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Toys in the Attic

Posted on Sun Oct 10th, 2021 @ 5:25pm by Alden Loxley & Cooper O'Reilly & Alison Bliss & Tristan & Daiyu & Chloe Waltz PhD & Jonas Bailey & Kindra Graham & Whit

Mission: I Ain't Fraid of No Ghost...
Location: From Ghost surface and up into the Black
Timeline: November 2nd - up to Ghost minus 30 minutes

Alden thanked the stars above their heads for the millionth time that Alison both trusted him and knew how to throw Echo around in an upward direction. As the Mule hit the ramp and slid unceremoniously sideways into the cargo bay airlock, said outer ramp was already closing while simultaneously the clunky old Firefly lifted off the surface of Ghost.

Alison waited for the airlock to close and lit green on her console. The engines were already running and with filters cleared, the steady hum was reverberating peacefully and steadily throughout the ship. She flipped several switches and turned the intercom. "Hold on kids, we are taking off." She informed everyone and gently pulled on the yoke. The ship lifted off the ground and leaned forward. The engines flared giving more thrust and the Echo began gently raising into the sky. Alison evened the flight keeping the course up toward the orbit on a slowly increasing angle.

Chloe kept an eye on the ship's systems as it took off. "Filters are still looking good," Chloe informed Alison as she sat in the engine room, her clothes still a bit dusty from her earlier adventure in cleaning off the filter.

Without any problems the Firefly-class transport broke the atmo and reached the orbit. Setting the course of Li Shen's Bazaar, Alison gently corrected the flight path before engaging the pulse drive. The ship accelerated leaving the Ghost behind.

Jonas and Alden got the Mule strapped down and their air levelled out as Cooper and Whit held on tightly, but it didn't take too long before that unforgiving journey from ground to black was done. That moment of brief serenity was quietly accompanied by Cooper crouching down, removing his Gaishan-borrowed suit helmet and throwing up in the corner.

"What the devil were you doing down there anyway, Coop?" Whit asked as he removed his helmet as well. "I got here first, but others are liable to show up unless one of us sends the good word. You know how Gunnar is when there's an abort order and nobody tells him. Gets his dander right up."

He wiped his mouth on his sleeve, then Cooper muttered his response. "Margaret called me," he said, as if that explained everything. "Said there was a 'Sit-u-ation' on Ghost." He looked to Whit as he added. "And she's been right, ain't she?"

"I dunno," Whit replied. "'Situation' is such an understatement that it might qualify as a falsehood. You gonna send the wave to the brothers or am I?"

Cooper fidgeted some. Whit was right, he could definitely be called a liar using such an inocuous word to describe what had just happened - most of which he wasn't entirely sure of himself - on Ghost. He nodded, awkwardly at first, then with considerably more certainty to the gesture as he locked eyes with the other shepherd. "Yup," he concurred. "Yer right. Kinda more like a deliberate extermination than an actual situation." He screwed up his face as if making the decision when he knew for certain said choice was already made long ago. "Yer callin' em," Coop said. "Yer better at makin' stuff sound righter than me."

Jonas took a few minutes longer to get out of his suit and helmet. Especially his helmet. Hair got in the way of the helmet most of the time, but he wouldn't change it. Not yet anyway. "Deliberate extermination? You talkin' about what I did to that girl-thing-hatchling or what it did to those people?"

"Reavers," Cooper stated, as if he was simply speaking about an infestation of ants at a picnic. "Reavers blew through like a knife-infested hurricane. Ain't leaving nuthin' behind but blood and someone to tell a story." He looked to his fellow shepherd. "Right, brother?"

"It ain't right but you ain't wrong neither," Whit said with a wry smirk. "Wasn't nothing on Ghost that ought to draw Reaver attention, and nothin' short of the devil his-self coulda' got the Reavers into Gaishan's closed port without inside help. Far as I'm concerned, this was mass murder and the Reavers were just the bullet." He nodded grimly as he pondered. "If anyone could figure why, it'll be Seamus. I'll get that wave sent."

"Amen," said Cooper.

Alden had not made any verbal input to this conversation so far, but he had been keeping aurally up to date. He both figured and hoped that Ali had them up above atmo now, out of range and relatively safe. As safe as the Black ever was at least, and with luck Reaver-free. A cool shiver seemed constantly in Alden's shadow ever since they'd found that creepy egg thing, but there they all were, rescued and alive. That was enough to be grateful for. He wondered who Seamus was, yet didn't ask. Not right now at least. Whit's business was paid for up front and everything. One nagging mutual issue remained however.

