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For a Fistful of Creds

The Rud'bul System


a part of For a Fistful of Creds, by 7achary.


7achary holds sovereignty over The Rud'bul System, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

407 readers have been here.

Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:


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The Rud'bul System is a part of For a Fistful of Creds.

9 Characters Here

Matthew Jäger [9] Owns and Captains the Nimble Gryphon
Jensen Gables [8] "Now, you just swing a wide right by this station--Shut up, I'm the navigator here!"
Deirdre Molle Sheely [7] "I am a pilot, obviously. And call me Dee-Dee again and you will find my fist in your stomach."
Michaline T'Brook [7] "My advice? Don't piss me off."
James T'Brook [5] "It is a pleasure to meet you, I'm sure."
Hank Fede [5] Engineer and Communication Officer
Alanys Mayor [4] "Looks like someone needs an attitude adjustment, hopefully I don't have to help you with that."
Neil Ayers [3] Contacts, languages, part time co-pilot, jack-of-all-trades, man that gets things done.
Franz Malhotra [3] The perceptive captain of the [i]Fat Dragon[/i].

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#, as written by 7achary
A single nude figure floated in the liquid gel of a Gap tank. Thin wires connected to it's left wrist and neck, monitoring vital signs. The figure itself was that of a tall and sickly young man. Needle marks covered his arms and legs, and surgical scars could be seen on his chest.

His eyes opened suddenly with a look of fear and desperation, his hands sluggishly clawing at the insides of the tank. A console outside of the tank blinked once and emitted a low tone. The man started thrashing slowly as the gel encasing him was vacuumed out through a ventilation system. The clear metallic material on the face of the tank slid away and Malhotra fell forward onto the console, coughing violently.

Traveling through the Gap requires a form of stasis, a way to keep the passenger alive as the ship practically ceases to exist for a time. Gap tanks are the most dependable way to maintain stasis. For those of weak constitution it can have adverse side effects.

The captain of the Fat Dragon stood slowly, leaning heavily on the console. He wiped the gel and spittle from his face, and when he drew his hand back it was stained with blood. Malhotra half laughed, half coughed as he set the controls on the console to drain the rest of the tanks.

His crew would not wake for some time yet, but their bodies would have already transitioned to breathing normal oxygen when they came to. The substance inside the tank was breathable and more than safe, but an active and conscious mind will not accept that it can breathe gel.

Opening his locker Malhotra pulled out a silk bathrobe and thermos of caf. He pulled the robe about himself for warmth and sat down on the floor. The caf heated itself at his touch. He took a long pull from the thermos and organized his thoughts for the day.

His walk became more steady as he entered the next room. He looked inside at the bearded man that lay limply in the vacuumed tank. Ayers looked charismatic even while naked and covered in sloughing gel. Malhotra checked the vital signs on the monitor and limped to the next room.

Fede's eyes twitched in rapid eye movement. Malhotra's face remained blank. Many people, that were not him, dreamed through the Gap. He was jealous of Fede for a moment, the captain was one of those that maintained consciousness in complete darkness for what seemed like days while in stasis. Each trip through the gap seemed to make the dark period just a little bit longer. He shivered slightly and set Fede's glasses where he could reach them on the console.

He took a moment to study Alanys' face when he entered the last room. The look of unencumbered peace was not one that often graced her face, he took a moment to enjoy it. Malhotra rubbed his chin awkwardly. Taking a deep breath he went over her vitals on the console.

Malhotra sat in the cockpit, wearing a burnt orange flight suit. He pressed a few buttons on the holo console to set the Fat Dragon's course. The computer before him chirruped a negative and Malhotra punched a second a set of coordinates in irritably. "I really need to hire a navigator."

He could hear the sounds of his crew preparing for their duties through the comm system. After the uncomfortable time in the Gap, Malhotra found that just the sounds of other sentient beings and the knowledge that they were around helped the return to normalcy.

Malhotra pulled up a text pad holo and began to type out his thoughts:

Waking from stasis is never something one gets used to. I've bridged the Gap hundreds of times, probably nearing a thousand, if I have not passed it already. And every time it is a physical and mental shock. Music helps. Something classical like Beethoven or the Beatles, I can never tell the difference between the two.

We have two Terran rotations to rendezvous with Captain Jager and the crew of the Nimble Gryphon. Avoiding patrols will not be difficult on this leg of our journey. I'm more worried about search and seizure as we near our destination. Jager picked the spot and he is consistent at avoiding the wrong kind of attention. Mostly.

Media broadcasts say that the situation is no longer a conflict, but a war. The Hegemony will step in soon, but bureaucracy is a slow and clumsy beast. It will take months for any Naval force of significance to be stationed here. More than long enough for us to make a fistful of creds and be two systems away.

Leaning back in his chair, Malhotra spoke aloud so that everyone could hear him over the comms. "Fede, keep a weak signal, and divert that power to sensors. I want to see anyone we may run into before they see us. Mayor, if you would check our weapons systems for lag? We have neglected them since running into those Midnas pirates. Thank you. Ayers, please join me in the cock pit. We'll breakfast up here while you plot our course. Lunch will be in a quarter rotation."

The captain sat back and steeped his fingers in thought. They did not really need to hustle, there was plenty of time. It was the measure of control over his environment that Malhotra craved. He looked out of the purely ornamental bay window and paused. An entire migration of star seeds floated past the ship, bright against the dark star sprinkled sky. Lazily, their bio luminescent and featureless bodies drifted through the vacuum seeming careless. This was a space faring race that was rarely seen and on which very little was known.

"Belay that. Everyone on the bridge for an emergency meeting." The view would be much better from there. If Malhotra knew how often he would see this particular migration in the coming months he would have steered the Fat Dragon right back into the Gap without a second thought.

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Character Portrait: Matthew Jäger
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Dreams were a strange thing, when one was confined within the existence defying Gap tank. Different for each and every person but strange to their own perceptions. For Matthew Jäger, as he drifted in his tank of breathable gel, he did not dream his own dreams but rather, slipped in and out the dreams of those around him. The telepathic part of his mind, reached out in the long darkness, seeking comfort in the mental presence of those around him. He was never sure and never asked, if any of his crew realized that their captain was within their minds, during the long sleep between solar systems. It would have been odd to ask in the first place and he didn't want to bring up his abilities.

With a sudden start, the captain of the Nimble Gryphon, was ripped form seemingly endless sleep and thrown back into the waking reality. His eyes fought to stay closed, as he felt the rush of the gel around him, his mouth opening, to allow as much of the suddenly suffocating stuff, to be pulled form his lungs as possible. His back pushed lightly against the flat bottom of his tank. Unlike other models, the former pleasure craft, had tanks where those aboard her, would lay down in them, rather then stand. With a soft hiss, the clear top and sides slide away, opening the rest of his ship to the naked captain.

Matthew's chest was wracked with heavy coughs, as he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the tank. His lungs were trying to clear themselves of left over gel, which he spit out like a large glob of phlegm. Wiping off his face, he gently removed needles and sensor pads. Legs and arms stretched, flexing muscles and popping joints after the long sleep. For a moment he waited, before shoving off from the tank and wobbling around like a new born colt, trying out his legs for the first time. After a minute, his legs remember how they were suppose to work and he strolled over to the control panel.

Fingers moved slowly, as the captain set the computer to a more gentle awakening then he had. Each one of them had a smaller, private room, to sleep in, so they didn't have to wake up naked with each other. Each room had robe or towel, waiting for them, so they could enter the locker room decent and cross to the gender separated showers, to clean off the gel, still coating their bodies. Or they could be like the captain and walk around naked, their choice really.

