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Echo Calling...

Posted on Mon Aug 3rd, 2020 @ 9:07pm by Sibyl Rajani & Alden Loxley

Mission: The Milk Run
Location: Hera: Junkyard
Timeline: Day 12 - late at night

He sat on the bridge of the wounded Echo, nursing a wounded arm, a sore head and a guilt trip the size of the ship itself, as he waited for the link to go through all the jumps it needed to in order to retrieve a reply. It took time, obviously, for the signal to reach Noah's family, his sister specifically - the only person Noah had left contact information for.

It took too damn long.

And it had all been for nothing. Less than, in fact, since now the cargo they were supposed to be delivering was sat in the hold and the repairs that needed doing to the ship were going to cost more than the profit. Not that money was on Echo Captain's mind right now. All of his energy was focused on one thing - Noah.

"C'mon, c'mon," Alden told the cortex panel before him, the little screen nestled between his boots as they rested up on the console. "Answer, already. Please..." There was a little too much emotion in his voice, just a bit too much pain in his eyes.

Surely she'd got the message by now?

"Hello," a young man answered the wave. He had brown hair, and a gray suit and was obviously trying to very hard to act as professionally as possible, despite looking to be no more than a teen. "This is Ian, with True & Rajani Industries. This is the private line, and I don't know how you got this number, but which department were you trying to reach?"

"Hey," Alden returned by way of a clipped greeting. He didn't mean to be rude, this was just far more stressful than any wave he was used to making. Hell, even the wave he'd sent to Niska had been easier. "Yeah, I got this number from my engineer - Noah-Jade True. I need to speak to Ms Rajani herself, please. It's urgent, and personal."

"I-," the boy hesitated, glancing at something off camera. "I'll go fetch her. I'll be right back." And then, without waiting for a response, he left. For a solid minute, the camera just showed the blank world behind it - what looked like an office, with a window behind the chair but blinds currently drawn. It was a strange, still picture of business life, stuck in time as it projected itself across the cortex.

Then Sibyl arrived. All the inaction of the room was swept away by her presence when she strode in like she owned the place. Which, well, she did. She had the same suit as the boy had: gray on gray, formal and impersonal. She sat in the chair before responding, taking a chance to straighten up the camera, and tuck her brown hair behind her ear. "This is Sibyl Rajani, who might I be speaking to?"

Alden impatiently tapped the toe of his own left boot, then ran those same soft fingertips gingerly over his black eye with the colourful bruising above it and repeated both gestures in a cyclic rhythm until a face appeared again on the screen. The oddly generic and peaceful office scene did nothing to calm the quick beating of his heart or the nervous energy that accompanied the ache.

She was beautiful, Noah's sister. In a perfectly elegant, cleanly efficient and wonderfully stylish way, she neatly encapsulated the essence of the Core in Alden's mind.

"Alden Loxley," said Alden Loxley. "I'm the Captain of the Fortune's Echo, the ship your brother Noah's been serving on as engineer." And he waited for her response to that because unleashing the gruesome news all in the same breath simply seemed unnecessarily rude, cruel and inappropriate.

"Noah?" Sibyl repeated with a touch of concern in her voice. She knew her brother had been working on a ship - his letters to his nephew had said as much - but hearing from the captain of said ship just felt strange. And troubling. Sibyl was a pessimist, and wondered what trouble Noah had gotten into now. The woman folded her hands into her lap, a picture of grace and control despite her worries. She wondered about this captain; with his build and complexion, he didn't look like the guy who sat around all day giving orders, and Sibyl wasn't sure whether that was a good sign or not.

He caught it. That concern. And while he hated what he was about to do, it did made a difference that she'd care. It was important. Alden was glad for that one detail - Noah had family who loved him. But now he had to upset this nice lady, in her shiny office, and there was no avoiding that.

"He's dead," Alden said, simply. The shake in his voice was obvious even in such a short sentence, and his eyes held an overt and weighty sorrow.

Sibyl's eyes widened just a bit at the statement, but her face otherwise kept the same expression. It took her full effort to keep that much composure, her hide her shock, but at this point such was habit. She was quiet for a moment. She wanted to yell at the man, ask if he were joking, but only because she wanted it to be a joke. Off camera, she gripped her hands tighter together, and took a deep breath. She knew this captain was telling the truth. Those wasn't the voice meant for a joke.

