Episode 602: Quarry, Part Two

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The en suite bath is also empty. He sees the bed has been hastily made but doesn’t look recently slept in. A couple draws in the desk are ajar. He pulls open one of the drawers and sees the pistol inside. The bullets are rattling round loose next to the gun. It doesn’t explain where Sims is, though. Joshua returns to the crew lounge where Nika is eating and sitting with her coffee. Rina’s joined the crew, the smells of breakfast finally successful in drawing her out of the engine room. Joshua looks mournfully at the breakfast spread and knows he’s not going to have a chance to eat it, announcing to the room at large that our passenger is gone.

Joshua: So … he’s gone. He left the gun behind, though. Including the bullets.
Rina: (putting fork down) Did you count them?
Kiera: What?
Nika: Rina!
Joshua: Why would I count the bullets? The gun is left behind. Unless he’s going to kill someone with an individual bullet—
Nika: From his teeth.
Joshua: And if he can do that, we don’t want to follow him or know where he is going, because he is much more bad-assed than we are.
Kiera: A man who can spit bullets at the speed of sound is awesome.
Joshua: And the ship had no record of him leaving the ship, which … kinda disappoints me.
Nika: Is his gear still on board? His duffel and such?
Joshua: Yeah.
Nika: Did you check the cargo deck or anything?
Kiera: Maybe he wanted to take a walk. He might be walkin’ around, thinkin’.
Joshua: Maybe he is. That’s probably true.
Rina: I’ll check Lagniappe.
Nika: Please. Check Lagniappe, yes.

Rina’s already moving for the flight deck and Kiera sighs and rises from her breakfast.

Kiera: I’ll go to the cargo bay, Cap’n.
Joshua: (sighs) And now we’re all a little bit—
Nika: Now we’re all a little bit nervous. Now you’ve got me paranoid and the hair is standing up on the back of my neck. Now we gotta go find him.

Yeah, cuz if Sims isn’t on our ship, then where the hell is he? It’s damned creepy, is what it is. Nika and Joshua quit the table.

Joshua: But he left the gun behind. So now I’m less paranoid than I was previously.
Nika: Now I’m concerned that the man is having some kinda PTSD attack, okay? Se if you can find him, make sure he’s okay.
Joshua: Why don’t I just call him on the speakers?
Nika: Go for it.

Joshua keys the nearest wall comm and opens a channel on all-ship.

Joshua: (on the comm) Bradley? Breakfast is ready, Bradley. If you could please report to the galley to eat said breakfast. (keys off, says to the air) Ship, are you sure there is no record of anyone leaving?
SmartShip: The cargo bay doors were open until 10:45PM, then closed last night. No external doors were opened since then.

Beglan looks up from breakfast and says over his shoulder:

Beglan: Yeah, I was with the Captain then.
Joshua: Okay.

About moment later, there’s a hiss from the comms and Sim’s voice spits out from the speakers.

Sims: Yeah, this is Bradley. Sorry, I’ll be up in a minute.
Joshua: (keys comm) All right.

Rina goes up to the hangar bay and back without seeing or meeting Sims. Ditto for Kiera on her trip to and from the cargo hold. Joshua sees him enter the crew lounge from the forward area of the ship. He’s stretching and yawning.

Sims: Hey, you’re eating early. Are we adjusting to the time on another planet or somethin’?
Joshua: Okay … so … I got woken up in the middle of the night …

Joshua slips easily into the role of the steward and cooks up some eggs for Sims’s breakfast, talking the while. Sims watches from the counter in the galley.

Sims: I’d like them sunny side up, please. Can you do that?
Joshua: Sure.
Sims: You can do that?
Joshua: Yeah I can do that.
Sims: I don’t like them runny.
Joshua: Yeah, I can do that.
Sims: Actually the eggs you’ve got are reconstituted.
Joshua: Oh, yeah, I can. Just you wait.

It takes some doing but cooking is an art and Joshua is an artist in the kitchen. He delivers up a plate of good looking eggs. He settled our passenger down at the table with the hot food and takes a seat himself.