His first task done, Jäger turned away from the console, where all life signs showed green and stepped into the showers. A cloud of steam drifted through the locker room, as he stepped back out and opened the one marked with his name. He could feel the crew waking, as he pulled on his clothing and stepped out into the ship proper. The gravity was low through most of the ship, about half Terran, save in the exercise chamber, which was set to almost Terran. Each step was almost a leap, as he moved up the main corridor, to the bridge.

Sitting comfortably in the command seat, he watched as the main computer did a system's check. Everything looked fine, life support was normal, nav computer was online, scanners showed nothing around them, ion sail had engaged, the electromagnetic torpedo launcher reported loaded and ready, each of the three balloon turrets looked armed, so on and so forth but he'd wait for his crew to check out each system on it's own. After they all gathered and reported in, he'd tell them about how he planned to finish this job and maybe about their other cargo.

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Character Portrait: Matthew Jäger Character Portrait: Michaline T'Brook
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Michaline could feel the touch of anthers' presence at the very back of her mind. Somewhere in her subconscious she knew exactly who it was, but in the dream-state, she didn't bother exploring. It was only when that presence was ripped away did her mind sense the fact that they were waking up, and she along with them. Michaline sat up coughing. She swore under her breath. It was the same every time, for the past two years. Jager did it to her every time they were in cryo-stasis. She knew that it wasn't really his fault, but it pissed her off. Why can't he just stay in his own damn mind?

As far as she knew, she was the only one of the crew who even knew Jager had any sort of mind abilities. He preferred it that way, and would have preferred that she not know herself, but the relationship that Jager and Michaline shared was a different sort of bond. A strong friendship that border-lined on chaotic argumentation and a fierce determination that the two had each others' backs, which they did.

With a sigh, she wandered off to the showers, not bothering with the robe. Jager was done already, and none of the others would be up yet. Her left foot made a metalic clinking the whole way to the showers. Mic did her best to get the gel out of the parts, but she'd have to do a deep cleaning later, to make sure no gel stuck to the inner workings of it.

After cleaning, she wandered out to the bridge, her leg in one hand and her cleaning kit in the other. Her grey eyes floated over the screen. All weapons system a check and go. With a small sigh, she sat down, taking her leg apart piece by piece, only acknowledging Jager after she had completely dismantled it.

"One of these days that gel is gonna eat this leg through, and then you're going to buy me the replacement, Jager."

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Character Portrait: Jensen Gables
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#, as written by Cypher
Statistics released by the Commonwealth in a recent medical study said that 94 percent of people dreamed in Gap-sleep. These people were the ones that had the easiest time in transit; they had the privilege of thinking they were doing something else.

6 percent of people, however, didn't.

Jensen Gables was one of those people. The sensation of entering Gap-sleep without the ability to dream was like that of being put under heavy anesthesia and then sunk into a pool of half-molten blue gelatin. Although the amount of time you spent Under tended to vary wildly, the average was anywhere between three and four hours, and while that may not seem like it lasts too long to someone on the outside of the tube, someone deep inside of it has a different experience. Jensen had heard stories of people going insane inside the tubes while staring off into the infinite blackness of their own unconscious mind, breathing oxygen-infused gel but never quite shaking the sensation that they were constantly drowning. They would wake up and immediately go batshit crazy; slashing their wrists open or assaulting crewmates they'd flown with for months, years, decades.

Luckily, Jensen hadn't ever had that experience. However, that still didn't mean he liked Gap-sleep. He found it difficult to go under; although it was slightly easier every time. But that didn't mean that the Gap tanks didn't bring a low, bubbling sense of fear deep in his guts. Oh, no, they did. They did every damn time.

Hence the overwhelming sense of relief he felt whenever the drowning sensation began to wear off; when the blackness started to recede and the hiss of the pressure locks introduced the semi-stale recycled air of the Gryphon into his tank.

Jensen blinked a few times as the top of his can popped. He immediately began to pull sensors off his body and climb out, dripping with excess gel as he hacked up what felt like both of his lungs and his stomach, but was really just the excess gel. The taste of unflavored gelatin combined with the bitter tang of chemicals filled his mouth as his senses returned one by one. He sluggishly tapped his upper arm, a green light indicating that the chem reserves were adequate, and within seconds a rush of energy hit his body as he awakened fully, the drug cocktail chasing the last traces of Gap-sleep out of his system. He wrapped the towel slowly around his waist after he wiped the excess away from his body, and immediately hit the showers.

It was times like these; on the short-but-still-overlong walk from the Gap-tank suite to the locker room, where the navigator was happy for the ship's former purpose as a luxury yacht. It was maneuverable for a ship its size; but still too big to shift fast enough for his tastes; it was well armed for a ship its class, but Jensen thought the guns were a bit light; the cargo bay was fairly spacious, but it was always just a little too small to him. It had many quirks, flaws and foibles, yes.

But damn if he wasn't happy for heated floors and air conditioning. He quickly cleaned himself up and pulled on his favorite jumpsuit, and made his way out to the command deck. As he stepped inside, he noted the presence of two others--Michaline and Jager, the crew's 'early risers'. He settled into his navigation suite--just to the fore of the captain's chair, at the bowmost point of the deck--just in time to see Michaline finish taking apart her leg. The stump always made her wince to himself slightly, he'd heard the stories around it and that made him thankful that none of his limbs had been busted so severely. It reminded him not to get involved with criminals. Well, besides Jager. Because technically right now they were in violation of several inter-system laws and regulations, even if they were there before they were fully in place.

Michaline made a statement about her prosthesis, and from his station Jensen smiled easily. "Oh, c'mon, Mish," he said playfully, "you and I and Jager all know that stuff's heat-degradable." He turned fully away from his station, fiddling with the port on one wrist as he started to smile his all-to-familiar 'joke smile'.

"'sides, I'm sure if you just asked kindly Jager'd put up for whatever gambling debt you're hiding from us all." He let out a light laugh and extended his Icepick, jacking into the navigations console and running through the diagnostics process. One by one, the reports came back shiny and clean--the Nimble Gryphon knew exactly where it was going at the moment.

"All clear, skipper," Jensen said cheerily. "Welcome to Rud'bul."

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Character Portrait: Matthew Jäger Character Portrait: Deirdre Molle Sheely Character Portrait: Michaline T'Brook Character Portrait: Jensen Gables
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Deirdre felt the gel begin to drain as she slowly woke. Her face contorted into a mask half way between disgust and nausea. The gel was never her favourite thing. She wasn't really sure anyone liked it.

As the lid opened, Deirdre sat up quickly. Immediately she stood, slipping into the small gap as the lid continued the slow motion opening. It was almost as if the machine liked to torture those inside by taking its time or maybe the captain had set it up that way as some cruel joke on his crew.

Practically hopping out of the tank she began to shake her limbs, attempting to free them from the excess goo. It would have to be cleaned up but she didn't care. Deirdre just wanted it off of her skin, now. The movement reminded her body to breathe and the first breath was a choking one followed by her propping herself against the now fully opened tank and gagging.

“Fuck!” Deirdre spit and then stuck a finger into her mouth. She ran the digit around her gums and lips in an attempt to find any lingering globs of the stuff. Her rainbow coloured hair stuck to her face as she leaned over. Wiping the hair away from where it stuck to her cheek she grimaced again. The feel was horrid.

Naked, focused on wanting to be clean rather than caring about her appearance Deirdre stalked into the showers. The hot water rushed over her and she took a great deal of time to clean the gel from every part of her body.

