Thursday, June 27, 2013

Man of Steel

Edited because for some reason I confused Christopher Reeves for Henry Cavill.

Warning. Possible minor spoilers.

My thoughts on Man of Steel, which I saw Sunday afternoon, are rather mixed as I look back. At the end of the day, it is enjoyable, but it doesn't really live up to the bar set by more recent superhero movies like the Nolan Batman trilogy. My argument to that is that those three movies in particular, especially The Dark Knight, would be rather hard to live up to. As with most things, it's best to take it on its own, and let it succeed and fail by its own merits.

Before we go into detail here, let me say this. I have not seen the Richard Donner movies, outside of a few clips here and there mainly with 2's Zod, I have avoided Superman 3 and 4 like the plague, and I have never been one for comic books. With that said, I think like most people I know the basic story of Superman. Alien baby raised by Earth parents who raise him as their own child, who it turns out has incredible powers and uses that as a way to constantly save the planet.

With that said, as someone who only knows the basics, I really did enjoy a few things they tossed in here. Krypton, Superman's homeworld, takes up the first bit of the movie, and I have to say that I really did enjoy the time spent here. I loved the style, especially of the technology, and I loved the story of it. We're made well aware that everyone knows that Krypton's time is limited, and we see a desperate attempt to save it. Russell Crowe plays the role of Jor-El, and going in this was one thing I was horribly doubting would work. While Crowe doesn't give an overabundance of emotion, like most would expect from Crowe, he does give a solid enough performance.

The rest follows the origins of Superman as he slowly tries to better understand who he is, and what his purpose could be. Instead of following him straight through childhood to adulthood, though, we're told his past through a series of disjoined flashbacks, which are my main complaint of the film. While the present day story is told in order, the flashbacks don't really follow any order. I suppose one could argue that they spring up when a situation that would link to them arises, but that doesn't make them much better. What's worse is that they all boil down to really reusing the same speech with different lines. Do they ruin the movie? Hardly. A few of them are rather good scenes, and the actors in them do a good job.

The present story moves fast enough. Looking back I realize just how little I can really go into it, as it's something that one might guess it to be. There's a bit of Clark Kent travelling, and as to avoid spoiling it even with me saying that you might be able to guess how it goes, followed by him taking up the mantel to stop his own people from invading the earth. Though I must say this, they manage to continue using Jor-El with good results.

This brings me to the character of General Zod. I think they actually make great use of Zod, and make him a better character than I would have thought. He, like most others in the movie sadly, isn't overly deep, but I found him to at least be relatable. His companions, though, aren't. The same can be said of other supporting characters. Those in the army? Bland. They even manage to make Lois Lane on the bland side. The more I think about it, the more I see that I can't really pull out any stand out characters. I suppose I enjoyed Henry Cavill as Superman, and I did enjoy Zod, and I even enjoyed Ma and Pa Kent, but they aren't overly deep.

Where the story isn't overly interesting though, the fight scenes more than make up for it. That really doesn't sound like a very good thing, but the fight scenes are simply great. Watching multiple superpowered beings duke it out and the amount of destruction involved is simply awesome. The effects hold up, too, a few moments during the initial flying scene aside. It does get a good mark in the visual category.

People will probably have to think about if the ending is great, pointless, or simply meh. I lean a bit more towards meh, as while I did like the idea of it, they never really do anything with it. I'm hoping that any sequels do make some use of it.

With all those thoughts disjointedly spread out through this post, I would like to say that while Man of Steel is enjoyable. It runs a bit long, but I never really even noticed except during the few slow parts. It continues at a good pace, it has great fight scenes, and the story in the middle? It's good enough to get by. For some? That won't be enough. For me? I enjoyed it, and I think that's what it's meant to be. Enjoyed. No one will be picking it apart, and examining it for the next year, but really that's perfectly fine.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Closed Doors(Part 1)

      “Honor sinks where commerce long prevails,” - Oliver Goldsmith

      Money, as it is said, is the root of all evils in our world today. It can be hard to put in perspective for you how true that really is. Then again, it's not even our 'world' anymore. First it changed to our 'system', and then to our set of systems, and now it might as well be our galaxy. But no matter how far out mankind can manage to expand, that one little thing will never change. A dollar sign is enough to drive some people to do amazing things. The dollar sign is of course an artifact left over from long ago. A universal currency was needed in the new age, and thus came the galactic credit.

