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As Our Dance Moves Always One Step Out Of Frame

Posted on Fri Mar 10th, 2017 @ 6:08am by Crew Zhong Qi & Crew Jed Grissom

Mission: A Fast Way Off of Windlam Reach

OOC: https://unwoman.bandcamp.com/track/bruises This is the song I pulled the lyric for the title from.

Qi kicked off her boots as she walked into her bunk, padding softly over to her cello that sat on its stand in the corner. She picked up the instrument, and settled on the edge of her bed with it as her fingers danced over its controls. A smile lit up her face as bow met strings and the cello sung out. Volume had to be turned down — don't want to disturb Fitz in the next bunk — and the string's tension tightened just a little. Bow to string again, another adjustment, back and forth a few more times before Qi was satisfied.

A deep breath, eyes closed, and she started to play a soft melody that had been a favorite of the instrument's namesake. Qi had played it many stressful nights at the Companion House, when Lily would reach wits end over something she was studying, and only Qi's playing had been able to help her find peace and focus. There had been many times where Qi had been unsure that Lily would be able to complete the companion training, but with help and support she'd made it. In the end it was Qi who didn't reach the end, but not for a lack of qualification.

A squeal escaped the cello, Qi making a face as her hand slipped and the instrument protested, drawing her out of her memories. She sighed softly, took a deep breath, and moved onto another song. One more traditional and rigid, one without the emotional baggage attached.

Jed had finally finished prepping the wiring that he had intended to use to replace the more 'weathered' electronics in the co-pilot's station. He would have concentrated on ensuring the main controls were ready first, but with the co-pilot's station practically dead and the main controls still functioning, he didn't want to leave the ship without the means to navigate. Once the co-pilot's station was fully repaired, he'd be free to work on the main controls as Qi had noted they weren't up to scratch. She was right of course. Whoever own the ship previously flew her as if she were a brick with thrusters. No finesse or any real need for a refined control layout.

Stopping at the hatch to Qi's cabin, he gently rapped on it in order to give her an update on his progress.

Qi stopped playing abruptly, and looked at the door. "Who is it?"

"It's uh... it's Grissom," he announced, shifting uncomfortably and looking around the deck for signs of life. "Just wanted to let you know I'll be able to start working on the co-pilot's station in the morning."

Qi grinned wide as she stood, and moved to put the Cello away before going to the door. She took half a moment to wipe the grin from her face, replacing it with a sly smile instead, and tapped the controls to open her door.

"I was starting to wonder if you were ever gonna surface from the bowels of this ship. Capt'n got you slaving away?"

"So much to do, so little time to do it," Grissom stated simply as he tried to ignore what her smile was doing to him. Truth of the matter was, he often lost track of time when working on ships, especially the fixer uppers. "I'm pretty sure we'll fly right for the time being. She'll be sluggish until I can repair and refine the flight controls, but we'll get from A to B... wherever B is."

"Well, thankfully the existing controls are behaving for now. Gives you time to get the copilot station on line." She rocked up and down on the balls of her feet. "You look like you could use a break though. You want to sit a minute and talk? I think I have some cookies tucked away if you want them." She moved back, gesturing inside her bunk almost as if she was doing a small dance.

"I'm not all that hungry at the moment, but thank you," he replied with a grateful smile. Catching a glimpse of her cello, he couldn't help but admire the craftsmanship. "You look as if you're practising anyway, I don't want to interrupt."

"You're not interrupting. I'm horribly out of practice and was getting frustrated with myself anyways. I need a break." Qi moved to turn the instrument off with a small smile. "Last ship didn't really give me a chance to practice, I was sharing a bunk with some idiot who wouldn't have known good music if I'd beat her over the head with it."

"You didn't actually beat her over the head with your cello, did you?" he asked with a sly grin as he stepped inside the surprisingly spacious room. Like most of the ship, the bulkheads were a thick but dull metal plating, but at least they were cleaner than the bulkheads down in the engine room. It would take a welding torch or an acidic cleaning solution to cut his way through the layers of grease and grime that coated those walls.

"It probably would have done her some good to be beaten about the head, but it wouldn't be fair to Lily. She's a fine instrument, don't deserve that sort of abuse. 'Sides, I wouldn't be good 'nough to play her if'n I did that to her." Qi settled on her bed, a comforter with white octopus tentacles splayed across midnight blue and jade green covering it, and she patted next to her. "I'm hoping next port we make, I can find somewhere decent to go shopping. The bedding isn't enough to save it from being so drab."

"At least it's clean," he replied as he sat beside her. "With a few wall coverings... pictures and the like, I reckon you'll make your mark on this place. The engine room on the other hand... it's gonna take me a while to clean up. Even longer with the never ending list of jobs I have to do to get this bird space-worthy on a more long-term basis."

