Home at Last
Location: Xiao Jin, New Dawn Settlement, Kerry
Timeline: Mission Day 57 at 0400
They'd been lucky to find the horses and the wagon. Good were gone of course as was their gear but they had a way back and Teague figured he would call that win. Weren't an easy trip back down the mountain but he was determined to put as many miles as possible between his crew and whoever meant them harm as quickly as possible.
Maybe they white-knuckled it a bit on some of the turns but they survived and for that, he was grateful. He returned the horses and wagon to the stable and then led the group on foot back to the ship where the ramp was down. Time to talk to Addy about safety, he thought, as he walked up the ramp, tired to the bone, and stopped to see Poe standing there, waiting.
"About bloody time," Teague said as he came forward, grinning. "I take it you were successful?"
"And then some," Poe said, grinning in return. "Got a lot to tell you. To tell all of you. Come on into the galley. Got a nice bottle of aged whiskey and a full pot of tea."
New Dawn Settlement, Kerry
Abrax woke suddenly, sitting bolt upright in bed as his hand reached for the shotgun he never slept far from. The knocking that woke him repeated and he rolled out of bed to answer. He easily recognised the local youth he’d paid to keep an eye on the Firefly transport in case the crew returned early.
“Well?” Abrax hadn’t meant to sound quite so ill-tempered, but in his defence he had just been woken after only four hours of sleep. Just in case he had to move out quickly, he had taken the time to prepare the night before and that had taken more time than anticipated, especially when he had to replace a part of the repeater mechanism of his shotgun that had been worn down badly.
“Um, sorry mistah, but them folks as you had me watchin’ for? Well, they just rode in, all in a-hurry like!” It took a moment for Abrax to conjure the meaning of the words, but then a jolt of adrenaline shot through him. The mechanic blinked, before retrieving the rest of the coin he’d promised the youth.
“There’s your scratch, kid.” Turning from the door, Abrax quickly gathered up his things. He forced his way past the local, who for some reason had decided to just stand there and watch him prepare. It took barely a minute to reach the street, deserted at such an early hour, although there were a few lights on behind curtains showing that some were late to bed or early to rise.
In the end, it took less than ten minutes from being awoken for the mechanic to reach the transport, although most of the last one was spent fighting for his breath after running so hard and he once again cursed the heavy pollution of Beaumonde for the lingering damage it had dealt him as a child.
While waiting for the last of his heaving breaths to subside, Abrax took the time to appreciate the lines of the Firefly class transport. He’d had something of a soft spot for the design ever since one of them had rescued him from his adrift escape pod during the war. Yet he’d not had the chance to work on one until now. Hopefully they could use a mechanic, although if it meant getting off Kerry, he’d be willing to do just about anything. Worst case, he could use the last of his coin to pay for passage to somewhere that spacecraft actually frequented.
Straightening up, Abrax started approaching the ship at a much less frantic pace.
On Board the Xiao Jin
"Cass," Poe said as he turned toward the pilot. "Why don't you get us in the air and headed for Boros then come on back and join us. I'll go close us up while the rest of you get settled."
Sula had cleaned herself the best that she could after this sordid affair. Cleanliness was next to Godliness, so it was said. She took a seat, as instructed, wondering what the entire purpose of their last adventure was. Everything seemed the same other than the fact that they were dumped down a mine shaft with no explanation of who did it or why.
While Cassian disappeared into the head to splash some water on his face before changing into some clean clothes, Boney looked for the nearest pile of supplies in the cargo bay that would hold his weight and stretched a hammock between them. He hopped into the swinging fabric and closed his eyes, ready to put the day behind him.
It felt good to be back on the ship, back in charge again, and better still, to be finished with all the pretense. Smiling to himself, he made his way into the cargo bay and stopped by the control panel, intent on buttoning the ship up when he noticed someone at the foot of the ramp.
“Mornin’, good sir!” Abrax tried to look and sound his most agreeable. “Any chance this mighty fine ship of yours has some work as needs doin’, in return for passage off this rock? I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and if you have any mechanical woes, I’d be happy to take a look.” He really tried not to sound too eager or hopeful, but after three weeks stuck on the ground, Abrax desperately wanted off Kerry and he suspected it showed.
Poe drew breath to tell him they weren't hiring but hard on the heels of that thought came another. Mechanic. With Teague going, Addy would move up to First Mate, as they had talked about, and that meant they'd need another Mechanic full-time. Could he, for once in his gorram life, actually be lucky? As much as he didn't want to give that thought any space in his head, he found himself waving the man in. "Come on in," he said. "we were just sitting down to tea. You're welcome to join us."
