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Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover

Posted on Tue Feb 8th, 2022 @ 1:40am by Ashe Sparrowhawk & Shepherd Harley
Edited on on Tue Apr 26th, 2022 @ 10:06pm

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Bridge, Xiao Jin, En Route to Boros
Timeline: Mission Day 3 at 1330

Work was not particularly imposing on the ship thus far. Having time on her hands, Sula decided to wander. One of the few places that she had not been was the front of the ship. Of course, she had seen Ashe a number of times at meals but the woman never said anything to Sula. She wondered why.

Ashe was a pilot but Sula had to wonder what piloting really needed to be done in space. After all, it was mostly a void. What could be so tricky for endless hours that someone was expected up front all the time. Opening the cockpit, she stepped in and said, "Hello, Ashe. Do you mind some company?"

"Oh?" Ashe looked up when somebody entered, closing the comic book she had been reading and straightening up in the chair. She expected Poe, here to ask about the flight plan, or perhaps Addy, curious about the controls but not... what was her name again? Miss something Harley. "Hello?" She asked with a generically pleasant, well-practiced smile, though curiosity over the woman's reason to be here was the real determining factor in Ashe's mood, not amicability.

"It is just me, Shepherd Harley," Sula told Ashe pleasantly. "I just came up here to have some pleasant chat. We are on the same crew and we really have not met other than at meals. I figured that we should get to know one another a bit." She paused for a short moment and continued, "I also wondered what a pilot really did between the vast distances in the void. Don't reckon there's a lot of steering involved."

"Shepherd Harley," Ashe repeated. So was that what she wanted to be called? "Well, if you want to chat take a seat." Ashe shrugged, and the motion transitioned into a general wave towards the only other chair in the room. Ashe wondered why Harley was really up here. Was it to chat? Was she really that bored? Or maybe she wanted to assess their pilot - a nervous flyer? Or maybe she was here to try and convert Ashe. Well, Ashe was not quite so cold as Poe was towards religion, but she was content with her own atheism. "If there's a lot of steering involved, you're doing something wrong," Ashe chuckled. "But it's good to be nearly, in case you are needed." Staying in up here in the pilot seat was also a good enough excuse to get some alone time. She preferred the view up here to her room. "I was just doing some reading." Ashe set the comic book face down on the closest flat surface, wondering, vaguely, what the Shepherd would think of the scantily clad, machine-gun wielding lady on the front. Probably best not to find out.

"Reading?" Sula asked tilted her head inwards towards Ashe interested. "Really? I love to read. What were you reading?" More excited now about her conversation, she took a seat in the co-pilot chair and kept her eyes fixed on Ashe's.

"Oh," Ashe chuckled, grabbing the comic again and flipping randomly through it, trying to avoid any of the more violent or less clothed scenes. "Just a comic. It's not even a great comic, I'm just a fan of the author. I read books too, though." She spoke that second part with a mixture of amusement and exasperation; how often had people assumed that she didn't have the attention span to read novels back in college when she told them that she liked comics? "What sort of stuff do you read?" This, at least, was a more interesting turn in conversation than having the Shepherd just proselytize her faith. Though, now that she thought that, a part of her decided that it would be more amusing than tiring if Harley were to just turn that around and say "The Bible."

"I never had time for comics," Sula admitted, wondering why Ashe felt the need to clarify that she read books, too. "I spent a great deal of time reading medical books." She shrugged non-committedly. "It was something that I just had to do. On the rare occasion that I got to read something else, it was a treat."

"Oh yeah, I understand that," Ashe responded. And it was true. She had spent a lot of time in college and in her very short time in law school buried in law textbooks. So much studying, so little time for comics. Especially having a toddler while being in law school - it was amazing that Ashe got a single comic read at all. She did not, however, clarify on that information to Sula. She didn't want her crewmates to know that she had lived in the core, even if briefly, and there weren't exactly a ton of law schools out on the rim... them again... there weren't too many medical schools either. Not that one had to be in medical school to read medical books - certainly many folk had taught themselves medicine in the outer worlds, both on the farms and in the military - but Ashe suddenly realized that she did not, in fact, know where Sula was from. "I didn't get much time for comics when I was younger. Now I've all the time in the 'verse, sitting in this pilot chair between stops. It's a nice kind of the job - the better you are at it, the less often you have to to put work into it. I guess the same might apply to doctoring as well," she grinned.

