|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2007-12-03 01:55:00
Fic: VanDerDecken, Chapter 1, Part 2 of 3
Another cloud of sparks flew up from the panel Avon was attempting to repair. He swore, backing away. In the five days he'd been on this mobile scrapheap which the owner glorified with the title of being a “ship”, he'd collected an impressive set of small burns, and a lot of shocks. Dina, the Captain and owner of the VanDerDecken, would just snap at him, cursing him as a cack-handed fool if he dropped components, and upbraiding him if he so much as looked sideways at her.
“Give me that,” she said this time, hand out for the breadboard he'd been working on for a couple of hours. He handed it over, wincing as she took it and slammed it into place, then thumped the access hatch into its original position. As she did so, he could hear her muttering about “bloody pussyfooting Earther groundhogs”, a refrain he'd begun to get used to. Turning from the hatch, she tested the circuit, and grunted at the result.
“That's better,” she said. “There's another one of these on the other side of the console. Needs the same treatment.”
Avon glared at her. It had the same effect it always did: none whatsoever. She seemed impervious to his glares, his snarls, and the sneers which couldn't help escaping when he compared the VanDerDecken to his previous abode. Verbal barbs were met with an upraised eyebrow, and an invitation to tour the interior of hold two. Given hold two was the current storage space for a large amount of space junk and wreckage she'd been finding along the way, and that she economised on atmosphere within the hold, it was an instruction to shut up. She backed this up with a blaster which looked much more efficient and up-to-date than anything else on the ship, and an impressive fast draw.
He'd abandoned the idea of hijacking the VanDerDecken when he'd become acquainted with the sheer amount of work involved in keeping the little ship flying. Once upon a time, the ship had been a straightforward pursuit craft. However, that was two and a half centuries and twenty owners ago, and by the time Dina had picked up the derelict, there was very little left of the underlying ex-mil structure. Two holds had been added, the weaponry systems had been stripped back to nothing and replaced at least four times (as far as the ship's computer was aware). Indeed, the only original component on the whole ship appeared to be the computer. This, an ancient pre-Tariel model, appeared to have been augmented, updated, tinkered with and tweaked in ways which would certainly have invalidated any possible remaining warranty, were it not for the fact that Dalton Electronics Laboratories had collapsed fifty years ago from sheer corporate exhaustion. What was astonishing was not so much that it still appeared to be a capable machine, but that it ran at all.
He wasn't allowed anywhere near the programming, which he understood but resented none the less. The most Dina seemed capable of was straightforward vocal input queries. She hadn't asked him for a voice print, and she didn't appear to sleep any more than he did, so there was no chance of sneaking one into the system either. Again, he understood her caution, but he also resented it.
“How long until we reach our destination?” he asked, as he cautiously removed the breadboard from the far side of the panel.
I watched him wriggle into the small gap on the far side of the console. Nice arse, I had to admit. Would've been better if he hadn't kept talking out of it all the time.
“About another three days,” I told him, double-checking the readout on the navcomps. “Two and a half if we can get that panel fixed.”
“Fixing the panel will take at least half a day anyway,” he said. The tone was annoyed.
“Not much I can do about that,” I said, picking up the bit of circuitry I'd been fiddling with while he'd been playing with the last breadboard. He shot me another one of those glares which I think were supposed to make me remember my place. Problem is, I got any number of those in my slave years. I escaped, and I'm free. They don't work now. I just looked back at him, calm as could be. “You know where the spares are,” I told him.
He pulled the crate of spares over toward him, grimacing as he did so. At first, he'd turned his nose up at the spares supply I had. I think he expected me to have entire shelves dedicated to neatly sorted resistors, capacitors, and IC bundles. It was only after he'd gone through everything twice searching for a replacement breadboard for one particular repair that I enlightened him. Those breadboards are the spares – you have to find the bit you're after, and be careful with a soldering iron. The look I got when I told him that was nasty enough to scorch a hole through the hull, too. Then I had to explain that, for some reason, separate parts for the various systems in this ship are a bit hard to source. The Feds snap the best of the buggers up whenever they can, and I get to compete with every other bastard who's picked one up for the rest. Grabbing whole circuit boards and cannibalising from those is the only way I've found of being able to get a regular supply of the parts. None of those blasted Terra Nostra swine would bother getting their hands dirty with actual work, so if I grabbed the whole boards, I saved money and got the parts I needed. Plus I could earn a bit more on the side stripping the boards down, which was what I was doing at the moment.
Not that I said all of that to him. Just said parts were hard to come by. He'd turned up his nose at that, too. Still and all, he was a damn good tech, and once he'd adjusted to the realities of the situation, he'd found some clever ways to alter the ship's boards to compensate for the loss of some of the components I didn't have to hand. I was starting to wonder what things would be like if he managed to fix up all of the systems.
