A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - Darius Black

Started by noseatbelts, May 29, 2020, 06:41:22 am

noseatbelts

Persephone

The streets were bustling this morning, traffic from cars, both hover and wheeled, kept the streets busy as pedestrians flocked the sidewalks and dared cross when the coast was clear. Vendors hawked their wares, children ran and played, the air was filled with the sounds of daily life as Darius Black took a stroll. He knew these streets, had been raised on them, and things hadn't changed much since he had left all those years ago. The same street carts and store fronts greeted him, though perhaps with different faces and different wares. It was the same and yet... something was off. Smiles for him, to be sure, he was recognized and remembered despite the years and traces of war he wore on his face.

But if one knew where to look, the demeanor was downcast. And one didn't have to guess why. People clad all in black patrolled the streets, stopping at each shop to speak with the owners, and the only thing they were bartering in was fear. Someone owned this neighborhood now, and it wasn't the shopkeepers.

Darius Black






'You can't go home again.'

That's what people said, anyhow.  Darius wondered if it was an axiom from the old times, when people had left the world-that-was for these new worlds.  You can't go home again.  They sure couldn't.

But in Darius' experience, that wasn't true.  You could go home again.  It just wasn't quite the same... and perhaps more importantly, neither were you.  Maybe that's what the saying really meant.  The shine of fond memory could clash uncomfortably with the reality of life's eternal grindstone.  But here... this was more than a change of perspective caused by time.

Things were different.  There was a ghost haunting these streets.  Or maybe haunting the people here.  A malevolent spirit. 

When Darius had left, Mom and Dad patrolled this neighborhood.  They, and a proper police force alongside them.  They'd done what they could.  You couldn't clean up Persephone.  Not entirely.  But you could tamp down the hurt enough so people could get on with their lives without feeling stepped on.  That was a generation ago, now.  Mom and Dad were retired.  Everyone he knew was older.  Things had changed. 

He wanted to find out how much.

Ma and Pa might not be patrolling these streets anymore, but Darius figured they'd still have the skinny on what was going on.  He hoped they were well.  The last bounce he'd exchanged with them on the Cortex had been a week ago.  They'd seemed all right, then.  But they hadn't mentioned the new normal.

Darius meandered down the street, nodding and sharing a warm hello with the people he recognized.  Some, he'd known since he'd been a knee-high small-fry.  Some, he'd known back when they'd been.  It was a bit shocking to see some boy grown into a man, some girl into a woman.  A new generation running their parents' old shop. 

It was eye-opening, too, to see people who'd once been young and fine-faced now showing the sagging creases of a life thoroughly lived.

Well, they weren't the only ones.  Darius had seen and lived more than twenty hard years since he'd signed up for the marines, and he probably looked like it'd been twice that many. 

Some people knew him.  Others were surprised- and he could tell a little dismayed- at how the sands of time seemed to have eroded his features.  Well... explosive decompression, a crash landing, and indifferent facial reconstruction had that effect on a man.

He walked on, face as friendly as he could make it.  Hands ready in case they should be needed for more than a friendly wave. 

He made his way towards the old homestead. 



noseatbelts

Home was where it always was, though perhaps not as it always was. A bit run down, like the rest of this part of the neighborhood. While other sections of town were booming, this seemed to be left as is. So while the paint was perhaps a bit worn, the streets lacking care, it still had everything Darius expected. Including his Ma, who was sweeping the porch, and his Pa, sitting in a rocking chair nearby smoking a pipe. Darius didn't have to get too close before his mother squealed in delight. "My boy! My boy!" She bounded down the steps with a vigor that belied her age. "You didn't say you was coming home, Darius. Pa, get up outta that chair and come see. It's your son!" With no small amount of grumbling, Pa Black obliged, groaning as his bones protested more than his mumbles did. He didn't come all the way down the stoop, however. His knees weren't what they used to be.

