Off the Ground
Mission 1: Gearing Up
Location: Cockpit, Deck 3
Timeline: Directly following "Let's Get Down to Business"
As the group in the dining area dispersed, Clayton gestured to Alden with a nod, beckoning him to follow. Without a further word, he made his way to the port stairs, descending quickly. Not looking behind him, he continued to the center of the second deck, descending another staircase into the cockpit module.
The corridor was narrow, with small doors on either side leading to windowed observation rooms. While the view wasn't spectacular at the moment, it was a sight to behold when in hard burn, seeing the galaxy streak by through the large windows. However, that wasn't his objective at the moment.
Continuing down the hall, the corridor opened up into a larger room, almost oval in shape. To port and starboard there were two stations, with a Cortex panel and ship system controls. From there, the engine room could be monitored, the cargo bay doors opened, or even certain areas depressurized. However, the main event was two chairs, right at the front of the room.
Despite the relative age of the craft, the cockpit chairs were fairly modern, a sign that someone had been caring for the craft quite well. The consoles were free of dust or grime, with nary a spare piece of paper adorning them. Clean. Efficient. Cold.
Once reaching the cockpit, Clayton glanced behind him, hoping that the man hadn't gotten lost. "So, you know how to fly this thing?"
He hadn't. Gotten lost. But this was far from the first ship that Alden had been persuaded to fly on short notice and with no real reason to say yes. Here and now, following the virtually silent and definitely not particularly friendly Captain Stanton, he paid particularly special attention to every step, every bulkhead and every change in the deck. Never knew when a person might need to navigate this route in the dark, half-asleep and with an infinite sense of urgency, so it paid to note the details.
So yeah, Alden was slow in joining his new employer on the bridge, but he'd been thorough in his study of their pathway.
Fairly typical Walkabout layout, no adornings, posters, nicknacks or signs of any personalisation whatsoever. So, Alden mused, either Stanton had no interest in such fancy additions to his functioning ship, or this was newly acquired. Didn't really matter which, since he had no pieces of art or lucky talismans to employ here either.
Place was clean, chairs looked comfortable... Alden didn't make a show of looking too closely, but he did wander past Clayton to take a seat and study the station for a moment. Main engines. Thrusters. Controls. He took the yoke in his hands and felt the give and take of the position, closed his eyes and reached out for the buttons he'd need, the levers he'd rely on when trouble demanded. Each fell into place with a comforting ease, and Alden smiled as he opened his eyes but maintained a forward gaze as he finally spoke.
"Yeah," he answered. "I can fly her. What's the pay like?"
Clayton smirked and shrugged behind Alden, before realizing that those actions weren't visible. "Base pay's competitive enough. Beyond that, it really depends on whatever we're being sent to pick up. Figure if it's sensitive or valuable, we'll all get a bonus."
Clayton paused, giving the man a once over, noticing his posture, the way he navigated the buttons and controls. A small piece of a puzzle clicked into place, prompting a statement. "You're not Alliance trained. Flight school, or on the job?"
Alden listened to the other man speak, while allowing his own gaze to seek patterns off through the main windows. There was nothing but warehouse out there, and beyond that the mixed fortunes of Persephone. Good riddance, he thought, as he let his thumbs slip into the comfort zone of those hard curves.
Hullo girl. He told the Geronimo privately via the medium of an imaginary telepathy that surely wasn't possible with animate objects. Don't worry, I gotcha. We're gonna be just fine, you and me.
Clayton was saying something about cargo dependant pay and potential bonuses, words that carried enough sensibility for Alden to feel at least a little appreciated. He let the Captain look, take his time, and he turned round only when the question came. It was only fair, Alden thought, to let a man study the person who'd be flying his baby girl.
"I'm not, no," Alden fessed up right off the bat. "I grew up with ships and ranching, 50/50 split. But my head was always up in the black, so my papa took pity on me and schooled me some. Said I took after him, still left me behind though." He'd known why, but Niska hadn't been a good enough excuse for the younger Alden. Still wasn't now.
"So, yeah," he added, locking his gaze with Clayton's own. "I learned on the job."
Clayton raised an eyebrow at the information. He knew he had struck upon the correct insight, but there seemed to be so much behind it. Resentment, perhaps? He felt the gaze upon him turn cold, but kept his own expression neutral. Whatever the man's issues, they were his business...until they weren't. But they'd cross that bridge if and when it arrived.
He merely gave the pilot a small nod of acknowledgement. "I'd imagine you'd be quite familiar with cargo haulers and transports, then. Made your way in from the 'Rim. Don't have a bounty on you, do you?"
He didn't give much away, Alden considered, this Captain Stanton. Probably made him a wiser man than his new pilot, and that thought mustered up a wry smile, unbidden yet honest. He noted the nod, and wondered what unspoken questions were rattling about in that private head.
Didn't matter. He was here now, they were locked into at least a temporary agreement.
"I am, and I did, yes," Alden answered, simply. "And no, I don't." A waggle of a wayward palm and a nonchalant shrug preceded a qualification. "Owe a few debts, but no major flags in the Core, don't worry. Using my own real name and everything." He paused, leant back and tested how far the big comfy chair would go.
"You landed her, right?" Alden asked then. "Took skill to get her down safely, confined space, guns running free and engine issues." He raised an eyebrow and flashed a quick smile. "Alliance trained?"
