Friday, May 31, 2013

Backwater Funeral (Part 2)

Days ago

      “Master, I do advise against this trip,” the droid was chiming off again, “Your funds are low as it is, and based off the average funeral planning time, along with other possibilities, you will be needing work almost immediately after your return.”

      Red glanced up from his datapad to look at the droid, managing to keep a calm expression on his face when he did so. If there was one thing that the droid was good for, it was management, but if there was one thing he didn't want right now, that was to be managed. Walking out of the engine room, his eyes shot back to the datapad, “How soon were those folks out on the Moon expectin' their stuff?”

      “Master, avoiding the subject does not make it go away,” the droid replied, following him.

      “How soon,” he replied, not even acting like he had heard it.

      “By next Tuesday at the latest, sir, though they would be happy to get it sooner. If you are going to be gone for an unknown amount of time, then it would be advisable to...”

      “To drop it off today, so that we're all clear on stuff that ain't ours bein' on board.” He looked up, seeing the droid nodding as best as it could manage to nod, given its design. “Then why aren't we on our way there yet?”

      The droid turned with a start, saying “Of course!” before he headed towards the bridge. Red rolled his eyes, setting the datapad on one of the crates in the cargo bay as he entered, giving it a look over.

      The room, like the rest of the ship, had an older feeling to it, one that would make others worry. Others had worried at first when they stepped on board the rusting pile of scrap. An older XS Light Freighter, it was hardly top of the line, but always to their surprise they still were able to step off at their destination. That wasn't to say it couldn't have used a good coat of paint, among other things. The relic was old when he bought it, and since then what paint he had been able to afford was chipping off, showing the bland brown underneath. No matter what, though, he always made sure that in bright red on the top left side of the ship that the words “The Line” were always visible.

      Another part of the ship that brought it under scrutiny was in fact its name. Few people could take a geometric shape, and such a meager one at that, being the name for a vessel very seriously. It did have its meaning, though, especially to the vessel's owner. As he would happily tell people, after they had gotten all of their puns which would range from “Don't cross The Line?” to “Can you even see it?” out of the way, was that it was the fine line between him and being stranded from his share of the sky. As he would also tell people, they would have to go quite a distance to take his sky from him.

      Counting crates in the cargo bay was a simple job, because there were so few of them. Two to be handed off to a pair of shady people who would likely shoot him when he stopped being useful, a few more scattered here and there full of supplies for himself, along with a number of empty ones as just in-cases. That didn't count the couple of containers that he had hid under the floor. But those didn't matter for the simple fact that they didn't exist. As far as anyone else knew.

      Knowingly he grabbed the side of the door when the ship gave a long lurch, speeding towards its destination. From behind him the engines gave a loud groan, another point that always worried passengers, much to his amusement. Raising his voice as he passed by the bridge, he made sure to say “Remind me to replace those coils when I get back. Again.”

      As he went further down the hall he could make out, “I will make sure to do so, Master! If funds are available that is!”

      Hearing a beep he pulled his datapad off his belt, folding it out and sliding through it. He had to slam his hand into the side of it after it froze, which was no surprise to him. The thing had been nothing but trouble, and there was many a time he hated himself for trying to 'go digital'. There was nothing to break the contractor/client relationship like a piece of cold, uncaring technology. It made it even harder to try to get people to pay what he knew they should be paying, instead of what they wanted to pay, when he couldn't look them in the eye and talk face to face. The message was short, simply a set of coordinates. As he expected his mother had ended it with 'love mom'. Walking up to the bridge, he felt the ship lurch again as it exited its jump. He set the datapad near the droid, tapping the numbers, “Get that stuff plugged in. Next stop.”

      The home was of a reasonable size. Based on what he had seen of settlers in the past, he hazarded a guess that they had been rationing supplies when they constructed them all, so that was of no surprise. He couldn't count on his fingers how many times he lifted his closed fist to knock on the door before he actually did knock. When he did his hands shot into his pockets and he couldn't help but turn, trying to not focus on the door itself. There was a fair share of foliage in the yard, and what he could make out as a small garden near the corner of the house.

