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Approaching Legerity (Part Two)

Posted on Thu Sep 3rd, 2020 @ 10:45pm by Alden Loxley & Alison Bliss & Karen Dawson MD & Chloe Waltz PhD & Sibyl Rajani

Mission: The Milk Run
Location: In Orbit Above Hera
Timeline: Day 14 - Afternoon

Karen signed uneasily before she answered, "Our ship was attacked and the engine room scattered shrapnel all over the place. Noah happened to be unfortunate enough to intercept large chunks of metal... Had we been near an Alliance ship, we might have secured a surgical team of 20 to deal with the numerous amount of complications from the explosion."

Karen had to power through the headache of her hangover, all the while, wishing she was left on the ship to her own misery, but she continued, "Even then, a top Alliance medical facility, he'd of only had a 50/50 chance... By the time I reached him, he was already experiencing severe shock. He had internal bleeding from a stomach wound, try as I might to cauterize all of the bleeders."

She looked to Sibyl with sympathy, removing her shades to show her red and teary eyes. "...I gave him some pain meds so he could pass peacefully, in the end."

Sibyl was quiet for a moment, letting it sink in. It was not a pretty death, and not an accident either. "Who attacked the ship?" She asked, pointedly.

He reached out a hand to rest supportively on Karen's own for a moment without saying a word. There was nothing he could say to fix what had happened, or to resolve the guilt he felt in having not been there, with Noah, or to release that awful sense of responsibility for the matter as a whole. Noah was gone, everyone was hurt, and it was all his fault.

"It's a little complicated," Alden answered honestly, his gaze locking with Sibyl's. "But there's a connection leading back to suggest Adelai Niska has some involvement."

Sibyl was quiet for a moment, looking at the three strangers in front of her. She had guessed at this point that they were smugglers. Who else would end up in a firefight with a Firefly? She had no sympathy for smugglers, but she judged people based on their character, not their career. "I need to know who deserves this revenge." Niska. Had she heard that name before? She didn't much care for who was pulling the strings though. There would always be people like that. She cared more for whoever pulled the trigger, whoever fired the missile... that, there, was the true killer. Maybe she could look into this Niska and try to track that ship down. "My brother is dead because of them."

She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again, as if thinking. "If he wasn't on your ship, he would be alive, I might add. But he chose his companions, and he rarely stuck with people he didn't trust. I can't blame you." This part she spoke as if she was speaking to herself more than them, trying to justify why she should let these three go free.

"Revenge attempts against Niska tend to backfire unpleasantly and somewhat fatally," Alden warned. "But like I said, that connection is implied rather than definite. And believe me, I have some rage saved up for him and those who work for him too," he confessed with real emotion colouring his words. His father. Those deeply entrenched hooks that bit into both his little brother and his cousin. Noah's recent demise. He'd often wished that vengeance was such an easy thing to reach for and achieve, but it wasn't... and even if it had been, there'd be consequences.

"Revenge won't bring back your brother, or my father," Alden added, a gravity to his words that sounded loud in that quiet space. "But you can blame me, if you want to blame someone. I took us there."

Alison rolled her eyes and gave a theatrical sigh.

"Wua Ser Tian Jwoo." She found all this display a bit over-dramatic. On both sides. "I don't know what is your game Shao Jeh, but if you think that Noah-Jade died because he was on our ship then you didn't know him at all. He is the reason we are here, and he died only because he was the one who got a short straw on that day. Life is hard and then you die." She gave Alden cold stare. "So stop with this charade. Both of you. And get to the business, or we are leaving."

He didn't roll his eyes (though he had to resist that urge), and Alden didn't gift Ali a return sigh, but he did give her A Look, one that said 'not right now' without a 'please' at the end of it. Then he looked to Sibyl.

Sibyl glanced over at Alison. Back home, nobody would bring such a disrespectful associate to a meeting. Well, if they weren't going to play by the Core's rules, neither was she. She folded her hands together and looked at the three of them. "Revenge is a vicious and ugly cycle, but I'm not going to delude myself into thinking that I'm the wonderful, forgiving soul that might break such a cycle." She looked over at Alden. "I know you're a smuggler. I won't question it. Noah made his choices and I'll stand behind them as long as they don't get in my way. I'm not a fan of smugglers, but purely on a professional level: they are a competition to my business." She shrugged. "You don't seem like killers. You seem like good enough folk. You don't deserve to die. But for the people who pulled the trigger on Noah, well: that's between myself and them."

"I'm not a smuggler," Alden said, for the record. He didn't go so far as to profess his extreme tradesman honesty though. Sometimes grey was a good colour to covet, and sometimes point of view mattered more than legality. Sibyl looked like she had more to say, so he let her finish before saying more.

Sibyl took a deep breath. "If you want to stop me go ahead and try. I've seen your ship. You wanted to get to the business, Shao Jeh?" She looked at Alison. "I think we have more to gain by working together than by arguing like this. We have mutual enemies. We have mutual grief. I just want information. The model and last known location of the attacking ship would be a wonderful start."

