daredevildaring: (waiting)
[personal profile] daredevildaring
Five thirty A. M. ship's time found Kara walking. She'd drawn the short straw and ended up on the graveyard shift; even with Katniss and Sandor added to the rotation, it was still a six-hour stint trawling the corridors for disturbances that most often never actually showed up. She had music for company, one earbud in, one out, and a cigarette in one hand. The night was winding down to becoming morning, and people like Alain and the President were probably already awake. Half an hour to go meant she could make her way to the kitchen, where Jes was likely to be starting coffee.

It was still strange, sometimes, to walk toward doors that opened ahead of her, to turn a corner thinking kitchen and find herself not in the kitchen of the Argo. The Heirax's kitchen was larger, with square windows along one wall showing the stream of stars passing them by. And, apparently, sometimes inhabited by snoring Captains at five-thirty in the morning.

Bert had dropped like a stone, his head on the crook of his arm, the other arm outstretched on the table top. Papers lay in a haphazard pile underneath his face, and a glass next to him that had once contained either beer or root beer, judging by the quarter-inch of liquid left in the bottom.

Kara paused, wondering if she should wake him, or if it would be better to let Jes do it, who would undoubtedly do a kinder job of it. She was having a hard time convincing herself anyway; she could see from where she stood how exhausted he was, and if he'd slept the night here and not even stirred to go back to his own bed, he must be more overworked than she was giving him credit for.

Just as she'd decided to slink away and let Jes take care of seeing the captain on his way, Bert jerked upright with a snort and looked around, equal parts confused and sheepish. Kara couldn't help it; as soon as his eyes fell on her face, she burst out laughing.

Date: 2011-04-04 01:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saikamai.livejournal.com
Bert closed his eyes and rubbed at the imprint of a ballpoint pen on his cheek, giving himself a moment for composure. Disoriented, exhausted and a little embarrassed, he grasped vainly for a joke and, coming up empty handed, muttered a series of vaguely apologetic explanations for how she'd found him.

"It all comes down to the budget," he finished, shrugging, as he gathered up the papers. "We can be as frugal as we like with the rations, crew can be as tolerant as they're capable about pay cuts, but at the end of the day, no sane people do this kind of work for nothing. I realize we've not been in that category for a long time, and I realize-- believe me, I realize that it was me and Al's bright idea to make amends for all the troubles we've caused with free labor-- but this isn't All-World. It's a hell of a lot easier for gunslingers to... to chase wolves away from a village or put a crew of bank-robbing bandits behind bars than it is for an entire ship full of folk to get by on good deeds and clean air." It was obvious he'd been saving this up-- not for Kara, not for anyone, really, just waiting until he couldn't keep it bottled anymore.

"It's not like Cort or Vannay or my dear old da' are going to pop up out of the woodwork and give me a lecture about how disappointed Arthur Eld would be." Bert hastily, blindly filed the papers and shoved them into an accordian folder. "They probably would've laughed at the notion of it to begin with. I'd just thought... I'd thought we'd have enough saved. That with enough honest side jobs, transport and passengers and whatnot, we'd get by. But these problems... they're... they're just too damn big." He fell back into the chair, raked a hand through his hair, already sleep mussed, and stared up at her, looking like a kid of eight or nine faced with an algebra problem on a chalkboard. "Quakes... those gods-damned goblins that... crawled out of the earth! That fucking flu on Muridae! What the hell can we really expect ourselves to do about some of this? Even for pay?"

Date: 2011-04-04 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daredevildaring.livejournal.com
Unprepared for the diatribe, Kara stood listening with her eyebrows up as he ranted. When he started listing the calamities that had confronted them at every stop since their reunion, she realized she was going to have to do something to cut him off, or else risk listening to him talk until he ran out of steam.

When he stopped for breath she stepped into the room, grabbing her cigarettes out of the pocket of her coat and tossing them on the table. She slid the lighter across to him after, jerking her chin to indicate he should take one and light it. "You're asking me what to do?" she asked, half grinning as she moved past him, towards the coffee pot. "Now I now you've finally cracked." She kept an eye half on him, waiting for the eyeroll and sigh that followed her wise-cracking. Their patterns were as familiar as ever, and they never seemed to tire of repeating them.

