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Dave ST

[Alternity] "Best Laid Plans"

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Into The Black



So here’s the deal: a long time ago The Union of Sol sent hundreds o’ thousands o’ people to the Verge to colonize it, then forgot about ‘em. People made do and from nothin’ they ended up with, well, more than nothin’. They colonized dozens o’ systems and terraformed hundreds o’ worlds- hell, we even managed to keep a lot of our Home Space cultures intact. The Core Worlds were the first: they’re Earthlike with sprawlin’ cities and fancy new tech while the Frontier Worlds… Well, they could do with a little more, but the people get by.

Well, then came the day people from Home Space show up and decide we’re all still bona-fide citizens of the Concord Union and all we have is now theirs by law. Needless to say it didn’t go over well. There was a war and The Verge lost. Now they own what our mammy and pappy’s mammy and pappy worked so hard for and things aren’t lookin’ to get any prettier. They make findin’ decent work tough, but we get by.

Name’s Hadicall, and I’m the pilot on this here ship, the Esperanza. Means ‘Hope’ in some lingo or other I’m told, and there ain’t much left o’ that these days. Anyhoo, she’s a good ship, property o’ Cap’n Chase, a nice gal with decent business sense. She’s got herself a good crew too: Deezy, our resident gearhead; a couple o’ mercenaries, Cherry and Sam; a gunslinger, Caleb; and Lainey, a genuine psychic.

We all got a story to tell, but simply put, we’re just all tryin’ to make a livin’ out here in the Verge. You gotta job, we’ll do it. Don’t much care what it is, long as the pay’s right…

"The Best Laid Plans"


Somewhere in The Border Systems…

Loud music piped through the intercom as everyone aboard the Esperanza tended to his or her duties. Things weren’t always glamorous out in the Black, but life was what they made it, and most days that was enough. The attitude of the crew today was a pleasant one and since they hadn’t had work in quite some time it was a welcome attitude to say the least.

Hadicall and Deezy met in a corridor and shared a two-step (complete with a twirl and a dip at the end) before bowing and heading on in their intended directions, which was endearing since they were arguing not but thirty minutes before about Deezy ‘fixing’ something Hadicall said ‘didn’t need no fixin’. Sable, Hadicall’s daughter was prepping lunch for the crew. She was fourteen and was sweet and pretty as could be, much to her daddy’s growing frustration. The Captain had made it clear, though, that as long she made herself useful and stayed out of the way she was welcome aboard.
With a click the music the came to a stop, earning a few groans that echoed throughout the ship as the Captain called a meeting in the mess hall.

Welcome to Alternity: Into The Black! Thanks everyone for participating, I hope we have a blast with this, as I know we’re all space opera fans. Let’s get to work!



Introduction post time! These are sometimes tough, but use it as an opportunity to describe how you might have been contributing on the ship (or in what ways you might have been having fun with the music going, for those of you who are the fun-having type.)

End it with meeting up in the galley and the Captain will take it from there…

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Samuel was helping Sable in the kitchen, chopping up vegetables for the salad while the young girl busied herself with other tasks. She briefly smiled at him, and it was so sweet Samuel couldn't help but smile back. Hadicall had been so occupied in his fixing argument with Deezy that he'd been totally ignorant of the fact that the 'kid' he'd put on warning was alone, unsupervised with his daughter. Well, as far as Samuel was concerned, Hadicall could take his suspicions and toss it gottam however deep -

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Samuel cut off that line of thought before he accidentally cut himself with the chopping knife. Sable was too young for him. Fine, Black Forest years were longer, and that made age a somewhat more fluid thing, particuarly in the young, impressionable, nearly-adult years. Sable certainly wasn't too young in the literal sense, as far as people back home would have seen it.

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The difference, Samuel felt, was that went you'd spent years worth of Sol time potshotting Concord officers who contemptously invited the bullet, lived on meager rations and survived on the land, it left a mark. The mark that made him far less interested in sweet young women - girl - that imagined wearing a nice dress and sweeping down a ballroom floor. The music cut off, and Samuel sighed. "See you in the dining room, Sable. I'll bring out the salad."

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When the hunter joined the rest of the crew, he was carrying a cheap but functional plastic bowl with a mixture of chopped vegetables. Samuel plopped it down on the table before leaning back in his chair. "First course, salad."

