Zenith

Post Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:08 pm

Re: Zenith

McNally adjusted his coat as he followed Marshall and Mei down the ramp, the tall sniper weighed down with two large, ornate cases. ‘How come a woman who earns her keep not wearing much needs so many clothes.’

Mei scowled back at him. ‘It’s not all clothes,’ she snapped.

‘So what else is in there?’ McNally asked. ‘A whole bunch of batteries?’

Mei fixed him with an almost pleasant smile, but her eyes showed only contempt. ‘It’s none of you business, Mr McNally. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to be off.’

McNally watched them go. Astrid had already set off with Chai to organise a refuel and Kid was busy checking the damage to the Roisin. The evening air was still, hot and heavy as the sun set and the clouds thickened, threatening a stormy night.

‘Nice work, McNally,’ Kid remarked as she pulled a sheared bolt from a spoiler mounting now missing the spoiler.

‘Maybe you’d’ve preferred me crashing her pristine’n’all,’ he muttered back.

Kid shook her head. ‘I was referrin’ to the not crashin’!’ She shrugged. ‘Can’t even pay you a compliment, can I.’

McNally placed his hat on his head. ‘Didn’t ask for one,’ he said coldly as he set off from the landing stage.

‘Where’re you going, McNally?’ Regan called, reaching the foot of the ramp and regarding the damage to his ship.

‘This’a way,’ came the reply.

Regan frowned slightly. ‘You maybe wanna take company, just in case?’

‘Nope,’ McNally said and walked away.

Regan chuckled and went to survey the damage close up as a pair of eyes peered from the gloom at the top of the ramp, watching the laconic pilot stride away.

Post Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:11 pm

Re: Zenith

Regan and Kid were too busy looking at damaged spoilers to notice Alisha tread lightly down the ramp and make off into the gathering night. A distant fork of lightning slashed the sky as she half-jogged away from the landing stage, past the security cordon which paid her no heed and into the crowds of downtown Sihnon City, her eyes watching for the brown hat as it bobbed along. She made progress, getting closer to him, a little wary of her surroundings but happy to be off the ship. She was abruptly barged by an imposing woman in a tattered flight-suit and chewing on a cigar, momentarily distracted from her quarry. ‘Sorry,’ she muttered as the woman just grinned back, then she looked for McNally again. She stopped in her tracks, face to face with him.

‘You mind explainin’ what you think you’re doin’?’ he growled.

‘I’m not staying on the ship,’ Alisha replied. ‘Nor am I wantin’ to wander about on my own... so Regan said I’d need an escort and I figured you’d do.’ She smiled warmly.

McNally nodded slowly. ‘That so?’

She took his arm and starting leading him off in the direction he had been travelling. ‘So, where’re we goin’?’

He stopped and pulled her over to the side of the street. ‘I reckon back to the ship to get this straightened out with Regan. I don’t need no one lookin’ out for me. You want escortin’ someplace ask Osden or the Padre. Hell’s teeth, even Burton’ll be happy to show you aroun’ just so he’s walkin’ on solid ground.’

‘All right,’ she said raising her hands. ‘Okay, this is my idea, not Regan’s, I kinda snuck off the ship to get some fresh air and see the place. What’s that re-entry manoeuvre called by the way?’

‘Fa kuang,’ McNally snarled, looking around tensely. ‘This ain’t the kind of place you go sight-seein’.’ He gestured to some ‘hanzi’ script, like graffiti, on the wall. ‘That’s a Triad mark,’ he murmured. ‘This ain’t law-abidin’ territory, this is whatever the gang that run it says. If I end up in a world o’hurt that’s my luck out, but Regan’ll tear me a new one if I get his latest recruit into trouble.’

Alisha scowled. ‘I can take care of myself.’

‘Then why’re you needin’ me?’

She smirked. ‘I’m not needin’ anything of the sort, but if you end up in a ‘world o’hurt’ I can maybe patch you up and get you back to the ship.’

‘Have you been drinkin’?’

‘No more than usual?’ She winked. ‘Wha’d’ya say?’

He looked to the heavens as the storm broke overhead. He removed his hat and let the rain wash over his face, wiping it away and replacing his hat. ‘I’m know I’m gonna regret this... you better be packing?’ She frowned momentarily then caught his meaning, producing her two-shot pistol. He shook his head gravely. ‘Like bringin’ a tooth-pick to a knife-fight.’ He reached to the small of his back, under this coat, pulling something loose and pressed a small-frame revolver into her hands an instant later. It was a silver-grey six-shooter with a wooden grip. ‘Pull it if I tell you, use it if you hafta, otherwise, keep it out of sight. And don’t lose it or so help me I’ll leave your sorry pi-gu here to rot!’ His eyes darted. ‘We’ve been too still for too long. Let’s move,’ and he dragged her through the downpour.

