The Greater Sydenham Metropolis
Seven Deadly Virtues Auction house
Towards the end of the day, Chuan Yates had still not seen a ship within here price range up for Auction. Her beloved battle cruiser Cameron's Call had been sold off to some corporate scumbag, now that the Empire had begun it's new line of distinctive warships. In fact all of the ships of her expeditionary fleet had been sold off, no doubt to erase the blemish she had inflicted on the Admiralty. Couldn't have a young upstart outside of the bureaucracy and nobility making a mistake, now could we, Chuan thought.
Late in the evening, a final sale came across the block. A holo of an ancient Invictus class foldship appeared on the auction table, pock marked with meteorite damage, two of its six solar collection sails dark. "I will start the bidding at two hundred thousand E-credits." Jimmy stated.
Chuan's heart leapt. This was just barely in her price range, with a small loan from the auction house. She raised her sign, indicating her bid. "I have two hundred to the nice fox lady, do i have two fifty?" A wolfman in a sharp business suit raised his sign as well, smiling toward Chuan with a predatory gaze.
Bidding continued, a ping pong ball of a ship bounced back and forth before the wolfman swallowed hard and shook his head. Chuan smiled a small smile, relishing the victory. But like most of her victories, they came at a steep price. Her's today: five million E-credits. Fortunately she had negotiated with Jimmy Sorano before the auction, using her special brand of persuasion. Five million line of credit at an atrocious interest rate of 10 percent. With probable repairs, and the hiring of a crew, she would be broke within a year, or worse. Not to say Jimmy wasn't a bad lover, mind you.Thought Chuan. Just she preferred to be in control of her life rather than a plaything for the rich and powerful.
An hour later, she was the new owner of the Star Traveller, as well as the five million E-credit debt to the Seven Deadly Virtues pawn and loan. Chuan truly didn't know whether this was a good day or not...
Orbit of Vice
Hallway of the Star Traveller
The ship itself looked like it had been well used for a few years at least. Scratches, dents, missing solar sails and all. Jimmy stood with Chuan, chuckling a little. "I still can't believe you bought this for five million. Probably could have held out for a different ship at that price," he commented, walking into the ship itself.
"So, pretty par for the course. Your going to have to get most of the lights replaced. The old crew of the ship was pretty well all those lizard creatures from galactic South West. All the lights are infrared, so unless you can see that, your pretty screwed," Jimmy explained, walking the woman through the seemingly derelict ship. It looked like something out of a horror film, and it really seemed to need an interior designer. "I can never tell if this was a deliberate design choice or the last Captain just sucked at maintaining the ship."
"First off, this ship runs as smooth as any fancy ship if a lot, even with the missing solar sails, and second, what do you mean... last... Captain..." A voice asked from behind the two. It started annoyed, but typical of a human female, but at the mention of last Captain, the voice had turned into a violent hiss.
Jimmy groaned, turning around to see the lizard woman. A little under 6 for tall, and seemingly build from head to toe specifically to rend flesh from bone. "Zahen. I've told you already, this ship isn't yours anymore. There is a reason it is called repossession," the man started.
"And I told you I would pay my debt! You haven't even given me a chance and your selling it to this warm blood!?" The woman snapped back.
"Well, this 'warm blood' bought the ship and cleared your debt. Your a liability, and your lucky she did my it, or the boys would have probably taken this debt out of your hide, and not in the fun way," Jimmy retaliated.
"Oh and I suppose I should be so grateful. So how much you buy it for warm blood?" Zahen asked, putting her first on her hips.
"Five bloody million Imperial credits, and a night of you know what." Chuan replied. "So you have a choice,...Zahen was it? Stay a board, help me get this man his money so we can be free and clear, or watch him peel both our hides. From personal experience, he has a heavy hand with a riding crop and I don't want to make him angry, now or later."
Chuan extended her hand to the previous owner, now possibly her employee or, hopefully, a friend. "Can we work together and keep flying, Zahen?" She asked the tall reptile.
Said reptile looked at the hand offered, scrunching up her face. The fox woman could see this was far from a prospect that pleased the ex Captain. Barring her teeth, she finally responded. "I get to keep my room...'"
"Fine with me, Zahen. I just want to fly." besides, she thought, there was no telling what that creature had hiding in there. "Can we bury the hatchet pulled from your back by my auction bid and work together?" Chuan still had her hand extended, awaiting her new shipmate's agreement.
The woman growled, but took the hand. "Fine, but screw me over and it'll be my teeth buried in your neck you'll have to worry about," she warned. She had such a bright and pleasant personality.
"I would expect nothing less, Zahen." Chuan replied, firmly shaking her hand. Glancing over to Jimmy, Chuan said, "I suppose you will want to get off my ship now, Jimmy. If you want your money, we have a lot of work to do to make you that money. So I suggest you GET OFF MY FUCKING SHIP!"
Jimmy, more interested in getting his money than getting some tail, he turned and walked off, towards the shuttle bay, two thugs in tow. "Good luck, ladies. You're gonna need it. Hard universe out there. Call me if you want another loan, Yates" With that, the two women were alone in the hallway.
Zahen was quiet for a moment before turning to Chuan. "So... What do you plan on doing to the ship. I take it your not a fan of the dark?" She asked, looking at the light pouring in from the main hatch.
"Well, lights would be a good start. Getting some Dropships to pay for transport would be the next." Chuan said.
Zahen rolled her eyes. "I pick the lights. I'm not going to blind myself everytime I walk on board this ship."
[OOC notes: JP by Bullroarer and Edto]
Orbit of Vice
Hallway of the Star Traveller
Zahen sat in the galley, "brand new" red lights put in. She was looking over a few ads for dropships. None of the drop ships looked particularly... pretty. Clearly it was familiar to her, because despite the prices and the appearances being mostly the same, she was struggling to decide which to respond too. "Military surplus is such a pain," She muttered, looking around.
On the screen sat several promising listings for transport. The Ulysses, a Tai Pen military Overlord class drop ship transferring from the nadir jump point, The Babsie, an independent Star Union class cargo transport, The Steamy Valleys, a small Leopard class dropship carrying "diplomatic" cargo, and a routine passenger ship listed only as Star Lanes flight 5051 bound for Komodo Prime.
"Do you even have a passport? You are aware my people aren't exactly fond of visitors, right?" Zahen asked over the intercom. "Like, what did you do before this?"
"As for a passport, I will not be getting off the Star Traveller this trip, Zahen." Chuan replied to her bosun and de facto first mate. "I suppose we should settle on our articles of agreement as soon as we are underway and I believe we should take on five hundred tonnes of foodstuffs of your choice. Unless you have any particular preference of fares, I think we should accept The Ulysses, The Steamy Valleys, and the Star Lanes passenger ship. They ought to pay the most."
Zahen looked over the potential cargo and chuckled. "Well, I see requests for ships to carry candy and general meats. Not luxurious, but easy cargo to sell in VDTF space. Everyone wants that. We couldn't find a port that wouldn't have buyers for it." She explained. "Then you got weapon shipments to various garrisons. Also ready work
"Then I shall buy the goods for delivery and inform the captains that we will provide their transport needs, for a reasonable price. Especially the Overlord." Chuan replied to Zahen. I'm gonna make those pigs pay through the nose, she thought.
"Well, then I suppose that's the plan. Let me know if you want me to translate. Also, you never told me what you did before you got into the shipping scene." Zahen said, getting up to hear to the bridge.
"Well, I was an Admiral in the Empire of Tai Pen. Advanced through ships operations, started piloting a ZX-28 cargo hauler as a brand new Lieutenant, then as an XO of an ancient Cameron class battle-cruiser. The Cameron's Call was nearly two hundred years old, which kept flying through wizardry of the engineering crew more than anything else." As she spoke, a single tear shed for her previous command. "Hopefully I will get to reclaim that ship at some point."
Zahen chuckled. "I was the chief fleet engineer of the VDTF fleet Talons of the Black. Doubled as a science officer in a pinch. We had a couple punches when I served," she explained. "I could have commanded a ship. A flagship even, but I didn't feel the need given I was the one who made sure the fleet stay operational," she finished.
"Well, we are both out now, aren't we?" Chuan responded.
"For better or for worse," Zahen sighed.