Joshua: So I woke up last night. Horrible dream. Horrible dream about I was some Navy guy assassinating a traitor in the middle of this hug ship. It was really frightening—well, not that frightening. I felt fairly cool when it was going on.
Sims: Wow, that’s a really strange dream.

Joshua watches Sims and sees our passenger is momentarily startled by the account. Sims recovers quickly, however, and Joshua fills the man in.

Joshua: Yeah, it really was a strange dream. Which is the point. So I wake up and end up waking my fiancée up and Kiera was already up and then we wake the Captain up and since everyone was already up, we might as well cook breakfast. So we went down to your room to check and see if you were there, to tell you about breakfast, and nobody answered at all. We were a little worried that you might have had a heart attack overnight, cuz you weren’t even responding to the ‘we’re gonna have to leave you here’—
Sims: Why didn’t you just comm me?
Joshua: That’s the thing. I did.
Sims: It’s not that big a ship. I just wasn’t right next to the comm.

Which just begs the question—what was he right next to? Kiera walks in from the cargo hold and Rina is hard on her heels from the upper deck.

Kiera: Oh, he’s here.
Rina: You’re back.
Sims: I’m here now. I was in the cargo bay.
Kiera: I didn’t run into you. You’re like Stealth Man.
Sims: I went up the ladder. I like ladders.
Kiera: (dubious) You like ladders? That’s cool …
Joshua: It’s not that unusual. So … (gestures) … Eggs.
Sims: (looks) … Thanks. So … Why’s everybody up so early … ?
Joshua: I ended up waking everybody up. The Captain was quite perturbed with me for some period of time.

Sims nods and then asks:

Sims: So, have you decided what you’re going to do with the cargo? Cuz I’m intrigued. I was down there, thinking about it. Making a guess how many devices there were and I thinking that … since obviously you can’t deliver them …
Joshua: (carefully) That’s true.
Sims: The Law of Space says that they’re yours.
Kiera: (riiiight) Really?
Joshua: There’s a Law of Space?
Sims: It’s the unspoken law of space.
Kiera: You sound so enthusiastic. Like you’re gonna get a part of it.
Sims: Well, I’ve been workin’. Right?
Kiera: Really?
Sims: That’s why I’m only paying half, cuz I’m working it out. Like the hydraulics and did no one notice the heat exchanger I helped with? And all those toilets I scrubbed.
Kiera: I don’t think you understand the pay grade that this ship pays.
Sims: I’m not claiming a full share, but I’m just thinking that I bet if we could get to Persephone we can sell it—
Joshua: Look. I—
Kiera: Again, I don’t think you understand how poorly this ship pays.
Sims: Maybe I can help with that.
Joshua: (at Kiera) Hey, hey, heyyyy. We pay better than we have previously in the past.
Sims: Well, there you go. And what do you need to pay to get salaries? You need money … right? And you’re sittin’ on a bunch right now, I think.

Meaning the cargo in our hold. Cargo that technically still belongs to James Brion’s contact.

Sims: I reckon there’s several hundred of those devices down there, in each of them. If they’re somethin’ valuable, it’s good money.
Kiera: You went into one of the cargo containers?
Sims: I was just down there guesstimating, based on how big they are.
Kiera: Uh-huh.
Joshua: And what was your guesstimate, just out of curiosity?
Sims: Oh, about …. seven hundred. Unless they’re all decoys.
Kiera: (at Rina) Did you leave one open?
Rina: (terse) No. I closed it up.

But she did bring one of the devices up and show it to the crew. Sims saw it then. Rina doesn’t much like Sims horning in on the cargo. He’s a passenger, working for passage, but it doesn’t make him crew. Joshua and Kiera are careful not to agree to anything the man says and Nika sits quietly to the side, watching everything like a hawk. At the moment, her XO and Steward have things ably in hand, but she’ll step in and lay the hammer down if she needs to. Beglan likewise watches everything from his end of the table.

Nika stirs.

