Chapter 2 - Out of the Frying Pan
Matthew Denton leaned back in his chair. It was old, creaking in protest at the sudden shift in weight. Matt sighed. His co-worker Rick sat with his back facing him, hunched over his desk shifting through papers and consulting his console's screen.
Their tiny office was like a time capsule. Stepping into it sent one back to a primitive age; the technology was outdated and hardcopies of files were stored in large metal cabinets. Matt eyed Rick's thinning hair that swirled into a bald spot and sigh again, louder this time.
Rick swiveled in his chair, "What Matthew? I'm trying to work."
"Don't you ever wonder what we're doing here?"
"Statistical Analysis and Regulation of Port Activities; our understanding of this data helps others make informed decisions to improve efficiencies of Port policy and lower illegal activities. Come on, Matthew, you know this. We do good work. You should be proud."
"I don't see why they aren't getting some program to shift through all this…" Matt grabbed a handful of papers from his desk.
"It requires a human touch," Rick defended.
"They could at least give us humans a gorram window."
Matt had tried his best to cover the walls of the closet they called their office. Large maps of each system clung to cover the barren space: Kalidasa, Red Sun, and Georgia. A colour coded set of pins dotted the planets, each plotting a trip around the known Verse of which was planned in the hours of Matt's daydreams.
*BLING* Matt perked up to the special alert from his console. It was a new message that was sorted separately from the regular daily data reports. The sender was always anonymous and the message contained a status update regading one particular crew. Matt didn't know why he was sent this report. It didn't really suite his position. He had asked his supervisor about it and received little clarification. The job was simple; receive the report, make a hard copy, send hardcopy to assigned location.
Though the report was to remain 'confidential' Matt couldn't help be read each one; the first of which reported the crew robbing a bank, but then saving it from it being robbed when more criminals arrived. And that was just the start; this pattern remained the same throughout Matt's 11 month stint as a Traffic Analyst.
Matt gathered up the pages as they were printed and sat back in his chair. He could already feel the smile on his face. He had found himself growing fond of the crew's adventures; often criminal adventures but adventures nonetheless.
The report was succinct. It listed client names, locations, goods, and summary of the mission but Matt could read between the lines, his imagination filling in the gaps; a mission gone wrong, horses racing through the desert, a gun fight with a quick escape… Matt couldn't help but chuckle as his eyes travelled down the report. As he reached the bottom his chuckled turned into an all-out laugh, "Rick – RICK! Listen to this, 'Planned landing at Ares Port CV7 for pickup of goods.' They're landing here! They're landing at our Port!"
"Matt, you know that's confidential. You shouldn't even be reading it and I most definitely shouldn't be listening. Just send it out like you're supposed to," Rick whined.
"Come Rick, it can't be that important if they are sending it to us," Matt argued.
Rick stuck his fingers in his ears, "I'm not listening!"
Matt rolled his eyes and looked back at the report. Firefly-class Serenity was landing in his port tomorrow. He reached for an envelope but paused. The report stated that the goods to be picked were registered but knowing the crew's track record it wasn't always that straightforward. Maybe the chain of command could do without this one update?
He sighed knowing it wasn't that simple. This crew was criminal, albeit good people as far as the reports showed but still someone here was watching and waiting for something. Duty won and Matt tucked the report into a folder and addressed it to the proper destination then tossed it in his outbox.
He grabbed his jar of multi-coloured pins and dug about the container. Red was running low. No surprise when more than 20 were dotted across the maps on the wall, each marking a planet which Serenity had visited. Plucking what seemed like the last red pin from the pile Matt stood in front of the map of the Georgia System. He reached up and pushed the tack into the moon next to Boros labelled Ares.
The sharp zip of the plastic tie brought Ellie's thoughts back to the room. The limp head of the transport officer jostled as Jayne secured the man to the chair. Blood crusted in his hair making it stick up at odd angles; it almost made Ellie feel sorry for him. He would be waking with one hell of a headache.
