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.”

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