Nika: We’re gonna give Brion long enough to respond back.
Joshua: How long is long enough, just out of curiosity?

It’s a cross-system wave going to a system that doesn’t have a narrow-beam Cortex connection. Instead of minutes or hours, we’re looking at days before we get a response back. How many days?

Nika: Total? I’d say we give him three days for turn-around time.
Joshua: All right. It’s not like we’re in a huge rush or anything.
Sims: Is he going to compensate you for that?
Joshua: What? The wave?
Sims: Not the wave, but if you’re waitin’ around, then you gotta fuel, you gonna take it all the way back to … where’d you say it was from? Where was the wave sent? Somewhere in Kalidasa or something? Or in White Sun?
Joshua: (to Nika) Didn’t you send that wave back to Beaumonde?
Sims: Beaumonde. So that’s really far. So … two weeks?
Joshua: We’ll worry about it when we get the response or don’t get the response. If we don’t get the response we’ll have to rejigger our expectations and figure out what to do with them. It’s all up in the air, so give it a couple of days.
Sims: We still have to repair the ship for all that we did for this guy. How many thousands, how many credits is that going to cost you?
Kiera: What’s this we, white man?
Joshua: No, it’s all good.
Nika: (to Sims) We’ll give it another three or four days. After that, we’ll head for Persephone and drop you off.
Joshua: The cargo’s not going anywhere. Food costs are relatively amenable. Would have had to fuel up anyway. We’ll see how it goes.
Sims: Well, you had that maneuver out in space … That’s gonna cost you something.
Joshua: Yeah, that. Agreed.
Sims: Beggar and I have been going over the damage report. It’s pretty extensive.
Joshua: Yeah?
Sims: Rina. Don’t you agree? You’re Chief Engineer. How much do you think it’s going to cost to pay for this amount of work?
Rina: (glowering) Don’t start me.

Nika gives Sims a look.

Nika: Why do y—Hold on. You’re pushing awful hard.
Sims: Pushing awful hard to get us to Persephone?
Nika: Forgive me but we have not run across too many people who are looking out for our best interest.
Joshua: Hey.
Sims: Your best interests at the moment are my best intests. Because you’re taking me to Persephone.
Joshua: That is true. We are.
Nika: That is true. But that does make our finances anything to do with you.
Sims: No, but going back to Beaumonde to deliver a failed cargo and then doing weeks of repair there—
Nika: No. We’ll drop you off at Persephone first.
Rina: (quietly to Nika) Excuse me, but you look awfully alive to me. (pointedly to Sims) I don’t think she died and made you Captain.
Sims: I’m not sayin’ she … No, I’m just trying to get you …
Joshua: I appreciate it. And so does she.
Nika: If you are genuinely motivated by concern for our well-being, I certainly appreciate it. Absolutely.
Sims: To be fair, it seems to me that this cargo is up for grabs and that, you know, it would be reasonable for you to take it and share it and then there would be some real profit to be made there.
Nika: After best efforts to contact the person who hired us to deliver it in the first place.
Joshua: It’s all about ship reputation.
Nika: (continuing) Unlike yourself, who traveled across the Verse doing what you’re doing, the only thing we have is our reputation. If we’re going to get hired on to take cargo, we have to either have a reputation of doing what we said we’re going to do or we’re going to have a reputation for … stealing cargo or dumping cargo at the first possible opportunity. And we have to choose which of those reputations we’d like to have.
Sims: I think that’s a great idea. I just hope that the reputation you get isn’t willing to do anything, take any kind of damage, and getting nothing in return for it. Cuz I don’t think that’s a very good reputation either.
Kiera: I think I’m going to water the plants in Botany Bay. I’ll be back. Gotta water them plants.
Joshua: Hey, hey, hey. Those are my plants. My Botany Bay.

Kiera eyes Joshua and the Captain, then shoots Sims a green-eyed-stare-of-death and goes to our hydroponics bay. She checks the arms locker while she’s at it. Who knows what Sims actually poked into.

