The day had started out like any other really.
As Kevin always put it – there was the goal, accomplishing it, and getting paid. These days not much mattered to anyone. Over the years the entire crew of the Firefly learned to keep their eyes on the prize. If you thought of anything more than that, you more than not ended up deeply disappointed. For Nick personally, he sometimes had hopes that his life would mean more. But life had long ago taught him not to put much, if anything, into those hopes. It was easier to think of nothing but what their jobs involved.
“Hey Carter, hurry it up.” AJ smirked at him from beneath his airtight helmet. “Unless you plan on crashing here till everyone wakes up.”
This one was a smaller job, commandeer a ship long enough to get a plain chest that was supposed to be holding something that’ll sell well on the Black Market. At least that’s what the guy who hired them said. Nick didn’t care much about what they took. As long as they didn’t have to kill anyone they didn’t have to. So once they were able to get on board when the shuttle stopped off for fuel, they put a tracker on for the Firefly to follow. After that it was pretty simple to take over, knock out any innocents involved. There was only one Sultanate on board and it was hard not to take joy in killing any of them.
“I’m looking, I’m looking.” He grumbled good-naturedly as he sifted through the storage units.
“How’s it coming along Little Man?” Kevin’s voiced asked in his ear. Nick chuckled softly, adjusting the communication piece he wore on the side of his suit. He’d known the man, their captain, for as long as he could remember. Truth be told, he was rather protective of Nick despite the fact he was nothing close to a little kid anymore.
“Just fine oh impatient leader.”
“Good. Let’s get out of here before someone hears that distress signal.”
AJ frowned. “I thought I got them before they sent one off.”
Brian, their pilot, cut in. “I’m getting it on my transmitter…and shit, I’ve got two ships coming in from the southeast. We’re gonna have to leave. Don’t keep playing around.”
“But we haven’t found the-”
“I don’t care Nick. I’d rather have you two alive than that dammed chest.” Their captain said firmly. There was no room to argue.
A grumbled curse came from AJ. Nick couldn’t tell what language it was in though. While almost universally most beings knew English by this time, Japanese and Lycian were the second two. A lot got lost after the world had been destroyed, like Spanish, French and such the way Latin had gone centuries before. He had a feeling his friend knew more but that was because before AJ had come to join their crew a few years prior, he’d traveled throughout the galaxy. Nothing more than a drifter with no thoughts of a home. At first Nick had thought he’d steal what he could and kill everyone aboard. Easy to think given his past and rough looks, a man covered with various tattoos, sharp brown eyes, and stocky frame despite his shorter stature. But Kevin, he’d had seen something else. As always, he’d been right.
He sighed and motioned to Nick. “Let’s blow then before shit gets worse.”
Following the other man up to the upper levels and leaving the cargo hold behind, Nick mused again on his life. How much things changed. He wasn’t sure if he believed in God, any god at all. But if one existed could his parents see him now? What would they think, he wondered. His parents had faded far in his memory. There was one picture he managed to hang on to and that was the only way he could picture them. It was understandable of course; he’d been only a child of six when he’d lost them. Kevin’s parents, Ann and Jerald, had been close friends and had taken him in immediately. Kevin having been the closest in age with him (and even then there was a gap of almost nine years), took him under his wing like a little brother. At times Nick used to feel like he was cursed. Mainly because years later his second set of parents followed the Carters into the afterlife. The Richardsons had been killed during an invasion raid while Kevin had taken Nick on an outing during his leave. The three brothers had debated about Nick but Kevin stood firm against both Tim and Jerald Jr. and at twenty years old took care of the preteen himself. Less than a year later had he transferred to the base out by Ios, Nick moving with him like the other soldiers’ families.
And there he’d lived for about three years before the end of the war came, and his life changed yet again.
