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The Reverse Stick-Up, Part I

Posted on Sat Jul 11th, 2020 @ 1:38pm by Karen Dawson MD & Jacob Lara

Mission: The Milk Run
Location: Martinboro, Hera
Timeline: Hera, After Landfall

Karen, dressed in her typical jeans, tan workbooks, blue flannel, and jean jacket... made her way up the ramp toward the shuttles. When she spotted Jacob with a gloomy expression, she smiled and whistled to get his attention.

"You want to come with me? I'm off to buy fresh food for the ship," Karen offered to her friend.

Jacob looked up from where his eyes had been on the ground in front of him. After having left Tristan and walking away, hearing him call after him and feeling a strange hollow feeling in his chest as he ignored it, he'd found a wall in sight of the ship and leaned against the wall. With a shrug, he pushed off the wall and gave her a wan smile. "Best offer I've had all day," he said, trying to sound more chipper than he really was as he headed towards her, and followed her back into the ship.

"I'll buy you a dozen cheese danishes if we find a good bakery," she promised as she entered the crew's shuttle. She'd ached to fly for a while but was hesitant about doing so.

While she waited for Jacob to catch up, she began to warm the engines and prep for disembarkment. Like Jacob, she too had demons to deal with, upon landing on Hera. An escape seemed a great idea.

Jacob joined Karen in the shuttle's cockpit, sliding easily down into the co-pilot's seat. He'd gone for comfortable clothes today, a pair of sandals, some fitted pale denim jeans that fit nicely in all the right places to show off what he wanted to show off, and a loose strappy tank-top that showed off even more. He wanted to just blend into the crowd as much as he could, but still, looks were good. He knew the way he carried himself would give him away, those years and years of training seemed to sort of getting into your bones and you just couldn't shake it.

"Thanks for the invite," he said, settling back. Reaching up he put his hands behind his head, stretching his legs out as far as he could and just relaxing into the seat.

Karen smirked at his clothes. Of course, he'd go out of his way to look good. She did not blame him at all.

Checking to see the hatches were sealed, Karen opened a line, "This is Karen. We're disembarking now."

Gently Karen detached from the Firefly and began to lift-off the ground. As she spotted the nearest town to Serenity Valley, she plotted the course and began to gain altitude.

"I'd say after that eventful trip here, both of us are due for a bit of air away from all the crazy people," Karen finally addressed her new friend. "Plus... With few prospects of respectable clientele on this planet, I figured you'd be in the mood for an adventure."

"I'd have had to book some in advance, and they'd have had to be short appointments, so I didn't bother. Short appointments usually only mean one thing and frankly, I'm not exactly in the mood," Jacob said, not even opening his eyes. He still felt that hollow feeling and he didn't want it to show. "I think today I'll just relax and have some fun with you, away from all the crazy people" he added with a light chuckle.

"He'll be fine," Karen assured after a long silence, then put the ship into auto-pilot. A fifteen-minute flight, and then they would be close to a nice farmer's market, by the looks of the map.

The doctor looked back toward Jacob with worried eyes. If Tristan indeed loved Jacob, she had to guess, at minimum, that Jacob too, had strong feelings for the young man too.

Jacob nodded. He knew she was right. He also knew he'd be fine too. Just needed to take some time. He was suddenly very glad of the money he'd saved up. It was going to take quite some time of overspending and not working to even start to make a dent, and he had no plans to do either. Sitting up a bit he glanced out of shuttles front screens. "Where are you taking us, anyway?" he asked.

"Martinboro," Karen instantly explained. "It was a neutral town during the war. Mostly had a good farmer's market and a teeming Ma and Pa's community of shops... They were fairly hospitable to most visitors - before the Alliance pulled out two-thirds of their military forces some few years back."

To be fair, the inhabitants were mostly kind to Karen because she took such good care of any Browncoat on her exam table, but she did not want to split hairs, and Jacob was not really someone that appeared to wave the purple banner in unfriendly territory.

"Sounds like a fun trip," Jacob said smiling. "I love farmer's markets. Best place to get really good produce," he added.

He settled back into his seat and glanced over at the woman he was traveling with. "So, what, besides the danish, are you looking for particularly?" he asked, trying to keep the conversation light. He had no idea how much she knew about his situation, but he didn't really want to discuss it and was hoping that tactic would work.

"It's not a very big town, but we can look at their frontier clothing outlet before we buy some produce," Karen answered. "... I haven't been here since the war ended, so I honestly don't know how much the place has changed either."

Jacob grimaced at the idea of a frontier clothing outlet before he caught himself. He had never been to one, hell, he'd never been a frontier anything. Who was he to turn his nose up, he might be surprised and find something he really liked there. School his face back to a smile he nodded. "That's understandable. A lot can change in a short period in a place like this, I'd guess."

Karen opened her mouth, looked as if she wanted to say something, then closed it again.

Clearly he doesn't want to talk about it, she realized and then turned in her seat to look at the map again.

She had far more exposure to companions than most folks on the ship but Karen still did not know everything. Did they feel this way about all their clients and paramours? It was bad form to inquire Jacob about his feelings. Yes, they were building a friendship, but that did not mean she had earned the privilege to ask such personal questions just yet.

"What sort of things do you like to shop for, whenever you get the chance?" Karen finally asked when she turned back to look upon him. A huge grin on her face.

Jacob could see the desire to ask about what had happened written all over Karen's face. It was a credit to her that she didn't. And he appreciated it more than she'd likely realize. Giving her a vibrant smile in return he turned slightly, looping his leg loosely over the arm of the copilot's seat so he could more easily face her.