I was even getting tempted to let him loose on Della.
As Avon worked away at the panel, he considered his position. On the one hand, what he'd managed to pick up from overhearing what little Federation traffic there was in the aftermath of the destruction of Star One implied they hadn't found the Liberator. On the other, neither had he, yet. He'd originally been wearing a teleport bracelet with the communications channel left wide open, but he'd yet to hear anything from the ship, which might mean he'd been abandoned, or it might mean he was out of comm range. Liberator's communications system was the least robust of the many systems on the ship, being able to be blocked by such things as the ship not being in the expected space location for the comm tight beam. Avon had been intending to examine it in more detail since the incident where the System had taken control of the ship, but with one thing and another (mostly Blake's things, he reflected bitterly) he'd never found the time.
Either way, he had three days at most to make up his mind about what he would do next. The options were numerous, although many of them were distasteful for various reasons. On the one hand, he could sell himself to the nearest Federation commander, along with his knowledge of the Liberator's systems, teleportation facilities, and also as much as he'd been able to puzzle out of Orac's inner workings. This was tempting, as it would hopefully resolve his status as a fugitive, but he didn't want to chance it. Their mercies tended to be few and far between, and at best, he acknowledged, he would find himself confined to a Federation research program, watched closely for the rest of his life and expected to be grateful for retaining his life. The idea didn't appeal.
On the other hand, he could see whether he could contact the Liberator, and be retrieved. He knew himself to be too dangerous to leave loose, as far as Blake was concerned – he knew too much about the ship, and the teleport, and he'd also designed the deflector screen. Doing this would also put him in a position to retain his share of the bounty of the Liberator's treasure room; a very appealling thought given his current circumstances. He had a few gemstones from the haul secreted in various places on his person, but the value of those stones was only an infinitesimal fraction of the true wealth available. As he'd once told a Terra Nostra member, he was sentimental about money, and the amount of money in the strongroom was enough to ensure an attachment of no small proportions.
There was also the consideration of the Liberator's auto-repair systems, he thought, removing another small component from one of the scrap system boards which comprised the spares for the VanDerDecken. Manual labour had never been one of his favourite things.
Set against this was the question of what to do about Dina. She didn't appear to have recognised him as Kerr Avon, which was reassuring. However, he couldn't count on that state of affairs remaining constant until he reached even the nearest planetfall. Could he rely on her discretion? He didn't even know the name of the planet they were heading toward, far less whether or not it was a Federation-controlled world after the disruptions of the invasion attempt.
I had to decide what to do with my uninvited guest. On the one hand, I could drop him off in Deschya, the little free port I was heading to on NovyLen II. It was all I was obliged to do, both under the laws of space, and under the terms of our own agreement. He wasn't my responsibility after that. Planetfall at NovyLen II would terminate our agreement, and I was free and clear.
Problem was, Deschya wasn't a place I'd drop even a hardened bounty hunter without warning. It was a free port, with all the lawlessness that implied. I could sell my cargo there, and get a good price, because the little planet wasn't mineral rich. Had heaps of useful minerals for farming, and most of the people there were farmers. But there wasn't much of the metals needed for heavy infrastructure, and that meant the men who controlled the few mines and the few ports were the men who controlled the planet. Not all of them were particularly pleasant to deal with. Broch, the lord of the area around Deschya, was one of the few who could be trusted to keep his side of a bargain, and he and I had a long-standing arrangement: if I was carrying a cargo of metal, or metallic ores, my crew and I were safe, and landing fees were waived. Given the landing fees were exorbitant at best, I tended to only come to Deschya when I was laden down with enough metal to keep Broch happy for another couple of planetary years.
So, I could treat Kerr Avon as a passenger, in which case he wasn't protected the minute we hit ground, or I could name Kier Chevron as part of my crew on the manifest I'd be handing to the dockhands. As a passenger, he might survive long enough for his friends to find him, although I doubted it. NovyLen II was short on Fed credit, as well as metal. He'd be well worth the selling, and even a comparatively civilised lord like Broch would be making arrangements to sell that highly valuable head to the Feds – body optional.
It wound up taking us four days to reach NovyLen II, and by the time we got there, I was just as pleased to see the back of him as he was to see the back of me. It was Della's fault. She decided to crash in a major way about halfway through the repairs to the console, and took most of the systems with her. I couldn't bloody well fix most of it, and I didn't want to give away my ace in the hole by asking my erstwhile passenger to chip in. So I had to cobble together a few dozen bits and pieces of bypass circuitry, and get the whole ship limping along. Frustrating, to say the least. Doing it with himself sneering at my efforts (all the while trying not to, because it'd give the game away – it's about the only bit of enjoyment I got out of the whole fiasco) was just the icing on a very distasteful cake.
