There is something about the way that Mira handles the vulture that I don't quite understand, but what I'm certain of is that she'll never be great in combat until it gets sorted.
I have installed a second chair on the deck of That's Not My Finger
so that Mira can watch me fly or vice-versa and, on and off for the last few weeks, we have been taking the bird out for a spin so that Mira can get some hands-on time (and with the vulture, boom boom) flying around Cemiess space, hunting, interdicting, shooting pirates.
I am utterly fascinated by her.
What she possibly sees in me is a pointless question, for I'm certain it's already clear: a slightly dangerous piece of rough to have some fun with, piss the family off with, make a slightly notorious name with so that, when finally Mira submits to settling down and squeezing out a half-dozen not-quite-royal babies, she'll have her Grand Lesbo Adventure to keep her warm at night and her otherwise overwhelming family will treat her a little cautiously.
I am fine with this, just as I am fine with the fact that, eventually, I will lose her.*
It is Tor who eventually diagnoses what is holding Mira back from really engaging in combat, and it's so obvious as to be laughable. He climbed into Lucy to fly wing with us one afternoon as he was passing through and we spent a few happy hours with Mira and I swapping roles (Domme - sub etc... I JEST), me spotting targets for her or her watching me spin and kill, and while she was freshening up when we were done (another thing I love... she's always changing her clothes. Which should be tedious, but it never takes more than 5 minutes and she never
seems to travel with anything. And yet, always, creaseless, out-of-a-holofilm, perfection. My classy, perfectly-turned out, foul-mouthed, nobility doll... I digress)
"Whatcha think, Tor?" I ask as we turn and swing for "home" - Northrop Point in this case.
"She's pretty good," he says neutrally.
"Seriously. What do you think?"
"What do you
"I think she's good, but there's something missing. I can't tell what, though?"
Tor is silent for a moment and then replies, "Actually, I think it's the opposite. I think she has something you and I don't."
"Oh? What's that, then?"
"A fear of death."
"Huh." I ponder this and realise he's right; all her life, Mira has had her value drilled into her. Conversely, I got banned form my home planet. Our separate estimations of our own values are polar. I have more to say on the subject, but she arrives back on deck (straddling me and trying to get me to crash again) and I have to request docking permission and land while being "tweaked" by Mira Duval.
It's an interesting life, all in all.
"You know what you need?" she says later, turning her head to look at me and chuckle. The taste of her is still in my mouth as we lie still-entwined on the hard floor of the Vulture's flight deck. I shake my head mutely.
"Bigger guns!" she replies brightly. "I know a guy... we could go see him. He'll put something monstrous on your vulture."
"They're already bright pink - that's pretty monstrous."
She leans over and kisses my nose. "Let me do this," she breathes, her breath cool and fragrant over my face. I nod again, at once ashamed and delighted at how helpless I am to resist her.
Thus, two days later, we are off to visit Tod McQuinn.
Mira assures me that while he keeps an exclusive clientele, Tod will happily work with me as he likes bounty hunters. She's downloaded my bounty warrant history (incoming, not outgoing) from the Cemiess databank ready to present to him and I've saved up a few choice 'conda and python bounties from recent scuffles as a hello gift.
"Now Tod," says Mira softly as we turn to make our final approach to his base (named "Trophy Camp" - I'm not even kidding), "He's a little special. Was in a band or something." she waves her hand dismissively. This, I have learned, means "There is more to say but it's not relevant and I can't be bothered". Once this gesture has been made, it's pointless to press her much further.
"I think a musical outfit of some kind. He's quite vain and loves flattery, so lay it on."
I raise my eyebrows at her. "Lay it on?"
"You know, men and their egos. Just... be nice to him."
treat him like an A-Team member?"
And then I'm requesting and completing docking and we're disembarking and then, boom, there's Tod McQuinn crossing the facility's underground foyer to greet us.
"Mira!" he exclaims, "Relight my fire! Your love is my only
desire!" He double-pistol-points at Mira, winks and then wraps his arms around her.
"Not aged a day, Tod," she replies, two-kissing him, one cheek then the other. "How have you been?"