[OOC notes: JP by Bullroarer and Edto]
Orbit of Vice
"You are cleared for docking, Steamy Valleys." Chuan responded to the hail from the last of the docking dropships. "Zahen, begin retracting to sails so we can get under way." Chuan activated the hydroponic booms, hearing the squeak and grind of the booms retracting into the sides of the Invictus class ship. Please don't break now, goddammit, she thought. With the income promised in escrow for this first jump into Empire space, The Star Traveller would make it's first payment. Those Empire bastards angered her no end, but their credit was always good. No sense in letting good credits lie on the floor. "Setting course for Epsilon Prime, Zahen. Let me know when we are able to get under way." Chuan asked. the trip to the Komodo system would take several jumps, as crossing from the core of the Empire to the VDTF was no small trip. Following established trade routes was safest, as Chuan was still unsure about the reliability of the sails and the drive. Jumping into an uninhabited system could save them time, and money, but if a system failed, they would be up shit's creek without a paddle. Just because the Bosun said she was tip top didn't mean such was so. with only two thirds of their sails operational, recharging the batteries would take longer. Longer meant possible greater delays, with increased costs, or worse, cost them freight. A difficult choice, but for this voyage, she would err on the side of caution. Take the extra time, at least until they have the money to replace the damaged sails.
"Just give me a minute, she's being prissy," Zahen responded over the COMs. "You just had to be a cunt didn't you? Couldn't just work for once, could you?" She asked, trying to get the mechanism to start moving again with a pipe. It took a moment and some good yanking, but it came free, relieving the squealing that was heard moments before.
With no other delays or mechanical issues, the sails were stowed within the hour. Powering the Fold drive from the Lithium Ion batteries, in a moment time and space warped. Reality folded in on itself, over and over, moving without moving. Mild disorientation and dizziness washed over Chuan, a normal reaction to Foldship transportation for her. Instantly, the Star Traveller leaped across light-years, arriving at Epsilon Prime. Zahen in that time had meandered her way up to the bridge, sitting herself down at one of the empty bridge consoles, unphased by the faster than light travel.
31st, January, 3018 GST
Epsilon Prime System
Nadir Fold Point
"So, Tai Pen huh? This should be entertaining," She stated, looking over the nav data. "Given the VDTF and the Tai Pen are currently not on the friendliest terms..." The lizard said, leaning back and putting her strangely shaped legs up, talons wiggling idly. "So we are going to grab candy and meats?"
"I think it would be best if we keep a low profile while we charge the jump drives. I will see if the Ulysses is willing to part with some food stocks in exchange for some credits, but no promises. I don't want to give the spooks here in Epsilon any reason to board and sniff around, especially with our crew. I would like to get across the Empire as quickly as possible. With us jumping to the nadir point of Epsilon Prime, we can blend in with the other merchant shipping." Chuan replied. "I will go collect our pay from the Ulysses captain and see about that meat. Please deploy the sails as soon as is prudent. We are above a type V orange, so it will take a little bit longer than i would like."
"Yeah, and about the sails. We are going to need parts. I can probably get some cheap stuff in VDTF space, I still get some benefits of my rank, though honestly there is going to be a point where it would be better to just get a VDTF surplus ship. Our Light Cruisers are fold capable, and are a dime a dozen. We make so many of them, and the only downside is that the civilian models have the 420mm gauss cannons are replaces with 210mm's. Though, it's far more intimate than this ship. Your average crew cabin is like a luxury master bedroom compared to the multi-race crew cabins," Zahen said, sitting up properly and working on deploying the sails.
"Hmm, and how many dropships does one of those light cruisers carry, or how much cargo? I love flying, but we gotta keep food on the table and parts in the rack. I also understand it is likely the Empire is going back to war...they always do. And they usually win. No, no more military campaigns for me. Just hauling freight and make a living, maybe even grab a decent husband on the way, if such a thing exists anymore." Chuan replied, with a bit more heat than she intended. The psychological scars of some past trauma were written all over the foxy woman's face, several tears falling from her face.
Zahen looked at Chuan, noticing the hitch in her voice. Then snorted. "I ate my last husband, so I wouldn't know," She stated, shaking her head. "As for what can it hold, it can hold 10 Necrosis Fighter Jets and I believe four shuttles, plus a warehouse style cargo bay. It's the smallest capitol ship in the VDTF fleet, so it generally carries supplies for it's auxiliary force on top of it's own. As for the Empire and it's war, I know the situation fairly well. There has been a not so cold war between the VDTF and Tai Pen for a while now, what with them trying to push into VDTF space."
"Sounds like I may need to think about where we go from Komodo. With a war brewing, any ship in Empire space is likely to be either destroyed or conscripted into the Empire's navy. Neither is an appealing thought" Chuan stated, her calm demeanor returning. "As for sails and parts, we shall stock up and replace what we can when we get to Komodo Prime."
"The VDTF doesn't conscript foreign ships. You make it sound like the VDTF gets paranoid. The big thing we will have to worry about is military inspection of our goods, since we will be coming from Tai Pen. That could just go over poorly," Zahen explained, reaching up and tapping the four gold bands around her horn. "Though, these will certainly do wonders to help with that, so we should be alright barring all but the dumbest of Vekimen. I don't know. I usually don't trade with Tai Pen to begin with so I'm out of my own usual territory."
After returning from collecting their pay from The Ulysses, Chuan tossed Zahen a thick chocolate bar with Tai Pen symbols on it."Once out of Tai Pen, I don't plan on returning any time soon. But I also don't plan on staying in the VTDF long term, either. Maybe a route between the Ersetu and the Alliance through Komodo or around the League of Non Aligned Worlds. Need to be wary of Atraxians there, though. They are not known to be particularly hospitable. What do you think Zahen?" Chuan asked, as she transmitted the payment to Jimmy, securing another month of freedom.
Zahen took the chocolate bar, stowing it in her belt pouch. "I don't plan on staying around Komodo either. I said they don't conscript foreign ships, said nothing about ex-military members. I did my time and plenty of it. I've had enough of war for now. That's why I took to trading, though clearly I'm better at the former. Hopefully you aren't to terribly stuck in the same rut," Zahen explained. "The Ersetu have goods the Vekimen could use, mostly, though, they like getting a hold of their currencies. So we can actually sell Ersetu money to the VDTF at a 10% bonus in goods. The VDTF has all their currencies backed by raw materials, and the Ersetu literally make their money out of it. They love it," The Vekimen laughed.
Chuan smiled at the Vekimen woman logging the new information into her memory, always sharper than she let on. Knowledge was power, after all, and she was in desperate need of some right now. With the military ship released after paying their fare, the Ulysses began a standard burn towards the second planet in the system. The small Imperial station nearby queried the Star Traveller, asking if any other ships were disembarking in this system. Chuan responded with an older military code, indicating a continued mid-level diplomatic mission. "The Glenn, another dropship from the league, has offered to dock for one jump, willing to trade supplies and goods rather than currency for transport. Apparently their Foldship is having power stack issues and they need to get to their next job. Maybe we accept and let them dock without sealing the dock collar until we are ready to jump." Chuan replied. Pirates were unlikely, but without the Ulysses attached, their security was far from certain. "How long until we are ready to Fold?" Chuan asked her Bosun.
"78 standard hours. If you want to do a trade transport for goods that's fine by me. If anyone tried anything, I'll just turn off the lights and grab my gun. We Vekimen are infamous for not showing up on infrared, and all the lights on the ship give of an infrared signature anyway. This is possibly the worst kinda place to fight my kind," Zahen explained, putting her feet back up. "Might nap a little though. Been meaning to catch one for a while."
"Yeah, let's get some rack time. I will turn in after I get the cargo loaded into the starboard hydroponic bay." Chuan replied.
[OOC notes: JP by Bullroarer and Edto]
Orbit of Komodo Prime
"This is Star Ttraveller to VDTF orbital station Khelena, requesting permission to maintain course Zulu 43-876, utilizing clearance alpha 4 tango. Personal identification 8773-563-6987" Zahen said over the radio, waiting for a response.
"Authorization approved Khysze Zahen Lak'Sivaro. You are cleared to dock, hangar 4, path to your docking station will be lit via your system navigation. Please grant access before proceeding," She got back, to which she complied with what they asked. When the line went dead and their navigation markers were in place, she turned to Chuan.
