Hearing news of Zane from Nick had brightened Kevin’s spirits considerably the night before. He hadn’t seen the man in years. Not since they were seventeen actually. Hell, Nick was only about nine years old when Zane used up his life savings to buy himself a way off Earth. He’d said he could see things were about to go to hell and he wasn’t about to be dragged into the hand basket ride down. Looking back, Kevin knew he should’ve listened and convinced his family to go along. It was a thought he didn’t often entertain as it only caused depression and anxiety. All he could now is do his best to protect the family he had left, Brian and Nick especially.
Having let the others wander the town of Anu that morning before they leave, Kevin was enjoying the solitude. It wouldn’t last for much longer. Soon their passengers would arrive and he’d be able to judge for himself if Brian and Nick had made the right calls. At least with Zane on he could see if he couldn’t get him to check out the ship. Maybe even convince his old friend to stay on as crew since, like him; he wasn’t remotely fond of the Dominion. He had a feeling he’d go for it. Zane didn’t often say no to a chance for some excitement. And that’d be less money to spend in the long run—food and lodging for extra crew didn’t cost as much as repairs and such did.
He got out of his seat in the cockpit and walked down towards the locking dock. Glancing at his watch which had three small faces, set for times within three of the main planets he frequented while the main face was set by Earth time, it wouldn’t be long now before they had more company. Nick had warned him one, Jasyn, was pretty annoying but that he was only going as far as Airmid. There was another, a girl accompanying Zane but Kevin felt he could trust his old friend’s judgment even if he hadn’t seen him since just before he’d bought the Firefly.
He headed down the ramp where he saw AJ loading on the crates of supplies he’d bought in the city. Kevin chuckled to himself. He wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if there was a year’s worth the pornographic holos in there. He crossed his arms over his chest and watched, his lips curling in amusement. “What all did you get?”
“Heh, you know me.”
“That’s why I asked. Knowing you it’s either porn, weapons, a woman, or junk food.”
AJ laughed hard with a roll of his eyes. “No women, but the rest was a good bet.”
“I knew it. I’m off to go greet the new people.”
AJ snickered as he took his hands off the dolly he’d been pushing and let it idly hover in the air. “Right. Go be Captain Friendly.”
Kevin had quite the confident stride as he went down to the ramp and waited, watching the various residents of the dusty Anu. There were times he wondered if he should’ve just swallowed down what had happened after the fall of Earth. If he should’ve just become a registered citizen of the Dominion and attempt to make a living there. But then he’d see places where the people had done just that—humans, Lyciandans, Breasals, and other races all suffering far below the poverty line simply for living by the laws of the Dominion. There were times he would regret what he’d done and those reminders would wipe the guilt clean as if it never existed. And those they took on for travel he never took advantage of. Too often they were simply trying to survive, same as he.
The first to arrive was Jasyn, who was staring up at the ship as if he was trying to measure it up. He wasn’t human, at least not completely, and it took Kevin a moment to spot the race as a result. With the slightest tint of violet skin and bright blue curly hair that looked abnormally thick and textured, Jasyn had to have had a parent who was at least part Breasal. His third bright green eye confirmed it. Otherwise he would’ve figured his new arrival just had some body modifications done. He’d have to keep an eye on this one; Breasals were, generally speaking, an interesting sort.
“She looks old.” He said in place of a greeting.
A brow rose. “She’ll go into hyperspace easily enough, and has plenty of experience avoiding unwanted attention. Valuable these days. You can’t knock the Whedons, they were sturdy and not made for show like half the boats in the galaxy now.”
Suddenly Jasyn smiled. “I like a man who’ll stand by his craft even if it means losing a passenger.” He held out his hand. “Jasyn Starfrax.”
He shook it, nodding as Brian walked past them with a few new bags of his own. “Captain Kevin Richardson. If you go ahead and get on board, my pilot Brian here will show you your temporary room till we get to Airmid.”
