“We sure we can trust him?” Joe said as he shifted the weight of the sacks of supplies he held in his arms.
The old preacher placed a hand on Joe’s shoulder. “I trust Warren, is that enough lad?”
The young electrician looked up at Copper. “Not really,” Joe smiled, “but it’ll do.”
“It’s gonna be tough to find.” Jackson said as they started to walk up Alice’s loading platform.”People have been looking for that since the end of the war with no success. It’ll be like finding a needle in a haystack, hidden in another haystack, hidden in a gorram world of hay. Hell, I doubt the damn thing didn’t get atomized when it crashed, or else the Alliance woulda found it by now.”
“I love your optimistic nature,” Joe smirked.
“It is one of my more attractive features.” The mechanic smirked back.
“Notwithstanding,” Ty said as he crossed the room to the staircase in Alice’s belly. “We need to at least try to find it. And besides, who ever said the Purplebellies would be smart enough to find it?”
Jackson cocked his head to one side as he stared at Ty.
“Present company excluded of course.” Ty smirked.
“Jackson does bring up a good point.” The preacher said as he followed Ty up the steps. “If this ship was so loaded down with weapons and such, why wouldn’t the Alliance go looking for it?”
“With as much pollution and other wreckage as there is on Sturges, it’s prolly damn near impossible to find with sensor sweeps.”
“Hence the hay.” Jackson smirked.
“Everybody and their brother have been looking for that pot of gold.” Dru had emerged in Alice’s cargo hold. Vanya was beside him. “For years.”
“Word travels fast.” Ty leaned over the railing, looking down. “Where did you hear?”
“That offer you got to find The Rosalee?” His brother nodded. “They’re not the only ones on this rock interested in finding it.”
“Why am I not surprised?” Ty pinched the bridge of his nose. “I don’t suppose we could just tell them all to gun hoe-tze bee dio-se and dust off this rock, could we?”
“We could do that, I suppose.”
“But we’re not going to, are we?” Ty shook his head. “This is a bad scene. Likely to get a whole lot of folks killed. Us included.”
“In the middle of a bad situation,” his eyes rolled as he jammed his thumb against the bay door control and the ship sealed herself up, “same story, different job.”
The companion laid a gentle hand on his back. “Well, at least you’re well versed in navigating such situations.” She smiled.
Ty snorted. “Always seems that way, don’t it mei-mei.” His eyes traveled over the cargo hold, over every stain, scratch, and chip he knew by heart. “I just hope you’re not around to see what happens when our course goes awry.”
He turned and headed forward to the cockpit.
“Well he’s all with the pleasant mood.” Jackson flopped onto one of the couches.
“You get used to it.” Durden and Vanya joined the others outside the kitchen.
He watched the empty door his brother had disappeared through for a moment, clearly mulling over several unspoken options and finding them none of them pleasant. He lifted his feet like they were heavy, filled the cockpit entrance, but didn’t pass through the threshold.
“You want to walk away from this,” he asked, folding his arms across his chest.
Ty didn’t turn away from the command console. “I believe it’s already on record that I didn’t want to be here at all. Too much goes wrong around here for my tastes.”
“Something to be said for making the best out of a bad situation.” He leaned against the hull. “We’re not exactly swimming in work here.”
“No,” Tyler spun his seat around to face his brother. “No we’re not. But this… I dunno. I just have a bad feeling about this one, Dru. The way I see it, there’s nothin’ to be gained on this job. There’s only one reason folks want a load of weapons like that and it ain’t to become shiny happy neighborly.”
Durden was quiet. His fingers rubbed through he beard on his cheeks. The one thing they would get out of this, and that was only if they helped Les Nemero, would be money. Neither of them were going to say that.
Now the over the years, the two of them did a lot of jobs that most in their line of work didn’t have the stomach for. They never did it for the money. They did it to keep Alice running, to keep themselves free. Right now, though, it was hard to ignore the costs they had taken to do just that.
“Hardly the first time we’ve sat at the table between two devils. Won’t be the last. Those fowk ain’t shiny, happy, or neighborly now and they ain’t going to be whether we do this or not.” His eyes flickered out the reinforced aluminum silicate glass. “Hell, they’ll just wait for the next ship to land.”
Dru looked at his brother. “You want to stop making this to be about helping put holes in each other?”
Tyler looked around the cabin, everywhere except at his brother. They finally settled somewhere on the deck plating between the two men. “Lotta memories buried here on Cherti, Dru. But the dead I can deal with well enough. And now we’re heading off to Sturgis… memories there ain’t neither dead nor buried.”
