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The Shit Heel Demographic

Posted on 03 Oct 2018 @ 4:12pm by Gabrielle Lemaire & Zhong Qi & Lucas Bird & Jacobina Newton

Mission: I Don't Care, I'm Still Free

Luke had a decision to make, Nick and Reeve were leaving, which left him deck hands and a hired gun short. In the few days they'd been here, he'd gotten used to have Tabitha and Xiuling around, and the thought of dumping them on the next planet with nothing left to support themselves didn't sit right with him. Maybe he'd gone soft, but since yesterday... He'd considered giving the girls all their money back, but he'd found that even that didn't sit quite right with him, and then he'd reaised how enjoyable evenings sat around together eating a good meal had felt. Last night they'd almost felt like a family.

So he'd asked his crew to meet him in the cockpit, they could shut the door without it seeming weird or anything. The last thing he wanted to do was make another decision that the rest of his crew wasn't going to be happy with. The rest of them had all gelled so well he couldn't believe his luck, and Xiuling hadn't been backwards in coming forwards with regards to ingratiating herself with the other women on the ship. Tabitha had been a little bit more skittish, but true to her promise there had been fresh bread every day, maybe he was hoping that if she was given a chance she would start to warm up to people the way she had with Xiuling.

As he made his way up to the cockpit he couldn't help but smiled when he saw Qi. "I don't pay you to have your butt glued to the pilot's chair ya know," he told her with a laugh. He headed to the top of the stairs and rested his own ass on the hand rail as he crossed his arms. He looked out at the black as the stars flew past while they inched closer and closer to their destination.

"Seems like I leave the cockpit at just the right times." Qi didn't have to specify, but it was clear she was referring to the incident with Xiuling. "Once I get more used to her, I'll feel more comfortable trusting her without my fussing over her like a new mother with her first baby. Besides, there are things about the flight systems that Ella can't rightly test on her own, she needs a pilot to observe and give her feedback to make sure they're tip top. Shouldn't need more than a couple of minor tweaks though, she's done her right so far."

He knew what she meant, and neither of them needed to confirm it with anything more than a moment of eye contact. "I ain't criticisin' your dedication, I just wanna make sure you're gettin' the down time you need, can't have you fallin' asleep at the wheel," he assured her.

"Er... Hey." Ella ascended the stairs into the cockpit and gave the others a smile. She was pretty grubby by this point in the day, she generally started off quite clean and got progressively more sooty and oil-stained as time progressed, especially at this point in the run as she was still trying to keep everything together with just tools, talent and chewing gum. She took a seat in the co-pilot's chair and checked a few readouts. "Everything okay?" She asked to the room, looking back over her right shoulder, her glasses now perched on her nose making her eyes appear large and avian.

"Everything's fine now that your favorite people on the crew are locked in their bunk until they're forcefully marched off the ship." Qi smiled extra sweet as she said it. "And don't worry, Cap'n, once Valkyrie and I calibrate a bit more, I'll be in the cockpit a bit less. I get my beauty sleep though."

"Good." Ella exclaimed. "About Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber I mean."

Luke hummed in a non-committal fashion, the fact that they were out of everyone's hair was good, but the reason why they were now there was most definitely not.

"I'll explain once Coby get's here, I've got somethings you guys need to know, and I wanna run by you and I wanna do this together, as a crew,"

"Well, get to talkin', because I'm here, Captain." Coby stepped into the cockpit and settled herself on the frame of the door. "You need me to shut the door?"

"Please," he said, pausing while she did it and waiting for her to take a seat. He took a deep breath and stood, letting his arms fall to his sides. "Nick and Reeve are no longer a part of this crew, they attempted to rape Xuiling, and I will not have this boat associated with such disgusting behaviour. Alice and I are going to be sending waves to anyone we can think of to ensure they can no longer find employment among respectable folk," he shoved his hands into his back pockets. "Xiuling is fine," he assured them. "They didn't hurt her, and she would like to move on from the incident instead of dwelling on it, so please don't let this change anything,"

"Sometimes injuries, mental or physical, take their time to come up, so I hope she'll ask for help if she needs it... but I won't pry or push." Coby frowned and crossed her arms.

