Sunrise Part 2
Monday, April 24, 2006

Deep-Water and EC get into trouble at the local bar while Starr and Roker meet the new crew.


Starr sniffed the air, taking in the aroma of hard liquor and wandering tobacco smoke. She loved bars, ever since E.C and Roker took her to her first barfight. Deep-Water had almost had a heart attack when he found out. If he knew that Starr was in a bar even now…shudder to think.

“This place alright, Starr?” Monid asked hopefully. The pilot never took her anywhere off-ship without her approval.

“It’s fine, Roker. How come you always ask me if ‘it’s alright?’ I’ve seen every dive this half of the system, and you ask if ‘it’s alright.”

“Just don’t want you doing anything you don’t wanna. E.C and the Cap feel the same.”

“If I didn’t want to do things I didn’t want to do, I’d never have crewed up on Phoenix. And besides, wasn’t it me who pointed this place out?”

She sidled into a scarred barstool, and immediately got her drink. Strangely, she could outdrink E.C and Roker, a skill not very common to Companion’s daughters.

The daughter of a renowned Companion. Of course, this was a mistake. Companions usually did not have children, as a child was an unattractive feature. Starr had inherited her beauty, but nothing else from her. Senryu (her mother’s only name, translated into ‘river-willow,) had left her to an orphanage, a helpless baby with no name.

Roker sat beside her, pondering over the Captain’s words before they’d split up from the ship. Something about ‘crew…’ Alas, Roker had been a little preoccupied nursing a bruise from the epic cargo bay battle. The yellow-haired pilot also thought about what he had said to the captain, about the girl who’d left for some distant moon. That was a lie he had cooked up, to make him seem less pathetic to E.C and the Captain, and perhaps to make Starr a tad jealous. E.C had believed it, and maybe Starr, but Deep-Water knew a lie when he heard one.

“What was it the captain said ‘bout ‘crew,’ again?” Monid said loudly and melodramatically, making it sound like a badly recited line.

Starr smirked at the tone, and answered, “He’s hiring up some new crew.”

“Oh, alright.” Then, and only then, did Monid register Starr’s statement. “What?! Does E.C know about this!? When’d he make that decision?”

“Probably that time when you and E.C got drunk and…” She shook her head in disappointment. “He even said he was getting new crew, a day before we landed here! You really don’t listen, do you?”

“Apparently not,” a new voice sounded from behind Starr, a smiling and bright voice.

He was a graying man, with crinkly, gimlet eyes and a network of hair-fine scars. Beside him was a giant of a man, who topped out at roughly six nine and three hundred plus. Despite his vicious appearance, he never made eye contact, and softly scuffed his shoes while the older, shorter one did the talking.

“Name’s Hop Niner, and this is Ohner. We’re interested in your captain’s proposition about crewing.”

Roker smiled, a plan starting in his head. Not an especially good plan, but a plan it was, and a plan it would become. The Captain thought he could just hire crew whenever he felt like it? Well, this little pilot would do him one better!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

“Well, that was a catastrophe,” E.C swallowed, gingerly walking out of the bar. His body was so sore, his fingernails hurt. Bruises formed interesting artwork across his face and torso, and numerous small lacerations were present here and there. A large cut on his chin was addressed reproachfully, as it would certainly scar.

Deep-Water said nothing, busy re-wrapping his scarf tightly around his throat, and straightening his mussed changbao. He’d gotten out of the bar without a scratch.

Ten Minutes Earlier…

E.C groaned as the skin-headed thug hefted a pool cue, a drunken look of menace on his face. Deep-Water retained his calm as four brutes circled him, slowly unwrapping his scarf to reveal the jagged scar. The mere appearance of that scar, devoid of it’s colorful history, was enough to scare a few punks out of a fight. Sadly for the quartet of barmen, they were very drunk, and didn’t heed Deep-Water’s silent warning.

E.C backed up cautiously, hands in a sign of peace, his massive back bumping into Deep-Water.

“Seems we’ve got ourselves into a bit of trouble,” E.C whispered to Deep-Water, hands still raised.

“Apparently they don’t care for pirates,” Deep-Water said, and hurled himself at the four drunks, fists flying.

