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She frowned slightly when he mentioned that meeting her and Freya had changed what Ludolf felt. "I hope that's a good thing." She replied quietly, some concern returning to her voice. Sakura looked down at the picture again as Ludolf flipped the page back, again slightly awed at proof of a dragon's lifespan. "Maybe your perception of the flow of time has a hard time reconciling something that spans so much time?" She ventured a guess at what may have been the reason for the picture triggering such a reaction.
Ludolf then dropped another bomb in his declaration that something huge was building. "You mean bigger than Robinson taking over a huge swath of the system by force?" She asked, still sounding rather concerned. "And I don't suppose we stand much chance of being able to just ride it out on the sidelines." She continued, now sounding a little resigned.
Freya listened as Allswell described the changes in Robinson, still thinking that there had been something she had run across before that sounded similar, something from when she was much younger that may have been ancient history even then. "I really would like the chance to dig around in his head and figure out just what those voices are, or at least what they're telling him." She commented with some frustration. She couldn't help but feeling that those voices had some sort of importance beyond the changes they brought about in Robinson.
She had watched as Allswell brought them through the ship, regaling them with brief tales as they went, and Sakura hanging on his every word as if she were half the age she was. Looking back on it, it was easy to see a family resemblance to Osborne that went much deeper than physical appearance. She caught herself wondering how far he would have gone if he'd chosen a different path.
She gave a slight shrug as Allswell gently refused her offer. "It's your family's history after all." She replied though she shook her head at his implication of his eventual death, probably in the very chair he now occupied. "You know you could probably come with us rather than sitting here and waiting for the inevitable. I doubt Sakura would turn you away."
She frowned when Allswell mentioned the outrageous promises Robinson was making to his cohorts. "He's really promising all that, and they're believing it?" She asked, appalled at the idea that such grandiose promises were being taken at face value. "Wouldn't you like to see the look on that old wolf's face when we topple his grand house of cards?" She asked Allswell with a wry grin.
“Leave the Averice?” His brow knitted at the suggestion. He wasn’t nearly so vocal about it as Sakura had been about leaving the Inari, but it was clear many of the same thoughts and feelings were running through his head.
Ludolf nodded at Sakura’s last comment about riding out the unknown future approaching them, “Right.”
She sounded worried. He couldn’t blame her. He was also worried. He had the feeling that they should all be worried. Maybe he had been wrong to introduce this new concern. It was a distraction. “Lets stay focused on our present situation. We should worry about the things we can affect, for now. We need to secure new railguns for Inari and, looking around, I have to believe Allswell has a few to spare… for the right price…” He closed the photo album and placed it back in its ancient desk drawer.
They emerged onto the bridge in the middle of Freya and Allswell’s conversation. “Aye, he’s promisin’ all that, and they’re buyin’ it. He can be a convincin’ sort. He’s got plans,” he wiggled his fingers to again invoke the air of mystery around it all, “I jus’ don’ know what they are.”
Ludolf took a minute to consider the wisdom of volunteering information before speaking up. It was nothing Freya or Sakura hadn’t heard before, but it would be news to Allswell. “I know his plans,” he rumbled, “he’s consolidating his power, taking over Atalfa. He wants to form a new… kingdom, or empire, or whatever he would call it, out here.”
Allswell gave the bear a cockeyed look, and then the old captain just laughed. He laughed long and hard. Finally, he managed to get a word in edgewise around his own mirth, “an’ he told you that, did ‘e? Ehh, ye can be so dense sometimes.” At the bear’s blank look the old feline waved an arm out the front viewscreen, “he hates it out here! He hates Atalfa! He deee-spises this place! You think ‘e’s after a bunch a’ molderin’ old pirate stations an’ criminal flotsam?”
Ludolf was silent for a time, processing the implications of this new revelation. Did anybody truly like it out here? It was the freedom that attracted all sorts to Atalfa, and the prospects of making money through illegitimate means. For some it was the isolation, the secrecy, the chance to hide from one’s past. But given the option, wouldn’t they all prefer to be somewhere different? Even after a couple weeks, the memory of being in the real natural air down in Edwin was fresh in his mind, and how it had felt. The memory of a part of him, the part which had evolved on that living world, feeling at home on a deep instinctual level he hadn’t felt before.
"Wouldn't you like to see the look on that old wolf's face when we topple his grand house of cards?" Freya asked Allswell with a wry grin.
Her grin caught on, but it didn’t last. “Aye I would! But, is like I said, speed is power. Ye’ can’t fight a ship like the Agony wi’ any old engine. ‘S why I set my little ambush for the lot of ya. Yer engine… don’t know jus’ what I’d do with it. I don’t figure it’d push the Averice. But it’d be something at least.” He patted the arm rest of his captain’s chair fondly, “old girl ain’t good fer much wi’ ‘er old fusion engines these days… But I’d find a way.”
