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Messages - Mattie Rooney

1
Mattie stayed silent as she watched Rian's flight, aside from her somewhat unladylike chewing, and even that was quieter than usual given the atmosphere of concentration and bated breaths in the cockpit. She found her mind wandering back to her days on the Crane Maiden, days that were far behind her in terms of years but apparently still closer to her than she'd like in some ways.

"I'm just a stupid ruttin' farm girl. I ain't no good for nothin' but pickin' corn." Her cheeks burning with frustration. Georgie trying to comfort her after her outburst, doing his best to assure her that she'd get the hang of things eventually, when she herself knew it was pointless and she'd never be useful in the engine room, let alone the cockpit...

...Although, watching Rian fumble around with the controls until the ship started turning upside down, even she didn't remember being quite this bad. Could it be that she'd gotten discouraged too easily back then?

"Ahhh..... Okay..." At Rian's dejection, Tabby jumped in, all smiles and motherly words of encouragement. If she was a carrot, it was a carrot dipped in honey and sprinkled with fairy dust. Things that were far out of Mattie's ballpark.

Well, if Rian wanted her to play the stick to Tabby's sugared carrot, so be it. Mattie tucked the half-eaten cookie between her teeth, leaving one of her hands free while the other one still gripped the mug of tea. With an almost professional level of control and precision, she delivered one nice, firm smack to the back of Rian's head; not hard enough to leave a mark or even really hurt him, but still hard enough to be felt.
2
The Darling IC / Re: S1:Ep5 - Life from Red Clay
April 06, 2021, 10:31:42 AM
Mattie helped herself to a seat at the table as far away from the captain as possible. It wasn't an act of cowardice, at least she didn't like to think of it that way. It was just how she was. When there was a problem, she liked to put some distance between it and herself, assess it from afar. Maybe it was a sniper thing. Or maybe she was just making excuses.

Nah. Totally a sniper thing.

She stared at the captain from under a furrowed brow; he seemed to be unaware of her eyes on him, unaware of anything that was going on around him for that matter. When Rian placed a bowl of soup in front of her, she looked up at the cook and offered him a nod and a tense smile before tucking right in. She hadn't realized just how hungry she was, and even with the sour mood that lingered after the job, just having their unlucky passenger and his company off their ship was enough to restore her appetite.

"Oh, dear." Was that supposed to be a pun? There was something painful about it, and not in the way dad jokes typically were.

"It's uhh... artificial Venison..."

"What're you on about?" Mattie snorted and looked at Rian like he'd just sprouted two heads. "I saw you carve the damn thing myself!" There was no way their crummy little crew could afford some high class fake meat that passed for the real deal. Especially since they hadn't gotten paid for the last job. Which reminded her...

"Wait, we did get paid this time, right?" The idea of payment had completely slipped her mind when they'd been focused on getting back to the ship without turning into meat popsicles, and if it had come up once they were back on the ship, she'd been too distracted by other things to pay attention.

Mattie didn't echo Rian's wishes about their next job, but she didn't say anything. It wasn't really the stress of the situation itself that got her feeling down; it was the fact that it was the dull kind of stress with high stakes and few options to influence the outcome. The creeping doom and helplessness of it all, the waiting and hoping for the best. She was itching for a problem she could actually tackle. Maybe literally.
3
"Figure you two are the perfect people to train me to fly. Tabby can pump the room full of all that lovey-dovey positivity and be the carrot, Mattie can be the stick. And by stick I mean she can just literally hit me with a stick if I crash one more ruttin' time."

Mattie felt a small pang at Rian's analogue. She had no idea why; she should've been pleased at him openly acknowledging she could kick his pi gu. She was pleased. She was used to always having to prove herself to new employers, but their action-packed first outing together had been one hell of an ice-breaker.

"I left my whackin' stick in my other pants, but I've got a mean right hook," she deadpanned back at him and accepted the cup of tea from Tabby, wincing a little when the woman cupped her hands around it. Touchy-feely. Truth be told Mattie wasn't a huge fan of tea, but there was no point in turning down free hydration after the workout she'd just had.

The cookies, now those were much more interesting. She helped herself to one but remained standing next to Rian instead of taking a seat, hovering over him and studying the interface before him. It brought back memories of when she'd first left home aboard the Crane Maiden and taken flying lessons from the pilot in an endeavor that was doomed from the start. That had been seven years ago, a good indication of just how up-to-date the Darling's flight simulator program was.

