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Here Comes the Job

Posted on Wed Jun 22nd, 2022 @ 4:39pm by Quinlan Barrett Poe & Clayton Adams & Henry Campbell & Addy Stone & Shepherd Harley & Morgan Martin & Caelin Stewart
Edited on on Wed Jun 22nd, 2022 @ 4:40pm

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Xiao Jin
Timeline: Mission Day 21 at 1700

At twenty-three, Clayton Adams was already an old soul and for that, he laid the blame squarely where it belonged with the Alliance and their incessant need to control every world spinning. He came with scars, a leg that would never be quite right, and nightmares that robbed him of sleep, but somehow, he had channeled all of that into his music. He played for himself, for crew members, and sometimes, to the crowd which was what he was doing now. Sitting on an overturned crate, he played the violin to a crowd of onlookers, some of whom were kind enough to drop a coin or two in his case.

There was sweetness to the notes that Clayton played the like of which Addy felt she hadn't experienced in some time. She could almost close her eyes and imagine they were on the front porch, friends and music around them, watching the sunset with a breeze blowing over the fields bringing warm sunny delightfulness to them. She was seated at the top of the ramp, listening, Quinlan Poe next to her, her head leaned over onto his shoulder, and in that moment things felt like perfection.

Poe, back to the hull of the ship, put his arm around Addy so that she could settle in better and listened. Back home, in the short time he was with the grandparents, this would have been called porch sitting. Friends and family. Comfort and ease. Carried away on the tender strands of the violin to the few happy times he remembered. The notes curled around the rough and battered parts of his soul, quieting the worst of it, and he found himself smiling as he rested his head against hers.

At this time of day, Morgan was still moving some of his belongings over from his old ship. He had only recently finished having dinner with his old crew, and a couple of them had started to help him move but that did not last long. First, his (now former) crewmates had paused in the crowd to listen to Clayton's playing, and then Morgan had lost track of them. No doubt they had gone back to the ship. Morgan was not a light packer. Nor was he an old soul, nor was he scarred or troubled in life. He had only vague worries about this Firefly, and those weren't enough to stop him from setting down a duffle bag on the ramp and smiling at Poe and Addy to take a much deserved short break in the carrying of things.

Sula had come out of the ship, wondering where the violin was playing from and who was playing it. Her often impassive face broke into a smile when she saw Clayton. She walked by Poe and Addy, giving them a passing enigmatic glance. Beaming at Clayton, she stood near him and waited until he finished. "Well, there's something that I did not know that you could do.... What other surprises might you have for me."

"Might have one or two, Sula," Clayton said as he set bow to string once more. This time, the music was pure sunshine and possessed of an energy that seemed to encourage movement and dance. One or two people among the onlookers began swaying in time to the music and even the barkers at the nearer ships quieted for a moment to listen. "Possibly three ... or four."

Sula gave a short laugh, her teeth showing as she smiled openly, something that nobody had henceforth seen on the Xiao Jin. She started to clap her hands along with the beat and said, "These are the kinds of surprises that I can handle. 'Tis so rare to get pleasant ones."

"Even on the rim," Clayton said, the pleasure of her smile kindling a light in the depths of his eyes, "folks deserve a bit of comfort."

"It is said that those who sow in tears will reap in joy," Sula responded with her smile diminishing. "There should be more joy but you know what is said about mysterious ways...."

"That's an interesting development," Addy murmured to Poe, inclining her head ever so slightly in the direction of Clayton and the Shepherd. "Didn't know our Shepherd knew what laughter was."

Poe didn't answer though he could see the truth in what she was saying. He'd known a shepherd or two in his time and the common denominator was always the peaceable way they had about them. Not so much with their shepherd but then he liked her honesty, if that's what it was. So, instead of answering, Poe just hummed his agreement against her hair and stayed where he was, content for the moment, though work was going to be coming down the dock before long.

Caelin had finished putting everything away and had changed into something more fitting for the occasion, which to her was just nearing night, so she slipped into her sitting clothes which fit her loosely. As she came down the ramp, her ears heard some music to which she began to attempt to hum along too.

[Short While Later]

After a short while, Poe kissed Addy on the top of her head, and stood up, gesturing toward the procession heading their way. "Looks like the cargo is just about here," he said. "Caelin, Shepherd and if you don't mind, you too Clayton, we've got some cargo to load. Addy, if you'll see to the passenger, find him a free dorm and all of that?"