"Get me when he's up," said Ellie and without waiting for a response she exited, sliding the door closed behind her. Ellie stood for a moment outside the passenger cabin and closed her eyes. Hoping to find solace in the darkness of her lids she only found visions Tray's frantic face flashing right before he disappeared over the edge. Ellie's eyes snapped open and she shook her head free of the memory.
On the bridge she found Tessa huddle over the screens of the main console. Ellie knocked on the metal frame of the door as she entered, "got anything for me?"
Tessa turned from her controls, "I think it's clear sailing. I've dropped out of orbit and we're off the beaten track. I don't know what that blast was but it sure played in our favour – nearly took us out of the sky – but this old girl managed." Tessa patted the ship's control affectionately.
"Good to hear," Ellie turn to the intercom and buzzed the engine room, "Garrick, how's it looking back there?"
"No apparent damage Captain. I'm running deeper diagnostics now. I will update you when it is complete," Garrick replied.
Ellie nodded and turn to go but Tessa's voice stopped her, it was soft this time, "Cap'n, I'm sorry about Tray. I didn't know he fell. If I had just - "
Ellie waved her hand to tell Tessa to stop, "No. Don't be doing that, Tessa. This isn't on you. We were in a hot spot and sometimes things don't go as planned."
Tessa didn't look convinced. Ellie continued, "Just give me time and I'll do some figuring."
She wanted to say 'Don't worry - we'll get Tray back'; but she knew full-well that hollow words were worse than none at all. Ellie turned to go, "I'll be in my cabin. Keep on course. You know the drill."
Matt's pen danced against the desk. He was up for most of the night, his thoughts were restless. He had come to the conclusion that if he left work early, today, he could make it to the port to catch a quick glance at the fabled crew. He would just go to see – nothing more. He couldn't risk his name popping up on one of the 'confidential' reports. If he played it right it was a victimless crime. No harm, no foul. His head bobbed to the tapping of the pen, the tempo keeping speed with his racing thoughts.
"WOULD YOU STOP THAT INCESSANT NOISE?!"
Rick finally broke. Matt had only seen him in this state a handful of times since they started working together. By the pulsing of the vein above Rick's twitching eyebrow, Matt figured he had better get an early start to his plan.
"I'm sorry Rick, I didn't even realize," Matt set his pen down, "I'm just not feeling like myself today. I think I'm coming down with something. Would you mind if I took off a bit early?"
Rick didn't argue, if anything he looked pleased. Matt gathered his things and slipped out of the office. With his coat in hand Matt headed for the elevator and waited, trying to keep the fluttering excitement he felt to a minimum.
Without looking Matt stepped forward at the ding of the elevator doors. With a grunt and stumble backward Matt briefly looked up to find that he had collided with two men in suits. He put his head back down, apologized quickly and darted past them onto the elevator.
He stared at their backs waiting for the doors to close. The men stood uncomfortably still. Then robotically they straightened their suits; their blue-gloved hands worked in an eerily synchronized manner. An icy shiver ran down Matt's back which made him lean forward and stab at the 'door close' button no less than six times.
Matt reached the lobby and headed for the exit. He came to a halt when a soft voice from the main desk called out to him. It was Stacey. She was one of the receptions of whom he became quite familiar since he started working there. Her pretty face was framed with wavy blond hair and soft eyes.
"Matt!" she called again, "there were two men asking about you just a moment ago. I sent them up to your office."
Matt looked at his watch then back at Stacey, "I'm sort of on my way out. To an appointment. I'm not supposed to be leaving this early, but it's really important. To save us both the trouble – when they come back down could you just act like you hadn't seen me? That way I don't have to explain myself later."
Matt smiled warmly, trying to boost his odds. His heart leapt when Stacey returned it, "okay, but just this one time. You owe me."
"Thank you. Thank you – you're a life saver."
Ellie's knees crumpled and she felt back onto her cot. Her face rested in her hands. What was she going to do about Tray? She clenched her teeth in frustration. She and Tray had been tempting fate since they were young. As a kid from the neighbouring ranch, he and Ellie became fast friends. They were inseparable. Tray had always found trouble and Ellie was always there to rescue him. She had never minded - she even welcomed the challenge.