"Honestly? Clothes, scents, teas, fresh fruits and vegetables, and, honestly, good soaps and lotions. You'd be amazed how hard the good stuff can be to find away from a Guild House..." he said looking sheepish.

"MMmm," Karen sighed in longing. "To have orange-cream bath bombs and lilac body soap again..."

Jacob giggled slightly, the rapid, higher-pitched laugh sounding strange coming from a man who's deeper voice was one of his most prominent features, and then started to actually laugh. Something about the dramatic way she'd responded had just struck a chord in him and set him off. It took him a few moments to compose himself, but finally, he settled.

"I needed a laugh, thanks. The orange-cream sounds amazing, not so sure on the lilac. I'm more of a musk kinda guy, maybe, if I had to choose floral, rose, or gardenia, something really strong. I think I'll look for some good coffee while we are there and maybe a coffee scrub as well. Helps to keep the skin soft and fresh."

The doctor nodded in full agreement. Her lack of fine-scented shiny items stirred great nostalgia too.

"...When I had my clinic on Persophone, I had to live a modest life. So getting bubble baths were impossible. More so when my resident fellow moved across the hall from me," Karen confessed. "He had a hard time feeding himself, due to the little pay I could give him - free clinic and all. He was once a former member of one of the gangs on the docks, so he also didn't go out much because of him wanting to leave that life behind...

"As such, we pooled our money and lived mostly-meager." Karen paused with a sheepish grin, "...Might of had a danish and a glass of apple juice here and there."

Jacob nodded. He had never experienced anything like that, and he wasn't sure exactly what to say. He didn't want to sound patronizing. He also didn't want to just not say anything at all. "That does sound as if it would be a difficult situation to find yourself in. Doesn't leave a lot of room for those creature comforts, it doesn't sound like..." he said, looking back out the main screen at the terrain sweeping past outside and below them.

"Many think us doctors live a life of wealth - but most of us spend the first ten... fifteen years after residency programs paying off student loans," Karen grimly confessed. "Depending on the specialty and rather or not you come from a wealthy family, you can pay it off in half that time. But still... What I chose, was to help the poor, and that in itself meant a modest life. I have no regrets in that choice."

Karen twirled a bit in her chair, "If you're lucky enough to work for a prestigious hospital in a fellowship program, you get a free education. But you're contracted to work for them a minimum of five years after residency."

Jacob glanced over at her wide-eyed. "Wow, that's pretty intense. I wouldn't have guessed that at all, but, honestly, I probably should have," he replied, shaking his head. "I get the feeling, though, that you definitely got the most out of the work because you were doing what you felt was right, and what you felt was noble, not doing it just for the money. I commend that. It's a great quality to have," he added, smiling at her proudly.

Karen half-smiled. "Erm... Well..."

Then she scratched the back of her neck nervously.

"I wouldn't say I was always this way..." Karen frowned with her confession, "Before I truly understood the plight of what the Browncoats were going through in the fringes... The only reason I never argued with my superiors about doing procedures that were too advanced for my skills, was because I, at that time, wanted to be better than I was. I wanted to have a much higher skillset at war's end so I could qualify for the same prestigious surgical fellowships my dad started in - I wanted to work with him. To be as good as he is."

Jacob held up his hands and shrugged his shoulder. "Well, what do I know? I'm technically still a spoiled little rich boy when you get right down to it," he admitted. "But the first step forward in an effort to change is to admit that you want to. Looks like you took that step a while back and just kept on going."

"Mom thought so too," Karen agreed with a bright smile. "She ran a trauma center so when I told my mom after the war ended, I wanted to be a trauma surgeon, she was only too glad to network me with some of her friends to finish my residency."

Karen pondered a moment, then looked to Jacob. "I can only imagine being here, you're likely to live a more humble, meager life compared to what all the guildhalls provide you."

Jacob chuckled and nodded. "Yeah, it's definitely nothing like what I had back on Poseidon or Ariel. But it's not all bad. Been some good stuff that I might have missed out on if I'd stayed cloistered, only coming out for clients as most of us do."

"Well... seems like the new normal for us may be the occasional gunfight," Karen spoke with mock-excitement. "...We may need to get you some underarmor, now I think about it."

Jacob sobered quickly with that thought. Leaving Poseidon had seemed like a good decision. Now he was wondering if he hadn't given it quite enough thought. He'd known there was bound to be some risk, but he really just hadn't thought that risk was likely to be life and death serious. "That might not be a bad idea..." he responded, his voice trailing off warily at the end.

Karen unbuttoned her jacket and lifted her shirt so Jacob could see the navy ballistic-proof shirt made of dual-layered soft fibers. "It has a next-gen protective fabric. Related to kevlar, in many ways. It's called Devlar."

The way in which Karen spoke, revealed just how much military indoctrination she retained.

"...It's a soft fabric designed to let operatives in the field move very quickly without being weighed down by their kits. Can repel any ballistic ordinance under 12-millimeter armor-piercing grade - so long as the rounds aren't fired from half-mile or more sniper ranges."

Jacob pursed his lips approvingly and nodded, "Well you can't really beat that I suppose," he said. Most of what she'd said had completely gone over his head, but the rest had been easy enough to understand. It would stop him from getting killed if there was a firefight and a bullet struck his torso. That was good enough for him.

"This'll be a grand shopping trip. You'll see," Karen promised with much excitement in her voice.


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