      Nations, you may ask? Nations became things of the past. Eventually mankind simply became too far spread out for one governing body to handle. Ruling bodies simply vary on what system you're in. It could be some ancient royal family, harkening back to times when monarchy meant something. Or perhaps the local settlement is just made up of a bunch of people wanting to get by. Though the case with most was simple. Corporations.

      Imagine a second space race. A space race that turns from a race into a rush, and you'll have the rise of the galaxy we can see today. Once the technology was perfected, it was a simple matter of using it. Combine that with the fact that clever companies found uses for the rocks they managed to dig up on their little expeditions and you have the largest rush for one place in history. Eventually any legal restrictions just became too hard to enforce. Though it wasn't all bad. A number of careers opened up, ranging from mining, to colonizing, to researching, to shipping. Or smuggling, as it were, for some.

      A common thing in these days was corporate espionage and sabotage, as one used to some fiction will be familiar with. In turn, one such profession that rose from this was that revolved around the prevention, or recovery from such. Work could range from being horribly simple, to being horribly complex, and one never knew how far down a hole they would be forced to travel.

       Another car zoomed by the window, number thirty by his count. Lifting the cup up to his lips he grimaced slightly. He hated the coffee here. Another glance around the cafe confirmed his suspicions, he was still the only patron.

       There were worse places to be left waiting. At least it was clean here. The metal tables shone under the bright light from above. The windows offered a nice few of the skylanes, allowing one to easily see the traffic zooming from here to there. If you looked hard enough you could even see the ships coming in and out of the spaceport. Not that any of that mattered to him.

       What did matter to him was that his contact was late. Again. One look at his watch made him cringe. He had deadlines to be meeting, and he needed to be meeting them now. He shouldn't have to worry so much because Frank Coban could sleep in a few hours. Not that Frank ever gave a damn about how much Alan Everett was worrying.

      It wouldn't have been worth worrying about if it were someone else. Had he been looking for some small fry's lost piggy bank, or had he been trying to recover a few bank notes here and there, it wouldn't matter. But no. He was being paid to track down a very large sum of money for one of the most powerful men in the district, and the police certainly wouldn't notice it if Alan Everett simply ceased to exist. Frank Coban might, considering he would lose his main source of income, but that of course wasn't his concern at the moment.

      With a sigh he set his empty mug off to the side. He couldn't keep drinking it, not only because it tasted terrible, but because it was going to get him wired and drive him up the wall. The waitress poked her head out of the back room, giving him a look. Smiling politely he shook his head, implying that he didn't need serving.

      The bell over the door ringing caught his attention instantly. Pointing to the chair across from him, he directed his new guest into position, his glare seeming to be ignored based on Frank's wide smile. Alan hated him more and more every day, he swore.

      “Look who finally decided to show up,” Alan muttered darkly, his tone matching his gaze. He didn't even need to look for the fat hand holding out the folder he was expecting.

      As Alan tore it from Frank's grasp, the latter man laughed. Frank Coban was a decent sized man, short in stature, but making up for it in girth. He wasn't as large as some of the people Alan had had to work for, but he got closer every few months it seemed. His light hair was long, tied back, his face clean shaven, and his smile broad and shiny. “Better late than never, right?” he said, smirk showing in his voice.

      Alan silently flipped through the papers, frowning, “Yeah, maybe when it isn't your ass on the line.” Finally coming across the page he wanted, he frowned, “Umbecko?”

      “Umbecko,” Frank said flatly.

      Alan looked up, letting out a short laugh, though it wasn't a humorous one. “Are you trying to tell me that Randy Umbecko stole twenty five large from Lee.”

      Lee, that being his only name as he only had one, owned at least three quarters of the district. Randy Umbecko was lucky he owned a shirt, and some days of the week he couldn't even say that he owned that much. He was certain desperate enough to do such a thing.

      Frank shrugged, “You know he would do it if he could. You pay me to dig, Al. That's what I dug up. What more do you want from me, his god damn head on a silver platter?” The large man reached across the table, patting a fat finger against one column of numbers, “I got three instances of incoming numbers to his account.” The finger moved to a similar column on another sheet, “Those numbers match the numbers leaving Lee's account right there.”

      Alan nodded slowly, noting both items, “So how'd he do it?”

      Frank grinned, showing off his white smile, “That's the kicker, ain't it buddy? He didn't.” Reaching into his pocket he dug out another picture, sliding it over, “Random Lee Thug Number Seventy, though? He did.” Alan picked up the photo, looking it over. The man in it was hardly intimidating. He had the air of someone who wanted people to fear him, but was trying far too hard. “Swiped an account number or something, I can't tell you that one.”

