai le!" Ren exclaimed as the box made it's weirdly ominous sounds, he jumped back and said nervously "Maybe it's best to leave what’s all locked up... all locked up, yeah?"

 Charlie didn’t seem to have any fear or caution about the box, as it could undoubtedly be someone in trouble.  "What if there's no air...or they're tied up, or somethin'.  Captain, I know we carry a lot of things, but...somethin' about this just don't seem right.  I figure if anyone can, you know...decide what we do, open it or not."  She looked back at Kale with pleading eyes, as if they were looking at a wounded dog.  Do something…

Geoff shook his head. "My thinking is that anything alive shouldn't be locked in a box 'less it's lookin' ta kill us. So maybe we should open it up. If it's somethin' bad, I'll hit it hard and we'll shove it back in. If it's somethin' other....well, that ain't fer me ta say." he said with a light shrug.

Kale looked back at his crew, then held up a hand for them to be quiet. "Um, box person ... thing," he said, "If, if you're ... if you can hear me tap twice."

There was silence, and Kale looked back again at the others with a shrug.

...then there came two taps ... just two.

Geoff's hands moved away from his guns at the sounds of the tapping and he shook his head. "That's either a person or a really smart screamin' bangin' dog in there, cap'n. Either way, I say we open it up then..." he said in a low tone.

"We open it 'cause it's someone who doesn't want t'be in there, and we're not the type who does torture.  We're the more...respectable kind, you know?  Better than people who...put people in boxes...or other things."  Charlie tapered off at the end, moving to the other end of the box and crouching down, looking at the control panel.  "Cap'n, you know the code to open this?"

"I'm just sayin‘... who ever wanted what ever is in there in Londinum, obviously didn't want us to know what it was, if we open it, we're humped." Ren said as he slowly backed away from the crate.

"We'll be humped, but at least we'll be humped fer a pretty good reason. Charlie's got a point. I really ain't the type ta have people locked up. If'n I want somebody outta the way, I shoot 'em. But lockin' 'em in a box don't seem right. 'Sides, if somebody's payin' money for the person in there, that ain't nothin' but slavery and that ain't the kinda thing I stand fer. I may be a crook, but I gotta have some morals, ya know?" he said with a shrug to Ren.

"You shot people at our last stop... but slavery is bad?" Ren decided at that moment he understood the universe very little as he gave Geoff an incredulous look that said, wow... your really fucked up... I mean like more fucked up than me fucked up,

Geoff turned on Ren with a glare. "Yeah, that's what I said, ain't it? Least the people I shoot had a choice in the matter when they pull a gun on me. People in slavery get snatched up and made ta do whatever somebody else wills! Ain't no life for anybody!" he exclaimed, not liking the way Ren looked at him. Geoff valued his freedom above all things and didn’t like the idea that there are people seeking to take such things away from people.

"Now you need to calm down jumpy, half the stuff you own or buy comes from slaves... think about that next time you chomp on an apple, or fly in a space ship.. .hey wait a minute we're in one!"

"Ni men dou bi zui!" Kale shouted at the two men, then thought for a moment, if they so much as touched this crate they were humped, but he sure as hell couldn't leave it untouched if there was a person inside.  "Charlie, you think you can open this?" he asked her gently.

Charlie looked up at Kale, raising an eyebrow at him.  "You ain't got-...?  Never mind."  Of course they didn't give codes, they probably want it to stay closed.  She scratched the back of her neck, looking at the box.  "If we had a big enough wedge, or something slender enough, it could probably be jimmied...y'know, like a crowbar or somethin' to that effect.  However, if it's magnetically sealed, that's just gonna be us sweatin’ for no good reason.  I could take off the instrument panel, try to hotwire it into openin', but that's not gonna be very fast...but I'm not thinkin' anything is better."

Charlie stepped around, getting a few of the tools out of the toolbox, bringing wire cutters with flatheads and a spring phillips.  "Unless you'd have a better idea, give me four minutes and I'll have her cracked like an egg..."

Geoff grumbled as he tuned back to look at the box. "That may be so, but it don't mean I gotta like it. People work and should be given what they deserve fer the work. Not forced ta slave fer somebody don't give 'em nothin' but grief..." he said in a low tone and shook his head lightly.

Ren didn't respond, he stood there quietly knowing when to obey the captains orders, well that’s one other thing our new gun needs to heed, when the cap says shut it, you should shut it, he thought.

"I said enough!" Kale shouted at Geoff again, and Geoff had to bite his tongue to keep quiet, but he did it. He had probably made another stupid mistake, but that was seeming to be a common thing for him on this ship. Just another reminder of him not exactly belonging, he figured as he continued to look to the box.

"Alright, you do that." Kale said to Charlie, taking a deep breath and standing up.  He placed his hands on his hips as he looked at the crate.  Yep they were humped for sure, ain't no way Bosik's people wouldn't noticed that they had hot wired the crate into opening.  Nothing could ever be nice and simple.

Charlie sat cross-legged in front of the control panel, fitting the phillips at the corner of the control panel and feeling for the main support shaft.  There would be one pinch point where it was connected to the box.  She moved the phillips for a few seconds, tracing the lines until she found the converge point, slipping the screw head into the metal base and pumping the handle to turn.  It was only a matter of moments before she was setting the tool down, sliding the panel out and setting it in her lap face-down, running a hand along the wires.

"This isn't anything high-tech...not simple, neither complex.  Still...it's a little more secure than what you'd normally use."  She wrapped her fingers tightly around a blue and black wire, feeling the slight tingle it had on her skin, running to the back of her neck.  The panel was sending a current to the box...which meant the panel was telling the box something.  Meant either it was magnetic, or there was something that was springed to happen once it opened.  Either way, it could be worked around.

"Y'all mind not hoverin' for a second?  I'm tryin' to break into somethin' here..."

Geoff and Kale took a step back, watching Charlie work.  Kale’s heart beating slightly faster then normal, worried about what they would find inside.

The thumping and screaming noise was becoming more persistent.

"Crime.  Leave it t'the boys, that's what we're supposed to be doing..."  Charlie muttered to herself, getting the wire cutters and finding a red one, moving it into the stripper and giving the tool a pump.  She exposes the bare wire on a few different ones, tossing aside the shelling’s to either side of her.

Acacia came into the cargo bay then and instinctively grabbed Ren, then realized what she did and let go quickly.  She watched the crate with interest.  “Does anyone know why that crate is making noise?”

Kale said nothing, just continued watching Charlie work, preparing himself for all the things that may come out once that box was opened.

"Someone tell that box that if it doesn't be quiet, I may accidentally seal it forever..." Charlie muttered still working.

"Ummm... Mr. Box, the person trying to get you out would like you to be quiet please... " Ren said half jokingly half seriously, in a hope to cut the tension in the room a little he then said, "Think that'll work?"

Charlie furrowed her brow, sighing...she couldn’t work under this, it was like a barking dog or an alarm going off.  She leaned back, kicking the crate with one of her boots hard.  "Hey, I'm gettin' you out!  Shut up!"  She rolled her eyes, looking down at the mess of wires she had, tugging out another one along with it's end on the box, stripping the casing off either end and bending it around, then holding it in her mouth as she found two other exposed ends, pulling them free of the rest of the tangle.

"Right, well...hold your breath, or whatever you're doin' when we do things like this."  Charlie pulled the wire out of her mouth, attaching it to one side and gingerly touching the other exposed one with the wire.  A few sparks flew off the wires, and there was a soft beeping that arose from the control panel.

Kale walked over to the crate and cautiously pulled away the top, the thing was damn heavy so he used all his strength.  Inside were three more, smaller metal boxes and some sort of machinery set into the side.  Immediately, one of the three crates started shaking.  The thumping and screaming seemed to be coming from it.  Kale looked at his crew, bent down and lifts the lid off.

Charlie let the panel slide off her lap, getting to a kneeling position where she could peer into the crate, watching the lid as the captain pulled it off.  Her fingers clung to the edge of the box, hair dangled around her head and well inside of the new opening they'd made...

Within the first container lay a slim Asian girl, maybe 13 years old. She was laying there naked with straps around her wrists and ankles to prevent her moving too much in transit. A tube lead from a connection on one padded wall, and down her throat. More tubes lead from her crotch and into the base of the container, obviously to take waste away. An IV needle lay next to her arm, a small trickle of blood showed where it had previously pierced her skin. The only other marking evident is a tattoo on her left forearm of a barcode with the number 87 above it.
She stopped weakly kicking at the end of the container, barely having enough play in her ankle straps to put much force into it anyway, and tried to blink away the bright light in her eyes. She stared around at everyone with a scared look in her eyes.

With everyone crowding around Acacia being so short had a hard time seeing what is going on.  She stood on her tiptoes, but being only 4'9" it didn’t do much. “OK, someone just tell me what is in the gorram boxes.”

"O, zhe zhen shi ge kuai le de jin zhan." Kale muttered under his breath.

Geoff had taken a few steps forward, drawing his knife instead of his pistol. He didn't want a ricochet happening in the enclosed space of the crate. Plus he wasn't all that sure the thing in the crate would be needing shooting anyway. When he did see what was in the box, he cleared his throat and took a few steps back, averting his eyes. He kept his knife out, but seemed very unlikely to use it. "Ruttin' hell...." he muttered.

"Oh my god..."  Charlie muttered as the blood drained from her face, in horror of what she saw...who could do this.  She leaned forward, doing her best not to shake, making eye contact with the girl.  "Honey, can you hear me?  Hello?"  A hand reached out, stroked the girl's hair back, trying to coax a reaction out of her...

“Will someone please explain what’s in the box?” Acacia said, still unable to see.

Kale looked around at everyone, "Get her out!" he barked and leaned over the other two crates, "There best not be a gorram kid in all of these." he muttered as he pulled away the second lid.

"People, Acacia...look like they're some sorta sedate, I dunno.  I'm not th'doctor."  Charlie leaned in further, feet slightly kicking off the ground as she reached in, gently touching the feeding tube ...is there a right way to take this out?  Other than grab or yank, of course, that'll never be pretty.  She spoke up as best she could, turning her head back towards Acacia.

"Hey, doc, how're you takin' out a feeding tube?  Grab'n yank, slow pull, what?  Or'r they vomit either way?"

"This can't be good..." Ren said in a barely audible voice he then moves out of Acacia's way and said, “You might want to look in there doc, may be of some use.” Of course all he was thinking was we're humped, we're humped, we're humped, we're so gorram humped, wow are we humped, it was almost like his brain had stopped working and was now on repeat.

“What?  There is a person in there?” Acacia weaved around everyone with her med kit and walked up to the girl, she took out a stethoscope and tried to assess the physical condition.  She looked up at the IV trying to deduce what was being pumped into this girl.
All of a sudden, a heap of strange people were peering at her. Lei’s gaze shifted over everyone's faces, and then fixed on the knife in Geoff's hand. She tried to scrabble back and squeeze into the farthest corner of her little box from him, her eyes fixed on his hand.

Charlie held her hand up in front of Lei, shaking her head.  "Shh, shh, honey, stay still...we're not gonna hurt'cha.  No one's gonna...don't panic."  She cast a look back at the others, then at Lei again.  "Someone get blankets...somethin' like that for covers, they're probably freezin'.  And put your knife away your scaring her.”

Geoff looked confused by the girl's sudden reaction before realizing where her gaze was. He cursed as he sheathed the knife and showed his empty outstretched hands. "Sorry, sorry! It's gone now! There, see? Nothin' there? It's ok. Ain't gonna hurt ya, dong ma?" he said in a low tone.

Kale pulled away the two other crates lids to reveal two other young children.  Another girl and a young boy, both of them still have their IV needle attached and seem to be sedated.  "This is not good." he said, and looked up at everyone.  "Ren! Get beds prepped in the infirmary, Doc, can we get them out of here without killin' 'em?" He started un-strapping the boys arms and feet.

"Chu'a, Cap'" Ren said simply then turned and ran for the infirmary.

“Ren there are a bunch of blankets in the Infirmary go grab em! Ok honey, I'm going to pull the tube out of your mouth it will make you gag a little but you need to stay calm.”    Acacia pulled out some latex gloves from her med bag, and slowly removed the tube, careful not to damage the thin membrane of the esophagus, or any other part of the larynx, or mouth.  When it was pulled out completely, she waited to see the girls reaction.  She was smiling warmly trying to keep the girl calm, ”Charlie just keep reassuring her, and Geoff back off I think you might scare this poor child.”

Geoff did as he was told, backing off a bit and looking more than a bit abashed. He hadn't meant to scare anybody, but he supposed that's something that couldn't be avoided, being built like he is. So he just stood back to wait to be told to do something.

Kale just shook his head, still not entirely sure what the hell to make of all this.  No wonder Bosik didn't want them opening the crates, no wonder it was all some grande secret! He was transporting children.

"Ni ta ma de tian xia suo you de ren dou gai si!" he cursed, this was the last thing he needed.  What the hell was he going to do now?!

"S'the only thing I intended, Acacia."  She kept her hands up, slowly moving towards the girl in the corner, reaching out her hands palm up to show she meant no harm.  "C'mon, honey...we're just going to help you.  You understand us at all?  Just.. give us a nod for yes, y'know?"

"Acacia, I need ya to get these tubes outta these kids so we can get them to the infirmary." Kale said.

Lei’s eyes followed the knife as it passed out of sight, and then flicked back to Geoff’s face. Her fear showed clearly in her eyes.  When the doc leaned in and started removing the feed tube, she went stock still, except for a small tremor in her arms. The reaction of something defenseless that is cornered.

Finally, after a long wait, she very slowly nodded in response to Charlene.

"See, there you go...we've got a repertoire.  Charlie smiled brightly, holding out her hand to the girl, as if to shake her hand in return.  "My name is Charlie, okay?  This lady with the red hair is Acacia.  We're going to help you, okay?  You got a name?"  Charlie seemed completely calm, keeping eye contact with the girl, as genuine as possible.

Lei’s gaze kept passing between the two people closest to her, Charlie and the doc. With everyone in the room shouting and talking over one another, she fixated on one person. Charlie.

Slowly she nodded her head, just slightly. Somewhat hesitant, as if she was not totally sure that her voice would work, she replied in a soft voice, "L.. Lei."

Charlie smiled again, leaning over and gently touching Lei's hand, bringing her hand back right after she touched it so that she wouldn’t feel invaded.  "Lei...that's a pretty name.  Come on, give me your hand...I'm going to get you out of this box.  Acacia here is our regular fixer, just like me...we're looking out for you."  She put her hand out again, offering it to her.

Acacia looked to Charlie, “I think you might have made a friend,” she said quietly noticing the girl's gaze locked on Charlie.  “Lei, do you know why you are in this?“ Acacia said gesturing to the box.

“I'm a doctor,  We won't hurt ya, in fact I might be able to help ya, do you know what is in this bag?” Acacia said pointing at the IV tube she was trying to be as soothing as she could, when she was home on Persephone all the little kids used to love her, she was like everyone's big sister so she hoped that was something that was still true.  Her brothers used to tease her about it.  She missed them again but it passed in light of everything going on.

Acacia looked back to Kale, “Cap, I don't even know what is in these tubes, so I don't know what removing em might do to these kids.”   She just started thinking a bit about putting the tube back in, but she needed to talk to at least one of them.

"Gorram it! Let's just take 'em to the infirmary, fancy boxes and tubes and all. Don't look all that heavy...", Geoff said with a bit of a shrug. He was getting pretty antsy, having to stand around without being useful.

"Can't take the boxes, the tubes are attached to this thing here." Kale said pointing to the machinery on the side of the larger crate, "Life support?" he guessed.  Lei still looked terrified.

“If you want me to tell these boys to go away, just nod again and I will.” Charlie said.

"This is my gorram ship." Kale said indignantly, giving Charlie a look, "'sides, if anyone’s scary-lookin' its Geoff not me." he shrugged at Geoff, "Sorry but yer pretty intimidatin'."

Geoff waved it off. "No apologizin' needed. Yer gorram right and I'm ruttin' proud of it. Intimidatin' is my business. This really ain't. If I have ta leave, just tell me." he said simply.

As soon as anyone tried to pick her up, Lei started to kick and let out a short but loud scream. She pushed herself away from everyone, and tried to jam herself into the head end of the box, hugging her knees to her chest. Her eyes kept wildly going over the group, trying to keep track of everyone except the doc and Charlie.

“Lei, do you think you can stand up and leave the box, or do you want to stay in it, no one will force you out.” Acacia said.

"Shh shh...honey...don't scream, we're not trying to hurt you."  Charlie looked back at the others, motioning with her head back.  "We're not, right everybody?"  She shook her head, looking back to Lei and giving her another smile.  "What the doctor said...you wanna walk out yourself?  We've got blankets...we've got warm drinks...hell, we may even get some song'n dance outta here.  Whadda y'say?"

Ren ran into the cargo bay and said "Rooms ready doc, need anything else?"

“Thanks Ren.”

"Wh... What do they..."  Lei twisted her head around enough to look at Charlie's face, and then quickly went back to keeping track of the others. She tensed herself, with one hand tightly gripping the side of the box, ready to try to run for it if any of the others looked like reaching for her again.  In a voice barely loud enough for the doc and Charlie to hear, she said, "Want to go."

"Come on, then.”  Charlie stood up, holding her hands out to her, as if to help her up.  "You come here, I'll get'cha away.  Someplace safer'n this...less exposed, y'know.”

Acacia smiled at Charlie, she was doing real good, she couldn't believe how much the two of them seemed to be on the same wavelength during all this.

Kale watched Charlie lead away the girl and turned to Acacia, "Get the tubes outta these ones and Geoff an' I will carry 'em to the infirmary too."

At hearing that he would be needed, Geoff looked toward the captain and nodded. He was glad he would be of some help during all of this. He took a few steps toward the crate, but didn't step in, not wanting to crowd it with everybody already in it.

“Sure thing Cap'.”  Acacia said and scooted over to the two others and pulled the tubes slowly out of the two of them.  “Ok you big strong men can gently, GENTLY carry them to the infirmary,”

Ren realizing something he believed to be vitally important said, "Hate to bring this up cap'... but ahhh, we're headed straight for Londinum, is that still where ya want to go?" with a hesitant voice borne of the weirdness of this situation.

Kale didn’t respond though as he gently placed his arms under the girls knees and behind her back, cradling her in his arms, he motioned for Geoff to do likewise, and carried the girl out of the cargo bay, her eyes still shut.

She's so young, Kale thought, this was not his day.

Geoff gave the doctor a loose salute as he moved to pick up one of the children in the crates. "Yeah, sure, Doc. No worries. 'Gentle' is my middle name." he said with a light grin as he hefted the kid up slowly in his arms as the captain did. It was nearly no effort to do so to one of Geoff's size, he noted as he started to walk slowly to the infirmary after the captain.

Assuming the Captain hadn’t heard him earlier Ren followed as well.

Kale entered the sterile room and saw the makeshift beds Ren had done up.  He laid the girl on the actual bed and motioned for Geoff to lay the boy on one of Ren's contraptions.  Then he stood back to allow the Doc some space.

Ren walked up to the infirmary door and leaned on it looking worriedly at the two children already brought into the room. "Hey cap' I hate to bring this up, but we're screamin headlong towards Londinium, is that still where ya want ta' be?"

Geoff the boy on the makeshift bed. He then went to stand beside the captain. "Uh..yeah, Cap'n. Ren brings up a good point. Considerin' we probably just majorly humped ourselves, what's the plan of action now?" he said in a quiet tone.

"I ... I don't know.  God damnit!" Kale said, his mind was racing, this was not going in any way shape or form how he had intended. "Keep course but set us to a nice slow ride 'til we can figure out what's what." he told Ren.

"Sure thing cap' I'm on it." Ren said resignedly, he was honestly hoping for a more firm plan than that to go off of, essentially all the captain said was slow down, what an odd juxtaposition Ren thought, Cap' slowin’ down the only thing he can when everything else is movin’ so fast around him. Ren slowly turned and headed towards the bridge.

Geoff nodded, knowing the captain probably didn't want to be pushed about things just about now. Besides, he had heard Charlie yell for a blanket so he figured that would give him an excuse to cut out of the infirmary. He really wasn't fond of the needles and such around. Just reminded him he would probably be needing the service of a lot of the stuff in the near future. He shook his head lightly and, grabbing a blanket from a nearby shelf, headed out into the passenger's quarters to give it to Charlie.

At first all Tate was aware of was the sound.  It was loud.  He could hear people shouting ... he was not used to it.  He was used to quiet.  Quiet rooms, quiet people, quiet white walls.  His eyes fluttered open, and he took in his surroundings, lying perfectly still.  There was a man in the room, and a woman ... only the woman looked like a doctor though- she was the one to stay away from.  He closed his eyes again, not wanting to be found out.

Acacia went to the sink, scrubbed her hands and walked back to the bed where the little girl was lying and went about checking her.  Not noticing the little boy had woken up.

Kale looked at the small girl lying on the table, couldn't be no more then eight years old.  "Is she gonna be okay?" he glanced at the boy, lying peaceful in the makeshift bed, "All of them, they all gonna be okay?"  Kale almost wished he didn't care, almost wished he could have just left them in the crate, flown to Londinum, and got paid. Almost ...

But they were kids, just ruttin' kids...

Acacia looked to Kale, “I can't tell you much of anything right now, they all seem a bit disoriented, and this one,” she said pointing to the boy, “seems intent on pretending to be sleeping,”  she said smiling, noticing now as the boy attempted to open one eye slightly.

Tate's heart started pounding in his chest. She knows.  He needed to get out of there, and he needed to get out of there fast.  Before she started poking him with needles, before she started ... he took some deep calming breaths and tried to gather his thoughts.

Acacia continued talking, “I would like to run some test on the girl, Lei once she seems a little more calm,  hopefully I can see what the deal with all the medical stuff was,  I read about transporting people in stasis but it usually doesn't require all the IVs and feeding tubes.:   She stood and walked over, “Kale, why are we transporting children?”   She looked a little upset, this is the first time she has wondered about the motives of anyone on this crew.

"I didn't ruttin' know there were kids in the gorram thing." Kale burst out, he felt control rapidly slipping from him and he didn't like it at all, not one bit.  "Wasn' told what we was transportin' just told to take to Londinum.  Grande secret ..." he muttered, then he looked to Acacia, "Looks like they might be okay." he said hopefully, "guess I'll worry about ‘what now?’."

Sephone's eyes fluttered open and she looked fearfully up at the woman above her in the white lab coat.  She coughed, and then tried to stay perfectly still.  She'd be angry if she moved.

Kale moved to the side of the bed as Acacia leaned over the girl who had just awoken.  The two of them staring down at her.

Tate risked squinting his right eye open slightly, the man and the doctor were both hunched over the other kid, their backs to him and the door, as they began trying to speak to Sephone.  Tate ever so slowly rolled off the bed he was lying on and crawled out of the room, not even making a sound.  His bare body feeling the cool of the metal flooring,

He slipped out of the doorway ...

Acacia noted that the girl had woken up, slipped off her coat, and leaned over her face in a grin.  “Hiya darling, how are ya feeling?  I was a little worried you were still out cold.  Can you speak?  I'm Acacia and this is Kale.” She said gesturing to the captain. “Do you know anything about-” she looked over to the empty bed this boy she then said quietly. “Captain!!” .

Kale followed Acacia's gaze to where the boy ... wasn't.  "Ai ya!" he said, "Where'd he go?"  He peeked his head out into the passenger quarters but didn't see him, sighed and turned to Acacia. "I'll go look for him, he couldn't have gone far, ain't that big of a ship.  You can manage here?"

“I should, if I need help Kyoko has helped me in here before I can com to her.” Acacia nodded to Kale.  “I guess you should go find him, I bet he is scared, and with all those IV's I bet he has not had a good time with doctors, so maybe I shouldn’t look for him.” Kale nodded and went to look for the little boy.

Sephone looked fearfully from the doctor to the man, trying desperately to wrap her mind around what was happening. She didn't recognize these people but that wasn't entirely unusual.  The doctor had told her to say something, she wanted her to tell her how she was feeling.  That's what she needed to do.  If she listened maybe they'd put her back in her room and she could go to sleep.

She opened her small, rosebud shaped lips. "I'm -" another cough racked her small body, "I'm feeling disoriented, and lightheaded, my throat hurts, and I feel weak. " she tried to give as a complete description as she could.  The doctors liked that.  It made them nod their heads curtly and let her go back to her room.

“God what has been done to you.  I'm Acacia, I'm a doctor who wants to help you, I don't want you to be hurt anymore.  Do you have a name?”

 Sephone narrowed her eyes slightly ... was this a trick?  She couldn't think clearly, her head was swimming.  The woman said she didn't want to hurt her, but she was a doctor ... and doctors always hurt her.  They must be wanting her to do something, this must be a test.

"Sephone." she whispered softly.

“It is good to meet you, I am afraid to know this, but have doctors been hurting you in anyway.  You seem a little scared of me.”

What was going on? Sephone was so utterly confused.

"You- You're a ... a doctor?" she asked, her voice coming out in a quiet, slight lisp, suddenly not even sure if she had been right or not, nothing was making any sense.

“Yes, I am, we found you drugged and in a box.  With all sorts of tubes sticking out of you.  Do you know who did that?  I promise you I won't hurt you.”   She was trying to put the girl at ease.  She tried to imagine herself at that age and what she would have wanted to hear.

Sephone felt her eyes starting to well with tears, and she tried desperately to sniff them back.  They got mad when you cried. She started shaking her head back and forth. "You did it, the doctors," she could feel panic rising in her chest and she tried to control it. "You lie, always lying, always, always hurting." it looked like the lady was going to say more so Sephone covered her ears and shook her head. "Always, always, always, always ..." she repeated over and over again.

Acacia felt her own eyes tear up she wanted to run up and embrace the girl, but she was afraid it would scare her too much.  “I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.  I swear to you, I am not like that.  No doctor should harm anyone, the ones that hurt don't deserve to be called doctors.”   Acacia put her face in her hands and cried,  “I'm sorry sweetie, I am so, so sorry.”

Sephone stopped shaking her head, and opened her eyes when the doctor didn't touch her or hurt her for crying ... in fact, when she opened her eyes she saw the woman covering her own face and crying.  Sephone looked around bewilderedly for a moment, not knowing what to do, she had never seen a doctor cry before.  Ever so gently she placed her tiny hand on the woman's shoulder.

"Shh," she whispered, "It's okay."

Acacia wiped her eyes, “No, it isn't.  What's your name?” she said placing her own hand on the girl's hand lightly.

Sephone, extremely confused at what was going on, but now worried about the crying lady, didn't pull her hand away ... it might make the lady cry again.  "Sephone." she said. "Number 104." the number tattooed above the barcode on her left forearm.

“Nice to meet you,” she saw the number on the girl's arm. “How long have you had that?”

Sephone looked down at her wrist.  "Forever." she said softly, then she started coughing again, moaning slightly with the pain of it.

“Parents?  Brothers?  Sisters?  A home?” Acacia asked.  “Lay down,” she said.

Sephone did as the lady said, but looked at her confused.  "I don't understand the questions." she said softly, hoping that she wouldn't be angry with her.

“It’s ok then, you just rest then.” Acacia said, “and remember I will die before I let someone hurt you again sweetie.” Acacia lightly stroked the girls hair, hoping it would calm her down and make her feel safe.

Sephone, allowed the woman to stroke her hair, no one had ever done that before and at first she thought that she might be getting ready to hurt her ... but she didn't, she just kept stroking, and it felt nice and soon Sephone fell asleep, a tiny smile playing on her small lips.

Acacia pulled a blanket up on the girl and went to go find the others. maybe Kale or someone else had figured something out.  She left the infirmary turned to the light and shut but didn't lock the door.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Charlie lead Lei into the passenger quarters, "There we go, honey...we're safe here."  She turned around halfway, not breaking Lei's cover, as she was obviously hiding from the others.  She didn’t move otherwise, speaking slowly and calmly.  "We'd like to take you into the next room, it's a doctor's office...make sure you're okay.  We're not sure as ta how long you'd been in there.  All we're gonna do is just make sure you're healthy'n sound, that's all.  You okay goin' with me t'there?"  Charlie held out her hand to Lei again, smiling.

 Lei let herself be backed towards the infirmary by Charlie, constantly keeping an eye on everyone else. When she backed up against the wall, she glanced around to see what was behind her. Looking around the edge of the door into the infirmary, she saw all the equipment laid out on the shelves, and the sterile looking bed in the middle of the room. She glanced at Charlie, and started edging along the wall away from the doorway.

"You...no?  Not gonna happen?  Aww...tha's alright, honey.  Come on, let's not have you in there."  She looked around for anything to cover the girl, not finding much...other than the shirt off her own back, and while she was all for helping, there was a level of comfortable that it just didn't hit.  Charlie leaned over toward the infirmary door, cupping a hand around her mouth and shouting.  "Hey, someone bring me a blanket'r somethin'?"

Lei simply shook her head, and kept backing away from the infirmary.  When Charlie shouted out to the others inside, Lei bolted for the far side of the room, and sat down with her back pressed into the corner, her knees drawn up to her chest again.

Charlie followed Lei into the hall of the Passenger Quarters, smiling, taking the lead instead of just letting her back up.  The girl bolted to the other side of the room, finding a corner and hiding...and Charlie stayed right where she was, crossing her arms and looking at the girl.  There was no sense in making her feel like a trapped animal, as she probably already did.  "Lei...you alright?  Tired?  Cold?  Hungry?  Anything like that, you wanna tell me?  I'm gonna assume you're cold, bein' without a pair of anything."  She did her best to keep warm, trying to coax an answer out of the girl.  "You need anything?  If'n you want, I can just leave y'be..."

Geoff headed out and spotted Charlie and Lei in a corner of the room. Averting his eyes from the naked girl, he approached and cleared his throat. "Yo, Charlie. Here's a blanket. Hurry up and ruttin' cover her, alright?" he said lightly as he held the blanket out to her.

Charlie took the blanket, nodding to Geoff.  "Don'cha worry, I'm taking care of our guest here.  You don't need t'worry, everything's gonna be okay."  She stepped away from Geoff, crouching down beside Lei and opening the blanket, gently putting it around her form under her chin.  She moved slow, so that if Lei seemed to jerk back, she could pull it away.  "C'mere, honey...it's okay.  Let's get you safe…”

Lei reached out to grab the blanket, once she was on the far side of the room. She pulled the blanket up over her knees, and nervously watched the crew.

Charlie took a few short steps back, crouching down and putting her hands around her knees, watching Lei.  She smiled a bit, brushing her dark hair back from her eyes, easier when it's not partially caked in grease.  "Now then...you want anything else?  Water?  Little food?  Anything at all that I'd be good t'getcha?"

Geoff nodded seeing that the girl was covered up and Charlie was handling the situation well, and sighed as he leaned against a wall. "We are so ruttin' humped it ain't even funny....but I ain't regrettin' the decision ta let them outta that there cage o' theirs at all. Funny, ain't it?" he muttered lightly, more to himself than anything.

Charlie looked over at Geoff, shrugging a bit.  "We're doin' the right thing.  You get so far from the core, people start t'make up their own rules about the way things ought t'work.  Out here, where there's no law, showing kindness is bein' all we got."  Charlie smiled back at him, looking over to Lei again.

Still watching the tall, rough looking man and the other woman, Lei listened to Charlie's queries, shaking her head at each one.  "Wh... where is this?"

"You're on the Destiny.  It's a ship...we're out in the black somewhere, can't tell you rightly where...not on land, I can say that.  Where're you from?" Charlie asked.

"Destiny... ship? I..."  Her gaze shifted to Charlie's eyes, and tears form in her eyes as she tried to answer the question. "It... It was. All white there."

"Shh shh...you're safe, hun.  Don't you worry."  Charlie scooted forward a bit, bringing up a hand and stroking back Lei's hair, smiling at her.  "All you need to know is that no one is gonna hurt you here, Lei.  Everyone is okay, everyone is safe...nothing bad is gonna happen here to anyone, kay?"

When Charlie first reached for her, Lei shied away just a little and hugged her legs in closer, but otherwise didn’t move. She let her head fall forward, burying her face in her hands and the blanket, and started quietly sobbing. She didn't really understand where she was, or what she was doing there, but for now all the large scary people were keeping away from her. For now.  She was sure it was only a matter of time before someone came along who wanted to do something to her.

"Hey, hey...you're alright."  Charlie looked down for a moment, pinching the bridge of her nose and squeezing her eyes like she was trying to shake something off.  In her head, it was like someone just started banging pots and pans together...right behind her.  She shook her head, taking a deep breath and looked back up at Lei, giving her the best smile she could.  "You want us to find you somewhere safe to be?  Maybe a nice bed?  We're right here in front of the open rooms, could surely get you some place to lay for the night...."

Lei lifted her head just enough to look towards Charlie.  A room, not this one. Maybe there wouldn't be any giants staring at her there, or anyone else. Maybe there'd be something to hold the door closed, so she could hide in there alone... She slowly nodded her head.

"That's what I thought hun.  Come on, you don't want to be out here in the middle of nowhere, do ya?"  Charlie stood up, putting her hand on the wall next to her and the other to her head, closing her eyes again.  Something like a wave just washes over her, making the punding in her head even louder.  She just needs some rest, she was already tired...it's probably just an adrenaline crash.

"Here, I don't know about there being open quarters...but here's a room you can use."  Charlie took a few steps in the lower hall, cracking open the door that lead into her bunk.  "I don't use it, I sleep up in the engine room...all my things're up there, as it stands.  You'll be fine to be in here.  If you need anything, all you'd need to do is let someone know.  But…”  Charlie shook her head again, looking back at Geoff.  "Hey, can you... you know, keep an eye?  Somethin' fierce is coming over me, I need t'lay down.  All you gotta do is just be gentle, y'know?"

 Lei slowly stood, keeping her back to the wall, and her eye on Geoff.. She let herself be led towards Charlie's room.  Once at the door, she backed into the room, and sat down against the far wall.

Geoff looked over to Charlie from where he had been leaning on the wall, looking a bit worried as Charlie didn’t seem all that all right at the moment. But he just nodded and gave a light salute to her. "Sure enough, Charlie. I'll watch out for her. Like I said before, 'Gentle' is my middle name. You just go on and get some rest...." he said.

"Yeah, she'll be...she'll be alright.  Just make sure...you know, she doesn't do anything...wrong."  Charlie was obviously a bit out of it, the exhaustion starting to hit her as well.  She started walking, keeping a hand on the wall, possibly the most of what was keeping her balance.  "Make sure you let the good doctor know where she is, I don't want t'be responsible for missin' girls tomorrow."  She waved a hand at Geoff, slowly walking off, making her way back to the engine room...

Charlie entered the room, sighing as she leaned against the wall, pulling off her boots and throwing them across the room.  Supported by the wall, she put her hands on either side of her head, groaning as she massaged her temples.  Who knew what this was...something wicked just washing over, causing distress in her.  Something she didn't need.

Charlie got her balance again, standing up and stretching, making the slow walk across the room to the hammock.  Her joints started to ache, something she could only imagine was from running about the past few days and not having much else to do.  She sat on the edge, slowly swinging, rubbing her forehead again.  It was a low ebb, like a pulse beacon somewhere, coming in slow flashes through the edges of her vision and the lower frequencies of her hearing.  Like being in front of a spotlight, the spots beginning to dance.

I'm tired, Charlie thought.  This'll all seem better after a few hours of sleep.  She coughed hard, covering her mouth, her head swimming even further into the pain as she did so.  It only took a moment to shake it out, running the back of her arm over her mouth and wiping her hands on the thighs of her jeans.  She rolled back into the hammock, oblivious to the smears of blood she had just put across her cheek and her pants, not to mention her hands...

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Lei backed into the room and slid into a sitting position against the back wall. She watched the door swing half closed when Charlie stopped standing in the doorway and wandered off.

After watching the doorway for a half minute, Lei crept up to it with the infirmary blanket wrapped around herself, and quietly pushed it shut. Maybe she was quiet enough so that the giant didn't notice... She sat on the floor, leaning against the door, and listened for a while...

Geoff did note the door to Charlie's bunk closing completely though after a bit, as he had been staring right at it. He didn’t move or do anything about it though. He figured that the girl wanted her privacy, he might as well respect that. He didn't give much of a damn about what the girl did so long as it wasn't in the realm of dangerous to herself, him, or anybody else. So he just continued to lean against the wall and listen and look for any sign of trouble.

A short time later Tate crawled cautiously into the room.  There was another man in there leaning against the wall and staring off down a hallway that Tate couldn't see.  He looked nothing like anyone Tate had ever seen before, he actually paused in his motion to stop and gawk at the sheer size of him.  Then remembering himself and how he had to get out of there he quietly crawled the opposite direction, following the wall down another hallway.  No one saw him.

Kale stepped into the passenger quarters and glanced around, looking behind the couches and under the coffee table, "Geoff, did you see a kid go by here?" he asked urgently.

Geoff thought he had heard some movement from somewhere off to the side of him at one point, but hadn't seen anything when he turned to look. Figuring it was just his imagination, he went back to looking at the door to the room Lei's in. When the captain comes in and starts to search the room and then asks him about a kid, he shakes his head. "No, Cap'n, didn't see nobody come by here. I did hear somethin' awhile back, but I just thought I was hearin' things.", he said with a shrug, "One o' the kids got up and started wanderin' then?"

"The boys gone missin', didn' even see or hear him go." he stood in the center of the passenger quarters pretty certain that the boy wasn't in there. "Search the cargo bay, I'm going to check out the dining hall, and see if he snuck onto one of the shuttles.  Ain't safe for a little guy to be wanderin' this here ship." without further ado Kale walked quickly out of the room.

"Sure enough, Cap'n. I'll look fer him." Geoff said as he threw a light salute to the captain. He glanced shortly back at the door and then shrugged. He figured the girl must be asleep or something and she'd be fine without a chaperone for a little while. So he nodded as he headed out into the cargo bay to look for the boy.

Tate shivered as he emerged into an even larger room then he had been in before ... in fact the room was huge, Tate felt tiny and insignificant in comparison.  Where am I? he thought, fear starting to creep into him. Just get out, find a way out. he told himself.  He crawled back behind some large crates, and worked his way until he was completely hidden, it was like he was in his own little world back here, pushed up against the wall and boxed in by large crates.  Suddenly he felt how cold and tired he was, and curled up in a ball shivering as he drifted off to sleep.

Geoff walked into the cargo bay then, looking about for the kid. He looked into the big crate first and, not finding him there, started walking about the cargo bay. "Oi! Kid! Where are ya?! We ain't gonna hurt ya or nothin'! It ain't safe fer ya ta be wanderin' 'bout. Just lookin' ta help so come on out!" Geoff called out as he searched, picking up smaller crates and shoving some of the larger ones out of the way. So far, he hadn't found the kid.

Tate couldn't have been asleep for more then ten minutes before he heard footsteps in the large room.  He held his breath as they ran by and then died away.  He released the breath just as another pair of footstep entered, followed shortly by a voice and the scraping of metal on metal as various crates were moved.  Tate's heart was pounding.  He was going to find him, he crawled back further into the corner, but found himself trapped between crates, and two walls.

Geoff continued to search for awhile, calling out to the kid as he did. "C'mon, kid! Just come on out! Nobody's gonna hurt ya! Just wanna help! I know I ain't exactly the pretty face that Charlie or the Doc are, but I'm lookin' ta help too." he said as he pushed aside another crate. The particular crate that the boy had hidden himself behind. At the sight of the boy, Geoff grinned and nodded. "There ya are. Come on out, kid. Ain't nobody gonna hurt ya. If we had meant ya harm, we woulda left ya in the crate..." he remarked in a light tone.

Tate looked up at the man ... way up.  It was the same man he had seen in the other, smaller room.  He was big and on his hip were two metal machines.  This man wasn't a doctor, and he wasn't a businessman ... the only two types of people Tate had ever seen.  And if he wasn't one of those, then he might be alright.  He looked up defiantly at him.

"Don't touch me!" he said, trying to make his voice loud and strong like the big mans.  "If you touch me I'll ..." what would he do, he had no weapons but himself, ah… "...I'll bite you!"

Geoff grinned and sat down on the floor across from the kid, laughing in a boisterous manner. "Bite me!? Ha, Ha! Kid, I think I like your style! That's the way o' things! Somebody looks ta hurt ya, ya hurt 'em first! That's how things are done! Good instincts on ya! But, like I said, I ain't lookin' ta hurt ya and I won't be touchin' ya in any way, shape, or form. Though ya may want ta be thinkin' about gettin' up and gettin' dressed at some point. Just a thought." he said in an amused tone.

Tate chewed on his lower lip, trying to think what to do next, as the big man laughed at him.  When the man sat down he backed away as much as he could, eyeing him cautiously.  As long as he didn't touch him, he might be okay.  "No touchin'." he said, imitating the mans speech.  His eyes drifted back to the machines at the man's waist, "What are those?" he asked forcefully.

Geoff held his hands up with a grin. "Sure, sure. No touchin'. I got it. Damn, ya sound like a damn bouncer at a strip club with that..." he said and chuckled. He then looked down to where the kid was looking and realized he was talking about his pistols. Geoff looked back at the kid and shrugged. "Those? Those are the tools o' my trade. They make sure that anybody tries ta hurt me or my friends is in fer a world o' hurt themselves. They're guns. Ya ain't never seen anythin' like 'em before?" he said, a quizzical expression on his face.

"No." Tate said shaking his head, he'd never seen anything like them in his life. "How do they work?" he asked.

Geoff shrugged and shook his head. "Well, ya point it at the guy who's lookin' ta do you harm, pull the trigger and that's it. Simple enough, but it ain't ta be done lightly. Ya don't be shootin' everybody in sight, ya see. Ya only shoot people who are lookin' ta shoot you. If they're unarmed, ya gotta take care o' things like a man. With yer own two fists. And ya never shoot a man in the back! Leastwise, that's what I believe. That there is some important learnin' fer ya, kid, by way of Geoff Wolfe." he remarked with a grin, "That's me, by the way. Geoff Wolfe. How’s 'bout you? Ya gotta name, kid, or should I just keep callin' ya 'kid'?"

Tate listened to the man very intently. "So, that hurts people?" he said, "It hurts people that hurt you?" The man - Geoff - nodded.  "I want one." Tate said seriously. "And my name's Tate."

Geoff couldn't suppress the grin that came upon his face. "Well, Tate, I ain't sayin' ya can't have one, 'specially since I can see ya got specific people in mind fer the hurtin', but that's really more fer the cap'n to decide. He's in charge o' the firearms on this here ship, after all. 'Cept mine, of course. These are my personal firearms. Ain't nobody touchin' them, but me." he said matter of factly, "However, most people don't like givin' kids guns. Say they don't know how ta handle them. I say that's a bunch of fei hua. Sooner a kid learns ta handle a gun, the sooner that kid learns ta keep himself safe. But ya gotta learn ta use 'em, ya hear? Maybe if the cap'n says so, I can take some time ta teach ya how, eh? Even then, maybe if the cap'n doesn't say so I could still teach ya. But in secret, dong ma?"

Tate silently considered the man, he was big and strong and he had Guns.  Guns seemed like the type of thing that Tate could use, they seemed like the type of thing that had a purpose.  If he was good Geoff would teach him how to use the Guns, and that would be alright.  As long as he didn't touch him it'd be alright if he taught him how to use the Guns.  Tate finally let himself grin, and the shape of the smile felt foreign and unfamiliar to him. "I can have one of yers, Geoff?" he asked, "Jus' ta practice with?" he hoped that he had the way Geoff spoke down, he tried really hard to make his voice sound the same, he even stood up, trying to be taller.

"Not now, ya can't. Maybe when ya get the hang o' shootin', I'll let ya use one of 'em. Fer now, I think ya should be focusin' more on gettin' yerself dressed and fed and rested, ya know? 'Sides, my guns may be a bit too much fer ya, at first..."

"I'll get one later then." Tate said, nodding to himself, then he shivered involuntarily, the great big room was really cold.

Charlie stepped lightly from the engine room then, her feet coming down gingerly on the catwalk.  She was barefoot, removing the usual sound of tromping that followed her around, replaced with almost nothing.  She groaned as she put a hand on the railing to support her, slowly rubbing the back of her neck and dropping her head.  The headache was persistent, and everything was becoming sore...every joint.  It was probably bursting straight onto a warm planet, coming from space...and it figured, she was so anxious about getting onto the surface of Valon.  It was still worth it, however...

Charlie made a face when Geoff spoke, the gruff man's voice booming like a rocket in a tin can.  She pinched the bridge of her nose again, muttering a bit as she squeezed her eyes closed, waiting for the white flashes in her vision to subside.  She finally shook it off, peering over the rail, still supporting almost all of her weight on it.  "Geoff...who're you talkin' to down there?"

Geoff shrugged lightly as he looked up to where Charlie was. "Hey, Charlie. It's one o' the kids. He went a-wanderin' 'round and I had ta find him. We're just havin' a friendly chat now." he remarked before looking a bit concerned, "Oi, Charlie? Ya ok? Ya didn't look all that...together when ya went ta yer room yesterday and ya ain't lookin' all that right, right now..."

"Yeah, I'm just...a little under the weather.  Bein' on the surface can have that affectin' on me."  Her words seemed even a little confusing to herself, but it didn’t matter...thinking about it was making her head hurt.  She moved along the catwalk, keeping a steady arm on the railing as she went, looking over.  "You...need my help t'do anything, or you got this under control?  I mean...sorry, I don't know what I'm sayin', do I?"  She managed a weak smile, slowly taking the steps with each foot on one until she was at the bottom.  There was a dark mar across one of her cheeks, but being that this is the girl who spends half her time covered in grime and oil, it could easily be anything.

"I'm just...gonna go see Acacia, get somethin' to give me a break, y'know?"  She peered around, able to see Tate, smiling a bit and waving at him.  "Hello...look out for this big lug, he'll have you drinkin' in no time..."

Geoff looked to Charlie with a light furrow of his brow. "Yeah...ya need some help gettin' ta the infirmary? Ya ain't lookin' all that stable...." he said in a worried tone.

He then looked back to Tate as Charlie addressed him and noticed his shivering, "Hey, yer gettin' cold, kid? No wonder. Yer runnin' 'round naked as the day ya were born. That's somethin' ya shouldn't be doin' in public 'less yer good and drunk. Come on. We'll get ya somethin' ta cover up with. Ok?"

"No, I'm... I'm not quite alright.  It's just a fever, y'know...high temperature, gettin' tired, all of that.  You don't hafta be worryin' about me anymore'n you're worryin' about him.  I can take care of me."  Charlie ended her words with another smile, still weak, but genuine.  "There's walls th'whole way, I'll make it down.”

Charlie came down the next set of stairs, both hands on one railing as she went, making sure of her footing.  It wasn't necessarily the inability to support herself, her legs were still strong...it was an unsureness of her balance, and simply her ability to keep herself upright.  She'd already shown a weakness to spells of the sort, and it would make for something even worse, having her topple down the steps.

Tate looked up warily as Charlie descended the stairs, she seemed to be a friend of Geoff's though, so maybe she was alright too.  He didn't pay her much mind, just turned back to Geoff and nodded. "I'm a lil' cold."

"I...guess. But, ya need me, ya tell me, dong ma?" Geoff said, giving Charlie one last worried look.

"Stop worrying, Geoff...things'll be better in no time, fast's you could say...well, somethin' fast."  She smiled again, a hand on the frame that would lead her down to the infirmary.  She waited a moment, lowering her head and watching her feet, almost daring them to fall out from under her now.  It took a moment of her shaking her head to regain her focus, blinking away the blurriness.

Geoff frowned but then turned back to Tate. "Come on then, Tate. I'll take ya ta get somethin' ta cover yerself with. I can get ya a blanket from the infirmary or one o' the bunks, if ya want. Hell, I could even get ya one o' my shirts if ya really needed. It would fit ya like one o' those robes companions and some Shepard’s wear, but it would keep ya covered." he said with a grin.

Tate didn't understand the references but Geoff thought it was funny so he grinned too and followed the big man.

The two of them past Acacia in the hallway as she emerged into the cargo bay and spotted Charlie.  “Charlie-girl you aren't looking all that balanced, what you do, bang your head or something?”   She looked at the woman a little worried.  “Why don't you come on down to my office and I will check you.”

Charlie looked up at Acacia, "I just got a little headache, that's all...little dizziness.  I'll be fine by tomorrow.  I was jus' wondering if you had anything I could, you know, be takin' for that..."  There was a bit of a plead in her eyes.  Anything that would make it hurt less...

“Yeah sure come on,”  Acacia looked worriedly at her friend.  The poor girl looked like she was ready to hit the floor.  It was something more then a simple headache, she seemed to be weaving.  She offered her arm, although there wasn’t much she could do if the taller woman collapsed.

Charlie shook her head.  "I can stand, don't ... don't worry, let's just get back to the infirmary."  She was still supporting her weight on the wall, of course...but didn't mean that she still didn't have some kind of pride, especially now that there were children and the like on board.  She took a few steps, testing her footing, bare feet touching the ground gingerly.  "Just...lead th'way, I'll be right behind, y'know?"

Kale emerged on the second level catwalk and noticed Acacia helping Charlie out of the room,  "Everythin' alright in here?" he called out, "Did we find the kid?"

“Don't know, I'll get back to you Cap,  I need to help our mechanic, I'm very worried about her right now.” Acacia responded and looked very grim as she walked into the Infirmary.

Kale trotted down the stairs after them and followed into the passenger quarters.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Geoff walked into the passenger's quarters at a slow pace, looking back at Tate as he did so. "All right, Tate. Stay here for a sec while I get ya a blanket ta cover yerself with." he said before turning to one of the empty rooms, not really knowing if they belonged to anybody or not, and walking in. He quickly rummaged around for a blanket and, finding one, grabbed it and headed back out to where he left Tate. He handed the blanket to Tate so he could cover himself up, knowing the kid was wary of physical contact.

Tate carefully took the blanket from Geoff, cautiously still staying back from him, and wrapped it around his shoulders, grateful for the warmth.

Geoff nodded to the boy and then shrugged. "Now, let's see. Ya hungry, kid? We got us some food in the dining hall if ya want. How’s 'bout it?" he asked with a questioning gaze. He really wasn't all that familiar with how to deal with children, but he figured they needed to eat like everybody else...

Charlie and Acacia passed into the infirmary followed shortly by Kale.  "Ah, I see we've found him." Kale said when he spotted Geoff standing beside the young boy all wrapped in a blanket now.  The kid had some dirt and grease stains on his arms and on his cheeks though, Kale looked at him in concern, "Why don' we get you all washed up, son." Kale said.  The boy backed away from him though, stepping behind Geoff and looking warily up at him.  "Uh, well, Geoff, why don't you show him to one of the spare rooms, tell him where the shower is so he can wash up ... perhaps see 'bout gettin' him somethin' to wear, I'm goin' ta check on Charlie."

"Sure enough, Cap'n. Get him washed up...I guess." he said, though the prospect of doing that didn't seem to agree with him. He, himself, wouldn't have been inclined to use the shower and he wasn't much for telling the kid to either. But he shrugged and nodded at the captain as he headed for the infirmary. He then turned to Tate and shrugged again. "Uh...well, then. Ya want one o' these rooms here or ya want ta eat or ya want some clothes or what? Just tell me what ya want and we'll get it done."

"I would just like to be alone now ... if that's alright." Tate said, he needed to get his bearing about him, he needed time to think over everything that had just happened and what he was going to do ... and it wouldn't hurt to have a warm shower and get some clothes.  Then when he was done with that Geoff said that they would give him some food, and that sounded alright.  "I get a room?"

Geoff nodded to the boy, smiling lightly. "Sure enough, kid. Can't expect ya ta share a bunk after all ya been through. Wouldn't be right." he said and then looked over the doors to the rooms around and pointed out the one he had gone in before, "That one should do. Just go ahead and go in and make yerself comfortable. I'll be 'round if ya need anything, okay? I gotta watch out fer stuff on the ship. That's my job, after all. Well, sorta my job."

Tate nodded, not wanting to say much more until he understood his situation better.  He crept into the room that Geoff had pointed out and shut the door.

Kale stepped back out into the room and looked at Geoff, "The lil' one go off to get some rest?" he asked, running a hand through his hair, his face still showing his worry over Charlie.

"Yep, he did, Cap'n. Went in there ta rest." he said before sighing a bit and looking serious for once, "How's Charlie? If yer expression is any sign, it ain't good, is it?"

"She told me ta tell everyone she was fine - which is a sure sign that she ain't if you know Charlie at all.  Doc's with her now though, ain't much we can do.  I'm startin' ta feel a bit useless." Kale sighed, "I'm headin' back to my bunk for a bit, gotta decide what we're gonna do next.  We're humped, an' we need to figure a way outta this.  Keep an eye on the lil' one if he comes out again, and see about findin' him somethin' ta wear, just a shirt an' a belt will do fer now I guess, ain't got no clothes fer children." Kale looked back at the infirmary once more, he could see Acacia leaning over Charlie through the glass window, then he headed to his bunk.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Charlie walked into the Infirmary, stepping gingerly as she went, relieved at the cold floor under her feet.  Even the soles were burning up, like the rest of her skin...and were no one else around, she would crouch down and rest her forehead on the walkway, the thin metal that separated her and the negative-four degrees Kelvin atmosphere.  There was a slight smile at the thought, stepping out of Acacia's way, keeping her back to the wall so she wasn’t holding herself up by her hands anymore.

"All I...I think I just have a fever.  Anything that'll just cool me down, y'know?  Kill the headache I'm havin', too..."

Since Charlie had forgotten to turn on the light Acacia was definitely assuming worse then a headache.  “Here is the deal Charlie-girl, you will lay on that table and you will let me check you,”   Acacia grabbed a thermometer and stuck it in Charlie's mouth, “Let's check that while I check for some pain killer for you.”

"Acacia, I-..."  She was cut off by the thermometer, rolling her eyes a bit as she looked over to the table.  Best to let the doc do her job...if she came to Charlie with something mechanical that needed doing, she'd just take over as well.  Charlie stretched out, reaching the table before she was fully off the wall to make sure she was stable, sitting on the edge and letting her feet dangle off the edge.  She slowly watched the thermometer before she could speak, waiting for it to beep...

Acacia reached up and put her hand on Charlie's shoulder and pushed her till she laid down.  “No medicine till you lay down.”  She had a syringe of Ibuprofen, medicine really hadn't improved on it as a pain killer in the 600 years since it's invention.  She looked to make sure the girl didn't see her injecting Charlie.  She hit the syringe into Charlie's left forearm and injected 100 mg.

Kale stepped into the infirmary to see Charlie laying on one of the tables and Acacia injecting something into her arm. "You alrigh' lil' Charlie?" he asked, his face a mask of concern.  She didn't look too good.

Acacia heard the captain come in, she didn’t even acknowledge him.  The thermometer beeped, she took it out and read it.  “102.2?!?  You ain't going anywhere sweetie so get comfortable.”

Charlie looked over at Acacia, one of her eyebrows quirking slightly.  "What...102?  That's high...yeah...is that abnormally high?  I mean, I'm still helpful here.  I still, y'know...have a job..."  Charlie propped herself up on her elbows, looking towards Kale and the doorway, managing a weak smile.  "Hey captain...how are the little guests...are they okay?  I put Lei to bed last night, she's...she's in my bunk, y'know, on account that I don't use it ever.  I woulda stayed with her, had I not had th' headache like this..."

"'Course yer still helpful." Kale said, offering Charlie a smile and coming to place a protective hand on her shoulder. "The lil' ones are just fine.  Lei's still in yer bunk, and Geoff's got the boy covered.  And the girls righ' there sleepin' sound as ever." he looked back up at Acacia, worry marking his features.  "Yer gonna be okay, Charlie." he said.

Charlie mock-frowns a bit at Kale's worried look, patting his arm.  "Don'cha go worrying about me, Cap'n, I'll be okay.  I'm always okay, y'know?  You've got an entire crew here, under th'watch.  'Sides, no one's ever lookin' after you, and you turned out okay, right?"  She managed a smile, closing her eyes at the end of it, trying to fend off the next wave of the headache.  She couldn't wait long enough for the medicine to start taking effect, something that would ease it.

Charlie let out a sigh, covering her mouth in case she coughed again...thankfully not, this time.  She spoke again, but this time a little slower...the painkiller was definitely starting to spread through her system.  "Cap'n...you do me a favor, tell everyone not t'worry.  It's just a fever..."

Kale smiled, "I will do that, lil' Charlie." he turned to Acacia, "You make sure our girl gets better." he said, then steps out of the infirmary to let the doc do her job.

It took a moment for Charlie to finally see that the captain had gone, muttering somewhere through half-lidded eyes.  "Cap'n, wait, I have...letters...for you to send..."  As Charlie relaxed, the fever finally began to take over, leaving her consciousness somewhere under the headache and the pain.  She laid back again, closing her eyes.  "Letters to...love letters...that I never got t'send to..."  She murmured a few more unintelligible things after that, tilting her head to the side, her arms relaxing on the edges of the table.  She'd been up for only fifteen minutes or so, and it had already left a toll on her weakened state.  Her fingers twitched a few times as she slowly drifted into a fevered sleep, breathing slowly as she went under...

With the utmost of concern on his face Ren stepped into the infirmary some time later and asked "Is... is she ok doc? What’s goin on?"

Acacia was pouring over her books trying to figure out a diagnosis,  she looked really frazzled.  Her glasses were askew on her face, and she looked rather flushed.  “Huh, oh hi Ren, yeah she passed out about 4 hours ago.  Is it getting warm in here?” she said fanning herself.   A little while ago her head started hurting, and she felt a little woozy.

"Hey, you're not lookin so hot your self, why don't you go get some rest, I'm sure Charlie will be fine until you get back on your feet." Ren said showing a deep amount of care for his loved one in the only way he currently could.

“No, I have to figure out what is wrong, I just need to get that book over there I think it might have some of the information I need.” Acacia stood up uneasily, and had to catch herself on the table.  She started walking to the bookshelf.  She stumbled a couple times but made it to the shelf.  She steadied herself on the shelf and tried to pull out her book on ancient Earth-that-was viruses.

Feeling a bit more refreshed Kendra wandered towards the infirmary to see how the children were doing and peered into the window. She saw Charlie on the examination table and the doctor stumbling toward the bookshelf.  She reached for the door and opened it, “Doc, are you okay, what the hell's going on, What's Charlie doing on the table, passed out and you don't look so good yourself! Sit down,” Kendra commands.   Oh shit, she thought, we can't loose the doc.

"Captain!" she yelled into the hallway. "Kaaale, come ere' quick"

 Ren rushed to the Acacia's side as she started to look weaker, "Look Acacia, I ain't no doc, but if it is a virus, isn't possible you've got it as well?" He rubbed the back of her shoulders in a reassuring way as he talked to her, You are so gorram not allowed to get all sickly on me, his care for her was genuine, as was his love and it was not a selfish thought the crew needs you to much, I need you to much.

“No.....I'm...fine.” Acacia put her hand to her head as the ground seemed to move around her.  “I have to help Charlie and I need to help the kids, I need to find out what is going on.”   Her speech slurred slightly as she kept wobbling on her feet.

Helping to steady Acacia Ren said, "Baby you gotta sit down, before ya fall down" then turned to Kendra and said very calmly, "Go get the captain - now."

“Yes … yes sitting would be nice, but I need to read the book, it might help Charlie, she is sick, she is more important right now.  A little headache won't stop me.“ She collapsed down in the chair breathing a bit heavily, “the big red one on the top shelf grab it for me Ren.”

"You got it doc." Ren said with an increased sense of skittishness as he reached for the red book on the shelf and handed it to her. "This one yea?"

Acacia put her head in her hands.  She nodded, the pain in her head was horrible.  She had to focus she needed to help.  “Bring it over here Ren.” she said very weakly.

"Acacia, you're really not lookin good, maybe you should lay down like I said, yeah?" Ren said as he handed Acacia the book which was starting to shake slightly in his hands.

Acacia forced herself to stand up and started to walk to Charlie.  After two steps her strength left her limbs and she fell to the ground.  She tried to drag herself forward.  I'm the doctor, I have to help her.

Trying to catch her as she fell Ren gave a little gasp and physically picked her up and laid her one of the tables "Gorramit, you're gonna be ok sweet heart, you just gotta stop for a sec yeah?" Ren said with a building amount of terror in his voice. Then in frustration he nearly screamed, "Someone go get the captain!"

“Watch her,  I..I'll got get him,” Kendra said and sprinted away in the direction of cargo bay. "Kale! Geoff. . . Anybody!!"

“Hi Ren, whatcha doin down here,” Acacia said as Ren picked her up smiling a bit.  “Mwerp.” She said poking his nose.  “I love you.” The whole room got a little fuzzy then.  She couldn’t quite seem to focus her eyes on anything.  “so.....hot....so...hot.”

Ren nearly smiled when she poked his nose, "I love you too baby, you just gotta stay with me here ok?" he then began to stroke her hair gently in order to reassure her what the hell, what the hell, baby you ain't allowed to go die on me now he thought.

Charlie muttered again, closing her eyes and leaning her head back.  No one could hear her...was she too quiet?  No, she couldn't speak any louder.  Had she even been speaking?  Is she...could she be dead?  No, no, no...it's not even possible.  Being dead wouldn't hurt this much.  She opened her eyes, looking over at Ren, trying to get his attention.  "Ren....Ren....Ren, can you...Ren, you hear me?  Ren, you...you need ta...t'give her a shot, Ren."  She let out another murmur, shifting her head again.  "And get her...you know, some ice.  Something cold..."

Ren looked up nervously at Charlie, "A shot? A shot of what?" his eyes started roaming the room quickly for a needle when he laid eyes on one he gently set Acacia down and grabbed it then in a moment of lucidity he very calmly asked..."Charlie... What’s wrong with you and Acacia?"

Acacia moaned softly in pain.  All she could think about was how she was letting Charlie down.  As well as the poor girl next to her.  She started crying a little in agony over being so useless.

She smiled weakly, letting out a bit of a chuckle, like he just told a joke.  She coughed at the end of the laugh, her legs coming up as if they were going to buckle any second.  She straightened herself back out, rolling her head back to Ren's direction, her eyes still closed.  "Ren...Baby Bear...it's like a fever.  I don't know.  I feel like...I feel horrible."  She furrowed her brow, admitting for the first time that things aren't going so hot.  "Somethin' is wrong.  The...the mechanic and the doctor...the two fixers...both sick." Charlie smirked again, managing to open her eyes slightly.  "Even...even God smiles sometimes, right?"

She motioned slightly with a hand at where Acacia lay, closing her eyes again.  "She's probably...really hot, and aching...and dizzy.  Give her...don't dope her...just give her something ... something that'll relieve, y'know.  Symptoms.  Medicine.  What she...what she put'n me.  It's...it's maybe still out..."

"Ok lil sis... you're both gonna be ok I swear, I’m gonna set the boat down somewhere pretty and get you some nice shiny doctors to fix you up, ok?" Ren said as he frantically searched the room for whatever Acacia had given Charlie. He then saw a single bottle open on the counter and thought to himself, hell, that must be it. he picked it up and looked at the side of the bottle.

Ibuprofin... wonder if this is it, he thought as he slowly turned the bottle in his hand, "Hey Charlie, do you know if it was Ib-you-profane that she gave you?" but it was more of a rhetorical question as Ren plunged the needle into the bottle and filled it up to where it said 1000 thinking, that must mean it's full right? Scurrying over to Acacia’s body he was suddenly stumped.. "Ummm.... where do I stick this?" he said to no one in particular.

Charlie muttered something else under her breath, her hand dropping back down to her side again.  "The...don't let the captain be mad.  I'm trying my...my best.  I promise."  She let out a slow sigh, turning her head back towards the other side.  "Tell...tell Kale...there's a music box in the engine room..."  The last part trailed off as Charlie fell back into her fevered sleep, letting her breath out slowly...

"Aw hell." Ren said as he watched Charlie pass out. "Well there is nothing to do but do it." Ren cringed and looked for a suitable place to stick the needle, the arm was as good a place as any, "Sorry if I do this wrong baby." he said trying to comfort Acacia, and then resolutely he plunged the needle into Acacia's arm and pushed down on the plunger...

Acacia gasped slightly as the needle entered her skin.  She thought about it for a second, and mumbled, “100.”   Last thing she needed was to be drugged too much.

"Nahh!" Ren gasped... he stopped the needle as soon as she said it and looked down... it said 350. "Er... you're gonna be fine sweet heart." he pulled the needle out and put her head in his lap, slowly stroking her hair, "You're gonna be fine."

Acacia shifted her head a bit, she looked into Ren eyes, her eyes have a slight glazed look to them, “Someone might catch you.” she whispered.

"Don't care so much at the moment sweetheart... and I’m takin’ you to your bunk, you need to rest." Ren began to place one arm under her shoulder and another under her knees and slowly lift.

“No, stay here.” she said suddenly. “I have to stay here“.   She started shivering badly.

"Look sweetiekins, the only way you're gonna help her is by gettin well yerself, and that ain't gonna happen in here... hell I had to give you drugs... how backwards is that?" Ren picked her up and began to take her out the door to her room.

“Back on the bed, hook up machines.” Acacia said through shivering. “Monitor us both.”  She gestured to the health monitor of heart rate, BP and all sorts of other things, then pointed to herself.

"Err... right, now I get to play doctor... no no, don't go getting’ any ideas doc you're sick." he said desperately trying to lighten the mood a bit as he sat her on the other bed gently and began looking at the strange instruments... "Now I don't know where any of this goes."

Acacia tried to take off her dress.  She was shaking badly.  She knew she could stay lucid enough for her to show Ren where to hook up things.  “Take off my clothes.”

"Here? Now? What would the crew think?" Ren said in yet another feeble attempt to lighten the situation. But he did as he was told and started to take her clothes off... "Pretty as ever sweetheart, but now what?"

Acacia started pointing to places on her skin where to put sensors.  She tugged at a wire and pointed to a part of her body.  When she got to the last one she seemed to fade and pass out.  The screen showed a normal heart rate, Temp of 102.8 and a BP of 100/50.

Ren looked at the monitors, having no real clue what any of them mean... "Well, now I can start feeling totally useless." Ren said as he slumped down in to one of the chairs and moved between the two girls, holding each of their hands.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Passing through the passenger's quarters to head towards cargo bay, Kendra saw Geoff. "Something god awful is happening, Charlie’s out cold on the table and Acacia isn't do so well either,” Kendra’s voice was trembling with concern, “I'm going for the captain - do you have any idea where he is?”

Geoff looked to Kendra with a furrowed brow, gesturing out of the room. "Cap'n went to his bunk. Dunno nothin' else." he said with a light shake of his head. Ta ma de! Now the doc is gettin' sick too? What the ruttin' hell is goin' on here?!, he thought with a look over his shoulder to see through the infirmary windows. He spotted Ren trying his best to take care of Acacia and Charlie both.

Geoff  sighed as he looked away. He had thought to go and offer his help, but it wasn't his place. There was very little he could actually do and moral support from an outsider like Geoff meant nothing at a time like this. So he just leaned his head back against the wall, banging his skull against the metal of the wall. Pain distracted for a bit and he could understand it better than anything else that was happening right now ...

Kendra just nodded at Geoff and then ran from the room to find Kale as the door to Charlie's bunk cracked open a little. Lei could be seen peering out through the small gap.

Geoff looked over at the sound of the door opening up and spotted Lei looking at him in a less than trusting manner. Not that he could blame her for looking at him in such a way. Were their positions switched, he would probably be reacting the same way. He sighed  and figured that he should try and make some sort of attempt to be friendly, considering he was probably going to be dealing with these kids on the ship for awhile. "Hey there, little lady. I see yer up and about. Ya want ta get somethin' ta eat now or are ya still ruttin' 'fraid o' me? 'Cause I really ain't gonna be goin' anywhere so we're gonna have ta learn ta deal with each other eventually..." he remarked in an amused tone.

 When the giant first spoke it surprised Lei enough that she let go of the door. It fell open enough to show her kneeling just inside the bunk room. She grabbed the door and got ready to slam it shut if the giant looked like he was going to come near her.

Then the rest of what he said sunk in. Still ready to slam the door shut, she quietly asked "Food?" She was starting to get a little hungry...

Geoff grinned and nodded to Lei. "Feng xin. Food. We got stuff ta eat and I'm sure yer probably hungry after everythin' ya've been through. We got a lot o' things, thanks ta me. Grabbed a bunch o' supplies ta restock so we ain't short on anythin'." he said and then chuckled. “Also, if ya like, I could get ya one o' my shirts ta wear instead o' that sheet o' yers. It'd be really big on ya, but it would cover everythin' 'cause o' that..."

 Lei simply nodded to Geoff's mention of food.  When he mentioned getting her something else to wear, she said, "O... Okay."

She got to her feet, keeping one eye on the giant the whole time, ready to follow. From a distance. Lei still wasn't too sure about him, and didn't want to get too close, just in case.

Geoff smiled as kindly as he could and headed out of the room slowly, gesturing for her to follow. "Come on then, little lady. I'll take ya ta the dinin' hall..." he said with a nod as he walked out of the halls of the passenger's quarter in the direction of the dining hall, looking over his shoulder every so often to make sure Lei was still following.

Lei hesitantly came out of the room, looking all around to check that there was no-one else hiding around the corner. She crossed the room, heading towards the corridor that Geoff went down, but being careful to not get too close. She hung back a good six feet, well out of arms reach.

Crossing in front of the infirmary door, she could see in. She gave a small shudder at what she saw. Two people on the beds like that, a scene she had seen a few times in the white place... They didn't look like they'd last too many days. She looked around nervously, half expecting a pair of people in white coats to walk past talking about strange things like "failure" and "regression", but there was no glass for them to hide on the far side of here. The white cloaked ones always liked to stay on the other side of the glass... She followed the giant down the corridor, at a safe distance.

Geoff entered the dining hall at a slow and relaxed pace and looked around. He saw nobody in the room at the moment and shrugged lightly as he looked over his shoulder to see if Lei was following after him. Seeing that she was staying a bit far from him he grinned, knowing that she didn't trust him any farther than she could throw him.

Lei stopped in the doorway from the cargo hold, waiting to see what Geoff did. After a quick glance around the room to see if there was anyone hiding in there, she went back to watching what Geoff was doing. She was pretty certain that she'd hear someone if they tried to sneak up the metal steps behind her, so that wasn't a worry.

Geoff shrugged as he pulled out a chair from the table and gestured for her to sit as he went towards the cabinet. "Ok, well, ya got a preference? We got protein, some canned stuff, a few dried pieces of meat and fruit and such, uh...there's a bowl of apples there on the table too, if ya like." he said before looking over to her, "So, anythin' ya like?"

When Geoff was well away from the chair, Lei timidly entered the room and sat down. She was a little surprised at the huge list of foods that he named for her, the only thing she could ever remember being fed was some sort of paste that the other kids and her called "brown goop". She hesitantly reached across the table, and snatched an apple. After putting it to her nose and sniffing, she hesitantly took a small bite out of it. It was definitely... different, to the brown goop.

Remembering what she saw in the infirmary, she swallowed and looked sadly at Geoff, stating, "Charlie's sick." as if that fact could have escaped him.

Geoff paused in his searching through the cabinets at the sound of her words and sighed before nodding slowly. "Yeah. Yeah, she is, ain't she?" he said in a low tone and said nothing more as he grabbed up two protein packs  as he headed over to the table, tossing them down onto the tabletop. He refrained from sitting down as he figured she wouldn't take kindly to it. "Yeah, well, lemme go get ya that shirt, all right? I'll be right back." he said as he turned to head for his bunk.

Lei kept watching him as he went out the door. She then reached across the table and grabbed one of the protein packs, wondering what was actually packaged within. After working at the wrapper for half a minute, she managed to get into it. Breaking off a piece, she sniffed at it, and then ate it. This was more like what she was used to... Still, the apple held promise, and she decided to have another experimental bite of it, try to figure out exactly what it tasted like.

Geoff stepped back into the dining hall and tossed the large shirt onto the table in front of Lei. "There. That'll fit really big on ya but that would kinda be the point, wouldn't it? It'll cover everything and all. Just think of it as one o' those robes ya see shepherds and companions wear." he said as he grabbed up the unopened protein pack and an apple and sat at the table a bit away from Lei. He ripped open the protein pack and took a bite off of it before opening up the bottle of liquor he had brought with him to wash down the stuff.

Lei jumped a little as the shirt landed in front of her, but when Geoff kept his distance, she settled down again. She grabbed the shirt, and held it out to look at it. Moving her shoulders in a small shrug to dislodge the blanket, she let it fall to the chair she was sitting on, and put the shirt on. She doesn't bother buttoning it, but starts trying to knot it together in an effort to make it less loose. When she is finished, it's hanging almost all the way to her knees, and covering most of her body.

She looked back up to see what the giant was doing. From here, she was just close enough to smell an almost familiar scent. What he' was  drinking smelled almost like the liquid that they'd always dump the needles in when they'd finished with them... She suppressed a shudder, and with a wide eyed look asked, "You drink that?"

Geoff had been keeping his eyes averted and focused on his food as she slipped off the sheet and put on his shirt. He had quickly wolfed down the protein pack and had grabbed the apple, about to draw his knife to cut slices from it when Lei spoke to him. He looked confused about what she was talking about before he noticed where her stare was and he grinned lightly, shaking his head to himself. First the boy with the guns and now this one with the liquor. where have these kids been all their lives? he thought before shrugging and picking up the bottle.

"Yeah, I drink it. Not so much fer the taste, but fer the effect. Makes it easier to deal with things if there's some liquor takin' off the edge, dong ma?" he said and took a drink before chuckling lightly,"'Sides, ain't nothin' better 'board this boat ta drink. Never been a fan o' water 'less I'm dyin' o' thirst and there ain't nothin' else ta drink."

Lei climbed up so that she was kneeling on the chair, and then started slowly reaching across the table towards the bottle, still keeping one eye on Geoff. She dragged the bottle across the table towards her, and took a sniff at the top. She screwed up her nose at the smell. Still, he said it was the only thing to drink...

She grabbed the bottle around the neck, using her other hand to support it's bottom, and took a gulp just like she saw the giant do earlier.

Lei doubled over coughing as the rough liquid hits her throat, almost dropping the bottle.

Geoff watched the girl as she moved to grab the bottle and thought idly about grabbing it before she could. Instead, however, he just gave her a shrug and waved a hand in invitation. Who is he to stop somebody from drinking, anyway? Besides, the girl would learn the dangers of taking on too much too fast when she drank. The liquor he drank was the hard stuff and he really didn't think it would be suitable for a young girl like her.

Sure enough, she started coughing when she drank it and he shook his head lightly. "Too much too fast, little lady. That ain't stuff ya drink so deep if ya ain't used to it. Takes some gettin' used to, dong ma? You have ta sip at it 'til ya get used to it. Now, I know it may not seem like the best stuff right now, but, trust me, when ya get used to the burnin' sensation it can be yer best friend. Ain't nothin' that helps ta deal with yer troubles like liquor and the mind numbing haze it brings with it..." he remarked as he held out a hand for the bottle, should she want to give it back.