"I tried one of these things once. Wasn't for me." That was an understatement. There had been humiliating failure after failure, ultimately ending in tears of frustration. Back then she'd still allowed herself to cry.

"Tell you the truth, I ain't really one to judge how you're doing, seein' as I don't recall ever not ruttin' up the landing. Don't make much sense to me that hittin' the ground with a ship-sized hunk of metal should be that much harder than hittin' a movin' target with a bullet, but..." she shrugged and trailed off, taking a big bite of the cookie in her hand. Her eyes followed the action on the screen with interest as she chewed.
4
Downstairs

"Gorram it! Son of a hún dàn!"

Rian's muffled curses reached Mattie's ears as she stepped out of the shower room, still toweling her hair. She lay the towel on her shoulders and stood in the hallway, listening closely to the sounds reverberating from above her. Of late, she had finally fallen into something of a routine on the Darling, and that routine included plenty of pushups and jumping jacks to keep her body and mind in working order. As much as she enjoyed the nomadic lifestyle, getting to visit other planets was the part she actually liked. Being cooped up in a tin can in the middle of a vacuum for weeks on end was just a necessary evil.

The routine also included limiting most of her socializing with the crew to mealtime, when there was enough chatter around the table that she could avoid prolonged one-on-one conversation. Of course she'd had those too, but so far she felt her place with the crew was still in the periphery, orbiting the tightly-knit family unit with Arlo. The two newcomers could perhaps have bonded over being outsiders... had Mattie had even an ounce of tolerance for the upper-class twit.

Mattie lingered in the hallway, torn over whether she should go and check on Rian or not. Although he had healed perfectly well from the bullet wound he'd sustained during their storming of the Darling, there was a part of her--one which she was very careful not to show the other crew members--that got a little fussy over him. Maybe because she'd been there to witness him get shot, as well as the level of care (none) he'd taken in the immediate aftermath.

Looks like you're your mother's daughter after all. The thought, sudden and invasive, made Mattie want to throw up. She was being stupid. Rian was a grown man who could take care of himself. Besides, she was going to head into the galley for a post work-out snack anyway.

Mattie took one step into the mess hall, saw Mr. Dried Grasshopper Husk sitting at the table, staring into nothing, and turned on her heels.

Right. Rian it was.



The Darling Cockpit

"...Let's try again."

Mattie heard Tabitha's soft, melodic voice even before she entered the cockpit. She didn't dislike Tabitha, but the medic was the warmest, most touchy-feely person on board, which Mattie struggled with. Had she been obnoxious about it, she would've shut it down in her usual aggressive way, but Tabitha was just... pleasant. Like a brief, temperate April shower that got your hair a little wet but didn't exactly ruin the picnic.

Against her better judgment, Mattie stuck her head through the doorway, just to make sure Rian wasn't actually in the middle of crashing them into an asteroid. It didn't seem like anything was the matter. In fact, she seemed to have third-wheeled right into the middle of a bonding moment.

"Sorry." She tried very hard not to sound sheepish. "I thought... nevermind. Didn't mean to interrupt nothin'. I'll leave." This was exactly the kind of interaction mealtime was supposed to save her from.
5
Prologues / You Can't Get a Man with a Gun
January 27, 2021, 12:07:33 PM
Lilac, 2507

The morning of Temperance's eleventh birthday was overcast, a small but welcome respite from the scorching heat that had been tormenting the local farmers for the past two weeks. Birthdays in the Rooney household had never been a huge deal, at least not since the birth of child number four (out of six); Temperance had been four years at the time, Abel five and Isaiah two, and if the three of them had received special treatment on their respective birthdays before Elijah had come along and pushed the Rooney child tally from "still pretty manageable" to "starting to get out of hand", all of them had been to young to remember it now.

It wasn't like they never got presents, it was just that they tended to be disappointingly practical, necessities that their parents would have eventually had to buy them anyway. However, this year—perhaps to make up for their father's absence—Temperance's mother had gone out of her way to get something special for her oldest daughter; a brass hair clip in the shape of a bellflower that she'd purchased from a traveling vendor.

It was special in her mother's eyes, anyway. If she was being completely honest, Temperance herself didn't understand what was so exciting about it. Sure, it was very pretty, but it wasn't like she got to admire it while it was tucked into her hair. She knew better than to say anything, however, and sat obediently while her mother carefully combed and braided her long, blonde hair, finishing the hairdo with the shiny new accessory.

