Discovering a Hidden Treasure? -

Started by Devon McKinney, October 05, 2019, 01:21:26 pm

Devon McKinney

She woke with a start, gasping for breath.  The abrupt movement knocked the closet door open and she rolled out onto the floor with a thump.  She lay on the cool floor for a moment, letting the nightmare fade as the reality of where she was returned.  This one wasn't as bad as some others; she wasn't trapped in the nightmare when she woke.

She still felt soiled when she finally got off of the floor and made her way into the small bathroom.  She brushed her teeth, clearing the taste of bile from her mouth.  She turned the shower on as hot as it would get and stripped her sweaty clothes off.  She stepped into the scalding water, scrubbing her skin nearly raw, though no matter how many times she washed she could never clean away the feeling of being tainted by what she had witnessed.

She stayed in until the water ran cold.  It would cost her extra for all the water, but she didn't care.  Money was just money after all.  She had very little use for most things.  She dressed quickly, black cargo pants, black tank top, long coat and combat boots.  No jewelry, no make-up, nothing soft or frilly about the former soldier.  She left her room as she wouldn't be getting any more rest and decided t take a walk about the space station.  Stretching her legs might distract her mind.

She walked along down the corridors and for the most part no one messed with her.  Some had already had run ins and decided they didn't want anything else to do with her kind of crazy, some figuring she didn't look worth robbing or molesting in any way.

Stump, stump, stump, the well-worn combat boots, once so well shined thumped along the floor as she moved.  She heard the laces of one boot loose and flopping around.  She stepped back out of traffic, kneeling to tighten the strings.  As she looked up, preparing to stand she noticed the shop across the way.

"Grave Discoveries", odd name for a store, but even from here she could see the Alliance banner, a few shiny trinkets, a shelf that looked like it held actual books.  Intrigued she rose, scraping a hand over her too short hair, a nervous habit, the velvet soft feeling of it soothing against her scarred palm.

She made her way over, making sure not to bump any passersby. She stepped inside, weary eyes scanning the store. Her tongue darted out, wetting her lips.  Another nervous habit, or perhaps just a side effect of the meds she took.  Stuffing her hands in her pockets so she didn't accidently touch or break anything, because as the signs so politely read "If you break it, I break you." It almost made her chuckle, in another life perhaps she would have.

She moved deeper into the store, looking for anything related to sailing.  Maps of old Earth that Was, sailing instruments, anything of the sort would draw her like a moth to a flame. She was careful, alert, and humming to herself, a tuneless sort of sound in her throat.

Elena

Across from Grave Discoveries, lined with red paper lanterns and framed in coiling tendrils of warm incense smoke, The Lady Magdalene cast its soft light upon the walkway between them. Elena walked with a client through the House and out toward the exit, her hand nestled gently in the crook of his elbow, cherry lips forming a sweet crescent as she listened to him gush about Iris, the Companion he'd spent a few days with in the Station's orbit. Sapphire blue skirts of her lehenga fluttered around her legs as she walked like many embroidered butterfly wings, the silver embroidery glimmering in the warm light of the Companion House. The sliver of pale midriff left exposed by her matching choli was covered up sensibly with a nearly sheer blue saree, silver glass beads dangling from the hem as she moved. 

Once they'd reached the entryway, her hand slipped free and they joined together in front of her lap, clasped demurely. The man, clearly far wealthier than most of the stations inhabitants, bowed deeply, took her hand from her and kissed the back of it before turning to exit, passing Devon as she entered Maxell's shop. Elena's head turned to glance in the direction of Grave Discoveries, a brow quirking at the sight of someone entering. She moved her hand up and smoothed out the perfect chocolate waves of her hair, fingertips lingering for half a moment on the silver clasp keeping the dark tendrils away from her porcelain face.

Maxell Graves

Maxell began this day like any other. He rose from slumber at 4:45 by Iscariot's latest orbital localization network update, exercised for thirty minutes, showered, ate breakfast, and set about recounting his inventory. All in all, the inventory inspection usually took up the first three and a half hours of Maxell's business day, although Grave Discoveries only opened up to the public during the last twenty minutes of counting.

Standing in between two aisles of shelves, his position obscured by the placement of a cherry wood wardrobe with slightly tarnished brass figures lined up along the top of it, Maxell still his own boot steps when he thought he heard a soft echo. When he heard the wordless humming of a nameless tune, Max doubled his focus on the task at hand. He considered his current job no less important then his time in the Corps, or leading JIM's crew on one wild goose chase or another. "Duty dictates that proper procedures be followed even if it risked personal harm." Maxell listened to his own words echo in his head. "Orders are made to be followed. Dig in. Get the job done."