But this time – this time she couldn't see a way around it. There was no last minute rescue, no quick escape. The window of opportunity had closed – she had left Tray behind.
Matt showed his I.D. at the entrance to the port. His position as Traffic Analyst rarely called for field work. He had only been to this port once before. It was not a major hub on the planet of Ares; it was considered small and just like his work, rather dated.
The port spanned in an array of catwalks that weaved through several wharfs. Matt hurried to the posted port schedule. Transit was slow and he was worried that he may have missed his opportunity completely. He pulled out a small piece of paper from his pocket which held Serenity's current identification. The report had contained its alias: Firefly class - Cadence 6.
Sect-C, Dock 12 – she was still here! Relieved and with a hurried step Matt headed in that direction.
Dodging cargo trucks stocked high with goods Matt navigated his way through the bustling port. It was busy and full of all kinds of trade. Ares Port CV7 was more commonly called The Hovel. And rightly so, as far as Ares port standards went this one fell well below them. Though highly regulated, the port was the only one on the planet that allowed outsider or 'non-corporate' trade. The metal walkways led down to an earth floor that kicked up dirt and sand when ships came and went filling the air with a murky haze.
Matt took a sharp right turn and headed down the ramp on to the sandy floor of Section C. Ships docked on either side of the of the open wharf creating an alley down the center. People milled about, off-loading ships by hand or by machine filling carts and rovers.
It didn't take him long to spot her. Serenity sat six ships in, her distinctive bow hung over the alley. Matt instinctively looked over his shoulder almost expecting that someone had suspected that he shouldn't be there; but the port bustled on, giving no-nevermind to him whatsoever.
Noticing his anonymity Matt moved forward with confidence. He was going to get a closer look.
"Go get the Cap'n, he's wakin' up."
The voice was muffled through the thunderous pounding that filled Matt's ears. He strained to look up but failed. He head rolled against his chest and his eyelids felt like lead. He fought to open them for what seemed like hours. Eventually, the thundering subsided and he could hear the door to the room slide open and closed followed by heavy boot falls.
His vision was fuzzy, but as it began to clear he could see two figures across the room. The tall man, who Matt guessed was the Captain's first mate, stood leaning against the bunk. Matt remembered him from the reports; his name was Jayne Cobb. Matt had become familiar with Jayne's already terrifying presence and seeing him now only confirmed that he was not man to cross. He was fit for being well into his fifties and if Matt didn't already know his age he wouldn't be able to guess it. The only hint would be the flecks of grey that peppered through parts of Jayne Cobb's beard.
Next to Jayne stood the Captain, her back was turned and Matt's eyes trailed down from her brown curls to the kakis tucked into her riding boots. The room was small and considering it was a transport ship Matt figured they were holding him in one of the guest bunks. She turned to face him.
"Officer Denton was it?" her voice was calm and he could see that she was reading it from his I.D. card – the one from his coat pocket, "What do you know of a fella named Collins?"
Matt shifted in his seat. His shoulders ached from the pull of his hands which were tied securely behind his back. Was this an interrogation?
"Never heard of him."
"Well, if you're not working for Collins, then who is it you work for?
This was an interrogation. And to his interrogators anything that Matt was about to say was going to sound crazy. Oh yes, Captain Reynolds I work for the Alliance who has been monitoring your activities for the last few months – and judging by the reports, it's most likely without your consent. I just wanted to swing by, entirely on my own volition, and say 'hi'?
Matt sighed, "The Alliance Port Regulation and Transportation Offices."
"And that's a faction of the Alliance military?" The Captain's face and tone remained neutral. Matt thought that he would feel more afraid then he did, but for some strange reason he felt quite the opposite, borderline safe. In the last eleven months Ellie Reynolds had never been reported killing a man who, well, wasn't trying to kill her first. He looked at Jayne and knew that he didn't act without strict instruction from his Captain. Matt suddenly realized his advantage – these weren't strangers at all.
