Catching Folks Up
Visit to Boros
Location: Dining Room, Xiao Jin, In Transit to Boros
Timeline: Mission Day 58 - 1800
Teague had called everyone together in the dining room for a meal but also to talk about how things stood. They agreed, himself and Poe, that it was time for the crew to know what had been going on and what lay before them.
Sula was starting to wonder about many things on this ship. Why had she been brought here? She was no closer to solving her mystery, though she did have a lovely portrait to look at. On the other hand, misfortune after misfortune was starting to follow this ship. Was the ship Job? Was this a test of faith? There were no ready answers but the only way to find out was to go through. She simply looked at Teague and said, "Evenin'."
"Evening," Teague answered as he made his way through the dining room and into the kitchen to pour himself a cup of tea. The Shepherd was one of those people he didn't get and wouldn't exactly miss. He could tell there was a lot going on behind her eyes but she never gave a bit of it away. And she'd never been pleasant enough for him to feel the need to go digging at it. So he defaulted to polite neutral. Respond and move along.
Seeing as how the tea was ready, he brought the pot to the table and made himself useful bringing out the food. Nothing out of the ordinary. Junie was a decent cook though not particularly inspired of late. Not that he was complaining or anything. You go hungry enough times, you put that whole being picky thing right out of your head for good. "Dinner's ready," he said. "Why don't you call everyone down?"
Cassian strolled in casually, eyes darting about the room as was his way. There wasn't much to be said, so he nodded at whomever made eye contact.
"CHOW TIME!" Boney's outlandish voice burst into the galley before he did. When his body finally caught up, he skidded on his feet and picked the nearest chair. "What's up for grub tonight?"
"I have no idea," Teague said, "although I don't anticipate any surprises. So, probably some sort of protein." And then, under his breath, muttered, 'same as every other meal."
Abe made his way to the dining room, cleaning off the last of a particularly stubborn patch of dark, oily grease from the back of his left hand. Tucking the cleaning rag into a pocket as he entered the room, he nodded to those already present.
"Evenin'." he greeted the rest of the crew and, upon seeing the table already laid out, made his way to sit down. A cup of tea would be greatly appreciated after several hours spent removing nasty viscous gunk from a set of filters he'd swapped out earlier in the day.
"Hiya," Boney said to the unfamiliar man.
"Good to know ya." Cassian nodded.
Addy wasn't far behind Abe, having gotten a quick introduction to the new mechanic and given a tour already, she was eager to have the explanations out of the way. She pulled up a chair, making eye contact with everyone and nodding, but for the moment at least, keeping her own counsel. There'd be plenty of questions to answer soon and talk to be had soon enough.
With an almost dancer-like step Juniper followed Teague with another set of platters. "Oh, you know," she commented teasingly to Boney, "Protein. With a side of protein. And a bit of protein for flavor." She smirked at the gregarious man as she set a platter on the table and then stepped around to snag a chair next to Teague.
Lizzy stood there leaning and looking at everyone. Odd she thought to herself albeit amused. This was not something she was used to. "Am I supposed to join you?" she asked with curiosity and caution.
"You are welcome at our table, of course..." Sula informed Lizzie, then stood up and gestured to the seat beside her. "If you would like, you can sit here."
Folks were finishing up their meals; Poe and Teague shared a glance and then Poe cleared his throat. "There are things we need to tell you," Poe said. Words had never been his strength and, like always, he struggled to find the right words. "Addy was forced into the marriage by a man that's more than a little abusive. He's a man with money and means and he was having the ship watched. So, I left Teague in charge of the ship and went hunting."
Sula gave Addy a pitying look. "Marriage is supposed to be a sacred contract between parties and the Lord. How can I help?"
The look of pity from the Shepherd was, perhaps, the last thing Addy wanted. She'd weathered this path and some of this had been her own failings in trust. There was little that anyone could have done beyond the steps Quinlan had taken. Still, she gave the other woman a weak smile. "Not much to be helped at this moment. Poe'll explain," she said redirecting things to the one person in the room she trusted with everything in her.
"During the war, Matthias Stone, the one Addy was forced to marry, sold arms ... to both sides. And since he was dealing with both purple-bellies and browncoats, he was selling information as well. In this he was not alone. Addy's family ran a way station for our side, I spent time there myself once when I got shot." His gaze strayed to Addy for a moment, remembering the hopeful young girl she'd been back then, and then turned back to the business at hand. "Her father was in on the whole operation and had made an arrangement to 'give' Addy to Matthias when they were of an age to marry."
