Tiger Moth - Chapter Four
Monday, September 20, 2004

The First Job


Jessamy reviewed the list of potential jobs. She didn't want to live off her inheritance. That was for when she couldn't support herself like a normal person. Instead, she wanted to work, to know that when there was no work, she'd still have the inheritance, but if she could live without it, she wanted to. There were three jobs she was considering. One was quite completely illegal, one was borderline, and one was dull, boring, and safe. She couldn't decide.

"You're little mechanic is here," came Maurice's voice from behind her. She glanced up from her console, and gave him a smile.

"Great - I guess I'd better go talk to him," she said, and stood, stretching her back out. She left her list, and headed down to the cargo bay.

Her first impression was of orange and grease. The kid must have been about 5'8", maybe 125 pounds, lean and lanky. His face, although mostly clean, was marred by a swipe of black engine grease across one cheek. His orange overalls were stained with the black stuff, and his hands looked as if no amount of washing would ever return them to their original pale tone. He gave her a tamed-down cocky grin, obviously trying to behave himself.

She did her best to look serious, and when she reached the floor of the cargo bay, she approached him with a small smile, "I'm Captain Carver. Welcome to the Oberon."

He grinned wider, "I'm Joshua Price. I been lookin' for a permanent berth, a ship that needs a good mechanic. I heard you was lookin'. I'm the best - and that's no lie."

She raised her eyebrows at this statement, suppressed a smile, and nodded, "Well, why don't we go on up to the engine room, and have a talk?"

As they passed Maurice, Jessamy had the kid give him his full name. Maurice nodded, and turned and headed for the cockpit. There, he would take a look at the kid's reputation and credentials. Neither Jessamy or Maurice said that was what he was doing, but it was expected.

She took him to the engine room, and had him look it over. Jessamy already knew what kind of shape the engine was in - she HAD just bought the thing. She listened to his responses and recommendations about what could be improved, then took him back to the cargo bay. While he waited, she went to found out what Maurice had learned.

His reputation was solid, as were the recommendations he'd made about the engine - they'd all been things she'd been considering doing already. Maurice gave a reluctant ok to the hire, and Jessamy went to inform him he had a bunk, if he wanted it. His wide smile and excited acceptance made her smile. She liked the thought of having someone aboard who knew how to fix that engine, no matter what went bad. She only knew the basics, and she was glad to have Joshua on board.

She watched him depart to go and collect whatever he deemed valuable enough to bring on board, and wondered about the other position she'd advertised for. Maurice was, in effect, the first mate. She trusted him, and suspected she'd trust him more the more she knew him. Joshua would be a bit more work - the kid was young, fairly untried, but had a reputation for knowing just what an engine needed to run well.

She could fly the ship herself, but she was tempted to look into a pilot. It would be nice not to have to fly her ALL the time. Be nice to only fly it when she wanted to.

Joshua returned a short time later with a large duffel bag and took the crew cabin closest to the engine room. It still wasn't very close, but it was good enough. He didn't spend long in his cabin - tossed his bag on the bed, and then went straight to the engine room.

Jessamy found him there, about half an hour later. She found him with his nose buried in her upgrades. She only had to clear her throat twice to get his attention. He gave her a grin, surrounded by a few new smears of grease.

"Looks like a first rate job. I'm not gonna have much ta do fer a while. You musta spent a purty penny on that piece o' metal there," he poked a thumb at the engine.

Jessamy's eyebrows rose for a moment, and she smiled slightly, "I did pay a bit for it. Took quite a chunk out of my savings. I'm glad you approve - just keep her in this shape, and I'll always be happy." She gave him a nod, and he grinned, nodding back.

"You betcha," he said, and dove back into the engine.

Jessamy shook her head, "I'll remember to warn you before we start the engine." She turned, and left him there. She made her way to the infirmary, then down to the cargo bay. She had medical supplies down here somewhere. She spent the next few hours finding and unpacking the supplies into the infirmary, smiling widely as she came across the lotion for her back. She stuck that in her pocket, and kept working.

Maurice made the call for dinner, and she closed up and headed for the common room. Dinner was interesting. Maurice said little, Joshua said little comprehensible, and Jessamy listened and asked them questions to keep them talking. They were so unlike anyone in the Carver family. She was fascinated.

She and Joshua helped clean up, and Joshua left to play with the engine some more. Maurice puttered - she was surprised to see this, as she was sure she'd never seen anyone actually putter before. Jessamy went to the cargo bay, and found the case she'd ordered, and took it back up to the common room. She set it on the table, and slipped into the kitchen, careful to stay out of Maurice's way.

While he began mixing ingredients, she made a little pot of tea. He turned on some music, something with a lot of violins that she liked very much. She took a pretty cup she'd bought at one of her stops along the way, and set it on the tea tray, beside the tea pot and the honey pot. She took the tray to the table, and sat down. First, she made a cup of tea, with plenty of honey, just the way she liked it. Geoff said that was the way a child would drink it, but she didn't care.

