Frontier Salvage Company
Chapter 1 – Touchdown
“Spaceflights are merely an escape, a fleeing away from oneself, because it is easier to go to Mars or to the moon than it is to penetrate one's own being.”
For over one-hundred years, Titan had been silent; circling Saturn as a ghost of failure and devastation. Rumors about the moon’s unusual and untimely ruin were whispered by all those who travelled among the stars. Did terrorists attack the processers? Many groups, vehemently against space expansion, would have liked to take credit for the disaster, but then again those rumors were proven to be unfounded entirely. In truth, as many people believed, it was most likely a critical meltdown of the atmospheric processors, rendering the planet uninhabitable.
After so long since the disaster, the moon was now a gold mine of information and salvage. Quarantine or now, it was quickly becoming too good of an opportunity to pass-up. Whether they were thrill seekers, fortune hunters, or criminals hiding from their past, the crew of Malcolm’s Void would soon arrive. Very soon they would discover the century-old truth.
Six months, twenty-one days and fourteen hours to reach Saturn’s moon: Titan. It has been six months of patience and anticipation. The wait, of course, was something most were used to. If one did not have patience in space travel, then they did not have business being in space to begin with. Indeed, it was not the journey that left the crew on edge with excitement and trepidation. It was the destination.
Location: Malcolm's Void
Date: August 12th, 2743
He lunged forward. And again. The light ting of rapiers echoed off the bulkheads in the make-shift weight room and training area. Back and forth the two men danced in the ancient, but noble art of fencing. Again, the older of the men advanced on his opponent, but it proved to be a mistake as he heard the dull pressure of the tip on his chest.
Drifter froze then, and looked down at the tip pressed against his left pectoral. Slowly, his narrow lips twisted up into a smile.
“Where’d you learn to do that?” The younger man stepped back, letting the rapier fall to his side and brushed the silver hair out of his face.
“You did, the first time you gave me this ancient piece of tin.” The young man spread his feet apart and raised his rapier back up. "Ready for round two, old man?" Ryder mimicked Drifter's smirk.
“If you think you have the stamina… The Captain of Malcolm’s Void shrugged, then smirked. “On guard, then.”
With a motion of respect, Drifter saluted with the rapier before assuming a relaxed ready stance.
Ryder never took time with the civilities of the sport and lunged into his attack. He tried to catch Drifter off guard by utilizing the same move right away but, as expected, it was easily parried. Ryder took a step back to regain his composure.
“So tell me, what's the point of these things when we have guns? Not like your rivals will be running at you with a sword.”
He parried a few more times, as his opponent lunged and attacked. In truth, though drifter held his fighter’s stance, he was also relaxed, and the look in his one-good eye was rather bemused. “You use guns when you need the job to be down and dirty. Swords, on the other hand, take time and precision. You think the fight as much as you act it out. True swordsmen do not rush, they take their time. Once, long ago, it was thought to be a gentleman’s sport. I prefer to think of myself as a gentleman.”
As if to make his point, Drifter suddenly shifted his weight. It was as though he knew exactly how his opponent would react. Suddenly off balance, Ryder’s rapier shifted, and he was exposed. Drifter seized the opportunity and in an instant, the other man’s padded vest buzzed. “Case and point.”
A moment later, a third person in the room cleared her throat.
Cool blue eyes watched the men sparring. She stood there, her hands at her side, and her stance at ready. Those eyes followed the fight, every trust, parry and swing. Such an ancient sport seemed useless in this day and age, but really, she did not judge. Besides—not that she would admit it, ever—she found such graceful movements enticing.
On the other hand, there was news to share, and it was her duty to share it. Gently, Nadya cleared her throat.
“Ah, Nadya.” Drifter smiled, then, his one-good eye twinkling with mirth. “News?”
“We will be in orbit around Titan in a little less than three hours. I thought you should know.” Nadya nodded, her expression unchanged.
“Excellent. Notify the crew. We’ll meet in the map room in twenty minutes. Ryder, come, we have much to do. We’ll break this tie later.”
“Sure, and while we're at it, I'll explain all the things wrong with that little speech of yours.” Ryder tucked his sword under his arm and pulled off his gloves.
Drifter chuckled heartily. “I look forward to it, boy.”
“Captain.” Nadya nodded with acknowledgement and then turned, ignoring the rest of exchange between the Captain and Ryder entirely. There were more important things to do.
