A Rough Landing
Mission 1: Gearing Up
Location: Persephone, Warehouse District
The Geronimo streaked towards the warehouse, engines unsteady but holding. As if on cue, the two sections of the roof began opening, creating a landing space for the craft. The engines flared, as the ship shakily began its descent into the bay, landing with a hard thump.
Chin had been nodding off and on for the last couple hours as he waited in silence, but the noise from the roof moving woke him fully, stumbling to his feet on the deck and backing away. He crouched down behind a crate and watched as the ship descended, holding up one arm to block the thruster blast as it came to rest on the deck. Chin had been around space ships before, but never this close and never in a closed bay like this. He was, needless to say, a bit overwhelmed.
He’d been back in the warehouse about an hour, and talked Jonas into playing cards for fun rather than money. Alden didn’t often play for money, it tended to lose him friends and influence all the wrong people when you won against all the odds at just the right financial moment.
At the sound of the ship so close above their position, he’d stood and moved to the side, still holding his hand of cards. A slow smile crossed Alden’s features as the ship dropped down with all the majestic theatre of a learner driver after a night on the town. This lot knew how to make an entrance, it remained to be seen how their little band of three strangers would be received.
“Guess this is our ride,” he said to Jonas, with a lopsided grin and a lazy shrug of his shoulders.
Jonas was about to lay down the best hand he'd had for the last hour, when the roof opened and the ship started to descend. "Well hell, of course it is. Just when I was about to win, too." He laughed and watched it land. "Big ole ship," he said. Their card game was far enough away on some crates that the thruster blast didn't bother them or blow the cards all over the place. "Should be an interesting meet-up, though. Someone else promises us a place on a ship that we ain't seen with a Captain we ain't met. Presents it'self as kind of an odd feelin'."
Chin had backed away further from his sleeping crate, closer to Alden and Jonas. He stopped near them, but remained quiet. he considered the words from Jonas, thinking them through.
It was a big ship, that was for sure. Alden let his gaze track back to Jonas and nodded. "Yeah, first time for me too," he admitted. "Usually it's the Captain doing the asking. And less skullduggery until at least everyone's set eyes on each other. Fixing to make things more interestin' and likely more complicated." He shifted the cards to his left hand and checked his sidearm with his right. "I'm not saying they're gonna, but if it was us in their position, I'd be coming out armed."
"Mmmm," mused Jonas. "That's a big probably. I fold." He put his cards down and moved to another crate. After sitting, he placed his sawed-off shotgun across his legs. "Let's see what happens."
Chin suddenly became nervous. There were so many uncertainties. To help him feel better, he began to touch each of his weapons, visible and hidden in his clothing, confirming that they were in place and ready for use. Not that he wanted to hurt anyone, but it did give him some security to know that he was ready as was typical for him.
He watched his companions - strangers both of them - ready themselves for the unknown and Alden took a good strong breath. In. Out. Then, his cards abandoned atop Jonas' own, Alden strode across the warehouse floor. The unhappy sounds from the walkabout's descent made him sure that the ship was landed for a bit, and he was curious. He walked directly on up, right hand holding his lowered sidearm ready, and with his left, Alden knocked heavily on the main hatch. "You alright in there?" He hollered with a lazy confidence.
== Geronimo ==
In the engine room, Max was sweating. The ship had shook and juddered it's way down to a pretty rough landing and he'd spent the entire descent coaxing and babying the engines. As soon as the landing was complete and the thrusters had shut down, he had slid himself under the hot drive to finish the temporary repair he'd ad-hoc'd.
Clayton, once the ship landed, made his way down to the engine room. He gave the kid a curt nod. "Make a list of what you need to properly fix the damage. I'll see what I can do. Not bad work."
Under the engine block, Max grinned. He'd had little hope of staying on the ship, let alone sliding into the mechanic's job but it looked like things were working out after all, against all the odds. "I'll get it to you in twenty, captain." Was his reply.
Clayton merely nodded before turning on his heel and retreating.
Maybe, just maybe, Ayla should have asked or at least been nice enough herself to move Tobias to a room and locked him inside, maybe. But from her person atop one of the unopened crates, seeing him still tied, shoe-less to the stairs was quite appealing. He had after all been up to no good on her, hopefully, new home.