A large sigh of contentment echoed off the shower walls as Deirdre turned off the water and stepped out to dry herself off. This she didn't mind. The bathroom facilities were nicer than many of the other ships she had flown on. Deirdre wrapped the towel around her hair and exited the shower. A toss of the towel into the laundry basket it left her enjoying the air on her skin.

Pulling on her tank top, her leggings and boots she began to consider the situation she found herself in. Not quite a month ago, annoyed after leaving yet another ship and having lost a great deal of money Deirdre had walked into a poker game that put her in the present situation. She had been so sure of her hand when she had bet her contract as a pilot. She still wasn't sure how she had lost but lost she had which found her here.

In her short time aboard the Gryphon she had flown them to the gap, survived a gap sleep, had flown them to pick up the cargo and then flew them back out towards the drop off point. This wakening was the second gap sleep of this particular journey. It wouldn't be long before they were landing, dropping the cargo and hopefully picking up a new contract.

As she pulled on her t-shirt Deirdre considered the crew she was now working with. She really hadn't gotten to see much since the pick up was short and the gap sleeps had taken most of their time since she had come aboard but she hoped they were at least as half way decent as they seemed. She knew she was a damn good pilot and there was nothing worse than a good pilot with a shitty crew.

There was the woman, Michaline. In charge of security and the weapons. She seemed to suit the part. Her twin, James she had no real thoughts on just yet as her interactions with him had been limited to a curt hello.

The navigator was the one she had to deal with the most so far. Jensen was sarcastic, brash and tended to joke. It seemed as if the two would need time to feel each other out more. He had treated her cooly as if her presence was not appreciated. Deirdre on the other hand did not care if he wanted her there or not. So far the atmosphere between them was one of basic acceptance.

“Need to remember to ask Jager what happened to their last pilot...” She had been meaning to ask him since he won her in the card game.

Deirdre brushed the long multi-coloured strands of hair that hung to her waist. Jager. She didn't know how he had done it but he had bested her. There was something nagging at the back of her mind and she simply couldn't figure out what it was. Something about the way he would look at the other players at the table, as if he knew whether or not they were bluffing. When she had watched the others, as every good poker player does she couldn't find the tells that he seemed to be reading. It had to be something else.

One last check in the mirror, Deirdre grabbed her elastic and slipped it on her wrist. She left the room and walked towards the bridge. As she neared it she smiled. The bridge was the one place she felt the most at home on any ship. No two ships handled the same but the bridge with her seat was always like settling into a favourite pair of boots. It was just right.

Voices bantered and joked as she entered. The all clear was also given. Heading to her chair she sat, slid her elastic off her wrist and tied up her hair. The rainbow was swept up into a loose ponytail as Deirdre readied herself. Smooth sailing.

“Ready to bring her in.”

Deidre smiled as her hands were placed on the controls. Her bright eyes sparkled in her enjoyment. Anyone looking at her now would think her the happiest person they had ever seen but it was only in this instance, when she was ready to guide a ship in that Deirdre knew such excitement. She had been searching her whole life for something that could rival the feeling. So far nothing compared.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Matthew Jäger Character Portrait: James T'Brook Character Portrait: Deirdre Molle Sheely Character Portrait: Michaline T'Brook Character Portrait: Jensen Gables
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Gap sleep was different for each individual, but James T'Brook theorized that his experience was typically unique, though that could be human narcisscism talking. However, the fact remained that despite the attitudes of his fellow crewmates, he enjoyed it. There was still much about Gap Travel that the Hegemony's greatest minds still didn't understand and James was different. For most people, their consciousness was limited to their Gap-tank or within their own subconscious. James', however, expanded.

He did not know what it was about the wormhole that made it possible, but the signal of the computer portion of his brain grew stronger as they traveled through the Gap. Perhaps it was because they were neither here nor there, but his brain became aware of the signals of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousand's of computers and machinery. He could hear the codes they broadcasted throughout his entire being from the binary of the Hegemony to the more instinctive code of the Gir Empire's machines to codes that no one yet knew about. Sometimes, he thought he heard the codes of organic consciousness, perhaps other cyborgs such as him. Then there was the message he received. The same one everytime.

01001111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01110101 01110011 00100000 01100010 01110101 01110100 00100000 01100100 01101001 01100110 01100110 01100101 01110010 01100101 01101110 01110100

One of us, but different.

He had tried explaining this to his sister, about the longing he felt at that simple transmission. The alien, but familiar feeling of it. He hoped she understood his excitement. Someone should.

With a sigh, he felt the Nimble Griphon exit Gap space. His tank opened and he stepped out, fighting the urge to reject the oxygen rich gel within his body and to keep his legs study before muscle memory kicked in. He chose to put on his robe, though his body was not unattractive and each of his body parts were healthy-looking. It was simply impolite to walk around naked in front of people who were not members of his family. He quickly walked towards the shower rooms and cleansed himself of the gel while spitting out any of it remaining in him.

After dressing himself, he headed for the bridge of the ship and found he was the fourth one to enter, shortly after Jensen. Had he been so absorbed in the Gap that he hadn't risen in time? Sometimes, it was hard to tell. He smiled politely at Jensen when he heard his comment.

"My sister does not currently have any gambling debts registered in the systems of either legal or underground casinos, race tracks, fight clubs, or brothels. However, I cannot speak for Captain Jager. His name is blacklisted in two dozen establishments," he reported. He smiled slightly and closed his eyes before continuing, "The ship's computer is working at 100% capacity. Firewalls are triple-layered and system scramblers stand ready to interfere with law enforcement equipment."

He paused for a moment, considering recent security footage, "Michaline, please walk around the ship with your robe on. I do not need to see it when I check for the security cams."

He glanced at Captain Jager and Jensen, "That goes for you both. Jensen seems to have gained 1.5 pounds since last jump. Deirdre..."

He blushed slightly, showing human embarrassment for the first time since he awoke, "Is in fit condtion..."

He bowed his head slightly, "I apologize for any invasion of privacy. I always check the security cams."

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Character Portrait: Alanys Mayor
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Green. There were fields of it rustling peacefully in the wind for miles as far as the eye could see. The only thing that dared to intrude on the gently swaying sea in the distance was an old fashion wooden windmill painted a cheerful cherry red that had long ago begun to chip away and wash out from lack of proper care and exposure to the elements. To some, it might have been a dull and terribly depressing sight, but to Alanys Mayor, it was her happiest childhood memory. A smaller version of herself, maybe six, lay there in the grass sea with half lidded eyes and a lazy smile that revealed a dimple in her left cheek. She wished she could stay here forever, in this moment filled with balmy breezes and gentle kisses from the sun, but an older more jaded part of her knew this part of the dream never lasted, was never long enough to outweigh the horror that was to come. Still green, but no longer the beautiful flowing grass, now it was unnatural green fluorescent lights and dark metal walls, the sounds of gentle breezes and Yola birds replaced by the screams and pained moans of countless faceless individuals. She couldn’t move, in horror she realized she was back on the table, tied down and naked with nothing but two thin straps to cover her. There were tubes in her arms and sensors attached to her head that connected to a machine that would beep shrilly every time she screamed or begged for the pain to stop.

“Fascinating.” A raspy voice intoned after it felt like she’d screamed herself hoarse. Her world was suddenly filled with a face she’d rather not remember. “I think you’re my favorite, but then with your talents there really is no telling for sure.” His face was deceptively kind, but Alanys knew better. She knew he was a monster even if he didn’t always look like one. Even when he smiled at her, it never reached his spectacle covered hazel green eyes.