      Alan nodded, rising quickly tucking all of the papers back into the folder, and folding back the collar on his overcoat, “Told you it was from the inside.”

      Frank waved a hand at him, “Yeah yeah yeah. Aren't you gonna buy me breakfast as a reward?”

      Alan gave him the finger as he headed towards the door, pulling his fedora off of the hook near it, “There's a pot of coffee you're welcome to.”

      The larger man grunted, watching his cohort leave, “You're gonna have to tell me why you wear that thing again at some point, Al. You look like you're trying too hard for the 'hard boiled detective' look sometimes.”

      Alan took his turn to grin, doing a one eighty, pushing the door to the cafe open with his back, “Look the part, Frank. You always need to look the part.” With a small tip of the hat, he was gone.

      The street wasn't crowded when Alan stepped outside, and that didn't bother him in the slightest. It was fairly clean, as was most of the district. If anyone actually knew the place's owner, that wouldn't surprise them in the slightest. Lee was a clean freak.

      His pace changed from a slow walk to a near sprint when he heard his watch beep. Why he had ever let Lee talk him into a timed contract was beyond him. Maybe he was just getting that desperate for pay.

      When he entered into the section of the district that he was looking for, he had to slow to avoid slamming straight into someone. As he drew closer to his destination his eyes settled on a certain building. It stood higher than the rest, but not by much. It was painted a bright white, the front of it almost entirely made of glass. Making his way through the revolving door he sped past the receptionist without even a tip of the hat. As he went by he managed to catch a sarcastic “Mister Lee will see you now Mister Everett.”

      His foot tapped rapidly as the elevator slowly rose higher and higher, soaring through the building, but of course not fast enough. When it finally opened it might as well have been the last exit off of a sinking cruise liner based on how fast its occupant left. Making his way across the long room, Alan slammed the file down on the large, dark wooden desk before him.

      The man behind the desk wore a bright white suit that matched the paint on his building. Grabbing the file earnestly, he began to flip through the pages within it, occasionally shooting a glance upwards at Alan over his glasses. After a few minutes had passed, he set it aside, “Very good, Alan.”

      Alan frowned, letting out another short laugh, “'Very good'?” When Lee gave him a look, he put his hands up defensively, “Fine, fine, very good it is.”

      The man in the suit swiveled in his chair, turning to a screen. After sliding through a few menus, he turned back, “You're paid. You're welcome to leave, Mister Everett.” The man standing opened his mouth to say something, but Lee held up a hand to stop him, “We're done here. You've been paid, the matter will be handled. I'm sure we'll work again soon.”

      With a grumble, Alan turned, tucking his hands into his pockets, and headed back across the large open office. Once he was safely in the elevator he grumbled to himself “Not if I get off of this rock you jackass.”

      Once he was back out on the street, Alan settled in on a nearby bench with a sigh. Bringing his hands out of his pockets, resting his head back against them, he surveyed his surroundings. The square in front of the tall white building wasn't overly impressive. A fountain lay in the middle, and along the outside of it there were a few smaller shops selling their odds and ends. Since it was still early in the morning the square was practically empty. People were working.

      Rising Alan silently slunk back to the cafe, hands shoved deep into his pockets. The door let out a familiar ring as he entered, noticing that Frank had yet to leave. He could easily hear why. Frank was sitting where he had left him, shoving food into his mouth in the loudest way possible.

      Taking the seat across from him, Alan smirked slightly, lacing his voice with sarcasm, “Frank, did you pay for your own food? Should I go call a doctor? Are you feeling alright?”

       Mouth still full, Frank laughed, shaking his head, “Oh har har. Look at Mister Funny Guy over here. You came back.”

      “I did.”

     “So I'm gonna guess all is well, Funny Guy?” Frank said, shoving another helping of bacon into his mouth, “Or should we start planning our big escape.”

      “I've been planning that for weeks, Frank,” Alan said bluntly, “Sooner I can leave the better.” Frank's raised eyebrow implied a question, which Alan took a stab at guessing, “I can't afford it.”

      That got another loud laugh out of him, “Amen to that brother. You seen how high they're shoving shuttle prices these days?”

      Alan frowned, taking his hat off and setting it to the side, “Can't say I have. I haven't had the time to look as of late.

      “Upwards of a grand. Probably looking closer to a one and a half.”