Darius Black

June 02, 2020, 05:08:00 pm #3 Last Edit: June 02, 2020, 05:12:19 pm by Darius Black


It wasn't a shock to see how their faces had aged.

Darius had called home time and again.  Kept in touch over the years.  Made sure his folks were all right.

But the screens had only showed faces.  Now, for the first time, he saw their bodies.  Thinned.  Hunched a bit.  Looking as fragile as dry leaves.  It was a disheartening thing to see your parents succumb to the frailties imposed by time.  They had been his heroes.

They still were.  But they no longer had the impressive strength within them that he'd known as a child.  He could no longer imagine them wrestling a muscle-bound perp to the ground and getting cuffs on him.  Time had come for them all.  Darius was older.  His parents?  They were old.

None of that kept him from rushing forward to meet them, and giving them a powerful embrace that might be a touch too strong.  He kissed his mother's cheek, then his father's.  The sweet tobacco smell of his father's pipe filled the air here, driving away the less pleasant smells of the street.  Mahogany Sugar.  His father had been smoking the same brand for as long as Darius had been alive.

"I wanted it to be a surprise," he said, laughing with them in a moment of mirth.  The city might change.  The house and his parents might look a bit more run down.  But their love was a forever thing, strong as always.  He could always count on that. 

"Come on Pa. Ma. Let's go inside."  He lent his father an arm, "You can tell me the neighborhood gossip.  And maybe a little about who is running the streets nowadays.  I don't like the look on people's faces."


noseatbelts

Over tea, Darius' parents (mainly his mother, Pa never was much for conversation) filled him in on the goings-on of the neighborhood in the years since he'd left. While they had both been retired from law enforcement for a number of years, they still kept abreast of what was going on. In the last few years, as often happens in run down neighborhoods, unsavory elements had moved in with promises of prosperity for the residents of the area. Sometimes it was corporations who would gut the infrastructure for their own means, driving out competitors, create a monopoly, and then drive up prices to folks who didn't have a choice. Sometimes the government would come in with lofty ideals of cleaning up the streets, rise property values and when the original residents couldn't pay and are forced out, gentrify the neighborhood in the name of progress and invite a whole new, wealthier populace in with open arms. Unfortunately, it was neither that was plaguing Darius' old home.

The Red Talon Tong had moved in and set up shop with an iron fist, demanding tribute from local businesses, promising to leave folks be as long as they paid their rent. Their activities, specifically, were unknown to Ma, though she suspected it was likely drug related. They had headquartered at the old Mayor's mansion, who had abandoned the neighborhood long ago in favor of one of those progressive neighborhoods with a deluxe apartment in the sky.

"It don't matter much, though, Darius. They leave us be. Not everybody 'round these parts is happy with the Tong, but can't do much these days. You want some more tea?"

Darius Black

Darius sat and listened as his mother took point on relating the skinny on events.  She started with a wide angle, covering a span of years.  Ultimately, however, the tale focused on recent events.  And finally, on the Tongs. 

It wasn't just the retirement of good cops that had caused the problem, of course.  There was less funding for police every year.  The wealthy hired private security, or elite enclave law enforcement answerable to private Homeowner Councils.  The lower middle-class descended steadily into poverty, shedding social services along the way.  That created opportunity.

When someone came along offering you protection, it might not even seem cynical.  These gangs always started off by providing legitimate protection for people who had gone too long without it.  But once a threshold was reached, they became the predators.  If you didn't pay their protection, they were the ones who brought their boot down.

"Mmm." Darius made the ambiguous sound as he mulled over how things had changed.  But he did lift his cup to accept more of his mother's tea.  There was the impulse, of course.  The desire to change things for the better.  To become a one-man wrecking crew, cleaning up the neighborhood.

But that was a child's thinking.  Echoes of his impetuous youth.  This town didn't want a new Sheriff.  And even if they did, Darius was no longer the man to do such a job.  He'd been discarded by the military and discarded by a frontier town already.  He wasn't going to offer himself up for that kind of treatment here at home.  And besides, even if a one man army could do such a thing, he wasn't the man for it. 