Nika: Rina, why don’t you and Beggar go ahead after breakfast and see which of the repairs can be made while we’re on the ground here. We still have a little time to give them for the wave to come back in.
Rina: At least I have stuff I can repair it with now.
Nika: Just make sure we’re spaceworthy at this point. Joshua, can I see you?
Joshua: Yes, ma’am.

Nika and her XO repair to the bridge. Close the door.

Joshua: Captain?
Nika: So … Do you think he wants a cut or what?
Joshua: I’m not Reading him but it strikes me as a combination of several things. A) he’s looking to get paid by getting to Persephone and that’s on his mind, and—
Nika: We’re going to get paid. He’s not getting paid anything. His pay is half of his passage.
Joshua: No, no. Not by us. But when he gets there, he’s got goods. He’s got something that he’s going for. He’s got something that he thinks is going to be big-time.
Nika: I understand that.
Joshua: So understand, that’s A) He’s thinking about that and not wanting to get derailed by—
Nika: But what do our finances have to do with him falling into a ton of money?
Joshua: They’re not directly related. Let me finish. I’m saying that’s one thing on his mind. The other thing is I think in general he’s thinking about—and he’s probably been doing it for a while—he’s thinking about profit. And he’s thinking that if he can get some profit out of this, then maybe if he convinces us to go the right way, then we’ll cut him in for some percentage of crew-share for selling the goods.
Nika: Why in the world would we do that?
Joshua: Well, he is technically been, well, you know …
Nika: No. He came on board with the understanding that he was getting reduced passage for some amount of work.
Joshua: Yes.
Nika: That is the only agreement we have.
Joshua: And I realize that. I’m just saying that to give you his mental perspective. If he feels he’s part of the crew, then he’s going to feel “well I was doing the work, then …” technically we paid him for it by— (off her look)—yeah, anyway, you got that.
Nika: I don’t like the fact that he is so interested in our ship’s finances. I don’t know that I … I wouldn’t be comfortable with anyone being that interested with our ship’s finances, but it sort of disturbs me that a man who’s come on board as a passenger is inquiring so in depth into … (words fail).
Joshua: He’s not inquiring that in depth.
Nika: He’s really pushing, Joshua.
Joshua: I’m not saying he’s not pushing. I’m saying he’s not inquiring, which is different. I think he feels, rightfully or wrongfully—and I’m not him so you don’t have to argue with me—that he’s been putting in the risk and he’s been doing the work. And I think he feels that if he convinces you that this is the right way to go, then you’d be grateful and give him some small cut out of it when we sell it. Also to be fair to him, I don’t think he knew—I don’t think he was there—when we took it as a Browncoat thing. That’s part of the reason why we got the deal on the sensors, but part of it was the fact that we were doing a favor for somebody on the other side of the War. So, if he doesn’t know that, he has no reason to think there is any other reason why—
Nika: Now I have some concerns about the idea that he might even suspect that.
Joshua: And to be fair, we also had an Alliance run-in/evasion. If he didn’t already suspect it—unless he’s dumb—
Nika: Then maybe I’m reacting with paranoia because you—
Joshua: Woke you up at 4 in the morning. Sorry.
Nika: And it had you wound tight.
Joshua: Sorry.
Nika: I don’t like reacting like Rina, okay? I really don’t.
Joshua: There are times …

When Rina is justified in her reactions.

Nika: I understand that but I would prefer to walk the line between. I don’t like that stuff.
Joshua: So, do exactly what you’re doing. Decide as the Captain that right now there’s no decision to be made because we’re waiting three days to hear back. When we hear back or don’t hear back, you make a decision, you inform us of the decision, and you say—as you’re prone to saying—“This is the decision. It’s final.” (off her look) No. It’s not in a bad way. It’s in a good way. I’m not kidding. You make the decision. You tell him that’s the way it’s going to be. If he don’t like it, he can get off here. Otherwise we’ll take him to Persephone.
Nika: All right.
Joshua: I didn’t mean to wake you up at 4 in the morning.
Nika: You’ve been on board for how long and you didn’t know that already? I am not a morning person.
Joshua: I fear and I respect you. It was really—ow!