Allswell swiveled the chair to face the three of them. On seeing Ludolf and Sakura he seemed to remember something; they said they needed weapons for their ship. A broad, piratical grin split his muzzle. He could be an unpredictable sort, for sure, and part of that was because he could make seemingly major decisions in what should really be far too little time. “Seems you need somethin’ from me, an’ I’m needin’ somethin’ from you.”
“What are you suggesting,” Ludolf rumbled, “some kind of trade?” It would be preferable to paying through the nose, if it was true.
“Nothin’ so grandiose,” the cat murmured, feigning to slump back against the chair, only to explode out of it and jab a finger upwards at nothing in particular, “A PACT! An honest t’ god Pirate Pact! Think: ‘is all so perfect! Guns ‘n engines is jus’ the beginnin’! Me an’ the lot of ya, we wanna see Robinson fail fer our own reasons, right? We all got our demons to deal with, all our own points te’ prove.”
“Oh no, not grandiose at all,” Ludolf said in deadpan monotone, but Allswell ignored him. The cat had been speaking directly to Sakura. Pacts were agreements between pirate captains and she was the only one here other then himself with a ship. It was an old sort of idea, though. Pirates these days rarely bothered with that sort of thing. The bear turned to his young captain, “it isn’t a small thing that he’s proposing. It is something like an alliance. With the exception of your ships, it’s a ‘whats mine is yours and yours is mine’ kind of situation. Resources are pooled. Decisions are made collectively.”
“It’s a crazy idea,” the bear said with a glare at his manic former captain, but then, after a few silent moments in thought, he shrugged, “I kind of like it. I doubt Robinson will be expecting it, and we’d have access to Allswell’s facilities and supplies here.”
The old feline took a step forward, held his arm out so she might clasp it with her own. “Go on,” he said with a wink, “yeh know yeh want to.”
“I can’t speak for Freya,” Ludolf commented. He put a hand on Sakura’s shoulder, “but I will follow where you lead, captain. The choice is yours.”
Sakura nodded as Ludolf suggested that they focused on the task at hand for the time being. "Right, railguns." She replied as they headed out into Allswell's conversation with Freya.
Freya shrugged as it became apparent to her that Allswell wasn't going to be talked into leaving his ship behind. "If they beilieve that load of tripe, I have some beautiful beachfront property in the middle of Edwin to sell them" She grumbled when he insisted that Robinson could be that convincing. "Get me close enough to him, and I'll figure out those plans." She replied, again wishing that she had the wolf handy to rummage around in his head.
She turned and looked when Ludolf spoke up about Robinson's plans. Her attention was just as quickly drawn back to Allswell though as he laughed. "So the wolf wants Feila." She summarized. "I still don't see how he thinks he's going to take it. He may wipe out all opposition in space, but that will still leave a whole planet's worth of ground forces to contend with if he wants to hold the territory." She commented with some skepticisim.
Sakura looked at Freya as it seemed she had offered to take Allswell along with them. Allswell declined, but his reasoning caught her attention. Speed, and the Avarice's lack of it. She found herself idly wondering just what Allswell would do if he could match Inari's speed. She quickly frowned though when he suggested taking Inari's engine to put in the Avarice. Luckily she didn't get the sense of any real threat from the thoughts, but it was still concerning.
As Allswell mentioned that they needed something from him, and he wanted something from them, she was already preparing to refuse to trade off Inari's drive systems. Allswell's thoughts took an unexpected turn though, and she found herself a little off balance as he exploded from his chair and proposed a pact. She found herself shifting gears to catch up. She listened carefully to what Ludolf had to say about the proposal before she spoke.
"So, say we enter this agreement." She started. "You're not getting Inari's drive." She said flat out in a tone that said there would be no budging her on that. "I'm assuming that, instead, you're going to want to know how to build your own and integrate them into the Avarice." She paused. "Or, you're going to want me to build it for you. In return, I get access to the facilities and supplies here. Now, here's where things get a little murky. Where are we going to go from there? Will you crew the Avarice and bring her out to help us against Robinson, or are you going to just watch and pounce on whoever is left?"
She wanted to accept Allswell's offer. She desperately needed allies, and she wanted Allswell to be one of them, and not for her own sake. She gave a small smile when Ludolf assured that he would follow her through whichever choice she made.
Freya looked at Ludolf when he mentioned her, then at Allswell for a moment before looking at Sakura. "I will protect you through this." She told Sakura with a small grin before she turned it on Allswell, and it became much more predatory; a silent warning against treachery.