When the coughing fit passed, she lifted the bottle from her lap, and pushed it onto the table a short distance. She lifted her hand to her mouth, and started wiping it, as if she was trying to scrub the taste from her mouth. She pushed the bottle further across the table from her. "Yuck."

She looked around the room quickly through watering eyes, and spotted the sink. A couple of quick steps later and she was there. Not bothering to find a cup, she turned on the water, and ducked her head down to drink straight from the stream of water. She turned the tap off, and returned to kneel on her seat.

Giving the bottle a look of distaste, she asked, "It makes you forget?" If she didn't have to remember the white place, it would almost be worth the horrible taste...

Geoff smiled and took the bottle from where she had put it as she went to wash out her mouth. He looked to her and shrugged at her question. "Heh. Yep. Ya drink enough of this ya could forget yer own name. Not ta mention there ain't nothin' that relaxes ya better. After the initial distaste, it puts a warm feelin' throughout everywhere in yer body and ya can't help but feel happy." he said and then sighed as he placed the bottle back on the table, "Though it takes more and more once ya get used ta it..."



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kale entered his bunk and collapsed on the bed, his leg still pained him but he didn't have time to think about that right now.  He didn't have time at all.  He trusted the Doc to look after Charlie ... but she wasn't looking good, and Kale had the feeling that it had something to do with those gorram kids.  Maybe there was a reason they were in them boxes.

Think, Kale, think. he told himself.  If it were those kids, that were getting Charlie sick then it might be only a matter a time before others started getting ill as well.  In which case he had to figure what it was those kids had so he could make his crew better.  And then what would he do with the kids?  He couldn't actually deliver them to Londinium, he couldn't send them back to some place where they'd be shoved in a box again ... who would do such a thing?

They were humped, they were humped good an' hard.  And the only person he could think of contacting now was Cortez.  The bastard probably knew a hell of a lot more then he had let on.

Kendra reached Kale's bunk then, slightly out of breath from running and pounded furiously on his door. "Kale, get out here!” Kendra yelled, “Charlie and Acacia are sick, Reiner is with them, it's bad Captain!”

Kale opened his door to find Kendra panting, "Hold on a sec there.  What's happenin'." his stomach was tying itself into a knot, if one more thing went wrong ... no use thinking of it, if one more thing went wrong then he'd just have one more thing to put right and that was that.  That was his job, keepin' his crew safe and sound.  He looked at the woman seriously, "What happened?"

“Charlie got sick, the Doc gave her some medicine and then,” in a hurried and strained voice Kendra continued, "then as the doctor was trying the help her and the girl child, Ren caught her as she fell, she had to crawl on the floor-“ Kendra not usually emotional - cried, “- then, then that's when I ran to find you - come on they’re in the infirmary!”

So Kale had been right, it was spreading.  Now the Doc had it, and Ren would follow, he looked hard at Kendra, "I want you to stay up here, don't go below deck for any reason, we gotta make sure those of us that're healthy stay that way." then he walked past her and out into the dining hall.

Kale stepped into the dining hall, and paused once he saw Geoff and Lei. "Are you givin' her liquor?" he asked Geoff incredulously.  The man and Lei were seated at the table and the small girls hands were wrapped around a huge bottle of alcohol.

Geoff turned to the captain when he walked in and shrugged, "Didn't give it to her. She took it herself. Who am I ta stop her if she needs a bit o' liquor? If anybody's been through the sorta thing she's been through, I'd think they need a drink anyway..." he said in an even tone. He honestly didn't see anything wrong with the girl drinking if she wanted to.

 Lei looked up, slightly startled when the captain talkd. She shifted her legs a little, getting ready to run for the cargo hold if he came too close. Unusual that she didn't hear him coming...

Kale just shook his head and took a deep breath. "Okay, fine.." he said somewhat distractedly.  "I need her to get back down on the lower level, we have to keep this thing contained.  Kendra just said the Doc and Ren are sick too - I think we got us an epidemic." he crossed to the intercom on the wall and paged the infirmary, "Acacia? How are things lookin' down there?  I want you to keep everyone calm, and send anyone who ain't feelin' under the weather up to the dining hall so we can figure out what's what." he clicked the intercom off and turned back to Geoff and Lei, "I mean it, I need her out of here." he said and then headed toward the bridge.

Geoff nodded and threw a loose salute to the captain as he left. "Sure enough, Cap'n. I'll take her back to her room then." he said as he stood up and looked to Lei, "Sorry, Little Lady. Looks like ya gotta go back to yer room and stay put fer awhile. Cap'n's orders and it's his boat." He took a few steps toward the door and gave Lei a wave to gesture for her to follow, waiting to see if she would.

Lei stared at the captain's retreating back, until he disappeared into the bridge. She could tell that he was really angry that she was up here. Not wanting to be there when he came back, she grabbed the protein bar from the table, and bolted for the door, only deviating a slight bit to go around Geoff.

Geoff allowed the girl passage around him and then started to follow after her to make sure she got to her destination safely. Wouldn't want her to wander off just like Tate had before.

Lei slowed down from her full pelt run, and went to the chair furthest from the infirmary door. She sat down on it and pulled her knees up to her chest. From here she could see all the doors to the room, and would know if someone was coming for her. The room she slept in was a short distance away, and she was sure that she could get there and lock the door before someone got to her.  She noticed that there was one other person in the room, a small boy that she recognized from the white place.

She sullenly sat there watching, and picked at the protein pack that she had grabbed. From here, she could see into the infirmary. The man sitting there didn't look well now. She wondered which way the white coats would come from when they came to take the sick ones away.

Tate froze as someone entered the room, coming at a run.  It was a girl that he recognized as he had seen her before in the white place.  They had spoken once he believed but the doctors got angry when you talked.  He glanced around the room again before deciding to try and sneak back out into the big room, when Geoff entered at a light trot and stopped at the doorway as he saw Lei take a seat on a chair, watching everywhere with wary glances. He also spotted Tate wandering around and smiled to the boy from his place at the doorway. "Good ta see ya up and around, kid. How ya doin'? Anythin' I can help ya with?" he said with a slight incline of his head.

The big man smiled at him and Tate decided he liked his smile, it was nice, and friendly.  The doctors only smiled when they said that something they had done had worked.  Geoff smiled just cause he saw Tate, and Tate thought that that might mean that he liked him, and if he like him .... well that'd be alright.

"Hiya, Geoff." he said, again imitating his way of speech.

Geoff nodded to the kid and kneeled down so that he wouldn't have to look up at him so much. Give the kid a bit of equal footing. "Hiya. Ya out lookin' ta hide out again or what? Heh. Anyway, ya feelin' all right? People 'round here are gettin' kinda under the weather and it wouldn't do fer ya and the other kids ta get sick on top of everythin' else ya been through." he said with a genuinely worried tone in his voice. He had taken a liking to this kid. The fact that he had been clever enough to get by the captain and the doc and hide himself, not to mention being ready to fight Geoff when he found him, made him all right in Geoff's book. The kid was tough and wily and those were merits that Geoff respected.

"I'm feelin' alright." Tate said very quickly, if he thought that he was sick then he might take him into the room with the beds, then he cast a look in the direction of the doctors room, looking back to Geoff he said seriously, "The doctors will come and take them away soon.  Then they'll never come back."

Geoff looked at the boy quizzically as he spoke, not quite understanding what he meant. "Doctors take 'em away? Whattaya mean? Ain't no doctors but Acacia and she's one o' the ones on the beds." he said, gesturing towards the infirmary as he said so, "Tate. What doctors are ya talkin' 'bout? They the ones put ya and the other two in that there crate?"

Lei tensed up even more at the mention of the doctors, dropping the protein pack on the chair in front of her. She hugged her knees tighter to her chest, and listened as Tate started talking about the nightmarish white place.

Tate was slightly confused that one of the doctors would be lying on one of the beds, he had never seen that before, but peering through the doorway again he saw that Geoff was right.  He looked back at the man.  "When you get sick you have to go away." he said, trying to be clear.  "They can't use you anymore, they have to 'terminate' the 'product'." then he leaned in even closer to Geoff so that only he could here him whisper, "I think that they hurt you then ... more- more then they normally do, and you don't ever come back." he swallowed hard and pushed his fear to the back of his mind. "I won't let them hurt me ... and I won't let them hurt you.  If I can't have a Gun, I'll bite them, cause I can do that."

Geoff listened with a serious expression to Tate's words and shook his head sadly as he looked to him and then to Lei who now looked even more afraid than she had before. "Ain't right. Ain't right doin' things like that ta anybody, let alone kids..." he said before giving Tate a grin and a nod, "You and those other two. No wonder yer so 'fraid o' us. Been through so much. I want ya ta know somethin' and ya listen good. Ain't nobody like those hun dun doctors yer talkin' 'bout on this boat. Ain't nobody gonna hurt none o' ya anymore. Ya hear me, kid? The only way that'll happen is chu fei wo si le. 'Cause I'm the one on this boat who makes sure that guys like those doctors of yers don't hurt nobody. Leastwise nobody on this boat. Anybody who tries ta hurt any o' ya or anybody else 'round here, I put a big hurtin' on, dong ma? I make 'em hurt fer tryin' ta hurt any o' the people on this boat and then I make 'em dead. And that's somethin' ya can count on."

He nodded before something struck him about what Tate had said. "So, wait. People get sick back there where those doctors are? Sick how? Sick like them in the infirmary?" he asked, thinking that if the child was familiar with the sickness spreading through the ship that he may be able to give some insight about what it is.

Lei started staring off into space, remembering. In a real quiet voice, she spoke "Yes. They get hot and fall over. And then the men in white coats come to take them away. They all go away, eventually. everyone."  She pulled her legs back harder, and tried to disappear in the chair.

Tate tried to smile up at Geoff, but he wasn't feeling so happy right about now.  Just thinking about that place made him angry and hurt.  Geoff seemed to think that it was really important about the people getting sick, but it wasn't ... at least, as long as you weren't the sick one.  He nodded his head in agreement with what the girl said. "You just get sick and you don't come back."

Geoff didn't like how this was sounding at all. The getting hot and falling down comment that the girl had made reminded him of the way Charlie had been when he had seen her earlier. She had said she had a fever and she was more than a bit wobbly on her feet. Exactly like the girl had said. Geoff was feeling worse and worse about this situation as they went on. He especially didn't like how they kept saying they would get sick and then "go away and not come back". That did not sound good at all. Geoff shook his head lightly as he stood up and then looked to both the kids. "Ruttin' hell. This don't sound good at all. Uh...hey. Were there ever anybody that didn't get sick and just go away? Any of 'em, ya know....get better?" he said, knowing it was probably a stupid question but he figured there was no harm in asking.

Lei hesitated a long moment before nodding her head. She could remember a time right near the beginning when she couldn't get out of bed, and just felt like someone had shut her in an oven. When she got better afterwards, the white coats all got excited and started talking about their success. She didn't want to talk about the white place though, she just wanted to forget all about it.  She really wished the giant...Geoff? Would stop asking about it.

Geoff looked to Lei with interest as he saw her nod. "So somebody did get better? Who? How? I mean, look, I know ya may not wanna talk 'bout none o' this. I mean, if I had been messed with by a bunch o' doctors and then shoved into a crate, I wouldn't be too thrilled ta talk 'bout it neither. But Charlie and the Doc are sick and it sounds like they have whatever it is some o' those people back where y'all came from had. If somebody got better, that means there's some way ta get Charlie and the Doc better too. So please, tell me whatever ya know. Anythin' is better than knowin' nothin'." he said in as soft a tone as he could muster.

Lei cringed back a bit from Geoff, hearing a slight note of desperation in his voice. She didn't really know how, but she knew who. Lifting her right hand, she shakily pointed at Tate, then turned her hand around to point at herself. She didn't know how to answer any other way.

Geoff nodded to Tate and Lei before sighing. "That's fine. If ya don't want ta talk 'bout it no more, we don't hafta. Ya both helped me out by talkin' as much as ya did." he said before shrugging to himself and looking thoughtful, "Hmmm. Listen, I gotta go talk to the Cap'n. Now, I know y'all don't necessarily trust me or like me that much, but I need ya ta listen ta me right now. Y'all, please, stay put here. Don't go to inta the infirmary and don't be goin' out into the rest o' the ship. The comm is right there if ya need anythin' so ya just use it ta call me up and I'll come right back down. Ok?" With that, he looked to both the kids once more, smiling to them, before turning and leaving the passenger's quarters so he could go find the captain.

Lei looked up once she could hear Geoff leaving. He'd finally stopped asking her questions, which was good. Unfortunately, she could see into the infirmary from her seat, and it didn't look like things were going to get better there. She started wishing that she didn't leave the blanket behind when she ran down here, maybe if she had it to hide under, the doctors wouldn't see her when they came to take Charlie and the others away...

Tate peered curiously into the room with the doctor as Geoff went inside ... they were sick in there ... they didn't have long.  He back away as Geoff came out of the room, the back of his knees hitting the coffee table.  Where was Geoff taking the sick girl?  Only the doctors were supposed to take people away.

Lei kept watching everything that was happening in the infirmary. It just kept looking like it was getting worse. Although it was different from the white place here. For one thing, the doctors never got sick back there, it was always the kids. For another, the doctors there were all so cold and clinical. Here, she could see the panic clearly in the way people acted and talked.

She watched Geoff charge into the infirmary, and then carry Charlie out a short while later. Strange. Geoff was big enough to be one of the ones who always took people away, but he didn't talk in the same way, or dress the same. Lei was having trouble deciding if he was one of them or not.

Maybe if she followed him to see what he did with Charlie, she'd be able to decide... She followed him real quietly to the cargo hold.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Acacia stirred a little.  The medicine Ren had given her was probably way too much.  But it had done the trick … for at least the moment her fever was lessened.  She felt very weak but at least she felt lucid.  She rolled her body over and looked at the form of Ren on the chair.  “Hey ace,” she said very weakly, “How much of that stuff did you give me?”

"Oh, hi Doc, I think it was uhhh... well I filled it up to 1000 and stopped it when it hit 350, 'cause errr ... ya told me to give ya 100 a little late." Ren said weakly with a chuckle "Uhh... how you feelin?" he said with more care than should be had between two people who were just supposed to be acquaintances.

Sephone couldn't sleep, she hurt, she hurt all over.  Her stomach and her chest and her throat.  She suddenly felt one of those deep racking coughs coming on and rolled slightly onto her side.  Blood dripped onto the bed from her mouth.

“Like there is a gorram dragon in my chest, and a wad of cotton in my mouth.  I don't think this is me on the way to recovery, I think you gave me so much medicine, you were able to get me a bit lucid.”  she said all this very quietly and not moving much while she talked.

"Well... as long as your gonna be alright." Ren said jokingly and then noticed Sephone cough and jerked back for a moment in horror when he saw the blood. "Uhhh, is it... hrmm... how to put this... bad when they bleed out the mouth?"

“What? Who is bleeding out of the mouth?  And yes if someone is that is usually consider a bad sign.  Is it Charlie?  Gao yang zhong de gu yang if I hadn't gotten so feng le.  I could have helped.”   she seemed almost on the verge of tears as she struggled to get up.  She wavered for a moment as the blood all rushed to her hand from moving to quickly.  But after standing for a moment she walked over to check on Charlie.

"No.. no.. it's the other... ugh..."  Ren shook his head for a moment as if to get the cob webs out cause he simply couldn't form a straight sentence.. "the other girl, dear."

“I didn't even know she was sick, how long have I been out?” Acacia embarrassedly turned around a walked over to the girl.  She still was not walking completely fast or straight but if she went slow she was ok and stayed on her feet.

"Dunno... couple hours maybe... I've been makin sure ya didn't die or nothin though." Ren said weakly.

She didn't even notice the way Ren was talking,  “Ren get on the com tell the captain he needs to have Destiny medically quarantined, in other words no docking with other ships for now.  Plus we have to land on a planet so me and Charlie can be treated, I definitely think this is some sort of virus, but I don't recognize the symptoms.”  She walked over to the girl. “Sephone, are you awake?”  She said, lightly shaking the girl.

Sephone just started coughing again, she was vaguely aware that the doctor lady was nearby but she couldn't really understand what she was saying.

"Sure thing Doc..." Ren said as he rose from his seat and headed towards the comm-unit on the wall. Depressing the button on the side of the device, "Cap' doc says we need to be quarantined and to get us somewhere with doctors mighty fast, sounds kind of earnest 'bout to." On his way back to his chair Ren’s right leg nearly gave out on him but he masked it to the best of his ability by sitting down quickly.

Acacia took a cotton swab and dabbed at the blood dripping from the girl mouth.  The whole time she was trying to sooth the girl.  She got a cool towel and put it on her head.  She didn't want to inject the girl with anything.  Mostly cause she didn't think anything she had would help her.  She walked over to her supply cabinet and took out a slide and dabbed the blood on the slide she was relieved she didn't have to draw blood this should work ok.  She put in on the microscope high, high, high magnification and looked for signs of the virus to compare to images in her books. “Ren, you going to call the captain?” she said without looking over.

"Just did sweetie... hey is it gettin hot in here?" Ren said slightly out of breath. The sweat was starting to build a little now, and the world was just a touch... off kilter.

Kale‘s voice came over the comm then, "I'm on it, Ren, tell Acacia not ta worry ... much.  I'm tryin' ta get this figured out.  Does Acacia know yet what we're dealing with?"

"Can you get that one dearie... not much in the way of gettin up right now I think." Ren said, it sounded like he had just ran a mile, and his face was starting to loose color.

Acacia used the microscope to take a picture of the virus strand she had found in the child's blood.  She then heard Ren.  Her heart sank.  She had totally forgot.  “Nononononono, you have to be ok.  Ren you can’t get sick.  You have to be my strength.  I'm already slipping back,  I can feel it.  You can't be sick.” Between the fever and medicine, Acacia was not able to control her emotions and she started crying.  She slowly walked over to Ren. “I got you sick, I'm sorry.” she almost whispered.

Ren took Acacia’s hand in his and stroked her hair reassuringly, "Sweetheart, you’re the doctor and you have to calm down a little for me, okay? Get on the comm and tell the cap' what goin on... and don't worry about me, I'm gonna be fine." Ren said in the most calming voice he could muster at the moment.

Acacia kissed him once, cause, well damnit all, she felt like she needed to.  She put an IV in both Charlie and Ren and hooked up a drip of saline for now.  She walked over to Sephone.  “This will sting a bit but it should help you feel better.” She rubbed a topical Novocain on the girls arm waited a bit and put in an IV.  It probably didn't even sting, she hoped the girl didn't get upset.  She hooked her up to a saline drip for now.  They had to keep hydrated.

She took out the photo from the microscope and started comparing.  She had listings of viruses in alphabetical order, starting with AIS and working through.  “Ren, I will be looking through these a bit I am counting on you to keep pushing me, so I don't stop till I find a match.”

Glad to be kissed but then looking a little uncomfortable with the IV's and such Ren said "You got it baby..." with all the strength he could muster, a strength that was ever so slowly fading away from him.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Kale ran into Rhaef in the corridor and motioned for him to follow.  The two men stepped onto the bridge just as Ren’s voice came through the comm system.

“Cap' doc says we need to be quarantined and to get us somewhere with doctors mighty fast, sounds kind of earnest 'bout to" he said.

Kale grabbed the mike, “I'm on it, Ren, tell Acacia not ta worry ... much.  I'm tryin' ta get this figured out.  Does Acacia know yet what we're dealing with?" As he put the mike down he turned to Rhaef, "Get Cortez on."

Rhaef sat in the pilot chair and started messing with the cortex.  “Alright Captain,” he said after a few tries, “I made a wave to send Cortez, a message about all that has gone on: the kids, the sickness, and asked him how much he knew, sound good?”  he said waiting for Kale to give the order to send.

"I don't think we have time to wait for a response, see if you can get him on screen, I need to talk to him now." Kale said, everything just seemed to be getting worse and worse.

Geoff stepped onto the bridge after having searched through every other room for the captain. He spotted him standing on the bridge and approached him with a nod. "Cap'n. I was down there talkin' to the kids and seems like they're really familiar with what's happenin' 'round here. Seems two of 'em were sick just like Charlie and them are now. The boy, Tate, and the older girl. They said they got these shots and that they got better. That they weren't sick no more. Said these doctors gave 'em all o' these injections that got 'em better. Thought ya might wanna know so ya can tell the doc...or so ya can ask somebody 'bout where these kids came from so we can get some o' those shots ourselves. " he said in a low and quiet tone, hearing that the captain was about to try and contact Cortez and not wanting to interrupt.

Rhaef barely even noticed Geoff stepping onto the bridge as he tried to get a hold of Cortez, “Ok, cap got him on the screen.”  Rhaef was impressed he got Cortez so easily. “Go ahead he is waiting.”

Cortez’s face appeared on the screen, the dark, greasy hair, and gold tooth.  He smiled.  “Hola. How can I help you Captain Galway?  You look tense.”

Kale didn’t respond before Acacia’s voice came over the comm as well.

“Kale, Ren is sick too, and I bet you all are infected to, through contact with me or from one of the kids which is where I suspect this virus came from.” she said.

Rhaef grabbed the comm, "Now is not the time Doc, for a chat." he said to Acacia, staring at the screen.  Cortez seemed too smug in his greeting, he knew something.  "Captain-" he began.

"I know." Kale said, cutting Rhaef off.  Then he turned his attention to the screen.

"I am a might tense, Cortez.  Care to take a gander as to why?" Kale asked, barely concealing how much hatred he was harboring for the man right about now.  "I got me a boat full of sick people and a coupla kids wanderin' around, and I'm askin' myself why that is."

“I thought you smarter, Captain Galway.  I thought you do job.” Cortez’s eyes narrowed, “You opened the crate, you got big surprise, no?”

"Yeah, one big fat surprise party over here, we're just missin' the confetti." Rhaef muttered under his breath.

Geoff stayed silent as the captain talked to Cortez, glaring at the man on the screen all the while. The bastard had known all along what it was they were transporting and hadn't said a damn thing. He had treated the whole thing so lightly and now everybody on the ship may end up sick and dying. Geoff had to bite his tongue not to curse the man out right then, but he knew the captain needed to get answers out of him so he kept his cool. As it was, he promised himself that the next time he saw the man, he would put a hurt on him in a big way....

"Yes, I opened it." Kale admitted, didn't matter much now, he was humped no matter what he did, and right now his crew mattered more then this damn job.  "You knew that there were kids in there." Kale accused Cortez.

“Yes, what was important though was that you didn't.  You had known, you'd not take job.”

"Damn straight we wouldn't have!" Kale practically exploded, then he took a deep breath, it would do no good to get all worked up right now, he had his crew to think about.  "What do I got ta do?"

“You put the kids back in their boxes and go to Londinium.  They have vaccine there.  You deliver cargo, they give you vaccine.  Business, plain and simple.” Cortez grinned as he threw Kale's own words back at him.

Geoff couldn't hold in his words anymore at that point. "Jian ta de gui!! Ain't no way we can give those kids to those bastards who were messin' with 'em! Ain't right!" he yelled.

Rhaef immediately started pulling up their trajectory when Cortez suggested they go to Londinium for an antidote. "Ren's got us goin' all back ways, but if I re-route us, give her a hard burn we can make Londinium before the day's out.  Course we'll be traveling through Alliance patrolled space..." Rhaef said.

Cortez smirked at Geoff’s outburst, “You are no match for this, amigo.  This is a virus like no one has ever seen, you try to get help somewhere else and you and your crew die, see.  You make trade, you live.  The kids are nothing to you, they are everything to those in Londinium.  Be smart, Captain Galway.”

Kale looked from Rhaef to Geoff, then back at the screen.  If they could make it to Londinium then they could get the antidote, and he could save his crew.  There'd be the Alliance to avoid, not to mention the fact that Kale didn't trust Cortez in the slightest and for all he knew he could be lying about everything.  It made it all a shot in the dark ... but it was the only shot they had.

"Alright." Kale said, "You tell them we want a case of that vaccine of theirs, and in return we give them the case 'a kids.  Even trade."

“Smart man, Captain Galway.  We do trade.” Cortez said, then the screen blinked out.

Geoff looked to the captain with a mixture of anger and sorrow. He was more than a little angry that the captain was thinking about trading the kids, but he knew that there was little choice. If the captain had to choose between his crew or some kids, it didn't seem like it would be much of a choice at all. He kept silent until the screen blinked out. Then he looked to the captain and spoke in a low and even tone. "So that's it? We give 'em the kids like that? Let 'em do their ruttin' crazy torture on 'em? That's the ruttin' plan?!"

"Course not." Kale said, "You re-route us and give us that hard burn to Londinium, I want us there in the next few hours if possible." Kale instructed Rhaef. "Geoff, come with me.  We're gonna put that crate back together again.  Cortez ain't gonna tell them we opened it.  Whatever the payment is it's big.  If the crates been tampered with there's no deal.  An' he knows I won't hand over the crate til I got the meds, so he'll tell them somethin' to make them give me the antidote, probably that the virus went airborne or somethin'.  So we'll make a trade, box 'a meds ... for a box 'a nothin'." he grinned at Geoff.  "We'll be ready for a shoot out, but most likely they won't realize that they got nothin' til we're headin' off planet, least wise that's what I hope ... an' we gotta have somethin' to hope fer- we can't send them kids back."

"That's your brilliant plan?  Yep, this is gonna go greeeaaaattt." Rhaef said and set about changing course.

Geoff looked to the captain with surprise and then smiled widely as he clapped the man on the shoulder. "See, now, I knew there was a reason I signed up with ya. Yer the kinda crazy and ballsy hun dun with just the right amount o' conscience in ya that I get along with!" he said and then laughed loudly, "All right then! Let's ruttin' get this gorram show on the road!" This was definitely a plan that Geoff could get behind 100 percent.

Kale offered Geoff a tight and slightly weary smile before heading to the cargo bay.

Geoff followed after the captain with a confident stride and renewed vigor. Now that he knew they were going to be taking some sort of action and not just wait to die or give up, he was feeling much better than he had previously.

Kale trotted down the stairs in the cargo bay to get to the first level and take a look at the crate.  They had done a pretty damn good job of busting the thing open so putting it back together all nice and shiny was going to take some work.  He knelt by the lock and realized that their biggest problem however was going to be making it look like they hadn't messed with the code lock system.  He looked up at Geoff.  "We're gonna need Charlie." he said, "We also need something to weight this crate up a bit.  How much to you reckon those kids weighed altogether?  Can't have it bein' suspiciously light."

Geoff followed after the captain quickly and looked over the crate with a nod and a grim expression. "Definitely have our work cut out fer us...", he said before shrugging and nodding, "Ok, well, Charlie is in the infirmary so I guess we'll go see 'bout wakin' her up fer just a bit. As fer weighin' it down a bit, well, them kids didn't look that heavy so I figure we can make up the weight with some o' the random junk 'round here. Some crates and such maybe. Gonna have ta strap 'em down though so they don't slide 'round and make suspicious noises."

Kale nodded, "Grab Charlie," he looked grimly in the direction of the infirmary, "I hope she's up fer this."

Geoff nodded and saluted the captain loosely. "Sure enough, Cap'n. I'll go get her then. Hopefully she's up fer the task..." he remarked lightly as he turned to head out of the cargo bay and through the passenger's quarters to head for the infirmary.



Kale started rummaging around the cargo bay for some stuff, that they didn't need that would fit in the little, coffin-like boxes the kids had been in when they pulled them out.
He found a crate of some old parts that they had been meaning to dump for a while now.  Taking some out he set them in the boxes hoping he was approximating the weight correctly and started to lift the heavy lids up and back into the large crate.

Geoff headed into the infirmary at a jog, not even having paused in the passenger's quarters as he passed through. He looked about with a slight shake of his head and then headed over to Charlie, looking over to Acacia as he went. "Holy hell none of this looks good." he muttered before heading over to Charlie, speaking to the doctor as he did, "Doc, ya feelin' up ta gettin' Charlie up and about? Cap'n needs her ta fix that crate so it looks like we didn't open it up. Gonna trade the empty crate fer the medicine ta fix ya all up. 'Course those hun duns who are gettin' the crate won't know it's empty 'til we're long gone. Leastwise that's the plan."

“She is awake you ask her, I won't do anything without her ok, cause I will probably have to give her a bit of a stimulant.  Actually quite a bit of stimulant.”  Acacia said looking up her glasses slightly askance.

Charlie's head turned slightly, her eyes blinking a bit.  She was hearing voices...not that she didn't always, but this was different.  It had been the soft murmurings of Ren, even of Acacia's occasional side-chatter to herself.  This, however...this was something else.  Someone more gruff, someone louder.  It was enough to bring her back to the surface.  "Mmm...hello?  Who is...is anyone...where are?"  She spoke, somewhat confused as she lifted her head up, blinking slowly.  She got up a little further on her elbows, feeling something tug in her hand.  She slowly raised it, seeing the IV that ran into her wrist, turning her hand as she examined it.

"N'ive...hooked.  S'like I'm...am I a fish?"  She narrowed her brow slightly, beads of sweat trailing down her temples as she thought.  "I'd...I would...remember that, I...I'm not."  She muttered something else, turning her arm around the other way.  "I'm still...is something wrong?"

Shaking the cobwebs in her head Acacia stumbled over to Charlie. “Hey Charlie-girl, how ya feelin'.  The captain needs you to fix something.  I will have to put a lot of drugs in ya to make you stable.  I don't know what the affect could be.  I won't do it unless you say ok.  First nod if you understand what I'm saying.”  The drugs were wearing off as Acacia's head began to pound.

Geoff looked to Charlie with a forced grin, not wanting to worry her by looking at her like she was dying...which she was, but no need for her to know that. "Naw, ya ain't no fish. Fish don't look as good as you do and I would know...though I won't explain how." he remarked, trying to keep his voice light, before letting the doctor take over. He was more than a bit anxious as he wanted to get everything done fast. Time was really something they didn't have to spare.

Charlie turned her head back to Acacia, listening to what she said.  The dizziness still had her off her feet, but she was able to keep eye contact as the doctor spoke.  She nodded slightly, closing her eyes as she did to avoid the wave of dizziness.  "I'm...if I can help, then...then, yeah.  Do it..."  She managed a weak smile, trying her best to suppress a cough.  After a moment, she looked back to Geoff, giving him a thumbs up.  "You...I'm no good t'walk...y'got a chair?  Or...anythin' that'll do, I just...can't walk right now..."

Geoff shook his head and shrugged. "A chair? I ain't got a chair. I was just plannin' on carryin' ya. 'Less ya want me ta get a chair. Just so long as yer comfortable enough ta fix the crate up. Just tell me what ya wanna do..." he said with a look around the room, looking for a free chair. He really didn't want to be taking a chair out from under somebody and he had to take into account the fact that everybody in the infirmary would be needing a place to sit or lay down.

“Hold on Charlie-girl,” Acacia walked over to the meds,  she looked them over and found a rather harsh stimulant.  She turned to Charlie, “Sweetie, this will allow you to stay alert and with the medicine I gave you it should control your symptoms, but I think it could damage your heart,  but you will be out cold in about 5 minutes without it.  I'll prepare the dose, but I won't give it to you.  I'll show you what to do, but I won't do it myself.”  Acacia noticed she was starting to babble not a good sign for her.  She prepared the syringe, and where to inject it in the IV.

"Wait...so...it could hurt my..."  Charlie stopped, trying to think.  "I'm...I could...I want to sit up.  Someone...help me."  Charlie attempted to prop herself up on her elbows, biting her lower lip as she did so, the nausea beginning to wash over her.

Kendra slipped into the room then hearing the commotion, “Doctor, can I help you?”

“I'll be fine, for now.  Can you check on Ren and the girl over there and read off the monitors.” She had long taken the sensors off her.  Ren looked like he had long since passed out.  She had put 100cc of Ephemeral something to control the fever and to keep him hydrated.

Kendra rushed to the girl's side, "Doc, she's still hot and the monitor say's her temps 103.5, pulse 100, and O2 stat levels, are at 80% - that if I remember correctly, is in the low side of normal-she's not getting enough oxygen.”

"I...could damage...but I'll..."  Charlie raised her hand, wiping the sweat off her brow, looking over at Acacia.  "S'what the Cap'n...what he wants...s'gotta be for the ... the good of us.  'Sides...someone ... someone may get hurt if'n...I don't."  Charlie held out her hand for the syringe, keeping as straight a face as she could as she looked at Acacia.  It's clear to see that, out of all of them, Charlie is starting to get much worse.  When Charlie bites her lip, Acacia can see the inside of her mouth...and the red it's slowly being coated with, saliva slowly turning red.

After reading the child's vitals, Kendra raced over to Ren. Touched his arm, and face with the back of her hand. "He's still hot, and sweaty, temp is 104 and climbing. Ai ya!”

Acacia turned her head.  As she sat down she looked to Kendra.  “Do you know how to make a syringe up?”  she asked tossing the prepared one to Charlie.

“Yes, I think so ...just gotta remember to get rid of all the bubbles. Where does it go?”

Acacia waved her over, she held up her hand, and showed Kendra the  IV and showed her where the syringe is put.  She tossed the IBu, “100 MG in the girls IV, and 100 in Ren.  I just need to lay down for a bit.” Acacia said laying on the floor.

"Hope it...hope it kicks in soon."  She spoke to herself, taking the syringe and injecting it into the IV, taking a deep breath.  permanent damage, she thought to herself…</I>is much more acceptable than being dead and getting everyone else killed.</I>  She injected, watching the fluid enter the IV, nodding her head a minute as she did so.

"I'm gonna...let this in..."  She looked to Geoff as she spoke, touching the IV slightly.  "Then we're...gonna take it out'n...go see the box..."

Sephone couldn't make sense of what was happening anymore, her whole world seemed to be nothing but pain and blurry images and sounds.  She moaned slightly ... or maybe she didn't make a sound, she didn't know anymore ... everything was slipping away.

Geoff had glanced to the doctor with an alarmed gaze as she went to the floor to lay down. His attention was pulled back to Charlie though as she spoke and he nodded. "Sure enough, Charlie. Whatever ya say." he said simply, looking at the IV with a bit of a wary expression.

"Where am I supposed ta put her? Ain't a lot of free space fer the doc in here. Kinda full up, if ya haven't noticed." he said to Kendra with a shake of his head.

"Let’s just get her off the floor." Kendra said, then reached into the drawer pulled out a purple lidded, IV needle, and plucked the lid off with her teeth.  She took Sephone's arm, quickly felt for a vain, held the vain steady, sprayed the area with an antiseptic cleaner and pushed the needle in. Going too far, she backed up the needle, "Sorry.” she muttered,  “haven't done this in awhile." and finally got the placement of the needle in. She tossed everything on the floor and stared at the monitor again to see if there was any effect.

“I seem to be floatin'. I'm going to sleep now is that ok?” Acacia mumbled.

"Y'can...put her where I'm...where I am."  Charlie spoke through clenched teeth, holding the edges of the table to keep herself upright, leaning forward and breathing heavy.  She could feel something...a burning...that began to travel through her veins, leading a fire trail up her arms and through.  It was a different temperature, definitely, so of course it would feel awkward as it entered.  After several moments, though, there is the slow ebb of energy that begins to pass through er.  And as it goes, it seems like there's a clearing in the woods, and her dizziness is starting to go.

"Kendra, you...Geoff'n I don't know...any of this."  She spoke through gritted teeth, already pushing herself.  "We're...we have to fix...fix th'crate.  Can you handle this?"

Kendra walked over to Acacia, and shook her, "No you can't go to sleep, tell me what you need! I can only give shots, take blood and stop the bleeding, oh and CPR - It's all I know.”

Geoff looked to Charlie warily and then to Kendra as she shook the doc. "Don't shake her! Look, can ya pick her up? She ain't that big so she shouldn't weigh all that much. Ya put her on here when I take Charlie and put one o' those things in her. If'n it's helpin' them, it should do the same fer her." he said, pointing to one of the IV's inside Ren and the girl, and then looked to Charlie with a worried expression, "Charlie? Ya ok? Can ya walk or should I carry ya? 'Cause ya ain't lookin' all that ready ta be walkin'..."

“So tired,  just going to sleep.”  Acacia squirmed herself to get more comfortable.

Charlie took hold of the IV stand, looking up at Geoff.  "You'll...hafta carry me.  I'm not ready...and she needs th'...the space."  She looked up at Geoff, nodding...it was time to stop messing around and start getting things done...

Kendra placed her arms, one under Acacia's neck and the other under her knees, and stood up with her, placing her on the table, as Geoff removed Charlie. "Ai ya." Kendra wheeled around to the counter, picked up the bottle that Acacia used for Charlie and the girl.  She examined the label and as it instructed drew up 250 mg, into the syringe, and shoved the syringe in the injection gun and placed it against Acacia's arm and pulled the trigger. "God, I hope this works."

Geoff nodded as he gingerly picked up Charlie, one arm under her knees and the other at her back so he is effectively cradling her in his arms, and then looked to Kendra. "Take care o' things here as best ya can, ok? Ain't gonna be long now. Soon enough, we'll get everybody here fixed up. Don't ya worry." he said with a confidence he was having trouble actually feeling. With a light sigh, he moved as quick as he dared with the sickly Charlie in his arms out of the infirmary and to the cargo bay.

Geoff entered the cargo bay with Charlie in his arms, not having even paused in the passenger's quarters, and hurried over to the crate where the captain was working at setting things as right as he could. "Cap'n, we're here. Got Charlie like ya said, but we may wanna hurry up with gettin' things fixed. I didn't completely understand what they was talkin' 'bout in there, but it didn't sound good so we may wanna hurry this up so Charlie can get back ta restin'..." he said in a low tone.

Kale looked up as Geoff came into the cargo bay with Charlie in his arms.  He had just about gotten everything squared away, now it was just a matter of re-sealing the damn thing. He exchanged a worried look with Geoff, "Alrigh' lil' Charlie, you think you can fix this?" he asked, pointing out the code lock that she had broken into earlier.  "We gotta get this lookin' nice an' proper again, but I can't do it, I need you to be able to focus, can you do that for me?"

"I'm not gonna die, Geoff...I may just...get slowed down later on."  Charlie still held up the IV, bag swinging back and forth as they walked.  She laid her head back for a second, closing her eyes as she let another wave of dizziness pass...and after a few moments, she opened them again, setting the IV stand down on the ground.  "Yeah, I...I can do it.  Can y'...bring me th'tools I had out?  The...the ones from when I...when I started?  They'd be...they'd be on top'f it."  Charlie brought up her arm, taking the IV needle out slowly, grimacing her face as she did it...there was probably a better way to do it, but the doc wasn't here...so this would have to do.  "Put m'down, Geoff..."

Lei looked in to see what was happening. Everyone was standing around the bad crate, and the angry man was trying to get Charlie to do something to it. Lei crouched down against the wall, and looking around the doorframe into the large room, waited to see what would happen.

Geoff nodded and put Charlie down gently before going to look for her tools. It didn't take long as she had left them out and so he gathered them up and brought them to Charlie, putting them down next to her. He then stood back a bit to let her work, still looking over Charlie in case she should get wobbly again.

Charlie put a hand against the crate, dropping to her knees, taking a moment to make sure she had her balance.  She looked down at the control panel along with where she took it out originally, running her fingers around the open hole.  "Hey baby...gonna put you back t'gether, you just...just hold on."  Her vision slowly became clearer, the drugs that Acacia gave her slowly leading the trail into her heart, arcing out into the rest of her limbs.  "When I do this...it's likely t'be sealin' up again, Cap."  She was already beginning to speak more clear, rubbing one of her eyes with the palm of her hand.  "Anything y'put in there, ya'd best have in there now."

Kale came to stand beside Geoff and spoke in a low voice, "How's everyone holding up?  Is the Doc alright?" Kale asked with concern, "I don't have no room for dead bodies on this here ship, I need them to hold together til we get this boat landed and get what we need."

Geoff sighed and shook his head as he looked to the captain. "I ain't gonna lie to ya, Cap'n. It really ain't lookin' good. The Doc was just 'bout collapsin' when I got in there and Ren wan't lookin' so good either. Charlie here is only up and about 'cause of some stuff the doc gave her." he said in a low voice, "I dunno how long that's gonna last. All I know is we'd best get to Londinum as fast as we ruttin' can..."

Kale nodded gravely.  So it was bad - real bad.  He sure as hell hoped that his plan worked.  And if it didn't?  Kale couldn't even think about that.  He turned his attention to Charlie.

"Don' worry about it, I got is all patched up the way we needs it, you just seal her up now.  Is there anythin' you need, anyway we can help?"

Charlie let out a slow breath, able to feel her heart rate rising...as well as her senses, finally coming somewhere back to normal, even as she could still find herself overheating and sweating.  "I need...I don' need anything.  I should be fine.  How much...y'know...how much time 'til we land?"  She kneeled back, pulling the control panel back to her, pulling aside the large wire that she used to trip the mechanism.  She couldn't un-strip these wires...thankfully, they'd be hidden by the panel, once it was put in place.  She sighed, tying them back into place slowly, biting her lower lip.  She definitely could focus...but somewhere, in the back of her head, the words "permanent damage" kept flashing up there...

Kale crossed the room to the intercom and pressed a button at Charlie's request.

"Rhaef, what's the status on gettin' to Londinium anytime soon?" he spoke into the comm, hoping that the response would be to his liking.

"We're lookin good, Kale, should be touching down in a little less then an hour.  Also, I got a wave giving us our coordinates for landing and few instructions.  They say they want just one of us to come out with the crate, and they'll send one man as well.  We trade the crates and both men walk away.  I just hope this'll work." Rhaef’s voice came over the comm.

"Wo de tian a.  This is..."  Charlie muttered to herself, letting out a sigh as she continued to work, pulling wires back together, holding herself up by one elbow with her face practically against the console.  She let out more mutters under her breath, doing her best to get it into one piece, maybe even something that worked.  The last thing she needed was for everything to be blown for them.

“Cap'n...you best be tellin' them when you got it from our...our contact...it looked a bit tampered."  She wiped her arm across her forehead again, getting the drops of sweat out of her vision.  "I'm...it's gonna go on well, but if'n they're lookin' close...there's no way it's gonna look clean' less you've got way to get th' scratches out."

"Thank you, Rhaef." Kale said into the comm and then turned back to Geoff and Charlie, "Don't worry about the scratches, we don't have time.  Geoff, you can carry this here crate, right?  When we touch down I want you ta do the exchange, I'll back you up from the ramp should there be any trouble.  But you grab the meds and get the hell out of there, Rhaef will take us out soon as you're onboard, dong ma?”

Charlie slid down onto her side, freeing up her two arms to move, sliding the console closer to herself.  She took one of the screwdrivers that Geoff brought over, pressing it against the back panel and trying to pop the rear panel back into place.  "That's more than enough time, Cap'n.  Well be okay."  She looked back at the panel, leaning up to put her weight on the screwdriver, the panel finally falling into place.  Charlie shifted, finally getting back up onto her knees and lifting the control panel, setting it in place.  "Can one'f ya hold onto this while I screw it in?"

Geoff listened to the captain telling him how things are going to work. "Sure enough, Cap'n. I'll take it to 'em and exchange it like ya say, actin' like things are just as shiny as can be. No worries." he remarked with a nod. He then moved forward to hold the panel in place as Charlie asked.

Charlie smirked, trying to blow a strand of hair out of her face, even as it stuck to her forehead.  Charlie slid the screwdriver back behind the panel again, taking a set of pliers and guiding them in behind, trying to find the balancing pin to set back in place.  "I'm...if you think it'll go over, Cap'n."  There was a click as she set it back in the groove, finding the end with the pump screwdriver and slowly turning it, securing the panel back onto the crate.  "Th'panel will work still, but with that kinda charge...runnin' through, I can't say that there'r no side effects.  I'm not sayin...y'know, that it's not gonna pass'r nuthin.  There's a good chance it's rejected th' code key.  May not open w'the right code."

"Well, we ain't gonna be hanging around long enough for them to open it up, so that should work, just as long as it looks right." Kale said.

Geoff nodded in agreement. "Yep. By the time they're attemptin' ta open it, we should be long gone. Leastwise, that's what we're hopin' on..." he remarked with a faint grin.

"He means y'shouldn't take th'long way back."  She smirked as she gave the driver one last twist, the control panel sliding back further as she did so, snapping into place.  Charlie slumped down against the crate, sighing as she leaned her forehead against it, letting out a slow breath.  She tossed the screwdriver to the side, managing to look over her shoulder without leaning her head off the crate.  "Done, cap'n.  It's as good as it gets..."

Kale bent down and examined the crate.  Charlie was right about the scratches, but they weren't too noticable and the panel looked good as new. "You done good lil' Charlie." he said, squeezing her shoulder.  He was proud of the girl.  Someone as sick as her, and here she was, doin' the job that was asked of her- and doin' it damn well.  He couldn't ask for anything better.  If she died on them he'd never forgive himself ... not ever.  Kale knew too much about letting people down and he would never have that happen again.  If there's a war to be fought then you fight it.  He turned to Geoff, "Best get her back to the infirmary, she needs rest and we got some planning ta do."

Charlie nodded, smiling at the Captain...doing her part, that was the job.  "I'm just doin' my part, Cap'n.  Same's you are, lookin' out for me'n Acacia.  Same's those kids..."  Charlie sat up a bit more, sliding her back against the crate, holding up a hand to Geoff.  "Same as any one'f us would do on this boat.  Takes all'f us to keep'er runnin'."

Geoff nodded to the captain as he moved to take Charlie's outstretched hand. "Don't know 'bout the infirmary. Bit on the overfull side. Nowhere ta put her down ta rest. She got that IV thing with her so I 'spect we can put her in her bunk fer now and hook the thing up. Otherwise I'll be layin' her out on the floor." he said to the captain before picking up Charlie as he had before, "That sound good to ya, Charlie?"

"Yeah, that's...that works."  Charlie stood up with Geoff's help, grabbing her shoulder to steady herself as she came up.  There was a bit of a smile, reaching out and taking hold of the IV stand, nodding to her.  "You're not puttin' me down in that bunk...you'll put me up at my place'n the engine room.  I've got m'stuff up there.  I, ah...there no tellin' that I can get up th'stairs, though.  Y'think y'can help again?"

Kale heard Charlie say that she'd prefer the engine room and lets Geoff carry her off as he heads to the infirmary himself to give everyone fair warning.

Geoff nodded and grinned lightly to Charlie. "Sure enough, Charlie. That's one o' my jobs after all. Carryin' 'round the valuables and such. Though, in all honesty, yer probably some of the more pleasant cargo I've had ta transport. Wouldn't mind it under better circumstances though." he said in a joking tone, still trying too keep things light as he lifted Charlie off of her feet again as he had to take her from the infirmary. "Sorry if that weren't what ya had in mind, but it's a bit faster and more than a bit safer than havin' ya stumble up the steps with only me ta lean on...,” he remarked as he moved to take her up the stairs and to the engine room as she had told him to.

Charlie smiled again, closing her eyes as Geoff picked her up.  There were times where she would have pulled the "I'm not useless" card and stubbornly walked, but she wasn't sure that she could even stand.  Besides, they were landing in less than an hour, and then Geoff would go out and get the cure.  She sighed, allowing Geoff to take her up the stairs and into the engine room.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kendra was trying to keep everything running smooth in the infirmary but she just didn’t have the expertise.  As she looked from one monitor to the next she knew that things were only getting worse and worse.  So she did the only thing she could think of and rushed to the comm.  “Kyoko, are you there? Please report to the infirmary now, this is urgent, please report to the infirmary.” she said.

“On my way.” came Kyoko’s voice.

Within a minute Kyoko walked in and looked around, clearly not liking what she was seeing. "What happened?" She asked as she paused to grab a medical mask and pull on gloves. "Kendra get a mask and gloves, we don't know how contagious this is..” she added as she moved to check the IVs and vitals of her newly acquired patients.

"Better fill me in quick.”

Kendra quickly told Kyoko all about what had been happening down in the infirmary her voice raising in slight panic as she did so, at a loss as to what she should do next, she was not a doctor and her training was very limited in the area.

The beeping continued as Sephone's vitals began to drop dramatically.

Kyoko dived into the medical supplies while checking the girl's stats with one eye. "Not good.. not good." she muttered as she set out a breather unit, some adrenaline and such. "Kindly ones, help me save this one." she muttered as she looked for something to help the girl stabilize.

Kale moved quicker through the passengers quarters as he heard a loud beeping noise emitting from the infirmary, his heart caught in his throat as he prayed to gods he had long since stopped believing in that that was not the sound of one of his crew dying.  Coming into the room he saw Kendra leaning over the Doc and Kyoko bent over the small girl. He didn’t even know what to say, watching as Kyoko deftly moved about the infirmary, he could see the woman was calling on every bit of calm and knowledge that she possessed and he was reminded again how capable the companion really was ... he wouldn't normally think this the place for such a delicate lady - but Kyoko was by no means frail.

"Is there anything I can do?" he asked.

Everything is fading away ... drifting away.  Sephone let out a low moan again as the pain swarmed her small frame.  There was a loud beeping in her head, but she couldn’t be sure whether she was hearing the sound or creating it in her own mind.

"Get a mask on! I got enough folk suffering from this." Kyoko said as she continued to work on the girl while checking on her crew mates. "I trust the other passengers have been locked down?" she asked as she slid the medical pad beside her as she worked, tapping in symptoms and statistics. She was more focused on trying to come up with a treatment to help those suffering, or she'd be racking the captain over the coals about the dividends his illicit work had wrought.

"The rest?" Kale asked, "You mean all three of us that's left standin'?" He pulled a mask on over his face however.  He still felt fine and if things went according to plan then they'd have the meds soon enough to start trying to right this mess.  Looking around at Ren and Acacia, after seeing Charlie ... it'd be a long time before he could forgive himself for causing such a disaster - 'course, if he hadn't taken that crate and opened it what would have happened to these kids?

"We're going to be landing on Londinium soon." he said loudly to be heard over the beeping, "Kyoko, I need you to keep everyone in here, no one leaves, you hear me?  I don' know how this is goin' ta go down, hopefully we'll walk away with the meds, but I can't guarantee that there won't be shootin' and if there is ... you keep them safe."

"Are you mad? You can't land on a core world with this.. and if you told them about it, they would blow us out of the sky.” Kyoko said with wide eyes. "Captain, look how vilirant this is. We've had these people out of their boxes how long? I don't suggest putting down on a core-world, it would be a pandemic."

Acacia's eyes fluttered open for a second,  Lots of loud noises all echoey in my head.   She tried to sit up, no, too weak.  She hadn't been this sick in a long time.  “Hello?” she croaked, she wondered who was in here, course I'm not entirely sure where here is.

"We ain't stayin.  We get the meds and we're gone." Kale said, "But if we don't get those meds ... they die." he swallowed and his features hardened, "And I ain't standing for any of my crew dying.  Just keep them here, and you hear shootin', you leave it ta me, Rhaef and Geoff." Kale said.

His sentence was punctuated by Sephone moaning loudly.

"Hi doctor.” Kyoko said, then looked to Kale,  “Captain, I can BUY the meds, we can have them waiting for us at the dock. No need for violence whatsoever." Kyoko moved over to check on Acacia. "How do you feel doctor?"

“Like I had to eat some of the captain's cooking.  Followed by one of those jars of Ren's.” she tried to smile weakly.  She heard the beeping and tried to force herself up to go check on the girl.

"No you can't, Doc can contest to that, this isn't anything anyone's ever seen before, we get the meds here or we meet our maker." Kale said, talking to the companion always left him feeling irritated.

Rhaef‘s voice interrupted the conversation then, "Kale, we're going to be hitting atmo now in the next five minutes or so, everyone hold on."

Kale took another brief look around the room as he heard Rhaef's comm, and without a word head back to the cargo bay to get ready for the deal.

Kyoko watched Kale leave, a sour expression on her face.  She could get those meds.  The captain was just being stubborn.  She looked to Acacia then.  “Acacia, what do you need?  How can I kill this virus?”

“I can only treat symptoms, nothing actually killing the virus.” She rolled over to her stomach, pulling out her IV.  She stopped for a second, then put both hands on the bed she forced herself up.  She was breathing very heavily.  Her vision blurred, she screamed in pain at the IV being torn out.  She leaned heavily on anything solid.  “I have patients I must help.”   She stumbled over to Sephone.  “No,” she cried when she saw how badly the little girl was.  Sephone had passed out from the pain and her vitals had gone tacky. Acacia stumbled and fell to her knees, she could barely keep herself upright.

"Back in bed!" Kyoko said as she turned to the girl "You need to recover, tell me what to do.. what I need." Kyoko said as she took the adrenaline and the breather unit, moving close to Sephone. "We lose you Acacia and all of them are going to die.”

“I promised her... she wouldn't be hurt anymore...I promised, I promis-” Acacia fell over again, too weak for much of anything.  Her arm was bleeding from where she had ripped the IV out.  Her eyes wet with tears, that were hot from the fever raging inside her.

A loud long resounded in the infirmary as Sephone flat lined.

Kyoko frantically pulled out the adrenaline and checked the needle. "Doctor, she's flat lining, what is a good dosage for a child her size, she's below the table on the case.” Kyoko said frantically as she put the breather bag on her.

“I promised.”   Acacia said lost in a delirium.  She tried to get up, slipped and fell.  A thick line of blood ran from her mouth.  She kept breathing but didn’t move.

Kyoko growled in exasperation and made a wild guess as she plunged the needle in, pushing in a dose of adrenaline and squeezing the bag to force air in the girl's chest, silently praying as she looked at the monitor, keeping an eye on her friend on the next gurney. If the girl didn’t respond to the shot, she snatched up the paddles and looked around as she primed them. "Clear!" she said as she ripped the shirt open, rubbed in the gel and hit Sephone with a jolt.

Sephone’s pulse came back up but it was still tacky.

"That’s my girl." Kyoko whispered to her as she slid around the other side to check on the doctor. "Now, keep breathing sweet child, get stronger.. “ she whispered as she took a sample of the blood from the doctor's mouth and put it on the analyzer.

The screen came up with white words on a black background: NOT ON FILE

"He chu sheng za jiao de zang huo." Kyoko said as she keyed the comm.

"Captain, I hope your gun totting thug is still around and well, we'll need him, the bug isn't in the database. This most likely means your.. clients might be our ONLY option for a treatment."  Kyoko said as she turned back to seeing to the others.

Just then the long, loud beeping sounded again.  The girl had flat lined - and this time there was no bringing her back.

Kyoko spun around as she heard the flat line go off again.  "Lao tian, bu!" she said, grabbing the paddles again, "No, please don't die on me!"  Her cool, calm air completely abandoned now she practically yelled at the small girl.

"Clear!" she shouted and sent a jolt through the girls tiny frame ... nothing happened.  "Clear!" she yelled again, again no result. "No, no, no, no, no ..." she looked to Acacia who was moaning slightly on the floor.  "Acacia!  Acacia, I need you to hear me, what do I do?!  I don't know what else to do ..."  She kept trying to revive the girl until Kendra pulled her off, telling her that Sephone was gone.

Kendra, assisted Kyoko to the chair and had her sit. She handed her a gauze pad to wipe her tears with, “I don't see anything else ta' wipe up with.” She walked over to the child’s body, removed the monitor and IV.  She closed her eyes then and pulled the sheet up and over the poor child's head. “Sorry Little one - we tried.”  Kendra dropped to the floor, knees drawn up, her arms wrapped around them and cradled her head - she began to cry.

The sounds of gunshots reach the infirmary then and both women look up.  There’s nothing to do but wait …



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Geoff climbed out of the engine room and walked slowly back into the cargo bay. He looked around with a bit of a sigh as he climbed down the stairs and sat down with a heavy groan on the bottom step. It had been a long day and it wasn't over yet. Soon enough he'd be having to go up and face the bastards who had wanted the kids in the first place and he knew it would take a bit of willpower not to up and shoot the man as soon as he saw him. But he would hold back and make sure things went off as easy as possible. He had to. For the sake of everybody on the ship...

Lei watched Geoff carry Charlie up a ladder out of the big room, and then return a short time later without her. Curiosity overcoming her fear, she stepped into the cargo bay properly, and still looking up at the hatch that Geoff just came from, asked, "What's up there?"

Geoff looked over to Lei, coming out of his contemplation of going to get a drink, and then looked up to where the girl was looking. "That? That's the engine room...Charlie's room, more properly. That's why she gave ya her bunk, little lady. She sleeps up there. She's the mechanic on this here ship so I guess she's comfortable there, 'round all the machines..." he answered simply.

"She... She ok? She's not going away?" Lei started to cross the cargo bay towards the ladder up to Charlie's engine room. Maybe if she saw Charlie there, then that would show that Geoff wasn't one of the bad men who took people away... And maybe Lei was safe here.

For now.

Geoff shook his head, a bit of a grin on his face. "She ain't goin' nowhere, long as I have anythin' ta say 'bout it. But I guess she's only ok as anybody could be as sick as she was. We're takin' care o' that though. Gonna get her the stuff she needs ta get better. Her and the doc and Ren and anybody else that needs it. Sure enough we are...." he said with a nod.

Lei climbed up the ladder to the engine room, stopping just below the top. She quietly stuck her head through the hatch, and looked around. Seeing Charlie on the hammock, she climbed back down, quietly. Charlie was still there... This place was different to the white place. So far... thinking about what Geoff said, about getting the stuff to make everyone better, she asked, "How?"

Geoff gestured to the now sealed crate and smiled to Lei. "Gonna fake the stupid hun duns out. Gonna give 'em the crate with those boxes ya came in loaded up with junk ta make it seem like yer still there. Gonna give 'em the crate in exchange fer whatever will fix us up and be long gone 'fore they figured they ain't got nothin'. Leastwise, that's what our plannin' is." he said.

Wandering a little closer to the crate, but not too close, treating it as if it might be a rabid dog that would bite her, Lei sat down on the deck and stared at it. From here she could see the small scrape marks from when the crate was forced open, but didn't give them much mind since she was asleep when she was 'packaged' and didn't get to see the crate beforehand.  "What happens if they figure?"

Geoff looked thoughtful for a moment before shrugging easily. "Well, they shouldn't....but, if they do, then we do things the hard way. Or the fun way, as I like ta put it. Guns blazin', fists flyin' and all that." he said as he patted the guns at his hips with fondness, "Ta put it simply, I'll be gettin' what I need from them, even if I have ta take it from their cold, dead hands."

"Oh."

The plan didn't sound all that convincing to Lei, and she managed to sum up her thoughts on it in that one syllable. Still, Geoff was a big man, just like the ones at the white place. They always seemed to be impervious to her kicks and biting the few times she struggled against them, but maybe Geoff would be able to handle them in some way that Lei couldn't. She knew it was going to be the big men from the white place, after all, who else would have the cure?

Geoff arched a brow at the girl at the simple and short answer she gave. "Oh? That's it? Somehow I don't sense a bunch o' confidence or faith in the plan in that 'oh' of yours?" he remarked with grin, "Come on, little lady! I'm tellin' ya right now that this plan can't fail. Firstly, Charlie and the cap'n did a good job o' puttin' the box back together ta fool them. And, second, if they see through our little trick, they'll have ta deal with me. Lemme tell ya, there ain't a man 'round tougher than me in a fight. 'Specially when the guys I'm dealin' with are the sorta bastards that piss me off."

Lei simply nodded her head at what Geoff was saying. He sounded confident in his own abilities, and he was big enough. Maybe he knew a bit more about what was going on than Lei did. She just didn't know enough about the situation to come up with anything better. Best to just stay hiding from the bad men for now. Hiding in here where it was safe. Then she thought about the upcoming deal, one package for another, and one of the packages sitting in here, a mere six feet in front of her.

"They... They're not going to come in here, are they?"

Geoff laughed shortly and shook his head. "Not ruttin' likely! We can't be makin' a quick getaway if they're on the boat. They'll have time ta check out the crate close up and know what we did. Not ta mention the fact that they'd have ta be crazy ta come in here ta get their package and expect ta get out alive." he said,"'Sides, if they came in here, they'd probably find ya and the other two and that would kinda defeat the purpose o' tryin' ta trick 'em, wouldn't it..."

Lei visibly relaxed when she was told that they wouldn’t come inside, but the tension returned nearly straight away.  "They'll chase us when they figure..."

Geoff shrugged and leaned back in a relaxed manner. "So? Let 'em chase, I say. It's a big 'verse so it'll take 'em awhile a find us and, if they do find us, I'll make sure they're sorry they ever did, dong ma?" he remarked, “In the end, it don't matter. The 'verse is a dangerous place fer people like us so addin' one more thing ta worry 'bout won't make much of a difference. Just makes life that much more interestin'..."

"But there's lots of them, and only one of you. Can't fight them all... Only thing to do is hide."  Lei frowned, thinking about what to do. She just didn't know enough... She didn't know a thing about the world outside of the white place. She needed to find out... "We'll hide, right? You know somewhere to hide?"

Geoff sat up straight at that and looked to the girl with a shake of his head. "Hide? Geoff Wolfe don't hide. Not from nobody. Who says I can' fight 'em all? It could be 1 or 100 o' them and I'll fight 'em all. 'Cause that's all ya can do. Ya fight fer what ya believe in, even if it kills ya. Leastwise, that's what I believe." he said with a firm conviction in his voice before relaxing again,"'Sides, we wouldn't be able ta hide fer long and expect ta survive. We'd have ta get a job at some point and land on a planet somewhere and that's all it would take fer them ta track us. So hidin' wouldn't work. All that works is fightin' and thinkin' and I'm only good at fightin'..."

"We... We can't hide? An... And there's too... too many to fight. They'll find us and... and take... take me back." If what Geoff said was true, they were in a hopeless situation. There was nowhere to hide, and they would find them sooner or later... She believed Geoff when he said that he'd fight them all, but didn't think that he could fight off all of them. They'd defeat him sooner or later, and then there'd be no one to stop them from taking her back to the white place. Starting to cry softly, she looked up pleadingly at Geoff. "I... I don't want... to go back there..."

Geoff looked to the girl with a bit of concern and shook his head. "Hey, hey! No worries. Ya ain't goin' back. Me and the cap'n and everybody else on this ship will make sure that don't happen. I done told ya that I'll make sure o' yers and the others' safety. So long as yer on this boat, ain't no way those hun dun doctors that you and Tate are always talkin' 'bout all the time gonna be able ta get ya. I give ya my word on it and that's somethin' ya can count on." he said with a confident grin, "'Sides, I think yer underestimatin' the crew. They seem like a tough bunch and the cap'n here has got a good head on his shoulders and a hell of a lot o' guts. Not ta mention that this here ship is a good one. So, when fightin' is no good and hidin' ain't an option, runnin' is always gonna be the best fall back plan!"

Sniffing back tears, she jerkily nodded her head at what Geoff said. "We... we can do that? ... Run away forever? ... And they ... They won't catch us?" It was something to hope for. And it made sense. If they could just keep moving, keep sidestepping the bad men, then they might be able to stay one step ahead... Just like a knight chasing a king around a chessboard. No checkmates. If they stepped in the right direction, they could run forever.

Maybe.

Geoff shrugged and leaned back again, relaxing a bit. "That's pretty much what most crews that do business of our type do anyway. Always gotta be one step ahead o' those who wanna catch ya. Whether it's the Alliance or a rival or yer doctors, it can be done. Hit and run tactics are always the best anyway. Ya hit 'em hard and then ya back away. It's how ya survive on the streets and I don't think it's any different out in the rest o' the 'verse." he said before sighing lightly and looking to Lei with a slight smile, "Here's what it comes down ta though. Ya gotta trust in the fact that yer safe here and that we only wanna help. That we ain't gonna let nothin' happen to ya and ain't gonna let them take ya. Hell, if we were gonna do that, we woulda shoved ya back in the crate, wouldn't we? But we didn't and we ain't gonna. So you just gotta learn ta relax and trust in us a bit more. Can't worry and be afraid yer whole life. Then ya ain't living at all..."

Lei sat there and listened to everything Geoff said, nodding occasionally. At the end of it all, she simply said, "Okay." She wiped the tears away from her eyes with the back of her hand, and looked round.

Looking at the crate, she pointed at it and asked, "How long until..." She knew Geoff had to hand it off sometime soon. But she didn't want to sit around while it happened, she wanted to do something to get back at the doctors that did all those horrible things to her...  "C... Can I help?"

Geoff smiled and shook his head. "We'll be landin' in less then an hour and I'll be handin' this here crate off to 'em a little after that. And, while I 'preciate the offer, there ain't much ya can do right now ta help. Me and the cap'n are gonna be takin' care o' most o' this." he said as he leaned back and closed his eyes, "If ya wanna help though, ya can do me a favor and wake me when we're gonna hit atmo. I wanna get some rest, just in case we are walkin' into a fight. So ya wake me up and then ya go and hide in the passenger's quarters with Tate. Ya gotta keep hidden 'cause, if the guys see ya when we're makin' the drop, things will go south fast, dong ma?" He then yawned and seemed to fall into a light doze. The day had been long and he really needed to have some rest if he wanted to be sharp for when they landed.

Geoff was already laying down when Lei nodded her affirmative, so she added a quick "Okay." just in case. She wasn't sure how to tell when they'd be hittin' atmo, but she was sure that she'd know it when it happened. She stared at Geoff for a while, wondering how he managed to fall asleep so easily on the cold, hard floor in here. Maybe she could ask him when he was awake, after it was all over. Not wanting to leave the room, but needing to work off a little nervous energy, she stood up and started to quietly search through the cargo hold, not opening anything, just looking. Occasionally, she'd look back at Geoff, to check he was still sleeping.

After a while Lei heard the pitch of the engines change, as the pilot readied the ship to land. They'd been a constant hum in the background until then, and the change in pitch was quite noticeable. Cocking her head to listen more closely to it, she considered how long it had been since Geoff had laid down. It seemed about the right amount of time... She walked over to where the giant was dozing, crouched down near him and reached out ready to shake him a little if it was needed.

"Geoff? Geoff! I... I think it's almost time."

A second later Rhaef’s voice came over the comm system.  “We are just about to touch down, you let me know the second Geoff’s back on, Kale.”

"Will do." Kale said into the intercom as he entered the cargo bay once more.  This better work. he thought.

He glanced around for Geoff and found him sitting up groggily, Lei bent down beside him.  "I need you out of here, little lady." he said to the girl, “You stay in the passengers quarters and you don't come out no matter what you hear, do you understand me?”

Geoff opened an eye slowly as he sat up and stretched, yawning a bit as he did so. He looked to Lei and the captain with a nod. "We're there then? Ok, then. time ta get up...", he said as he began to stand up, looking to Lei and giving her a light smile, "Good work doin' what I asked. Now ya best listen to the Cap'n and go hide like I told ya to before."

Lei looked up as soon as the captain opened his mouth. Giving just a quick wide eyed nod, she sprang to her feet, and ran out of the cargo hold. Geoff said that she could trust this one, but she still wasn't sure about him, and didn't want to find out what would happen if she was too slow getting out. Anyway, Geoff was awake now, and that's all she had to do in there.

“Um, Kale, I'm being told that our man is to be unarmed.” Rhaef’s voice said over the comm again.

"Dang ran," Kale said under his breath, "roger that." he said in the comm before turning to Geoff.

"Okay, here's the deal, you leave your pistols right here by the ramp, I'll stay back and lay cover fire fer ya if this goes south.  And if it does you run back up here." Kale's voice was tense, he didn't like this, he didn't like it one bit but he knew that this was their only chance.  He crossed to the controls to open the air lock and lower the ramp.  "You ready for this?"

Geoff had been stretching lightly and feeling all to good about being able to do something when he heard Rhaef's  words over the comm. He looked to the captain with a bit of shake of his head. "Unarmed?! That ain't good. That's just askin' fer a bullet in me." he said in a low tone as he took his pistols from his gun belt and placed them where the captain had indicated and took his knife from the sheath at his back and slipped it into the top of his boot, pulling his pant leg down over it. He wouldn't go completely unarmed. No way. He nodded to the captain then and sighed. "Sure enough, Cap'n. Ready as I'm ever gonna be. Let's do this." he said lightly.

Kale just gave Geoff a long serious look, if anyone could do this and get out alive it'd be him.  Kale was all manner of glad that he had hired on the man.  He may have looked like just some drunken thug but Kale had suspected that given the chance this kid had potential - and he wasn't wrong.  "You come back now in one piece, you hear?" he said, "I ain't standing for one more person in my infirmary." he tried to keep his voice light but he was nervous.

The airlock hissed open and the ramp lowered and bright sunlight came streaming into the cargo bay.

Geoff smiled easily and gave the captain a thumbs up as he opened the ramp. "Hey, no worries, Cap'n! I ain't 'bout ta get taken out here. I got too much left ta do. So many fights ta get into, so much liquor ta drink and all of that." he said with a light laugh before moving over to the crate and squatting down to get a grip, lifted the thing with a grunt. It was pretty damn heavy, but Geoff could do it. He heard the sound of the man from outside and moved slowly over to the ramp, giving the captain a final nod. He then walked out into sunlight, hoping that everything would go smooth.

Geoff emerged onto a large, paved open space, in the distance one of Londinium’s huge white cities could be seen but here there was only one small building at the far end of the dock.  Destiny was the only ship present.

A man in a grey uniform that neither Geoff or Kale recognized stood a few feet away from the lowered ramp, a fairly large crate in front of him.  He held up his hands to show that he was unarmed.  Looking around there appeared to be no one else on the dock.

"I'm alone!" he called out, "Now just give us the crate and we can make this trade nice and simple."

Kale leaned back just behind the wall beside the opening to the cargo bay, his pistol in hand armed and ready.  He chanced a quick peek outside, it looked like they had been true to their word, only one man.  Kale held his breath and kept an eye out for any other movement that might put Geoff in danger.

Geoff stepped out onto the ramp and walked slowly down it, thinking that he should've probably just pushed the crate down instead of carrying the thing. He never was all that good at thinking ahead. He stepped off the ramp and, stopping only a foot away from the ramp, put the crate down slowly and then moved to stand in front of it. He fixed the uniformed man with a cold gaze and jerked a thumb at the crate. "Ya want this thing, ya give me what I want first, dong ma?" he said simply.

The man glanced at Geoff uncertainly, not sure whether he should move any closer to the ship.  He had to get that crate however, what it contained was infinitely valuable.

"Alright." he called out and picked up his box and took a few steps closer then stopped as a slight movement by the ships opening caught his eye, someone lay in wait there.  If he got any closer he could be shot.  He stopped where he was.  "You meet me half-way."

Geoff nodded and moved to meet the man halfway, leaving the crate behind. He gestured to the crate and shrugged. "I ain't haulin' that thing any closer, ya hear? See, ya can just up and run with what I need after I bring ya the crate. I, however, can't be runnin' nowhere with that heavy ruttin' thing in tow. So you give me what I want, I'll get back in the ship and we'll take off, leavin' yer box right there fer you, dong ma?"

The man nodded solemnly and handed the crate to Geoff.

Rhaef’s voice came over the comm then, very urgently, “Captain we got trouble, they’re all around the front of the ship!”

Tate crawled across the metal floor of the big room, a huge hole was in the wall now and light was shining through it.  Tate had to squint in the brightness.  As he got closer he saw that Geoff was outside … and he was with one of the bad men.  Panic slid down Tate’s spine … that’s when he noticed the Guns sitting on the floor.  Looking warily up at the other man who was standing on the opposite side of the hole looking intently out of it, Tate picked up the machine.  It felt too big in his hand but it felt powerful.

You just pull this little trigger, Tate thought and the person hurts.  He looked back out at Geoff and saw another man creeping up behind him.

“NO!!!” Tate screamed and went running down the ramp, the Gun pointed out in front of him, “You can’t hurt him!”

…. He didn’t even get to fire off one shot …

“Geoff get out of there now!” Kale shouted, and then his heart dropped as he saw the kid take off down the ramp, yelling at the top of his lungs.  He heard shots fired and the kid went down.  Kale slid across the floor and shot with one arm as he snatched up Geoff’s remaining pistol and tossed it to him.

From all around the front side of the ship, using Destiny herself as cover, men in the same grey uniform come swarming out.  The man who previously had the crate fired off a shot as a kid (one of the kids) came running down the ramp and the kid hit the ground.

Everything seemed to go so bad so fast that Geoff could hardly believe what was going on. Guys sneaking up on him, a yelled warning from Tate and the captain both, shots fired and the kid going down. Geoff couldn't seem to comprehend with his higher mental facilities that things were going bad fast. It's a very lucky thing that it only took instincts to survive like he did. With practiced ease, he caught the gun thrown to him, tucking the crate under one arm to do so. He grabbed it and aimed at the man who had shot Tate while he ran for the ship. "Ta ma de hun dan!! I'll ruttin' kill you!!!" he yelled as he shot off a few rounds at the man as he reached the ramp.

As he ran up the ramp, he tossed his gun inside the ship and used the free arm to scoop up the Tate as he went by. "Stupid ruttin' kid!! Stupid! Ya shoulda hid! Ya shoulda hid!!" he yelled as he ran as fast as his legs would carry him.

Kale was in shock for a moment, but a moment is all he allowed himself.  He kept shooting until his clip was out at anyone coming anywhere near Geoff as he sprinted up the ramp.  The second his foot hit the metal flooring of the cargo bay Kale hit the comm.

"Take us up!  NOW!" he yelled into it, and furiously hit the controls to bring the ramp up and close the airlock.  They weren’t even closed before Destiny started lifting up off the ground, the men still firing shots up at them.  Kale didn’t even tell Geoff to take the kid to the infirmary, he was dead, he could tell.  Kale looked at Geoff but had no words to offer, so he nodded his head, and then took off at a run to the bridge.

<b>"They're not gonna let us out of here easy." he muttered and wished he had Ren at the helm and hoped that Rhaef could pull off some fancy flying.

Geoff stumbled to the ground as he came running into the cargo bay, the box and Tate both still held to him tightly. He looked to Tate, held in his arms, with an expression part horror and part sorrow. He was no idiot. He knew the boy was dead. He had seen death too much in his life not to know it. It shouldn't be a big deal. Death happens. But it was different this time. This time it was a kid and, more than that, it had been a kid dying to try and save him. He had come running out to help Geoff and Geoff knew it.

Geoff shook his head and spoke quietly to Tate, knowing full well he couldn't be heard. "Stupid....gorram....kid. Ya shoulda hid. Shoulda let me take care of it. I told ya I'd watch out for ya and the others. Now you up and die on me. Makin' me into a liar. I said...I said I wouldn't let nothin' hurt ya. I gave ya my word....ya ain't...ya ain't supposed ta die...'specially not on account of me..." he muttered lightly and then fell silent. He looked almost like he would cry, but he didn't. Geoff Wolfe doesn't cry. Not anymore. So he just continued to sit quietly on the floor of the cargo hold, holding onto Tate and the box.

The second Rhaef heard the Captains comm he gave Destiny a hard burn and jerked the ship into motion.  "Ladies and gentleman hold onto your seats this is not going to be a gentle ride."

Kale jogged onto the bridge and held onto the back of Rhaef's chair to steady himself. "Are we being followed?" he asked.

