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Port Out Starboard Home

Posted on Sat Dec 12th, 2020 @ 2:15am by Kindra Graham & Alden Loxley & Alison Bliss

Mission: Sweet Emotion
Location: Quantum of the Stars
Timeline: 2515 - After Escape Velocity

Kindra's shuttle was tiny by comparison to the vast magnificence of the expensive cruise ship she'd taken her hopeful passengers up to. Like a whale in the oceans of Earth That Was, the liner seemed to effortlessly hang in geosynchronous orbit above the planet of Aphrodite, its inhabitants indulging in whatever finery their hearts and wallets desired.

To some it might have seemed confined, particularly since the young Companion had been a gone a while now, presumably caught up in negotiations with regards to the two additional humans currently holed up in said small craft.

Alden, for one, was utterly unconcerned with the space available. The pilot had quietly drifted into a restful sleep almost as soon as Kindra left, his worries left behind on the planet below, his faith well and truly invested in his well-connected friend. Boots up on the console, head lolled back against the co-pilot's seat, he snored gently.

"And who is snoring now?" Alison murmured quietly, yawning. She was tired but she was far from being able to relax. She lifted her top to find her belly badly bruised, still feeling the pain from the kick she received. Her face was better. She taunted Richard into the punch and she had expected it. Taught well, she was able to compensate for it. Still, as she moved around and found a reflective surface, she noticed reddening appearing on the left side of her jaw. At least that was nothing that a bit of makeup couldn't cover. If she had makeup.

Alison glanced at Alden and rolled her eyes. She sat down in the blind spot of the camera, on the floor, with her hand near the holstered pistol and waited patiently for Kindra to return. She wasn't sure if she trusted the woman yet, but Alden's reactions calmed her down. Her own instincts also suggested that the companion was on their side, but Alison decided to refrain from making the final verdict if she trusted Kindra just yet. She needed to know her a little better.

Cuthbert Yeatman, the Quantum of the Stars' purser, was a man of shorter than average height, his elegant charcoal gray suit perfectly tailored to fit his gym-sculpted frame. His middle-age was reflected in his hands, but not his surgically enhanced face and expensively tinted strawberry blond hair. Yeatman smirked at his screen. "You expect me to allow these two miscreants to stay in a cabin, or your suite? Impossible. Let me remind you that your contract does not permit roommates. Though I must admit, that young man is rather yummy… in a ride-'em-cowboy sort of way. Mm-hmm." He licked his lips. "My dear Ms. Graham, is this a practical joke?"

She glanced at the screen to see Alden asleep with his feet on the console. Luckily, the security camera had no sound. "There must be at least one empty cabin, I could pay for," said Kindra. She managed to keep her voice neutral.

"For passengers so vulgar as to ask their sweet cousin to help them hop aboard a luxury cruise liner? I think not. Neither am I willing to hire anyone for my regular wait staff without references." He sniffed and turned to face Kindra. "I shall have security take your cousins back to the planet before the Quantum leaves orbit."

"Wait." Kindra knew a set-up for haggling when she heard one. "What do you want?"

A smile spread across Yeatman's face.

Kindra finally returned to the shuttle. "The good news is, there's a vacant cabin available, empty because it's small and in a noisy location. Close to the Casino."

"Thank you." Alison said raising on her feet and looking carefully at Kindra. She could only guess what the price was for their passage organized at such short notice. She gently bowed in a feminine way. Since Kindra didn’t seem like elaborating on that, Alison was not going to ask about it.

Uhoh, he thought, as he adopted a lazy frown and impatiently waited for the other shoe to fall. Small and noisy but free? Seemed doubtful on a ship as fancy as this one. Alden's gaze remained entirely on Kindra's own, that frown deepening as he silently implored her to explain the catch.

"The bad news." Kindra took a deep breath. This was not how she wanted to make things right between them. "In exchange, the purser wants Alden to serve drinks at a... private event. Wearing a thong."

And... there it was.

Hearing that Alison giggled and her lips curled into a wicked grin.
"Oh, that wouldn't be a problem." She patted Alden on the shoulder. "It wouldn't be the first time for Alden to work for a ride with his body... At least this time it does not include a strap on."

What? Kindra's eyebrows knit together as she regarded Alden's partner. Alison could not mean… No, if so, surely she would not be laughing about it.

Eyes closed, head tossed back, Alden exhaled at the ceiling and refused to make eye contact with either of them. Great. Well, he mused internally, at least the price of their safe escape was only his pride, and that had taken a good few beatings over the years. Still, he didn't plan on letting them have his ego on a plate quite so easily.

"No," Alden said, sounding serious as he addressed the air above his head. He knew he couldn't meet Ali's gaze without grinning. "Not happening. Private event? Means they expect something..."

Kindra wished she could deny Alden's conclusion, but instead gave her straightforward assessment. "I'm afraid you're probably right. The purser's name is Cuthbert Yeatman, and he does have ulterior motives. However, he swore on his professional honor that your part of the trade is limited to serving drinks dressed, or rather undressed in a thong." There really was no point in telling him how much worse it could have been.