      A sliding noise came from behind him, and he turned with some hesitation to face his mother. Age had been fairly kind to her face, though she was skinnier than he recalled. Her brown hair was tied up, as he expected. She tended to only let it down when she left the house. They observed each other for a time, before he slowly stepped forward to embrace her, an action she happily returned. There was silence for some time, and on his shoulder he could feel a few tears falling. “It's good to see you, mom,” he finally said, ending the hug, stepping inside when she offered.

      She covered her mouth, looking him over. Her hands patted down his side, making sure he was still eating, turning his face this way and that until she seemed content. He smirked slyly, turning to look the room over. There was a number of simple pieces of furniture in the room to his right, the living room as far as he could tell. To his left was the kitchen and dining room, a small table and chairs there. Turning he frowned at the look on her face, following her gaze to his belt, and two items of note in particular. His blasters. Robin Malcolm noticed, of course, and looked him in the eye with a look of disappointment.

      Silently cursing himself for not leaving them behind out of habit, he shook his head, “Mom. I ain't gonna shoot nobody. You know I ain't gonna shoot nobody.”

      “Then why do you need weapons?” she said, keeping her voice down but not hiding her anger.

      “Part of the job,” he muttered, making sure to keep his down as well. Tempting fate and going deeper into the house, she followed pointing at the couch. With a sigh he sat down, watching her go off to the he could hear the sound of glasses moving. Soon enough she returned with a small pitcher of tea, handing him a glass and sitting across from him.

      The taste provided a bit of shock to him, as it was a flavor that wasn't whiskey. Having practically lived off of it to the point where it wouldn't shock him if he bled whiskey, the change was certainly odd. They stared each other down for some time, though in a fairly friendly way. They were simply taking each other in, noting six years or so's worth of changes. Finally finishing his first glass, Red leaned forward, setting it on the coffee table and looking at her, “He ain't shown up has he.” It was more a statement than a question.

      Robin winced, her forehead creasing when she frowned. It was at that point that he could actually see the age starting to show on his mother's face. He tried to smile, hoping to relieve a bit of the tension he had just created, though he couldn't stop the sarcasm from bleeding into his voice, “I'm sure he's off doin' somethin' important. Flingin' rocks around, or teachin' the wicked the error of their ways. If he's doin' the last part, maybe it's for the best that he ain't he-...”

      She cut him off, her voice slicing through his like a knife, “You shouldn't talk about your brother like that, Red.”

      He leaned back, resting his hands on his stomach, “All I can say, mom, is how do you really think he'd talk to me? I'm the kinda person he's tryin' to 'cleanse' our fair galaxy of, last I recall.”

      Robin Malcolm shook her head, gulping, “No, Red, he just wants to make sure there are less criminals and the like. It's a good cause...

      He bit his lip, allowing a sad smirk to come across his face, “Ma, I never said it wasn't, I'm just sayin', that if you put us both in the same room, what do you think is gonna happen? We aren't exactly on agreein' terms on that matter.”

      “I know that, Red, but you aren't some crime lord killing people who look at you funny, now are you?”

      “Suppose I ain't,” he said, offering a softer smile. “Ma.”

      “Yes?” she said, allowing a smaller smile of her own.

      “Thanks for not readin' me the riot act,” he said.

      “I think your father did that enough as it is, Red. You're going to do what you want to do. That's something I can't change. Better to accept it than to deny it,” she said, refilling his glass as she spoke.

      He took the glass, muttering “Thanks,” but only stared at it. “How is he?”

      “He's holding together. The doctor said he probably had a few more days left in him, if he was lucky,” her voice grew low as she spoke. “He's probably due for his pain killers if you want me to wake him up.”

      The captain gave a short nod, “Gotta cross that bridge eventually, don't we?”

Years ago

      The house was quiet in the worst possible way. From the outside, sitting on the quiet street of some Ord Mantellian settlement, those who passed by it were oblivious to the battle of wills going on inside.