"That would be an affirmative, Captain." Rhaef said through clenched teeth, jerking the steering column hard to the left. "Two of them-"

"Can we lose them?" Kale asked.

"I'm working on the Captain, can't concentrate if you keep asking me questions." Rhaef practically barked back.

Two sleek, small ships were hot on his tail, they had to have been launched only moments after Destiny had taken off.  "I'd say they figured out that the gorram crate was empty."

"Yeah, well that tends to happen when the kid that's supposed to be all boxed up comes runnin' down the gorram ramp." Kale said, trying to ignore the pang of grief that shot through him.  The kid was so young ...

Rhaef didn't respond but focused on the task at hand: lose the ships.  If he could just get them out of atmo then he could make a jump and they could find some nice place to lay low for a while.  The ships however kept crossing in front of him, blocking his path.

Rhaef slammed the stick down hard and forced Destiny into a backward spin as both ships, far faster then Destiny came around in front of him.  The maneuver caught them off guard and Rhaef took off towards the black with the ship upside down.  As he neared the point of breaking atmo he spun the ship upright again.

"Here we go!" he said and they left Londinium behind them.

As Destiny made its way into the black Kale let out a sigh of relief.  It was over ... well at least for now.  Rhaef asked him where to set course, they needed to land and re-fuel and give the rest of the crew time to get better.  Kale thought for a moment. "Paquin." he said, very light Alliance presence there and a strict 'ask no questions' policy was just what they needed. ... Now hopefully they'd be able to hang onto their belongings.

This message was last edited by the GM at 04:02, Sat 20 May 2006.

Into the Black
 GM, 499 posts
Tue 28 Mar 2006
at 09:24
Episode 2: Revelations

Episode 2: Revelations

Kale woke up knowing that their stay on Paquin had nearly reached its end.  Destiny had headed to the gypsy planet as a safe haven while the ship and her crew recuperated from the virus which had nearly stolen all of their lives.  It also offered them the chance to hold a proper burial for Tate and Sephone … Kale still couldn’t believe that he had failed the children - although Geoff and Kyoko had taken it the hardest everyone felt the pang of sadness and guilt while watching the two tiny coffins lowered in the rust colored earth.

But today was a new day and what was past, was past and there was nothing to do but move forward and press on.  Which is exactly what Kale intended to do.  He dressed quickly and made his way out of his bunk.

Kale hopped down the cargo bay stairs two at a time, his boots clanging loudly.  Things were finally beginning to look up again.  The crew, after a brutish week of running Destiny on a skeleton crew, was finally up and about and back to their normal selves.  Even the girl, Lei, had stopped hiding in corners, and started talking to people.  She seemed especially fond of Charlie and Geoff but Kale held no grudge.  Those two needed that after what they'd been through.

As he reached the lower level he smiled as the bright sunlight warmed his skin.  Caravan City was his kind of town.  Fun, seedy, and slightly dangerous.

"Well, hello there, Lei." he said as he noticed the girl seated by the ramp.  She never said much to him but he tried to be as friendly as possible.

Lei slouched back into the makeshift chair she had put on the open loading ramp. She liked it out here, feeling the breeze on her skin, and being able to look up at the endless sky, both of them new things that she had only ever been able to do in the last week. Being out here was helping her to forget all about her past.

She wondered also what the rest of this planet was like. Geoff seemed nervous about her getting too far from the ship, though, so she'd contented herself with just being outside on the landing pad for now. Maybe if I ask him, he'll take me with him the next time he goes out…  She didn’t hear the Captain.

Charlie stepped out of the Engine Room, coming down onto the catwalk lightly, her boots slung over her shoulder.  Out of all the wonderful things about Paquin she had discovered in the past few years, the best was the way you could walk barefoot and simply enjoy the feeling of grass and dirt below your feet.  Of course, were they to step foot into any established business, she wouldn't find herself doing so...it just wasn't acceptable at every establishment along the way.  The other wonderful thing was that there had been no repairs during their entire stay, and the whole time had been dedicated to simply healing.  Now that the sickness was gone, along with everything else, she finally got her wish for a vacation.

"Oh Captain..."  She sang as she walked along the catwalk, smiling.  It was incredible how much better she felt, not to mention how wonderful Paquin was.  She smiled at him as she came down the stairs, moving at a languid pace.  "Last night on the surface, isn't it?  Or are we stayin' for later?"

Geoff walked out onto the metal catwalk above the cargo bay, adjusting his gun belt as he went and making sure he had everything he needed. Let's see....guns? Check. Knife? Check. Spare cash burnin' a hole in my pocket? Check. Spiffy hat? Definitely check. All right. All set. he thought as he walked down the step, passing Kyron on the way and giving the man a bit of a wry grin. Even time planetside hadn't exactly improved his opinion of the core worlder.

He stepped onto the floor of the cargo bay and spotted the captain, Charlie and Lei by the ramp. He strolled over casually and smiled lightly as he nodded to them both. "Howdy, Cap'n. Hiya, Charlie. Hey there, Little Lady. How're things?" he said as he looked out through the open cargo bay doors and upon the city. He hadn't been out much until recently and he hadn't really done much except buy some liquor and some new clothes. He found that he liked the place though, as little as he had seen of it.

Lei's finally recognized the sound of voices. She reached up to shade her eyes, to better make out the people silhouetted in the bright sunlight. In her usual soft voice she said, "Hello."

Kale just nodded in the direction of the girl as she peered at him shyly and then returned to looking out the cargo bay door.  Then he beamed as he saw Charlie walking along the catwalk.

"Well, aren't you a vision." he commented, and she certainly was a vision of health and optimism at the moment and that made Kale infinitely happy.  He was glad that he could give his crew this vacation, however brief.

"Ain't rightly sure yet about how long we're stayin', lil' Charlie.  We gotta find us some work, and right now Paquin's as good a place as any.  Didn't get fully paid that last run." Kale said, his voice hardening slightly - he was still angry about the way everything had turned out.  Sure they had gotten the 200 (which Cortez was not pleased about at all) but they hadn't seen a dime after that, and money was running low.  As usual it was time to get back to work soon.

Charlie hopped down the rest of the stairs, smiling again.  "Now, cap'n, don't be sayin' things like that.  You'll turn me all sortsa shades."  Charlie walked across the cargo bay floor, her bare feet making almost no sound as they landed.  She still stood in her coveralls, but having the time planetside, she found the time to wash them.  Since they'd been planetside, it had been rare to find her on the ship.  There was nothing she cherished more than time in the sun, but after the recent bout with her disease, there was something about the sun's warmth that was extra wonderful.

"Well, maybe you shouldn't find us work...we could stay here, relax'n breathe easy.  Set up a ranch, live'n the sun?"  It was obvious she was joking...mostly.

"Now wouldn't that be a fine sight?!" Kale laughed aloud, "The crew plowin' and raisin' cattle!" Kale shook his head, "I'm a seaman, I am.  Wouldn't be life without the stars." He patted Charlie on the shoulder and then glanced over at Lei.

"I was thinkin' about goin' out in a bit.  The Blind Mans Eye is apparently the place to be rumor has it and we have yet to check out this fine establishment." Kale grinned knowing that his crew knew perfectly well that what he considered a 'fine establishment' would be loud, rowdy, and have excellent ale ... course Kale knew at least Geoff would approve.

Acacia walked out of her bunk to see the group gathered in the cargo bay, she walked over to near Charlie.  “Hey Charlie-girl how ya feelin'  I haven't seen Ren in a while, I hope he is doing better.  So what are you guys doing?” she said as she came over.

Geoff just listened quietly to the captain and Charlie's conversation, not adding any comments of his own. He wasn't an idea man, he was muscle and would be glad to have another job coming. When the conversation turned to leaving the ship for a bar, he smiled lightly. That sounded like a fine idea to him.

Lei approached him then, “Can I come?“ she asked.

Geoff shrugged,. "Uh...well, I guess there ain't no harm in you comin'...if ya stay close. Can't be keepin' ya cooped up, I suppose." he said, not really seeing a problem with taking a 13 year old girl to a bar. He had been frequenting such places since he was a small boy, after all.

Lei broke out in a big grin. "Thanks!"

She grabbed the blanket and cushions she'd 'stolen' from the passenger lounge to use for her chair, and threw them just inside the cargo bay to one side of the door, out of the way for now. From out here she could hear a whole lot of things happening in the town, and had been wondering what was causing all the various different noises. Finally, she was getting to take a closer look.

"The Blind Man's Eye?  Right."  Charlie balanced on one foot as she slid her other into a boot, crouching down to lace it up.  She was familiar with the bar...she had only gone in there one of the times that they had been in Paquin, but it was enough to know that you go places like that with shoes on.  She stood up just as Acacia came down, smiling at her and lightly touching one of her arms.

"I'm feeling much better, thanks...all things’re workin' fine on me, y'know?"  She kicked up another leg, sliding her foot into the remaining boot and lacing it up.

Acacia nodded,  She had been feelin lousy for so long, and now that she was finally well she wanted to get out, “So where we headed,  at least where are you going assuming I can tag along.” She hoped she could come.

"Don' see no reason why ya can't, Doc.  We're goin' to a pub, if that's alright with ya.  Rhaef can hold down the fort for now, let him know I was gonna be stepping off for a bit on my way down here." he smiled at the Acacia, and then looked over at Geoff as he agreed to take the girl with him.  His expression clearly said, 'You sure that's alright?'.  Kale didn't know anything about raisin' children but something told him you weren't suppose to bring them to pubs, 'course he wasn't really going to object.  He guessed it be alright as long as Geoff wasn't feeding the girl liquor again.

Geoff shrugged lightly at the captain's questioning expression. He honestly saw no problem with taking Lei along. He was going to be there to watch after her, after all, so there wouldn't be any trouble. Besides, Lei needed to get out and see the real world for once. She had been cooped up inside the ship for so long, not to mention in some crate and lab before that. She wanted out and Geoff could understand it. So he'd let her come with him and the others.

Charlie smirked at the question Acacia asked, standing back up as she finished lacing up her boot.  "We're going to...you haven't been with us to Paquin before, have you?  It's...a bit more noisy and rowdy of a place."  She stepped further towards the cargo bay doors, looking out, seeing the lights of the city from where they were.  Of course, it was tempting to stay behind and run around in the fields, maybe take another swim...but she's done that more than once since they arrived.

"Cap'n, we...ah...we expectin' t'run into any of our old friends here?  Y'know?"  She raised an eyebrow, getting at something else...

“Wait, isn't Ren from here?” Acacia asked.  She knew, but pretending to know less might make people not connect them.  Since they hadn't admitted their relationship, she was glad no one found out. She would rather tell then get discovered.

"I believe so." Kale said, "Come ta think of it I ain't seen Ren around much lately.  Know he didn't take to kindly to the meds though so he's probably still up in his bunk.  He's been kinda sour lately too, but you know Ren and his mood swings."

Then he turned to Charlie, and considered what she said, "Friends?  I don't recall havin' too many friends here on Paquin, hell I don't recall havin' too many friends period - anywhere."

"Exactly my point, Cap'n.  Th'last thing I'd want to do, given a beautiful surface like this, is to leave by force 'stead of leisure.  I'm takin' a likin' to this place, the more'n more we're here."  She smiled at him, tucking her hands in her pockets.  "Never mind.  I'll tell y'later what I've got t'say, when you've got yourself a moment."

Acacia smiled, “Yeah I would think Ren would like to come home at some point and not get shot,”  She was tempted to go pounce on Ren and wake him up but he needed his rest.  It had been forever since the two of them had anytime together.  She was missing his touch, but she could wait, after all she waited 29 years, having to wait a few days to spend time with her guy was fine.  She got to have a new experience, she hadn't been in a pub, well not for a long, long time.  Her drinking days during med school didn't count.  “So captain, am I going to need to bring my med bag or is this trip planning to be shooting free.” she said with a chuckle.

"Shooting free please." Kale said with a grin, of course what he said and what happened weren't always necessarily the same thing, but this trip should be nice and friendly like.  "Well, what say you we head out then?"

Lei grinned and gave a big nod, but she waited for Geoff to start moving before she did. He'd already told her to stay close, and she was going to.

Geoff grinned lightly to the captain and nodded also. "Yeah, let's head out already. I've been needin' a drink and, 'sides, it's been awhile since I've been to a place where I can sit down, drink and enjoy the sounds of cursin' and brawlin'..." he said with a joking tone. He then looked to Lei and gestured for her to follow close as he walked down the loading ramp and out into the fresh air and sunlight.

A rich rust colored city, hung everywhere with brightly sewn tapestries and fabrics greeted the crew as they emerged from the ship.  Performers wandered the streets - singing, puppet shows, instruments, acrobatics, storytelling - anything to dazzle and awe ... and distract unsuspecting people away from their money purses.  The city bustled with life, but it was also a bit dangerous.

Kale smiled though, the air was still warm as the last rays of sunlight bathed the town.  He glanced down the streets and then made a right, trying to remember where exactly The Blind Mans Eye was supposed to be.  "Just make sure you keep an eye out fer your belongings." Kale said with a grin to the group following behind him.

Geoff stepped off the ramp and looked about the city, a light smile on his face. He was glad to be out and about again and especially glad to be going to a bar. This had all the makings of a really good time, in his book. He looked over his shoulder to make sure Lei was following before he moved on. Even then, he would insist that Lei walked at his side or in front of him so he could keep an eye on her. No telling what could happen when he wasn't looking, after all.

Acacia took a deep breath, “Gosh, how long have I been stuck in the ship.  It feels so good to not be breathing recycled air.  And to have natural light.” she grinned broadly “Right Charlie-girl?”

"You guys are always goin' on about how nice fresh air is.  To here you speak you'd think I keep ya'll locked up on the ship." Kale commented, as he smiled at a puppet theatre on the side of the road, a group of young children all huddled around it.

“I swear Kale sometimes, I think if you could help it you would never leave the ship, me I can almost taste staleness of the air.   It is just nice to get out.”  Acacia walked over and looked way up so she could look him in the eye.  She poked him in the chest, “you better keep us locked in I can't treat explosive decompression very well.”  She laughed then and strolled away before he could respond.

"Damn right I love my ship!" Kale called after Acacia with a laugh, "Ain't nowhere like the black." he added mostly to himself.  Then came to a stop as he almost passed right by the Blind Man's Eye.

"Well, here's the place." Kale said and stepped inside.

Lei looked up at the building. She couldn't really see any difference between it and all the other buildings they'd walked past, each place was as colorful as the next. Sure, there were many small differences between the stores they'd walked past, but they just made that place part of the colorful riot of the city. After a gentle nudge from Geoff to send her towards the door, she followed the captain inside.

Geoff nodded at the place, smiling wistfully as he did so. "This'll be a good time..." he said as he moved inside after gently making sure Lei would move inside before him. A bar was definitely a place to keep an eye on the girl, he figured, so he followed closely after Lei, making sure to keep an eye on her and those around her.

The Blind Man's Eye was draped in colorful tapestries (much like the rest of the city).  Tables littered the floor and crowds of boisterous people sat around them.  A fairly large cleared area on the right side of the pub served as a make-shift stage where a woman with a tambourine and brightly colored sashes danced to a man playing on a set of drums.

Kale grinned and then led his group to an empty table fairly close to the performing area.  "Ah, just what they say it is." he said, taking a seat.  "An' look, live entertainment and everything."

Acacia walked in and looked around the place.  It seemed nice, well at least it was new people, she loved her shipmates, but gee did she wish to kill em sometimes, well, at least most of the males.  “So,”  Acacia said trying for a low mysterious whisper,  “What kind of nefarious plan are we enacting in this establishment?”

Geoff grinned as he placed a hand on Lei's shoulder to guide her to the table and gestured for her to take a seat as he himself sat down, glancing to the stage. "Well, that's right nice there, Cap'n. Right nice. Better than some o' the other places I've been in." he remarked as he grinned over to the captain, "Here's hopin' the drinks are as good as the entertainment..."

"No nefarious plans, Acacia." Kale said in mock offense, "Well, perhaps a bit business dealing if we happen to come across it.  Folk like us need work."

"It's a shame, having to breathe stale ship air every day."  Charlie spoke, taking in a deep breath as she did, tilting her head back.  There was nothing more wondrous than the night, especially in a place like this.  There was a moment of pout in her face as they went inside, but it passed immediately at the lush atmosphere of The Blind Eye.

"I love this planet.  You're buying the first round, right Cap'n?"

“Yeah Charlie-girl I thought I heard him volunteer that while we were still on Destiny.  After all, a gentleman should always buy a lady her dinner and drinks.”  Acacia looked innocent.  She leaned to Charlie and whispered, “I sure hope he is, cause I forgot to bring money along.”

A young woman in her early twenties stood behind them.  She was dressed more like a dancer than a waitress.  She definitely had the build of a dancer.  She was wearing gray tights with  a matching leotard and a contrasting skirt.  She smiled at them, her hands clasped in front of her..

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Blind Man’s Eye, I’m Wei-Li and I will be your waitress for the evening.”

She looked around the table and smiled.  "Could I interest you in some drinks, or perhaps something from our kitchen?”

Lei stared around wide eyed as Geoff guided her over to the table. There were so many people in here! More than Lei could remember seeing in one place before. And they were all talking about different things... So many conversations. She sat down where Geoff showed her to, then sat up straight, craning her neck to see over the heads of the crowd to try to take in everything happening in the room.

Kale laughed at Charlie's request, "I suppose I owe to you all." he looked up at the attractive woman who had just introduced herself as their waitress and smiled. "We'll have a round of the finest ale you got.  See, I ain't even skimping out on my crew." he said pointedly to everyone then his eyes fell on Lei, "Oh and how 'bout a fizzy drink for the lil' lady here."

Geoff looked to the waitress with an appraising glance before smiling lightly and nodding as the captain ordered. "Yep, that's good there. Not one to skimp, our captain is. Uh...considerin' that, I'm sure he wouldn't mind if maybe ya could bring me a bottle or two or three of that stuff though. Just ta save ya repeated trips, dong ma?" he remarked with a sheepish chuckle.

Wei-Li smiled at them all and nodded, writing down the order.  "Four ales and... would the young lady like a fruity fizzy drink or a cola fizzy drink?"

She paused politely waiting for an answer.

Lei focused her attention on Wei-Li. She'd been asked something... Well, it didn't really make much difference, it would still be new to her.  "Fruity?"

"I ain't payin' for all that." Kale said, as Geoff ordered a few bottles, he leaned in towards the waitress, "In fact how much is this all gonna be?  'Cause I wager this one here," he cast a look in Geoff's direction, "Will be good and drunk before the nights out and we might be able to 'borrow' his money." Kale grinned widely, "I ain't made of money, and we're runnin' low ‘til we get us a job."

Wei-Li nodded as she made notes in her order pad.  "Four ales, one fruity fizzy drink, three...? bottles of ale"

She looked at them for a confirmation and then smiled.  "Alright then, I'll have your drinks for you in a few minutes and if you'd like anything to eat, our menu is on your table..."

She looked at the order and quickly added it up in her head.  "So far, that would be c21 for the full order,  c12 for the ale and the fizzy, and 9 for the bottles"

She paused looking for the man's approval.  She nodded and then moved towards the bar with their order.

Geoff shrugged to the captain and smiled wryly. "Hey, c'mon. Ya can't blame a drunk fer tryin', can ya? 'Sides, I ain't gonna be gettin' that drunk. Gotta watch after the little lady, ya know? I'll just be takin' some o' those bottles ta go. I can get good and drunk on the ship in the privacy o' my bunk." he said to the captain with a laugh and then looked back to the stage..

Charlie sat back in her chair, looking out over the room and it's inhabitants, enjoying the music that came through the air.  More than anything, she was simply happy to not be sick anymore...it was one of those things that just made everything seem sweeter.

"You'd think we'd come to places like this more often.  I wonder why every planet we stop on's gotta be nothin' but sand and rocks.  'Course, that's what most of the under-terraformed worlds are...can't support anythin' like it."  She sighed as she spoke to herself, crossing her arms...

"Well that's the Alliance fer ya.  Can't be bothered with nothing but their precious core worlds, leave the rest of us to rot away on some rocky desert planet with no supplies.  Paquin would be nothing if they hadn't intended it for greater things 'fore the gypsies got hold of it. Course, can't think of many 'greater' things then what it is right now."  Kale loved the gypsy planet, it colorful streets and vibrant culture.  If it had become some hoity-toity theatre world the only person who would be happy right now would be that hun dun Kyron.

"I personally think it's one of the best places I've been in the 'verse.  Were I not on a crew, I'd come here and remain.  Straight over Whitefall."  She smirked, nodding as she spoke.  "Alliance ain't naturally bad, Cap'n.  You can't blame all th'world on them.  I mean, surely they've taken a few shots at us, and I don't hafta start on the war.  But, y'know..."  She lowered her voice, losing the smirk for a second.  "They're not the ones shipping kids'n boxes, right?  That's just evil people..."

Acacia frowned, “Can we not talk about that please, I still feel guilty about that whole situation.” she looked to her friends with eyes that looked filled with hurt.

Lei listened to the captain with interest. She didn't really know much about the Alliance or interplanetary politics, although the captain didn't really seem to be the best source on such things. She'd only ever heard him complaining about the Alliance, and never really going into the details of why they were so bad...

She gave a small shudder when Charlie bought up the box, wishing she didn't remind her of it.

Kale didn't reply, just nodded.  He'd actually been thinking a lot about what Charlie had just said, about the Alliance not being the ones keeping kids in boxes.  Perhaps it was just his prejudice against the Alliance, but that place on Londinium - those ships that had chased after them ... those crazy scientists were well funded.  And good funding came from one of two places: very prominent crime circles ... or the Alliance.

He didn't want to think on that now however, so he turned his attention back to the performance space where the dancing woman's act seemed to be winding down a bit.

Geoff shrugged as he continued to look to the dancer on stage. "Ya ask me, I rather like the underdeveloped places. Wide open and such. If the alliance would just get 'em supplies more often, they'd be downright pleasant to stay at. I always liked the wide open spaces and some o' the more honest hard work sometimes." he said with a wistful grin, "Though I'd miss the fightin'. Quite a bit."

Wei-Li returned with the drinks and carefully placed them on the table in front of their respective owners, then waited quietly for payment.

Kale counted out the bills and slid it across the table to the woman with a smile as the crowd erupted into applause as the lady finished her dance and cleared the performance space.  The music died down for a second and then started up again.

It's obvious that things had gotten awkward when she brought up the crates, but Charlie wasn't necessarily embarrassed by it.  Years of flying with Kale had given Charlie one thing, which was the ability to usually guess what was on his mind.  It just took someone to say it, that's all.  When the drinks arrived, Charlie took hers, smiling a bit and holding it up.  "Someone's gonna toast, right?"

Acacia looked at the ale for a bit, she hadn't drank alcohol in a long time.  Mostly just because she hadn't had any, and what she did have access too tended to be too strong.  She took the ale and proceeded to drink it happily.  A free beverage is a free beverage.

Geoff had taken his drink and the three bottles with a nod and a smile to the waitress. When he noted that the performance on stage had come to an end, he had also added his own applause to the already loud cheering that erupted. He then looked over to Charlie and shrugged. "Uh...I ain't the toastin' type. But if somebody's gonna they best do it fast 'cause I ain't waitin' very long 'fore I drink...

Kale smiled at his crew and held up his glass. "To Destiny - our home.  And to destiny - our future.  May they both keep us safe."

Charlie smiled, tapping her glass against the Captain's.  "To Destiny."

Geoff raised his glass at Kale's words and smiled widely. "Nicely said there, Cap'n. That there is somethin' I can drink to." He then looked to Lei where she sat and smiled lightly, tapping his glass against hers. "Ain't that right, little lady? Destiny sure enough is somethin' ta drink to with a smile on yer face..." he said with a chuckle as he also turned his attention to the floor show that seemed to be starting.

Wei-Li gave Kale a quick bow for the money and quickly moved towards the back of the Tavern.  She handed her serving tray and apron off to another waitress and moved into position.

As the music changed she took a deep breath.  This was their cue.  She had just enough time to take a deep breath before she began her tumbling run towards the stage where the other acrobats where gathering in a similar fashion.

The reached the stage in layers, the tallest acrobats landing on their mark first, then the next line, then the last three, with Wei-Li arriving just behind the other two.

The floor show had begun

Kale turned his attention to the performance space then where their little waitress was suddenly running on stage. "Gao ghun!" he said and applauded loudly, drinking deeply from his glass of ale.

Lei looked up as Geoff clunked his glass against hers, just as she was about to take another sip, too... Still, Destiny was a good thing. She gave Geoff a small smile before taking another big sip and turning to watch where he was looking. She looked at the people on the stage with amazement for how easily they moved.

The acrobats moved like a machine with only a few loose cogs.  Wei-Li lost herself in the tumbling and acrobatic moves weaving in between the threads of the music and conversations.

Three ropes descended from the ceiling as the three smallest performers were lifted up to meet the descending ropes.  The three of them moved almost in unison as they slipped their wrists into the straps on the ropes and were lifted up to an awaiting trapeze setup.

Geoff, for once in his life, was focusing on something other than liquor, fighting or an attractive young woman while in a bar. Well, technically you could still say he was focusing on an attractive young woman, but now it was more out of awe than lust. "Ta ma de... that is ruttin' impressive. Reminds me of some o' the tumblers back home that would perform on the streets for money....except much better trained and far more attractive. All I used ta do is juggle. I can still do that when the occasion calls, but that ain't nothin' compared to that there show they're puttin' on. Ai ya..." he remarked with a grin.

Kale nodded in a agreement and watched with a smile on his face.  He sure did love Paquin.  "See, now we gotta learn how to do stuff like that?  Think of how useful it'd be a good brawl." Kale said with a grin to Geoff ... show him something pretty and he still could relate it back to work.

Geoff just laughed at the captain's comment, not taking his eyes of the performance as he did. "Yeah, sure, cap'n. I just bet that would impress the hell outta some o' the fella’s we deal with. Just think, we'd be kickin' their ruttin' asses so long as we had some o' those ropes and swings that these here people got. Not ta mention the snazzy outfits..." he remarked in a wry tone, "I can picture it now. We'd back flip the hell outta them. It'd be great. Heh."

"Hey, I'd put in just ta see ya in the snazzy outfit, you'd look so pretty Geoff, so very pretty." Kale laughed and took another drink.

Geoff chuckled again. "C'mon now, Cap'n. You know it would only take one good night of drinking ta get me into an outfit like that..." he said and laughed,"'Sides, you and I both know that I'm so very pretty no matter what I wear. I'm just cursed with this animal magnetism, dong ma?" He laughed again as he took a drink and continued to watch the acrobats.

Lei quickly glanced at Geoff, trying to picture him in one of the acrobat's outfits. Somehow the image just seemed wrong. She almost spilt the last of her drink trying to drink and hold back the laugh at the same time.

"Well as long as you got that snazzy hat of yers, I imagine you can pull off just about any ensemble." Kale said, chuckling at Geoff's comment.  It'd been too long since he was last able to just relax and enjoy a good drink, good company and good entertainment.

Geoff seemed to literally puff up with pride as he angled the hat to give him a bit of a roguish air...at least he thought it gave him a bit of a roguish air. "Damn straight I can. This here hat is the best thing I ever stole...uh...got....no, let's go back ta stole. Makes me look damn good. Shoulda gotten more of 'em..." he remarked.

Acacia smiled, the hat did suit him.  She looked around the room taking in the sights.  She drained her ale, she would have to be careful she never could hold her alcohol well, mostly due to size and lack of actual drinking amount.  She glanced over to the captain. “Ya looking for someone?  Cause I could help ya look.  By the way does you generosity extend to food and more drinks?”

"Maybe one more round ... and appetizers, maybe appetizers, but let's take it easy.  You'd think I was king of the whole gorram 'verse the way you guys keep tryin' to get money outta me." Kale said, and clapped his hands as their waitress executed a flipping dive thing from the top of pyramid into others outstretched arms.

Geoff scoffed lightly and shrugged. "C'mon now, Cap'n. We know ya ain't king of the 'verse. That's my ruttin' job, after all." he said with a laugh, "I will be takin' that other round though. This one won't be lastin' that much longer." He chuckled as he drained his glass, keeping an eye on the acrobats.

"Okay, but I only got on me -" Kale trailed off as he reached into his pocket for his money.  That's odd.  He checked his other pocket.

"Gao yang zhong de gu yang!" Kale cursed, "Someone swiped my gorram wallet!  Didn't even see the little bugger.  He chu sheng za jiao de zang huo!"  He glanced around the pub to see if anyone was looking furtively over at their table, but just then applause broke out as the acrobats finished their act, and people started getting up and moving about.

Geoff looked to the captain with a look part amusement and part worry. "Wait, wait. Yer gorram wallet got lifted?! That ain't good." he said as he looked about for anybody who looked like they may have been the culprit, trying to keep a light laugh from coming from him. It was funny to him, mostly because it wasn't his money that was stolen. He did know, however, that if he didn't manage to help the captain catch the bastard that robbed him, he wasn't going to get anymore liquor. That was less funny. So he stood and looked over the crowd, cursing lightly as people started milling about and obscuring his view. He stood taller than most but it didn't matter if the pickpocket hid among the crowd.

Lei swiveled around on her chair to see what the captain was complaining about.  She thought it was rather foolish of him to have lost his wallet, after all, he was the one that warned everyone to keep an eye on their belongings earlier. Seeing Geoff start to scan the crowd, she decided to do the same, although she wasn't sure what she was looking for... She climbed up to stand on her seat to get a better view.

Wei-Li nearly missed her mark as she landed from the final sequence.  She had noticed that one of her customers was doing the 'Paquin pat' the motion of desperate pats one made when they noticed their wallet was missing.

That meant some one had let one of the local thieves in, or a new one had come in.  Pickpockets in the club were bad for business.  It meant that customers couldn’t pay—and unless theft could be proven more often than not, the victim and their server split the loss.

As she took her bows she looked for any of the people on the banned list and any new comers.  She almost missed them as they walked towards the rest room and another man bumped into him.

The exchange was slow—that meant they had more than one wallet.  She nodded to one of her troupe who simply smiled and headed towards the rest rooms.  Let the management take care of that one… She had plans for the ‘catcher.’

Wei-Li kept an eye on her target as she retrieved her apron and tray.  There were more than one reason that there were mirrors along the molding.    She smiled.  The target was in the corner near the food counter.  She quickly moved in.

Walking past the bar, she grabbed one of the ‘dummy wallets’ with the tracking device built in.   Now the game began.  Her taking the dummy would alert security that she was playing and targeting a pick pocket.

If she was right, she would have another mark next to her name on the board, if she was wrong, or missed the switch, she would lose all her points and lose performance privileges for a week.

Wei-Li didn’t like to lose.

She slipped the dummy wallet under her tray and then lost her footing just as she reached the catcher.  The exchange was reasonably graceful, but the man knew he’d been had.

As he ran to the door an alarm went off and a bar gate fell in front of him blocking his way.  Amused, Wei-Li watched.  As the man was handcuffed by the bouncers Wei-Li held up the confiscated wallets in triumph

Kale's head turned as a great deal of commotion towards the front of the pub caught his attention.  A loud beeping sound filled The Blind Man's Eye and Kale could just make out a barred grate slamming down and their waitress with a triumphant look on her face holding up a burlap sack.  Kale laughed, "Looks like I wasn't the only one to be had."

Acacia decided to give Kale a hard time.  She lowered her voice some, “The great Kale Galway, got pick pocketed.”  It was all she could do to not break out into laughter.

Geoff had been looking about when he heard an alarm go off and his hands went instinctively to his pistols. Alarms usually meant bad things for Geoff and, even though he had done literally nothing wrong this time, he was still instinctually wary of the sound of them. He relaxed though as he saw a man apprehended at the door and he saw the woman who had served them watching nearby, holding something up with a triumphant look upon her face. What the hell? That's some pretty good security" he remarked with a shake of his head.

Two of the bouncers lifted Wei-Li on their shoulders and set her down on the bar, where she began opening the wallets and calling their owners up.

In all she called four names, and each time the victim came forward and claimed their wallet to the good natured cheers of the audience.  Then the excitement was over, and everything was over.

Wei-Li made a slight bow and flipped off the bar, picking up her tray on the way.  One more round of the game won.

"Ta shi suo you di yu de biao zi de ma." Kale said when his name wasn't called, "What are the odds, I get pick pocketed by the thief that's actually good and gets away." Kale frowned not happy about this, not happy at all, then he noticed their waitress heading their way ...

Wei-Li was still smiling when she reached their table. “Well, that was fun,“ she said fanning herself with her order book.  “Did you want more drinks?” She asked as she began clearing the table.

She bent over the table slightly, slipping Kale his wallet with a slight wink.  With the glasses collected she waited for their order.

Geoff had watched the spectacle with a smile and a laugh, shaking his head. "Ruttin' hell. This is like a gorram game to them. Ai ya. I'd hate to have grown up here. I woulda ended up caught by the pretty ladies all the time. I'm pretty easily distracted and this woulda been one huge distraction back in my pickpocket days, dong ma? " he remarked with another laugh.

He sat down and grinned as the waitress gave Kale's wallet back and then looked to the captain with an arched brow. "Well, well. She must like ya, Cap'n. Treatin' ya special like." he remarked with a grin, "So.. 'nother round, Cap'n?"

Kale offered an appreciative smile up at the woman, "Thank you, ma’am." he said quietly, then turned back to his crew and smile, "One more round, and then ya'll can start buying yer own way.  No more freebies ‘til we get us some work."

Geoff grinned and nodded enthusiastically as he looked to the waitress. "Ya heard the cap'n! One more round!" he remarked with a wide smile. More liquor meant more happy time for Geoff. It's a very simple equation and one Geoff holds very dear to his heart.

“Hey Kale can I borrow some money till we get back to the ship, I didn't exactly remember to bring my money.”  she blew a stray bang out of her eye, she had hoped for a free night.  She decided to drink another but she knew she would be starting to be quite a bit tipsy.

Lei looked up questioningly at the serving girl. She'd seen most of what happened, but was still putting the why of it all together in her head... Just one last thing she didn't understand properly yet.

"Why'd you drop something in his pocket?" she asked, waving vaguely towards where the culprit was being harassed by the door security.

Wei-Li stood with her pen over her order pad, as Geoff spoke she began writing and nodded.  She looked up when Lei spoke, surprised by the young lady’s question.  Then she smiled.  “That’s the way the game is played… I took a wallet from the bar that we use to identify people we think are stealing from the customers.  When they get near the door with it, the alarm goes off and the bouncers hold him until we determine if the waiter or waitress was right… ”  She paused, watching to see if Lei understood the game.

Geoff couldn't help but whistle lightly in appreciation for such a well thought out game. "Ruttin' hell. I definitely woulda been busted if I had grown up 'round here. Way too smart for me." he remarked in a low voice, shaking his head and smiling.

Lei nodded that she understood. She'd tagged the guy. And the watchers at the door got him because of the tag. It all made sense. Lei sat down on her chair properly again, and finished off her drink. She sat there lost in thought, rubbing the mark on her forearm with her thumb. She was tagged too...

Wei-Li smiled.  "Pickpockets are bad for business,” she said.  “Customers with no money tend to call the evening short….”

She shrugged, “So we have the game… ”  She decided not to point out the fact that it was a skill they all tended to have.  Then she perked up.  “Did anyone want something to eat? she asked.

Kale eyed the woman for a moment, "Seems like the hired hands are just as skilled as the crooks in the art pick-pocketing." he mused, if Lei was right in what she saw then this woman must have been able to slip the tagged wallet in the thieves pocket without being noticed, not an easy slight of hand.  "You don't play a pro ... unless your better then him." Kale said, keeping eye-contact.  A woman of many trades - acrobatics, pick-pocketing ... waitressing being just a cover for them all he'd guess.

"I'll have nothing to eat, thank you, and if they all want somethin' then they can pay fer that outta their own pockets - 'cept for you Doc, you're hungry you can order a bite ta eat since you didn't bring no cash."

Geof just shrugged at the captain's words about the waitress. He had found that just about everybody had some sort of hidden skills they didn't put out in the open so he took such things in stride. So Geoff just scoffed at the offer of food. "Food? Naw, screw that. Just liquor...uh...leastwise fer me, just liquor." he said with a sheepish grin towards the rest of the crew at the table, "Dunno if y'all want somethin' ta eat. How’s 'bout you, Little Lady? Ya want somethin' ta eat? I got some cash on me if ya do."

Wei-Li gave Kale a slightly bashful shrug, feigning innocence.  “When you grow up around here… you learn a lot of different things,” she admitted.  “Some of us grow out of the ‘bad’ habits, others find new ways to use them… ”

Lei looked up from examining her arm. She was getting a little hungry, so she nodded to Geoff's question.  Her finger stayed tracing the barcode on her arm.

Geoff nodded to Lei, smiling a bit and then looked to the waitress with a grin. "Ok, then. What can I get ta eat fer the little lady fer...uh...hold on a bit..." he said as he bent down, pulled off his right boot and pulled a few crumpled bills from it, "Ok...what can I get fer....5?...no, 6....yeah. What can I get for c6? Hold on wait....aha!! 7!! I knew I had another one in there!"

Wei-Li smiled and looked up as if reading the menu from the ceiling, but simply remembering the contents of the menu and picking things that were 'safe'.  "Lets see, One mini-za, or an order of protein fingers, a soy-burger with fries and a pie.. no, forget the pie... " she said shaking her head.  "You could get the cheddar fries, or two small chili’s... or a small cheddar fry and a chili..."

She looked back at them. "There are other items on the menu but…“ She bit her lip and shook her head.

Geoff looked thoughtful for a bit and looked to Lei as if he were going to ask her if any of that sounded good before remembering that she wouldn't know if it did or not. She only seemed to know about what he had given her onboard Destiny and that really wasn't much at all. So he sighed and shrugged as he looked to the Wei-Li with a sheepish grin. "Uh...I guess the mini-za. I guess. Yeah, yeah. That'll be good. Get her that."

Wei-li nodded, noting the order on a separate page.  She handed Geoff his bill, and Kale his, which looked just a little thicker.

Kale grabbed his bill and slowly unfolded it, a little afraid at how much he was spending at this here establishment - he glanced down at the small slip of paper and his eyebrows raised.  Written in neat, small hand-writing was: If you have a ship and don't mind hiring out for a series of black-walks... I want to hire you.

Kale looked up and glanced around the pub, looking to see if there was anyone watching him open the bill.  He saw no one, whoever had slipped him the note was remaining hidden to him.  Unless ... his eyes scanned the room for their waitress, she wasn't looking at him but something told him that it had been her.  She had written this little note.  So there was more to the woman then met the eye.  He pulled out his wallet and selected the righ amount of cash, then looked around for a pen.  He stopped a waitress serving at the table next to there’s, "You wouldn't mind if I borrowed that right quick?" he asked, without waiting for a reply.  He scribbled on the back of the paper: Meet me at Caravan City Docks when you get off - the ships named Destiny.

Then he folded it up with the bill and his money and waited for the woman to return.

Wei-li made the rounds to the other tables she was serving, then returned with the drinks and the food.  Then she collected the money and went to make change.  When she read Kale's note she smiled.  Providence seemed to be looking out for both of them tonight.

She returned with the change and thanked them.  She handed Geoff his change, and Kale his.  "Thank you" she said, then faded back into the background.

With Kale's change was a short note: I get off at 02:00

Kale pocketed the note, and began mulling over what someone like the young waitress could possibly be hiring a ship out for.  He took another deep drink of his second round of ale.  Suppose he'd find out soon enough, not much use in speculating.

Charlie took another slow drink from the ale, setting it down on the table as she looked around.  There was a smirk at the corner of Kale's mouth that she noticed.  She'd been around him long enough to know that, while he would find things good time to time, there's only one thing that made him smile when there wasn't a direct source for it.  That meant there was a good chance that they would be leaving soon, of course.  Of course, she was the only one who would actually be upset about that, knowing the way things went.  Best to make the use of it.

"Cap'n...if ya don't mind, y'think it'd be okay if I were to go back t'the ship?  Or, y'know...around it..."  She spoke with a raised eyebrow, smiling at him best he could.

Kale looked up somewhat distractedly when Charlie spoke.  He was mentally figuring out how much fuel they had and what prepares needed to be done and what re-stocking was necessary and how much that would all cost ... and how much he was hoping to get for this next job - if it turned out to be worth their while.  He shook his head though, pushing those thoughts to the back of his mind and focusing on Charlie.

"I don' mind, yer a big girl.  'Course you best be careful - it's dark out and these streets may seem all kinds of pleasin' but best remember that's mainly to distract ya from the not so pleasin' aspects."

"Well, I'm supposin' a gentleman would walk me to th'boat."  She smirked at the captain, lifting the mug to drink the rest of the ale, and then setting it down.  "I suppose I'll just be goin' by my lonesome, though..."

Geoff grinned at the captain at Charlie's words and shook his head. "Well, there ya go, Cap'n. Time fer ya to be a gentlemen, or at least ta do a reasonable impersonation o' one, and walk her ta the ship. 'Sides, ya stay here any longer and yer likely ta get robbed again. Most likely by me when I make ya buy another round..." he remarked as he finished off his drink.

Kale grinned at his crew, "Never professed ta bein' a gentleman, but I suppose I'm all done here, actually -" Kale paused took picked up his glass and drained it, "Now, I'm all done here."  He stood up, pulled Charlie's chair back from the table slightly and did a terrible replica of a bow, holding out his hand to her, "And now Lady Charlie - or uh, Charlene is it?  Care for an escort back ta the boat?"

Charlie smirked at the Captain's comments, looking over at Geoff.  "See, now, look what you started.  We can't do unrespectable business if he's gonna go and get himself a suit, can we?"  She took his hand and stood up, doing a mock bow in return, smiling back at the captain.  "Sure thing, Cap'n...or Kale, if we're bein' all respectable and such.  I'm not askin' for trim'n proper, otherwise we'd be havin' Kyoko at a place like this.  I just...need t'talk about somethin', y'know?"

“I will go along, although I'm not volunteering as an escort.  Especially since I won't be of any help for this.”   Acacia folded her hand on the table.  Her head was swimming a bit, from the alcohol. “So then who is escorting the two of us back?”

"Believe yer supposed to be doin' the curtseyin'" Kale corrected Charlie as she bowed back to him, with a huge grin on his face, then started laughing. "An' that's enough of that. Let's get outta here." he started heading for the door and then turned back, "You make sure Lei gets back alright." he said to Geoff and then walked outside.

Geoff simply laughed and shrugged at Charlie's words as he opened up one of the bottles of liquor he had been thinking about saving and took a drink. He'd probably head to the ship soon enough too, but he wanted to soak in the atmosphere a bit more before he left. Geoff could never tell when or if it would be his last chance to take in some sights, after all. Especially in the sort of business he's in. "Sure enough, Cap'n. Y'all have a nice walk. I'll be stayin' fer a bit."

"Apparently, the Captain, in the company of two women.  Scandalous, isn't it?  Unless you're goin' back with Geoff...it's all your choosin‘, I'm sure."  Charlie smiled as she spoke to Acacia, turning back around to follow Kale out of the establishment.  Acacia taking up the rear.

Geoff looked to the now mostly empty table and laughed to himself. "Jeez, do I know how to clear a place or don't I, little lady? I'd almost be insulted if I weren't so happy ta be outta the ship for a bit." he said to Lei with a grin and a light pat on her shoulder, "Least you stayed ta keep me company a bit. Nice of ya. Though ya ain't never been much fer the talkin'. I respect that, though."

Lei nodded at Geoff, but kept watching the stage. When nothing appeared to be going on up there, she started watching the crowd. Maybe she'd see another pickpocket, or something like that. It looked like that was something worth learning to keep an eye out for... Especially after seeing the captain lose out the way he did earlier.

After about 15 minutes the lights dimmed slightly and Wei-Li and another of the acrobats moved to the stage again.  This time they kept their trays with them.  As they reached the stage two men came forward, lighting the oil lamps that were on their trays.

The music started up, this time with a percussive beat.  They moved, mirror images of each other.  As they danced, they spun the trays around them low and then high, always swirling.  Slowly they dropped to their knees and set the trays behind them.  Then, in time to the music, they picked up the lamps, one in each hand and began moving them around in loops, with the lamp always balanced in the palm of their hands.

Lei's attention went back to the stage. She turned around and knelt on her chair, resting her arms and head on the back of it. She watched the performance on stage, following the movement of the acrobats, and tracing the patterns that the lamps made with her eyes. Smiling slightly, she started trying to guess which way the acrobats would move before they did.

Geoff looked to the stage as a new bit of distraction seemed to start up. "Well, ruttin' hell. One thing I can say fer this place, ain't ever borin'." He said as he watched the spectacle on the stage, "Ain't never borin'...and pretty easy on the eyes."

As the two women danced, the tempo increased until the fire seemed to surround them.  They moved, completely lost in the dance as they began intertwining.  As the music reached a crescendo, they finished so that one was behind the other, one raising their flame as the other lowered theirs.

Then, on the final beat, the woman in front performed a split as the other woman lifted her lantern high.  They bowed and then blew out their candles.  The room was dark for a moment, but when the lights came back on—the two women had vanished off stage.

Geoff smiled widely and clapped a bit as the women bowed and found himself pretty impressed with their disappearing trick. He figured there was some sort of trick to it, a trap door in the stage or something such as that, but it was still a neat trick. He then sighed and took one last pull from the bottle he had opened before placing the empty on the table and looking to Lei. "Well, that's enough o' the outside fer me today. We should probably be headin' back to the boat anyway. Come on, Little Lady." he said as he stood up, grabbing the two bottles that were still closed, and then looked to Lei to wait for her to walk in front of him so he could keep an eye on her.

Lei was getting good at predicting the performers movements. Their dance was following a pattern, and she thought that she'd figured out what the pattern was. The trails of fire were starting to draw circles in the air, and where the fire twirled helped to dictate where the dancer would have to go next. And then the tempo increased, and the movements were slaved even more to the music and the dancer's previous movements. And then it finished.

It was too dark for Lei to see when they disappeared from the stage. Maybe Geoff saw, he was slightly higher up than Lei. “Geoff, where'd they go?”  Looking up she saw Geoff wanting to leave, she climbed to her feet. "Okay."

Geoff grinned at Lei and placed a hand on her shoulder to guide her out of the bar. "Well, ya see, it's a trick. A bit of a slight o' hand on such. Hard ta say how they did it really, but it's really all 'bout the distraction. Fer that little bit o' time that the lights went out, our attention couldn't be on them so they slipped away, probably through a trap door or somethin' in the stage. Ain't that mysterious or anythin'. Just all about bein' able ta fake 'em out. Any good hustler can do it." he remarked in answer to her question about the women's disappearance. He had considered just saying that it had been magic and leave it at that, but Geoff had never believed in magic as a child, having been on the other end of the sleight of hand or "magic" tricks too many times to believe in them, so he didn't think too much of telling Lei the truth as he saw it. He shrugged lightly as he gently guided her by the shoulder towards the exit and outside, heading for the docks.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kale, Charlie, and Acacia emerged onto a large dirt patch littered with ships of different shapes and sizes, although there tended to be nothing too fancy - Paquin being a bit remote to attract any of the upper class.  A few people milled about here and there.  Along behind the ships was a small grassy rise that looked over the valley below.

Charlie followed with Kale and Acacia, looking up at the stars as she walked, breathing in the night air.  "You miss it, right Cap'n?  Y'know, the trees'n the dirt and all'f that?  You never seem real happy unless were out at sea, y'know?  I'm not tryin' to say that we shouldn't fly, I'm just...y'know, askin..."

Kale slowed his pace, coming to walk beside the two women, considering what Charlie said.  He looked around him, at the dirt road, and the trees poking out around the buildings.  Felt the breeze gently graze his skin, and then he looked up, up at the billions of stars and at the black in between.  He sighed, "Ain't so much a matter of missin' it ... bein' planetside is nice but, well, its just-  it ain't home ... hasn't been fer a long time ..." Kale found himself thinking about his homecoming to Santo after the war, the familiar landscape all of a sudden such a stranger to him.  Everything taken away.  Still looking at the sky he echoed his thoughts, " Here everything can be taken away ... The Alliance can do that ... it can steal the land right out from under your feet, literally - and in a not so literal sense.  But the black - well, no one could ever take that from you."

"Yeah, I know, but it's still pretty.  'sides, the Alliance can't rule everything out here...it's inevitable that they can.  I mean, y'can feel their touch everywhere you go, but...y'know."  She managed another smirk, looking back towards the dirt road they walked on, smiling at the ambient sounds of nature along with people.  "I'm sorry.  It's just, anythin' that reminds me of Whitefall just get me, y'know...all sortsa sentimental."

She looks behind them, making sure that they've stepped far enough from the tavern, leaning over to the captain.  "I have a real question, though.  Better reason t'get you out here than just to get an escort, that's for sure..."

With the fogginess in her head the doctor walked around with a slight frivolity.  She ran to catch up with the other two. “So we are running right back to the ship then?” she said, much louder then needed.

Kale grinned at the slightly intoxicated Acacia, "Yeah, doc.  We're headin' back to the boat."

Then he turned his attention back to Charlie, his curiosity peaked. "You got somethin' on yer mind, lil' Charlie?"

"Yeah, I do."  She scratched the back of her neck, looking down at the dirt as they walked, taking a moment before she said anything.  She wasn't exactly sure what reaction to expect in the next few moments.  "What are we doing about...well...y'know, the girl.  Lei.  I mean, I know we can't be leavin' her, but what we do?  It's...y'know, is that the life a kid's needin?  She doesn't have any family that we could be gettin' her back to?"

Kale sighed, he'd been thinking a lot about that too.  It was a liability to have a kid out in the black on his boat.  They didn't exactly live the most respectable of lives - or the safest.  That was pretty well proved with the incident with Tate.  Kale scratched the back of his neck, the day of the funeral he ... well, the coffins were just so tiny - no reason for coffins to be that small.

"I ain't rightly sure about that yet.  We can't just drop her off anywhere - and no ones been able ta get much out of her.  Far as I know, she don't got no family fer us to be returning her to.  And I'll be shot dead before I'd take her back to Valon.  And Geoff -" Kale trailed off.  They all knew that Geoff had taken it especially hard with Tate's death and now he'd kinda adopted Lei, taken her under his wing. "I ain't sure what would be right."

"I'm...I just don't want t'see her hurt.  She's already been tested, diseased, and shipped.  Both of th'kids that came with her are dead now, y'know?  I'm not sayin' that we should just leave her in worse hands, but...well...I don't want t'see her hurt.  I know you feel the same.  I'm just...I want to know if there's a plan there, y'know?"  She sighed, looking back at Kale.

"I mean...Paquin's one of th'nicer places, ain't it?  Ren could be attestin' to that, I'm sure.  It's probably the nicest place we're gonna land on in the next couple months, less she takes a shiny to another one'f these dirt planets we're always on.  I'm just sayin', y'know...establishing a forum on the subject.  I trust what'cha say is right and what isn't, Cap'n...but you haven't said much on the matter."

They reached the ramp that led up to Destiny and Kale took a seat on it. "I ain't just gonna dump her off on someone - not that I know anyone to dump her off to.  And what else then?  An orphanage?  What kinda life is that?  I say - well I say, she just stays righ' where she's at.  Girl like that needs routine right?  Familiar territory, and we're the most familiar ta her then anythin' else." Kale didn't want to just abandon her, he didn't know much about children but ... "I mean, would you leave her here?"

"Cap'n...Kale...I'm not sayin' that we abandon here, nothin' like that.  I'm just...I don't want t'see anyone get hurt.  Look at me, right?  I mean...I just fix Destiny, I don't do any dealing’s that you and Rhaef'n Ren go out on.  I've also got, y'know, a collection of scars from bullet grazes, a couple knife wounds, even some other things I'd rather not talk on."  Charlie broke the subject, smiling at Acacia as she walked up.  She sat down onto the ground, taking off her boots slowly, letting her toes spread out in the dirt.

“So what we talkin bout?” Acacia asked, she had a big grin on her face.  In fact it was the first time they had seen her smile in a long time.

"Y'know, Acacia...talkin' about our newest member to th'crew, that's all."  She smirked, looking back at Kale.  "So that's what she is, then...crew?  Or passenger?"

Kale smiled appreciatively at Acacia, glad to see her smiling again.  He knew that the children’s deaths were hard on everyone, and he knew that Charlie just didn't want to see one more kid meet an untimely end. "We'll just keep her safe.  Make sure she doesn't go runnin' about all over the place when dangers afoot.  I mean, we ain't always in trouble ... just sometimes ... or well, lotsa times ... I mean, there was that one time when, when we had that nice simple job, remember that one time?" Kale said.  "I suppose fer now she's a passenger.  Ain't gonna be expectin' her to do real work."

Charlie looked down at her feet, biting her lower lip.  Kale had said that he didn't know what to make of it, but it was pretty clear he had his mind already set on what to do.  She didn't really expect otherwise...and since he had made up his mind, as it seemed, she wasn't one to oppose.  "Cap'n, I'm not sayin' that she has to go or anythin', y'know that, right?  I'm just...I don't want to see anyone hurt.  I'm just not so sure that, stayin' with us on Destiny, we can see that happenin.  I'm just worryin', don't mind it..."

Charlie shrugged off the rest of the comment, letting out a sigh and laying onto her back, looking up at the stars beyond the bow of Destiny.  Not much sense in letting it go on beyond that, if that's all the farther it would intend to go.

Acacia walked over to her friend,   “She's got no on though Charlie-girl.  I don't wish anyone to be alone.  The verse is a big place.  At least here she would have us, and we are pretty good to each other right?” She nudged Charlie in the ribs slightly when she said the last bit.

"Yeah, yeah..."  She batted away Acacia, letting out a sigh.  "I'm not sayin' that any of us is gonna do anythin' to her, though..."

"I know ya ain't sayin' she has to go Charlie, you got to big a heart.  Yer just worryin' about what's right." he paused, looking up at the stars, "An' I think this is right."

She looked over at Kale, watching him for a moment...she knew at the beginning of the conversation what he would say, that she would stay on board.  It was more important to Charlie, however, that he be aware of that choice.  There was always more than one way outta the fire, like her father used to say.  Charlie crossed her arms behind her head, looking back up at the stars.  "I'm just worryin', Cap'n.  You know me.  Someone on this boat's gotta..."

“Charlie, you do more worrying then all us combined sometimes.” Acacia thought of some of what Kyoko had mentioned about Charlie.  Sighing, she finally agreed she might be right.

Charlie gritted her teeth a bit, listening to Acacia...that was almost backhanded.  Charlie turned her head to Acacia, supporting herself by her elbows.  "Wha's that supposed t'mean?"

“Uh....nothing, sorry, that came out wrong.  I blame the booze.”  Acacia tried the deflect the subject.  Man I really put my foot in my mouth this time. Acacia thought.

"No, I think y'meant somethin'.  Have it out, Acacia."  Charlie pulled herself into a cross-legged position, looking up at the redhead.  She was already in a defensive mood from talking to Kale, this was simply feeding it.  "Y'can blame it on the booze, if y'need..."

"Now ladies-" Kale started but one look shot in his direction from Charlie shut him up for the time being.

Acacia sat down and faced her friend,   “I'm worried sometimes that you care too much.  I'm worried bout you getting hurt.  I know cause it happens to me all the time.  I hate seeing others have to suffer through every hurt like I do.  I might be seeing things after all I've only known you a couple months, but I do think of you like a sister, like one I never got to have growing up,” Acacia smiled, she hoped that helped.  That was what she was thinking before she said it stupidly.

Charlie was quiet for a moment, watching Acacia as she spoke...trying to decide what to make of what was being said to her, no doubt.  She was irritated herself at the world at the moment, and really should just be running it off, or banging away at the inside of the ship.

"I'm not sure what you mean by the idea that I'd be 'caring too much' for anything.  You think I should just be shuttin' down, maybe lettin' y'all crash and such?  Lemme tell ya...I care because that's all I can do.  I don't shoot guns, I'm not dealin' with our clients, I don't have my own shuttle'n run off to do my own business...all I've got's my caring.  I'm the one stoppin' to care whether we can give that lil' girl a life.  I'm the one worryin' about everyone else.  I'm the only one who's worryin' about the fact that we can't stay on this boat 'til we're all grey...maybe I'm the only one wonderin' if we'll make it t'grey.  I'm...ah, jeez, nevermind."  Charlie sighed, standing up and walking a few paces away from where Kale and Acacia were, rubbing the back of her neck as she looked out at the city at night.  "I'm sorry, I'm just...I'm just wound up.  I don't mean what I say, y'know?"

Kale stood up and walked over to Charlie, laying a protective and gentle hand on her shoulder. "It's good you care, Charlie.  You keep us sane up in the black, ain't no one sayin' that we don't appreciate it.  When it come down to it yer the heart of this here ship, ya hear me?" he offered her a smile, "An' I hear it ain't too healthy to have the heart all wound up."

Every time Kale mentioned the word "heart," Charlie felt a pang of guilt grow in her stomach.  Especially when he mentioned something about it not being healthy...well, that's close enough to her.  She shook her head, not looking back at Kale.  "I'm just lettin' off some steam, Cap'n.  I'm not upset.  I'm just...I feel like I'm the only one worried about some of these things that, y'know...things we can be controllin'."

Kale nodded his head. "Ya aren't the only one." he said, and then let the subject drop.  He sat back down on the ramp and glanced down at his watch.  It was getting near 2.  There'd be business to do then, and right now he could do with something to occupy his mind.

Acacia let her go without a word, watched her go.  She couldn't really say anything without causing an argument.  She thought maybe this was where she could get some of her pent up steam out in the open so decided to just let Charlie go off on her.  She just watched and listened.

After a few moments Acacia got up and walked over towards the ramp.  She walked by Charlie, “I'll be in my bunk if you need to talk, you know the door is open to ya.” she said.  She stumbled slightly as she walked up the ramp.  “Thanks for the ale cap, it has definitely allowed me to make a fool of myself.”   She patted him on the shoulder as she walked by and headed to her bunk.

"Night Acacia."  Charlie didn't look over at her, watching the rest of the world, seeing part of the city extend.  The cool breeze rustled through the leaves, stirring up dirt and other such things, sending slight gooseflesh along her arms.

"Cap'n...I'm sorry.  I'm not meanin' to put this all down on you, I just...I wanted to know what your plan on the matter was, y'know?  Where we stood."  She looked back down the road, starting to see figures approach...pretty sure that it was Geoff and Lei, by the sizes of their frames alone.  "Y'know, it's funny...when Geoff first came on board, he was complaining about bein' bored, I told him he should get a pet..."

Kale smirked slightly at Charlie's comment, and watched the two approach them.

Geoff walked lazily down the road, making sure to shorten his stride so he could keep Lei at his side. He smiled to himself, having enjoyed the time off the ship and hanging out with the crew a bit. It was nice to be able to know that he could stop and relax at a port without having to worry about being abandoned because he wasn't needed anymore or couldn't afford to be paid. That had happened to him far too many times in the old days. He sighed and shrugged to himself as he looked to Lei with a grin. "So, how'd ya like the outside? Pretty nice, eh?" he said.

"Pretty." Lei mumbled. She was starting to almost fall asleep on her feet, just seeming to run out of energy quickly. She came in a little closer to Geoff's side and wrapped her hands around his arm, hanging off him for support and letting him steer her as they walked.

Geoff smiled at the obviously tired Lei, shaking his head in amusement. He had almost forgotten that kids don't normally stay out to all hours of the night like he had in his youth and it was getting late. He chuckled as he walked towards the ship, giving a nod to Charlie and Kale as he passed. "Howdy, Cap'n. Hiya, Charlie. Wish I could stay and chat, but the little lady needs ta get her beauty sleep, it seems. See ya later." he remarked as he walked up the ramp and into the ship, guiding Lei in as he did so.

Wei-Li looked at her watch as she reached the docks.  She wished she'd asked what kind of ship she was looking for, but at least she knew the ship's name: 'Destiny'.  She looked at the board to see if it was listed, and cursed because, once again, the listing was in arrival order.  Not anything useful such as NAME.

She sighed, and started down the main row.  Some of the ships were dark, but many kept a spotlight on their name.  She was about to give up, when she noticed the man from the club, sitting on the ramp to a ship.  Looking up, she smiled.  It was the destiny.  She moved forward and stepped into the light, then waited for him to invite her closer.

Charlie saw Wei-Li step up, looking back to the captain.  "Should I be leavin' you for this part?  I mean, this is your kit and such, ain't it?"  She took a few steps up the ramp, brushing her arm against his, whispering as she walked by.

Kale said goodnight to Geoff and Lei, and then looked up to see the young lady from the pub standing in the shadows a few feet away from Destiny.  He looked to Charlie and nods, "Ya, I have a bit of business to attend to, Charlie." he said, not unkindly, but it was clear that he needed to do this business alone.  He didn't like to make deals with all the crew around, especially when it was something like this ... he didn't even know if this would pan out to be an actual job yet.

"Right, Cap'n.  I had things to do anyways."  She smirked, walking back into the ship, humming to herself.

As Charlie disappeared up the ramp he motioned for the woman to come closer. "So, you say you've got a job?"

Wei-Li moved forward until she was standing close enough to Kale to not be overheard, but not so close as to be encroaching on his space.

Kale ran his hand through his hair and took in the woman, trying to get a reading on her, a feel for whether or not he could trust her.  "Must say this ain't how I normally get my business deals.  Clandestine meetings and messages hidden in bills ... What's this job you've got?"

Wei-Li shrugged. "I wasn't planning on looking for a ship for hire until the morning.. but you kinda walked in at the right time...But, Yes... I do have a job, if the price is right, and you don't mind black walks... I'd be doing the walking... there's no worry there but... some folks don't like opening their ship too much in the black."

Kale considered the woman, "Ain't got a problem with black walks long as their done right.  You been up in ships like this before I take it if yer planning on walkin' about on her hull."  A real Jack ... or uh, Jill of all trades he mused.  Now add black walking to the acrobatics, pick-pocketing, slight of hand, and waitressing ...

"What is the job exactly?" Kale asked.  He was over the 'ask no questions job' phase. He intended to know full well what he was gettin' himself into from here on out.  "And have you got a name, Miss?"

Wei-Li smiled and tilted her head.  "My name is Wei-Li… Wei-Li Latrans.  And yes I have been up in craft such as your Destiny.  My brother usually handles the walks, but I fill in for him when he is away.    I have been up in Fireflies, Cicadas, a couple that defy naming.. and a raven…”

She paused for a moment before continuing.  “My family runs several crystal growing units in Low-G to near zero-G.  Every three to six months we try and get up and harvest the current batch of crystals and feed the units.  We also retrieve units for repairs and maintenance..”

"Wei-Li ..." Kale repeated the name, "Wei-Li Latrans, was it?  Name sounds a might familiar ..." he struggled to place where he had heard it before - it was back on Whitefall if he recalled correctly.  Something about the whole family being grounded for illegal activity - a real pain in the Alliance's side, Kale had thought it funny.  Couldn't remember what it was that they did though but decided he might as well act as though he did, perhaps get it out of her.

"This job sounds on the level - but with a name like Latrans, somehow I doubt it is ... what's the catch?"

Wei-Li gave him a bashful smile.  “Well, I guess its good that the family name still means something… But I’m of the Paquin Latrans’…and we’re respectable… well, by Paquin standards at least.”

She shrugged.  “Our processing units aren’t registered, regulated or otherwise tampered with.  We grow our crystals outside the shipping lanes, but we don’t license the space, or register our placements…”  There wasn’t much to say.  Her uncle was well known as a scoff-law, but the laws he scoffed usually weren’t worth worrying about.

"Legit by Paquin standards, eh?" he raised his eyebrows and grinned, "That sure ain't sayin' a whole lot, 'course I'm not one for judging ..." The woman wasn't nervous or fidgety, she really didn't seem to be hiding much - being up front about the legality of the job earned her a point or two in his book.  'Course Kale had been told a number of times that he was too trusting ...

"So what you need is a boat ta take you to these un-registered units and let you do your thing?  Are they being watched?  We aren't gonna have the Feds comin' down on us fer this, are we?"

Wei-Li shook her head, the units had never drawn unwanted attention, but of course there was always a first time.  "We've never had problems with them before," she admitted. "Their becons are coded and locked so they only fire off when one of us activates them... "  She thought for a minute and then gave him another wry smile.  "I think having me listed as a passenger on your manifest would cause more trouble than the units…”

Kale returned the smile, "So we forge your papers." Then remembering his mental calculations from earlier that night he folded his hands and looked at the girl, "What about payment?  How many of these stops are we gonna be making and where to?  I'm gonna have to think about fuel and supplies - maintenance ... What's your deal, I'll hear it and let you know if we can do business."

Wei-Li nodded.  "There are 6 units currently deployed.  I'll be bringing three new ones up, and switching those out with the three oldest units..."  Her gaze seemed to focus on the job for a few minutes as she ran through her requirements.  "One day to get to the first unit, two units the second day, two days to the last three units, one to two walks a day... return home... " She muttered to herself as she counted out the day. "Six days...

She bit her lip and began the process again.  "Food, checkups after the walks..."  She turned to Kale to verify.  "Do you have medical staff?"

"Fully staffed, gotta Doc an' everything.  Infirmary's slightly under-stocked ... but that's a long story." Kale trailed off.  He needed this job and he needed this job to go well.  But he also needed this job to pay well, or at least decently.  "Six days, ain't bad.  But all that travelin' will cost ya a bit.  Gotta keep Destiny fueled."

Wei-Li nodded and continued her calculations.  "Six walks, six check-ups, Six days food and lodging, 5 or 6 crew for 6 days... "

She looked at the ship for a moment.. "Dingo, G-7 mod?”  She ticked it off in her mind.

"100 creds for fuel, 80 creds- crew,  50 for the checkups, Risk, profit and fees... 100, margin 90... "  She focused on Kale again.  "400 credits, half up front?"

Kale double-checked her calculations with his own as she listed them off.  400 wasn't bad, not a huge job but it'd keep them flying ... and in the end that's all that really mattered.  Besides, it sounded nice and straight-forward, low risk.  And that's what his crew needed right about now.  Kale nodded at Wei-Li and smiled. "400.  I'd say you have yourself a deal." he held out his hand, "Give us at least another day ta get everythin' set and we can start doin' business."

Wei-Li smiled and offered Kale her hand.  "Thank you Sir... Captain... " She paused realizing she hadn't gotten his name.

Kale smiled and shook Wei-Li's hand. "Galway." he said, "Captain Kale Galway."

Wei-Li smiled and nodded.  "Well then Captain Kale Galway, I will see tomorrow?  She turned to go, then paused. "Just let me know when you're ready and I'll make sure my equipment is in order.  You can contact me at the Blind Man's Eye."

Kale nodded "I'll send word at the Blind Man's Eye." he said, and waved to the woman as she disappeared down the road back into town.  Kale sighed, looked up at the stars once more, and stepped inside the cargo bay. Back to work.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Geoff walked into the cargo bay and looked down to the nearly sleepwalking Lei and sighed. He leaned down towards her slightly and scooped her up in his arms, finding it easier to carry her than to lead her. He took the girl into the passenger's quarters and into her bunk. Well, technically it was Charlie's bunk, but Charlie never used it anyway and Lei was more used to it so he thought of it more as Lei's at this point.

Geoff entered the bunk slowly and walked to the bed to place Lei on it. He laid her down gently and covered her with a nearby blanket before sighing and looking down at her with a fond smile. He wondered wistfully if perhaps this was what it felt like to have a kid of your own, but he shook his head and laughed softly at the thought.

It wasn't a fitting thought for a thug like him and it sure as hell wasn't one he would admit to having. So he just patted Lei softly on the head, moving a bit of stray hair out of her face as he did so, before turning away and heading out of the bunk. "Sleep tight, Little Lei." he remarked softly as he headed out into the passenger's quarters and towards the cargo bay once again.

Lei stirred slightly after Geoff put her on the bed. She rolled onto her side, and tucked her legs up near her chest, pulling her head in partially under the blanket that he'd draped over her. When he was leaving, she mumbled something incoherently, and then was lost to the waking world.

Geoff stepped back out into the cargo bay and stretched slightly as he strolled slowly through the large space. He could see out through the open cargo bay doors that the captain seemed to be talking to somebody, but Geoff figured that was none of his concern. If the captain didn't call for him then he wasn't needed. So Geoff just moved to the steps that led up to the catwalk and took a seat on the bottom step, not yet ready to sleep, but not quite sure what else to do.

Kyron stepped out onto the upper level of the cargo bay and almost decided to turn back around and hole up in the dining room for the evening instead of heading back to his bunk.  The giant was sitting on the stairwell.  Kyron lifted his chin and walked down the stairs.  "Good evening." he said airily, "A night of pleasures I can see ... or rather, smell." he said, taking in the scent of alcohol clinging to the man.

Geoff looked to Kyron with the usual wry grin he gave the man when he saw him. "Oh, yeah. Quite right. A good ol' time was had by all o' us low brow types. Ya shoulda come along. Rubbed elbows with the ignorant masses and such." he said in an amused tone, "No, wait. Actually, it's a pretty good thing ya didn't come. I took Lei with me and I wouldn'tve been able to baby-sit the both of ya. Though, she probably coulda kept herself outta trouble. I wonder 'bout you though..."

Kyron smirked and shook his head, "You consistently try to insult me - it really is pointless.  I have such a low opinion of you there is nothing you can say that would actually mean anything.  And as to your baby-sitting skills, well I must say you are certainly top-notch.  You shoot a sheriff and then take a young girl to a pub.  Brilliant."

Geoff just shrugged and chuckled at Kyron's words. "Oh, now, don't be sayin that. Ya know just how much yer opinion of me means." he remarked in a wry tone before sighing, his easy smile still on his face, "Though, I must say, the feeling is mutual. And, just fer the record, ya got one thing right. Shootin' the sherrif may have been a bad move. I shoulda just walked out and let him put a bullet in yer back. Woulda made things far more pleasant 'round here, at least."

Kyron just gave Geoff a dirty look, straightened his shirt and walked past him, through the passenger quarters and back into his bunk. How he loathed this miserable ship.  They had better drop him off on Beaumonde soon.

Kale crossed to the controls and raised the ramp and closed up the cargo bay doors for the night.  Turning around he noticed Geoff sitting on the stairwell with a slightly sour expression on his face.  "Something un-pleasant pass yer way?" he asked with a light smile, the only thing that made Geoff look like that would be their esteemed guest, Mr. Kyron Bates.

Geoff looked to the captain with a bit of a grin and a shrug. "Heh. Ya could definitely be sayin' that, Cap'n. 'Bout as unpleasant as they come, our fine Mr. Bates is. I still regret not lettin' him get shot when the chance came. Seems like a lost opportunity." he said with a slight shake of his head before arching a brow to the captain and giving him a questioning glance, "So, Cap'n, there some business afoot or were that just an old acquaintance ya were talkin' to out there?"

Kale smirked at Geoff, then glanced over his shoulder as though the woman were still standing outside before looking back to Geoff, "That there was business.  Looks like we got ourselves a job.  We cart around the Miss while she fixes up some crystal growin' mechanisms.  Not much too it ... but I won't say nice and simple ... seems ta get me in trouble when I do." Kale said, leaning up against the stairwell railing.  "We should be leavin' within the next day or two."  Then he stood up and started up the stairs, "I'm heading off for the night - you may want to do the same, we got work to do tomorrow."

Geoff nodded to the captain as he left and gave him a loose salute. "Sure enough, Cap'n. I'll be sure ta rest up if we got a job comin'. Have yerself a good rest." he said as he stood up and stretched as he looked about the room. He then sighed and shrugged to himself as he headed up the stairs to go to his bunk. It was about time for him to get some sleep anyway. Especially if they had business coming. Though, from what little the captain had said about the job, it didn't sound like he'd be needed much. That might be for the better, if he was to be honest. Him not being needed meant the job was safe and, if the job was safe, nobody would get hurt. That was a large shift in priorities in his mind and Geoff realized it. He also realized that it was the result of Lei's presence on the ship. Even if it meant that he would sit, bored and unused, he'd be fine so long as Lei was safe. He smiled ruefully to himself and wondered idly if maybe he was losing his edge before exiting the cargo bay and heading for his bunk.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Ren had been recuperating in his bunk so she wasn't surprised to find him asleep when she slipped inside.  She took off her clothing down to her underwear, and stole a shirt of his from the dresser.  She snuck into the bed next to him careful to not wake him. I missed him so much, but this is dumb we are going to get caught.   She slid into the blankets and pressed next to his body.  She kissed him gently then fell asleep.

The next morning Ren rolled over and smiled as he noticed the beautiful red-head lying beside him.  He must have been completely out not to notice her coming in - but he was glad, it was a pleasant surprise.  He reached out an arm and gently slid his hand down her shoulder, kissing her on the neck.

"Well, this is a pleasant surprise." he whispered in her ear, "Morning Doc."

Acacia woke up, well sort of woke up.  She contently sighed after she remembered where she was.  She smiled, once she felt the light touch on her arms.  She flipped over, “Hi Ren, how ya feelin'?  I enjoyed my rest last night.”  she softly said as she slid her arms around his neck.  “We don't have to get up do we?”  she felt as slight pain in her head reminding her of the night before.

"I'm feelin' much better now that you're here." he said with a smile and kissed her lightly on the nose.  Then noticed her squint her eyes slightly and looked at her with concern, "Are you feeling alright, dear?"

“Captain bought us all some drinks, just a small hangover.  I have some aspirin in the Infirmary if it gets worse.”  Acacia was happy to be face to face with her man.  She hadn't really seen him for days.  “Let me show how well I am,”  she kissed him full and deep.

Ren laughed lightly at the thought of Acacia out on the town having a drink with the fella's.  Then she kissed him and that's all he could think about.  His mind became one-track and the only thing playing was Acacia.  Acacia, Acacia, Acacia.  She pulled away, and he furrowed his brow, "Hmm, I don't know - I think you still might be sick, I think you're going to have to prove it again."

She kissed him again, and then he heard the captain's voice come over the comm and pulled away. "Gou shi!" he said, sitting up. "You aren't supposed to be in here, you're bunks all the way downstairs." he hopped up and started pulling his pants on. "Okay, we just need an explanation.  Why would you be in my bunk in the morning ... why would you be ..." he trailed off as he thought.

Acacia laughed, “You freak out so easily.  I have a comm, you haven't been well, you called me up.  Come on now sweetie don't make me think of everything.  Only problem is, I don't want to show up wearing the same clothes.  Have I left anything here after I.....uh made a house call for you?”  She sat up and scooted till her back was on the headboard of the bed.  Still covered by the blanket.  She had freaked for a second, but she wasn't going to let it show to Ren.

Ren paused in his frantic rush and turned to the woman seated on the bed with a smile.  "Ah, see, that's why I love you.  Beauty and brains." Acacia was obviously a far quicker thinker then him - he admired everything about the woman.

He opened up a drawer where he had carefully folded and put away some of Acacia's clothing and pulled it out, tossing it to her.  "You are in luck my dear."  He pulled a shirt over his head and sat down beside her, picking up her tiny tank top.  "Now is this a glove, because I think the only thing it would cover is my hand." he wrapped it around his fingers, "Nope, too small to be a glove." he said laughing.