Too engrossed in his work to notice Elena watching from across the concourse, made the final marks in a leather-bound, legal-ruled notebook. Paper was often easier to produce than cortex pads out on the rim, and Maxell was thankful to come into several stacks. He preferred having something he could touch to keep his records on, and he'd take a carefully sharpened pencil in hand over a stylus any day. Maxell made the final scratches on his paper and moved slowly around the row of shelves to where the shorn-headed woman from Valhalla looked over a collection of Earth-That-Was nautical and navigational equipment. Many of those antique instruments Maxell knew with some familiarity, as the Union of Allied Planets Marine Corps utilized the full range of that same equipment over the centuries and every generation of the Corps was expected to learn the history of the Corps and the instruments utilized by previous generations.

Maxell coughed a little too loudly as he approached. "I didn't mean to startle you." The marine half-barked in a tone of voice that sounded a bit more like he did meant to startle his quest. "That equipment's fairly old, some of it dating back to the late 1700s. Long before man sailed with the stars in the Black, they used items like these to guide their vessels through the vast oceans of Earth-That-Was." Maxell glanced down at the woman's boots and was visibly put off by the untied string. His voice fell silent as his eyes came back up the woman's. His eyes squinted slightly as he scrutinized her appearance internally, then began to wonder if maybe she hadn't dropped her wallet while running away from him a couple days back. "I learned a lot about these antiquated instruments as a younger man serving proudly in the Marines, and I believe history is most impacted upon later generations through physical reminders of the past. Are you a collector yourself? I see you've taken some interest in those sea charts. Tell me, what do you know about this item here?" Maxell motioned casually toward the sextant sitting on the shelf before the woman with his pencil, careful not to touch anything on the shelve as he did, and offering absolutely no indication that he hoped she would reach out to try it for herself whether she knew how it worked or not.
The bugle sounds - the charge begins, But on this battlefield no one wins
The smell of acrid smoke and horse's breath, As I plunge on into certain death


Iron Maiden, "The Trooper"

Devon McKinney

The cough had startled her, that much was obvious to Maxwell, to anyone looking at her truthfully from the way she jumped.  The hand that had been reaching out to touch quickly snapped back and for some reason, maybe the deepness of his voice, perhaps a pitch to his tone that the soldier in the woman knew without knowing, made her snap to attention without even realizing she was doing it. 

She was tall, the military boots making her a full six foot when she stood straight, as opposed to slouched and hunched as he'd seen her in the bar.  She was muscular for a woman too, she had kept fighting fit while in service and it was obvious she hadn't been out that long, or that she continued to stay in shape now that she was a civilian.  Her hair was just as short as it had been a few days ago, so that style was a choice she affected and the lack of make up spoke to the fact she cared little for being lady like.  Her person and clothes were clean, though the clothes could stand to be pressed, the same way the once well shined boots needed polished.  The right tied tightly, laces tucked properly, the left sloppy, slovenly, laces dragging again, even though she'd tied it just before entering the store.

She licked her lips, a darting movement of her tongue.  A nervous habit perhaps, or maybe dry mouth because of the meds they had her taking.  She remembered she was a civilian in a shop with a man who despite what appeared to be the standard issue BCG, wasn't a soldier, or at least, like her, wasn't anymore. She exhaled slowly, almost imperceptibly and Maxwell could watch her curl up into herself, shoulders slumping, hands getting stuffed into her pockets for a moment as she lowered her eyes.  She at least appeared lucid for the nonce.

"I ken sail." A simple statement, not boastful or proud, not challenging. "M' family are fishermen, on New Melbourne." Her voice still sounded gruff like she's growling the words out, but now that's he's closer he might be able to tell it's damaged, she'll never be a dulcet toned dove. She didn't look at him, still seemed jumpy, but in the way a dog that's been kicked is jumpy.  She's ready to run or to snap at him, whichever she has to do. Whichever he'll make her do. Fight or flight in those weary wary eyes. A work scarred hand slipped from the coat pocket, reached for the sextant, slightly trembly, she wants the precious, yes she does. Lifting it carefully but with a skill that said she did indeed know how to use it. "Da showed me an' me brudders. We ken the Lore of Earth-That-Was and the Seas.  He learned us.  I cud sail by da stars afore I sailed among the stars." Talk of sailing, of being among the stars, that at least seemed to calm her some. She looked at Maxwell, perhaps actually seeing him for the first time, still holding the sextant tenderly.