Addy had come to her feet a moment after Poe and was peering along the dock at the line of people, crates, and movers headed their way. Her stomach did a small flip and she glanced to Quinn as if doing so might give her some insight to how he felt. He'd dismissed the fact that she and Henry had a history so readily that, when she had a few moments to herself, she'd struggled with mortification at her own reaction to Amari's letter. A nod of agreement was her only acknowledgement of Poe's request.

"Morgan," Poe said, "once you have your gear stowed, if you could check that we are topped off with fuel? It's a long trip to Sweethome. Be good if we didn't run out halfway there."

"You got it, boss," Morgan responded - the casual phrase seemed almost out of place with his slight core-world accent and by the amused smile on his face, Morgan was well aware of that fact.

"Thank you all," Clayton said as he finished the piece he was playing and picked up the coins tossed into his case. "Most appreciated." He made a show of packing up his violin, giving the crowd time to disperse and then rose awkwardly to his feet. "Cargo bay is all tidy and ready to receive, Cap," he said. "Sula, I have this notion that there was a hand truck tucked away in the cargo bay somewhere ... do you have the same recollection?"

"Yes. I seem to recall it being on the side, tucked away by one of the compartments. Let me go and look for it." Sula went about searching for the hand truck. She practically bumped into it, as it was lodged tightly against a wall. "Could use a bit of muscles," she called out to anyone listening. "It is a bit stuck!"

Though he was more passenger than crew, he'd never been one to sit around when there were things that needed doing. And so, having put the violin back in its case and pocketed the coins, he rose to his feet and made his way back to where Sula was tugging on the hand truck. Having rested some, the limp which would stay with him for the rest of his life, was less pronounced and he moved easily enough. "Here," he said as he came up alongside of her, "let me." He leaned over far enough to see that it was secured in place and set about unfastening the straps. "Ships move," he said. "Most things are stowed in a way that they'll stay in one place during flight."

"Yes, yes..." Sula responded slightly annoyed. "I'm aware of that. I just could not get it unstuck." She wrinkled her nose at Clayton and debated sticking out her tongue at him but thought better of it.

"Why Sula Fawn," Clayton said as he finished unfastening the straps and pulled the hand truck free, "I may just have to annoy you more often." He tapped the tip of his nose lightly before moving away. "You're cute when your face gets all scrunched up like that."

[Meanwhile, Back on the Ramp]

The procession halted at the foot of the ramp and Henry stepped forward, making a direct line toward Addy, while Poe headed into the Cargo Bay to make sure the cages were set up and secured to the deck. Smaller crates would go in the cages; larger ones would be strapped down to pallets on the deck.

"Well, here we are," Henry said, smiling warmly in Addy's direction. "If I did the math correctly, everything should fit nicely though there might not be a lot of room for walking around."

Addy's head swiveled slightly as motion in her periphery gave away that Poe had walked away and she wondered for a moment why, as Captain, he would do so. But there was Henry, ascending the ramp to her warm and cheery as the sun itself, and she returned his smile warmly, giving him a quick hug before waving him inside. "We'll worry 'bout the walking around," she said, eyes scanning the hold until they landed on Quinn. "C'mon. I've someone to introduce you to."

"Of course," Henry said and followed her into the ship. He scanned the interior with a practiced eye and saw none of the red flags that would make him hesitant to use the ship in anything less than an emergency. The captain, and one presumed he was from the fact that Addy was making a beeline for him, was crouched beside one of the cargo cages tightening a bolt.

Addy came to a stop just shy of Poe. "Quinlan Poe," she said when he looked up at her, "Henry Campbell." She gestured between the two as she spoke. "Henry Campbell, Quinlan Poe." She was halfway to beaming as she said it, excited to be able to introduce Quinn to a friend after so many years of dreaming of such a thing.

Poe rose to his feet, brushing off his hands on his pants as he did so, and met Henry's hand halfway to shake. "Welcome aboard the Xiao Jin," he said politely. "We'll be taking care of your cargo, getting everything secured for takeoff. In the meantime, Addy here will get you settled in the passenger dorms and our cook, Clayton, has promised dinner once we're back in the black, probably around seven or so."