That's when Karen stood up and adjusted her shades. "This is my cue to leave," she said with a sigh, then looked back to Sibyl. "I'm not a smuggler, do not condone it. So you lot have fun... doing whatever it is you do, planning crimes."

Karen headed toward the exit without preamble. She had enough of Sibyl, and she wanted to get back to her bed. To make this bad dream go away.

Now, Alden allowed himself a heavy sigh, but he didn't stop Karen from leaving either. There were a couple of things he wanted to make clear, however, while the Doc was still within earshot, so he started with the most important.

"I'm not a smuggler," he repeated. "And these people who attacked my ship," his voice picked up some heat even as he pointedly ignored any look Ali might be giving him while Alden implied full ownership was his. "They shot me too, left me for dead." He left James out of it for now, so as not to overcomplicate his point, but stopped short of raising his shirt to show his bandaged ribs. Alden's voice raised in volume with each new word he spoke and his gaze remained solely focused on Sibyl. "Any of my crew could have died when my ship was hit. Hit multiple times. By *missiles*."

"As for the bad guys... they flew a Shrike Class ship, only name we got for it was 'Seeker' but it wasn't exactly advertising so that might just be a part of it. Whatever they wanted they got it, so imagine they're long gone." Alden shrugged. "As you said, we ain't in any position to go hunting them down. If you are, be my guest. We just wanted to get Noah home."

An uttered gruff was emitted from Karen as she left in full. What she disagreed with was unknown and she rather much didn't care to at this point to converse anymore on the matter.

Alison glanced after Karen as she was leaving and then turned her head back to look at Sibyl.

"And now that it is done, we should leave." She pointed picking up after Alden. "That is a great alternative to arguing or working with you that I believe is the most beneficial to us. Mutual friends and mutual grief is not enough out here. Obviously you have no respect toward us... and after what we heard, we have no respect toward you. This is a very good reason to part ways."

Alden opened his mouth to speak, closed it, frowned, tried a second time, rested his head briefly in his hands, then went for third time lucky. "I respect you, Ms Rajani," he said, giving Alison a hard look. "We're all just strung out, wounded, hurt and exhausted. And we loved Noah too." A brief pause, and he added. "Ali, can you go make sure Karen's okay, I'm gonna grab a minute alone here." It wasn't a question.

Alison held Alden's gaze, her eyes were very cold, like they rarely could be and she didn't move. They had this conversation just a few moments ago. She didn't change her mind and was getting really pissed off because of how Alden was behaving.

He stared back, tired of the ongoing fight, impatience increasing with every minute he was caught between them in this battle of strong, opinionated women. "Go vent your fury," Alden said, temper wrapped about his ultimatum. "Or stay and be quiet."

Sibyl sat watching the argument for a moment, not talking. Well, this was going downhill. Maybe she was losing her touch. After all, since she had hired on Ferris and Beth, she had hardly done any of the negotiations herself... especially not ones with people so tense as this. "My apologies, then," she said. "For making that assumption."

What was a Firefly class doing getting shot at though? If it weren't something professional, such as smuggling, maybe it was something personal. Or maybe their attackers had been pirates. For somebody so used to the relatively safe skies of the Core, she had almost forgotten those existed. "I'm-" She stopped herself, and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. My brother is dead, and I lashed out."

Alison didn't say a word, but visibly relaxed and the visible part was for the woman. Words were cheap, but it was a good start, considering the fact that Sibyl seemed to be genuinely distraught with the fate of Noah-Jade. Sybil made a step to clear the air. Alison decided to give it a shot. She glanced at Alden in the silent permission.

He couldn't blame Sybil for asking questions any more than he could fault Alison for pushing back, but Alden didn't want verbal warfare right now any more than he wanted to debate the intricate moral flexibility required to operate out in the border planets. Right now, all that really mattered to him was Noah.

"Apology accepted," said Alden, his voice carrying a strength to it as he regarded the woman across the table. He shrugged then, and offered a half-smile. "So," he added. "What happens now? The wrath of your mighty Core gonna swallow us poor disadvantaged folk whole?"

"I'm no politician. I wasn't placed in the 'Verse to fix things. But I do want to help Noah, and Noah's friends..." Sibyl's heart was still racing after their previous harsh words, but she hid it well. "Tell me: did he have any last wishes? And what about you - any wishes? You gave me the information I wanted. It's only fair that I should help you in return. You weren't obligated to tell me anything." That was the businesswoman in Sibyl speaking; even in light of this, she respected an equal deal.

Alden nodded at that statement. Not a politician. Rich though, he considered. Like crazy rich. Noah had run from that for his own reasons, and Sibyl? She didn't seem like one of them, but then his first impressions of people were notoriously inaccurate.

"Any wishes?" Alden rustled up a small smile. "Well, if we're hoping for magic to fix our issues, I want my engineer back, please. Trying to keep a Firefly running without Noah..." he let that sentence trail. Noah had been more than simply an engineer, but just thinking about moving forward without his friend? Alden closed his eyes. It hurt.

