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Finding a New Flock

Posted on Wed Jan 19th, 2022 @ 3:39pm by Quinlan Barrett Poe & Addy Stone & Shepherd Harley
Edited on on Tue Apr 26th, 2022 @ 10:01pm

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Persephone, Eavesdown Docks, the Xiao Jin
Timeline: Mission Day 2 at 1500

Sula was determined. Who was Donovan? Why did he give a false name? They shared something special, had they not? Six years she had mourned him. Six years of thinking that she knew the answers and knew how she was to blame for his death. Now, she did not know who to be grateful for or to whose debt she was in.

She clutched the unicorn, not caring if the horn caused her to bleed. It might let her feel something right now other than the shock of the information that she obtained. Sula could not be angry, though. How could one be angry with someone that you loved, even if never consummated.

A ship. She needed a ship and she needed to get answers. Perhaps they were back at Du Khang. Perhaps she could find some records or information through some old Browncoat contacts. But who? After all, she herself had spent the last six years in practical isolation.

Without knowing where her feet were walking, lost in her thoughts, she found herself wandering towards a Firefly. Someone was outside of it. The scriptures teach that God works in mysterious ways. And yet, he wants us to love him. Yet, he tortured Job as a test of faith. Is this a test of mine? What could HE want from me? Then again, it is written that the meek shall inherit the Earth. Perhaps that is because the rich and powerful used it all up.

Getting closer to the person outside of the Firefly, she dared to take a chance and said, "Hello. May I ask you about this ship?"

Addy had, in a fit of boredom, decided to oil the hydraulic pistons on the ramp. They didn't need it expressly, but after spending the better part of the morning and early afternoon getting mighty familiar with the ramp she had determined it wouldn't hurt. A bit of rummaging in the belly of the ship and she'd found what she wanted and begun the process of adjusting, tweaking, and applying the right oils to the right joints to make sure that nary a squeak or squeal would be heard on closing the ramp.

She had paused, rubbing one greasy wrist across her forehead to brush away sweat and red bangs that were sticking to her, at the approach of a woman she hadn't seen walking the docks yet that day. "Afternoon," she said in greeting, not realizing that she now bore a smear of dark grease like war paint over her eyes. "You ask and if I've the answers I'll be happy to give 'em."

"I appreciate your honesty. It shows integrity and the world could use a might bit more of that. You are putting a lot of work into that ship, there." She paused and let her eyes glaze over the grease smear on the forehead. "What is its destination and are you its Captain?" There was a curiosity and innocence in Sula's questions.

Addy looked the woman over, curious and then realized she was referring to the grease. "Oh!" she said, holding up the rag as if that somehow said something. "Umm... well... seemed like a good way to pass the time," she commented, "but thank you."

Tucking the rag over the space between the ramp and the piston she set her hand on the back of her neck, rubbing lightly. "We're bound for Boros, and I'm just crew. Qu..." she caught herself with the possible overfamiliarity. "Mr. Poe should be back soon I'd imagine, though."

Having caught the hesitation, Sula gave a small, knowing, secret smile. How she wished she could have that back with Donovan, whomever he might have been. The smile started to fade with that thought. "I see. Boros...." She thought about that. It could be a place to look. The Alliance had extensive records, even if the thought about going into an Alliance facility made her feel uncomfortable. "Are all the crew as dedicated as you?"

Addy's eyebrows popped, curiosity piqued at the line of questioning. "I don't know that I'm doing anything particularly special, but I 'spose so? Can't say I've known most of 'em very long. Just Young-Jae and far as I can tell he's masterful at whatever he puts his hands to." She mused on that a second. "Poe's a good man as well..." she trailed off. She still believed that to be true, but wasn't sure why she was even mentioning it right now.

"Are you headed off world?" she asked, curious to determine where this conversation might head.

A small smile returned to Sula's face. Addy was definitely the friendly sort and it seemed that she adored her crewmates. However, did that mean the ship was full? Should she look to a different ship to institute her plan? No, my feet brought me here and the Lord, if he is good, owes me a few favors.

"I's likely to be headin' off world, 'tis true. Seems like I just got here, though." How much do I reveal? How much do I really know? I cannot say that I know enough about where to start, myself. At this moment, she realized that she knew some of the crew's names, perhaps even the Captain's, but she did not know who she was talking to. "I apologize. I did not mind my manners. I have not caught your name, nor have I told you mine. I am Shepherd Harley. Might I know the pleasure of yours?"

That caught Addy's attention. A Shepherd. She gnawed the corner of her lip a moment, intrigued. "Addy Weysmith," she said, sticking her hand out to shake as she had with the others before her. "We've got one more passenger space yet if you're hoping to go our way," she said, not quite sure why she said it, but putting it out there anyway.

Sula stuck out her hand without hesitation, and grabbed Addy's formalizing the introduction. The grease and grime did not bother Sula. She came from a poor household and life. A good, honest living was one that should be respected, not shirked. Clearing her throat, her voice hesitated, trying to correct Addy's assumption. "I'm a might bit short on coin and I refuse to be a burden. I thought that, perhaps, I could barter my services."