Tobias turned to her, eyes glinting with motivation. "You know what that tile means, right? You know it wouldn't be a good idea to have me handcuffed when that ramp opens."
Blue eyes regarded him with interest. The Captain wasn't willing to talk about the tile, but would Tobias? Ayla tapped her thumb against the butt of her pistol, she was never not going to be without it again. "Ain't too keen on good ideas." But he was just going to stay tied up unless Stanton said otherwise. Ayle pulled the piece of ivory from her pocket, giving it a good assessing gander, "Why don't you jus' tell me what it means?"
Tobias merely flashed her a glance. "Why, that would not be my place. But I am sure you can surmise based on the information you've gleaned thus far. And the fact that if I had been the one to sabotage the ship, I would have gotten away with it."
Ayla shrugged, re-pocketing the tile as she let his words rattle around in her head. He sure talked all funny-like. Truthfully, she hadn't...gleaned very much. But it didn't right matter too much either. "Well, then...Guess I ain't gonna be givin' ya those fancy shoes back then. And, that's a mighty big ego ya got there...did use meddlin' folk mess things up for ya?"
He merely rolled his eyes. "You are but a small annoyance. It shall be clear to you eventually. Or not."
A smile started slow on her face, widening and bringing a strange sort of twinkle to her blue eyes at his words. Well, the first statement mainly. She could be more annoying and the concept was highly, highly tempting. "Well," Ayla's drawl drew the word out, "Ain't that just the sweetest compliment."
The ship’s rough landing, caused her to slide and thump down clumsily from the crate. “Ta Da Muh…” She muttered. They definitely needed a gorram pilot.
As the ship closed in for a landing, Moira worked in the infirmary on the unconscious female passenger, all while silently dreading what was going to come. She wouldn't be able to hide the fact that she was a doctor any longer, would she... but she wasn't willing to do anything less than her best work on this woman, even if this patient was probably an enemy. Still... what would happen? They'd start asking questions, and Moira wasn't sure she had answers to them all - not even for her own questions.
Moira swore as the ship shook with a rough landing, grabbing onto a cabinet to steady herself. She sighed, leaning down to pick up some fallen tools. What have I gotten myself into she thought to herself. But it's... it's worth it, right? For a new life...
The Geronimo's ramp opened with a groan, depositing the captain onto the floor of the warehouse. Glancing around, he spotted the awaiting mercenaries. His hand immediately hovered over his gun, though he kept his voice calm.
"Evening, gentlemen. Something I can help you with?"
Feeling slightly hesitant, Chin said nothing, glancing cautiously at the other two that had been waiting with him for the ship to arrive. The young oriental did feel that Alden had been quite bold, just seconds ago, to pound on the hull of an unknown ship. That was certainly not something he would do. Chin swallowed nervously.
At the sound of the ramp moving, Alden had stepped back enough to be seen by whoever appeared next. His right hand rested in the air just above his holstered Model B, but a lopsided smile accompanied his relaxed stance that suggested a distinct lack of concern or fear for his current position.
"Well," he said with a lazy drawl. "I can't speak for these folks," his left thumb jabbed back in the direction of Jonas and Chin. "But I was told to wait here for an investment opportunity." Alden's smile broadened into an amused grin. "And judging by the sounds of your engines, I'd say said person wasn't lying. I can fly, I can shoot and I'm pretty," he said with a self-effacing chuckle. "And I ain't in any particular trouble."
Alden shrugged nonchalantly and let his gaze lock confidently with Stanton's. "Not interested, no problem, but my money's as good as anyone else's," he offered. "References wise, feel free to look me up on the Cortex, name's Alden Loxley."
"Hey, captain," Max said cheerfully as he walked into the cargo bay from the rear and saw the man standing at the ramp, "I got the list of... oh." He stopped, seeing the men standing outside - the idea that one of them would replace him popped into his head, but he continued anyways. "I got the list, shouldn't take more'n half an hour to change out what's burned out once we get the stuff."