As the hatch closed heavily behind her, she vaguely heard Drifter calling after her to smile. It was a phrase she commonly heard from both Drifter and the crew: “Smile.” “Lighten-up.” “What the hell is your problem?”
With a heavy sigh, Nadya ignored the occasional (or not so occasional) jabs and comments. Her mood was really no one’s business, and as long as the job got done and everyone got paid, little else mattered. Admittedly, she was grateful that the others, for the most part, left Nadya to her solitude and brooding. She was quite good at it; that it made her come across as a hard-ass bitch was a slight bonus. It was better the others think of her as such, rather than the alternative—Nadya preferred not to think about the alternative. Despite her methods the job got done, and it got done right.
One-by-one, Nadya found the others, notifying them of their planetary approach before heading to the map-room.
(Co-written by Azena)
Joshua ‘Toggs’ FitzPatrick,
Cockpit, 2200, August 12th, 2743.
It was a straight and stead course, as it had been for the past couple of months. Aside from maintaining the current route and navigation system and ensuring nothing out of the ordinary was happening to the ship, he had very little else to do.
During these six months, he had gotten through four books and thirty-two films. He was slowly coming to an end of his fifth book, 2001: A Space odyssey. He found it didn’t actually live up to the hype despite being a book of space age antiquity fiction. “Hitchhiker’s guide is much better.” He said to no one but himself as he set the kindle aside. “Properly shouldn’t be reading stuff like that, considering that we’re going to the planet of the dead.” He joked while the boot steps got louder as they closed in on him.
“Captain wants us all to meet in the map room in twenty minutes.” Nadya leaned against the wall near the hatch, folded her arms across her lean chest. Her deep smooth accent carrying softly, but distinctly across the space.
“And hello to you to kitten.” Josh shifted himself to an upright position, taking his outstretched legs off the control panel. The chair rotated as he came to find Nadya stood before him, always vigilant, always commanding. “What if we suddenly go through a crater field or get caught by a meteor storm? I can’t be dallying with maps while the ship is torn the shreds.”
“Twenty minutes,” she repeated, her gaze turning icier—if that were possible--before turning her back to him, and muttering under her breath. “Plenty of time to take a shower.”
Grabbing his jacket, he dashed out to follow her. “Don’t worry. We haven’t been past anything dangerous in four months; I doubt a black hole will suddenly devour us.”
She said nothing as the pair carried out down the metallic shaft of the ship. Nadya said little, this he was used too. Though he liked to think she had a soft space for him, or she tolerated him. She hadn’t hurt him so he thought he was doing a fine job of not invoking her wraith. “You should be excited; this is a big deal for us. We’re pioneers. Nobody has been to Titan in in years! Now we’re turning up and we get to find what Paladin left behind…”
There was more silence between the two before he spoke in a more hushed, more serious tone.
“…We get to find out why they abandoned it.”
This, was the most intriguing aspect of it all. Josh had always been into the quirky aspects of life, the what and the why. He certainly wasn’t one for conspiracies but Titan had always been interesting to him, it was the chief space-farers ghost-story. He heard it all at the bar’s in the docks on Earth and Mars and every other space station. Each one had a theory; each one had a tale to spin. Sometimes he came across the odd one or two who claimed to have been down to its surface.
‘The planet is haunted.’
‘The planet is home to aliens who didn’t want to be disturbed.’
‘It’s a concentration camp.’
‘The planet houses a god!’
‘It’s a paradise filled with whatever desire you could wish for!’
To say that he was excited was an understatement, from not only a payment aspect, but also that of discovery.
“I’ll head to the map room if you want me to leave you alone,” He offered.
Nadya shrugged. “No matter, I should really shave anyway. Catch you later.” He signalled off with a mock salute before heading back to his quarters.
August 12, 2743
Sparks rained down around her stinging the exposed skin of her neck slightly but not enough to convince her that she needed to pull up the heavy neck of her uniform to block them. The cutter hummed quietly as she cut through the fused outer hatch cover the relays behind the cieling of the small maintanence tunnel. At only three feet by three feet it wasn't a place for someone with claustrophobia issues.
Luckily for Jennifer she had conquered her fear of small spaces years ago. "Aha," she crowed quietly as the plate finally popped loose. "Took ya long enough ya freggin piece of junk." She set the plate down above her head on the floor of the tunnel and yanked the exposed fiber optic cables out. A tangled jumble of multicolored wires and tubing only her years of experience with Malcolms Void allowed her to make any sense of the mess. Any other mechanic would have been completely lost but since she had replaced almost every inch of the 30 miles worth of wiring running throughout the ship she knew it as intimately as she knew her husband.
