"Not here," I growl to the delivery guy in the bar, who stares blankly at me - at once annoyed and exhausted. "My ship's in bay 25. Let's do this there."
"Shall we..?" starts Tags, half-rising from his chair. I throw him a look that makes his offer die in his throat.
"Sit the fuck down. I'll find you both tomorrow," I bite at the two new hires. Tags nods; Klausy, to his credit, looks concerned. I don't have time for it right now and nod to the delivery guy: "Follow, fucker." Then I realise that neither my tone nor my words are really that conducive to a positive resolution of this most uneasy situation so I throw a shrug at the jumpsuit guy and murmur, "Sorry."
The Jumpsuit Guy tips his head, acknowledging the apology but absolutely not giving a flying fuck about it and indicates with his head that I should lead the way.
Fucking Mira. Literally.
As we make our way to the hangar where my Krait is stored, I message Nari, Ithallius and the Coriolis system to verify the delivery guy's credentials. I don't talk to him at all: I have nothing against the guy, but I'm edgy and unhappy and angry and I feel like a fucking idiot for not having expected this - Mira's last fucking laugh - before it landed on me.
We reach my Krait, I open up her cargo door and nod the guy inside. He parks the trolley of crates and boxes, settles himself to one side of the bay and glances at me before whispering into his coms. When I throw him a questioning look he tiredly replies, "There's more."
"Another load like this. And a large box, too."
"Human size," he says - there's not even the hint of a smirk when he makes his reply.
"Human-" Oh fuuuuuck
I scrape my hands over my eyes and then scrub my scalp with my fingertips. I eye this guy - early 40's, tidy enough if a little scraggly and pointy - there's something sharp about his attention, even through his exhaustion. And it's clear he's exhausted and jangly and really doesn't want to be here. I sigh, shake my head, fumble about in a locker for two beers, pass him one and settle on a ledge.
"You know what's in them?" I ask, indicating the trolley with the neck of my bottle before taking a long draught.
"Yeah," he replies. I nod.
"Can't believe you didn't just shove it all in some storage thing somewhere," I say.
"Not allowed. Direct delivery. Was tricky, mind," he says, drinking from his own bottle. The booze brings him no relief.
"You're officially dead."
"Oh fuck, yeah. I'd forgotten about that. How'd you find me?"
"Nari at The Wet Spot. You bought the bar, she manages it and is listed as your inheritor. She directed me here to make delivery personally."
"Oh yeah? She saw what's inside?" I have to admit, the thought amuses me: Nari literally rifling through all of Mira's... stuff
"She was... uh... She understood the situation," he says. I smile. He smirks, lifts his bottle and looks away while he drinks.
"So you found me. And there's more. Why didn't you just dump them? Mira's dead - it's not..." I trail off: at the mention of Mira's demise, this fellows face visibly falls. In fact, he looks grief-stricken for a moment. I find I'm moved by his expression. He's the first person I've met who loved her besides me.
"It's okay, buddy," I say, softly, "I'm sorry."
He sighs, nods and finishes his beer. I stand to pass him another one and when he takes it, I move to stand next to the trolley of crates. I reach out and open the top one, the one she always brought with her in my now-defunct vulture. I click open the release clips and look inside.
Gleaming and pristine as new, there they are: seven of Mira's favourite dildos, all wrapped in silk and carefully packaged in foam. I have powerful memories of every single one of these, and I stare mutely at them for a while, clearing my throat carefully and daring myself to keep my shit together.
The courier, to be fair, stands, brushes his hand over my shoulder in support, and then crosses to the other side of the hangar to give me some privacy. I am only able to look into two more cases before I feel my resolve crumble. There's the huge thargoid tentacle that will restrain and penetrate according to its owner's voice commands. There's the "Fuck the Feds" clenched fist that we made good use of during a trip to The Dweller (not WITH the Dweller, pervs). There must be nine boxes and crates of carefully packed, very expensive, specialist sex toys here. And the courier said there was another stack just like it.
And Mira has bequeathed them all to me.
"Fucking hell," I murmur, turning to the courier with a tired sense of sadness. "Just... shit."
He nods. "The second lot are more specialist. Rare items that will require particular care and attention."