      “You what?” Paul Malcolm repeated, keeping his voice low and precise.

      Redamous leaned forward, sliding the datapad across the table, “I bought a ship.”

      “A ship,” Paul muttered, scooping up the datapad and looking it over, “It looks like a pile of crap.”

      “Well. Right now it is, but if it gets a little love, she'll be flying in no time.”

      “So it doesn't fly now.”

      “Not so much.”

      The elder's eyes slid up slowly over the screen, looking the younger over, “And where exactly is the money to pay for this coming from?”

      Reaching across the table, Red took the datapad back, tucking it away, “It's coming from somewhere, dad. That's all you need to know.”

      Their eyes locked again, and Paul Malcolm's anger at the entire matter evident. To understand his anger though, one would have to understand him better, and in turn, the Malcolms in general. For some, fighting for the Republic and her people was simply a job. For Paul and Robin Malcolm, it had been their lives. It had been values they had raised their children on, or rather child though that is another story, and in turn at first it had seemed that their child had picked up on those teachings. When he was able, Redamous Malcolm had enlisted. Within a few months after he wrote a happy letter explaining his finishing basic, he was back sitting on their couch, talking about how he was buying a ship.

      The other side of the story that one must understand was Paul Malcolm's thoughts on the matters of shipping supplies throughout space. If it was done legally, or as most smugglers would say 'the slow way', he was perfectly content. Having ran a small shop after retiring from his stint in the service, he had learned to respect such people. Those who did not do so legally as he had seen countless times were arrogant, annoying people who he could not hold the tiniest amount of respect for. As far as he could tell, his son was about to become one of those people.

      Redamous Malcolm of course didn't see it that way. What he saw before him was a life of adventure that he had been neglected thus far in life. His father may have seen a sense of disrespect for those who were fighting, but that wasn't what he saw. It simply wasn't a life style for him. Of course he respected them, not only for doing what they did, but for being able to do it where he couldn't. But this? This sounded perfect. Making one's own hours, picking who one worked for? It made perfect sense in his mind. Whether that were true or not was rather debatable, though there wasn't going to be any debating going on in the Malcolm household presently.

      Finally, something in the elder simply seemed to snap, “I think you need to leave.”

      Red blinked, sitting forward, “Dad, lets not...”

      “Now,” Paul practically growled. “If this is what you want to do with your life, I want nothing of it. I'm not going to have some smuggler sitting in my house. I'm not going to associate it so I can have the police breaking down my door asking me questions about you.”

      “Dad, that's not how it works. It's not what you're thinking I swear,” Red said, alarmed at the thought.

      Paul Malcolm simply pointed to the door and said nothing else.

      Robin Malcolm gently rapped her hand against the door, whistling softly as she opened it, setting the tray she had prepared on Paul Malcolm's lap. As Redamous leaned back against the door frame there was a single thing he noticed. How terrible his father looked.

      He had seen his father ill before, even though it was rare. It took a strong bug to bring him down, and yet here he was, looking weak, his skin gray. Red smiled slightly as he sat himself up, seeming to be defying death as best he could, and fed himself not requiring help once. When he finished he finally seemed to take note of him.

      Redamous did his best to keep his face neutral, but couldn't help but give a gentle smile, “Dad.”

      Paul did a much better job of remaining emotionless, his voice flat and even, “Redamous.”

      “You're looking...Well. You're lookin' better than I thought you'd be lookin', dad,” Red said, not hiding the small smile this time.

      “You thought I'd just be taking this lying down, did ya?” Paul answered, allowing a small smirk of his own to come across his pained face.

      “'Course not, dad. I know you better than that.”

      His father slumped backwards a bit, entering somewhere between a sitting and a sleeping position, seeming to grow worse as he did so, strength clearly fading, and his face growing more ashen. He motioned to a nearby chair, “Come on over, son. I ain't gonna bite.” His eyes shot to his wife, “Give us a bit, will you?”

