“People gotta be buried somewhere,” Tyler shoved his hands in his pockets. “War took a toll on everyone Alliance and other. You know that as well as I do.”
“Yeah,” the mechanic nodded, “Just adds to the overall BWUAGGHHH,” he shuddered.
“They’re just shells son,” the preacher put his hand on Jackson’s shoulder, “their spirits are all in a much better place now.”
“That’s why we have you around preacher,” Ty chuckled, “You make us all feel better.”
“As much as I love this lively conversation,” Joe shook his head, “I need some parts and supplies if I’m gonna make sure Alice’s electrical system doesn’t go tits up on us, and that we keep food in our bellies.”
“Joo how rin,” Ty clapped the younger boy on the back, “Gotta keep us flying in more ways than one.”
“I’ll go with you, Joe.” Jackson broke off to follow Joe “You could prolly use a hand and I might need to find a few things for Alice myself.”
The foursome exchanged some plans and money, and the electrician and the grease monkey headed down toward the business district, leaving the pilot and the preacher to their own devices. Tyler pulled his coat tighter to his frame, “Right then, preacher,” he looked up the street. “Looks like it’s just you and me.”
Copper nodded. Shadows draped over his face from the wide brim of the old man’s hat. “Any folk you looking to visit?”
“No,” he replied flatly. “None that would make much in the way of conversation, that is.”
The preacher gripped Ty by the shoulder, “You know they can hear you anyway, son. And sometimes you’ll find you can hear them too.”
Tyler shrugged off Copper’s touch. “Hear’em all the time, Copper. Can’t not hear’em. That’s the problem.”
“Copper?” A voice called out from the other side of the street. “Copernicus Jones?” The other man crossed the street, “Wong ba duhn, I never thought I’d see you again!”
“Warren?” The Sheppard grasped the other man’s hand and shook it. “How long has it been?”
“Gotta be seven, no wait, eight years.” Warren smiled.
Copper held the man’s hand firm, looking him dead on in the eyes as he nodded. “Gotta be.”
A smile came to the other man’s face. “You don’t look like those last eight years treated you any better than the rest of them.” A dry laugh that grew into a heavy cough hidden behind a fist.
“Life catches up to you in endlessly surprising ways, but I’m living and doing what good I can with the path I’m on.” A small glance tipped to the man in the brown coat beside him. “And whatever flock I help along it.”
“Hope that last bit was a general comment, preacher.”
Copper Jones chuckled. “Warren, this is Tyler Kokezaru. His ship has been kind enough to help me along.” He turned to Alice’s pilot, sticking his thumb toward the stranger “Ty, this here gasbag is Warren Cohn. Fellow former grifter.”
Warren stuck his hand out. “I prefer reformed grifter.” With a bit of a nod, Ty took the man’s hand and gave it a pleasant shake. “What say I buy the two of you a beer?”
“And I’ve been here on Cherti ever since.” Staring into the frothy contents of his mug, Warren Cohn let go and ran that hand back through his salt and pepper locks. “It may not be the good life, but it’s better than a lot of places out here.”
“You’ve done well for yourself, Warren.” Copper Jones smiled across the table from Warren Chon.”You should be proud.”
“I try. It’s not easy. Times are tough all across the black, sure,” Warren’s expression turned somewhat grim, “but around these parts more so. Ain’t easy trying to make a life… here.”
“You mean on a graveyard,” chimed in Ty who had been rather quiet throughout the catching up between the two men.
Copper chided him for it. “Ty…”
“No,” Chon raised a hand, cutting the preacher off from any further reproach. “Let’s call a spade a spade. Man’s just sayin what he sees and that’s as much as most of the verse’ll recognize in this place. A tomb.”
The man shook his head and took a long pull from his glass. “And no offense, but it was one thing to be laying your people to rest here. It’s another when it’s your friends and neighbors.”
“I can see where it would be.” The older man nodded.
“In order to carve out this life,” the older man took a big swallow from his mug, brushing the sudsy residue from his mouth, “I’ve had to make certain…concessions.”
Alice’s two men at the table exchanged a small glance and then looked back to Warren.”Concessions?”
The man nodded. “Ever hear of Cyrus Hettfield?”
“Can’t say as I have,” Ty leaned in. “but I have a feeling you’re gonna tell us about him.”
Warren nodded. “He’s a local, businessman who has a vested interest in the community. He knows of my past talents and has asked me to do him a favor.”
“What kind of favor?” The Sheppard’s hands folded in front of him.
Warren let go of a chuckle as he took another sip. “Well as the story goes,” he took in a heavy”legend has it, .during the war there was a supply ship for the Alliance that went down somewhere on Sturgis…”
“The Rosalee?” Ty interrupted.
“You’ve heard of it?” The older man smiled.
“Only that it’s a ghost story yellow bellies tell each other around the campfire when they wanna scare the Ri shao gou shi bing out of each other.” Ty leaned back again.
“Well that may be, but the stories are true.” Warren smiled. “And Mister Hettfield has asked me to find it.”
“What’s the payment for a job like that.” Copper said, no expression at all on his face.
“That is a very good question, Copernicus.” Warren’s face became somber. “Mister Hettfield is a very powerful man on Cherti. He owns a lot of property. One in particular piece is where the orphanage I run sits.” He looked down into his empty glass. “I haven’t been able to make the payments on the land in months. Somehow ole Cyrus knew what I had been and decided to use it. I’ve done some very not nice things for him in order to do some very good things.” Warren went silent again. His eyes seemed dull slightly. “And now he wants me to become a grave robber.”
Copper regarded his old friend for a few minutes before he spoke again. “Do you know where it is on Sturgis?”
Before the other man could answer, Ty shot the Sheppard a sideways glance. “Can I borrow you a moment, Copper?”
The older man nodded and got up to follow Alice’s pilot to a quiet corner of the bar.
“What’re you playing at here?” His voice was cool and even, though his eyes gave a hint that the inquiry was more than just simple curiosity.
The man’s brow creased. “The man is in a situation. He needs help.”
“And you aim we should help him with his mess.” Tyler shook his head, but he held back the sigh. “I don’t like getting into other folk’s problems. We carry a heap enough of our own.”
“I think we should help those kids stuck in the middle.”
Then the sigh came, one of half resignation. “You sure we can trust him, preacher?” Ty’s eyes narrowed as he turned back to look at the old man at the table behind them.
Copper nodded. “I’ve known Warren a long time, son,” he placed his hand on Ty’s shoulder, “He was a thief, a cheat and a liar. So was I at one point. But I choose to believe in the absolution of the good book.” His eyes drifted back to Warren as well. “If this is an act, then it’s a damn good one ’cause he could never fool me like this in the past. No lad, I think he’s on the level.”
Tyler chewed on the mans words. “I’m not gonna say I like it.” His arms closed across his chest as he looked quite plainly at the man seated at their table. “And I don’t think I need to tell you what my brother will say.”
“You two can call it a marker I’m calling in.” The old man smiled, “For that time on Hera.”
The preacher’s joke did little to lighten the Browncoat’s mood, but he nodded. “Alright, old man.” That gaze turned onto Copper. “But we do this our way. I don’t want any muscle trying shoehorn the job. And your friend over there stays put.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way son.” Copper squeezed Ty’s shoulder.
Ty nodded. “Then we have a deal.” He looked over to the table. “Lets see just what his is.”