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When the Captain cut the music and called the meeting, Cherry was aft of the mess hall in the water and coolant storage area of the ship's stern. She'd been giving the water/waste reclamation processing unit a good twice-over (and much-needed) cleaning, changing out a couple of filters while she'd been at it. It was dirty, unpleasant work, but it qualified as "unskilled" labor, which was about the only kind of labor Cherry was qualified for when it came to spaceships. And besides, someone​ needed to do it: might as well be Cherry. That said, she was glad of the excuse to stop. She shoved the rag she'd been using into a back pocket and headed for the mess hall.

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A short while later Cherry entered the mess. Her red ochre jumpsuit, worn by use and smeared with grease and now only identifiable as the color ‘dirty’, was unzipped and tied off at her waist, revealing the only slightly less worn and grease-smeared white tank top she’d been wearing underneath. The tank top, in turn, revealed her well-toned, strong arms and the elaborate three-quarters nanotat sleeves that, with their rich detail and exotic imagery, marked her as a member of the jianghu underworld. Cherry normally kept her tattoos at least partially covered but today they were on full display, causing the smears of grease on her left forearm to stand out boldly where they blocked the soft glow of the burning red phoenix underneath. Her hair was hanging loose in thick, black curls and was a little bit wild after a hard day of cleaning duty, and her face was smudged with one or two stray smears of grease.

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Cherry’s eyes, glittering in the mess hall’s soft lighting with the colors of amber and pyrite, took in the sight of Sam’s and Sable’s salad and, realizing there was food to be had and, therefore, hands that needed to be cleaned (namely her own), changed her course mid-stride and headed off in the direction of the kitchen sink. She reentered the mess a moment later, pulling the wayward strands of her hair into a bun as she came, with much cleaner hands and arms this time – though one of the grease smudges remained on her face. Taking her seat at the table, Cherry waited for the Captain to begin the meeting.

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Conspiciously absent during all this was the ship's resident hyperactive engineer, who was usually first to the table when the dinnerbell was rung. That she wasn't could only mean that she had started some ill-advised project somewhere in the ship, and had either missed the call or was so obsessed with the project that she couldn't be arsed to break away. The second option was by far the most disquieting. Though maybe only slightly more disquieting than the sounds of distant clanging and clunking that could be heard coming from the ceiling of the mess hall. It sounded like a very large spider or maybe a rat was pattering around up there.

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Pattering around until it reached a spot over the little kitchenette. Then there was a pregnant pause, and a little shower of grit out of a little vent grate in the ceiling of the kitchenette. A cough. Then more pattering...and a quiet, musing little, "...huh."

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Suddenly the clonking turned into a startled yelp that quickly got louder, and a squeaking scraping noise that ended with the vent grate over the mess hall table suddenly bursting out of the ceiling, followed closely by a big tuft of wild red hair topped with a youthful, upside-down face still in mid-startled-yell, but quickly spreading into a delighted grin.

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Deezy was hanging out of the vent opening now...or the upper half of her was anyway, her head a good five feet or so off the table and her torso vanishing into the tight squeeze of the shaft. Only the fact that she was small and skinny gave her any chance of getting in there at all.

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"Hi guys!" she gasped, waving. "So...I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the ventral solenoids don't have to be replaced in spacedock anymore. The bad news...I'm kind of stuck. My hips aren't quite...fitting right. I think I turned wrong when it hit that big drop."

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Deezy extended her arms. "Little help?"

,,

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Lainey had just stepped into the mess hall, her hair damp from a quick dunk in a shower so as to not show up covered in sweat from her daily exercise routine, when the clanging sounded. She closed her eyes, counted softly to herself, and reminding herself that Deezy hadn't actually managed to vent them all into space yet. Once the red-head made her inverted entrance, Lainey stepped over and locked a shoulder with the tiny engineer to support her weight while she wriggled her hips through the narrow confines of the air vent.

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Lainey caught her legs as she tumbled out, turned her right-side up, and set her on her feet. "You know," she half chided, half teased, "some day you're going to get stuck where no one can get you out. Then you'll just be a part of the ship." She took a seat at the table, nodding to the others that had made it in before her. "We'll put up a plaque and everything."

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Deezy laughs, not seeming to find the prospect daunting in the least.

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"Don't worry, I've learned my lesson," she assures Lainey. "When in doubt, go ahead and do it because if you get in trouble Lainey will get you out again!"

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With that she plops happily into a chair and brushes some of the dust and vent shaft cover off of the spot in front of her.

