Mission 1: Gearing Up
Location: Eavesdown Docks, Persephone
Timeline: After 'A Rough Landing' and 'Inheritance and Ashes'
Margaret's driver looked at Kindra in the rearview mirror. "This is the location, Ma'am. Are you… are you sure?"
Never before had Kindra been anywhere near this part of Eavesdown Docks. Warehouses, stacked crates, and detritus. A far cry from where passengers boarded the cruise liners.
No would be the truthful answer. The Benefactor, whoever he was, had offered a reasonable solution to her predicament. "Yes. Let me out here."
As the car drove away, Kindra approached the warehouse doors, pulling her suitcase behind her. She'd said goodbye to Margaret and left the Buccleuch townhouse right after receiving the Benefactor's message, and she still wore the white suit, red blouse, and red accessories. Clearly she was overdressed for her surroundings. Or underdressed - lacking a sidearm.
Kindra stepped through the Warehouse door and gasped, her gaze held by the sight of the ship.
The Walkabout-class transport sat in the hanger, dimly lit by the light panels overhead. It appeared to have a permanent shadow cast over about it, the mood lighting only seeming to add to its enigmatic charm.
Clayton was the sole person visible at the moment, transferring some supplies from the floor of the warehouse into the ship itself. It took him a trip or two to notice the person in the doorway, despite the gasp. He fought his immediate instinct, hand merely hovering over the holster on his thigh, as opposed to drawing and shooting.
Cautiously, aware of the past day's events, he called out. "Can I help you?"
The deep voice drew Kindra's attention and she regarded the man uncertainly. She had thought she was expected - that someone would be there to meet her. But recalling the actual wording of the Benefactor's message, Kindra realized she had assumed. To her eyes this man appeared to be on edge, and certainly not welcoming. "I'm looking for a man by the name of Clayton Stanton, captain of the Geronimo."
Clayton stood up straight at the mention of his name. The number of strangers that knew both his name and his ship was way too high for a single day. Was this yet another person sent by the Benefactor? Or did someone reveal the ship's location? Either way, this needed to be dealt with.
"You're looking at him," was his only reply.
Something was off, but what? It was as though they were both on tenterhooks. Maybe… this introduction was some kind of test. She gave him a reassuring smile and said, "Please forgive me Captain Stanton, I should have introduced myself. My name is Kindra Graham." She walked toward him graciously, hand outstretched to shake his hand. "Companion Kindra Graham."
Clayton's nerves were still on edge, and while people knowing his name was simply a part of the business, something felt off about this whole exchange. Instead of taking the proffered hand, he simply nodded. "A Companion. What can I do for you." It was said as a statement, not a question.
She withdrew her hand. Folding it loosely with the other in front of her, Kindra willed her muscles to relax. She must appear serene and in control of her situation, even if she clearly was not.
"I received a message through the companion registry, suggesting a mutually beneficial business arrangement. I would lease your shuttle, which would provide me with independent transportation, living and working space. Association with a registered companion would lend you a degree of respectability that could open doors to a wider marketplace." She hesitated, then added, "I take it the Benefactor is not your alias?"
Upon hearing the alias yet again, he let out a sigh, subconscious and heavy. This gorram person was getting under his skin. Somehow, the man had found out about Kat's departure, and had seen fit to send a replacement post-haste.
Instead, he replied calmly, voice even and dull. "We had a Companion. Young, wanted to get her way. Threw a temper tantrum. Why should I assume you'd be any better?"
He began lifting the box at his feet, before pausing, holding it at about waist level. "No, I'm not the Benefactor."
Kindra folded her arms. This man was rapidly climbing his way to the most irritating person she'd ever dealt with. She could think of a few reasons a companion would react in what might be construed as a temper tantrum for not getting her 'way,' reasons that would send Kindra herself running even if it meant facing James' wrath. But her instincts told her Stanton wasn't that type.
"Well, that was right unprofessional of your last companion to behave in such an unseemly fashion. One wonders what could have transpired to rouse her to such behavior," said Kindra wryly, allowing her polite companion mask to slip. "Fortunately for our potential business arrangement I have a high tolerance for taciturn captains with poor manners. And if I do feel the need for a temper tantrum, I'll schedule it with a client who will appreciate the experience."
She paused to consider the entire situation. "Do you mean to say this Benefactor person invited me here without your consent?"
Clayton shrugged, a difficult task to accomplish while holding a heavy crate. "Picked her up on Albion. The entire planet has an air of arrogance washed over it. I presume it was that." He paused, reflecting for a moment.
"This isn't the first time the Benefactor has sent crew without my knowledge or consent. Probably won't be the last. I'd like to think I've gotten used to it at this point." He set the crate on the ramp, before turning. "You'll get no issues from me. Your business is yours, and the ship's is mine. Standard rental rates acceptable to you?"
"Jiàn tā de guǐ (damnit)." Her arms dropped to her sides in fists. "That's not right. Captain Stanton, given the choice I would never conduct business without the informed consent of all parties involved." But just now, she was bereft of choices. In a few days Walter's will would be read into the public record, and she needed to be out of James' reach. She took a deep breath. "Standard rates. Yes, I accept. Where is Geronimo headed?"
He merely shrugged. "It is, what it is. And good. We've got a job out on Freya. Red Sun system. Though once we have the cargo, we're headed right back here."
Kindra gave a slow nod. Freya, she recalled, was a moon of Brisingamen… then a return to Persephone. That would give her some time to work out a solution to her problem. And meanwhile, new and interesting clients. "Thank you, Captain. Please let me know when you determine the dates of Geronimo's time on Freya, so I can arrange appointments. And if you'd like my assistance as an ambassador, don't hesitate to ask."
Clayton nodded. "I will let you know as soon as I have them. And I will keep that in mind," he concluded, a slight dismissive tone in his voice. While Companions were useful to have around, they often came with their own set of problems.