"No, not exactly, the work has been outsourced to the Blue Sun Cooperation," said Matt, then added, "but I did serve in the Alliance Military."
"You apply fresh out of U.A.C.E.P.?"
The Union Allied Core Educational Program is what she was referring to and Matt, being from the inner planets, had been part of that public school system.
"Yeah. Two years standard military training followed by a tour on Deep Space Station Magellan-02 on the border. I did maintenance and then local surveillance. I bid out when I was 25 for a job in a minimal security prison on Boros. I served two years as guard and then was promoted to a position in an off-world prison facility on the outskirts of Red Sun. Spent a short term there and then was shipped off Ares to my current…."
He trailed off. Was it his current position anymore?
"Then what the hell is a purple belly like you jumping ship with us?" Jayne asked the most obvious question and the one that Matt was most dreading.
Matt's heart began to pump faster and his eyes dropped back to the floor. How was he suppose explain…
Matt felt the Captain spot his hesitation. She stepped closer, her voice softened, "I don't doubt you've been spelling things straight for me, Officer Denton. But it seems to me like is this a curious situation. Nearly 9 years of service with the Alliance and you're risking your neck to save the likes of us. No point explaining what you did, I was there and I saw. The real question is why?"
There she was. Matt leaned up against a large metal shipping crate. He fell just in the shadow of Serenity's bow and from his position he could see inside the ship's cargo bay. He tried his best to hide his smile and keep casual; but it was a struggle. All those reports, all the stories, they were real. Not that Matt ever doubted the validity of his job, but sometimes he found it hard to believe that life could be so different from the one he knew.
Then he saw her; it had to be - Captain Ellie Reynolds. She came to the edge of the ship and stopped at the top of loading dock, leaning calmly against the mouth of the cargo bay. She didn't look hardened or jaded as he had imagined. She was young and in the ship's light she looked almost soft; but not fragile, her stance held a strength and confidence that could not be doubted.
He knew he was smiling now, shaking his head in disbelief. How many nights had he thought of living just like them? He looked at Serenity and tried to imagine himself on it – though his daydream was cut short when he heard them – two Alliance soldiers had paused to chat in front of the ship.
"I don't understand why they even let crap like this fly nowadays. Tian Di Wu Yowng. Even the crew is pathetic."
Matt saw the soldier nod toward Ellie.
"As I said, piece of junk - someone should just put it out of its misery already."
Suddenly a rough force from behind thrusted Matt forward; he stumbled to catch his step and rounded to see the back of a hunched man hurrying away into the crowd. Matt turned his attention back to the soldiers but they were gone – no, they were moving up the ramp toward Ellie. He didn't hesitate, quickly Matt followed, carefully moving within earshot.
Then he remembered – the schedule! He was late getting here and Serenity was late to leave! The guards would notice and the crew would be…
"With all due respect ma'am – I would like to hear the reason for your delay."
Matt found his feet moving before he could understand where they were going. If he could just get his hands on that manifest, a simple authorization would be all it took.
He heard Ellie's voice, "yes, we are waiting for… for.."
Within seconds he was up the ramp, hand extended in front of him reaching for the manifest and the words, "for their extension to go through" tumbling out of his mouth.
Matt looked between Ellie and Jayne. There was no way he could admit that he had been following their activities through status reports – given by unknown persons nonetheless. Regardless of his actual job there would be no way to convince them that he did not carry the questionable intentions of his employer.
"I don't like bullies," Matt stated. Ellie and Jayne stare at him blankly. He elaborated, "I overheard the soldiers talking; they were just there to start trouble – trouble which I thought honest folk didn't deserve. I now see I was a bit too quick to judge. "
"Well, hell, looks like we got ourselves a do-gooder," Jayne grumbled, "great."
Ellie didn't look convince – far from it actually, "I'm flattered to be the subject of your nobility. Mighty fine of you to be so concerned."
Matt waited for the 'but'
"As much as I'd like to believe that you intentions were just, something isn't quite adding up," Ellie continued, "You seem like you've got a reasonable head on your shoulders – would you mind explaining why you threw that pineapple?"