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"You know, I was checking out the hull schematics, and there's all kinds of little conduits and access shafts. They're meant for dogs, I think, and most of 'em are too small for me...but I can get my head into the trunk lines and kinda...hunch..." She hunched her shoulders together as far as she could to demonstrate. "...and wiggle through. The one running down the fore-aft spine was big enough for me to bring Waldo along, so I could reach down a branch line and fix that sol..."

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Deezy paused...both to take a desperately-needed breath, and to realize something was missing. Her eyes widened and she looked up at the open maw of the vent above.

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"Where's waldo?!" she exclaimed, and hopped up onto the table to peer upwards into the darkness. "Nothing else fell down with me? AWWWW!! That means it's still up there!"

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She dropped back off the table into her seat and kicked the table leg.

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"Now I hafta make another one."

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Lainey snorted a laugh at Deezy's antics. The woman was a miniature whirlwind of chaos, but every team needed one to stay sane. She bumped the teen in the shoulder and grinned. "Yeah, such a trial for you. I can see that it's just ruined your whole week to have to make another gadget to rummage around the ship."

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She made a face at Sam, mostly teasing. "So, is there real food today, or are all doing rabbit impressions?" She liked Sam. He was good in a fight, knew how to shoot, and didn't get into nearly as much trouble as Deezy. Not that she was going to give the boy a swelled head by telling him that; if anything, it made her a bit harder on him than on the others when they sparred. She dug into the salad, filling her place as much as fair portions would allow, and passed the bowl to Deezy.

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"Any idea what the captain's got for us today?" she asked the table in general.

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Cherry had listened to the pattering and thumping in the conduits over the mess hall with moderate interest, glancing overhead occasionally as she’d shoveled her portion of the salad onto her plate. When the quiet pattering and thumping suddenly turned into loud squeaking and scraping and yelping, Cherry’s full attention was diverted upwards until her machine eyes honed in on the vent grate positioned just over the mess hall table. Her eyes still locked on the grate, Cherry’s hands deftly shot out and grabbed both her own plate and the bowl of salad, pulling them out of the way just as the vent burst open and partially disgorged one ship’s mechanic and dumped a fair amount of accumulated grit onto the table as it did.

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Throughout this unexpected development, Cherry had seemed neither particularly surprised nor upset. Mostly she just seemed quietly relieved, upon looking down again, to see that the food was still dust-free. Wasn’t everyday a body got to eat fresh (or at least “not quite stinky yet”) greens in space, after all.

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As Lainey helped Deezy down from her predicament, Cherry wiped the table off as best she could and set her plate and the salad bowl back upon it. While Deezy ranted and Lainey chided, Cherry dug into Sam’s salad. When the ship’s very own psychic sat down and reached for her plate, Cherry wordlessly reached over herself and slid the bowl of salad in the other woman’s direction so she didn't need to reach across the table for it.

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When Lainey asked her question, Cherry replied around a mouthful of salad with, “Dunno.” She swallowed and then, while reaching for her next bite, added by way of clarification, “’bout what Van’s called us here for, least ways.” Shoving another wad of leaves into her mouth and chomping away with gusto, she continued; “S’far as the food, Sam said this here’s the first course, so it seems there’s more comin’.”

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Cherry eyed the young tracker as she said this and, after moment, and with the hint of a wry smile touching the corner of her pretty mouth, added, “Assumin’ he didn’t let hisself get distracted by Haddy’s girl and forget to make the rest of the meal, that is.”

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Low music pipped in through cheap speakers all around the filthy, run down bar. Bright beams of sunlight shown through cracks and spaces in old boards across the windows or though heavy cloth draped over the panes like curtains. Every person drinking looked like they hadn't washed or shaved in the better part of a week, including the ladies, and while the servers weren't much to look at, it sure beat getting up to get it yourself. The place stank of sweat and stale beer.

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"I remember it like it was yesterday. The Battle of Fort Constance. During the war, I was scared shitless, but it was me or him. He ran over the sand bags, bayonet at the ready... and I let loose. He got me too." The gruff man lifted his shirt exposing his side where a nasty knife scar never quite healed right. "I keep his dog tags on me to this day, Benny Riley. After him it was all cake walk from there. What about you Bishop?"

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Bishop looked at the other two men, hi eyes in though for a moment. "Well, nothing exciting as a war story. Punk kid on a Border System space station cornered me in an alleyway, wanted all I had. He was slow though and I taught him the last lesson he ever learned. Kid's name was Shawn. Yer up Hadi, what was your first?"

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Hadicall looked at his drinking buddies, Bishop and Hicks, and sipped his drink slowly. He thought long and hard about it as he set his mug to the table. "Hadi?" Hicks asked after several moments of Hadicall's silence.