Acacia stood up the shirt of his she had stolen to wear to sleep in dropped almost to her knee. “With a belt I could almost wear this as a dress.  And you complain that my clothes are weird. “   She swiped the top out of his hands.  “Did I leave any bottoms or do I walk to our meeting in a tank and my unders?” she asked trying to not to giggle.

"See, now I wouldn't have a problem with that." Ren said with a grin before digging around to find a pair of pants for the lady.  He found some, and watched as Acacia put them on.  "I'm still a fan of the no pants thing. " then he turned to head out of his bunk, "Come on, don’t' want to keep everyone waiting."

She bopped him one on the back of the head on the way out after she had gotten the pants on.  She did get close enough to whisper to him, “Maybe later …”  She walked out behind him shaking her head and smiling very contentedly.  She wondered what the announcement was about.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kale stretched out on his bunk and then kicked off the covers.  There was work to be done today, and as much as he had been enjoying their brief vacation on Paquin he was eager to get back out into the black.  He never felt quite right sitting still.

He relieved himself, splashed some water on his face and the threw on a pair of pants and slipped a shirt on over his head.  Running a hand through his hair he left his bunk.  He'd need to call a meeting, let everyone know that it was back to work - there was some things needing doing before they could take off again.

Kale stepped into the dining hall, still stretching.  He'd slept later then he had intended - but that tended to happen after a night out and a business deal in hand.  He opened one of the cabinets and pulled out a granola bar.  Peeling the wrapper away he leaned on the comm button.

"This is your Captain speaking, can I have all hands in the dining hall ... please?" he added at the end, and took a seat at the table to wait.  He'd have to have Charlie make sure the engine was in order and check the fuel levels, he'd go through and make sure the kitchen was stocked up, and then he'd double check with the Doc to make sure there wasn't anything vital that they were missing in the infirmary.  They didn't have much to spend, but enough to make sure they had the necessities.

Kendra was the first to wander into the dining Hall, yawning and stretching. She walked to the cabinet and pulled down a kettle. Looking over at Kale she asked, "Want some tea?"  Kale shook his head, and she filled the kettle with water, turned on the cook top and set the kettle on it.

Rhaef entered then and went the cabinet and grabbed a bar for himself, and then looked over at the captain. "So Cap, what's the plan? We got a job now? If so, what do you need me to be doing?"

"That we do." Kale said to Rhaef, "And soon as everyone gets here, I'll let ya know what it is." he grinned at the other man, knowing that that probably annoyed him.  Rhaef preferred to be the first to know about the going on’s in the ship.  Sometimes it was just funny to let him stew.

Geoff walked slowly into the dining hall, the shirt held in one hand by the sleeve and his knife in the other. He looked up and nodded a hello to everybody in the room as he took a seat at the table and stretched the shirt out before him on the tabletop. He then went to the work of removing the sleeves from the shirt, cutting carefully at the cloth with his knife. It only took him a few minutes to completely cut off the long pieces of cloth that were the sleeves of the shirt and he grinned lightly in approval as he slipped the shirt on and looked himself over, quite happy with how he looked. He then sat back at the table quietly, putting his feet up and taking the two dismembered sleeves in his hands and trying to figure out what to do with them.

Kendra turned off the whistling kettle. She poured hot water into a mug, already filled with tea. Taking the mug, she grabbed an apple, cut it up and sat down. She nodded her head towards Geoff and Rhaef, "Morning."

Kyron entered the room then and stood in the doorway momentarily.  He glanced around the room, nodding curtly to its occupants, and then chose a seat on the couch.
"Dare I to hope that we will be leaving this stink-hole of a planet shortly? Perhaps, finally take me to my destination which I paid to be delivered to and as of yet have not seen?"

"Aw, c'mon now, friend. Ain't ya havin' a good time? I thought ya'd like this little tour o' the 'verse yer gettin'. I mean, not every core worlder can say they've been this far out and almost been shot. Hell, maybe ya'll be wantin' me ta give ya an autograph 'fore we drop ya off so people'll know who saved yer skin!" Geoff remarked with a mocking grin to Kyron. He then laughed to himself and took an apple from the table, cutting slices from it and eating them slowly.

Kyron just let the giant's comment slide, not wanting to deal with the brute this early in the morning.

Acacia walked into the kitchen and got a glass of water.  “Mornin' all, what is the big news today cap that you are draggin’ us all here?”   She tried to get her hair a little less frazzled.  The pain in her head wasn't horrible but it was consistent.

Ren followed Acacia into the Dining Hall, "I second that, Doc says I'm doing better, was just in for a check up, but I would have been perfectly content to stay in bed." he said, hoping he sounded nonchalant about the fact that Acacia was in his bunk.

Kale looked around the room, "Well, thought I'd let you all know that-" he cut off as he realized he was one head short, well two actually but Kyoko's shuttle was gone so she was most likely out entertaining clients but Charlie was missing.  "Anyone seen Charlie?"

Geoff looked about the room and noticed Charlie's absence also and shrugged to the captain. "Ain't seen her since yesterday, Cap'n. Dunno where she could be." he remarked as he went back to eating his apple.

“Nope, bet she is in the engine room want me to go check Cap?” Acacia said after finishing her glass of water.  She hoped her friend wasn't still mad about what she had said last night. “Course I haven't seen her since before I went to bed last night.”

"Would you please?" Kale said, "I got some work need to be done by her."

Acacia nodded and took off to the engine room where Charlie normally slept.

"You want me to go check and see if she's outside Captain? She might actually be working on one of the systems out there? Cause she would have heard the intercom, if she was board ship?" Rhaef replied as the doctor moved on.

As he did, Rhaef catalogued the look of Acacia in his mind. If she was in Ren's bunk, it wasn't a medical checkup she was working on, by the looks of things.

Kale nodded and Rhaef took his leave.

Rhaef walked through the cargo bay, out on to the docks, noticing that the small doc was pounding on the engine room door. Well, Rhaef thought to himself, That pretty much cinches it. If Charlie were in there, she be alerted by that racket by now. With that Rhaef strolled out the cargo bay doors on to the docks to take a look around for Charlie.

The bright sun...the cool breeze...the sound of wind through leaves...everything wonderful about the surface was on Paquin, it seemed.  New people with new stories, old people with old stories, animals with all their sounds, everything someone could imagine.  It was simply beautiful outside, and why not enjoy it?

Charlie was laid out on the hull of Destiny, arms behind her head as she stared up at the sky, watching the clouds move slowly.  She had come up in the first place to clean out the ship's re-breather vents, but she'd definitely been sidetracked.  It was simply too nice outside to be working, and how could she not enjoy it?  The world was too wonderful a place when it was like this outside.  She hummed to herself, one of her legs crossed over the other, imagining the shapes that she could see in the large white puffs in the sky...

Rhaef walked outside, shielding his eyes from the sun. He never fully adjusted to the brightness of the docks after spending such time board ship. He began slowly pacing around the ship - looking for the mechanic. She could be anywhere, if she was even outside. "Hey Charlie, you out here? Cap needs us in the mess hall, pronto. Crew meeting or something. Charlie?"

Bird.  Freighter.  Boy in a boat.

Charlie slowly listed off what each cloud looked like, watching the sky.  The sun was warming her skin, and almost making her sleepy.  She'd probably had enough, and there's even the chance she may have a bit of tan when they leave this planet.  Nothing wrong with that...it would be like her little memento from this trip.

Hearing Rhaef's voice broke her from the trance.  Calling her name?  Of course, there was probably business to go about.  Charlie rolled over once, sliding down the hull and landing along the stern of the ship, poised right over the bridge.  She looked over the hull, seeing Rhaef, smiling.  "Hey stranger...important business I'm sure, he's probably got a whole sorta plans.  Make us leave this place too, I'm bettin'."  She stood up fully, standing right above the windows, quite a ways off the ground.  "Unless you think you'd be able t'catch me from here t'there, it's gonna take a minute..."

Kid's got her head in the clouds again, literally this time, Rhaef thought to himself. "Yeah, the Cap’s itchin' 'bout something. He ain't talking ‘til we're all there though, so you best be hurried you pretty little self down here, stop worrying at that tan you’re trying for. I mean, how much can you tan in overalls anyway?"  He added with a lighthearted joke. "Much as it might be interesting to have to try and catch you, the Captain kill me, if I let his engineer get hurt doing something gorram foolish, you best just climb down, Charlie."

"Hey, I'm doin' work up here.  I'm tryin't clean out the re-breathers here, seein' as it'll make our processed atmo taste like gou shi.  I mean, you'd be surprised th' things that'll get in here, stayin' parked like this for more'n two days.  I'm sure you're not wantin' t'know what I'm steppin' in half the time, less you want t'come up and have a look.  Unless you'd think th' captain's gonna take Destiny through a ship wash."  She stuck her tongue out at him, walking back up the hull, looking up at the sky again.  Maybe she'd been caught...she wouldn't fess up to it, though.  Not unless she was put in a position where she had to.

Charlie picked up the few tools she had and stuffed them in pockets, making it back to the stern of the ship and setting her feet along the port-side burn panels, slowly climbing down as if it were a rock wall.  "So...is this 'we have to leave Paquin right now' kinda news he's givin', or is it 'we're leavin' real soon' kinda news.  If it's one of those immediate kinda deals...well, there are things that I'd rather we'd leave after I'd done, but they can be done later, I'm guessin..."

"Sure you're working, Charlie. But hey that Captain usually has you scrambling so if that's your story, I won't say otherwise." Rhaef replied. "As to your question about the job, you'd have to ask the Captain that, or maybe Geoff. He ain't telling me." Rhaef added annoyed. "I mean you'd think the first mate would know these things before the hired gun. But some hulking brute saves Kale's arse in a bar fight, and now he's his best friend." Rhaef continued and shook his head, as he waited for Charlie to climb down.

"Of course I'm workin'.  Destiny always comes first, you know that.  'Sides, you don't need t'worry about Geoff...he'll come in handy eventually, I'm not too worried on the subject."  Charlie let her legs hang as she held onto the edge of the burn panel, shuffling her grip towards the stern until she was nearly at the nose.  "Maybe he told the hired gun first, on account there's gonna be some gunnin' for whatever's going on?"  She swung her legs up under the nose, finding a bar to support her feet on, looking down at Rhaef.  She was just about than ten feet off the ground here.

"Alright, you think you can catch from here?"  Charlie looked over her shoulder, smirking.  "I could just drop, but I'd rather not, y'know?"

"Yeah, sure, no problem." Rhaef replied, a little disconcerted by Charlie's smirk. He walked over trying to place what had caught him off guard, positioning himself to catch her when she dropped off the ship. "Ready when you are, Charlie."

"Games of trust, right?"  She spoke to herself, looking back up at the ship's nose.  "Never said I didn't love the bird."  She closed her eyes and let go of the ship, feeling gravity take hold and pull her down towards Rhaef.  She knew he would catch her...he was the most reliable one on this ship, for god's sake.  It didn't mean that it still wasn't a bit exhilarating...

"Yep," Rhaef replied. As Charlie dropped Rhaef shifted his body and his weight slightly to position himself to best catch her, and to limit the impact on his body as well. As she fell through the air, Charlie dropped into Rhaef's waiting arms. "Gotcha, kid."  He replied with a smile at her daring-do.

Charlie landed lightly in Rhaef's arms, sliding back out and getting her feet onto the ground.  "Aww...my hero."  She smiled, patting his arm.  "I've still got some bruises on my leg, so I'm...y'know, dropping onto it's just not that sorta fun that I'm havin'."  She brushed off the legs of her overalls, looking around at Paquin again...it was certainly nice, that could be said.

Charlie grabbed Rhaef's arm, pulling him towards the cargo bay doors.  "C'mon, let's not keep the Cap'n waiting.  He's probably gettin' all stern, y'know, gettin' the lines on his forehead n'all."

Charlie came up the Cargo Bay ramp with Rhaef in tow, smiling and humming to herself, hand on his arm.  It's not necessarily a relationship touch, so much as just friends being friends.  Her head perked up, hearing Acacia banging on the Engine Room door.  She paused, patting Rhaef on the back.  "Go ahead, I'll be right there."

Charlie walked under the catwalk, looking up and crossing her arms, smiling.  "I'd hate to be pointin' out the obvious, but I don't think the girl's in..."

Acacia stopped her fist about 2 inches from the door.  She looked down, “Aww gees, now that is just cheating!”  Acacia ran down next to Charlie.  “Hey Charlie-girl where were you?  Cause Kale is waitin for ya.”

"Cap'n is lookin' for me?  I'm hearin' that twice...startin' to wonder if something is goin' wrong with the ship again, as I'm surely up to fixin' more than my part."  Charlie brushed back a few strands of dark hair out of her face, smiling at Acacia as they meet up by the entrance to the Dining Hall.  "'Sides, I was just...workin, y'know...on the top of the ship.  Makin' sure we're shiny to set sail outta here."

"Hey y'all...sorry I'm late.  There were, y'know, things t'be done."  Charlie smirked as she walked through the room, pulling out a chair to sit in, crossing her arms on the table.  "So what's the word, then?  Time we set sail?"

“Sorry captain, Charlie was hiding from me,” she slipped into the room.  She came in a sat down on the couch and listened to what was happening.

Rhaef arrived in the room, as well and leaned against the doorframe. "Looks like the gang's all here now, Captain. So what's the deal?"

"Nice of you ta join us." Kale said, as Charlie, Rhaef, and Acacia entered the room.  He stood up from his seat at the table to better address the whole group.

"As you mighta guessed since I called ya all in here, we got us job.  Nothing too dangerous ... thought we might take a bit of a break after - well, after  the last one.  Woman on Paquin hired us to cart her around the 'verse for a bit, she's runnin' some low-grav/no-grav jewel operation - not precisely legal, but nothing to attract too much attention."  He set his hands on the edge of the table and leaned forward,

"So we're shippin' out.  We've been takin' it pretty easy here for the past few weeks but let's not forget that we got jobs ta do.  Charlie, I need you run a maintenance check, make sure our girl here is nice an' shiny - that means no starin' up at the clouds." he added with a slight eyebrow raise.  "I also need the fuel gauges double checked - we'll be out in the black for a space here so I don't want us runnin' out of gas while out there.  Ren, I'll be getting you the coordinates to where we'll be heading, I want you to check the cortex for anything that might hinder us and then start pre-flight checks.  Rhaef, you and Geoff are in charge of checkin' all other supplies on board and makin' sure we're set.  Doc, if you'd be so kind to give the infirmary a once over - if we're missin' anything vital, you let me know.  She's payin' half up front but that don't mean we got a lot to spare so we only need the neccessities, dong ma?"  He smiled then, "Let's get to work - this boat is just itchin' to be back in the black."

"I have a slight objection to this plan." Kyron said, sitting forward in his seat.   This could not be happening, "Did I miss the part where we head to Beaumonde?  Because I am quite sure that I paid passage there, and somehow I still have not arrived at my destination.  And as pleasant as traveling with all of you has been," he voice spoke volumes on how pleasant he had considered the experience, "I'd really rather that we part ways ... quickly."

Kale turned to the stuffy core-worlder, "Don't worry, Mr. Bates.  First chance we get we'll drop you off ... trust me." Kale probably had less of a desire to have the man on board his boat then the man had to be on there himself.

 Lei came up to the door of the dining hall, stopping suddenly before entering at seeing almost everyone on the ship crowded in there. She stood there quietly, looking past Rhaef's shoulder, and trying not to draw too much attention to herself. Maybe she'd learn what's happening just by listening in on the conversation, although right now it seemed to consist of Kyron complaining to the captain yet again.

Charlie raised her hand a bit, looking at Kale.  "Maybe I missed it...when're we leavin'?  Tonight?  Tomorrow?  Now?  I mean, I'd check the fuel cells, but if we're leavin' in ten minutes, what's the point of so, y'know?"

“I've got awhile before we get to where I'm going-let me know if there is anything I can do.” Kendra chimed in.

"Tomorrow morning.  That gives us all a day to make sure Destiny is nice an' shiny." Kale said and then turned to Kendra, "I'm sure the Doc wouldn't mind a hand down in the infirmary gettin' everything all straightened up."  The woman was always eager to lend a hand - no point in not using it.

“Captain we are ok, all we could use is some pain killers, I used most of them during our outbreak.  Do you want me to get em, or do you want a list?” Acacia said.  She leaned back in the couch,  she shot a look to Ren when she noticed no one else looking.  She winked at him.

"Oh," Kale said lightly, shrugging to Kendra, "Good to see you're on top of everything, a list would be fine.  I'll probably head into town with a mule come this afternoon to get all the supplies we need at once."

Kendra piped up "I'll come with you, I need a breath of fresh air before we head out into the black-seeing as I slept all of yesterday and gave myself nightmares reading about all these hideous disease you could get.”

"Well, then I guess there's nothing left to do but, get moving. I'll start working on the supplies in the cargo bay, when you get a chance and feel like workin', feel free to join me Geoff." Rhaef said sarcastically, as he headed off toward the cargo bay.

Charlie immediately went to the engine room, Rhaef walked into the cargo bay - mentally checking off the items he needed to check on before they left. Shaking his head, he began walking around. The captain was taking them out on a long space-flight mission, which did not bother him, but his only concern was the ship itself. Now mind you, Rhaef appreciated that concern as well, but what about the crew.

Did they have enough food? Water? Had the oxygen systems been checked, cleaned and calibrated lately? Figuring it would be a long day, Rhaef paused and decided his first issue was the O2 systems, and moved off toward the engine room to check with Charlie.

He stepped inside the room and saw Charlie, she had kicked off her boots, leaving them on top of one of her boxes, letting her bare feet touch the floor, smiling at the smooth metal that held the ship together.  It was amazingly comforting, just to the touch...it was like home.

"Hey, Charlie, know you're busy, but the Captain's concerned about keeping the bird in the air, and guess it falls to me, to keep her crew alive." Rhaef said.

She began to unbutton her overalls, to change into something much cooler, when she heard Rhaef.  She turned around, holding up the front with her arms crossed, smirking at the boy.  "Of course she's concerned, I'm the one keeping her alive...I'm like Destiny's babysitter, y'know?"  She patted one of the walls, looking it up and down.  "What'cha need, then?"

Rhaef actually blushed slightly at the sight of Charlie starting to disrobe. Sometimes you could almost forget that she was a woman, this however was not one of those times. Rhaef turned briefly and regained her composure.

"Any one check her Oxygen systems lately? I don't want to go up into the black, and then be running out of air, miles from anywhere? While we're talking any check to see the aquifers and recyclers are in working order either?"

"Rhaef..."  She smiled as she spoke, cocking her head.  She entertained the thought that maybe Rhaef was too much a gentleman for this way of life...but then again, she had known him too long to know that wasn't true.  Besides, anyone on this boat would have given her privacy.  She connected one of the straps so that they would stay up, letting the other one hang as she walked over to Rhaef, gently touching his shoulder.

"The re-breathers have been open since we landed, so they're right suckin' up air straight from the atmo, givin' us something to use 'til we start needin' the processed atmo.  'course, now I have to set the levels to include two new people, not t'mention us opening the hatch a coupla times n'all, meanin' that's a loss.  I'm not too worried about whether we'll have it."  She looked around his shoulder, making eye contact with him.  "I haven't gotten to th' aquifers yet...I was gonna do that in a bit, unless you've got an urge t'go and get it done..."

"N'ah, was just checking now." Rhaef replied turning back to face her. "Anyway, I got to check on the food supplies and other stuff, before we head out." He paused, "Comm me though, if we still have not looked at them by sundown, and I lend a hand, so we're ready to get off the ground, when the Cap wants." He headed out, and said of his shoulder, "Later, Charlie."

Rhaef walked back into the dining hall all sweaty, grimy and dusty from his work in the cargo bay and engine room.  "Hey, Captain. Checked the oxygen systems and aquifers with Charlie. O2 ready to go, Charlie, and I, if necessary will have the aquifers done by this evening. We're looking short on some basic foodstuffs and other general supplies, but I reckon you'll be picking those up this afternoon."

He paused, and added, "My biggest concern is some of the riggings looking pretty worn in the cargo bay, Cap, and I don't think they'll hold up too much longer. So if you can find some new rigging that would help us greatly, specially if the fare is hauling anything with her."

Kale turned to Rhaef as he walked into the dining room, having just done a quick look over the dining hall supplies and checking out the shuttle not occupied by their resident companion.

"Rigging's eh?" he said rubbing the back of his neck, "I'll have a look before I head out, we might be able to do somethin' about that, 'course that depends on what else we need.  If they'll hold up fer a bit longer we might just let them be ‘til our next stop."

"They'll probably hold for one more trip if we move some things around, only one or two are really frayed, but we can probably rig those up for one more trip." Rhaef replied to the captain. "So when we heading out then?"

"Tomorrow morning." Kale replied.  "Why don't we switch around what needs switchin' now, then we'll ready the mule and head out.  I got the Doc's list and I just checked the dining hall and the shuttle.  We'll check in once more with lil' Charlie before we go."  Kale started heading out with Rhaef, and then turned back, "Hey Geoff, we could use a hand."

Rhaef followed the Captain into the cargo bay, followed shortly by Geoff.  He gave Lei a pat on the head as he passed her by and an apologetic shrug that he had to leave her by herself for a while.

Kyron still sat on the couch, watching the rest of the crew go about their business, a rather tart expression on his face.  So the crew got themselves something to do and yet getting him to his destination did not seem to be in the plan.  He was also not pleased at all to hear of the illegal nature of this new job.  Running into the Alliance would not be at all pleasant and the longer he stayed with this ship the more he felt like that was a growing possibility.

Rhaef walked around the Cargo Bay and pointed out the stressed and frayed riggings and made some simple suggestions of what boxes to move around, although at the end of the day it was the Captain's decision how to run his boat.

Kale saw what Rhaef was talking about - it was actually worse then he was expecting, they'd have to replace them next stop, but for now - well switching things around a bit was the next best option.  The three men moved the heavy crates around, Kale taking some of Rhaef's suggestions - the man had a good eye for things like this - real logical.

Wiping his dirty hands on his pants he stretched his back a bit, and then yelled into the engine room, "Hey, Charlie!  You got anything we need ta be gettin'!?  Think we're gonna head into town now!"

Charlie poked her head out the door, looking down at Kale.  "Good, you are still here.  I've got somethin' for ya."  She stepped out, having changed into dark pants and a white top, something still informal but less bulky.

"Atmo, everything is functional and squared, no need t'worry.  Fuel...well, we should be okay if we're taking it at a slow ride.  You think that we're going to have to run at some point, or leave atmo more than a handful'a times, I would suggest that you'd see to us gettin' a bit more to our share."  Charlie leaned over the railing as she spoke, crossing her arms on the bar and looking down at those collecting below.  "The aquifers will be purified by leavin' atmo, seein' as they'll boil at that temp.  I'm just gonna check 'em to make sure that th'fuselage ain't leaking into them, or they're not gonna be givin' us mist when we're out at sea.  Shouldn't take more'n an hour or two."

"If you've got time, when we left Valon I left my 7/16ths powered wrench, y'know, due to th'fact that we were bein' shot at.  It's not a necessity yet, but it's the only thing that'll pop the casings off the landing gear without splittin' em.  Next time th'gear needs t'be worked on, I'll need one.  See if you can find one with a blue handle, if you're lookin'...it'll match the rest'f my stuff that way."  She managed another smile, tucking a bit of hair behind her ear.

Geoff stood quietly as Charlie talked to the captain, though he smiled a bit sheepishly and looks a bit abashed when she mentioned Valon and their need for a quick getaway. That had been his doing and he was still slightly embarrassed by it. Though, in his defense, Kyron was the catalyst for it. Still, the shooting hadn't helped....

"Sure thing, lil' Charlie, blue handle an' all if we can find it." Kale said with a light smile, he remembered very well being shot at, he got a nice bullet wound from the incident.  "I'll leave the fuselage checkin' in your capable hands," he said with a wink at Charlie, "Rhaef, why don't you hang around keep an' eye on the boat.  Geoff an' I will take the mule into town."

Kendra who had just wandered into the cargo bay coughed with exaggeration.  Kale had told her earlier she could come as well.

Kale turned his head at the sound of coughing.  Kendra was standing by the stairwell.  "And Kendra." he added with a slight nod ... he'd forgotten she was coming along.  "Alright lets roll her out." he walked over to the mule, undoing the rigging holding it in place and hopping in the drivers seat.

"You need someone to watch your back." Kendra exclaimed while climbing in the back seat of the mule.

Geoff cleared his throat and raised his hand like a kid in class. "Uh, don't mean ta impose, but I was pretty sure I was the one who was hired ta watch his back. Just what I thought." he said and took a seat in the back, his legs hanging off the back end of the mule.

Kale cast a look back at the woman. "I watch my own back." he said, but as he turned back around he grinned slightly.

Kale steered the mule down the dusty roads of Caravan City, keeping an eye out for places that would have the things they needed.  The city was crowded as usual, people performing ... or stealing.  Both were equally common.

After a good hour or so the three of them had everything loaded on the mule and were ready to head back.  Just one more stop.  Kale ran inside the Blind Man's Eye and left a note at the bar for Wei-Li, to come meet them tonight.  Tomorrow morning, they'd be gone.

Kale drove the mule back inside the ship and the three of them began unloading the stuff.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kyoko sighed as she finished up her report. She had not enjoyed the latest leg of this trip, the whole debolical of the captain's latest illicit affair still hurt. She added in commentary on how to avoid getting involved, and tied in her improved standards for the medical certifications that she thought might help.

She sat back and sighed as she transmitted her reports to her superiors at the guild house before pulling up the latest transmissions for appointments.  She tapped the screen, it cleared to reveal a handful of faces with names under each. She sat back and looked the list over as she sipped some water.

Kyoko smiled as she looked the faces over. She pulled up another window to notate her notes on the clients as she started with the first. "So Cecily, what are you looking for?" she asked the first as she started down the list.

The picture of the dark haired woman enlarged and came to life as her video recording started.

"I recognize that we do not often get companions this far out, so your arrival on Paquin has come as a bit of a surprise ... however pleasant." the woman's full lips curl up into a slight, and subtle smile, "Most would believe that life on a planet such as Paquin could never become dull or tedious, but I suppose that depends on what circle you travel in.  My father keeps a rather strict eye out on his ... assets.  But my sharing company with someone as reputable as a licensed Companion I believe would not displease him.  I hope to hear from you soon Kyoko Monroe."

Kyoko watched as Cecily talked, noting the poise, voice and nuances of the young woman as she talked. The companion mulled over what she saw and moved Cecily's window to one side. This would be one to consider. She nodded as she looked over the others and her finger tapped the window with Cliffton next, and settled back to watch the next introduction play.

"So, a companion?" the recording of the man grinned widely, "Such exquisite beauty is truly something to be admired ... and fawned over ... and other more enjoyable things.  I see your stay here on Paquin is brief, I would be very pleased however if you would take some time out of your busy schedule to perhaps pay me a visit?  I sincerely hope so ..."

Kyoko smiled as she moved to the next one. Cliffton was a little bit too eager, perhaps next time she'd take his invitation. Though, it was flattering. Her finger tapped the next choice, Robert. "And then there is you.”

A slightly older man’s image appeared on screen, "I'm really not very good at this." a deep but kindly mans voice said, "I've lived here on Paquin for the best part of the last century ... one can get very lonely when there is all work and no play - not that I consider you merely 'play', its not that at all, I ... oh dear, well as you can see my lack of communication skills perhaps could be the cause of my loneliness." he offered a weak grin. "If you do manage to find the time I would be blessed to receive your presence and ... um, yes, well that is all."

Kyoko moved Robert's window below Cecily and brought up her calendar, noting how much time she had. Two clients would be possible, she mused as she banished the rest of the page, putting in her stock reply and 'perhaps next time' responses to the ones she didn't check over, wishing them well and adding she was sorry she didn't have time for more. She added Cliffton to that list, but put a note to contact him on her next trip for sure.

"So, which to call first." she mused to herself as she looked over Cecily and Robert, sitting back to refill her water and think on this a moment. Two clients.. both looking for more than simple physical gratification. She reached to the screen and tapped her first choice, waiting to see if she got a response.

Cecily smiled up at the screen, her long dark hair pulled over onto one shoulder as she had been brushing it moments before. "I am so pleased to hear from you, you cannot imagine." she said.

"Actually, I am pleased you'd ask for my company. I am sure a young lady of your standing would have many social commitments and that you could immediately reply to my call is flattering in and off itself. I called to enquire as to how you wished to meet. I have access to a planetary shuttle and could come to any designated location, or you could come here." Kyoko said with a soft voice and pleasant smile. Cecily seemed to be .. lonely, and she was curious to see what the young woman was looking for.

Cecily sighed, "I'm sure it would not be proper for me to go wandering about the planet in search of your shuttle, however my private estate would work nicely, I'll inform the guards to let you in.  I'm sending you the coordinates, I hope Romani Gardens is not too far from your present location?" she smiled warmly, at the gorgeous companion on the screen.  "It is not often that I have visitors, I await your arrival with bated breath." she nods then.

"Not a problem at all, give me the coordinates where you wish me to put my shuttle and I'll be there in.. an hour. I have to file a flight plan and then I can be on my way." Kyoko said as she checked her planetary map.

Soon Kyoko is in flight and coming to land at Cecily’s estate.  Romani Garden’s was the home of the very small and elite class on Paquin.  Beautiful hanging gardens were everywhere, thus giving the city its name.  The rust colored buildings were the same but the streets were clean and well kept and it was odd to see a street performer as the streets were very heavily guarded to keep out the more rowdy lower class.

Kyoko set the shuttle down where she was told to, and slid the pilot chair back and walked into the back of her shuttle. She was dressed in an elegant gown of black silk with gold set patterns that high lighted her exotic appearance.  She paused a moment to check her face as she took a pair of black lacquered chopsticks to pin up her hair. Nodding with satisfaction, she moved to the door and took a deep breath as she focused on centering before opening it. At least this way, she'd not have to worry about the irascible Captain hearing about her client. He had an unabashed knack for doing that when she found clients who would come aboard.

Cecily stood outside of the elaborate stucco estate, a loose white dress blowing slightly in the breeze, her hair down and softly curling around her face.  She beamed as she saw the companion step out of her shuttle and stepped forward to greet her, unsure of what was the proper way to welcome such a lady into her home though she held back slightly. "Kyoko Monroe, it is a pleasure to see you."

Kyoko smiled as she bowed, the very image of a proper companion. "No, Ms. Porter, the pleasure is mine. I am quite happy to be your guest and receive your welcome." She walked up and looked at the woman. "What would you like to do first my dear?" she asked politely, curious as to exactly what this client wanted or was looking for. She was a curious mix of confidence and uncertainty, it would be a very satisfying chance to help this lovely flower bloom. Perhaps she would like some social interaction, her video had hinted of a very closed life, or maybe she could use something to put her at ease, such as a massage or such.

Cecily smiled shyly and then lifted her head, "Why don't I show you inside first." she said, noticing the eyes of the guards roaming over the two as they spoke, "Somewhere away from prying eyes ..." she started walking into the estate with an air of grace.

"It is impossible to gain ones privacy in a place like this." she commented lightly, "There always seems to be someone eyes watching - my father is very over protective.  He expects me to sit idly by twiddling my thumbs and looking pretty while never stepping outside of these beautiful walls.  No matter how lovely he dresses them up they are still the bars of a jail cell.  Here we are." she led Kyoko into a spacious room hung with white airy curtains, the setting sun could be seen through the window casting lovely colors into the room.  There was a small table in the back corner and a lush fur rug on the floor surrounded by fine pillows.  A bed, also draped in white sat against the far wall. "This is my room, the only place I feel we might have a slight chance at privacy."

"Still, even in these closed walls and hidden gardens, a beautiful rose has come to bloom." Kyoko said as she walked around the room. "Your father, he must be an important person, to worry so about his daughter."

Cecily nodded, "He's governor here on this little rock.  More of a title then an actual position.  Only the few elite pay him any respect, the planet is un-controllable - which is why the Alliance left, gave up as it were, surrender the planet to the gypsies leaving my father with the illusion of power.  He's a figure head, no more, and yet he takes his delusions very seriously." Cecily laughed lightly, "It's quite absurd really, I'd pity the old fool for truly believing he had control over anything if I weren't so busy scorning him."

"Perhaps that is why he keeps you so close, he's concerned about your safety." Kyoko said as she finished the tour of her client's room. It was quite, expensively laid out but seemed to be lacking something. A touch of intimacy or perhaps.. the personal loving touch of another. She stepped up to Cecily and smiled as she looked at the young girl curiously. "I wonder perhaps though.. he is a bit distant isn't he?" She asked curiously as she brushed an errant hair out of Cecily's face. "What are you seeking my dear?

The woman's face, which she had held so perfectly poised and calm, suddenly became a mess of conflicted emotions as the companion pushed a stray hair from her face.  Her composure rapidly slipping from her grasp she sunk down onto the bed.

"You are not wrong in that assumption - distant perhaps is even too generous a word." she tried to smile but her eyes were welling with unshed tears. "I have never been allowed to share close quarters with anyone - not even merely for conversation.  One feels time rushing by and all the pleasures of life with it, and if one were allowed be picked up and carried away it would not be so bad, but to hold still and just watch it all leave you behind ... it is unbearable."

"Shh.. it's perfectly normal to seek out another for comfort. 'No man is an island'. That is a phrase from an author, one way back before we left Earth-that-was. " Kyoko said as she slipped behind the girl to rub her shoulders. "Now breath and relax. I see you are lonely, and that is why I took your offer first. I rarely see such loneliness. That was what drew me to you, the need. Now relax, you are not alone now."

Cecily sighed softly and allowed Kyoko to gently rub her shoulders.  The touch was so intimate - unlike anything she had ever experienced.  And she found her breathing becoming slow and regular as she wiped the tears from her eyes.  She looked over her shoulder at the beautiful woman as she told her that she was not alone, "I just need to know that."

"You aren't." Kyoko said as she continued to massage the girl's shoulders. "Now, just relax and let me put you at ease.” Kyoko said as she eased her to lie down on the bed and slipped beside her to work her body into relaxation. "For now, just relax and let me put you at ease, let things come in their own pace."

Cecily closed her eyes as Kyoko lowered her back onto the bed, trying to take deep, calming breaths.  She could feel her pulse quickening though.  She was scared, and excited, and anxious, and relieved all at the same time and she could not seem to think straight. "I'm just - I'm just so lost."

Soon the two were sharing one of the most intimate moments Cecily had ever experienced in her life.  Cradled by the soft folds of the white sheets and Kyoko’s arms the two embraced each other and Cecily no longer felt alone.  Some time later Cecily lay back with a smile and a sigh, stretching out her body on the bed.  "Thank you." she said softly, "That was exactly what I needed."  Cecily knew that the companions time with her was coming to an end, but it was amazing the difference she felt in herself.

"I'm sure most of your clients are not nearly as depraved." Cecily looked out the window where the stars were now shining. "I can't help but think: what now?"

"No, you're not depraved at all my dear. Just desiring something all should have. Contact." Kyoko said as she continued to run her hand over her body, reluctant to let this simple girl's time end. "Next time, I think we should have you up in the shuttle and see how you like spending our time in zero g." She said as she kissed her again.

Cecily smiled, "Next time?  So you would see me again - if you come to Paquin again?  I believe I would like that very much ... if I could be allowed to leave ..."  She returned the woman's kiss, not wanting it to end.

"Of course, I do not just abandon a client after the first time. Particularly one so gentle and passionate." Kyoko said as she slipped in for another kiss. "I find you an enchanting lady, quite strong despite what she thinks of herself, and passionate. A charming mix my dear, that when your father lets you out, that will find you many suitors and friends." Kyoko said as she nestled in close.

"You flatter me, Kyoko Monroe, I am not sure I see so much in me however." Cecily said, her fingers intertwining with Kyoko's as if to hold her there with her.

"Trust me.. I've trained since the age of six to be a companion, I see little things that hint to depths in others. You are a very empathic person." Kyoko kissed her fingers lightly as her eyes sparkled. "Truth be told, I had hoped a female client would call, it has been some time since I have had one and I find it is enjoyable to tend to one. You, my dear, were even more special than most. Trust me."

Cecily blushed slightly at the woman's compliment. "I pray your insights ring true." she said. "This experience was most enjoyable for me as well.  You are a very singular woman.  I believe that I could not have even dreamed for more compassionate ... and passionate company.  It is so rare for a companion to make it to a place like Paquin ... I am blessed to have experienced your presence."

"Why thank you Lady Porter." Kyoko said with a coy smile as she ran her hand over Cecily.  She pulled her up for a kiss, and then reluctantly sat up herself with a sigh. "Sadly, dear one.. I must go for now. I shall cortex you when I come back this way, would you be willing to receive calls from me?" she asked curiously.

Cecily sighed and sat up, gathering her knees close to her chest and resting her head there.  "Of course," she said brightly, "I will be looking forward to it." she stood then and pulled her simple white dress over her head.  "I'll walk you out to your shuttle.  You have been heaven sent, Kyoko." she said quite seriously, laying a hand on the woman’s shoulder.

"I hope next time I can take you up, and introduce you to the stars,” Kyoko said as she walked with the girl to the shuttle. As they arrive she leaned in and kissed her first on each cheek, and then on the lips.

"Till we meet again, my lovely dear one." Kyoko said as she gave Cecily's hand one last squeeze, then walked into her ship to prepare it for launch while watching to make sure the young woman got clear.

Cecily cherished the feeling of the woman's lips on her own, and then took a few steps backward, clearing the landing pad for Kyoko's take off, waving good-bye.

Kyoko's shuttle flared as she pulled it out of it's approach and put it in hover. She smiled as she brushed her hair out of her face while she tapped in her docking code to Destiny, the ship's docking waldo's slipping into position to allow her to dock.

A smooth practiced movement by the companion put it smoothly into spot, the tell-tells on the screen not really needed as she slipped the ship into spot. A bank of green lights flick on as she slipped into place. She smiled as she shut down and rolled her seat back.

"And home again." she sighed ruefully as she listened to the little shuttle spin down and the Destiny's life support systems kick in. She opened her little box, and with a wide smile she opened the hatch. Placing the box by one of the vents she settled back and started about making some cocoa.. knowing the scent wafting from the box will find it's way all over the ship. Calling to at least two particular sweet tooth’s.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kale unloaded the mule and strapped it back down to the boat, pulling the riggings tight to hold it in place when they took off.  He crossed his arms and looked around, making a mental note of everything he had done, and everything that still needed doing.  "Charlie, I'm leaving your wrench down here!" he called up to the mechanic, then he turned to the two who were with him.  "I'm gonna go check on Ren and see how everything’s working up there.  If Wei-Li shows up you invite her on in." he said, and stomped up the stairs.

Kale stepped onto the bridge to find Ren diligently going about his job.  "So how's it look?" he asked, coming to stand behind the man, placing one hand on the back of his chair the other on the control panel surrounding it.  He liked Paquin, but he was eager to get back out into the black - and even more eager for the pay-off.  Money had been tight, not uncommon, but with their last disaster of a job they needed this work, and they needed it to go well.

"Hey Cap'n!" Ren said as Kale walked onto the bridge then looked back to his work, Kale had given him the coordinates that this new job was going to be taking them. "Coast is clear ... this girls got her crystal growers well out of the way of Alliance - we should be able to just go from point A to point B no problem." he looked back up at the Captain, "So unless these units got some diabolical disease we should be a-okay."

Kale nodded and looked at the routes Ren had plotted out on the screen, "Right here," he said, pointing at the screen, "That one brings us awful close to Beaumonde, can we do a quick re-route, drop off our friendly core-worlder.  He's startin' to become a pain in my ass."  Which was the understatement of the decade.  Any prissy, rich kid who could manage to land him with a bullet wound was more trouble then he was worth.

"Starting to?" Ren said with a slight eyebrow raise and a grin.  His fingers flew over the controls, "Should be no problem, it'll take us a few hours outta the way but that ain't nothin'." he said as he set the new course.

Kale nodded and started to head off the bridge before he had another thought, "Did you check the cortex for any flags on Destiny?  Stolen cargo or the like?" he'd been worried about that for a while but just kept forgetting to check.  Those ships that had chased them off Londinium had been high tech.  Alliance high tech.  "The flag would mostly likely be Alliance."

Ren turned back to the cortex and started searching through, "Hmm, not Alliance flags ... must not have pissed them off enough, better luck next time, Cap." he said with a light laugh, then he paused, "Wait a sec ... we do got something.  Ain't Alliance though, it ain't even a flag on Destiny by name but it's got our numbers-" he hit a few more buttons, "It's dated though ... huh, guess I haven't checked on flags on us for awhile.  It's old.  I don't think its anything to worry about.  Not even Alliance."

Kale peered over his shoulder at the screen.  The old flag was a bit odd but the jobs that he and his crew pulled it wasn't exactly surprising to see they'd been flagged a ways back.  "Alright," Kale said, "Well I'm heading back out, if you think of anything we need, let me know."


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Geoff nodded to the captain after having helped unload the mule. "Sure enough, cap'n. I'll keep a watch out fer her." he said and then moved to where Lei sat at the ramp, taking a seat next to her. "Hey, Little Lady. Enjoyin' the view one last time?" he remarked with a sigh.

"Aha." Lei nodded, then shifted around a bit to pull one of the cushions out to offer to Geoff. She pointed up to the sky and stated, "They look pretty.  Where are we going this time? Will it be nice there?"

Geoff took the offered cushion with a grin and laid back down upon it, looking up at the sky as Lei pointed. He shrugged and chuckled lightly. "Heh. They do look pretty at that. I wish I could say I knew where we were goin'. Far as I know, we're gonna be in the black fer awhile ta cart around a passenger who needs ta make some pick ups. After that, I dunno. Maybe we'll be able ta take a break on a nice place. Guess that's up to the cap'n though." he said with a glance and a grin to Lei, "Ya liked it here, didn't ya?"

"It's nice here, and colorful."  Still looking up into the sky, Lei pointed up and to one side a bit.  "Look! Isn't it pretty? Like a star..." A short time later, the glint of sunlight reflected from a ship coming in to land can be seen in the direction she pointed. She lifted her hand to shade her eyes for a better look.  "It's coming here, isn't it?"

Geoff smiled to Lei's comment about the way she felt about the planet and shrugged in response. He then looked with furrowed brows towards where she pointed, trying to see what she was referring to for a while, but not quite being able to. In fact, he saw nothing but the usual expanse of sky. He looked to Lei with an arched brow and shook his head. "Whatcha talkin' 'bout, Little Lady? Don't see nothin' comin' here...." he said even as he started to notice the vague shape coming in for a landing. Even then he can only note that there is an object coming down. It is not until a while that he finally recognizes a ship coming in for a landing. At that he looked over to Lei with a light chuckle and a bit of a wry grin. "Well, I'll be damned. Ya saw that that early? I couldn't see the damn thing 'til it was comin' in fer a landin'. Heh. Looks like ya got some good eyes on ya. Maybe ya should be watchin' my back more often." he said.

Rhaef watched Geoff and Lei from the cargo netting, he had climbed up there after they had left to go into town, to see what he could do to augment the fraying rigging with some of the various packing sealants and adhesives.

This is an interesting development, he thought to himself, the burly hired gun has a soft spot for the stowed-away child. He shrugged.

"You know Geoff, I'd make a joke about you letting a teenager watch your back, but she spotted ship so early, that might not be a bad idea. Might even keep of us out a few more shoot-outs." He said with a laugh, swinging down from the netting.

Charlie's head poked out again, hearing what Kale had said...he had bought her something.  She smirked as she came down the steps, picking up the wrench and looking over it.  This would work just fine, replace exactly what she needed to be replaced.  She set it back on the crate for the moment, however, already loaded with tools sticking from her side and back pockets.

"Hey, I'm goin' under the ship, check t'make sure things’re right down there.  Don't, y'know...get shot at 'gain or anything."  She smirked at Geoff as she walked off, chuckling slightly under her breath.  The whole situation, in scope of things, she found funny.  Kale's wound wasn't funny, sure, but outside of that...well, it made her smile thinking about it.  Charlie stepped down the ramp, moving under the ship once again.

Rhaef walked down toward the loading dock, stretching, allowing himself a little more sun, before their next trip into the black. As Charlie walked by and spoke with Geoff, Rhaef could not help but laugh. After she left, he walked up to Geoff and Lei, and added, "Man, that's gotta hurt, the big bad hired gun getting picked on by the mechanic," Rhaef said sarcastically.

Swinging down off loading platform, Rhaef looked back at Geoff, "If Kale is looking for me, I'm gonna be stretching my legs outside the ship. Won't be goin' far, just walking around a bit." With that, Rhaef walked away toward the front of the ship, stretching his legs.

Geoff simply smirked and shrugged as Rhaef and Charlie both took their friendly jibes at him, though he was less convinced of the friendly nature of Rhaef's. "I swear, I get no respect 'round here. It's a wonder, considerin' I'm gonna have ta be coverin' all these people's backs eventually. Ah, well. I'm used ta takin' a few jabs from the occasional pretty lady or acid tongued first mate. It's the way o' the world." he remarked with a laugh and continued to lie back upon the ramp beside Lei.

Charlie walked under the ship, running a hand along the hull as she went.  She didn't have to crouch, but then again, she was 5'6"...and with her arm extended above her head, she could lay a flat palm against the belly of Destiny.  That was only in the front section, for as the ship lay, the cargo bay doors descended as well as the rear section of the hull.  She walked until she found the handle she was looking for, giving it a tug.

A large ocean-blue tank dropped from the bottom of the ship, nearly large enough to stuff two or three people in, were it not pure hydrogen.  It combined with the processed atmo, making it's own form of synthetic water when pumped through the ship.  It didn't taste the greatest after it was mixed, but if they were carrying simply water, they would only have room for 20 gallons or so.  In this form, assuming nothing was wrong with the atmo, they could live off it for nearly a year.  Of course, it never was that simple, was it.

Charlie found the quarter-panel on the side, wiping the condensation off the screen before she unlocked the touch protocols.  It was still nearly full, being as they had refueled both fuel cells and hydrogen in Persephone.  The fuel cells...they probably should have had more of a charge, truth told...

Rhaef's path around the ship, unwittingly, had taken up behind where Charlie was working. The mechanic was engrossed in her work, and the opportunity was just too great, for a trickster like Rhaef to let go. So he crept up quietly behind her as she stared at the Hydrogen tank, responsible for the "almost" water they used 'board ship. When he was about two feet behind her, he said, slightly louder than normal, "Hey, Charlie."

Charlie jumped at Rhaef's voice, bumping into the cold tanks, doing a double take and jumping back from the freezing surface as she grabbed her now-freezing arm.  "Hun dun!  Why...Rhaef, I'll...grr..."  She narrowed her eyes, sticking out her tongue at him.  "Don't you have something else to do 'sides scaring the wits outta me?"

"If I do, it ain't nearly as fun." Rhaef said with a smirk. "Spent most of the day, in rigging while everyone else is outside workin' or going into town, so I figured I'd at least get out enjoy the sun a bit, 'fore we take off."

"Yeah, well, y'nearly scared th'wits outta me."  She rubbed her arm, trying to get the warmth back in it.  "Shouldn't you be terrorizin' cats or somethin'?"

"You see any cats 'round these parts, Charlie? Nope, well that basically left you." Rhaef added with a good natured smile, he was enjoying getting a rise out of the feisty mechanic, but now it was time to make peace. "But, well I can't really say I'm too sorry," he added laughingly, "Can I make it up to you? Need help with anything out here?" Rhaef added seriously.

"I'm just sayin', careful who ya tease.  Had it been my face pressed against the tank, well...y'know, when the feelin' returned, I have a new wrench that I'd be chasin' ya with."  She shook her head, shaking out her cold arm as she looked back at the touch panel, bringing up the purity levels.

"I'm pretty covered out here, y'know...doin' my work, I've hardly got enough to make my time 'til we take off tomorrow mornin'.  I never really got an answer from the Cap'n, though, whether he was willin' to fuel the ship.  Like I told him, we've got fuel 'less we've gotta run more'n once...but he's back, so that's just a matter of gettin' his word on how much coin we've got to throw that way.  'Sides, don't they need you to be doin'...y'know...first mate stuff?  I dunno, battening hatches or somethin' like that?"

Rhaef had to laugh at the thought of Charlie chasing anyone around the ship with a wrench. "If there be hatches to batten down, yeah. But I already saw to most of that stuff. Until we get ready to get airborne and the last few pre-flight checks, I don't have much to do. So that's why I've been following up on the other systems. Not that I don't trust your work, Charlie. Ain't too many mechanics as patient and through as you, but I just wanted to be sure."

As Rhaef said this, he pondered the mechanic's statement about the fuel supply, and decided this was an issue to take with Kale, cause the odds of them not having to run were probably slim to none. "I'll go have chat with Kale to see if I can find anything more on the fuel situation."

"Now now, no need to be complimentin' me for just doin' my job.  I'm not throwin' head over heels at'cha every time y'take an order from Kale."  She shook her head, looking at the pressure settings and the purity levels.  The worst thing is when it charges with a leak, as she has to trace all the lines through the exterior and interior, finding where it is...and in a zero-g environment, it becomes twice the hassle to deal with, if it's the case.

"He should fuel up here anyways.  I mean, we're coming back to Paquin to drop off our quarry and her payload, gettin' paid.  We get tagged and have to run further out than we intend, and bein' as their ain't a respectable place we can land close by where we'd be able to get tanked, I'd say it's important."  Charlie flashed another smile at him over her shoulder, and looked back to the filter settings, running the pressure to see if it will remain or start a spray.  "We're not low, don't get me wrong.  We just, y'know...unless everythin's gonna go alright n'all."  The last part was mostly spoken to herself, watching what the meters did.

"Makes sense, Charlie. I'll leave to your work now." Rhaef said as he walked away from the mechanic. Rhaef was thinking about what the Captain would be thinking. Seemed that as usual in these outfits credits were tight, and they were trying to stretch everything had. And not delivering our passengers and cargo ain't helping our reputation much, he thought to himself, as he continued to stretch his joints and walk around the ship.

A small 4 wheeler arrived outside Destiny then.  The driver was a young man who from the looks of him was probably a relation to Wei-Li, who rode behind him.  When the vehicle pulled to a stop.  Wei-Li got up and approached the ramp.  "Hello?" she called out.

Geoff sat up from where he had laid beside Lei on the ramp and looked down to where Wei-Li had called out from. He smiled lightly and stood up, giving Lei a friendly pat on the head before walking down the ramp towards Wei-Li. "Howdy there, ma'am. Ya lookin' fer somebody in particular or will just anybody do? Because I'm available, if that helps." he said with a joking grin.

Wei-Li smiled and ducked her head slightly blushing. Then clearing her throat she laughed.  "Sorry-- I'm uh.. here as your fare... I got a message that I should be here this evening... I wanted to drop of my equipment"

She nodded to the trailer behind the 4wheeler.  "And drop off the up front money with your Captain"

Geoff grinned easily and nodded to her as he approached and stuck out a hand to her to shake. "Ah, you're the fare! Nice ta meet ya! I'm Geoff Wolfe, the...uh...."public relations officer" and general carrier of heavy things. Guess it's lucky that ya ran inta me if ya have stuff ta unload." he said with a friendly tone before recognizing Wei-Li from the restaurant, "Oh, hey! Yer the waitress from the bar! I remember ya! That was some damn mighty impressive performance ya put on there. And I'm referrin' to ya catchin' that pickpocket as much as yer acrobatics. Heh. I gotta say, It's nice ta have a passenger onboard with such talent. Much better than a few of our other passengers. Well, one of 'em really. 'Sides, yer much easier on the eyes, if ya don't mind me sayin'..." He chuckled at that and grinned easily, showing he was just being friendly.

Wei-Li smiled and took Geoff's hand.  "Wei-Li," she said by way of introdcution.  Geoff's banter only seemed to make her blush more.  When he spoke of last night's performance she laughed.  "Signs of a misspent youth,” she commented with a wink.

She nodded towards the 4 wheeler.  "If you don't mind helping me load up, I'd really appreciate it.”  She headed back towards it, pointing to the driver.  "This is my brother Ng, he was supposed to be making this run..."  Although her words are accusatory, its clear she doesn't mind.

Geoff smiled at the comment about misspent youth, sympathizing quite a bit with such a thing, and then nodded and followed after Wei-Li. "Sure enough, ma'am. It's part o' my job ta be loadin' stuff up, after all." he said and nodded to Ng with an outstretched hand for him to shake, "Nice ta meetcha, friend. Hmmmm. Nothin' 'gainst ya, but I gotta say I'm kinda glad ya ain't makin' this run. Yer sister here is just the kinda person we need ta brighten up this here boat o' ours."

Ng smiled and accepted Geoff's hand.  As they spoke, Wei-Li picked up one of the three boxes in the back and started hauling it up the ramp.  Once his sister was out of earshot Ng spoke very quietly to Geoff.  "Don't take this wrong friend, but if you do anything to my sister-- you'll have to answer to me... "  As he spoke the 'friendly' smile never left his face.

Geoff continued to smile, quite used to these kind of threats in his life. It's quite strange to think that such a thing is a common occurrence to Geoff. "No, no. I understand ya, friend. That fact will be duly noted." he said in an amused tone as he took back his hand and grabbed up the other two crates, holding one upon each shoulder. He gave the man another grin and cleared his throat lightly.

"Uh...just ta be clear though. I don't take kindly ta threats and I don't like the implication that ya make there. So...I'm gonna pretend we didn't have this here unpleasantness between us and do my duty in protectin' the people on this here boat. That includes yer sister, dong ma?" he said with a grin before turning and hauling the two crates up the ramp.

Ng glared at Geoff as he walked away.

Wei-Li was already coming back down the ramp and smiled at Geoff.  "Thanks!” she said as she skipped down the ramp to pick up the steamer trunk in the back of the 4 wheeler.  She frowned slightly when she saw the look her brother was giving Geoff but decided to pretend she hadn't seen it.

"Alright then-  Should be back in 6 days.  You think you can stay out of trouble that long,"

Ng turned to face her.  "Maybe we should wait a week.  I could go then...

Wei-Li rolled her eyes.  "You have too much to do and you're stretched too thin, right up until you see the ship... or the crew? I'm going with.  You set this up-- I'm running the units.  Now quit being such a He chu sheng za jiao de zang huo."  She turned shaking her head and climbed back up the ramp, not even turning to see if he left.

Geoff had smiled right back to Wei-Li and continued past her into the cargo hold so he could deposit her cargo. If he noticed Ng's glare or any of his discomfiture, he made no indication of it. He had had more than enough people glare at him and threaten him in his time so it wasn't that big a deal to him anyway.

Wei-Li stepped inside the cargo bay and turning to Geoff she said, "My suit's in the trunk, along with 6 days worth of supplies... where should I put them?" As she stood there, a relieved smile crept in as she heard her brother pull away.

Geoff walked into the cargo bay, whistling lightly and holding Wei-Li's boxes upon his shoulders. He walked slowly about and placed them down off to the side of the cargo bay and looked back towards Wei-Li, responding to her question with a shrug. "Uh....anywhere, I guess? Ya'd have ta ask the cap'n."

There was a moment of silence then as Wei-Li bit her lip, debating what she should say then shrugged.  "Judging by the look my brother gave you.. I'm guessing he read you the 'Nobody touches my sister' act."  She gave him an apologetic smile.

Geoff grinned to Wei-Li's smile and waved off the apology in it. "Yeah, he said somethin' like that. But I told him not to worry. I don't touch nobody 'less they want to be touched or I'm paid to. Since ya haven't expressed an interest in doin' either, he shouldn't worry.  If you ever do wanna express interest in such, though, don't hesitate ta ask...heh." He added at the end.

She gave Geoff a quick smile.  "I might take you up on that later," she said.  Wei-Li set her trunk down just inside the cargo bay then and looked around at the hold smiling.  "She's beautiful!” she said with a smile.

"Ain't she just." Kale said, walking into the cargo bay as Wei-Li admired Destiny.  He clomped down the stairs and onto the first level. "Nice ta have you onboard, welcome to Destiny." he said with a smile and grabbed an end of the trunk. "Geoff why don't you help me out with this.  We'll put this stuff in the storage room right here." Kale said motioning to the metal door to the left of the cargo bay hatch.  "When you need it you just let us know and we'll help ya out."  He was laughing at Geoff’s offer that he caught the tail end of and looked to Wei-Li after casting a stern look to Geoff.

"Don't mind him, he ain't hired for his people skills." he said with a laugh, "We normally lock him up when we got new blood on board - tends ta scare them away." He and Geoff shoved the trunk into the storage room and Kale shut and the door.  "So, guess I'll give ya the grand tour.  If you'll follow me we'll start with yer bunks so you can set down the rest of your bags." Kale and Wei-Li began to make their way into the passengers quarters.

Geoff smirked and put on a look of mock hurt at the captain's words. "See now, I take offense ta that. I'm quite the people person. I mean, the people I don't fight or shoot, they love me!" he said and laughed. He then watched as the captain started to lead Wei-Li away to tour the ship, still smiling widely at Wei-Li's response to his previous invitation. "Oh, I look forward to that...." he said in a light tone as he threw her and the captain a loose salute as they walk into the passenger's quarters. It is after a little while that, realizing he's got little else to do, he followed the two into the passenger's quarters. It was better than hanging about and doing nothing, after all.

"This here is the passenger's quarters, infirmaries through those doors, and you can take the bunk just through there." he motioned to one of the spare bunks.  "We've got three other passengers on-board currently, the only room I recommend staying away from is that one though." he said, grinning roguishly as he pointed to Kyron's door "Unless you feel like dealin' with a stuffy core-worlder hun dun who's cost me an' my ship more trouble then he's worth.  If you go back up into the cargo bay and up the stairs you'll find the dining hall.  Front of the ship is off limits as that's the bridge and crew bunks." he smiled at the woman, "Hope ya like it here, if you need anything, just give a holler."

Wei-Li nodded, memorizing the layout.  The Captain said the front of the ship was off limits, "In which case,” she said, “I'll need to give you the activation codes for the beacons on the different units…”  She paused and then laughed.  "By the way-- what's my last name going to be?  I’ll also need to know where the airlock is.”

Kale grinned at the woman, "I've got you in the passenger log as Wei-Li Steal, seemed fittin'." he said with a shrug. "And go ahead and just get the beacon codes to us on the bridge and when we reach our first unit I'll go over the black walk procedures here and show ya to the airlock."

Wei-Li smiled and laughed at the name.  "Fair enough," she said, her eyes sparkling. Wei-Li held up her finger.  "Here," she said reaching into her jacket pocket and pulling out a pocket computer, she turned it on and showed the Captain.  "Here... I won't need this until we get back.  The codes are right here... "  She showed Kale the unit and tapped on the icon reading 'CryStat'.  This opened up another screen with 12 units listed.  "We're going after 4-9 this trip"

Once she was sure the Captain could read the frequencies, she excused herself and headed back towards the cargo bay to pick up her personal items.

Kale nodded his understanding as Wei-Li handed him the pocket computer, and pointed out the codes for the beacons they'd be needing.  As she left he familiarized himself with the device and then turned for the bridge in hopes of finding Rhaef.  He didn't have to go far though as Rhaef entered the passenger quarters.

"Kale, a moment and a word, please?" Rhaef said.

"Just about ta go lookin' for ya." he said, "What's up?"

"Just wondering what we had left to do pre-flight, Captain. And to second Charlie's suggestion that we get more fuel here. Don't rightly know what your fare is planning to do, but if we end up running are we gonna have enough fuel?" Rhaef replied. "You were looking for me though?"

"Ren's got all the flight procedures under way so we're good to go there.  You an' Charlie are worried about the fuel though?" he said, he hadn't been planning on re-fueling just yet, money was tight - but Charlie knew this boat's inner-workings better then anyone and he had come to rely on Rhaef's hunches about things.  "Alright," he said nodding, "We re-fuel - and then hope this job goes smooth."

Then he held out the pocket computer, "Wei-Li's got all the beacon activation codes on here for when we get closer to the units, if you could give Ren this, he'll need it.  Also," he glanced around to make sure Wei-Li was not within ear shot, "keep an' eye on her.  The girl's excels in slight of hand - don' want to drop her back off when all's said an' done to find we've been robbed blind.  You're good at that catchin' that sorta thing - so keep an' eye out."

Rhaef took the machine from Kale, and noticing their new fare from the corner of his eye, he replied, "Sounds good, Cap. Just don't want to end up on some god-forsaken mud-ball with no fuel, best not take any chances. Just doing my part to keep an eye on things." With that he departed, and headed to the bridge to get the device to Ren.

Wei-Li was making her way back towards the Captain now having realized one key item she had forgotten.  She pulled out the envelope with the money inside.  'The Captain will be wanting this..."  She stepped out and looked for the Captain.  Seeing him talking to someone she waited, holding the envelope up so that Kale could see it if he looked her way.

Kale watched Rhaef leave and then turned to see Wei-Li standing near-by waving an envelope at him.  Hoping she hadn't heard his caution to Rhaef he walked over, "Ah, you wrote me letter?" he said with a laugh, "How nice of ya."

Wei-Li smiled and laughed.  "Well, if you'd rather a letter... I could write you one-- but I think you might want this more... " she said holding the envelope out.

Kale took the envelope and opened it.  It was the creds she had promised up front, and smile spread across his face. "Nah, this is better then a letter any day." he said with a wink.  He'd have to go find Charlie, see about getting the fuel cells filled now that he had some cold hard cash in hand.  He looked back at Wei-Li, "Now you go ahead and make yerself at home - got some business to attend to, we'll be taking off in the morning." and he went to find Charlie.

Wei-Li nodded and headed back to her cabin to get things organized, figuring that once she's done that she'll make one last inspection on her equipment and her suit and call it a night.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


There was a tapping at the edge of the Infirmary door as Charlie poked her head through the doorway, looking around.  The doctor had to be in here, as she wasn't back at her room...where else would she be?  "Oh Acacia...you wanted t'talk about somethin'?"

Acacia turned around, “Hey Charlie, how ya doin‘?  Yeah could you come over and sit on the table.  I'm concerned about you, after that stuff you took.”  Acacia put her glasses in her pocket.  “I just want to check some thing.”

"Stuff?  The...oh yeah."  She nodded, stepping in and setting down on the table, crossing her arms as she looked back at the woman.  "It's really no concern, y'know...I'm feelin' fine.  You know, fit as ever, not pushin' around or nothin'."  She smiled, brushing hair back behind an ear.  She was perfectly fine...of course.

Acacia smiled, “That was some harsh stuff, can you take off your shirt so I can listen to you heart.  Seeing as how that is where the most damage. “ Acacia bent down and grabbed her stethoscope out from the drawer under Charlie's leg.

Charlie nodded, looking around once before she unbuttoned the overalls, letting them down at the waist.  "S'gonna be cold, right?  Just like th'boat...out in the middle of nowhere."  It's obvious that she was just rambling things that don't make sense, but at the moment, she was more self-conscious of the removal of clothes.  It took a moment before she bit her lower lip, taking the hem of her shirt and lifting it off over her head, leaving her in just her bra.

Acacia put her hand on her shoulder, “I'm your friend I'm not going to hurt you.  Although this instrument is a little cold.”  Acacia put the end on the top of stethoscope, in the middle of Charlie's chest.  She picked it up and put it back down a couple times.  “So deep breathe please.”

Charlie let out a stifled yelp at the cold instrument, doing the best she could to not jump.  After a second of biting her lip, she closed her eyes, trying to think of something else.  Anything other than having something this absolutely frigid on her body...which was hard to do when something frigid was on the body.  She took her deep breaths slow, doing her best to not shiver or anything of the like, inhaling slowly.

Outside the infirmary in the passengers quarters, Geoff had been standing and looking about, his hands clasped behind his head and humming a light tune, when his gaze moved over the infirmary window, he was forced to pause. He arched a brow and had to look again to make sure he was seeing things right. Well, hello there... What the ruttin' hell's goin' on there? If I didn't know better I'd think...no. Don't think it, Geoff. Once ya acknowledge it, ya wake up. Probably nothin' goin' on anyway. Just a check up...without instruments....yeah..., From his position, given Acacia’s height and Charlie’s yelps and steady breathing … well … it looked a bit like … Geoff shook his head as his gaze lingered on the scene within the infirmary.

Back inside Acacia laughed, well giggled a little actually.  “Sorry, I know it is cold.  Ok can you humor me a little more.  I want to check your circulation and check for extremity problems.”  She bent down again, and pulled out a small pin.  She bumped her head on Charlie's thigh coming back up. “Sorry.”

"Oh, don't act like you're torturin' me or anythin'.  I'm just...y'know, it's bein' around like this'n all.  The room, last time'n such, right?  I was in the midst of that fever..."  She trailed off, smirking to herself with her eyes still closed, not one to say anything too obvious.  She jumped when Acacia's head hit her thigh, looking down and laughing at her.  "You're a clumsy one tonight...no needles, right?"

“Well no injections, Give me your hand please.”  Acacia took it lightly and pressed a pin into each of Charlie's finger.  “Just want to  make sure everything is still wired right.”   She pat Charlie on the upper arm.  She was worried Charlie was too uptight, like she thinks I'm going to bite her.

In the passenger quarters, Kendra walked by and delivers a sharp hit upside the head to Geoff who is now openly staring into the infirmary.  Geoff snapped to attention at the slap and looked about as if he were just caught stealing. "I didn't see nothin'!! I wasn't doin' nothin'! Ya can't prove anythin'!!" he cried as he looked about, feeling a very nostalgic feeling. Far too much like that one time back home in that bath house.....way too much. He then smiled sheepishly to those around him and cleared his throat. "Uh...I mean, hey. How's it goin'?"

Kendra just lowered and shook her head, eyebrows raised, eyes wide. She opened the  door to her bunk and entered, leaving Geoff alone.

Geoff cleared his throat and composed himself quickly after Kendra went inside her room and he quickly left the passenger's quarters. He was still not quite sure what it was he just saw, but he figured he could sort it out better.....in his bunk....with his posters as reference tools. Yeah...that's it.

The girls in the infirmary were oblivious however and kept talking, "You know what's funny...when I was under, I had this strange little...y'know, trip I took in my head.  I had this vision of me bein' a goldfish, swimmin' out in the black...y'know, like a giant ocean."  Charlie hunched forward a bit, her hands on the edges of the bed, starting to sway her knees as she spoke to Acacia.  "I didn't think that'cha gave me anything to knock me out, y'know...the fever, makes ya see things..."

“So Charlie, you aren't mad at me for the other night right?  I was worried I might have upset you.” Acacia said, she knew she was changing the subject but she couldn’t get the thought out of her mind as she kept going through each finger.

"What?  Oh, no, I was...I was just picking a fight.  I wasn't in the best of moods, y'know, and Kale and I were talking about some things, n'all.  Just kinda stuff, and not th'best mood, y'know?"  She shook her head, getting hair away from her face.  "Everything's okay...."

“Good, I sometimes think you are my best friend on this ship.  I would hate to have you mad at me.”  Acacia finished with the needle and got rid of it.  “The ale made me all goofy.”

"Only sometimes, eh?  Like when everyone's sleepin' or off the boat?"  Charlie raised an eyebrow as she spoke.  It could have very easily been her accusing if not for her persistent smile, watching Acacia.  "Don't worry, you can be my best friend too...sometimes."

Acacia pushed Charlie on the shoulder.  “Ha, ha, you caught me in bad speaking again.”  She said laughing.  “Ya happy ya made me sound stupid.”

"I'm not tryin' to make you feel cornered about it or anythin', it seems to just happen naturally."  Charlie laughed back, smiling and lightly kicking the table with her feet.  "No, seriously, we're close. Don't you worry about a thing."

Acacia found Charlie her shirt and playfully threw it at her, “Your pulse was a little high.  So ya got some time?  I haven't eaten anything in awhile we could grab some food.”   She took off the lab coat she had on.  And washed her hands.

"Yeah, 'course I do...y'know me, always havin' time."  Charlie shrugged her shirt back on, feeling more comfortable when she was not as exposed as she had been.  She buttoned her overalls back into place, sliding off the table and stretching her arms.  "I mean, how can I wait to get some more protein in me, right?"

“Nah, we are planet side don't we have some actual food on this boat?  Didn't they take a trip into town and get supplies.  I mean, a girl cannot live on protein alone.” Acacia shoved her hands into her pockets.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Some time later, Charlie bound down the steps of the Cargo Bay, humming to herself as she went, off in her own little world.  Ship needed to be fueled, rightly enough, and no one was going to do it but her.  These systems were all automated these days, and simply by landing at any certified port, there were these little bits that would attach to the ship.  Not just to fuel, but to stabilize, and other such nefarious purposes.  Be it said, there was probably mischief about in that operation, what with a dozen more mechanized parts touching the ship than need be, but it's the way it's been done for years and she's not heard anyone complain.

So, the way it stood, the ship would get unnecessarily touched by the local folk.  The bonus, of course, was that it was just the push of a button to fuel it.  She had coin that the captain had given her from Wei-Li.  She didn't want to be filling without letting him know why, as money could be tight on the boat, and it wasn't necessary to have him worrying about why more fuel was bought than necessary.  It was necessary...if they would have to make a quick getaway, and considering the way these jobs could go, it would most likely pay off to be prepared.

She stopped at the bottom of the stairs, seeing Wei-Li and giving her a bit of a smile.  Charlie had told Kale, don't do business with someone who opens the line of communication by stealing from you.  Then again, Kale did a lot of dumb things...but every now and then they panned out.  So polite would be the way to play it, naturally.  "Hey...everything to your liking here on Destiny?"  She smiled as she spoke, looking back out the Cargo Bay doors.  "I mean, if not, y'know...we're leavin' in the matter of soon as I'm done, so, you need anythin...last call'n all."

Wei-Li smiled.  "She's beautiful,“ Wei-Li answered looking around the cargo bay.  "So full of life and smells of her own... "  She shook her head and smiled.  "Sorry-- my father loved ships like this... I think he could have stayed on one for the rest of his life and been happy... “  She looked at Charlie.  "I've already checked my gear, and my suit... so I think I'm fine... Just.. smelled something like... icing... was trying to find the source"

"Most could stay on a boat, given the choice.  'course, for every walk of life, there's a different reason to be free of the land n'all, y'know?"  Charlie nodded, walking past her and towards the open doors.  "Once we're fueled, I'm shuttin' up the hatch and we're probably gonna be makin' tracks outta here...after I give the Cap'n a hail n'such.  Y'know, just lettin' ya know, lest ya gotta say goodbyes or maybe pick some flowers n'such."

She smirked at the thought of flowers...she had already picked some for herself, and they were hidden in the engine room in an old jar, in a mix of dirt that she pulled up from the Paquin surface.  Charlie gave Wei-Li another nod, moving out the door so that they could get some energy in their boat.  Wei-Li followed out after her.

Charlie stepped off of the Cargo Bay ramp of Destiny, looking back over her shoulder as Wei-Li came out after her, "I'm just pushin' a button and watchin' the levels, but sure, I suppose you can join ...I'm just out here, y'know, doin' work."  She smirked, shaking her head and walking out to the console posted twenty feet or so away

The console was a bit worse for the wear, cracks in the bearings and a screen that was a bit staticy at the edges.  There's a good chance that it had been bumped by a few hulls of departing boats, given more than it's worth to work with.  Everything still worked on it, as far as she could tell...and if it didn't, they wouldn't fuel, as she wasn't going to recharge the cells until they were simply brimming.  There was always a point where there can be more than enough, and most likely it'd come out of her own sharings.

She mumbled something to herself, covering the glare on the screen with one hand as she went through the menu options until she got to the fuel system.

Wei-Li joined Charlie at the pump and smiled. "Not like I'm really doing anything on board right now-- other than hunting sticky buns... And... well, quite literally hanging around…“ then she realized that the two of them hadn’t even been properly introduced, “Hi, I'm Wei-Li,“ she said. "I didn’t catch your name the other night..."

"I'm not sayin' I blame you, bein' there's not a lot to do.  I mean, here'n moving up in Destiny, you'd have a way to take your time, otherwise you'll find yourself gettin' bored in the middle of nowhere."  She smirked again, finding the fuel option and starting it up.  A pump in the distance fires up loudly as the ship slowly gets replenished.

"I'm Charlie...least, that's what everyone calls me, and it works.  Good to meet, to make acquaintance and all."

Wei-Li nodded, watching the process.  She'd seen her dad do it often enough here that it was simply an accepted process.  "Likewise," she answered.  "So.. what do you do to keep from being bored?"

"What do I do?  Ah, jeez, I dunno...mostly let the quiet happen.  When we're takin' off or landin', less something needs to be done, I'm workin'.  That's when everyone else is preparing to do their work, y'know?  So when they're out there, makin' our jobs'n all that, that's usually when I've got nothin' to do.  Usually, it's me in the ship by my lonesome, 'cept maybe Ren or the Doc.  Guaranteed, you're on a boat with them, you probably aren't seein' them...y'know, those sorts."  She shrugged, making occasional eye contact, but keeping her eyes on the levels foremost.

Wei-Li nodded.  "I hadn't really thought of that, she said.  She hadn't.  Her father taught her his trade, let her help when he was designing some of her mother's equipment-- but when it came to ship work-- he never told her tales of the engineering room... It was always about what the crew was up to.

"Well, y'know...someone's gotta keep Destiny breathing out there, that's what I'm paid to do.  I don't have to deal with guns, bad people, or folk that would just be up to hurting.  By way that I see it, it's perfect."  She smiled at the thought, looking up at the boat for a second.  Absolutely perfect.  "So, are you comin' back to Paquin once we're done with whatever we're doing out there, or are we droppin' you elsewhere?"

Wei-Li sighed and looked around shaking her head.  "Back here... back home,"  She answered wistfully.  "It's pretty in the black but.. " she shrugged  "Paquin's home...

She looked at Charlie for a moment, her eyes twinkling.  "Sometimes-- when I go up... I think that Paquin's trying to keep a hold of me-- keep me home, keep me safe... its silly... I know.. "  She shrugged.  "Guess I'm a 'grounder' as my daddy would have said.  He was born in the black... kept calling to him when he was here..."

Charlie smiled, hitting the button on the console, sending out a hiss in the distance.  "Paquin is one of the most beautiful ports we make.  I mean, some'll say it's the bigger citywide planets, like Osiris or things of the like, but I personally love it here.  Grass, lakes, trees, wind, sun...everything I could ever want, all in one place."

Charlie opened up the bag the captain gave her, passing off the needed coin into the station, feeling rather like not dealing with the foreman of the docks.  The people here, as it was, weren't always as nice as the scenery...at least the ones that were in a position to collect, as she had seen firsthand last time they had landed here.

Wei-Li smiled.  "Especially if you get out of the city," she agreed.  She looked around.  "I think there are some aspects of Paquin, you just can't appreciate unless you were born here..  but those are more related to certain.. uh... practices of the community at large."  Her eyes twinkled as she spoke.  "But I have to agree with you.. the wind, the lakes... the woods... its not a bad place..."