"I know what you're saying, but none of us are doing this for money," she said, opening a few cupboards before reminding herself where the coffee lived. She dropped a filter into the machine and dumped some grinds in, turning it on before going to the fridge for milk. "And I don't think any of us are averse to finding new and interesting ways to make a few extra credits. If nothing else we can always advertise creative mechanic services at bargain rates." The machine beeped and Kara took two mugs out of the dishwasher, filling them and grabbing the sugar bowl as she came back to the table.

Kara sat, and passed a mug to Bert. "We can't do anything about some of it," she said levelly. "It sucks, but we can't."

Date: 2011-04-05 12:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saikamai.livejournal.com
Bert had resolved-- somewhat rashly-- the night before to give up cigarettes entirely; they were increasingly dear nails in his coffin and, perhaps privately, he figured the decision might shock a few of his coworkers into understanding the gravity of their situation. There was no need to share that foolish train of thought with Kara, though, and, frankly, if he didn't have a smoke right now he might upend the table instead.

So, he slid a smoke out of the box, and angled his head as he lit it, listening to her without looking at her. Her joke wasn't rewarded with a sigh or an eyeroll; instead, he tried on a smile that had certainly seen better days. She kept talking, and he kept listening, his nerves thrumming like guitar strings about to snap. Some part of him, still in the here-and-now, registered that the business she was going about was going to lead to coffee, and he truly believed he'd have to restrain himself from giving her a bear hug for it.

"New and interesting ways to earn credits," Bert mused, his voice taking on that too-airy, lighthearted tone that usually meant he was just moments away from snapping like a stray. But then the mug was in front of him, and so was she, and the bulk of his anger drained right out of him. "I know that." He reached past the sugar for the milk, wanted something comforting but not sweet. "Maybe we should just be choosier about the big stuff we take on." Bert remembered, suddenly, that crew they'd spent a few weeks with back on Dyton. Aside from being an incredibly amiable batch, they'd seemed to have a similar agenda. Certainly not doing Guardian damage control, but, well, to put it Jaynely, caught up in thrillin' heroics.

"Or maybe if we take on a few more standard jobs, we could afford to hire out for the rest. Remember the Patronus?" Bert took a sip of his coffee, felt the warmth go all the way down, and seemed to brighten, either at the shot of caffeine or his idea or both. "They'd be glad to hear from us again. We'd be able to give them honest--if occasionally taxing-- work. We'd be hiring out to folk we trust, the job would get done, and we could afford to take a break from some of the big stuff." He didn't need to say that he was less comfortable sending some of the crew-- take, for instance, Gert and Chase-- out on missions nowadays. "I could honestly deal with a little boredom right about now."

Date: 2011-04-05 01:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daredevildaring.livejournal.com
"Yeah, I remember them," Kara said, grinning. "Mostly 'cause none of you will let me live down telling them they were too young to be off on their own. Not one of my better moments," she sighed, reaching for the cigarettes and lighting up another one.

Kara had honestly never expected to live long enough to feel her age, and she wasn't at the point yet where twenty-eight felt old. But it wasn't easy soldiering on after she'd helped save the world a dozen times with no thanks and nothing to show for it except knowing it had happened. Scoresby's dog tags hanging up in her rack, the skin of her palms toughened from the heat of the Eagle's eye, realizing that when she talked about going home it wasn't Equus she meant anymore... memory was a bitch, and life in the aftermath of fighting for the Tower felt anticlimactic more often than not.

"We could all stand to be choosier," she muttered, dumping the requisite amount of sugar into her cup and stirring it. "But farming out some of the work... that's not a bad idea. Would help us keep in touch with some of our contacts, anyway. There's worse ways we could spend our time." Kara grimaced and took a sip of the scalding coffee; just the smack in the face she needed. "Even if it feels like passing the buck... just be careful how you sell it," she said with a half-assed smile. "Tell Jayne it's just 'cause we'll make more money this way."

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Kara Thrace

April 2011

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