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"Hadi!" Bishop shouted at him as Hadicall stared off into space, realizing he was unable to answer the question.

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"Daddy!"

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Hadicall's feet slipped from the console and it lurched him forward, snapping back into consciousness. He sniffed loudly and wiped his hand down his face to clear the sleep from his expression. It didn't help. "Uh, yeah?" He asked then realized it was the inner ship communicator. He pressed the button on the console. "Y-yeah?"

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"Lunch is ready." Sable happily informed him. "Were you asleep?"

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"Uh, no." He lied, sitting up straight and now mildly embarrassed that she caught him without even being present. "I uh, was, uh... taking a leak." He squinted at his choice of excuses, then shrugged and went with it.

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A few minutes later he stepped into the mess where everyone was gathered already. As the pilot he was usually the last one summoned to these soirees anyway, having to make sure the ship could fly itself while everyone had a pow-wow. He was in a tank top that showed off his chiseled everything and a pair of dog tags jingled on his neck, noting him as a veteran of the war. Hell, if the man would've shaved and took some pride in his appearance he might have been very attractive, but as it was Hadicall was, and remained, just the pilot. "Oh, yummy. Captain manages t'git us some real food and Deez gets vent crap all over it... goody."

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"Daddy, it's not big deal... I've remade the salads, sans vent crap." She beamed him a smile and pecked him on the cheek. "I'll get the food, you guys just make cozy n'I'll be right be right back. Sam, wher'd you place the lunch tray?"

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"Second cooler, middle shelf." Sam replied casually, as he went to get himself a glass of water.

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"Woah, woah, woah... you and Sam were in here?" Hadi flung an acusing finger in the direction of Sam, then Sable, then Sam again. "Alone?"

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"Yeah, so?" Sable asked, her back to everyone as her voice echoed from inside the second cooler where she was bent over collecting the meal.

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"So, maybe I recall tellin' you that I don't want the pair o'ya alone together. He's on notice, dang it!"

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"S'wrong daddy? Hate to hear that we were alone? In the kitchen? Well it's true, we were, an I'm not ashamed to admit it." She was singing it practically like a love struck girl recanting her tale of first, true love and romance. "There we was, Daddy with stars in our eyes and Sam took me by the hand and right there on the kitchen counter we made beautiful, passionate..." A tray it the table with a loud clang. She tossed it down with the glare of a full grown woman with hate in her eyes and anger in her tone. All the sarcasm left her voice. "Sandwiches. Christ's sake pa, it ain't like this liner allows for much privacy. Everyone's doing their part, quit being so dang gum paranoid."

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"Yeah, well, I'm just trying to keep your parts off the doin' list." Hadi was already grabbing for sandwiches, as if food was cleaning the slate and washing away his ire for Sable breaking his one, incredibly stupid and ignorant rule.

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Sable rolled her eyes and huffed. She spun about so fast her ponytail whipped around to the opposite shoulder. "Uggggh! You're impossible. That was so not right!" She stopped back into the kitchen to collect the rest of the meal

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The table glared at Hadicall as he stuffed sandwich halves in his mouth. No could doubt that Hadi was an awesome father to Sable, but sometimes he was just an overprotective ass. "Wuh?" He looked at them after several moments, his mouth full of food. "Thee mad or sumtin'?"

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"Embarrassed, mostly," Deezy guesses absently as she arranges leaves of salad on her plate into a spiraling fractal pattern. There was no getting her to eat something with her mouth until she'd 'eaten' it with her mind first. When they had meat, her plate wound up looking like a dissection tray before it was clean.

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"No girl likes having her pa talk about her parts." She snickers, and places a tomato just so. The significance of it could only be speculated upon, but the care with which she put it there indicated its extreme importance.

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Abruptly she looks up, an expression of alarm on her face.

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"It's not just salad tonight is it?" Then her eyes focus on Hadical's sandwich. "Augh! I want one of those!" She scans the table hurriedly and grabs one of the last sandwiches...leaning waaaay out to reach it, then quickly contracting back into her seat to keep it away from anyone who might try that manuever on her. But a minute later she's busily taking it apart to poke dubiously at the mayo on the top slice, then inventory the rest of the ingredients before finally reassembling it and taking a bite.

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A few moments later, the sound of booted footsteps on the metal grating of the floor resounded over the idle chatter of the crew, and the Esperanza's very own captain walked slowly through the narrow doorway and into the dining area. Not a large or imposing woman by any stretch of the imagination, it was still hard to deny that the sharp-eyed brunette had a funny kind of presence about her, especially on the ship.