"Not a bad place?  More like the finest place to be settin' foot on, especially considering that outside of the core, things don't get much nicer than this."  She shook her head, stuffing the empty bag into her pocket.  "Ren is from Paquin, so don'cha worry...I know what you're talking about.  I'm sure it is a lifestyle kinda thing, all in the makin' and such."

Charlie brushed the hair out of her face, taking a long look around at Paquin, breathing in the fresh air.  "Get your last bit of it, and then we're gone."  She took a moment longer to look around, and then turned back towards the ship, headed back up the Cargo Bay ramp...

Wei-Li paused.  She guessed that the air at the docks, still moved, but it wasn't like the air further out, where you could smell the flowers, and grass.  The docks reeked of ships and fuel and people.  With a shrug she headed back onboard.  She’d be back soon enough, it was after all, just a week.

Charlie came back aboard the ship, waiting for Wei-Li to come aboard and then closing the Cargo Bay doors.  She held down the intercom button on the wall her voice resonating through the ship.  "Attention all passenger’s crew.  Destiny is loaded, refueled, resupplied, and just too pretty to be sittin' here anymore.  Standby to make her berth on the Captain's word."

Wei-Li watched as Charlie finished her duties, then closed her eyes.  She sniffed the air and smiled.  She could still smell the goodness of sugar icing.  She turned slightly, trying to find where it was coming from, then followed the stronger scent.  She didn't completely pay attention to where she was heading until she was there.  It was coming from one of the ship's shuttles.  She paused in the doorway noticing the bun placement and the movement within the shuttle.  "Hello?"

Kyoko smiled as she heard the voice by the door, "Come in please, all are welcome.” So long as it's not the captain or his gunsel thug, Kyoko thought to herself.  "Kyoko Monroe, Bonded Companion, welcome and well met." Kyoko said as she set out her exquisitely laid out tea set.

Wei-Li moved in so that the woman could see her, and smiled.  "Hi.. I.. smelled the sticky buns…” she said as she moved closer.  "I'm Wei-Li... are you really a companion?."  She asked with an expression of awe.

Kyoko smiled as she motioned for Wei-Li to have a seat, as she took a seat on her side of the little table. Smoothly she poured Wei-Li tea and set it in place. "Yes, though I have only been out of training for two years."

Wei-Li moved forward and smiled back.  "How long did you have to train?: she asked, unsure if she should sit or not, but the tea looked really inviting and Kyoko seemed happy to see her.

"I trained from the age of six." Kyoko said calmly as she poured herself tea, pausing to add a bit of honey to the tea. "I was left in the custody of the Companions after my mother and father were killed in a shuttle accident. I have been around companions most of my life. Please, sit.. be at ease." She smiled as she opened the box, the warmer unit keeping the rolls fairly warm. "I always stock up when I can.. little comforts, I find, are well enjoyed when shared with others."

Wei-Li smiled and sat down.  She let out a soft chuckle.  "I've been tumbling since I was six... guess its not that much different"  She took a sip of the tea... thinking.  "If you're a companion.. you've been trained in things like dance yes?"

"Dance, Song, Massage and many other skills." Kyoko said with a wry smile. "Contrary to what some on this vessel thinks, a companion doesn't always have to have sexual congress with her clients. In fact most of mine simply wish.. companionship of some sort. Massage.. someone to talk with or .." a nod to Wei-Li. "Someone to dance with or for them. In many ways we fill a lot of the roles that the geisha did on Earth that Was."

Wei-Li nodded as she listened to Kyoko.  "When I'm not running errands for my family... I perform in town... acrobatics mostly, some arial and slack rope work.. "  She smiled.  "I'm working on dance, but so far.. its mostly with props like.. fire.. helps cover a lot of mistakes..."  She took another sip of her tea.  "could you... do you .. teach?"

Kyoko nodded as she sipped her tea, pausing to take a dainty bite from a roll. "Of course, I could do so for a client. The big question is.. what sort of dance style do you wish to pursue?"

Wei-Li shrugged.  "Right now I do a modified middle eastern fire dance with a partner... It'd need to be something that would draw attention.. entertain.. and well... not give guys the wrong idea..."  She watched Kyoko, amazed by the grace of her movements.  "Know anything like that.. that I could learn in a week?"

"I know several styles. Some old earth Chinese and Japanese dances, a few court dances from several court worlds, not all of them require specific garb or music. Would you like to go over them?" Kyoko asked calmly.

Wei-Li sat up.  "Would you mind... "  She smiled self consciously.  "I couldn't pay you much.. but I'd be willing... "  She chuckled slightly.  "Unless you're interested in walking the slack rope or tumbling..."

"I think we can work something out. I have duties on board underway, both with the ship's doctor and the engineer. Though I doubt I will be needed a lot by Charlene, there isn’t' a lot of need to patch the hull or scrub the baffles this month." Kyoko said with a smile. "I think I can teach you some dances, and we'll see about the tumbling." She doubted seeing her do that would upset the captain more than him finding out about her vice.

Wei-Li nodded.  "I've got some space walks I need to do.. probably try and repair the units while I have them... but any opportunity to learn is wonderful!"  She looked around the shuttle amazed at how it ... felt.  "I never knew you could do this to a shuttle..."

"If you need assistance let me know, I have to do so many hours outside to keep my proficiency record up to date." Kyoko said calmly. "As for the shuttle, I had some help, a friend in the guild had done a lot. She gave me advice on how to do things." Kyoko said with a gesture on the well appropriated shuttle.

Kendra, who had been following the scent as well stopped,  It's coming from here, she stood outside the door of Kyoko's Shuttle. Hand poised to knock, but hesitant, We'll this might be a good time to really introduce myself to Kyoko, given that we haven't really spoken much to each other. Kendra stood tall, pushed back all fear and knocked..

"Come in." Kyoko said as she got up and placed another bun and cup in place. "Ah.. welcome.. Kendra isn't it? I know of a nice little bakery on the other side of the city near a shuttle landing. I was just talking with Wei-Li here, feel free to join us." Kyoko said, indicating a spot as she poured some more tea.

“Oh, thank you. I couldn't help but notice the wonderful scent of sticky buns and it's been sooo long since I've had any real food.” Kendra held out her hand and nodded to Kyoko, “Kendra Whelan, it's a pleasure to formally introduce myself.” She walked in, slowly, gracefully and methodically.

Wei-Li recognized Kendra as the woman who had slapped the back of Geoff's head and smiled.  "Hello,” she said.  Then turned to Kyoko. "I should be fine.. but if you need time and want to get out and stretch a bit... I wouldn't mind company. Being out in the black alone is an amazing experience... kinda sobering too"  She shrugged.  As much as she liked talking with Kyoko and wanted to meet the other woman, Wei-Li knew she had things that she needed to do.

"By the way, I'm Wei-Li,” she said introducing herself to the new woman.  She stood to make room for her, but remained standing, "Anyway.. I should get going.. thanks for the tea.. and everything.”  She turned as she reached the door.  "It was a pleasure meeting both of you.."  That said, she exited the shuttle.

"Till then Wei-Li." Kyoko said as she stood and bowed to her quest. "I would like to do that, space walks are quite refreshing." Kyoko said as she walked her guest out of the shuttle before returning to smile to Kendra. "So, how have we managed to miss one another Ms. Whelan?"

“I am not sure. I have wanted to introduce myself to you before-but each time it didn't seem appropriate.” Kendra looked around the room, "How long have you been with Destiny?"

"This time, I've been on board Destiny.. two or three moments." Kyoko said calmly as she settled down on her seat. "I selected the Destiny out of a handful of ships because of the paths she travels, though I confess after our last little trip I was.. doubtful."

"Hmm, I can see why. It made me worry too. So, what guild are you registered with?"

"There is just the Companion's guild." Kyoko said with a wry smile as she sipped her tea. "There are other groups who try to measure up, but they tend to be focused on one particular facet of our practice."

"I can't help but admire the efforts of your training and personal style." Kendra took another sip of tea. "I trained to be a companion, but I don't think I was ever very good at it."

"Ah.. I don't suppose you were taught how to do massages before you left?" Kyoko said with a smile.

Kendra took a bite of the sticky bun, and closed her eyes momentarily "Mmmm... these are so good!" she opened her eyes and looked again at Kyoko, "Yes, I was taught how to do massages and I could do those quite well among other things. It was the dances I could never get right." Kendra smiled, taking another bite.

"I must confess that I miss the chapter houses for the simple fact I can never get a massage when I need one." She sighed and rubbed her neck. "I sometimes need one to ease tension, I don't suppose you would be willing to give one in exchange for me to include you in the dance lessons of Wei-Li?"

“I will give you a massage, as a new friend, but I won't be doing any dancing. My companion days are over - forever!” She said in a low voice filled with emotion and her hand caressed the long scar that ran down the side of her face.

Kyoko got up and walked to the door, sliding the hatch shut before turning to Kendra. She gently eased her up and looked at her. "Be at ease, Kendra. I meant no harm or ill. I only offered to give you some lessons in something you said you were weak in. I saw the hunger and desire in your eyes, heard the need in your voice. Tell me you do not wish to dance and I will never bring it up again." She put a hand to the scar. "This does not hinder or distract from the person you are. You are compelling in your own ways. Do not let the event that made this, take the beauty you have within."

Kyoko stepped back and bowed, her slight smile still there as she beckoned. "Forgive me the pain I have given you, name what you need to ease the pain."

Kendra looked up, eyes moist-but the tears did not drop. "Thank you, you are so kind. I have learned to put the past aside, and time has healed most of the intensity of the pain -it is now but a distant memory. Fear naught, you have not made it any worse. Nothing can match the pain but at the time of the event. I am fine. I will learn to dance from you, not to be a companion but to improve my coordination, and look good at dances for the boys.” Kendra grinned with the last of her remarks.

"And if they don't appreciate your beauty and grace, I'm sure that is there loss." Kyoko said as she backed up a bit. "Would you be willing to give that massage now?"

Kendra smiled, “I would love to. Do you have a message table? Incense, music/sounds. As I don't have any 'tools' with me, I will need to borrow yours. Do you prefer a particular style of message?“ Kendra fired off these questions as she looked around and prepared to give the message.

"The bed can double as message table. And my supplies are in that trunk." Kyoko said as she pointed to one of the open trunks. "I just want to work the tension out of my back or neck, feel free to do any style you wish. Shall I disrobe and lie down for you?"

Kendra walked over to the trunk, pulled out the incense, lit it and set it high, so as to catch the scent but not get smoke in the face. She returned to Kyoko and assisted her in removing her robe, and helped to position her face down on the bed. She set up the pillows in way that framed and cradled her face. With the beautiful scarlet and embroidered light blanket found in the trunk she covered Kyoko’s lower body. Kendra, coated her hands lightly with lotion, also found in the trunk and started to rub Kyoko's back and neck, gently caressing with her fingertips, squeezing firmly but without roughness the muscles around her neck, shoulder blades, sides, lower back and along her spine. "My, you are tense. You've got a lot of knots in your shoulders here." A while later she placed her hands on their sides and in a chopping motion lightly hit Kyoko's back, she changed back and forth from this to kneading the muscles, focusing on the hard knots, loosening them. She worked quietly.

Kyoko nodded, and hummed lightly as Kendra started. By the time Kendra worked downward along her spine she was dozing lightly. She hadn't felt so at ease since leaving the Chapter house. She mulled over the hurt she had seen in the massue's eyes. There was a wound that needed gentle work to heal. Perhaps she could persuade the woman to talk about it sometime.

Time, she mused, was something she had plenty of. And plenty of folks on board needed help. Perhaps she needed to revise her standards of behavior in dealing with the crew.
By the time Kendra started to kneed the knots out, her drowsy state was clearly a sleeping one.

About 45 minutes later Kendra finished her massage, ensured the stick of incense was unlit, put the tools away, covered the sleeping Kyoko and slipped out of the shuttle.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kale entered the bridge after hearing Charlie's message, "You hear that, looks like we're all fueled and ready to go." he said, coming to stand behind Ren.  It was about time too, he was ready to get back out in the 'verse.

Ren smiled and grabbed the mike, "Roger that Little bear, Captain has said 'word'.  Please put your seats into the upright and locked position as flight will soon commence." Ren set the mike down and looked over his shoulder at the Captain, "May want to grab a seat on the bench there, Captain, could be a bit bumpy - actually it will be a bit bumpy cause, well, it always is, ain't it?"  His fingers flew over the controls and the engine roared to life.  Ren smiled, "I'm comin' home, baby." he said and Destiny took to the sky.

Kale grabbed onto one of the pipes on the ceiling and braced himself between it and Ren's chair as Destiny broke atmo and he was finally back out among the stars,  "Ain't anything quite like it." Kale said, Ren was probably the only one on this ship that truly appreciated the black the way he did.

"No there ain't." he said with a smile.  Then he checked all the controls and made sure the ship was on course.  "Looks like its smooth sailing to our first rendezvous."  He set the auto-pilot, and turned to the Captain.  "Well if the ship crashes now, you blame the ship, not me, I ain't piloting her." then he left with the vague idea of going to try and find Acacia.

Lei had slipped onto the bridge during take off and was contently sitting on one of the benches.  She was fascinated by the button pushing rituals Ren went through to prepare the ship for launch. It seemed to be a fairly involved process, for the short time it lasted. Not exactly knowing what to expect when the ship lifted off, she was pushed against the back wall roughly by the G-force.

The ship rose, punching through the clouds. Lei watched as the blue sky outside the canopy slowly deepened in color and faded to black, and filled with thousands of distant pinpricks of light. Ren set the autopilot then left the bridge.

Rushing forwards to the bridge window Lei leaned over the consoles as far as she could, carefully placing her hands at the back of the console away from the buttons on it, and tried to look back behind the ship at the receding planet.

Kale smiled as he watched Lei rush forward from her spot on the bench at the back of the bridge, and lean over the controls to look out at the stars and the planet quickly disappearing into the distance.

"You like it too?" he asked gently, Lei was afraid of him, so he tried to keep is voice soft and soothing.  "This is home." he said, and sat down on the bench at the back of the bridge, watching as Lei sat down behind the controls, he just stared up at the stars.

"Yes... It's..." Lei gave up on watching the planet disappear, as it was almost totally hidden by the ship now. She watched the stars shift a little as the autopilot adjusted the ship's attitude. No-one was at the controls... Now was a good time to try to figure out what everything up here did.  Lei kneeled on the pilot's chair and started looking over the consoles. Manual control. Long range sensors? Engine readouts. Fuel reserves. She remembered reading about some of these things when she first came aboard, Charlie had left some interesting books in her bunk...

Navigation. Lei examined the course information that was still printed out on the screen. She started frowning slightly, and her fingers started tapping out a strange rhythm on the edge of the console. She was counting in binary on her fingers... This was just like the tests that they used to give her... </I>Plot a course from point A to point B which uses as little fuel as possible, without taking up more time.</I>  After a short time she said, "This is wrong. Inefficient."

Kale looked back at Lei when she spoke.  She wasn't looking out at the stars anymore, she was staring intently at the nav system.  Kale stood up and crossed to the controls.  "Oh, Lei, honey, you don't want to be touchin' those, those are for the grown-up's, see?  This is where Ren works, its not for young girls." he said, looking down at the young girl.  She was tapping her fingers in an odd rhythm and still staring at the panel.  Kale furrowed his brow and added, "... what's inefficient?"

Without looking up, Lei pointed at the navigation data and said, "This. Uses too much fuel. Wrong answer..."  She looked up and saw an odd look on the Captain's face. "We're going out like this. Should go full thrust in that direction for two minutes thirty-seven seconds... Loop around like that... Put on a little more thrust here... Get there using 31% less fuel... And slightly quicker..." Lei had held a fist up to represent the planet, and had pointed to a place near it to represent the ship. Her finger had done a whole lap around the 'planet' before flying off again in it's original direction.  "It needs to be changed now..."

Kale looked down at the girl quizzically, her words still hanging in the air, some of them soaring over his head.  She seemed to know more about flying Destiny then he did.  How was that possible?  He leaned over the controls and looked over the course Ren had set, trying to do the calculations in his head that the girl had done ... what Lei said made sense ...

"How did you..." he looked at her hard and then trailed off and started typing in the adjustments to take into account the planets gravitational pull and utilize it to slingshot the ship to their destination quicker.  She was right, if they were going to do this they had to do it now.  The engines roared as he gave the ship a hard burn and soon they were shooting out into the black.

Kale pulled away from the controls and looked at Lei again.  She was now busy looking at the other control panels.  "That was some pretty fancy thinkin' you did there." he commented, still not entirely sure, how a little girl who had spent her life in some hospital could know how to pilot a space ship.

Lei watched as the captain entered the new data, and then told the autopilot to execute it. So, that's how to do it…

"... Easy test. Only one planet. Big planet with lots of moons harder..." Lei stopped looking at the consoles as soon as the ship had spun around to start the slingshot. They were now headed back towards the planet for a short while, and she could get a good look at it now. Grinning, she watched the planet's surface speed by below, before it was hidden behind Destiny a short time later.  The show being over, she went back to trying to figure out what all the controls did.

Kale watched Lei for a moment longer, wondering what had happened to her on that facility, wondering what her past was.  No way could she know all that, but Kale had no way of figuring anything out now so he pushed the thoughts to the back of his mind.  "Well, you be careful up here.  No touching, okay?"  At first he had been worried she'd mess something up and kill them all.  Now he was half afraid that she'd try to fix their whole control system so no one on board knew how to work it anymore.  With one last parting look he sat back down on the bench and closed his eyes, letting himself doze lightly.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Wei-Li stretched as she got a feel for the bay and checked out the pillars.  With a smile she reached into her trunk and pulled out one of her spare tethers.  She carefully tied one end to one pillar and then tied the other end to the second pillar.  She tried it out and felt the tether slip.  Moving to the side that slipped she tightened the knot slightly and tried again.  After several adjustments, she had just the right amount of slack, and no give in the knots.

Once she was satisfied she stood in the middle and jumped slightly making sure the loop didn't touch the ground.  Smiling to herself she began walking it, slowly at first and then she began working on turns and jumps.

Kyoko stepped into the cargo bay, drawn by the sounds of someone working out. She smiled as she took in the slender form of Wei-Li on the rope.  "Well here is something one doesn't usually see on a star ship." Kyoko said with a smile as she walked in.

Wei-Li turned on the rope and waved at Kyoko.  "Hi!” she said with a smile.  It was clear by her smile that she was in 'the zone' with her exercise.  "Care to try?"

Kyoko looked at the rope and tilted her head to one side. "Is it safe for both of us to walk on it?” She asked with a bit of curiousity in her eyes.

Wei-Li smiled as she slipped down off the rope.  "Probably not.. but I could spot you..."  She looked at the rope and then again to Kyoko.  It was obvious she loved walking, and loved to share it with others.

"Feels like I could give it a try." Kyoko said as she cautiously stepped onto the line, her poise and footing delicate and cautious. She smiled carefully as she stepped, slowly, down the line as if she was walking a very delicate dance.  "How am I doing?” She asked, her eyes never leaving the rope.

Wei-Li smiled staying close enough to Kyoko so that if she started to slip she can just lean on her shoulder.  "You're doing great," Wei-Li told her.  It was a lot easier walking up the rope than down.  She stood along side Kyoko, her hand up, ready to catch her if needed.  "You're picking up on this really quickly.. you sure you haven't done it before?"

"I've done some gymnastics, this isn't unlike walking a beam. Though it moves a lot more." Kyoko said as she kept focused on the rope. She kept smiling as she worked down the length of the line, one step at a time. "A lot harder, but the same."

Wei-Li laughed.  "Just like it.. except that its smaller, flexible and as you said.. moves. "
She stayed with Kyoko, watching her every move for any sign of difficulty.  "Ready to try a turn?"

"I think I am." She said as she slowly tried to turn, tipping a bit as she put out her arms to steady herself. "Not too easy.” she added as she tried to keep her balance.

Wei-Li remained steady and alert.  "You're doing fine... remember the movement comes from you hips... "  She smiled, amazed at how well Kyoko was taking to it.

Kyoko nodded, focusing on the rope. "So you say.." she said still teetering. "I think I'm done..”

Wei-Li put her hand up for Kyoko, catching her before she slipped.  She let out a relieved sigh and smiled up at Kyoko.  "Okay.. put your hands on my shoulders, and then, just hop off." She braced herself for the jump and smiled at Kyoko.  "You were great!!!  It took me at least a week before I could even balance reliably!"

"Thanks." Kyoko said as she got off. "As I said, I've had extensive training in gymnastics." she said as she looked around, slightly flushed.

Kyron stepped into the cargo bay to see two of the women on the ship, one that he was quite sure he had never seen before walking on a rope.  He literally had to rub his eyes before he could believe it.  "Oh this is splendid, not only is this ship a piece of fei wu, now it is being transformed into a ... circus?" he looked from one woman to the other, "How quaint."

Wei-Li smiled at the newcomer.  "Care to try?"

Kyron raised his eyebrows and smirked. "Charmed." he said, "however, I believe I'll leave the death walks to you and ... are you not a Companion?  Slightly odd company you keep." he said, taking in the woman, he had seen her once or twice although they had never spoken.  He was vaguely disappointed to find that she seemed to fit right in among this rag-tag bunch.

"Mr. Bates, Manners!" Kyoko said primly as she stepped down. "I will have you the Destiny is most assuredly that, and what is with a little bit of physical conditioning? You could practice some manners sir. After all, not all of us go out of our way to offend or annoy like the Captain and we most assuredly don't deserve to be talked to or about like that."  Kyoko looked at the man firmly, clearly waiting for an apology.

Kyron just continued grinning smugly as the companion tried not to lose her temper as she lashed out at his lack of manners.  Kyron may be civilized but he never claimed to be nice.  However, he bowed slightly to the woman, "I am so terribly sorry for my untoward behavior." he said, sheer mockery in his voice.

"I see that once again, standing and money do not make for manners and culture." Kyoko said firmly as she smiled to Wei-Li, giving her a bow, clearly dismissing him as superfluous.  "Thank you for the lesson." Kyoko said with a smile.

Wei-Li studied the man for a moment, unsure what to say, then turned to Kyoko.  "You are most welcome.. though it seemed you didn't really need me."  She turned back to the man, still smiling.  "Hello, I'm Wei-Li," she said offering him her hand.

Geoff strolled out onto the catwalk above the cargo bay and looked down at the activity below him. At the sight of the tightrope, he smiled wryly and thought for a second that maybe Kale had taken the idea of learning the acrobatics to heart and was actually acquiring the supplies. He chuckled lightly and shook his head, knowing that wasn't true even as he saw Wei-Li and Kyoko speaking to Kyron. "Heh. Well, if it ain't three o' my favorite passengers..." he remarked as he walked down the stairs slowly, taking a drink from his bottle of liquor he took a seat on the bottom step as he reached it, "Though yer all my favorites for very different reasons. I wouldn't be botherin' tryin' ta be civil with him, Miss Wei-Li. He's one o' those types who has a perpetual stick up his ass and seems ta enjoy it a lot. I ain't never been one fer stuff like that, but ta each his own, eh?"

Then he looked up as the giant entered the room.  He shot an dirty look in the mans direction.  There was no one on this ship that he loathed more. "How pleasant of you to join us." he said, "You're compliments are too kind, as usual."

Geoff smiled wryly to Kyron and gave him a nod, waving off his words. "Oh, yes, of course. It's always a pleasure, ain't it? I mean, I bet there ain't a day goin' by where ya don't think with bated breath, 'I wonder what Geoff's gonna say today?'. I bet it's the shinin' point in an otherwise dull existence. " he said and took another drink, "Heh. And don't be mentionin' the compliments. Ya earned such sentiment every day ya've been onboard."

Kyron did not even acknowledge Geoff’s response or the companions snuff of him as he turned to the other woman, "Ah, you must be the crews employer." he said, and did not take her hand.

Kyoko shook her head and walked off. What an idiot, she thought as she walked up to her quarters. She glared at Geoff as she past.  "I am a member of this ship's company." she reminded him as she stalked towards her shuttle.

Geoff smiled and arched a brow as he watched the companion leave, trying to move his head to an angle as she climbed up the stairs to see if he can get a better view. "Yeah, sure. I tend ta ferget that as I see ya so rarely socializin’ with the crew or doin' any actual work. Not to mention, the members o' my company never try ta break my arm. Well, least not the first time I meet 'em." he said before turning back towards Kyron and Wei-Li.

Kyoko stopped as she reached the edge of her shuttle. "How many hull patches have you put in? Or how hours you've stood on the flight deck as backup pilot?" Kyoko said archly, "And as I recall you put hands on me without permission.”

Geoff looked up to Kyoko and shrugged. "That I did and I'm rightly sorry 'bout it. I shoulda been smarter than that. Can't help it if I'm ruled by a part o' my body a bit lower south o' my brain." he said with a grin, "As to yer questions, I'll answer them if ya'll tell me how many bullets ya got in ya, how many bones ya've had broken and how many people ya've had ta drag out under fire. You show me yours, I'll show ya mine, dong ma?"

"Sorry, I don't entertain crew members." Kyoko said as she stepped into her shuttle and slid the door shut. Clearly the smile on her face let it be known she was getting the last word as the door shut with a thud.

Geoff sighed and shook his head, shrugging in resignation. "Ya'd think I'd be surprised by the amount o' times people choose ta leave rather than continue ta talk ta me. 'Course, timely retreat is always the easy way ta get the last word in, ain't it?" he said with an amused smirk.

"You have an awfully high opinion of yourself, considering well ... who you are, what you do ... which by the way, what exactly do you do besides carrying around big guns?  Or is that the only thing you have the brain capacity for?" Kyron arched his eyebrow at the man.  It was so hard to even bother with conversing with him - he was so utterly crude and uncivilized.

Geoff smirked lightly and shrugged. "Well, o' course my opinion o' myself is high. Better than the alternative, dong ma? 'Sides, I ain't the only one with a high opinion o' their selves and I've done more ta earn mine." he remarked and then looked to his guns before looking back to Kyron, "As fer what I do, I thought that it woulda been made abundantly clear after yer little incident back on Valon. I'm the one that makes sure pampered core worlder’s like you don't get yerselves shot. So ya see, I also have the brain capacity fer usin' the big guns I carry."

Wei-Li continued to smile at Kyron, lowering her hand... 'Tough crowd type' she thought.  There's one in every crowd.  "So what do you do Mr...?"

"Bates." he replied, turning to the woman. "Kyron Bates. And I am a passenger ... for far to long."

Wei-Li chuckled.  "I figured that,” she said tilting her head.  "I meant for a living.. you know... exchanging pleasantries?

Geoff looked to Wei-Li as she asked her question of Kyron and then he looked over to Kyron with a smirk. "Oh, him, ma'am? He don't do much but complain and be a royal pain in everybody's asses. Yet he thinks that makes him the king o' the damn 'verse. Though I only see him as king o' one thing and it sure as hell ain't the 'verse..." he said and shrugged again.

Wei-Li suppressed a smile, still trying to handle Mr. Bates like she would any heckler... and one of the best ways was to simply treat them as if they hadn't been heckling.
"Well you still haven’t said what you do for a living, Mr. Bates."

"And that is the way it is going to stay." Kyron said, ignoring Geoff's comments completely as he was above dealing with his like.  "My business is my business, and is none of yours.  A miscreant from Paquin has no need to concern herself in other's business affairs. Good day."

Wei-Li blinked at him in disbelief and then turned to Geoff and rolled her eyes.  "Talk about a tough room..."  She sighed.   She was trying to blow it off, but this wasn't someone criticizing her performance... he was criticizing her.

Geoff smiled and waved an exaggeratedly dainty wave. "Ta-ta, then. So nice ta see ya. Hope we can do this again sometime!" he said in a falsely bright voice before chuckling as he looked to Wei-Li, "Ain't he just a ray o' sunshine? Brightens your day right up, don't he? Heh. Don't let him bother ya none though. I suspect that even his own mother don't like him that much..."

Wei-Li smiled and laughed.  "Thank you"  Suddenly her eyes sparked with mischief.  "Care to try the slack rope?"

Geoff looked to the bit of rope she was talking about and shook his head, laughing. "Uh, thanks fer the offer, but I ain't exactly the graceful or acrobatic type. Plus, I don't think that there thing will support me. I'm a big guy, in case ya haven't taken noticed." he remarked with a laugh.

Wei-Li laughed and the twinkle in her eyes grew.  "I'll spot you,” she offered.

Geoff smiled and laughed, shaking his head a bit. "Spot me? Uh, no offense meant, but I really doubt that ya could be catchin' me if I were ta fall. I mean, I really don't want ta be endin' up on the ground, layin' on top of ya. Uh...leastwise, not under those circumstances and without an invitation, I don't." he remarked with a sheepish grin.

Wei-Li blushed again, then smiled at him.. "Its not that far off the ground" She shrugged, unsure of what to say

Geoff grinned and leaned back in a relaxed manner, taking a drink from his bottle of liquor. "Well, it surely ain't, but that ain't ta say that I'm lookin' ta fall from any height. See, I ain't all that light on my feet. Now, if ya were asking me ta juggle or do some sleight of hand, I'd be ready. I've got very talented hands. That's somethin' fer ya ta keep in mind fer later, by the way." he said with a wry grin before shrugging, "But, anyway, I'll be passin' on yer offer of tryin' that thing out. I'd much rather sit here, drink and eat this here apple. Though I ain't adverse ta ya goin' on with yer practicin', if ya want. Yer quite nice ta be watchin', ya see, and that's only partly because of the acrobatics, dong ma?"

Wei-Li turned several shades of red as Geoff talked.  To be honest, she didn't completely mind the attention although she didn't know exactly what to do about it.  She settled for going back to working on the rope.

Geoff grinned and sighed as he took another drink before putting the bottle down and pulling out his knife to cut slices from the apple he held. As he ate slowly, he kept an eye on Wei-Li and her wire walking. He found the skill quite impressive and knew that he wouldn’t have been able to do such a thing himself. He also found it rather amusing that a woman whom had done death defying flips and caught a pickpocket with such deftness and skill would blush at some idle flirtation. Sometimes people were hard to figure, at least in Geoff's estimation.

He ate a slice of apple slowly and then looked thoughtfully to where Wei-Li walked the wire. "So, is that there acrobatics and such a talent ya were born with or somethin' ya had ta learn? It's quite a skill ta have, ya know." he remarked and then grinned wryly, "Heh, I think the captain may even have been a bit interested in some lessons..."

Wei-Li balanced on the rope, lifting her leg up and holding it while balancing on the other.  "They say you're born with it on Paquin, but truth be told," She said bringing the foot down and going into a handstand. "We're just exposed to it at an early age.” She brought her legs back down... over balanced and shifted into a back walkover, landing with her feet solidly on the ground and her hands still on the rope.  "Uhm.. could you help me?

Geoff smiled and, putting his apple down and sheathing his knife, stood up as he walked over to her. He looked to her for a bit and chuckled as he shrugged. "I dunno if I should. I'm sorta enjoyin' the view from this angle...heh." he remarked with a shake of his head before moving to place a hand on her upper back and lift her up to a solid standing position on the ground, "Though, if we're gonna be honest, a view from any angle is a nice one as far as I'm concerned."

Wei-Li ducked her head and laughed.  "Well, you're catching me off balance here,” she said with a shy chuckle.

Geoff just shrugged and smiled. "Guess I am, ain't I? Well, I'm guessin' that's a rare occurrence, ain't it? Heh. I'm glad I was around ta see it." he said in a light tone. He turned to go back to sit at the last step of the metal steps that led up to the catwalk and looked over his shoulder at Wei-Li as he did. "Are ya still gonna be practicin' on that there thing or maybe ya wanna join me in a drink?" he said as he sat down, picking up the apple and beginning to cut slices out of it again.

Wei-Li shrugged.  "Don't drink" she answered.  She tilted her head and smiled.  “But I'd love a slice of that apple..."

Geoff looked to Wei-Li with an incredulous look, as if she had said something he couldn't understand. "Don't....drink? Eh? That's...uh...well, ain't never heard of somebody don't drink. Kinda strange. Why wouldn't ya drink? Ah, never mind, ain't important. Still..." he remarked with a shake of his head before grinning as he cut another slice from the apple and offered it to Wei-Li, "Well, I guess that means more liquor for me anyway. Here. Come on and sit down and relax a spell."

Wei-Li accepted the proffered piece of apple and sat down.  She sat in a single movement going from standing with her feet crossed in front of her to sitting Indian style on the floor.  "Since we're always either practicing or performing.. or preparing to practice... its not good to lose focus... at least that's what my mother always said..."  She shrugged, picking at the peel as she talked.  "Besides, if you're off your game.. you're the one going home with no wallet..."

Geoff thought about what she said and knew she was probably right. Copious amounts of liquor and the acrobatics act Wei-Li usually put on would probably not mix well. Plus, he knew that getting drunk in the wrong place was usually the easy way to lose your money, as she said. Though, for him, it took a bit more effort on a thief's part because he usually distributed his cash over various parts of his body to make sure he never got completely robbed.

"Yeah, I guess that makes sense. Though it really ain't any reason I would stop drinkin'. My job don't take lots of focus. Simple point and shoot, fist to face or pick up box take it there. Nothin' too complex. 'Sides, that's why I don't keep my money in one place. A thief wants to rob me blind, they have ta strip me down and explore and that is usually too much trouble when I'm dead drunk and completely dead weight. Though, lemme tell ya, there are those who would still go for it and that leads ta some awkward situations fer me. Plus more than a few colds." he remarked lightly before picking up the bottle of liquor and taking a drink, "Ya know, though, out here in the black ya ain't gonna be needin' ta practice and perform and there really ain't nobody aboard who's gonna rob ya. So it might be safe fer ya ta have a bit of a drink. That's just my thoughts though..."

Wei-Li shook her head waving off the thought of drinking on board.  "I'm going to be black walking, which is about forty-seven times worse."

Geoff shrugged and sighed, taking another drink. "Yeah, yer probably right. I ain't never been much fer that. Walkin' out in the black with nothin' but that ruttin' suit ta keep ya alive. No way. Not my thing. That's the reason they made these here boats fer us ta ride in. So we'd have a hell o' a lot o' metal between us and the black." he said with a grin, "Ya got some guts ta be doin' it, if'n ya ask me."

Wei-Li smiled.  "There is nothing like being out in the black.. no gravity to stop you.. you swim... Geoff.. its one of the most amazing experiences.. you're actually swimming in the black.. "  She smiled, like someone talking about a beautiful forest or the sensations of sky diving.    Her voice is tinged with awe.  "It is one of the most amazing feelings... "

"Well, ya do make it sound like somethin' great. Somethin' that needs ta be experienced ta be believed. Really make it sound great." he said with a laugh, "However, I know a few other amazin' feelings" that I can have without havin' ta go out into the black so I'm thinkin' I'll be stickin' with those, thank ya kindly. I'm kinda stubborn that way."

She shrugged.  "I'll have to take your word for that," she said.  She sighed and stood just as she sat... one fluid movement.  "I should probably take the rope down and make sure everything's ready"

Geoff grinned wryly and shrugged. "Well, a couple o' them ya wouldn't need ta be takin' my word fer if ya really want. Be happy to demonstrate a few. In fact, sometimes it's necessary ta have another person around." he said and laughed as he stood up and finished off his drink, putting the bottle down on the ground by he bottom step, "But I guess now ain't the time...unfortunately. Ya needin' any help with that stuff? Ya know the preparations and such?"

Wei-Li smiled.  "If you want to help.. I need to uncrate the first unit.."  As she moved towards the crate she looked at him. "And if you're helping me.. you can tell me what you think compares to space..."

Geoff followed after her with a smile. "Sure enough, ma'am. Happy ta help." he remarked as he moved to the crate with Wei-Li. When she talked about what he thought compared to space, he looked to her with an arched brow and another incredulous expression. An expression that said, "Do I really have to spell it out for you?". He really hadn't been all that subtle and he hadn't really been trying to be. He did want to refrain from out and out blurting out the mechanics of the physical acts he had in mind, but he also hadn't been exactly the master of veiled flirtation. "Heh. You seriously want me ta be sayin' what I think 'bout that?" he asked with a grin.

Wei-Li gave him a quizzical look.  "What?  Sky diving?  Base Jumping?  Ship surfing?..."

Geoff had to look to Wei-Li quietly for a full minute before he shook his head and chuckled. “Holy ruttin' hell! You really ain't gettin' the message I'm tryin' ta get across, are ya? Wow, yer family really was big on keeping outside distractions away, weren't they? Guess it was wrong of me to assume that a woman who could bend and move the way you do would be well versed in the sexual act. But it's really hard not ta make that assumption with all o' that starin' ya in the face!" he said and laughed again as he then shrugged, "I'm talkin' 'bout sex. Ya know? The horizontal mambo? A roll in the hay? Makin' bacon? Knockin' boots? Makin' the beast with two backs? The G-spot two step? C'mon, any o' this sound familiar? I mean, am I gonna have ta explain the mechanics of it to ya? Because I will. Seriously. I mean, it ain't that hard. Well, actually there would be at least one thing that's hard for it ta work right...."

Wei-Li listened to Geoff, her jaw dropping slightly as she finally understood what he was talking about...  Her eyes widened slightly and then there was a spark of fire in them. "... I'm not... I don't... I'm an acrobat.. not a pleasure girl.. I don't work those clubs... "

At that point, Rhaef stepped out of the shadows, peeling an orange and laughing. "You know y'all, don't know what's funnier, the lecher act or the ah-sucks naivety of yours Miss. You two been dancing around the subject for at least ten minutes. Although I can't say it ain't been amusing." As he this, Rhaef put the orange in his mouth, and climbed the rigging to one of the mezzanines. Looking down from his perch at the two of them, Rhaef added, "So either of you seen the Captain?"

Geoff looked up to Rhaef then and shook his head, grinning a bit. "See, I knew there was a reason ya tended ta get on my nerves and now I remember. Ya got a rotten sense o' timing and a really smart mouth. Yer lucky I respect both o' those things. The voyeur thing, though, is a bit creepy. If ya like ta watch, there are places ya can pay ta do it, ya know." he remarked lightly and shook his head, "Ain't seen the cap'n. Think he'd probably be in his bunk or on the bridge."

Geoff then looked to Wei-Li with a grin and put his hands up in a calming gesture. "Now, look, don't misunderstand me. I was just givin' ya my answer 'bout what I thought was better than walkin' out in the black. I ain't sayin' that I want ya right here right now on the floor of the cargo bay and I ain't sayin' that ya have ta even entertain the thought of somethin' like that. See, I'm just sayin'....should ya ever want ta, I'm up for it. In more ways than one. That's all I'm sayin'" he said in a low tone with a chuckle.

Rhaef stared at Geoff. The larger man had a way with words, never subtle, but almost always effective. "Well, Geoff, figured you might know those places. But wasn't really watching, just passing through and could help but over hear."  As he said this, Rhaef walked down the catwalks, periodically swinging himself up to a higher level, making his way to the bridge.

Wei-Li watched the exchange and is shocked as all the pieces of information come filing in.  Yet another reminder that she is not at home and this is not part of the Latrans extended family.  She fell flat on her ass, laughing at herself, the situation and her own stupidity.  She smiled up at Geoff.  "I am ... such an idiot"

Geoff had to laugh along with her, figuring the whole situation must have been a bit much for her. "Naw, ya ain't no idiot. I am. I guess I assumed a bit too much, ya know? Just figured, a pretty young gal like you musta had her share of romantic trysts back on your home. Musta been beating fella’s off with a stick....which, by the way, ain't the preferred method of beating off anybody, but then that's two different uses of the term..." he remarked with a grin as he offered her a hand to stand back up.

Wei-Li accepted his help and gave him an apologetic smile.  "I'm .. almost always with family... every guy I know is a ... Steal... " She remembered to use the fake name at the last minute.  She shrugged.  "Nobodies ever... "  she shook her head.  "I'm an idiot... "

"Heh, can't say I know how that is. Don't got much in the way of family so I ain't never had a shortage of new people to meet." he said, "Don't ya worry 'bout it. I was just puttin' an offer out there, ya know? Don't mean ya gotta take it or nothin'. If I crossed a line, we can ferget it ever happened. No problem. Though, bein' honest, I ain't keen on that particular idea..."

"Thank you." She paused, wondering what it would really be like, but quickly stopped that line of thought.  She was here for 6 days, and you do not build lasting relationships with black-bound crew..."I just... "

How do you tell a man that you like them, but they have to go through the approval process where by he would meet the entire clan, they would drink and talk and decide if he was even allowed to talk to her, let alone... date?  She smiled at him.  "Don't know...I mean.. you flattered me, and I really liked the way you made me feel... ... but... "

Geoff just continued to smile and stand in a casual posture. "Ah, see, now. There is always a 'but' in scenarios like this. Half the time there doesn't have to be, but there almost always is." he remarked with a laugh, "I mean, you already said you like the way I make you feel and I know I like the way you make me feel. That should be enough, right? Heh. It's never that simple. Well, let's hear it then and we'll see if we can't work past it or through it or around it or whichever way you could deal with it."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Rhaef reached the bridge, and saw Lei sitting fascinated by the controls as Rhaef worked. There was something off bout that girl, but he couldn't put his finger on it as of yet. He saw the Captain reclining on the bench. He walked into the bridge and leaned against the doorframe. "Excuse me, Captain. Got a minute?

Kale looked up as Rhaef came onto the bridge.  Looking over he noticed Lei was still at the controls ... odd girl. He sat up straight, "What's up?"

Lei looked up as Rhaef came in but then looked over the console again. Most of the controls looked fairly simple. Her gaze fell on the one control that looked like it could do more than any of the others... The cortex.

Rhaef looked at the Captain, then to the girl at the controls. Figuring Ren and Kale knew what they were doing, he said, "A word, in private, Captain." As he said this, Rhaef walked out into the corridor outside the bridge.

Kale shrugged, "Be good." he said to Lei and followed Rhaef out into the hall, curious as to what was on the mans mind.

Rhaef led him out into the hallway where they were far enough to be out of earshot of Lei.  "What's on your mind?" he asked.  Rhaef was a fairly quiet man, if he needed to talk to Kale about something it was most likely important.

"Well, Captain, it may be none of my business. But considering that "other" order you gave me regarding our new fare, figured I best tell ya." He paused, and removed a cigarette and lit it. "It appears our fare already has Geoff wrapped around her little finger. And based on her background, at least as much as you told me, I thought you should probably know." Rhaef added with a shrug. It seemed stupid now that it was out in the air, but still orders are what they are.

Kale nodded thoughtfully, "I'd suspected that ... she's an attractive girl and well - Geoff's a young man.  Put the two together ... " Kale trailed off, he didn't think that Wei-Li was a danger - but he couldn't be sure and right now caution was the name of the game. "Do you feel it's something we should be worryin' about?" He asked his first mate, relying like he had so many times before on Rhaef's keen ability to read people.

Lei didn't even look up as the captain and Rhaef stepped out the door. She could hear them murmuring to each other on the other side of it, so they hadn't gone far. She started to concentrate on the cortex.

The captain had told her not to touch anything, but she wasn't going to learn anything that way... She wouldn't change anything, just look around some. Her hands went to the cortex controls. This model seemed somewhat older than what she was used to, but it was connected with the rest of the ship. From here, she could find out at least a little about what is happening with all the ship's systems. There was so much more freedom here. The system back there had been connected to nothing, and only served to teach the children the basic controls.  She ignored the sound of voices from the hallway, it didn't concern her.

"Ain't rightly sure, Cap." Rhaef replied. "Geoff seems pretty taken, and I ain't been able to get much of a read on the girl. Worry no, but I'm thinking maybe you might just want to have a chat with Geoff. Make sure he understands the risks involved, when you mix business and pleasure, board ship." Rhaef replied honestly.

Kale bit his lower lip and nodded. "Alright, I'll have a talk with Geoff, make sure the rules are all nice and understood.  In the meantime, we'll both keep an eye on Wei-Li - make sure she's who she says she is and not robbing us blind."  He glanced back onto the bridge, Lei looked to be touching things.  "I need to watch the girl" he said to Rhaef and went back onto the bridge.

"Understood, Cap." Rhaef said to the order. Looking over at Lei who now had her hands on the cortex, he added, "You know, Cap, I think you do. Looks to me like she's got herself into the Cortex."  With that Rhaef walked back toward his bunk, wondering about the fact that things continued to get curiouser and curiouser.

Kale walked on the bridge and went straight to the controls.  "Lei, what did I tell you?  No touching." he quickly looked down at what she was pulling up, something about the signals feeding into Destiny's computers.  He didn't even care right now how she had navigated through the cortex to get that information without ever having used the cortex before.  He closed her out of it, "This is my gorram ship and I do not run it like a ruttin' day-care.  Now yer free ta stay here - but the bridge is off-limits, ya hear me?"

Lei jumped when the captain started shouting at her. She didn't understand what she'd done wrong, she couldn't look at the cortex properly without using the controls. She'd only been looking, and hadn't changed anything... Wasn't that all the captain had wanted?
She wanted to ask why the systems were set up the way they were, since she'd spotted something odd. But the Captain was angry with her. Starting to cry, she sprang from the seat and bolted out of the bridge.

Kale sighed as he watched the girl run out of the room.  Ai ya, he thought, he hadn't meant to make her cry.  He just - well, she shouldn't be touching things on the bridge, she could have messed up all sorts of things.  He sat behind the controls and noticed that they were coming up on their destination, and grabbed the mike.  No time to worry about crying children.  "Ren, it looks like its time to pull this boat over, if I could have you on the bridge please."


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Acacia had overslept, she did have a bad habit of doing that.  She had finally gotten up shortly after Ren had made his announcement about taking off.  She was now sitting in the room having straightened things up.  She was writing in her personal journal.  She stopped, readjusted her glasses, and then leaned back down over the book.

Ren wandered through the ship until he found himself standing outside Acacia's door, which is where he knew he would inevitably find himself - there was no where else he'd rather be then with the girl he loved.  He didn't knock but opened the door quietly, hoping to surprise her.

She didn't even notice him as she sat at the small desk, leaning over her journal, he grinned as she adjusted the glasses on her face.  No one else in the world was as adorable.  He crept up behind her, careful to not make a sound.  Then he slowly wrapped his arms around her and began tickling her mercilessly.  Laughing as she giggled, and writhed under his hands.

Acacia had no recourse as she squirmed and tried to get free.  She pushed her hand forward and put a long ink line on the page she was working on.  Through fits of laughter she threw her pen down.  She grabbed at the arms trying to tickle her, she finally got them pinned to her stomach and leaned her head back and glared at Ren, repressing a smile, “You made me mess up my writing jerk.”

Ren laughed, and smiled down at Acacia's 'angry face', which was just so cute because ... well, she didn't really have an 'angry face'.  "Now those are some harsh words, Doc.  I'm not a jerk, I prefer 'civilly challenged'.  Kyron's a jerk.  Let's not confuse me with him, that would be all manner of wrong."

He leaned down then and kissed the woman on the forehead.  "Now let me see that." he said and grabbed her journal, he didn't read it but started drawing stars all around the squiggly line she had made down the page.  "See, look, now its the Milky Way from Earth-That-Was." he grinned and proudly showed her is awkwardly drawn stars and swirls, he'd never been much of an artist.

Acacia tried to grab the book back from Ren, he held it out of her reach while he drew.    “Give that back!!” She said trying to jump for it.  She was about to poke him in the ribs when he handed it back.  She brushed her hair out of her eyes, and looked at Ren's masterpiece.  “Cute,” she said slightly sarcastically.  “Do you want me to hang it on the wall?”

"You could," Ren said with a smile, lightly taking the journal out of her hands closing it and setting it on the bed, "Or you could give me a kiss..."

“Oh, so you think you deserve one?”   Acacia started walking away a bit.  “I'm not so sure about that.” She shot him a sultry look and started moving to the door of the bunk.

Ren laughed at the sultry look Acacia shot him, then moved quickly before she could reach the door, wrapped his arms around her waist and easily picked the tiny woman up in his arms, and kissed her.  She fought against him for a second and then he felt her body relax against his as he slowly lowered her feet to the floor.  Pulling away he smiled, "See, you just can't resist me, it's my boyish charm."

Acacia giggled, “I think it was you who couldn't resist me this time,  after all you came down here.”  Acacia had been resisting long enough, heck she hadn't even wanted to in the first place but toying with him was fun.  She turned in his arms and jumped up into his arms.  “Now kiss me properly,” she said giving him a big smile.

"I can never resist you, bao bei." Ren said, holding Acacia in his arms, and leaning forward to 'kiss her properly'.  Which ended up translating into a 20 minute make-out session.  Got love those, Ren thought with a smile. He always felt so happy when he was with this woman ... sometimes he could hardly believe his luck.  She was like a gift.

He turned her around and began massaging her shoulders. "Captain, seems to think that this job will be real simple.  I'm worried - cause whenever he says that things go terribly wrong." Ren let his hands work into Acacia's shoulder's thinking about all the times they had just barely scraped by, and hoping fervently that this would not be one of those kinds of jobs.  He hated the thought of Acacia in danger ... when she had gotten sick ... when he had almost thought that he was going to lose her.  He couldn’t' even think about that.

Acacia leaned back, “Wonderful man, Wonderful man eases shoulder tension.”  She smiled and sighed contentedly.  “I do too, I wish to have a nice easy trip, with lots of time with you.”  She put her hands on his, “Please don't stop this by the way,” she kissed his left hand gently.

"I wouldn't dream of it." he said, still massaging her shoulders, and kissing her lightly on the cheek.  "I wish I hadn't been sick half the time on Paquin." he said somewhat wistfully, "Could have taken you out, shown you the sights ... or we could have stayed in ... which would have been even better." he grinned.

“Yep, ya could have shown me where you were born, and taken this opportunity to reveal ourselves to the crew, oh yes it would have been wonderful.  Just think Ren if we told the captain, no more sneaking, we could probably even share a cabin and sleep, and yes I do mean actual sleep, together every night.”   She looked around pleading with her eyes.    “Can't we please come clean to everyone?”

Ren stopped massaging Acacia's shoulders and stared at her back.  She turned to face him and Ren sighed.  "Acacia, I know you want to tell everyone, okay?  I know that.  But ... the thing is - its just.  Kale's been good to me.  I respect him Acacia, and well, ship board romances they complicate things, make things cloudy, ya know?  Kale doesn't like 'em.  I just don't want to ... I dunno.  Can we just ... just let things be.  For now?" he looked at Acacia for a moment and then looked down at his hands.

“Do you think everyone on this ship is stupid, I've seen them stare at us, whenever we are in the same room.  One person figured it out, and has told me as much.” She kept the hurt look in her eyes. “I don't want to "get caught"  I want this on our terms.”   She slid up next to him and laid her head on his chest, “Don't you love me enough to do this?”

Ren's brow furrowed, that wasn't true.  They didn't all know ... did they?  He shook his head, "Don't do that Acacia.  Don't make me the bad guy.  You know I love you.  I love you." he stroked her hair as she leaned up against his chest.  "But now is not the time, okay?" he pulled her up so he could look into her eyes. "Can you love me enough to just trust me?  When the time comes ... well, then it'll come."

Acacia turned her head, her red hair falling loose over her right eye.  “You aren't the bad guy, you’re the best guy I know, cause your MY guy.”  She stared into his eyes, she looked almost afraid. “I'm just worried one of us is going to be called out on it,  you better pray it isn't me, cause I know the captain will be able to see through any lie I tell, it wouldn't even be worth my time to try.  I've never been able to lie, even when it would do good.”  She place her hand on his cheek, “and we will get caught, it is a matter of when not if.”

Ren smiled at her, "And your MY girl." he shrugged then, not wanting to argue anymore, "We just won't get caught, we'll be slick and quiet and quick like a ninja, or ninjess ... is that even a word?" he pondered aloud, hoping that Acacia would accept this change in topic.

“I don't know, I mean, Kyoko figured it out.  She is good about these sort of things maybe she could helps us with away for us to tell everyone,  I mean she already told me we might be able to use her shuttle for some "personal" attention to each other,” Acacia said letting her outer hand slide down Ren's leg.  “At least think about letting em all know?  It's all I want, that you will at least consider it.”

Ren sighed, she was obviously not letting the subject matter go. "Okay, I'll think about it, alright?  I mean, I'm not saying we won't tell them ever ... just ... not now."

Acacia leaned up and kissed Ren deeply, “Thank you.” she whispered as she pulled away.  “I want to be with you forever and forever can't be hidden.”  She sat back down and leaned between Ren's arm and his torso, “See cause I was made for you,” she smiled at him,  “I'm a perfect fit.” she said laying back on his chest.

Ren chuckled lightly, "That you are, love." He wrapped his arms tightly around Acacia as though he was never, ever going to let go.  "I love you forever.  Forever, and ever, and ever." between each word he kissed her again and again.  How did he get so lucky?

Acacia decided she need to be more comfortable, she curled up and placed her head on his lap.  “So, where are we going anyway.  All I know is we took off, “  she said she was laying on her back now, her eyes looking right up at him.

Ren leaned back on one arm the other idly playing with Acacia's hair.  "Just some random co-ordinate in the black, near Whitefall.  This girls got units all over the place.  I'm just takin' us from one to the next.  S'posed to take a week."

I love it when plays with my hair, so soothing, she thought.  “Ah, so long trip to Whitefall from here?” Acacia asked.  She smiled, if she was a cat she would have been purring.

"Nah, only about a day away, we'll be there in no time.  'Course that really don't mean much except I'll have to pull the boat over for an hour or so and then set her back on course for the next stop."

“So one whole day before you need to do anything?” She said a mischievous grin forming on her face.  “So you are mine for awhile now?”

"I'm always yours." Ren said with a smile, and kissed her again.

Acacia laughed.  “Silly, I meant you don't have to run off and do piloty things for awhile right?” she wasn't complaining he kissed very well.

"Trying to get rid of me already?” He asked giving her a very sad hurt look, then raising his eyes a little. He couldn't keep from smiling.

Acacia poked Ren in the ribs, “No never.”  She grabbed his arm, “Mine.” she said, with a weird smile.

Ren grinned "Now what does that smile mean?" he asked with a laugh.  "If I didn't know any better I'd say you were up to no good."

“No, nothing just claiming what is mine.” she giggled when she said it.  She comfortably continued laying on Ren's lap,  “I keep expecting for someone to comm and ruin this moment.”

Kale’s voice on the comm sounded then as if on cue, “Ren, it looks like its time to pull this boat over, if I could have you on the bridge please."

Ren groaned as the Captains voice came over the intercom. "You were saying?" he said to Acacia, then stopped to think for a moment.  "Did he say we're pulling over?  It's only been a few hours ..." Ren stood up, he cast an apologetic look at Acacia and began heading for the bridge.

Ren entered the bridge to see the Captain sitting at the controls, "Um, is there something I've been missin'?  I don't recall flying this boat all the way ta our first stop off." he said in confusion.

"You didn't." Kale said, stepping away from the controls to allow Ren to do his thing.  "The girl gave us a boost, used the planets gravity to sling us farther faster ... it was some mighty good thinkin'.  Gives me the willies - don' quite know how she did that, wasn't behind the controls fer more then a few minutes ..." he trailed off.  "We're here now though."

"Lei?" Ren said, taking a seat and going over the controls, "The kid?"  He eased up on the thrusters,  "She ever been up in a boat like this before even?" he brought Destiny to a near stop and transmitted the code on the pocket computer Rhaef had given him earlier through the frequency and began following the beacon as it came back.  He looked at Kale "Well, you can let our employer know we're there." he said as he got a visual.

Kale grabbed the mike "Looks like we've reached our destination, all acrobatic, waitressing, thief-catching black walkers to the airlock please."  He set the mike down, "I got some work ta do."



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Lei ran out of the dining hall, deflecting herself off the guard rail to aim herself at the stairs, and ran down them to the lower level. She immediately changed direction at the bottom, ducking under one end of the rope to aim herself at Charlie's bunk. She seemed upset about something.

Geoff at once noticed the sound of running feet and looked to see Lei running quite frantically away from somewhere. At the moment, that would be the only thing that would distract him from his current conversation with Wei-Li. So, with a quick look to Wei-Li in apology, he moved quickly to intercept the girl. He met her as she ducked under the rope, quickly grabbing her with one of his arms and grasping her to him in a sort of half hug. "Oi, Lei! Lei. Shh, calm down, little lady. What's wrong? What happened? Come on now. It's okay. It's Geoff, your buddy. Just tell me what's up." he said in a soothing tone, a surprising tone coming from a man like Geoff.

Lei started kicking and screaming as soon as Geoff had managed to grab her. Unable to break out of his hug, she quickly stopped trying to escape. For her to get out of that grip was impossible, and she knew it. Eventually, she recognized Geoff's voice... It was ok. Geoff wasn't mad at her.  Between sobs, she started trying to tell him what happened. "He... he yelled... at me. I... was just... looking."

Geoff continued to hold the girl to him and started stroking her hair in a comforting  manner as he spoke in his low and soothing tone. "Shh, shh, shh. It's okay. It's okay. Ain't nobody yellin' now. Just me and you. Just Geoff watchin' out fer ya and there ain't nothin' ya could be doin' ta piss me off, ya know? All right? Now, just calm down and tell me what happened clearly. Who yelled? What were ya lookin' at?" he said softly.

"I was just... looking at the... cortex. I had to... use the controls to ... see. I didn't change anything." Lei grabbed onto Geoff's shirt in order to hug in closer to his chest. "He yelled an'... said I wasn' allowed ... back up there anymore. I was only looking."

Geoff continued to try and soothe her, though her words about the cortex and the controls were far beyond any of his reckoning. He was hired muscle and the parts and controls of a ship were beyond him. "Well, it's ok. Listen, I wanna tell ya somethin'. If anybody on this boat yelled at ya, it was only 'cause they were worried. They don't want ya to do anythin' that may hurt ya or anybody else. They're just lookin' out fer you, dong ma?" he said in his same low tone, "'Sides, yellin' and words don't mean much in the long run. Ya gotta let things like that roll offa ya and know that there ain't no hurtin' that can come from them and that Geoff is here ta make things better in the end. Ya got that? Come on now. Gimme a smile. Ain't no reason fer ya ta put such a sad expression on that pretty face o' yers. C'mon."

Having heard the girl, cry out. Kendra stood up, placed the book she had been reading face down and headed over to the girl. She gave a quick smile to Wei-Li. “Everything OK?”

Wei-Li leaned over and spoke quietly.  "I don't know.. she came running in and Geoff.. sort of grabbed her, and started comforting her."  She paused and turned towards Kendra.  "Is she his sister?" She asked.

“No, she's not his sister, we found her in a box-it's a long story. No, he's just taken a liking to her, kinda cute, I think.” Kendra whispered back.

Wei-Li nodded as she heard Kendra's explanation.  'A stowaway... and the crew looks after her.  I was right.. the captain cares about his crew.  I'll have to see if they'll come back next time I have a 'harvest'

Wei-Li looked up then when Kale came over the intercom.  She shrugged.  "They're playing my song..."  She gathered up the uncrated unit and her suit and headed to the airlock.  Once she had the unit next to the lock she opened her locker and began suiting up.

"But I want to find out about everything... And he said I wasn't allowed up there now... I can't look at it... If I go up there, he'll be angry again." Lei buried her face against Geoff's chest, and sobbed quietly. She was starting to feel safe there. But staying here in Geoff's arms wouldn't help her learn anything. Just a while longer, though.

Geoff was not a dense guy and, considering that Ren wasn't on the bridge when Lei came running down, it didn't take him long to figure out who she was talking about. Geoff sighed and shook his head. "The cap'n? Look, I'm sure he said yer not allowed up there anymore, but here's another thing fer ya ta learn. Anger always fades over time. Eventually, the cap'n will cool down and we can talk to him about lettin' ya up there. Maybe he'll let ya if ya have somebody watchin' ya so they can make sure ya don't do anything ta hurt yerself." he said and chuckled, "But, damn, yer a curious one, ain't ya? Smart too if ya even have an inklin' of how stuff up on the bridge works. Smarter than me anyway, but that ain't sayin' much..."

Kale started down the stairs in the cargo bay then, "You ready for some black walking Miss Steal?" he said with a grin, then noticed Lei crying in Geoff's arms, "Ah, hell." he said under his breath ... he really wasn't good with children.  Got her crying an' everything.  He reached the lower level and started walking towards the group assembled in the cargo bay.

Wei-Li nodded, pointing towards the replacement unit and the half donned suit.  "I'll be ready in about 5 minutes," she answered, giving a worried look back to Lei and Geoff before focusing on the job... it was after all, why she was here

Lei moved her head in a weak nod as Geoff kept talking to her. If what he said about her maybe getting to go to the bridge again was right... She looked up at his face and gave a weak smile. Listening on, she was surprised that Geoff said he didn't know about how anything on the bridge worked. That can't be right... Still talking quietly, she said "It's just a cortex. But it connects to everything here. Not like..." back there. She lowered her head to hug into Geoff's chest again. She still didn't want to talk about that place. I'm safe here, with Geoff. I'm not there anymore.

Wei-Li locked down her suit and activated the 02 tank.  She checked the pressure gauges as the suit filled.  Once she verified that it was holding pressure, she made sure the connections were solid.  She reached into her trunk and pulled out the tools she'd need, carefully applying them to the metal pads along her thigh.  The magnetized tools clung to the pad.  It was easier than fishing through a tool box in zero G.

Once she was ready with that she attached one of the tethers to her suit, holding onto the other connecter, she pulled the 3 meter unit from its crate and smiled at Kale.  "Ready..."

Kale cast an apologetic look in the direction of Geoff and Lei and went to help Wei-Li.  She almost had her suit all the way on when he got there.  "You know what yer doin' right?" he said, didn't want to send someone out on his whole to be sucked out into the 'verse.  "You go ahead in there and I'll close her up then you can head out, I'll wait here fer you ta get back in." he said, walking over to the airlock controls.

Wei-Li nodded and moved into the airlock.  She clipped the free end of the tether to a bolt in the lock, took a deep breath and gave Kale the thumbs up.

Geoff gave Lei a light smile and shook his head in amazement as she started to explain the cortex to him. "Damn, you are a smart one. Seriously. I've been travelin' in the black fer half o' my life and I ain't never been able ta keep any o' the technicals straight in my head. Ya must be a gorram genius." he said and continued to stroke her hair in a gentle way as she hugged him again, "Makes a fella proud ta have a genius as a friend. Quite a nice thing."

Lei had calmed down, and was comfortable in Geoff's arms now. The problems on the bridge were slowly getting pushed from the front of her mind. Then she remembered something. When the captain had left the bridge, just before yelling at her, him and Rhaef had been talking about Geoff. She hadn't really paid much attention at the time, but now that she had time to think about it, a couple of things confused her about their conversation.  "Geoff, what's it mean when you're wrapped around someone's little finger?"

Geoff arched a brow at Lei as she asked him that, a light smile gracing his lips. "Heh, well, ta be wrapped around someone's little finger....well, it means that one person has got another person right where they want 'em and basically able ta do whatever they want without the person in question bein' aware that they are basically bein' used. It ain't a good thing, in other words." he said and then chuckled, "Where'd ya hear that particular phrase, Little Lady?"

Seeing no reason why she shouldn't tell him, Lei continued. After all, Geoff was nice to her, and the Captain only yelled at her. "On the bridge. Rhaef said you were wrapped around Wei-Li's little finger... He told the captain that he thought he should know about it."

Geoff's amused grin fell and he was less than happy with this bit of news Lei brought him. The fact that he was being said to be under Wei-Li's influence was really only a minimal part of why he was angry. The main thing that pissed him off was the fact that Rhaef and the captain apparently felt that he needed to be watched and talked about behind his back. Such things meant that perhaps he wasn't as trusted as he had been beginning to believe. He looked over his shoulder at the captain quickly and shook his head as he took a deep breath and put on a smile for Lei's benefit.

"Did he now? Well....ain't that somethin'? Heh. Ain't. That. Just. Somethin'." he said in an even tone, before smiling more genuinely and giving Lei a friendly pat on the shoulder, "That's a solid ya done me by tellin' me that. Thank ya much, Lei. Glad ta know that there is somebody I can trust, after all."

"What's wrong?" Lei asked as she caught the look on Geoff's face. Then he smiled down at her, and all seemed ok. Lei returned his smile. Geoff was happy with her for telling him... Lei decided to tell Geoff anything else she heard like that too.

Kale watched as Wei-Li made her way out onto the hull of the ship, then turned his head slightly as he heard Geoff talking in an angry tone to Lei.  Didn't really seem like him ... he was always really good with the girl.  He watched the two of them for a moment, trying to catch what was going on.

Geoff shook his head and chuckled lightly as he stood up and placed a hand on Lei's head, tousling her hair in an affectionate manner. "Nothin' wrong. Nothin' wrong at all." he said as he looked over his shoulder to Kale and, noticing him looking over at him and Lei, gave him a cool smile, the same smile he usually gave Kyron, and a loose salute before turning to Lei again, "So, hey, ya hungry, Little Lady? Wanna go up and get somethin' from the dinin' hall?"

Kale raised his eyebrows at Geoff's cold smile and mocking salute ... something was wrong, something was definitely wrong.

Lei looked up to Geoff after he placed her feet on the deck again. "Okay." She started to walk with Geoff towards the stairs leading up to the dining hall. Besides, Kale was down here, and though he was currently staring at Geoff, Lei thought he might still be angry with her too. Being in a different room from him seemed a good idea.

Geoff smiled to Lei and walked slowly with her to the dining hall. As they walked, he looked to the captain with his cool grin and nodded. "Seein' as how ya don't need me here, I'll be takin' the little lady ta get somethin' ta eat. I'll be in the dinin' hall, ya know, in case ya need ta know where I am fer some reason." he said as he turned his back on the captain and headed up onto the catwalk, "See ya later...., Captain." With that he headed after Lei and into the dining hall.

What in the gorram hell had gotten into Geoff? Kale wondered, it was not like him to be so flippant with him.  He and Geoff had a good repertoire going - he was his kind of man.  The sudden change in attitude seemed out of place ... he'd have to speak with him soon as Wei-Li got back.  He didn't appreciate the mock salute or snide Captain.  If that boy was gonna be on his ship then he'd have to learn how to respect the rest of the crew - and that included him.  Ain't no one going to get anything done it people were saying snide things behind each others back.

Lei walked into the dining hall and went straight over to the food cupboard. She fished around in it for a short while before pulling a couple of standard ration packs out, and taking them over to the table. Leaving them there, she filled a glass of water up for herself at the sink... She knew Geoff wouldn't want one, but still didn't know where he hid his booze. Once she had the water, she returned to the table with it and sat on one of the chairs, curling her legs up under herself. She slid one of the ration packs over to Geoff, and tore into the other one.

Geoff walked in after Lei and smiled fondly at he as he saw her digging through the cabinets and get food for both of them. In truth, he wasn't that hungry. He just hadn't wanted to stay in the cargo bay around the captain for much longer, not completely trusting himself not to do something stupid. So he just moved quickly through the dining hall and headed for his bunk quickly.

He wasn't even gone more than a minute before he came out with two bottles of liquor and took a seat across from Lei. He took the ration packs she gave him with a grateful nod. He didn't open it, however, as he opened his bottle of liquor and took a deep drink, nearly draining half of it in the one swallow. He then fell into a bit of a contemplative silence, feeling the need to think things over now more than he ever has before.

Lei noticed the two bottles being placed on the table. Geoff's special forgetting drink. Something must be bothering him again... Talking around the mouthful of protein and vitamins she was chewing on, she asked "Two? Are you trying to forget something?"

Geoff looked to Lei as he drained the first bottle of liquor quickly and opened up the next one. He looked confused about what she meant before he remembered her first encounter with liquor and his explanation about it afterwards. The memory brought a small smile to his face, but it was short-lived as he sighed and shrugged to her. "Ferget? Naw, not quite. Takes a bit more than this ta make me ferget. No...now, I'm just tryin' ta get myself relaxed." he said in a soft tone, smiling fondly to Lei before he looked away and went back to his contemplation.

In truth, he thought that he might be trying to forget. Forget the fact that he had been stupid enough to think he would be trusted. Forget the fact that he had started considering Charlie's talk of "family" and all of that bullshit. Started considering that maybe it could be true for him. But, in Geoff's mind, one didn't need a spy to report about a member of one's family. No. Families trust. From what Lei told him, it seemed like maybe he was far from having anybody's trust. And he supposed it had been stupid to think otherwise.

That thought made him sigh again and then he looked to Lei with a fond smile. Well, least there's one person 'round here that trusts me. Heh. Guess that means I have a bit of family, after all. Which means I gotta make sure I don't do nothin' ta make her lose that trust. 'Cause, despite what I may have been startin' ta think, it looks like she may be all I got, in the end…, he thought with a nod as he took another drink.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Wei-Li moved to the door and pushed the button to open it.  She tested the tether one last time and then walked out of the lock.  She let go as she took the last step.. the one that stepped away from the ship's gravity field.  She was driving.  She saw the unit off to her left and let the motion of reaching for it propel her towards it.  Just a simple walk.  Enjoying the view would wait.  She used a magnet to grapple the unit and reeled it in towards the bay.  Soon, all that was left was deploying its replacement.

Wei-Li anchored the old unit and un-strapped the new one.  As she lifted it, she felt the exhilaration that always made this job enjoyable for her.  It was one thing to see the black from the relative safety of a ship.  It was quite another to see it like this.  It made her realize how fragile and amazing it all was.  There was more black than anyone could ever imagine, and the planets and stars were like jewels on a dark blue/black velvet curtain.

It was easy to feel alone here, alone and surrounded by not nothing as some people thought, but ... the universe.  She held onto one of the grips as she pulled the unit out and began the start-up sequence.  She looked at her timer and smiled.  Five more minutes and she would be finished with her work for the morning.

The growing unit came online, stayed that way for a minute before shutting down again.

Wei-Li shook her head and started the booting process again, this time carefully watching for any fault indicators. This can't be happening.

The unit went through the boot up process again, it stayed online for a moment and then went down again.  This time with a flash on the screen.  When Wei-Li tried it again, nothing happened.

Wei-Li stared in disbelief and flicked the switch two more times before turning back towards the original unit.

"Go neong Yung Duh!" She looked around and checked the time.  She pulled on the tether bring her back into the bay. She anchored the new unit and began switching out parts.  If she couldn't get the new one to work.. she could take the growth media from the new unit and switch it out with the old one... then do the same for the growth chamber.
It was a better bet than trying to get the replacement unit working in zero G.

It takes time to switch out the parts.  A lot longer than Wei-Li would have liked.  She was close to needing to switch tanks when the process was done.

Wei-Li forced herself to focus on each task as needed.  When the units were finally switched out, she began the diagnostics sequence.  As it ran she switched to her second tank.

As she switched the airflow from her first tank to her second, the diagnostics indicated that it had succeeded.  Re-deploying the original unit proved much easier.  When it was done Wei-Li moved back into the air-lock and sealed the door.

Wei-Li hit the button and signaled Kale that she was ready to come back in.  Then she waited for the air to cycle through

Kale looked back to the airlock as Wei-Li came back inside and hit the controls to cycle the air.  He raised his eyebrows when he noticed that Wei-Li still seemed to have the same unit he'd seen her go out with ... he thought the plan was for her to replace the old unit with the new ... maybe not, what did he know?

The panel lit up and Kale gave Wei-Li the signal that it was safe to come back in.

Rhaef watched the whole interchange from the catwalk as Kale opened the airlock for the guest. As the seal was broken and the airlock equalized pressure settings, he exhaled a plume of cigarette smoked, stubbed out his old smoke, and lit another one.

Wei-Li gave a relieved nod and opened the hatch.  She shut off her O2 before removing her helmet.  Then she walked back in, untethered herself and hauled the replacement unit back in.  Her expression was less than happy.  She let out a frustrated sigh.  "Unit misfired," she told Kale, looking more than a little dejected.  "Can I leave it here while I get checked out?"

"Certainly." Kale said, "Are we gonna want to be stayin' here then for a spell while you do repairs?  I can let Ren know to hold Destiny here."  Kale was just hoping that this didn't mean they were gonna end up short a job if her units weren't all functioning correctly.

Wei-Li bit her lip while she thought about it.  "I exchanged parts so that the unit that's up there is functioning... three units I can just replace and.. " She shrugged.  "I can try and fix the replacements.. If I can't I scrap them and exchange the growth mixture and growing chambers... Its not great... but it will keep things going... "

"So you can fix them," Kale nodded, "Good, that's good.  Well then I'll just leave ya to your work, have us start settin off fer the next stop.  You can go ahead an' leave the stuff in here."  Kale was hardly done talking before he was making his way up the stairs to the dining hall.  He had some other things on his mind - namely Geoff and his snide grin.

Kale walked into the room and immediately frowned as he noticed Geoff sitting at the table with one already drunken bottle of liquor and the other one clutched in his hands.  Kale shook his head and came to stand at the head of the table.  "What'd I tell ya about drinkin' on the boat?" he said, not yelling - just talking.  "We're on a job right now and if we were ta get boarded or somethin' else were to go wrong yer no good to me drunk."

That wasn't what he wanted to talk about but hell, might as well start there, something was up and he aimed to find out just what it was.  And drinking on his boat after he expressed that there was no drinking on the job was just another act of defiance far as he was concerned.  He looked hard at Geoff, waiting for his response.

Geoff looked to the captain with a lazy gaze and a shrug. "So sorry, cap'n. Guess I'm just one o' those types that has a hard time with listenin'. But, lord knows, ya got plenty o' others that can listen just fine, right?" he remarked as he took another slow drink from the bottle, "See and hear plenty..."

The captain was angry... Either still angry from before, or angry again...What was even worse was that he was in the door to the rest of the ship. Lei wanted to run, but the only direction left was back towards the bridge, and she was sure that the captain would be really angry at that... So she just sat there with eyes as wide as a startled rabbit, and tried her best to disappear on the spot.

Kale narrowed his eyes at the man, pulled the bottle of liquor out of his grasp and set it down on the table. "You're treadin' on some dangerous ground, boy." he said, not liking Geoff's attitude one bit.  "You want to tell me what the ruttin' hell has got yer panties in bunch?  Cause I'm tellin' you right now, this ain't how I run my boat - people goin' off sulkin' gettin' themselves drunk when we're on a job-"

Geoff grinned again, a less then friendly grin, and shook his head. "Yeah, that's right. I'm sorry. This ain't how ya run yer boat. Ya have yer own ideas 'bout how ta run yer boat. That's right." he said and laughed shortly, "Ya know, the ways where I gotta be lookin' over my shoulder 'cause yer voyeuristic first mate may be watchin' me and goin' ta report ta ya 'bout how I'm...what was it again?...oh, yeah. 'Wrapped 'round her little finger', right?"

Kale's eye widened as he looked from Geoff to Lei and back to Geoff again.  Then he barked out a laugh.  "You have no gorram clue what yer talkin' about." he said, and then looked to Lei, "And you Miss would do well to stay outta people's business when it ain't any of yers."