      A groan escaped from Alan as he flagged down the waitress to place an order, “That so.” He blinked a few times, looking Frank over, “And just why exactly are you looking?”

      Frank smirked, shrugging, “I want off of this rock just as much as you, buddy. Nothing more to it.” He pointed his fork at Alan accusingly, “Just what are you doing out here to begin with?”

      “I told you already,” Alan said flatly.

      “No, you gave me some BS answer about being on 'business'. Should I start thanking you in advance for being so specific?”

       His food arriving, Alan began to eat, only offering Frank Coban a small shrug, “It's my business.”

       The larger man rolled his eyes, “Fine fine, be all secretive. It'll get you all the ladies I'm sure. Maybe imply to 'em that you're a secret agent or something. What about our business?”

      Alan swallowed, shrugging, “Probably be getting about seven fifty a piece."

      Frank frowned, shaking his head, “Are you kidding me? I oughta just walk right into that smug face's office and deck him. Think?"

      “It's your life, not mine.”

      “Seriously, Al. He gave you what, twelve hours? That's small change pay,” Frank said, fork pointing again, “How's a guy supposed to get by on that, especially when they hike up prices on everything everyday?”

      “Why do you think I want to go home so badly?” Alan asked.

       “Oh, I just figured you missed your nice cozy office,” Frank said, smirking again, “Figured by now you'd have enough.”

       “Unforeseen financial issues,” Alan muttered. Noticing Frank's eyebrow again, he shrugged, “I had to pay for some stuff. Business, Frank. What about you? Why are you leaving?”

      “Seeing the signs, my friend,” Frank said, his voice doing its best to grow dark and ominous, “They start raising prices on stuff like that, means they want to keep people on-world. I don't like the feel of that. So, my relationship with the good old rock named Cerdala is coming to an end. Maybe I'll head your way.”

      “Oh wouldn't that be nice,” Alan muttered, finishing off his breakfast.

      Frank leaned back, resting his head against his hands, “So what's the plan now? Stow aboard a ship? Pickpocket a bit?”

      “Get another job.”
      “Get another job works.”

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cashing Out

((A possibly helpful link to help some visualize the character involved: ))
Cashing Out

      Nar Shaddaa. It wasn't simply another moon floating around a more important planet. Many would actually argue the opposite. Nar Shaddaa, or as it was more commonly called the “Smuggler's Moon” or simply “the Moon” was much more than the cesspit of a planet it orbited. For many it was a stopping place, a hub of commerce with a dozen different jobs to be passed out to a dozen different people. Goods traveled in and out and, so long as the right Hutt was paid, nearly anything could be found there.

      Nar Shaddaa was a place of many rules, the first and foremost being that the Hutt's rules were the rules. But for the most part, the Hutt's held no firm rules. The entire planet might as well have been divided up into countless sections, all with varying leaders. One didn't have to worry about the law getting in their way, so long as one knew where a Hutt drew the line, and how far over they could step before invoking their wrath.

      To the eyes it was a mixture of dirty disgusting streets and bright neon. What few dark corners there were were indoors or back alleys off of the beaten path where the bright ever present neon refused to shed its light. Buildings stood tall and proud, corporations going about their work, factories pushing out their products, casinos making sure that their customers continued on with their addiction, and large apartment buildings whose tenants remained for the pure fact that they could not have their lifestyle anywhere else.

      The people of the moon were a variety of workers, smugglers, bounty hunters, mercenaries, body guards, dealers, and crime lords all inhabiting the same place. They likely crossed paths, their lines of work not needing to be muttered or vaguely hidden. Here it didn't matter. If you were a smuggler, you among many others without having to resort to claiming to 'haul freight' or 'ferry passengers'. If you were a spice dealer, you were out on the street, or hidden away lest you invoke the wrath of your rivals. It was a place where people went to be themselves, but also a place where people went to hide everything.

      Another unspoken rule of the moon was that if you were there, you were fair game. Of course as with all rules, there were exceptions, but unless you were someone important, it was extremely possible that your body could be hidden away and never found. This appealed to many, and appealed to no one all at the same time. It was a hunter's playground, and at the moment, that's just what she wanted.

      The casino floor below her was full of life. People rushing here and there, laughing, cheering, drinking. It was exactly how she had wanted it to be. Gamblers flocked to this casino all hoping that they would be one of the few to make it big, though the majority would slink back home having been the ones paying for the winners. Others sat at the bars, watching the local Huttball matches on screens, cheering or booing as they watched their credits fly from their pockets as bets were lost and won.