"Thank you, Captain," Henry said, equally polite. "It's quite a relief to find someone competent and professional after being left stranded here on Persephone." He gestured toward Addy, his expression turning warm and fond, "and to find Addy after such a long while. Almost like it was meant to be."

Addy watched the exchange, the formality of it, and then the shift to Henry's voice when he spoke of her and her cheeks pinked slightly. "Let me show you to your room," she said, indicating the metal stairs that led upward. Before she moved that way though, she fixed her gaze on Poe, belly warming at the impossibility of not only being here with him, but being able to tell Henry... of all people... about him. Before she could think better of it she stepped in to him and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek.

"Once Henry's settled I'll come back and see how I can help down here," she said quietly and then, with a quick grin at him, she turned to guide Henry up the stairs.

"Take your time," he said quietly to her retreating back and then went back to the work. Prepping the cargo bay, making sure all the cages were secure. When that he was done, he headed back outside to help with the hauling.

[Passenger Dorms]

Addy climbed up to the first level, boots clipping against the gangway as she moved toward the back of the ship. The passenger dorms were more sparse than the crew's living spaces; not designed for someone to be staying for the long haul, but instead for people coming on and then leaving. She pulled one of the doors to a space and stepped inside, moving so Henry could follow her in.

"This'll be you for the duration," she said, gesturing in a sort of half shrug, a smile on her face. "You need anything just yell. The dining room is the next level up, but crew quarters and the bridge are off limits."

"Thank you," Henry said as he placed his bag on the end of the bed. "This will be fine, I'm sure. My Dad used to say that I could sleep on a pile of rocks if I was tired enough and he was right." Henry smiled, a slight dimple peeking out, "Still can."

"I remember," she said with a chuckle. "That time you stayed too late and 'tweren't safe to drive home so you slept in a haystack in the barn 'cause Daddy didn't trust you in the same house as me. I snuck out after everyone was asleep to see you and you were already passed out in the most uncomfortable position." She laughed at the memory, but the laughter died fast on her lips, soured by the information Henry had shared earlier in the day.

"Well," Henry said as he went through his bag and pulled out the information that he would need to check the cargo, "at least hay is soft. I surely have slept on worse. You can ask my Daddy when you see him." He smiled gently, choosing to pass over the sadness thoughts of her father brought to her oh so expressive face, and added, "cause you know you'll have to come over to the house for dinner while you're home."

The hesitation in her response was brief, immensely so, but it was there. "I'd like that if we've the time and opportunity," she said softly. "Not quite sure what to expect if I'm truthful." Addy leaned back against the wall of the room only needing to take a step back to do so. As if doing so might ward off some unseen danger she crossed her arms, hugging herself. "Goal is to confront my Daddy about the letters that I never got. Seems like the most likely culprit to have intercepted them."

Henry paused, papers tucked under his arm, and shook his head. "Don't cross off a whole world because of one man, Addy. You still have friends there. I hope you know that."

Brown eyes held a far away look to them as if Addy were mentally already into the fight with her father. "I know it," she said as she refocused on Henry. "Just... seems like he's threatened harm to all manner of people and I hate to think of any of that ever coming to be just 'cause a body knows me."

"We're all long past the point he's got the power," Henry answered. "We aren't kids anymore and he's got no hold over us that I know of." He paused a moment, considering the situation, and added, "though you might want to talk to your siblings. Seems to me that Peter has a decision to make. Is it worth taking over the farm, knowing what he'll have to pay in terms of manipulation and control?"

Addy nodded, lips pressed into a thin line. "I intend to. And Juliet though she's never so much as batted an eye toward wanting to run the farm. But Gary and Lori Jo are still too little to make their own decision." The thought of your youngest siblings made her stomach twist. Lori Jo was only 7. Too young to see what her parents were. Too young to see Addy's departure as anything less than abandonment. She sighed.

"'spose we should get back to the hold," she said as if doing so brushed away the unpleasantness that was roiling in her gut.

"Of course," Henry said though he tucked the information into the back of his mind. He knew of abandoned homesteads that could be worked and communities that encouraged new folk to settle. Maybe, when the time was right, he'd offer up the suggestion. "Let's get that cargo loaded. I heard there was dinner later."


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