Then she was in a field again, but here it was short and well kept, and there were thick metal walls a hundred yards in every direction. She knew where she was, but a part of her hoped against hope that it was different this time, that she’d be spared what she knew was coming. It proved a naïve notion. Blood, there was so much blood. She could hear yelling around her, and the sounds of clashing metal, but she couldn’t make herself move. She was on her knees in the middle of the field, a wickedly curved knife in her hand. She knew in the back of her mind she should move, she was going to die if she just sat there, and she had to get to that stupid flag so their team could leave, so they could live, but it was all she could do to not vomit at the smell. Everywhere around her she smelt blood and death, and fear with a potent mix of desperation. This wasn’t a game, it was a frenzy. She wished desperately to stop herself, but like always in the dream, she was compelled to look up. She was suddenly covered in blood, her hands most of all, but it wasn’t her own. The last thing she saw was a pair of blue gray eyes looking down adoringly at her, before glazing over in death. And then she cried.

Alanys was crumpled on the floor of the tank when she regained consciousness, the gel completely drained, and glass door opened. She felt drained and unsteady as she rose to her hands and knees panting to try and calm herself down. She had to remember where she was, this wasn’t Cicero V, she hadn’t been there in nearly ten years. She was safe on a ship, Mal’s ship. That last thought brought her more comfort than she’d care to admit, to herself or otherwise, but it did the trick. She yanked the wires from her wrist and neck with a shaky hand and shuddered. Dr. Elliot hadn’t had her for a private probing session in over a decade, but she still hated being touched by wires, even when she knew they were only there to monitor her vitals, not pump her with drugs or electro currents to supposedly help map her brain waves. Some things a person simply doesn’t get over, and as much as the weakness annoyed her, she couldn’t bring herself to be comfortable with the damned things.

Standing weakly, still feeling shaky, she trudged over to her locker, pulling out a ridiculously fluffy pink bathrobe, wrapping herself in the familiar comforting warmth. What she was really looking for though, was at the bottom of her locker, and she dug around the admittedly messy space until she found the orange plastic vial. She twisted the cap off, swiftly extracting a pill and swallowing it dry. She needed the fix, she always did after the Gap. She felt the effects within minutes, the Xinso humming through her veins and calming her quickly. Her hands stopped shaking and Alanys finally felt more like herself. She pushed the pain, and the fear, and the guilt and locked it in a box before shoving it deep down, far away where she wouldn’t have to look at it. The psychiatrist she’d been forced to see before leaving the rescue ship had warned her that suppression wasn’t a healthy way of dealing with her issues, but then she didn’t much care what a doctor thought one way or another. They made her antsy more often than not, and she avoided them like the plague. Besides, a healthy dose of denial mixed with some optimism and regularly structured drug abuse beat out the hell she’d gone through that first sober year off planet any day of the weak. When in doubt, suppress, suppress, suppress!

She was feeling down right chipper when she looked back down into the bottle and noticed she was down to her last three pills. She pursed her lips lightly as she screwed the cap back on and put the vial away. She’d need to restock soon, but she’d have to wait until after they’d made this run. Xinso was expensive to say the least, and she wasn’t likely to find a dealer in the Rud’bul system anyway. She’d just have to stretch them out a little bit. Mal said this would be a quick job anyway, so she wasn’t overly worried. She got dressed quickly after taking a quick shower, pausing only to tie her hair back in a damp ponytail before completing her morning routine. She was dressed in her usual light tan form fitting cargo pants and black top, hip holsters cradling her two .45 semi-automatics, and fingerless gloves in place when she heard the first message from Mal.

She rolled her eyes slightly at that. She’d checked it for lag before they’d entered the Gap, always insisted on it in fact. It was basic military training to make sure all defenses were on high against any threat when in a vulnerable state, and Alanys was nothing if not well trained. But regardless, she wouldn’t say anything. She knew Mal well enough to know what he was like after the Gap, and she knew he had a harder time with it than she did. She wondered not for the first time, if there was something she could do to help him, but she knew doing anything would only make him feel worse. Mal hated feeling weak, so the best thing she could do for him was pretend she didn’t notice. She headed to the bridge after Mal’s second announcement, ready to hear their orders and get under way.

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Character Portrait: Hank Fede
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Hank looked up at the man in front of him. "Whadya need?" Hank asked the man. They were in a small shop somewhere in the recess of Hank's mind. His mind had created this for when he slept in the Gap. Hank was eleven in this world of his.

"Where is your mother, child?" asked the man politely. He had a great big mustache and long beard, but was bald. Hank pointed at the woman who was cleaning the windows. "Excuse me madam," said the man to his mother. His mother turned around and smiled at her son who returned the gesture. She then looked at the man and spoke lightly, "Yes?"

"We must take him away. He has to fight in the war," he said, talking about Feron, Hank's older brother.

His mother was sad not angry. It was as if she knew this day would come. "He is not here at the moment. Come back later."

"I am sorry, but time is of the essence. I did not come here to ask of your permission, Madam. I merely came to inform you." He turned and walked away. Hank looked at his mother and searched for an answer in her eyes. He never found one.

Hank woke up from his sleep because the conscious mind cannot stand the gel. The feeling of drowning took over him and tried desperately to remove the gel from clogging his trachea. Fear decided to join in and Hank shouted but no voice came. Then he vomited and the gel that had set up shop inside him fell on the ground. He coughed a few times and staggered as he removed the gel from his face. He took deep breaths and calmed himself.

He opened his eyes to a blurry world. He searched the console near him for his glasses and found them. They were not where had he kept them; better positioned they were now. Hank walked out of the tank and grabbed the bathrobe from the locker. He went to the shower room and a few minutes later he emerged. He wore his usual garments and walked over to his station as the captain gave him his instructions.

He looked at the screen and decided what all incoming information would not be required. Stock updates? No. Gameshows? No. Sports updates? Culture Information? Police information? No. At this moment none of this was needed so with a few button presses he stopped the ship's automated information seeker from asking or seeking for this information. Some of this information, like current status of the planet, was broadcasted so they didn't need to ask for it. Stock updates and such had to be requested.

Of course there were requests of information from the star systems that each ship had to reply to. Some could be neglected without any legal problems. But to some requests, the replies were automated. Even the ship's captain could not override, unless his ship was not built by the United Shipbuilder's Corp.

Number of members, Crew Information, Cargo, Nature of Cargo etc; except Nature of Cargo he ignored all requests. Harmful If Mishandled, he sent his reply. All this happened in the few seconds between the first order and the new order he got. He stood up for a moment and then sat down. He hadn't transferred the power. A few seconds and a some button presses later he stood up again, his work done, and made his way to the bridge.

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Character Portrait: Neil Ayers Character Portrait: Hank Fede Character Portrait: Alanys Mayor Character Portrait: Franz Malhotra
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#, as written by varxint
Neil woke just before the gel started draining. He let his body float in a relaxed state of mind. Having been involved in many diplomatic missions, across many systems, Neil had spent more time in the gel than he had in a real bed. He learned to enjoy the floating sensations. He also knew that relaxing worked better than fighting against the sensation of the gel in your lungs. He held his breath, there was no need to try and breath yet. The gel in his lungs would have enough oxygen to sustain him for a least 20 mins now that it wasn’t being recycled. So, Neil relaxed. He slowly allowed his legs to take his weight as the gel drained. He kept his eyes closed, another trick he found helped suppress the panic most felt in the gel. “Don’t let your sight fool your brain that your body is in trouble. Your brain knows better but your eyes can easily sway it.

When he heard the capsule open he knew it was time to start moving. He stepped out, one step. Still holding his breath he shook his hands sharply to clear them off as much as he could. Then he wiped his face and eyes. Finally, like a diver clearing a snorkel, he ‘exhaled’ in one hard push. He felt his lungs clear easily and heard the gel splat to the floor.