"I started out young, learned from an individual. And yes, I did land it here." His statement was technically correct, the best kind. And all that Alden was going to get out of him.
"I am glad to hear that there won't be any bounty hunters on our tail. I'd imagine that would make our work a little more difficult." He frowned slightly, as the man began reclining in the cockpit chair. While not inherently bad, it was quite the casual move.
"Uh-huh," noted Alden with a wrinkle of his nose. "That's a real generic kinda description there, Captain." Course, Clayton's private life was just that, but not stating either way just implied that back in the man's past lurked something nefarious.
"So, just the mysterious robot-eyed fella to worry about then?" Alden threw the question back with a flicker up on an eyebrow, and, simply out of friendly spite for the lack of any return information, he rested his boots up on the console and smiled. "Not gonna tell me nuthin' about him either, are ya?"
Clayton merely shrugged in response. "You know as much as I do. A man with a certain amount of leverage, wants us for a job. There are worse ways to live. I don't particularly like the mystery, but I'm not in a position to challenge it. How about you?"
Alden shrugged. "I could challenge it, sure. But there was a certain implication from said individual that challenges would be bad for all parties. And his request was fairly minor, all things considered." He let that drop then, since clearly the Captain didn't want (or didn't know) any more information in that regard. Alden looked upwards, referencing the ship herself. "So, does she need repairs? No offense, but I don't want to die out there."
Clayton nodded. "Exactly. Possible, but not worth the effort at this point." He followed Alden's gaze, before responding. "The secondary buffer panel was a bit shaky on the way down, but I was assured that it was taken care of. Our mechanic has assured me that there should be no issues."
A gentle rub of his bandaged arm. A slow exhale. Yeah, there'd been enough trouble behind them on this planet, no sense in expending more effort on a pointless crusade when they didn't even know which direction to aim the shots.
"Agreed," Alden said, then focused back on Clayton. "Just the secondary buffer?" He double-checked. "Sounded like you had some stabliser issues, maybe a bit of grinding from your thermal pressurizer?" A flash of a genuine grin followed. "But I spoke to your engineer earlier, and for all his youth, he does sound like he has the knack."
Clayton raised an eyebrow. "Funny, he neglected to mention those particular issues. I assume he assured you that things were in working order?"
He was slightly impressed. Alden clearly had done his homework, and wasn't just tagging along. More homework than Clayton had done, it seemed. The distance he maintained felt necessary,and on the whole seemed to work. However, it did mean he missed some opportunities. Whether or not that was worth the trade-off remained to be seen.
Alden frowned even as the other man's eyebrow raised. He knew for sure it was growing up out on the rim that had made him more cautious than most, that plus personal history, but he couldn't quite fathom out Stanton's stance in all this. Maybe he simply placed all his trust in this regard on his engineer? Dangerous assumption, with no double check, but that was of course just his personal preference.
"He did," Alden confirmed simply, and kept his opinion to himself for once. No sense in upsetting the cordial relationship they were currently both enjoying, never knew how long these things would last. After all, the last guy who had hired him had left him on Persephone without a word of thanks or farewell.
"So, who sits there?" Geronimo's new pilot asked, as he pointed at the seat just across from his own.
Clayton glanced at the seat, seemingly identical to the one Alden currently found himself in. "In most situations, no one. This isn't really a craft that requires a lot of tandem flying, in my experience. However, if so needed, you'll have my assistance. Particularly for some of my more regular contacts, their docking and landing requirements can be quite...stringent."
He watched the other man look to the seat in question and waited patiently, then nodded amicably at Clayton's first statement. "Agreed," Alden noted. "Walkabouts are usually well-behaved." But then he wasn't sure how to take the next, apparently cutting assessment, so considered the Captain's words for a moment in silence.
Opting once again for benevolence, Alden finally spoke again. "Sure," he said, though the light frown creasing his brow suggested dissention in the ranks, his tone was level and calm. "Assistance is sometimes appreciated too," he half-lied. "We talking pirouettes and somersaults or smoke signal trails here?" He couldn't resist asking, even as he looked away from Clayton now, even as his hands fell into familiar positions on the controls before him.
"And..." Alden's smile was evident in his tone even though he didn't turn back to face the ship's owner. "When we leaving?"
Clayton smirked. "The kind that would blow us out of the sky if they don't see me in the cockpit. Mostly because they fear Reavers above all else."
Glancing back towards the rest of the ship, he shrugs. "As soon as everything is loaded up. So ideally, quite soon."
There was a chuckle and Alden looked up at Clayton, eyes bright. "Reavers," he joked, "would just end you, stuff you and leave you in the chair if they knew that." He grinned. "But don't worry, secret's safe with me."
He followed the Captain's gaze then and added. "I'll get myself acquainted with your girl then, unless you need help with the loading?"
Clayton merely raised an eyebrow at the comment. Either Alden hadn't had an altercation with Reavers, or his sense of humor was that morbid. Either way, something to dig into later. But not now. "No, I'll take care of it. Get acquainted, then get pre-launch started."
The silence lingered for a long moment as Alden wondered exactly how to read it whilst avoiding offering up any further insight into his Reaver-based experience (or lack thereof).
"Aye aye, Captain," Alden noted smartly, and he turned back to fondle the Geronimo's controls, eyes now closed, mind focused. "Di Di," he spoke over the comm to engineering. "I'm starting pre-launch checks..."