       Red cautiously sat down, nodding to his mother as she exited, “What're we talkin' about?”

      “Us, Redamous. We're gonna talk about us.”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Backwater Funeral (Part 1)

     The sun had just been rising when he'd landed, but now his internal clock was screaming out for sleep. Behind the glass he could still make out the receptionist sliding through things on her datapad, every now and then taking a small sip of her morning caf. Here and there she might shoot a glance up at him, complete with a small smile as if to acknowledge that no, he was not allowed to leave the room yet.

      As he looked around the bare bones room the only thought that kept running through his mind was that he wished he had brought his own datapad. Of course he knew why he had left it behind, he didn't want to be on call or doing anything business related. Not while he was here. He had a separate mission here, one he was confident on accomplishing. So for now, he sat bored in the waiting area of some little backwater planet. He had already cleaned his blasters once, much to the receptionist's shock, and he had already read what little material she had been able to find for him, so for now, he waited.

      Eventually he yawned, and he knew immediately what the dreaded action meant. At first, his eyes were simply heavy, and for a moment, that was all. Soon enough, though, he was fast asleep, feet propped out forward, and his arms crossed.

A month ago

     “No, ma, I can't say I was really expectin' this,” Redamous Malcolm said, voice quiet after he had managed to find a secluded part of the casino. He had had to slip away from the group he was speaking with, which probably looked odd to them. Right now that was the least of his concerns.

      “I can't see how you couldn't know, Redamous,” she said, slight annoyance showing in her voice, “You knew we wanted to do this, and you of all people have heard of the risks it comes with.

      He sighed, setting the holocomm down on a nearby table so he wouldn't have to hold it. Rubbing his temples didn't help at all, because surprisingly the conversation had yet to give him a headache, “Not really ma, no. I didn't know you both had moved out to some backwater to go play settler. You know why I didn't know that? 'Cause you never decided to tell me.”

      Robin Malcolm shook her head with a small smile, “We made sure that Dey would tell you. He should hav-...”

      He cut her off right away, “Mom, I ain't seen Dey. I ain't seen Dey in forever and a day.”

       That statement couldn't have made her look more worried. She took a step back, disappearing for a few moments, and he began to think she had simply left though she returned as quickly as she had left. “He was supposed to tell you, Red. I'm sorry he didn't.”

       Redamous shrugged, hardly looking surprised, “Ain't really a surprise, considerin', mom. He ain't wanted to talk to us in years.” With a sigh, he tried to change the subject, “How bad is it, mom?”

      She frowned, shaking her head, “There's a good chance he'll be fine, but at the moment we just don't know. It's a local bug. We're doing our best.”

      He rolled his eyes, swirling his drink around much to her dismay, “Could just, I don' know, get him some real meds, mom. Or a doctor. You know. A real doc, not the backwater one you're probably workin' with who probably don't have the supplies to treat a stubbed toe.”

      “That's not how it works, Red. This program was meant to live off the land, and that's what we're doing. It's...Silly, I suppose but it's what we wanted when we signed up for it. To be able to live on our own, by our own hands.”

     “'Cept that means you're gonna get dad killed, mom,” he said coldly, taking along drink. “Kind of a big deal to me, if'n you ain't noticin' that.” She started to respond, but he held up a hand, “I'm sorry, mom, just...Call me back when you're for certain. And tell me where you freaking are when you do so I can come out and see you two. Talk to you then. Love you, mom.” Without another word he shut down the comm, tucking it away and heading back, forcing a smile onto his face and dismissing that there was any trouble on his end, though his distance throughout the rest of the conversation probably didn't make his words ring very true.

      “Mister Malcolm,” someone far off said. He grumbled, trying to shoo them away. The person ignored his 'not nows' and persisted. “Mister Malcolm, please wake up. Mister Malcolm, if you don't wake up, I can simply change this accepted designation to a denied one, you know.”