The grenade; she was talking about the grenade. His head dropped. He remembered being behind those palates, the bullets flying, and without thinking he popped open the nearest case and grab the bomb. Even now he struggled to understand why he did what he did. His hands seemed to act on their own - Matt looked up to see the Captain and Jayne waiting.
He could feel the plastic cutting into his wrists. He thought of the office and Rick, of his military service; that was all in the past now – how could he ever go back? Forget it, what else have I got to lose?
"I've lived near ports, spent time on deep space stations. But, a life in the Alliance Military, or any job in the Core is like hopping from one cage to another. Locked in your position, day after day doing the same thing," Matt explained, the words falling unbridled from his mouth, "You end up spending your life working for something or someone you won't ever see. But you – you don't work like that. You live for you and by your own terms. Yeah, so I stuck up for the little guy; I know it's not what I am supposed to do but hey, I guess that's just me. It's always been me…"
That last sentence he said more to himself than the rest of the room. He faced Ellie and Jayne, "So what now?"
"This kid stupid or somethin'?" Jayne grunted.
Matt looked at Ellie. She was staring intently, right at him. He met her gaze and wondered what she was seeing. Her face held the intensity of someone in deep thought, but only for a moment. Abruptly the looked ended and with finality Ellie brought her hands together with a clap, "Okay. I appreciate your cooperation, Officer Denton. Or should I say Matt?"
"Good," Ellie turned to Jayne, "We'll be landing on Shadow for the exchange. We'd better get ready."
"What do you want me to do with the kid?"
Matt saw the Captain look back at him, "We'll deal with him after the drop."
Ellie left the room. Matt watch Jayne round of him and raise the butt of his gun, " 'night. 'night."
Ellie appeared back in the door way, "Oh and Jayne, don't hit him in the face! I don't want to have to wait another half-day's time for him come around again."
Matt watched her disappear again. Jayne, dejected, lowered his gun slightly, "Well, I won't hit him that hard."
"No." Her voice called from the hallway
"Just a light tap?" Jayne called back.
"Jayne…" Though she couldn't be seen, by the tone of her voice Matt knew that Jayne was had lost the battle.
Jayne let the gun fall to his side and made for the door. With a brief look over his shoulder back toward Matt paired with a frustrated grunt Jayne left the room.
The charred earth crunched beneath her feet. Ellie had never been to Shadow before. She could remember the stories told by her father. It was the place that taught him all there was to know about ranching and more. The wind ripped around her legs as she stood waiting at the foot of the loading dock. Seeing the scorched valleys of the once beautiful planet gave her a bad taste in her mouth; 35 years after the war and still nothing grew.
Ellie's eyes were following a fast moving cloud of dust, growing larger by the minute; it was a total of three vehicles that drove toward her. A mixture of tension and relief stirred in her stomach. She would be glad to see the end of this particular arrangement.
The trucks came to a stop 20 feet from Serenity and unloaded 8 uniformed men, 7 of them armed. Ellie's teeth grit – she never liked meetings such as these; especially when the other side had more guns than her own. The 8th and unarmed man was aged with grey hair and a lined face. His heavy jaw gave him a stern look and as he moved toward Ellie, his stride told her that he was long lived in the line of duty.
"Been a long time since I'd seen a ship like this," the man's eyes were on Serenity. He stop short of Ellie and continued to admire the ship. His attention turned from the ship to Ellie. To Ellie's surprise, he seemed taken aback by the sight of her.
Ellie reached out her hand for him to shake, "Captain Ellie Reynolds."
The look of shock vanished immediately and was replaced with a knowing smile, "And so it is – name's Jebidiah Canaday, but you can call me Jeb."