Poor Noah. Why hadn't he just come home? She could've bought him a fake identity, if he were worried about the desertion. He had options; but he also had his pride. She should have begged. Sibyl wished that she had begged for him to stay, then he might be alive now.

But she was a businesswoman, and just like her brother she fell into comfortable habit when things went south. Details, practicality, that sort of thing which pulled her through the day. "What happened? And where are you?" She asked, with a voice that hadn't wavered in years.

Alden rubbed a hand across his cheek just below his left eye and didn't bother to disguise the reason why. He waited, patiently, for the words he'd never wanted to speak to sink in, for Noah's sister to digest them and then he answered one of her questions.

"We're on Hera," he told her. "The Boneyards in Serenity Valley. I'll tell you all the details when we meet in person, and I promise you, we did all we could," Alden added, making an assumption that she'd want to see her brother in person. "I can come to you, bring him to you once we're fixed up?" He offered.

"No - I'll come meet you. My ship is faster after all." Sibyl didn't even ask what type of ship the Captain had, but it was a fair assumption, in her opinion, that it was slower than her ship. She also took note of the fact that he said "fixed up". Did whatever happened to their ship have something to do with Noah? She was already planning out the trip in her head, planning which ship to bring, what route to take, which of her people to bring. She'd have to bring a medical examiner, to check on Noah, and one that would keep quiet about his desertion... some of her security... her best pilot, Todd... she'd leave her son, Ian, behind, no need to bring him into this danger... she'd probably take her assistant Chloe though, especially as Chloe had been one of the developers of her fast ship.

"I'm on Ariel," she said as she did some calculations in her head. "I could be there in two days, maybe a day and a half."

Alden nodded. He had no issue with her coming to meet them here, and she was right, she would definitely be faster. It was going to take at least a couple of days to fix that which was broken on his favourite Firefly, and Noah wasn't going anywhere. He'd stumped up the credits to get his friend the best Hera could provide, and the planet certainly had experience in the arena of untimely death.

"Sounds good," he agreed easily enough. "Here you go," Alden added, and pinged across their exact co-ordinates. "We're not going anywhere, I'll see you soon." He paused, took a deep breath and looked Sibyl right in the eyes with a clear and warm sincerity.

"I really am sorry, Ms Rajani," Alden told her, hoping to give the woman some assurance that he understood at least part of their wider situation as he continued. "Noah means a great deal to me, he was there for me during the war when no one else was." A sharp sigh, then. "I've taken care of his..." Despite the hard reality of the moment, he just couldn't bring himself to say 'body', so he finished with the sentence after an awkward slip of a pause, "him."

With him in the war? Noah hadn't included that in his letters. To be fair, that didn't even down whether this man was Alliance or Independent. Noah wasn't the type of person who didn't care for such labels; he would've helped anyone.

A much better person than I, Sibyl thought to herself. She hesitated, just slightly. The business side of her wanted to make further plans. What would she say to herself, going into a planet without knowing what's there, or what dangers hurt Noah, not knowing if she was facing a rickety transport or a warship. But the more personable side of her just wanted to get away, lock herself out from everywhere, go to a place where she didn't have to pretend to be perfect, and cry. Alone.

"I will head out as soon as possible, and contact you when I reach atmo. I expect an explanation when I get there," Sibyl couldn't help but sound a little threatening. She had to remain in power here. "Anything else?"

"Great stuff, thanks," Alden answered. "We're the Firefly with the scorchmarks on it, and yes, I promise I'll bring you up to speed. Just," he shrugged unhappily, though that emotion was brought into play by the wider situation rather than by Sibyl's stern and authoritative manner. "Rather talk in person."

Anything else?

Alden raised an eyebrow. "No," he answered. "Nothing else. Safe journey, ma'am."

"Goodbye," Sibyl responded simply, not able to bring herself to say a "thanks" to this man she didn't trust, not in this state. She shut off the link and just sat there, staring at the blank screen, wondering where she went wrong.

 

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