"Okay, VDTF Space. A military junkies favorite place, because... Well everything is run like a military. Fuck, I'm not even in service anymore, and they still refer to and treat me as a Khysze. Every legal citizen is required to be a part of the military, and the only reason I'm out is I can't get assistance from the VDTF without returning to service," The lizard explained, leaning back in exasperation. "Hopefully, we can offload the 55 tonnes of food here."
The Star Traveller was tugged into place by the station pilot ships and their staff. Almost two hundred metric tons of cargo was to be offloaded over the next week. With the earnings from both the Steamy Valleys and Star Lanes flight 5051, The Star Traveller was able to pay for customs on the nearly two hundred tons of goods brought to market as well as docking and repair fees. Chuan looked upon the Star Traveller up close from outside on the loading dock. One awesome score for a run and already they could afford some repairs.
The orbital station Khelena, like most docking and transfer stations in the known universe, contained a diverse and eclectic population, with a long term temporary bazaar. Food carts containing every imaginable cuisine abutted dry goods merchants, weapon dealers, and bars. With the open areas containing the goods for sale and transfer, The more permanent sections contained both living quarters as well as the vice of spacers nearly everywhere: ladies of the evening. Crudely crafted signs indicated where the pleasure district was located. Scantily clad dock bunnies directed several recently released crew towards ecstasy and oblivion.
Trash littered the cavernous bay, small plastic cups and food wrappers scattered in the corners and in between the cuboid freight containers. The smell of decay blended with the smell of sentience, musk and the sickly sweet of disease. One could almost imagine a variety of animals inhabited the port, not some of the most advanced civilizations ever created.
Most of the freight unloaded onto the ad-hock warehouse showed the wear and tear of interplanetary commerce, often reused multiple times on a variety of objects. Large square cubes were stacked beside flat, oblong, and round varieties. refrigeration containers sat beside hazardous materials. A glorious smorgasbord of capitalism and corruption for those with the funds to feed. Chuan sighed as she thought, Maybe someday we will reach the era of post scarcity, of noble glory, but not this day.
Zahen walked off the ship and looked around at the public port, scowling at what was around. "Uhg... I always hated this part of the station..." She muttered, baring her teeth a little.
Chuan nodded, her first look at this side of the tracks. This would take some getting used to, she thought.
Chuan electronically signed the bill of ladings for the harbor-master's assistant, duly paid the tariffs and taxes, and made arrangements for the unloading of the freight carried half way across the known universe. Fortunately, buyers were already lined up for the freight, enough currency promised to repair the Star Traveller as well as to make another monthly payment to Jimmy.
Power loader teams began unloading the ship beside the Star Traveller, an indication of the speed and efficiency of the professional dock workers union.
[OOC notes: JP completed by Bullroarer and Edto]
VDTF Orbital Station Khelena
Chuan sat at one of the cheaper watering holes, far from the docks and storage bays. Firewater idled in her cup, a styrofoam cup melted on a plastic tray beside a metal tumbler and a tall bottle. a few hours before, the local garrison initiated a press gang sweep, collecting her twenty some odd crew. A captain without a crew, without any cargo, and a large debt hanging over her head. Pouring two fingers of amber liquid in a tall glass tumbler, she rolled it around for a moment, then knocked it back. Flame burned her throat as she swallowed, choking and gagging for a moment. The poison coursed through her veins, giving her the heady buzz and amnesia she sought at the bottom of a bottle.
She felt the nudge of a nail at her thigh.
"Pardon me." The voice was soft and high pitched, tremulous, though not from age. It belonged to a little mouse of a man who stood about a foot shorter, carrying a walking stick with a strange pattern on the end of it, wrought in what looked like caste iron, and wearing a loose frock which, on further inspection, turned out to be a purple "Idolice!" hoodie. The image of the stylized pop star clashed with the weird staff and strange red eyes, like an oversized field mouse, all white and brown, had poked into a candy wrapper.
"I am sorry that I am late but I had trouble finding you here," he said, his voice not really matching the movement of his mouth.
"Whatchu want wif me?," Chuan replied, the hold of the liquor taking root in her brain. She must be crazy, talking to a oversized mouse, especially in a noisy bar on some shit space port. Surely this must be a side effect of the booze. She turned to the mouse, her stomach suddenly churning, a boiling pit of hellfire and brimstone. Around an incoherent phrase, the drunken vixen vomited in the direction of the oversized rodent.
Somehow or other, none of it got on him. He was a quick sort of person. It ended up, he looked down at the little puddle of puke, and then up at the Captain, and she got the feeling that he was resigning himself to something - likely smelling her vile odor for the foreseeable future. She must smell like rubbing alcohol and bile.
"I need to be on your ship," he said, "I am joining you."
"Yoor a silly little mousy, aren't you?" Chuan replied, just before the darkness of alcohol poisoning overcame her. She knew no more.
- - - -
A few tables away, a hulking dark green Atraxian sat at a table with eight smaller, lighter skinned Atraxians. They were all dressed in black and red, adorned with different sorts of earrings and metal pins. The big one watched the smaller ones play around like a bunch of hyperactive preschoolers. Most of the noise in the bar was coming from this table.
They wrestled and talked boisterously, spilling beer everywhere and fighting over the last scraps of food. The hulking green one turned his gaze on them every so often, but it was clear his focus was on the other patrons. It watched the fox woman with a look of contemplation. It grinned broadly at the sight of the woman puking on the little mouse guy. Half of his teeth were missing, the rest rotten or cracked.
One of the smaller ones started to wander off towards another table and the dark one snapped his head towards it. “Oy! Gark, get yer maggoty arse back ‘ere!” Big Green bellowed in a deep, gravelly baritone. The smaller Atraxian grumbled and cursed but returned to his seat. “Not to worry boys. We’ll find a Cap’n lookin fer security in ‘ere that don’t mind hiring Atraxians. Them fancy Cap’ns at the docks have what they call 'stannards' but there’s none to be found in this dung heap.”
"I wouldn't say I'm particularly looking for security lads, but I'm sure we could make a deal" a female Vekimen said loudly, attending up from her place at the bar. "Zahen Lak'Sivaro, I'm technically the closest thing to a competent Captain you will get at this moment. Most captain's got squeezed for crew containing citizens of Komodo."
The big Atraxian turned and looked down at the Vekimen addressing him. “Youse one of dose slippery lizard Vek-mens ain’t ya?” He asked, then continued on as if she had answered. “Hmm, dis lot is best at bustin skulls, but dey could do somefin what don’t take brains. Dey call me Muk Skullcrusha. How much is you payin, ‘Cap’n Zay-hen?”
Sitting on a table that proved to be otherwise absent of people was a lithe human, her left leg bent at the knee, foot flat on the table, while the other, quite oddly, lacked a boot, her knee jutted to her right, a fork held between her toes. Quite smoothly the fork dipped into a bowl sitting in front of her, before she shoveled it into her mouth, an odd, almost unnatural level of dexterity between her waist and foot, her leg shifting with heightened agility. The reason for anyone looking long enough to take in the sight would be quite apparent, the woman lacked arms of any kind, what remained simply stumps a good three-fifths to what would be her elbows. A bottle was tucked under one of her stumps, a straw sticking out of it, which she infrequently sipped from.
Her clothing was fairly standard, otherwise. Notably it was loose and her sleeves ended in rudimentary knots, and she wore a belt of all things, suggesting, among other things, that she had either found some way to tie a belt without a hands, or simply that someone regularly helped her dress. Her hair was short, messy, unbrushed, though otherwise she seemed quite clean. Her eyes watched the Atraxians with vague interest, moving her attention from one member to the next, as if examining each one and how they fit in.
Zahen merely shrugged. "Zah-hen, but semantics. I don't particularly need brains either. I need people who can follow instruction, listen to what they're told, and not talk back. If you and your crew of cohorts can do that, then there will be an adequate share of what the ship I am part of makes of its cargo. Though, knowing how to fight in dark, tight places is a major boon."
Muk grunted and looked at the motley group of Atraxians. One of them was using a fork to scratch his butt, looking around to make sure nobody was watching. “Dey can listen, if ya smack em ‘round a bit a few times. Muk’ll keep em in line, dat’s a promise.” He turned back to Zahen. “Yous da boss. Here’s da deal, though. We’s get in a fight, Muk’s in charge eh?”