Maxell Graves

Maxell watched the woman snap to attention as if he'd just been announced on deck at first, but as he spoke the woman shrank into herself as if she expected him to thwack her about the head and shoulders with his clipboard at any moment. He kept his eyes stern, and weary of any sudden trouble, but left his face neutral save a gently arched eyebrow as she recounted her story. He recalled New Melbourne fondly, particularly the way the planet's red sun turned the oceans varying shades of purple, pink, and crimson throughout the day. Maxell and the crew of the Journey Into Mystery, piloted by an upstart dandy out of Highgate who knew a lot more about flying than he did about keeping his mouth shut, traveled to the planet in search of the wreckage of a replica Ship of the Line boasted by its own doomed captain to possess an authentic figurehead carved in  the nation of France on Earth-That-Was. He never did find that figurehead, and there was nothing else in the wreckage he could be bothered with collecting, but the trip was more than worthy of the effort. In a way, he considered the younger woman lucky to have lived her developmental years on New Melbourne's waters. But as Maxell watched her jumpy, distrustful body language and heard her oddly gravelly words, he reasoned at some point her luck must have run out.

"I'm Maxell Graves, the proprietor of this establishment. Much of it comes from my own collection, though I do purchase items of interest that come through here from time to time." Max held his position for now, recognizing the thin line between close enough and too close for comfort. For a man who spent his adult life commanding Logistics units, Max knew positioning was everything. It so often meant the difference between sending a strong message and provoking a full scale battle. Collateral damage in war was one thing, but risking the well-being of the antiques filling the shelves around him was something Maxell Graves wasn't willing to do. His eyes darted out the wall of glass, watching for any potential co-conspirators. Instead, he found only Elena watching from just outside The Lady Magdalene. His former employer made absolutely no attempt to hide her hawking. Who was going to call a registered and respected Companion's decision to gawk into question? Instead of cutting straight to the sale, Maxell attempted to share something special with his potential customer. Elena insisted such moments were vital to her profession, and suggested opening himself up a bit more might suit the retired Marine in his current endeavors.

"It's always nice to meet someone who can properly appreciate such antiquated equipment. Everyone in the Core always seemed so, so eager to set aside something so ornate, so masterfully balanced, so... real. And I assure you of its authenticity. Unlike the equipment you're most likely used to operating, that isn't some cheap reproduction. It was once a family heirloom, passed down generation to generation along a family line of sailors and shipwrights, until somehow it made its way into the Black and remained the family's only memento of the planet they once called home. For me, that's Beaumonde, by the by. Home, I mean. At least, it was." Maxell watched the woman handle the sextant gently, but the longer she went about looking it over the more nervous he got about her jumpy demeanor causing her to drop the priceless relic. Maxell's face betrayed his annoyance at the thought, though he tried to keep his own grinding voice as professional as possible. "Will you be interested in purchasing this item? I can wrap it for you - protect it from any risk of damage."
The bugle sounds - the charge begins, But on this battlefield no one wins
The smell of acrid smoke and horse's breath, As I plunge on into certain death


Iron Maiden, "The Trooper"

Devon McKinney

Maxwell introduced himself, polite, respectful, though his body language and posture said he would brook no nonsense. She could respect that.  But he wasn't threatening, he seemed..steadfast somehow perhaps.  " 'm McKinney, Devon McKinney."[/b]  An old habit, last name given first, another hint that she hadn't been out of service long.  The voice might be a growl, but she wasn't snappish or snarling at him, the beast inside tamed, at least for now, by talk of ships and sailing and the precious artifact she so longed for.  Depending on how much he had kept up with things after the Universe Battle he might even recognize the name, for a while she had been whispered about in some circles, the woman who lived.

He told a little about the sextants history, and would notice how her scarred hands caressed it.  Tenderly gentle for one so rough and gruff seeming.  She definitely wanted it. The more he talked, the more she seemed to relax, the tension in her shoulders and around her eyes easing.  It might have been because of his former service, his bearing, that recognition of a fellow soldier. It might have been the tone or timber of his voice, but the twitchy skittishness seemed better, though the tongue that flickered out periodically to wet her lips continued unchecked. She did unclench a little, standing more at ease, though nothing about her seemed easy any more.

"I got credits." Her tone not exactly defensive, more sounding like she wanted him to know she was worthy of owning something of such obvious beauty and value. At the mention of wrapping it up she looked down at the sextant once more, then almost reluctantly handed it to Maxwell.  "Ya got maps too?" Perhaps she was interested in buying them too, or perhaps she was just happy for a bit of conversation shared with someone with a seemingly common interest.

