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The Good News

Posted on Sun Apr 10th, 2022 @ 10:11pm by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Medical Officer Florian McLennan & Ships Engineer Delphi Jammer & Passenger Emma Yonkers & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: Stories From The Expanse
Location: Galley, SS Albatross
Timeline: A week after 'The Prize' & 'The Spoils'

“...so in closing Mr Serendipity, Mr McTigue, the courts of Earth and Mars have made the determination that your holdings are in no way affiliated in a culpable way with those of the Mao-Kwikowski Mercantile. And whilst your last term of employment prior to legal action was a Mao-Kwik contract, it does not make you liable for any actions made by same in any way. To that end, as of 1800 hours on the 4th of March this year, your accounts have been unfrozen from their legal sequestering. The appropriate chain codes have been transmitted to the head office of the Ganymede Savings & Loan’s Union as well as the other financial institutions listed on our files.

The volumetric hologram flickered slightly, an element of damage taken or the extreme range the comm laser had traversed to get them a signal. The image was grainy, but it showed the sort of planet mild-mannered fellow with the side parting and perfect smile that screamed virtual customer service avatar. It was the sort of thing that kept a hungover lawyer from saying something they shouldn’t, as well as allowing the client to get a tailored call from a face they trusted.

In conclusion, we wish the Charon Courior Corporation the best of luck in its future endeavours, and again appreciate your business with us. We at Slater & Colins are at your service.

Mickey reached out, pinching the image closed and leaving the narrow galley area bereft of noise from the crew assembled there. Though maybe survivors would be better? A week of time spent on the float patching the Albatross and the pirate corvette that was their bobby prize for walking out of an ambush alive.

Mostly.

“To those of you not in the know, that means we have access to the corporate accounts we set up for the upkeep of the skip. We’ve been hand to mouth these last few months, which is why we were on this job out to Pluto. Now that's scrubbed and we have access to those funds, we can begin to make some plans,” Mickey said. He looked across the mess deck to Ken. “Pay our debts.”

"Everybody is getting paid their share. And now that we have the accounts back we can also apply the hazard pay modifier that you all have in your contract." He looked back at Mickey before continuing. "We'll be paying for Aisling to get sent back to Luna so that her family can put her to rest. And in a sense we'll be extending the same offer to all of you." His eyes met everyone on board. "If anyone wants to go home, we'll pay for your ticket. We'll even include shower privileges."

"We'll be setting course for a repair barge on the Mars-Titan circuit, we'll hook up with it ride it back down the well to the MCR. Mars has some of the best private military shipwrights in the business, and I think it's time we dipped into the refit budget to get the Tross up to code. These are strange days," Mickey said, nodding to the wall screen where a paused news feed was highlighting the latest big story. A flotilla of Belter prospectors and ore hauliers had run the UNN/MCRN blockade of The Ring, with a few getting through and beelining for one of the 1300 rings on the other side.

Sitting there in a pair of half worn overalls she had found on the pirate's ship, Emma listened to the whole spill. taking a few moments to think Emma rose her hand. "Um... What about the kid... Ken and I discussed it and we want.. Or at least I know I want his body properly taken care of... not jsut spaced. " she shrugged before continuing. "He died fighting for us in the end" She frowned and looked over at Ken.

Wulf wasn't interested in money, though he'd take his earned pay of course, so he was only half-listening to Mickey and Ken's dialogue. Feet up on the table, elbows wedged in against the arms of the chair, his full attention was wrapped about the terminal in his hand. MKM. Liablility. Fun times perhaps. But the ring gates were far more interesting and, in the tech's viewpoint, they were currently going exactly the wrong way. Aisling was dead. His family situation grew ever more distantly complicated and Wulf's thoughts spiralled to escape and distance. Emotions were heightened and complicated.

Right up until Mickey mentioned Titan.

"I wanna go home," Wulf heard himself say. He wasn't really sure he meant that.

"Wulf?" Mickey asked, looking at the comm's tech.

Big dark soulful eyes met the Tross's CO's own for as long as Mickey allowed such bravado. "I couldn't do anything to help," Wulf said, his voice flat. "I was right there. She died." There was the merest of tiny sighs. "I'm deadweight."