The words of Zahen seemed to hold Jill's interest more than the idle and quickly boring motions of the Atraxians, even as they interacted with the Vekimen. It was obvious that the Atraxians were pure brawn, if you had the gall as a leader, they were infinitely useful if you utilized their personalities. With a group like this it occurred to Jill that a leading tactic didn't need to appeal to each of the Atraxians, only the one that seemed to lead them, the 'Muk Skullcrusher.' She wouldn't lie to herself to say she knew how to lead such a group, and it interested her to see how someone like Zahen would meld with them, without endangering the crew with disagreements.
"Are you putting together a crew for a ship?" The words slipped from her mouths a bit quicker than she could put together her plan for speaking. She paused, shifting as she placed her fork down into the bowl of what seemed to be mush, like the inside of some meat-pot-pie solidified a bit more than it should be, with the crust blended in as well. "I'm not pulling your leg when I say this but I'm an engineer, and a damn good one at that." She paused, rolling her shoulder after leaning to put her bottle down. "Assuming of course you let me bring someone who can do the handiwork or give me someone to instruct. I might not be able to do the finer tuning but give me someone who actually listens and I'll keep things running." An odd proposal, but given the sturdy look on her face, she was clearly serious.
Zahen crossed her arms at Muk's comment of being in charge. It was a strange request, given both herself and Chuan were ex-high ranking Military officers. She was about to respond, when the woman lacking arms piped into talk as well. A woman lacking arms, who was wanting to be an engineer. She'd never been given such a terrible ear, and been expected to make such a silk purse with it. Though, Zahen felt she was once expected to work with far less.
She looked between the group of Atraxians, and the amputee engineer, and sighed. "I can not fully make that promise. Me and the Captain both have very long military careers under our belt. As for the armless engineer... Sure. Why not. I'm the usual engineer, but if you have a handler and don't mind splitting a share with them, then by all means bring them along," She said simply. "Everyone will have chances to prove themselves, but the first thing you all need to do is prove you can follow orders, so for now I am declining your request to command in combat, but that is for now. All we know that could change in the future."
The Atraxian narrowed his eyes at Zahen. He fought the reflex to tear her head off to assert his authority as he would among his own people. A quick look at his subordinates showed him they weren’t paying attention. He relaxed and nodded. Leaning in close, he whispered to Zahen. “Dat’s okay, but if dese guys tink Muk’s weak, Muk can’t control em. Ya tell me what to do in front of em, dey could try takin yer ship.”
Zahen shrugged, "Then that would be a problem, wouldn't it? You're asking to board my ship, or at least, you are interested to be crew on my ship, and I otherwise don't know you at all," She explained, taking liberty with her words. "If you and your crew are really such a risk, then why should I bother hire you at all? I can easily just wait for other people. This is a ship run like a military. Atraxians may have their opinions on how the world works, but if you want to enforce that, then you should have your own ship. Otherwise, you aren't very hire-able, based on your crew alone. I can see you are trying, but you and your crew are a liability. If they won't listen to me, without me speaking through you, then if we get into a situation where you are not there when I need to issue commands, then this ship could fold and collapse. We would be dead before a battle even started.
Jill simply shrugged with a nod in response to Zahen's reply. The money was only a small part, as long as she had enough to get good food and a comfortable bed, she was willing to split with her current hand, fifty-fifty was only fair considering their arrangement. The girl she used as her hand wasn't the most educated in terms of engineering practices, but had proved through repeated trials that she was competent enough in listening and taking her guidance that she trusted her to do as she said. She was quick to pick up on what she meant, and seemed to have an uncanny knack for understanding how Jill thought.
For the moment she only listened, deciding that it was better to let the two handle the potentially volatile situation that had brewed in terms of the potential hostility that could brew by the smaller and less reasonable Atraxians. Personally Jill did not mind Atraxians, but she could not deny the risk of rowdy or violent ones, especially to her. While she did not voice it, she had her doubts on if it could be solved easily.
Muk shrugged. “Muk’s not worried. Dey will be no threat wit Muk about, jes’ dun cry to Muk if dere’s a body lyin’ about.”
"Well, as long as there ain't a body of anyone important, I suppose I'll have lunch," Zahen replied. "Welcome aboard, the both of you."
[OOC notes: JP completed by Bullroarer, Edto, Jabonicus, Fox, and ArsenicJohn.]
VDTF Orbital Station Khelena
A bit later.
Chuan woke surrounded by covers, pillows, and curled into the fetal position.
This was a Vekimen station, and the Vekimen slept in what could be roughly described as vekimen-puddles. That is to say; Vekimen were water, and they filled up whatever bed they happened to be in. Her hair was clean, a pleasant surprise, and she had been changed out of her dirty clothing. There didn't seem to be clothing to replace it, but she still had her underwear.
Furthermore, she was remarkably sober. Hungover would have been the appropriate word for her after the evening she had indulged in, but strangely it seemed absent.
She wasn't alone.
The mouse was crouched at the end of the bed, staff against his shoulder, staring intently, with his elbows over digitigrade knees. It might have been more appropriate to say that he squatted. He had discarded the hoodie that had given him a city-monk like look, and she saw that his fur was colored brown and white, and a series of patterns, or symbols, had been painted over his chest and arms in a woad-like way, all the way up to his nose, where they became a bit more delicate. Even in the middle of the strange and varied crowd of this port, such a savage looking creature - a mouse, no less - would have stood out.
"Are you lucid?"
Awakening to the unfamiliar setting, Chuan cautiously assessed the room. She mentally kicked herself for indulging in the vice of drinking. Fuck me, she thought. "Ummm....I think so. How long have I been asleep?" Chuan responded.
The mouse looked up at the ceiling as though it held some meaning, in relation to time. He canted his head. The tavern sounded empty. For Vekimen, that meant, it seemed, that either everyone had gone home, been killed, or had passed out.
"I do not know," he responded. "I am uncertain. You poisoned yourself very heavily, so I flushed you. Can we try again?"
He looked back down at her. Something about the word 'flush' was odd. The entire conversation was odd. Chuan could be certain, now, that the actual sounds coming out of his mouth weren't the words making it into her head, because 'flush' looked like a longer word than it sounded.
She was unsettled by the mouse talking, if you could call what it was doing speech. "Flushed?...this implies you did something to me. What did you do?" Chuan asked, her comfort level with this rodent quickly transitioning from distrust to panic.
He cleared his throat faintly. That sounded remarkably normal. "It is difficult to explain, but I did a little trick and caused you to pee yourself. I am sorry, but you did also bathe." Seeing that she didn't seem to be buying this, and might actually be on the verge of doing something seemingly rash - not an unwise observation - he waved his other hand. "Please, I'm what you would call a physician."
That word didn't sound like the word it came over as either, but he continued anyway, despite confusion.
"I am Ao, a Seer of Elwarren. I am a friend of yours. I would like to be, anyway. You seemed out of sorts so, now you aren't. Would you like water?" His little whiskers twitched slightly. "There is water."
Chuan nodded as she reached for a prepackaged bottle of clear liquid labeled as water in a variety of common trade languages. There were a large number of empty bottles of water laying around in the pile. She drank deeply from one of the remaining bottles, slaking her thirst. Ao watched her patiently in a clinical, concerned way. Chuan had met other people like her, people changed by the Tai Pen, or people who had wanted to be changed, and it gave her a little bit of insight into his facial expression, but not a great deal; clearly, this guy was the real deal, whatever he was. He radiated 'real' like some people wore deodorant.
Then she noticed that the caste iron bit of metal at the end of his little staff seemed to be some sort of gyroscope, and it was moving gently, as though by a breeze that she didn't feel. He also didn't seem to be blinking very often.
"Ao, I am known as Chuan Yates. What business do you have with me?" she asked. This creature was new to her, or at least his species. As she was a nobody, an exile from the power structure of Tai Pan, she was curious at to what this largish mouse wanted from her. She knew no secrets, possessed no fleets or armies, and had no political pull. To be sure, her brand of persuasion is precisely what had gotten her in this mess to begin with.
In answer, the mouse shifted the staff off of his shoulder and held it nearer to her. He moved slowly, as though to give her a moment to realize what was happening - as though to say, 'Don't panic!', like Chuan might have been cautious around a dog that she had held her hand out to - and then he held it a little closer.