Post Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:12 pm

Re: Zenith

Alisha wondered where McNally was taking her, vaguely disconcerted with his manner. His brief anger had been replaced by cold detachment, an air of a man who didn’t care what happened to her, yet he had placed a gun in her hands. She still felt uneasy as he progressed through the crowded underbelly of Sihnon City and she realised she was thoroughly lost and had no idea which direction the spaceport was. McNally’s purposeful stride halted only occasionally as he seemed to check in each direction, then, suddenly, with a glimmer of recognition in his eyes he glanced briefly to her.

‘Fancy a drink?’ he asked, not waiting for her relieved assent as he practically dragged her down steep steps to a dive-bar beneath an traditional Chinese building. The lanterns beside the door carried a subtle triad ‘Hanzi’ he recognised from before the war.

Inside, the bar was brightly lit and bustling as McNally pushed through the bar. The bartender, a pale-skinned Occidental man, regarded the new arrivals with amusement. ‘Don’t get many of your kind in here,’ he remarked, his voice reedy.

Alisha frowned at the remark, then realised there were only a handful of other Occidentals in the bar, the rest being or Oriental descent and possibly even pure Chinese ethnicity.

‘Two shots of your best rot-gut,’ McNally grunted, putting his hat down.

The bartender placed two large glasses down and filled them with a translucent orange liquid. McNally sipped his while Alisha drained hers in a blinking. ‘Leave the bottle,’ she said, grinning at McNally.

He shook his head slowly, then looked to the bartender. ‘Yeah, leave the bottle, my... associate... is thirsty.’ He turned around and leaned back against the bar.

‘What’re you looking for,’ Alisha asked, filling her glass for the third time.

‘A familiar face,’ he replied softly as he nursed his drink. ‘Y’know this stuff’ll kill ya slowly, from the inside out.’

She chuckled. ‘Hey, who’s the medic here? This is just, ya know, medicinal.’

‘Physician heal thyself,’ he said softly, draining his drink and placing the glass down behind. ‘If you’ll ‘scuse me, I need to see a man about a dragon.’

She watched him cross the busy bar towards a corner table where several thick-set men were seated with a slim, formally attired male. McNally was an enigma and no mistake, in demeanour not seeming to care about her but in deed, arming her and remarking on her drinking, he exhibited apparent concern for her well-being, still it would do her no good if he got himself into a fight, her hand slipping into her pocket, feeling the cool gunmetal of the revolver. ‘I hope you know what you’re doing, McNally,’ she murmured to herself.

One of the thugs regarded McNally coolly. ‘Shuh muh?’

‘I’m looking for the Red Pole,’ McNally remarked.

The slight man in the formal silk shirt frowned. ‘Why would I want to talk to you, yi da tuo da bian.’

‘Pile’a shit?’ McNally chuckled, but there was no real mirth. ‘You’re a funny man.’

‘And if you don’t leave, you’ll be a dead man.’

‘Didn’t think killin’ was the Chang way?’ McNally grunted. ‘Especially on home turf.’

The Red Pole made a gesture and two of the thugs rose. ‘Perhaps my friends here should help you leave while you’re still breathing then.’

‘Don’t ever remember Mama Chang being so unfriendly.’

The Red Pole ignored the remark. ‘Remove him, ma shong!’

The two thugs grabbed McNally’s arms and turned him, beginning to march him toward the door. As Alisha felt an adrenalin surge, McNally slipped one arm loose, driving his elbow into that thug’s throat, while he shoved the second assailant away with surprising force. Already more heavies were in motion, one trying to grapple McNally to the ground, but McNally was too quick and pitched the man into a table, sending drinks and the seated Occidental drinkers in all directions. As McNally rounded on the three Chang enforcers standing, the two men and one woman from the table scrambled to their feet with punches starting to be thrown, and McNally found himself with three allies.

Alisha hopped up onto the bar for a better view as chaos ensued and the brawl started to spread like wildfire. In the midst, McNally seemed content to throw and grapple with the Chang enforcers, throwing punches sparingly, as if he was conserving his effort. The other three brawling Occidentals, the man in a brown coat, the tall and pretty woman with mocha-coloured skin and the heavily built man with a funny woollen hat, seemed to be almost enjoying the violence. Other small fights had broken out, a sure sign of scores being settled, and she almost lost McNally in the spreading melee until one of the thick-set Chang enforcers reached him and slammed a fist into his face. McNally reeled, crashing into the bar just beside Alisha’s perch. ‘How’s it going?’ she asked.

He used the bar to haul himself up, a swelling building over his right eye. ‘It’s been worse,’ he grunted, shaking his head.