"We were all there Wulf," Mickey said gently. "PDC at that range could have easily have been the aft canon they set on us, chewed up the mid-deck and took all of us out. It just...bad luck and physics."

A chill shudder briefly wandered over the tech's synapses, and Wulf nodded dumbly. He didn't look up this time as he spoke. "You fixed Flo. Delphi fixed the ship. Ken and Emma fixed the bad guys." I updated the software - that just wasn't carrying enough gravitas to bother mentioning, so he left it there, unsaid.

"I seem to recall we're all breathing because of the work you did on the life support system. Not to mention the rerouting work needed to keep the ship's helm controls from trying to work whilst we all fixed up the ship," Mickey replied softly.

That was true, Wulf internally reconciled the information. He had helped. But the nagging voice in his head still rolled back around to the inevitable conclusion. Aisling was dead. He hadn't been around a ton of dead people, at least not any he'd really cared about. Soto. Aisling. These were recent losses and they hit hard for the sheer unfairness of it all. They were close, painful and impossible to ignore. But Mickey was right, neither death was his fault, neither was any of the Tross' crew's fault.

"I guess," said the comm tech. "Yeah." Then he looked up, gaze headed for Mickey and spoke the words he didn't really want to speak. "Just not sure I can handle losing anyone else."

"It is just a fact of life..." Emma spoke looking over at Wulf. "We are at the mercy of who ever decides to swoop down on us as we go about our business. Day to day, sure it is ass grabbing, make busy work, and pranks, but like in the service there are days painted in death, blood, and rage. An't easy at all, but with you on the ship and this crew I felt no fear charging onto the other ship to protect us, because I knew ya'll would be back to pick us up. I knew if the boss went down you and Aisling would fight the ship to come back for us. Just because you believe you did nothing, doesn't make that shit true." She gave Wulf a soft smile.

"We are all the One Ship, each relying on the other and each as indispensable as the other. Or at least that's the way I see it, or how I heard it from the street preacher on Eros. We all work together, no one less or more than the other. You had our back Wulf, we'll have yours." Mickey said with a nod towards Wulf. "We've got a few weeks of a slow burn back to the shipping lanes where we'll meet up with our ride to Mars. Lot of time to think, see how we all feel. Work out what we want to do next. With our accounts unlocked it opens a lot more doors for opportunities, such as being able to keep up the stream fees for the guild jobs. Lots of those now come with 'Extra-Solar Hazard Pay' in the fine print."

Delphi rested at the back of the group, her tall frame leaned against the bulkhead as she half listened to the presentation, half lost herself to the thoughts that had been churning in her head since the attack.She had spent the past week buried in the work that had been needed to patch the ship, repair the damage enough so they could safely fly without the Albatross going to pieces. It had been a lot, the ship was in a bad way and really needed time in a drydock, but she had needed that work to keep her together. Aisling, her friend, shipmate from the bad times in Vector Red, was dead. Killed when the cockpit had been blown out during the battle. They had been through a lot together and her death hit harder than the belter had thought. So she had buried herself in her work, doing the only thing she could, fix the ship so those that had survived could go home.

She stirred from her inward thoughts, as she tried to pull her attention back onto what Mickey and Ken were saying, her violet eyes glancing about the small compartment. She looked tired, worn from long hours of work and little to no sleep. Her long blue mohawk was an unkempt mess and the usually close shaved sides of her hair were a fuzzy untrimmed mess growing out in her natural black. She cuffed at her eyes as she caught some of what was being said; they were getting paid, they could all go home if they wanted too to see family, get away, whatever.

Delphi thought of home, Ceres, the belt, the OPA, everything she had left behind after the Swordfish had been hulled, separating her from her old shipmates and family. A lot had happened, a lot had changed since then. Eros had happened. The Ring, and now there were 1300 new habitable systems for humanity to expand into and colonize. The OPA was now a legitimate nation in the process of building itself, rather than rag tag bands of pirates, freedom fighters and rock hoppers trying to scratch out a place for themselves between the planets and asteroids of the belt. She could go home to Ceres, it had been years since she had seen her parents. She knew they worried. She had been in contact with them on and off, but not for at least a year now. She could even go back to the OPA, join back in and help build the new belter nation that was struggling to hold together. She knew they needed every belter to join in the cause. But then there were these people, her new crew, shipmates, though she had only been with them a short time, they had been through a lot together and this strange little crew had grown on her, even the inners, though she probably wouldn't tell that to some of them.