As he headed inside he spotted Nick who had a new pack which he was sure was filled with various things ranging from comics to any art supply he could get his hands on. Nick had talents Kevin could’ve dreamed of and not for the first time did he wonder if the young man would’ve been better off without him. But every time that thought rose, he squashed it down after reminding himself of all the loss Nick himself had gone through over the years. “I was wondering if we would have to leave without you.”
The blonde snorted. “You aren’t leaving without Zane anyway so no.”
He grinned widely. “Yeah I am looking forward to seeing that asshole again.”
“Hey who you calling an asshole?” The one in question called out as he walked towards them, the young woman Nick had mentioned the night before right behind him. Zane was grinning, his bright green eyes shining under his unruly brown hair. “I’m still better looking.”
Kevin laughed, going over and giving his old friend a big hug. Nick had had a small smile and Kevin could tell he was holding back a line about him being a softie. It was true in a sense, though he could shut it all down when he had to. “In your dreams. When’d you start living here? I always refuel at Halcyon.”
“A couple years ago. Guess we kept missing each other.” A smirk. “I’ve heard stories from some of my customers about wanting to kill Captain Eyebrows. Figured I’d see you sooner or later.”
“Heh, they’re oversensitive.” Kevin muttered before turning to the girl. “And you are?”
“Cybelle.” She said softly, adjusting her satchel. Two other bags were piled on Zane’s dolly on top of his, far larger, crates. “Thank you for taking us on. Zane’s been telling me about you.”
He eyed his friend playfully. “Don’t tell me you told her everything.”
The other man snorted. “That’d take all night.”
Nick moved to help them get their things when something off in the distance made him frown. “Uh, Kev, I think it’s time to go.”
“Shit, yeah let’s get out.”
“What is it?” She asked as she followed the other three men on board.
“Nothing to worry about, I don’t think.” Kevin explained, silently wondering if AJ did any of his usual antics in the city. Those men did not look pleased and maybe he was paranoid but the group of Sultanates did seem to be headed straight for them. “But let’s just say they’re not fond of me and I don’t think it’s a good idea to see why they wanted to drop by for a visit. So if you guys can just hang on to something as we take off, I’ll have Brian get ready for launch.”
Zane watched with a chuckle as Kevin headed up towards the cockpit. “Don’t worry about it. They hate he never accepted the Dominion’s rule. And he might’ve broken a few laws…” He saw Cybelle’s expression change immediately. “But he’s harmless for the most part, trust me.”
Nick smiled at her. “Part of the reason they hate him is because he’s one of those known to help people in serious debt get to the Outer Rim where they can’t get to ‘em.” There were plenty more reasons but he didn’t feel the need to share that part.
But her gaze was out one of the windows as she held on to the rail and the craft began its ascent. “I’m not worried.” Though her expression said otherwise. Her gaze was soft, distant in a telling way that her thoughts weren’t anywhere close. “Captain Richardson doesn’t seem like a violent man.”
“Zane.” Kevin’s voice came through the intercom. “Can you come up here?”
The mechanic smirked to himself. “That’ll be him asking if I can fiddle with this thing and get her purring so much she’ll burn the sky with how fast she’s going.” He turned to Cybelle.
She smiled at him. “Go, I know how much you love what you do.” She watched him go before sighing softly. She trusted her friend, she did. But already she was questioning her decision to come aboard. Those Sultanates unnerved her greatly. Deciding she wasn’t in the mood to dwell, she grabbed her bags. “Where…”
“Oh, right.” Nick snickered. “We got distracted getting the hell out of Halcyon I forgot to show you where your guys’ rooms are.” He walked with her towards the guest rooms. The crew’s rooms were on the upper level just below the cockpit. “Have you known Zane long? It’s trippy seeing him; I haven’t seen him since I was a kid.”
“No, I met him about a month ago when I moved to Anu.” She chuckled. “He said I needed someone to look out for me against gangsters. He’s a really good friend to me, I trust him.”
“There’s a lot of them there cause they know that planet was practically ignored by the Dominion.” Nick explained as he made a turn. “Now that that isn’t the case anymore I’m sure they’ll be moving out of there completely. But the Black Market’s harder to get in to there.” He glanced back at her. “Or so I hear anyway.”