Geoff shook his head. "Don't I? I ain't an idiot, Cap'n, despite what others may think o' me. I know that, if ya had wanted me watched, it woulda been done a lot sooner. I know Rhaef weren't there to watch me. He was there ta watch the lady with all the 'talents' of a thievin' sort. Right?" he said in a quiet tone, "That ain't what gets me. What gets me is that he deemed it worth mentionin'. That he, and apparently you, thought so little of me. Thought I would be a bit o' trouble to ya 'cause of a pretty face. Thought it may bite ya in the ass in the end. The fact that, if it had been anybody else onboard, it wouldn't have mattered. But, since it were me, Rhaef had ta tell ya 'bout it. That's what gets me..."

The captain was yelling at her again. Lei just wanted to escape. It wasn't her fault she heard, they were just talking too loud! And if they didn't want her telling anyone what they said, they should have told her not to... How was she meant to know something was wrong if they didn't tell her!  Lei stumbled out of her chair, and started running from the captain. Towards the bridge... She stopped just short, and turned around to stare at the captain like a deer staring at an oncoming train. He'd told her she wasn't allowed in there now...

"Yer right that Rhaef wasn't watchin' you - he was watchin' our nimble-fingered friend to make sure we don't find ourselves a whole lot lighter in the purse when this here jobs over.  But don't you go doin' any assumin' on what I'm thinkin'.  Yer part of my crew, Geoff, you got any notion what that means?" he looked down at the man who was staring evenly back at him.  "It means yer family.  We ain't got a whole lot up here but what we do got is each other.  Rhaef told me about Wei-Li an' you cause that's what we do.  We watch each others back's.  An' now we're watchin' yours right along with the rest o' the crew.  And that's somethin' you just can't seem to wrap yer head around - and I know you ain't a dull boy.  You wouldn't be here if I thought you were stupid."

Geoff looked to the captain, evenly meeting his gaze with his own. On the surface of his mind, he wanted to rebel and rage at the captain. Wanted to call him a liar and say that he had done it only out of mistrust. He wanted to fall back to his old ways of having to watch his back and trusting nobody. On the surface of his mind, all of these things seemed simmering to come out and explode. All of them seemed on a hair trigger that was begging to be tripped.

But he didn't do any of those things. He didn't let his anger get the best of him. Because, deep inside, he believed the captain. Or, more accurately, he wanted so much to believe the captain. He wanted to believe that he was part of a family. That somebody was watching his back and trusted him. That he was considered more than just a dumb thug hired on for a few jobs before being dumped without warning on some backwater world. He wanted to believe this foreign and strange prospect being placed before him....so he did.

It took all of his courage to do it, but he took the risk and decided to believe the captain. To trust him and his crew. So Geoff continued to look evenly at the captain for a moment before lowering his head slowly like an abashed child. ".......heh. Watchin' my back, eh? Heh. That's new. Ain't right in my head yet.... but it'll get there, I guess." he said in a low tone, "....I'm sorry, Cap'n. I guess...I guess I just expected ya ta be like all the rest I've flown with and met in my life. I've learned to expect betrayal...and I had been startin' ta think it weren't comin' here so I guess I grasped on the first thing that seemed wrong to me. That was wrong o' me. So.....I'm sorry."

Kale stared evenly at the man, his face firm but not un-kind.  Watching, waiting for his response. They would be gettin' nowhere if Geoff couldn't learn that the whole gorram world wasn't against him. He meant what he said - he always did.

When the man finally spoke Kale nodded, a slight smile playing at the edge of his lips.  "Well, that's alright then.  Don't you worry about it, ain't nothin' to be sorry 'bout - all past." he said closing the topic then and there, no need to get all sentimental, he moved away from the table then. "We had our talk - although I will be sayin' that you be careful 'round that girl, we ain't sure about her yet - don't want you caught unawares with yer pants down" Kale caught a look in Geoff's eye at that and chuckled, "An' I know you wouldn't object ta that but I would - no crew/employer relations, ain't good fer business."

Then he looked over at Lei who was now huddled by the bridge, "As fer you," he said, "Why don' you come over here?  We need ta have a bit of a heart to heart."

Lei took a couple of hesitant steps back towards dining room table before stopping and shaking her head. The captain had only yelled at her lately, she didn't want to talk with him, he'd just start yelling again. Lei got ready to bolt if the captain came near her.

Geoff smiled easily and shrugged. He was glad that the captain hadn't made a big deal about the situation and that fact only reinforced the rightness he felt at his decision to trust him. He smiled wryly and chuckled at his comment about getting caught with his pants down, but grimaced slightly at his order of no crew/employer relations. "Damn....uh..then can I have a one day pass that let's me off the crew fer a bit? Maybe even only half a day....no, a day." he remarked, his normal good humor back to him quickly.

He then looked to Lei and gave her a smile and a nod as he gestured for Lei to come closer. "It's okay, Little Lady. The captain ain't gonna hurt ya. 'Sides, I'll be right here the whole time, dong ma?" he said in an amused tone as he then gestured to the seat next to him, "Look, ya can come sit next ta me if it makes ya feel better. Use me as a shield. Hell, I'm big enough fer it..."

At Geoff's urging, Lei hesitantly came closer. When she was near the table again, she dashed around to where Geoff was sitting, and grabbed him around the upper arm, hugging. She hid behind him, only looking around his bulk far enough to stare at the captain.

Geoff grinned lightly to Lei and then looked to the captain with an arched brow and a wry grin. "Looks like ya ain't exactly high on the popularity scale at the moment, don't it?" he said with an amused tone of voice and a chuckle, "Dunno why. Ya seem like such a charmin' fella."

Rhaef wandered quietly into the dining hall, seeing the Captain talking to Lei and Geoff. Geoff appeared significantly calmed down, but Lei looked scared and was clutching to Geoff arm's. It was an amusing sight, Rhaef had to admit, this frail young girl clutching to the arm of the ship's hulking hired gun.  Rhaef made his way into the kitchen and grabbed an apple and protein back, and leaned against the counter, eating and listening to the conversation.

Kale allowed the girl to cling to Geoff and didn't step any closer, somehow he had managed to make the girl terrified of him ... he'd never been that great with children.  But if they were going to be co-existing on this ship him and the little lady would have to reach some sort of understanding of each other.

He crouched down by Geoff's chair was he wasn't towering over her and spoke in a gentle but firm voice.  "First off, I'm sorry I yelled at you on the bridge.  But what you have to know is that those controls, they run all of Destiny, you touch the wrong thing or mess somethin' up and we might all find ourselves crashin' into a moon or somethin'.  An' that wouldn't be much ta my likin', dong ma?  I know you didn't mean no harm - an' I know you might just know how to run them controls better then me but fer now I ask you not ta touch them unless you've asked permission and you got someone watchin' ya.  An' when I tell someone not to do somethin' - then that's an order and I expect you not to be doin' it." he watched Lei carefully, hoping that she was understanding what he was saying before continuing.

"Also, I don' much appreciate bein' eavesdropped on, you caused a whole lotta drama today by listenin' in on conversations that were not meant for ya and goin' round repeatin' everything you heard.  On a boat like this - well we can't have ya doin' that.  End up bringing the whole gorram Alliance down on our heads.  You know what a secret is, Lei?  It's somethin' that you know that you don' tell anyone else.  What goes on on this boat - well most of it is secret.  Only fer me an' my crew ta know - so you don't tell anybody else.  Do you understand?"

Rhaef watched the interchange, well more exactly Kale's speech to Lei. He was impressed, he knew that the Captain wasn't the most comfortable with kids, but he was handling things pretty well. More than that, a part of him had started to take a shine to the kid, she was survivor, and a shadow, in many ways, she reminded him of him at her age. Begrudgingly he also he had to add, that Geoff might be the perfect person for her to hang around with. He was not going to crowd her or push her in directions, she had no desires to go. And that's all a kid could wish for, he thought wistfully to himself.

Lei wilted under the captain's gaze. He was still angry at her for looking at the cortex. She wasn't about to make any stupid mistakes with it like some eight year old would, but the captain was treating her like she would. She tried to offer some defense, mumbling quietly. "Was only looking... Didn't change anything."

Then the cap started talking about secrets. Sure, she knew what a secret was, it was something you didn't tell to everyone.  But the captain had just said that it was ok for the crew to know the secrets onboard. And she'd only told this one to Geoff... Wasn't he part of the crew? It was okay to tell him, wasn't it? So why was the captain telling her off for telling one of the crew? And it wasn't like she'd listened in on purpose. She understood why she was being told off for the cortex, but now the captain was starting to contradict himself. With her eyes starting to water, she let out the loudest voice she'd used so far on board, trailing off as she continued. "I... I only told Geoff! ... He's crew! You said crew's 'lowed to know... Only told crew... Didn't mean to hear... You talk too loud..."

Kale rubbed the back of his neck, "Well yeah, yeah Geoff's crew - an' he can know the boats goin' on's but ..." Kale trailed off.  They had talked too loud?  That girl had some good ears on her ... made him wonder even more about just how much he and his crew didn't know about her.  "Will you just be careful?  Don't change or play with anything that you see on this boat unless you've got one of the crew members with ya keepin' an' eye out.  An' just, just keep yer mouth shut 'bout what you hear."  He looked at Geoff then as he stood up, "Ah, ruttin' hell, I ain't no good with kids, you 'xplain to her."

Geoff had to arch a brow to Lei as she actually spoke up for once and he laughed loudly as she trailed off. He looked to the captain with a shake of his head. "Well, I'll be damned, Cap’n! Looks like ya actually got a rise outta her. First time I heard her talk so loud and so sure. I gotta say, I approve." he said with a grin and a chuckle as he shrugged to the captain's response to Lei, "Plus, I do believe she had a point. Heh. But I'll take care o' it, cap’n. Ok? 'Splain things 'til she gets 'em."

Lei nodded that she understood, and hugged tighter onto Geoff's arm. She understood. Don't touch anything without someone saying it was ok. Don't say anything. She was being told that she couldn't do a single thing that she wanted...

Acacia walked into the dining area then, she walked into the kitchen by Rhaef and pulled out a protein pack.  She dumped it into a bowl and asked to anyone in particular. “How is everyone?”

Geoff smiled sympathetically to Lei as she hugged his arm tighter. He figured she must be all sorts of confused and freaked out by now and he'd probably have to explain things to her a bit clearer. Most likely that would only happen out of the captain's presence, seeing as how he wasn’t her favorite person at the moment. He sighed as he looked to the doctor as she walked in. He really hadn't spoken to her much and part of him might have been avoiding her a bit. Firstly because of the fact that a guy in his position would not want to be spend too much time with the doctor. That denoted that he was getting hurt a lot and he didn't want that.

Secondly, and probably most prominent in his mind, he still had that rather risqué picture of her and Charlie in the infirmary with the touching....and the other things...that wouldn't leave his head. But he grinned and shook the thought from his head as he gave Acacia a loose salute. "Oh, we're all just fine, Doc. Just the usual with the cap'n scaring children and all of that. How're ya?"

Acacia looked at Geoff like she wasn't sure if he was serious or not.  She looked from Kale to Geoff and back and forth. “Huh,  What are you talking about?  As far as I knew Cap only ate the small children not scared them.”  she figured Geoff was making a joke, so decided to play along.

Lei let out a small cry, and started to tremble. She held onto Geoff's arm in a death grip. Geoff wouldn't let anything happen to her... She'd just have to make sure he never left her alone... Ever.

Rhaef pulled Acacia aside quickly behind a post and shook his head and whispered to her.
"Good joke, Red. Absolutely gorram timing. The kid's scared witless by the Captain, you probably just made it worse. I highly recommend you apologize to the girl and make sure she understands you were joking."

Kale cast an annoyed look at Acacia as Lei huddled closer to Geoff.  Great just what I need, now the Lei thinks I eat little kids ... "</I>Ta shi suo you di yu de biao zi de ma.</I>" he said

Wei-Li bounced into the room then and looked around.  She paused realizing she'd come in in the middle of something, but it was also obvious that it didn't involve her.  "Sir," she said to Kale.  "I found the problem, but I need to work on it in a ventilated area... or in an enclosed system... "  She gave him a dubious look.  "Do you have some place like that where I can work?"

"Enclosed system, eh?  Well I suppose you can use shuttle two, right through there." he pointed in the direction of the shuttle.

Wei-Li tilted her head, looking in the direction indicated and nodded.  "Thanks." Looking around she realized that leaving was probably a good idea.  She gave Geoff a shy smile and headed back out.

Acacia turned to Rhaef and said a little bit loudly, “What the hell are you talking about?  I make a joke and I'm getting jerked over.” She didn't quite understand what was so wrong about it.

Rhaef shook his head, "Ain't no reason to be yelling Red. Just point out that the kid is freaked by the Captain, and Geoff wasn't joking for once." Rhaef said calmly, almost disinterestedly.  Yet deep down, he was laughing his gorram ass off at recent events, he might be the only one who found the humor in it, but that didn't change the fact that it was funny.

Acacia got a surprised look on her face, then she tried not to laugh.  Her mouth was agape and she put her hands to it.  She ran over near Geoff, careful not to startle the girl.  “Aw honey, I was kidding, I thought we were all joking around.  Kale- I mean the captain is really a nice guy.  I've never seen him hurt or eat and children.”  She turned her head for a second as the image of Kale with a big pot with little arms and legs popped into her mind.  She turned towards Rhaef and he could see she was trying hard not to laugh.

Kale frowned at the group joking at his expense and then looked up as he heard Ren come over the comm, he sighed, "Well, its been pleasant, I'm gonna see what's the matter with the engine though and tell Ren we can start moving out." he cast what he hoped was a friendly and reassuring smile at Lei and headed for the bridge.

"You know maybe Geoff and Lei would like to continue their conversation in private. Why don't we give them some space?" Rhaef said, as Acacia looked at him, he was starting to have some trouble not laughing either.

Lei shied away from Acacia. She had heard everything. The doc was only apologizing because she was told to... Why'd everyone always treat her like she'd only cause trouble, or just joke about her... Everyone except Geoff. Or maybe Charlie.  "Not funny." she sullenly whispered. "Only apologisin' 'coz you were told to. Go away."

Geoff had to laugh at Lei's reaction to Acacia's words and even more so as he thought over the whole situation. It was amusing as hell. Sure, he felt bad that Lei was frightened and he would try and make her feel better right away, but he couldn't help but be amused. When Wei-Li entered and left, he had returned her smile before going about looking to Lei and trying to calm her down.

"The doc's right Lei. Cap'n ain't gonna be eatin' any kids. Yer perfectly safe. Just calm down." he said with an easy grin, "'Sides, ya think I'd be friends with people who ate kids? That just ain't right in my book."

Rhaef chimed in as well, he knew the response the kid was giving and understood it. "Come on, Lei, she's trying. She did not know better, and she didn't mean no harm. Plus, ain't like anyone around here takes orders from weirdo like me anyway." He said as he pulled off his glove to reveal his black flame tattooed hand..

“No, I'm apologizing cause I upset you, I was told because I didn't realize I upset you.”   Acacia sighed, she hated this, all she had wanted was she wanted to eat some lunch.   “I am really sorry.”   She did look legitimately upset.

 "He told you to apologize... Leave me alone." Lei threw herself across Geoff's knee, and buried her face under her arms. She just wanted them all to shut up and leave her alone. She trusted Geoff, and what he said, but she didn't like the way that the doc had to hold back the laughter. She might have been telling the truth about being sorry, but Lei just wanted her to go...

Acacia hung her head   “Fine,” she wandered back over into the kitchen where Kendra was and started stirring her food around with her spoon.  She was trying no to let it bother her, but it was obvious it was.

Geoff sighed and placed a hand on Lei's head, stroking her hair in a soothing manner, and patted her shoulder. "C'mon, it's okay. Don't get all riled up now. They don't want nothin' but good fer ya. C'mon now." he said in a soft tone as he looked towards Acacia with an apologetic shrug. He knew Lei couldn't help her mistrust. It was something ingrained in her and she just wasn't used to the doctor yet.

Suddenly Kale could be heard shouting from the bridge, everyone looked up for a moment. "Ah, hell that can't be good," Rhaef replied to Kale's shout. "Kendra, I assume you got your gun, you come with me. Everyone else - stay here." Turning to Geoff, "I don't rightly know what's going down Geoff, but if anyone does anything funny, you shoot first and ask questions later. Got it."  With that Rhaef turned and ran toward the bridge.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Kyron stepped into his ridiculously small bunk ... he was beginning to hate these walls.  Soon he'd be off this boat though - and the sooner the better.  It was getting dangerous being around these people for so long.  They were clearly fugitives - criminals, and hardly intelligent enough not to get caught.  He pulled out his terminal, as he always did and his fingers flew over the controls.

As the screen came up Kyron stared down at his terminal and frowned.  Ni ta ma de tian xia suo you de ren dou gai si, he thought as he looked at the picture of the scruffy, ill shaven, and dangerous looking man looking up at him from the screen.  That was quick, Kyron had hoped it would take a bit longer. They'd even found his real name.  Quickly Kyron typed in a few key commands and closed his terminal - he didn't have long.  Soon Destiny's computers would receive the wave as well.  Bending down by his trunk he pulled out everything, fishing for the false bottom and removing the parcel that lay there.

Showtime.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Wei-Li scouted out the shuttle after Kale had told her about it and nodded approvingly.  It would work well.  She quickly began pulling her units into the shuttle so she could work on them.  If she could fix the two crated units tonight, she'd be back on schedule

Wei-Li uncrated unit two and began breaking it down so she could get to the problem.  It was amazing how relaxing breaking apart a piece of equipment could be.  She was about to open the solvent bottle when she heard something behind her.

Kyron froze just inside the doorway to the shuttle.  The new passenger was there working on something.  He couldn't let her get in the way.  He slipped in behind her, shifting his grip on his gun.  As she started to turn, he became ruthless, pistol whipping her with the gun butt.

He listened carefully as she dropped to the ground and smiled.  Some people were so trusting.  He moved to the controls and got to work.  He didn't have much time.

Kyron quickly sat behind the controls his fingers flying over the buttons, than he leaned under the terminal and quickly found the wires he was looking for.  He gave a quick tug and a few sparks flew as he pulled the wires out, and then reconnected them.  Nice thing about these older ships was that they were so easy to sabotage.

He then looked at the girl lying on the floor, too risky to leave her there in case someone walked by, glancing at his watch he still had a few minutes before Destiny picked up the delayed signal.  He grabbed her under the arms and pulled her under the bench in the shuttle - out of site.  Kicking her slightly he forced her all the way hidden.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Ren could hear arguing coming from the dining hall and decided it would be best to sit tight and not go wandering into a battle zone.  Hopefully the Captain would be able to set whatever was amiss straight.  He glanced back down at the system readings and frowned, there was something funny going on with engine 1.  He grabbed the mike.

"Hey, mei mei, I'm gettin' some funny readings on engine 1, everything shiny in there?"

Kale stepped onto the bridge and came to stand behind Ren's chair.  "Engine problems?" he asked.  He never liked to hear that Destiny wasn't shiny, especially when they were out in the black.

"Nothin' to be too concerned about Cap'n.  Just a little glitch, I got Charlie workin' on it right now." he looked back at the Captain, "Everything shiny out there?" Ren said, motioning to the dining hall.  "Heard some yelling."

Kale shrugged, "Don' know about shiny, but we'll get by.  Just a bit 'a problems with the little one.  I apparently ain't her favorite person right now."  He shook his head, he'd have to remember to not yell at the little thing - apparently that scares children - who knew?  He looked back at Ren.  "So we'll be able to head out in a bit right?  I'll leave you to look over things." Kale said, and started for the dining hall once more.

Ren looked back down at the controls and his eyes widened, "Uh, Cap, there's something here you might want to see..."

Kale turned back around and noticing the look on Ren’s face moved quickly to the terminal.  Destiny had just received a wave.  In bold letters it read: “Reward for information leading to the apprehension of Datton Corg”

Beneath those words was a picture of none other, but Destiny’s very own friendly core-worlder – Kyron Bates.  The picture looked old, the man had long scraggly hair and a dirty face, not anything like the Kyron they knew … and yet there could be no mistaking him.

Beside his picture were the words: “WANTED for felony fraud, felony evasion, 12 counts of aggravated assault.  Subject may be armed and dangerous.  Has been known to carry firearms.  If seen, do not approach, contact your local Federal Marshal’s office.”

"O, zhe zhen shi ge kuai le de jin zhan." Kale said as he stared down at Kyron ... or Datton's face.  "Ta ma de hun dan!"  Kale walked to the doorway of the bridge and yelled out of it, "Rhaef!"  He looked back to Ren, "Never did like that guy."

Rhaef reached the bridge at full speed, not bothering to check to see if Kendra had followed him, he skidded to a stop just short of Kale who was standing over the Cortex. "What's going on, Captain?"

Few seconds later, Kendra ran up beside Rhaef. “What's the matter?” she asked.  She could sense the tension.

"Look what we got." Kale said and motioned to the Cortex, moving aside so Rhaef could see for himself.  "Trouble."

"Gao yang zhong de gu yang...do we have any gorram clue where this piece of trash is right now?" Rhaef growled after reading the warrant on the cortex. As he did he drew his gun and made sure the safety was off - before re-holstering it for the moment.

"His room." Kale said, "That's where the son of a bitch always is.  Rhaef you go guard the door, we'll lock him in and turn him over.  I ain't about to help that scum out."

There was a scream from the dining hall then and all heads turned.

Ren was on his feet in a second, that wasn’t just any scream, that was Acacia.  He pushed past the rest of the men and woman on the bridge. "Liu kou shui de biao zi he hou zi de ben er zi!" he shouted, his heart starting to race.  If that hun dun hurt Acacia at all he would die.  And Ren was not a violent man, so that was saying something.

"That gorram son of bitch is dead Captain, reward or no reward." Rhaef said through clenched teeth, then he stumbled as Ren pushed by him, this situation was going from bad to worse. The pilot was about to do something stupid, he knew it. He paused and his eyes when the mezz and wire racks above the bridge. He nodded to Kale, and tried to get the Captain to motion his up.

Rhaef turned to Kale, and whispered, "This is going from bad to worse, Captain. Any plans?"

Kale heard the screaming and tried to grab Ren before he made a dash out the door.  Rhaef had the right idea of trying to sneak up on the bastard but there was no way any of them were going to fit in the ventilation systems.  He looked at Rhaef, "I hate that you're always right."  He could hear Kyron and the rest talking and peered out into the dining hall - he had Acacia and Kale would die before he let one of his crew take a fall.

"We play this safe.  Maybe if we can reason with him - just let him go, take the shuttle and we'll be on our way."  He looked at Rhaef, "Put down your weapon, I don't want him to get trigger happy and men get trigger happy when they’re nervous."  He frowned and motioned for Kendra and Rhaef to follow him into the dining hall.

"Your call, Captain." Rhaef said as he re-holstered his gun. He removed the glove on his tattooed hand again, in hopes that the thug might recognize it, and give them even a bit more negotiating power.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kyron stepped into the doorway of the dining hall just as the tiny red-head doctor began to leave.  "Good evening, Miss." he said politely, and grabbed her wrist, twisting it up behind her back and pulling her into his chest, his other hand placing the gun at her temple.

Acacia screamed as the gun was placed on her head and in pain as her arm was twisted up.  “Why?  What did I do to you?” In fear tears started streaming down her face.  She was shaking a bit.

Kyron completely ignored the doctors words as he turned his attention to Geoff, "Ah, Geoff." he said, with a smug grin.  "It's a pleasure to see you as usual, now that gun looks mighty dangerous, you might want to set that down nice and slow."

Geoff's first reaction was to turn and point his gun right at Kyron. As he did this, he shoved Lei toward the bridge, hoping she'd understand why he had done such a thing, and made sure he blocked Kyron's line of fire towards her with his own body. He cursed loudly as he stopped himself from pointing the gun completely at Kyron and slowly placed the gun to the ground. "Aw, yeah. I shoulda known this was comin'. I normally don't regret not lettin' somebody get shot unless they deserved it after all. Looks like I may have been proved right here." he remarked with a cool grin.

Kyron smiled at the man, "Turns out you're not a dumb as I previously thought ... how fortunate for your little doctor friend.  You keep up being smart like this and perhaps no one with have to die.  Now put your hands up where I can see them and don't try to hide the child, come on out and play, girly."

Lei stumbled a bit as she was roughly thrown towards the bridge. She caught onto the edge of one of the bunk hatches, and pressed herself against the wall next to it, narrowly avoiding getting trampled by Ren as he flew past.

Ren came flying into the room and his heart stopped. He felt sick to his stomach as he saw the metal of the gun pressed firmly to Acacia's temple.  "Acacia, baby, honey."  He looked to the man wielding the weapon, "You hurt her and I will kill you."

Acacia just kept sobbing, things had changed so quickly.  She should have listened to Rhaef, now she was dead probably.  She knew what a gunshot from there would do to her skull and the brains inside.  She thought of Ren, he didn't even know what was happening.  “I'm sorry Ren, I should have listened,” she whispered through sobs.  She was shaking badly.

Geoff stopped smiling altogether as Kyron called to Lei and he glared at the man with a cold anger that he rarely showed. "This...don't have nothin' ta do with Lei. I swear...if ya even look at her funny, I'll make ya suffer. Ya can shoot me, but I'll make sure ta live long enough ta make ya go with me. You understand me?" he said just as Ren came rushing in. He looked to the pilot with a furrowed brow, hoping he wouldn't do anything stupid. This could all go smooth so long as nobody was stupid....

Kyron smiled, "Empty threats lad, empty threats.  No one has to die here, you just have to listen real good.  Shooting would be so uncivilized - I'd really rather not ... although don't make the mistake of thinking I won't.  Why don't you get your friends from the bridge to join us, I'm sure the Captain would like to know what's going on on his ship."

Geoff continued to glare at Kyron, literally having to force himself not to charge at the man right then. He kept himself cool though, looking to Ren and hoping he would do the same. "Yeah, fine. Let's all just have a nice ruttin' tea party while we're at it..." he said before calling out loud to the captain, never letting his eyes leave Kyron, "Cap'n? Our fine guest here whom I'm regrettin' not havin' shot at an earlier date is requestin' yer presence..."

Lei wanted to get away. Not caring whose room it was, she reached around to open the hatch she was next to. She quietly slipped through, and slammed the door behind her, fumbling with the lock. She definitely didn't want to "come out and play". Crying softly, she pressed herself against the door, listening to everything happening outside.

Acacia looked at Ren, while it was reassuring that he would fight for her she didn‘t want him to get hurt.  “Ren, go, I don't want you hurt, leave.” she said through tears.  The thought of something happening to him was worse then the thought of herself being shot. She tried to struggle some to get away.

"Ah, true love." Kyron sighed mockingly, then he voice turned dead pan, "No Ren, stay, and you, keep your mouth shut." he said, leaning in close to Acacia's ear.

Kale stepped into the dining room then with his hands in plain sight, looking anxiously at the rest of his crew to make sure everyone was alright.  Geoff was sitting calmly and Ren, although not looking calm at all wasn't doing anything stupid.  Acacia was of course in no means okay.  "Well, well, well, friend." Kale said, calmly, evenly, looking the man directly in the eye.  "Let's not do anything stupid.  You're causing a whole lot of ruckus on my boat for no gorram reason.  Just stay calm, and we can work this out civil-like.  You'd like that, right?"

Rhaef and Kendra followed after Kale.  Rhaef had his arms crossed, his hands in plain sight away from his gun … however Kendra had not let go of her weapon.

"Captain!" Kyron said with a wide smile, "How nice of you to join us." he looked at the woman then, "Would you mind opening that door there and pulling the girl out of the bunk since you're closest, and drop that gun unless you want to see the pretty red head's brains spattered across the room, it'd be a pity for me to have to go and a shoot her ... those reckless youths." he offered another charming smile and shook his head as he looked back at Kale.  "See, I chose this ship because you all seemed so intelligent.  So now we can do a little business - you're respectable businessmen, this should be right up your alley."

"Do what he says." Kale said to Kendra, still looking at Kyron.

“No, I don't think so. She's just a kid-She's got nothing to do with your so called business proposal.” Kendra stood in front of the bunk, back in front of the handle. “You go in there-You're going to have to shoot me first. “

Kale looked at the woman in astonishment, "Kendra." he said through gritted teeth, "why don't you listen to the nice man and get the girl out!" he could not afford someone tryin heroics right now, not with lives on the line.

Geoff's hand almost went for his second gun at Kyron's mention of Lei again. But he stopped himself and clenched his fists as he kept them upon the tabletop. He wanted nothing more than to wipe that smug smile from Kyron's face with a bullet, but he wouldn't. He simply shook his head and spoke in a quiet tone, "You don't need her. She can't do nothin' to ya. Leave her be. She's been through enough. Just....leave her be."

Acacia nodded her head, and whimpered slightly.  All she could do was keep weeping.  She looked at Ren, with eyes full of tears and of fears.

"I suggest you all listen to the Captain, he seems to be the only one with brains here right now.  I want everyone, where I can see them, right now." his voice was deadly now a complete shift from what any of them had ever heard.

Kendra, stood there-lips tight. “Only for you Cap’n.” she said and knocked on the door. “Lei, honey-you need to come out for a second.”  As Kendra waited for Lei to come out she positioned herself so that she would remain in front of her as she exited the bunk.

Lei didn't want to go out there. Bad things were happening. But... The compulsion to obey was fairly deeply ingrained. Lei reached up slowly and slid the bolt on the door to the unlocked position, opened the door and slowly and carefully stepped out.

Geoff glared silently at Kyron until he heard Kendra call to Lei and the girl come out. At that point, he looked to Lei and Kendra, wanting to make sure that Lei would listen to Kendra and do what she told her. He didn't want Kyron to get anxious and decide to get trigger happy just because Lei was afraid and unsure of what was going on around her.

Ren looked at Acacia, trying to find a way to protect her. "Take me... don't... don't hurt her... Please…“ His met hers, realizing that without her, he was lost.

Kyron grinned as the little girl walked out, "Well, gangs all here."  He looked at Ren then and his pathetic sacrifice. "Take me instead." Kyron said in a mocking voice, "Is there anything more pathetic then two lovers?"

Geoff looked to Kyron at that and smirked. "Yeah. A core world hun dun who hides behind women is somethin' that comes ta mind as more pathetic..." he said in a cold tone.

"What do you want?" Kale said fiercely, "Money? Take it.  The shuttle?  It's yours.  We're not going to hinder you making your escape.  Just take what you need and move on."  He was trying to be as reasonable as possible, while still trying to maintain some semblance of control.

"Oh but Captain, I have plenty of money, and the shuttle - well its a bit small." he narrowed his eyes and allowed the corners of his lips to curve ever so slightly into a sneer. "I'm taking your ship."

Kyoko dashed up to the door, hearing the ruckus inside, and slowed. She glanced in, carefully taking in the situation. She could tell at a glance that it would do her no good to step into the Dining Hall, she'd never reach Bates, or whoever he was, in time to save Acacia. She slipped up against the hatch and tried to stay out of sight, hopefully she wouldn't be spotted yet and she might be able to help out the others at the right moment.

Kale just stared at the man, slightly in shock - mostly in anger.  "The ship?  You plan to take her all by your lonesome - takes a crew to run Destiny, and I ain't about to give my ship up to you, you xi niu hun dun." Kale tried to keep his calm but the man was treading on his very last nerve.  He took a deep breath, and looked at Kyron evenly.  "You don't need the ship, just take the shuttle and go."

Rhaef's hand slid toward his gun, this was going to badly. No way they were getting out of it without bloodshed, he thought to himself.

"Captain, language please.  There are children present." he smirked.  "And I never said that I was going to run it all on my own.  Also, the shuttle you seem so keen to offer me is well out of range of reaching any planet without losing life support first - I'm no idiot.  Destiny will do nicely however."

"What makes you think we'll let you take her, a doc's a whole hell of a lot easier to replace than a ship. It'd be hell to loose Red, but them's just the facts." Rhaef bit in.

Lei couldn’t have heard that right... Rhaef was willing to trade the doctor for the ship? Lei didn't like doctors, but this one seemed a lot nicer, most of the time, to the ones she was used to...

Ren's gaze flashed to Rhaef, anger flashing in his eyes.  "You say anything like that again, you aren't going to have to worry about Kyron... " His voice was quiet and strained with emotion.

"Sorry to hurt your feelings, Ren. But sometimes somebody's just to point the gorram elephant in the gorram room. Like I said its not my first choice, but doesn't make it any less true."

Ren focused on Kyron, he was desperate now.  "Kyron.. please.  I will fly you anywhere you want in the shuttle... I know how to make her support last... just you and me... nobody has to get hurt.."

"It don't matter anyway. He won't shoot the doc. She's the only thing keeping him alive and he knows it. He should know that, soon as the doc would be down, he'd have 4 different people shooting at him. She ain't a hostage. She's a shield..." Geoff said in an even tone, "And, I don't know 'bout y'all, but I'm gonna be shootin' ta wound. I want him alive so I can make him hurt..." Geoff had decided awhile ago that he didn't want Kyron dead. He wanted him to hurt....

Lei didn't want anything to do with what was happening in the room. She knew that she had to stay put, and not run, but it was hard. And she was starting to get scared of what was going to happen, especially after what Geoff just said.  Lei started to slowly walk backwards down the corridor towards the bridge, keeping an eye on Kyron, hoping he wouldn't notice her.

"Hmm, eloquent as always my giant friend.  I suggest everyone calm down though, I truly am not afraid to shoot this woman or any of you.  And I suppose you have all noticed that your little mechanic is missing as well ... I suspected that you might all be uncivilized enough to sacrifice one of your own ... so I have a little surprise with her as well.  Any of you so much as touch me and not only will the Doc die but so will Charlene.  You're not monsters - I have a feeling that this ship does not mean so much." Kyron said calmly.

Rhaef's blood boiled more than he had expected as Kyron threatened Charlie, "You know, its twice in one day, Geoff, but yeah - this gorram son of a bitch is gonna live through being shot." Rhaef was now seething, it took everything he had not to dive over the table at Kyron that very moment.

"No one is getting hurt or killed." Kale said firmly, "If you wanted to kill us all you'd have done it already.  What are your terms?"

Ren didn’t hear any of what was being said though as his eyes were busy burning into Rhaef.  All his anger and rage now turned on the man.  "You soulless... "  He started to swear but he was so far gone he couldn’t even swear straight.  He pulled back to slug Rhaef.

"Ren you -" Kale didn't even finish his sentence as a shot rang out and Rhaef slumped to the floor.  Kale immediately bent over to help the man, this was not going well at all - not at all.

Kyron had taken the gun from Acacia’s temple the moment Ren had lifted his fist and fired a shot at the two men.  "I said calm down!" he shouted as the bullet hit it's mark and he returned it to the doc's temple.  The first mate slunk to the ground shot in the leg.

Rhaef slumped to the ground as the blast entered his left thigh, and the pain was excruciating.  As he slumped to the ground, a morose gallows humor rolled over him, "Okay, this was certainly the wrong time to suggest the doc was expendable. I'm pretty much screwed even if we survive this." He hissed as he slumped further against the bulkhead - placing both hands on the wound to slow the bleeding.

Kyron looked at Kale, "Captain, kindly stand up.  It's not deadly, he does not need your assistance." He waited for the Captain to rise.

"Don't worry bout me, Cap. I've been shot worse. Hell probably deserved it for not playing it cool like you wanted. Just get Charlie and Red safe, then fry the gorram bastard." Rhaef replied his voice gravelly and his eyes watering from the pain.

"So, Captain, you wanted terms.  Well here they are.  First, the lovely companion hiding in the corner will come out and join the rest of you." he turned his eyes ever so slightly and waited for the woman to step into the dining hall with the rest, "I'm sorry but we really have no time for heroics."

He looked back to the rest of the group.  "Giant, you may help up your first mate - but first make sure both of your fire arms are lying on the table where I can see them.  Then all of us are going to take a little walk to the shuttle.  You all understand that I really can't have you around hindering my work.  Ren will remain to pilot me to my destination - once I'm safely there, he may come back and find the shuttle." he smiled "See, I'm no monster, this is how civilized people handle things of this sort.  No need for shooting - well unless you do something stupid."

Geoff was not keen on taking orders from Kyron. In fact, he was not keen on doing anything in regards to Kyron unless a blunt object was involved. But he figured he must do what he is told. Even if it was the last thing he wanted to do. He looked to the captain at that point for confirmation before doing anything. If he was going to do anything, it would be because the captain ordered him to. He wouldn't give the smug bastard the satisfaction of having him jump when he said to.

The shuttle ... so that was his plan.  There was no way that they would last long in there, not with so many of them, not considering they were out of range of any moons or planets or civilization in general.  Kale frowned, he didn't trust the man to allow Ren to come back for them - but he also did not want to risk Acacia and Charlie's lives on the slim chance that they would someone find a way out of this.  Kale looked at his crew "Do what he says." he hoped that he was making the right decision.

Kyoko moved in, not wanting to make things worse.  She was torn.  Does she try to convince Kyron that she was a Marshal?  She'd done it before-- but Rhaef needed medical care.  "... Datton... " she said gently. "Yes, I know who you are... I've known for a while.."
She waited to see if she had got his attention before continuing.

"Well, then you should have told your crew." Kyron snapped at her, "Move!"

Rhaef forced himself to his feet, "Kyron, you want a shield take me. Hell if anyone acts up you can shoot me in the head. Hell, you can shoot me and not even put me on the shuttle. Just let Charlie, and Red go."

"Hmm, you'd all like that wouldn't you? A lot easier to sacrifice the man who was just willing to allow me to kill the woman.  No, I think I'll keep the women you all seem so fond of them.  Now move!  Everyone to the shuttle, now!"  he kept a close eye on them all.

"You gorram bastard, figures you core world petty criminals have no class." Rhaef said struggling to pull himself to the table, and limp through the incredible pain toward the cargo bay door.

Ren stared in disbelief, running his hand through his hair.  His hand were are shaking.  He looked at Acacia, tears in his eyes.  "Baby... please... I love you.. “  He looked at Kyron and again begged him. "Please... please don't hurt her... let her go.. let Charlie go... let them all go... I.. I'll take you wherever you want... Just please... don't hurt anyone else... Please…”  Kyron ignored him.

Lei didn't want to be there. She didn't want to be on the shuttle either. She wanted to be in the bunk she'd inherited from Charlie, with the door locked. But she was here instead, and had to go to the shuttle.  She climbed slowly to her feet, and started reluctantly following everyone else towards the shuttle, too afraid to even cry.

Geoff nodded at the captain's orders as he slowly drew his second gun and placed it on the table before stooping down, equally slow, and picking up his other gun from the floor to place it beside the first. As he stooped, however, he stretched so that the back of his shirt would come un-tucked. Kyron had not mentioned his knife, which was sheathed at the base of his back, and if he could keep it hidden, it would be a small edge. One must always take advantage of whatever they can in situations like this.

As he stood, he allowed his shirt tail to fall down over the sheathed knife, lending a shoulder for Rhaef to lean on he moved slowly toward the door to the cargo bay, keeping his front to Kyron on the pretense of not trusting the man enough to turn his back on him. He moved at a slow pace and made sure to follow close after Lei to watch after her.

Kale watched as all of his crew stood and walked slowly towards the shuttle, picking up the rear and keeping a close eye on Kyron the whole time.  He hated having to tell his crew to listen to a gorram word this hun dun said - but as long as they were on that shuttle they were still breathing, and if they were still breathing then there was still a chance that they could turn the odds in their favor.  Not much of a chance granted, but something was better then nothing.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Wei-Li groaned as she opened her eyes and tried to keep the shuttle from spinning around her.  She remembered the impact, and then, she was pretty sure she'd lost consciousness.
Then... she was being dragged... Kyron.. It all came back in pieces.  She had to warn the others... She pushed herself out from the wall, and tried to stand.  She felt something tucked up her sleeve and smiled, his mistake.  She staggered towards the door, trying to figure out how to warn the others.

It was still coming to her in pieces... A scream... the room listing to the left, and then to the right... She moved forward, afraid it was too late.

A short while later Wei-Li looked up, startled at the sound of gun fire.  This can't be good, she thought.  She forced herself to move.  She had to get somewhere.. the shuttle was a dead end.  She quickly made her way into the cargo bay.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


With Geoff's support, Rhaef dragged his body into the second shuttle. His leg screamed in pain, and he pretty much was running on fumes, he collapsed into one of the seats, exhausted.

Kyoko helped Rhaef to the bench and then looked around for the first aid kit.  "Rhaef.  I need you to try and stay awake. I'll be right back.”  She moved to the front, grabbed the kit and came back, opening it and getting to work stopping the blood flow.

Rhaef grimaced with a grim smile, "Stay awake, Kyoko, the pain pretty much assuring me of that."

Kyoko gave him a gentle smile.  "Don't be a smart ass.. and help me get your pants off so I can clean your wound"  Her tone was teasing, but it was clear she was concerned.

Rhaef grimaced back and removed his suspenders and then unbuckled his holster and undid his pants. He could feel the fabric ripping away from the wound where the blood had soaked in. It was creating a whole new wave of pain.

Kale was the last to enter the shuttle, eyeing Kyron/Datton coldly as he did, his mind racing, trying to come up with something, some plan to get them out of this.  However the gun was still pressed firmly to Acacia's temple - there was very little he could do.  So he joined the rest in the shuttle.

Kyron waited for everyone to get on the shuttle and then said, "Oh and Captain, if you could kindly launch the shuttle for me, I'll stay here until you have - wouldn't want to miss seeing you off.  Bon voyage!" he said with a smirk.

Kale cast one last angry glance at Kyron and closed the shuttle doors.  He didn’t say anything to the rest of his crew, he couldn’t even bring himself to look at them as he headed to the shuttle controls.  How could have been so stupid, how could he have gotten them into this mess.  He took a seat, looked at the controls and frowned.  Kyron had done a number on them.  He didn't know much about mechanics but something told him that once they launched they'd be dead in the water.  There was nothing for it though.  He hit a button and the engine roared to life and then they were shooting out into the black - and for the first time he didn't feel like he was heading home.

Kyoko put a hand on Rhaef's shoulder and helped him finish getting his pants clear of the wound.  "Looks like it missed anything vital,” she told him as she began cleaning the wound.  "Didn't hit the artery."  She knew it was little consolation, but at least it was something.

"Well that's good to know. I'll live long enough to die when our air runs out." Rhaef replied with a morose laugh, his gallows humor returning.

Kyoko gave Rhaef a chiding smile.  "We still have air, which means we still have hope," she said.

Kendra was pacing, shuffling her feet she yelled, "Ben tian sheng de yi dui rou!" she bowed her head down and put her palm to her forehead.

Kyoko turned towards Kendra, her voice quiet but firm. "Kendra.. you're using more air doing that..."

"Noted" Kendra murmured, looking at Kyoko. She leaned up against the wall and slid down, sitting with a thud, her knees drawn up towards her chest.

After listening to the shuttle's engine's fire, Lei climbed to her feet again. Destiny wasn't a big ship, but the shuttle was tiny. Too small, and too crowded. She tried not to look at how small. If she didn't know, she wouldn't be able to work out how little air there was. Lei didn't want to know how little there was... She crept towards the front of the shuttle, and looked at the control panel from a distance.

Kale was right - no control now that they had taken off.  "Ai ya wo men wan le." He looked back into the shuttle. "Is Rhaef okay?" he asked.  He sure wished he had Charlie right about now, but Rhaef was the next best thing, maybe he could try to make something of this mess that Kyron had made out of the shuttle controls.  "If he can move I need him up here."

Rhaef heard the Captain as Kyoko finished cleaning the wound and applying a makeshift bandage. "On my way, Cap." He added with a determined grit, as he crawled/limped to the controls. "What can I do, Cap?"

Kale spoke lowly as to not alarm the rest of the crew.  "We got nothing Rhaef.   Nav's down, steering offline, no communications, can't even send out a beacon.  He humped us hard." Kale’s voice was more of a growl now then anything.  He glanced back at all the people in the back of the shuttle.  They were all going to die because he couldn't figure a way out of this.

"Well, I see what I can do," Rhaef replied, as he ducked under the console. “Gorram it, I wish Charlie was here. He done us bad, Cap. Might be able to get comm back online, but even that's gonna take spell." Rhaef did not wait for orders but set to work to get try to get their communications system online.

"Just do what you can. Anything, get something online, we don't got much air with all of us breathing it." he stood up to get out of the mans way, but still couldn't bring himself to step into the back of the shuttle.  He felt like a coward not being able to face them all.  He felt like a failure not being able to save them ... and that's when he noticed.  "Where's Wei-Li?"

"Not here..." Lei said in a quiet voice. "Still on Destiny?"

Kale allowed himself a tiny moment of hope.  If Wei-Li was still back on Destiny, Kyron hadn't found her - and knowing Wei-Li she probably wouldn’t be found.  Kale didn't exactly trust the girl but right now he allowed himself to hope that she would take it upon herself to help them out - it was really all the hope he had.

Geoff was now silent as he stood, leaning against the wall. There was nothing to say. Nothing to say and nothing to do except wait. Wait and hope that they would live through this. Geoff, however, was a realist and held no great hope that they would survive. As much as he hated it, Kyron had left them for dead and there had been nothing any of them could do. Geoff idly wished that he was a religious man, but knew that no amount of prayer would save them. He had learned that prayer did nothing a long time ago and knew that they were dead no matter what few trivial phrases he would send towards whatever god there may be.

So he just leaned against the wall with a grim expression on his face as he looked about the shuttle. When his gaze fell on Lei, he felt a pang of regret and despair within him. He had promised to watch out for her and now he had failed her as completely and utterly as anybody could fail another. It was strange to him that that thought caused him more despair then the prospect of his own death....

Rhaef uttered a string of curses that'd make the most hardened IC marine blush, but kept working. He was getting woozy and weak, he knew he was going to pass out soon. Yet he willed himself to focus. He wasn’t going to let the others die, or let Kyron kill Charlie and the others, not if he could prevent it.  He pulled back from the console, “Tian-Ling-Ling Di-Ling-Ling,” he said somewhat satisfied. "Captain, I got the comm channels online and open." He added as he tried to stand. Reaching his feet, he staggered and collapsed. His last thought before he blacked out was that he had given them a bit of hope.

Kyoko rushed over to Rhaef.  If she ever laid her hands on that son of a bitch ... Kyoko tried to calm herself and focus on Rhaef. "Help me." she said to Geoff in a business like tone, they couldn't just leave him lying there like that.

Lei looked at where Rhaef had fallen over on the deck. She could hear his breathing from here, but it was much shallower than it should be. Wide eyed, she crept back to Geoff's side, looked up at him and asked quietly "Are they going to come and take him away?" It was clear she was referring to her past again...

Geoff looked first to the downed man and the companion who looked to him for help and then he looked down to Lei. He sighed lightly and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "No, Lei. Ain't nobody gettin' taken away. I told ya that....and I meant it." he said in a quiet tone as he walked over to help Kyoko, kneeling down beside Rhaef and lifting him up with a grunt, "Where do I put him..."

Kyoko pulled her robe off and laid it down on the floor, "Lay him here." she said pointing to the spot she just prepared.  "I have to stop the bleeding more, he's losing too much."

Geoff nodded as he laid the first mate down slowly and as gently as he could manage. He sighed as he stood up and looked down at the man, feeling all the more sorrowful at the sight of him. But sorrow doesn't last long within Geoff, sorrow turned into anger without much effort. Anger at the situation and anger at Kyron. Anger that he would let sit and wait until he had a chance to unleash it. He now knew he had to live, if only to make the core worlder suffer. That was more than enough of an incentive, in his mind.

Lei slid down the bulkhead again, and sat staring at the hatch. They're not coming. They're not coming. Don't think about it. They're not coming... Shuttle's about 8m long... 4m wide... 2.5 tall... That's 80 cubic meters... Plus whatever is in the tanks. Not enough... Don't think about it. Don't think about it… Lei huddled into a ball, and tried to forget everything.

Kyoko pulled out the gauze and tried to wrap it more tightly around the injury, starting it a bit above to hopefully cut of the circulation and thus blood flow.

Rhaef bolted up in pain again, his eyes blood shot, and sweating profusely, it was clear he was suffering from delirium. "Lao peng you, ni kan qi lai hen you jing shen. When I get my hand on that liu kou shui de biao zi he hou zi de ben er zi, I'll kill him." He continued to babble incoherently, fading in and out of consciousness.

Kale made sure that Kyoko was alright in helping Rhaef and then slipped up to the controls, he sure hoped that Rhaef was right.  He turned on the communications and tried to connect to the signal, and sparks from under the panel began to fly.  "Ai ya!" he said, under his breath and glanced back at Rhaef.  They were humped, majorly humped.  And now Rhaef was far too gone to be of any use.  He bit his lip and hoped that somehow Wei-Li had stopped Kyron.

The sound of the Captain's swearing got Lei's attention away from her thoughts. She looks up in time to see the last of the sparks flying from the console. She stood and wandered towards the shuttles control panel for a better look. She ran her fingers over the console in front of her.  "Broken. Broken. All broken."

"Lei, snap out of it. I need you to hold yourself together." Kyoko said as she looked to Kale. "Captain, see if you and the girl can fix the system enough for us to pilot this shuttle back. Don't you dare die on me, Rhaef Sorandash! I lost too many patients already."

Rhaef growled something unintelligible and convulsed with pain.

Kyoko slapped Rhaef on the face gently, to keep him awake. "Look at me Rhaef! You can't pass out!"

Rhaef shook his head, and looked at Kyoko, "What'd gorram do that for? Just let me die, it'll save the air for the rest of you. Hell, a first mate's as expendable as a doctor. I thank you kindly, but you all matter more." With that, Rhaef, despite Kyoko's current efforts passed out again.

"I am NOT letting you go.. no one is giving up." Kyoko said as she continued to work on him. She wasn't going to lose another patient. That girl had died on her watch, nothing she could do about that, she knew that. But Rhaef just needed to hold on till they could get the shuttle back on line.

Rhaef seemed to drift momentarily in and back out of consciousness, but he did not fight Kyoko's attempts at assistance. On occasion he even tried to stay awake, but the pain and blood loss would pull back down into the oppressive black. It was like drowning, he could pull his body up for air for a few moments but then the current and the waves pulled him back down.

Kale was about to say something about Kyoko barking out orders to him and the rest of his crew but decided against it.  For once he was just not in the mood to get into it with the hopelessly confrontational companion.  A quarrel was truly the last thing they needed right now.  So he set to work seeing if there was anything at all at the controls that he might be able to get up and running - praying to whoever would listen that they got out of this and that Kyron hadn't already killed Ren, Acacia, and Charlie.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Wei-Li blinked.  Something was going on... She looked around the cargo bay, trying to find someplace to hide.  Unlike most people, she didn’t just look on the level... her eyes followed the cables and girders...

She smiled.. there was cargo netting, with boxes and canvas on it.  She reached up and tested it quickly to make sure it could handle her weight.  Then she lifted herself and climbed into the webbing, hiding beneath between the stacks of canvas. She watched from between the boxes in the webbing, trying to figure out what was going on.  She saw a few figures moving now, though the Cargo Bay towards the shuttle.

She held her breath, when she saw why, praying she wasn't seen.

Kyron stood behind the crew which Acacia and Ren.  A gun pressed firmly to Acacia’s temple.  There was a short exchange and then the crew disappeared inside the shuttle.

Kyron watched as the shuttle took off and smiled, "Everything's going so well." he commented to the Doc and the pilot.  "Well now, follow me, if you would.  I believe it is about time you brought me to my destination."

Ren did as he told, head bowed.  Kyron knew he wouldn't do anything to risk Acacia.  He'd screwed up everything.  His only hope was that Kyron would honor his word... but in his heart, he doubted it.

Wei-li watched in disbelief as the others filed into the Shuttle.  Kyron had done something in there… The thought came unbidden as she tried to find order to the bits and pieces of flashes of her memories.  The only thing she knew for sure was Kyron had a gun on the Doc, and had made the others get onto the shuttle and launch it.  She'd seen everybody but Charlie.  Still a little wobbly, she lowered herself from the rigging and made her way to the engine room.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Kyron pulled the woman up the few steps into the bridge and stood behind the pilots chair.  "Now, if you would please set course for Beaumonde, there is some business that I need to attend to.  You play nice, and the little lady lives ... if not - well, you get the picture."

Ren sat down woodenly.  The console, his home, now felt so wrong and dead.  He started to look at Acacia but he knew it would only make things worse.  He looked at the screen, only to see Kyron's picture staring back at him.  Angrily he flicked it off and started plotting the best course.  It was a day out.  He felt a chill go down his spine... He had left the others to die.  Trading their lives for a chance to save Acacia, and he hated himself for it.

Acacia stood back against the wall.  She tried to not see what happening.  She was trying so hard not to cry anymore.  She was going to make it easier for Ren.  She felt scared, she couldn't come up with any way to help.

Ren worked the controls, his mind racing.  He had to get the crew back on board.  If he didn't, they were all dead.  "Kyron.. uhm.. Datton... whatever you've done... it can't be worth 5 lives... "  He held his breath.  Its a slim chance-- but its a chance... get him thinking about the price, the escalation...

"Ah, here comes the hero act.  Get him talking, make him feel pity on the poor lost souls.  It's over-played, flyboy, besides - the money really was worth it.  And you can't spend money very well if you're dead or in prison now can you?  I regret trying Persephone however, one just gets so tired of the uncivilized rim colonies though." Kyron smiled wistfully, "I suppose now I'll have to retire."

He looked back to Ren then, "I'm not a good man - so don't try morality on me, boy.  I've been playing the border worlds for years and have met dozens like you.  Every time I come to a new town they welcome me in with open arms, and every time I hold a noble benefit for the orphans, or the homeless, or the disabled - men just like you flock to it.  Pitiful really.  They have hardly a penny to their name and yet they will give it to me to help those they deem less fortunate then themselves.  The world is full of fools - like your Captain.  If it were me - I would have let the lovely lady die." he pushed the gun tighter to the woman’s head with a smirk as the man looked as though he were going to stand up and hit him.  "Ah, ah, ah." he said.

Ren swallowed hard and sat back down, wondering if he could put the ship into enough of a dive to throw Kyron around... give Acacia a chance.  He knew his life was forfeit.

Kyron narrowed his eyes at the man, he could see the wheels turning in that thick skull of his.  "Don't try anything stupid - you've already gotten one man shot today ... do you really want to end her life as well?"

Ren swallowed at the bile rising in his throat.  Kyron was right.  He'd gotten Rhaef shot... He'd been the one who ruined everyone else's chances.  His shoulders sagged and he nodded.  "I'll do whatever you say... just... take the gun off her please... I.. I can't think straight when all I can think of is that…”

"You don't need to think - you just need to fly this ship to Beaumonde.  You're a pilot, yes?  This should be a no brainer really.  Or is everyone on this ship as mentally inept as the giant?" he smirked, keeping the gun where it was - at Acacia's temple.

Ren closed his eyes, trying to squeeze the image out of his mind, but he couldn‘t.  He turned away.  Acacia didn’t need to see what this was doing to him.

Kyron has him, and he knew it.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Charlie slid out from under the engine for what must have been the tenth time in the past few minutes, letting out a breath and relaxing, looking up at the ceiling.  Things had been a little touch and go for a few moments, everything that you wouldn't want spitting out everywhere in the midst of, well...spitting out everywhere.

To be precise, the main fuselage that led into the engine had popped from it's spout due to increased flow.  The flow was increased due to the tanks being much more full, something that she probably could have compensated for had she thought to do it.  Of course, it would have been simple if it had ended there...but nothing is simple.  The fuel had leaked onto the main engine combine, starting a corrosive flow into the primary heatsink, which was causing pressure and heat to rise within the block.  One of those things that has to be cleaned more than fixed, and since they were out in the middle of nowhere, there was really only so much that could be done.

But it was done.

Charlie let out another sigh, slowly sitting up, wiping the back of her arm across her forehead, smearing her face with even more black stuff.  She tucked her head forward, pulling out the bib of her overalls and wiping her face on it, leaving a large black mark.  Better there than in her mouth and eyes, as it goes.  She slowly stood back up, wiping her hands on her pants as stretched her legs, feeling good to be on them after keeping herself propped on her back and elbows as she rubbed fuel out of the engine's bucklers.  She needed water.  Some to drink, some simply to wash...and there never had been (nor ever would be) a faucet in the engine room.  She moved to the door, pulling it open, thinking about even finding a new change of clothes, or to even wash her-...

Charlie's train of thought stopped as she yanked at the handle of the Engine Room again.  It was locked?  She turned to the control panel next to the door, hitting a few buttons, muttering to herself.  It wasn't locked...it was barred.  Something was keeping it jammed, barring the door from opening.  She stood on the tips of her toes, looking through the small window and trying to see what could be causing it...which was a fair amount of nothing, that said.  Nothing she could see from here.  After a moment, she turned back around and leaned against the door, crossing her arms.  It wasn't the first time she'd been locked in the engine room.  It was the first time she had been without knowing what was going on, however...

Wei-Li moved in and pulled on the handle, only to find it had been barred.  Her pulse rate quickened as she thought of her father's stories of how hot it could get inside the engine room.  She looked and found where something had been wedged into the door jam so it wouldn't budge.  She grabbed it and tried to work it free.

Charlie looked up at the sound of someone out the door, looking up after sitting on the floor for a while.  Her back had been against the door, waiting for someone to let her out.  It could mean something bad was happening before, she'd been locked in because of that once.  Then again, Kale once locked her in the engine room because he was afraid of her getting hurt...which would have been a lot nicer, had he remembered to let her out right after the confrontation.

She peeked through the window, seeing Wei-Li and knocking on the glass, raising her eyebrows.  Not much can be heard through the doors, as it stood...

Wei-Li continued to work on getting the object out, but she couldn't get a good grip on it.  She pulled out her multi tool, and starting working on it, the edges of the grip leaving marks in her hand.  It seemed to take forever, and then... it finally gave.  Wei-Li almost fell over, but caught herself.  She grabbed the handle and pulled the door open, afraid of what she'd find.

Charlie stood at the door as it opened, leaning through the opening and looking at Wei-Li, an eyebrow slightly raised.  "Ah...hello again."  She had honestly expected to see Ren or Kale, and seeing this passenger was even more of a shock than she was prepared for.  "Why'm I locked in here...did'ja throw me in, keep me closed up for a good reason?"

Wei-Li sagged against the door, her eyes still a little unfocused.  She signaled Charlie to be quiet as she quickly closed and re-secured the door.  She let out a slight gasp for air and then tried to explain.  "Kyron... took over.  He.. had a gun, to Acacia's head.. Shot someone... Rhaef I think... Put everyone in the shuttle... 'cept Doc, some guy.. and you... ."

"What?"  Charlie did her best to remain quiet, covering her mouth.  She'd been in dangerous spots before, but this...well, she hadn't liked him from the start, but that doesn't mean she suspected that it'd be deserved by him.  "Is Rhaef...y'know, is he okay?  I mean, he's not...layin' out there somewhere, dyin' at th'moment, right?"

Wei-Li thought back, closing her eyes.  "He was walking... Kyoko was helping him... to the shuttle."  She looked up at Charlie, trying to stay focused.  "I was in the shuttle... he hit me... did something to the controls... "

Her eyes widen as she realized the implications.  "... He wanted them out of the way... and dead... we have to do something.. or they're all dead... "

Charlie bit her lip, thinking, her eyes darting back and forth as she ran over the situation in her head.  It was just yesterday that she had been talking with Wei-Li about how she stayed out of the way of violent situations, let the captain and his gun-toters deal with them.  This was something completely different...not what she was used to.  Of course, Wei-Li had said it; they had to do something.

"Right, uh...they're...um..."  Charlie paced a bit, her bare feet lost below the sounds of Destiny's humming engines.  She ran her hands through her hair, exhaling another breath, trying to come up with a plan.  "Well, we've, uh...ah'm guessin' we're not alertin' anyone.  We're gonna have to do somethin'.  You're...you're not lookin' so good."  Charlie put a hand on the door, looking out the window.  She couldn't see any trace of them.  "Y'think you can stand, walk around'n such?  Y'know, 'cause if you're not doin' so good...y'know..."  She trailed off, looking back at Wei-Li, biting her lip again.

Wei-Li nodded, and took Charlie's hands in hers.  "I'll be okay.. the man.. not Rhaef.. not Geoff... or the Captain... the Pilot?" She asked trying to piece it all together.  "But why keep the Doc?... You're the mechanic.. needs you to take care of the ship... "

"Maybe he's got some kinda problem, I dunno...or maybe he's plannin' on shootin' more people."  Charlie let out a shaky breath, slowly opening the door to the Engine Room, looking out in the Cargo Bay.  Only boys on this boat caused trouble, it seemed.  She looked back at Wei-Li, squeezing her hand for a moment.

"Alright, I'm...I'm thinkin' we go down into th'Bay, see what we're seein'.  If he's takin' over the ship, he'd either be two places, y'know?  He'd go to th'Bay to rob us'f somethin', but I don't see him down there.  So he'd prolly be on the Bridge, pilotin' us wherever.  That is, unless he's raiding th'bins for proteins or somethin.  You just..hang on, be quiet'n such, kay?"  Charlie nodded at Wei-Li, leading her out of the Engine Room slowly, stepping as softly as she could on the metal grating.

Wei-Li nodded and followed Charlie, trying to be as quiet as possible, trying to watch every direction at once.  She forced her eyes wide, in hope of clearing out the grogginess.

Charlie stepped out of the Engine Room door, moving at a slow pace, each step an exercise in caution as her bare feet met with the metal surface.  She kept one hand on the railing, the other holding Wei-Li's hand.  She kept her look forward, barely keeping herself stable...she really wanted to be elsewhere now, anywhere else.  She almost wished she was on that shuttle with Kale and the others, as it would be anywhere but here, forced to save the day.  Wei-Li could feel her hand shake in the grip, squeezing almost a bit too hard.

She finally reached the opening to the Dining Hall, looking back at Wei-Li and putting a finger to her lips.  No talking.  With a slow breath, she tilted her head around the entrance, looking down into the bridge.  She could just make out the lower half of Kyron...no one else would wear anything that wasn't a week old, so it had to be him.  Unfortunately, from the angle, she couldn't make out where Acacia or Ren were.  Hopefully they were still there, and both safe.  Her eyes moved, looking at the kitchen table...seeing the handguns that were still laying there.  She hated guns...but she also hated being taken captive, and especially would hate the captain dying.

She looked back at Wei-Li, getting closer to her ear so she could whisper.  "He's in th'Bridge.  You'n I...we need t'do somethin'.  There's weapons in th'next room..."

Wei-Li nodded and then, looked down at Charlie's feet.  She removed her own shoes, revealing the soft black nylon of the tights she was wearing under her jeans  "We're going to need to surprise him.. or distract him... Something,“ Wei-Li answered in a very low voice.  "He'll kill us all once he has what he wants."  She bit her lip and closed her eyes for a moment.  "Let's get this over with..."

"Yeah, we've got little choice, the way I'm seein' it.  There's two handguns on the table in the other room, y'know?  We can get our hands on 'em, sneakin' up and such."  Charlie looked back around the edge, seeing the guns Geoff had laid on the kitchen table.  They could get them easy enough...two against one, right?  Those were good odds, right?

"I'm thinkin'...I'm wonderin' which you want to do, distract or surprise."  Charlie let out another sigh, pulling her head back around.  "You think, y'know, just go up behind and do th'whole 'hands up' thing?  Or that only works in stories..."  She was getting tapped for ideas pretty quick, as it stood.

Wei-Li nodded as she listened and then took a deep breath.  "I can dive in... just like I did onto the stage... Maybe distract him, if not we'll have him in a cross fire... "  She let her breath out slowly.  "No matter what happens... we have to stop him... the others won't last in the shuttle..."  She closed her eyes.  It was hard to tell if she was gathering her strength or praying... maybe a bit of both.

She nodded.  "Let's do it."

Charlie muttered something else under her breath, closing her eyes for a second as she did so...it was easy to see her prayer for what it was, no matter how brief, it still had to count for something.  After a few seconds, she went with Wei-Li, intent on saving the day.  Again...

Charlie took one of the handguns from the table, holding it a bit awkwardly and looking it over, making sure the safety wasn't on.  She'd fired a gun before...a few times...back before she was on the ship.  Still, it had to be like riding a bike, right?  Right.  She stepped light-footed through the Dining Hall, reaching the steps to the Bridge and taking them as slow as she could, doing her best to be as quiet as possible.

Finally, just outside the door to the Bridge, Charlie flattened herself against the outside of the doorframe and out of view.  She could feel her heart racing in her chest, pounding louder than any other noise that she could possibly make...the light-headedness that came with it was starting to blur the edges of her vision.  It'll all be over soon, she told herself.  Just stay calm.  She looked at Wei-Li, making eye contact and raising the gun, giving her a nod.

Wei-Li met Charlie's eyes.  For a moment all her fear and concerns were showing but as she nodded, her expression changed to one of complete focus-- the same expression she had when she was performing.  She pushed off the stairs and hatchway, giving her the momentum needed to carry her into the middle of the room.  She rolled and came up standing.

Charlie's head peeked around the side, watching Wei-Li spring into action.  It had been a good move, jumping into the room like that.  Charlie probably would have just tiptoed in and knocked him out with a wrench.  It didn’t hit her until now what an easier plan that would have been, all things considered...but then again, it was too late for that.

With a quick breath, Charlie stepped out from around the door, taking Kyron's distraction as her opening.  She held the firearm out with both hands and pointed it at him, doing her best not to let her hands shake the gun back onto the floor.  "You...you just..."  She was at a loss for words, angry at herself for not having anything good to say.  She never was good at this stuff.  "Let Acacia go."

Kyron was grinning at the defeat he saw in the pilot, all was going so well, so very -

Suddenly, that piece of Paquin trash came barreling into the room along with the little mechanic.  "How did you -" there was no time though as he realized that they were both armed.  He was not getting caught. He immediately took his gun and fired.

He's Shooting!  At us!  Somewhere, in the back of her head, Charlie's defensive mode flipped on.  She held the gun out straight at Kyron and squeezed the trigger, closing her eyes tightly as the gun fired.

Two gun shots rang out - one right after the other ..... and then the bridge was deathly silent.

When everyone looked around again Wei-Li had been shot in the stomach and Kyron had been shot in the left shoulder.

Ren stared in disbelief as Acacia started to move. "NO!".  He moved then in desperation and fear as he grabbed her into his arms and he began checking frantically for wounds.  “Baby?  Acacia.. honey???"  His hands were shaking as he held her, and then turned... if she was alright.. who....


Kyron's eyes widened in disbelief.  She shot him ... the tiny little mechanic had shot him.  The gun dropped from his hand as he felt himself falling back against the wall.  His eyes were welling with tears of pain.  The little bitch!  He couldn't breathe ... he tried desperately to get in a good breath but the pain was overwhelming him - he'd never experienced anything like it before - he'd never been shot before.  He slumped to the ground his hands now covering the wound, coming back covered in blood.  He just sat there gasping.

Wei-Li stood for a moment, unsure of what had happened.    She blinked, looking around.  She was having trouble focusing again.  Something was wrong.  She looked down, shock and surprise registering on her face.  Her mouth opened as she lifted her hand and saw the blood on it.  She tried to say something... and fell.

Charlie opened her eyes, seeing where Kyron lay against the wall, a bullet wound bleeding from her shoulder.  She hadn't even noticed Wei-Li, too afraid to look away from Kyron, that he might try something.  She stepped up to him, holding the gun towards his head, narrowing her eyes as best she could.  "Ren?"  She spoke in an eerily calming tone, not looking away from Kyron.  "You should be callin' Kale.  Turn the ship so we can go'n get him."  It felt like she was going to collapse at any second, but she wouldn't let that happen now.  She wouldn't let her guard down this easily.  The second someone else had the weapon, of course...well, she had something to do elsewhere, and it didn't require anyone else to be around.

Acacia felt tears rolling down her cheeks as Ren held her and she never ever, ever wanted him to let go ever again.  But over his shoulder she could see Wei-Li slumping to the floor and knew that now was not the time to fall to pieces - right now she needed to be strong. She pulled away from Ren and motioned for him to check on Charlie as she crawled over to Wei-Li.

Ren shivered when Acacia pushed him away, but he nodded.  Her expression said it all.  Now was not the time.  He moved over to Charlie, wincing at the look in her eyes.  She shouldn't have had to do this.  It was his job to protect her.  He put his hand on hers, easing the gun from her hands.  "Easy little bear... I've got you... you're going to be fine... "

He placed a hand on her shoulder and took the gun from her, then picked up Kyron's gun as well.  He felt completely numb as he looked around at the aftermath.  With a look of disgust he slugged Kyron in the jaw, knocking him out.

Charlie kept her hands still, nearly crying, biting her lower lip with the gun held out at Kyron.  She didn’t respond to what Ren said for a second, allowing him to lower the gun...it was all a bit too much for her.  She'd never done so much as hit somebody.  It seemed like she didn’t even blink as Ren knocked out Kyron, shivering a bit and rubbing one of her arms.

"Ren...you gonna...you can call th'ship, right?  I..."  She spoke through a wavering voice, raising a hand to her eyes, doing her best to get through what she had to say.  "Call me if you...y'need help to dock th'shuttle.  I need ta...go check on the, ah...the engines."  She managed to get through the last few words as she choked back her tears, coming because of her anger, her fear, her exhaustion...everything.  Before he could say anything, she turned around and left, covering her face...

Acacia's hands shook as she ran to Wei-li.  She sniffed trying to clear her mind.  She looked at the wound, “Ren,” her voice was shaking.  “I need to get her to the infirmary.  I-I-I can't carry her alone.”  Her voice trembled as she tried to force her training to take over.

Ren gave Charlie a worried look as she left the bridge.  He knew she was going to need to talk to someone, but right now he had to deal with Kyron.  He wasn't about to let Charlie and Wei-Li's sacrifices go for naught.  He also never wanted Kyron anywhere near Acacia again.  He let out a ragged breath.  "I know... I just have to put this Wei Shian Dohn Woo where he can't hurt anyone... "  He grabbed some duct tape and wound it around the man's arms and torso before picking him up and carrying him to the airlock.

Acacia watched Ren go by and thought about saying something, but honestly she was glad Kyron was no longer around.  She looked back down to Wei-li, “Hold on, you’re a healthy young woman, don't worry, I'll fix ya up good.” Acacia said.  Her hands were still shaking from the whole situation.  She hated guns all they did was hurt.

Wei-Li looked up at her, pain showing in her eyes as she tried to say something and failed.  She reached out with her hand, flailing against the pain.

Ren came back in, out of breath from the exertion.  He knelt down next to Acacia,  putting a gentle hand on her shoulder.  “How should I hold her?” He asked, unsure how to keep from hurting the injured woman more.

“Actually let's try to stop the bleeding some,”  Acacia took off her tank, she bundled it up and put it over the wound that was bleeding badly.  “Ren I think, well now that I can, run and get my med bag from the infirmary.“  She pressed with the shirt not hard but firmly on the wound, the blood was on her hand some.  She needed to get the bullet out.  “Wei-li are you still awake?”

Ren looked at Acacia and nodded.  As he stood he ran his hand over her head, just to assure himself that she was still there, that she was all right.  Then he was running again.

Wei-Li tried to focus on the Doc and nodded.  "Didn't...plan... this...   Is... alright?"  She winced, fighting to keep her breathing steady.

Ren set the bag down next to Acacia.  "What else can I do?”  He knew he should be working on finding the shuttle, but the woman laying there deserved a chance to live too.

Acacia looked over to Ren, sweat matting her hair to her forehead. “Get our family back.” she said.  She pulled over the kit, she really needed her in the infirmary, but one person moving her would cause more damage.  She put a gauze on it she needed to move her but how.

Ren nodded, bending down and kissing her on top of the head.  "You're amazing,” he whispered and then moved back to the controls, recalculating their original point when they changed direction and slowly turning the ship around.  He began running ever scan he could think of-- searching for the shuttle.

“Ren just try callin em, don't they have a radio?”  she called over after not hearing anything from him for awhile.  “When you get a chance I think she is stable enough to move.  I need to you to cradle her and carry her down to my equipment in the infirmary.’

Ren set the auto controls and turned towards Acacia.  "Not quite in range yet…” he told her as he got out of the pilots chair and knelt beside her again.  He couldn’t help but put his arm around Acacia and kiss the top of her head.  "We'll find them... but for now," he said.  "Lets get her when you can work on her proper-like."

He slipped his arms under her and gently picked Wei-Li up. His expression hardened as he heard her painful breaths.  She was like this because of Kyron... because he couldn't stand up to him...

“Let me go first then follow.’  Acacia said as Ren picked up Wei.  She took off for the infirmary, she had to keep her emotions in check.

Ren swallowed hard against the lump he felt in his throat.  They needed time to get through this, but it was time they didn't have.  He held Wei-Li carefully as he followed Acacia.  He found himself praying their relationship would survive this.

Wei-Li groaned softly as she felt someone pick her up and begin carrying her away.  She tried to open her eyes, but closed them quickly, feeling even worse.  "Kyron... did something to... shuttle.    Beacon... Units... 2 and 3... "  She clenched her fist against the pain, grabbing the pilot's shirt.

Ren continued to follow Acacia, but the woman gripping his shirt made him look down at her as she tried to speak.  "What?” He asked feeling his pulse pick up.  "What did Kyron do to the shuttle?"  He tried to be gentle, but he had to know.  "What did he do?"

“Put her down hon, she is hurt,” Acacia said, putting on some gloves and grabbing vial of sedative.  She really wanted to put the girl out before she went digging for a bullet.  She put her glasses on and some goggles over them.  She then turned on the monitor and a camera to find the bullet.  She pulled out other equipment she would need then motioned for Ren to lay her down.  “Go ahead back up to bridge after you leave her not much more you can do sweetie just get everyone back.”   She said looking up with a smile.  “And please check on Charlie at some point I'm worried about her.”

Ren gave Acacia a very worried look.  "She said Kyron did something to the shuttle... " He set the woman down as gently as he could, but he had to know what Kyron did.  He looked at Acacia for a moment, and then turned back to the woman, but she had already drifted off again.  Ren looked from her to Acacia.  "Do what you can...if she says anything tell me..."  He gave her a very worried look then ran to the Cargo Hold.

If she says anything? Acacia thought as she injected Wei with the sedative, She won't even be awake for a long while.  She worked and quickly found the bullet.  She pulled it out and checked around with the scope for any bullet fragments or damage to the organs.  “Lucky girl,” she said as she found none.  Acacia stitched her shut, and put extensive antibiotics into her system.  She let her sleep and closely monitored the system keeping track of her vitals.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Ren checked on the air lock and Kyron, just to be sure, before climbing the stairs to the engine room.  He sighed.  He hated doing this to Charlie, but he had to know what had happened-- He had to know that he wasn't trying to save people who were already dead.
"Charlie…” He knocked on the side of the hatch.  "Little bear... "  He waited, unsure what to do when she doesn't answer.

The door to the Cargo Bay slightly opened, Charlie right behind.  She wiped one of her eyes, managing a half-hearted smile at Ren.  "Hey baby bear, I'm...I'm okay, I'm just, there's things to, uh...things to do everywhere."  She let out another sigh, looking back at him.  "Is...everyone okay?"