Maxell Graves

Maxell kept a close eye on Devon's hands. While not looking like they'd been through a proper meatgrinder, they'd certainly seen plenty of hard use. A specter of arthritis pain began to cramp up his own hand in sympathy pain, which he rallied against by working the digits fully open to stretch them a few times as he spoke. Part of him wanted to ask her about her service, while the memory of previous encounters with particularly stubborn potential customers who mistakenly and hopelessly hung on to their Independent sympathies warned him against it. Unfortunately for Maxell's social life, not many loyal to the Alliance's might and just ideals found fit to retire to the outer rim. While he sometimes questioned his own loyalty in the wake of the Miranda Signal, Maxell often had to remind himself that the Alliance he fought for and sent some men and women to die for must've been perverted and corrupted from within. And he always struggled to convince himself it certainly wouldn't be worth dusting off big JIM and going on some wild goose chase across the 'Verse just to catch the sorry bastard that blew the lid off Miranda and filled Maxell's mind with doubt. When you're married to a cause, and someone just takes it away. Maxell's eyes flashed again to where Elena stood and watched.

"I got credits." The younger woman blurted out her financial situation as if gleaning that Maxell was just about to remind her of that rule in regards to the breaking, and subsequent purchasing, of his presented wares. She put the sextant in his hand the way a dog accepts a pet from a master just as prone to throwing punches. "Okay. That's good, McKinney." Maxell held the sextant gingerly as Devon asked about maps. "Assuming you're more interested in planetary nautical maps than pre-Expansion Period star charts, you should see something you like in that catalog there." Maxell gestured, sextant in hand, toward the kiosk of vertical frames. Each frame was hinged for easily browsing between one preserved map to the next. She might even find an early ocean chart from her home planet, assuming she paid close attention to the frames marked with one red circle on the outer corner to represent the Red Phoenix.
The bugle sounds - the charge begins, But on this battlefield no one wins
The smell of acrid smoke and horse's breath, As I plunge on into certain death


Iron Maiden, "The Trooper"

Devon McKinney

Her eyes stayed on the sextant, after she relinquished it to him.  It had been hard to let go of but she wasn't wanting to get in trouble, get kicked out of the store, not be allowed back. He spoke her name and her eyes went back to the man.  Something about him was comforting to her.  It wasn't that he reminded her of the Commander exactly, but that same bearing, that same manner, made him easier to be around than some.  Most people she couldn't tolerate much of any more.  They made her edgy and nervous but he was very...calming.

She shook her head slightly, tongue darting out to wet her lips once more. "Earth-That-Was maps? Got plunny from home." Now that her hands were free one got stuffed in the trench coat pocket, as if she were ashamed of it, the other ran over the short cropped hair, a frequent gesture of self-soothing.  She turned towards the kiosk a little, moving where she could keep an eye on him and still turn to glance behind her.  She had that niggling feeling between her shoulder blades like she was being watched.  Dr. Grant said that was paranoia, and while it might be, it didn't change the fact that sometimes people were peepin' and creepin' around on the station.  She caught sight of the more than lovely Companion standing outside the Lady Magdaline, but she didn't feel a threat from her, eyes glancing over the scattered spacers and workers moving about before refocusing on Max and the sextant once more.

She was half smiling as stroked her head again, the baby-fine hair a comforting feeling Wonder if his hair is soft like mine? The thought slid through her mind of its own volition, startling her. He'd notice the soft look she had around her eyes change, suddenly looking surprised and fearful, actually making her take an involuntary step away from him, jamming her other hand in her pocket with enough force she almost tore the lining. She backpedaled into a small display case, but not hard enough to break or knock anything over, just to stop the backward flight.

Her eyes were darting around almost as if seeking an escape route.  She couldn't leave yet though.  The sextant hadn't been wrapped and wasn't paid for.  The anxiety was climbing around her like a boa constrictor, slowly making it's way up her, tightening around her chest, crushing her til she felt like she couldn't breathe.  Little gasping pants wheezed out of her as she tried desperately to force her lungs to work.

She couldn't think, everything had gone hazy and she couldn't remember what Dr. Grant had told her to do. All the exercises had gone out of her like the air she so desperately needed. She couldn't think...she couldn't breathe...her body slowly jack-knifed forward, landing on her knees, left hand fumbling in the pocket til she came out with a pill bottle, stuggling to get the lid off with one hand.