Behind him one of the battered Chinese brandished a bottle of bourbon. ‘Look out,’ she shrieked, hand reaching for the revolver, but McNally turned, grabbing the man’s arm, disarming him and placing the bottle beside her before slamming his fist into the man’s guts and then landing a further blow across the man’s face sending him into unconsciousness. She gathered up the bottle as another fist slammed into McNally’s face, sending him back against the bar. He recoiled only for a moment, swinging a counter that landed with brutal power and floored the attacker.

McNally sagged a little as the largest of the Red Pole’s enforcers shoved through the melee and advanced. McNally stepped up and swung a couple of punches, both landing but barely stalling the brute who then grabbed for him, but he twisted away and gave himself space, swing more punches until he was set upon by two of the Red Pole’s men who were still standing. They struggled to hold McNally as the brute wound up a land a devastating blow but, at the last moment, McNally seemed to drop, the punch instead smashing into one enforcer’s face and laying him out. McNally recovered and kicked the legs out from under the other grappler, ending up against the bar again as the brute backhanded him.

Bleeding from the mouth he clambered up the bar to Alisha. ‘Okay,’ he grunted. ‘It’s been better!’

Alisha dived behind the bar as the brute pulled McNally around and pulled back his fist. Her hand was on the pistol and she pulled it out, rising and pointing it at the brute’s face. He looked up as she racked the hammer back... and a woman’s voice shrieked, ‘ENOUGH!’

Everything stopped, everyone frozen as all eyes turned to the speaker, an achingly slender Chinese woman. Her waist-length hair, the colour of raven’s wings, was combed straight over one shoulder. Her vivid green eyes shimmered and her attire left little to the imagination, a stylised cheongsam with daringly high side-slits.

Alisha let out a breath as the thug let McNally go and stood back. She lowered the hammer and pocketed the pistol before McNally could refocus, holding onto the bar and blinking through the blossoming pain.

The woman went to the Red Pole. ‘Juh shi suh mo go dohng shee?’ His response was to bow and gesture to McNally, the woman striding through the chaos as the erstwhile brawlers more righted tables and dragged unconscious colleagues out of the way.

Alisha grabbed a wet cloth from behind the bar and pulled McNally’s face to her, dabbing at the blood caking his mouth. He winced and growled, ‘Damn it, lady, go easy.’

‘Oh, grow up!’ she snapped back as she cleaned his face and gently felt for more serious damage. ‘I don’t think anything’s broken, you might have a concussion, I’ll need to get you checked out.’

‘You’ll do nothing of the sort,’ he muttered, still leaning against the bar for support. ‘I’ve taken beatin’s plenty.’

The woman halted at McNally’s shoulder. ‘Yo hua kwai suo,’ she remarked softly.

McNally turned to her, blinking as the swelling over his right eye grew. ‘Name’s McNally, I recognised the tags on the street and figured this must’ve been the Dragon’s House. I’m looking to speak to Mama Chang.’

She frowned slightly. ‘You look familiar... where are you from?’

‘Lots of different places, though you might know me from the time I spent on Athens. I’m just passin’ through.’

‘McNally?’ she murmured. ‘You fought in the Krivak Arena on Athens... I watched you fight.’ She looked back towards the group of men with the Red Pole. ‘It seems you haven’t lost your edge.’

He shrugged. ‘Ain’t always nice in the black. So, you Mama Chang’s assistant?’

‘I’m her daughter... and I am Mama Chang.’

He straightened. ‘Erm, sorry,’ he remarked, lowering his head.

She smiled. ‘My mother died peacefully in her sleep a year ago. My brother wasn’t ready,’ she murmured, regarding the Red Pole carefully. ‘So I assumed control. When he learns to keep his temper, I will elevate him and take a less formal role.’

‘Dr Alisha Corbon,’ Alisha said offering her hand. ‘Pleased to meet you.’

McNally shook his head slowly as Mama Chang regarded the medic with mild amusement. ‘Sorry, she’s new around here.’

‘An honour,’ Mama Chang said softly but Alisha’s hand went unshook. ‘McNally shian shen, what do you want?’

‘I was hoping your mother could take a look at something for me,’ he said. ‘However, under the circumstances...’

‘My mother taught me everything, McNally shian shen. Why don’t you show me?’

McNally shifted uneasily. ‘In private?’

‘Of course,’ Mama Chang murmured. As Alisha clambered over the bar, she added. ‘Just you, McNally shian shen... not her. She stays here. My men will make sure she isn’t lonely.’ She smiled sweetly, but there was something predatory in her expression that McNally didn’t like.

Alisha frowned slightly and placed the damp cloth against McNally’s swollen eyes. ‘Here, take this, it’ll help with the swelling until we get back to the ship.’

‘You gonna be okay?’ he asked, feeling blessed relief from the cool wet fabric.

Alisha grinned. ‘Don’t worry, I’m quite the screamer!’ McNally rolled his eyes.

