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Up a creek without a paddle

Posted on 01 Feb 2019 @ 5:11pm by Adam Johnson & Natalia Johnson & Sebastian Reeve

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

Sebastian made his way down the corridor of the small luxury craft. Crew were moving about as they prepared for launch, and none of them paid Sebastian any mind in his nice suit as he walked past them. Even though he should be in the dining room with the other passengers—where the Captain entertained them during take off—it was not uncommon to have the occasional person from the Core nosing around in the belly of the ship. They were always harmless, so the crew just looked the other way.

Though he meandered at a pace that most would assume meant he was lost, his eyes were carefully inspecting the door and panel labels as he moved past. He needed access to the power systems and accessing them from the engine room would be too difficult and provoke too many questions. That was okay, he could do the same job from one of the secondary power relays — it would take them longer to track down and mean he and the others would be long gone by the time they found anything had been tampered with.

"Are you lost, sir?"

Sebastian stopped and looked at the young woman dumb struck. Crew on a boat like this one didn't usually question men in suits who'd paid the fare when they were wandering the corridors.

"I, uh, no. I mean yes. There's a bathroom around here, I thought I saw one." He fiddled with the puzzle ring on his right thumb, and her eyes dropped to look at it a moment.

"Just back that way, right at the T. Would you like me to show you?"

He shook his head quickly, stepping around her. She watched him move in the direction she told him until he'd gone around the corner. Finding no one there, he stopped a long moment, glad she hadn't insisted on escorting him. A deep breath as he waited to give her time to move on again, he looked around — there was the head, as well as a number of service panels. Ah, J-42, that would hold one of the secondary power relays.


Fifteen minutes later, and he moved into the dining room. Adam and Natalia sat alone at a table with a view out the starboard port, and Sebastian moved to join them as if he'd only been gone a moment.

"When they start the launch sequence, power systems will drain quickly and they'll be forced to abort," he said just above a whisper as he unfolded the cloth napkin that had been folded into a swan on his plate. He reached across the table for a roll from the basket that sat in the middle of the table.

Adam barely glanced up when Bast joined them. He'd already started eating, even though this was only a snack as dinner would be served later. The butter was slathered nice and thick on the insides of his own roll as he looked out the port.

"How long will they estimate the delay is going to be?" he asked quietly, as he turned back to his plate. There was no point in calling it done unless they could legitimately make enough fuss about the delay for a refund.

"They'll probably insist it's nothing and ask us to sit tight, but it'll take at least a day to track it down and fabricate a replacement part. They don't have any on hand. We should wait a spell before we go demanding a refund, but start making a fuss, making a point of how tight our schedule is almost right away." Sebastian sipped his mimosa. "Enjoy the food first."

Large eyes caked in a little too much makeup settled on Bast and Natalia's shiny lips smiled at him. At least he was good at what he did, presuming of course his assertions about parts and power systems were correct. But it wasn't a friendly smile, not on the inside, at least. Natalia didn't like Bast. Natalia didn't really like anyone except Adam, but of course being the actor she was none of them knew it. For all Bast knew she thought he was cute and useful. A shame that what came out of her mouth and what went on in her head were two entirely different narratives. She didn't need telling to enjoy the food and a few morsels had gone down well with the drinks she had already enjoyed.

"Good, well done." Natalia simpered and pushed the plate of snacks towards Bast as if he actually mattered to her.

"Obviously, I've already started laying the groundwork," Adam smiled, and leaned back in his seat again, taking half of the roll with him and munching on it. He recalled his conversation with the Captain. 'It's been a nightmare, miscommunication over the size and it's like the world ended, so last minute trip and how lucky you have a ship leaving at exactly the right time for us to get back for a meeting with a very important client...' The alcohol in the glass in front of him sat, currently untouched. He only drank on actual special occasions. Like his wedding anniversary or his wife's birthday. The wife in question preferred often to be just a tad lubricated. It didn't affect her judgement but it did effectively silence the tiny voice in the back of her mind that occasionally was unshackled long enough to point out that what she was doing was wrong before being bundled back into its incarceration.

"Perfectly done too, my love." Natalia commented with fake enthusiasm and brightness and reached for a snack, shrugging off another glance from the passengers around who thought she was a companion. They were tiresome, but at least they proved her reuse was effective. Adam winked across the table at her, smiling and ignoring the tiny niggle of possessiveness at the back of his mind, knowing how many men were looking at her. It was his own fault for marrying someone so aesthetically pleasing.

