Third Expanse

Gathering the Crew

Family issues

Session Three – September 10th

A note from the author of this log…
It should be evident, though I would like to make it clear as this is a dialog heavy log. These words spoken are not direct dictation from my recording devices. Instead these are paraphrases and… artistic embellishments… designed to better convey the events as they went down.

Seriously, if you knew the true nature of the actors in this play… well, I will let my audience judge them

Aniah Silvershade slowly, and quietly crept out of the station ventilation duct she spent the night in, after having cleaned off any prints, bother physical and digital, left on the PDA she had nabbed the day before.

That was an interesting PDA. Aniah came across an email on the device that made mention of some device. She was sure then email mentioned the person who sent it had discovered a device. They didn’t have any idea what the device does, but, in truth, she stopped paying attention to those details when she learned this device was made out of the two rarest crystals currently known… and some unknown third one (that’s worth money, right?). Trouble is, this device is on Rivendell. She wondered if she should just sell the information. What’re the odds she’d make it to Rivendell to do anything. On the other hand… why should some other individual steal those crystals instead of her?

Nope, the email says hers. She needed to hurry, though. The delivery of her… perfectly legal product… was going to happen in less than an hour near her new employer’s ship docking bay. Trouble was, the delivery was to be made to the station’s only Squeelah service technician, and she wanted to make sure that technician existed, by helping herself to a station service technician uniform.

Xander rushes into the little meeting room Fe Dewolff had listed as their contact room. Xander had been in these rooms a number of times, but was not very fond of them… or, more accurately, not very fond of the janitorial staff’s ability to clean them. These rooms, located so close to the docking ports, were very commonly used by the passing merchant ships who needed to engage in meeting off ship. Most often with other merchant ships or local businesses with cargo in need to transfer, but, equally as often, they were used for… “short term conjugation relations”… Whatever… if you’re ever in one, DON’T use a black light. When Xander’s older sister first told him about this, he vowed never to use one. Damnit.

As he entered the room, Aurora by his side, he was greeted by a small, beige colored room containing a short, rectangular table and two chairs on either side. Sitting in one of those chairs, on the opposite side of the table facing the door, sat Fe Dewolff; a grin mischievously sitting on her face.

“Is it a good idea to be late to your very first meeting, Xander? And who do you have with you? Is that Aurora?” Fe said.

Aurora smiled and waved “Hi Fe!”

“Hello little lady,” Fe started, “and what brings you here?”

“Xander is showing me our ship!” Aurora answered happily.

“My ship.” Xander interjected.

“Sorry, my ship.” Aurora corrected, as Xander nodded for several moments, before it clicked in his head what his little sister just did…

“Wai…” Xander started before getting interrupted.

“Isn’t the wonderful! Such a nice bother you have. You’ll make a great captain.” Fe cooed.

“It’s my…” Xander tried again, but was, again, interrupted.

“Now, Captain, I do not wish to bore you, but I must speak with your brother for a moment, if that is alright.” Fe asked Aurora.

Aurora nodded authoritatively. “You have my permission.” she said taking a seat and looking to Xander as if he was wasting everyone’s time.

Xander looked accusingly at Aurora, but then took the other seat. “Sorry for being late, Mrs. Dewolff. There was a… distraction.” he said the last bit while shooting his tricky sister another glance.

“Please, Xander, I’ve worked with your family for many times over the years. Fe will be fine.” Fe began. “I’ll be quick. I know you want to go watch for your ship, and you have other family needs to attend to. Mr. Mancuso, the gentleman that sold you your ship, would like to meet with you. He’s currently on the Nutris Platform in Gagnon’s Star, but, as I understand it, he’s due to head out in roughly three and a half weeks.”

“Any idea’s what he wants to meet about?” Xander asked.

“Probably just wants to meet his new asset. He may even have a job for you that will bring you closer to paying off the debt on the ship.”

Ok, ok… I won’t bore you with the rest of the meeting. Nobody likes meetings. Besides, the meeting was pretty much over anyway, which suited Xander just fine. He wanted to see his ship. Aurora wanted a donut, or… something… but the closest shop selling anything like that was… away… from the docks and his ship was going to arrive any time now. She could wait. His ship was coming… Aurora became board… A board 10 year old… in a public place.