‘Come, follow me’ Mama Chang murmured, sashaying towards the stairs, her movements offering daring flashes of her milky thighs and McNally felt his pulse quicken slightly.

The upper landing was more open than he expected, with a corridor running the length of the building and rooms on either side. Two scantily clad girls chatted outside one of the rooms, regarding him with interest and giggling. ‘A whorehouse!’ he said.

‘A house of pleasurable distractions,’ Mama Chang said tartly. ‘This way,’ she said, beckoning McNally into her boudoir. He stepped inside, the heady aroma of perfumes and incense devised to relax and arouse in equal measure. She bade him to sit as she reclined on a sumptuous red velvet sofa provocatively. ‘So, what is it that I can do for you, McNally shian shen?’

McNally took the cloth from his face. ‘I have something I want you to take a look at,’ he said... and opened his coat.

Her eyes widened and she licked her lips, leaning forward slowly. ‘My, that’s a big one. Where ever did you get that?’

‘I kinda inherited it from my father.’

‘Very impressive, McNally shian shen, rare to find a man with so large a weapon. May I... handle it?’

‘Sure,’ he said and unlimbered the large calibre pistol from the front of his belt and handed it to her.

‘A Vulcan four-fourteen,’ she murmured as she weighed it in her hands, examining in closely. ‘Modified too, nicely done. Four-fifty calibre?’

‘Four-sixty-four,’ he said.

‘How much do you want for it? Four? Five-hundred?’

‘It’s not for sale,’ he replied. ‘I need it repaired. The breech-block’s corroded badly and it needs re-machining.’ He regarded her with a slight frown. ‘Your mother was the best weaponsmith on Athens back in the day. Can you do it?’

‘For the right price.’

‘And that is?’

‘One-hundred,’ she remarked.

‘Twenty.’

‘Seventy-five.’

‘Thirty.’

She frowned. ‘Much less than sixty isn’t worth my trouble.’

‘Forty, not a coin more,’ he said. ‘Or maybe you’re not the weaponsmith your mother was.’

She smiled gently. ‘Don’t insult my mother’s name.’

‘Don’t insult my intelligence,’ he muttered. ‘Maybe you don’t want my trade.’

‘Fifty,’ she said softly. ‘No less.’

He nodded slightly. ‘You have anything else for sale? Pistols or maybe blades?’

Her smile broadened. ‘I’m sure I can find something suitable.’ She placed the Vulcan on the low table. ‘I can have this repaired by noon tomorrow, shall I send word?’

‘No,’ he said, rising and placing the cloth against his head. ‘I’ll come back here at noon tomorrow.’ He offered his hand. ‘Fifty for the work and we can discuss anything else like civilised folks, can’t we.’

She gently shook his hand. ‘Of course, McNally shian shen.’ She sat back again. ‘Is that all you want? Is there nothing else I can offer you? One of my girls for a few hours?’

He shook his head. ‘Nope.’

‘Then perhaps you and your lovely companion would prefer a male, I can supply a you-’

‘No!’ he said sharply cutting her off. ‘I don’t care for such. Until tomorrow, Chang shao jeh’ He left the room and crossed to the stairs, hearing cheers and roars of laughter from below... and no screaming.

As he reached the bar, he caught sight of Alisha, wearing his hat, seated opposite one of the Chang enforcers, a selection of bottles between them and the sadistic glint in her eye as the bartender poured a large measure of something blue for each of them. Alisha grinned and the crowd cheered as she raised her glass. ‘Gan beyh,’ she hollered and gulped the liquid back with gusto, slamming the empty glass down. There were whoops and cheers as she wiped her mouth on the back of her sleeve. The enforcer regarded the glass before him, gripped it and started to drink, gulping and swallowing, but abruptly gagging and coughing as his body rebelled. There were more cheers and Alisha received back-slaps and hugs from the gathering of Orientals before McNally reached her side. ‘Ni how, McNally,’ she grinned, blinking slowly.

‘We’re leavin’,’ he said softly and started to help her up, noting that the Red Pole was in deep discussion with the battered Occidental in the brown coat and his companions.

‘Hey, I was just getting started,’ she muttered as she swayed slightly and seemed to have trouble looking him in the eyes.

‘Yeah, well, I think you’re finished.’ He nodded to the bartender and helped Alisha out of the bar and back into the rain.

Post Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:12 pm

Re: Zenith

Alisha’s arm hooked in his again, and McNally found himself steering the doctor back through the streets. She swayed slightly as she walked, every other step bumping into his side, as she couldn’t quite synchronise with his stride. The rain lashed down upon them and the time they had spent in the bar drying off suddenly seemed quite void. In the night sky above them the lightning flashed sending vivid shadows across the buildings, and a slow count of four later the thunder boomed.