Addy nodded, gears turning in her head. Quinlan had been clear. Passengers for coin only. Still, she liked the look of the woman and her gut was to want to help. She pursed her lips wishing Quinlan was back already. "What services have you got in mind?" Addy asked, buying time to decide what to do.

"If tending to your flock is not enough, I have some medical skills." Turning her head slightly away from Addy, she tried to push out of her head the failures of her brother and those that died despite her attempts at help. "Understand, I'm not some fancy Alliance doctor with fancy learnin'. But I can manage."

His visit with Li Huan had been profitable if profit could be measured in terms of potential anyways. Information committed to memory, the woman's name in his pocket, Poe walked down the Eavesdown dock. Things were looking up it seemed and though he didn't smile, he wasn't frowning either. His eyes, more blue today than gray, were watchful but that's what came of spending your entire adult life in the way of harm. If Addy could find a few passengers, there might even be enough to put some aside in the emergency fund. He slowed as he approached the ramp, carrying a small crate of books; Addy was in conversation with someone so he moved to go around. She'd come to him later and let him know what happened. Of that he was certain.

Addy had been just about to open her mouth to formulate some sort of response when she spotted him. She stepped forward to catch his attention, eyes darting to his. Blue. A stormy blue that was less grey and almost derailed her entire train of thought. Shaking her head she refocused on the task at hand. "Quinlan..." she said, not catching the familiarity fast enough and stammering to a halt. "Poe," she started again, "We've two passengers booked, but this is a possible third though she'd like to exchange services for the ride. She's a Shepherd. And has medical experience. Not that I think we'll need to be patching anyone up between here and Boros..." she was rambling, she knew, but she couldn't seem to put normal sentences together.

Amused at Addy's flustering, Sula's eyes knowingly slid over to her with a wink. There was something more here. A friendship? A crush? Lovers, perhaps. Sula rejected that thought. She had mentioned that she was newer, so it was likely desire. Perhaps she could assist Addy find her true desires, if given enough time.

"You want to barter your services, which we have no need of at the moment, in return for a ride to Boros," Poe asked as he turned his attention on the woman.

Sula had figured that with Addy's introduction, she was a shoe-in. However, her eyes widened when she heard Poe's response. "I see," she replied sagely, first lowering her head, taking stock of the Captain's body. She fixated momentarily on the books. A scholarly person. Perhaps that is a commonality for us? We need to build some rapport. "I admit that I have no clue what your needs may be now or in the future, Captain. And unless, you have been graced by God with the power of foresight, I suspect that your statement is made from a place where you expect everything to run smoothly. But what if it does not?"

She sighed, hoping she was not sounding pedantic. Her need to solve the mystery was great and something had brought her here. It was only a matter of trying to get this gruff man to see that he needed her, too. "I am willing to stay on longer than Boros, Captain. I know not your business but I am a good listener and you may find that I have other useful skills." She blinked twice, her mouth slightly widening, not having intended any innuendo. She closed her mouth quickly and hoped that the Captain was an honorable gentleman.

He set the crate down beside him and ran one hand through his hair as he considered the situation. "Where did you learn your craft, the medical part I mean," he asked. There was a whiff of something in the way she spoke, the way she moved, that teased the curious part of him. A story not told and while he too could be a good listener, it weren't exactly a skill that he advertised either.

Sula did not like to talk much about herself. However, the fact that he sat and was curious about her implied that he was willing to consider her request. Her heart beat a breadth faster as she dared to hope that she was finally in the right spot. "Mostly the war," she answered simply, not knowing which side this Captain might have been on six years ago. She bit lightly on her lower lip, though her teeth were covered by her upper lip as she did so.

Hoping to change the topic of the war, she asked, "Is there something that you are studying or do you just read for pleasure, Captain?"

He picked up the crate again, blue eyes narrowing slightly, "Got little patience for games. You don't want me to know, so be it. I served in the 75th Rangers, that's the Independent Army." He shifted his gaze to Addy and read on her open face enough that he was willing to give this woman a chance. Albeit a small one. "If that's a problem for you, we'll part ways now. If its not, then this is my offer. You sign on as a member of the crew. Medic when we need one, deck hand when we don't. You get same as everyone else. Private room. Regular meals. And 6 percent of the profit but that's after expenses. You live by my rules and you give me more than a day's notice if you intend to leave. We go where the work takes us so I can't guarantee where you'll be from one week to the next but that's the way of things on a boat like this."

The change in the Captain's personality was startling. From relaxed to harsh in less than a heartbeat. Sula straightened, her long blonde hair, getting thrown back as she did so, eyes widening from the shock. "Not...not a problem, Captain. Not at all. A relief." Words started to fall out without any eloquence. "Your terms are fair. I accept." Still trying to recover, she continued, "Um, will you or Addy be showing me my room? I already have my belongings with me." Her head swiveled towards Addy, eyes still wide, hoping that it would be Addy. There was much to learn about this Captain, including his interest in the books.