      Couples occasionally lead each other towards the elevators, and in turn their rooms, but that was the closest anyone ever got to her. She stood taller than some, hands along the railing, watching. She wore plated armor, her pack obviously equipped with rockets, or in other words your standard hunter's attire. Her face was hidden by a hood that left only her eyes and a bit of the skin around them open. One quick glance at her red eyes gave away the fact she was a Chiss, which was instantly confirmed by the blue skin.

      Up above she noted the time again, the hour ticking off as growing close to midnight. Pushing away from the railing she entered an elevator, tapping the button for the fortieth floor, ten floors from the top. The elevator didn't so much as groan as it slowly worked its way upward, a faint ding ringing out as it arrived at its destination.

      The hallway she exited out to was empty, though she knew the one that turned off to her left would not be. Instead it would have two people in it, guarding one of the rooms. The door to the room would have a number of locks on it, and was being constantly monitored by cameras at both ends of the hall along with one in front of it.

      Inside the room was what mattered, though. The prize lay inside, or rather, the target. Darryl Kincaid would be sound asleep in his bed, recovering slowly from the night's spice intake. She had the layout of the room memorized, taking into account a number of places where guards would likely be stationed.

      As she set off down the hall, she glanced down at her wrist, hitting a few buttons. From around the corner she heard a deep voice whispering, followed by another, both laced with concern, “What?”

      Voice two was quick to respond, “They're sayin' that the cameras flick-...Wait...No. No. Scratch that. We're all back up and runnin'.”

      One didn't sound overly convinced. In fact, he sounded rather worried, “The cameras what?

      Two tried to reassure him, offering a laugh to go with his words, “They flickered. Ya know. Just kinda clicked on and off. Nothin' big. We're all good now, so quit worryin'.”

      One grumbled out a response, “Quit worrying he says. Quit worrying when we're guarding the gangster spice head.”

      Rounding the corner she drew quickly firing a shot off into who she assumed was Two's skull. He never even found time to aim the blaster rifle in his hand. The large human started to slump forward. Rushing forward she pushed the falling body, sending it sprawling forward straight into One.

      He stared up at her in horror, his ear piece letting out a faint buzz. She plucked up Two's ear piece, resting it inside her hood, blaster focused on One's face. From the tiny device she heard another man's voice, screaming out in concern, “For the love of the kriffing stars tell me what the hell just happened, or so help me I'm gonna come up there and shoot the both of you.”

      She rested the blaster up closer to the side of his head, nodding toward his ear piece. Not once did her eyes ever blink in that short span of time. One gulped loudly, and he was starting to sweat when he spoke, “We got it covered. Some hunter trying to make their play. We're all set back up now.” She nodded her approval, spinning the blaster around and bringing the grip down on the side of her face.

      Pressing a few more buttons, she managed to catch over the ear piece, “Alright. Feeds back up. Watch better, will ya?”

      Her attention quickly turned to the lock on the door, hands reaching down to pluck a data spike and her datapad off of her belt. The first two locks on the door were keyed, with One and Two likely hving the keys, the third and fourth would be pushed through with the tools. The last was a keypad.

      Patting down the two guards she managed to find the keys she sought, palming them. It wouldn't shock her if the locks were monitored like everything else. She leaned in close, pulling the front of her hood down, letting out a deep breath against the keypad. She had to squint a bit, but she could just make out the three numbers that had been hit. From here it was a simple matter of deciding their order. First and last numbers were generally hit the hardest. She knew that much. Two must have had rather heavy fingers, she guessed, as she could easily make out where he had dragged his hands from number to number. The guessing game was done.

      Sliding the two data spikes into locks three and four she brought the datapad out, staring at the screen. Rapidly typing and sliding through numerous screens was an easy matter. With her left hand she reached up entering the keypad's code, but neglecting to hit enter. Sliding the keys to the first two locks up and into place, she heard a distinct click, which was followed by a beep from her datapad. A quick button press brought three and four open, and with a swift hit of the enter button the entire door slid open. She replaced the keys to their respective owners, slipping inside after her tools were away, and gently closed the door.

      The room wasn't much to speak of. A small walking area, a bathroom, a small thing that some might have considered a miniature living room, a kitchen area, and near the back what she had identified as the bedroom. The living room held a great view of the city beyond. From where she stood she couldn't make out anyone else standing in the room, though she didn't need to see them to hear them. Someone was up and about getting at midnight snack and making quite the ruckus in the process.

