Just How Much Trouble Can We Find?
“Close the hatch,” Shyla Kramer said without looking up from her desk.
Yu-Shin Harrington, Harry to everyone who knew her at all, closed the captain’s door behind her and then slouched into a chair in front of the desk to wait until Shyla’s gaze came up, her expression in its customary neutral lines.
“Picked up another Wave from Nika,” the captain said to the diminutive weaponsmaster. “I want your opinion of the pattern of them.”
Harry sat forward to skim the Cortex screen that Shyla turned toward her and then sat back. “Looks to me like our Xiao Mei’s gotten herself into a bit of a mess,” she commented mildly.
“Well, that’s a good bit of an understatement, don’t you think?”
Harry shrugged easily. “What’s eating at you? The rumors?” Their last two planetfalls had been fraught with tension even before rumors of their erstwhile pilot’s involvement with Nguyen hit their radar.
“Yeah,” Shyla sighed. “Connelly’s confident that it isn’t what it looks like, but… I have to wonder, Harry.”
“It would be highly unlikely,” opined Harry, her eyes calm on her captain. “Xiao Mei has never shown any indication, even in our meetings after the death of her brother-in-law, of having that kind of political leaning. And if she didn’t have it during the war, she certainly wouldn’t suddenly develop it.”
Propping her chin up on one fist, Shyla leaned on her desk. “Sounds like we’re too late to bail her out of whatever mess it is that she’s gotten herself into, but I think we should make a point to catch up with her. Our next run’s out to Blue Sun. Let’s pull her in for a bit of face time. It’s been too long anyway.”
Harry smiled, pushing herself out of her chair. “Sounds good. I’ll send the comm.”
Shyla smirked faintly. “Think we’ll actually get to lay eyes on her for longer’n fifteen minutes?”
With a laugh, Harry replied, “I’ll tell him we want time with her too. They’ve been on-again, off-again for what… eight years now? I’m sure he’ll manage to behave.”
Deadwood was a rough and tumble town, not much more than a saloon, a general store, and a church-cum-school in the middle of nowhere. The sheriff’s office was actually two towns over—which translated to three or four days by horseback and five hours by shuttle—so it made an ideal place for a meet in spite of the heavy Alliance presence in Blue Sun.
Brian Connelly walked with Harry through town, scuffing his boots as he walked. His devil-may-care attitude and the reaction of the women in town to it always made her smile. “You got yourself a date already?” she asked him, pretty sure she knew the answer already. They had a seven-day layover before Summer’s Gift arrived—she’d be shocked and amazed if he didn’t have a new girl for every night of the week.
“Oh yeah,” he smirked in return.
“She married this time?” Harry demanded with a snicker.
Affecting a mildly offended tone, Brian’s expression held nothing but mischief. “Hey, how was I to know she was chatting me up just to get back at her old man?” With that pretty boy face and his insouciant grin, he was almost always trouble in town. Women loved him and men loved to hate him—about every third stop, they had to bail him out of jail for brawling. It had been that way even during the war, though perhaps back then it was every fifth landing.
“I should not be amazed after all this time at your ability to attract trouble, Connelly, and yet I still occasionally manage to find myself feeling exactly that,” Harry said as she shook her head. “You ready for this visit?”
Brian glanced at her, his quick grin belied by the concern in his eyes. “Yeah. Still think Shyla’s worryin’ for nuthin, though. Got us a cow for a good old-fashioned barbecue, though.”
Harry chuckled. “Sounds like a good way to welcome our girl home.”
Brian shrugged carelessly. “Not sure she’s plannin’ on comin’ home to stay, Harry, but either way it’ll be good to see her again. Specially if she’s got a day or two,” he grinned unrepentantly and waggled his eyebrows at her.
Harry merely rolled her eyes at his nonchalant act and split off from him, his laughter echoing after her as she headed back toward the ship. Those two ran off every time Nika managed to catch up with Harbinger, but she’d seen signs last time that it might not be too many more meets before their pilot would be coming home.