Elena

October 24, 2019, 01:39:32 pm #8 Last Edit: October 24, 2019, 04:06:54 pm by Lomari
Almost as though carried into Maxell's shop on a breeze or a curl of incense smoke, Elena seemed to manifest beside the proprietor of the shop, gentle concern written in coiling script across her features. Sliding past Max like silk against skin, the Companion knelt beside the stranger and settled one hand against her back with barest hint of pressure, as though the hand itself weighed nothing upon Devon's skin.

"Shh, shh, shh, my dearest dove," Elena murmured comfortingly, her voice a dew-sparkled cobweb in its fragile delicacy. "Inhale slowly, sweets. Fill your lungs to bursting and then let it all out again," she whispered, moving her elegant hand in slow, gentle circles against the woman's back. "Do you know your times tables? Or perhaps the A,B,C's is a better option," she suggested, tilting her head to the side to see Devon's face better, her chocolate waves slipping over one shoulder to form a perfectly molded curtain between the two women and the outside world.

"Recite them, breathe in time with them. Draw them in your mind, follow the script and coiling letters with your thoughts." As she spoke, her free hand lowered to the floor and she began to trace imaginary cursive letters with her index finger upon the ground, motions smooth and languid and hypnotic. The bracelets and rings on her porcelain skin shimmered magically in the light of the shop, the crystals sewn into the fabric of her outfit almost twinkling with some audible magnificence. With another smooth motion, she flicked off the top of the pill bottle and then pulled her hand back, not wanting to be in the woman's face space too long and make her feel caged or closed in upon.

Maxell Graves

"Earth-That-Was maps? Got plunny from home." Max nodded curtly in response to Devon's request. "A fine choice. You'll find one or two in their original cases beside you and-" Maxell watched Devon petting her hair before her expression shifted and she took a step back. His eyes squinted behind his spectacles, and when her hand went into her pocket he was sure she intended to draw a poorly stowed gun. Maxell moved forward, intending to close the gap between them before she could draw on him, but she moved back out of his reach and bumped into the glass case behind her.

"Careful. Don't want anyone getting hurt." The statement was more lie than threat. If she intended to draw her weapon on him, whether in a poorly-advised attempt at robbery or for a more personal reason (Max hadn't always been popular with Alliance Marines under his charge, and Devon looked the part of a maladjusted former soldier well enough), Maxell held in his heart every intention of disarming her in the most painful way possible. Maxell freed his right hand, watching her left, and gripped the clipboard in such a manner that - once he had control of her weapon - he could catch her between the eyes and across the bridge of her nose with enough concentrated force to daze her. Max learned a lot in Improvised Weapons Training, though he'd prefer to have a nice, solid book for moments such as this.

As Maxell prepared for the kind of fight he hadn't had in years, Devon shook, double over suddenly, and dropped to her knees. Maxell took one careful step forward, eyes ever on her left hand. "Hey. Whatever that is, don't do it here." As Devon continued to collapse on herself, Maxell reasoned that a solid blow to the back of the head might do the trick. He brought the clipboard up just as Devon's shaking hand produced a bottle of rattling pills. "Hrrn. Figures."

Maxell nearly brought the narrow edge of the clipboard down before a waft of breezy, blue smoke drifted between himself and Devon. "Elena." Her name on his lips made Maxell sound softer than he ever intended. "Careful with her! She's probably strung out on Blitz. An experimental stimulant issued during the end of the Rebellion. Kept soldiers up for days, made them more alert than ever. Was discontinued after soldiers started hallucinating, hollerin' about seeing Reavers and Browncoats everywhere. Also made them prone to seizures, and made their brains soft."

Graves then watched with no small amount of jealousy as Elena cooed and comforted the emotional wreck causing such a scene in his shop. He watched Elena's hands move with a dancer's grace as she composed herself with a matron's patience and genuine concern. Max noticed her flowing brunette hair shining brighter than any of her fine jewelry, but considered this a poor time to express himself. Hearing the pill bottle's audible pop, Maxell cleared his throat before issuing a gravelly protest. "I don't dare question the ancient wisdom and modern practicality of your Companion's training, Elena, but I urge you to reconsider. I don't believe more of that junk's going to fix her."
The bugle sounds - the charge begins, But on this battlefield no one wins
The smell of acrid smoke and horse's breath, As I plunge on into certain death


Iron Maiden, "The Trooper"

Devon McKinney

October 30, 2019, 09:44:13 am #10 Last Edit: October 30, 2019, 03:21:22 pm by Devon McKinney
Devon could read the intent within Max's eyes. Saw the clipboard raise.  She didn't blame him. Almost welcomed the blow that didn't come.  Oblivion would have been better than what she was seeing, struggling with in her mind.  His face had blurred in her mind, though that could have partially been from the lack of oxygen. Her old commander, the man before her, superimposed features confusing her even more.  She was blinking rapidly trying to clear her head that had suddenly gone fuzzy and far away. 