Standing at one of Bay Seven’s observation windows, Xander watched, transfixed, as his ship want finalizing it’s docking maneuvers… well, “docking” is a misnomer. For a ship the size of… I shit you not… an Aurora class (I promise, this had nothing to do with Xander’s sister at all!) it was more of a parking maneuver. Ships beyond large shuttles could not actually dock with the station. Xander didn’t care. It was here and he was perfectly willing to overlook the less-than-exciting paint job, and the little dents and dings in it’s hull. This was his ship!

He would have exclaimed so to Aurora, but… ummm… she wasn’t by his side. Xander started to panic and look through the small crowd of people. No Aurora. Where could she be?! Why couldn’t she just stand still?! He shouted her name down the corridor in both directions. Moments later, a jovial, male voice responded. “I got her, Little Bro!”

Xander whipped around to see his brother… his addict brother, Nicolas Rhysland, casually strolling his way, arm around Aurora’s shoulders. Oh god what was in Aurora’s mouth?! She appeared to have something long, translucent, and blue sticking out of her mouth. Remain calm. remain calm. This is Nick. Aurora’s brother too. He wouldn’t give her any of that shit he… would he?

“She caught me trying to sneak up on ya! Wanted to surprise you! Guess that didn’t quite work as I’d hoped.” Nick said.

“Oh, you surprised me.” Xander said. “Hello Nick.”

“Hello Nick.” Nick mockingly repeated. “Is that all? We haven’t seen each other in… oh, how long now?”

“Five years. What’re you doing here?” Xander asked.

Nick let the accusation slide. “Wanted to check out your new ship.” Xander was about to ask how he knew, but was stopped as Nick lifted his hand to silence him. “Blame mom. She posted about it on the social nets. Have to say, I’m sort of hurt you never told me, Xander. You’re big dream eh? So… do I get to see this ship of yours?”

This is my brother. It’s alright. He looks sober. Maybe… maybe… Xander sighed. “Yeah, yeah I can give you a tour.”

YAY!” Aurora cheered, the blue substance still hanging out of her mouth.

_So… Xander has a brother and sister. _ Aniah shuffled that information away as she spied on them from just a little down the corridor. She couldn’t exactly hear what they were saying… she didn’t dare get that close, but the tech jumper she wore gave her a bit of anonymity has she played around with a wall panel, feigning repairs.

She watched as Xander and his siblings walked away, down the corridor towards to shuttles, when a nasally voice almost whispered right behind her. “Annabelle Halo?”

Aniah turned around to see a young man holding a wooden box about a foot long, ten inches wide, and half as much deep. “Yes?” she replied reflexively. She’d used the Annabelle alias enough to respond to it when she heard it, but she was thinking it might be time to let Annabelle disappear.

“Your package.”

“Of course! Thank you.” Aniah replied, taking out her PDA and swiping something to the young man holding the box. He checked something on his PDA, nodded, then took off. She’d barely completed her little transaction when she heard her actual name…


She was getting whiplash, as she spun around once more to see her new Captain, grinning stupidly right behind her, his hands clasped behind his back.

“Captain!” Aniah squeeked, then cleared her throat. “Good morning.”

“Good morning.” Captain John Robert Leslie said pleasantly, but became confused as he looked over her attire. “So, what’re you up to?”

“Oh, ah… I picked up a couple hours of work. Can’t have too much money.” she grinned.

“Ahh,” John started, seeming unconvinced, but he didn’t push her for details. “Have you seen Xander yet? He said he was going to meet me here.”

Aniah thought about lying but decided she didn’t want to risk her Captain staying near her while she tried to “return” her outfit. “I just saw him heading for the shuttles. I think he was headed for the ship. If you hurry, you might catch him.”

John looked to the door that lead to the shuttle bays and nodded. “How about you?”

“Shift’s almost over. I’ll meet you guys shortly.” Aniah answered quickly. John simply smiled, nodded, and headed off to the shuttles. Damn that was close. I need to get out of this jumper.