"Oh, you know, hangin' tough," he replies, grabbing his crotch with one hand and throwing the other out to the side.I blink but say nothing. "You've got the right stuff, Mira - what can I do for you?"
"Well," she says with a bright smile, "I'm hoping you'll consider working with my wonderful friend."
Tod releases Mira and turns to eyeball me. "Hey," he says. He doesn't extend a handshake.
"Whatever," I shrug. Mira gestures wildly over Tod's shoulder, intimating that I should be nice or there'll be consequences later. I pull myself up and smile, "It's nice to meet you, Tod - I've brought something for you." And I hold out the bounty chip.
"Cool, cool," he replies blandly, taking the chip and handing it to a passing droid. "Check this out immediately, would you?" The droid clucks and murmurs a metallic response before taking off somewhere to test my chip in a panel.
"Yeah," I continue, struggling now, "Mira's told me all about you-"
"She has?" says Tod, brightening. "What did she say?"
"That you were in a band..."
"Oh that?" He chuckles one of those chuckles that means "I'm going to pretend like it was nothing, but, actually, everyone in this room will say it was awesome or this shit ends here."
"Yeah," I continue, "Said you rocked the house."
"Oh baby, baby!" And then Tod does something I hadn't anticipated at all. He pops the collar of his leather overcoat, jump and turns a full pirouette upon landing, claps and ends in some kind of odd pose I recognise as being "cool" to anyone under the age of 15 while humming a single, melodic note.
Tod, it seems, was in a boy band.
"Ha! I've not done that in a while," says Tod, dropping into a slight bow as Mira excitedly applauds. Meanwhile I'm thinking to myself, Shut it, Tod, you do that every morning, noon and night and every time you stand up from your chair, and we all know it.
"And it was
awesome..." I say with as much straight-faced sincerity as I can muster. Mira drags a finger across her throat at me.
"You know, everybody's talking all this stuff about me, why don't they just let me live?"
I stare blankly at Tod, who is still talking. Eventually he stops and looks at me. "Whatever you need, baby."
I'm about to ask about his gun modifcation services when the droid returns and flashes a message to Tod. In reply, Tod frowns, holds a finger up to Mira and I indicating that we should wait a moment, and then follows the droid to the data panel where my chip was being read. He pauses for a moment there, then pulls out the chip and returns with a stormy expression.
"How deep is your love?" asks Tod, furiously waving the ship at me.
"I'm sorry," I say, genuinely confused.
"I said, is this a fucking joke, bitch?"
"Hey, whoa, man!" I say, hoping to get Tod to cool his heels. "What happened?"
Tod waves the chip at me and then returns it to the droid. "Break it down, yo?"
The droid inserts the chip and the screen in its chest flickers to life. It opens with the words, "Dear Tod, with love, The A-Team."
"Oh dear God," whispers Mira. I palm my face and am reaching for an excuse when the message proper starts to play:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3I6NcJByeJY
"I'm going to kill Dawg..."
"What the honest fuck?!" says Tod. His collar has gone floppy. He has gone from boy-band fabulous to 40-something used-to-be in the blink of an eye. Even his jazz hands have fallen still.
"Oh, you know..." I say brightly, "It's a joke - to flatter you?"
I take a punt "You know... it's one of your songs, right?"
Tod frowns and listens closely. "Oh fuck yeah... Stop it, girl!"
And then Tod smooths his cornrows with his hands, resumed Boy Band mode and starts laughing. And, in relief, Mira starts laughing. And, because this laughter confirms that, yes, I will get to have sex with her again, I start laughing too. Tod pops his collar back up as he cools his giggling and turns to offer me a handshake. "You're alright. Easy as 1, 2, 3."
I accept the handshake and nod. "We're cool, Tod. And, hey, let me downlink some bounty data to you from my ship - conda's and pythons, rich, rich bounties from Cemiess." I nod suggestively as Tod's eyes light up.
"You've go the right stuff, baby... love the way you turn me on-" Tod replies, dancing again.