"Look at you." Lenora Rooney smiled, the sight of her daughter all dolled up managing to light up her gaunt face, which seemed to have aged a decade over the past six months. "You look so pretty."

Temperance stared at her reflection in the mirror. She had no opinion on the tanned, round-cheeked girl staring back at her. Her mind was elsewhere, already planning all the things she was going to do with Georgie after her mother let her go.

George Wilcox was the son of the local mechanic who helped repair various farm equipment and vehicles. He was three years older than Temperance, and much more fun to be around than any of her brothers, who seemed to be hell-bent on finding ways to get on her nerves. Georgie wasn't like that. In fact, Temperance was usually the one doing the teasing in their relationship. At the very least, she was the tougher of the two. Back when they'd been just getting to know each other, she'd dared Georgie to eat an earthworm, but he had chickened out. Embarrassed by his own cowardice, he'd dared her back, and she'd surprised him by actually going through with it. It hadn't exactly been a highlight of Temperance's life, but the look of horror mixed with admiration on his face had been worth it. They'd been best friends since.

Georgie's family was better off than Temperance's. From what she'd overheard adults talking about money, she reckoned it had something to do with the fact that his parents only had two children, while the Rooneys had six hungry little mouths to feed. Sometimes she wondered why her parents had even decided to have that many children in the first place, seeing as her mother complained about them so much. There were times when she found herself secretly wishing she only had one sister, like Georgie. The Wilcox's house wasn't that much bigger than the Rooneys', but George got to have his own bedroom while Temperance had to share with mother and little Mercy and Zachary, who were four and two years old respectively and woke up crying throughout the night.

Then there was the fact that unlike Temperance's father, neither of Georgie's parents had joined the war. They had both opted to stay on Lilac and put food on the table instead of bullets into purplebellies, which made them sensible folks according to Temperance's mother. Temperance didn't like the way her mother berated her father for going off to fight the purplebellies. She was proud to have a father who was brave enough to stand up to those "ruttin' lily-livered tyrants" as he liked to call them. They were trying to stick their noses where they didn't belong, and he was going to give them what for.

Sometimes Temperance teased Georgie about having yellow-bellies for parents, but he took it in his stride. Sometimes he laughed in her face, but she just laughed right back at him, and when she did, she didn't even mind that her guffaw of a laughter was unladylike, as some of the snootier girls around the village loved to point out.

Georgie didn't seem to mind, either.

***

Temperance regarded the package in her hands with suspicion. She inspected it carefully from all angles, turning it around and feeling the weight.

"Did you... did you get me a gorram branch?" She asked finally, looking up at Georgie. The boy burst into laughter.

"Yes, Nance, I got you a branch. I figured you could use it to fend off your brothers at the dinner table. Open it, dummy."

Still not convinced, she carefully peeled back the brown wrapping paper. When the gift was revealed, her jaw dropped.

Georgie's old BB gun.

She'd seen him shoot the thing many times before, and every time she'd been green with envy. He'd let her hold it once, and had Temperance lived during peacetime without having to go through the pain of her father going off to war, giving it back would have been at the top of her list of the most heart-breaking partings she'd experienced in her life.

"Reckon you'd have more use for it, seeing as you're the spawn of the mighty soldier here." Georgie watched her reaction with a kind of smug satisfaction on his face, blue eyes twinkling.

"I'm too old to play with it anyway," he added with all the world-weary wisdom of a 14-year-old.

Temperance was, perhaps for the first time in their friendship, at a loss for a snappy comeback. She  gawked at the beauty in her hands, at the engraved wood handle and barrel that still retained a hint of shine despite its age. Then a dam broke inside her, and she threw her arms around Georgie. The hug was strong but brief; soon her short-lived burst of affection was over, and her attention was back on her present.

"So... you wanna practice shootin' some purplebellies?" Georgie grinned.

***

With no actual purplebellies in their neck of the woods, a row of empty cans and bottles set up in the meadow had to suffice. It took Temperance some struggling and almost shooting Georgie's toe off to get a hang of it, but after hours of stubborn practice, she was hitting the targets like a natural. As the sun begun to set on another drab Lilac day, she returned home with her eyes beaming and a happy flush on her cheeks. Isaiah was in the kitchen helping their mother set the table for dinner when she entered.

"Where'd you get that from?" her mother asked, eyeing the toy gun on her shoulder like it was some kind of dangerous black market weapon.

"Georgie gave it to me! Ain't it just the shiniest thing you've ever seen?" Before Temperance could go into any more detail about her best birthday ever, Isaiah was on her like a greedy little monkey, grabbing at her treasure.