“Mighty good of you.” Abrax nodded with a smile and walked forward into the cargo bay, stopping only a few paces inside. “The name’s Abrax Tovan, but most anybody I care to talk to calls me Abe.” While waiting for the ramp and hatch to close, the mechanic took the chance to look around the cargo bay. Abrax had figured out a long time ago that you could tell a lot about how a Captain ran a ship by the condition it was kept in. If the term ‘rust bucket’ was more factual than whimsical, you probably shouldn’t be surprised when the next landing involves the word ‘crash’.
Poe watched, because that was part and parcel of who he was, trying to see the ship as a stranger might. Taken care of, he thought. Not new, she'd seen service, much like himself but still out there. Still doing. Home to her crew. His own little Browncoat corner of the 'verse. "Come on," he said, "I'll take you back."
Abrax nodded and followed the man deeper into the ship. So far, the ship looked in good condition. Not perfect, but unless she’d come fresh out the shipyard recent-like, no working ship looked perfect. This Firefly was obviously looked after but the mechanic would not be surprised if there were a dozen different problems just waiting to happen.
That was part of the charm of her class though, she’d keep you plenty busy and if you were worth your salt, you could keep one or two steps ahead of the next problem. At least that’s what just about every mechanic who enjoyed working a Firefly had told him over the years. Those what hated them tended to more lean on the side of nightmare tales of the near-constant failin’ of parts, jury-rigging and undocumented modifications.
“She looks good.” Abrax mentioned, not recalling any obvious signs of wear and tear on the exterior either, not that he’d had much of a chance to examine it in detail. “How long have you had her?”.
"Just a couple of months," Poe said as they walked. "Ain't had nothing fall off her yet and she's been right cooperative about getting us where we need to be."
“Good to know. Always liked that about the Firefly Three’s myself,” Abrax replied with a fond smile, “you look after ‘em and they look after you. Forms a connection between the crew and a ship like that, like a family. A lot of the bigger ships and later designs seem to lose out on that, by my reckonin’.”
"How long have you been a mechanic," Poe asked and was glad in the moment that the walk was long enough to get the interview over with. Who knew? Maybe he'd have a crewmate by the time they got to where they were going.
“Well, let’s see…” Abrax grabbed his lower jaw and tapped a finger against his lips as he thought. “Used to help my Pa out in the shop growing up, but that don’t really count. Been workin’ mechanic gigs of one kind or another for ‘bout thirteen years now? Yeah, that sounds right.”
"Ever work a ship before or a Firefly in particular," Poe asked as he placed one foot on the base of the stairs than led upward and back toward the dining area.
“Back in the War, got drafted and stuck in the engine room of a Longbow for a couple of years. After Sturges, wound up on the other side, helping repair Independent boats, including a fair few Firefly’s. Since Unification, I’ve been picking up work as I can and some of that has been on a few different ship classes.” Abrax followed the other man onto the stairs and shrugged. “Been my bad luck to never had the chance to work a Firefly proper before.”
Poe paused for a second, caught between one step and the next, as the words sunk in. "You were Alliance then," Poe said, forcing himself to continue walking.
Abrax snorted, recognising the signs and wondering if he was about to lose out on work again thanks to his past. “Can’t honestly say I was ever given much of a choice, but yeah - I served the Alliance for a couple of years, then served the Independents for a couple more.” The mechanic shook his head, shaking off the momentary bitterness at his past misfortunes. “That gonna be a problem?”
"Depends," Poe said as he turned to face the man who might be in charge of the most important thing on the ship, "what made you switch?"
Abrax stopped, and sighed. He really didn’t enjoy dredging up the past like this, but better to find out the lay of the land now than when they were out in the black and the only way out was through the airlock. Heck, he’d only just narrowly avoided one such incident three years earlier. The mechanic wasn’t sure how much longer his spotty luck would last.
“Alliance drafted me. Wasn’t my first choice. Recruiter pointed out that refusing the draft might cause trouble for my folks and they was strugglin’ a’plenty what with four children and a new babe to look out for. Then, tucked away in the engine room of the Tempest, I never really saw the war - was all just reports and numbers to my thinking. Then Sturges happened. Flash fire and secondary explosions tore the engine compartment up plenty. Had to take an escape pod, but it got banged up bad on the way out and shot me off into the black, as good as a coffin.”
Abrax couldn’t restrain the full-body shiver as he talked about the source of many of his nightmares of recent years. There were no fond memories of being trapped in that pod.