Nika swats him one. The force of the blow is annoyed. The look on her face, affectionate.

Joshua: I do. It was really a question of which way causes me more pain. And I weighed the facts and decided getting you up at 4 in the morning had less pain involved than not waking you up. Clearly I was wrong.
Nika: Go.
Joshua: Yes ma’am.
Nika: I’m taking a bridge shift. I wanna take a look at the new sensor package anyway.

Joshua leaves her to it and inspects hydroponics, just to be sure Kiera didn’t damage any of his plants. Nothing’s damaged but his calm. Having escaped an ass-reaming from the captain, he takes some time looking them over, checking their progress, soaking in the peace of their green.

Meanwhile, as he and Nika are hashing it out on the bridge, Kiera inspects the forward arms locker on the crew deck. She leaves the one aft near engineering for Rina to check, knowing her friend is paranoid enough to do it without prompting. It doesn’t look like it’s been messed with. When Rina goes back to the aft hallway to engineering—lined starboard and port with storage lockers—she does just that. Everything seems in order.

And so breakfast passes. Sims seems to have taken the hint and stays on the passenger deck since it doesn’t seem that he’s wanted as a crew member. Kiera slips him cookies and Joshua gets the go-ahead to apologize for the Captain’s demeanor. She’s not a morning person and was woken up at an ungodly hour and that colored her attitude a bit. Nika allows that if Sims woke from the same nightmare Joshua had, then it could be Sims was just trying to walk it off—the way she would, had she suffered a nightmare. Joshua finds him in the passenger lounge watching a Cortex vid.

Joshua: Hey.
Sims: Hey, what’s up?
Joshua: I just wanted to apologize for throwing things out of whack for a little while. Woke up the Captain at four in the morning. She doesn’t take too well to getting woken up at four in the morning, so we’re all a little bit off our game. You’ve been doing good work, like crew. But to be fair, the agreement was for not paying full passage, you do that work. (off his look) I’m not the Captain, so I’m not saying one way or another. I think we’ll find if we get a wave or don’t get a wave, that would be the time for us to think about what to do.
Sims: Sure. Sorry, I didn’t know you guys were on some sort of … mission, or something.
Joshua: No. You didn’t know, you had no reason to know, you had no way of knowing.
Sims: I guess, most ships, it seems people are mostly interested in themselves. So maybe I just assumed. But that’s good …

And Joshua notices Sims is looking at him … a little oddly. Sims maintains eye contact throughout this little exchange. There is no breaking away, just that steady on gaze. It’s a little off-putting. A little creepy. Actually, now that Joshua thinks on it, Sims seems to be taking in everything about him with his gaze. Not leering, exactly, not staring, but certainly spending more time eyeing him than a man would another man Not in the manner as if Sims has seen him from somewhere, but more like he’s attracted to him, the way someone admires eye-candy walking by.

Joshua’s comfortable in his sexuality and it doesn’t faze him a bit. He lets it go and moves on to the next bit of business.

Joshua: So, we’re good?
Sims: I guess, yes.
Joshua: Cool.
Sims: So, am I … working or …?
Joshua: We like you working if you’re up for it. You still got a ship to Persephone that you’re still paying for.
Sims: Is that where we’re going next? Persephone?
Joshua: My understanding is that—this is not laid in stone—but my understanding was that no matter what happens we’ll get you to Persephone, cuz that was pretty much agreed that we would make this trip and get you to Persephone after it. Something could happen to overrule that but for right now, assume that’s the plan.
Sims: All right.

It’s eight days away from here. Not too long a journey, once we get that cargo offloaded. It may be that if the wave doesn’t come in, we’ll end up taking the cargo to Persephone to sell it there. We have contacts there. Badger, for one. Rina’s old friend Omar, for another, and through him, more contacts. But for now, we’re waiting on Brion to wave us back. No word comes that day and we settle for another night on the dirt.

