The Darling Cockpit -- Shortly before the events of Episodes 4&5
"Gorram it! Son of a hún dàn!"
He held him back from smashing his fit down on to the control panel. The HUD on the darling's cockpit was showing a slightly primitive Augmented Reality scene of fire and explosions, as if the ship had just crashed into a mountain. If Rian had been at the controls for real, they would be red smears on the rocks and dirt. Thankfully it was just yet another run on the ships training sim.
He fumed for a moment, staring at the screen declaring his failure. Why can't he do this? Flying, like so many other things, should just be a matter of practice, concentration, and precision. His skill as a cook, and a killer came from the same process. He'd made some progress initially when he finally made himself sit down at the simulator and to log some hours. But once he started to get close to finishing his introductory courses, he hit a wall, literally and metaphorically.
Landing. Staying up in the sky wasn't so hard. Guiding hundreds of tons of steel through atmosphere and whatever weather lie beyond was proving to be the Rubicon Carpenter couldn't cross. This was his 10th failed landing in a row. The security chief groaned and let his hand hover over the "retry" button.
"C'mon you stupid son of a bitch... just put the skids in the dirt..."
Before she could do anything more to protest, Darius was running back toward the ships and Jed had her arm in his grasp, pulling her along with a strength she was surprised he possessed. Appearances were deceiving, something she should not have been so taken aback by. Still, Charity wasn't too keen on this new trend that was popping up in her life. Hide behind this person, get taken hostage by that person, get shot or get her companions shot. She was utterly useless. Dark thoughts clouded her mind as they raced along, punctuated by the blast of guns and the sounds of combat.
The docks got closer and then, a blessing showed itself to the Captain. Their ship, beautiful and shimmering and safe. Now that they were near civilization, she imagined that the attacks and the numbers would ebb. Of course, she had never been involved in this type of thing so that very well could have been wistful thinking. In any case, she pushed past the sheriff, moving beyond Jed in doing so, and quickly ran her hands over the consoles, entering in the perverse entry code Cooper had decoded for her. "Inside, now!" she commanded to the two who were closest.
The doors to Odette's cargo bay opened in welcome and she reached down to grab two handfuls of her skirts as she ran for the ramp. "Oh! My parasol! I've left it somewhere!" she called out, pausing for a moment before mentally slapping herself in the face. Now was not the time to worry about parasols. She could buy another! She could buy twenty parasols, but only if she was alive. Her heels clicked in quick rhythm as she moved up the ramp and into the ship, and once Jed and the lawman were inside, she began pressing a few buttons on the side console until the doors stopped opening and closed again. Again she pressed the button, stopping the doors when they were about three or so feet apart: the perfect width to allow one person in at a time and hopefully not a squadron of thugs.
Charity stepped back several steps, looking around in a mild panic and chewing on her lower lip. They were in the ship. They had delivered the cargo. The rest of the crew was, hopefully, not far behind. Now what? They needed to get out of here. But she wasn't a pilot! She doubted the doctor could fly this boat. Her attention snapped back to the errant lawman who had led her to safety and she grimaced. He was in something that looked like a flight suit. So surely...he could fly? She pointed at him, wincing as she noticed his wounds, "You! Up to the bridge! We need to get the ship ready to go the moment the others arrive. Please and thank you!" she commanded, her voice stern, followed by an apologetic smile.
A few minutes later, Pele was shoved through the gap in the door, quickly followed by Francis wielding someone else's gun and pointing it back the way they'd come. He was bleeding from several shiny new wounds gained in the gentlemanly role of protecting the lady. Something to brag about later, if he'd felt so inclined. When things had begun to heat up, and Charity looked firmly tended to, he had taken it upon himself to become Pele's personal paparazzi bodyguard. Except, instead of blocking photos and pushing reporters out of their path, he was moving her out of the line of fire and emptying clips into pirate's faces. Really, though, was that all that much different?
"Jed, dear, please get the infirmary prepped, it looks like there's going to be quite a few that need tending to. I can try to look at your shoulder if you need me to, but all my my medical knowledge is theoretical, I'm afraid. Pele, if you're unharmed, best to get strapped in, I'm hoping our lawman can get us airborne rather quickly and that might be a little...unpleasant. Francis...keep...doing what you're doing. Once King and Cooper are on board, please shut the doors behind them," she said calmly, skillfully placing herself deep in denial about the danger of their situation.