Now he opened his eyes and grinned. A short breath with another hard exhale to get the remaining gel from his lungs and he headed to the showers. This was the one thing he did appreciate like others in the gel. Nothing felt better than a hot shower after a long gap sleep. He took his time, stepping out to hear the first of the captain’s orders. His stomach rumbled at the thought of breakfast. This ship was equipped with fairly nice dining options. Of course, anything compared favourably to military style rations. And even those sounded good compared to what Neil had to settle for while on the run.

Neil hadn’t been on one ship for longer than one gap run since he’d went AWOL. This was the first one he’d been on with the Dragon. Most times, whenever they entered a new system and the captain heard the typical list of wanted and missing they always gave Neil a funny look. Neil took the hint. Changed his hair and eyes, picked a new name, and tried to find a new ship to sign up with. Mal gave Neil a different feeling though. He got the sense Mal liked Neil’s ability to shift idents.

I guess we’ll see soon enough,” he thought cheerfully, “No doubt Fede was pulling in the wanted list right now.

Neil looked in the mirror. His hair was a mess of colours. Another thing gap sleep did to him. It made it hard to keep everything from shifting too much. He chose his typical red hair and blue eyes and shrugged. He never remembered if this was the description on the wanted list or not but didn’t care too much. It was best to get the AWOL thing out of the way quickly. See if it was going to be an issue or not.

Neil dressed and headed to the bridge as the captain issued the second order. “Uh oh. Well, here it comes I guess. Emergency meeting to discuss the implications of their language expert and co-pilot’s interesting history.

He walked onto the bridge with an expectant grin, “Rested and ready Cap. I expect you’ve something to discuss?” He looked over each member of the little crew with a cautiously friendly gaze. Trying to get a measure if one of them were going for the bounty this time or not.

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#, as written by 7achary
Malhotra sat, his legs crossed and his fingers steeped under a bowed head. He ignored Neil's comment for the moment, letting his crew stand in silence. Finally he looked each of them in the eye, his expression grim. "There are things that happen on each of my ventures that are completely unexpected. No matter how I struggle to, I can not plan for everything."

The captain smiled then and fiddled with the controls on the arm of his chair. The wall behind him suddenly revealed a view of the outside, thick with dozens of undulating and glowing figures. The chair rotated, so that he was facing the window. "These are starseeds. We know little to nothing about them, there is a legend that states following them will lead to treasure, sanctuary, or, in some legends, new habitable worlds."

Malhotra grew silent then, his expression blank, and watched the creatures on the other side of the view-port. What he failed to mention were the stories of starseeds as a warning of peril. Peril with great gain at the end, but peril nonetheless. "It's beautiful, is it not?"

"Humanity has the capability of traveling between the stars and annihilating entire celestial bodies with the press of a button. Yet," Malhotra paused and reached for a bag of liquid on the console. He took a sip before continuing, "... we know so little of the other things that populate the black or how they operate."

He stole a glance at Alanys then, her golden features illuminated in the glow of the starseeds. He looked to Fede, stoic and task oriented. He turned toward Neil and settled his gaze for a moment. Something about the man's disposition was different than normal. Malhotra's expression turned to one of a cunning fox as he turned away from them, putting his attention on the starseeds one last time.

As he sat at the flight console, Neil beside him, Malhotra considered the journey ahead. He preferred to work on the edge of the radar. It was one of the reasons he hired Fede, the man's demeanor and knowledge of communications and proper protocol gave the Fat Dragon an air of legitimacy. Coupled with the counterfeit Waddan trade passes in the ship's registry they would be able to withstand most patrol scans.

Malhotra nodded to himself. He then turned to Neil. "So, what was it you wished to discuss when you stepped onto the bridge this morning?"

Taking a sip from the juice bag he continued before Neil could respond, "I like you Neil, but I think something may be bothering you. I've got something to handle in the cargo hold, while I do that think about whatever it is you want to tell me."

He swiveled his seat around and stood before pressing the comm, "Mayor, meet me in the cargo hold."

The manifest read "assorted parts for terraforming vehicle and all purpose military rations." Even new, the large metallic parts were dirty with oil and left black marks on Malhotra's fingers where he touched them. The rations were vacuum sealed and piled high in a corner. A single brick would feed a soldier for a month.

Amid the assorted parts were a few items that Malhotra would not sell on Wadda. These items were used in an altogether different process. Only an agricultural engineer or weapons manufacturer would be able to tell the difference, or so Malhotra had been told. He could barely tell the difference himself, and he knew that they were not the same.

Footsteps sounded behind him. "Alanys, thank you for joining me."

He turned and gave a half smile before producing an encrypted datapad. "I want you to put this away for me. I'll need it again when we reach Wadda, but until then I need it kept out of sight and out of mind."

Malhotra paused. "What do you think of our new crewmen? Fede and Ayers seem alright, and they are both competent. But I want your input."

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Character Portrait: Matthew Jäger Character Portrait: James T'Brook Character Portrait: Deirdre Molle Sheely Character Portrait: Michaline T'Brook Character Portrait: Jensen Gables
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Jäger was reading news feeds off the local data net, when the first of his crew arrive on the bridge of his converted yacht. It would appear that the political situation within the system had changed while the crew was sleeping, turning from degrading standoff to almost open warfare. One could hardly wonder that the administration Wadda, had place a large order of medical supplies, most of which had already been shipped in by bulk carriers, things like miles of bandages and heart monitors. However, there were a few things that required a smaller, faster ship to move them, things like drugs stored in powered cases, keeping them from turning toxic. Experimental or ones with limited testing, for which a war might prove them or could be used to sweep the formula under the rug for good.

He smiled slightly, as Michaline slipped into her seat. With the low gravity, it wasn't as hard for someone carrying their own leg, to move about and not fall over. Not as easy to move around as someone with two legs but not impossible. Kinda funny to watch but not with someone like Mic, who might hurt you, if you laughed at her. He could almost hear her thoughts, as she checked the weapon control panel and was content with the all green lights. She knew that he would want her to go physically check them, once her leg was taken care of. The torpedo wouldn't be that hard but the balloon turrets would be. Each one was decent sized sphere, with a heavy autocannon build into it and an ammo hopper, attached to the ship by a strong cable. They were launched from compartments built in and hidden in the hull. The turrets had two mods for firing, the first was to allow small AIs to control the guns, base off of information the main computer sent them or they could be remotely controlled from the bridge.

The captain’s smile only widened, as the rest of the crew filed in and the banter began. He had to focus on his new feeds, to keep his abilities from skimming across the suddenly very “vocal” minds around him. Resistance and rebel forces infested Wadda, local government troops were trying to control or contain the situation but it was very clear that a larger power needed to step in. Propaganda from both sides blared across the local data net, denouncing each other and calling for the people to rally behind their personal causes. Rumors flew about pirates posing as rebels or local law enforcement stopping ships and stealing their cargo.

“You know Mic” said Matthew, smiling and pulling a pack of cards from a pocket in his coat, “Your contract doesn’t cover replacements limbs but I would be happy to play for the amount of a new leg.”

He chuckled, as the cards shifted in his hands. Of course neither of the twins would gamble with him anymore, two years about his ship had taught them at it wasn’t a good idea. If the captain didn’t want to lose, he generally didn’t and it was very hard to bluff him. Something the ship’s new pilot was likely on the verge of discovering for herself and that Jensen had more then likely been warned about. Of course, he did lose sometimes, some people just could be really bold and catch him by surprise.