Friday, 16 Oct 2522

Brion’s wave comes in. Nika takes it on the bridge. The man on the screen sighs.

Brion: Yes … the next contingency is … to deliver it directly to our contact on Paquin. If you’re not interested in trying to run the blockade at Paquin, sign off this wave now.

Brion pauses, giving Nika time to think it over. Joshua is standing at her side and he grins at her.

Joshua: It’s like he knows you. ‘If you’re capable of running the blockade …’ (whispers) It’s like they know.

It’s like they know Nika has a hard time resisting a challenge to her flying skills. She keeps the channel open, accepting that challenge. On the screen Brion relaxes and nods with a tight smile.

Brion: Well, good. I’m sorry it took so long to get back to you but we had to send a message to the contact. The secondary drop off point is in the gravel works at Saint Maris. I’m forwarding you the GPS coordinates. (sends the co-ords)Your contact is Mary Hogan. You can drop it off there. Try to arrive 2 AM local time. Do your best to evade any sensor sweeps. Try to land in the main gravel pit to avoid Federal encounter. However you wanna do that, it’s up to you. If you think you’re going to be intercepted and can dump the cargo, I would do it there.

The wave ends and Nika and Joshua look askance at the screen. Dump the cargo? Huh. They quit the bridge to inform the crew—including Sims—that we’re going to Paquin before we go to Persephone. It’s a short hop. We have contact information and once she plots in the course, she’s getting us off the ground. We’ll refuel before we break atmo and then make off for Paquin.

Now Paquin, as we know, is crawling with Feds. From the news reports, we know that armed insurgents have targeted Alliance outposts around the major city of Circus. In response, the Alliance has cracked down on movement and attempted to enforce a curfew in the cities, along with roadblocks and no-fly zones. We could reasonably assume the 2nd Fleet will make its presence known there.

Nika: So we’re going to Paquin, which is dicey at best.
Beglan: Well, it’s not like we didn’t have trouble getting here.
Joshua: Can you handle it, Nika?
Nika: (easily) Oh, I can handle it. I’m not sure if the ship can.

Of course, during the two days we were waiting on the ground, we weren’t exactly idle. Beglan and Rina spent that time repairing our ship. By the time we dust off of Triumph, they’ve got everything repaired back to operational par. However, if we take on damage, it will strain our systems to below par again.

Best we not get hit.

We refuel at the starport on Truimph before leaving on our 12 hour flight to Paquin. There is some worry—how will we get there without running into the Feds? She’ll plot the course straight to St. Maris, with an eye toward giving us approximately an hour to land. Still, there’s the matter of evading the Feds. Rina suggests she pull our pinger to make us an even smaller and quieter radar presence.

Joshua: So technically, depending who we get, we might be able to bribe them. But that is really dependent on whether we get Joe Shmoe who hasn’t been paid in three weeks because the Alliance is slow running checks and are too busy beating down on the Rim worlds. Or we could just abseil our way in with our ship into Paquin. (gestures) Shhhhhooooomph! I like it. It’s got adventure. It’s got daring. It’s got adventure plus daring. It’s got risk.

Kiera: You have got to stay away from the coffee pot, Joshua.
Joshua: I haven’t had a cup of coffee in … like … months.
Kiera: (at Rina) What are you feeding him?
Nika: Joshua.
Joshua: Yes?
Nika: I’m wondering if we could request an escort for a visit to your father.

Meaning Commander Wise in the 2nd Fleet.