The young doctors gaze struggled to focus as she followed his lead back through the twisting streets. Alisha didn’t expect an answer, but that didn’t stop the question leaving her lips, “What was tha’ all about then?” Her speech seemed deliberately slow and clear, determined not to slur her words as her final drink had started to take an effect. “Or were you just out lookin’ for trouble?” She peered up at him through the water streaming from the brim of McNally’s hat, still perched on her head at a slight angle.

Post Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:12 pm

Re: Zenith

McNally blinked through the rain. ‘That weren’t trouble,’ he said softly. ‘That was just a little business.’ He drew her under the overhang of a maintenance building just outside the spaceport and pulled her around. ‘An’ I’ll be takin’ my back-up!’

She fumbled in her pocket and handed the small revolver back, watching him weight it in his palm before secreting in at the small of his back. ‘Seems important to you,’ she said slowly.

He looked down at her, a play of emotion on his face. ‘I ain’t nice folks, lady, so don’t think you’re on an inside track with me. We ain’t friends, you invited yourself along and I decided it was more trouble bringin’ you back here any sooner.’ He ran his fingers through his wet hair and then took his hat from her head. ‘You wanna make friends with the rest of the crew, you go ahead, but you don’t wanna know me!’ He half-dragged her back into the rain and into the spaceport, reaching the open ramp and striding aboard.

Chai was seated on a cargo crate, obviously on watch while the ship was in port. He looked up and hollered. ‘McNally’s back with the new Doctor.’

‘I was wondering where she’d got to,’ Regan remarked, appearing on the walkway as McNally manoeuvred the woman up the gantry.

‘Yeah,’ McNally muttered. ‘I found her wandering the streets looking to get drunk.’

Regan said, ‘Looks like she found getting drunk.’ He then noted the bruising on McNally’s face. ‘You been makin’ friends again?’

Alisha grinned at Regan. ‘McNally’s been showin’ me a good time,’ she said with a wink. ‘Y’should’a seen him, he wa-‘

‘I walked into a door getting her out of the bar,’ McNally said, raising his voice to cut her off.

‘That so?’ Regan’s eyebrows rose sharply and he grinned.

McNally didn’t answer, instead half-carrying Alisha onto the quarterdeck. ‘I’ll need to get Hopscotch, Poppy’r Kid,’ he murmured as he reached her cabin door. ‘You bein’ of a female persuasion.’

Alisha shook her head. ‘I can take care o’myself, McNally,’ she said pushing him away, swaying slightly and stumbling into her cabin.

McNally gave a non-committal shrug. ‘As you say,’ he murmured and turned towards his own cabin.

‘Hey,’ she called, leaning through her cabin door. ‘You got a first name?’

He glanced back. ‘Yep.’

‘What is it?’

‘None of your damned business,’ he grunted and sauntered to his own cabin.

‘That’s a mouthful,’ she said with a snigger and disappeared, her door slamming shut.

Back down the corridor Regan shook his head, amused somewhat by McNally as Chai came up from the cargo deck. ‘We’re all closed up, all crew accounted for,’ he said. ‘Is it me or has McNally been in a fight.’

Regan nodded. ‘I reckon so. Odd that walkin’ into a door gives ya bloodied knuckles.’

‘You think we should be ready for trouble?’ Chai asked.

‘He doesn’t wear an insignia,’ Regan remarked, tapping the black rose symbol on his arm. ‘I even doubt he’d tell anyone anything about us no matter what they did to him.’ He considered for long moments before sighing finally. ‘Just the sort of man we’ll need on Zenith.’

Post Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:13 pm

Re: Zenith

Back at the Roisin, Kid had collected a pile of scrap spoiler panels and fittings in the lee of the ship. A small crowd of fellow mechanics had gathered to offer sympathy and rail against careless pilots. Most of them were putting forward their own exaggerated tales of woe and destruction, including one who cheerfully claimed to have rebuilt a firefly pretty much from scrap after what sounded like a pitched space battle, reaver attack and crash landing combined. Mostly, Kid was listening with only half an ear, her attention fixed on the ship and spotting anything she may have missed on the first sweep, while a couple of the more helpful mechanics offered advice. Finally satisfied, she jumped down to join them.

“Anyone got any advice on where to get a spare RCS control relay from?”

There was a bit of consultation before the group came up with the name of a mostly reliable dealer, usually found at the main spaceport bar after sundown. Having done pretty much all she could until either the weather let up or she got ahold of some parts, Kid offered to buy a drink for anyone who’d introduce her. There was a slightly undignified scramble from some of the group, before the whole gaggle set off as one towards the spaceport bar in a cloud of banter and insults.