“Pure luck, a browncoat Firefly came across me after a couple of days just floatin’ in the black. They rescued me and fixed me up. Took a few days though as I was in such a bad way. Offered me a choice, of sorts. Give m’word that I’d behave and I’d be treated well. Or, there was a prisoner camp I’d walk into but might not walk out of, given the unkindly impression the Alliance had been makin’ on the Independents. As I understand it, the guy runnin’ the camp was out of Shadow, so can’t say as I blame him really.”
Sighing, Abrax let his shoulders sag. “Again, weren’t much of a choice really. So I gave ‘em my word that I wouldn’t try to escape, provide intelligence to the Alliance or sabotage the Independent’s war efforts. Ended up working at a browncoat repair yard on Hera, worked there until everything settled after the Armistice.”
The mechanic shrugged again. “They offered to let me go about half a year before Serenity Valley. But I’d given my word to stay out of the war and the Alliance wouldn’t have allowed that. Plus I’d made a few friends among the other workers. So I just went back to work until the Armistice ended things.”
"And these days," Poe said. "Now that the war is over and we're all just folks, how do you feel about the Alliance?"
“That’s easier to answer, leastwise. I have no love for them, but so long as they stay in the Core and let folks live their lives, I have no trouble with the Alliance. Course, that ‘ain’t been true since before the War, so I suspect it’s only a matter of time until I’m gonna have to take violent exception to somethin’ they try to do to me or mine.”
Poe leaned against the railing, nodding thoughtfully. "There's truth in that," he said. "Never been the way of the Alliance to leave folk alone. They're ... meddlesome ... and I take exception to that." He sighed, going quiet for a long moment before he straightened as he did so. "Look, I don't go out looking for trouble but, you should know, it does tend to come looking for me now and again. I take honest work when I can get it. Never had an interest in crime but, you know how things are. Too many folk and not enough work."
Abrax smiled wryly at that and shrugged. “At the end of the day, bills got to be paid and people got to eat. From what I hear, the Alliance is making that harder each year, less you want to lose your freedom and jump through their hoops like a good little pet. No, working the wrong side of the law don’t bother me none, long as innocent folk ain’t bein’ hurt over it.”
“As for trouble,” Abrax smiled, “well, let’s just say that I’ve seen my share. I may not seek or welcome it, but when it arrives, I’ll lose no sleep for dealin’ with it.”
He considered the man for a moment and made the decision as much guided by instinct as the words spoken. "I think we have an understanding between us," Poe said. "If you're willing, I'll hire you on as our mechanic. Addy's been doing that up till now so you'll want to talk to her about how things are with the engines. If ... you're willing."
Letting an honest smile fill his face and feeling no small relief, Abrax held out his hand.
“I’ll shake on that and consider it a done deal.” After sealing the deal and pulling back his hand, the mechanic continued. “As for this ‘Addy’ bein’ on hand, you won’t hear no complaints from me.” The mechanic sighed. “You wouldn’t believe how often a man can take a gig like this, only to discover the previous mechanic made a bunch of modifications and fixes you weren’t expectin’.” Abrax tried to not sound too aggrieved. “An’ you never can tell if you’ve found them all or not.”
"You'll have no complaints with Addy on that score," Poe said as they resumed walking. "She was a might inexperienced when it came to the job but she's honest and in the end, she kept us flying. Can't ask more than that."
“Aye, just about what it all boils down to in the end.” Abrax smirked. “I dare say I’ll be needin’ her help as I get to know this fine lady.” He reached out and patted the nearest piece of the ship. “They all have their quirks and I conjure your Addy will know plenty about ‘em. It’d be all kinds o’ pure dumb to ignore an advantage like that outta some misplaced pride.” The mechanic clicked his tongue. “There anythin’ you think I need to know about the crew before I meet them?”
"I think they can speak for themselves," Poe said, "but if you're needing the particulars, well then, Sula is our Medic when there's need and deckhand otherwise though she's also something of a shepherd. Our pilot, Cassian, has similar leanings but his brother, Boney, is pure heathen. Says he knows about ships but, between you and me, he's not the sort I'd trust with my life or my ship unsupervised. Lizzie is the other deckhand. She's new and more than a little abrasive. I'm thinking there's a past there she's trying to keep hidden. Juniper does the cooking and Teague, well, he's a friend who'll be leaving us at our next stop." Teague smiled at Abe. "And that's about more words than I've said in a month or better. Come on. Addy can get you a place to sleep and I'm sure there's tea."
Abrax felt the last of the tension leave his frame as the crew were described to him. The mechanic certainly hadn’t heard nothin’ to set his alarm bells a’ringin’, which he was going to take on faith as a good sign. Maybe this job would turn out to be everything he had hoped for after all.
“Sounds shiny to me, Captain.”