Only minutes after Aniah scurried down the corridor, three other individuals arrived and started milling about the Bay Seven corridor. One was a sweaty Draziri, clothing stained and hair matted to his body. Another was a young human woman with sunken, shadowed eyes, carrying a small duffle. The last was a Vuri gentleman who walked with purpose. All three wondering where their boss was!

“You never said why you’re here.” Xander said to his brother as they approached his shuttle.

“Business.” Nick answered evasively.

“What kind of business?” Xander pressed.

“Nothing you need to worry about, Little Bro.” Nick answered with a smile. “Right now, I just want to see your little venture.”

“I don’t have any money to lend you.” Xander accused as they reached the door to the shuttle.

Nick stopped short of the shuttle entrance. “That’s fine. I don’t need any. Little presumptuous of you… and a bit rude, maybe.”

“Xander!” Captain John Robert Leslie shouted from further down the shuttle bay, his hand up to catch Xander’s eye.

Xander looked past his brother to his approaching business partner. Nick followed suit and took a few steps to stand next to his brother. This move did not go unnoticed by Xander, who, turning back to John, was about to respond to his partner (in the financial sense… at the moment), when Nick thrust out his hand at the Captain.

“Pleasure to meet you, Sir. My name’s Nicolas Rhysland.” Nick said.

John took the man’s hand and shook it, looking confusedly over at Xander. His confusion doubled when he noticed the little girl hanging in the doorway of the shuttle. “Hello there.”

“John, this is Nick.” Xander said, pausing a moment before finishing, “my brother.”

John’s smile broadened. “A pleasure, Nick. Please, call me John.”

“Thank you, John. Very kind of you.” Nick smiled back. “So you’re a merchant ship, yes?”

“That’s right.” John answered.

“Have room for a contract?” Nick ventured.

John noticed Xander’s growing discomfort, “What’s the cargo?”

“Mostly culinary supplies.” Nick answered.

Xander let out a brief scoff. “Some sort of cook now?”

“Hey!” Nick exclaimed, then let his expression soften and lowered his voice, “I happen to be a damn good cook, thank you very much.”

“For who?” Xander pressed.

“A very reputable company.” Nick grinned.

“I’m sure.” Xander dismissed.

“Who’s the contract with?” John asked, deciding he should verbally get between these two siblings.

“Yang Si.” Nick answered.

“They’re still around?” John asked in surprise.

“Yeah. They mostly operate in the more populated colonies these days, but they’ve branched out to our neck of the woods not too long ago.”

“How much’ll the job pay, and where to?” John asked. Glancing at his partner, he was also amusingly wondering and who’s going to try and kill us for this cargo?

“Where to is easy, " Nick said. “Rivendell. Only a jump away. As for the cost; I can’t give you an official number, mind you, but I suspect it’ll be close to ten thousand credits. Should I have a contract drafted?”

Right then, a thought struck John (yes, it hurt, but he likes it that way). “Wait a second, you said you’re a cook?”

Nick raised an eyebrow and nodded. “I did.”

“Interested in joining our crew?” John

“No!” Xander blurted. John and Nick both looked over at him and he suddenly felt a little self conscious, but then took his brother by the arm, “Excuse us a moment”, and lead him to a small utility corridor not far off.

John was mildly amused by the encounter. This was shaping up to be a very interesting venture… then he realized he had been left alone with the 10 year old girl who he did not know. Aurora eyed him suspiciously. Suddenly he felt very, very uncomfortable.

Aniah Silvershade, having changed out of the technician jumpsuit and into her own clothing, quickly picked up the rest of her belongings, of which she hid in a nearby cubby, and entered the shuttle bay, carefully. She prefered to know where everyone was before making an entrance, and this time especially given she did not know who the rest of the crew were.

As she stealthily entered the bay she saw her captain standing by the shuttle with a little human girl. Her ears twitched, surely humans don’t… no… where’s Xander?

Instead of heading strait to her Captain, she opted to duck into a side corridor. Turns out she was far more distracted by John and his immediate company than she had thought because as she rounded a corner, she nearby bumped into Xander and his brother. They seemed to be arguing about some sort of trust issues (don’t we all, Xander. Don’t we all), but both of them noticed her approach.