      Slinking along, held tightly against the wall, she poked her head out. The large man in the kitchen wasn't the mark. With a precise motion he drew her blaster, and rounded the corner much like she had earlier, though this time she only gave him a second glance to confirm that he did indeed have a new hole in his head. She didn't even stop walking until she got to the bedroom door. Pressing her ear against it, she heard no motion, no sound, nothing.

      Silently she opened it, and slipped inside. The mark was passed out on the bed, the night's spice likely still fresh in him. She shouldn't have known anything more than his name. As she always told her clients they were allowed to tell her as much or as little information as they wanted. If it wasn't her place to more she was more than accepting of that. Of course that never stopped her from finding out anyway. She almost had to at times just to hunt properly. One could not account for another's possible moves and actions if they didn't know enough about the other person. Darryl Kincaid, she had learned, had been a Hutt's top enforcers. That was a year ago. Flash forward three months from that and Kincaid has gone undercover in a small gang in an attempt to learn who exactly was funding them. Two months after that, he's hooked on spice, but it's not a problem. A month later and he's pulled out by the Hutt, who's starting to find the spy games are far too expensive. Three months later and Kincaid has lapsed almost entirely to addiction, though he's somehow managing to keep his position. And in the present he's being protected by another Hutt's men because he's ready to turn tail and drop a million secrets so long as his addiction is fed. Pathetic as it was, she wasn't surprised. That was how Nar Shaddaa worked.

      She gave the bed a quick boot, sending him jolting up. His head jerked lazily around while his eyes tried to grow accustomed to their surroundings again. When they fell on her, he started laughing like a mad man. “It's a...Bit late for this...Isn't it?” he asked, words coming out slow and slurred. He flung his hands up in the air, “You know what? I'm not gonna complain.” He patted the bed, “Come on! Get on my boat...”

      Her eyes left him as she slowly stepped forward, picking him up by the shoulders. He simply cheered, “Heeeey! I'm f-flying...Whee...” She tossed him towards the window which cracked with his weight. He never even acknowledged the pain. As she walked closer to him she fired off a few shots on the window. It was made to withstand blaster fire, which one might find odd if they weren't accustomed to the ways of Nar Shaddaa, but in the end it broke. In one quick motion she reached down, grabbing him by the leg and shoulder and tossed him out the window. As he exited the building he was still cheering. There was a crunch as he landed against something metal, likely some car flying by, which was confirmed by the screams of terror that followed.

      Serd'aeri'asai gave the room one last look over. The job was done. As soon as the Hutt had managed to hear about it, she'd find more credits in her account than the last one. Serd'aeri'asai, or Daeria as those who would never be able to pronounce her maiden name would call her, walked slowly over to the window. Folding her hands behind her back she allowed herself a nice look over the city. Daeria Malcolm was well aware that somewhere out there was a hunter who was far better than herself, but the thought never bothered her. She was efficient, deadly, precise, and effective.

      Without a word, she hadn't spoken all night, she leaned forward, arms spreading wide. She savored the free fall for a few moments before she let her pack kick in, flying silently off into the eternally bright night.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Backwater Funeral (Part 3)

       For a long time they sat in silence, which allowed the ship captain to take in the military captain's room. The bed was made for two, as was to be expected. To its left and right were night stands, both with various odds and ends on them. On the side farthest from them was a chrono, along with a few pieces of jewelry. The side closest to them had a lamp, along with a small watch laying near it.

      Elsewhere among the room, a window allowed light to filter in, the blinds pulled up. There was a wardrobe pushed against one wall, and a painting hung on another, illustrating the landscape outside. Once he had taken it all in, and had time to think, Red's eyes focused back on the person in front of him. “Figure we should.”

      Paul took in a deep breath, staring off towards another part of the room. In that moment he seemed simply distant, as if he had drifted off somewhere else, but the moment passed, and soon he was back. “We left on a pretty bad page. I don't want to keep it that way.”

      Redamous began to drum his fingers against his legs, the last time moving quickly through his mind. “We did. Can't really speak for the other two, since they ain't here, but...”

      “If they're not here, that ain't your fault, Red,” Paul said in his thus far standard flat tone, “I don't want to talk about them right now.” There was another span of silence, before he broke it, “What have you been up to?”

      He gave a simple shrug, “Here and there. Alderaan, Balmorra, a couple weeks back I think I was on, oh what was it. Some little backwater. Hauling supplies out there. I'd say you know how that is but...”

      Paul smirked, the first time he had allowed himself to do so, “Except we're a backwater that doesn't accept supplies.”