Jonas stowed his shotgun when the ramp started to lower. If there was bad business to be had, he could get to it quick enough. He took a quick glance to the Chinese kid that had stayed back and then picked up his bag and pack. He slowly walked near to the ramp, but stayed far enough away to move quickly if need be. "Jonas Barstow. I'm lookin' to get off Persephone. Been here since I was a teenager and know most of the nooks and crannies." Or crooks and nannies. "Time to go learn some more somewhere else." He still had the majority of the payment from that last job and had picked up some more fresh peaches and mangoes; which he'd kept from the others for such a time as this. He shook the pack a little harder than normal so as to jingle what coinage there was...for Clayton's benefit. "I can pay if you got the space. He slowly reached in, hoping to not startle the captain, and pulled out a mango. "Got some peaches, too."
Not wanting to be left out, Chin finally got up the courage, and the overall desire to get off this rock, to step forward next to Jonas and speak for himself. “I too am desiring passage off Persephone. I can pay,” sounding confidently. “But as Mr. Loxley stated, We were waiting here for an opportunity. I understood that to mean you might be hiring crew as well.” He then realised that his comment was not a question, but more of a statement. He tried to stand confidently, but his mind was still considering all of the ramifications.
The knock had been a bit unexpected, but it hardly compared to the past twenty-four hours or the sight that presented itself once the Captain lowered the ramp. That was such an odd sight and certainly unexpected. It was also a bit curious. It was the voices the drew her attention away from Tobias, her hand edging over to rest on the butt of her pistol as she leaned back against one of the crates. It wasn't the best position to take, but it kept her within range of both of the current situations. Three men waiting there for them after what they had just gone through? Yeah....But, mangoes and peaches. Just the thought made her mouth water.
Clayton seemingly froze for several seconds, wheels churning in his head. He hadn't broadwaved the Geronimo's location to anyone, including his clients. So how exactly did this crew know where to find them was quite concerning. He was willing to test a hypothesis, however.
"Let me guess. A man cloaked in shadow...a Benefactor, as it were, told you where to find us?"
"Cloaked in shadow, huh." Jonas chuckled. "Does he have a weird laugh and tell you that he knows all kinds of evil that hides in your heart, too? Like I said, been here since I was a teenager. Bein' raised up on Eavesdown Docks all these years, a man learns a few things. Like that ships dock in one of two places, the regular docking area out there and warehouses. Most people lookin' to get off Persephone look out there. I figure my chances are better in a warehouse...less competition. Or so I thought." He gestured towards Chin and then towards Alden. "Still, two beats twenty any day. So I picked one and hoped for the best. Guess this was my lucky day."
Alden stepped back, hand clear and away from his holster and strolled lazily in the direction of his pack. He hoisted it up onto his shoulders and adjusted the guitar while Jonas spoke, giving himself time to think. Benefactor. Creepy eye. And this Captain who appeared to know all about him. He could say something, but that forfeited Jonas and Chin's paydays too. Alden wasn't intending to take money or opportunity away from others, not when everyone was a stranger.
"Mebbe I'll go compete at the docks," Alden said with a shrug. "Already got my butt kicked twice since I got here... not aiming for round three before I even get off this rock."
Max didn't like the tension building in the room, his eyes shifted from the captain to the three strangers and he wished, not for the first time on this trip, that he had some kind of weapon, just so he didn't feel so... vulnerable. Instead, he took a few steps to the side, getting a bit closer to Ayla.
Chin found this all quite bizarre. It seemed to him that so much was going unsaid, yet he knew he needed to speak for himself. But yet again, the Man in Red had given them a warning. Chin was hesitant of what he could say or chose to say. All this dashed through his mind as his eyes followed the conversation before him. Taking a step forward the young oriental man finally spoke up, “It is true that we were informed of your . . arrival.” There was no hesitation before the question, “Do you have room for passengers?”
Jonas jerked his head back to Chin. What happened to our instructions about not saying a word? About our jobs being secured? Did this kid know anything about cover stories? If he's a mercenary, god help us all. I don't stand a chance in gorram hell of gettin' on board now. Let alone gettin' paid, he thought to himself. Jonas' eyes narrowed at Chin before turning back to the Captain standing on the ramp. "You know, I can find work someplace else and another ship easily enough. Galaxy's full of ships and people from all walks of life. Good luck." With that, Jonas Barstow headed for the door, hand on the handle of his pistol. It'd take a miracle for him or Alden to get a place on that ship now. And even if they did, he hoped to hell that the little weasel that threw them under the freighter and cost them a major payday wouldn't be there. Times would not be good.