"They didn't get far in their attempt, she was holding them off already when I interrupted," Qi spoke up. "So physically, I'm sure she's fine. I won't speculate further, as it's not my business, but I think there's more to Xuiling than meets the eye."

"I'm sure she will if she needs to, but I'm damn sure there's more to her than meets the eye, which is kinda why I'm asking this next question. What are your honest opinions of her and Tabitha?" He said, glancing between the three women to see who would speak first. "Have any of you actually managed to have a conversation with Tabitha?"

Ella shook her head. "Nearly." She started in her raspy tones. "She er... came exploring the engine room once a couple of days back. I said how nice the bread is and asked her where she learned to make it but I looked down for a moment and when I looked up she had vanished. Weird how she does that! Like… How does she move so silently? It's pretty odd. I mean… I guess she's uhh... Not gonna rape anyone so that's an improvement over fuck-wit and fuck-twit. Right?"

"Right, anyone else?"

"I had a surprising conversation with Tabitha. I also know why she doesn't speak much." Coby rubbed her face and sighed. "From what I can piece together, she had an encounter with Reavers, and I believe her family was killed by them. She said—well, wrote on a little notepad she carries with her—that she considers Xiuling her family now, because she saved her. The reason Tabitha doesn't speak much is her tongue is cut, split right down the middle into a fork." Coby stuck out her own tongue, tracing up the center of it about as far as Tabitha's split went. "We have to be careful around Tabitha. I don't think she means anyone harm, but she's definitely suffering from PTSD, and based on what I saw on the med ships during the war..."

"So there's definitely more to both of them than meets the eye then," Luke sighed. "I could tell she was jittery... but Reavers..." he shook his head slowly. One could only imagine the kind if depraved horrors she'd witnessed and been subjected to. Luke pulled his hands put of his pockets and crossed his arms. "So that's high risk of something causing her to act instinctually to protect herself from a perceived threat. In other words we're all extremely lucky none of us have tripped up yet, although that does make sense of her absence at meal times. I can understand not wanting to be overwhelmed whole trying to keep yourself in check."

Ella shifted uneasily in her seat and popped her glasses back up on top of her head.

"I'm sorry she's been through so much but um... are we really okay with a thirteen-year-old girl running around the ship with a combat knife? You guys have seen it, right? It's nine inches long I swear. You're not going to recover from being on the wrong end of that."

"Okay with it? Not rightly. But I ain't gonna be the one to try to take it away from her." Qi shook her head, drawing her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. "And if Doc is right about Reavers, I hope none of you are stupid enough to try to take it from her either. Anyone who lives after an encounter with Reavers, they ain't to be taken lightly."

"Oh I'm concerned but I'm not stupid." Ella explained, slightly sarcastically. "This isn't my first rodeo. I'm not going to take anything away from the child, seems like she has suffered enough. The question is do we want to make her problems our problems? As I figure we've done good by them already."

Obviously the knife was a concern, but she'd not pulled it on anybody. Luke had friends with PTSD, he knew the road to recovery was long and hard, and depended a hell of a lot on the people around you knowing when to give you space and when you needed to talk.

"And that's my next question, I can't set them down with nothing, on a planet full of Nicks and Reeves, knowing Tabitha is only gonna end up on the wrong side of the law no matter how much Xiuling looks out for her. She needs stability, and the opportunity to learn to trust and build relationships again, to be able to remember her family without seeing them die all over again," he knew how that felt, how many times had he seen his friends die every time he saw something that reminded him of them. How many times had he seen Jeremy's cold dead eyes looking back at him from his nephews face. He cleared his throat. "Can we, or do we even want, to try and offer her that. And just as a reminder, this isn't just a decision about Tabitha, there's a Xiuling in this equation too."

Ella answered quickly and passionately. Luke's words had given her plenty to think about but the conclusion was clear.

"I owe so much to crews like us who took me and my father in and gave me a safe place to learn and be useful." She said quietly, regretting how callous she may have sounded before. "I could never say no to to them and live with myself."

Luke nodded and glanced between Coby and Qi, waiting for their answers.

"I stand by my assessment that that Tabitha doesn't mean any of us harm, but it also means that taking her into our crew here is not without risk." Coby sighed, and tried to sort her words before she continued speaking. As she opened her mouth, Qi spoke up.