She didn't know. Her gaze moved to Wulf as he said he wanted to go home and expressed his regrets for not having done more. She knew he had taken it all bad, especially Aisling's death. She had been hard on him when she and Aisling had first come aboard the Albatross, not that she'd not had the right to be weary and unforgiving, due to the circumstances at the time, which had left her cold and distant from most of the crew, really, except her friend and the Captain, who she had been able to find some common ground and trust with early on. But Wulf she had never spent much time around after a few initial encounters, but Aisling had seemed to like his company, and Wulf had been there, in the cockpit when she had been killed. Even Delphi had not seen Aislings body since it had been recovered. She did not know how bad it was, but he did and that had to be hard to live with.

Delphi pushed away from the wall, her mag boots clanking as she took a few steps over to Wulf and draped her arms about him from behind in a hug.

"Im gonya bi ko, beratna. Nating gonya happen fo milowda else. Mi sasa fosho fosho" (1) she said, her long arms squeezing reassuringly for a moment, then she let go and slipped back to her spot leaning against the wall. She didn't really know if things would be ok, let alone what she was going to do with herself at this point, but any thread of hope had to be pulled on at this point.

Ken looked at Wulf. His best friend. His little brother. Ken knew there were words he could say that might make Wulf feel better. Ken knew there were things that could be expressed to aid his friend. None were uttered as the burly Earther sat down next to Wulf. He looked the younger man in the eyes.

From under those lanky Belter arms, Wulf's epiphany had arisen, Delphi's words the sustenance his soul had needed to settle its internal compass and look to reconfirm its course. There was a deeper pang of doubt, wonder and concern, all the action and inaction and subsequent consequences rolling around within the tech's smaller frame. Humans - the ultimate biological chemistry experiment of emotion and reaction. That vanished when Ken took a seat beside him. It evaporated slowly as the two men's eyes met.

Titan tech geek met UNN Marine in a silent moment that placed a finite hold on the internal churn. Emma. Mickey. Delphi. Ken. They were neither right or wrong, but they were constant. And that was all Wulf needed to know. Words were still difficult to muster, emotion stalling his effusive nature, but he pushed on regardless, needing the closure here and now. Needing them to know.

"Beratna," he said, eyes locked with Ken. Then a hand rested on Delphi's own. "Sésata." To Emma a lightning brief flash of a wolfish grin that needed no translation. Wulf's dark gaze shifted then to Mickey. "You're right," he spoke quietly. "Family... Home... is right here. It's all of you."

Flo had been listening in. He was the youngest, probably the most clueless and least useful of them all, and so he felt it would've been a little out of place for him to be speaking in front of everyone else. Enough for bossman to decide he needed a vocation of sorts, suggesting that he spend a bit of time in their cramped little sickbay's computer terminal reading up on whatever was in its database. Starting with the simpler texts - first responder stuff, why humans need air to breathe and the such.

Even when Flo had offered to help with repairs, Mickey had insisted he get through more study. CO was making it clear what his new job was going to be, and it scared the shit out of him. He looked across the galley at everyone else - how could any of them possibly trust some boy to patch them up was beyond him. The responsibility felt immense, and still a work in progress.

And so when Mickey mentioned how any of them could depart for home on a free ticket, he had a feeling bossman knew the boy really had no other home to go to. Flo literally had no one else. Hence the promotion.

They were travelling at 4 meters a second per second. In that time the Albatross would cover nearly 6 astronomical units, or 897 million kilometres, the distance between their lonely outer planets orbit and the worlds of the Inner System. More distance than every person Earth had ever walked who had ever existed. But with all of that momentum wound up behind them, pushing on them, pulling them down the well towards Mars, the crew of the Albatross could be still.

If only for a moment.

+++

(1) "It's going to be ok, brother. Nothings going to happen to anyone else. I know (strong belief)"

 

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