Alden waited until he and Jonas had exchanged a long look of their own before he spoke.

"Ain't no rhyme or reason for such a horrendous amount of death that I can figure," Alden said to Whit then. "But if'n you do find out I'd consider it a kindness if you'd share said information." He sighed and mustered up an expression that wasn't exactly a smile, though it wavered around that vicinity. "Until then I figure I'm due a whole heap a'nightmares."

Once the shifting and noisy hold of Ghost's gravity and atmo were behind them all, the inner airlock allowed the four men to fully enter Echo's cargo bay proper and those not currently in charge of navigation, piloting and engineering were free unstrap themselves from their seats and move around again. The Doc's first move was to check the newcomer - Whit's lost sheep was covered in blood and Karen's questions were many as she led him towards the infirmary.

"Everyone alright?" Alden called out.

For a normal liftoff, Kindra would have strapped herself into the pilot's chair in her shuttle. This gravity-well exit was nothing like normal, plus it seemed she was still in charge of the puppy, who was now wearing a leather studded collar and leash that she'd selected from her professional supply of restraints. Kindra emerged from the common room with the canine at a much slower pace than the doctor.

"I'm fine," Kindra reported, holding back the puppy as she anxiously looked over Alden, Jonas, and Whit. They appeared exhausted, but uninjured. The new man was obviously in very bad shape, but he was in excellent hands with Karen. "Are you three all right?"

"Just peachy," said Alden with a lopsided smile as he looked from Kindra to the puppy. "Nuthin some hard liquor won't heal." His gaze shifted from the dog back to Kindra. "More crew or a new client?" He deadpanned.

"Don't rightly know yet," responded Kindra without missing a beat. "Like a client, he responds appropriately to sit, stay, and come. But whether he becomes a member of your crew is up to you, Captain."

"Not too bad on my end," said Jonas. "Lots of things I can't un-see...but then, that happens." He looked over to Kindra. "Well, looks like we have a mascot of sorts. But at least it sounds like he obeys pretty good."

Alden had chuckled openly at Kindra's swift comeback comment and, well, kinda felt envious of their canine companion. He'd get love, hugs and scritches with none of those complicated relationship or emotionally tricky issues in the mix. What he actually said was far less eloquent. "Better'n'us I reckon," Alden noted, his hand on Jonas' shoulder. Then, with enthusiasm. "Let's get the hell outta here..."

"Best news I've heard in a while," said Jonas.

"What a blessing you found your lost sheep, Shepherd Whit. Your prayers were answered," said Kindra. Her own non-secular prayers were answered by the safe return of Alden and Jonas, along with Whit, and Tristan's curiously stealthy reappearance.

Whit's gaze lazily spread across the hold and fell onto Coop who was more than making himself at home. "Finding a lost sheep sets the streets o'gold a'dancing, it's true. Between you and me and the Good Lord, Miss Kindra, sometimes I wonder if ol' Coop ain't more of a dumb goat."

Daiyu sat cross-legged on the floor and gently rocked back and forth, humming a tune. Her eyes were closed as if she were sleeping if not for the words she let slip.

"Did I fail you some way
That you're not telling now?
Did I fail you some way
Somewhere, somehow?
When you took that last step
Beyond the door
I can't follow you there
I can't follow for sure

As Karen bustled him on past and through the cargo bay, Cooper waved his hand in the air above Daiyu's head, fingers making the sign of the cross, his whispered words incoherent.

"Ni shì zuò shénme de? Mou zhong móshù shī?" Daiyu asked. What are you? Some kind of magician?

"Jus' the right kinda magic-man to keep ya safe, little lady," returned Cooper, voice a little slurred and quiet, but audible to the young woman sitting on the deck.

"Magic is a farce," Daiyu protested. "It's a tool of confidence artists to swindle foolish people through phony bewitchment. Are you a confidence artist?"

"No lil lady," said Cooper, words faintly offered but certain despite their lack of volume. "I'm a Shepherd. I help people. I don't ask for, nor do I need, any payment."

Tristan stepped out of his room and walked into the main cargo bay. He tried to move as nonchalantly as possible, hoping no one would question how he got back on board or where he'd been. Maybe he'd get lucky and no one would even know he was missing for a bit. "Glad everyone's back," he said with a forced smile, trying to sound casual.