Post Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:13 pm

Re: Zenith

Several hours later Kid emerged, stinking of smoke and stale beer, but with a broad grin on her face. She had secured the parts she needed, and at not too bad a price. They'd be ready for pickup tomorrow after the captain had agreed. She was certain he would though. And she had had a good night into the bargain.

As she meandered through the spaceport back towards the Roisin, she wasn't exactly surprised to see two darker shadows waiting ahead in the lee of a ship. She had spotted them outside the bar earlier waiting in the shadows until they spotted and followed lone people off and returned shortly afterward. At the exact moment she should have appeared around the ships bulkhead, one of them stepped out, but whatever he was going to say died on his lips, the tarmac in front of him was empty.

He turned back to his companion with a puzzled shrug, just in time to see Kid rising from the gap under the bulkhead she'd just squeezed through. The one still in the shadows had just opened his mouth when Kid punched him square in the stomach. He doubled over, his nose crunching down on her rising knee. The second would-be thief managed to land a blow on her side while she was dealing with the first, but compared to some of the punishment McNally had been handing out, she barely felt it. Clearly, neither of then knew how to fight. His second punch grazed past her ear as she spun, then grabbed his extended arm and used it to propel him into the side of the ship. There was a suitably satisfying metallic thump and he slumped down unconscious.

Kid turned back to check on the first thief, prodding him with a boot only prompted a vague whimper. She was almost disappointed. Shrugging slightly, she turned to the unconscious one, making sure he could still breathe before grabbing the satchel he had been carrying and heading off at a steady pace. No point drawing attention by running.

Some distance away, she crouched down in the lee of a shuttle and emptied the bag. There was a wad of cash, some watches and various jewelry, and a small wooden fan. She pocketed the cash and the fan, then stashed the bag under the shuttle in the shadows. Straightening up, she set off towards the Roisin via a roundabout route.

Post Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:13 pm

Re: Zenith

"Is that a cover or is it a career change?" The lean Oriental peered at the Preacher through the cigar smoke and Lock simply smiled.
"The latter, Quon." He told the man.
"Jes ... sorry, heck! You found God, sarge?" Quon, like many of the smarter ones in his line of work had saved through his service and now owned a bar on the God forsaken rock. Of course, since then his skills had carved him out a good deal more than a bar.
"Consider me looking." Lock replied as he lit his cigar slowly.
"Still packing I see." Someone of Quon skills didn't need to see the gun to know it was there.
"Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death will I fear no evil..." quoted the Preacher.
"Nor suffer it to remain standing, I'll bet. Seems an odd way to call in a life debt..." Quon commented nodding to a serving girl who shuffled forwards with a large wooden box. "Don't get me wrong this is difficult to get your hands on and expensive too but with your contacts back home this would be easier to get."
"I don't go home." The Preacher replied. "Our debt is settled and we are even."
"No, we are not." Quon told him carefully watching the Preacher over the rim of his whiskey glass.
The Preacher raised an eyebrow in question.
"My life is worth more than a box of coffee beans, consider this a down payment." Quon winked at him. "Stay for the entertainment? We can relive old times?"
"The old times cost too much." The Preacher replied as he came to his feet and collected the box. "Thank you for the coffee."
Quon watched the Shepherd leave and beckoned to an underling.
"I want to know what ship the Master Sergeant is on and I want to know when it leaves port." The gangster told his man.
"You want me to leave them with a message?" The thug asked.
"Hell no, you leave that man and his people be. I'll just feel safer when that man ain't on my planet anymore."

Post Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:13 pm

Re: Zenith

The day was hot and heavy as McNally tramped down the cargo ramp. Regan and Kid were overseeing the delivery of the replacement parts as he strode past. Regan caught McNally’s eye. ‘Goin’ that’a way again?’

McNally shrugged slightly. ‘I was reckonin’ on some shoppin’!’ McNally replied. ‘That new Doc’s having a liquid breakfast so I figured now was as good a time, not keen on ‘er taggin’ along.’

Regan nodded sagely. ‘Cramp’s your style, uh Chuckles?’

McNally shook his head gently and adjusted his hat. ‘I prefer only to have to watch my step, not nobody else’s,’ he said. ‘I’ll see you later, Cap’n.’ He strode away into the humid day. The streets were bustling, the air thick with the stench of animals, stale sweat and bad cooking. His route took him between street vendors selling various foods and textiles, trinkets and cheap jewellery, his eyes staring through the unkempt and unclean as they vied for his attention. He reached the bar just before noon, stepping down to the door and banging his fist on it.

‘We’re closed,’ came the muffled reply.

McNally slammed his fist against the door again, this time hearing footsteps approach from the other side.

‘I said we’re closed,’ the voice growled, eyes appearing from behind a small barred window. The eyes widened. ‘Oh, it’s you.’ Bolts were drawn and the door opened, the Occidental barman waving McNally in. ‘The Dragon-Lady said you’d be here after noon.’