"Well Jeb," Ellie lead him onto her ship and directed them toward the payload, "Two flats of Alliance gear as order. I apologize for our lateness. Unforseen circumstances arose and caused a bit of a delay…"
Jeb had stepped up beside Ellie when they reached the crates. Her eyes caught a mark on his uniform and her voice faded in conversation; her mind momentarily distracted by the familiarity of the insignia he wore on his shoulder. It was the Chinese symbol for 'man' placed within a broken circle. Where had she seen it before? Was it on Three Hills? She struggle to remember if their contact, Collins, had bore the symbol.
"You needn't explain – we've already been briefed on the situation," said Jeb. He signalled to his men. They went to work immediately, hoisting the totes from Serenity's cargo bay and loading them into the trucks. Jeb kept his eyes on Ellie – still smiling, "How remarkable. It's nearly identical. What was it again - The Serenity?"
He paused, "…You look just like him, you know?"
Ellie had been beginning to wonder if that was the case, "You know my father?"
"He was a great man, Malcolm," Jeb praised, "one of the best."
"That's what they all say."
Jeb chuckled thoughtfully. His eyes took on a distant look and his voice turned somber, "well, he was. I recruited him for the mission on Beaumonde, you know."
Beaumonde… then Ellie remembered. The symbol! It was there, the day her father volunteered for the mission from which he never returned. She remembered her 11 year-old self heatedly arguing with him to stay and a man she didn't know interrupting her – telling her it was for a better good. He had the same symbol printed on his sleeve.
Jeb had still been talking, "….without him we wouldn't have been able to save as many as we did that day. He truly aided in the developments of our efforts. Though it was just a battle – it gave us the leg up we needed in the fight against them. And now - " he turned to Ellie, resting a hand on her shoulder, "I see you've decided to followed in his footsteps."
Ellie was speechless. Her heart throbbed in her throat and her mouth went dry. Jeb's men continued to bustle past, the gun crates were nearly finished being loaded on the trucks. They were the Rénquán, an underground activist group notoriously known for their guerilla attacks on the Blue Sun Corp. If she had known she'd have starved before taking the mission. She had to wonder – had Tray known who they were dealing with? Ellie's fist clenched, how could she be so gorram careless?
"You have no idea the difference this will make," said Jeb, thankfully.
"Nearly identical…" Ellie whispered aloud. Almost unconsciously she took a step back letting Jeb's hand fall from its place on her shoulder.
"What's that Ellie?"
"You said it was 'nearly identical'. It's the same ship – this is Serenity," said Ellie. She watched the confusion flood Jeb's face. She pushed forward, "it's the identical ship to the one my father flew; this is her."
"Hard to believe, isn't it? But how would you know she survived? Especially when you and your men high tailed it off Beaumonde, early - leaving others to finish that ho-tze-duh-pi-guof a fight."
Jeb shook his head, "how would you – ? Malcolm, is he - ? "
He stopped and looked around wildly. Ellie let him panic, she wasn't about to tell him that when she found the ship, years after the Beaumonde incident, her father was long gone; this was far more satisfying. His frantic eyes finally came to rest on Jayne who had just entered from the Infirmary.
"Canaday," Jayne responded, his lips barely moved and Ellie was sure his teeth remained clenched. Jayne reached up for a grasp on the catwalk above. Judging by the look on his face, Ellie figured it was to keep him tethered far enough away from Jeb so that his might not accidental kill the man.
"Isn't this some honky-dory reunion? Well, I've 'bout had my fill of family fun," said Ellie, her fury barely kept at bay, "Where's Collins? I think I'll take my payment and leave."
Jeb tore his eyes from Jayne to look back at her. His face nervous was now. Even through all the age, experience, and military prowess Ellie watched his lip quiver, "He's dead. Must've been shortly after he met with you."
"Go neong yung duh" Ellie cursed, "let me guess – and that was your explosion back on Ares that nearly knocked us out of the air, wasn't it? Was it getting too hot so you thought you'd just leave us to the wolves? Keeping your identity a secret and letting us poor souls do the dirty work. Sure we'll take the fall for you. Anytime – friend."
"Explosion? No – it wasn't an -," Jeb started but stopped, the words caught in his throat. Ellie watched him realize that the walls of the hole he was digging were quickly growing up around him. The fear she saw flicker in his eyes was soon replaced with a fiery denial.