One thing you could say about the Captain, E.C thought, he never wasted time. This thought was interrupted by a pool cue.

Shaking off the blow, E.C growled, “Now you’ve done it,” and slammed a black fist into the man’s jaw, and grabbed him by the belt. Raising the drunk into the air, he launched the man into a wood support, in a cloud of dust. The mechanic grinned in the excitement of the fight, wanting to let off a little steam. That was when two more men arrived to avenge their pal. E.C’s grin faded as they took up arms with pool cues and wrenches.

“Alright then,” he muttered as he viciously kicked one in the shins, then threw a haymaker that sent him to the floor. The other screamed, brandishing a heavy wrench at E.C’s head.

E.C managed to avoid most of it, but the metal clipped his chin, letting the blood flow. The wounded mechanic kept up the defensive, weaving to avoid the wrench-swings. He finally saw a n opening, and grabbed the wrench forcefully, crashing it into the man’s face.

“How you doing, Captain?” he yelled at Deep-Water, while swigging a stray bottle.

The quartet had now become duo, two of the men lying on the ground twitching. The remainder of the group were a little apprehensive about fighting Rikun; it was obvious he was someone with whom not to screw. They attacked anyway, forcing Deep-Water to pull a cliché with a tired groan.

The scarred captain grabbed both of the drunk’s greasy hair, and smashed their heads together. The two didn’t fall however, just stood shaking, eyes rolling into the back of their heads. Deep-Water sighed in contempt, and roundhouse-kicked the left one in the temple, watching his thundering crash into a table. The other he simply let fall to the ground.

“Reinforcements, Cap!” E.C yelled in panic, raising cclenched fists. Instead of fist-fighting, E.C tried a different tactic. He hefted a metal chair, and threw it at the new group. According to his calculations, the chair would batter two in the head, and at least stun a few others. Sadly, it was also E.C’s calculations that the men were drunk. They weren’t, and the leader caught the chair.

“Weren’t expectin’ that,” E.C said through gritted teeth, and almost immediately felt the heavy chair collide with his head and the majority of his body, and then knew darkness, mixed with a light shade of pink.

Deep-Water muttered something as he saw E.C go down underneath a massive chair, and rushed to help his unconscious first mate. Blood dripped from several face-wounds, but other than a few bruises, he’d be fine.

The five men who had just arrived approached Deep-Water, smiling at the chance to break and destroy. What they didn’t know was the small, circular object in Rikun’s palm. The captain threw the metallic object at the floor, and immediately covered his ears and tightly shut his eyes.

When nothing happened, Deep-Water opened his eyes tentatively. The five men were laughing at the dud grenade, completely unaware that it was the intention of the grenade not to work. Deep-Water attacked while the grenade had them distracted.

Deep-Water was upon them in a second, fists and legs a flurry of lightning, shattering jaws and separating teeth from gums. In less than ten seconds, each of the men were on the ground in a neat little pile, having landed almost directly on top of each other.

Rikun splashed cold water, borrowed from the pacifist bartender, on E.C’s face, causing the mechanic to awake spluttering.

“I had ‘em, Cap, they’s throwing things, though…” he slurred, recovering from the chair.

“I took care of them, E.C. Now, think we could get out of here without you knocked out?”

“I want a word with you, ‘Captain,’ the bartender spoke in a deep, rumbling voice. Rikun groaned inwardly as he prepared to face a slew of cusses and ‘damages.’ “I ain’t never seen anyone fight like you. I’ve been out of the game a little too long, if’n you ask me. It’d b e an honor to fly with you.” He placed his hand lightly over his heart, and the other in a salute. Deep-Water was perplexed at the barman’s offer, and decided to take it. Worst that could happen is the bartender turned out to be a spy, and either Starr or Deep-Water would kill him in a second.

“Well,” E.C said, spitting blood onto the floor, ‘guess we didn’t come outta this empty-handed.”

As the bartender, E.C, and Deep-Water exited the battle-scarred establishment, E.C said, “Well, that was a catastrophe.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

“So, what were you doing before Hop dragged you into this?” Starr asked the mountainous Ohner, sidling up real close. Ohner didn’t take this as he was meant to; he had lived a sheltered childhood.

