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Always Carry a Towel

Posted on Thu Jan 21st, 2021 @ 6:00am by Alison Bliss & Kindra Graham

Mission: Six Days to Santo
Location: Santo/Caster - Fortune's Echo
Timeline: Early Evening, after 'Right Where I Belong'

Now that the impromptu meeting in the cargo bay was over, and the members of Alden and Alison's crew who had turned out to offer up ideas went about their business. Kindra leaned against a crate and considered her own situation.

Kindra had found Alison and Jonas, and not quite met two – no three - other members of the crew. The doctor, the hacker, and a girl with a scared face. She'd passed on what she'd learned in the Sheriff's office, and one way or another she was confident they'd get Alden out of jail. But she still needed something for herself, something she couldn't take for granted or presume without asking.

"Alison," she said to get the other woman's attention, "I need a ride off Santo." Kindra could book passage on another ship, but she wanted to be on this one.

Alison followed Kindra on the side. The companion was beautiful as always and watching her, Alison was again reminded of what she left behind. Comparing Kindra's moves to her own, she again realized how much softness she lost in the black.

Even before Kindra began speaking, Alison sensed what was coming and she responded with a kind smile and gentle nod.
"You got it." She simply said with the tone reflecting that it was obvious for Alison to help her friend. "I'll give you one of the spare quarters. Since you know Jonas I am sure he will be more than happy to help you and carry your stuff in. Are you in trouble? Can I help you?"

"Thank you," said Kindra, regretful that those two words barely conveyed her deep sense of relief and heartfelt gratitude. "I'll pay for my passage. My trunks are stored at a client's estate outside Caster, I'll have them delivered. And, well, I guess there is some trouble following me. It's… complicated." She looked toward what she could see outside, beyond the cargo bay doors. If it took longer than a week to extricate Alden from jail, she'd need to book a different transport ship. Kindra didn't want to abandon Alden again, but she didn't want him and Alison involved in her mess either.

"There's a man who suspects maybe I have something he wants. My stepbrother Jim Buccleuch. He's on his way to Santo now, and I accepted his invitation to a ball next week. By then I hope to be off planet and out of reach." Kindra turned to look Alison in the eye. "Jonas happened to be there for me when my trouble first started, but I'll not bring it to you and yours. Speaking of, I wondered who it was that attacked Howson's man. Who is Alden protecting?" she asked, unsubtly changing the subject.

"Daiyu. The young oriental girl." Alison sighed visibly resigned. "I am just... nearing end of my patience with him these days, among others because of people he lets on board without even bothering to talk about it first to anyone." Slowly she shook her head, curbing building up frustration though she made no effort to mask her bubbling feelings. Kindra was a friend Alison had no problem sharing her feelings with. Plus hiding anything from a companion required a lot of effort and Alison had little energy for that. "Daiyu is a bit... uhm... unstable."

"Anyway... forget about paying." Alison changed the subject and waved her hand gracefully. "You are a friend in need, that is enough. If you need to get out of here in a week, we better do something about Alden until then." She gave Kindra a big toothy grin. "Do you have still those thongs? Do you think sheriff would fall that?" She giggled. "Seriously though... your troubles are my troubles, if you need any help. I am here if you need me."

"If I was booking passage on any other transport vessel, I'd pay. Not meaning to offend, but it looks like you can use the fare. Besides, I can afford it," insisted Kindra, in a tone she hoped brooked no argument. She also intended to avoid involving anyone, especially Alison or Alden, in her problem. With a rueful tilt of her head at the memory of Alden strutting nearly-naked through a crowded casino she said, "I don't think Alden wearing a thong will influence this sheriff."

Kindra recalled the last time she'd seen Alison. "What about you… were you able to outrun your troubles? I saw a wanted poster in the sheriff's office that could have been you."

Alison winced.
"Oh, that..." She shrugged dismissively. "That's something different but yes... still a bit of unresolved issue." She gave Kindra impish grin.

"If you want to pay... fine if that makes you feel better. I know you can afford." Alison changed subject. Normally, she might feel offended by the fact when a friend insisted on paying for her help, but Alison guessed that Kindra was under pressure and maybe it was her way to feel she was in control. "I am not offended."

Alison moved away and beckoned Kindra to follow her.
"Come, I'll show you your place. are you these days?" She asked softer, curious and genuinely interested in well-being of Kindra.

Kindra followed along behind Alison. Two years had gone by since she'd spent way too short a time with Alison and Alden on a cruise ship. "These days… I am well, doing fine." She knew that probably sounded like she was deflecting the question, but where could she even begin? "It's been six months since the last time I contracted with a cruise ship. Ever since… my, uh, trouble started… I haven't stayed in one place for long. I've maintained my standing within the Guild, and for the most part, I've found clients on the outer worlds to be a refreshing change." She smirked, recalling her failed attempts to buy nail varnish remover in Caster.

"What about you?" Kindra asked. "Operating a transport ship. A firefly too. Where did the name Fortune's Echo come from?"

"I used to be an XO here. Now I am just a pilot." Alison sighed. "Long story short - this goes into 'nearing end of my patience' I mentioned." She said somewhat resigned and disappointed. "Alden and I are a lot like an old couple and I see that with passing time he stopped listening to me and treats me more and more like a counterweight to his increasing detachment from the reality. And I am tired to be the sensible and responsible one of the two us!" She gritted her teeth and gave Kindra an apologetic glance for raising her voice. "I am sorry... As for the name, honestly, I don't remember anymore where it did come from."

Alison led Kindra up the stairs and toward the rear of the ship where passenger dorms were located and stopped by the empty one.
"If you want to join our crew... I think we have a shuttle available for rent." She said changing the subject. "Of course Alden needs to agree to that, but I don't see the reason why he wouldn't. I guess you could use us to stay on the move in the outer worlds." Alison opened the door to the empty cabin. “Here, the cabin for you.”

Had Alden changed so much? Kindra recalled the intense and kind-hearted man she'd known and still cared for, and the enviable strength of the bond between Alison and Alden. A partnership that had been - probably still was – unbreakable, but was now strained. She took both of Alison's hands in hers, a gesture of warmth and concern. "Mei mei, I'm so sorry."

Looking into Alison's still lovely, though stressed face, Kindra put some pieces together. Daiyu was the one Alden went to jail to protect, the girl who'd met Kindra at the cargo ramp. He did like to play savior... Unstable, Alison had said of the girl, an understatement considering what the sheriff said she'd done to that man. Then there was Alison's comment about adding crew without consulting her. XO to pilot. Daiyu was likely the wedge between them, or part of it. Kindra tried to think of something reassuring to say, an offer to speak to Alden, but if he'd stopped listening to Alison, Kindra had no reason to believe she could influence him. She smiled wryly. "Well, now you've let someone on board without talking to Alden about it first."

"You are paying... so it doesn't count. Other than I am again the responsible one who let in someone who actually contributes." Alison giggled, shook her head and her lips curled in a semi-seductive grin. "Anyway, good that at least one thing remains constant in this universe... you still are gorgeous and hot." She invited gracefully Kindra inside the cabin.


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