She grinned as she thought of Markus, probably tinkering away in the engine room and idly wondered if she would have enough time to rip his clothes off and thoroughly violate him before they landed on Titan.
She lost herself in her daydreams for a moment before shaking herself back to reality and the high current cables incheds from her face. "Focus Jen," she admonished herself. Ten minutes later she had isolated and fixed the power issue running through the Helm and had closed everything up.
As she pulled her body from the hatch into the cockpit she sidled out from under the cockpit control, expecting ot come up between Toggs legs. Not that she had any rel interest in the man but it was fun to tease him. Instead the pilots seat was empty and he was nowhere to be found. "Well feck," she pouted. "where did he go?" The humming of the ship vibrated through her boots, reassuring in its constant and unabated presence. The only time a ship didn't have a steady sound pulsating through it meant it was dead in the water and most likely the crew along with it.
The left the cockpit and began making her way through the corridors toward Engineering. It would take her at least fifteen minutes to get there from where she was but idly she made a quick detour a minute later, deciding on the spur of the moment to wander past the Map room and see if anyone was there.
"Captain wants us all in the Map Room in twenty minutes." Markus pulled his head from under the Access Hatch beneath Engine 3. Of the Eight massive engines built into the Malcolms Void Engine 3 had always been the one that he could never get calibrated just right, and as such Markus was constantly tinkering with the damned thing.
He glanced over to where Nadya stood at the bottom of the incline leading down into the main Engineering bay. Her face was as stoic as ever, as had been the flat delivery of her information. Without waiting for any further indication from him that he had heard she turned and walked back the way she had come, presumably to spread the word to the rest of the crew.
That was one thing he never understood about her. She didn't always seem to use the easiest method to do things. Markus sighed and set down the plasma tuner he had been using on one of the induction coils within the engine on a nearby tray. Each tool was aligned in a precise manner, the mark of years of experience. Often had Jennifer commented that she thought he was Obsessive in regards to his tools. Everything else about the man was a wild mess, but his tools were always in impecable order.
Two long strides brought him over to a control panel built into the wall and he tapped a button, turning on the interior broadcast system. "Hey, everyone. This is Markus down in Engineering. I've just been informed that the Captain wants us all in the Map Room in Twenty. Be there or be forced out an Air Lock by Nadya." He grinned and turned off the P.A.
"Wonder how much trouble that's going to get me into," he muttered with a broad smile stretched across his face as he walked out of the room and began making his way toward the briefing that was bound to be on it's way.
Soon, he thought. We'll be on Titan. He glanced back at the engines, sitting calmly in their docks within the cavernous Engineering section. As long as nothing goes wrong.
Malcom’s Void Armory
“Mother-loving-son-of-a-whore-biscuit!” Sam muttered through an exasperated sigh as she rubbed the whole of her face in annoyance. She glared down at the now empty box she’d dropped and the hundreds of brass cartridges they scattered and rolled across the floor, seeming to find every nook and cranny... Mocking her and her clumsiness, she thought. All she had wanted was to reload the things so the ship could save money on bullets, not play fifty-two hundred brass pickup. That was all. She didn’t think it was too much to ask for, really.
When she’d joined the Malcom’s Void crew nearly two years ago, she’d insisted that she ship be equipped with a brass reloading kit. The array of tools needed to make ammunition was very unique; you couldn’t just take a hammer to it without it blowing up in your face both metaphorically and literally. It took a little convincing on her part, but Drifter finally conceded after she let him know how much money it would save him and that she could actually make specialized ammunition loads for any occasion by altering the type and amount of powder and bullet used. He agreed so long as she promised not to let it go to waste; she never did.
Now that what was supposed to be her relaxing task was going to get a bit more physical, she shrugged out of her jacket and threw it aside, revealing the black tank-top and phoenix tattoo hidden beneath. Then she clicked on her little music player and fell into a crouch to begin collecting the casings again. She bobbed her head steadily to the beat of the music –of the rock variety, to be more specific- as she went duck walking across the floor to chase after the particularly adventurous little suckers.
She really didn’t spend as much time as she’d have liked in the armory. There just wasn’t much need for an armorer when they hadn’t done anything in the past six months. Yeah, once in a while someone would come to her because their trigger was sticking or they wanted to see if she could add a of little this or that to their piece but in general she was stuck doing stupid things like moving boxes and cleaning the ship.