“Jensen” said Jäger, “Deirdre, I’m seeing a lot of reports about pirates and rebels causing trouble in this system. I want you two to bring us to a rendezvous point with a friend of mine. He was suppose to coming into the system a day ago, flying a Number 5 Hull. Numbers might keep trouble from bothering us but if not, we can leave him as bait.”

He chuckled softly. Of course, he couldn’t leave Franz Malhotra as pirate bait, seeing as he was hauling a majority of the special cargo they had been hired to bring in. Of course, only one other person knew that and Mic knew the rules, she wasn’t suppose to say anything to the rest of the crew, even her brother, until the captain made the announcement. Most of the time, his crew would never know they were running anything until there was a nice fat bonus in their share of the pay off. Not telling them served a dual purpose. For one thing, if they got boarded and questioned, they couldn’t give away they were moving illegal goods. For another, if he was found out, the Hegemony wouldn’t jail them.

The captain glanced at the local starchart. There were three wormholes in the system, two of them were what are called Common Wormholes, which were found in every system and could be used in only one direction. The third, found on the other side of Rud'bul, was what was called a Grand Wormhole, which could be used to enter and leave the system and could be connected to multiple stars.

“And James” added Matthew, chuckling, “Its my ship, I’ll walk around buck naked if I want to and so can your sister.”

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Character Portrait: Matthew Jäger Character Portrait: James T'Brook Character Portrait: Deirdre Molle Sheely Character Portrait: Michaline T'Brook Character Portrait: Jensen Gables
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Michaline snorted twice, once when her brother reprimanded her for walking around naked, and then again when Jager justified her. "And who ever said I need you to fight my battles for me, Jager? Our roles seemed quite the reverse when we met, no?" A slightly cynical smile stretched across her face, but it vanished once she put her leg back together. She winced when she reconnected it. It always hurt like hell, and she still wasn't completely used to it, even after twelve years. But then, Michaline was never one to cry or give up due to pain. The girl was a survivor, and had proved it many times over.

She stood up, testing the prosthetic, moving each toe, and all the joints. Finally, she shoved her camo pants down over it and stuck her boot back on, and made her way out to the main weapons control. The less minds in there with Jager the better, especially right after Gap-sleep. She did all her routine check-ups, her mind elsewhere. Unbidden, she thought back to the night before the crew had entered Gap-sleep.

"Do you remember the first time?"

Mic had made a soft noise into the darkness. "Like hell I do. Who remembers the first time they entered Gap-sleep? I suppose you would, but I don't. All I can ever remember is trying to keep you away from my mind."

"Always so touchy and closed-off...but that wasn't what I meant."
He chuckled softly.

At that point, she had been grateful for the darkness, because she had blushed. Yes, she remembered that first time. She remembered every detail. She turned away from him. "You probably know the answer to that question if you were paying close enough attention."

She smiled slightly, even though the memory was both pleasing and annoying. Two years aboard the Gryphon had taught Michaline a lot, including that her first impression of Jager when she had discovered he'd lied to her had been wrong. He was a better man than she had given him credit for, and being true to his word, he had never lied to her since. He always told her the full details of every mission, so far as she gave her word not to tell any of the rest of the crew, even James. She had agreed, and both partied had kept up their end of the bargain. Mic had heard quite a bit of Maholtra. She hadn't met him yet, so she had no opinion of him.

Without even thinking about it, she pulled the tool kit from her waistline and began tuning-up the weapons and their systems. She always did this, whether they were fine or not. This kept them good, and kept her mind from wandering. Or at least, it used to. Now she just thought too much.

She smiled again slightly to herself. Sometimes that was a good thing.

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Character Portrait: Hank Fede
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Hank reached the bridge a few minutes after he left his post. The ship was massive compared to the people inside; however, it did not have as much room as most other ships of its class. A lot of refitting later it was now able carry as much goods as it did; enough to support two crews worth of profits.

He was the last to reach. It was because his station placed him furthest from the bridge, away from all the irritating noise of the engine. He hadn't expected much of a pay or good living when had joined but this was better than he had hoped.

He looked at his captain. Some time ago this very man had offered him a job and being jobless at the time and about to be evicted, Hank didn't refuse. "I heard about your skills," this man had said to Hank one fine morning, a bottle of liquor in his hands, "Let's not waste this talent of your."

Before he had left he gave the last of remaining stuff to the landlady as rent. She was sad to see him go but he was happy. Finally he was free, free to roam the universe! Free to kick pirate ass! Alas, life in space wasn't how the great writers had made it seem. Hank realized that life on the plains of his planet was better than life in space but he couldn't leave, could he?

He snapped out of his thoughts as Malhotra, the captain, spoke, his expressions grim, "There are things that happen on each of my ventures that are completely unexpected. No matter how I struggle to, I can not plan for everything." Hank wondered if there were more pirates to face. This ship was slow moving, a space piggy. An easy target it was, but his captain had kept it out of pirate hands so he trusted they would be safe this time too.

Luckily the captain wasn't speaking of space pirates. The captain smiled then and fiddled with the controls on the arm of his chair. The wall behind him suddenly revealed a view of the outside, thick with dozens of undulating and glowing figures. The chair rotated, so that he was facing the window. "These are starseeds. We know little to nothing about them, there is a legend that states following them will lead to treasure, sanctuary, or, in some legends, new habitable worlds."

Legends, Hank though and sighed, legends are always trouble. He looked at the starseeds, first with awe then with sadness. They roamed the black void, giving exactly zero damn about the pesky humans. They lived for a million years doing what he always wanted to do, nothing. Lazing about outside the ship they had gained a new enemy in Hank Fede.

"Quite beautiful," he said in a low voice and looked sideways. Beside him stood his two crewmates, Mayor and Ayers. He hadn't spoken to them much. Both seemed friendly enough to initiate a useless conservation with, but he hadn't so yet. He would, in due time.

The captain spoke up again, talking about the starseeds. Hank himself drifted into thoughts of how he would handle a cargo check which was inevitable. This star system was volatile and checking would be stricter. He just hoped Ayers knew someone here.

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Character Portrait: Matthew Jäger Character Portrait: James T'Brook Character Portrait: Deirdre Molle Sheely Character Portrait: Michaline T'Brook Character Portrait: Jensen Gables
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Her laughter, barely contained came out as a snort as James commented on his sister and the captain's state of dress as well as the navigator's weight. She turned her eyes to the man as he commented on her “condition.”

A small smirk formed as James appeared to blush and look away. “No issues by me, we all got jobs to do. You say it is part of yours and I won't argue.” Deirdre gave him a wink.

The sound of shuffling cards made her eyes narrow. “I think I need to get off this bloody ship. Make the run and then see if I can convince him to let my contract go.” Deirdre began to think about the best way to go about disengaging herself from a captain who seemed to make it a habit of gambling for his crew. While she loved a good game as the rest, Deirdre wasn't entirely convinced it made for good crew loyalty.

Deirdre nodded to Jager's command, “Aye.” The captain was meeting up with a friend. “Wonder if it is the other captain we played cards with? Malhatr? Mahtor? Whatever....wonder what his ship is like?” Deirdre's mind wandered to the card game. Both men had been playing when she arrived, both had tried for her contract, Jager was just the one to win.

Something suddenly clicked in her mind. “Wait a sec...both men were playing for a pilot's contract...what the hell are they doing to their pilots?”

Deirdre turned slightly to look at her captain. He seemed easy going enough. “Gotta find out about the old pilot. Find out what the hell I am in for with these people and get the hell out.”