"Lemme see!"

Their mother broke off the ensuing fight and ushered Temperance out of the kitchen so she could get cleaned up before joining her family at the table. Dinner unfolded in a typical Rooney household fashion, with Abel telling them about his productive day; in their father's absence, some of the locals had been assisting with the work around the farm and showing the eldest Rooney kid the ropes, and he was explaining—with a level of enthusiasm completely unwarranted by the topic, at least in Temperance's opinion—how you could tell whether the harvest this year was going to be a good one. His rambling was punctuated by their mother exasperated sighs at the mess little Zachary was making and Mercy's, ever the fussy eater, complaints about the texture of her potatoes. Temperance tuned out all of it; as she picked at the bland meal on her plate, she was lost in her own world, only thinking about the BB gun that was waiting under her bed. She'd continue marksman training tomorrow, if she had time between her work around the house.

"D'you think pa will give me shootin' lessons when he gets back from the war?" Temperance asked her mother later as they were doing the dishes. Some households would perhaps have given the birthday girl a night off from her chores, but today was her turn to scrub the dishes while her mother did the rinsing and drying, and being born was no excuse to shirk your duties.

"No." Lenora Rooney's response was short and stern. She did not look up from the casserole dish she was soaking in the basin before her.

"Why not? He's gonna have so much practice!"

"You missed a spot, pumpkin." Her mother handed the casserole dish back to her, shaking her head. That was the end of the conversation between them.

But it was only the beginning of Temperance's first love.
6
The Darling IC / Re: S1:Ep5 - Life from Red Clay
January 25, 2021, 09:13:22 AM

Location: Galley

True to his word, Rian didn't actually need her help, so Mattie took the role of a passive observer, leaning on the counter as she watched him work his culinary magic. It still felt strange seeing her commander-in-chief be so at ease in the kitchen. Mattie herself hated cooking. It reminded her of home, of the mundane slog that life was back on Lilac: put food on the table, clean up, rinse and repeat until your back hurts too much to stand in front of the stove. But she was grateful that what felt like an off-putting chore to her seemed to provide some kind of relief for him. If left to her own devices, her meals would consist of nothing but bland protein gruel and artificial cheese on crackers.

There was a tenseness to Rian's demeanor which Mattie attributed to the stressful day, but the silence between them was not uncomfortable. It felt nice to have someone you could communicate with through meaningful glances alone, as they did when Bowler Hat popped by. Bret and Serg had been such insufferable blabbermouths. Not to mention complete bastards.

"Uhhhh..." The captain wandered mindlessly into the galley, something resembling a thousand yard stare in his eyes. This time it was Mattie who shot Rian a look, but he was way ahead of her, addressing the captain in between his bustling about the galley. As the security chief turned his attention back to the stew, Mattie helped herself to a cup of cocoa (a hefty helping of spirits included) and approached the captain.

"So... Is the old gut-bag finally gone?" she asked, echoing Rian's phasing from before and immediately regretting it. Way to read the room, Temperance. Before she could dwell on her poor choice of words, or correct them, she was distracted by the sight of a bloody-nosed Arlo. Unlike Rian, Mattie she did not have to choke back laughter, although a wicked grin passed over her face. She hid it by taking a sip from her mug and turning away from both the sight of Arlo and whatever the captain's reaction to her lack of tact was.
7
The Darling IC / Re: S1:Ep5 - Life from Red Clay
December 07, 2020, 08:43:12 AM
Location: Cargo Bay

"I don't really need help but you look like you could use a break 'bout as much as I do. Plus it'll be funny to watch the Archduke try and get the top off the mule later on the security footage."

Mattie cocked her head and looked past Rian's shoulder at Arlo. To be fair to the Archduke in question, he hadn't actually been as useless as she'd expected; in fact, he'd been the first one to roll his sleeves and jump in the snow to help their dying passenger, a development that had surprised Mattie but which she hadn't had time to really reflect on until now.

That didn't mean Mattie found him any less annoying. It also didn't erase the fact that, at the end of the day, she was a bit of a bastard.

"Sure." She spoke loud enough for Arlo to hear her. "I'm real good at... boilin' water."

As Rian and her made their way towards the galley, Mattie unbuttoned her coat, her fingers having warmed up enough to do so. Her expression was also warming up. Nothing like some good old-fashioned schoolyard bullying to lift the spirits.