"We do what we must! You ignorant girl. What a waste! Your father would have never… – you are nothing like - "
It took all she could to keep her fist from connecting with Jeb's face. The struggle must've been apparent because Jeb dropped his rant into incoherent mumbling. Ellie saw the last crate be loaded onto the trucks and held out her hand for her payment. Jeb obliged. The case was small but loaded heavy with credits.
"Best be on your way old man," said Ellie, "Maybe I am like my father, maybe I'm not; but one thing for sure is I ain't much about being left for dead on account of someone else's stupidity. So if you could – you mind avoiding the temptation of requesting our services in the future?"
"I'm sorry to leave you in such a way, Ellie," said Jeb, his voice shook slightly in attempts to recover from his outburst.
"That'd be Captain Reynolds to you," Ellie corrected, "and I'm not."
Jeb left. Ellie didn't wait to watch them go. The fury inside her chest burned. She knew that her frustration and anger wasn't only reserved for Jeb – but for herself as well. She turned to signal to Jayne to raise the dock. Fifteen minutes would be all it took until Serenity broke atmo – the first step in leaving this dustbowl behind.
Matt felt the rumble of the engines die down and the ship's artificial gravity cut in. From the windowless cabin Matt had no sense of time. He was unable to tell how long they had spent grounded on Shadow. He sighed – he wished he could've seen it. Books he read had described Shadow as a blackened wasteland, a devastating by-product of the Unification War. The stories told of the planet remaining uninhabitable to this day.
The mysteries of the Verse would have to wait. The plastic held fast and Matt readjusted in his chair. The fierce ache in his shoulders throbbed constantly now. He shifted again, hoping to relieve the pain. Worse. Matt continued to squirm; his restlessness nearly masked the sound of footsteps outside his cabin door.
The screen slide open and Ellie entered. Matt didn't know her well, but any stranger could tell that her mood was not to be tested. She paused to draw a knife from her belt. In two quick strides she was in front of Matt, blade in hand. His heart ceased to pump.
She lean forward and cut the ties holding Matt's wrist. He exhaled audibly, hoping that the force of the compression could kick start his jolted heart. Ellie was back across the room, comfortably seated on the bunk with her legs dangling off the edge. Her hand tapped the edge of the bed, anxiously. Matt watched her eyes – they were distant and filled with racing thought.
"Here's the deal," announced Ellie, "you don't have many options. Right now you're a wanted federal officer. By now Interpol will have your name, your ident number, and they probably seized your accounts so you won't have any money. Now, if you want I can drop you off on the nearest planet. I don't know much about you, Matt – " her voice tested the name still, attempting to make the unfamiliar familiar.
"but I'm figuring you're a man who not used to livin' a life on the run"
Matt starred. He tried his best to keep a poker face but regardless of his attempt his body still shrugged an obvious 'you're not wrong' in response.
"That's what I thought," said Ellie, "be that as it may, you know – with you being a wanted man and all. I figure that I might offer you a job. I got an opening on my crew at the moment – it's a temporary position but a position that needs fillin' nonetheless. And I was hoping you could help me out."
Matt gaped. Was she for real?
"You see, I'll keep the Feds off your back and you… you can help me find my friend, Tray. Most likely he's in the hands of the authorities and if all is normal in the way of the world he'll be off to trial. And after that he'll likely be sent to prison. I forsee a man of your talents being of good use in such circumstances, no?"
This WAS for real. Matt stood. He rolled his shoulders working out the kinks and aches.
"What say you?" said Ellie. She extended a hand.
What else was there for him to do? He took her hand in his and found her grip firm. They shook.
"Oh and if you threaten me or my crew on account of an old habit borne from your previous career – I'll kill you," she smiled and slapped his shoulder, "welcome to the crew."
-I hope you enjoyed Chapter 2! It's been really exciting to post and I'm looking forward to hearing what you think so far! Thanks for giving it a read! Oh and if you liked it - there be plenty more to come. :) -
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