With a slight shake of her head, rainbow ponytail swinging a little she glanced at the navigator. Deirdre waited to see what the man had to say as far as coordinates and possible issues with the area they were flying into. He couldn't predict possible attacks but he could plot out a decent route with easy escape routes.

Before Jensen could say anything though, Deirdre heard the captain tease James, a mock reprimand about asking them to dress. She raised an eyebrow as Jager came to the woman's defense. Michaline didn't look like the type that needed a man to stand up for her and yet...Jager had been quick to it.

“Couple. Makes sense.” Deirdre again recalled the poker game, the night she had met Matthew Jager. He may have been the type she'd have taken to bed for fun but she was so angry at the loss of her contract that Deirdre had stormed away from the table at the end of the hand.

Her anger was taken out with another body that night but now it seemed that she saved herself a good deal of grief as well. Nothing worse than getting on a crew to find out you had stepped on toes before ever flying a mission. Deirdre had made that mistake before and wasn't keen to repeat it. She didn't really care if she pissed people off it just tended to make a job easier if she wasn't hated right off the bat. “Let them get to know you, they'll hate you in enough time.” A smile formed at the thought of Naitre's advice. He was never one to have "friends" and he didn't go out of his way to play nice.

Deirdre frowned slightly at Michaline's response. There was history between she and the captain, that much was for sure. Her own thoughts drifted unbidden to Theo and their own back and forth. A shrug of her shoulders, an exhale of frustration and Deirdre dismissed it all.

Deirdre turned to face Jensen, “So give me a route and I'll fly her in. If we are looking at pirates and the like then give me a few alternates too and we will go from there.” She gave him a small nod. She wasn't sure just how much to spell out for him, she hoped though he would prove half way decent in his job if and when things got stressful.

Her hands slid along the controls, itching to release the power and to see how this ship flew. Her heart was pounding and her breathing was slightly erratic. It was like this every time before she got to fly. The anticipation was sweet as it heralded the rush that was to come.

“I love this...” It was the only thought on her mind as she looked out onto the stars, her face peaceful and waited for the flight plan.

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Character Portrait: Matthew Jäger Character Portrait: Deirdre Molle Sheely Character Portrait: Jensen Gables
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#, as written by Cypher
"Yes, captain, we get it, your ship, your rules. And we all know you cheat at cards, but whatever, whatever, you get this one." Jensen raised one hand in mock-exasperation, throwing his head back in defeat. His other hand was still locked into the port by his Icepick, and as he spoke, his mind wandered through the systems of the ship's navigational computers. Gables, still clueless about his captain's telepathy, made no effort to hide his current thoughts; mostly because they were nowhere near incriminating for everything:

'Navigational compass oriented to G-North, velocity reporting oh-point-two-four C, heading oh-nine-zero... No signs of gravitational anomalies, no other ship signals in the area--scratch that, Number Five Hull, bearing one-eight-zero... Didn't the cap say we were meeting a Number Five at the RV point?'

Jensen's face creased as he removed his Icepick from the port on his console. "Cap," he grunted, "Did you say we were meeting up with a Number Five at the RV point? The relay nearest us says we've got a couple dozen Number Fives in Rud'bul, but I couldn't get a bead on their ID signatures." He shrugged. "Damn freedom of information laws."

Gables glanced back at the pilot's chair before he jacked back into the computer. Dierdre had mentioned she was bringing the ship in; and Jensen halfheartedly muttered something along the lines of, "well just do it already then; quit stalling" before he settled back into the difficult job of plotting a course through a mostly unsettled system. What in the hell did she think she was doing anyways? Less than two weeks ago it had been another pilot sitting in that chair, and one of Jensen's best friends at that. He and Jensen had been thick as thieves; a bond forged through the typical co-dependence that pilots and navigators displayed, a bond that was forged through blood, sweat, and more than a little grain alcohol. That chair had been the seat of a man whom had played Texas Hold'em with Jager and Gables every time the Big Three convened for their annual game; a game that had been put on hold indefinitely. That chair held a man who had carried Jensen out of a fire in the Gryphon's engine suite when a coolant leak sprung up that only Jensen could fix.

That chair held a dead man's spirit now, and Dierdre was sitting on it. Jensen was more than a little bitter at her. He knew it was childish, he knew it was petty, but dammit, as far as he was concerned, nobody could be a better pilot than Bloc was. He scowled inwardly, and returned to his duty.

'Asteroid adrift from the field off starboard. Diverting course, altering heading to oh-seven-three to avoid collision. Keep up, Dee; you may have impressed the captain, but you're sitting right in Bloc's shadow.'

The silence was broken, as if on cue, by Deirdre's voice. Jensen separated from the computer again, his voice atonal, his eyes distant. "There's a 'roid adrift in the system and it's across our course, Dee. Alter bearing to oh-seven-three, follow my waypoint, then divert back to oh-nine-oh and continue to the RV." He smiled cockily, a shadow of his former self, before plugging back in. "try not to schmear us across the surface of that asteroid; I like my parts attached and inside me, thank'ee very much."

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Character Portrait: Matthew Jäger Character Portrait: James T'Brook Character Portrait: Deirdre Molle Sheely Character Portrait: Michaline T'Brook Character Portrait: Jensen Gables
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"I cannot control how you behave, but my sister should know better than to walk around naked in a gambling degenerate's ship. No offense," James told Jager with a slight smile. They both knew he didn't mean what he said about him. They had flown into danger and death for nothing more than a fistful of credits for years now and James trusted him with his and Michaline's life. However, he frowned as his brain analyzed the looks the two were giving each other. Physical attraction brought on by hormones? No... Mich is too smart for that, he thought, barely containing a shudder. The thought of his sister dating and even... touching and being touched by a strange man, even if he was his friend, disturbed him. On one hand, he shouldn't be surprised. His computerized portion of his brain assured him that it was perfectly normal, but then he questioned how Jager would provide for her. How would he treat her once their relationship normalized? Neither he nor Mich opened up to many people, but that mad the people they did open up to nearer and dearer to their hearts. If Jager harmed his sister.... He'd have to talk to Mich soon.

At Deidre's comments, he couldn't help but blush once again, possibly as a result of organic hormones. He smiled slightly at her and, after calming himself, replied, "Then I shall continue to monitor your condition, Ms. Sheely." He winked at her in response, a rare show of emotion on his part, but then, Mich was always telling him that he needed act more human and less like a machine.

At Jensen's comments, James again activated his own internal computer and accessed the ship's AI, if it could be called that. Several safeguards and limiters prevented the AI's from reaching true sentience, not to mention the lack of memory and internal processors necessary for reaching true sentience in the first place. Perhaps, if he found the right tech, he could rig up a true sentient AI. The thought cheered him. After a moment, he raised an eyebrow.

"Mr. Gables, cheating is a relative term. I believe Captain Jager refers to his actions as "intelligence". Also, Hegemony studies in human psychology state that the functioning of the ship is improved by .951% and the integration of new crewmembers in harmony with the rest of the crew by 5.5103%," James stated, though not without sympathy. The previous pilot was a good man and an excellent pilot, "We will not forget Ms. Sheely's predecessor, Jensen."

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Character Portrait: Neil Ayers Character Portrait: Hank Fede Character Portrait: Alanys Mayor Character Portrait: Franz Malhotra
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Alanys greeted the rest of the crew with her customary morning smile, practically radiating positivity towards them. Whether this was because she’d recently taken a hit, or because it was her natural default with people was a question she was in too good a mood to ponder. She listened silently as Mal seemed to be taken with another one of his more melodramatic moods, observing him carefully for signs of hidden stress. Maybe it was just the gap sleep she decided without comment. Then he showed them the starseeds. They were undeniably pretty, and she stared quite attentively for a moment, relishing in the pure untainted pleasure of witnessing something new and pleasant. And then, as tends to be the case with most fleeting pleasantries, the moment was lost and Alanys turned her attention to Neil as Mal addressed him.