"Not a doctor," Sula clarified. "Medic. Could never afford a fancy school," she replied regretfully. "And, if I do not put the best into my work at any time, someone dies." She stared hard at Ashe. "So, putting less work into my job is not an option." Sula's voice grew harder, quite different from her deferential and sweet voice that Ashe normally heard.

Ashe didn't flinch. She had spent so long feeling guilt about genuinely awful things that she wasn't about to be guilt tripped by this lady over a harmless comment. She gave a slight smile. "Less work isn't necessarily worse work. If you diagnose somebody right the first time, it's certainly less work than running test after test." She shrugged. That had been the point she had been trying to make. Her father was a nurse and she grew up on a farm; Ashe was not entirely a stranger to the concept of medicine. "Like, I had these neighbors back home -" she tried to shift the subject slightly away. She was not about to apologize for anything, but she also wasn't here to pick fights. "- they had some horses. They were always complaining that vet bills were too high, so they would try treating the horses themselves. Of course, they were awful at it, so they were always having to go to the vet anyway, probably more often than they would have otherwise. Despite all their effort. I mean, they probably spent more time trying to fix up those horses than the vet did."

Sula's eyes widened at the mentioning of horses and then she gasped. How could anyone do that to horses? However, it certainly sounded like Ashe had a different upbringing than she: a wealthier one. Perhaps that was why she talked differently. Conciliatorily, she bowed her head. "I now understand your point. I am sorry that I misunderstood." Looking back up, sadness in her eyes, she asked, "So tell me why did you choose to come here?"

Ashe almost felt a bit guilty now for her lack of an apology upon seeing the look in Sula's eyes, but she was also glad to be past that point of conversation. "No, sorry, I didn't word it clearly." Was that an apology? Maybe. Maybe not. Ashe shifted in her seat, setting the comic book back down on the console. "Like, here in particular? Or just in general, living on a ship?" Ashe took in a breath while she measured her answers. "Well, I've been flying for about a decade. It was hard to, well, hard to adjust back to life on the ground after the war," she admitted. That was not entirely wrong. "As for this particular ship; right place, right time, when I was looking for a job. I had met Poe before, briefly, and he seemed like an honest guy. What about you? What brings you on board?"

"The war did affect a great deal of people," Sula replied vaguely. "You might call what brought me here, 'chance.' I am taught that there is no such thing as that, however." She shrugged apologetically and then stood up, walked a pace or two away and then back. Changing the conversation back to Poe's history, she asked, "So, when did you meet the Captain? How long ago? And how long have you been with him now?" Her cheeks tinged pink when she realized that she asked at least three questions in a row. She hoped that she was not coming across as pushy.

"I've not been flying with this ship for long at all," Ashe shrugged. Sula's response to her question was exceedingly vague. "But I met Poe back during the war." She wondered why the Shepherd seemed curious. She had noticed a bit of animosity between the two over the topic of prayers at the dinner table; she wondered how far that extended. "You don't know the Captain from somewhere else, do you?" She asked.

"You know Poe from the war? So, you were a Browncoat, as well? As to me, no, I don't know the Captain at all. Addy introduced us when I approached her about a potential job."

"Yeah," Ashe shrugged. "I was a Browncoat." That there was a complicated answer, but she had, in fact, worn a brown coat as she fought for the independents and she did believe in their cause. Everything else aside, while she did not consider herself worthy of the term she was not about to deny it and raise question just because she wanted to wallow in her own guilt. "You know Addy, then?"

"Well, I met her when I came to the ship," Sula responded with a shrug. "I suppose that I know her better than any other of the crew, though. Did you know her before coming aboard?"