"You'd be able to make short work of it if we had a serviceable pressure washer... and we opened the engine room to space while usin' it." Qi shook her head. "You'll want to ask Fitz; Capt'n seems to be a big idea man, she's the brains."

"I don't mind a little dirt and grease, Miss Qi," he grinned slyly. "Getting this bird fixed up comes first. But I'll be sure to have words with Fitz about it. But if you don't mind my saying, you're not too shabby when it comes to ideas, yourself. There's definitely more to you than meets the eye."

"You keep that observation to yourself if'n anyone else can hear you." She leaned in and bumped him in the shoulder with her own. "No one ever takes the tiny ones seriously, so it gives me an advantage 'til they learn."

"My lips are sealed," he replied, miming a zip being pulled across is mouth for emphasis. "So tell me more about yourself Miss Qi, we haven't had much chance to talk and my gut tells me that you're someone I should definitely get to know better."

"Well, for starters, you can stop with the Miss Fuhn Pi. I left the core in part to get away from all that gorram formal Tian Di Wu Yohn. We associate with the wrong sort, the people who care about such things won't count our etiquette points for anything 'cause of it." Qi shrugged. "What do you want to know?"

Jed smiled softly. "Okay, formalities dropped. And as for your question. Tell me anything you feel comfortable talking about. We've only just become acquainted and I'd very much like to avoid crossing any personal boundaries... at least this early on."

"Personal boundaries?" Qi laughed. "I was educated from a young age to become a state certified whore, and when that didn't work out 'cause of my bleeding heart, I tried to do it on my own instead. You'll be hard pressed to find my boundaries. But there's not so much to tell 'bout me. My family all but threw me out on my ear when the Companions wouldn't take me because of my political beliefs — though between you me, they were probably just terrified I'd be running the guild in no time with how well I took to it — so I made my way to the rim to make my own place. Capt'n and Fitz are good folk, so when they asked if I'd come be their pilot when they broke off from the last crew we were on, I jumped at it."

"You spit that word so venomously... 'whore'. You're not the first outspoken companion I've met, but you're the first to be so angry toward what they represent. Do you resent what they do? What you were training to do? Or does the resentment stem from the fact that they booted you because of your beliefs?" He was indeed surprised by her attitude. Most of the companions he had dealings with seemed to be nice enough people. The elder companions he had worked for were certainly more outspoken about the political side of the guild, but he couldn't say he'd ever met a resentful companion.

"Oh no, don't mistake me. I have no problem with the work, and they gave be a fine education. My problem is in their hypocrisy." Qi sat up straighter, leaning in a little closer to Jed. "The thing that kept me out of the guild? The thing that caused them to not even let me face the final test to become a companion? I was too sympathetic of the browncoats during the war. I felt the Alliance was ravaging the rim worlds and all these people wanted to do was live in peace. Of course, guild knows who butters their gorram bread, couldn't have someone like me — promising, young, smart, but won't bite her tongue when she feels someone's doing wrong — couldn't have me in the guild and run the risk that I'd run my mouth, rise in power, and cause the purple bellies to stop buttering their bread. But!" Qi jumped up a little steadying herself with a hand on Jed's shoulder. "But those Ba Wong hypocrites claim that empathy is the most important thing to being a companion. But only when it doesn't risk your lapdop status."

"If I'm honest, I couldn't see you living the life of a companion anyway. The fire in those pretty eyes of yours tells me you'd be bored within a year or two," he explained. "You remind me of a couple of companions in fact. They'd always make a point to say hello and ask questions about the shuttles they took. Pretty soon we got to talking about other things... mainly my travels. They wanted to explore, they wanted adventure and they thought the life of a companion would bring them that. Sadly not."

"The life of a companion is what you make of it. The guild really didn't have much to fear of me, if'n they hadn't pushed me out that is. I might have pushed to set up a companion house somewhere on the rim, bring education to boys and girls out here that want it, give them a trade that'll keep 'em honest like. But as so oft is the way of those who are corrupt at heart, they couldn't imagine someone would do anything but that which they themselves would do." Qi shrugged and resettled herself so she was leaning against the wall. "They did me a favor in the end, in an odd way. I hadn't realized how selfish and useless my family was, until they Guild sent me home disgraced for somethin' that I ain't actually done wrong."

"Well I for one am glad that you're on the path that you're on. I reckon we wouldn't have met otherwise," Jed offered. Family seemed to be just as sore a subject for her as it was for him and he really didn't want to open up those particular wounds.

"Not gonna get any argument from me over that," Qi agreed. "So, your turn. What's your story?"

"Well you know I grew up on Harvest, I'm good at fixing shit, I worked for the companions for a while, ran with salvage crews, fixed more shit planet-side... maybe broke a heart or two along the way..." he smirked. "Hasn't always been fun and games but it's better than being tied down to Harvest for the rest of my days. All in all, not a bad life that's gotten a whole lot better recently."