The little gyroscope spun a bit faster around her.
Strangely enough, she heard it too; it sounded like a very faint, low tone, like somewhere far off there was a resonance bell that hadn't quite quit ringing, and no matter how long she listened to it, it might never stop ringing at all.
In either case, he looked at the gyroscope on the end of his staff, looked at her, waved it around a bit demonstrating its apparent function - to spin when it got nearer to her - and then he settled it back against his shoulder, giving her a, 'what can you do?' sort of look. The ringing seemed to get fainter, the further away from the staff she was, and when it was back against his shoulder it stopped.
He cleared his throat again. "I don't know yet," he said, "But, I know that I have business with you. I expect it is because I need to go on your ship."
Chuan glanced at his whirly thing-a-ma-bob staff, unsure of the new device. "Is that thing...safe to be on my ship?", she asked, still trying to grasp this unusual turn of events.
"Yes," he said, and offered it over to her without apparent hesitation or guile. "It's just a douser."
Chuan shook her head, clearly uneasy around such magic. This was more upsetting for her than the mouse part of the encounter. She was no stranger to odd shaped people. but magic, for her rational mind was still trying to wrap itself around the ideas possibly forming about what the implications of such devices could mean. "What can you offer for passage? Are you willing to work?"
"Labor," he answered, with the same sort of honesty that he'd offered his staff. He set it aside, and then folded his arms over his buckled knees again, as though he were crouching down to talk to her instead of actually squatting eye-level in her bed a few feet away from her practical nudity, practically nude himself. That didn't seem to matter a single bit to him. "I am a physician. More or less."
"Well, that will do." she replied, running out of ideas. "Sure, i can hire you on for room and board. Once i get another crew, i can take on some freight and we can be off...to where, did you say?" Chuan began to feel more empowered now the relationship between her and this...well mouse was established. Now was the time for the probing questions.
"I didn't," he answered, a third time, in his simple fashion. It seemed that, whatever immediacy this situation had held for him, he no longer felt any reason to crouch. He sat, then he stretched out a bit, as though to work a kink out of his leg. How long had he been crouching there, anyway?
"Well, no time like the present, mousy," Chuan said. After a moment of thought, she corrected herself. This was an extremely intelligent creature and was due a measure of respect. She stood tall on the bed and bowed low towards the mouse, "Excuse me, Ao-san. I beg your forgiveness for that outburst. Will you accompany me to my ship, the Star Traveller?"
[OOC notes: JP completed by Fox and Bullroarer]
VDTF Orbital Station Khelena
With the mass draft of the Vekimen spacers, most of the trade ships were short of crew. The Star Traveller however, was not one of those. Now, with a mostly filled crew billet, the Star Traveller was ready to take on cargo and transport.
The twelve foot tall Atraxian stood in the cargo hold, supervising his boys. One of the man-sized Atraxians got distracted by something shiny. “Oy, you! Back to work. We’s got ta be done before all da new gits are on da ship. Da little fox sez we get more teef if we does it quick-like.” He bellowed. It seemed that Muk’s two rotten teeth had either been pulled or knocked out. It was unlikely any of his boys had managed it, so he probably did it himself.
While Muk was berating the distracted Atraxian, another one was creeping up behind him with a sharp stick. He seemed completely unaware of the sneaky Atraxian. Somehow he must have been aware of his approach, because the huge green beast stepped aside with surprising agility. Muk turned around and slapped the makeshift wooden spear aside with a casual slap. It snapped in two from the force of the blow. He grabbed the Atraxian by the throat and crushed its head in his massive fist. The beast’s skull made a sickening crunch.
He sat the body carefully on the ground and knelt down over him. Muk picked through the green gore for the other Atraxian’s teeth. He wiped them off on his shirt and stuffed them in a pocket. Muk stood up and bellowed at his nearest minion. “’Ey you, clean dis up!”
The man-sized Atraxian scurried off to retrieve a mop and bucket. Seeing their “friend” dispatched with brutal efficiency seemed to push the rest of the boys to work even harder.
Captain Yates understood the dynamic, treating the large beast with a measure of respect due his position, much like a preferred pet. To be sure, that pet could kill you if mishandled, so she measured her words carefully. "Well done, Muk."
At her elbow, however, her small 'mousey' seemed blatantly horrified. Though he kept his mouth shut about it, he gave the Atraxian a wide berth afterwards and kept him at around staff length. Ao had been following the vixen about as though his doing so were something to take for granted.
420 tonnes of freight was quickly loaded into the Star Traveller's cargo holds. Various foodstuffs, rare minerals used in industrial processes, and finished goods all competed for space. Apparently the Rules of Business held water, especially rule number 35: War is good for business. With the loss of the crew, only half of the billets had been filled by the hiring efforts of the first mate, Zahen. While that indicated the general crew, currently Atraxians, would be forced to pull double shifts, The Star Traveller could take on passengers. A small group of eclectic people awaited the permission from the Captain to board the ship. Another good payday in the making, Chuan thought.
A duo boarded the ship, two women, both of them fairly young, but only one really stood out. While one wore a baggy jumpsuit of dull colors and carried numerous bags on her person, it was not the woman that Zahen had spoken to and had welcomed an offer from. Rather that woman stood beside her, still wearing rather casual clothing, a woman with short, messy hair and the obvious lack of two arms. From what Jill had explained, she used the other woman as her hands to some large degree, from everything from help with getting dressed to bathing to dealing with dangerous engines and devices.
At first it didn't seem clear why they would hire both if the woman with both hands seemed capable, but as Jill explained prior to boarding, while the woman, Aria, was adept at following directions and understanding what people meant, she knew little about engineering and its aspects. It was an odd mix, but Jill had agreed to split profits with her handler, after all. If it didn't work out they could always boot her off, but that could be said with any crew member.
Finally, Zahen walked on board the ship, having gone out to look for more crew. By how she seemed to alone, it was clear she had little luck in the endeavor. Still, she seemed calm and relaxed about it, until she noticed the dead body on the ground. She stared at it, head tilting to the side, before she regarded everyone else in the room and how they were carrying on about their day.
"Can I eat that, or...?" She asked, looking at Chuan, slowly pointing a thumb off the ship, "... Do you want me to get rid of it?"
"Rule of Business Number 259: Waste not, want not. Go a head and help yourself. It isn't meat, though. I think it is some sort of plant fungus creature." Chuan responded.
"Huh... Plant people. not ideal, but I'll take what I can get," Zahen shrugged walking over to the body.
[OOC notes: JP completed by Bullroarer, Edto, Jabonicus, Fox, and ArsenicJohn.]
VDTF Orbital Station Khelena
After the loading of freight was complete, Captain Chuan ordered the crew aboard. Once the Atraxians were secure, Chuan allowed the passengers to board. Most were Taianese, a low level ambassador and his entourage. An old human man, common in his dress with a threadbare shoulder bag stood out. An Ersetu noble, a tall blue creature with curled horns, scowled at the others, his foot-woman carried a half dozen bags, along with a small cart loaded with hard cases. Two shifty eyed Vekimen quickly handed over a large nylon sack of heavy coins to the Captain, then scurried aboard.
"Khysze Zahen Lak'Sivaro," Zahen's earpiece chirped,"The Star Traveller is ready to be tugged into a charging location. Please seal your ship and make ready to sail." said the local space controller.
"Of course, and may Keda never set upon your future," Zahen responded, keeping her voice low, then activating Chuan's headset. "We have been cleared for taxi. Though, out of curiosity. I never noticed, but everyone just calls the Vekimen and our people VDTF. So you actually know what our country is called?"
Not really. Haven't thought about it, to be honest with you. What DO you call yourselves?" Chuan responded, her attention split between her duties as captain and her curiosity about her first mate.
"Ikate Keda Empire. Some of the higher ups stated some governments wouldn't take us seriously otherwise.
Chuan waited for the passengers to board, then she checked the listings for drop and landing ships looking for a lift. the ability of the fold ship to jump twenty five light years in a single jump usually made up for their long recharge times. Some of the newest and largest fold ships carried a second battery bank aboard, enabling a second jump within minutes of in system arrival. Those ships were highly prized by the Empire of Tai Pan, as well as everyone else. Good thing she knew a guy who could help her with such an upgrade. It wouldn't come cheap, though.