“Oh! Hello there Aniah.” Xander said, trying to calm himself a little.

“Hello, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. Where is everyone?” Aniah attempted to feign as much innocence as she could. To be honest, she didn’t have to try hard. The Rhysland boys seemed more preoccupied with their discussions, and, Aniah hadn’t actually done anything.

“Umm, the Captain is by the shuttle” Xander replied pointing back out the corridor.

“Oh, ok, thank you,” Aniah said, turning to head towards the creepy captain all by herself. She heard not one, but three message chimes come in on Xander’s PDA and saw him quickly responding before making one final remark to his brother…

“You better not be lying to me.”

Moments later, a Vuri, Human, and Draziri all walk into the shuttle bay. This is not a setup to some grand joke… well… maybe it is, but in either case, these three individuals did, in fact, walk into the shuttle bay.

Archer, Sadhva, and Chitterie respectively, entered the bay, as they quickly figured out they were all going to the same place and made their respective introductions.

“Ok good, everyone’s here” Xander said as he approached them from nearby. “We’ll be leaving for the ship momentarily.”

As the four of them arrived at the shuttle, they each heard the tail end of a conversation between their captain and another individual they had not yet met.

“I will have the contract drawn and sent to you shortly, Captain,” Nick said. “As for your offer of contracted employment, I will speak with my employers and see if something could be arranged. I, personally, would be very interested.”

“Wonderful. Look forward to seeing the contract.” Captain John jovially replied.

“And I see the rest of your crew have arrived. I will take my leave of you,” the last part Nick directed to Xander as he finished approaching. “It was good to see you again, Little Bro.” with a grin he turned to Aurora, “and it’s always wonderful to see my littlest sister! You keep these rabble in line of your ship. Can’t let them get out of control!”

“I will totally keep them in line, Nickie! I promise!” Aurora giggled.

“Here.” Nick said, handing his sister more of the blue substance. “You can never have too much.” and with that, he turned and left.

No more than a footstep or two later Chitterie exclaimed, “I’m not serving on a ship that has children!” … I may be chased by the Mob, but, damnit, I’d rather face the Mob than a snot little child.

“I’ll be bringing her home at the end of the day.” Xander quickly answered.

“But you said it’s MY ship!” Aurora

“The hell it is!” Chitterie bellowed.

“I didn’t say that,” Xander said to both his sister and his employees. “Look, let’s all just take a look at our new home and we’ll sort everything out in short order.”

Less than 20 minutes later Xander landed his shuttle, The Morning Riser (I shit you not) in the small hanger bay of the Astrea’s Jewel. As the crew disembarked onto the ship, Xander looked to Aurora, “Stay by the shuttle.” … Xander is a smart lad at the age of 19… he managed to acquire a ship, start a business, and hire a crew (on paper) after all. A parent, he was not, as Aurora nodded up at him, then took off towards the doorway at the far end of the hanger bay. “Aurora!” Xander exclaimed.

“If it gets in my way, I will take it apart,” Chitterie grumbled at Xander, “and if I put it back together, it may not be in the same way as I took it apart.”

“I’d just space her.” Archer said nonchalantly, passing by Xander and Chitterie.

“Don’t worry, I’ll watch her!” Aniah said excitedly, then ran off.

“Thank…” Xander started saying to Aniah, but she was already gone, “… you”

“My cabin better have a large bed.” John said, clasping young Xander on the shoulder. “Lady Sadhva and I may be using it quite often… once I’ve wooed her sufficiently.”

“Captain,” Sadhva said walking up from behind him, “I think I would rather have Chitterie take me apart while I was awake than get anywhere near your bed, no matter what size it was.”

“That’s a maybe then?” John asked. Sadhva snarled at him and walked away.

For the next several hours the crew made themselves familiar with the layout of their ship. The supplies Xander had purchased the day before were being loaded, and both Aurora and Aniah learned they could move around the air vents of the ship. This later bit of news did not bode well in Xanders mind.

For Sadhva, her first priority was to find which cabin was hers and get some rest. When she had nightmares, it tended to make her even more exhausted than when she went to sleep, and the night before was particularly bad.