Burnett Ohner had never been very good at talking to girls, on account of an over-protective mother and a meek father. He was especially bad at talking to lovely girls such as Starr.

“Well, I umm..” he stammered, eyes glued to the ground. “ M’pa was a rickshaw driver, and I was a rickshaw driver, until my fare happened to be Hop Niner. He convinced me to help him out on some job, an’ we been partners ever since.”

“Rickshaw puller, huh?” Starr nodded slowly, comparing that career to her own, stealing and fighting for money while being tutored in the deadly arts by a retired ninja/samurai. “That sounds…interesting.”

“Really?” Ohner said, puzzled. “It was awful boring work, S-s-Starr.” Darn, he had stuttered her name! He always did that!

While those two compared backgrounds (well, Starr did most of the talking while Ohner shuffled his feet and listened intently), Niner and Monid were comparing capers.

“One time, me and my boys had heisted a train, and this Alliance feller tried to take us down while he was standing on top of the thing!” Monid howled with laughter at that idiocy. “So,” Niner continued, wheezing with laughter, “the wind tossed him off, of course, and the poor guy got shredded to pieces on the rocks!” Niner screamed in mirth as Roker worried over how funny that story was to the peculiar Hop.

“Oh, my it was a laugh! Then, of course, the Alliance figured we murdered an officer, and they bombed our ship down.” Hop’s face began to sober as he recounted that day. “It was me and Omaha left, everybody else dead or the next thing to it. Then, a whole Fed squad closes in on the wreckage. Me’n Omaha took down thirteen before the last two clipped my hand,” he gestured to an ugly mass of scar tissue on his palm, “and shot down Omaha.” He sipped from a small hip flask (or Hop flask, if you prefer).

Almost simultaneously did the bartender and Starr bump into each other, causing the girl to verbally assault the liquor-riddled man. Deep-Water intervened, and left it to the bartender to tell the story. After, the new crew made introductions with the Captain and the bartender.

“Well, where’s E.C?” Roker said, slipping out of the corner of his mouth to Hop, “Our mechanic.”

“Wishing he’s still knocked out,” E.C muttered as he finally caught up to the group, rubbing his shaven, bruised head.

“Evelyn Cyril Monroe, what happened to you?” Roker shouted, too late realizing he had used the mechanic’s name, a title which was widely ridiculed by every person E.C knew. The bald mechanic initiated the torture known as, “a snakebite,” which consisted of twisting arm skin to produce large amounts of pain, and small beads of blood if induced with enough force.

“Me and the Cap ducked into a dive and,” E.C paused momentarily to spit a glob of blood onto the musty ground, giving the evil eye to anyone who cast a curious glance, “it seemed that the patrons didn’t care too much for pirate’s work.” E.C jerked a thumb at the bartender, “At least we got him out of it. Whatsyername anyhow?”

“Most people just call me Cao,” he said, eyes shaded by an overhanging brow and deep brown circles. “Used to captain a ship awhile back. Someone planted Alliance cargo on her, and my ship was taken for scrap.” He yanked the Hop flask off of Niner’s belt, and took a long swig. Hop didn’t even notice. “Was never a pirate, just an honest transporter.”

“Yet here you are, starving for some decent work,” Starr snapped, slightly aggravated that Cao’s perpetual beer smell had conformed to her. “I was just tired of serving up drinks to idiots and yuppies. Pirating is decent enough, sure, if the right people do it.”

“Speaking of the right people,’ a snobbish, high voice uttered from behind the Phoenix crew. Deep-Water turned slowly to face a hog-nosed, corpulent man with ten thugs around him.

“Greetings, Dockmaster Peaulieu,” Deep-Water hissed, moving into a deep bow. How he loathed the man.

“It seems we have a problem with your ship, ‘Captain,” the toadish/piggish man sneered. “I’ve been anonymously informed about a certain crewmember of yours, and their,” he sniffed haughtily, “exploits.”

“And which crewmember might that be?” Deep-Water considered the worst things his crew had done: Starr, having incarcerated three drunken Feds, Monid, burning down a hospital while visiting his mother, E.C, with his love of gambling and avoidance of debts. And of course, Deep-Water himself, who had changed his name seven times to avoid Alliance patrollers.