The listings were quite plentiful, what with the current border tensions between the Empire and the VDTF. Even with the taking on of passengers, freight that almost filled the cargo hold, there was more profit to be had. Three docking collars for non-FTL ships were currently empty and would need to be filled. A passenger ship, Star Lanes Flight 3892, was looking to travel back to Tai Pan space, and willing to pay a premium for a ship load of Imperial caste members. Another dropship, simply titled The Dragon asked for transport with no questions asked, forwarding a small fortune ensuring the upgrade as well as six months of payments to Jimmy. The final spot was an arms dealer taking a shipment of VDTF small arms to Reservoir system. His ship, The Money Money, Yo! was the last to sign on, rounding out her load.
[OOC notes: JP completed by Bullroarer and Edto]
VDTF Orbital Station Khelena
A little bit later...
A tall man, standing at six ft two inches with a scrawny build, Sandy brown hair that's a bit on the pale side; having more of a creamish tint to it in certain lighting, white skin, and green eyes stood on the loading dock of the star port. His hair is rather long and messy looking, going down the center of his back just a little past the shoulder blades. Showing a bit of nervousness, he rubbed the tips of his fingers together. Just stay calm, he could do this. Nothing was going to go wrong. Wearing an old dingy white lab coat over a long sleeved shirt that is taupe in color with a mahogany design near the bottom and at the top that drapes onto his shoulders a little bit. His tattered pants are slate grey. Rounding out the ensemble are a pair of worn black oxfords and a largish green over-shoulder nylon bag.
"Excuse me, miss." the man said as he approached the Fox lady, the known captain of the Star Traveller. "Are you still hiring?"
Chuan Yates, Captain of the Star Traveller, responded, looking up into his deep green eyes. "I certainly am, handsome. I can use you as an able body... in my engineering crew, of course." If a fox could blush, she certainly would be right now.
Lawrence felt his skin go a little warm as his heart skipped a few beats, his face turning a light shade of red from her comment. The man was used to being flirted with though he tried his best to regain himself, Making his color go back somewhat to normal; although if you looked closely, you should see his cheeks were reddish still.
"Uh...th...thanks." Lawrence stammered, not sure on what to say back. "I...I would be fine with that. The engineering job of course. Uh......"
He bit the inside of his cheek, trying to calm down. Sure he had been nervous but now, he was greatly nervous. Though he pulled on his torn coat to try and just smooth it out in the attempt to just find something else to occupy his mind than his surprise.
"I..I'm sorry....I'm not very good at this..." Lawrence admitted with a weak laugh as he gave up trying to think of something to say.
Chuan laughed, a throaty chortle with a bit of an odd accent he couldn't quite place. She quickly moved up against him, twining herself around his free arm. She began to lead him up the ramp, the maw of the ship looming over them. "Don't worry...Well i will just call you sweetie until you are ready to tell me your name. I will take you down to the engineering department. Mind the Atraxians, though. They can be a little....rough around the edges if you know what i mean. Fortunately, our Chief Engineer, Jillian, will look after you. Just stay away from the big green guy and you will be fine."
The tall man went along with it, trying not to turn beat red as she pulled him gently along. Course, long legs allowed for him to easily match her pace though.
"Uh...right..." Lawrence said. "I...I'm Lawrence..."
Wait....big Green guy? His face paled at this as he felt his heart pick up a few more beats. Trying not to show it, he gave a nervous smile.
"Er...right! S...sure...thanks for the tip..." he stammered, running his fingers through his messy cream hair.
"Pay can be a bit spotty, but we always serve a solid dinner table. Work hours can be demanding at times, and lackadaisical at others. Jillian will fill you in on the details when she gets a chance. I will talk to Muk about leaving the new engineering crew alone. He is the 12 foot tall Atraxian. Make friends if you like, but definitely don't make him angry...you wouldn't like him when he is angry...or hungry...come to think of it, i haven't had a terribly intelligent conversation with him, with the crushing of his subordinate's skull...Yeah, might be best if you just stay away from him altogether." Chuan rambled on, guiding the tall fellow down hallways, past the dozen or so Atraxians in the cargo hold, all sitting around an enormous hulk of green beast speaking to his minions
Muk and the rest of the boys sat in a circle. In the corner sat a small statue of Chuan that appeared to be made of excrement. One of the smaller Atraxians, going by the name Grak, had invented a simple dice game to pass the time with their collection of teeth as the reward. Unfortunately for the rest of them, Muk was always the winner. He allowed the others to gain some teeth here and there, but in the end Muk made sure he always ended up with the most.
At the moment, Grak was winning. Muk coughed a chunk of something green up on Grak’s face. The rest burst out into laughter. Grak grumbled and reached up to wipe his face. Muk sneakily bumped the dice with his foot, turning the game to his favor instead. If anyone noticed they didn’t dare say anything. Grak cursed at the dice.
Muk grinned and swept a pile of teeth towards him. He glanced at the armless lady and the new guy Lawrence out of the corner of his eye. The Atraxian was more observant than he let on. Though perhaps not as intelligent as the Captain, he was crafty and clearly always planning something.
Quickly walking through another passageway, Chuan made it to the door of the Chief Engineer's berth. unentwining one hand, she knocked on Jillian's door.
It took a few moments, the audible sound of shuffling feet, something ringing out as it hit a wall followed by a curse, but with a pitched beep the door slid open on less than stellar tracks. As the door opened, the messy head of hair of Jillian peaked out, glancing between the two of them with an incredulous look. "Need something?" She asked after a minute as she took a more casual stance, as her eyes fell on Lawrence. She blinked before her face lit up, as if processing the new face.
"Oh! My bad. I'm Jillian, engineer. I'd offer to shake your hand but I'm not sure who'd be more uncomfortable with it." She grinned, moving the obvious stumps of her arms as an accent of the joke, as poorly timed as it may be.
"Jillian, this is Lawrence. He is another able body hired on. Feel free to put him to work immediately." Chuan said, releasing Lawrence's arm. She retreated quickly, her comm buzzing in her ear. "I have to go, another matter requires my attention."
Zahen popped around the corner just as she said that, looking a little surprised. "Uhhh... Yeah. We suddenly got a bunch more people looking to join the ship..."
"That's fine..." Lawrence replied in regards to pay.
He wasn't here for the pay in all honesty, he just need to get away from where he was at and try to find a way to reverse this. Reverse whatever the hell got tampered with and remove it. Maybe find some way to control it if he couldn't fully remove it. As they walked past the group, Lawrence was quick to avoid looking at them. All he saw was the shape of a large being, something that was huge with muscle to add probably.
The scientist didn't need to be in worse shape, he really didn't want that. So he kept pace with the fox lady. Just wanting to get to the destination in mind.Course he wasn't sure on what to do when the lady answered and he went to speak but Chuan beat him to the punch.
"Nice to meet you and it's okay." Lawrence spoke.
Immediately? But he knew next to nothing with engineering. He agreed to the job of course but...he had thought that there would be at least a slow period. Ya know? To figure out what the hell he was doing. With Chuan walking off, he did want to question her on that but, he found himself a bit too puzzled to speak it. So he stayed quiet on that matter.
"Ah...s...so....what ya want me to...do?" Lawerence asked nervously.
Jill looked at him with a puzzled expression for a moment, before shaking her head, more so to adjust her messy head of hair than to express any negative emotion. "Want you to do? Well I'm still looking over the engines and how the whole system is connected so I don't have a whole lot of duties that need to be done. Just stick with me for a bit, I'll fill you in on a few things if you're going to be working with me."
She stepped inward from the door, her head jerking the same direction, an indication for him to follow her into the room. It was a simple room, fairly barren save for a desk, a few duffel bags, and a bunkbed. It was fairly obvious that the bottom bunk was Jill's, both for the obvious reason and that the top bunk was already occupied by some other girl who was reading from a dimly lit green datapad.
"In case you're a bit blind I'm certain you can see I don't have hands, or most of my arms." She commented quite plainly. She didn't seem to enjoy the statement but it hardly seemed to bother her much as anything more than an unpleasant fact. Her feet were bare as they lightly tapped the ground, lacking as much as socks. "I can do day to day activities with my feet but I will ask you and others for assistance with things, most notably more intricate engineering work. I think you'll fine that heavy lifting of machinery evades my ability, despite my knowledge."
