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    A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

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    A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 14/02/11, 09:23 pm

    Solomon's footsteps fell unevenly on the cold grey steel of Deliverance's main corridor; the soft click of his right heel, followed by a slight scraping sound and the clack of his metal and plastic left leg. The corridors were otherwise empty right now. Although in a few weeks each crew member would adjust to their own internal clock, right now they were fresh off of Persephone, and there it was 5 in the morning.

    He moved slowly to the elevator and grumbled as he hauled himself onto it, pressing the button for the engine deck.

    He had meant to do this earlier, but he had been so tired. He'd had to get a few hours sleep first. The breakout was an adrenaline rush, but it had left him drained... exhausted. And then having to do introductions and formulate their next move was almost more than he could bear.

    But there was still one very important person he needed to meet.

    He opened the door to the main engine room and tapped a button on the control panel to turn on the overhead lights. Around him pistons were grinding away silently and computers were winking in slowly repeating patterns. She was a quiet ship. She hadn't yet had the time to start collecting the little ticks and groans that a well-used ship would have.

    He ran his rough, calloused hand over one of the pistons gently, patting it in approval as he scanned the room with a half-grin.

    "Well, ma'am, You seem like a first class lady. I wish the circumstances could have been better, but I am glad to make your aquaintance."

    For a moment he was so lost in his private commune with the ship that he almost didn't hear the footsteps behind him.
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by Josh on 15/02/11, 12:25 am

    Mei Xiu awoke sharply, grunting in pain from where her hand had hit the wall when she'd spasmed in her sleep. She rubbed her wrist, cursing quietly. Episodes like this were a bad sign; she hadn't jerked that much while asleep in years.

    "Must be the stress," she thought, shifting to the edge of the bed. She turned on the light beside the bed and sat, working her wrist in circles. A sound in the corridor made her pause to listen; footsteps, but irregular. Curious, she padded over to the door to take a look. Upon opening it, she caught a glimpse of someone down the hall in the kitchen area, moving through one of the doors to engineering.

    Mei Xiu turned back to consider the pistol resting on her nightstand, but she wasn't sure she trusted herself with one. Likewise, she was more intrigued than worried, so she stepped out into the hallway to follow. She wasn't sure why she kept quiet, but she somehow managed not to alert the new crew member to her presence. She smiled in approval as she heard him address Deliverance, relishing the obvious admiration in his voice. The smile stayed on her face as she entered and spoke.

    "She says thank you, and likewise. Solomon, was it?"
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 15/02/11, 09:43 am

    Solomon turned at the sound of Mei Xiu's voice and quickly removed his hand from the engine.

    "Ahem... yes ma'am. Solomon Phillip, actually. I hope you don't mind me bein' down here. Just thought I should get to know her a bit if we're gonna be workin' together."

    He looked around at the engines and computer screens.

    "She's a fine ship. A sight more sophisticated than my old Zephyr-class. Don't ever tell her I said that, though." he added with a smile.
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by Josh on 15/02/11, 12:39 pm

    Mei Xiu smirked as Solomon removed his hand as though he were a child about to be scolded.

    "I'll admit I was a little worried when I saw someone walking down here, but it'd take a lot to knock out Deliverance. Much like your old Zephyr-class. Those things are sturdy as hell."

    She walked past him, her hand running affectionately over the engine housing. She stopped a few feet away, bending slightly and gesturing for Solomon to look.

    "In fact, the primary power stabilizer here is based off that design. Well, its based off the Boreas-class, which is the successor to the Zephyr. Not one of our designs, but 'Thena was right that we could get the same numbers with half the complexity this way. Less wires to short."

    She looked up at Solomon, her expression sheepish.

    "Sorry, I'm babbling. I...don't really do that. I guess I'm just nervous, what with all that's happened today."
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 15/02/11, 12:57 pm

    Solomon stooped down the best he could to see the stabilizer she gestured to. She was obviously proud of the ship. She had helped build it with her own two hands, and Solomon respected that.

    It must have been twice as hard for her, what with her spasms. He'd seen those ticks and twitches on men before, mostly when he was at the mobile field hospital after he lost his leg. Nerve gas. It was a horrible weapon that both sides had used. She was lucky to still be able to walk, he guessed.

    He decided quickly that it was probably best not to bring the subject up.

    "No, I enjoy it. I'm not all that much of a gear-head, but I appreciate good ships. And good workmanship. You fellas put a lot of love into her, huh?"