"Course, the war ended and no matter how good the Stone family was in weapon design and manufacture, the need dropped off and with it, their revenue stream. I pretended to sell the Xiao Jin to my good friend, Teague, so that I could go and investigate." He paused for a moment, remembering the long hard nights, so reminiscent of the war, and at the end, the weight of what he found. "Stone and Addy's father came up with a plan to rekindle the animosity on both sides, start the war up again. Get the profits rolling in."
Even though none of this information was new to her, Addy's stomach twisted at the news, embarrassment pinching at the back of her neck and shoulders, making her want to hunch down. It was well past the war and still she felt as if she'd been the most naïve and uncultured of women not to see something bigger going on at the time. She wondered when the obvious questions would come out from those assembled... had she known... if she hadn't how did she miss it...
Abe carefully placed the soiled cutlery on his empty plate and took a small mouthful of his cooling tea in order to give him a chance to put his thoughts in order. Restarting the War was all kinds of stupid, heck most folks had barely recovered from the time of War as it was. Of course, Abe wasn’t convinced that the Alliance would be able to overlook the opportunity to reach further and instill more control across the ‘verse, if given the chance. The mechanic sighed.
“I conjure with their money and connections, the Feds won’t stop them. You can’t trust a hired crew none to not take the better money that the other side can offer and rat you out. An’ for sure we can’t afford the hurt to folks that a new war would bring.” Abe, seeing no other choice, tiredly ran a hand over his face. “So, what’s left to ask but ‘Where, when and how do we put these animals down?’”
Poe met Abe's gaze and nodded. To find someone willing to do what it took was not a small thing at all. "There's more," he said. He brought out the evidence he had collected and spread it out on the table. "At the end of the war, not all of us Browncoats were willing to give up, some formed a resistance movement. Stone, well, he got in touch. Sold them weapons at a reduced rate and then, as 'Jonathan Klaus', reported the delivery to the Alliance. He's paid twice and the Alliance goes on the alert."
"Hostility between the sides is increasing. That sets the stage for the next part. Stone and Addy's father, Weysmith, mix up a poison gas formula that Stone's grandfather developed, and arrange for it to be released on Persephone." He waited a second, saw the connections being formed around the table. "One hundred thousand dead in Demeter. That was them."
Sula squinted at this information. "This information is disturbing but what can we do about it? We are not in the military. The Alliance will not care. Are you saying that we are the latest test subject? And if so, why gas us?"
"Oh the war," Lizzy said having sat there listening to conversations and the mention of browncoats and purple bellies. "Great times" she added with sarcasm. "Worked out so well."
"Shénme tā mā de..." Boney kept muttering over and over, getting progressively louder as Poe told his story.
"Hey," Cassian chided, "watch the language around the women folk."
"Aren't you listening?" Boney rhetorically asked his brother. "The feller who hired us ain't even the ruttin' owner of this boat!"
Cassian facepalmed his forehead with a loud clap. "That... that... after everything Mr. Poe just told us, you landed on that as the most important takeaway?"
"I like to know who I'm workin' for." Boney waved a hand at Poe before crossing his arms. "I don't know him and he don't know us."
At first Cassian made to argue, but found it hard to dismiss his brother's concern. Even so... "Let me apologize for my boneheaded brother. We're grateful for our employment. Honestly and truly. I guess we just don't know where things go from here."
There were moments when Quinlan Barrett Poe missed those he had known back when he was a Browncoat. Together, united in belief, they had taken on nearly impossible goals. Sometimes they won, sometimes they lost but the attitude was always the same. Things had changed since their defeat. Folks looked out for themselves more.
Like this bunch. Sarcasm, indifference, and of course, the ever present, how does this affect me. Honestly, he just wanted to vomit. But Poe who didn't back down, even when he had to go it alone, now same as always, sighed and started dealing with what was in front of him.
He turned to Boney first. "You're still employed. Stay sober, do your job, and you'll have work here. You do what Abe says and if he don't have nothing for you, then see me. Guaranteed, I'll find you something to do."
"Damn, just 'cause I wanna' drink every day don't make me a drunk," Boney protested. He met every eye that stared at him. "Well, it don't!" Crossing his arms, he said, "You ain't gotta' worry about me none, boss. I can handle mine."
From Boney to Cassian. "Just do your job. Keep us flying. Can't ask more than that." His gaze flicked momentarily to Boney and then returned. "You aren't your brother's keeper though I conjure you think of yourself that way."