*Some narration provided with NoSeatBelt's permission.
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 his 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 simply gawked at the beauty in her hands, at the engraved wood handle and barrel that still retained a hint of shine despite its age.
"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.
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.
Last post by Helena Cain - January 26, 2021, 04:35:25 pm
It didn't take long after Helena stood up for someone to recognize Marty. What was originally supposed to be a quiet easy way to earn money, had turned into a slightly more complicated endeavor. She felt her body jerk forward as Marty pulled her towards the exit. On their way out its seemed the bookie wasn't alone, two burly gentleman launched off their stools barreling towards them.
Her eyes widened and moved faster pushing Marty out the door, "Move your arse we've got company."She grabbed Marty's hand to pull him along. The goal at this point was to get as far away from the two goons as possible. Clearly Marty was in some kind of trouble and she wasn't entirely certain what, or who was after him. The docks were too crowded, they needed some place to hide, her eyes searched rapidly for any place that would help them hide.
Pushing her way through a large crowd, hoping for some sort of cover, Helena took a quick turn into a store of some sort. For now the two men weren't behind them. Turning from the door Helena looked around, she wasn't entirely sure where they had ended up. There was an odd floral sent in the air, a woman in the back was hanging scarves and a tapestry was hanging from the wall. Thankfully there was some space in the back that provided minimal cover...and an exit out the back.
Helena grabbed Marty's hand again and pulled him towards the back door,
"Marty dear. I think you have some explaining to do."
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.
Once their patient was gone, the darling's cargo doors had been closed up (the echo of which moved through the ship like a satisfied purr), and the captain's account had been properly compensated for this mission (including the 'double payment' their Mister Potter had promised), the ship itself seemed far warmer and at ease than it had just a few minutes before. Tabby began moving to the door of the med-bay, eager to get another cup of cocoa, when Viktor's hand on her shoulder stopped her.
The bubbly doctor turned to look up at their preacher with wide, curious eyes, her brows aloft in question. "Miss Tabitha...what would you think about spending some time and teaching me a bit about your skills here? ..." With every word, Tabby's eyes lit up and her expression became more and more excited. When he'd finished, she clasped her hands together and popped up onto her tip toes.
"Oh! I'd love to!" she exclaimed, giggling happily and wrapping her arms around the shepherd's waist, her face burying itself enthusiastically against his chest. Tabby pulled her face away and grinned up at him with the light of a sun, "I know you'll be absolutely amazing at it, you're a natural, after all!" she assured him, releasing his torso and taking his hand. She tugged him warmly out of the med-bay toward the tantalizing smell of food and drink, still talking along the way, "I was thinking we should try something hands on, for the crew's moral? Maybe a puppy? Or put a little herb garden somewhere in the cargo hold so they can work with some earth while we're in the black? Or we could all knit a giant blanket, a crew blanket. I just think everyone could use a little cheering up," she noted, looking up at him and beaming.
Everybody was starting to make their way into the galley. As Barnaby wandered in with his eyes glazed, Rian asked of him quickly as he passed:
"Hey, Barn. Come find me after dinner when you get a minute."
He poured a little of the winter warmer into a cup of cocoa and handed to the captain with a nod. The security chief quickly switched back into his role as the cook and directed his attention to the stew, checking that the leftover meat (which he assured Tabby definitely wasn't a cute deer he shot then put in the freezer) was at the right level of tenderness. He made a face as he poked it with a wooden spoon. Not quite there, he fretted slightly then went to get himself a cup of cocoa. Somehow he missed the first step and just poured some of the bourbon straight into a mug.
Carpenter took a long sip just as the aristocrat arrived. He nearly spit it out suppressing a laugh at the sight of him with a fresh bloody nose.
Did he get ambushed? He'd look more alarmed and less like he was waiting for a servant to bring him a flute of champagne if he had...