Things did not start off well for Sadhva when she discovered the first cabin on the crew deck she tried had torn two mattresses. Not just torn, but as she looked closer, it looked like they were torn from the inside out. How strange.

Thankfully, the second cabin she tried was totally intact. True, the room was made for two people, but screw anyone else. She slept alone. She quickly rigged a lock on the door, fell into one of the two mattresses, even with no other linens or blankets, and fell asleep.

Chitterie spent most of the afternoon overseeing the stocking and setup of the ships small med bay. Cramped was an understatement. With a nearly full drug pantry, and two beds for any patients, there remained almost no more room. That was fine. Like Sadhva, Chitterie was operating on virtually no sleep. He, too, was looking to just crash in a nice cosy…

“What in the hell happened to these?!” Chitterie exclaimed while looking at the torn up mattresses on the crew deck.

“Where these torn from the inside?” Archer asked having come up right behind the agitated Draziri.

“All I know is I have no bed to sleep on.” Chitterie said in a low voice, speaking every word one at a time.

“What about the guest cabins?” Archer suggested.

Chitterie stomped a little ways down the hall to the first of the ships two guest cabins. He almost punched the button to open the door and… nothing happened. He stalks the new feet to the other guest cabin door, smashes the button, and, again, is greeted to a stubbornly unmoving door.

“They don’t open.” Chitterie growls to Archer.

Archer examines the controls for the first guest cabin. “Huh… that’s funny. There’s power and the mechanicals all seem in order, at least as far as I can see.”

“You know what? It’s fine.” Chitterie huffs. “I brought my hammock, and there should be just enough room in med bay. I’m going to sleep there.”

“And where am I suppose to…” Archer starts.

Chitterie shoots his hand up to silence the Vuri, on the verge of telling him exactly where he could sleep, but then calmed himself down. His exhaustion was not the Vuri’s fault. Chitterie sighed. “Let me try something. I need to get some stuff from down med bay.”

As Chitterie walks away, Archer decided perhaps his employer would want to know about the fact his ship was not quite as ship-shape as one would think.

Minutes later, as Archer laid out the mystery of the guest cabin door to Xander, Chitterie came back to the crew dack, and entered the cabin with the torn mattresses. He laid them together on their torn sides and began suturing them together. After all, one large mattress should be better than two torn ones, right? Damned if he knew.

Aniah was finding she really liked Aurora. Sure, she was human… a fact she chose not to hold against her for the moment… but even still, she was sneaky and enjoyed crawling around vents!

Ok, to be fair, Aniah was crawling around the vents to scope out some potential cubby spaces in which she’d be able to stash items of importance, and Aurora was doing so to keep out of reach of her brother Xander who kept threatening to take her home. The desire not to return home was just another reason Aniah liked the little human girl so much. Who wants to be confined to… home.

Captain John Robert Leslie reviewed the controls of the work stations on his bridge. At the fore was the pilots dome. A enclosed area, except at it’s rear, that consisted of a single, full structure display screen, a single chair, and a wrap around console. This area allowed the pilot to view nearly all the information they needed, in any way they needed, in order to navigate and pilot. John knew very little about piloting himself, and knew quite well he would never be able to do so in any serious capacity. That said, he envied Xander’s talent, if for no other reason than he got the best seat on the ship… next to his own.

The captain’s chair was situated in such a manner as to have view of all other stations on the ship. It also sported a number of small information consoles that gave him a birds eye view of the ships situation. It was in this seat, as he was “breaking it in” for himself, that John noticed one of the consoles light up with a notification that he has received a message.

John called for Xander to join him on the bridge, which he did in short order. It appeared that the Yang Si contract, promised by Xander’s brother, had just arrived and they were faced with a little bit of a dilemma…

On one hand, there was the Yang Si contract which was to deliver food stuffs to the colony world of Rivendell (must have been a Lord of the Rings lover… great, someone into the classics) within a span of 15 days, which was the maximum length of time the cargo crates containing the food could keep it’s contents preserved. The contract also happened to pay 10k credits… no small sum of scratch.

