“There she is…” Alice’s pilot banked as they entered the smaller planet’s orbit and took them around. From the black, Cherti, looked gray and desolate. It was fitting for a planet infamous for its graveyards. Despite acquiescing to Vanya’s request, neither of the Kokezaru brothers were terribly thrilled about visiting the so called “Ghost Planet”, and for that reason there was no discussion when Tyler took them on another leisurely orbit before turning them on their end for their approach.
As always, Vanya was there to watch the landing, the soft scent of citrus filling the cockpit around her. Delicate hands resting on Tyler’s shoulders, she didn’t say a word as her brother took his time easing Alice toward her eventual landing. She also had yet to make her own preparations for meeting with a client. It was part unspoken retribution for making her wait to set foot on Cherti, part an uncharacteristic hesitation over her first client in months.
Her fingers curled ever so slightly, wrinkling the fabric of his shirt as she looked down on the planet.”There she is…”
Breaking through the gray clouds revealed an equally gray landscape below. There was simply nothing attractive about the planet on any level. Even the twinkling lights of the city that was their destination seemed dulled. Passing through the bleak sky, they crossed an invisible barrier in to controlled airspace, immediately lighting up Alice’s com board.
Osprey Three-One-November, this is Letopolis Control. State your intent. The air-controller’s voice broke with static through the cockpit.
Tyler unclipped the handset above his head, “Control, Osprey Three-One-November, just a simple passenger drop off. We’ll be sticking around long enough for our passenger’s, uh… business transaction, then heading space-side again.” Tyler’s explanation was rewarded with two sets of finely manicured nails digging into his shoulders. “Ouch… We’re sending you our passenger’s registration information now.”
Ty nodded, signaling Dru who was standing by to transmit Vanya’s info. “Let’s hope these codes are worth the price we paid,” he quipped, tapping on the data unit.
“What?” Vanya asked, clearly confused by Dru’s comment.
Dru looked up to his sister and smirked, “Just something from an old movie, Mei-mei.”
Ty held them on course, waiting on the Letopolis air-controller to respond. Osprey Three-One, registration checks out. Transmitting approach vector now. Welcome to Cherti.
“Figured the next time I came here the visit would be more permanent,” groaned Dudren, standing up from the console. He watched Letopolis roll below them as his brother maneuvered them to the dockyard.
Tyler’s fingers ran across a few switches before grabbing the turbine shift and easing it back. “We ain’t left yet.” Alice swooped down, her long tail swinging about as her pilot tenderly slid her toward the rolling lights. “Still might be.”
“Good point.” A smirk pulled up in that bearded cheek. “We ain’t even landed yet.”
The companion rolled her violet eyes a little, shaking her head. “Is it possible for you boys to ever be positive?”
“You know how he lands.”
Giving his brother a little glance, Alice suddenly dropped several hundred feet like a very big, very heavy stone. Dru’s seemed unphased by the sudden lurch downward. Vanya gripped Ty’s shoulder, nearly falling backward. A string of words unbecoming of a companion poured from her mouth, a sentiment that echoed loudly from the mechanic in the common room.
“Feh feh pi go!” She socked him hard in the shoulder.
“I am positive that was totally worth seeing the look on your face, Mei-Mei.” Ty grinned as he set Alice down with all the grace and gentleness of a feather coming to rest on a pillow.
Vanya leaned in closer to him, her breath brushing past his ear in a gentle caress. “Tyler…” She drew his name out with a throaty chuckle. “Have you forgotten that I always get even?”
She lay her hands upon his shoulders again, sliding down to forcefully pinch the backs of his arms. Tyler jerked away from the assault while Vanya slipped out of the cockpit, laughter trailing behind her. Ty looked at his brother as he rubbed his arms, “Still say it was worth it.”
“Oh, totally,” Dru patted his brother on the shoulder and followed the companion out.
“That went rather well,” Jacks met Vanya and Dru in the common room, “I was able to get everything tweaked just right and she should be good to go for quite a long time.”
The companion’s eyes sparkled with laughter as she turned to her brother. “We’re keeping him, right?”
Durden walked around Jackson, “Well, I’ve seen you in an engine room, mei-mei.” He patted the Alice’s grease monkey on the shoulder. “And I think we had better.” He smirked as his eyes fell to Jackson. “Nice work, Jacks.”