      He sat up with a start, jumping back just as fast when he saw how close to the receptionist's face he was, “Nope! Nope! Don't go doin' that darlin', don't go doin' that.” Squinting he noticed she was holding a small pen and a datapad near him. Taking the pen he scribbled out his signature. Blinking a few times he started regaining his senses, “What time is it? Gotta be close to midnight...”

      The receptionist, a pretty human with shorter hair glanced at her chrono, before looking back at him, “It's ten in the morning mister Malcolm. You're free to leave. Or enter, I suppose.” As she headed back to her desk, she smirked and muttered something about spacers and time.

      He scratched the back of his neck, and rose from his seat. A quick lean backwards and even the receptionist could hear his back popping. As he passed through the door, she managed to hear him mutter “Y'all obviously don't get too many visitors...”

      She raised her voice to chime in, “No we don't. Enjoy your stay, mister Malcolm.”

      Stopping in his tracks, he turned, “Anyone else come through here as of late, ma'am?”

      She glanced over her shoulder at him, shaking her head, “No, sir. Just you.”

      With a sigh he began the walk through the small spaceport again, muttering to himself, “Well ain't I just shocked and amazed.”

      Exiting out into the bright light nearly blinded the poor captain. Shielding his eyes he wandered sleepily into the streets of the small settlement, or rather the street of the small settlement. It ran a short distance to his left and right, forming with a few smaller roads branching off here and there. To his left he noted a number of businesses, and the majority of the people, and to the right, he noted what appeared to be homes.

      Heading left, he made note that the road was actually laid out, with the metal stretching a bit out of the small town until it turned into dirt path. The buildings to his left and right gleamed in the morning sun, the metalwork excellent. It didn't take long for him to pick out the building he was likely to become the most familiar with, which was simply marked “Jim's Cantina”. Wandering inside he gave the man a polite nod as he approached, speaking in his usual kind tone, “Uh, mornin' there friend.”

      The large man behind the counter was cleaning a glass with the end of the apron he wore. He sized up the newcomer quickly, a hint of distrust lingering in his eyes. When he spoke his voice was firm, yet not entirely unwelcoming, “Can't say I've seen you before. Trust me when I say that means something.”

      Red smiled, leaning against the counter, “Oh you can't tell me that people haven't had to drop stuff off here before, can you? I mean...That just ain't how it tends to work, based on what I've seen. This is a settler rock, right?”

      The barkeep nodded, “Is. But the company we're settling for wanted to try running a rock with few supply runs as possible.” With a grin he pointed to the bottles behind him, which were few in number, “We even gotta make our own stock.”

      The captain leaned to the left, eying the bottles with a small smirk, “That so? Got any whiskey back there, then?”

     The barkeep gave his chorno a glance, before looking up at the man, “Bit early to be drinking, don't you think?”

      Red gave a shrug, drumming his fingers against the bar, “Five o'clock somewhere, ain't it?”

      With a short nod, the man reached back, setting his glass behind him, “I'm sure it is. But it isn't here, so you can wait. What did you say your name was?”

      “I didn't,” Red said, before smirking even wider at the man, “Ah, that'd be Redamous Malcolm, at your service.”

      A slight frown grew on the man's face as he looked him over again, before pointing out the door, “That was what I was figuring.” At Red's quizzical look he simply stated, “You look like your folks. Down the road. Third home on the right.”

      Red frowned, shaking his head, “Hey now, I don't think.”

      “I didn't ask, son. I said. Now go down that road, and see your folks. Now.”

      Grumbling, Red shot him another look, before walking out the door and down the road.

Weeks ago

      “Mom. Run that one by me again,” he said slowly and softly.

      “You heard me, Red,” she said, sounding like she was holding back tears. He couldn't tell, though. He wasn't looking at the comm. The comm was sitting up on a crate in the cargo hold of the Line, and he had his back pressed against it.

      “Are you sure?” he said, sounding distant, thinking.

      “Red, if we weren't sure do you really think I'd be telling you this?”