Location: The Galley

"You sure know how to cheer a girl up, huh?" She smiled at him and immediately felt mortified. That sounded weird, not like something she'd say. "Or a guy. People in general."

Speaking of which...

"Listen, I, uh..." Mattie stopped suddenly in the doorway of the galley. Her brow furrowed and her jaw clenched as she tried to find the right words to say.

"I know I ain't been around for long, so maybe this is just something he does on a regular basis, but... the Boss seems to be havin' a real rough time with this job. Probably blames himself for the whole mess, and I sure as hell ain't makin' him feel any better. I ain't close to him and I ain't no good at talkin' to people anyway, but you are, so, uh... could you check up on him? Make sure he knows this ain't his fault?"

She didn't look Rian in the eye, opting instead to stare somewhere around the tips of his shoes the whole time. This was stupid. She was getting paid to make sure none of her crewmates got shot, and to shoot anyone who might shoot at them. Cheering up others wasn't her job, yet she felt strangely inadequate for not being able even take crack at it.
8
The Darling IC / Re: S1:Ep5 - Life from Red Clay
November 24, 2020, 02:58:22 AM
Location: Cargo Bay

Mattie kept quiet for the duration of the mule ride. She'd never seen the captain in a mood like this, not even when they were being held hostage by Abernathy and breaking into the prison train, and she definitely wasn't the person to diffuse the situation. Whatever came out of her mouth right now would just be sharp and hurtful, especially for the present company made up of a wounded teddybear, uptight upper class twit and concerned man of cloth. And a dying guy, but he was too far gone for words to reach him, let alone offend him.

She felt a palpable relief once the landing site drew near and they could make out the Darling's snow-covered form through the blizzard. Potter was still dying, but callous as it was, Mattie didn't really care. He'd made his bed and he could die in it for all she cared. The most important thing was that the crew had made it home safe.

As she climbed out of the mule, Mattie eyed the strangers apprehensively. When it became evident they posed no immediate thread, however, she decided she was too cold to care. Tabitha quickly took control of the situation with Potter and it seemed Mattie's assistance wasn't needed, which she was relieved about. As Tabby, Viktor and the strangers got to work getting the dying man to the med bay, the sniper took off her hat and tucked it under her arm, shaking her hair loose as she walked up to Rian.

"How'd you manage to lose an over six-foot-tall man?" Mattie was relieved to have a target for her barbs that didn't feel like punching down. "The guy must have some serious camouflage skills. Maybe I oughta do a second sweep?"

She tried to muster up some kind of cheeky expression, but her face was too frozen and her spirits too low for that. Instead, she shook her head and focused on removing her gloves, crunchy and glistening with frost.

"What a gorram clusterrut, huh?" she muttered, holding up a pale hand and wiggling her stiff fingers to get the blood flowing again.
9
The Darling IC / Re: S1:Ep5 - Life from Red Clay
September 19, 2020, 12:17:54 PM
The Away-Team:

"...Miss Rooney, can you help me pack snow into his clothes?"

Since when was Buttercup giving her orders? Before Mattie could protest -- not that she necessarily would have protested, given the urgency of the situation -- the Preacher spoke up.

"Professional Organ Transplant Transporter."

Mattie stared out the window in silence as he read out the papers, her expression growing darker with every sentence. She felt an unexpected stab of pity towards their fading passenger; you had to be pretty darn desperate to give up your body for something like this. She quickly forced her anger to snuff out her compassion. Potter undoubtedly knew the risks, he was an absolute moron to agree to something so insanely dangerous, and now they were all going to be buried in a snowstorm because of his little suicide mission.

"A ruttin' organ mule," she muttered under her breath, shaking her head in a mixture of disbelief and disapproval. "One of Begby's drinkin' buddies said he knew a guy who did that as a side gig. I thought he was full of ɡǒu shǐ." Still might have been. This really didn't seem like the kind of thing you could do often enough to call it a 'side gig'.

Once again she looked at the captain, expecting him to pull over and go along with Arlo's suggestion. It was the least they could do, although if Potter was going to croak anyway she didn't really see how they were supposed to keep the goods fresh until they could hand them over. As far as she was concerned, this job was a bust and she was happy if the four of them made it back to the ship without losing any fingers or toes to frostbite.
10
The Darling IC / Re: S1:Ep5 - Life from Red Clay
September 02, 2020, 11:46:40 AM
The Away-Team

Told you so. Mattie didn't say it out loud, but it was probably plastered all over her face when the captain briefly met her gaze before climbing back aboard the mule. She could've easily twisted the knife in his wound by opening her mouth. She would've twisted the knife if he had been one of her former employers who had an over-inflated ego that needed to be taken down a notch. But she just couldn't bring herself to do that to Barnaby, no matter how much part of her wanted to. She bit her tongue as she climbed back to the passenger seat, her jaw clenched and eyes averted from the man sitting next to her.