Sometimes he wondered what happened to Jerald and Tim, who fought in the war same as Kevin. But he never asked Kevin if he knew, he hated talking about the past now. And to be honest, Nick couldn’t quite blame him. Blowing some stray blonde strands of hair out of his eyes, he glanced out a window before picking up the pace a bit. Space was stunningly beautiful if you were ever able to stop and appreciate it. Unfortunately for him, that wasn’t often. He walked up the ramp and through the doors, happy to soon be back aboard the Firefly. Traveling around with no place to settle wasn’t the ideal way, but it was better than most who tried to live. So he was grateful. The ship was an older one though it had many hidden storage holes for smuggled goods that came in handy time and again. It was study and got them where they needed to go, able to survive everything they’d put it though.
It seemed like it should’ve fallen apart a long time ago, considering.
As AJ headed towards the galley for what he said was “damn needed comfort food after that hakuchi mission…” Nick opted to stay in the main hold and strip off his suit. He hated these things. It wasn’t comforting knowing that this and strong glass were what kept him from dying outside the ship. Shimming it off and setting it aside on a large crate, he strolled down in his regular clothes towards the cockpit.
Brian turned his head with a grin, expertly navigating them well away from the stalled carrier before the authorities realized just what Whedon Class ship it was. While they’d never been officially arrested, there’d been some run-ins and anyone working for the Dominion wasn’t fond of the Firefly’s crew. “So that went badly.”
Nick snorted, leaning against the back of the chair. “It was well hidden and we didn’t get enough time. Badly, fucked up, a waste…all words I’d use.”
“Don’t worry about it.” The pilot said lightly. With pale strawberry blonde hair and bright blue eyes, Brian had always been the biggest optimist of the group. He had a tendency to joke around and make light in situations most wouldn’t. In a few ways, he was the complete opposite of his cousin. He’d been training in the space ops to be a Skybird when the war had come to a sudden, bloody, end. But he said he’d learned more working like this than he ever did there. Like Kevin, he didn’t like to talk about the family he’d likely lost. “Can’t change it now.”
“Still, Lou’s going to be pissed.”
“Leave the worrying about Lou to me.” Kevin interrupted gruffly before Brian could reply. He sat down in his seat next beside him. When word first came of the alliance and soon to be known Dominion, he’d felt the biggest betrayal of the group. So much sacrifice and for what? To team up with those who destroyed everything? That was when the man had changed, became more jaded in life. He’d used what money he’d managed to stow away into buying the Firefly and once again told Nick they needed to pack up and leave. Because of this they were never official citizens, though the Sultanate clearly knew of them. He’d felt this way would be better and slowly called up those he’d known to see if they wanted to join, Brian and Howie had been the ones to answer.
“You know I’m right.” He said simply.
“Eh, it’ll give Howie more to do.” Brian joked with a smirk. Howie had been a medic in the war and a long time friend of Brian’s. Now he used what he learned to help take care of them anytime a dealing happened to get a little too rough. “Any coordinates in mind Kev?”
“Set a course towards Halcyon.”
A brow rose as his eyes met Kevin’s. Sometimes those green eyes seemed to look right through a man. “Really?”
He nodded. “We’ll see if we can’t sell what we’ve managed to pilfer and take on some passengers. There’s been more Dominion ships than normal lately. It’s time to cool it down.”
Every once in awhile they had to lay low. Things started getting a little tense so it was better not to attract any attention. When this happened, Kevin had come up with a contingency plan to keep the money going. There were many people who wished to get to the Outer Rim planets, or just to travel in general. Most weren’t terribly picky about their transport if they were desperate enough. So they charged what they could and took some on board. Sometimes a job would come along during the shuttle rides and they’d disguise it as a refueling. It was easy enough. People believed what they wanted to believe when it really came down to it.
“Yeah, but Halcyon?”
Kevin shrugged nonchalantly, running a hand tiredly through his raven colored hair. “Sure. I’ll just avoid certain people who aren’t too fond of me.”
“There’s a lot of people who aren’t fond of you cous.”
“That’s what makes it a fun challenge.”
“Oh yeah, playing who dodges bullets the best is the best game ever.” Brian retorted cheekily.
Nick laughed, rolling his eyes. “Alright, so who’s doing the recruiting? Since we know AJ will be stocking up on whatever porn he can get his hands on.”