She tried to get a read off the red headed man, but while her specific mutation perhaps gave her a better sense of other people’s emotions than what could be considered normal, she could influence people’s emotions, not feel them. There was a big difference between the two. Alanys could testify; she’d known more than one empath. She wasn’t given much time to observe though, before Mal was calling her away to the cargo hold. “You’re the boss.” She drawled almost lazily as she turned and followed after him, resisting a snarkier comment at being referred to by her last name. They’d been friends for five years now, and though she knew it was simply Mal’s need to keep a professional formality with the crew, she didn’t have to like it, and barring situations where it was a dire necessity, attempted to foil his attempts at every turn.

Alanys looked up at the machinery mildly as she approached Mal in the cargo hold, and felt no desire to touch it. She didn’t need to feel the grime to know it was there thank you very much. She returned his half smile with one of her own, and took the data pad he handed her gingerly. She’d have to find a safe place to put it, somewhere in her room she imagined would suffice, though perhaps keeping it under computerized lock and key wouldn’t be a bad idea either. She might like Hank and Neil well enough, but she sure as hell didn’t know them well enough to not keep important valuables locked away.

“And since when exactly have I ever been a good judge of character?” Alanys half quipped in response to Mal’s question before shrugging with a sigh. “I don’t know Mal, they both seem like good enough guys. They both…are obviously hiding something, but having crap in your past you’d rather keep buried is something I don’t typically judge people for you know.” Which was entirely true, though from both a command and personal perspective she knew that crap sometimes had a tendency of finding its way to the surface with disastrous consequences. Not the ideal condition for your crew from a captain’s perspective either.

“I feel better about Neil than Hank.” She felt obligated to report. “I’m not entirely sure why though. Do you want me to keep an eye on them, see if I can find anything out?” Alanys asked carefully after a moment. She hated using her ability on people to make them need to talk to her, especially about things that could be private, but if the safety of the ship could be assured, and if Mal asked her to, she would. Even if it made a part of her cringe on a base level.

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#, as written by varxint
Neil listened to the captain’s opening lines, waiting for the questions. He was amused by Malhotra’s dragging it out. When the outside view was revealed Neil was stunned momentarily. He watched the starseeds, admiring their beauty. The colours washing over his face, reflecting in his eyes. The tint of his eyes shifted and changed with the colours of the starseeds. Neil was lost in the view and didn’t realize how his eyes were reacting.

Neil’s reverie was broken by Malhotra’s statement. He blinked and turned to look at the captain, his eyes shifting back to their normal view as he did. He was about to address the question when Malhotra asked him to think and walked away. Neil watched him walk away, confused, and slightly annoyed.

He couldn’t figure out what Mal’s angle was, “Why ask a leading question, then walk away? What the hell is there to think about? Is he trying to make me more nervous, thinking it’ll get me to talk? He obviously knows, so why draw it out. I’ve nothing to hide. It’s not like it’s a big secret that isn’t plastered all over the universal wanted lists. He doesn’t like it, the crew doesn’t like it, then I do my thing. Get them through the cargo inspection and move on. Whatever.

Neil shrugged at the departing captain and move his gaze to Alanys. Even though he’d only had a few chats with her before the gap he realized he kind of liked her. She was friendly and easy to talk to. Now, though, she was giving him the once over. He watched her striking blue eyes take in all she could in a brief glance. He nodded to her, “Yup, she’s gotta know too. Why give me the eye like that? I bet she’s trying to figure out if I’d be a threat to the ship before the inspection. Whether to dump me now or take advantage of my contacts.

Again, Neil was about to speak when the captain called her away, “Alright then. Typical drill. It’s not like I’ve not done this multiple times before. Same thing every time. They pretend they don’t know. They take a measure of how much I might lie to them. They figure out it’s not worth the risk to have me around, but they don’t quite want to go through the hassle of turning me in. Too many other things to risk having the military police poking around. So, I’m encouraged to seek another ship, since maybe I want to move around more than they plan to. Or maybe the next job doesn’t need my contacts. Or a hundred other excuses to kick me out. Wish it would have happened quicker, but I’ll deal with it when they come back. At least with all the activity in the area it shouldn’t be hard to find another ship to jump to if they decide they don’t want me around.

Neil gave a satisfied nod and looked back to the controls. Keep the ship steady and bring her in easy. That’s all he figured he’d be asked to do while the captain was in the hold, “Easy enough. Not much going on out there right now. The inspection will be the challenge. Better start making inquiries around to find out who the ‘right’ inspection officer is.

Neil turned to Hank. Neil hadn’t had any significant interactions with their techie and couldn’t really pinpoint how he felt about him. However, at this point he needed some secure communications and no time like the present to meet someone, “Hey, Hank right? Or would you prefer Fede on the bridge? Anyway, can you set me up with an encrypted communication line? It will probably have to jump around various end points in customs and inspections. I need to figure out who we want to come aboard and play the inspection game with us.”

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#, as written by 7achary
Malhotra set his hand on Alanys' shoulder and squeezed lightly. Though the gesture felt awkward to him, he gave her a small almost smile and said, "I am a very smart man, Ms. Mayor. I would not pick just anyone to be my first officer. Only a trusted friend. Now, quit being so self depreciating."

The glow from Alanys' face in this light set him on edge, was it her or the drug? He noticed how close they were, how alone they were, and his hand dropped from her shoulder, brushing her arm as it fell. While Malhotra was not a stranger to recreational substances, he actually quite enjoyed them, his first officer's reliance on Xinso always left a weight on his mind. He realized he was no longer smiling and gave her a weak grin as he occupied himself with triple checking the rations.

"Hmm." Malhotra paused in thought for a moment, considering her offer. "No, we do all have our secrets. And that's not something I'd ask you do to your fellow crew."

The look in her eyes when he told her made the thoughts of Xinso flee from his mind.

As he walked away, looking over the yellow industrial parts barely organized in the hold, he whistled along with the tune playing softly in the background. It was starting to nag at him that he could not remember the composer.

Some time later, sitting with Ayers and working out coordinates and the details of the rendezvous, "Jager is something akin to a friend, but be careful with him. There's always been something about him that has made me uncomfortable. I'll work out the details with him personally, but you may have to work with him in the future."

Swiveling his chair to face his copilot, the captain looked him in the eye. "I have put some thought to what we did not discuss earlier."

Malhotra allowed himself a smile at Ayers. "We do not need to discuss it, we're all running from something. And while I know a good deal about your fellow ships mates I do not know nearly as much about you. And this makes me a bit paranoid. There is plenty of time for us to get to know one another."

The smile dropped from Malhotra's lips as he resumed his normal face devoid of expression. All of the smiles he had shared with Ayers and Alanys had his face feeling sore. He hummed quietly to himself for a few moments. Suddenly he tapped the comm button angrily. "Fede, who is this composer? I'm going mad up here."

The dim orange glow from the holo screens gave off the only light on the bridge. In the twenty four hour cycle of the ship twelve of the hours were set to night. It helped keep the crew sane to have an artificial daylight cycle. Malhotra sat alone, the only sounds came from the humming engine and occasional beep on the radar as the Fat Dragon passed near a celestial body. He watched the black, lost in thought. He always took first watch in the pilot's chair. After him came Fede, then Ayers, and finally Alanys.

Just two more days and he would meet with Jager. Two more days.