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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by Josh on 15/02/11, 01:11 pm

    Mei Xiu sighed contentedly, looking around the engine room with a proprietary smile.

    "Most of the last five years for Athena and I have been spent working on Deliverance. She's got systems you wouldn't even believe. Hell, some of them I didn't until 'Thena showed me her calculations. Its a shame she had to end up like this." It wasn't entirely clear whether she was referring to the ship or her friend.

    Mei Xiu started to move past Solomon, but on her second step her leg extended farther than she'd intended. She stumbled, falling backward as she overcompensated.
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 15/02/11, 01:15 pm

    Without even thinking, Solomon's arm shot out to catch the girl as she fell. He was getting older, but his reflexes were still as fast as ever.

    "Whoa!" he said as he held her steady, putting his weight on his good leg, "You okay?"
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by Josh on 15/02/11, 01:23 pm

    "Sheh Sheh," Mei mumbled, straightening. She blushed, her face set angrily. She took a moment to compose herself, then turned sheepishly to regard Solomon.

    "Sorry, sometimes it gets away from me. I guess we all have battle scars." She gestured gingerly to his leg, a tentative look on her face. "If I may ask, accident or intent?" She nodded her head towards the computer terminal and its two chairs at the front of the room, taking slow steps in that direction.
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 15/02/11, 01:46 pm

    Solomon smiled as he gently helped her get her footing again. She was an attractive young women, and he forced himself to remember the "young" part.

    He cleared his throat and took a step back when he was sure she was okay to stand.

    "No harm done." he said, "Some scars leave deeper marks than others."

    He leaned against the ship's auxiliary life support unit and looked down at his mechanical leg.

    "Well, a little of both, I guess. We were making a blockade run back in the war and took a hit to the starboard exhaust system. Damn thing exploded. I happened to be standing near enough to it that the blast took off my leg at the knee. Luckily the emergency shielding locked down quick or I woulda been sucked right out the hole in the hull. Infection done for the rest of the leg a few days later."

    He sighed and reached into his vest pocket for his nicotine disperser and took a drag on it, exhaling a fine white mist of water vapor.

    "I'm guessing you saw some action yourself." he said after a moment.
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by Josh on 15/02/11, 03:47 pm

    A slightly bitter smirk crossed Mei Xiu's face at his words.

    "A bit." She leaned back in the chair, ticking off names on her fingers. "Du Khang, Paquin, Beylix, that ri shao guo shi bing off of Boros. I did alright for myself for most of it, until I got downed on Athens. Things went...less smoothly from there." Her expression was somber as she spoke, but after a moment's pause she blinked and favored Solomon with another smile.

    "Blockade runner, you said? That's wo hu chung long work. Lot of folks wouldn't've taken a job like that."
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 15/02/11, 04:04 pm

    Solomon smirked and took another drag.

    "Yeah, well... I was never what you'd call good at choosing careers. I've always had more guts than luck."

    "I was at Boros. Paquin, too. Running supplies, mostly. Little bit of recon here and there."

    He sighed and stuck the disperser back in his shirt pocket.

    "Those were bad days. For everyone. I try not to dwell on them."
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by Josh on 15/02/11, 04:32 pm

    "You're not wrong, though its harder for some of us to forget, I expect." Mei Xiu cleared her throat, pushing on.

    "I guess we all have bigger problems at the moment, every one of us being luo wong chih yu now. After all that my family has done..." She sighed, forcing a smile.

    "So, you seem to know ships, and you were on one a ways back. I take it you did something similar until recently?"
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 15/02/11, 04:42 pm

    "Freighter captain." he said, "Mostly on the border worlds. Had my own ship and everything. I was damn near retired by the time..."

    For a moment he paused and his face took on a solemn look.

    "...by the time everything went to hell."
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by Josh on 15/02/11, 04:52 pm

    Mei Xiu frowned, a look of sympathetic worry she realized she'd spent the last three weeks practicing by Wei Han's bedside.

    "I'm sorry. I know what its like to have the life you wanted taken away...twice." She squirmed in her seat, idly eyeing the console so she wouldn't be looking at Solomon for a moment. Eventually, she looked up again, her face neutral.

    "Your old ship. That'd be the Zephyr-class you were talking about earlier, right? Was she a Mark IV or V?"
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 15/02/11, 05:04 pm

    "Yes ma'am." Solomon said, his face relaxing a little. He knew that she was purposely changing the subject for him, and he appreciated it. James' death was still to fresh in his mind. He wasn't ready to share it yet.