Besides, although she loathed to admit it even to herself, it wasn't like she'd actually foreseen the mess they found themselves in. She had counted on Jebidiah -- how could she be expected to trust someone with that name -- having something up his sleeve, but the real threat had come from the inside. And it was the kind of threat Mattie, for all her sharp shooting and wits, was unable to vanquish. She stared through the frosty window the entire time she listened to the Preacher's diagnosis. When he was done, she finally turned back to the captain and waited for him to give her some genius order that would magically grant her the power to single-handedly bail them out of this situation.

She knew he had no such thing to give.
11
The Darling IC / Re: S1:Ep5 - Life from Red Clay
August 14, 2020, 08:23:34 AM
The Away-Team

Mattie stayed put as the Preacher pushed past her and joined the assembly ahead. For a while, she kept an eye on the situation, but as it began to look like there was no impending ambush ahead, her attention wandered to the mule. Something was wrong. She yanked the door to the backseat open, her gaze only briefly registering the thinly veiled panic on Arlo's face before dropping to Mr. Potter's limp figure in his lap.

"Is he dead? We ain't getting paid if he's dead." The words had an accusatory tone to them, as if whatever was ailing their passenger was Arlo's fault. Under different circumstances she might have capitalized on his turmoil and bullied him a little more for good measure, but this was neither the time nor the place. She pulled off one of her gloves and gingerly pressed a bare hand on Potter's damp forehead, recoiling a little at the heat radiating from him. Her expression darkened. Growing up as one of six children in a cramped farmhouse, Mattie had seen many a fever come and go, sometimes on the receiving end of one, sometimes as the caretaker of a bedridden sibling. Those countless pneumonias and ear infections and what have yous had nothing on whatever was burning up Potter.

"Boss!" She pulled away from the mule and called out to the captain through the blizzard. "I think our passenger might be dyin'!"
12
The Darling IC / Re: S1:Ep5 - Life from Red Clay
July 31, 2020, 10:43:58 AM
The Away-Team

"Confound it."

What did I tell you? Mattie wanted to say, but bit her tongue, instead sinking deeper into the gloomy silence that had permeated her entire mule ride. She managed to hold her peace just long enough for the captain to leave the vehicle and start making his way through the snow and towards the roadblock ahead.

"What did I tell him?" She said out loud as she watched Barnaby's receding back. "I told him this was a bad idea and we oughta head back, didn't I? I told him!"

She turned to look for affirmation from the men in the backseat. "I ruttin' told him, didn't I?" Her infuriated gaze darted from the Preacher to Arlo to Mr. Dried Grasshopper Husk, whose skin tone was beginning to match the nickname. She twisted her face in disgust and turned to face forward again, sat still for a moment and then, with a barely audible grumble that may have been a profanity, shoved the passenger side door open and tumbled into the snow. Instead of following the captain, however, she remained right next to the Darling's vehicle, keeping an eye on him and Jeb from a distance.
13
The Away-Team

Nope. As soon as the man started talking about leading them on a detour, the hairs at the back of Mattie's neck stood up. Or maybe that was just because of the cold(er) air suddenly flooding inside the vehicle. Either way, what the man was describing sounded a bit too much like a classic highwayman trick, and even if she did believe he had good intentions, this still seemed like a fine way to get stranded in unfamiliar and very hostile terrain.

"Why's the bridge out? Don't they build 'em blizzard-proof 'round here?" She peered at the man from under her hat, then nudged the captain with her elbow and leaned in to speak directly to him. "If you ask me, Boss, dire weather and detours ain't never a good mix. Maybe we oughta just head back to the ship and sit the storm out, go back to Plan A. Whatever this guy's paying us can't be worth freezin' to death over."
14
The Away-Team

After the initial exchange of words with the captain, Mattie fell silent for the rest of the ride. She would occasionally glance behind her shoulder at the three men in the backseat, namely the middle one, whose alarming change in complexion was not helping the bad feeling she'd had about him from the get-go. Most of the time, however, she kept her eyes on the landscape while the captain had his on the road. It wasn't much to look at, just an expanse of white hills that made her feel exposed.