Wednesday, 28 Sep 2518 Kuiper II Class Summer’s Gift Deadwood Blue Sun System – Directly from Log File Just for Reference Purposes
Harbinger is waiting for us on Deadwood when we arrive. As a location, Deadwood is pretty unprepossessing. The town where we’ve arranged to meet is sports the same name as the planet, a one-horse drop with a single dirt road running through it, board and batten buildings on either side. Frontier western-y. Scrub brush. A distinctive rock outcropping in the short distance, like the prow of a maritime ship sinking nose-up into the landscape, is the only interesting feature to catch the eye. The landing facilities aren’t much more than scorched dirt. We pay up on our docking fees, fill up the Gift’s fuel tanks and sort out who’s going and who’s staying aboard.
Mike, knowing full well he’s a liability and his life is forfeit if anyone in the clandestine community discovered his condition, opts to stay aboard the ship. Rina opts to stay with him. Nika takes Christian, Arden and Donovan with her to meet Harbinger’s crew.
Connelly and Kramer are already at the Rusty Nail Bar in Deadwood when Nika arrives. Donovan goes straight to the bar and buys a round for the table and a few extra drinks for himself.
Arden: They seem a little on edge about something. Nika: You guys go and hit the bar for a couple of minutes.
The men retreat to the bar and Nika continues on alone. Donovan eyes the people waiting for her at the table, sees they are indeed nervous…not necessarily about Nika, but about something, and decides to keep his eye on the Captain. Christian finds a chair to sit down and relax in. Arden remains standing at the bar and discreetly checks out Kramer…one good lookin’ woman, that one. Nika approaches her old friends easily and drops down into a chair they’ve got waiting for her.
Nika: Sorry about the crooked message. Kramer: Yeah, sorry if we seem less than welcoming than usual… Nika: Yeah, well… Kramer: Nothing will change the years you were on the ship. That’s always there. Unless there’s something you need to tell us or ask us? Nika: Well, I could’ve used a little back-up, you guys’re stuck out here...that’s okay, though. Kramer: Just understand that…well. Why don’t you tell us what’s going on? Nika: Well, we’ve picked up a passenger, down in Georgia, who got pulled up by a nasty little chemical called Chempliance. Heard of it? Kramer: Hm. Yeah. It was in the news recently. Nika: (sarcastically) Yeah. The news. Yeah, that’d be the one. Kramer: So you were with the--? (gestures vaguely) Nika: Yeah. Unfortunately. Kramer: It doesn’t take a lot to piece together where your ’waves are comin’ from and what’s been goin’ on. Nika: Didn’t know what I was getting’ into.
Kramer and Connelly both look a little relieved when Nika says this.
Nika: Ran some cargo for Solon Massoukis, picked up some cargo from him and took it to Beaumonde. Wound up putting out some feelers for a little more lucrative cargo than what we’d been runnin’ and sorta got pulled in. Didn’t know what Nguyen had goin’. And lemme tellya what—He’s got some crap goin’. Kramer: Of course, because he’s a terrorist. Nika: Precisely. All I was gonna do was run cargo. He said he could use some extra hands, we needed the credits, took the job. Didn’t ask enough questions. Really sucked. Kramer: Well, it certainly hasn’t helped the situation here. Nika: I’m sure not. In addition, it got one of our old friends caught in the middle, which is why I wound up in Georgia, where we had to pull him out of a friggin’ clinic down there…the Alliance had him in. Kramer: One of our old friends? Nika: You remember a guy named Carter? Kramer: He was in Alliance custody?
Kramer sighs heavily.