    "She was a mark IV. Still had the old first generation cargo loaders. Damn things would seize up any time you looked at them funny. Damn good ship, though. Had her fitted out for blockade running during the war, then retrofitted back afterwards. Her name was Ruth."

    He sighed and leaned back.

    "Really wish I knew where she was at now. Probably rustin' away in some salvage yard."


    Last edited by tuck on 16/02/11, 09:43 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by Josh on 15/02/11, 09:32 pm

    Mei Xiu nodded and smiled at Solomon's description of his ship; she liked people who loved their vessels.

    "Oh, I doubt it," she commented after he'd spoken. "The Alliance probably sold her to pay for your 'defense.' Like as not she's still flying, like she was meant to." She smirked, a mischievous look on her face. "Who knows, maybe we'll get her back for you sometime."
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 15/02/11, 09:55 pm

    Solomon smirked back at her. He could hear the quotes around the word "defense" in her voice, and it was true. His trial had been a farce. There was no question as to what had happened. Not even Solomon could dispute the prosecution's arguments. The defense lawyer was a decent man, but there hadn't been much he could do from the start.

    "Well," he said, "It's something to look forward to at least."

    "What about you? Any other ships in your sordid past? I can't imagine deliverance here is your first love."


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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by Josh on 15/02/11, 10:34 pm

    Mei Xiu chuckled, saying, "Not by a long shot. No, it was a boat named Chang'e that took my heart. She wasn't much. A low orbit shuttle, for short trips to the company station, you know? But I hit the black that first time with just me at the controls and I was hooked. Flew everything I could get my hands on after that. Took a fair bit apart, too. That's how I had something to do after I got back. Well, that and connections." She shrugged, leaning back.

    "What about you? Always dreamed of being a dashing freighter captain?"
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 15/02/11, 10:54 pm

    Solomon smiled.

    "Well, yes actually. The freighter captain part, anyway. Never quite made it to dashing, I'm afraid. From the first time I got off New Melbourne I knew the black was gonna be home. Dad wasn't too happy about that."

    "Speaking of family..." Solomon said carefully, "You're brother's quite the interesting character. Very... eccentric. Is he... okay?"
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by Josh on 15/02/11, 11:07 pm

    Mei Xiu's expression hardened as she took a moment to consider Solomon. Despite everything, he seemed like a decent sort in a bad situation; she could relate. She decided to be honest in answering.

    "Truthfully? No. Well, he's not shiang jing ping or anything. He took a hit to the head and he's always been a bit of a chai neow, but he'll see us through. He's got a good head on his shoulders, when its working anyway." She gave a lop-sided smile, halfway between a smirk and a grin. "Don't tell him I said that."

    "New Melbourne, huh? I've been there a few times, layovers and such. Nice place, if you don't mind the rain, which as it happens I don't. Bellerophon gets big rains like that too, where we're from anyway. Surprised you took to this type of boat, rather than the ocean-going kind."


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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 15/02/11, 11:56 pm

    "To be honest, the whole planet is a steaming lun dong shi. You shoulda been there in the summer when the fishing boats are in and the whole miserable place smells of fish guts. You spend half the year soaked to the bone and the other half smelling of entrails. Man, I hit full burn away from that place as soon as I could."

    "As for your brother, I'm sure he's a good man", Solomon said with a nod, "He seems to have good instincts and a full tank of guts, and that'll get you farther than a good plan any day. I guess I'm just old. Been too long since I've taken orders stead of givin' em. Just want to make sure this operation is on solid footing before we get too far underway."
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by Josh on 16/02/11, 12:23 am

    "I can respect that, and I imagine I'd be doing the same in your shoes," Mei Xiu replied. "Trust me, Athena can keep Deliverance running come what may, and I'll fly circles around any ship they send after us. Weihan's a little unsteady, but he'll surprise us all, I think. I'm sorry you're in this situation, but this may also be about as good as you can hope for." She smiled sympathetically and stood, swinging a fist gently into Solomon's shoulder.

    "Now come on, I've never known a shing so who didn't guzzle coffee like a Pegasus' engine guzzles fuel, and I happen to know 'Thena and I laid in some fine Verbena slow roast. I think a couple of cups are just what we need."
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    Re: A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By...

    Post by tuck on 16/02/11, 12:26 am

    Solomon laughed and nodded.

    "Music to my ears, little lady." he said as they turned to walk through the doorway. He looked behind him one last time as he reached out and flipped the switch to dim the engine room lights, then quietly closed the door behind them.

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