On the other hand, there was Fe Dewolff’s suggestion regarding visiting Mr. Mancuso, who, Xander was told during the boring part of the meeting, was only going to remain in Gagnons Star for approximately three and a half weeks. Nothing could bite you in the ass if you skipped out on your debtee right?

Finally, on the third hand (which no known race in the galaxy has, to anyones knowledge) there’s the cargo pickup on Rivendell. Very scant details. A destination (far from the colony’s only settlement), and a payment of 20k… and a deadline of 22 days… well, 20 days now as Captain John Robert Leslie was given the details two days earlier at this point.

After much deliberation the two men decided to try for both of the Rivendell jobs first, and hope they don’t miss this Mr. Mancuso… 11 days to Rivendell, then 11 days to Gagnons Star. A total of 22 days… maybe add a day to do both jobs (I mean… they’re just a simple delivery and pickup, right?!) and bing, bang, boom, in Mancusos office… maybe… time to go.

“You bring your sister home?” John asked Xander as the meeting came to an end.

“Aurora!” Xander called as he made his way to the crew deck. He almost missed it, but, one of the guest cabin doors was open. He looked around to see if anyone was there, but the place was deserted.

He sent a message to Archer. “You managed to get the guest cabins open?”

Moments later Archer’s response came back, “Nooo… Why?”

“One is open now.”

“On my way.”

Xander eyed the door leading to the opened guest cabin while calling once more for his sister “Aurora!”

Sadhva stood near the airlock of her old ship watching as her old crew bantered back and forth with one another while making their way onto another ship. They continued walking down the connecting corridor as the darkness seemed to consume them more and more the further in they strode, until, finally, they disappeared into the blackness.

All was quiet as Sadhva stared into the abyss. So dark. So cold. Cold? No… no, it’s very warm. Her eyes focused and the airlock doors were shut. Past the window was the corridor. It was looking back at her, fire encircling the inkiness beyond. No… not inky. Not empty. My crew… Sadhva’s crew were frantically beating on the airlock door. Begging… pleading for her to open it. I can’t. The fire… it’ll come into THIS ship! The crew’s flesh began to redden and bubble. Blood boiled between the forming cracks and the skin turned to ash.

Sadhva’s heart beat wildly in her chest. Her crew were burning, but I… I can’t let them in.

As the burned flesh began to sluff off, the faces of her new crew started to appear underneath. They, too, looked dead.

Sadhva sat bolt upright in her bed, he skin pale and her mattress soaked in sweat. Without thinking she rose from bed and mumbled how she needed to see a doctor.

“Auror…” Xander’s calls were cut short as one of the cabin doors hissed open and a naked Sadhva walked out, past him without even a glance, and down the steps. He tried to ask her if she was alright, but she only mumbled “I’ll be fine” as she passed.

Glorious sleep! How it alluded him for soooo long!

Chitterie has “sutured” the torn mattresses together and, according to Archer they felt decent. Well, good for him, they were his. Chitterie made peace with his hammock.

It took him longer than he would have wanted to set the damn thing up. First of all, nobody told him they were going to move his stuff. It wasn’t where he remembered it. He was going to have words with someone about that. When he did finally find his belongings he brought them to the medical bay, took out his comfortably worn hammock and started to look for something to hang it on… damn smooth metal walls.

“No respect for Draziri.” he mumbled under his breath as he made his way down to the lower decks… accessible only by a ladder… a ladder! Seriously, humans have no respect for the other races! He made his way to some mechanics bay, or manufacturing room… whatever. He was a doctor, not an engineer! He could care less what the room did. What he did care about, and was quite happy to find, were about half a dozen scaffolding supports, each with grooves and extrusions he decided he could work with.

After Draziri-handling them up the ladder… A LADDER for abyss’s sake … he set them up in a small alcove in the med bay intended for a desk and chair. Screw it, this was his bedroom, and if he had any patients that had a problem with it… he could space them.

Hammock prepared, he hopped into it, made himself comfortable, and closed his eyes… dream land right behind them.

“Chitterie?” Sadhva called into the darkened medical bay.

Chitterie’s eyes shot open. They were so bloodshot he could swear they were burning out of his sockets.

NOTE: More to come