"Worked for the companions," Qi repeated, sitting up just a little straighter. Her eyes drifted around her room a moment, lingering on the bedside table. But she smiled wider before she spoke again. "You mean, the guild hired you? Or you did work for one of the houses, or...?"

"I was working a contract at the Scorpion Ship Yards. Honest living mostly, but the contract was due to wrap up and I got tired of the place. This woman, Zandra, approached me. Offered me a contract fixing shuttles on Ariel, came with a nice little apartment near the shuttle depot. She told me outright that she was a senior member of the Companions Guild. Didn't want to ask any questions beyond that. She had paid work, a decent wage and a roof over my head," he explained. "Ariel's a nice enough world... and most of the companions were polite in the very least. Earned myself a bonus for the work I did too. I was thinking about renewing too, but things got complicated."

"Complicated?" Qi repeated the word as an eyebrow rose high. "They didn't seduce you and lie to you, did they? Force you to run before they tried to end you?"

"No, no seduction and no lies as far as I know. A couple of the companions offered to add me to their client lists and I did become friends with some of them, as I said," he explained with a reassuring smile. "No, the complications arose from something away from the guild, that coupled with the fact that I'd been on Ariel a year prompted me to seek out a new adventure."

"You don't stay in one place too long, do you?" She chewed her lip a brief moment. "Do you keep up with any of them you leave behind?"

"A few contacts here and there. People who know things, people who can find me what I need when it comes to parts, tools and such," he explained. He noted her unease as their conversation turned to the Companions, he was pretty sure anyone would be uneasy discussing the guild if they'd been kicked out, or excommunicated or whatever it was they did to initiates that didn't make the cut. "Are you worried that we have mutual acquaintances in the Guild? Because I can tell you right now, the only ties I have with Ariel is the apartment they let me keep after we cut ties and an open invitation to work for their shuttle depot again should I need a job."

Qi sighed. She was losing her game, and if he is in the clutches of the guild, he'd know to guard himself around her now. Might as well put her cards on the table, if nothing else it could make him slip up if he thinks she trusts him and is working for them.

"Let's just say I didn't part on the best of terms, and some of the people high up in the guild will take advantage of any contact they have to remove the thorn in their side that I've become. I've been working very hard to stay off their scanner for a while now, though if I get a chance to take a stab, I do, because even when I tried to just disappear, they wouldn't let me be."

As tough as she sounded about how much she wanted to stick it to the Guild if the opportunity arose, Jed knew there was some genuine fear laced throughout her conviction. When he dealt with the Guild, it was a simple business contract fulfilled to the best of his ability. Both parties had ended the deal on good terms and there was no reason for any hostilities. Qi however had seen the inner workings of the Guild for one, and they where known for their discretion, so it stood to reason that she'd be worried. "Well if they do come after you, just know I'll have your back," he replied, placing his hand on top of hers and giving it a brief and gentle squeeze. "While many would say that I'm a lover and not a fighter, I can hold my own when it counts."

"I'll hold you to that." She looked down at his hand, laying her other hand on his. If he was playing her he had some fine training, because she couldn't see any indication he was. Either she was amazingly paranoid or she stood no chance, so might as well enjoy whatever came of it then. "I mean, you wouldn't want to run afoul of my throwing knives, right?" She grinned wide.

"Hell no," his lips curled up as he enjoyed the feel of her soft, warm, silky smooth skin upon his rough, calloused hand. "Once was enough... for that at least." He was tempted to try his luck and kiss her, very tempted in fact. There was a small but persistent voice in the back of his mind however, reminding him that they were still getting to know one another and that he shouldn't run the risk of losing his new job, and the chance to get to know her more; so soon.

"I'll use the Buhn Dahn as my target practice until I get good, then you and I can put on a show where I throw knives at apples on your head. For a little side cash when we're planet side, of course." She laughed a little as she winked at him, and her eyes met his. A long pause, a small smile, and her eyes dropped to their hands where they still sat wrapped around each other.

"I uh, I think I can trust you with that. Now that we have a Doctor aboard," he grinned before reluctantly retrieving his hand. "I should get back to the Engine Room. I've got some parts to look over. But this was really nice."

"I'll try not to hit anything you'll miss. Though, you know what they say... women love men with scars." Qi winked at him as she looked up again. "Don't let me keep you from looking at greasy parts."

"Scars huh, I'll have to remember that," he grinned and headed toward the door to her room. Stopping just short of stepping through the doorway, he looked over his shoulder. "I'll see you tomorrow. Pleasant dreams, Qi."

"Don't you stay up all night fondling the ship," Qi returned with a laugh as Jed made his way out the door.

 

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