She turned sharply, her heel squeaking against the tile floor as she did so. "But I'll just ask that you not go out of your way to assist me unless I ask you to. I'm sure you'll pick up on the unspoken things after a while." She paused, before giving Lawrence a grin. "So! Any questions? Concerns? It'd be rude of me to give you so much responsibility without making sure you're comfortable."
"Do I have too?" One dog woman with brown hair asked, frowning at another dog woman.
"Yes, you do. I told mother I wouldn't let you out of my sight," The white haired dog woman snapped back, scowling. The two dog woman were walking up the gangplank with an uncanny level of unison. They were identical in all aspects aside from their hair, which were held in the same style.
"Come on! I can look after myself! Why can't mom just trust me?" The brown haired woman whined, slumping down in exasperation. "I'm an adult!"
The white haired twin rolled her eyes. "You can barely do basic math! How can you look after yourself!"
"I can to do basic math!" The brown haired twin shot back, anger crossing her face.
"Fine. What's five plus five?" The white haired twin asked, crossing her arms.
"Uh, duh, fifty five. Everyone knows that!" The brown haired twin said, crossing her arms.
The white haired twin stared, then sighed. "I still don't know why I let you be my assistant..."
Watching the exchange, was a Vekimen. Strange, given their crew was just squeezed by the military for all their previous Vekimen crew. Five gold bands on his horn, wearing long robes that seemed to be made of metal. His face was dark, almost hollow looking, skin drawn taunt over his skull giving him an undead appearance. He was looking at the twins with no presence of emotion anyone else could identify. He just seemed to be taking them in.
Zahen stood next to Chuan, staring at the three people. "This isn't all of them, but it seems a bunch of ships are without crew. So... I grabbed what I could. The twins are apparently surgeons, and the Vekimen is a twice retired warpriest... Then I talked to two half Vekimen girls who were general labor, their mom who is a marshal, and a guy who was just with them. So we have quite the crew happening right now..." She sighed.
Chuan sighed. "Well, we will make it work. Gotta have hands to mind with winches and such."
"Well, we have no shortage of combat capable crew... Gods forgive whomever tries to attack us," Zahen chuckled, shaking her head.
"Welcome to the Star Traveller. We eat well, but get paid in beans." Chuan said, addressing the newcomers, more a gathering of refugees rather than a group of hardened spacers. At least that was what she was thinking at the moment.
The brown haired woman gasped, putting her hands over her mouth. "Paid in beans?! No wonder you eat so well!" She shouted, looking at Chuan in shock.
"Don't mind her, she's an idiot..." The white haired one followed up, pinching the bridge of her nose. "It's a figure of speech sister, I'm sure they don't actually get paid in beans.
The brown haired twin sighed, dejection clear on her face. "But... They're the magical fruit..."
"Zahen, I have had a long day." Chuan said as she pinched the bridge of her snout. "Would you please show these...crew...to their berthing." Clearly she was hoping for something...more.
Zahen's jaw was working up and down, having witnessed the exchange. Chuan could hear the lizard woman muttering a question to herself. Something along the lines of "How does she even breathe..." before waving a hand. "Alright you two... Come with me," She sighed, leading the two dog ladies away. The Brown haired one continued to lament about the loss of beans and the white haired twin pleaded over and over for her to just shut up.
This, just left Chuan and Daran, the latter having more or less ignored the exchange. Or so it seemed. "There is more to them than you can see, I am sure of it," He said, his voice deep and smooth. His tone deliberate, and his words enunciated carefully. He lacked the loose usage of language Zahen had.
Chuan's eyes instantly tracked to the new speaker. She eyed the Vekimen warily, her hackles rising slightly along the base of her neck. "I assume you are here for passage or work?"
"Either or, really. Something tells me I want to be on this ship. I would appreciate staying as long as you will let me. No need to pay me. I just need food," He stated, standing straight and fully facing the captain. It was oddly cold around him as he got closer, taking several steps in her direction. "Unless, I make you uncomfortable..." He added, tilting his head as if to observe the back of her neck.
Chuan unconsciously rubbed the back of her neck, smoothing her fur. "Certainly not. You will have to make due bunking with the mouse, our current physician, for lack of a better term. Is that acceptable?" Chuan watched her "guest" with a renewed hesitation. She didn't always trust her instincts, but putting him near the most observant and loyal of her crew seemed a wise choice.
"Surprising, but acceptable. I thought you would have had me bunk with the other Vekimen," Daran stated dryly, looking past Chuan and in the direction Zahen left. "Usually people prefer those of our kind in one spot. Though, if it is any consolation, you have my word I will do what I can to not cause trouble. I have a habit of making others worry."
"I am certainly NOT worried, Sir...what was your name? I must have missed it. I am Captain Chuan Yates." Chuan asked as she extended a slightly trembling hand.
"Daran N'Thyva Ist'Laderen," The Vekimen said, taking Chuan's hand firmly. It was ice cold. "And if I don't worry you... Then there won't be a problem then," He added, cracking a slight, toothy smile, not letting go of her right away.
"It may be in your best interest to avoid the cargo crew. They can be a bit rough around the edges and easily enraged. Meals are served every eight bells," Chuan informed Daran, his uncomfortable grip beginning to cause a bit of pain in her hands. "and Atraxians can be voracious eaters."
The comment about the Atraxian's eating habits actually made Daran laugh. "You've clearly never seen a Vekimen eat," He said, the deep chuffing laugh mixed with his voice as he finally let her go.
"You are right about that. I tended to avoid meal times with the previous crew. As well as the current crew. Follow me. I will show you to your berth." Chuan replied, sniffing up her nose.
"Absolutely. Please lead the way," Daran responded, following the fox woman.
Loud footsteps clanged up the gangplank as a strange looking girl walked on board, in an obvious huff. Pale white, rough looking skin, and black hair in somewhat unkept spines not unlike the mane of a Vekimen. Piercing grey eyes burned with anger as she stormed into the cargo hold. "Oh, my, god, I cannot believe it! Why is it that even when I try to get away from you all, you wind up right here?!" She argued, turning around. "How did you even find this ship! There are hundreds of ships in this port!" The girl yelled.
A short blonde haired woman wearing a Marshal's badge and iconic duster tilted her head with obvious amusement written across her face, "The universe does strange things sometimes. Plus, I just go where I'm told to go, kiddo."
"So when will you be told to bug out of my life! Mom to dispatch, can I please get an assignment that doesn't involve ruining my daughters career, gee golly thanks!" The girl mocked, screeching in that oh so typical way.
"Oh would you relax? You mom's doing her best alright?" A male voice chuckled, Joshua walking up the gangplank in turn. "Not her fault you know?"
"I'm not here to ruin your career, I'm just here to continue mine. I'll treat you just like anyone else, at least when I'm on the clock." She promised, "You can call me Marshal Riggs, even. No one has to know that I'm your mommy." The Marshal teased, winking at Joshua as he came into view- hands moving to her hips.
"Seriously, chill out. If anything is going to ruin your career it's the scene you're causing. Deep breaths, 'Agi." Another, similar looking younger woman added in. Unlike the other her hair was blonde and well-kept, and she sported a much more relaxed attitude, "It'll be fine."
"Oh look, the happy little family!" A voice called to the group, a female Vekimen walking up to the group. "I'm Zahen, first mate of the ship, I talked to you all, albeit at different times. Didn't expect you all to be so closely related," She chuckled, looking a Xokagi. "Though, they're right. Chill out a little. Most Vekimen would eat their tails to have their parents give half a damn about them," She winked, causing the teen to huff and cross her arms.
"Sorry about the short notice. We weren't expecting to need a crew so suddenly, at least, not the captain. Kind of new to the route. So, let me guess," Zahen said, looking amongst the group. "Youngest daughter, oldest daughter, mom... Step dad?" The Vekimen asked, pointing at Joshua.
"More like de-facto uncle. Someone's gotta threaten all the young boys with a beating," Joshua chuckled, hefting a pack over his shoulder. "Those two are fine, this is the one I'm most worried about," He added, jabbing Ava in the side playfully.
"Please, I could do all of the ass beating myself- he just likes to help. Old friends, is all. I'm very single." Ava snorted, elbowing Joshua in return, "I wouldn't drag my whole family here on purpose, but it happens...I guess?"
"She totally just wanted to stalk us." The oldest daughter joked.