Nika: And pumped full’a crap. Kramer: And where was this cli— Connelly: Don’t ask that. Nika: Don’t ask. Do not ask. We did spring him. He’s not in custody anymore. Kramer: All right. Well. Nika: What in the hell is goin’ on out here? Kramer: Here it’s just man, which is why there isn’t anybody out here…but….people are starting to move faster than may be such a good idea. We’re kinda easing back out of this and I’m glad to hear that you’re not a big fan of those tactics. Nika: (you gotta be shittin’ me!) Um, no. I’m flyin a friggin’ cargo hack. Got no interest in that kinda crap with a cargo hack…and a crew that knows jack and shit about anything. Kramer: Well, at least you got a factory. That’s pretty good. Nika: That was sheer stupid luck. Seriously. Sheer stupid luck. It’s been a mess. And I crossed fuckin’ Potemkin. I don’t know if you know his name or not, but if you hear it and there’s a problem, let me know, please. Cuz didn’t I hire out with him and wind up with a stolen ship. Kramer: This is where you end up after it’s— Nika: Well, not right after, but that’s how all this got started, yes. Kramer: You not a Dust Devil, that’s what we were worried about. Nika: Um, no. And I half expected you to have Harry sitting outside to kick my ass as I came in the door. Kramer: And the rest of you crew? They feel the same? Nika: Yeah, the feel the same. Well…my passenger may or may not, he’s kinduva—whatever. Kramer: Well. (gestures she’s shelving that topic.) I assume you’ve seen the ’Wave. Nika: Oh yeah. I’ve seen the ’Wave and the crap they pumped Carter full of before we picked him up is a descendant. Kramer: I hate to tell you, but that man is gonna be marked. Nika: Oh, hell yeah. We took him from an Operative. Kramer: No, I wouldn’t worry about the Alliance. That’s the least of your worries. All your old friends….well, not all of your old friends— Nika: What do you mean, marked? Kramer: Carter knows a lot of— Nika: Oh, that? Yeah, I know. Kramer: Okay. If you know where he is— Nika: Don’t ask, don’t tell. Kramer: (continuing)— and we don’t want to know, but you might not want to advertise that you know. Nika: I’m not advertising anything except with you people. Kramer: Well. We’re gonna go for a little … sightseeing tour in a little bit. I thought you should know about that. But that’s what we wanted to talk to you about. If all we get what we expect, then we should be fine. If you don’t hear from us for a while, that might be a good reason why. Nika: Oh, good. Kramer: Well, the ’Wave was a long thing, but people say it’s fraudulent. Nika: (getting it now…) You are n—You have…You have got to be pulling my leg. Really. Kramer: You know this ship. Nika: I thought you were a little sane. Kramer: A buncha cracked-out Reavers. We think most all have probably been dispersed by the Alliance fleet. You know those ships can’t do anything to us. So we’re gonna check it out.
Nika sighs a long despairing sigh and just looks at her former Captain. The woman is nuts, just fuckin’ nuts, going into Reaver space to ‘check it out’… and there’s not a thing Nika can do about it.
Kramer: We’ll let you know, if you want, what we find. Nika: Yeah, I want! Kramer: All right. Nika: Good Lord. Is there anything I can do to talk you out of it? You’re insane. that’s more insane than I have been for the past three months, and I’m tellin’ ya, that’s sayin’ somethin’. Kramer: Actually, we have reason to believe it’s not going to be so dangerous. I mean, if a Firefly can get in there…. how hard can it be? Those things are a piece’a crap. You all know that. Nika: (letting it go…God) Well, I got obligations here. Who’s flyin’ for ya? Kramer: Oh, we got this kid. He’s pretty good. He’s crazy, but, you know, that’s okay. We already know what the ship can handle because of you, so, as long as he flies no worse than that… Nika: I’m getting a headache. The more you talk, the bigger my headache gets. Kramer: All right. Just so you know. Well, then, I hereby put a moratorium on all discussions of plans and pasts.
Nika turns in her chair and waves her crew at the bar to come and join them. When everyone settles, Kramer looks them over.
Kramer: So this is the crew you chose over the Harbinger. Nika: No. Kramer: (grinning) I got it. Arden: More the crew she got stuck with. Nika: These are the people I stole the ship with. Arden: We didn’t steal the ship. Christian: We returned the ship to its proper owner— Arden: —Who gave it to us. Nika: Who then gave it to us, yes. (starts laughing) This is a big long story. (to Connelly) You’re buyin’. Connelly: Oh, I’ve done more than that. In another twenty-five, thirty minutes we’re gonna have barbeque like you’d never believe. Nika: Ohhhh….. Connelly: (smugly) I bought myself a cow. Nika: I love you. You are so getting’ laid. Arden: (incredulous) Is that all it takes? Barbecue? Christian: I could’ve made barbecue.
At which point, Connelly’s comm goes off: An Alliance cruiser is coming straight for Deadwood. Kramer orders her ship and crew to climb aboard and bug out. The barbecue is cancelled.