      “Pretty much.”

      His father nodded, curiosity piqued by what was said, “What were you doing on Alderaan? Rubbing shoulders with a few nobles or something?"

      “No, no. Can't hardly stand the nobles,” Red said, rubbing his temples, “I didn't like it back when you and ma were stationed there, and I still can't say I like it now.”

      There was a sense of approval from the nod his father gave him, “I wasn't a fan back then either. So, if you weren't there for the nobles, what were you there for?”

      He grinned, “I didn't say I wasn't there for the nobles. Some o' those noble women are pretty girls.” His father allowed himself to return the grin, but he wasn't overly amused with the joke, “That, and they tend to order a lot of booze. Old stuff, too. Willing to pay an arm and a leg for it.” Red awkwardly scratched the back of his neck, “I got stuck there for a few days longer than I wanted. Cooler.”

      “Cooler as in, a jail cell,” Paul asked, though it came out more as a statement than a question. At Red's nod he frowned, “Why were you in a jail cell?” He already had a reason picked out in the back of his mind.

      Redamous offered a wry grin, “Decked a noble.”

      Paul Malcolm laughed. It wasn't a strong laugh, nor did it last long. Really it was a short laugh that soon turned into a hacking cough, but what mattered was that he actually laughed. Taking a moment to recover, he finally managed to push out a few more words, “You did what?”

      “Punched him. Pretty sure I broke his nose,” Red said, slightly concerned. “Probably would still be there, 'cept I'm one of those guys's booze runner.” The ship captain bit his lip, not sure how well that part of the tale would go over, but satisfied with the results thus far.

      “That so. Balmorra, then? Hear they're having a good little war.”

      “Oh yeah. If that's what you want to call it. Everybody wants their weapons,” Red grumbled. Noticing his father's gaze falling on his own weapons, he sighed, “Some of us need 'em, too. Not that I like needin' 'em. Was droppin' of some supplies. Rep troops don't got much in the way of getting stuff there without outside help. It's nice helpin', too.”

      His father seemed shocked at the prospect, and didn't speak for some time. They sat in silence, before he allowed a yawn, tired out from his laughter, “There's a place down the road. Cantina, might've seen it already. Go get yourself something to eat. I need a nap.” It was an order more than a suggestion. One that Red was more than happy to comply with.

      Night had come fast on the planet. For Red it was hard to keep track of time, or seasons, or dates with these backwaters, but that rarely bothered him. Standard Galactic Time, though was putting his brain at about five in the morning, and he had yet to sleep. Considering the sun was still going down, though, he managed to convince himself to stay awake.

      Wandering down the street seemed like an entirely different experience than it had been earlier. People were going this way and that. Some were heading home, others were funneling in a door here, or a business there. Food to be bought for the night's supper, or a tab to be started. For Redamous, it was the latter.

      Entering again, the barkeep gave him a short nod of approval. With his hopes higher that he wouldn't be told to leave again, he found a table near the back, and propping his feet up, relaxed. To his surprise the bar, as small as it was, did actually have a serving droid. Avoiding the other inhabitants was something he felt rather okay with, and so he was perfectly fine simply dealing with the droid. From where he sat he could make out a few people giving him odd glances when they walked in.

      When the droid returned with the bottle of whiskey and glass he ordered, he pulled his feet down, and poured himself a drink, before his feet were back in place. What few patrons the place had settled in elsewhere to talk amongst themselves. Here and there he managed to catch a snippet of what was being said. Something about a road being nearly done, or how good the crops were looking. Nothing exciting, but that was just backwater chat. They weren't exactly exciting planets. Most were kept entertained with people like himself, travelers from out of town who had many a story to tell. Whether those tales were true or not where debatable.

      But since no one had noticed him, or if they had they had shown no interest in him, there was no story telling tonight on his part, not that he minded. He was content to dwell on other things. Seeing his father had thus far been a success based on what he had seen. His dad seemed to be in a rather forgiving mood, though that was hardly a surprise.

      Nearby he heard someone mention seeing a “Malcolm boy” walking around, but he didn't give it a second town. Another part of small communities was gossip, and he expected to be a topic while he was there and for at least a few days after he was gone. A yawn escaped him, before his eyes closed and sleep took him.

      Someone was shaking his foot when he woke up. It took a few seconds for his vision to stop being blurry, after which he noticed Nicole Brenner, or rather Nicole Stewart, staring down at him. She smiled, taking the seat across from him, “Tired?”