“Don’t look at me, I did it last time.” Brian replied with a chuckle. “That crazy blonde kept trying to control me till we finally dropped her off at Nuada.”
“What was her name? Leigh-something.” Nick mused. “Either way that shit was funny.”
“It’s your turn to bring people in. Howie’s going to be with me in the market stocking up on what he needs, I am too. And we all know AJ’s not what we’d call a people person.” Kevin smiled, glancing at Brian. “Brian can help you though.”
Kevin gave him the look Nick always dubbed as the dirty brow, where his thick eyebrows furrowed together to look more like a caterpillar and his eyes narrowed. Most had a hard time trying to say no to it. “You have a better plan?”
“No.” He pouted playfully as Nick snickered. “I hope you get your own stalker this time.”
Brian started typing in the coordinates so that they could plot out their course. He loved flying and it always seemed to show in his expression somehow no matter what the discussion. “How long you think we’ll be staying?”
“Only a day. I don’t want to linger. Besides, after I tell Lou what happened he’ll be bound to look for us.”
“Like his fat ass can catch us.” Nick muttered. Pearlman had some influence in the underground but not enough to hurt Kevin’s reputation for getting things done. If he did, then they’d be handling the situation a little more carefully. It was lucky on their end.
“Doesn’t matter. He’ll get over it, he knows how it is, and I’m just not in the mood to listen to him whine.”
Neither was he. Whenever Kevin met with these people, he brought Nick and AJ along. AJ served rightly as a great show of muscle. He on the other hand was more for support. To help with whatever came and his boyish good looks helped many underestimate him. “Good point.”
“Go get Howie. That way he’ll know what’s going on.”
“What am I, your butler?” Nick teased with a knowing grin.
“You should know the answer by now.”
“I do, its yes.” He ran out, dodging whatever light object Kevin had tossed at him. Laughing to himself he headed down one of the corridors to the medical unit was.
Howie was someone who often kept to himself but was fun to be around as well. He was probably the most religious out of the lot of them, having come from a large catholic Puerto Rican family. He’d gone into medicine because in his words he wished to “help mankind”, and had joined the war effort for the same reasons. He’d felt he could use his expertise there too. When he’d managed to survive, having seen Kevin race to get off the base, he’d followed suit. The friends had parted ways but when the cousins had managed to track them down after buying Firefly, he’d willingly decided to go on board. Mainly because “otherwise you guys won’t be able to survive the holes you’ll dig yourselves into.” Nick felt it was more because he was sick of being treated like nothing more than a peasant despite his expertise and knowledge.
He peeked his head into the medical room. “Hey D, you here?”
Howie could be seen turning away from his tools, cleaning off a few. “You just missed AJ. Apparently that man he took down took a piece with him. Had to stitch him up.” He sighed dramatically. “Would’ve been less messy if he hadn’t stopped for food first.”
“Damn I didn’t know he got hurt.” Though he wasn’t surprised.
“Don’t tell me you did too.”
The blonde shook his head. “Nope. Just here to let you know Kevin wants to update you on what’s coming next.”
“Really? Hmm, we must be having a stay over somewhere then.” He shrugged.
“We’re trying to stay low for a bit. He says there’s been too many eyes around lately.”
“I’ll head up then. Can’t keep the Captain waiting.” Winking, he headed off.
Shaking his head in amusement Nick decided he’d crash in his room. The ship was large enough that there were plenty of rooms for the crew and the handful of passengers they wanted to take on. His was towards the upper level, where he could get a better view of the stars as they flew on by. He felt like that’s what his life was doing. Each day bringing him a new adventure but in a way the same monotony as before. He wasn’t sure what he could do to change that. Or if he would even want to. In the few moments they had some quiet time he’d stare up at the sky as their ship burned through it, drawing whatever came to his mind. Often he’d find himself with ideas or little melodies popping up in his head. In another life he probably would’ve pursued a more artistic route. He shook away those thoughts of what could have been. The best he could do was tackle one day at a time. Because it could be worse.
It could always be worse.