He'd climbed over the hill and was descending the far side of it.  The best he could do was squeeze some more usefulness out of his aging bones before they were as frail as those of his parents... before he couldn't do anything with the 'verse but watch it pass him by.

"It's a shame, what happens..."

He let the sentiment trail off, a bitter thought mixing into air which was sweet with pipe tobacco.

Then, "I won't be staying long.  Gotta find work, before by coin runs out.  The Alliance didn't leave me much of a pension.  And my time as Sheriff left me none.  If I ever want to sit on a stoop like my lazy parents, I'll need to build up a nest egg."

He winked and smiled.  His parents had been some of the hardest working people on the planet.  They'd earned their rocking chairs, and then some.

noseatbelts

The conversation continued pleasantly as Darius caught them up to his recent activities. His mother, of course, insisted on feeding him. It wasn't fancy, but it was very much the kind of cooking he'd grown tall on and it filled him up properly. It was tempting to take a nap after or even stay forever and Darius got the sense his mother wouldn't mind so much. But that wasn't the way of things. Once lunch was over it was time to be getting on. Hugs and promises of keeping in touch were exchanged and Darius found himself back out in the neighborhood he recognized, but didn't know.

Darius Black

It was hard to leave, so soon after getting here. 

But it would be too easy to stay.  One night.  Then another. 

His parents wouldn't mind it.  But each day he stayed, it'd be harder to go.  Sooner or later, it'd turn sour.  If for no other reason than that the money would run out. 

He needed to be out there, earning coin.  Coin for his golden years, and coin for theirs, too.  If either of them got seriously ill or injured, their own retirement nest egg would be quickly depleted. 

It was time to get work, and the best work around wasn't on the planet.  Not for the likes of him.  The best work he could get would be up in the sky, where the air got thinner and the danger got thicker.  But the pay purse got thicker, too.  He didn't need much to live.  Room and board was usually included if you took a job in the black.  Bullets weren't too expensive, and hopefully  they didn't get used up very often.  The rest could be savings. 

Days to weeks.  Weeks to months.  Months to years.  If you didn't get hurt, and you didn't spend much, then you could squirrel away quite a bit.  Even on the rim.

He made his way towards the street where the jitneys congregated.  It was time to get back to Eavestown proper.  There'd be ships coming into the docks there at all hours of the day and night.  A rough man with some big iron wouldn't stay out of work for long if he wasn't too picky about staying entirely on the right side of law and order.  Hell, he might even get a gig as a pilot, if the pickings for skilled applicants were slim.

noseatbelts

The Eavesdown Docks seemed to have been missed when it came time for the Red Talon Tong to stake its claim. The politics and logistics and metrics (all sorts of -ics) were just too vast in a bustling space port and control was next to impossible. It also offered the sort of shadows that bred subterfuge and skulduggery by the ton. Darius knew this world; this is where he could find any sort of work he might want.

Hiring ships could mark themselves as such in several ways. Legitimately, by posting on the cortex the positions they were looking for and applicants could submit resumes and references. These were accessible by personal cortex units or by public kiosks scattered about the area. Of course there was a user's fee associated with those (1.99 credits/minute, not too bad for those hard up) and some of the kiosks tended to malfunction (avoid the ones manufactured and Distributed by Vineland Industries, they were made from spare parts and maintained once every three years).

One could also walk down Ship's Row, where some intrepid crews would post hand made signs or stand and yell at passerby who might look interested (or might not). These folk tended to be a bit more desperate, or less inclined to have official documents proclaiming themselves as operating business, let alone hiring on hands. By and large, though, they were honest folks. Eavesdown wasn't known for it's underbelly, these days.

Of course, it existed. And there we come to our third hiring method. Word of mouth whispered to friends of friends. If one knew where to ask, they could find passage or work that avoided all records altogether. Of course, these were the unsavories, the unwelcomed, and the misunderstood.