Addy had watched the exchange wide-eyed. She hadn't been sure of how Quinlan would react, but the gruff exterior caught her off guard--possibly because she hadn't experienced it herself. Without thinking she laid one hand on his arm, drawing his attention back from the exchange. "I'll show her to her room," she said quietly, dropping her hand quickly and then starting up the ramp. She paused, halfway, looking back. "This way, Shepherd," she said, expression shifting to a hesitant smile.

Sula tilted her head slightly when Addy's hand touched the Captain's arm. There was something between them. But what? And why the hesitant smile? Was she upset with the Captain's reaction? Worried about Sula? The Shepherd's lips pressed together for a moment and she gave a small nod at Addy. "Thank you, Addy. I appreciate it." Sula took some small steps towards Addy, falling into line. However, she gave a curious look at the books again. No, it is best not to open that can of worms now. He could throw you off the ship before you get on and then where would you be in your quest, Sula? He needs time. Perhaps Addy can tell me more in the meantime.

His expression softened when Addy touched him, weren't something that could be helped really, it just did that all on its own. He found himself nodding in agreement but when his gaze landed once more on the shepherd, his expression turned thoughtful. There was a lot to this one, things she wasn't saying, still, early days. She didn't have the feel of trouble about her and that was something. He headed up the ramp, moving directly toward his own quarters, where he had a bit of work to do.

Addy waited for Quinlan to pass them by, dawdling by the top of the ramp for a longer than necessary moment to create space between the man and their newest addition. Her mind had already started chewing on his reaction something she knew better than to spend time on. And yet there didn't seem to be any helping it. New interactions raising old ghosts she supposed. She turned back to Sula offering the woman a warmer smile. "Need any help with your things? Otherwise I can walk you to your room."

Uncomfortably, Sula chuckled. "As you can see, this is all I have. And it is said, for that we should be content." She could sense Addy's discomfort in the moment. "Please take me to my room. I have no desire to be trouble and I believe that I have caused enough for you today. I am sorry."

The woman's head popped up, red hair swinging as she did. "What?" she said, concern etched across her tone. "No. No. You've caused no trouble Shepherd. I'm just new and the Captain is... well... himself..." she said, a mixture of emotions telegraphing across her features. "Don't think a thing of it."

She started across the cargo bay, nodding her head for Sula to follow. "So you were in the war too?" she asked, curious. "I didn't serve, but did my fair share of nursing of wounded folk. More as help than medic, though."

There it was again. Discussion about the war. Why could she not have lied and said she was a nurse in training or was under a village doctor. Then she would not have to think about those brutal times and the lives she cost. Donovan.... Of course, she had to confront that mystery. That was why she was here, was it not? Sula's eyes became downcast and her voice more shallow. Words took effort. "I was in the war," she confirmed, trying to gather herself for another sentence. "I did what needed to be done. It wasn't enough."

If Addy noticed the woman's hesitation she didn't comment. Instead she nodded knowingly. "I think that's true of many," she said gently. "We lost as many as we were able to save. Lots of things you expect to bury on a farm. People ain't one of 'em."

Sula tried to smile but failed. She knew that Addy was making conversation and was trying to show interest in her but Sula knew that if she did, Addy would be hurt or die. She could not allow that. She had already been responsible for enough deaths. "We all return to the dust. It is just a matter of when. The how is not up to us."

The red head frowned, a slight tilt of her head the main indication that she noticed she was on uneven footing in the conversation. The two women walked in silence for a few, climbing the double stair to the gangway that led into the neck of the Xiao Jin. At the top Addy headed left, stopping a few spaces down before a ladder that descended down from where they stood. "This'll be you Shepherd," she said with a small smile. She opened her mouth as if to say more but closed it, shoulders rising with a sigh as she did. Begrimed hands found their way to the pockets of her coveralls and she arched her shoulders up self-consciously. "Kitchen and dining room is back the way we came, just don't go back down the stairs. Keep on straight. And the shower's that way," she said with a tilt of her head toward the space in question. "Guess I'll leave you to it."

She turned, stepping back around Sula to head back to the ramp. Wasn't yet time for dinner and Quinlan'd not been clear on how long she should wait. Besides she needed to clean up the oil and rags. A thought nagged at her though and she paused after a few quick steps, half turning back, hands still deep in her pockets. "If I've caused offense or grief, Shepherd I am sorry. Not a soul didn't lose someone or something in the war, but some a might deal more than others. I'm sorry for whatever you've lost."

Sula returned a weak smile at Addy. "You've caused nothing, Addy. We all have our crosses to bear. It is my lot to make that burden lighter for others. I am concerned, though, I have made it heavier on your Captain and perhaps on you. I believe you called him Quinlan. If I can help or if you just want to talk, well, you know where to find me." She gestured towards her new room.

Addy had the presence of mind to look sheepish. "You caught that," she said hesitantly. "Still sorting out how he'd like to be addressed. But the others just call him Poe." Her already elevated shoulders popped up in a quick shrug. "I'll think on the offer to talk." And with that she turned, and disappeared back into the hold.

Feeling more in her environment of helping others, Sula sighed, relieved. After taking that deep breath, she climbed down the ladder into her room, wondering what was provided for her.


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