"No," Ashe shook her head. "I hadn't met any of the crew before, except Poe." Honestly, Ashe liked it that way. It was good to trust the people you worked with, but she was quite often ready for a new start, and didn't want to bring outside drama onto the ship - not that she herself got involved often in said drama, but she would rather not know all of her crewmate's dirty secrets. She liked to keep a bit of professional distance between herself and her coworkers. "This whole ship thing was sort of a last minute deal. I went to Persephone about another job, actually, but they left before I got there. It was good chance that Poe was also looking for a pilot."

"Huh," Sula curiously remarked. "I wonder why the Captain chose a bunch of barely knowns to him. That does not seem like a great way to do business." She got up and shrugged, "But what do I know? I'm just a Sheppard. It just would seem to me that you would want a crew that is more experienced and has worked together before. Doesn't that seem odd to you?"

"Not really," Ashe shrugged. "I mean, I would prefer a more experienced mechanic," Ashe had no shame in saying such, "but that'll come in time. If the crew's worked together before, well, I've seen it happened that a new captain took over an already established crew, made it harder to earn their respect, you know? People get set in their ways, and if you're not there when those ways are set, well," Ashe shrugged again. "Poe's got experience in leadership though, and I've been flying for over a decade, so we've got some experience between us."

"I suppose," Sula replied non-committedly. "I guess since this is all new to me, I am trying to understand it all."

Sula didn't strike Ashe as the kind of person who sought ship work because she liked the gritty decks of the Firefly, or the dubious nostalgia of being on the road. Whatever reason she had to be here, well, Ashe wasn't about to pry. Nor was she about to try to an unwrap her own theories about to best run a crew for the Shepherd. She knew her role here; she would obey the Captain without question and try to set a good example for the rest of the crew on that front. "So," Ashe said, "You said you love to read. You mean that you love reading medical books? Or do you read for fun, as well?"

The shepherd gave a short laugh at the pilot, but quickly cut it of with a half-smile, her left lips upturned, while her right side remained even. "I started reading medical books because I had too. I'll read whatever I can, when I can. Unfortunately, the 'verse has not blessed me with a great deal of time or money for said books." Her smile grew a bit on both sides. "How about you? I took from your earlier comment regarding the comic, that's not your only interest."

"I couldn't afford many books growing up, either." Ashe admitted. "The farm didn't exactly have a big library. But when I was younger I attracted the affection of somebody who tried to give me books to win me over, and now I've got all the time in the 'verse to catch up on them while I'm sitting here on the bridge." That was suitably vague, Ashe decided, while also being true enough to hopefully provide of point of commonality. See? We aren't too unalike. "If you want something to read, I have some novels you can borrow."

"That'd be right kind of you, Ashe," she replied with a warm smile. "The work here is not as much as the abbey, so that would be rather appreciated to help pass the time." After a moment's hesitation, she added, "That is, if you don't mind."

"I don't mind at all," Ashe shrugged, glad to see the woman smile. "To be quite honest, all the books that I would be afraid to part with, I left back with my siblings on the farm. Hopefully they're getting some use out of them... but probably not." She gave one chuckle. "Just let me know what genre you like, and I can try to find something from my limited selection here. I just finished one that's a historical - and I use the term historical loosely - mystery. Takes place on Earth-that-was."

Sweetly, Sula chuckled. "Well, hard to say, ain't it? But I'd be pleased to take a gander at it, if you didn't mind. I don't have any real possessions here, so anything would be better than what I have to pass time. Thank you for the offer."

"Good," Ashe responded with a grin. "I need somebody to talk about its plot twist with. I'll be sure to grab it, next time I'm down in my quarters."

"Alright," Sula responded. "Feel free to drop by any time. My room is not hard to find." Knowing the conversation was done, Sula started to head back out. "It was a nice chat," she told Ashe.

"It was a nice chat," Ashe agreed. More or less. She gave a warm smile, an expression that she had practiced well. "And it was nice to meet you, Shepherd Harley." As the shepherd made to leave, Ashe picked up the comic book that she had been reading. She wondered, as she read, just how different her life might have been if she had never had the spare change to pick up comics when she was a kid. She probably never would have met Kathy, and never would have joined the war. She wouldn't have ended up here.


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