So whatever sort of work or environment Darius might be looking for, his options were spread before him.

Darius Black

A good, reliable pistol was a must-have for law work. 

Darius actually preferred a slow-fire piece.  He liked to pick his targets.  His Bison Bastard was a twin-barreled wheelgun.  Heavy as sin.  Slow on the draw.  It made you take your time, and rewarded those willing to do so.  Accurate as a laser, with a hundred times the kick.  You could hit what you aimed at within twenty paces, or with the clip-on scope, a hundred paces and more.  The second barrel of the revolver held a single high-power rifle round. 

The Bison would have been a fine choice for taking down its namesake, if any still roamed the prairies on the half-terraformed little moons of the rim.  He doubted it.  Hard enough to find a cow on some of those rocks.

As much as Darius valued precision, not all jobs demanded it.  Sometimes you had more targets than you could shake a stick at.  In cases like that, scattershot was best.  Or a machine gun.

For this job, Darius decided to cast a wide net. 

He started with the cortex consoles and kiosks.  It was slow work.  Every legitimate Captain seemed to have his own take on Human Resources.  Darius uploaded his standardized resume, but then there was each ship's own private selection of questionnaires.  Even a couple of gorram IQ tests.  It was hours of standing at kiosks and punching in answers to questions like, "What is the next number in this sequence: 1, 3, 5, 7..."  A tedious process made all the worse by the fact that some keys got stuck, some touch-screens were buggy, and there were long lines for any interface units of decent manufacture.

By the time he was done with that, it was time to find a barker: One of the seedier personalities of the docks. 

Barkers were people who supposedly had connections to a variety of unofficial jobs, and could vouch for individuals on items of their work history for which no official record existed.  Some people called them Fixers:  If you needed something, or someone, they could fix it for you. 

It was hard to know who was honest in this dishonest line of work.  A sucker could easily pass a purse of coin to a pretender, and never see them again.  Fortunately, Darius had some idea of who had a reputation for sticking to a deal.  This, too, what a heritable line of business.  Some barkers were old-timers he recalled from his youth.  Some were the children of those folk, carrying on the old family line. 

These were the ones he sought out:  Old faces, and the new members of old families.  His parents wouldn't be so proud if they saw him passing his name into the hands of barkers.  His name, along with a small pouch of platinum.  But if he was honest with himself, there were better candidates than him for the good, clean jobs.  People without busted legs and busted faces.

When he was done with the barkers, it would be time for the Ship's Row.  There, he might catch someone's eye.  He would join a hundred other potential gunhands, strutting with a gunfighter's amble and a thousand-yard stare, trying to look like a figure from a cinema poster.  A cock walking the block, hoping some fat hen had a desperate need.

But of course, there were no fat hens on the Row.  And if there were, they wouldn't be hiring a forty-something who looked like a sixty-something.

In the end, it would probably be the barkers who got him work.  That, or blind luck.

Darius would be fine with either.




 

noseatbelts

As he scoped out the local offerings on Ship's Row, his personal cortex device, a simple apparatus the likes of which most folk had these days, notified him he had a message. It was from a gentleman, always best to assume the best in people, who said he was looking for hired help and would love to speak with Darius ASAP. He listed his ship, The Waltzing Matilda, as being berthed not far from where Darius found himself standing. He signed the message simply as "Bob."

Long enough after to get from there to here, Darius found himself looking up at a Grendel Class transport ship. Small, but sturdy, they were maximized for cargo and manned usually by no more than a half-dozen souls. A man stood out front with a big, goofy grin on his face and picked Darius out of the crowd almost immediately. "You must be Darius. I'm Bob! You got my message! Excellent. So glad you decided to come work for us!"

Darius Black



If you walked the worlds for enough years, you either got a sense of when something wasn't quite right... or you got dead.  When the offer had come in on his cortex com- a device that required a wireless link to a local cortex interface (1.00 per message on Persephone)- Darius eyed it somewhat suspiciously. 

When he finally stood there before Smiling Bob, his wariness did not wane. 