When they were hailed by the other mule and the captain pulled over, Mattie tensed up -- not that an outside observer would've been able to tell with the bulky layers of clothing covering her body. Sure, could be they just wanted to ask for directions or something, but their passenger had planted a queasy feeling in her stomach that made her suspicious of every obstacle in their path. She inched her hand closer to the revolver on her hip and waited to see how the encounter unfolded.
15
The Away-Team:

If there was one thing Mattie knew about surviving in a cold climate -- and the list wasn't all that long, to be perfectly honest -- it was that layers were essential. Under her coat, she'd piled sweater upon flannel upon pullover, giving her a rather boxy silhouette which, combined with how low the trapper hat on her head was pulled, made it easy to mistake her for a teenage boy at a glance. It was a look Mattie was very comfortable with; she was less comfortable with the cold nipping at the exposed parts of her face. This was where the good preacher hailed from? And she'd thought Lilac was the worst place one could possibly call home.

When prompted to get on the mule, Mattie climbed onto the passenger seat next to the captain without second thought. She had no beef with the preacher and wouldn't have minded sitting next to him, but hell if she got caught in the backseat between Arlo and their dried grasshopper husk of a passenger. She didn't understand why the former had even been chosen to come along.

"Gotta be honest with you, Boss," she told Barnaby before they drove off and the sound of the running mule and the snow flurrying around them made having a conversation considerably more difficult. "This ain't exactly the kind of landscape I'm used to survivin' in."
16
Mattie was in a bad mood, but not in too bad of a mood to feel encouraged by Arlo's expression of barely contained outrage and the way he clutched at his invisible pearls. A sneer tugged at her lips, but before it gave way to another verbal assault, the Captain entered the galley. Probably for the best.

She gave Barnaby a quick rundown of the situation on the planet, keeping her grumbling to a minimum. As he made the ship-wide announcement and turned to leave the bridge with the two crewmates in tow, Mattie shot Arlo a malicious look behind his back -- the look of a schoolyard bully warning their mark about the beating they were in for after the bell rang. Then, as the trio headed for the cargo bay, she seemed to completely forget about Arlo's blood in the water, her mind already moving to more important matters.

"Bad news?"

"Good news?"

"That depends on how much y'all like ridin' through a snowstorm," she remarked glumly. For all she knew, Tabby might well find a way to frame it as a fun adventure; too bad Mattie was immune to any kind of contagious positivity. As if on cue, the preacher entered, his chipper demeanor the polar opposite of hers.

"Hidy gang. Gotta love the weather at home, dontcha!"

She turned to look at the Captain, waiting for him to explain the situation properly to the others.
17
Location: The Bridge

Mattie lounged in the pilot's seat, keeping an eye on the comms and lights and making sure the ship stayed on course. Every now and then she'd sneak a dirty look at her unwanted companion, Arlo Whatevertheruthisnamewas. She had no idea why the man was still with the Darling, and she had even less of an idea why he'd decided to hang around the bridge today and be a pain in her pi-gu.

"So..."

Oh God, what is it now? She turned to stare at him, waiting for a follow-up to his brilliant conversation starter. Instead, the word hung in the air, forgotten, while he seemed to be completely enthralled by the control panel of the ship. She watched him, eagle-eyed, ready to swoop in at the first sign of him pressing something that would send them one step closer to exploding.

"There are an awful lot of these things. Do you think pilots have to memorize what they're all for? Seems as though it would be easier to just label-- oh, dear!"

Mattie shushed the nitwit who, judging by the way he jumped, seemed to think the tinny voice reverberating through the comm could hurt him. She leaned in, focusing on trying to make out the words through the static. When she did, her expression turned from mild annoyance to not-so-mild annoyance.

"You gotta be ruttin' kiddin' me," she mumbled under her breath, but put on her civil hat before responding to the wave. "This is the Darling. Guess we ain't got much choice but to take the long way around. Over and out."

She spoke into the ship-wide comm next. "Uh, Boss?" She still hadn't gotten the hang of addressing him by his first name. It just felt wrong, like she was talking to an uncle instead of an employer. "You might wanna swing by the bridge real prompt-like. We've got a problem."

Silence fell once more, but only for a moment.

"It doesn't look like snow... But then, I suppose it wouldn't..."