In the most evident time of her boredom during the trip Sami had attempted to construct a small pistol range using some packing material she’d found around the ship, metal scraps, and what she could only now speculate as horrible, horrible judgment. That little venture had lasted about as long as it took for Jenny and Markus to run from their quarters at full tilt to the previously empty room she’d built it in. Apparently the sound of poorly muffled gunfire ringing throughout the ship was remarkably similar to that of some kind of catastrophic, we’re-all-gonna-die type of malfunction. Who knew?
Just as she had picked up the last of the brass from the floor, or at least the last of the ones she could find, Nadya stopped in the threshold of the armory door. Sam glanced up, her music still blaring, and started lip-synching the words to teasingly serenade the stoic woman. After a few seconds of this, she turned the music off and popped back up to her unimpressive height fully expecting a reprimand of some sort, before Markus’s voice came to life over the intercom.
"Hey, everyone. This is Markus down in Engineering. I've just been informed that the Captain wants us all in the Map Room in Twenty. Be there or be forced out an Air Lock by Nadya."
Samantha’s honey eyes got big with amusement and she pursed her lips to contain the laughter threatening to bubble out. Without a word she grabbed the pistol that constantly hung off her belt from the holster, twirled it in her hand so that she held it by the barrel, and offered it to the imposing woman. Sam tilted her head slightly and cocked a brow as if to ask if Nadya wanted to use it to pop Markus in the foot or something. She ended up just shrugging and replacing the pistol when she received a curt shake of the head from Nadya before she turned to leave for the meeting, her job now done. Unperplexed by Nadya’s normal lack of banter (though she vowed to get the woman to laugh), Sam grabbed up her jacket and rushed out of the armory to catch up.
Malcolm's Void. Six months on the ship and Ryder had yet to learn his way around it. It was larger than he had expected. Drifter always used a small, personal shuttle for their salvages on Mars. Not that he was surprised. The little shuttle would never have made it in a deep space flight. Keeping a guy like Ryder on any ship for six months was brutal. The confined space felt tiny compared to the colony and there was little to keep occupied with. Most of his days revolved around simple maintenance of the ship, some 'classes' with the Grants in engineering, and fencing lessons.
"Ryder, are you listening?" Ryder snapped out of his thoughts. Drifter had taken him to the captain's quarters. Ryder had only been inside a few times on their long journey. It was quaint, but much larger than the crew quarters. He even had his own bathroom and shower. Drifter was holding out a case covered in purple velvet. He opened it up. Inside, sitting on a red, silky lining was a sword. Not like the practice rapiers in the sparring room, but a real, steel, short sword. "My first sword. Been in my family a long time and I figured you could take it with you when we land."
"Are you expecting trouble?" Ryder picked up the sword, carefully. It was beautiful. Nothing special to it really, but the weight was balanced, the blade was clean and sharp. Drifter put the case down and handed Ryder a sheathe that would fit the sword perfectly.
"Always. Here, you can attach this to your holster. Now let's get to the map room before we get an earful from Nadya for being late." Ryder fastened the brown, leather sheathe onto the belt of his pistol holster and let the sword gently slide in. Fit like a glove. Drifter gave him a smile as he put his hand on Ryder's shoulder and walked past. Ryder caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. The coat, the gun, the sword. Hell, you gave him and eye patch, he was well on his way. He shook his head with a silly smile and followed Drifter to the map room.
Cameron was in the forward salvage bay of Malcolm’s Void when Nadya came looking for him. He was one of the people on this boat with the most time spent in the black as a salvager and had taken it upon himself to askew normal berthing and set up in the bay where he felt the most comfortable. He had thought Nadya probably harbored a few reservations about this at first but the realization that he could be removed from the ship simply by opening one of the bays three airlocks could have been what set her reservations at ease. Here he was with the machines he worked with, here he could maintain it all easily, and here was away from most of the people he crewed with on the Void. It’s not that he was antisocial, but privacy becomes a premium commodity on a boat in space and he took it where he could get it and the bay is where he got the most.