Casting his gaze over to The Waltzing Matilda, he took stock of the Grendel class ship.  It wasn't one of the larger transports on the Row.  In fact, Darius had flown ships of similar size during the war, getting troops in and out of orbit.  Grendels were fine ships for small operators, but they didn't have much to commend them beyond a certain sturdiness that they owed to their stout frames. 

Matilda had clearly seen better days.  Several parts of the ship seemed to be missing cover plates- cosmetic hull pieces that could be omitted because they were non-essential.  But when someone omitted them, or more likely failed to replace them when they were damaged, it said something about the kind of operation they were running.

Unfortunately, beggars couldn't be choosers.  If Smiling Bob was prepared to meet his wage, and didn't ask him to do anything overly heinous, this was likely to be the ship Darius hired onto.

" 'Decided' is a strong word for it, Captain Bob," Darius said, glancing about to be sure this wasn't a set-up.  Sometimes folks would pretend to offer employment to get a sucker out to a spot where he could be ambushed and robbed.  "But I'm prepared to hear your pitch if you're offering half-way honest work for decent wages."

He stressed 'half-way' a bit, so as to imply that he was willing to stray some distance from the straight and narrow if the payday was right.




noseatbelts

Bob smiled and scoffed away Darius' words. "You didn't say you were funny in your CV." Still chuckling, Bob led the way deeper into the Matilda and stopped when Darius seemed unsure. "Oh, don't worry. It's just me here. I'll leave the funny business up to you." The cargo bay was empty and cavernous comparatively speaking with the rest of the ship. "We're empty right now, but don't expect to stay that way for long. Once I get a few more crew I've got a cargo job lined up on Beylix." He let Daris take a look around as much as he liked. She was a bit run down but more or less well taken care of. Clean at the very least. "So you can set your things up in one of the bunks down the hall, they're all open, like I said, except for the port side state room on the upper deck, that one's mine. The bunks are on the lower deck, you can have your pick of those." Another of those damnable smiles. "Oh! Almost forgot: it's two-fifty a month for the room and board, with the first and last month due at signing. And before you ask, there's no security deposit. I trust ya." Awkward silence. "Once that's squared away we can get you to work."

Darius Black

Darius stopped like a sprinter racing headlong into a freight train.

He turned to face 'Bob,' his eyes searching for some sign of humor on the man's features.  Surely, he couldn't be serious.  Surely, this was some kind of misguided attempt at jocularity.

And yet... there was no sign of a jest.  While Bob had no problem smiling, he clearly wasn't joking. 

"You seem to be under the mistaken impression that I'm going to pay you for the privilege of working for you.  I'm beginning to get the sense that you've been wasting my time."

His eyes were hard.  "I'm a good-natured person, Bob.  I recommend not trying this again.  The next time, you might not be so lucky as to encounter a forgiving soul."

With that admonition, he turned and began to walk away.

noseatbelts

June 23, 2020, 09:21:40 am #14 Last Edit: June 23, 2020, 09:32:45 am by noseatbelts
Bob was used to this kind of answer. "Okidokey! Bye now!" He said with good-nature and a wave. Not everyone liked that sort of arrangement, but it wasn't hard to imagine some folk going for it. Different strokes, and all that.

Back to the job hunt, Darius checked his messages and found another one waiting for him. Apparently pilots that were handy with a gun were in demand on the Eavesdown Docks today. This one was addressed from someone named Yang Gao and gave their berth as being further down the row, number 131, a ship called the Ching Shih. It didn't take long for Darius to find it and even less time to recognize it as a pirate vessel. Arikara classes were well-liked for their modularity and heavier armaments than your typical civilian class, therefore perfect for raiding and the like.

Before Darius could decide whether he wanted to pursue this particular ship for employment, a man called his name. "Mr. Black! I am Yang Gao. First mate of the Ching Shih. Pleasure to meet you." He offered a polite bow, then straightened and extended a hand in greeting.