When her tea was just right, she opened the case. She took out a tablet of paper, wrapped in plastic. A set of pencils, in an old wooden box. A handful of little rolls of paper, tapering to little points on one end came next, and a few chunks of rubber. She placed these in a pile, and closed the case, setting it on the floor. Within a few minutes, she was immersed in the paper, sketching out lines, erasing, adjusting, occasionally staring off into space, then eyeing the picture, and changing something.

After a while, a lovely smell filled the air, and her tea pot had run dry. She sat up straight, arching her back, stretching with her eyes closed tight. When she opened them, the smell was overpowering, and her mouth began to water. In front of her, next to a sketch of a man's face, sat a plate covered in pale, creamy colored biscuits. They smelled like sweet butter. After he released the plate of cookies, he took her tea tray, and began making more.

"Who is this man you have drawn?" Maurice asked absently, as he worked to refill the teapot. He rinsed her cup, and set it back on the tray. "You draw him very well."

Jessamy felt a slight blush. "I call him the Man-who-smiles. I don't really remember anything else about him. Bit of an accident back in the war.. I have some damaged memories." She dismissed it as unimportant, not wanting to try to explain the whole yu ben de story.

Maurice gave a snort of a laugh, "Man-who-smiles. It is a good name for him, all of those pictures, he smiles so big." Maurice brought the tray back, and set it down. He went back and began cleaning up from his cooking, and storing away the rest of the biscuits.

Jessamy bit into a cookie, gazing at the portrait in front of her. She remembered him, in bits and pieces. His eyes were blue. "He called me Jessy," she said under her breath. Absently, she reached into her case, and took out a set of colored pencils. She selected a blue, and a green, and set about mixing the color to match her memories. Slowly, he came to life, and the cookies were eaten, and the tea drank, and the kitchen cleaned.

She sat back, looking at the picture, licking the crumbs of the cookies off her fingers. Maurice slid into a chair across from her, one hand twirling the end of his moustache. "It is late, Captain, no?"

Jessamy nodded, "It is getting late. I'll go see what that monkey mechanic is up to, and then I'll go to sleep. Promise." She put all the art supplies back into the case, fingers trailing over some of the other, unopened supplies. She was looking forward to this. Art was supposed to be very helpful in memory therapy. She hoped that was true, and intended to see if she could spark a few new connections to some old memories.

She started to pick up the dishes, but Maurice's hand stayed her. "Let me, Missy Cap'n. Tonight let me." He took them into the kitchen, and cleaned them while she closed the art case. She left it sitting on the table, while she stood. She slipped into the kitchen, gave Maurice a kiss on the cheek, and then headed for the engine room.

He said he wanted to protect me. Looks more like he's going to spoil me, she thought. I almost think I'm quite going to enjoy that. She didn't think she'd ever been spoiled - images of the Man-who-smiled popped into her head, but she didn't remember anything but his face, so that wasn't much help.

She found Joshua asleep, curled on a pad next to the engine. One hand held a scanner of some sort, and the other was curled against his chest. Jessamy switched to night lights in the back half of the ship, then headed back to the common room.

She picked up her art case, said good night to Maurice, and went to her room. After dropping down into the room, she stored the case away for later. She uncovered the coretex screen, and accessed the job file she'd been looking at earlier. The borderline job looked to be the best compromise between profit and danger. She sent a wave to the contact, and asked for a meeting.

She changed and crawled into her bed, leaving quiet music, not unlike Maurice's earlier selection, filling the room.


In the morning, there was no response yet from the contact, so she got dressed and went to see if Maurice had started on breakfast. He was there, arranging hot buns on a plate. They smelled of eggs and cheese, and as she gingerly picked one up, she could see they were stuffed with lots of good breakfast-y food.

"Morning, Maurice. How are you this morning?" She sat down, wrapping her turquoise wool shawl around her shoulders. She carefully nibbled at the bun, and watched Maurice, wondering what she was going to do today.

"I had some strange dreams. I will show you, after you eat," he said, and turned to finish cleaning up. Jessamy just nodded absently, knowing he'd explain soon enough.

He set a large mug of tea in front of her, as she licked the last of the crumbs from her fingers. She looked up at him, and he jerked his head toward the cargo bay, "You come, you see."

Eyes narrowed with curiosity, Jessamy picked up the mug, and stood, sipping at the hot, sweet brew as she walked. Maurice led her down to the cargo, and began a long tour of the smuggler's hidden compartments. A small blue mouse, he told her, had shown him these places in his dreams last night.

Afterwards, they sat at the table, sipping fresh tea and thinking. Jessamy lowered her mug, and turned to Maurice, "You have some mighty interesting dreams. Nice to feel I know my ship a little better, though, I must say. I only knew about maybe half of those."

Maurice narrowed his eyes at her, "You knew about compartments? You plan on usin' 'em, then?" He turned, as a rattle in the hallway announced the approach of the engineer. Joshua came in, rubbing at his eyes. As he collected two of the breakfast buns, he managed a "Good morning," before falling into one of the empty chairs.

He took a large bite, chewed noisily, and swallowed. "So, how long we stayin' in port, Cap'n?" he asked, and then took another large bite.