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"Capphn," Hadicall managed around a mouthful of food, and she gave the pilot a nod as she scanned the room. "Haddie." There was a brief pause, in which she surveyed the table, shrugged, and snagged a sandwich for herself. Nudging her chair away from the table with the toe of a brown boot, Van took a seat and chewed quietly for a moment. When she realized everyone was looking at her, evidently waiting for something, she rolled her eyes in exasperation and waved toward the food while swallowing. "You can eat while ya listen. Go on. Not often we get anything this fresh, and I don't aim to let it go to waste." Taking her own advice, the captain shoved a forkful of salad into her mouth, rolling her eyes for a different reason as she sagged back into her chair. Real Food. Damn, but it was almost worth not getting paid in actual money, even if it meant the job she'd just agreed to take would mostly be funding the ship's upkeep.

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"So," she continued between bites of almost-pristine lettuce, pepper, and tomato, "We're headed to Icarus Station, soon as Haddie can get us there. It's not too far, only a couple of days out. Client's name's Sokolov, details to follow."

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Samuel cracked a grin as Sable dished out the righteous annoyance of a daughter upon her insistently intrusive father, and took the moment to get both salad, and a sandwich. The fresh, delicious taste of genuine food was something he'd found jarring to usually go without. The lunch meat being chewed in his mouth normally would have been prepped all natural and local, preserved or new. It would certainly be hearty, either from the few kinds of livestock diligently raised generation after generation on Black Forest - or as Samuel had regularly done, hunted or gathered flora and fauna perfectly edible.

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A mark of how life was far different when these meals were a sign of good fortune. The usual paste or canned slurry was practically abominable to someone of Samuel's experience. You shouldn't have to survive on something that looked and tasted like your own shit. At least the Esperanza's crew already could expect another paying job.

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"S-sho," Sam gulped his mouthful down, and inquired with a sly eye, "Let me guess: he wants to send off something quietly. Maybe a young strapping stowaway boy who can make the girls here all nice and comfy?"

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Deezy laughed in between mouthfuls of sandwich. Somehow, despite how fast she was eating, her economy of consumption managed to ensure that no food left her mouth, regardless of her speaking and laughing.

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"Wouldn't be a stowaway if we was hired to move him," she points out to Sam good-naturedly. Then her bright, inquisitive eyes flicked to Chase with that slightly-too fast jerkiness that reminded one of how flies or birds look at things. "Did you see a picture of him? Is he good looking, or all knees and elbows? Does he know how to cook? Can he use a laser spectrometer?"

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The captain shot Sam a glare over the rim of her mug as she took a drink of what passed for coffee on the ship, and shook her head.

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"Nope. Haven't seen any pictures, or heard anything about a... laser spectro-whatsit. Doubt it's a person, anyway. Likely just guns or tech. Maybe meds." She shrugged expressively, seemingly disinterested in the topic. "'Sides, I ain't lookin' to take on another gangly kid, temporary or no, whose sole aim in life seems to be sendin' our good pilot here on an early stress-induced voyage into the hereafter. One's enough, far as I'm concerned."

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Samuel snorted, leaning back in his chair. "I suppose so, Captain. Right then. Does Sokolov seem particularly flush? Or shady? Fine - this technically is a shady business, but we'd all agree it's better to not be knifed by our client - metaphorically speaking."

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Icarus station, aptly named for it's close proximity to a brightly burning star, was easy to find, it just took a few days to get there. It seemed so small, like a metallic mushroom hovering absently in front of a bright yellowish white background. Although still a safe distance away from the star it's massive size and solar radiation allowed the space station to mask it's presence and scramble most communication systems. No one really knew what the station's purpose was, or if it was just privately owned by Sokolov, but if the guy was a paying client what did it matter, right?

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Gracefully Hadicall slowly closed the distance to the docking clamps and while the crew prepared for to meet their client the ship rattled slightly as they locked and began pulling the Esperanza in.

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"All set Cap'n." Haddie's modulated voice echoed through the halls. "All cleared with the docking crew. Not surprisingly, we're expected. Cooling systems are holding up and the station's systems are powering our own. She'll hold up while you go do your meet n' greet."

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Decide what members of the crew are going with you. Hint: Taking everyone and being armed to the teeth is not a good idea. Maybe one or two, and a side arm. Anything more and you might make someone nervous...

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Use the OOC, that's what it's for.

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When you guys are ready, poke me.

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