Watching Dru interact with the mechanic, Vanya didn’t bother to hide her smile. Whether anyone was ready to admit it or not, Jackson was clearly part of the family. “I’m fabulous everywhere,” she responded with a teasing little pout. “Including the engine room.”
“And on that note,” Jackson grinned as he past the two saluting with two fingers against his eyebrow, “I’m gonna go see a sight I haven’t seen in quite a while.”
“And that is?”
“My pillow,” he grinned, “night folks.”
Her chuckle followed him toward the door. “And miss the sights and sounds of Cherti? You must be crazy to sleep at a time like this.”
“Well I did get a section eight from the Alliance,” his eyebrows arched, “but that was for wearing dresses.”
“Stay out of my closet,” the companion replied instantly, shaking one delicate finger at him in warning.
With his arms crossed in front of his chest, a smirking Joe walked through that door. “What’s all this ’bout Jacks bein’ in the closet?” He snorted derisively.
“You can’t just walk into the middle of the book that is my life, Joe,” Jackson grinned, “you gotta learn the whole story.”
Copper strolled into the kitchen from his bunk. “This ship could do with a few more landings like that.” The shepherd started to poke his nose about about a few of the cabinets.
“What’s the matter, padre?” A smirk came over the grease monkey’s face. “Not a fan of the almost flaming landing?” That smirk disappeared behind his fist as it dissolved into a yawn.
“I’ve been flying with this ship for too many landings,” replied Copper with his head in a cupboard. “I only know so many prayers, Jackson.”
Jackson turned toward his bunk, but felt a hand on his arm, “Where are you goin’ son?”
“To rack out, padre,” the mechanic said with a smile, “I’m beat.”
“You’ve been cooped up on this boat for far too long Jacks,” the preacher said to him as he patted his shoulder, “the soul needs sunshine and fresh air. I believe it says that somewhere in the good book.”
“It does huh?”
“You gonna argue with a Sheppard, son?” Copper laughed, “You could go to hell for that real quick.”
“To hell you say?’ Jackson laughed as well, “Well then, lead me to the path to redemption.”
“That path lead to a decent saloon?” Ty trotted through the steps of Alice’s neck, joining nearly her whole crew. He crossed over to the table and informed his brother that they were all set for their stay. The conversation was quiet and, judging by their expression, serious business.
“Well, padre?” The pilot looked up, that wry smile replacing all traces of whatever it was that had been so important. The brothers seemed to have a talent for switching gears.
Copper wasn’t quite buying it. He paused. “My recollection was that you didn’t plan on setting foot on that ground until they were going to put you in it.”
“Man’s apt to change his mind now and again. After all,” his gaze flashed over to the silken haired companion, “if it works for a lady.”
“There are many things that work for me that I’d pay good money to see you try,” the companion chuckled. “In fact, I could start compiling a list if you’d like.”
“You know,” Dru cocked his head back, smirking at his brother, “I’d like to see that too.”
He groaned. “I’m sure you would.” Tyler disengaged himself from this particular path and steered it back to the original. “So, how about it, Shepherd?”
“The book contains many verses about drink,” Copper seemed to relent to the younger man’s lighter tone. “Some are more favorable than others.”
“Well, then, boys?” Tyler looked to Jacks and Joe. “What say we all write some favorable verses?”
“Sounds like a plan.” The mechanic nodded.
“Alright then,” Ty smacked the table with the flat of his hand. “Let’s go. Joe’s paying.”
Joelle’s arms folded across his chest “Riiiight…” replied the ship’s crack electrician with a roll of his eyes. “How much do I get paid again?”
Durden backed in next to the Alice’s prodigal daughter. “So,” he said, quietly ignoring the rest of the crew. “We ready to meet this terribly important client of yours?” His fingers curled around the lip of the table. “You need to powder your nose first?” His brow furrowed in idle thought. “Should I put on a tie? I’m not sure I own one.”
“As much as I’d enjoy the sight of you in a tie, it’s not your appearance that matters today.” Though a smile curled her lips as she teased her brother, there was a distance in those violet eyes. “I need to make sure I’m presentable.” She hesitated for only a moment. “You can come talk to me while I powder my nose.”
“Fair ’nuff.” He gestured back down the corridor toward the shuttle that served as the Companion’s home, sanctuary, and personal transport. “After you.”