He sighed, finally meeting Durden’s eyes. The trip to Regina had taken a lot more out of the ship than most folks knew, and if it weren’t for the fact that Alice was, in some places, literally being held together with chicken wire and bubble gum, he’d certainly put in his vote to walk. But Dru was right, they’d been in the shallow end of the work pool for too long. If they didn’t work, they didn’t fly, and if they didn’t fly…
“We’ll do this. But don’t expect me to be all sunshine and happiness until we put this job to bed.”
“Expect it? If you were I’d be worried.” Dru straightened. “Get us up. Once we’re off this rock we’ll figure out what to do.”
The rumble of slipping from Cherti’s grasp died away and the stars went from fuzzy dots to sharp pinpoints. Double-checking that their course was locked in the navcomp, Tyler pushed out of his seat and headed down the small passageway that lead to the main common room. Everyone was there, and everyone, except Dru, was looking at him as though the fuse had already been lit and were just waiting around for the big boom.
“What?” Ty said, pulling out a chair and flopping down in it. “I’m not allowed a bad mood every now and then.”
“Bad mood?” Joe piped up, “I’d call it downright pissy.”
“Language, young man.” Copper reprimanded.
“That’s right, Joe,” the companion smiled sweetly, “it’s not a polite turn of phrase.” Vanya batted her lashes at Tyler, “Even if it is true.”
“Et tu, Mei-Mei?”
Durden sat down, sliding a glass of amber liquid over to his brother. “As we’re really not here to discuss the amount of sand in Ty’s shorts, what say we get to planning?”
“I do want to make it known that there will be no end to the I told you so’s.”
Dru merely shrugged, while Vanya asked of Copper, “Where’s the tally stand right now, Copper?”
The weathered minister tapped his stubbled chin, his eyes traveling to the ceiling. “Oh I reckon it’s about fifty-fifty.”
“As much as I love having the money to buy new parts for our girl.” Jackson walked in from the engine room, wiping his hands on an already greasy rag. “I have to agree with Ty. Something smells like a Reaver’s backside about this.”
“I can count the number of jobs this boat has run that didn’t smell like rotten fish on one of Calvin Woonsan’s hands.” Durden tipped the neck of the bottle over his glass and filled it three fingers worth. He gave his brother a look and walked around the table. “Fishy alone ain’t been reason to walk away from a paying gig before.”
Joe scratched the back of his head. “Calvin Woonsan?”
The pilot scowled at his brother a moment. “Calvin was a trooper in Dru’s brigade long while back, early in the war.”
Ty’s expression had turned up in a wry smirk. “He was in their BSU.”
Reading the expression on the young electrician’s face, Durden clarified, “Bomb Squad Unit.” There was a dry chuckle as he set the bottle down in front of him. “Calvin wasn’t so good at his job…”
The Shepherd was less amused. “And that’s funny?”
Durden lifted his glass. He held it over a cooler expression for a moment. “Is if you knew him, preacher.” He took a pull from the glass.
“‘Course he’s not telling you that good ol’ Calvin only had one hand.” Tyler smirked. “And he could only count to three unless he took off his boots.”
“How did the Alliance not win the war sooner?” Jackson smirked as a muttered under his breath.
The bearded Kokezaru set his glass down. “Certainly says something about them, dontcha think?”
“Touché.” Jackson nodded.
“Moot point now,” Durden slid a glass across the table to where the grease monkey was preparing to drop himself. “Issue remains about what we’re doing here and now.”
“Some issues can afford to wait.” The companion’s violet gaze traveled between the brothers. “One decision at a time. Are the winds filling our sails for Sturgis or are we heading the opposite direction?”
“Unless they’ve managed to move the rock, or someone’s been mucking with our nav settings, we’re headed there.” Ty grunted.
“Okay,” Jacks said as he tilted the glass back, “Joe and I can prolly get to work on some kind of scanning equipment. Something to help us find this needle in a haystack made of needles.”
“At least you’re staying positive son.” Copper nodded, with a smile.
“Always preacher,” Jackson smiled as he tiled the glass again, “always.”
Dru reached into his coat and retrieved a disc in a clear, thin box. Setting it on the table he slid it across and right into the Mechanic’s palm. “That’s what we’ve got from the Nemero crew. It’s full of holes and stories, but,” his greenish brown eyes looked to Alice’s resident shepherd, “maybe with a whatever you got from your con friend in a pickle-”
The bearded man pointed a finger. “Him.” He looked back at Jacks. “Doubt we’ll get a whole picture out of it all, but maybe we can start getting enough pieces of the puzzle together to cut down on the time we spend chasing our tails and digging up dry wells.”
Copper pulled a similar disk out of out of his jacket pocket. “Here ya go son.”
“Great,” Jackson laughed, “This should keep us busy for a while.”
“Something has to keep you out of trouble.” The old man smiled.