"Can you like, fire her? please?" The younger added, not sounding like she was joking.
Zahen shook her head and sighed. "Ahhh, family antics. No one's getting fired, stalkerish mom's are cool, and a protective uncle is helpful. We have a few Atraxians and a retired war priest on board. Might need to keep the guys in line with such pretty ladies running around," Zahen smiled, looking over her shoulder. "Speak of a Devil," She said, pointing at another Vekimen walking past carrying a box. One that made Joshua cough loudly.
"Besides, I'm not on their payroll. Who would pass up free security?" Ava added, before the 'devil' being brought up passed. The Marshal's eyes widened for a moment, before her expression returned to (mostly) normal, "Right... Warpriest, I think they'll be fine." It was herself she worried about
"He make you uncomfortable too?" Zahen chuckled. "Yeah, they give me the jeebies, but he seems sociable for a war priest. Just gotta get used to how cold they are to be around," Zahen sighed. "Anyway, I can show y'all all to your quarter," the Vekimen offered, starting to walk away.
"Sounds great to me!" Xoha said with a hint of relief in her voice, she really didn't want to give Xokagi any more chances to bitch.
"I guess..." The younger sister mumbled, following along.
Joshua stayed next to Ava for a moment, before looking at her. "Uh... You going to be alright?"
"Yes. I'll be fine- don't worry. Things have just gotten a little more complicated is all."
"You wanna kick his ass or should I?" Joshua offered.
Daran was walking down the hall on his way to his bunk. They had called lights out a few minutes ago, but as usual he was lagging behind. Sleep alluded him, so he spent most of his time wandering around.
He had been uneasy the last few hours since boarding the ship. The Captain, Chuan, seemed reasonably competent, and the vice captain, Zahen, he knew had to be competent to earn those bands around her horn. It was the taste of the air. It was all too familiar. A familiarity, he knew he was going to need to face.
And it seemed he would have to face that now. There she stood, Ava Riggs. A ghost from his past, and he didn't realize he would feel a tightness in his chest. A feeling he thought was dead long ago. He stopped, looking at the short woman. His face was drawn and tight, and his barred chest showed similar tightness. The black scales that were once bright and brilliant to look at were dull and cracked. His mane was thin, and his eyes were dull, sunken, and lifeless. More noticeably than everything else, as how the air seemed to drop in temperature around him.
Then, a strange, cracked smile formed on his muzzle. More apologetic than in greeting. "I thought you tasted familiar... You never let your hair grow back out," he commented, his voice deep, flat, and gravelly. Nothing like the smooth and almost poetic sounding voice he had in his youth. All in all, it wasn't hard to tell that Daran was in terrible shape.
"Never had the chance, long hair gets in the way." Ava was still in her prime, or at least that's how she presented herself. She still had a hint of that youthful energy, but had an air of experience about her. The boots she wore even added an inch or so onto her height.
Clearly only one of them had aged well over the years.
"I would say you looked the same, but I'd be lying." The blonde woman put no effort into hiding her disappointment- and perhaps a hint of pity, "I...-Well, the Girls are on board. You should talk to them- especially Xokagi. I figured you might want to be the one to let her know who you are."
"It is the price I paid for the powers to protect my people," Daran said, taking an interest in the comment about the girls. "I did not think you would want me to talk to them. The last time we spoke... It did not go very well. To be perfectly honest, I was expecting this conversation to be, stay away from you and the girls, and don't tell them my name or anything they could use to identify me," he sighed, his shoulders slumping.
"Though, if that is not the case, I would enjoy the opportunity to speak with them again. I am also glad you named her Xokagi," he added, Perking upa touch.
"It was a nice name, and you picked it out. They're your kids too." Ava said with a nod, "Xoha is an adult now, and Xokagi wont be far behind once she loses her attitude. Just keep that necromancy shit away from them and we won't have any problems. I've already seen what it's done to you."
"Not all of it does this, but I will do my best. I will not withhold information if they ask me about the other side of their lineage. I could not bring myself to lie to then in such a way," Daran countered, suppressing what seemed to be rough coughing. "If it is any consolation, there is a way to heal me. We just do not know what it is." He said simply.
"I never said anything about lying, I just said keep it away from them. Questions are one thing, that's fine." Ava's brow scrunched up in that sort of 'are you serious?' sort of way, "It isn't. Not even a little."
Ava pinched her nose,Just keep in mind that there's nothing I care about more than my kids."
"I am glad one of us are in the position to say that confidently. I know they deserve more than that. I just..." The alien trailed off, looking away. "I just did not understand that."
"Then do something about it now. I doubt you'll get another chance like this again." Ava suggested.
"How have you been?" Daran asked suddenly, looking at Ava again.
"Busy, but good. Getting shot at a little more frequently than I used to. The coat is nice though."
"Funny. I am getting shot at much less frequently now. I did try coming back, but one potential war turned into a completely different one." Daran said, closing his muzzle and breathing out heavily through his nose. "I'm sorry you had to find out what I was in such a way. You were the last person I wanted to know."
"I shouldn't have been, but don't start apologizing now. There's not much point to it- It's fine. For whatever reason we've been piled onto this ship together, may as well make the most of it." Ava shrugged, "Clean slate for you, but don't abuse it."
"I would not wish to abuse anything in this situation. Though, I feel as if... Never mind," Daran chuckled. "You were never the most interested in religion I remember."
"Not in most. Glad you remembered that." Ava snorted, but in a good natured sort of way.
"Well, we are here. I would enjoy if we could spend some time together again. Regardless of the likely terrible impression I made when I left, I have missed you," Daran offered. "Perhaps catch me up on some of the things I missed?"
"I don't see a reason not to. Let's take a walk around the ship and I'll fill you in. Maybe I can figure out where I'm supposed to be sleeping in the process."
Daran opened up his mouth when she commented on needing a place to stay, then immediately shut his mouth. "Let's go for that walk..."lo
[OOC notes: JP completed by ArsenicJohn , Readlliea, Jabonicus, Bullroarer, Noodles and Edto]
Epsilon Prime System
Nadir Fold Point
After dropping off the Star Lanes dropship and collecting their pay, Chuan transmitted a large sum of funds to two people. The first was Jimmy Sorano, the lein holder on the ship Chuan, as well as another two dozen souls, called home. With the war, or at least conflict, brewing she was able to make six months of payments as well as a little bit towards the principle on the every large note. The other was a mechanical genius, if a little bit of a zealot. She called her self Augury to her congregation, Moonbeam to her friends. Of course, she didn't have any friends other than Chuan that she was aware of. Followers, sycophants, and the like she had plenty. With the funds given to her by the mysterious figures from the The Dragon
, Chuan sent a priority message asking for a favor. The Star Traveller needed an upgrade to increase profitability, as well as allow for more speculative ventures. Those Atraxians were going to earn their keep and then some. They truly were wasted on picking things up and putting them down.
With a full charge needed to get to the secret fold point known only to a few, as well as the discretion both of her remaining fares insisted on, they would be in this system for a few hours, then jump to an uninhabited system only two light years away. Couldn't have the Tainese authorities snooping around. There they would charge for a week before jumping to Reservoir, as it is an old brown dwarf putting off little in the way of energy, comparatively speaking of course.
The cash and goods in the hold would cover the refit and upgrade. Augury had these strange ideas, joining a church called the The Risen Savior or some such nonsense. Chuan personally didn't care what cult Moonbean joined, or how many wives her husband had. All she cared about was how fast she could get the Star Traveller upgraded with a double stack of lithium ion batteries. The Church had recently obtained a star port in Satan's Belt with facilities necessary for the upgrade. According to Moonbeam, the church was growing and expanding in the region of space simply known as the unaligned worlds. With so much unrest and conflict, women from all over were fleeing towards any safety and security they could find. Supposedly, the Church was one such entity providing that safety and security.
Dark figures often came and went from the captains conference room, especially at odd hours of the day and night.
The unnamed passangers, presumably from The Dragon, were clad in dark robes as they stalked the halls. Always in groups of three, they moved from the entry point of the docking collar ring and the conference room. The faster than light communications equipment had an uplink from the conference room, ensuring only those within the room had access to the conversations. The captain could, in theory, eavesdrop from her console on the bridge, but there was no signs of her doing that during her usual duty hours.