The bay itself was one of the larger he had worked out of. It consisted of two decks of cavernous open space crisscrossed on the upper level by honeycombed metal walkways that lead to stairs that would bring the crew onto the lower deck. The heavy banded cables of two sky cranes hung above the hell hole bomb bay style airlock that made up a third of the holds deck. A trio of small salvage craft sat locked on the far port bulkhead looking like some kind of bulbous metallic insects, segmented tool arms curled up under a tight bubble cockpit. A myriad of tools, panels, aperture controls, cables, wires, EVA suits, and other salvage paraphernalia were set up around the bay in a semblance of order that made the whole space very efficient for salvage operations. Cameron was nothing if detail focused. Right now one detail was off; a cable strung through couplers below one of the second deck gantries was swaying, loose and as Cameron wondered why he heard the cause.
Her footfalls echoed across the bay as she moved along the gantry and catwalks that circled the upper levels of the bay, looking for where Cameron was. Cameron was swaying in a hammock that he had strung up between two beams of the ships superstructure below, right leg hanging lazily from the hammocks edge, wispy trail of smoke drifting away from the hand rolled cigarette in the corner of this mouth. He put the manual for one of the ships external salvage arms down on his chest as they both caught each other’s glace. Cameron nodded, lifting his hand in a lazy almost comical salute while smiling, the cigarette somehow staying firmly where it belonged. And what brings you to my neck of our little home away from home darlin’”? From where he lounged Cameron couldn’t tell if her facial expression registered anger, disgust, apathy, or a miasma of all of the above. Over the past six months Cameron wasn’t too sure Nadya had taken any sort of liking to him, in fact he thought he had heard someone on the crew say that her level of concern for him was somewhere between a pet rock and one of those crickets people feed to snakes. Which was too bad, she certainly made the scenery on board more visually appealing. Though he couldn’t make out her expression she did have the command voice to carry her words across the bay from the gantry.
“Meeting in the map room in twenty…old man”
“Nadya, Nadya do you realize the milestone we are approaching.” He set the manual down on a crate next to his hammock and rolled out of the canvas sleeping system. Boots clanged against the metal deck as he stretched his back out before approaching the ladderwell that lead up to the gantry. He bounded up the steps two at a time, though near 40 he was still as fit as anyone could expect of someone possessed of the many vices Cameron held. He spoke as he ascended the steep metal stairs. “Not only are we about to hustle what we can off that blasted rock but more importantly those nine words take your running total of spoken word towards me over three hundred this past six months. I don’t suppose I am breaking through that tough girl exterior…” He got to the top of the steps and realized that she had left the bay and had probably turned down the passageway towards the bridge to collect Toggs. Cameron shrugged bringing his hand up to stroke the well kept silver beard on his chin, musing to himself as he walked out of the bay. “I would say there are plenty of fish in the sea but the pond on this boat is kind of small.”
Cameron snatched his worn leather jacket and the shemagh he wore around his neck off of the hook near the hatch that lead from the bay into the passageway and shrugged both on resting the cotton hood back across his shoulders and shemagh around his neck. No matter how well environmental controls worked on these boats they always felt cold to Cameron. Coming out as he did he ended up passing Toggs for a minute. Cameron smiled and clapped the pilot on the shoulder as he passed speaking in his typical gruff voice. “Hey fly boy, ready to get blasted away by whatever haywire security system greased all those Paladin techies?” Cameron didn’t stick around for any kind of conversation but instead kept heading off towards the map room. As he was walking he heard Markus’s announcement just as he was rounding towards the armory. He chuckled a bit, Markus was a good guy and Cameron enjoyed the fact that someone else on this boat had a sense of humor, plus the guy had a way with machines that Cameron couldn’t even fathom. Approaching the armory he ducked his head in through the issue point in the door. He saw Nadya walking away towards the map room but swung his bald head into the armory anyway nearly getting his head slammed with the door as Sam rushed out to catch up. He moved back out of the way with a smile before the damage could be done with that expression on his face that basically said “don’t mind me.”
“Better get a move on before she makes you walk the rest of the way to Titan.” He said turning to walk with her. “After all there might be score on Titan that could solve a lot of problems for a lot of us lowly crew members.”
Riley's hair parted in a “V” shape, tucking neatly away behind her ears. It had taken her some time to get used to the new look. Long hair often got in the way thus was far from suitable in such past lives. The texture her hair took now was far from her liking as well. It had become clumpy and unclean. What had once been elegant, smooth and flowing was now just quite the unattractive mess. Unfortunately the personal tastes of Shark or even a young Maggie no longer mattered.