"You'll see," he says, "It'll all make sense when they arrive."
"You seem to know a lot about them," I murmur, fetching us two more beers. I reckon, when receiving an enormous and specialised collection of fuck toys from a man I've never met who also mourns the dead girlfriend who has gifted them to me, it's probably best to be drinking at the same time. He seems to agree, readily accepting the beer and drinking deeply before replying to me.
"I'm the collection's curator."
I spit my beer across the room. "The whaa
"I curate the collection."
"Wait... the... hang on." This cannot
be happening. Mira had so many sex toys that they needed someone to actively manage them? Really
Fuck the beer: I march over to the courier / curator, snatch his beer off him, toss it away then open a hidden panel behind which is stashed a crate of good, fine, rare booze. I grab blindly, tear the cork out with my teeth, spit it across the hangar and drink deeply: sobriety might be my New Big Thing, but I feel I gotta hang out with an old friend called Drunken Oblivion tonight. Once I've had my swig, I pass the bottle to the courier / curator.
"Tell me everything
," I tell the guy, reaching into the stash for another bottle. The fucking thing has been in there so long, the conduit it's been next to has slightly marked the label.
And with that, the courier / curator starts to talk. For brevity's sake, I'll sum his shit up now:
Stanton Whatever-the-Fuck was given to Mira as a bodyguard (Empire slave, see? Huzaah!), fuck toy, dogs body, personal courier, spy for her family when she was... however the fuck old. He'd been with her for years and years and had long since decided that the good times he enjoyed being part of Mira's retinue far outweighed the extra money he was paid by Mira's family to report back on whatever bullshittery she was up to from one moment to the next.
Part of his new loyalty binge was to detail to Mira exactly what he'd reported back to the Fam Back Home and when, noting they had been especially interested in romantic entanglements, of which there had been plenty. Mira, always moved by a good confession, had "punished" Stanton's previous betrayal by making him the official curator of her expansive and highly specialised sex toy collection. And thus he had a window into all the most personal and intimate details of her life while she finally had a confidante.
The sex tape was a scheme the pair of them had cooked up together when her family, having discovered that Stanton was no longer their man, had threatened Mira with an arranged marriage to some fucking dreadful just-retired Federation asshole. In fact, Stanton was holding the camera while Mira fucked Amy on Aisling's dining table in the Jade Palace.
Post sex-tape, Mira had left Stanton behind to manage her shit, trusting him to look after her affairs when she came to find, fly with and fuck me. And he had harboured hopes that, perhaps, Mira had found someone to settle and be happy with. At this revelation I snort in derision and then weep for a moment.
Upon learning of Mira's death, he had carried out her final wishes: delivering her stuff to the people she had intended it to go to after her demise. Lots of hilarious ("hilarious"?) deliveries later and Stanton was down to his last drop: Mira's sex toy collection which Stanton had spent the last 8 years curating and caring for and to which he'd become most attached.
"So you see," he says sadly, "You take delivery and that's that."
"Don't they..." I start to say, but I feel like an asshole, "Don't they still need to be, you know... Need caring for?"
He eyes me sadly and shrugs. "I dunno. She wasn't specific. I don't want
to be separated from them, really, but I don't know..."
"You don't think you need to come with the collection?" We glance at each other and wait for one of us to finish the joke hanging in the air between us. Eventually I give an awkward wink and smile as I say, "Like Mira did?"
He looks at me, slightly confused but manages a half-smile as he blows out his cheeks. "Some of the pieces are very special. But... It wasn't the only thing I did for her," he says. "I mean, it's not, you know... that
big." And then, like a true champion, he gives me an awkward wink of his own.
"No, well, of course not," I reply, stifling a laugh: I need to hire this guy. I need him in my life. "I mean, how many could she even get through in a single day, right?" A pause: we both know the answer to that question, let's be honest. I try to steer to a safe flight plan. "What else did you do?"
"I flew. I mean, I fly."
"Oh yeah?" I perk up a little at this. "How's that?"
"I'm the personal courier to one of the members of The First Family. You think I don't know how to handle myself?"
