“Let me ask you a question…”
“Ain’t stoppin ya,” Dru looked down at his drink.
“Where were ya all stationed, durin’ the war?”
The Browncoat’s head weaved from one side to the other, as if hemming and hawing. He looked up from his glass, “Ain’t somethin’ I like talkin’ about.”
“Well I told y’all where I was.”
“And that’s a fact.” Dru nodded. “Thing ya got to realize, Jackson,” he paused a moment to lift the glass up to his lips, “Some people’s scars run a lot deeper than others.”
Jackson nodded, “I’m sorry I prodded.”
Dru closed his eyes for a moment, “Mei wen ti.”
“Jackson?” The voice came from behind Alice’s mechanic. Jackson turned around to see Captain Kieth Saruwatari standing behind him.
Jackson stood up and shook Keith’s hand, “Keith, how joh bu jian.”
“Ni how. And it’s been an even longer day.” Keith cautiously looked down at Dru, “Who’s your friend.”
Dru stood, “Durden Kokezaru,” he offered Keith his hand, “We have a bit of a situation we need to discuss.”
Keith looked between Dru and Jackson who nodded in the affirmative. “Listen, I have had a rough day. One of mine is in the hospital and the other is in the morgue cause a pirates tryin’ to take my boat.”
Something about that unsettled Durden. He held up his hand, “Well, let’s make damn sure that another one doesn’t get herself in hot water either.”
Keith folded his arms across his chest and stared at Dru “What the hell are you talking about?”
Dru motioned to one of the open seats at the table, “This is about Vanya.”
“So let me get this straight,” Keith cocked his head to one side and never took his eyes off of Dru,”you want me to just hand over one of mine to you on your word that some psychopathic wong ba duhn is after her?”
Dru took a long measured sip from his drink, “Listen, I can understand you don’t know me from Adam and that what I’m sayin’ might sound a might far fetched, but I can promise you sure as I’m lookin’ you right in the eye I am tellin’ the truth.”
“He is, Keith,” Jackson leaned in toward Keith, “she is in real danger, she’s going to need protection.”
The Captain of the Repose stood up and stared down at the other two, “We can protect her just fine thank you.”
“Really? With one of yours on a gurney and another on a slab?” His tone was cold and he sent the message home by setting the glass down hard enough that its contents jumped to and trickled over the rim. “Bang up job so far, Captain.”
It was a harsh blow and even Jackson winced. Still, the Repose’s Captain stood his ground. “Dru, ease up.”
“Look, Dru was now standing as well, “I didn’t come here ta step on any toes or belittle your rights ta protect one o’ yours, but this ain’t about you.” His tone was firm and matter of fact. “There is money behind this bounty like you wouldn’t believe. We found you, they’ll find you. They’ll know you, your ship, and everybody on it.”
“Oh?” Saruwatari’s eyes narrowed. “So they’d know nothing about you, then. They’d never track you down. Right?” he asked coolly.
“I’m not that naive. Are you?”
Saruwatari shook his head, “It doesn’t matter anyway, it ain’t my call. She can leave any time she wants but I ain’t telling her to.” He turned to Jackson, “Sheh sheh for the walk down memory lane.”
Kieth stepped back from the table. Heading for the door he was almost immediately met by two large but surprisingly well dressed men who were entering the establishment. Saruwatari made a curt but apologetic comment and moved to step out of their way. The first sized him up, before looking him directly in the eye. “You are Keith Saruwatari, Captain of the Repose?”
The instant familiarity took him by surprise. Keith stared at the two men, cautiously. “Might be, what about it?”
The first man looked over his shoulder to the man at his reserve. It was subtle, but there was something that passed between them. A look of acknowledgement that wasn’t lost on the two men watching back at the table. The man smiled politely, his attention still on Saruwatari. “We saw your ship land earlier, the dragonfly. We are looking for some transport, myself some associates,” he replied with a nod to the man beside him, “and some cargo.”
Tiredly digging electrical grease out from under his nails with the sharp side of a pair of wire cutters, Joe trudged away from the fifth, sixth maybe, ship he had contracted out to that after noon. It was the usual work of repairing comm boards, running wires, and other things that required him to creep around the hot parts of the ship.
He had been lucky enough though, the third ship had an entire board shorted out. He had to rebuild and rewire the entire comm system. Working fast and clean had managed to put a healthy amount of platinum in his pocket. The hot wind led his way to the local market place where he picked among the actual edible wares, looking for complimentary dishes and a few spices to help fill out their rather meager cupboard. After collecting a satisfactory variety of items and putting a sizable dent in his day’s earnings, he headed back in Alice’s general direction, eager to show the crew what he could do when working with something other than protein bars.
Ty paced the cargo deck. It’d been nearly an hour since Dru and Jacks had headed out and two since Saruwatari’s ship the Repose had touched down. There had been no word and it was eating him alive. They were burning too much time, needed to get back into the black as soon as they could and find themselves a hole to disappear down into.
“You know, wearing a rut in the floorboard isn’t going to get them back here any quicker, son,”Copper called down from the landing. He’d been watching Ty for the past ten minutes, knowing the pilot was itching to get back in the air. Truth be told, he’d feel better once they broke atmo and put this dust-bowl behind the lot of them.
“Better in here than out there putting a rut in something – or someone – else, preacher,” Ty responded. He fingered his sidearm as he continued his circuit about the deck. The preacher shook his head with a smile and headed back to the infirmary.
The diplomatic approach was the best course of action. You couldn’t just hop aboard someone’s boat and make off with their crew. It tended to make them a little non-plussed and generally caused someone to get some extra ventilation added to their person.
“Ty,” the com unit crackled to life. “Saddle up. Jack’s buddy asked us – in not so many words – to kindly go piss up a rope.”
“Then we’re going to get mei-mei and bring her home,” it wasn’t so much a question as it was a declaration.
“That’s about the size of it…”