Ren bit his lip and reached out to her.  "'Cacia's got the girl in the infirmary... but... "  He looked at her and let his shoulders sag.  "She said Kyron did something to the shuttle... 'Cacia's got her sedated... but .. " He looked at her, hating himself for doing this to her.  "Do you know what he did?"

She sighed, leaning against the doorframe, running her hand through her hair.  "I'm...no, I'm not really sure.  She didn't tell me, y'know, anythin' that Kyron did.  You can't get a hold of the shuttle?"

Ren shook his head.  "I haven't heard anything...yet.. hoping they're out of range... And I'm not finding her beacon..."

"He prolly disabled it."  Charlie bit her lip for a second, thinking, using this as one of her many excuses to not think about the gun she had previously held at Kyron.  "Well, here's what I'm thinkin' I can do.  I can run the nav through the ships primary communications boosters, which should be th'way to throw our signal out bigger.  It'd make the signal respond more'n the likes of sonar than anythin'.  That'll find us the shuttle, but we won't be able to contact it until we un-route the system, bein' that's the only way we'd confirm it's Kale'n not some piece'f trash floatin about.  It'd only take a few minutes, y'know?  Unless you've got a better idea, I'm thinkin'...you know."

Ren let out a relieved sigh.  He didn't exactly understand what Charlie was saying, but he didn't have to.. she did and that was all that really mattered.  He grabbed her into a hug, relieved that she was in one piece as well, then he back up slightly.  "You do that Little Bear.. I'll be on the bridge.. trying to get us back to where this whole mess started.  He looked back at the airlock.   Kyron could wait.

She smiled as he hugged her, squeezing him back.  "Don't worry, Ren...I've come too far to be lettin' the rest of the crew down."  She gave another smile, following him to the Bridge where the main hub of controls were.

Charlie walked into the Bridge, looking around for the navsat controls, only having had to mess with them a few times.  She ran her hands over the walls, lights and meters giving readouts from all over the ship.  She could keep her healthy from the Engine Room, but to those who don't know how to listen to the way an engine turns, this is where Destiny talked back.  Where she talked about how she was hurting, or what made her happy, or anything like that.  Right now, it was going to show her how to call for her friends.

Charlie crouched down on the floor, looking at the controls...pausing when she saw the splashes of blood on the metal flooring, her eyes passed over the wet spots that still remain.  She turned a lighter shade, closing her eyes and breathing through her nose for a second, doing her best to keep it together. Kyron had it coming, she told herself.  He earned his face, and Wei-Li will be okay.  She muttered under her breath, taking hold of the edge of the console and pulling herself underneath, rooting through the cables until she found the transmissions box.  She clicked open the hatch on it, dislocating the com functions and plugging in the navigations primary echo, twisting it in tight before she slid back out from under the console.

"Well...here goes nothin."  Charlie sat back into the pilot's chair, clicking on the comm and setting it to broadcast at broad sweep, waiting for it to bring up anything.  It was just a matter of waiting to see what it would find...

Ren moved to the controls, checking their trajectory and speed.  They were still a good hour or two out from their start point.  He adjusted the speed and cleared off his console.  Then he moved out of Charlie's way.  This was her show now.

He looked around the Cockpit, picking up the guns and locking them in one of the cabinets. They didn't need them anymore.  Absentmindedly he began fiddling with Wei-Li's handheld computer.

Ren watched Charlie as she worked the wiring and tried to boost the signal.  Praying they would find the others in time.  There was no telling what Kyron had done...  It had started so simply.  Take Wei-Li out to her 'growing units'  Pick them up... drop Kyron off...


... units...

'Units 2 and 3'  Wei-Li's words echoed in his mind.. Units.  He turned on the device, calling up the frequencies and commands.  "Charlie!?" he called moving over to the console.  "Try sending these codes on the specified frequency…“  He handed her Wei-Li's handheld with the frequencies and codes on it.  "She said.. units 2 and 3"

"I'm not askin' where you're gettin' this idea.  I'm not findin' anything on this scan, so I'm up'ta tryin' anything."  She reached under the console, pulling the nav system and the comm system back apart, able to re-attach them with only a glance.  She sat back up, opening up the manual commands on the ship's communications beacon, boosting towards the specified frequency.  She held the handheld up with one hand, using the other to type in the codes.  "I'm...yeah, lesse what this does."

Charlie sent out the signal, getting out of the pilot's chair and motioning for him to take it.  "Your show now, baby bear."

Ren slipped into the seat and turned the scanner to focus on the frequency in Wei-Li's computer.  He had never been so aware of his own heart beat as he watched the scanner for any sign of the beacons associated with the units.  He shook his head and reached for the scanner to switch it back to search mode.  Then he saw it-- the beacons' answer... almost at the edge of the screen.  He moved with purpose now, doing quick mental calculations.  "Hang on little bear... we're going for a ride..."

He turned off the auto controls and turned the ship back to his control, pushing the ship as he did so.  "Charlie.. we're going to need as much power as we've got..."

"You don't need t'tell me twice, Ren."  She turned around, heading back towards the engine room, set on a purpose now…

A few moments later her voice came over the comm, “Well, I've shut down our protocol for entering atmo, the power to our landing structure, all'f the forward pressure manifolds, and I'm shuttin' down the aquifers for th'time being.  S'all I can give you that we're not gonna need.  Set it t'burn as much as y'need.”

Ren hoped it was enough, but it was going to be close.  The shuttle was still moving away from them and once he caught up, they still had to maneuver themselves into docking.  Watching the beacon's he realized that ship wasn't varying in direction.  That shàng dì jiào shao ér zi shui zhì hadn't even been willing to give them a chance.  His hand hovered over the airlock controls for a minute, shaking.  He finally pulled away from the controls.  If he blamed Kyron for it, he knew that he was even more guilty-- choosing Acacia and Charlie over the rest of the crew.  He prayed they would reach them in time.

He could hear the engines protest as he pushed the ship to her limits, betting their lives on saving the others'.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Lei was still looking over the sabotaged shuttle controls. She didn't know much about all their functions, only the basic ones, but she could tell that most of the controls weren't working the way they should. Everything was broken.  Something towards the back of the shuttle caught her attention, so she quietly  walked away from the consoles and towards the rear of the shuttle, keeping away from where Rhaef was unconscious on the floor. She approached one of the crystal growing units that was still there from when Wei-Li was working on it, and crouched down next to it, pressing her ear to it's case. Something was happening, the unit was emitting a rhythmic beep.  "Geoff? What's it doing?"

Geoff had only been standing silently in the same spot while Rhaef bled slowly to death while Kyoko tried to save him. He didn't know what else he could do so he just stood, feeling a little useless. No need for a guy like him at a time like this. In fact, he was more of a liability now, his larger size and lung capacity therin surely not helping their chances of survival. He sighed and was actually kind of glad when he heard Lei speak as it distracted him from his thoughts for a bit.

"What's what doin'?" he said as he turned to Lei and gave the case she was listening so intently to a bit of a quizzical glance. He walked slowly up to it and mimicked Lei, crouching down and pressing his ear against it. Sure enough, it was beeping. In Geoff's experience, beeping is either really good or really bad. He was really, really hoping it was some good because they had all they could take of bad. "Uh...Cap'n? This here thing is beepin' at us and I don't rightly know what to do about it..." he said as he stood up and gently pulled Lei a bit away from the case, worried it could still be something of the explosive type.

Kale stared down at the controls not even really seeing them anymore.  He could feel control slipping away again and he hated that feeling. Nothing up here worked, and Kale just didn't know enough to get things going again.  Then he heard Geoff's voice and turned around.

"What's that?" he stood up and started walking towards where Geoff and Lei were standing and grinned.  "The units!" he said, "Of course, Ren musta activated the beacon - he'd be the only one with it and I can't imagine why Kyron would have- they must have ... done somethin'." he knew he might be getting excited over nothing but he couldn't help it.  It was the only logical explanation - someone must have stopped Kyron.

At about the same moment, Rhaef came too, and forced himself up a little bit to look around the cabin, his voice raspy, he tried to get Geoff's attention.

Geoff had nodded to the captain's words about the units, hearing them but not understanding a single one. Beacons and units and such. Geoff didn't know anything about that. He did get that the captain was suggesting that Ren had done something, which meant they might end up saved, after all. He grinned about this and turned away from the unit to go back to where he had been standing. It was then that he noticed Rhaef sitting up, looking to him and apparently wanting Geoff's attention for some reason.

Geoff walked over to the first mate, kneeling beside him with a questioning expression on his face. He had no idea what the man wanted, but it must be important if he was getting himself up from his blood loss induced stupor to say it.

Rhaef looked at Geoff and despite the pain and blood loss, there was fury in his eyes. "Geoff, if you all get out of this, make that gorram son of bitch suffer. Make the hell you send him to feel like heaven after what you put him through. That's an order." His piece said, Rhaef collapsed again, but still awake his eyes darted to the crew. He sensed a new hope. Maybe they'd be rescued. Well he hoped for their sake, they would be - none them deserved to die.

Geoff couldn't help the short laugh that escaped him and the feral grin that came to his face at Rhaef's words. "Oh, don't ya worry. I have plans fer him and all of them involve plenty o' pain. Death is too good fer the likes of him. I'm gonna make him hurt fer what he did. I guaran-damn-tee you that." he said in a low tone and clapped Rhaef gently on the shoulder. It seemed like there were some times that even he and Rhaef could see eye to eye and making Kyron suffer was most definitely something they could both heartily agree with.

"He's not afraid of us, Geoff, I say we let those he is afraid of have him. Here, hold this compress in place while I see if we got any more kits on board." Kyoko asked as she worked. "Personally I'd like to see him spaced.. but I always favored the traditions of the spacers."

Geoff did as she bid him to do, holding the compress in place. "Oh, I don't need him to fear me. I just need him to hurt. Ain't nothin' more honest than pain. The ones who want him can have him after I'm done with him, more than likely in a small box with broken limbs." he remarked with a nod.

"There are ways to inflict pain without having to stoop to violence.. however appealing it might be at the moment. I personally think that the regulations and rules on pilot certification are cruel and unusual things to have to read.” Kyoko said as she returned with a pack of instant gel and uses it to seal Rhaef’s wound.

Something very large appeared off the starboard bow then.

Kale turned his head and let out a sigh of relief - he had never been so happy to see anything in his life.  There was Destiny.  He quickly made his way to the controls - the engines were still on and Ren couldn't scoop them up unless they powered down.  His fingers hit the controls and turned off the engine - they were going home.

He then watched intensely out the front windows as Destiny came alongside the small shuttle and began to match her speed.  Come on, Ren, get us home. Leastwise he sure hoped it was Ren in the cockpit, and that everyone was still alive on Destiny - well except for Kyron, he could be dead for all he cared.  Soon Destiny was pulling the shuttle in and they were back.  Kale immediately ran to the door controls and opened it letting the light of the cargo bay flood into the tiny shuttle.

"We're back on Destiny." he said, and went to try and help move Rhaef down to the infirmary.

Geoff had to breathe a sigh of relief as he saw they were being brought back onto the ship he had started to think of as home. He knew that Kyron would never have let them be retrieved so he must have been taken out somehow and the others would be safe. Everything seemed like it would turn out just fine.  He moved quickly to help the captain lift Rhaef up to move him to the infirmary. Now that he was back on the ship, he felt like he could be useful again and wanted to make the most of it.

"Now let's get out stubborn patient to a REAL medic.' Kyoko said as she took his other side to help Kale get him to medical.

Lei cautiously followed the others through the hatch into Destiny. The other one was probably still there somewhere, and she didn't want to run into him suddenly. Once through the hatch, she took a couple of deep breaths. The air was so much nicer here, she hadn't realized how stale it had got on the shuttle.

Kyoko kicked the nearest intercom switch on as they entered the bay with Rhaef between them, leaning to speak in it quickly as she helped Kale hold the man in place.  "Doctor, we'll be needing you in medical as quick as possible."

Ren quickly ran over to the entrance for shuttle two, almost afraid to look at Kale when he came out, but so relieved to see him.  "Kyron's trussed up in the airlock.. he's got a bullet in the shoulder... The girl doing spacewalks... she's been shot.  Kyron shot her, Charlie shot him..."  He left it at that.  Now was not the time for apologies, it was the time for getting the injured the help they needed.

He quickly fell into place, helping carry Rhaef to the infirmary.  Ren looked down at him, his brow furling.  'This is my fault'

Rhaef came to again, but the sights had changed - it looked like Destiny. "Is this heaven ... or hell?" Yet unable to process that they had been rescued, and assuming that he had died.

Ren heard Rhaef's question and looked away for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts.
"You're back home" he said.  "You're on Destiny."  He looked away, as much for making sure they didn't run into anything as to avoid the first mate's gaze.

Rhaef shook his head, the pilot had said home, that couldn't be right. He was supposed to die - a valiant death to save the others to make up for his willingness to sacrifice the crew. He grasped/growled, "The others ...Red... Charlie...are they okay?"

"And Kyron-what's become of him?" Kendra stood still poised for fighting if needed, gun out but at her side.

"My vote is we pop the rocker switch, depress the button underneath.. wait 45 seconds, and then unlock the bottom and close the rocker switch. Then we come in, wipe any residue up and go back to tending to our wounded … ie. space him." Kyoko said as she paused at the entry to the main space of the ship.

Ren forced a smile as he looked at Rhaef, 'I did this to him'.  "Acacia's fine... Charlie's... Charlie'll be fine... Kyron's trussed up in the airlock..."  He looked at the others, so glad they're back and safe.

"So, he's not dead. What are we going to do with him?" Kendra asked.

"We leave him." Kale said firmly, and continued carrying Rhaef down to the infirmary.  "He's not our concern right now, Ren's got him squared away and frankly I'm a little more worried about me and my own." He may hate Kyron just as much as the rest but first things first.  It was no sweat off his back to leave Kyron with a bullet wound sitting in the airlock while he made sure his crew was safe and sound.

"How bad is Wei-Li?" he asked Ren. He'd have to remember to cross her off of the list of people to mistrust and to thank her.  He had the feeling that she really pulled through for them today.

Ren looked at the blood stain on his shirt and then back at the captain.  "Pretty bad-- 'Cacia could tell you more"  He met Kale's gaze only briefly.  He was too hurt and angry with himself to say more.  The crew filed into the infirmary, supporting Rhaef as they went.

"Hello doctor." Kyoko said as she dashed in, making room to let her work, while looking for a  spot to put the soon to follow Rhaef. "Got one more." she said as she cleared the spot out, laid out more surgical gear and got ready to clean up.

“I'm glad you are ok Kyoko. Let me just finish closing up Wei and I'll be over. “  Acacia finished up and threw out the gloves. She scrubbed up put on new gloves.  She looked at Rhaef,   “Hmm, just nicked the femoral artery, he is lucky he hasn't bled to death.  The wound looks like it is clean through.  Will have to suture shut the artery, then give him an antibiotic to fight infection.  He probably needs a transfusion, it would help. I need to see who else is his blood type.”   She pulled up the crew, “looks like Ren, Kale, and Charlie could all donate.   Can you find one of them?”

"I did what I could to keep the stubborn fool alive." Kyoko said as she clicked the intercom.  "Reiner, Captain Galway and Charlene, could you all come to the infirmary? We are going to need a few pints of blood for Rhaef." Kyoko turned a back to Acacia. "Need me to do anything while you prepare for them?

Acacia moved to Rhaef, to suture his artery.  “What I need is for everything to stop.” She flashed the look of terror on her face that she had while she was held at gun point.  She knew she needed to hold on for a little while longer.

Ren moved back into the Infirmary.  He had stepped out of the way once they got Rhaef in, and now... it was the least he could do.  He knocked on the door and gave Kyoko and Acacia a questioning look.  When he saw Acacia all he wanted was to walk over to her and hold her close, but he knew she still had work to do.  "You called?"

Kyoko nodded as she started lying out a transfusion kit. "We need blood, you're a compatible blood type." she said hurriedly as she prepped his arm so that Acacia had very little to do beyond sticking him.

“Kyoko, grab a pint of blood from Ren please.  I need to keep working on the first mate here.“ Acacia said without looking up.

Ren's expression fell slightly, and he just nodded.  He sat there numbly waiting for Kyoko to do as Acacia asked.  He swallowed and tried to keep his expression neutral.

"Alright, but I'm still not that neat at drawing blood." she said as she picked up the long needle and gently slid it in, motioning for Reiner to lie back while they wait for a few minutes. "Alright, Reiner, you will feel a bit of lightheadedness, but other than that you should be fine." She said patting his arm as it started.

Ren followed Kyoko's directions.  As he laid back he tried not to think about the last few hours, but it was all he could see.  Acacia, Rhaef, Wei-li.. his own uselessness.  Kyron pointed a gun and he just caved in.  It was sheer luck they'd found the others... and Rhaef... Rhaef was shot because of him.  He set his jaw, biting back the pain and sat there.  He was good at just sitting there.

After Kale had set Rhaef down he stood back to allow Acacia and Kyoko to do their thing, still worried but more hopeful now that everything would be alright.  Acacia was a competent Doc, and she was holding it together admirably considering she had just spent the last hour or so with a gun to her head.  Knowing that he was of no use in the infirmary since Ren was already giving blood he took his leave.

"If you need me, let me know, for now I'll get out of your way." with his crew being treated he could now figure out what to do with Kyron. A million ways to kill him sprung to his mind unbidden ... Kyron better watch his step, because his death was far too tempting.

Geoff had helped carry Rhaef to the infirmary along with the captain and had allowed the captain to set him down. Geoff's mind, however, was less on Rhaef and more on what he had heard Ren say in the cargo hold. Wei-li had been shot. Everybody else was safe and, for that, he was very grateful, but Wei-li had gotten shot trying to save them. Geoff had an awful sense of memory at that point of another who had gotten shot trying to help. "I told her brother that it was my job to keep everybody safe, including her. I'm a liar again..." he murmured to himself as he looked to where Wei-li lay sleeping, "Everybody I say I'm gonna protect...end up..."

He didn't finish the thought as it brought to his mind the image of Lei. He had sworn to protect her too. He had sworn to protect her just like he had sworn to protect Tate and Wei-li. It was with a distracted shake of his head that he turned and headed out of the infirmary, intent on seeing if the girl was safe. He suddenly had the irrational need to know that Lei was safe. That he could protect at least one person he said he would...

Acacia took the blood that Kyoko had gotten and set it up to an IV for Rhaef.  She had drugged him and finished bandaging him.  She then walked to the corner of the room and collapsed down to the floor, unable to even think anymore.  She cried softly there in the corner.

Ren was still trying to clear his head when Acacia finished working on Rhaef.  He had been ready to leave and give her space when he saw her crying in the corner.  No force on earth could have kept him from her.  He looked at Kyoko his eyes pleading.  "Can you watch over them?  If you need help call?"  He planned on waiting for an answer, he really did.  But he couldn't wait any longer.  He put his arms around Acacia and pulled her close, intent on just holding her while she cried herself out.

"I'll take care of them." Kyoko said before leaning over to whisper. "Use my shuttle.” she added as she pushed him towards the weeping doctor.

“I thought I would never feel you hold me again..” she said through tears her body shaking all the emotion of everything, just coming out now.  “I thought I was going to die.”  She sobbed.

Ren looked back at Kyoko for a moment, his expression one of sorrow and concern.  He smiled gratefully and mouthed, 'thanks'  He pulled Acacia closer and then picked her up.  "It's all right,” he whispered in her ear.  "It's going to be all right."

Ren entered the cargo bay from the Infirmary, nothing else existed but the woman in his arms, and comforting her.  He closed his eyes and kissed her forehead when he paused at the door to Kyoko's shuttle.  It took him a minute to open the door and then they were inside.

Ren found the light switch behind some draping fabric and was stunned by what Kyoko has done with the shuttle.  He closed the door and sat on the bed, holding Acacia.  He rested his cheek on her head, stroking her back.  "Everything will be all right," he whispered again, unable to say anything else.
Acacia's voice broke as she talked, “Only thing I wanted was you, I wanted to feel you, you to hold me.  All the things I couldn't have had anymore if I died, all I could think of was you.“ she broke down again.  She gripped on to him tightly afraid to let go.

"Shhh.. bao bei... I'm right here.." He let out a harsh sigh, and looked towards the ceiling, trying, and failing, to control his own emotions.  There was a shudder to his breath as he held her.  "I... "  He shook his head.  "I would have done anything he asked... I just couldn't... "  He turned away, once again resting his cheek on her head.  "I couldn't lose you…”

“I thought you had.” she said, sniffling and trying not to break down.  “One thing though, no denying our relationship now.”  she said her eyes glistening with the tears still there.

Ren turned  so that he could see her out of the corner of his eyes.  Part of him wanted to laugh and tease her, tell her that she had probably planned this all out to force him to tell the others.  He couldn't, the wounds were too fresh.

He settled for kissing her on the temple, and closing his eyes.  "I.."  he reached out, running a hand down her hair again.  "Kyron had me figured out... he knew... knew that I would do anything to keep you safe, keep you alive... "

She grabbed his head gently in her hands, she softly put a finger to his lips.  “Can we skip all the analyzing, can you just be kissing and holding me right now.”  Her eyes were still shining.  Her body still shaking a bit.

Ren sighed, letting go of all the self loathing he felt over what he'd done, and simply held Acacia close, rejoicing that she was in his arms.  He rocked her gently then bent down so that he could kiss her properly.

Acacia let her eyes close, as Ren kissed her.  She wanted him, completely and in the open but the cost had been so high.  Now all she wanted was this moment.  Time slowed, all noises stopped.  There was only this, and finally after everything else she felt peace in the embrace of her lover.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


As he walked out into the cargo bay, Geoff’s quick tread slowed and then stopped completely as he looked about the cargo bay and caught no sign of Lei. What he did catch sigh of was the solid door to the air lock. His gaze seemed to stay there without him knowing it and he slowly walked over to it. Ren had said Kyron was in there. The man who had put them all through this was in there. The bastard that had tried to kill everybody aboard. The sonofabitch that had shot Wei-li and made him a liar again. Geoff ended up right in front of the airlock door, his fists clenched and his breath coming suddenly raggedly. It was a black and furious rage that grew within him and it was completely and totally aimed upon the man that was separated from him by this single barrier...

"Geoff." Kale said as he walked into the cargo bay, he saw Geoff standing by the air lock and from the set of his shoulders and the events that had just been taking place he knew that the boys mind was set on murder.  "Yer gonna want to back away from that air lock.  No use you doin' somethin' stupid."

Honestly, Kale wanted to kill the son of a bitch as well.  But that was not his way - it wasn't this crews way.  "Leave him be."

It took Geoff a few seconds to even register the captain's voice. He looked over his shoulder to him with anger still apparent on his face. "....Leave him be? After everything he did? Leave him be?" he said in an incredulous tone,  "He shot Rhaef and Wei-li. He held the Doc and Charlie hostage. He left us ta die in that damned shuttle. And he's still breathin'? That ain't right. It ain't...ruttin'...right."

Kale stared levely at the young man, the anger was coming off of him in waves.  "We aren't murderers, Geoff.  We kill that man in cold blood all tied up in my gorram air-lock and we ain't any better then him." He kept staring at Geoff, trying to calm himself and the other man at the same time.  "We're all too angry and irrational to be makin' any decisions concerning that hun dun right now - I don't want us doin' anything that we might regret."

Geoff looked to the captain and then to the airlock again before sighing and walking away from it, heading for the stairs that lead up to the catwalk. He paused at the foot of the stairs and didn't look to Kale as he spoke. "....Fine. He'll live fer now 'cause ya said it, Cap'n. But let me make somethin' clear. Killin' that man right now wouldn't be cold-blooded. It'd be gorram justice. The only type o' justice I know." he said and then turned to meet the captain's gaze evenly, "Because, y'all may not be murderers, but I am. It's what I do...and I wouldn't regret a ruttin' thing I did ta make sure that that sonofabitch in there suffered and died for what he did.…dong ma?"  With that he turned away from the captain and walked up the stairs to the catwalk and into the dining hall.

Kale watched Geoff leave, knowing that he wasn’t happy with his decision but glad that he respected it.  The man was young still and still had the temper of an adolescent - Kale smiled to know that he was strong enough to control it however.  He never regretted his choice to have Geoff join his crew.  Then he noticed as Ren came out of the infirmary, he was about to ask if all was well but he could see that Acacia was clearly upset and that she needed Ren there for her, a strong arm to support her through everything that had happened.  Suddenly Kale realized the one person who was not being helped however was Charlie.  He hadn't even seen her since he set foot back on Destiny.  Quickly he made his way towards the bridge where he assumed she'd still be.

Charlie sat on the floor, her back against lockers, staring off at the floor.  She had sat there the whole time that Ren brought the shuttles in, and even as he left with Acacia and Wei-Li.  Maybe it was weak, maybe she was even tired.  There was no telling when it came to certain things, and sometimes, she just needed to shut down.  She'd been staring at the blood spilled on the floor, thinking about all the times this ship had seen blood.  About the whole crew had spilled some on the floor by now, even those who weren't fighters.  All of a sudden, staying on Paquin seemed like an even better idea...

Kale stepped into the room, his footsteps for once not ringing on the metal flooring.  Charlie was just sitting there - staring at the floor and it didn't take a genius to recognize that her focus was on the puddle of blood.  He stood there for a moment, just watching her feeling awkward, but wanting to comfort her to make everything that had just happened go away.

"You shouldn't have had to do that." he said quietly, staring at the blood now himself.  Out of everyone on this boat Charlie was not a killer - he sometimes saw her as the one pure and good thing.  The little ray of sunlight in their sky of black.  He came and slumped down on the floor beside her - not looking at her, but at his hands.

"Ah...Cap'n."  Charlie sighed, leaning her head back on the locker, still watching the blood on the floor.  She was happy to be seeing that they were alive, and in good time, she would be able to bring those emotions closer to the surface.  For now, though, they weren't the things on her mind.  "I had to, Cap'n.  Other people were gonna get hurt.  'Sides, who else was gonna do it?"  She managed a half-smirk when she finished, closing her eyes for a moment.

Kale admired how strong she was being - and was grateful that she did what had to be done.  "You done good lil' Charlie, you done good." he said, and leaned his head back against the lockers as well.

"I know, I'm...y'know, I know."  She looked over at Kale, giving him a tired smile, shrugging.  She was even more tired, and could feel it in her arms and legs.  "Anyone woulda done it for me, I'm sure.  Even someone new, like Geoff.”

There was silence then for a single moment that seemed to stretch on for a hundred years … they had both aged a great deal before she spoke again, “Did they kill him?“ she asked.

Kale frowned and shook his head.  "No, no he's still tied up in the air-lock." Kale said coldly.  The thought of the man made his stomach churn.

“So.  So...what're we gonna do with him?"

Kale let out a long sigh and crossed his arms over his knees.  "I dunno.  Haven't decided yet - I just thought it'd be the smart thing to do ta wait ‘til we're all cooled down a bit before dealin' with him.  Right now I got about 9 votes ta space him, but ... ah ruttin' hell, the no good hun dun does a number on me and my own and I find it necessary to show him mercy." he shook his head and rested it in his hands.

Charlie reached out, scratching the back of Kale's head, leaning in next to him.  "Well, if it helps...I'm thinkin' maybe we don't shoot him out.  I know I'm one 'gainst the whole crew, but...I dunno.  I just get to thinking 'bout how I came close'ta killin' him, and, y'know...I'm not sayin' he didn't do no wrong, but...maybe there's been enough hurtin'."  She looked back at the blood on the floor, sighing again.  "Is Wei-Li gonna be okay?"

Kale let out a forced chuckle, well at least someone saw things his way, now to convince the rest of the crew. As to Wei-Li, he sure hoped she was alright.  "She's not good, but I think she'll make it - Doc got her stable.  And Rhaef lost a lotta blood but they're patchin' him up right good." He looked at Charlie, "What about you?  You gonna be okay?"

Charlie managed a smile, looking back at Kale.  "Yeah, I'm good.  It's funny, y'know?  Knowin' that Kyron's not dead actually makes me feel kinda better.  Y'know, I'm just...I didn't get anyone killed.  Nobody was killed, and no one died.  That's somethin' we've been needin' a bit of on the boat.  Everyone's okay, all under one roof'n such."  She kept contact with Kale a moment longer, and then looked back at the blood.

This message was last edited by the GM at 04:04, Sat 20 May 2006.

Into the Black
 GM, 592 posts
Fri 21 Apr 2006
at 20:11
Episode 3: Far From Home

Episode 3: Far From Home

Ren ran a hand through his hair and sighed as he checked the controls.  They were finally in range.  He picked up the microphone and transmitted the ship's signature and information.  "This is Destiny, a Dingo Class Freighter, registration number 1-1169er123-D, requesting emergency landing on Osiris.""

He waited only a few seconds before the voice returned.  "Copy  1-116niner123-D, please state the nature of your emergency."  Ren looked at Kale for a moment before answering.  "We have a medical emergency, we have an injured passenger, repeat, we have an injured passenger."

There was a longer pause, and a different voice took over.  "1-116 niner 123 Dee, please proceed to grid co-ordinates G-7-5.  Follow landing beacon 1-13A.  Do not deviate from the beacon.  Outer beacon should be reached in Ten minutes."  Ren acknowledged in the same tone of voice he used while communicating and punched in the marker's sequence.  Then he turned to Kale.  "Boss... G sector is not medical, not commerce... that's in the law enforcement sector."  He looked at the controls for a second. "We hit their control in just under nine minutes."

Kale frowned, "We said medical, gorram Alliance hun dun's ... I knew this was a bad idea." Kale leaned his hands on the back of Ren's chair and closed his eyes for a second to think.  If they were sending them to the law enforcement sector odds are they saw Kyron on their passenger lists - probably ID'd him as Datton.  If that was the case they'd have to turn him over - only problem was he might talk about Lei and if they found her on board ...an idea dawned.

"Proceed with landing, try to keep it slow though." he grabbed the mike then and turned the comm on. "Kyoko I need you to take Lei onto your shuttle and go.  Now.  You have five minutes.  Don't care where you take her - we'll be in touch within the next few hours.  Acacia, get Wei-Li ready for medical transport - I want all hands in the cargo bay."  He set down the mike and turned to Ren, "Meet us down there once we're landed." he said, and headed out off the bridge.

Ren nodded then went to work, slowing the ship without looking like she was slowing.  It felt so alien trying to slow down his arrival, he'd spend so many years learning how to speed it up.  Still he understood.  With their declared emergency-- they should have been in the Medical sector instead of where they were going.  He feathered the fuel mix and cut Ren looked back down at the controls and watched as Kyoko's shuttle departed, then he began preparing the ship for landing.  He felt a little more then nervous about this, but there wasn't much they could do - Wei-Li needed the medical attention.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kyoko settled back on her chair, the terminal lighting the room. She was still angry enough it took all her focus not to go and space Kyron. That and her word to the captain. She was still angry that the foolish man had hurt so many of her friends, if he had simply listened to them.. they could have negotiated something.  Now, they had to hurry to Osiris and get the wounded proper care. She sat there thinking of what more she could do as she typed a variety of messages.

Acacia walked up to Kyoko's shuttle, she had just been in checking on Wei-Li.  She was stable, there just wasn't enough equipment here.  She knew what she needed, heck once on Osiris, she could fix Wei herself.  She thought about maybe looking up some people from med school.  She sighed, maybe this space travel thing wasn't for her.  She softly knocked on Kyoko's door.

Kyoko looked up, it couldn't be the captain. He never knocked. "Come in." She called as she sat up and smoothed out her black t-shirt that hung around her knees and stilled the antique vid on the cortex screen.

Acacia slowly opened the door, and quietly shut it behind her.  “Hiya,” she said softly, “How are you doing, Kyoko?”   Acacia said standing inside the doorway.  She seemed very quiet and reserved, especially compared to her normal friendly self.

"I am coping.. but not well. Watching the wounds my friends bear from this, and tending to other's wounds hurt. I'm very angry, so angry Acacia. I see the pain in your face, the doubt in Charlene and Reiner's.." Kyoko sighed and let her shoulder's sag.

“Yeah,” Acacia said crossing the space over to her friend, “It wasn't how I wanted the day to go either.”  She said sitting down next to her.

"Still blaming yourselves? You and Reiner? I envy you, you've got your oaths to tell you the way to behave, I just.. " Kyoko sighed as she took some popcorn and sat back on the bed. "I want that man.. dead. I think Kale knows that too, that I'm one of the folks who could.. walk into the bay, calmly and quietly, disengage the outer door locks, and vent the atmosphere in the airlock.."

“NO!!!!,” Acacia shouted. “I mean, I don't want to see my dear friend dragged down to his level.  I don't want you to become a killer.”   She started shaking a little.  The whole thing upset her.  Part of her wanted to go treat his wound, another part of her wanted to be the one the push the button.  “Don't destroy yourself, then he wins.” she almost whispered.

"Now you see my problem. When a companion is so conflicted ..she can't do her job." Kyoko said with a sigh as she rubbed her neck. "As much as you don't believe me, you and Reiner can heal more easily.. you've got each other."

“Yeah, I wonder if he will be willing to leave the ship with me,”  Acacia said almost offhandedly.  “There is no need for you to be conflicted over this, you helped, you made sure Rhaef didn't die.  Beyond that, no one expected you to be the gun toting hero.”

"I don't want you two to leave.. it would make my home less.. so if you did." Kyoko said with a sad sigh. "Not all uses of your medical table have to be bad you know.. I was born in that very room."

“Yeah but, I'm starting to realize maybe I don't belong on this ship.”  Acacia looked back to Kyoko. “That table in there?”

Kyoko nodded. "That was why I picked Destiny over a dozen others, she is in many ways, the only tie I have left to my mother and father. She's.. family." Kyoko took Acacia's hands and smiled. "Just like you and the rest of the crew have become. Don't leave rashly.. think on it okay?"

“Well, it is just on Osiris, I have people I went to school with, maybe I could setup a practice.  I have no family, but I'm a liability on this ship.” Acacia said her head hanging down.  “I got grabbed and couldn't do anything, and when we all got sick, when it is my job to stop things like that. I probably spread it more then cured it.”  Her eyes moistened like she was trying not to cry.

Kyoko sat up and gently took Acacia's face in her hands, pausing to kiss her on each cheek lightly before enfolding her in a hug. "You and Charlene are so alike, so unsure of your worth. I could buy and sell this ship many times over, but I doubt I'd ever find two gems such as the two of you."

Acacia pulled back and shook her head, “You say that, but have I ever proven myself worthy of such acclaim....no.  Look how many lives I endangered, you all could have died now....twice because of me.  If anything I have proven how incompetent of a shipmate I am.”

"Alright.. I see this will have to merit me breaking my rules." Kyoko said as she walked to the hatch and closed it before turning back to her, pausing to open a trunk. "Londinum Vintage, 180 years old. It has been in my family for almost the whole time. You will never taste anything as smooth."

Kyoko sat down and poured a glass to her. "As of this moment, you're my client. And you need to let go of this useless guilt. You didn't do anything wrong! So, shut up.. and take a drink." Kyoko said with a determined look on her face.

Acacia opened and closed her mouth a few times without saying anything.  She took a drink and swallowed it.  She wanted to rant some more, but was afraid of making Kyoko hate her.  “Sorry,” she said quietly.

"Now you think I hate you." Kyoko said after looking at her for a moment. "I don’t.. in fact, you need to take another drink. We have to get this insufferable guilt out of you. You need to realize that you aren't flawless.”

“Are all companions mind readers or just you?” Acacia said with a derisive chuckle.  Acacia took another drink, this was already close to pushing her a little tipsy.  “I'm not flawless, I am a flaw.”  she said beginning to cry.

"We all are, Acacia.. it's part of the definition of being human." Kyoko said as she refilled her glass, taking care to merely sip her own glass of double malt. "Wisdom is learning to accept that sometimes we fail. You can hate it.. but don’t' hate yourself in the process of doing that."

Acacia drained it again, “Three people mean more to me then anyone else in the whole verse, You, Ren, and Charlie.  I put all of you in mortal danger cause of me, I'm small, I'm weak, I'm foolish.  Rhaef told me not to go anywhere, but I did. ME!  I almost killed the ones I love through my actions.” she said.  She had no tolerance to alcohol and was already moving into drunkenness.

"No, you are not a bad person." Kyoko said as she took her glass and sets it aside. She helped Acacia up onto the bed to lay down. "I don't want you to think the whole universe cycles around your actions. It doesn't." Kyoko eased up beside her and rubbed her shoulders gently.

Acacia just sighed she let Kyoko work, “I was wrong though, you are over generalizing what I'm sayin', it's just these times it was my fault.” Her speech is slurred slightly from the alcohol.

"No, you're trying to dodge out." Rubbing her back, Kyoko sighed. "Don't go thinking that they were your fault. Tell you what, we're coming into a core world. Give me a list of things for medical, anything you wish. I'll fill it.”

Before Acacia had a chance to answer Kyoko Kale's voice came up over the intercom.  Acacia wrinkled her brow, "This doesn't sound good." she said, her heart dropping slightly, she'd taken about all she could of ... well all of this ... she really hoped that everything was alright as she stood up and said good-bye to Kyoko.  "Be safe." she said, feeling slightly stupid telling the obviously capable Companion to be safe but sincerely hoping that she would be.

She stepped out of the shuttle and saw Lei sitting there.  "Lei's right here, Kyoko." she said, smiling at the young girl before heading to the infirmary to get Wei-Li.

"Send her in, I'll keep an eye on her. And Acacia, give me your wish list, I'm not joking. "

Lei had hardly just sat down when the doc rushed out.  Lei quietly stepped into the shuttle, and looked around wide eyed. Everything was so... rich... and luxurious in here. She stood staring just inside the hatch as it slid closed behind her. Lei hadn't imagined that anything was like this on Destiny, she'd gotten used to the patched, slightly rusty and worn in look of the ship. Lei reached out to gently touch one of the silks hanging against the wall, rubbing the fabric between her fingers and grinning slightly at the feel of it.

"Kyoko, now would be the time for you to take off, I'm hitting landing in 5 minutes about." Came Ren’s voice over the comm.

"I'll be undocking and hitting planet in five minutes." Kyoko said as she hurried through her preflight check list. "You might want to come up and take a seat in one of the flight stations dear." she called as she buckled herself in.

She undocked and pulled out of the ship's cradle with a smooth movement. "Destiny, this is Kyoko Monroe. We're clear, I'll find someplace quiet and out of view to keep our young guest." She said before turning off the transmitter. Her hands ran smoothly over the controls as she set the shuttle for a slow high orbit around the planet below before turning to the cortex and tapping in an access code.

"I should count myself lucky, I'm sure you'll be less trouble than Kale would be. Still, need to see what the family has on hand. Hmm.. office building, massive complex, Legal offices, no surprises.." Kyoko smiled to Lei as she continued to scroll though a massive list, giving her a smile and a wink. "Don't tell the captain, he'd increase my rent if he knew. Ah, a nice quiet, set of rooms with a pad large enough to take the shuttle. I hope you like my cooking, all we have in it is the custodial drones and housekeeping work for it. I am sure it will be good enough."


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Geoff had already been in the Cargo Bay when the captain's announcement had gone over the intercom. He had spent a lot of time in the cargo bay, actually. The wide open space gave him a bit of comfort and it was basically in the middle of everything on the ship. Not to mention that the passenger's quarters where Lei was, was only a few yards away and the infirmary where Wei-li , was only a little beyond that. He had still promised to protect them so he was gonna try his best to do just that.

He had been laying on the ground in the middle of the cargo bay, his hands folded behind his head, and he sat up at the sound of the announcement. He didn't like the sound of that at all. Needing them all gathered up and telling Lei to go hide out with the companion whom was far more respectable than any of them were not good signs. He stood up, getting ready to go tell Lei to go to the shuttle like the captain said, and saw Lei running through and headed for the shuttle on her own. "Heh. Good girl..." he said lightly and nodded to himself, glad that Lei knew enough to listen to what the captain said. He then shrugged and stood idly in the cargo bay, awaiting the rest of the crew and hoping that they weren't in trouble already...

Rhaef staggered into the Cargo bay on his crutches just in time to see Lei flying through the room toward the shuttle bay. Seeing Geoff in Cargo hold, Rhaef limped over the stairwell and set down. He had been able to holster his gun in the infirmary, and as long as they did not have to be running and gunning he might be some help. Yeah as a target, he thought grimly to himself.

Charlie walked out of the Engine Room to the cargo bay, rubbing her eyes, already turning red at the edges.  It was maybe from crying, maybe from stress...shoot, it could be from anything.  It's obvious she's still recovering from the previous day's events, all things considered.  Nonetheless, she was still part of the crew, and would still be a functioning part of it.  Charlie sat down on the upper catwalks, looking down at the ground, her legs hanging off the edge and dangling in the open space...

Kendra, reluctantly came out of her bunk and slowly made her way into the Cargo Bay. She stood towards the back, away from the main hatch. Her gun was holstered to her hip. She stood - waiting, and tapping her foot impatiently.

Acacia rolled Wei-Li out into the cargo bay where the rest of the crew was gathered, her heart in her throat, everything better be alight.

When Kale stepped onto the upper level of the cargo bay he was pleased to see the rest of his crew already gathered and waiting.  He stomped down the stairs and onto the lower level where most of them were.

"Ren's about to set us down.  They sent us coordinates for the judicial sector - not rightly sure why - I think it might have something to do with him." he nodded his head in the direction of the air-lock where Kyron was still tied up, Kale had dressed his wounds enough to ensure he didn't die - he could never have brought himself to ask Acacia to do such a thing. "We turn him over nice and easy they should take Wei-Li to the hospital and then we will stay on this boat until we know she is better and can head back to Paquin.  No one get's off, ya hear me?" he looked sternly at everyone.  "This planets swarming with Alliance and we ain't exactly law-abiding.  I wanted everyone down here so they know we are ready and willin' to cooperate."

Geoff stood in the center of the cargo bay as he had since he heard the announcement and watched silently as everybody started to gather. He gave Rhaef and Kendra a nod in greeting and waved up to Charlie as he heard her footsteps on the metal catwalk. He felt bad for Charlie as he had heard she had taken the events with Kyron particularly bad. Geoff didn't completely understand why, not ever having regretted shooting anybody in his entire life and knowing that killing Kyron would have given him a hell of a lot of pleasure. But he figured there were some people who weren't wired for killing and Charlie was one of those types. It was an endearing quality, but it was also one that made no sense to Geoff. Still, he respected the guts she showed in going against her instincts to shoot Kyron and that was enough for Geoff.

He looked to Wei-li as she was wheeled in with an expression of regret, feeling a bit guilty for not having been here to protect her like he had said he would. He sighed though and knew feeling guilty wouldn't solve anything. Especially since he knew who was completely responsible for the problems on the ship. The man who now lay trussed up within the cargo bay, still alive and breathing. As much as Geoff wished otherwise.

Geoff listened to the captain's words carefully and nodded lightly, a bit of a grimace on his face. He didn't like how this was going, but, if it would get Kyron the hell off of the boat and get Wei-li all patched up, he knew it was for the best. Still, Geoff needed to know one thing. "What about Lei, Cap'n? We gonna get her outta harm's way?" he asked with a serious expression.

"I'm sending her with Kyoko.  They won't stop a registered companion on her way to meet a client and Lei isn't registered on this here boat so she'll go unnoticed.  We weren't flagged as far as Ren knows on Londinium - so they shouldn't know 'bout Lei."

Geoff nodded, relief visible in his stance and his face. It was true what the captain said. They wouldn't stop a companion on business and so Lei was safe from being found by Alliance that way. But, the main thing that made Geoff feel better was that he knew the companion was able to hold her own if trouble did arise. He knew that much firsthand and, despite the fact that she may not like him all that much, he knew she would watch out for Lei. He had to admit she was the good sort and that was what Lei needed. He would have to thank her for looking after her...but he probably wouldn't. He was far too stubborn to do anything like that. She had taken him down!! He couldn't stand for that kind of thing, no matter how attractive she may be! No how, no way! Still, maybe he'd offer her a drink or something. That's the most he would do.

Ren’s voice came over the comm then announcing their landing which was accompanied by the soft thump of Destiny hitting the ground.  Kale looked around at his crew as Ren joined them in the cargo bay.  "Don't worry, shouldn't be any trouble."  Then he went to the cargo bay controls and opened the air-lock and the bay doors, squinting as bright sunlight flooded into the cargo bay.

As everyone's eyes adjusted to the bright light they found six Alliance armed-guards stepping into the cargo bay, their guns all trained on Destiny's crew.  A tall man in an officers uniform entered then and walked slowly onto the metal flooring, his shoes clicking with every step.

"Captain Kale Galway." he said the name as though it were a bad word, "You and your crew are being taken into custody for the illegal possession of Dingo Class freighter 1-1169er123-D - The Sparkler.  Reported stolen by Mr. Brently Caddigan.  You will all come peacefully I am sure."  Then he motioned for a few of his men to grab Datton, "How unfortunate, there was quite a reward for the recovery of Datton Corg, however, stealing a ship is a criminal offense and thus renders you ineligible." Then he motioned to another man, "Get the woman to the hospital, the rest of you are coming with me."

Kale felt like he couldn't breathe.  What?! he shook his head, thinking that perhaps he was dreaming or ... Or What?!?  He clearly remembered purchasing his ship - there was no way that if could be stolen.  Suddenly he remembered the flag that Ren had seen on Destiny back when they were checking after leaving Paquin.  An old flag.  Kale's mind sought to put all the pieces together but it was just beyond his grasp.  He tried to smile and relax as he spoke to the Alliance official.  "There must be some mistake.  I bought this here boat with my own sweat and blood.  This here is Destiny." What kinda name was Sparkler anyway.

Charlie was no stranger to having the Alliance around, for the fact it's not the first time to have the Alliance on their ship.  Most wouldn't remember it, but there was a time you couldn't fly within sweep range of a core world without getting flagged.  She kept herself at ease, swinging her legs and watching the men board the ship, waiting for it to simply be over with.

Of course, then they mentioned being taken into custody, along with all sorts of not good things that were to come.  She could feel her heart pound stronger in her chest, starting to ring within her ears, raising her anxiety.  The last thing she wanted was something like this...she didn't do anything wrong.  At least, not until Datton...Kyron...whoever she was.  Charlie slowly stood up, waiting for the rest to follow.  If the captain decided they're going to make a stand, while she was not worth much, she had the high ground and a whole assortment of heavy things to throw.  If they go...well, then they go.  What else is there to do?

Geoff was all kinds of pissed off by this development. Getting caught by the Alliance was not his idea of a good time, not at all. But he didn't do anything. He couldn't do anything really. If he even reached for his guns, he'd be shot down with the rest of the crew soon behind him. He didn't care much about getting himself shot, but he couldn't let that happen to the others. Besides, Lei was safe and Wei-li would get looked after so he would be able to take being arrested. Still, he looked to the captain for some indication of what they were going to do...

Without really meaning to, Ren moved closer to Acacia.  She didn't need or deserve any of this.  He looked at the soldiers as they carried out his orders.  Then he looked at Kale and then the Alliance Officer.  "She's the ship's doc,” he said nodding towards Acacia.  "She should be with her patient." He kept his tone even.  It was a reasonable request.  A ship's doctor wasn't concerned with the comings and goings of the crew.  Her job was the people... not the ship.

There some fights you wanted and others you didn't, Rhaef thought to himself, as the Alliance boarded the ship. And this was one you most certainly didn't, not with many of the crew having a past that would interest the Alliance. Rhaef stood up and hobbled on his crutches to Kale.  "You know, Captain, this is probably a misunderstanding. I am sure you still have all the paperwork regarding the sale," yet Rhaef was not sure, but continued to act confidently, "I recommend we cooperate with these fine gentlemen and when you produce that paperwork for them, everyone will see this a great big, misunderstanding."

The officer ignored everyone's comments as they were of little importance to him or the Alliance, they were all common petty thieves as far as he was concerned.  He motioned to his men and one took the wounded woman's bed and proceeded to take her to the hospital, two more dragged the fugitive away, and the others set about relieving the crew of their weapons.  "You may take up all of your concerns with the interrogation board." he said crisply and walked out of the dingy cargo bay, knowing that his men would ensure that the group of criminals followed.

Kale had no intentions of giving up his ship, he allowed the men to take his pistol because there wasn't much the group of them could do against the whole gorram Alliance on a core world, but he intended to get this straightened out.  He trotted up beside the officer.

"I assure you if you just take a look at my papers, you'll see that I bought this ship.  It ain't belongin' to nobody but me an' my crew." the man didn't even glance at him as one of the armed guards pointed his gun straight at Kale.  "Alrigh', alright." Kale said holding his hands up and following the men out.  The only thought going through his mind now was that this couldn't be happening.

Geoff glowered at the Alliance officers that came to relieve him of his weapons, altogether hating the men and seriously considering showing them what it meant to have Geoff Wolfe pissed off at them with a few broken bones. He didn't though, knowing that he'd be dead before he could do anything. So he just glared as his guns and knife were taken. "Ya'd best take care o' those. 'Else I'll be comin' fer ya, dong ma?" he said with a feral grin as he moved to follow Kale as they were escorted out of the ship...

Rhaef handed his gun to the Alliance goons who came to take it from him, yet he looked them in the eye. "Don't if you boys notice, but I'm injured here too, and the doc told me that got to keep the bandages clean, or I could be coming close to dying again. So if you want to be explaining why another prisoner died in your custody, feel free to take me away. Elsewise, you best be speaking to your boss, and get me sent over to the hospital."

The man taking Rhaef's gun paused for a moment, uncertain of what to do.  Still holding his gun trained on the first mate he went to speak in low tones with his superior.  Then he came back, "I will escort you to the nearest medical facility." he said, sounding more like a drone then anything.  He held Rhaef at gunpoint until they entered the medi-transport where the other men had just loaded Wei-Li.  "Sit." the man commanded, and got in the transport.

Rhaef did as he was ordered and began pondering the situation. Right now the only crew not arrested were Wei, Kyoko and Lei. He could safely assume that there'd be a guard waiting for him at the hospital. But his mind continued to work. He was the only one on the outside, he owed to the others to have a plan to spring them if that became the case.  Rhaef sighed quietly and continued to try to think of how he was going to contact Kyoko. Someone on the crew had brought him a different top coat that he had pulled on when he left the infirmary. He reached into his pocket and smiled. He had his avenue now.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The armed men escorted the crew of Destiny into a small holding cell.  The walls were just as gray and dreary inside as they were out.  Along all the walls were benches which they instructed the crew to sit down on and then ordered them not to talk. Another officer came into the room "Mr. Geoff Wolfe." he said and looked expectantly into the room.

Geoff had sat down on the bench and had been rather surly about the whole situation, grumbling and not talking to anybody. When the officer came in and called his name Geoff cursed inwardly and stood up. "Oh, yeah? Did I win somethin' or did ya just know I like hearin' the sound o' my own name? Like music to my ears, I swear." he said with a sigh and looked to the officer, "Yeah, yeah. That's me then. Let's get this ruttin' over with...."

Officer Vincent Darhin escorted the man out of the small holding cell without so much as acknowledging his sarcastic remarks.  His face was stony and set as he led Geoff into the interrogation room.  He motioned for him to take a seat at the small grey table and sat opposite him.  He said nothing for about five minutes as he looked over the paper work in the folder that he had been given, then he looked up.  "Looks like today's your lucky day." he tapped the papers on the table to align the edges and cleared his throat, "So Mr. Wolfe, how long have you been on the ship?"

Geoff had taken the seat that was offered to him and had placed his feet up on the small grey table, his legs crossed at the ankle. He looked about the room with lazy disinterest until the officer spoke up. Geoff chuckled lightly at the man and shrugged. "Heh. You and I must have really different definitions o' a lucky day. Mine involves at least 3 gallons of liquor and 3 women. But, ta each his own, right?" he said and looked thoughtful for a second as he thought over the question, "Well, lessee....the bar fight in Persephone....then the gettin' the dirty look from the cap'n 'bout me lookin' at Charlie the wrong way....hmmm, then there was the thing on Valon.....then all that other stuff....then Paquin....then the talk with Wei-Li that I really gotta see 'bout finishin' when she's better....then Kyron tried to kill us...then here. Lessee, that's 'bout a month. Seems longer sometimes though..."

Vincent frowned as the man put his feet up onto the table but said nothing.  His brow furrowed as Geoff made out his list and his frown deepened with each addition, "Seems you've done a lot for merely a month on board the vessel, would you mind elaborating on exactly what it is you do on the ship ... I have here public relations ..." he eyed the man somehow doubting his people skills, especially considering the amount of weaponry they had removed from his person and found in his bunk when searching the ship.

Geoff chuckled at that, wryly amused by his title. Public relations seemed to suit what he did. He did relate to the public....with bullets and his fists and other lethal instruments. "Ah, yeah. That's me. Public relations. Well, ya know, I watch out fer the people on the ship. Make sure passengers are nice and comfy and all o' that. Make sure the crew is all clean and tidy and tucked in fer the night. I even read 'em bedtime stories and have little activities fer 'em. Ya shoulda been there fer the luau. It was great. Grass skirts and coconut bras all over the place. Ya woulda liked it...." he said with a wide grin.

"I'm sure ..." Vincent said dryly. "And do you often take fugitives as passengers on board your illegal ship and then leave them tied up in your airlock?"

Geoff shrugged and smiled, "Well, not often, but, ya know, ya gotta do somethin' ta have fun on a Saturday night. Heh." he remarked wryly and then shrugged again, "Nah, honestly? We didn't know he was anythin' like a fugitive. I just thought he was an asshole. How're we supposed ta know what he does in his free time? Soon as we did find out, we shoved him in the airlock and were bringin' him ta y'all straight off, like good little citizens. As fer the ship, I don't know nothin' 'bout it bein' stolen. But, if the cap'n says he bought it fair and square, I believe him."

Vincent nodded and wrote a few notes on the paper in front of him, without looking up he asked, "And you trust Kale Galway?  You've been with him for a relatively short span of time - what causes you to believe that he did not steal the ship and lie to you about it?"

Geoff stopped grinning at that and looked serious for once as he met the man's gaze to answer the question. "I trust the cap'n with my life. I don't believe he would lie to me anymore than I believe he would steal a ship. He loves that ship too much fer it to be stolen. Only a boat earned with the blood, sweat and tears of a man can inspire that sorta feelin'." he said with a nod full of conviction, "Besides, the cap'n's a good man. I ain't seen many o' them in the 'verse, but Kale Galway is most definitely one of 'em."

Vincent sneered, "Is that so?  Not many petty thieves these days tend to be 'good men'.  It seems he has done quite the number on you however."  He straightened his papers again.  "That is all." he said briskly.  And the armed man at the door gestured for Geoff to follow him out.

Geoff stood up and walked to the door to follow the man out. Before he left though, he paused at the door and looked over his shoulder to Vincent. "....I'll thank ya not ta speak that way o' the captain. I don't take kindly to it, ya see. The man gave me a chance when very few would. So I owe him a bit. So...keep a civil tongue when ya speak of him or I might just get angry....." he said simply and walked out after the guard.

The guard led Geoff back into the holding cell, eyeing him somewhat nervously as he towered over the smaller man.  He looked down at his paper and read, "Ms. Charlene Bourdain."

Charlie's head popped up when she heard her name spoken, looking back at the guard...and Geoff was back, not cuffed and looking especially as smug as he always did.  They weren't processing people or anything like that...they were talking.  Just talking, they'll probably say.  She stood up, brushing her arm against Kale as she passed him, making eye contact with him for a moment as she walked off with the guard.

Kale tried to offer Charlie a comforting smile as she made her way out of the room but found it a lot more difficult then usual.  He didn't feel comfortable, truth be known he was crawling out of his skin.  There was nothing he couldn't stand more then the Alliance, and nothing he feared more then losing his ship and his crew ... looked like it just wasn't his day.

Vincent looked up as Charlene stepped into the interrogation room. "Why don't you take a seat." he said, motioning the chair opposite him, "No feet on the table." he added.

"I...thanks."  Charlie sat in the chair, pulling up her legs in front of her, wrapping her arms around her shins as she looked back at Vincent.  She felt tiny in this room, and without anything that needed to be fixed here, she felt almost completely helpless.

Watching her closely as she sat down, then he leaned forward, his arms resting on the table.  "So you're the mechanic I take it.  Not many woman in your profession - especially on freighters like the one which we just confiscated.  You do the maintenance yourself?" he asked with raised brows.

"I'm fixin' the ship, yeah.  It's what I'm always doin'.  You think you're seein' someone else who'd be able to fix a ship?"  She shook her head, watching her knees as she spoke.  "So what if I'm a woman..."

Vincent nodded and smirked slightly, he highly doubted the small woman before him did all the mechanical work on board the ship but he'd allow her to entertain her illusions. "How long have you been aboard the vessel?" he asked.

"I, ah...it's been goin' on two years, I think.  I'm one of th'original crew hired by the Cap'n, along with Rhaef."  She let go of her legs for a long enough moment to scratch the back of her neck, going right back to holding them against her chest.

Vincent raised his eye brows, "So you were there when Kale Galway stole the vessel?  Did you have a part in it or was this his own endeavor?  Be honest." he could tell from the way the woman was shifting that she was nervous ... good, he thought.

"What?  No, no, Cap'n didn't steal nothin'."  Charlie shook her head, looking at Vincent finally.  "He bought it square and hired me next planet he hit, seein' as how he couldn't get it off Whitefall without so much's my help.  I'm bein' honest, y'know."

"Yes - it appears you all seem to have a high opinion of your noble Captain." he looked up at her, "And what of the fugitive?" he said nothing more, leaving it up to the woman as to what she'd say.  Typically the nervous ones always divulged more when you left them to their own devices.

"The...you mean Kyron?"  Charlie watched Vincent, a bit curious at first, the gravity of things slowly seeping into her head.  Charlie watched Vincent for a moment, looking back at her legs.  "I didn't do nothin'.  Nobody did nothin'.  That...that ben tian sheng de yi dui rou doesn't deserve nothin' more than bein' locked up.  He tried to steal Destiny right out from under us, y'know?  Sent us all off t'die, y'know..."

"Tried to steal the ship and sent you all of to die?  Is that right?  How did he end up tied up in the air lock then with a bullet wound?" Vincent asked, watching the woman very closely now.

"Well, not all'f us.  He was holdin' Ren and Acacia, makin' them fly the boat out to wherever he wanted to be goin'.  He'd locked me in the Engine Room, thinkin' I couldn't get out or nothin'.  Wei-Li let me out...the one you've got in your hospital n'all.  He'd thrown the rest out in a shuttle n'all, y'know?"  She sighed, closing her eyes.

"...I see..." Vincent said, nodding his head.  Not exactly liking all the stories he was getting out of this crew of miscreants.  "I believe that is all"  He looked back at his papers and allowed the guard to escort the girl out.

The man lead Charlie back into the detention cell.  The guard looked down at his paper, then into the room, then back at his paper again before stepping out for a moment.  A different man came back and called out, "Amber Wheat.  If you would come with me please."

Kale looked around.  Amber Wheat?  Who the hell was Amber Wheat?  There wasn't anyone he didn't know in the room.

Kendra instinctively looked up at the sound of her name, She looked down again quickly, hoping the man did not notice this. Panic set in, inside she was trembling. She then looked up and around as if to see who this Amber Wheat person was? She looked over at Kale and gives him a quizzical look and shrugged.

Ren looked at the man and had to keep from laughing.  Amber Wheat?? he thought to himself.   "I think someone's seriously messing with us now…” he muttered.

The man glanced around the room and noticed the blonde woman look up in panic then around.  "Amber." he said now looking directly at her, "Let's go."

Amber looked away, and back, her shoulders sagging in defeat. Who was I kidding, she thought. This is the alliance. Slowly she stood up, tall and straight eyes forward and walked toward the man who called out her name.

Ren stared in disbelief and then looked from Kendra to Kale.  He mouthed the name Amber with a very confused look on his face.  He looked around almost like he was trying to figure out who else wasn’t who he thought they were

The guard escorts Amber down the grey hallway and into a small room, this ones different from the one that the others had been taken to however.  She's told to sit and a man in Alliance military garb walks into the small room.

"Ah, Amber Wheat.  Well isn't this a surprise." he sneered, he hadn't expected to see her again.  Most soldiers who went AWOL were smart enough not to end up in Alliance hands.  He specifically remembered Amber however, always defiant - had a real problem with authority.  He was only too happy to see her under Alliance control again.

Amber sat down, both feet planted on the ground, hands folded in front of her and she stared straight ahead, and did not acknowledge the guards comment.

"Ah, as insubordinate as ever." he commented, "However, you will answer my questions and you will answer them promptly and with respect. How did you come to be on board the stolen vessel?"

"Sir,“ she said curtly, “I paid the usual fair to aboard this ship just as any of the other passengers did to take me to The Georgia System. Sir.”

The man behind the desk nodded, as he read through her file.  "And how long have you been on board?" He asked, not looking up at Amber.

“About three months, Sir.”

He nodded, giving her a knowing look.  "Three months is an awfully long time to get to the Georgia system... would you care to try again?"

“Sir, it feels like it's been three months, I believe that it has been approximately one, maybe one and a half months."

He looked at her over his papers for a moment and then shook his head.  "And what was your involvement with the felon Datton?"  He looked at her, watching her reaction, trying to catch her in the lie the others had been telling.

“Sir, I tried to keep my distance. He was never very friendly and I definitely had no involvement with him." she grimaced as she voiced this.

He nodded.  "Then tell me Wheat, what happened onboard? How was Datton Corg involved with the ship and what transpired onboard that left three people shot?"

"Sir, I don't know as I was forced at gunpoint by Kyron er.. ah Datton with the others to board Shuttle number 2. I don't think our return was expected. When we returned people had gotten shot, trying to remove the threat and rescue us."

He looked at her and shook his head.  It was obvious that they'd discussed their story once they were given their landing co-ordinates.  "How many of them knew your .. status?  Please remember that you are facing court martial charges.  Any co-operation here will be taken into consideration."

"Nobody knew, sir." She stated in a slightly lower tone, almost remorseful.

"And a felon managed to get the drop on you.. it would seem that you're not only AWOL, but you didn't really pay attention in training, did you soldier?"  He gave her a very dour look.

Amber tightened her lips together at the insult, nostrils flaring "No comment.

He signaled two guards to enter the room.  "Amber Wheat you are hereby ordered to be bound by law until such a time as a court martial can be convened.  You are charged with desertion, and treason."  He gave a bored nod to the guards and a dismissive wave to Amber.  The guards signaled Amber to stand and placed cuffs on her wrists, then nodded towards the door.  "Ma'am."  As the left the room he called out, "Next!"

"Yes, I may be guilty of desertion but NOT treason, I have done nothing wrong in that regard," Amber yelled, struggling a bit as the guards grabbed her, cuffed arms and escorted her towards the door. She turned her head around as she exited "I saw what you were doing to those people, and children, I wonder how you can sleep at night!"

The guard stepped back into the holding cell but he did not bring Kendra back with him like he had the others.  He looked down at his paper and read off, "Doctor Acacia Keese." and looked up expectantly.

Acacia looked up at her name, she smiled at Ren and squeezed his hand.  She then stood quietly and walked over to the man.  “That would be me,” she said looking the man steadily in the eye.

"Ah, yes, well follow me." he escorted Acacia down the grey hallways into the small interrogation room.  Vincent looked up and smiled.  "Dr. Keese, why don't you take a seat - I have a few questions for you."  He waited for the small woman to sit and then looked at her.  "Rather unusual for a vessel of this kind to have a full fledge, core trained doctor on board.  You want to tell me why you choose to take up as part of this wayward crew?"

“I felt that there were more then enough doctors in the core.  I had headed out to border planets and beyond where doctors are scarce.  I wanted to be able to help people on a lot of planets.  I had helped out the captain when he had a hurt crew member.  He offered me a stocked infirmary, plus I've been able to help all sorts of people on the planets we've landed on.“ she answered evenly and expressionless.  Her thoughts were a turmoil inside.

Vincent nodded, "Is that so, a regular martyr, give up a life of wealth to help the poor border worlds and a crew of criminals.  I wonder if you were aware of the nature of the crews activities - cannot see how you could not be.  Dingo class freighters are ideal for their kind of work.  Stolen vessels and a fugitive on board is not even surprising to me.  Why don't you tell me about your involvement in the events concerning Datton Corg."

“Who?” Acacia had never heard the name before.

"Don't play dumb, the rest of your crew has already acknowledged that they did indeed know about Datton Corg, the man tied up in your airlock when Alliance officials boarded."

“Oh, I had only heard his name as Kyron,  I'm sorry I wasn't trying to play dumb, sometimes I'm not told everything.  Well it started I was eating some lunch, and the captain called a bunch of people on the bridge.  He snuck up behind me and put a gun to my head.  It is one of the worst experiences of my life.  He shot Rhaef and using me as a hostage loaded everyone up in the shuttle and made them take off.  Then he tried to use me as leverage to make Ren take him to somewhere I can't remember.  Then Charlie helped out by shooting Kyron to save me.” she started crying softly.

The man rolled his eyes and sighed as Acacia started crying.  Waterworks, he thought to himself.  He looked over his notes and handed Acacia a tissue.  "Very nice.. very convincing... " he said in a monotone under his breath.

"And 'Ren' would be…” he paused looking over his notes. "Reiner Harrison?... Charlie... Charlene Bourdain?"  He looked up at her. "See-- this is where I start to have problems...You're a core trained Physician, but judging by what I've seen and heard of Corg's injuries... you did an amazingly bad job of treating him."

“That is cause I didn't get to treat him.” Acacia said flatly.

"And this would have been the decision of the wonderful Captain Kale Galway you all speak so highly of?  Leave a man to bleed to death in your air lock?  Did you know that you were on a stolen ship?  The Captain Galway was nothing but a thief?" Vincent leaned forward watching her intently.

“No, that was my choice.  I was and am scared of that man.  I thought he was going to kill me.  The captain has saved my life, and is a good man, I would thank you kindly not speak so highly of him.  Your precious alliance was the death of my ENTIRE family and my brother believed in you, and you made him fight his only brother.  If you were so great I wouldn't have to go out to the rim to help people, I wouldn't have to. So ya know what I'm done talking to you.” her hands were shaking she was so mad.

He looked at her, a satisfied smile crossing his face.  "Now we get to the heart of it... Thank you Dr. Keese, your outburst explains quite a bit.  It would seem that you travel with this band of thieves because you get satisfaction out of thumbing your nose at the law... " He looked at her, his smile broadening.

“Whatever I told you I'm done with you.  Quite frankly you can think whatever you want of me.  I'm done talking though “  She said not batting an eye.

"On the contrary, I am done speaking with you Dr. Keese.  Lead her out." he said firmly.  The guard escorted Acacia back to the room.  "Reiner Harrison." he called out.

Acacia smiled, smugly at the bastard.  He had nothing to stand on, so he had to say what he did. But she felt she got the better of him.  She sat down and let her emotions break, thinking about her past had really upset her she began to sob quietly.

Ren ignored the man calling his name, moving rather to hold Acacia as she cried.  He stroked her back and kissed her on top of the head, trying to make sure she knew he was there.  "Its okay Red... "

The guard scowled, "Mr. Harrison!  We do not have all day."

Ren snarled at them.  "I'll be there in a minute," he said, then turned back to Acacia.  "Everything’s going to be all right," he told her, holding her tighter, and resting his head against hers.  "You hear me?"

“I'm fine, just bad memories, you go ahead I don't want to lose you to prison.” Acacia said trying to force a smile.

"No, you will come now." the guard said angrily, "You are in no position to be telling us what you will and will not do, listen to the lady."

Ren looked at her and gave her a gentle loving smile, kissing her again.  "It'll be over soon enough... you just hang on.  Okay?"  He got up, still looking at Acacia.  He gave her a gentle nod, and then left as directed.

The guard led Ren down the hall and into the interrogation room, "This ones been causing a bit of problems." he said to Vincent and stepped out of the room.

"Problems?" Vincent raised an eyebrow.  "I assure you, it would be in your best interest to cooperate."  He looked down at his paper.  "You are the pilot I see, and how long have you been with the ship?"

"That depends sir.  What did you do to the doctor?"  While Ren was controlling his anger, he wasn’t doing anything to hide it.

"What?" Vincent said, his brow wrinkling then it dawned on him that he was concerned about the red head who had just left.  "Ah, you mean old water works.  I did nothing.  Answer the question."

"Water Works?  You got her shaking so bad in there.  She says its bad memories, that means you've got her reliving what that Da xiang  bao zha shi de la du zi- did to us."  His tone was tense, and his eyes had narrowed some as he talked to Vincent.  "You got a job to do, I understand that, but that woman deserves nothing but respect.  You think you know everything, you don't know jack.  If you did, you'd be pinning a medal on that woman rather than belittling her.  So you tell me, what you said to set her off, and I'll co-operate.  Answer anything you want."

Vincent narrowed his eyes at the man. "You will refrain from telling me what to do and answer my very simple question.  How long have you been on the ship?"  Vincent was not about to take some petty thief ordering him around.

Ren tilted his head slightly.  "A year.  What did you say to her?"

Vincent ignored the mans question.  "And in that time how often would you say the life of you and the crew were put into danger by your Captain?"

Ren sighed.  "The Captain, never.  He's a good man.  Circumstances put us in danger... life puts us in danger..  You never know when someone’s going to slip in and press the muzzle of a gun to your temple. You never know how you're going to react to seeing someone you love completely lose it.  You never know how you're going to feel about the hou zi de pi gu that did it to her."

Vincent frowned, the opinion they all had of this Kale Galway fellow was awfully high considering the mess he had just landed them all in.  "You seem awfully concerned about the doctor, care to explain the nature of your relationship?"

Ren smiled slightly since the man was at least asking about the Doc.  "She's a rare woman," he answered.  "She could have any job she wants... and she's out helping people that need her... How can you not appreciate that?"

"One does wonder." Vincent commented wryly.  "So you were in charge of flying the ship, where was it that Datton Corg wished to go?"

Ren's jaw clenched reflexively at the mention of Kyron's name.  His expression grew grim as he remembered Corg's words, and the gun pressed to Acacia's temple.  "Beaumonde."

Vincent nodded and wrote on his pad of paper once more.  "And you were there when Datton was shot were you not?  What happened then?"

Ren nodded grimly.  "Two shots... he shot the passenger, Wei-li... Charlie.. " he sighed, knowing how hard what had happened had effected her.  He should have been there for her.  "She shot him--  Acacia went to help Wei-Li.. I took the gun from Charlie... "  He shook his head.  "It was bad... as bad as it gets."

“Acacia needed to get the girl to the infirmary.  We couldn't do anything until we secured Kyron.  He'd already shot Rhaef, tried to kill the others... I couldn't let him do that to Acacia again.  So I K.O.'d him... trussed him up and put him in the one secure room on the ship."

"I see, and the Captain, is it common for him to take on fugitives?  He put you and the rest of your crew in quite a lot of danger.  You harbor no ill will that he endangered the pretty doctor?  Not to mention got you caught by the law for traveling on a stolen ship."

Ren looked at him in disbelief.  "Unlike you, we can't afford to do full background checks on everyone who books passage...Kyron.. your man Corg put us in danger.  Your alert on the cortex is what set him off.  I don't go blaming you for his actions, and he was running from you.  Why should I blame Kale?  His life was in as much danger of any of us.  You go into the black, your life's in danger, anybody tell you different, they're an accident waiting to happen."

He sighed and shook his head.  "You don't get it do you?  Kale bought that ship, and he bought it in good faith.  You want to crucify someone, find the Liu kou shui de biao zi he hou zi de ben er zi what sold it to him."

Vincent looked quite taken aback for a few moments.  "Yes, well, we are merely trying to get all of the information Mr. Harrison." he frowned then, the crew had quite an attitude when it came to the Captain.  "You are excused."  The guard waited for Ren to get up and then led him back to the holding cell.

Red nodded and stood, following the guard back to the cell.  He was almost amused at the way the guard watched him: like he'd run away while the others were still here.  Once the door was open he immediately moved back to Acacia, and smiled at her.  "See.. I behaved."

"Kale Galway."

Kale was sitting with his elbows resting on his knees, he looked up when he finally heard his name called.  "'Bout gorram time ya stopped antagonizin' my crew an' got ta askin' me." Kale said, standing up.  He offered what he hoped was a comforting look to his crew and went to follow the man.  His mind racing - wondering what exactly the Alliance had on him.

The guard ushered him into a room and closed the door behind him.  Vincent sat at the desk, going over his files and making notes from his conversation with Harrison.  He looked up and nodded.  "Finally, the Captain himself," he said.  "Take a seat."

Kale calmly sat opposite the man, placing his hands on the table in front of him, "Ya know yer makin' a mistake." he said, looking evenly at the Alliance official.  "I didn't steal my ship."

Vincent looked at Kale and raised an eyebrow.  "Well, you're riding in a stolen ship, calling said ship your own.. its an easy mistake to make.. seeing as how you're in possession of a a stolen Dingo class freighter."

Kale shook his head, "If you'd look at my paper work, you'll see that I bought my ship fair and square.  I worked fer the money ta buy her back on Santo.  Ain't never even been ta Osiris before now - don't imagine how I coulda stole her off this rock."  He didn't much like the way the man insinuated he was some criminal ... I mean, perhaps his work wasn't the most honest, but he'd never steal his ship.  He loved Destiny and it was his.

Vincent looked at Kale for a long while.  "Mr. Galway," he said, emphasizing the 'Mr.'.  "I deal all the time with forged documents, and people, like yourself, who are as innocent as a snowflake... or a puppy. "  He shook his head.  "Excuse me if I seem a bit jaded."  His expression indicated that he didn't really care what Kale said or thought.

"Look at it from our standpoint.  You arrive with a known felon.. injured, and wrapped up like a Christmas present... in a stolen ship and a crew of... "  He looked at the pile of files he had on the crew.  "Misfits, who seem to think you walk on water.. Its all a little too practiced, a little too smooth.”

Kale frowned, this was not going to go well, he could tell the man wasn't even listening to a word he said. "My crew are some of the finest people you'll ever meet out in the 'verse, so I'd thank ya kindly ta be leavin' them outta it.   As to yer cuddly felon, it ain't really my concern that you can't keep yer crooks under control, 'cept when they come wanderin' onta my ship.  Then they're in my territory.  I think you should be thankin' us fer returnin' him to ya.  'Stead of questionin' us and bein' all suspicious like."

Vincent listened to Kale's tirade and sighed.  "Mr. Galway, Datton Corg is only part of the problem with this whole thing...You took a known felon on your ship.  Had you not done this, he never would have been a problem for you and yours."

He sighed.  "But you took him on, gave him passage.  We have no record of ID check requests from the Sparkler, no record of filed flight plans etc.  The Ident numbers have always been those of the Sparkler so.. you're either too dumb to change Idents when you steal a ship.. or you're clever enough to try and say you bought it..."  He waved off any comment Kale may have at this point.  "It is up to me to determine exactly what happened here, and from what I've seen of your crew... "

He picked up the first folder.  "You 'friendly' Pilot, from Paquin... with a family well known with the local authorities there..  He points to the others.  "A Core trained doctor that seems to harbor some rather subversive feelings towards the alliance... a slip of a girl pretending to by a mechanic.. a military deserter and a 'PR' man that has hired gun all but tattooed to his forehead.. so yes... I'm looking at your crew.  You can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps... So, rather than telling me who not to talk to and proclaiming your innocence here, help me.. help me understand what's happened... answer my questions...How long have you 'owned' the Sparkler?"

