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.

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