Then Elena was there and Devon couldn't decide if the woman was an angel or a devil.  She was refined and beautiful, the dulcet tones of her delicate voice everything Devon used to be, desired to be in some ways and yet hated with her very soul because she wasn't and never would be again.

Still the gentle pressure at her back, barely perceptible, was enough to cause her to gasp, rasping in a raggedy breath.  Enough to start the process, though she couldn't seem to be able to make the muscles in her diaphragm behave properly, her labored breathing like a busted bellows. 

The left hand still fumbled ineffectually with the pill top, the promised oblivion contained by the little peach diamond shapes within. She could recite the chemical formula by heart, had looked it up for all of the meds she took. Knew the warnings and side effects better than her doctors did.  4-[4-(p-chlorophenyl)-4-hydroxypiperidino]¬ 4'-fluorobutyrophenone, otherwise known as haloperidol.  Good old Haldol.  Her friend Hal. Elena opened the top and she knew the woman was an angel. 

Her right hand came up, grasping Elena's wrist in a grip like a vice.  No intent to hurt her, just clinging to something real and good as she carefully shook two of the peachy colored pills into her mouth, the acrid burn filling her head as she chewed them and swallowed. The left hand lowered.  Several more pills falling to the floor but she didn't care. Her head swiveled from Elena to Max, trying to find the real as her breathing finally returned to some semblance of normal.

"This isn't The Reliant.  You aren't the Commander..." That at Maxwell, not exactly an accusation, more trying to convince herself because obviously he knew where they were and who he was. A half cackle of laughter bubbled up but she choked it back.  "Not The Reliant. You aren't the Commander. He gave the order.  Stay there, hide, be quiet and I did, I did, I did, God help me, I did.  I'm a good soldier, was a good soldier, don't know what I am now." It might have been a laugh or a sob that shook her frame, or somewhere in between. Maxwell might recognize the name of that ship. There were dark rumors of what had happened there. 

She looked at Elena and she slowly released her wrist, the look of remorse on her face almost comical in its earnestness. "Sweet lady, I'm sorry.  I thought you were Death herself come for me at last and I welcomed you but that's just another of life's cruel jokes. Forgive me." And she did indeed seem truly remorseful. She looked up at Elena with a mixture of too many emotions but the Companion had probably seen them all at some point in time of her career. At this moment the most obvious was adoration.  The blubbering woman would have killed or died for the Companion had Elena asked her to, but underlying was envy and that could be dangerous indeed.

She was trying to compose herself though, she was struggling but trying.  Moving to pick herself up off the floor.  She fumbled for the cap for the pills, stuffing the bottle in her pocket once more, the ones that had fallen on the floor left behind, forgotten.

Maxell Graves

Though against his own suggestion, Elena's plot seemed to work. Reminding himself that the lady by no means lived to serve under his command, Maxell stood silent as he observed the slow change in the young woman's behavior. Perhaps the pill wasn't what he thought it to be. Or perhaps she was just that hooked. When Devon snatched Elena's wrist in her hand, Maxell stepped toward her and growled. "Back off!" Stilled by a look from Elena, Maxell halted his progression as Devon babbled on once again.

"This isn't The Reliant.  You aren't the Commander..."

"I was a Major." Maxell grumbled, the comment likely to earn him an altogether displeased look from Elena. Obviously the distraught young woman muttering on the floor of his antique shop would have no way of knowing his former rank, and it hardly mattered this far away from Alliance influence. Devon continued.

"Not The Reliant. You aren't the Commander. He gave the order.  Stay there, hide, be quiet and I did, I did, I did, God help me, I did.  I'm a good soldier, was a good soldier, don't know what I am now." Maxell's throat became dry as Devon continued. He asked himself why The Reliant sounded so familiar. He didn't remember boarding it for transport, nor could he recall it dropping any reserves to one of his depots for distribution along ground supply lines.

Maxell glanced up above the maps, where an early recruitment poster for the joint NASA and CNSA project that would evolve into the Global Exodus Alliance. "See the Universe!" Reading the poster's promise while the woman suggested she'd welcome death, Maxell tried to swallow the sudden lump in his throat. Though retired at the time, Maxell remembered exactly where he was when he first heard of the so-called Universe Battle that raged between a considerable Alliance detachment of ships and what was assumed to be the entirety of the Reaver fleet above the Cortex Relay Station Sygnus. The signal that originated from that planet that day would change the way Maxell Graves felt about the Union of Allied Planets for the rest of his days...