Well now he'd have to check the CCTV footage of the cargo bay later. While he could enjoy the shaudenfraude, Buckery Buntington the VII was still a member of his crew. Rian grabbed a clean rag meant for the dishes and tossed it over to the Anglo-accented crew-member.
"Been meaning to try blood pudding, Arlo. Glad you could make it."
Next came the hot chocolate and offer of a little alcoholic enhancer if he so chose.
Three men rounded the corner carrying Sidney like a log. He had a torn piece of cloth shoved up his nose to stem a nose bleed and a fresh shiner as they dumped him in front of the doctor's door. As soon as he hit the ground they were beating feet in the other direction. If he wasn't so dazed from the multiple blows to the face, he'd actually have said more than weakly mustering:
"Thanks for the lift guys..."
Writhing, he flopped himself over like a turtle on the ground, and started to pick himself up onto his feet. Sloppily he pushed his way through the door and nearly collided with his collaborator.
"Pool! Hey so I didn't start..."
He eyed Pool's condition, then looked to the doctor, pointed to her, then his business partner.
"Did he get beat up too? Oh MAN! I'm gonna be honest I can't wait to journal about this..."
Before his surly and begrudging ally could get in a comment about the journaling he inquired with the woman he was assuming was the medic on staff.
"You got any gauze? And recommendations for sleep medication that has 50-60% less wacky hijinks as a side effect?"
He pressed his sleeve up to his nose to absorb some of the blood, not worrying about ruining his fancy duds. Perversely, blood stains and stories like this were half the reason he was even doing any of this. A man who wasn't in the midst of a mid-life crisis brought on by a divorce might have found this moment to self reflect. But Sidney was not there yet. Maybe after he finally admits it to himself he's mad she kept the dog.
Marty made a face of disbelief. Sure he'd hired Cain for her skills, but he felt like he couldn't have already blown his cover. He slowly pivoted around, still feeling somewhat skeptical. He saw the sea of faces looking at him then glancing back down at their drinks.
The racer turned back and his face had shifted from doubt to disappointment in himself. Mason was always going on about his lack of "situational awareness". He then raced through his beer, downing about half of it in one long series of gulps then paused for a breath.
"I'll finish my pint so as not to look to susp-"
Marty didn't turn around this time, this time opting just to pick up his glass and start draining the remains of the pint. He recognized the voice of the man who was now approaching. The odd cadence of his steps making his level of inebriation clear. But he was also drunk enough to be the boldest in the room. He worked for Sebastian but as a low level bookie. Sure he'd busted a few knee caps in his day but Sebastian had other guys for that too anyway. The bookie was probably chief among those sore about momentarily blowing up the station's betting market.
"Don't act like you can't hear me, limey húndàn!"
Marty got to the bottom of his glass.
Before he could finish his sentence he popped off his barstool and elbowed the bookie in the stomach with his left, then punched him in the face with with his right in a quick combo. One thing his brother taught him that he hadn't forgotten. That and to know how to recognize situations you aren't going to be able to talk your way out of.
He grabbed Helena's hand as they both bolted for the door.
Doctor August realized he'd missed his guest's earlier inquiry for coffee and put out his joint. Hastily he procured a carafe from their refrigerator.
"A thousand apologies, I have been hearing this incessant buzzing noise all morning..."
Alan emerged coming down the stairs from his bedroom, dressed and ready for the day.
"Doctor, I hope you'll forgive me I already threw the metaphorical switch on the algorithm."
The doctor's assistant didn't want to wait through whatever pagan ritual his brilliant but mad boss had in mind before they got started. He spotted the carafe of cold-brew.
"Can I grab a cup of that too before we run out? It'll be a long day and.... can ANYONE else here that buzzing?"
Doctor August made an expression like "I knew I wasn't the only one!" and threw his free hand up and pointed at his astute assistant.
Breene stopped eating his eggs and started listening too. Anyone else who did would have heard it too. Not just coming from one direction, but coming from multiple points and each of those points of origin creating their own echoes throughout the valley. The Revenge's radar beeped intermittently, its systems getting momentary fixes on dozens of targets too small to accurately track.
Once the crew of the Revenge looked outside they'd just what looked almost like formations of birds in the distance closing in steadily. But what was approaching?