Washing away the personal tastes and mannerisms of a past life were often the hardest to overcome. To many acting was merely taking on a role, becoming something you aren't. Those people were idiots. Idiots often plagued the world. How else could you explain law enforcement or rivals infiltrating pirate bands or even criminal empires? It was the only explanation she could possibly come up with.
Acting was an art form that involved more skill and savvy than those common idiots understood. Merely taking on a role would get you made when brought before the eyes of the intelligent. The idiots thought you could merely lie your way in and out of situations. This line of thinking was true, but expanded beyond just that. You had to lie more to yourself than you did others. Your lies had to become truth, your persona had to become you. Past thoughts would give you away thus making you an amateur in her eyes.
“I see you are putting much thought into your next move. This is good, you are becoming a better player because of it,” a bearded man stated, taking a sip from a metallic cup.
“Ya...yes I trying to win,” her hand hovered over a old wooden chess board. It's age was beginning to show though it had once been quite a beautiful sight or so she had been told by old man Frank. He was quite a nice man, mentoring the young deck hands to what life was like on the ship. He often told stories of his youth that she loved to listen to. The old were often far wiser than the brash youth of society.
Gripping the rook she slide it to the left, in front of her Queen, “You not take this time.”
The man let out a chortled laugh, liquid splashing across his beard, “You are indeed getting better little Riley.” His eyes stared at the board, middle fingers pressed together. He often took forever to make a move, it was like he analyzed every single move and it's possible results. Weighing the pro's and cons before finally making a decision.
Riley didn't mind, gave her more time to talk, “You think we find treasures? On big Titan rock?”
Old man Frank eye's remained fixated on the board as he spoke, “It is called a moon Riley. Remember to always be specific lest you confuse others. As for your question I do not know what lays before us. Legend says there may be unmeasurable treasures awaiting, others state it is haunted, former patrons devoured by unspeakable evil.”
Bringing her hand to her mouth she started chewing uncontrollably on her finger nails, “Evil? You think big monster live on moon? I no want to see big monster. They scary like the girl here. What her name?”
Frank laughed again, moving his Bishop to the right of her Rook. “Her name is Nadya. She isn't so bad. We all have pasts, her's may have been tougher than others. It is wrong to judge a person without first getting to know them. Remember that Riley.”
She nodded, “Ok Frank I can do. Bad past are not so nice things to have. I know this.”
Frank reached down, taking another drink from his cup, letting a slight cough afterward, “That you do. Never forget your past, the past is what shapes you. Had the unfortunate events that you experienced not happen, you would not be the sweet girl you are today.”
Grinning she moved her Rook, overtaking his Bishop in the process, “Ah ha! I not so sweet now.”
A knock came from the door. One of the other deck hands was standing in the doorway, left hand laying across his chest, “The ice queen wants all of us in the map room in twenty minutes. One day I'll chisel that block of ice off and reach her heart.”
She wagged her finger in the direction of the crew mate, “You no have chance. She not even like men types!”
Frank spoke in a stern almost fatherly voice, “Riley be nice.”
She frowned, “I sorry.”
Frank reached over the chess board, giving her a quick pat on the head, “It's ok, you didn't mean to be hurtful.”
Smiling she turned back to the man who was now turning to leave. Holding up her hand she gave him a thumbs up, “You can do it!”
“Much better Riley. Now let's get going, wouldn't want to be late,” he rose to his feet, outstretching his hand.
She quirked a brow, looking back to the chess board, “We not finish?”
“We can finish later Riley.”
Taking his hand she jumped from her seated position. The pair made their way towards the map room, chattering about anything and everything. Her new life was more than she could ask for.
Malcom’s Void, in Transit
After nearly colliding face first into Cameron as she left the armory, Sam clutched at her chest and exhaled loudly in an exaggerated show of surprise. As he matched her stride and came up even with her she lightly punched him in the arm for the accidental scare. She did not expect to see him right there, all up in her personal space bubble, when she had rounded into the hallway and was not all that fond of being snuck up on.
“Better get a move on before she makes you walk the rest of the way to Titan. After all there might be score on Titan that could solve a lot of problems for a lot of us lowly crew members.”
She looked at Cameron sidelong, the smile that had disappeared from her jump-scare returning full force. “Mm hmm, no doubt,” she agreed and then leaned in closer to him to add conspiratorially, “Who knows, it might even lead to new beginnings for some of us if we play our cards right. Maybe we’ll get promoted to senior deck hands.” That last bit was laced with sarcasm, and she added to it by waggling her eyebrows knowingly at him. Then she shrugged back into her bomber jacket, as giant metal space ships weren’t the coziest places, and stuffed her loosely fisted hands into the pockets; her normal, nonchalant walking posture.