*SNAP!*

The pencil broke in Maxell's clenched fist. If Devon truly survived the rumors of what his former brothers and sisters in arms suggested took place aboard The Reliant, the woman might yet pose an altogether different kind of threat than he first considered. "Elena." Maxell spoke the Companion's name now with an altogether different tone. This time conveying the unquestionable authority of his command. "Devon looks like she could use some water. I have a dispenser in the office. Let's give her some space. Give her a chance to catch her breath."

Though Maxell was retired and in command of his own ship by the time he first saw the aftermath of a Reaver attack, he was familiar with the official Alliance policy not to bother sticking around looking for survivors. It was widely considered to be the undeniable truth that whatever physical parts of a person might survive, their mind was well and truly lost. He remembered the rumors shared with him from an old friend of a friend whose wife's sister served aboard a Cruiser that supposedly intercepted an unauthorized salvage operation carrying a so-called "survivor". To think something like that might have it's hand on Elena now made him sick to his stomach.
The bugle sounds - the charge begins, But on this battlefield no one wins
The smell of acrid smoke and horse's breath, As I plunge on into certain death


Iron Maiden, "The Trooper"

Devon McKinney

She latched on to what she could, anything, anything tangible and real to draw her back from the void that was trying to swallow her.  The room grew larger then smaller, threatening to collapse inward on her.  The pills were already working their magic by the time her breathing had steadied enough to allow her to stagger to her feet.  "Major." She mumbled the word, the feel of it familiar in her mouth and she drew herself up straighter, not quite attention, but close.  Her pupils were already a little dilated, the shadows that perpetually circled her eyes deeper more pronounced.

She brought her heels together, shoulders back. That gorram left bootlace was floppy again but she couldn't deal with that now. Major on deck. She formed up. Right arm came up in a sharp salute and down once more. "Major, sir. Orders, sir." That salute had been on point. Somewhere in her brain she knew she wasn't a soldier anymore.  Knew Maxwell wasn't either but she needed that order, that discipline to bring the world back into focus. Orders she could follow.  She'd been a good soldier once upon a time.

Dr. Grant could probably have suggested better coping mechanisms but Dr. Grant wasn't here right now. Devon was barely hanging on to here right now.  All she had was former Major Maxwell Graves and the lovely Lady Elena. She would be lost if she focused on Elena. She wouldn't even look at the Companion.  She would gladly fall at the woman's feet in supplication if Elena had any use for a wretch like her.  Just to be allowed in the presence of such grace and beauty and gentleness made her want to weep.  This angel had been kinder to her than her own mother had been.

She stood at attention, awaiting orders, but couldn't stop the dart of her tongue, the side effects of the medications. The soldier was in there somewhere still though. She hadn't succumbed like some.  There were no visible mutilations and she didn't appear violent, other than grabbing Elena's arm.  Even that had been an act of desperation that she seemed truly remorseful for.  She was lost though, lost and rudderless.  And Maxwell knew it was only a matter of time until a ship with no one at the tiller would run aground leaving devastation in its wake.

Elena

Elena had reached out to cover the hand grasping at her so desperately with her own, her touch soft and cool to the touch, a cold drink of water in a desert. Her expression was one of compassionate understanding, and it was clear that in no way did she consider the woman's gesture and reach to be unacceptable, despite not typically allowing others to touch her so freely (although they rarely tried.)

"Elena." Maxell spoke the Companion's name now with an altogether different tone. This time conveying the unquestionable authority of his command. "Devon looks like she could use some water. I have a dispenser in the office. Let's give her some space. Give her a chance to catch her breath."

The Companion looked up at him with raised brows, not questioning his order but surprised that he had given her one. She wasn't insulted, her feathers weren't ruffled. Instead, she understood that if he felt strongly enough about something to speak with that tone, it was something he felt strongly about and required close consideration. She'd known this man long enough to know that he knew so much more of the darker side of the world than she did and his opinion and station was to be respected. With a gentle sigh, Elena straightened and reached out to comfortingly rub Devon's back, "I'll be back, my dear, with some water," she assured her, a gentle look in her bright eyes.

With that, Elena turned and headed toward the back office, casting one more worried glance toward the woman she was leaving alone with Max. She had no doubt he wouldn't do anything untoward to her, but she still felt for the poor thing dealing with the ghosts and monsters Elena had seen in her eyes.