“Your so-called ‘chef,” if she is what she purports to be, has committed the crime of unarmed assault on three federal officers.” He recited this off a sheet of paper while casting a hungry eye at the chef/merc, which caused Ohner and Monid to crack their knuckles threateningly.

Starr moaned, turning to Deep-Water, “You said that was justified violence!”

“It was, and should remain justified on her record, Dockmaster. It is true, she…fight with those men,” Starr glowed with pride at the memory, “and did harm them, but all such actions were put forward in self-defense. I have two witnesses here who can testify to that fact.”

“There is one problem, Captain. One of the men she viciously assaulted was the nephew of Our Most Esteemed Governor Bourne, and has the Governor’s order to imprison this girl for the decreed amount of time.”

“How’s about you put down your piece of paper and settle this the old-fashioned way, huh?” Cao rolled his sleeves up, prepared to fight. A fervent believer in the immunity of minors, ever since he had gotten off of a grand theft auto charge due to his twelve-year old status.

“Like the way you think, Bartender,” E.C growled, and Hop rolled his eyes at Ohner.

“Everybody stay calm, and we will all sort this out like reasonable men,” Deep-Water said, raising his hands for silence. “Now, Dockmaster, your Governor’s order has one small flaw that will allow us to leave this planet with Starr.” “And what is that, Captain?” The ten brutes surrounding Peaulieu readied for combat. They weren’t allowed to carry ballistic weapons in the streets, but didn’t abject to normal violence.

Starr darted forward, a lithe blur, and placed the Dockmaster in a strong headlock. When the thugs moved to retrieve the corpulent prisoner, Starr hissed, “Move an inch and his neck will be so much dust.” As much as the men disliked working for Peaulieu, they enjoyed the paycheck’s he doled out.

‘We can do this two ways,” Deep-Water whispered to Peaulieu, leaning to his face. “You let us go with Starr, or we leave with her.”

The Hogmaster turned over the options in his head. A signal from his hand showed he had discovered a third option. The thugs darted forward, grabbing Starr as she scolded herself for underestimating hired muscle. Again. She swung her heavy braid, the jade ring shattering teeth and splitting brows.

Cao, E.C, and Ohner lunged at a separate bully, the meaty thumps of fists and bodies resounding. They tumbled and fought on the ground as the other bullies circled Roker, Deep-Water, and Hop. Deep-Water darted forward, his index finger lodged behind a man’s ear. The man shrieked and collapsed, twitching on the ground. Two attempted to blindside Deep-Water, but Roker crashed into the other while Hop snake-drew a knife from an arm sheathe, plunging it into a brutes chest.

During this commotion, Peaulieu was crawling in the dirt, his suit torn and sweaty, wondering at how fast that delectable girl could move. A shame she could not be bought…

Starr sent a swift kick into the Dockmaster’s gut, already having dispatched her group of enemies, when Deep-Water placed a gun to Peaulieu’s head.

“Option two,” he said through gritted teeth, pressing the tiny Derringer to the sweaty hogman’s temple, “We leave with her whether you’re alive or not.”

Peaulieu swallowed deeply, and said, “G-g-go,” not ignoring an uncomfortable dampness.

This message had not reached the rest of the Phoenix’s crew, who had somehow triumphed in the great brawl. Cao looked at Deep-Water with a regretting eye, throwing a final punch that sent a generic bodyguard sprawling.

“We’re out of here.” Deep-Water holstered his tiny pistol, and gestured to his battered crew. Roker was nursing a sprained wrist, and E.C was supporting an uneasy Ohner, who had been gut-punched too many times.

“Don’t worry, I’ll…teach you to box, once we’re off-planet.”

Peaulieu shook and quivered as Deep-Water smiled in triumph, Starr going to his side. “What’s that smell?” she asked with a grin, knowing what the Hogmaster had done.

“Next time your looking to cull a favor, don’t try to use my chef as one,” Deep-Water said with the utmost sincerity, hurling one of Starr’s knives an inch beside the toadish man’s ear. “Souvenir.”



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Sunrise Part 2
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