Darius Black

Darius left Bob behind with a sense of frustration at the ludicrous 'offer' the man had made.

But as he departed, he wondered if this was indicative of the poor state of the job market on Persephone.  Years ago, such an offer would not have been common.  But he'd been out of circulation for a while.  What if this was the new normal?  The thought did not sit well with him.

Fortunately, he did not have to brood on that possibility overlong.  A new offer quickly populated onto his com.  It was for employment on a ship called the Ching Shih.  Darius vaguely remembered the name from his history classes as a child.  Ching Shih was a 'Pirate Empress' of old Earth, in a time before reckoning.  The name did not necessarily bode ill for the intentions of the Captain.  People named ships for all kinds of things, and all kinds of reasons.

When he finally laid eyes on the ship, he became a bit more concerned.



The Arikara class was a favorite of pirates.  Fast, easily customizable, and tough.  The 'modular equipment' mounts could easily hold weapons emplacements.

Darius didn't feel very keen about plying the spacelanes, accosting innocent people and taking their stuff.  It was one thing to step past the constraints of law and order.  It was another to wantonly attack passerby, rob them, and possibly murder them. 

But... perhaps he was being premature.  Just because a ship was a good platform for piracy, that didn't mean it was a pirate ship.

Darius turned as Yang Gao called out to him, returning the man's bow politely before extending his hand to meet the other man's grasp.  Firm, but not overpowering.  No attempt to assert dominance, merely confidence.

Gao had a rough look to him.  Lean, world-worn.  A hard man who'd seen hard things... and had clearly done them, too.

"Thank you for your message," Darius said, "I look forward to learning about the kind of work you might be hiring for."

noseatbelts

Yang Gao smiled. "As you can imagine, it has is difficult to parse through the riff-raff of the Eavesdown hiring boards. Many people looking for work. But not many like you." He motioned for Darius to follow him into the shade. Members of his crew, hardscrabble as he was, bustled about hard at work. They seemed well-regimented and behaved. Decidedly un-pirate like, at least to believe any stories one might hear. Yang Gao took a seat in a crafted chair that one would have to guess had been placed there for the purpose of their meeting, as another identical one sat adjacent.

"Your resume is very impressive." He said, his fingers steepled as he lounged in the chair. "I must admit, I was surprised to see you respond to our message. A former Alliance Marine. A former Sheriff." The implication was left to Darius to parse. A steward came by with a jug of indiscernible liquid. Yang Gao accepted a glass for himself and offered one for Darius. "Refreshment? When I look at you, Mr. Black, I see a man who has been failed by the establishment that he once held dear, or at the very least, to which you swore allegiance. A man who has been failed by the 'Verse and now strives to make his way in it by any means necessary." Yang Gao offered a slight shrug and sipped his drink. "Tell me, Mr. Black. What do you see when you look at the Ching Shih?"

Darius Black

June 25, 2020, 10:23:17 pm #17 Last Edit: June 25, 2020, 10:30:13 pm by Darius Black
Darius glanced over the workers bustling about the ship as Yang Gao began to speak.  Only a glance.  He did not wish to seem rude by avoiding the man's gaze.  Dangerous men were not to be trifled with.  It didn't matter whether you liked them or not.  Only one man in a hundred carried the 'dark spark,' as Darius' father had put it.  When you found such a man, even if you might be inclined to despise them, it was important to respect them.  Just as you might respect a venomous snake.

What did it say about Darius, he wondered, that Yang identified him as 'a man like you.'

Probably just a reference to his past employment.

Probably not one snake recognizing another.

Probably.

Darius took the offered chair in the shade, thinking over what his glance had told him. 

This was a disciplined crew.
 
If they were pirates, they would be the most dangerous kind. 

Though, perhaps he'd misjudged them.

Perhaps this was a mercenary ship.  That was a profession Darius hadn't considered.  He began thinking about it, now.