"You and the Good Book might have two ways about that," Cassian said respectfully. "Like Boney said, though, you can count on us. Whatever you need, we got it."
From Cassian, his gaze turned to Sula. To his mind, she never quite made sense, like all that religiosity short-circuited the logical part of her brain. "Ain't no one gassing us," he said. "Though if you could spare a brain cell for the thousands upon thousands who died, you might consider offering up a prayer or two on their behalf."
The Shepherd glared at the speaker, "Prayers are wonderful. I have said many both during and after the war. However, it brings nobody back and those that live with the pain afterwards often need more. The Lord knows that you should not judge. I judge not you, but before speaking like that, you know not what pain others have suffered.
"Don't test me tonight, Shepherd," Poe said quietly. His tone was even and measured but there was that look in his eyes that spoke volumes. A unspoken warning.
From Sula, his gaze rested on Abe and here, appreciation lit the depths of his eyes. Something of a kindred spirit maybe. "I'm going to do some thinking on that," he said. "We can talk in private on that when you've a mind ..."
Abe nodded in response, but felt no need to reply. While putting a man in the ground wouldn’t be his first choice to deal with a problem, the mechanic had been around enough to know that sometimes it was the only way. He hadn’t always been fortunate enough to find the legal kind of work since the end of the war, so Abe knew he would be capable of doing what needed to be done when the time was right. The mechanic also made a note to figure out what work was needed on the ship that he could pass on to Boney should the man come lookin’ for it.
"Teague here is leaving us at Boros. That was our agreement. Abe, if you think there's work needs doing on the ship, we can reach out to the Sanchez Brothers. They owe me a favor or two. I'll have to an appointment off ship," Poe said. "Addy, if you would work out a schedule so that everyone gets a bit of shore leave but keeps the ship covered, I'd appreciate it."
"Been interesting," Teague said. "And I did make the ship a bit of coin on this run. I'll be moved out and on my way soon as we land. You need anything, mate ..." His gaze met and locked with Poe's. "You reach out. I know folk who would be right happy to help."
"I'll do that," Poe said. "And thank you for all your help. With Teague going, I'm back to captain again and oh, that's another thing. Abe is taking over from Addy as our Mechanic; Addy moves up to First Mate. You take orders from her same as me and yeah, we talk so playing us against each other won't work."
Boney chuckled and muttered to himself, "Fine by me, I'll swab her deck any day."
Staying quiet and hoping nobody overheard, Cassian just kept staring at Poe. A bead of sweat formed around his left temple and streaked down his jawline.
Poe's sniper-gaze, flat and unreadable, met Cassian's and a message was sent between them. Brother or no, there were some lines that could not be crossed.
The mechanic blinked in disbelief at the muttered comment, resisting the urge to introduce his palm to his face by only the barest shred of self-control. Abe had barely been aboard for a couple of days and he already had his suspicions as to Poe and Addy having some kind of understandin’ betwixt them. Hoping to bypass any further unpleasantness, he focused on something Poe had mentioned.
“Sure, Captain. I’ll have a good look around and see if there’s anything as need’s work while the ship is on the ground, or any critical parts we might be short on spares for, that sort of thing. If’n I find anything, I’ll let Addy know soonest.” He nodded to the new First Mate.
"I think that you need to get your mind out of the gutter, Boney," Sula told the man, feeling more prickly after her scolding.
"I think you need to get the stick out of your ass," Boney shot back. "Would make room in your nethers for something better."
Cassian reached over and smacked Boney upside the head. Before Boney could lodge his usual protest, Cassian leaned in and half-whispered, half-hissed into his ear. "Don't ruin this for us, Boney. I'm serious. We got a good thing going here with folk who aren't liable to rob us or leave us stranded, at least as long as you can keep your fat mouth shut."
"Don't mighty like the way you talkin' to me," Boney said through gritted teeth.
"Lot of that going around right about now," Cassian retorted. "Say sorry to the ladies and then make yourself scarce. Do it now."
Boney have an angry grunt, but when got the size of the situation and the rest of the crew, he said, "Sorry about my tongue. Got away from there." And then he hurried away toward his bunk.
"Come on, Teague," Poe said as he rose from the table. "I'll help you pack your gear. You can take the smaller cabin if there's need."
"And maybe share a glass, mate," Teague said.
Poe shared a look with his friend and nodded. "Or two ..." he muttered softly and together, they left the dining area and everyone else behind.