"Glad to have you back too, Di Di," Alden's voice cut clearly across the open bay. "But you wanna tell us where you've been hiding?" The tone of this question implied it was more an order than a friendly request, but there was an undercurrent of very real concern. Part suspicion, part distrust and part hope. Maybe - hopefully - Tristan had a simple, innocent explanation.

Tristan shrugged, casually. "Here and there. Mostly here, in my room," he said. He hoped that Alden couldn't see through the lie, even as the sweat started to bead along his forehead. "After we found the box, I just thought I'd stay on board. Wouldn't want to be traipsing around Ghost, right?" he said. The images flashed in his mind of what he had seen, and he willed himself not to react to the gruesome sights that still plagued his daydreams, and probably his nightmares tonight.

Alden shook his head, disappointed in this perpetuation of what he knew to be a lie. Alison had already outed the boy's exodus from Echo, yet neither of them knew why. That Tristan would pretend otherwise was a duel emotional blow to the man who had taken a chance on a wayward teen. In that moment, Alden was lost for words, his feelings tumultuous within.

He could see it, the look on Alden's face. He knew the man could read through the lie, but hopeful that he wouldn't expose him. Not here in front of everyone. The truth was, Tristan wanted to tell him everything. Alden had a way about him that just made you want to spill your secrets in a cone of trust. But no, he couldn't. Not in front of the group, and certainly not to Alden. He couldn't put his ship at danger, or worse, get kicked off.

"Is there anything you need me to do?" Tristan asked. "I know I've been slacking today, taking some time for myself. But I'm willing to work."

Silence remained between them, while Alden decided whether to speak up here and now, in front of the entire crew, or let Tristan stew a little longer before being confronted. He was tired, exhausted by recent experience, and this unexpected blow to the heart cut particularly deep right now.

From the moment Tristan appeared, the puppy strained against his leash, trying to get to the person whose scent Kindra had asked him to find as they thoroughly searched the ship together. Kindra held the puppy back, looking at the young man with raised eyebrow and hoping Tristan would get the hint that he was not fooling anyone, least of all Alden. The puppy sat where he was and gave a final, disappointed whine.

Alison appeared on the top walkway, looking down on the events in the main cargo bay. She rested against the railing and shook her head seeing Tristan and his bleak attempts to cover up for his misdeeds.

"Luh Suh, do I have to go down there and whip your ass?" She called and her voice was reflecting her irritation. "You better have good excuse for vanishing as you did or I'll talk to Alden to make sure this is your last ride, boy."

Tristan, embarrassed by the scene, said nothing but just turned and walked back to his room.

Alison waved resigned and disappointed, and then glanced at Alden.

It had already been a really long, emotionally interesting day and all he wanted was to strip off and enjoy a hot shower with some firm, naked company. That didn't seem like the way this week was gonna go, however, so Alden exhaled, rolled his eyes skyward and nodded.

"I'll talk to him when we get safely outta atmo," Alden stated, for the record and in response to Ali's look. His gaze met hers with a hopeful request. "Right now, can we just - please - get away from this Rock of Death?"

Daiyu approached Alden and interrupted their conversation. "Captain, I have a request. Can we please avoid any more Reavers? They upset her." Leaning in to whisper, Daiyu's voice turned dusky and hoarse. "She called them Jiāshu." Family.

"We already left the atmo and are on the course to Li Shen's Bazaar." Alison announced as semi reply to Alden not hiding an amused smile caused by Daiyu.

"Good," Alden replied to Alison first. "Well then, can you get us further away, any faster?" He asked, more from frustration than any expectation of his pilot breaking the laws of physics. Alden turned to Daiyu then and mustered up a smile. "I'd certainly prefer to avoid Reavers at all times," he told the young woman. "They upset me too." He didn't miss the quiet comment that Daiyu had offered to his ears only, the other far too far away to have caught that whispered word. Family? Well, now that was particularly disturbing...

"Daiyu, let's go have a mug of tea and a conversation," noted Alden, resting his hand on her shoulder supportively. "And then," he raised his gaze to meet Alison's own. "I'll go talk to Tristan," he told his pilot and his friend. "Let him know he's getting off at Li Shen's."

Nine and a half hours of flight time, and they'd all have some distance from Ghost and a chance to mingle with living humans on the big shiny, multi-coloured and gaudy, floating spacestation.



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