When Yang offered him refreshment, Darius hesitated for only the briefest of moments.  Press-ganging was not an entirely unknown practice.  Drug a man.  Kidnap him.  Force him into service.  It wasn't just something that happened in vids about the world-that-was. 

But while Darius believed Yang might be willing to engage in a big book of sins, he didn't take him for someone like that.  Perhaps the ex-Sheriff put too much faith in what his eyes could tell him about a man.  Either way, he accepted the beverage with a nod of thanks, and took a sip as they spoke.

"I have lived long enough to put my faith in some wrong corners, Mr. Gao.  I've reached the point where I realize it may be time to make a living by coloring outside of the lines.  But a man can't survive if he can't live with his choices.  It's a narrower road I walk now, than the one I used to tread when there were signposts to show the way."

It was as frank an admission of his situation as any he'd made since his knee had been shot into an alleyway.  Perhaps it was easier to be frank with a dangerous man. 

What secrets did a snake have? 

Yang asked him what he saw when he looked at the Ching Shih, and Darius did not have to look at it a second time before making his answer.

"The crew says more about the ship than anything else.  Sharp.  Steady.  Organized.  Not carousers or casuals.  The vessel herself is a good choice for hard business.  Fast.  Tough. With emplacements to do a bloody deed well.  The Ching Shih is a professional ship.  Her profession... could go in a number of directions.  Beyond that, I wouldn't speculate."

He took another sip of his beverage, watching his interviewer with a steady gaze.






 

noseatbelts

June 26, 2020, 07:45:08 am #18 Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 06:54:50 am by noseatbelts
At the sound of laughter from within the shadows of the ship Yang Gao immediately got up from his seat and deferred to a robed man who replaced him in the chair. One needn't have guessed, this was the Captain of the Ching Shih; the authority practically dripped off of him. He stared at Darius for a moment before he spoke. "A very diplomatic answer. Perfectly balanced on the edge of caution and civility. I am Cheung Po, and this is my ship." Cheung Po, of course! Ruthless scoundrel, merciless pillager, and dreaded Pirate Lord; Cheung Po Tsai (The Kid) as he was called, was wanted in nearly every system by the Alliance. The pieces began to come together for Darius. But why would one of the most infamous pirates in the 'Verse be sitting here at Eavesdown pretty as a picture for anyone to see? They didn't seem to be hiding, nor afraid of being seen. Something wasn't right.

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the Valley of Darkness." A coy smile. "The Valley of Darkness is the 'Verse and I am the shepherd. Are you also a righteous man?"


Darius Black

Darius turned at the sound, and his eyes went wide when he found its source.

An interstellar most-wanted pirate... here?  In the Eavestown Docks?  Listening in on job interviews?

He'd never been very good at math, but even he could tell that this picture wasn't adding up. 

Standing up out of respect to the new arrival, he eyed him warily.  If the XO had been a Snake, then this was the King Cobra.  Po recited something that sounded like scripture- it had the feel of it. 

Darius had read the 'Good Book' back when he'd been a schoolkid.  Ma and Pa hadn't been tight on God.  But they'd thought there were things to learn in the thin, crinkly pages that could benefit someone in their lives.  Still... Darius couldn't actually place the phrase.  It was as though someone had said something in the style of Christianity without actually using any direct quotes.

"There are few among us who would not at least claim to be trying their hand at righteousness, Captain Po," his voice was smooth, betraying little of the concern welling up in him.  "But if you will forgive me for saying so, the authorities of this universe would not likely categorize you as being among them.  In fact, I think the Alliance would suggest that you better represented the 'Tyranny of Evil Men.'"

He glanced around, some confusion clear on his features.

"But I have not been a Sheriff in many months.  And I may have missed a change in your relationship with them."

Historically, governments had sometimes redeemed pirates by making them into privateers.  Was that what had happened here?  Had the Alliance, with bigger fish to fry, hired a shark?

If so, that might make any employment with this man not only legal, but laudable.

...Depending on what kinds of fish it was that the Alliance needed served up with a side of chips.


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