Kale cringed slightly at the name 'The Sparkler', and sighed heavily.  There really was not much that he could do but cooperate with the man.  He knew he was innocent - now he just had to convince the Alliance hun dun's.  Which did not promise to be an easy endeavor.

"I bought Destiny back on Santo two years ago.  Man in New Lorin sold it ta me.  You've got the paperwork.  It was a fair transaction -" suddenly Kale had a thought, the man on Santo - he must have been the thief, sold him a gorram stolen ship.  "Do you have anythin' on Georgio Norton, man that sold Destiny ta me?  He might be yer man." Kale said leaning forward.

Vincent schooled his expression.  This was where the perp usually tried to help him with his investigation and Kale was sitting there 'suggesting' where they should take the investigation..  "Mr. Galway, the documents are currently being reviewed, and once they are reviewed they shall be investigated accordingly.  So.. you've been on The Sparkler for 2 years... In that time you've had how many crew changes?  How many other criminal elements on board.. other than the ones we know of.  I'm speaking of the deserter, and the felon?"

Kale leaned forward, "One." he said simply, "Surprise ya?  Didn't think a common crook like me could hold onta a crew that long?  Had an old public relations officer.  Sheila Kavin.  Difference of opinions and she went her way an' I went mine."

Kale looked hard at the man, "As to taken on criminals I do not make it a habit ta put me an' my own inta harms way.  It was unknown ta me that those two were anything but what they said they were.  Perhaps, I'm too trustin', we just had a bad spell of luck lately, looks like ta me.  'Side's they was both passengers, not my crew.  We was just takin' 'em ta where they needed ta be gettin'.  Honest work.  Just tryin' to get by."

"Mr. Galway, I think you are many things, but I sincerely doubt that common could be justly applied to any of them."  He studied Kale for a very long time.  "There's just one other thing I don't understand... with the whole Datton Corg incident,” he stated finally.  "After everything everyone says happened...After everything he did... why didn't you space him?"

Kale looked at him levelly, "Because I'm not a murderer." he replied.

Vincent sat calmly but he was moved slightly by the conviction in the mans voice.  The fact that he had not killed Datton Corg - despite the fact that the felon had tried to kill his entire crew - coupled with the fact that there had been a murder when the Sparkler was stolen made Vincent slightly suspicious.  This Kale Galway, although not the most favorable of characters did not strike him as a murderer.  Perhaps he would have to look more closely into the documents concerning the ships purchase.  "That is all Mr. Galway." he said.  "You and your crew will be held in custody until what time I can finish the investigation and see to the verdict."

The guard motioned for Kale to follow and led him back to the holding cell.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Lei walked up to the front of the shuttle, trying to look at as much of its interior as she could on the way past. She sat down quietly in the co-pilot's seat, and fiddled with the straps until she'd worked out how to secure them properly. Kyoko seemed to want to talk just to fill the silence in the shuttle, and that was okay with Lei, listening was better than being yelled at or having to answer questions she didn't want to think about. Keeping her hands well away from the consoles, just in case, Lei started intensely watching what the companion was doing as she listened to her. Maybe she'd be able to work out some of the controls from watching them in use...

"If you want I can teach you how to do basic maneuvers, I've got a teaching certification for short range craft. The more flying qualifications you have, the less flack the space flight certification board gives you for long range star ships."

"Really? Shiny..." Lei broke out in a big grin. "I'd like that..." Lei sat up straighter, waiting for the lesson to begin. Finally, she was going to get to do something. Destiny was a good place to be, but there was nothing for Lei to occupy herself with there... At least, there was nothing to do when there wasn't some situation on board.

Kyoko nodded as she tapped on the panel beside Lei before returning to plotting a course. "There is a tutoring program coming up on your screen, though I don't suggest registering for certification till we get someone to build you an identity. It will cover the basics of what you'll need to learn: navigation, sensors and the basics of flight controls. We'll see how you handle that, who knows when the Destiny comes into orbit we might even see about letting you fly a bit.”

Lei turned straight to the screen. Selecting the navigation section, she started reading through it at a quick pace. She started just skimming over the pages after the third page, and only stopped to do the example questions at the end of the section. So far, it looked like there was nothing new...

Lei had solved all of the example problems for the first two chapters by the time the shuttle had hit atmo, and looked up from her work at the first shaking of turbulence. The window was filled with a red glow from the heat of re-entry, but there wasn't much else visible. Her gaze back to the screen, and she skipped a few chapters ahead to see if there was anything here she didn't know. She skipped through to a chapter on 'advanced' techniques, and started working on the problems there. She read each question, staring at the screen and drumming her fingers on her knees in a strange rhythm, then entering the solution for the console to confirm. By the time Kyoko had piloted the shuttle to their destination, Lei had given up learning anything new about navigation, and had loaded up the flight control chapters. The console confirmed that she had supplied acceptable solutions for all the problems so far...

Kyoko steadied the craft and paused from her work to see how Lei was doing. She wasn't surprised to notice that the girl had moved though the sections that took her the better part of a day, she had hidden depths that most of the crew hadn't noticed. If she hadn't been trained to look for things in people, she would have missed it too.

Lei kept working at the console as the shuttle touched down at their destination. She didn't even look up as the landing gear thudded down on the pad. Lei was totally focused on her work to the exclusion of all else.

Kyoko smiled as she flared the shuttle before landing. As the shuttle shut down, she tapped a command and forwarded Lei's lesson plan to the rapidly awakening system within the penthouse.  "Lei we're here, you can continue your lessons in one of the guest rooms." Kyoko said as she got up from her seat. "Not to mention the seats will be more comfortable." she added with a smile as she opened the shuttle hatch and let the wind blow in.

As they exit the shuttle, a persistent beeping could be heard in the cockpit coming from the comm system. It was too ordered and consistent to simply be a random system. To the trained ear, it sounds like Morse code.

Lei looked up questioning as the console went dark. She listened to what Kyoko said, and replied with a simple "Okay."  As she was exiting the shuttle, she looked back at the controls. Did all shuttles beep like that when they shut down?  The beeping seemed to go on too long. She stood at the shuttle hatch listening to the sequence until it's end. Some instinct told her that it might be important.  Trying to keep the sequence straight in her mind, she stepped out of the shuttle and followed Kyoko into the apartment.

Kyoko stepped out of the shuttle, and walked up to the penthouse complex door. Pausing by it she placed her hand on the door seal, a light flashed to her eye and the palm reader hummed. A loud click was heard as the door opened. She smiled to Lei as she walked in, several small servitor drones were flashing about, uncovering the furniture and flashing off to store them.

Everywhere household systems powered up, as she walked in. Every surface and fixture clearly top of the line and subdued in the way only a lot of money could buy. A small fountain started bubbling as she settled on a nearby couch.

"Lei, you can pick any of the rooms on the next floor up, and all you have to do to access your lessons is to log on with your name on any tablet in the penthouse. Is there any particular food you'd like?"

Lei caught up to Kyoko just after she'd opened up the apartment, the strange beeping on the shuttle having delayed her slightly. She barely took any notice of what the companion said as they went inside, she had to hurry while she could still remember. She glanced around desperately.

Seeing something that might help, Lei quickly stepped over to some shelves against one wall and snatched a data tablet off of it. Frowning slightly, trying to remember it correctly, she turned the tablet on and started writing out a sequence of short and long dashes on the touch screen. Once she was finished, she stood there and stared at the screen for a few seconds before looking up at Kyoko and holding the tablet out to her.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
-.. . ... - .. -. -.--     -.-. -. .--. - ..- .-. . -..
-.-. .-. . .--     .- .-. .-. . ... - . -..
.-- . ..     .- -. -..     ..     .-     .... --- ... .--. .. - .- .-..
.-. . -- .- .. -.     .- -.. ...- .. ... . -..
.-. .... .- . ..-.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"What's this mean?" she asked.

"Where did you hear this?" Kyoko asked as she took the tablet from her hands, highlighting the code and pulling up a conversion routine from her study folder. Frowning as she saw the text shift from Morse to English.

"It means, that Captain Galway, and his crew will be needing some more of my families aid." Kyoko said as she handed the tablet back, a muttered word or two under her breath. "Feel free to order us something, I'll be in the study Lei, I've got to make some phone calls. To see what I can do to get our friends out of hock."

Kyoko walked to the terminal on the entryway wall and pressed a button to summon Mr. Alec Quinlin, the financial manager of the Monroe fortune and a dear family friend.  He appeared on the screen.

"Ah, Lady Monroe!" he smiled, "What a pleasant surprise, I had no idea that you were around these parts.  Pleasure or business?"

"Please, I do not stand on formality, I came to Osiris on board the Destiny, if you check your logs it was the same ship that I was born on. I think that it was the Daystar at that time. The crew has been arrested, wrongly I suspect and the ship impounded. I was wondering if you could look into that and find out what is going on and if it was possible to discretely extract them from the fix they are in." Kyoko asked as she pulled up the security footage to see Lei move back and forth, sighing as she saw her drink from the fountain. The dear child was clearly unused to even the basic kindnesses, she tapped a command to the house network and dispatched a servitor drone with a pitcher of water and a glass for her. She was studying, so she added an order for a few sandwiches as well in an hour or so.

Turning back to the display she smiled. "I'm at the family suite downtown, call me if you find anything."

"How terribly unfortunate." Alec said.  "I will look into it right away.  I'll call you back with what information I can find within the hour.  Everything else is in order Kyoko?" he asked.

"Pretty much, nothing I want to discuss over a public terminal. Why don't you stop by later?" Kyoko said, thinking of her need to give Lei a public identity.

"I would love to Lady Monroe, I'll call you soon, dear." with that his image reached up pushed a button and the connection was terminated, leaving a black screen.

"See you then." Kyoko said as she leaned back in her leather seat and activated a holo generator. She sighed as she watched a man and woman dance in the column of light.

Lei had been studying the tutorial on shuttle controls for a while, and was starting to get bored with it. The majority of the controls it taught her about seemed relatively straightforward, and Lei was starting to get confused as to why people would need them explained in such simple terms.

She closed down the tutorial, and started to look at what else the tablet could do. The basic menu contained all manner of items, from the apartment's environmental controls, to shopping, to news services.  Can it tell me about Geoff? I want to know what happened to him...

"News. Geoff Wolfe. Search."

* No matches found. *

Frowning slightly, she tried again.

"News. Starships. Destiny. Search."

..: Capitol city news network :..

NEW: The captain and crew of the freighter "Destiny" were arrested today. The Destiny requested medical aid as soon as it came in system, but was redirected to a secure facility when a routine check showed that it's registration matched a freighter, the "Sparkler" belonging to business tycoon Brently Caddigan, that was stolen several years ago. Alliance forces seized the vessel upon landing, impounding it and taking all occupants into custody. Three people were immediately transferred to a secure medical facility, while the rest of the vessel's occupants were transferred to a the Alliance Detention centre, pending an official investigation.  Alliance Security Forces are yet to release any further information regarding the case, or the cause of the injuries to three of the vessel's occupants.

This was bad. Everyone was stuck in some detention centre somewhere, and the Destiny was grounded. Her only friends were in trouble. Geoff was in trouble.  Lei wanted to get them all out.  She needed to know more about the situation before she could start planning.

Lei saved the news file, then started to see what else she could find out from the tablet. She knew everything was happening in Capital City, and didn't need to look at anything away from there yet. Opening up a search, she started to look for information on the detention centre that everyone was taken to. It was always best to look at a battlefield before you had to enter it...

Kyoko sighed as she got up from her spot behind the desk, walking out into the public area where Lei was. "How are you doing Lei?" she asked as the drone bearing a pair of sandwiches and a pitcher of ice water puttered in. "I have a family.. associate looking into the others. Hopefully, he'll have something for me to work with in an hour or so."

"I can't find what I want..." Lei didn't even look up from her search through the publicly available information on the detention centre. All she had found so far was a shot of the building's outside, hardly enough to plan a prison break with. What she really wanted was a floor plan...  As Kyoko continued talking, Lei looked up. "You have a plan to get them out?"

"Oh I think I have my ways." Kyoko smiled as she took the tablet and set it down. "It involves having connections I don't want to be known by the others. I am.. well, quite well connected. Now, you need to eat and take some time away. Stress won't help our situations.”

Lei paused, stopping what she was doing. She looked around at Kyoko, and then reached out to grab a sandwich from the drone floating nearby. If Kyoko had some way of getting the others out, she wanted to know about it. There was no point in Lei making plans if there was another easier way to do things. She wanted to know about this other way so she could judge how likely it was to work.  "Tell me."   She went to take a big bite from the sandwich, pausing at the last minute, realizing that what she'd asked sounded too much like a demand. "Please?"

Just then the communications terminal lit up and rang with an incoming call.

"Smaller bites, no one will be taking it from you." Kyoko said with a smile as she took her own sandwich, stopping in route to sit by the terminal and activate it as it rang. "Hello?” She said calmly as she looked to see who it was.

Alec's face appeared on the screen.  "Lady Monroe, I'm downstairs waiting in the car, I'd come up for a spot of tea but I'm afraid we may want to act swiftly.  If the officials begin a full blown investigation we may have trouble getting your friends release - even with our obvious methods of persuasion." he said in a curt but not unfriendly matter.  He had looked into the arrest of Captain Kale Galway and his crew, they were being held in Detention Block C in the judicial sector pending investigation.  If they could get their hands in now they might be able to get a them out on a parole.  No doubt leaving Osiris would be out of the question until the investigation were complete but at least they would not be spending their nights planetside in jail.

"I'll be down shortly, put in a call to the prosecutor's office, we'll need to secure some sort of parole or bond. I see according to the news feeds the Destiny is reported stolen, find out who the so called 'real' owner is. I doubt he is anything of the kind, but I am more curious as to whom might have done such a quick change of record, given I researched the Destiny quite well before I signed on." Kyoko said as she got up and handed off the remains of her lunch to the drone. "Lei, I think it best that you either stay here, or remain in the car we'll be taking. I offer the second choice since I know you can be quite resolute in your actions from time to time."

Alec listened attentively, then nodded.  "I have a call into the Prosecutor’s Office and am waiting to hear back.  I will have our people begin searching the ownership records immediately."

"Push comes to shove, secure a hold or lien on it ourselves. After all, the company was a prior owner." Kyoko said as she hurriedly rushed to her rooms to change, keeping the connection open so she could speak while she hurriedly changed into a more formal, and restrict, set of robes, pulling up and pinning her hair back into a well arranged bundle and setting it in place with a pair of chopsticks.

Alec thought about what was said and nodded.  He continued to listen as he made another request through his terminal.  "The request has been issued," he said in a straight professional tone.

Lei listened as Kyoko and her agent planned things to get the rest out of the lockup. She didn't understand much of the legal speak that was being passed between them, but she gleaned enough to know that they didn't have too much of a plan yet, either, and weren't too sure of success. Best to keep on with her own planning, just in case.  "I'll stay."  She took another big bite from the sandwich, and went back to trying to find information about where the crew were imprisoned.

"Fair enough, but you have to promise to STAY in the penthouse. On a fringe world, you could walk out and about with out much worry from the authorities.. till we get your ID situation straight, however I don't want you wandering Osiris without someone around." Kyoko asked as she stepped out, looking more like a business woman than a companion.

Lei nodded without taking her eyes from the screen. She was too busy to go exploring anyway, so she didn't mind being stuck in the one place for a while. She continued trying to find more information on where everyone was stuck.

Kyoko nodded and sent the terminal a number where she can be reached and discretely told the house systems to not let Lei out. Though she suspected that the girl would eventually find a way out. With that done she, she turned and headed down to meet Alec.

As she exited the lift she smiled pleasantly to Alec as she let him put her in the car. "So, Alec, what sort of person should I be? Spoiled Heiress, outraged lady, any suggestions?"

“I'm thinking we're going to need you to be cool and confident.  These Alliance officials are not the most pleasant people to deal with, but they do obey orders and they understand power.  You let them know you have it - we should be able to get your friends out.“ Alec said, then leaned forward and told his driver to take them to Detention Block C.

"Fair enough, I can do cool and confident. I assume most likely we'll have to deal with someone of most likely captain or major rank? Fairly senior but not high enough not to worry about politics killing his chances yet? Yes, I think that won't be hard to do." Kyoko settled back and smiled, definitely time to let Alec take the lead till it's time to play the 'heavy'.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The medi-transport pulled up in front of the huge 10 story medical facility.  Rhaef is pushed out of the way as EMT's rushed to pull Wei-Li out of the transport and wheel her into the hospital emergency rooms.  Two men stayed behind with Rhaef and pulled up a wheel chair.  "Sit." one man commanded and took his crutches so he pretty much didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

They wheeled him into the hospital and up to the 4th floor where he was placed into a room.  "A doctor will be with you shortly." one man said, and as he left and two guards took his place, glaring at Rhaef.

“Liu kou shui de biao zi he hou zi de ben er zi,” Rhaef snarled as the man left the room. He sat and waited, and hoped that Lei and Kyoko got his message. His eyes moved around the room and pondered his situation. Two armed guards, badly wounded leg, 4th floor, no windows. Yep, I'm stuck here, he thought himself.

About thirty minutes later a man getting on in years, dressed in a white coat entered the room.  "Mr. Sorandash." he said, and stepped inside, "Let's have a look at that leg, shall we." he crossed the room to the table where Rhaef was seated.  He unwrapped the bandaging and took a look at the wound.  He said nothing more to Rhaef as he proceeded to clean it and then freshly bandage the leg.

Rhaef was equally silent and distant as the doc worked on his leg. His mind was elsewhere. Preparing himself for the interrogation that was sure to be coming.

The doctor finished bandaging the leg back up.  Without so much as looking at Rhaef he said, "Stay off it." and then left the room, leaving only the two glaring guards.

“Whatever, Doc." Rhaef replied sullenly. And continued to wait.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Wei-Li was rushed into surgery immediately, her condition rapidly becoming unstable.  A good hour or so passed before she was taken from emergency and placed into a hospital room to recuperate, her personal affects they kept with her in the cabinet by the bed..

IV's lead from her body to all sorts of small baggies full of one liquid or another - but she was stable now and hopefully on her way to recovery.

The first thing that Wei-Li became aware of was the steady dripping sound and whir if the machines as they distributed the required medicines into her.  She blinked woozily as she found the source of the dripping sound and followed the tube from it to her arm.  That's weird… she thought, then tried to focus on the room.  White.  She blinked.  Medical.  Not Infirmary.  Not dead... alone.

The thoughts were growing clearer, but not by much. There were several times where she looked back to find the source of the dripping sound before remembering that that she had done that already.  She let her breath out and slowly moved an arm to her stomach.  Hurt.... shot... Some one carrying here.  The Doctor... Dr..... Acacia...   It took a good half an hour before the thoughts came with any reliability and any of them were remembered.

It was harder with no source of information other than sight and sound.  Finally the 'alone' became a comforting thought.  If she was alone, then they didn't think she needed constant monitoring.  That was a start.

Hours passed.  Wei-Li fought to open her eyes.  This time she didn't trace the IV, she remembered the needle.  She tried to remember how many times she had woken up now, but it was never clear.  There was the sound of the machine, and then the whirring noise after she woke up.  The whirring noise always came a few minutes before she drifted back to sleep.  Woozily she looked at the machine only to see the secondary machine, the one that made the whirring noise, push some liquid into her IV.  She drifted off as she watched the medicine it had disbursed entered her arm.  Pain killer, was her last conscious thought

Wei-Li lost count at one after that, but she knew pain killers and sedatives were like that.  It was why she hated them.  She knew it took her at least three tries to move her hand, maybe another three to actually press the down arrow on the machine, but after that the lucid periods increased and she was able to dial the machine down further. Her stomach felt tight, like any strenuous movement would cause it to rip open, but so far the seal held.

She forced herself to remain still, to focus on her breathing like she would if she were preparing for a difficult gag.  Breathe in 2, 3, 4... hold... think of nothing but the beat of your heart... Release, 2, 3, 4.. I am at peace... nothing can reach me... I am at peace... Breath in 2, 3, 4...   The meds would make it easier-- but they would also leave her unable to react and that was against everything she had learned as a performer... and a Latrans.

Eventually Wei-Li fell back asleep.  Her deep, even breaths slowly relaxing her body and allowing her the first natural rest she had had in the past day or so.  She awoke again, a lot less groggy, later that night to the sound of voices.

"It is of vital importance to our investigation to question your patients." a males voice said, sounding frustrated and slightly angry.

"And I have already told you it won't do them any good to come now.  The woman hasn't regained consciousness yet since the surgery, it would be pointless and frankly I will not allow it until she is completely stable."

"You are being difficult.  The Alliance has-"

"Yes, I am being difficult.  I do not appreciate being told how to run my facility.  The Alliance had best take care - the stunt you pulled with our receptionist will not be-"

"What of the man?  He is stable, correct?" he really didn't have time for this.  There was a short silence.

"Yes, but I would prefer if you waited until he was released."

"We'll have someone here in the morning." the mans voice said curtly.

A nurse then entered Wei-Li's room, changed over her fluids IV and left.  Leaving Wei-Li alone.

Wei-li hovered between waking and sleeping, but the conversation kept coming back to her... she tried to focus on what she'd heard.  Investigation.  The woman.. surgery.. the man.. stable.. someone there in the morning... questioning…

The Woman - ME
The Man, stable, - Kyron?... no..Rheaf...
</I>Investigation </I>- Kyron?  It didn't make sense.

After a long while she realized, she had to find out who the man was, and what had to be done.  She got up, managing to keep the leads and IV attached and grabbed her stuff from the closet.  Her jeans, underpants, socks and shoes.  She wondered about the shirt, then remembered that that had a rather large hole in it.

She found that if she moved carefully, her wound didn't hurt as much as pull.  She adjusted her movements, favoring her injury.  This was going to be interesting.  She heard someone coming and quickly slipped back into bed, tucking her things under the sheet with her.

Wei-Li heard the door open and a cart wheeled in.  The orderly stopped, checked the clipboard at the end of her bed.  “Checked in today I see,” she said in a cheerful tone, knowing that the patient had remained unconscious.  “I’ll see about changing your sheets later,” she said in the same voice as she changed the water in the pitcher next to Wei-Li’s bed.  “No, no, don’t get up… I’ll let myself out.. you take it easy now, and don’t give the doctors no lip…”

Wei-Li had to fight to suppress a smile, as the woman spoke, realizing just how boring the job could be.  Still, it gave her an idea.  She slipped out of the bed and detached the IV and tucked it into the bedding, using the pillow and blanket to make the bed look occupied.  Then she slipped to the door and peeked out.

She could see an Imperial soldier guarding a door down the hall.  She didn’t know why, but she could guess.  That would probably be the ‘he’ they were talking about.  She slipped back into her room and put on the clothes she had, then tucked the hospital gown into her jeans.  At least it was something.  She opened the door and headed down the hall, away from the guard, looking for a supply room.

As Wei-Li headed down the hall, she passed several rooms before she found not only the supply room, but the break room as well.  Next to the break room was the supply cart.

Wei-Li slipped into the room and began pulling out a few things, so that if anyone came in, she wouldn't be just looking around.  She pulled out two pairs of scrubs, and some sheets, placing them on the cart outside.  Once it looked properly loaded, she closed the door to the supply room and slipped on another pair of scrubs before opening the door again and picking up the cart.

She wheeled it back up the hallway, stopping in each room along the way, changing magazines and towels and filling water pitchers along the way.  She continued this until she finally reached the guarded door, where she smiled at the guard and went for the door.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Rhaef had grown weary of sitting, and called out to the guards. "Hey, guys. Can I at least check on my ship mate who came in with me? Or at least get a report on her status?"

Clearly they were ignoring Rhaef. Ignoring his "doctor's" orders, Rhaef wheeled himself to his crutches and pulled himself to his feet. He was no use to the anyone in the chair, he hobbled around the room, although the secondary treatment seemed to be taking hold and he could feel the strength returning to him. He was wandering the room, trying to get a feel for his situation. Then realized he had not slept in far too long, he collapsed on the bed and fell asleep.

Rhaef woke up a few hours later, feeling significantly better. When he stood he found he could walk without his crutches. He was favoring his injured leg somewhat, but other than gritting through the pain - he was reasonably mobile.

He knew he needed to find Wei and if they were going to be able to escape. Even if the Alliance cleared Kale and the others, Rhaef had a pretty good sense that neither he nor Wei-Li were going anywhere because of their pasts. The Alliance will be desperate for some victory, if they loose Kale, and even though they deposited that gorram monster Kyron on their doorstep, someone will be looking for more, Rhaef thought to himself.
He walked to the door to check on the status of his guards.

One huge man was still standing guard outside Rhaef's door.  He yawned as Rhaef peeked outside looking a little more then bored out of his mind.  They always gave the newbie’s jobs like this.  Guarding hospital room doors was not exactly the reason the young man had joined the Alliance.  A few doctors and nurses walked by as well, but none of them so much as looked at Rhaef's room.

Rhaef settled back in for a moment to consider his options. Normally one guard, even one as large as the one outside his door would not be an issue. But his leg was still not completely healed, and he also had to worry about getting Wei-Li out of the hospital as well.

Rhaef was about to dive back into bed as the door opened expecting some orderly, doctor or worse Alliance official coming into to check on him. When he looked up, he saw a familiar face. "Wei-Li, but hey I thought I was supposed to be figuring how to help you escape?" He said with a sheepish grin.

Wei-Li gave him an apologetic smile.  "I wasn't sure if it was you... I hoped it was... "

She gave him a relieved sigh.  "Last time I saw you... "  she shook her head.  "I.. I could only watch..."

"S'not a problem, the gorram bastard set us all up, and from what I remembered you got the worst of it, and we be owing you our lives. So consider us even." Rhaef smiled reassuringly, or at least as reassuringly as he could - not really his strong suit. "So have you any thoughts of getting me by the gorram Alliance gorilla out there?"

Wei-Li smiled and started to laugh then stopped, with the laugh ending in a wince.  She looked at him shaking her head.  "All I've got here is the cart.. not sure if you can contort yourself up in there or not..”

Rhaef looked at the cart, and then saw her wince, "Are you all right? Should you even be out of bed? Cause trust me, I ain't worth risking much over. Certainly not a serious injury or worse."

Wei-li smiled at Rhaef's concern waving it off.  "As long as I don't strain... and.. don't laugh... I should be fine." she assured him.  She let her breath out slowly.  "... so...everyone is all right?"

He paused, "Yeah the others were okay for now, the Alliance arrested all of them, some trumped charge that Kale stole the ship or something."

"Personally, I don't want to be here when they come to question us.. tomorrow... lets just say my family has.. a reputation," she explained.

"Trust me, sister, you ain't the only one who'd rather not be here tomorrow." Rhaef said as he removed his gloved to reveal his Charred Hand.  "But I have an idea. As far as that lug outside knows - you're just some pour orderly checking on me - if you screamed like I was attacking you, he'd have to come in."

Rhaef bent down to rummage through the supply cart and found what he was looking for, selecting a series of strong tourniquet tubing, a couple of syringes and a vial of Monoxcelin-B. "When he comes in, we pump him full of painkillers, and then he passes out, I take his blaster, Ident card and we try to get out of here before anyone else notices we're gone."

Wei-Li gave him a nervous nod, and then waited for his signal that he was ready.  Then she took a deep breath and screamed at the top of her lungs.  The sound changed slightly as she screamed, and the force caused her wound to twinge.

Fortunately the door opened and she stopped.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kale entered the small holding cell where the rest of his crew was seated and sat down as well.  The guard didn't say anything more to them.  Just shut the door, and Kale could here the quiet click of the magnetic lock.  Kale sighed heavily then.  He was sure there was a guard at the door, and probably camera's and voice recording equipment in the room.  He felt awful, he felt frustrated, he felt like he had let his entire crew down.  He looked around at all of them.  "I'm sorry 'bout all this." he said, "Really, I am."

Geoff had been sitting down with his eyes closed and his head resting against a wall when everybody else went to go be interviewed. He didn't look up or talk at all about anything at all. He just sat quietly. He didn't look to be bothered by their situation at all, though. If anything, he looked rather relaxed. When the captain walked in and spoke an apology, Geoff finally opened his eyes and fixed the captain with a lazy and amused smile.

"Sorry? Ain't no need ta be sorry, Cap'n. Hell, this is like a little vacation. Can't ya tell by the luxury we're surrounded with? Like a gorram resort suite somewhere." he said and laughed before looking a bit more seriously to the captain and shrugging, "But, ruttin' screw it, Cap'n. Ain't like ya had any control over any o' this. Ain't no reason ta be sorry 'tween all o' us anyway. We're part o' the same crew. Makes us like family...heh...right?"

"Cap'n, no one's blaming ya.  Even if on, y'know, some fluke of a chance y'did steal Destiny...you've surely made up for it'n blood and work by now."  Charlie managed a smile, her legs tucked up against her chest, arms around her legs.  It was cold, and she was doing her best not to cry again.  There had been more than enough of that from her over the past week.  "So...what's gonna happen to us?  I mean, if they decide that we're all sorts'f disreputable folks, they're not just gonna turn us loose, right?"

"Boss, sounds to me like you've been listening to the Luh Suh that interrogator was dishing out.  You're guilty of buying a ship.  If it was stolen, you weren't the one who did it."

Kale smiled at his crew, but it was half-hearted and they all knew it even though Kale tried to make it as genuine as possible.  They were all right - they were family, he hadn't stolen his ship, and he had earned it.  But that seemed of very little importance in light of their current situation.

He looked at Charlie, her question was just what he himself had been thinking, what were they going to do with them?  If they found some way to make these charges stick would they really throw the whole crew in jail.  "Hopefully they'll see reason ... if not, well I'm thinkin' ya'll be let go.  They really only got grounds ta hold me.  An' it ain't too solid ground at that."

Geoff shook his head and scoffed at the captain's words. "No ruttin' way they should take ya in, Cap'n. Ya wouldn't steal that ship. I mean, I may not have been on the ship a long time, but even I can see how much ya love that boat. No man has that much love fer somethin' they stole. That only comes ta somethin' they earn with blood and sweat." he said and then grinned, "And, if they do decide ta take ya in, they're gonna hafta be takin' me too. Ain't lettin' ya get locked up without someone ta watch yer back..."

Kale was touched by Geoff's loyalty to him, willing to take a fall with him even it if it was for no reason at all.  He shook his head however, "If'n they do take me in yer gonna have yer hands full with all the rest, I ain't needin' someone watchin' my back, I'd rather make sure yer all alrigh'"

"Cap'n, I'm not meanin' to sound paranoid."  Charlie lowered her voice, leaning forward a little as she spoke.  "Regardless of whether he's bein' thought of as some kinda criminal'n such, y'think that it's gonna come up that I shot someone?  He's gonna tell'm that, y'know..."

Geoff looked over to Charlie and shrugged at her question with a grin. "But ya shot him in self defense. Won't mean nothin' bad on ya. I should know. That there claim o' self defense has saved my ruttin' ass more times than one..." he remarked lightly.

"Ain't no one gonna be takin' ya anywhere, lil' Charlie, so don't you worry.  None of us would let 'em.  'Sides, Geoff's right, it was self defense.  I'm not thinkin' that they're gonna be takin' Kyron's side 'a nothin'." the name felt awful to even utter.  Kale was almost wishing that he had had the gall to space the hun dun.  Now he might talk - and he'd been on the ship long enough ta know some interestin' stuff.  'Course, given his situation the odds that he'd be believed were pretty low, but ya never knew.

Ren kissed Acacia on top of the head then looked at Charlie.  "You listen to me little bear," he said. "You save Acacia's life.  You did something.. I didn't have the guts to do.. and I wish to god I had.  Would have save us all a lot of heart ache.. but.."  He looked at Acacia, and then back at Charlie.  "I couldn’t... You did what I couldn't.. it was you Charlie, I wish I could have but... "

Then he looked at everyone.  "I couldn't.. I couldn't let him hurt... " he closed his eyes.
"I chose keeping Acacia alive... I would have gotten us all killed if it weren't for you Charlie."

Kale fixed Ren with a meaningful look.  He had known from the get go that the recent sequence of events had really hit hard for the usually upbeat pilot.  "You done good Ren, ain't no one expectin' anything more of ya.  You kept Acacia alive an' I wouldn't have asked ya to do nothin' more."

Ren hugged Acacia a little tighter and smiled sadly.  "Except for the part where I got Rhaef shot...."  He said with a wry smile.  He looked at them all and swallowed, trying to get up the courage to say something, but realizing this was the wrong time.

As the silence continued, Ren could all but feel Acacia's sadness and tension.  He held her tighter as if he could block whatever was hurting her so much, but he knew it was inside her... something he couldn't remove or undo.  He wished there was something to take her mind off of whatever it was that was bothering her.  If they were on the ship, he would have taken her to his quarters... or Kyoko's shuttle.  Here he could only hold her... He rocked her gently wishing there was something he could say or do... He closed his eyes, realizing what he could do.  He kissed her forehead gently and then looked at the others.

"I was waiting for the right time to bring this up... and that's never going to happen so…“ He looked down at Acacia, love shining in his eyes.  Then he looked at the others, not bothering to hide the look. "Acacia and I.. that is.. I... we.. "  He sighed then tried again.  "Boss, I know you got a rule against crew dating crew but... " He looked at Acacia and then back at Kale.  "Uhm... I think I've broken that rule.... big time.”

Kale for a moment debated on holding a grim and serious expression, but he couldn't do it.  A smile spread across his face as Ren finally confessed that he and Acacia were together.  The grin became a laugh as he looked at Charlie, then Geoff, then back to the couple.  "Well, ruttin' hell, it's 'bout gorram time you got that off yer chest." he chuckled again, glad for the moment of happiness in the midst of this whole mess.  When Kale had first discovered that the two of them were dating in secret he had been concerned.  But watching them he knew that it was love, and who was he to stand in the way of that.

Ren stopped, and actually did a double take.  Then he shook his head in disbelief.  "You knew?"  Then he looked at the others almost in desperation.  "You all.. knew?"  He wasn't sure if he was happy, relieved or disappointed that the big secret that had been tearing him apart and putting a wedge between him and Acacia... wasn't a secret at all.

Geoff had to laugh and shake his head to Ren's shock at their knowledge of his relationship with the doc. Sure, he hadn't known at the beginning, but, after the whole thing with Kyron, how could he not have known? "Ruttin' hell, Ren. I've only been here 'bout a month and even I knew. 'Specially after all o' that with that bastard Kyron. I mean, c'mon, ya ain't exactly a master o' subtlety and secrecy..." he said with a light grin, "But, even then, I think it's great fer ya. At least one o' us should be gettin' ta have some fun on the ship that don't involve fighting or stealin'. Plus, now, I think I have a free pass ta be tryin' my luck with whatever passenger we pick up now. I'd been barred from that, but now I think ya done opened the way!"

Kale laughed again at Ren's obvious shock that they had all known.  But Geoff was right, there was no way anyone could have been on the ship with the two of them and not realized that they were together.  "It was a bit obvious, Ren." Kale said good naturedly, then he narrowed his eyes slightly at Geoff - still smiling however.  "Ah, now look what you gone done.  Now there'll be no controlin' that one." he laughed, and it felt good to laugh.  This here was his family, they needed to get back their home.

Acacia looked at Ren, “I told you.”  she said.  Then laid her head on his shoulder.  “You are easy to read,” she said quietly.

Ren sighed.  "Looks like it was a secret in my own mind," he said looking at the others.
"Remind me not to play cards with you guys... ever."

“So, captain when we get the ship back can me and Ren share a bunk?” Acacia asked.  She didn’t raise her head up.  Even in a jail cell this was nice.

Kale paused, encouraged by Acacia's phrasing of the question.  Not if we get the ship back but </I>when</I>.  He wished he could be so optimistic, but he just didn't have it in him.  He found it odd that it was his crew that was giving him hope now.

He smiled.  "We get the ship back... I'll even help you move.

Acacia ran and hugged Kale, then realizing what she did jumped back. “Sorry captain,”   she jumped back quickly, “Thanks.” She said and ran back to Ren.  She looked at him “Should have told sooner, this is nicer.” She said then kissed him.

Charlie smiled lightly at Ren and Acacia.  They'd been through more than their share, and if they were about to spend some time in this cell, it was definitely time that they didn't have to hide what they had become of.  Not that it had become anything even resembling a secret, but it still was nice to see love in the world.  She sighed, feeling a bit alone in the room...not that she had anyone, or did anymore, but it would be nice.  Those were things long since past, though.  She rested her head on her knees, looking back out of the bars.
"Ya figure that Rhaef's gettin' treated well?  'n Wei-Li too?"

Geoff grinned to the captain when he said that he wouldn't be able to be controlled now that Ren and Acacia had paved the way for him. In truth, there was probably very little the captain could have done to control that aspect of Geoff. The captain could tell him not to engage in relations with crew or passengers, but what Geoff was told to do and what he would do were two different matters altogether. Geoff is a man of few wants and needs and that would be one big one right there...

Geoff looked to Charlie as she asked about Rhaef and Wei-li and part of him felt bad for her. She didn't exactly look to be in the best of spirits at the moment. Not that he could blame her for not being all that happy with the situation. They were technically under arrest and separated from the only place any of them consider home at this point. But Charlie had been pretty down ever since the events with Kyron. That was something Geoff couldn't understand. Couldn't understand feeling bad about shooting a bastard like that like Charlie did. He guessed that probably made her a better person than him, but that wasn't exactly a surprise either.

In any case, such thoughts weren't the kind that Geoff usually shared so he just smiled lightly to her and nodded. "Sure, they are, Charlie. They're probably gettin' all fixed up and everythin'. I mean, yeah, they ain't enjoyin' the same luxurious suite we are, but hey, guess we're just lucky like that, ain't we?" he said with a laugh.

Charlie managed a bit of a smirk, her eyes flitting back to Geoff.  "Mmm...I'm sure.  I'm thinkin' we need to call room service, we're runnin' out of clean towels'n stuff, y'know?"  She let out a sigh, blowing a lock of hair out of her face.  There were really two options at this point.  One was to be down on herself and feel horrible about the turn that life has taken.  The other would be to simply think about something else.  "I'd ask ya what's gotcha so calm n'all, but I'm guessin' I could be answerin' that m'self."  Charlie tucked a dark lock away from her face, speaking with a half-hearted smile.  "Not the first time ya've been in a cell, right?"

Geoff had to laugh sheepishly and smile rather knowingly at her question. "Me? In a cell before? That's crazy talk, Charlie. Crazy. Almost downright insultin'." he said with mock hurt in his voice before grinning wryly,"'Sides, they were more like cages or holds than actual cells. One time it was a pretty big crate, but that was only fer a little while when I got a bit too drunk fer my own good..."

He then shrugged as he chuckled a bit at that. "But, ya know, truth be told, I ain't never too nervous 'bout stuff like this. Gotta be calm 'bout it in the line o' business we're in. Take everythin' in stride and don't let nothin' shake ya, dong ma?" he said and smiled warmly as he gestured around, "Not ta mention there ain't any other people I'd want ta be locked up with more than all of ya. Makes it feel like home..."

There's finally a real smile when she hears his last comment, closing her eyes for a moment.  "You remember what I toldja 'bout family, don'cha?  I mean, nothin' word fer word, that's not how I'm rememberin' things...but, y'know, nontheless."  She lifted her head up finally, setting her feet down on the ground for a change, stretching out her arms.  "I just...y'know, this isn't what I'm usually doin', anythin' of th'sorts.  I'm used t'spendin' most'f my time in th'ship.  Any time I'm not in the ship, goin' back's always an option that I can take, no matter the spout'f trouble we'd be finding ourselves in n'all."

Geoff smiled fondly at Charlie then and shrugged. "Yeah, family and all o' that. Like ya said..." he said and sighed lightly, "Ya know, Charlie, now that I think 'bout it, ya really have been havin' ta go above and beyond yer duties the past couple o' times, haven't ya? Been sorta outta yer depth, I'd reckon. Heh. Too many things happenin' at once, I'd say. Remind me that we gotta get a vacation after this....or at least get good and drunk...."

"Y'know, call it crazy, but I'm thinkin' a drink doesn't sound like so much'f a bad idea or nothin'.  Don't be thinkin' that I'm goin' above what I do.  Ya gotta know, I keep Destiny runnin', much like Acacia does.  I mean, with Kyron'n all...I can't have him takin' my ship.  Nor can I have him killin' my crew, sendin' them out inta space n'all, throwin' them to th'death that none'f them are deservin'.  'Course, no one's deservin' death, 'less they did something straight and clean that deserves it.”

Charlie traced a line along the bench she was sitting on, looking down at her finger, leaving a little bit of oil that's still sticking to her finger.  "I'm just...y'know, Destiny's like family.  I miss her an'all that."

He shrugged as she spoke of missing Destiny and he had to agree. He missed the ship too and that struck him as strange, having only been on the ship for a month. But he had started to think of it as home too. "Well, ya know, ya just gotta have faith that we're gonna be gettin' outta here and back ta the ship....back home. I got faith in that. I ruttin' know that we're gonna get back on Destiny eventually. Ain't no force in the 'verse gonna stop us, if'n ya ask me." he said and smiled warmly to her, "Everythin' will turn out right shiny, Charlie. Ya'll see...."

"I'm...yeah, I know.  I'm supposin' that bein' around the likes of you'n Ren and th'Cap'n, I wouldn't have t'worry about any harm comin' my way.  I'm lucky like that..."


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Norton Hubert looked up at the tall building eyeing it speculatively.  This was the place.  The recent detainment of Dingo Class Freighter 1-1169er123-D had reported that Shuttle 1 had detached during docking procedures and flown to this address.  The shuttle was apparently rented out to one Lady Kyoko Monroe and Norton could feel his palms getting sweaty thinking about having to question the young and very powerful lady.  He motioned to his squad to move out.  Orders were orders.

The group of five men made their way to the top floor, their security clearance sufficient to cause them no hindrance.  Norton held out a hand as one of the younger members of his squad made as though he were going to break down the door.  "Be civil, this is a Lady of high importance.  No need for violence we are merely here to question her."  He knocked firmly on the door and waited.

Lei looked up at the knock on the door. Not wanting to open it without seeing who was on the other side, she opened up the security menu on the tablet she was using. She started quickly looking at the apartment's security system.  The front door registered as locked, and even better, there was a camera set up to look straight at anyone outside. Lei quickly pulled up the live feed, and stared at the picture. There were five people dressed in a too neat uniform waiting on the other side.  Lei didn't like uniforms.

She didn't know how long they'd wait without anyone answering, or if they had the code to open the door. Lei started looking for a way out of the apartment just in case. She tapped into the building's cortex, and pulled up a floor map of it, searching the level that she was on for an easy way out.  There, fire escape? It looked like it would take her all the way to the ground floor. She just had to get to the roof above the apartment to get to it.

Finally moving from her seat on the couch, she quickly ran over to the balcony door, moving surprisingly quietly. Slipping out the door, she looked around for some way to the roof. She pushed the table that was on the balcony over to the wall, and stacked one of the chairs on top of it. Climbing up, she could reach the edge of the roof, and slid the tablet she was still carrying up there before lifting herself up.  She quickly made her way to the roof door, and into the fire escape.

Lei climbed down the fire escape and down into a back alley.  Here with tall buildings towering high above in every direction no light reached the dark alley.  A few garbage bins sat beneath the fire escape.  And parked against the adjacent wall was a supply vehicle making a delivery to the building, no one was in the car currently.  A little ways off light could be seen and traffic heard zooming by, it was getting dark and the city night life was coming alive.

Lei climbed down the short ladder at the end of the fire escape, hanging from the bottom rung before dropping onto one of the large bins. She sat on the edge of it, rubbing the soles of her bare feet for a very short while, the impact of landing still stung. Lowering herself to the ground, she started picking her way past the worst of the muck in the alley and towards the delivery van. Lei didn't really want to know what the muck was squishing up between her toes. It was the quickest way away from here. She didn't know whether the uniformed people were looking for her, or if they just happened to be at the apartment, but she wasn't taking any chances.

She carefully looked around to see if there was anyone watching, and quietly reached up past the BLUE SUN logo to open the back door on the van. Climbing in, she did her best to hide amongst the few boxes in the back, and sat down to have a look at the tablet again. She tried to find a map of the local area on it.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The security camera panned around the roof, first at 45 degrees - nothing.  50 degrees - nothing.  55 degrees - a small girl was seen climbing over the side of the building and onto the fire escape, before she disappeared her arm reached out to grab a small tablet.

The security feed was sent through the building.  Stateside Penthouses prided themselves on their immaculate security measures, it took only a second for the officers to notice the girl.  Odd, he thought, what would a little girl be doing on the roof?  He zoomed in trying to ID her, perhaps she was the daughter of one of their more influential costumers, it would do no good for her to go missing.  It was then that he noticed the mark on her wrist, more precisely it was a tattooed barcode with the numbers: 87 printed clearly beneath it.  This struck the man as even more strange - that was until the ID came up.  He immediately sent through a few calls.  This girl was property of Blue Sun Corporation ... and they were looking for her.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


In the hospital the door to Rhaef’s room opened and Rhaef's Alliance guard entered, Rhaef pushed off his wounded leg, ignoring the pain and jumped on the man's back and jabbed the syringe of painkillers in his neck. Rhaef pushed himself back off, and quickly refilled the syringe in case a second dose was needed.

The guard wavered, reaching for his gun before falling hard, face first into the linoleum.  His radio squawked, but there was no other sign of trouble.

Rhaef looked at Wei-Li and said, "Quick, help me get him tied up." Rhaef said grabbing the tourniquet tubing and the pulling the comatose man's arms and legs together. Before doing so, Rhaef grabbed the man's gun, and Ident badge/card.

Wei-Li moved quickly, pulling some adhesive tape from the cart.  She began wrapping it around the man's legs, moving up his legs as she did so until she ran out of tape, then she pulled some sheeting from the cart and ripped that into useable lengths.  Once they were finished she gave Rhaef a worried look.  "You all right?"

Rhaef took a deep breath and calmed himself. For all his bravado, he had never had to deal with the Alliance and never tried to escape from custody. He nodded when Wei-Li spoke. "I will be. Ain't never tried anything like this. I just hope the others had it easier."

Wei-Li shrugged, "All I know is someone wanted to question us, and the doctor wasn't going to let them until the morning."  She pulled the scrubs off the cart and handed them to him.  "Wasn't sure what size you needed... "

"No problem, I got the feeling that they were waiting for something and I did not want to be here when they decided." Rhaef took the scrubs and wandered into his small bathroom, and tried them on. The first pair would have fit, but been tighter than he would have liked. The second pair fit much more to his liking. He walked back out and continued to prepare for the escape. He slipped the Mxoy-3 and syringe into the front pocket of the scrubs jacket. Then he wrapped the gun and Ident card in the other pair of scrubs and stuffed them on the bottom of the supply cart. Finally he grabbed a rag and wiped down the tubing and tape.  He looked over at Wei, "Help me put him the bathroom."

Wei-Li bent over to help, but as she pulled she stopped, and let out a ragged breath, her face turning rather pail.  She squatted trying to get her breath back and then looked at him.  "I think... heavy lifting is right out..."

Rhaef shook his head, kicking himself mentally. "Damn, sorry, Wei-Li. I forgot." Rhaef rolled the man to bathroom, struggling - lifted him up right and stuff him in the small bathroom. The man was breathing and seemingly okay.

He walked back to the cart, and stuffed some bandages and some of solution he saw the doctor use to clean his leg into the pockets of his scrubs. Then looking back at Wei-Li, "Are you sure you're up to this? I mean, I don't think Kale would like me to let a passenger get hurt, and well, I know Geoff will beat me to a pulp, if you don't come back whole."

Wei-Li shook her head.  "Don't like hospitals... really don't like being questioned..."  Then she paused and smiled. "Geoff... mad?... Really?"

"I'm right there with you on hospitals and questioning. Really don't want the Alliance looking too hard into my past."   He paused and smiled, this woman was pleasantly naive. "Oh yeah, Geoff fell hard for you. I know he's really interested in getting to know you better in every way possible." He said with a laugh.  He pushed the cart toward the door. "Well, its now or never. If we're going to try this, we need to do it now."

Wei-Li moved towards the door, shaking her hands and then her feet one at a time before she gave Rhaef a nod, then paused.  "Should we go out together, or one at a time?" she asked thinking about the people she'd seen along the way.

"At this point, we might as well go together. If we have to run, I don't want us to get separated before we even start. Anyways, most doctors have been trying to avoid looking at my room all day anyway."  Rhaef said as he pushed the door open with the cart and toward the elevator he had seen at the end of the hall.

Wei-Li drew a deep breath and moved up along side Rhaef, acting as if they belonged there.  She let him stay with the cart since it would give him support as they moved along.
She wore a weary smile, like an orderly who'd had a busy day.

Rhaef continued to push the cart, like he belonged there, as Wei-Li reached his side, playing the part of a weary orderly.

As they near the elevator someone called to them from down the hall.  "Hey, you two.. I need to change this guy's sheets, gimme a hand!?"  An orderly was standing in the doorway to a patient's room.  She looked frazzled.

Rhaef stopped the cart, turned to Wei-Li and shrugged before he moved the cart toward the room. Reaching the orderly, "Take a deep breath, the day can't be that bad. How can we help?"

The orderly looked at them and gave them a relieved smile.  "Mr. Jenkins' a little on the uh... large side of things," She told them in a hushed tone.  "If y'all can move him... I can slip the sheets in..."

"Well, she hurt back earlier today, so lifting's not really an option for her." Rhaef replied indicating Wei-Li. "But what if she put the sheets on while you and I lift the gentleman? Would that work?"

Wei-Li had been trying to think of a way out, and Rhaef had given it to her, she gave the woman an apologetic smile.

The woman smiled and then waved them over.  "Of course,” she said, then smiled at Wei-Li, "You just be careful honey, and let us do the lifting."  She moved over, giving them room to work.  It took a few tries to get it done, but they did, and the orderly gave them a grateful smile.  "Thank you... glad you were up here," she said.  "But I've kept you long enough, and you still have two floors to do!"

"That we do, ma'am. Hope you have a good day." Rhaef replied with a smile as he and Wei-Li exited the room and moved to the elevator. Rhaef pushed the up button and waited.

Wei-Li gave the woman a tired smile, before following Rhaef to the elevator.  She closed her eyes and let her breath out slowly, it was the only outward sign of her nervousness.  When the elevator door pinged, she waited for the door to open.

Rhaef let the elevators doors open and the doctors and the others scurry out. When the elevator emptied, Rhaef pushed the cart, and held the door open as Wei-Li entered, and then pushed the button for the floor above them.

Wei-Li moved into the elevator, noticing the camera in the control panel.  She stood next to Rhaef, 'inventorying the cart' to make sure they had everything.  When the door opened she got off, waiting for Rhaef.

"Sorry about that, but they expected us to go upstairs for our next round," Rhaef said as they entered an empty, quiet hallway. Recognizing their chance Rhaef pushed the cart to a stairwell, and opened the door, and pushed it in. After Wei-Li followed him through, Rhaef shut the door and began gathering what he could. Jerry-rigging a makeshift knapsack out of the second pair of scrubs, Rhaef stuffed the gun, Ident badge, bandages and the remaining pills, which would have some street value, into it and tied. Looking at Wei-Li, "Now we walk down the stairs, and get out of here."

Wei-Li did what she could to help, gathering up what equipment she could.  "Just walk out?" she asked.

"Well, kind of, I saw a sign as we got off the elevator, that this stairwell will take us to the staff locker room. I am guessing we should be able to find some other clothes to borrow, and then use the back exit there." He replied sheepishly. "If everything goes well then, we'll walk right out, if not well, then I was kidnapping you and you had no choice but to come with me. And then I'll do my best to take the fall for everyone."

"Hopefully it won't come to that, though I doubt they'd believe you anyway," she said with a smile.  "You up to going down the stairs?"

"Well, hopefully it won't come to that, but I would do my best if I have too." He paused, "Yeah, I should be fine. Are you up to it?"

Taking a deep breath the two began their descent.  Though it was slow going, they managed to make it to the sub basement without incident. They could hear the industrial sized laundry machines, and feel the most heat from the laundry room to their left.  To their right was the hallway to the locker rooms.

Rhaef crept slowly toward the laundry, moving quietly to peer around the corner to see if the room was attended to or not at that moment.  Finding the laundry room, conveniently empty, Rhaef motioned Wei-Li in. As he expected, they found a large quantity of institutional and private laundry, cleaned and available to them. He began quickly collecting clothes that would fit him. Luckily, he quickly found a pair of dock pants and t-shirt that would fit him. Unluckily, the only shirt he found that fit and was large enough to conceal a blaster, was a Hawaiian print number with tiki-gods and hula-girls on it. "Wei-Li, this'll be our best chance to find clothes that will be less, shall we say clinical. See if you can find anything that'll fit you, and then I'll cover the area while you change." Rhaef said ducking behind a laundry cart and quickly changing his clothes, carefully avoiding his bandages on his leg.

Rhaef looked over toward Wei-Li, hoping she had not started to change yet, he did have a shred of modesty and did not want to see Wei-Li like that, Charlie maybe, but... damn it, boy, stop daydreaming, his mind screamed to himself.

"So Wei-Li, find anything that would work for you?" Rhaef said quietly. As he waited, he ran through recent events in his mind. He knew they'd down a piss poor job thus far, or more exactly he had. He could have drugged the guard and made look like he was asleep. He allowed himself to be seen on any number of video cameras. He had an alliance Ident card and blaster - both of which probably could be tracked, and both he and Wei-Li were wounded.  Rhaef grit his teeth. At this point, he knew where he had to go in Osiris, although he was not particularly excited about going there.

Wei-Li was slipping off the scrubs bottoms when Rhaef turned, but underneath were her jeans.  "Still looking," she answered as she started searching through a few bags and finally pulled out a t-shirt that looked to be 2 sizes too big.  She turned her back to him, taking off the scrubs shirt, to slip the t-shirt on.  She wasn't wearing a bra, and judging by what she was finding, wasn't going to find one that would fit.  She slipped the t-shirt on, then pulled her belt out of the belt loops on her jeans and buckled it around her hips, holding the t-shirt in place.  "Do we have any idea where the others are?” she asked turning back towards Rhaef.

"Nah, Kyoko was taking Lei somewhere, and the others were taken to a detention center." He said, turning back to her when she spoke, he had turned his back out of decorum when he saw she had removed a shirt from one of the bags.  "First we need to find a pawn shop and ditch this piece," indicating the guard's gun, "Should fetch a pretty price, and even maybe a couple of clean pieces for us. Then I need to dump this ident card. After that, I have a few contacts here, people I ain't particular excited about going to see, guys from my old life, but if we're going to find the others, its a necessity." Rhaef replied detailing his limited and, in his mind, poor plan.

Rhaef was starting to get jumpy, it was only a matter of time before someone noticed that they were missing and the longer they spent here, the more difficult things were going to be. He had spent the last few minutes, slipping supplies into the pockets of the cargo pants he was wearing. He hoped to be out of here before the inevitable happened, but was not sure it was possible. He also knew that they were not really up to a prolonged chase. He had spent the past few minutes also thinking of how to concoct a plan, so that it would appear that he had kidnapped and forced Wei-Li to help him. No sense in both of them being imprisoned.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The car pulled up to the Capitol City judicial sector and stopped in front of Detention block C.  Alec was already clearing his mind of all thoughts, preparing to focus on the task at hand.  He had loved Kyoko's mother and father dearly and would do anything to support their only daughter and if she said that the crew of Destiny were innocent then he would believe her and fight to have them released.  He got out first, holding the door for Lady Monroe.  As they began walking towards the building he spoke quietly to her, "I'll begin doing the talking, if things get sticky we'll use your influence."

They approached the door and were promptly stopped by Alliance officers and searched.  They were asked for their ident numbers and were run through a basic background check before they were even allowed to step foot over the threshold.

"And what is the nature of your visit?" a very young man asked.

"I'm here to speak to someone about the recent detainment of the crew of the Dingo Class Freighter 1-1169er123-D.  I believe that they are currently being held in this block.  If I could please speak with whomever is in charge of the investigation that would be greatly appreciated, I have reason to believe that they were falsely accused."

The young man looked at him for a moment, "And you are?"

"Alec Quinlin and this is Lady Monroe."

The young officer perked up, he recognized the name. He knew enough to know that Lady Monroe was the heir of the very sizable and prosperous not to mention vital Kyraki-Monroe Enterprise.  He leaned over and sent in their request.

'Lady' Monroe smiled thinly as she entered. Her bearing is confident, regal and with a slight undertone of impatience and menace. She let Alec do the talking for now, knowing he'd clue her in when to talk. She knew that Alec was loyal, her father's legendary judgment had left possibly the only truly honest man on Osiris to care for her massive assets. Not that she'd ever have to worry about losing them, but with Alec Quinlin at the helm of her trust, she knew it would be much smoother and without a need for her constant observation.

After a good fifteen minutes or so in which Alec and Kyoko were forced to sit and wait in the rather uncomfortable lobby and tall man with slightly graying hair stepped into the room.

"Hello Mr. Quinlin.  Lady Monroe." he said, lightly kissing her hand.  "I'm Captain Vincent Tyrgrin, why don't you follow me and we can discuss your ... issues with the recent detainment ordered." he chose his words carefully watching the pair closely, wondering what exactly they were after.

Kyoko looked at him coolly. "Captain do I look like an idiot?" she asked quietly. "Or the type of woman to openly and or unknowingly consort with a ship jacker?"

Vincent arched his eyebrow, slightly taken aback by the woman's firm and accusing questions.  "I really said nothing of the sort." he tried to keep the distaste from his voice.  "We may discuss this further inside."

He lead them down a grey hall and into a small, but very comfortable and tasteful office.  He motioned for the two of them to sit in the high backed leather chairs opposite his desk.  "So, you have a complaint against us holding the crew in detainment?  I do not wish to insult your judgment Lady Monroe, but the vessel which we took in earlier today clearly belonged to a Mr. Brently Caddigan, who reported it stolen not long before Captain Kale Galway assumed possession of it by his own accounts.  Not to mention the fact that there as a wanted fugitive on board and an Alliance deserter.  I believe that the Alliance has every right to hold the crew until our investigation into the matter is complete and then place them in jail should it prove to be true that they are indeed criminals.  Surely a respectable lady such as yourself would be pleased to see that such characters are placed behind bars and not out among the population where they could do harm."

Alec looked to Kyoko, letting her know that this was her arena and she should do the talking now.  Her name required respect while Alec's did not.  And respect was what they needed right now ... not to mention the power behind it.

"So, you assume that I AM a fool? That given my presence on the ship for several months at a time that I did not do a proper check on the ship and it's crew? I did. As Mr. Quinlin will tell you and  your men, I did an EXTENSIVE investigation of the ship, and crew, before engaging the services of Captain Galway and the Destiny. At that time, I found nothing of what you said about the Destiny to be true. Now, given who I am, what does that tell you Captain?" Kyoko said in a quiet nearly serene voice.

Vincent could barely conceal his anger at being addressed in such a way and knowing that he could really do nothing.  "Well then, perhaps you would care to share some light on the matter?  In your extensive search did you encounter why Mr. Galway's papers are forged?"

"Actually," Alec said leaning forward, "I would like to direct your search to the man whom sold Captain Galway his ship.  The name on the papers is forged.  But I managed to do some investigating and discovered that a Mr. Troy Cordell had possession of the ship before Captain Galway.  Look into the docking records of Santo and I'm sure you will find the same.  Captain Galway may have a stolen ship - but he is not the thief."

Kyoko looked to the captain, waiting for a response to Alec's question. She knew the man was doing his job, it just seemed he took things a bit personally and with far too much fever. "Alec, I imagine that we could get the issue of the deserter taken care of yes? And once this mistake with the Destiny's owner is resolved, the rest of the crew would be free to leave the planet." Kyoko stopped for a second and looked back at the captain. "How much is the bond for everyone you're holding Captain? I'm sure my expenses can hold it. No need to have them cluttering your cells."

Vincent stared tersely at the two of them not liking being told where to direct his search and how to do his job.  "200 credits." he said shortly.  "And they would not be allowed to leave the planet until the investigation is over."

"Captain, I have been.. quite nice up to this point. I could have dealt directly with your superiors as is the custom of those of my station. I am quite sure you'd have far less fun with a general or minister asking you questions on my behalf. I have tried to point out that my own initial investigations of the Destiny revealed a much different story and that you are being misled. I could have simply sent my information to your superiors, and let them take it out on you." Kyoko said in her calm aristocratic manner. "I think, if you wish me to. That there is still time for me to do just that. Is that your wish? Or would you have me send an enthusiastic letter to them, praising the stalwart and vigilant captain who was more than willing to listen to my information and avoid unnecessary and false accusations?"

Vincent frowned, he did not want this woman to go to his superiors.  "I will let them out on parole, but I stand by that no one is allowed to leave this planet until the investigation has been finished and their names cleared - or they are found guilty." he stood up then leaving no room for discussion and turned to another officer standing by the door.  "Please escort Lady Monroe and her companion to holding sell 12534-D."

"I am quite sure Captain that if things go well and you find that my assertions are indeed true, that perhaps we can see you making Major very soon." Kyoko said as she collected herself and let herself and Alec be led to the cell. As they walk she spoke with Alec.

"We'll put them up in my penthouse, have you started getting everything in line for a building an ID for someone if needed?"

Alec felt that that meeting had actually gone remarkably well.  He nodded to Kyoko as they made their way down the grey halls.  "I have, Lady Monroe." then he paused, "Exactly how many passengers are we now expecting, I may have to call another car."

"Make arrangements for twelve, that way we have plenty of space to pick up the others at the medical center and see about getting any assistance we might need for them set up. Will there be enough room at the building for that? I am sure we can get more rooms on the floors below." Kyoko said as she considered how to play this situation with the crew. "Additionally, I'd prefer to keep things about my standing .. quiet if it's possible."

Alec nodded as Kyoko listed off what needed to be done. "I will go do all of that right now while you gather up the crew.  And don't worry, I won't disclose your position if you wish it to remain quiet." He took his leave then to go arrange transportation.

The Alliance official stopped outside of the holding cell where Destiny's crew was being detained and unlocked the door, allowing Kyoko to step inside.

Kyoko stepped into the cell with a smile. "I've gotten you all released into my custody. You'll have to wait till we can clear things up to leave Osiris but I have someplace to house everyone till my contacts can fix things."

Kale looked up as he heard footsteps outside the cell door and someone opening the magnetic lock, and in stepped Kyoko.  Kale had never been happier to see the companion in his life, he grinned and stood up, "Ah, ruttin' hell, what took ya so long?" he said in jest to her, but his look said what he could not.  Thank you.  Thank you a hundred, thousand times over.

He still didn't have his ship back, but getting out of this cell was certainly a start.  "Well, ain't that shiny." he said, looking specifically at the guard, "Looks like yer all not so certain we're low-down criminals after all, just like we was tryin' ta tell ya.  Come on guys, ya heard the lady, let's get out of here."

"Captain, discretion would be greatly appreciated. I can do a lot here, with the help of my contacts." Kyoko nodded towards the departing Alec, "But it would be prudent not to antagonize the officers. Come, I've posted bond for everyone and hopefully my associates will be able to prove that your ship records are the legal copy I know them to be."

Ren gave a relieved smile to Kyoko and then stood offering Acacia a hand up.  Then he impetuously picked her up and spun her around before setting her gently on the ground.  He smiled at her, then bent to kiss her.

Acacia gasped when Ren picked her up.  She enjoyed the kiss so much, this openness was nice.  She slid her arm around his waist.  “ Aw Ren, remember darling, you need to breath.”

"Glad to see something good is coming of this. Shall we take you ring shopping Reiner?" Kyoko said with a teasing smile.

Geoff stood from where he was sitting when Kyoko came to spring them from captivity. Geoff wanted to say thank you or that he appreciated the help. He wanted to say that he was sorry for acting like an ass before now that she had done him and everybody else a solid like this. He would have liked to say something like that, but, of course, there was no way in hell he was going to. He was nothing if not proud and stubborn. these were two traits that he knew were sort of stupid to be proud of, but that was the way he was and he didn't apologize for it at all.

As he looked to Kyoko, he frowned as his gaze searched around and behind the companion, searching for somebody he knew should be accompanying her. Lei. Lei was nowhere to be seen and that made him nervous. If she wasn't being watched by Kyoko, he didn't know who was watching her and whether or not the people who were watching her were capable or trustworthy. This caused him a lot of worry and that showed on the expression on his face. He wanted to ask about Lei, but knew that it wouldn't do to talk about such things in the middle of this place. Better not to give away anything he didn't have to, after all. So he just stayed silent, his mind clouded with concern for Lei and worry for her safety.

Kyoko looked to Geoff. "I told her to stay where I went, she didn't need to come. She was happily studying how to get you out when I left." she said calmly to reassure him.

Geoff was slightly surprised that he had allowed his worry to be so easily read upon his face and that she had read him so easily. He didn't like thinking that he had allowed his emotions and thoughts to be so easily guessed at by the expression upon his face. That unsettled him a bit. Still, it was good to hear those words from Kyoko. That Lei was somewhere safe and that she was okay. That was all he had wanted to hear.

He looked to the companion with a firm set to his jaw and an even expression on his face. He took a deep breath and let it out before nodding and meeting her gaze. ".....Thank you..." he said in a soft and earnest voice before dropping his gaze and moving to head out the door. That had been one of the hardest things he had had to do, but he had had to do it. She had taken care of Lei and that was something he needed to thank her for. Still, he would most likely rather take a bullet than have to say thank you to anybody again and actually mean it...

Charlie watched Geoff's exchange with Kyoko as she stood up, smiling a bit as she tucked her hair back behind her ears.  It was different to see the big man so touched, and it made her feel better.  It was good to see him feeling good without the tough man act that he usually had.  She crossed her arms, looking around the others in the cell as they began to file out, placing a hand on the cell wall and looking at it.  It wasn't the first time she'd been in a cell, but it definitely was one of the closer calls that she'd had.

"Kyoko...thank you."  Charlie looked back at the companion, smiling again.  "You're...lookin' out for th'family, y'know?  I'm just...y'know, thanks."  She spoke clearly, scratching the back of her neck for a moment.

"Someone has to fix the snafus we get into. Glad to be of help." Kyoko said as she enfolded Charlene in a hug, then took her by the arm and led the way out. "Let's get moving folks, I got a place for us, and we still need to check on our injured."

The crew of Destiny made there way outside the Detention center, the eyes of the Alliance officials lingering on them with distaste.  When they finally made it out  Alec was standing there with two luxury cars waiting for them.

"It's a pleasure to meet all of you." Alec said, nodding his head politely. "I suggest we all get out of here quickly before anyone changes their minds." he motioned for everyone to file into the cars.

Ren moved forward with the others, doing his best to stay with Acacia.  Now that he knew he didn't have to hide it, never mind having to... He shook his head.  They all had known... everyone of them.  He smiled as he put his arm around Acacia.  On the bright side, he could now be open about his feelings.  When they reached the cars, he followed Acacia's lead, making sure he was in the same car.

Geoff moved with the rest of the group, giving the Alliance officials who looked at them a look right back every time he passed them. Sometimes it was a surly glare and sometimes the same cool, mocking grin he had always given Kyron, but he always met the gazes that were thrown at them either way. He wasn't going to be intimidated by a bunch of arrogant Feds who looked down on him as if he were trash.

As they are herded to the cars, Geoff looks dubiously at them. If the ship was a bit too enclosed to him, then these cars were way too close for him. Being enclosed for too long tended to irritate Geoff quite a bit. If he knew better, he would think he was a bit claustrophobic. However, not knowing what that word meant, he never thought about it.

Mild Claustrophobia or not, he knew that he had to get in the car to get where they needed to go. So he entered the car that was the most empty and waited with a bit of anxiety for them to get a move on. The sooner they got to where they were going, the sooner he got out of the car and got to make sure Lei was all right.

Kale walked alongside Kyoko as they exited the detention block, "I don't know how you did it," he said, shaking his head.  He almost said thank you - but well ... that would have been too much from him.  He wasn't at all the gentlemanly type, so instead he continued to speak in low tones, "Are you sure you got somewhere fer the crew ta stay, I hate ta be imposing.  First thing I do is gonna be ta get Destiny back if it means I have ta storm the Alliance central office myself." this was a very stupid idea in practicality, but in his head the thought of just barging in through those high security doors and blasting away seemed like the best idea he'd had in a long time.  "They got all my papers on her, seein' as how they were on the boat, ya know I didn' steal her.  Bought her fair an' square, it was the other fella, swindling hun dun."

Then Kale stepped outside and noticed the fancy cars. Most definitely Kyoko, sleek and elegant.  If it have been up to him they would have been riding horses through the posh streets of Osiris.  Probably better Kyoko had been in charge of this little escapade, she had the dignified, civilized touch that he and most of his crew lacked.  "Shiny." he said in reference to the cars, and slid in beside Geoff into the first one.

"Have a care Captain, my resources aren't infinite. You go getting into trouble I might have to do much to coax my sponsor to bail you out again, and I'm sure our dear jailor Captain won't like hearing from a general or the planetary reprehensive." Kyoko said with a wry smile.

As they entered the car, a thought hit Kyoko. "If I could put you in touch with the original owner, and you do things the way I suggest, we could definitely have this situation sorted out and if that is done.. the whole shipjacking charge won't stick."

Charlie sat down in the car, crossing her arms over her chest as she looked back at the rest of them.  "That's unless, by some strange happenin of th'sort, that he did claim that Destiny's stolen'n such.  This may be more'n a misunderstandin', y'know?"  She trailed off at the end, not feeling very comfortable saying things that negative about the ship out loud...but it was something that she felt it was important to suggest.

"Trust me.. my associate can be quite .. persuasive when it is needed. And I've been assured that to help me, there can be lots of persuasion applied. However I think we need to let him see how much the Destiny means to us. I'm sure that combined with some help from others, we'll be able to get things settled. And, if you like, we can dress you up all nice and pretty like I've been wanting to."

Kale nodded his head slightly at Kyoko's suggestion.  "Going right to the source, get him ta drop the charges ..." he said thoughtfully, "'Course, I'm not so sure I'll be able to get the time 'o day with a fancy core-worlder.  If'n we can arrange some chance ta talk with him though I can be mighty charmin' when I want ta be." Kale gave his best winning smile and looked around at the rest of his crew.

"That would require a bit more.. tact than you typically use Captain Galway. Not to mention a wardrobe that will assist you in getting him to listen to you.. truly listen to you."

Kale frowned - pouted was actually more like it and looked at the Companion. "Ah, come on now, what's wrong with the way I dress?" he dusted off the shoulders of his grey t-shirt as though it were a fancy suit and pulled his pants and holster up a bit. "An' I'm insulted ya'd even think me ta not be tactful, I got all sorts a tact ya ain't never seen.  Real gentleman-like.  An' if that doesn't work, well I always got my pistol ta get my point across nice an' clear."

Geoff smirked lightly and laughed a bit as he looked to the captain. "Well, c’mon, Cap'n. This type o' thing takes a lot o' that there tact people always talk 'bout and, no offense, but ya ain't exactly the master o' that. Which is why ya should let me talk to the fella. I clean up nice and such and I got all the tact that a person could take. Yeah, I'm full o' tact. Tact all over, ya know?" he said with a wide grin before looking about a bit and then leaning in to whisper to the captain, "Psst. Cap'n. What's 'tact' anyway? Never had the occasion ta hear 'bout it."

Kale laughed when Geoff spoke, "Only man that's got less tact then me here, would probably be you." he said with a grin to the man, "'Course I hope ya can take that as a compliment since I don't think tact's a whole lotta gorram le se, if'n yer askin' me."

Kyoko's look says it all. She didn't buy it in a second. "This is about presence, presentation, charisma and diplomacy. My field. Trust me, they won't let you within 500 meters with a gun, and looking like that defeats our purpose." Kyoko poured herself a glass of water, pausing to add some ice as she sat back. "We need you to look reputable, Core-wise, to pull this off Captain. Make you look as much the aggrieved party as he is. We need to build a platform where your appearance and manner appeal to his sense of sympathy. Make it clear you aren't the man who robbed him. Remember, he most likely feels a bit insulted by this whole affair."

Kyoko smiled as she sipped the water and got a crafty look on her face. "Of course, we are also going to appeal to his greed a bit. He's already been compensated for his loss. I'm quite sure, the insurance for the Sparkler is quite.. impressive. Large enough I'm sure he wouldn't want to repay it upon the return of his ship."

"Well, I don't know what'cha thinkin', then."  Charlie sat back a bit, looking at the others in the car.  "'Sides Kyoko, th'most respectable one here's Acacia, bein' a doctor n'all.  After that, y'know...I'm not sure who's passin as civilized folk 'round here.  You're gonna hafta do some work t'get one'f the rest'f us up t'speed n'all, y'know..."

Kale looked to Kyoko, trying to be serious now, as in reality this really was a serious matter, and if anyone knew how to handle them on a core world it was going to be Kyoko.  Charlie was right, with the exception of the Doc, ain't no one in his crew much good for civilized company.  "Well, I don' rightly know what you got in mind, dress me up fancy-like an' I'll still be the same man.  But I s'pose I could try an' learn a thing or two from ya.  That is if ya can arrange a meetin'.  Don' think this Mr. Caddigan fella is gonna want ta be speakin' with me.  But if it'll get Destiny back, you know I'll do what it takes."

"Not to worry, I know you'll be the same person. But looks do matter here, they speak of things like skill, merit, influence and occasionally things like honesty. Now I know that is not true actually, but it's like those games you play with your contacts. You have a role in the negotiations and you have to look and sound like it. That means proper English and Chinese not the slang you use. Accents are acceptable, but proper diction puts the other parties at ease. With them at ease, they're more open to fairer terms. Think of it as a poker game, but one you can't stab or shoot the other player." Kyoko smiled as she looked to Geoff and Charlene. "And I think you can come along you two. Simply to lend presence to the Captain as his load master and Chief Engineer."

Geoff quirked a brow at Kyoko when she mentioned something about a load master. That just confused Geoff a bit. "Ok, wait, wait. Load master? What the hell is a load master? Ain't that just a fancy way o' sayin' I carry heavy things? 'Cause I do lots more than that. Seriously, I'm full o' talent and skills that y'all ain't even seen yet and some that y'all probably won't ever get occasion ta see. Some o' them are private-like, dong ma?" he said with a grin,"'Sides, if'n I need a fancy title, I liked that one that the Alliance said I had. Public relations or some such thing. I like ta think I relate ta the public really good. Nobody relates ta public better....and if anybody tells ya different I'll be "relatin'" ta them with my fists."

"Geoff, Load Master is the person responsible for the SHIP's inventory