"So, are you saying that we should leave her on her own?" Qi stood from her chair.

"Of course not. I just want it to make sure we all understand what we're committing ourselves to. She's stated clearly that she sees Xiuling as family, so the Captain's right that we have to see them as a set in how we decide what to do. I think that with time and patience, Tabitha would benefit from having more than one person she can trust, but we also have to realize that we're committing for the long haul here. Even once she starts to trust us, recovery will be slow going. And the amount of damage it could do if she starts to trust us, but then we decide we can't handle her and desert her, it could set her back further than where she's at now. I am willing to commit to that, but only if all of you are too." Coby looked from Qi to Ella to Luke. "And I already started looking up information on how to fix her tongue, even though at the time I didn't believe she would be here past the end of this job, but once she's trusting enough I believe I can fix that too."

"Let's not take out our righteous indignation at their situation on each other, please," he said, moving quickly to place a hand on Qi's shoulder, looking at each of them in turn, making sure it was clear that he was directing that at all of them. "Don't forget that before we turned up they were surviving on their own, we'd only be sending them back to that if they don't stay. Hell, even if we offer they might not want to stay,"

Qi took a deep breath and settled back into the pilot's chair.

"That's part of the point I'm trying to make Captain," Coby insisted. "If we let them walk away right now like planned and without offer to stay, they'd be getting along like they were before, but if we offer them the choice to stay and they take it? We better be ready to weather through the storm of Tabitha's recovery. It isn't going to be easy, but once we start down that path, stopping it before she's ready to stop it can cause damage and may leave her and Xiuling worst than where they're at now. I am in full support of offering them the choice, but only if everyone here understands how much of a commitment that is."

"I um... I think... for me... like... I think we should let them stay... if they want to..." Ella was unsure of herself now and started to trip over her words. But she was up for the commitment. She gave the assembled a weak smile, slightly embarrassed.

"While I'm sure they'd be okay for a spell if we dropped them off and didn't look back, the Cap'n ain't wrong that Tabitha is gonna end up on the wrong side of the law. I trust that each of you know what happens when a man—present company excluded on account of not being a shit heel—decides a woman has done him wrong, they try and take what they want and if the woman dare fight back? Tabitha will get taken down, and then Xiuling will be alone. The two of them together might stand a chance out there, but each of them alone? Ain't odds I'd take, no matter how resilient either of them are." Qi shook her head. "And having done my time going it alone, I don't care how resilient you are, having to keep that strong front up all the time wears you out. I am all for offering them a home here, and given that Xiuling held off Nick and Reeve with just a knife when Nick had his gun out when I got there? I'd say she's more than qualified for the crew. And even if all Tabitha does is keep us fed?" Qi's stomach growled a little and she smiled apologetically.

"Have you seen the galley recently?" Ella enthused. It tended to go from lived-in to spotless over night but only the quietest and most secretive knew how, although most could guess. "Those loaves aren't everything that little girl does for us. And um... she could haul around boxes in the cargo bay if we need her to, right? Even if not, I love the bread. Like, I love the bread. She's a good cook! I always want to thank her for the meals but I can never find her to say it..."

The corner of Luke's mouth had quirked in a smile when Qi had excluded him from the shit heel demographic. "Kid's like a ghost, that's for sure," Luke said with a wry smile. "And as much as I hate to say it, Xiuling being left on her own is her best case scenario. She's not the kind of person to stand by and let that kind of thing happen to someone, she'll end up in jail or a bug house with Tabitha or they'll both end up dead," he sighed and shook his head. "I wouldn't have said anything if I wasn't sure I wanted to offer this to them, so if we're all sure, then I'll try and find the right time to talk to Xiuling, and I will make it clear that this is an offer and that we're not going to take offense if they say no."

Ella nodded and stood from the co-pilot seat.

"Err... Yeah, good plan. If you don't need me I still need to finish un-fucking the space door..."

Luke nodded and watched her go. "Let me know if you need anything," he called after her. "And if you guys need me I will be waving Huang Long and making sure these guys are blacklisted," he said, pushing himself up, and heading out.

Lucas Bird

Zhong Qi

Jacobina Newton

Ella Lemaire


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