“I wouldn’t know. I used to live further in.” Cybelle explained. “Where things are more…monitored.”
“No wonder you left. I would’ve too. Where were you guys looking at?”
“Gwydion. I’m pretty, well…” She smirked. “Naïve when it comes to this area but Zane said it’d be distant enough without it being too chaotic. And it sounds pretty.”
Nick chuckled at the last part as the pair paused. “It’s not bad but the humidity’s rough. If I ever settled down it’d be all the way at the edge, towards Andromeda. Over on LeFay.”
Her brow furrowed as she tried to remember which one that was. “Isn’t that the ocean planet?”
“Yep but it’s not ocean, its fresh water. There’s a few islands but that’s it.” He smiled.
Personally it made her wonder why refugees didn’t think to go there. She was wondering why Zane hadn’t considered it. As if he heard her thoughts. Nick continued. “Most don’t go for it because there’s virtually no civilization there. Too many species need fucking salt water. I always sorta thought humans should make a go for it, but obviously we’re too lazy for it. You’d have to start over, re-colonize, and figure out what in the air screws with the signals and shit.”
“But you’re not lazy.” She mused. Even she couldn’t consider going without technology for too long.
“Nah, if I had my pad, a pencil, survival supplies, and the ocean, I think I’d make it okay.”
“And people?” Cybelle said coyly.
AJ snorted as he walked by. “Nick would fucking lose it if he didn’t have people around. Hey, you’re wanted upstairs now that Kev’s got Zane giving the old a girl an overhaul down in the engine room.”
The blonde saluted him with a grin. “Got it.” He set her stuff down in the doorway after pressing a button so the door retracted into the wall. “This is your room.” He motioned upstairs. “The galley is that way, feel free to snack and everyone has dinner together. It’s usually around five but there’ll be an announcement. You haven’t met Howie yet but he does the cooking. Um…” He paused to think. “Oh, so we operate by earth time in here.” He pointed at a clock on the wall. “Kevin’s sort of nostalgic.”
“I think I’ll be okay.”
“Alright. Zane’s room is across the hall and Jasyn, not sure where he is, his room’s beside yours.”
“Nick, will you come up here already?” Kevin’s voice came over the speakers.
She laughed. “You’re being summoned.”
“Eh, I’m used to it.” He replied cheekily. “I better go up though.”
“I’ll see you at dinner then.”
“Sure.” Nick started the stroll upstairs. He always liked seeing who they took on. AJ hadn’t been lying when he said he’d go insane without people. It was part of the reason he stayed on. This was a home in a sense, and the crew was the only family he had. And while they were all on one shuttle, he enjoyed the various personalities they came across. Kevin and AJ he knew could always do without them even while knowing that having people come aboard was necessary; so it usually fell to him, Howie, and Brian to help them feel welcome.
He was slightly surprised when he entered the pilot’s nest and Brian wasn’t there per usual. It was just Kevin who nodded at him to sit in what was usually his cousin’s chair. “He’s down talking to Jasyn about something.” He said without greeting. Kevin tended to act like a mind reader most of the time.
“So what’s up?”
Typing something into the large console, he pulled up a message onto a monitor. “It’s Eddie. He’s gotten wind of a new job but it’s out of the way.”
Nick eyed him playfully. “I thought we were laying low? One day doesn’t count.”
“We will be. If everything goes as planned then we won’t catch any known attention from guards.”
He snorted, remembering how many times they’d said that before. “When does that ever happen?”
Kevin simply smiled. “On occasion. Anyway, I just need to know if it’s going to stir up too much suspicion among our two other passengers.”
Nick considered that. “I’m not sure. Cybelle seems alright, but she hasn’t been in these parts long. I think she’ll know but she trusts Zane too so that might help. I don’t think she’ll try and rat us out or anything. I haven’t had a chance to talk to the other one yet.”
“Brian’s off getting a better feel for Jasyn now.”
“Alright, so what’s the plan?”