Maxell Graves

Maxell tried to force a neutral expression as he gave Elena a suitable width of berth by which to avoid him as he looked over Devon. The sweating, the shaking, the panic, the pills. "Blitz. No two ways about it." Eyelids squinting in horizontal shield guards between which 105mm shells fired, Max watched Devon like a hawk until satisfied Elena was a safe distance away before following the Companion inside, locking the door, and approaching the Telephonix mini-screen installed on the wall. "She's a gorram Blitz junkie." The Marine in him stated flatly before remembering his social graces. "I'm sorry for my language. I beg your pardon, truly. I'm contacting the authorities, such as they are. Surely even Centurion has some sense about them when it comes to matters such as this. It's safer in here until they arrive. I've seen what this does good Marines, although I never heard tell of its popularity among Naval ranks. Of course, I wasn't as close to Naval intelligence by the time the War ended..." Maxell turned away before a face hovering somewhere between bored and annoyed popped up on the Telephonix display. "Yes. Hello. Some junkie's trying to die on my shop floor. Send a couple of good men to take care of it." Back away from Elena, Maxell's glare bounced between the screen and the camera lens as if he wasn't sure which one to intimidate. This was because he didn't.
The bugle sounds - the charge begins, But on this battlefield no one wins
The smell of acrid smoke and horse's breath, As I plunge on into certain death


Iron Maiden, "The Trooper"

Devon McKinney

Her angel had left, promising to return with water and the Major followed, leaving her standing there awkwardly at attention.  He hadn't given her any orders or put her at ease, so she stood there, frozen, all except the slight twitching around her left eye and the way her tongue would dart out to wet her lips. Her breathing had finally steadied as the haldol kicked in. The fog that had clouded her mind was clearing slowly.  She hadn't had a spell this bad in a while, well, not when she was awake anyway.

When Maxwell and Elena didn't come back after a moment she relaxed from her position and looked around the shop. She wasn't a soldier anymore after all. She wasn't under orders.  She didn't touch anything, though in truth it was still her intention to purchase the sextant and the maps if he'd still sell them to her.  She took a few uncertain steps deeper into the store, the look on her face one of genuine concern and remorse. She stuffed both hands into the pockets of her trench coat, as if making herself smaller somehow.  She called out softly in that harsh and raspy voice, "Maxwell? Lady Elena?" Fearful that she had frightened or worse yet harmed the lady in question.

The thought that he would call for security never crossed her mind.  Perhaps it was the resemblance he bore to her previous commander, which was what triggered the episode to start with, but she like him, trusted him, which might turn out to be a very big mistake.

Elena

"She's a gorram Blitz junkie," Maxell snapped and Elena's brows rose in mild surprise. "Maxell," she murmured in gentle reproach, although she needn't have bothered as he apologized for his language almost immediately. Her smile was a soft acceptance and sign of her easy forgiveness for his lapse in manners. She didn't mind a man cursing, but she did mind impoliteness and impropriety. The fact that he'd apologized showed that he was still in full possession of his etiquette and good nature. When he turned to the screen, her hands clasped on front of her lap before she looked around the office, gaze scanning for the water pitcher she'd seen here before. "Ah," the Companion murmured, the noise naught more than a soft breeze slipping past rosebud lips. She picked up the pitcher and poured the woman back in the shop a glass of water, listening to Maxell interact with whoever had answered the call.

"Yes. Hello. Some junkie's trying to die on my shop floor. Send a couple of good men to take care of it," he growled. Elena set the container down and glided over to the Marine and the machine. "Medics," the Companion clarified, making sure whoever was on the other side saw her face. The Lady Magdalene brought in many high paying visitors to the station, and as such, she had a little political sway. "There is a very sweet woman with a mild medical emergency, and we would appreciate having a medic or two come make sure she is alright," she said, rephrasing Max's order with more of a gentle clarification. She wouldn't allow any thugs to come in and harass the poor dear.

"Maxwell? Lady Elena?" came the girl's voice from the other side of the door. The Companion turned to stare up at Max, then, a slight frown pulling at her lush lips. Surely he wouldn't sequester them in the office, leaving the woman out there like a puppy on the porch. "It takes a great man to give sound advice tactfully, but a greater to accept it graciously," she murmured, quoting a line from an old Earth That Was essayist she'd been introduced to from Maxell's collection.

"She is lost in the dark, Maxell, a dark you well know. Surely a helping hand from one who knows her experiences and has felt her fear wouldn't go amiss? Don't you think she's earned some compassion?" she asked, her empty hand resting gently on his upper arm. She didn't know what he knew about the woman's past, or her trauma, but she knew he could help, even if it was just in not sending security thugs to drag her out.

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