Jessamy shrugged, "I don't know, a few days maybe. I got a line on a job, should know more by tonight. How's everything look back there?"

Joshua swallowed again, "Got yourself a little hottie, Cap'n. Ready to run. Fuel's not bad, might wanna top off afore we hit sky."

Jessamy nodded, "I'll do that. If you two have any ideas, I want to hear them, ok? Joshua, now that you got to know the Oberon, I think it's time you met Obi. I'm experimenting with the ship's computer. Right now, he's not connected to very many systems - he can't control the ship. Obi's A. I., Joshua."

She watched his shifting expressions, and when he finally settled on fascinated, she knew things were going to be fine. She sent him off to the engine room, where she could here the two of them, man and machine, exchanging questions. She grinned at the thought of them pestering each other, instead of her, and she couldn't wait to hear Obi's reaction to Joshua, to see how the personality matrix would be affected.


The wav came mid-afternoon. It gave an address in town, and a time. She responded, and hit the vox, "Maurice, we have that meeting in half an hour." She slipped on her blue boots, and grabbed a leather jacket, shoving the necessary miscellany in the pockets. Before she grabbed the ladder to leave, she strapped on her shiny new gun, and hoped she didn't have to use it.

She stopped by the engine room, interrupting Joshua and Obi's arguments over what sounded like math. "Joshua, I'm going out for a meeting - you're in charge of my ship. I'm trusting you to keep him safe. You have the lock codes, and Obi won't open the door for anyone who isn't crew."

"No worries, Cap'n. I'll guard him with my life!" he grinned.

She nodded, "See that you do. We won't be gone long," she said, and left.

Maurice was waiting in the cargo bay, dressed somberly and looking menacing. She told him the address, and he nodded, "Aye, I know where it is." He led the way through the somewhat crowded streets, until they finally arrived a door. They endured the quick once over through the peephole in the door, and were admitted to a dark, dank hallway.

A man with a large gun stood there, "Follow me," he growled, and turned, heading deeper into the building. Jessamy followed, with Maurice at her back. They ended up in a rough room, with a small man in a familiar looking hat. She raised her eyebrows in surprise, "Badger?"

"Captain Carver! How nice I can be of service to you again, and so soon," he said, popping something small into his mouth and chewing. He had more of them in his hand, and he ate another before he continued. "Well, you'll do, you'll do. Got me a client with a shipment. You got an empty ship. Seems we just might have the makings of a deal, we might." He leaned back in his chair, looking at her appraisingly. "I assume you understand the more sensitive nature of this endeavor?"

Jessamy refrained from rolling her eyes - barely. Instead, one eyebrow arched eloquently. "I do have a ship, and my bay is empty. Seems it's possible we do have ourselves a deal." She stood comfortably, watching the little man.

He sat up, both feet on the floor, and eyed her straight, "The cargo is here." He handed her a map. "there's a code on the door. Delivery to a contact on Niobe." He pointed to the map again, "Everything you need to know is right there." With that, he tossed the last two... whatever they were.. into his mouth, and chewed, looking very satisfied with himself. She had a feeling it was a common expression for him.

Jessamy dropped her eyes and read the information. She handed it back to Maurice, who glanced at it, then tucked it away. "Looks like we got a deal. Guess I'll see you around."

She turned, and Maurice stepped aside, letting her lead the way out. She ignored the goodbye Badger tossed at them as they left. That Badger was just... annoying. She didn't worry too much about it. He was just well-known enough to be easy to find, when one asked the right people, but still low enough on the totem pole not to attract too much attention.

As they walked along the streets, she listened to Maurice, grumbling about making deals with vermin. Jessamy smiled, shaking her head, but her smile faded when she spotted the alliance soldiers standing together and watching the crowd. They're presence made her feel nervous for some reason. The same nervousness she'd been feeling this past 3 years, ever since she'd woken up, surrounded by Alliance officials.

The sight of the Oberon, sitting among the other ships, made her feel better. After she and Maurice were both inside, Jessamy turned to Maurice. He handed her the map and information, giving a sharp nod.

"I'll go make sure Joshua hasn't taken the engine apart, and get ready to go," he said, and was gone. Jessamy went to the cockpit, and began entering the information on the pickup site. Obi's voice interrupted her.

"Hello, Captain."

She pushed a lock of hair out of her eyes, "Hi, Obi, dear. Did you have a nice time talking to Joshua?" The pick up site was outside of town. it would take maybe half an hour to pick up and be gone.

"I like Joshua very much, Captain. He is very smart. He knows very much about engines. I like the way he talks."

Jessamy smiled, "That's good, Obi. Don't pester him too much. Remember that humans have limitations. Let him sleep a little, sometimes." She finished with the computer, leaving the map by the console. She left the cockpit, seeing Maurice entering at the other end of the room.

Maurice nodded, "The little monkey says the engine is ready set go, but says we should fuel up before we go," he said, going to the kitchen and packing up the loose items in the kitchen. Jessamy nodded back, "We're not even low yet, but he's probably right. I'll arrange for fuel before we get moving."

Jessamy turned, and headed for her bunk.



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