      He leaned his head back against the crate, staring up at the ceiling in disbelief, “No. Suppose not. Do they know?”

     “Dey knows, yes. He should be showing up any day now.”

     “Wouldn't count on it.”


      “You know what I mean, ma,” he said flatly, “If it gets in the way of him doin' somethin', even if it's family stuff, he don't give a damn.”

      “Redamous Isaac Malcolm!” she said, the frown on her face coming out in her voice.

      “We ain't doin' this right now, mom,” Red stated, staring at the wall for a few moments. “Are ou sure he wants me there?”

      “I don't know what you mean, Red.”

      “You know what I mean. Does he want me there, mom, or do you want me there?”

      She was silent for a long time. Sitting in that silence he couldn't help but think of the various number of was that their situation could have been improved if they hadn't have been so stubborn, or the number of ways him showing up could go wrong. “He wants you here, Red, he just doesn't...”

      “He doesn't know it yet. I'm sure.” Groaning he rose, setting his hand down on the comm to shut it off, but not before muttering, “I'll be there, mom.” Looking around the room, he silently tucked it onto his belt, before swiftly turning around to kick the crate. Immediately afterward he regretted doing so.

       His gaze shot up and down the road, before settling back on the door in front of him. Sighing he turned, settling down on the steps and looking around. This end of the street lay in silence, with not even the occasional person wandering by. The houses lay silent and, as far as he could tell, empty. Looking around, he almost missed her, looking over the the sizable bush near the edge of one of the yards.

      Blinking, he sat up a bit further. Squinting he could just make out the shape of a person standing beyond the bush. “I can see you back there, whoever you are,” he said, doing his best to not sound amused.

      From behind the bush, he could make out someone saying, “No you can't.” With a laugh, he stood up and walked over to the bush, wishing he hadn't as soon as he saw who was behind it. The woman gave a small wave, looking down at the ground as she did so, “Hey Red.”

      He knelt down to look at her face, letting out a short, nervous laugh, “Hey Nic. What...What in the world are you doin' here?”

      She shrugged, rubbing her arm nervously, “Moved out here with a few other folks from Ord.” Nicole allowed herself a quick glance at him, before she was looking down at the ground, “You look good.”

      “You're lookin' pretty good yourself, darlin',” he said gently, frowning at the look she gave him when he spoke. They watched each other for a few moments before he allowed himself to ask the question he was dreading, “How's the husband?”

      “He's doing fine,” she said softly, though not sadly, to his liking and dismay.

     “That's good to hear,” he said, nodding absentmindedly. He glanced up, looking through the bush, “Are my folks home?”

      “Yeah, been home all morning,” Nicole said, pushing a strand of hair back behind her ear, “They said you were coming. A few folks were all excited to see you again. Hear about all this exciting stuff you've been doing.”

      Red blinked, staring at her, “Excitin' stuff? That's what they've been callin' it?”

      She tilted her head, “What do you mean?”

      “Well, I just can't imagine my dad callin' it 'excitin'' stuff, to be honest.”

      She bit her lip, looking down again, “Well he never really talked about it. You're mom said you were a freight hauler, and, well. You know how small town gossip works. Everyone figured you for one of those pulp fiction vid Captains. You are a captain, right?”

      He grinned, offering his hand, “Cap'n Redamous Malcolm, at your service ma'am. You are welcome to call me Red, or Mal, I have heard 'em both.”

      She rolled her eyes, “Let me guess...Every girl you meet hears that one?”


      She let out a laugh, punching his shoulder, “And Mal, really?”

      He shrugged, “Hey now. There's a few folks who call me that, what can I say?” Standing, he offered his hand to her and she took it letting him help her up, “You said my folks were home.”

      Her expression grew grim at that, but she nodded anyways, “Your dad's pretty bad looking, Red.”

      Sighing, he nodded, “Then I best get in there. Maybe I'll see you around?”
      “So long as you're here, there's a larger chance than you had before,” she said, before leaving to head back inside. Standing there alone he could only dwell on her meaning.