For a woman with such a small and delicate seeming stature, Sami never appeared to worry about much. Really, she tended to keep the same laid back, easy going attitude about her no matter the situation. Pirates trying to raid the ship? She shrugged and grabbed the over-under shottie from the weapons rack in the armory. Some lowlife staring her down at a sketchy hole-in-the-wall bar? She gave him a wink and finished off her whiskey. Size wasn’t an issue for her because guns were the great equalizer. She didn’t care how much of a kung-fu master you were, or if you were seven feet tall and pure muscle; a bullet in the knee cap brought everyone down just the same. And when it came to a shootout, Sam counted herself among the best and her stint working with the Phoenix Mercenary Company definitely hadn’t hurt her effectiveness in a gun fight either. So she figured she could afford to be a little cocky if she wanted.
“If there’s half the shit that people say there is on Titan,” she remarked after a moment as they continued at their leisurely pace towards the meeting, “We should be sitting pretty for more than a little while. I might even splurge and buy a new rifle as a present to myself… A girl deserves something nice once in a while.” It spoke to her high expectations of this job that she was willing to spend some of her money on something unnecessary. Everyone knew that Samantha hoarded her take of their profits from various jobs like a dragon with its treasure. As to why she was so frugal with her keep was anyone’s except Cameron’s guess. The two regularly were found speaking in low voices with one another and the others had their suspicions about the reasons for it, but neither were very forthcoming about the manner of their relationship.
When they finally made it to the meeting place, Sam wasn’t surprised to see that some of the others had beaten them there. She gave her normal, pleasant greetings to those already gathered and pulled a chair close enough the table/holo-map platform thingy so she could prop her booted feet up on it and make herself comfortable while they waited for this shindig to start.
Joshua ‘Toggs’ FitzPatrick,
‘Toggs’ Quarters, 2210, August 12th, 2743.
Through a haze of steam he could just make out the silhouette of himself in the mirror. He stood, motionless, his heartbeat in his ears, a heavy thump every second as he thought, as he went over the words again and again. He sucked the air through his teeth, he picked up a black cylinder and filled his hand with a rich substance. His face tingled as he ran it over his jawline and cheeks, his chin and his neck. It eventually began to sting as it always would but he didn’t let it bother him. He’d been using the same product for years now, why would he suddenly let it get to him. It wasn’t as if he could stop over at the nearest supermarket and grab another shaving cream.
He went with the grain, starting on along his jaw. The whiskers and the foam began to disappear with the delicate motions. The once beard that was on his face slowly receded, each metal knock against the basin a sign of the next assault.
Then there, a crimson spot that grew amongst white foam that intermixed to create a pink texture, the blood ran from down his chin and along his neck. “Bollocks.” He cursed silently at himself as he wiped away the remaining foam setting up a fresh and clean Joshua. He dabbed the spot where he’d cut himself. It wasn’t so much of a terrible bite into his skin, a minor one at best. The flow soon stopped and began to crust over.
He wasn’t so much of a man who prided himself on having a bulky body full of muscles though he wasn’t bearing any sort of overweight areas or pudgy bits, for a pilot he was quiet lean. ‘Clear body, clear soul.’ He would always tell himself, and anyone who seemed to think his way of life was wrong; No alcohol, no weed, no cigarettes, no Es, no milk, no cheese, no eggs, no meat, just mediation and peace, red lentils, chickpeas. A good workout and good sleep
Yet there was always ones who found a problem with his way of life. As if, he had purposely gone out of his way to offend them. A lot of the crew seemed to think that all he did was eat, sleep, and sit at the helm watching old movies.
He put on a beige white shirt and slung a rather bland military style shirt that he often wore. He sat on the edge of his bed and pulled his boots on, looking up at the monitor on the other side. The email still open; “Dad was rushed to hospital.” The words before him said. It was a short email from his sister, not detailing much, only letting him know the when and the why. He didn’t have to hear or see his sister to know that she was serious. The worst of it all was that the email was old, long distant communications were a bitch; the email was two weeks old and had only arrived this evening. His dad could already be dead and he wouldn’t even know of it.