Mattie swung around in her chair. The thought of going on a trek in St. Albans weather -- bad St. Albans weather -- had chilled the last little bit of civility she had towards the man. "That's fascinatin' and all, but I could really do without the runnin' commentary right now. And if I see one of those pasty hands of yours hoverin' near the controls one more time, it's gettin' slapped."
18
Location: The Galley

Mattie considered Barnaby's offer for a moment, then decided to follow him. It wasn't like she had anything better to do, and on the way to the galley she even allowed herself to get a little excited about the piece of sugary goodness waiting for her. That turned out to be a mistake, because once they walked into the galley and caught their passenger with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar/literal cake container, it quickly became clear there would be no treats for her today. She shot Barnaby an I-told-you-so look; he simply responded with one of his aw-shucks shrugs which Mattie was quickly becoming familiar with.

The gunhand didn't even attempt to hide her disdain as the passenger proceeded to wax poetic, as if pigging out was a form of spiritual enlightenment. She stared daggers at his back as he walked out, leaving the captain grasping for words.

"...In all my years sailing back and forth in the 'verse, i've met an odd character or two. This guy takes the cake. Get it?"

Mattie didn't laugh, smile or even groan in response, just frowned harder, not so much at the joke but in spite of it. She walked up the mutilated remains of Rian's cake. "You'da think someone who talks all fancy like that would have some ruttin' table manners," she grumbled as she inspected the carnage.  "That man's worse than my little brother Zachary, and he's eight."

Was eight the last time I saw him, she corrected herself in her head.
19
Location: Just the plain old catwalk no references to terrible 90s novelty songs here

Mattie had been curious about the newcomers, but had decided to sit out the welcome wagon on the catwalk, where she could observe the two men in peace. She was still in position when the captain returned, and she responded to his half-wave with a nod of acknowledgment. The air between them had cleared after her rant and his apology the other day, and she was ready to turn a new page.

"How'd them new folks look to you? Anything I should know?

Mattie shrugged. "The young guy's the new mechanic, I reckon? Seemed like your average shy joe to me" She was sad to see Riot go. She may not have had the chance to forge a proper friendship with her like the rest of the crew had, but she had borrowed her clothes and they hadn't sucked to wear, and that had a way of bringing women together

"As for the passenger..." Mattie's brow furrowed. Something about him didn't sit well with her. It wasn't the stern demeanor -- she was in no position to judge other people for being unfriendly. Was it the single red briefcase? That was hardly damning evidence, but it stuck out to her. Perhaps a little too much to be truly suspicious. The man could just be a minimalist who liked bright colors for all she knew. She decided not to ignore her gut, but also to be diplomatic about it.

"I don't know what that guy's deal is, but he's got one." She pulled herself up by the handrail and turned to look at the captain. "Anything I should know?" Mattie wasn't suspicious, per se. It was possible, even likely, that the captain was no wiser than her and the passenger was just that, a random paying stranger hitching a ride. God knew they could use the extra money since the crew's last job had fallen through. Still, if Barnaby did know something, she hoped he'd learned his lesson and wouldn't keep her in the dark.
20
Mattie stared at the captain's outstretched hand, her grip on the mop handle tightening. He was offering her a genuine apology, something that could be a rare commodity in the Black. She knew in her heart of hearts that he didn't deserve to be resented and chewed out, and yet she found herself unable to let go of the matter that easily.

"Y'know, I didn't exactly like working for Tate, but I still ain't in the habit of turnin' my coat in the middle of a job. Reckon I put a target on my back by doin' that. And my pal Murphy's back, too. He's the one who referred me to Tate, pulled a bunch of strings to get me hired. Had to make himself scarce awful quick after I pushed my co-worker off a mule."

Murphy had been planning on leaving Aphrodite for a while now, but Mattie had no doubt that him moving the date of his departure up by several weeks had something to do with the friend he'd so highly recommended to the local sovereign's security staff stabbing them in the back first chance she got.

"And Rian's lucky I did, too, 'cause you know full well he woulda gotten himself killed with that stupid mule-hopping stunt he pulled if it weren't for me. And I had to babysit his pì gu all the way to the orbit to make sure he didn't bleed out before gettin' there!"

Her speech, which had started out relatively calm (if obviously seething under the surface), gradually picked up speed and volume as she went on. By the point she got to ranting about Rian she realized what was happening and took it down a notch. Her final words sounded more dejected than angry.

"I didn't do all that to be left out of the loop in front of Abernathy and a bunch of purplebellies."

Her tirade over, Mattie averted her gaze and stared at the floor, biting the inside of her cheek. Right, one of those purplebellies had been his former spouse or something. That just added insult to the injury of her bleeding browncoat heart.
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