Brains and brawn
Chapter 8: Pirates and Cowboys
Location: The crew deck
Sighing with disappointment that her hour was up, Melisande helped Herring put the newly altered rifles into a box until she gasped in pain holding her ribs on the lower right side. The Elphin looked at her with concern, "No more bendin' for you, killer."
She cringed at the comment, "Herring, please do not call...who is that? I have not seen him before."
"Oh him," Herring looked at the man sitting in a corner on a barrel next to the hammocks, "Just another mysterious guy from the captain's past. They're a dime a dozen. Be careful, he was actin' pretty crazy on deck earlier. That loser won't last long, trust me."
Once Herring left, she could help but walk closer to the man. She noticed how unkempt and worn he looked. He smelled strongly of alcohol, held a hand to his head, while the other shook from withdrawal. Melisande gently asked, "Do you need help, sir? We have a great doctor or I could---"
He turned to look at her and she instantly recognized him as her green eyes met his. She saw him on her way to the chapel outside of town as 'Pauline' when she was getting ready to board the ship. He was lying in the middle of the dirt road. As she asked him whether he was okay and offered him her hand, a villager arrived. He shooed her away, saying 'sweet girls shouldn't handle scum,' and proceeded to kick him until he left.
She felt a tinge of panic. Were the haircut, bangs, different accent, speech pattern, and clothes enough for him not to suspect anything? Did he remember her at all? He squinted at the realization of her discomfort as she regained her composure and smiled with faux confidence, "Or I could see if we have anything in sick bay for you. I was just heading there."
"I don't want nothing from that rotmouth," Colton muttered, using an offensive term for tainted. "There ain't nothing wrong with me anyways." He looked up at Melisande, only to cough violently in her general direction. The cowboy toppled off the barrel and landed on his knees. On all fours, the man retched until he was reunited with the liquor he'd unpackaged from a crate. "I gotta quit drinking so much," he spluttered, dragging himself back onto the barrel and pulling out a cigarette. "It's bad for me."
With smoke swirling around them both, Colton squinted at the woman. "What happened to you? Your cuts have bruises."
Melisande coughed from the smoke. She was confident that smoking on a steamship made of wood wasn't a good idea, but figured it would be a bad idea to tell him to stop. After seeing such a display of dry heaves, part of her wanted to leave in disgust, but Colton was a new member and it would be wise to attempt a friendly chat. She sat on the hammock directly across from him.
"Oh this," she subconsciously felt the bruised scab on her right cheek with one hand, while the other sheepishly ran through her bangs, "I am new, so the combat leader wished to test my skills. We got a bit carried away. That is all. What is your position?"
"I'm just tagging along 'cause I got nowhere else to go. I'm a wanted man. The lowest of the low. I sailed ship before, I know my way around a sky ship and I know how 'Nelia runs things. She hasn't changed. She hasn't learned one damn thing." Colton was getting distracted by his own thoughts, but became aware of Melisande staring at him. "I'm the muscle. There's faster people than me and there's tougher people than me, but I ain't met nobody meaner."
He dropped his cigarette stub and stamped it flat. Melisande watched the embers float across the wooden deck. "We're going riding to God knows where 'fore long. There's all sorts of people on the road, looking for trouble. We gotta look out for each other out there. Think you're up for it, girl?"
She nodded aggressively in response, "When I decided to become a crew member I swore to the captain that I would protect the crew members to the death. I am prepared for the possibility that I will not live to see my destination. What you did, matters not. Until we part ways, you are my comrade."
The information Colton said about Daenelia finally began to sink in. She wondered what he meant by that. It was obvious that she was rather capricious; childlike one moment, aggressive the next, yet always impulsive. That capriciousness could lead into dangerous and deadly situations. Still Daenelia Bradley was the captain, Melisande swore an oath, and she had to admit she had more respect for Daenelia than she thought she would.
Melisande opened her mouth to ask about what he meant about Daenelia, but changed her mind at the last second and instead replied, "Muscle? Then a war dog perhaps? What weapon do you typically use? I am the combat engineer, though as you see I can also fight on the field as well. My name is Melisande. It is a pleasure to meet you, sir."
"Colton." he nodded. "Well I got this," Colton replied, pointing his loaded revolver at Melisande, then setting it down on the barrel next to him. "And knives in my boots, but they're just tools. I use whatever I get my hands on, lifted these off a couple of soldiers back in Yorkfield." He had a pair of brass knuckles in his hands. "Cracked a few bones with those already. Oh and they had this too, but I broke it." He handed Melisande a peculiar-looking pistol with five barrels which fanned out horizontally. "Got one shot off and won an argument real fast. Took me a right long time to load it again, but it won't fire."
She stared wide eyed at his collection and for a man on the run, they seemed well maintained. The way that he talked made her think he had some sort of previous training somewhere. The pistol she was currently holding was one of the strangest she had seen in a long time and had she problems placing where she had seen something like it before. She quickly opened the the chamber that held the bullets to see how it worked.
"Ah, standard break," She responded with confidence, "This should be an easy fix. I can slide this in with the other repairs and improvements I'm doing. When would you like it fixed?"
The loud stomping of feet caused Melisande to turn to see Herring. He was headed towards the box of rifles he left, when he noticed the two of them talking and walked over, "What are you both doing? Come on, Melisande, the doctor and Daenelia told you to stay in sick bay, and what are you doing with that gun? Your hour is up."
"But Herring, I---"
"You'll just injure yourself some more. Besides, you'll get in trouble again." While Herring stated this he stared at Colton, who glared in kind.
"I just wish that doctor would stop insisting on visiting me constantly...and the touching," She sighed quietly and looked up at Herring, "This is an unusual weapon and I need a better look. I do not have any tools in sick bay, so it shouldn't be a problem. When did you become so overprotective?"
The Elphin chuckled in response, "What? Me? Just an ol' seadog watching out for a new recruit. Don't make anything more out of it.
She smiled at both men and got up to leave, "Sorry to cut this short, Colton. I will have your weapon ready as soon as possible."
It seemed to be over as soon as it began. The sound of the door to sick bay closing and the stomping of Elphin feet growing quieter, Colton grumbled quietly wondering what he was going to do now.