"Whatever's needed," he dryly replies. Interesting
"So what about joining my personal crew, on this ship. And staying with the collection at the same time?"
Stanton looks at me, searching my face for a long moment. "Go on..." he eventually says.
"Look, normal pay rates, but you'll have your own cabin and-"
"Excuse me," he says, holding up his hand, "I don't care about any of that stuff."
"No? What do
you care about then?"
"There's... in the collection. There's something I've grown very attached to. I'd like unlimited..." he shuffles in mild discomfort. I smirk and let him continue. "I'd like unlimited access and-"
"And use?" I helpfully interject. He winces at the word.
for this one piece."
Oh Stanton, you nasty
boy. How fucking perfect: I inherited a perv from my dead girlfriend. As Klausy would say: "For fuck's sake. Amazing."
"What is it? The thargoid tentacle? The Neutron Jump Boost?"
"Oh come on, Stanton, you might as well tell me. You're going to be living here with it anyway."
"I'll be joining your crew and living with Her."
"Who is "her"?" I ask carefully. The answer, when it comes, does not disappoint.
"A special piece. A... She's a..." He stares at his feet but his hands model a female form in the air in front of him. Oh. My. Fucking. Fuck.
"She a boner-doll, isn't she, Stanton?"
Stanton is about to reply when a short siren announces a new arrival in the bay. Exactly on cue arrives the next load of toys and the human-sized crate. Well, let's be honest, who among us wasn't
half-expecting fucking Mira to be in the human sized fucking box?! Stanton starts forward and gets that coffin-crate open in a jiffy. And there, in perpetual stasis, is a blue-haired, big-breasted, wide-mouthed whore toy that looks, to all extents and purposes, exactly like Aisling Duval.
"Oh, Stanton," I breathe as I stroke the doll's hair, "She's pretty
. What's her name? WAIT, can I guess?"
"No, please stop." I giggle and trace a finger over her perfectly-cast mouth.
"Is it... Mercedes? Porsche? What other old vehicle manufacturers were there... Volvo?"
." Something in Stanton's voice is sharp and hurting and it catches my attention, bringing my teasing to an immediate end. No matter what else is going on in this man's life - his very real pain for losing Mira, for example - he is irrefutably in love with this automaton. I nod and withdraw my hand, muttering an apology: we all have our weird shit and Stanton's is his fuck doll.
"Please meet Beaujolais," he says, a note of pride catching in his throat.
I nod. I can't help myself. "Because she comes just once a year?" Har har har.
His official expression is a disapproving scowl. But there is a twinkle in his eyes that belies his gentle amusement. I squeeze his arm and nod.
"So, uh, this ship is kinda of, you know, a big deal for me," I say, trying to get professional for a moment, "Maybe you wanna, I dunno, cope with me? Or I can get a bay installed and you can fly a gooey or-"
I glance over to Stanton. He's giving Beaujolais a loving kiss on the cheek and the following after me as I ascend from the cargo bay deeper into the Krait. "A fighter would be fine," he replies, "I'd prefer a Taipan."
I glance at him questioningly.
"I was a Fed pilot and was taken as chattel after a Empire-space incursion that we finished on the wrong side of."
" He nods. Christ. I can't wait to get drunk with this dick and hear what the fuck other stories he's hiding away. "Well, Taipan and fighter bay. I'll look at getting them installed, you know... soon."
"I can take care of that, Ma'am," says Stanton.
"OH OKAY," I say, stopping and turning to him. "Look, you loved Mira, I loved Mira. I fucked Mira and you cleaned up after me. There's no fucking "Ma'am" bullshit here. You fly your thing when told to, help out when you can and do what you like with Fake Aisling over there the rest of the time. None of this formality bullshit, okay?"
He nods. I relent, pleased that that's
taken care of.
"Use this bay here for the fighter installation, I guess. You can quarter beneath - there's enough room there for, you know... all your, uh... yeah." I glance back at the doll. I lack the vocabulary, the politeness to be all cool and shit; I guess it's going to just take some time.
Time to move along. Time to do my shit again. Time to be part of something I own. Time to wake up.
I direct Stanton to find some space for the toys and get that all sorted and thumb the coms to get Klausy and Tags' attention.
Time to fly