"Did I miss anything interesting?" Sebastian reached for the plate of fresh fruit, ignoring all the other food. It wasn't common on boats that launched outside the core—even if they were going to the core—to have fresh fruit and he couldn't remember the last time he had an apple. He bit directly into it, and ignored the juice the dribbled down his chin.

"Just the Captain talking about nothing," Adam replied, fighting the urge to roll his eyes as Bast bit into his apple. "You're dribbling," his voice was low but he was still smiling. He wanted to get there before Natalia got a chance too.

"What?" Sebastian scrunched his nose half a moment before he touched his chin. His apple ended up on his plate, and he pulled the napkin from his lap to rub the juice from his face.

Natalia rolled her eyes and picked a grape from the fruit plate. Try a grape, darling... she almost said. But elegance couldn't be taught. At least, not to people like Bast. The fact that Natalia's elegance had been taught quite escaped her. That or she was a hypocrite. Maybe she didn't even know which it was. Either way she felt superior and that was fuel enough for Natalia. The fact that the grape, while sweet, was inferior to the apple in her mind in every way but one was an annoying sideshow at the most.

Adam wanted to sigh in frustration, what good was saying you could play a well to do business man if you kept falling down in the simplest of things. Ok so when he and Natalia met he hadn't been quite so capable of playing a 'perfect' gentleman, but he hadn't been that bad he was sure. At least, Dominic was worse so they were lucky he hadn't been available for this scam or the next.

At the head table, the captain rose from his seat, tapping his water goblet with his salad fork. "Ladies and Gentlemen, we're just about to take off in a moment's time and we ask that you remain seated until we've cleared atmo. While we pride ourselves on the fine experience we provide on our boat, part of that experience is holding your safety in the utmost. While a normal take off or landing is safe enough that a person might be able to walk around—and you'll see many of the crew doing just that—on those rare occasions that something does go wrong, they can happen without warning, and in that event being seated will be the safest place for you."

As he spoke, the lights in the dining room dimmed momentarily as they switched from the landing pad's power to the ship's. A slight vibration moved through the deck, and liquid in glasses rippled just a little. Outside the port, dust kicked up around the ship as the thrusters came online and the ship started upwards. They got maybe a couple feet up before the lights flickered in the dining room and cut out completely. Outside the thursters sputtered audibly and the ship sunk back to the landing pad with a loud clunk. The Captain was clutching his chair, knuckles white, for a long moment before he lunged for the comm that was on the wall behind him.

A hushed but urgent exchange occurred, the guests at the head table clearly leaning to listen in, as those are other tables talked excitedly among themselves. He finally turned from the comm and looked around the dining room. It took a moment for everyone to become quiet again.

"My apologies, ladies and gentlemen," he started, a wide smile pulling at his lips but failing to reach his eyes. "That right there is exactly why we ask you to remain seated for take off." He forced a laugh, and a few people joined in. "It is but a small matter, an unexpected power drain. Our capable engineers are currently reviewing the power systems, and estimate only a small delay. As an apology for this difficulty, we shall we providing everyone on this trip a refund of one day's cost as well as a gratis dinner upgrade on the meal of your choice. The whole trip's planned menu will be available for you to make your selection while we wait."

"That's a nice gesture." Natalia said loudly to her table, just loud enough for the people about to overhear. "But we can't afford delays. I hope this is sorted out soon."

"No we can't, hopefully it will be as quick as the good Captain says, and we won't have to worry, as long as we leave this evening..." he said, in a serious, carrying voice. He was looking at the captain as he spoke, and caught the man's eye. He raised his eyebrow and the Captain smiled, but he looked worried. "For now, let's enjoy the food and drink and see what happens," he looked back at Natalia and seemed to force the serious concern off his face as he gave her a reassuring smile before reaching for her hand. Natalia let her hand be taken and gave Adam a loving smile. This wasn't a Bast smile, this one was real. Adam was the only person who got real smiles. He was the only one whom outside Natalia and inside Natalia agreed upon. They both loved him. For all his imperfections he had gotten her away from some serious Gǒushí. They were doing pretty well now. This revenge business was just a side show, but family was family and they'd get plenty of reward for their trouble.

"Yes, this evening." Natalia agreed quickly. "Or we shall have to look elsewhere..."


Adam Johnson

Natalia Johnson

Sebastian Reeve


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