He had that sinking feeling in his gut that reminded Alden he was screwed either way - hopefully not literally this time - but the odds were definitely not in his favour for a graceful voyage. Slowly he lowered his head and cast a frown of a look in Kindra's direction. She kept talking.

"I anticipate that Yeatman will offer additional… opportunities. I have his word that anything else can only happen with your full and freely-given consent, with terms and payment negotiated by you. I believe I'll also be attending the event, with a client," said Kindra. A client she'd turned down twice already. Accepting that contract was Kindra's part of the deal with Yeatman, another detail Alden didn't need to know.

Alden closed his eyes again and winced. Yup. Not good.

Alison looked at Kindra for a longer moment unsure if there was something else here but eventually moved her eyes to Alden.

"That's ok, I can take your place, if you are not up to the challenge." She taunted him weakly before she glanced back at Kindra. "There are no alternatives, right?"

"No," said Kindra softly, with deep regret. "Neither of us are his type. I'm sorry, Alden."

"S'okay," Alden said with a soft sigh as his optimism rallied internally. "Could have been worse. And," he forced a small smile that he didn't really feel as he added. "Ali's gonna seriously owe me for this."

Kindra held out two key-chips. "To your cabin." She considered the other woman's figure. "If you come to my room, I think some of my clothes will fit you, Alison. We can order something appropriate from onboard shops for you, Alden."

An unreadable expression took up temporary residence on Alden's face as he considered this horrible deal he was about to involuntarily accept. As Alison had rightly stated, it wasn't the worst situation he'd agreed to, but it was all the more embarrassing for the 'public' nature of the event. The smile he mustered up was thinly veiled humour, coloured with a deeper worry and not echoed in his eyes, but he adopted it nonetheless.

"Okay," he stated, attempting to own the moment with bravado. "Let's get this over with." Alden wrinkled his nose. "Good job I've been working out..."

"Sure you were." Alison grinned and turned to Kindra. "What role would you like me to play at your side?" She asked the companion. She wasn't sure how to read the offer of sharing clothes. "I was banned from the guild." She pointed out.

Guild. Of course. The subtle cues were there, but Kindra had been too preoccupied with her feelings seeing Alden and the situation the pair of them were in, to notice. She'd been aware of the contrast in appearance between herself and Alison, dark and light, and now she knew what they had in common.

"Helping you blend in was what I had in mind. The two of you will stand out on the cruise ship, dressed as you are. Unless you were planning to just stay in your room together." Not looking at either of them, Kindra retrieved her suitcase from where it was stowed. "Otherwise we can talk about roles and… other things once you're settled."

Suitcase in hand, Kindra moved toward the shuttle door. "Your cabin is on deck three. You'll find mine on deck nine, cabin 9642 – the starboard side, near the aft lift."

Alison glanced meaningfully at Alden and then at the suitcase.

"Yeah, I appreciate your help to let us blend in. This probably will save us a lot of unwanted attention and possible pursuit later on." She said. "What is this liner anyway? Can you tell us more about passengers?" Alison realized that she knew little about the ship they landed on.

"The ship is called the Quantum of the Stars. It's a luxury cruise liner, with multiple ports of call. The next is Conrad, then the Quantum will return to its port of departure, Boros." Kindra turned so that she was facing away from the security camera. "Most, but not all, of the passengers are wealthy. Several corporations are represented here, top-level executives, as well as politicians and other powerful women and men here to meet with others of their ilk outside of board rooms for far-reaching decisions… and entertainment. Deck six is patrolled by uniformed Alliance security. I would assume that undercover security is everywhere, especially in public areas. I'd also assume the presence of organized crime representatives."

He'd already been reaching for it, but Ali's gaze made Alden move a little faster. He gently took the suitcase from Kindra with a firm, gentlemanly insistence and let the two women talk and trade details. Roles? He was considering that particular word with interest as he pushed the obligation of the thong-party to the back of his mind.

It wasn't too hard, now the immediate danger had past, to see Kindra's train of thought at least in regard to himself and Alison. She'd likely assumed they were together-together rather than simply allies in trouble. Shouldn't make any difference, Alden considered, given the way she'd left last time, but for some reason it seemed that it did. He didn't give that overly much thought right here and now, but the thought that she might be bothered was a small consolation. Then the word 'Alliance security' dropped into his brain and Alden's spine visibly stiffened.

It was awkward, Alden taking her suitcase at Alison's urging. Kindra would have preferred to just take it herself. "Right. Shall we go to my cabin? A private location is a better place for this conversation."

"Yes." Alison agreed with a nod. "Though are you sure they are private?" She smiled wickedly before she sighed. "I would love to take a shower though."

"Shower sounds good," added Alden, without initially thinking about the connotations of that moment of mutual need to be clean. A mischievous smile grabbed the side of his mouth as he looked from Alison to Kindra though and his eyebrows raised involuntarily as his brain made a couple more intuitive leaps in the privacy of his own head.

Kindra caught the words and looks exchanged between them. She headed down the short hallway to the lift, trying not to think about Alden and Alison taking a shower together, and pushed the lift-call button.


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