A Play-by-Nova roleplay game.

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The Paranoia is in Bloom

Posted on 20 May 2019 @ 4:22pm by Lucas Bird & Zhong Qi

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

Luke had loaded up a plate of food and headed for the cockpit, he knew Qi was there but couldn't work out exactly why she was hiding up here instead of coming to dinner. Their guests were perfectly nice people, and her 'bad feeling' had come to nothing, he hoped she wasn't sulking because he'd ignored her request. So he'd figured the best way to make peace was to bring her food if she refused to come to dinner.

"We missed you at dinner," he said, holding out the plate as he moved to stand next to her.

Qi sighed, her eyes sliding over the controls of the ship before she turned to look at Luke. "Probably best if I just keep out of sight 'til the companion is gone again." She accepted the plate, inhaling deeply. "Thank you."

Luke frowned at her comment about the companion, she'd more than hinted that she'd had companion, or at least companion style training, so her having an issue with the companion didn't quite make sense.

"What do you mean, 'probably best'?" he asked, sitting down in the co-pilots seat.

Qi chewed her lip as she looked back at the hatch into the cockpit — Luke had shut it again after coming in. She tucked her legs under herself as she picked up the chopsticks on the edge of the plate.

"If she don't already know who I am—which is to say she weren't sent by the guild—then there's no reason to give her reason to suss it out." She picked up a dumpling and popped it into her mouth.

Qi looked more on edge than Luke had ever seen her, and that worried him, even screaming at Nick and Reeve hadn't put her this on edge. He considered a moment before deciding how to phrase what he was going to say.

"Clearly I'm missing some important bits of information, so how about you start at the beginning?" he suggested. If having a companion on board the ship, ever, was going to cause problems then he needed to know. Companions were well respected and paid well for a good flight, if transporting a companion was going to be an issue, he needed to know the details as to why.

Qi chewed and swallowed as she looked up at the ceiling. "So, I was in Companion training during the war. Headstrong, difficult, but skilled was how they described me. Weren't gonna be no highfalutin Companion servicing powerful government, military, or business people, but I would have been able to set up a decent house somewhere and earn a respectable living.

"But I had a bleedin' heart, and I supported the browncoats. I didn't really make much of an effort to hide it, though I didn't make it painfully obvious neither. The Guild backed the Alliance though, how could they not? Their power comes from the government seal of approval on their guild." Qi poked at the rice on the plate. "If they'd just let it go at flushing me out? But no, I left home because my family was ashamed of me, tried to make honest money on my back, and they took offense."

Luke sighed and scratched at his chin. He needed to shave, or at least have a trim. "So you're telin' me that any Companion on board as a passenger is a potential risk to you, and could get the whole crew blacklisted?" he asked, wanting to make sure he had it right.

"Shit," he muttered. "I'm sorry if I'd have known that was your issue I'd have paid more attention to it,"

"I don't think they'll bother the rest of the crew—seeing as surgical precision in retribution seems to be a high class bragging point—and as long as I ain't whoring, they mostly leave me be... But I've had enough run ins, I ain't inclined to take any chances." Qi shook her head. "I shoulda paused long enough to at least tell Colby what was up, but I didn't want to leave Ella all on her lonesome in the market. She don't take shit, but I don't think she likes dealing with it neither. 'Sides, if the Companion realized I was trying to prevent her from gettin' on our boat—especially if she knew who I was—she'd turn on all that Companion charm, and you ain't no match for that."

"Here's hoping," he said. Maybe Natalia was, at worst, here to make sure that whoring wasn't part of her contract. Which it wasn't so that was fine. He chuckled as he told him he wouldn't have stood a chance if she'd turned on the charm. "Thank for the vote of confidence, I wouldn't even know I'd been duped I'd imagine," he added. He was after all, just a man, and a man who hadn't had any since getting on this boat. He hadn't had time let alone anything else.

"It's intended as a compliment, Cap'n," Qi insisted with a laugh. "You're a man with integrity, and real manners — not that two faced Jao Gao of the upper class, where you bow and scrape, smiling until it hurts, as you're scouting where to bury the knife. But Companions must learn that bullshit etiquette and charm, because sometimes that's all that we have to defend ourselves if screening don't keep horrible men—for as much as I don't want to be sexist, it's almost entirely men—from our beds."

“Then I’ll take it as one,” he replied with a smile. “But aren’t companions supposed to be the ones in charge of that shit like... blacklisting is still a thing... right?” He asked, curious. He’d never used the services of a companion, he hadn’t needed to and he couldn’t afford it.

"No matter how careful, no matter how much information is shared in the companion registry, someone always has to be the first to find out someone's dangerous. And you can't blacklist someone if you don't survive the encounter — an extreme example, very uncommon... but Companions can and have gone missing without a way to trace it to a particular client to blacklist." Qi frowned. "And it's even worse if you're not registered. There ain't no registry for me to consult out there on the rim, no recourse other than local law enforcement — most of which look down on whorin' near as much as they worship registered Companions. That trainin' saved my bacon a few times."

Luke frowned and looked out at the black. How was it that he, as a decent person felt like he was in the minority.

"Yeah..." he sighed. "Sorry..." he wasn't quite sure why he was apologising if he was honest, but he felt like he needed to say it.

"Well, silver lining, lead me to this job, right?" Qi smiled brightly at him. "And you have yourself someone with all the skills of a companion without all that pesky guild crap, if you ever need wheels greased with a business partner. Though anything beyond the social engineering, I do charge a pretty penny for, so make sure to work that into the contract so the client foots the bill." She winked and laughed.

“I’ll bear that in mind,” he said with a smile. He was sorry for the trouble the guild had caused for her, but the fact that she’d supported the Browncoats was not something he could be sorry for considering he’d been one. He was not sorry that she’d ended up on his crew, however, and while her flying skills hadn’t been pushed, so far it had just been standard docking and in and out of atmo and plotting courses. “Look, if you want... I can watch the cockpit while you get some rest, if it makes you feel better, can’t have you half asleep when we get to the other end,” he told her. It was slightly less an offer and more a definite suggestion, but he wouldn’t object to a good nights sleep if she said she’d be ok.

Qi sighed, and looked down at the plate of food she'd hardly touched. Sleep would be nice after she finished eating. As much as she hated to admit it, being on edge since the Companion boarded the ship had taken a lot out of her. She'd gotten comfortable in what little time she'd been on Valkyrie, and she'd forgotten how utterly draining it was to be on guard all the time.

"Yeah, sleep would do me good, Cap'n. Thank you." Qi stood up. "Course is plotted, and Ella has done good work making sure the navigation computer's true, so it shouldn't need too close of watching... but if anythin' comes up, well, you know where to find me."

“Worst comes to worst I can fly ‘er,” he said with a smile. He had flown a firefly before, he’d flown plenty of ships, but it wasn’t his main calling, he’d ended up as a bit of a jack of all trades while working with Huang Long. “But I’d rather leave that to your dexterous ministrations if possible,” he said with a smile. He too stood and settled himself in the pilots chair.

"Right now, is mostly babysittin', truth be told. Night, Cap'n." She smiled as she pulled open the hatch out of the cockpit and moved down the stairs as she pulled it shut again behind her.

“Night,” he said, in the quiet between her opening the door and closing it again.

Lucas Bird

Zhong Qi


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