Sakura nodded at both Ludolf and Freya before she took hold of Allswell's arm. "All right, a pact then." She said as she shook with Allswell. "I hope you have some contacts and supply chains we can use if you want the Avarice outfitted with a drive like Inari's."
He recoiled dramatically from her vile insinuations. “Gah! What’d be th’ worth a’ that!? Is like ever’one always says- an’ by ever’one I mean myself-“ he counted off on his fingers, “one ship, well that’s worth one ship. Two ships is worth two ships. But two ships flyin’ together, that right there’s worth threeee ships. Or four or five or… however many, throw a number on there, yeh get the point.”
“Ye think I want t’ sit ‘ere an’ wait to die!? I want t’ get out there,” he said, his voice full of hunger as he clutched at empty space in front of him with both hands. “Is time to make a last stand! Or a first stand! Or…” he waved his hands vaguely, “somewhere in the middle, I don’ know. Whatever it is, is time to do it!” He pointed to a compartment near her hand, “better get the gun outta there missy, cause yer gonna have to shoot me to keep me lurkin’ in ‘ere like some dragon and its hoard…”
There was an awkward silence. Ludolf just shook his head. The old captain stomped a foot, “you know what I mean, damnit all! Is time for Action!” He clasped Sakura’s arm as she grabbed his and jerked her around a couple of times. The shaking was important. It added vigor to the pact! And as Allswell saw it, pirates were supposed to be rambunctious, not sullen like Ludolf or lurking and plotting monsters like Robinson.
“Contacts an’ supply chains, sure,” he said, getting down to business, “but don’t know if’n yeh noticed, but Atalfa’s done an’ gone teh hell, an’ most of em’s scattered or… or switched sides. I got plenty of supplies teh restock ‘n refit the Inari, fer sure, but nothin’ fer needin’ fer buildin’ a fancy new engine. If ye need somethin’ exotic, we’re gonna need teh figgur somethin’ out…” It wasn’t something he’d confess to anyone, but contrary to what he'd said before he really had come to this asteroid to die. The last few years had been a dark time for him, and he’d let networking fall to the wayside. He had huge stockpiles of supplies and weapons, not to mention piles of money. He could probably repair an engine a hundred times over with what he had tucked away in the comet, but building a whole new engine from scratch was precision engineering.
A thought crawled to the forefront in Ludolf’s head. “Something exotic…” he was thinking back to an asteroid full of strange machines and someone who by all accounts still had her snout to the wind and her ear to the ground. He turned to Sakura, “What about Lenares? Would she be able to help us?” He thought then to glance Freya’s way. He grunted to himself. A half dog, half dragon? Freya’s history with Etienne? It had taken a while to click, and he wasn’t sure whether there was any unpleasant history between Lenares and her mother. “…Unless that is a problem.”
Sakura looked a little confused when Allswell mentioned having to shoot him to keep him lurking, it seemed to run counter to what all they wanted. Freya on the other hand looked slightly miffed at the insinuation about dragons. "We don't all lurk." She commented quietly just before Allswell stomped a foot.
Sakura frowned again when Allswell replied to her question about supply chains. "I'm definitely not going to be able to completely build a new drive with what's here." She replied. "Sorry." She swung her head to face Ludolf when he spoke up. His tones implied he was thinking of a solution. Her shoulders fell a bit, and she gave a sigh when he suggested they seek help from Lenares. "Judging by her living quarters, and all the stuff she had stashed away, she probably could." She replied. "But I already owe her a favor, and I don't really want to build on that debt. If we had funds to pay her though.." She trailed off, giving a significant look to Allswell.
Freya noticed that Ludolf was looking in her direction when he made the comment about visiting Lenares possibly being a problem. "Shouldn't be." She replied as if she were still thinking about it. "I need to talk with her about the magicapacitor anyway."
Sakura sighed again. "Well, I guess we're going back to visit her again then." She announced. "But not before we finish getting Inari back to her full strength, maybe add a bit of extra as well." She looked over at Allswell. "We're going to need to bring her in to the bay here." She told him. "You can get a good look at her then too." She added with a grin.
As they headed back through the corridors toward Inari so they could get her moved inside the docking bay, Sakura spoke to Ludolf. "Building this new drive is going to take some time." She commented. "Let's hope Robinson doesn't get too suspicious while we're working." She commented. She was again feeling like she was in way over her head, and it was getting a bit overwhelming. She concentrated on keeping herself together as they disengaged Inari from the docking gantry and made their way back around to the bay doors.
Once the doors were open, she carefully maneuvered Inari in to land near the Avarice. When they were again gathered in the docking bay, she clapped her hands together. "Alright. Lets get that new railgun mounted. There are a couple empty hard mounts that we could add a couple more missile pods to as well. May as well arm her as heavily as we can." She instructed before activating the WRASS to get it working on prepping the old railgun for removal.
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