Joshua: Well, if you never want to see me again. Actually that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I don’t know how he would react to that. Basically in my mind, that’s about equally as risky as abseiling, except that we’re risking my life instead of the ship’s life. Which is, actually to be honest, a fairly fair trade.
Nika: I didn’t necessarily mean that we’d go meet him shipboard. And we can flat-out tell him if he wants to meet, we’re headed in that direction and if he would like to have lunch or something like that … I don’t know how he’ll respond to that, because what you have said to me that you’ve been keeping in contact but I don’t know what that contact consists of.
Joshua: Neither do I. Here’s my point. Regardless of communications between the two of us, and that we’re trying to keep the communication line open—regardless of that, I guess the best way I can describe it is like a heroin addict who’s gotten on the good, and if you float a bunch of heroin in front of him, it’s quite possible he’ll be really good and we can arrange a meeting and talk and then leave. It’s also perfectly possible that he’ll decide that you guys are a bunch of—

The irony of his comparison of Wise being a heroin addict, when Wise was instrumental in getting Joshua off his addiction to Flomoxipan isn’t lost on any of us. Joshua loves the irony, actually, but doesn’t allow himself to linger on it.

Joshua: If I had to make a guess, I think we would meet and be fine and then we would go, but he’s also not the Commander of the Second Fleet. He’s the captain of his own ship but that doesn’t mean if he still feels I’m his son, I’m still an Alliance officer on AWOL with potential Alliance secrets. It’s risky.
Nika: It is a risk. The balance of that would be that seeing for himself that you’re off the drugs could be enough to at least garner his ship to meet us for a time.
Joshua: If he can.
Nika: If he can. There is that. We didn’t necessarily leave on the worst terms with him but we didn’t leave on the best, either. Joshua: To be honest, if I had to make the choice—
Nika: You’d always risk yourself before you’d risk anything else, so that’s not really saying much.
Joshua: Actually, in this case I’d rather abseil the ship.
Nika: (surprised) Really?
Joshua: Simply because it doesn’t have anything about to do about me over the ship or the ship over me. I think you’re reading the risk wrong.
Nika: Okay.
Joshua: I think going and abseiling the ship risks the ship and everybody but I think me going in? Risks the ship and everybody, because if I get taken, I think the whole ship gets taken.
Nika: Ah. Which is why I raised it. So you could assess it.
Joshua: This is not to say I wouldn’t like to him again.
Nika: That still may be possible. (to Rina) All right. Pull the pinger. Let’s go.

Plan decided, we fly to Triumph’s spaceport and fuel up. That depletes most of our cash. That lack of cash severely limits our ability to bribe any Feds who might intercept and board us. To get around that eventuality, Nika will fly us as close to Paquin as she dares and drop out of pulse—and evade detection that way. She’ll time it so we’ll have thirty minutes before we auger into the planet. Essentially, we’ll be coming out of pulse damned close to atmo, if not actually in it. It’s the one sure-fire way she knows to evade patrols in the space lanes. We’ll just not be IN the space lanes when we come out of pulse.

Nika: Let’s have some fun. I’m feeling a little reckless. You know, cutting loose a little bit.
Joshua: That’s one of the reasons I like you. I like the bulleting plan. You know why I like the pulsing one? Over the other one? The bullet option will utilize the best pilot in the Verse and the best mechanic in the Verse.
Nika: You’re a little biased. I hope they don’t see us.
Joshua: Space is big. Really really big.
Nika: Oh screw it, we’ll bullet in.

It’s risky. If we don’t drop out of pulse soon enough, we’ll auger into Paquin. If we drop out of pulse but are going too fast, we won’t have enough time to stop before we auger into Paquin. Or we might come out of pulse, have the engines stall, and not have enough time to restart them before we auger into Paquin. Kiera suggests we put the crew in lifepods before dropping out of pulse.

Joshua: There’s no way you’re putting me in a life pod.
Kiera: (wails) I love you, Nikaaaaa …. ! (mimes closing a hatch)
Joshua: There was no way I was using a lifepod the last time. There’s no way I’m using a life pod this time, either.

Because coming out of pulse in atmo was something Nika’s done before.

Kiera: (continuing) I’ll write a song about you …. Fwooosh!

At the appropriate hour, she drops us out of pulse. Good news: we didn’t auger into Paquin. Bad news: we’re a little farther out than we’d hoped. Badder news: our proximity alarm goes off. The scopes show a small craft, a 50 tonner. It’s an ASREV and it’s on a fast intercept course right for us.


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