      He let out a grunt as he sat up, pulling his feet down, “Just a bit.”

      Looking at her made him hate himself. It was essentially the same face he could recall, just a few years older, and as he could have guessed she had aged horribly well. Her eyes held a small hint of amusement at his sudden start, but that didn't carry over to her usually calm voice, “Too many long nights, mister Captain?"

      He bit his lip to hide the grin, slowly shaking his head, “No, no. Just the time change and all that.”

      “How'd talking to your dad go?” she asked, voice growing gentle. Red shot a glance to the other people nearby but none of them seem too concerned with their conversation.

      With a sigh, he shrugged, “Got him to laugh, once. We didn't talk long. I'm guessin' death's door's kinda making him want to get things cleared out but he ain't willin' to just come out an' say that, know?” She nodded, and in return he tried to do his best to change the subject, “We've been talkin' about me since I showed up. How've you been, Nic?”

      “Been out here. Not much to say, really,” she said, glancing around the room. Holding up his left hand, he tapped his ring finger raising an eyebrow. “Oh. Yes. That...”

      He kept the brow raised, “Most folks don't refer to it as 'that', you know. An' they tend to be a bit happier about it.”

      An annoyed look crept onto her face as she slumped backwards in the chair, “It isn't me that isn't happy, Red. I think it'd be you.”

      “Darlin', if you're happy with it, I'm more than happy for you. I ain't gonna get upset or nothin' over you being happy.”

      “Really now? You aren't jealous or anything like that?” she said, hardly convinced.

      He shook his head, “Never be jealous of something you couldn't get yourself, sweetheart. Nice little rule to follow.”

      He yawned again, before focusing back on her. She was managing to hide what she was feeling. Either that or it was getting later and later and he was still going. Apparently she took note of that. “You got a place to sleep?”

    He nodded, “Yeah, my folks got a spare room or somethin' that they're gonna lend me.” He reached forward to pour another glass, but she pulled the bottle back. “Maybe I should get some sleep.”

      “Sounds like a good idea,” she said, rising from the table. “Come on. I'll walk you home.”

Years ago

      “So he didn't take it very well,” she said, the lack of surprise in her voice unsurprising. She had told him that he wasn't going to react well, not that he had needed to be told.

      The street was silent, with only two people standing on it. Had the streetlights been off, no one would have even noticed them. They were sitting on a bench under one of the lights, whereas some might have expected them to be off hiding somewhere out of sight. Of course, with it being a small town that's what people would've expected as they tried to spice up their day to day lives with some thought of secret hidden romance.

      He had his arm wrapped around her shoulder, a look of relaxed happiness on his face. She was resting her head on his shoulder, seeming content enough. “No, no I wouldn't say so.”

      She shot a glance up at him, trying to figure out why he wasn't really put off by the fact, “And you're okay with that?”

      He shrugged his right shoulder, as to not move her head, “I didn't see it working out too well, honestly. I've known the guy for a long time, Nic. Trust me when I say I it wasn't too hard to figure out how he'd take it.”

      “You've known him for that long? Gee, Red, someone might just guess he was your dad or somethin' and that you might be a bit sad that he doesn't want to talk to you,” she said, sarcasm evident.

      “He'll come around at some point, even if it ain't soon. I figure it isn't anything that I need to let bother me right now. Got other things to worry about.”

      She snorted softly, “So. A ship, huh?” He nodded slowly, “Hate to say it, Red, but I don't do spacers. Too...What's the word I'm lookin' for? Inconsistent.”

      Red smiled, laughing softly, “Yeah? Well, hey. Maybe there'll come a day where'll I'll have hit it big and be able to just settle down peacefully, huh? Or maybe it just won't be the life for me.”

      “Maybe. You've never struck me as the spacer type,” she said, sitting up. Her eyes shot over him, examining him, “Nope. Too clean, too nice, and too...” Nicole tapped her chin, trying to find a word, “Upstanding?”

      Redamous let out another laugh, nodding, “I'm gonna have to try to get rid of the fact that my parents raised me right ain't I? Learn how to cheat, lie, and steal and all that.

      “Not steal, Red. You said you were gonna be a shipper, not a pirate or somethin',” she said flatly. It came off to Red as more of an order than a statement.

      “Right, right. Forgot,” he said, smiling.

      “So you're gonna come back around, then? Is that what you're saying? Take your little spin, waste your time and then come back, huh?”

      “I just might.”

      “Then I might still be here.”