McNally shrugged. ‘I don’t like to be late,’ he said, reaching the bar. ‘S’bad manners.’

The barman regarded him with a frown. ‘A man so free with his fists sees tardiness as bad manners? I’ve heard it all.’ He tapped a steaming pot on a hotplate. ‘Can I get you a coffee? On the house.’

McNally nodded. ‘Sure, why not,’ he said, perching on a barstool.

The barman poured a cup of steaming black liquid and placed it before McNally. ‘I’ll go tell the Dragon-Lady you’re here,’ he remarked, disappearing through the back.

McNally sipped the hot bitter coffee and closed his eyes, trying to make sense of his thoughts. In the past few months he had gone from being a passenger on the Roisin, to a spare gun with a usefulness in piloting occasionally, to becoming the pilot full time. He shook his head absently. He was originally intending on being on the ship for enough time as to find a new place where paying bare-knuckle fights were to be had, but had ended up as part of the crew in a niche all his own making, but now he was responsible for getting them from place to place. ‘Still,’ he murmured to the empty room. ‘Regan’ll still need a scapegoat sometime, someplace.’ Footsteps behind him suddenly broke his reverie and he turned to see the Red Pole emerge from the upper floor.

‘Ni how, chwen joo,’ the Red Pole said, followed down by the biggest enforcer who still had blemishes where McNally had hit his jaw.

‘Ni how, Chang shian shen,’ McNally replied, not wanting to provoke anything.

‘Back to finish what you started?’ the Red Pole said.

‘Just come for my merchandise,’ McNally replied.

The barman reappeared. ‘Mama Chang will be...’ his voice trailed away. ‘Good morning, sir,’ he remarked to the Red Pole, bowing low.

‘Do not refer to my honourable sister in that way, zhan dou de yi kuai rou.’

McNally put the coffee down and slipped off the stool. ‘You have a fine mouth for that talk,’ he muttered, placing his hat on the bar and stepping across towards the Red Pole. The huge enforcer stepped past the Red Pole and stood slightly in front of him, blocking McNally’s approach. McNally stopped and regarded the mountain of muscle. ‘And you hide behind your thugs when it suits.’

The Red Pole smiled. ‘I know how to use my influence.’

McNally nodded. ‘But not how to use your brains,’ he said. ‘You treat your barman like you treat everyone under you, even your thugs.’ He winked at the huge man before him.

The man’s expression changed, from an inscrutable stare to a frown, then to a flash of realisation. He glanced back at his superior and shrugged slightly, stepping aside and lowering his huge frame onto a bench.

The Red Pole’s face turned scarlet. ‘Fung, get up, ma shong, you ri shao gou shi bing.’

McNally chuckled and stepped up to the fuming Oriental. ‘Y’see that’s what I mean,’ he said. ‘After all, you’re not actually the boss, are you.’

Behind McNally a soft, feminine voice spoke. ‘That is correct, McNally shian shen.’ McNally looked back finding Mama Chang dressed in a plain grey smock-dress, adorned with a tool-belt. On her feet were heavy-duty work-boots and she was peeling leather gloves from her perfectly manicured fingers.

The Red Pole glowered at his sister. ‘How can you let this joo fuen chse get away with this insult? He should be beaten to a pulp and thrown out.’

Mama Chang smiled back mockingly. ‘While I agree he is uncultured and uncouth, he does have better manners than you. Of course, if you feel that he needs a beating... why don’t you deliver one.’

McNally regarded the red-faced Red Pole. ‘Well?’ The swing was telegraphed and mistimed as McNally saw it and ducked under it. He countered, delivering three punishing body-blows which sent the Red Pole crashing back into a table. The young man recovered and kicked out, McNally catching the flailing leg and throwing him across the room clattering into the barstools. McNally advanced. ‘Get up,’ he growled as the Red Pole struggled to his feet. A fist jabbed out and glanced off McNally’s cheek, the counter landing solidly against the side of the Red Pole’s head, sending him down, gasping in pain and humiliation. McNally grabbed his lapel and hauled him up, but the young man was beaten, crying and shielding his face from further abuse. With a shrug, McNally deposited him on a barstool and stepped back to his own seat, sitting down and taking up his coffee cup, draining it and pushing it towards the incredulous barman. ‘What’s a man gotta do to get a refill?’

Mama Chang clapped slowly. ‘Very good, McNally shian shen. Very entertaining... if a little one-sided.’

‘Can’t always find the best opponents,’ he replied as the huge enforcer took the Red Pole back towards the stairs.

‘See to him, Fung,’ Mama Chang said to the thug, who nodded a bow to her. ‘So, McNally shian shen, would you like to come through?’ She beckoned him with a red-taloned finger. He took up his hat and followed into the back with a nod of acknowledgement to the barman.