"Tod, no," says Mira gently, placing a hand on his shoulder. Tod looks a little crestfallen but stops his routine. "Let's go."
Several dance routines and bouts of sung lyrical cliches later, and Tod is smoothing his hand over my Vulture. And then he shakes his head.
"I'm sorry, baby," he murmurs.
"Sorry?" I say. I'm leaning against the hangar wall waiting for Tod to finish his inspection of my ship while Mira keeps him sweet.
"I don't like your hardpoints."
"You and me, we could ride on a star if you change out those pulse lasers."
I shoot a look at Mira who shrugs indifferently. "Change them out to what?"
"Multis, frags, rails... just not those." He looks poised to start singing again; Mira's gentle hand on his shoulder cools the urge. "But I know this ass-hugger who can help you. Kind of a dick if you know what I mean."
"Not really," I murmur.
"Calls himself "The Dweller", like that's some kind of thing. Like, heh, what a dumb name!"
"Uh-huh, The Blaster."
"Hey, that's a cool
"You thought it up in rehab or something. You're the only person who calls you The Blaster, aren't you, Tod?" I say. Mira is gesturing at me to shut up, but I've had enough now. 5 mil in bounties, dancing and singing, having to make nice and friendly, and that fucking incessant
collar popping... no, I'm perfectly certain that Tod McQuinn is the only
person in the Galaxy who calls Tod McQuinn "The Blaster" and I'm making no secret of it.
"You know... you're kind of a bitch," says Tod, looking to Mira for support. "Mira..."
Mira shrugs, "She's super-hot and makes me come like an Orang whore. Sorry, Tod."
"End of the road," says Tod, leaving the hangar, giving a sad "Hee-hee" as he presses the button to open the door.
kind of a bitch," observes Mira as we climb aboard the Vulture. I send her a wink and start the launch sequence. As the clamps are removed, and I rise out of the dead-coms zone about 11 messages messages come in, one from GalNet.
"Oh this will be good," I say, "Grab those downloads, would you?"
Mira nods, shrugs and starts up the downloads while I fuss about getting comfortable and cycling through a quick systems check. And then I hear her stilted gasp and look up. Her eyes are fixed on the small holoscreen in the dash between our chairs. I look down at the screen and see...viewtopic.php?f=31&t=8820
"Oh, those utter, utter
bastards," I whisper.
And yet, for 22 minutes and 11 seconds, Mira and I sit in utter silence while we watch.
"At least they got my hair right," muses Mira when the final shot vanishes, "There's that at least."
*Who am I kidding?! I fucking HATE the fact that I can't sit on a modified-for-two flight deck with her until some asshole eventually shoots me out of the sky or I drink myself to death or we retire together to some terraformed rock that she's been working on for the entirety of my career and, boom, 35 years of retirement preparation has paid off in ultimate Til-Death-Do-Us-Part luxury. I HATE that this is all so fucking fleeting and easy and wonderful and that she tastes like cinnamon, lemon and honey and that she can be surrounded by hopeful suitors and still make me feel like the only person in the room. I HATE that, with her, I feel 3 feet taller, many years wiser, several hundred degrees hotter and endlessly more valuable than I ever did without her.
Most of all, I HATE that I am falling in love. I will lose her. I lose everything. I will die of a broken heart, sad and empty on some dark side of a moon that only I have seen in the depths of some shitty system far outside of the Bubble, where I have flown to because it's where I have to go to escape memories, images, news stories of her, her, her. Given that I tend to fuck up everything good whether I try to or not, I might as well just get on with losing her in the best style I can - loudly, aggressively, drunkenly, submissively and with as much sex as my hungry body can stand.
I HATE this destiny and I feel like a twat and a coward to think that I am submitting to it, and I think I'm going to rebel and fight it or at least try
to control it but then... she climbs onto my lap in the flight-chair or laughs that laugh or charms some asshole or looks at me that way
and I realise that I'm trapped and whatever she wants to do with (and without) me is what she will do and there's no other choice that I can make except to submit to it.
OF COURSE I say I'm fine with losing her. Fake it 'til you make it, kiddo.