"I wasn't with him in his last moments," he admitted with a heavy sense of guilt. "But I'm not aware of any last wishes, no." As his eyes opened, Alden looked directly at Alison, emotion obvious in his gaze as he silently asked her if she knew anything.

"What about his bird? Is that thing still alive?" Sibyl asked, looking up towards Alden. Talking about the specifics, the minutiae of getting this sorted out... that made it just feel too real. There was no way to deny it, as if there was one before. "And your Firefly? I'm assuming he did repair work on it?" With a ship like that, it would definitely need it even besides getting shot.

"Still alive and unnamed, yeah," Alden said, a half smile briefly marking his face. "Can't get the lil fella to leave the engine room, but definitely still squawking." A realisation occurred. "Do you want the bird?" He kinda hoped not, but felt the need to ask. "Noah's been instrumental in getting the Echo both up and running and keeping it so. He was the first person I called and the only person I considered when we fou... took her on," Alden swiftly corrected himself.

"I'm not really a pet person, but if you don't have any plans for the bird, I will take it," Sibyl said. That, at least, was true: she was too busy to keep a pet. A business and a child left little free time. She couldn't just let Noah's little pet die off though, not when that bird was one of the last things to remember him by. Then the woman paused for a bit, thinking about their ship. "I... might be able to help you get your Firefly repaired," she said, considering offering up Chloe's help. That could kill two birds with one stone. Getting Chloe away from the Core for a bit, while making a gesture of good will towards Noah's old friends... if they were as close as they said, they'd likely be grieving just as she was.

"Bird can stay with us, no problem at all," Alden noted, in case Sibyl thought they wanted rid. "But if it's more important to you, I'll hand him over." Or her. He wasn't really sure on that front and didn't feel the need to invade the bird's privacy. The offer of help, Alden considered for a long moment - he looked to Ali for any sign of her thoughts on the matter - then back to Sibyl. "Help would be appreciated," Alden agreed a little tentatively. "I need to start looking..." ...for a new engineer... It seemed tactless to finish that sentence so he left it hang awkwardly between them.

"No, you keep him. I'm busy enough with my son, much less a pet," Sibyl said. Now that the conversation wasn't directly talking about Noah's death, she felt a touch more comfortable. Talking about logistics and pets... well, she didn't have to think about it all when she was talking about that. "My assistant, Chloe," Sibyl glanced towards the door, where Chloe and her security waited outside, "Is an experienced engineer. I can lend her to you for a bit to get the ship up and running. I... well, I don't want to be offensive to this planet, but you won't find many other people here with Noah's level of experience."

Alden nodded, surprised in that moment how much keeping the dumb parakeet mattered to him. That emotional attachment to Noah was bound to have its ups and downs, but he didn’t care right now. In the midst of a shit ton of sadness and bad luck, minor wins would do.

“Chloe?” Alden asked, without it really being a question. He looked to Alison, in case she had any overt objections, but he already knew what his answer to Sibyl would be, so pushed on regardless. “Why thank you, ma’am,” he said, with gracious gratitude. “No offence taken,” he added with a shrug, then strode into potential offensive territory of his own. “Would you be needing us to pay for her services?”

Sibyl looked back over at the door. She doubted this crew could afford Chloe's normal salary, but they didn't need a researcher with a doctorate - just somebody to fix up the ship. Sibyl knew she wouldn't find a place outside of the Core that had reason to spend that much on what was basically a mechanic. "You'll have to cover board, but I'll cover her services. She's still on my company's payroll. I can get a contract written up real quick to handle this. I also-" Sibyl paused for a moment to think how to best word this. "I also expect you will keep her out of the same sort of trouble that Noah ended up in, during the duration of the time it takes her to fix up your ship. She's not used to the, well, to the dangers outside of the Core."

"All she needs is to fix the ship, for which we can pay, and then she will be free to leave and not risk the same sort of trouble that Noah-Jade ended up in. If she would want to stay past that point, it will be up to her to pay for her passage and up to her to face the dangers outside of the Core. But since she is on your payroll, I am sure you will want her back as soon as she is done." Alison said in a very matter-of-fact voice. She wasn't going to judge the engineer before meeting her, especially that it seemed that she would be only temporary with them, until Echo would be flyable again.

He took a slow inhale followed by a controlled exhale and let Alison's words hang in the air between them all for a moment. Then Alden nodded his agreement. He only had one thing to add before Sibyl weighed in again. "We'll keep her safe," he promised Noah's sister. "But then we can't exactly leave Hera until the Echo's patched up."

"Okay," Sibyl said simply. "It's a deal. She'll go back down with you on the shuttle. This is my... thanks for contacting me about Noah."

Alden’s expression told Sibyl more about his emotions than his words possibly could. Honestly, he was exhausted in that regard, and hadn’t expected any human kindness from the woman who had to accept her brother’s dead body under any circumstances, much less these ones. Still, he mustered up the fortitude to stand up, walk around the table and offer out his hand in case she might accept it as a sealing of this deal.

“Thank you,” he said, and everything about him coloured those two simple words with a deep, grateful sincerity.



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