McNally had to admit, even in the plain smock-dress, she was a singularly elegant, a faint stirring that he hadn’t felt is such a long while as she led him down a short corridor and out across an open area to a small workshop. There, laid upon an oily cloth, was his Vulcan, the brass polished and the wood grip pristine. He took it up, feeling the weight of it in his hand, slipping his middle finger into the trigger-loop and racking the action. It was once more smooth and sharp. He worked it several more times, then pointed it at the ground and squeezed the trigger, the hammer falling with a solid click. ‘Outstanding,’ he murmured, glancing to her. ‘Seems your momma did teach you everything.’

She smiled, gesturing behind her. ‘I also have a few other things you might be interested in.’

He slipped the Vulcan into his belt and strode over. The worktable was covered in a white sheet with several revolvers and a handful of knives. His eyes immediately alighted on a pair of pearl-handled heavy-weight revolvers. He picked one up, opening the loading gate, half-cocking it and slowly turning the cylinder, lifting it to his ear. He repeated the check on the second, satisfied they were in excellent condition. He put them aside. ‘I’ll take these,’ he said, scanning the other weapons, checking and discarding each of the other revolvers. He then took up a matching pair of knives, slightly stylised in an Oriental vein. ‘And these.’ He stood back. ‘What’d’ya want for them?’

She regarded him enigmatically. ‘That depends on you, McNally shian shen.’

He frowned, his right hand falling to his sidearm. ‘Really... why?’

She smiled gently, approaching him and taking hold of his right hand, lifting it slowly away from his gun. ‘We could agree on a monetary exchange but that wouldn’t... satisfy me fully.’ She turned his hand over, her soft fingers caressing the roughened skin of his palm and fingers. ‘There is something about the wrong kind of man.’

McNally felt his pulse quicken and his mouth go dry. He swallowed hard, his throat suddenly tight. ‘That so,’ he managed to croak.

She looked up at him and smiled. ‘You don’t find me displeasing, do you McNally shian shen?’

He shook his head and swallowed again. ‘Er... no... not at all.’

‘I was a girl when I saw you fight in the Krivak on Athens, a mere girl and, even then, I felt a yearning for you,’ she murmured, turning his hand and kissing his knuckles.

McNally shifted, as if trying to retreat, but the workbench was right behind him and he was trapped. ‘Listen, I all flattered an’ all but you’re... ’

She raised her eyes again and smiled. ‘I’m what, McNally shian shen... a woman.’

‘You’re also the Dragon-Lady,’ he murmured.

She nodded. ‘Exactly,’ she said. ‘And I usually get what I want. When I first saw you on Athens I was a girl and I dreamed of the day when I could meet you as a woman. So when I saw you last night I was... astonished. After you left, I found it difficult to think of anything other than you.’ She released his hand and stepped away, turning her back. ‘You can always refuse me, McNally shian shen, I cannot command you.’ She then looked over her shoulder coyly. ‘But I know a man’s desire then I see it.’

His throat was still tight as he said, ‘You sure have a way of doin’ deals.’

She offered her hand. ‘Well? Have you reached a decision?’

He looked at her, exotically beautiful, elegantly dangerous, the last woman he would expect to have even a passing interest in him and yet the invitation was clear... and it had been such a long time... he found himself taking her hand. She led him back out of the workshop to the open area and up a set of external stairs to a different part of the building. She tapped a code into a door-lock and stepped inside. Beyond was a sumptuous apartment, a large open-plan living area with a door through which he could see a huge four-poster on an elevated platform.

She closed and locked the door, turning to him, plucking the hat from his head. ‘Well, McNally shian shen? What are you waiting for?’

His heart was slamming in his chest as he loosed the tool belt from her waist, letting it rattle to the floor, and then scooped her up in his arms and carried her effortlessly towards the bedroom.

Post Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:13 pm

Re: Zenith

The young Doctor was sat in the kitchen area, slumped over the table with her head nestled in the crook of her left arm and her eyes squeezed tightly shut; her usual almost blond curly hair was wild and untamed, sticking up at odd angles. Her waistcoat undone and her shirt untucked. On the table before her was two empty glasses upturned, a cold cup of coffee, her hip flask and an open box of different coloured tablets.

Alisha’s head thumped, she could hear every single soft groan, bang and whir of the Rosin Dubh. She could hear the clatter and crash of someone in the Cargo bay, and the heavy ’whump whump’ of the generators whirling giving them light and power.

’Each morning I say never again… Each day he come back to haunt me… Each night I go one step too far…’ even the power of thought was painful, like nails on a blackboard. She sat up and reached for the cold coffee and the pill box.

“Cheers…” She muttered to the dim empty room, popping two white pills into her mouth and draining the cold bitter coffee.
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