He sucked the air through his teeth once more as he shut the machine down. “Fake it too you make it.” He said with a fake chuckle as he made his way to the navigation room. The crew always saw him as a joker who was always light-hearted and never took things serious, yeah he was that, but he carried the burden that really wasn’t his. He never let the crew know, the last thing he suspected they wanted was a slightly depressed pilot flying their ship.
By time he reached the navigation room, the majority of the crew had assembled. Joshua looked towards the man at the head of it all, Drifter. He saluted, as he was accustomed too, despite there being no formal system on board, as he made his way to his side, “Cap’n.”
Nintey-six steps from the forward salvage bay to the main passage that led to the main decks. It was that same passage that also led to engineering and in the opposite direction the cockpit. That was approximately one hundred and fifty meters of linear travel to include one latter, and two doorways that may or may not be closed at any given time. It was a walk of just over four hundred feet and in the event of an emergency would take Cameron perhaps forty-five seconds to a minute to hustle to his station.
It was too long.
Inwardly, Nadya sighed as she repeatedly calculated the emergency procedures in her head. As she robotically walked about the ship giving news and ignoring the mockery, she placed the rest of her focus on her counts. She had paced every inch of the boat, repeatedly; she knew the numbers in her head better than she knew some of the crew member’s names. She knew the distance between every hatch, every latter. It was her job. If there were to be a problem, a reason for everyone to jump into action, she would be the one to give the orders, to see that everyone reached their stations to ensure both evacuation and coordination was executed to perfection.
She would not let history repeat itself.
Nor would she voice her quiet fears and preparations. They would think her silly, over-bearing. Paranoid even. Or, worse, the crew members themselves would grow paranoid. It was better for them to see her as the cold-hearted bitch. In truth, it suited her just fine.
As Nadya finished her rounds, she herself marched toward the Nav room, a rather large space that had become a popular gathering place for meetings, and even meals on occasion. It was more than a room to coordinate or plan out routes. It was the crew’s living room. Their hub. Their home. It was her favorite room.
Though she would never smile, let along admit it, it always felt good to be around the crew, as they assembled, regardless if it was work or leisure. This was a good group, and Nadya had a good feeling for what was in store. Titan was almost certainly a sure bet for profit and discovery.
Her gaze stopped briefly to Toggs. It was, for a minute, rather difficult not to smile as it seemed he at least tried to take her advice. His smooth jawline, and clean attire made him very nearly attractive. As she saw his gaze turn toward her, she offered him a single nod of approval.
It was then that Drifter called the crew to his attention.
“Alright. As some of you may or may not know we will be approaching Titan in a little less than three hours, which means it is game time. We will be within scanning range in an hour and a half. Bottom line, we have much to do.” Thomas Crest, or Drifter as this lot knew him, was not one to mince words or drone on in useless speeches.
“Nadya, I want you to work with Samantha as soon as we are within scanning range. I want a full reading of atmosphere, climate and weather, as well as satellite images of the ground. Look for settlements, processers and defenses. I don’t expect it, but let’s not take the risk.
“Toggs, work with the ladies, but I want you primarily at the helm as we make our approach. Once we are in orbit, start looking for the first available window for us to make our drop.
“Cameron. Riley. I want you running EVA checks.
“Frank, Riley, Ryder. You’re all on shuttle prep. Markus, Jennifer, I want pre-flight checks for both shuttles.”
Drifter made eye contact with each of the individuals as he posted the assignments. He made a few more requests to other crew members in the room, but then for an extended moment he grew silent, his eyes sparkling with pride and anticipation. “We’ve been cooped up for six months waiting for this time. But, let’s do this right. Let’s do this smart. It will be awhile before we’re ready to touch down so take time to get rest, and grab a bite.
“Nadya will have the landing party assignments for you all sometime in the early morning.”
Drifter nodded then, as he headed toward the passage. “If you have any questions, you all know where I’ll be.”
It was not unusual to see the Captain wander off, and closing himself off in his quarters. For all that he did his part around the ship, offering relief to Toggs, working on duty rosters and cargo manifests with Nadya, even assisting Sam some in the armory, the Captain also spent long hours sending messages to the right people, coordinating bribes where necessary and generally kept Frontier Salvage afloat, (and in some cases, off the books). Though Drifter would much rather be getting his hands dirty, the bureaucracy was just as important.
Quietly, the old man chuckled to himself as he heard Nadya in the background echoing his commands. “Alright, everyone, you heard the Captain. Lets get back to work.”