Trust. Ability to keep a secret. These were essentials for continued survival in the Verse in the pilot's humble opinion. There were no words that Alden could summon up that he felt like uttering right now, so he let his gaze meet Jonas' own in a moment of silent, mutual agreement. Then he fell into step alongside the big twisted-hair guy.
Ayla gave Max a quick pat on the shoulder before moving past the young man to edge closer to the Captain and the situation. Was it normal for people to be waiting for a ship to land? They all did have bags like their stories were legit, but something felt off. One was almost too eager, given what they had been through the past twelve hours and then there were the other two. "We gonna just let mangoes and peaches walk out?"
"No, Ms. Seton, I don't believe we will," a voice echoed through the warehouse. From seemingly out of thin air, the fancily-clad Benefactor appeared, stepping just into view, lighting obscuring his more identifying features. Plainly visible on his face, however, was a deep-set scowl.
He took a moment, pinching the bridge of his nose with a thumb and finger. After a heavy sigh, he turned his gaze to the departing duo. "Mr. Loxley, Mr. Barstow, you've proven yourselves capable of completing the task set before you. Captain Stanton, these two will be your associates for the task at hand."
He turned his gaze next towards Chin, scowl deepening. "You, however, Mr. Yee, have failed this particular test, and rather quickly, I might add. Your services are no longer required. You are excused."
Finally, he turned his gaze to the duo on the ramp. "Ms. Seton, Captain Stanton, I'd kindly request that you assemble your crew. You have quite the task ahead of you, and I'd like to get started. Oh, and while you're at it, kindly free Mr. Sinclair from his restraints? While subtlety is not his forte, he is rather useful to me."
Chin had backed up a few paces slowly. He stood confused, looking at all the individuals before him. He didn’t understand how he had failed this guy’s test. He hadn’t agreed to anyone’s control over his life or how or when he would lie to anyone. A deep angry sigh was released slowly by Chin before speaking, “I will admit, that I do not understand what is taking place here. Yet, I feel that manipulations and lies abound around me.” Looking directly at Clayton, “But Captain, I am seeking passage off this rock, and you had been recommended by name. I can find that transport with you or someone else.” His eyes shifted quickly to the others before returning to Clayton. “It’s your choice.”
Ayla almost didn't believe what she was seeing, that Mr. fancy-pants was here. Figured. Keeping her gun hand free she shoved the other into her pocket to lightly touch the tile she still had and tossed a quick glance around at all the men before her blue gaze landed on the Captain. It was his orders to free Tobias that she would follow.
Clayton stood there, motionless and silent, for what seemed like an eternity. Each passing second seemed only to add to the pile of tension building within the warehouse. He looked each man over, the two departing mercenaries first, then the one referred to as Mr. Yee, then the Benefactor.
After several moments, Clayton spoke, the calm tone of his voice echoing through the warehouse. "A funny thing there, you mentioning choice. Doesn't seem like very much of this is a choice, is it?" He snapped out of his moment of reverie, steel entering his voice. "I seem to be rather in the dark, here, but mistrust is rather universal. If the sketchiest person in the room doesn't seem to trust you, I think I'm going to follow that instinct. Find another ride."
Chin hesitantly backed away a couple more steps. He still didn’t understand what was taking place here. He realized that he must have said the wrong thing somehow, but this was no place for an argument. If this wasn’t going to be his ride, then leaving was the best thing for him.
He turned his gaze to the two men. "Mercenaries willing to walk away from a job...intriguing. It seems fate, or that guy", he said, pointing to the shadowed figure, "has brought us to this point. Might as well continue in that vein."
Jonas paused when he heard his name called in the familiar voice of Fancy Pants. The whole exchange between Stanton and Fancy Pants was interesting to watch. But when Stanton addressed them, he turned around. "I'd bet there's a lot intriguing things you could learn about us. Whether it was fate or fate's handmaiden, let's roll with it. And I'll still toss in the mangoes and peaches." He looked over to Alden and grinned. "How about it, Rodeo?"
Anyone watching his face could follow Alden's emotions as they played out in a theatre of overt expression. His gaze hit Jonas' first as he stood,regarding neither the ship or the exit. His nose wrinkled up then his entire face screwed in a moment of clear decision trauma. The people on the ship were immaterial right now, he didn't know them. The oriental stranger had been taken out of the equation. And the Benefactor? Whatever his intentions were, they were now out in the open, at least a little. It seemed the universal balance had tipped in their favour, and Alden noticed details like those. They'd helped him navigate the myriad dangers that had been thrown at him thus far in his existence.
"I don't trust Fate," Alden said. "Lady Luck's been rolling my dice." He shrugged, and mirrored the other man's broad smile. "Yeah, okay. Sure, ya big Fruit Bat." A firm nod, and he turned towards the Geronimo to see what the Captain made of all this.
The Benefactor merely smiled. "I'll leave you to your machinations, Captain. You should have the details of your first...assignment on your Cortex panel. Best of luck." And with that, the man turned on his heel, seemingly taking a handful of steps before the darkness in the warehouse swallowed his profile entirely.
Clayton merely stood there, head reeling. "Jing tsai (brilliant)", he exclaimed, sarcasm dripping from his voice.
After the ‘Man in Red’ left them, Chin felt that there was no further reason for waiting. Without another word, the Oriental man took another slow step backward, turned, and walked cautiously toward the warehouse door, listening intently as he went for any sound to fear. His eyes darted from one side to the other, hoping not to see any sign of aggression, his direction.
Max stood at the back of the cargo bay and frowned, it seemed from his point of view that the Geronimo and her crew were mixed up in some serious Mi Tian Gohn (shit) with some extremely shady people. The situation seemed to be more complicated than it appeared. For a moment, while everyone was silently watching the Oriental guy leave, Max debated internally over what to do. Speaking up was probably not a good idea, though curiosity drove him towards it. Who was the guy in red? Who were these guys coming aboard? And just what the hell was going on? Did he really want to be mixed up with whatever was happening here? But a job was a job and it seemed like he'd tentatively landed one, and giving that up would hurt, a lot. Not to mention the severe impact on his chances of survival. He had, for the moment, a roof over his head, access to food and medicine and a crew. Was that worth getting mixed up in whatever Stanton was involved in? The obvious answer was yes, but his street instincts, that familiar voice that spoke to him in his mind's eye, warned him of the danger that lay ahead.
All of this ran through Max's head as he stood, frowning down at the list of parts he'd put together for the captain... until he couldn't resist the allure of curiosity any longer. "Uh... who was that?" He asked hesitantly, aware that the captain might not like the question very much.
Clayton shrugged. "I don't rightly know. Seems to have plenty of strings to pull, though." He paused, sighing. "I have an account here on Persephone. Go on your supply run, grab us what we need. Feel free to take someone with you. Then get your ass back here, looks like we're going to have a job shortly.
"All right!" Max grinned, questions forgotten as the prospect of A) getting out and seeing somewhere new and B) shopping on someone else's credit for shiny parts dislodged most all other thought. He wondered who he should take with him. Who was there on the ship that he knew, well enough to trust and the only name that came up was Moira, his impromptu roommate, if you could call a pair of bunks in a corridor a room. He set off at a jog for the infirmary, intent on grabbing the woman and immediately heading out.
He then turned to the two gentlemen. "Looks like the three of us need to have a conversation. Let's get to it."
Alden looked to Jonas, then allowed his gaze to wander back definitively to Captain Stanton. He caught a quick glance over the skinny kid, the smouldering female and someone else in the background en route, but Alden's main attention remained on Clayton.
"Out here," he said. "Or in there?"
"Well then, a conversation it is," said Jonas. "Like he said, you want to talk out here or you got a place inside there?"
Clayton merely glanced over his shoulder, then looked back at them. Cocking his head, he indicated towards the ship.
With a hitch of his pack upwards for comfort, Alden offered Jonas a wry grin, shrugged and put long confident strides into officially boarding the ship. "Good to meet you, Captain," Alden said, and offered his hand to Stanton for a firm shake. His gaze scanned the others present, his entire demeanour relaxed and comfortable. No one here was trying to kill him. Yet, anyway.
Jonas hefted his shoulder pack into a better position and switched hands with the large green bag. He followed Alden up the ramp, with a nod to Clayton as he passed by. "Cap'n," he said.