Avon peered at the blurry image visible through VanDerDecken's external scanner. The spaceport was small, but serviceable. According to Dina, it was a free port, which meant there shouldn't be the level of surveilance required by the Federation. According to what he'd been able to pull out of that wretched machine's databanks before it crashed, NovyLen II was a non-Federation world; or at least, it wasn't on the list of Federation planets in the sector. He might stand a chance, if he could just get access to enough of the planetary systems. A few hours work should be enough to forge himself an ID, and create the necessary background for it.
“Well, there it is,” Dina said. “NovyLen II, spaceport's called Deschya. Nearest Federation substation is three systems away, at Zenga Minor VI.”
Avon nodded. “Thank you.”
“I suppose I should warn you,” Dina said. “Deschya's not a very safe place. None of NovyLen is. Free port, free planet, which means the law is mainly survival of the strongest.” She paused for a moment. “My next port of call might be a bit more hospitable,” she said, “if you're willing to sign on as crew.”
“Thank you, but no,” Avon replied. “I should be able to make my way from here. I trust my debt is paid off?”
Dina looked him over, her gaze steady. “You're fifty centis in the red, but I'm willing to let that slide.” She offered a hand. “Thanks for the assistance, and best of luck in what you're chosing to do next.”
Avon looked at the hand she had extended, then took it. He was surprised by the gesture, since the past four days had involved much hasty repair of the ship's computer systems, during which he'd been hard pressed to maintain even a vague level of civility. Watching as someone else botched together a circuitry patch to deal with a job which proper programming could have repaired in less than half the time had been rather traumatic. He'd almost been tempted to break cover, save for the realisation that while Dina didn't appear to be mercenary, he was still rather valuable to the right people.
They shook hands, and Dina turned back to the inventory she was compiling of the stores in hold two. She'd provided him with directions to the hatchway, as well as with a rather tatty and well-worn tourist datapad. He turned, and left the VanDerDecken. With luck, he'd never see it again.
I didn't watch him leave. I had more important things to do. For a start, I needed to know how much metal and metallic ores I had in hold two, as well as the approximate value of the cargo in hold one on this rock. One of the messages that had come through while we were in transit was a rather snotty transmission from the previous owner of the cargo saying that he was dispensing with my services, as he'd discovered my poor record with the Feds. Damn fool of a man had to have known I wasn't one hundred percent legit in the first damn place, since I was willing to take his cargo of contraband from Marok III (high-rad waste) to a disposal site on NovyLen X. Of course, he waited until after I'd taken the stuff off his hands to do this, so I now had enough radwaste to fuel a small freighter (but unfortunately not this small freighter) in hold one, and no bloody chance of a buyer on NovyLen X. Bastard.
So I was going to have to check with Broch about the metal I'd salvaged, and also about whether they had the necessary tech to handle the radwaste. If they did, I was laughing – two cargoes gone at the same port, and only a minor decontam needed in hold one to fix things up. If they didn't, I was going to need to space the cargo; probably in NovyLen itself. I'd commed ahead to arrange a meeting with Broch, letting him know in advance that there was some very handy metal on my ship (the one thing I couldn't afford at the moment was dock fees). He'd agreed to meet with me.
I grabbed my blaster and strapped it on. Next came the two knives for my boots, another in a wrist sheath, and a third down the back of my neck. Spring-loaded club into the other sleeve from the knife, and then over the top of my shirt went the armour vest. I discarded the standard slip-ons I wore on the ship, and put on the custom-made boots and greaves I'd had done about six years ago. There's a sign in the spaceport here in Deschya, saying “Check Your Weapons”. Well, I always do. I check I have enough of them.
My final touch was the jacket I'd grabbed from a bloke I'd had to kill. It was real leather, rather beaten up and scruffy, but it had several advantages. The first was the weight of it, which kept me warm on a cold planet. The second was the pockets, which were the right size to hide my hands and a pair of knuckle-dusters that I kept there, without showing the slightest alteration in the line. The final and most important alteration was the defence system it had wired into a few different sections. I liked that jacket.
“Right,” I said to Della. “S-O-P, known hostiles. My voice doesn't ask, the hatch doesn't open.”
/Acknowledged,/ Della replied.
The hatch opened, and I stepped out into Deschya spaceport.
Avon's first impression of the spaceport was that it was crowded, noisy, and filthy. His second impression only confirmed this. There were people all around him, jostling him and crowding into his personal space. He looked around himself. He needed a place which was relatively quiet, where he could take stock of his situation, and make an inventory of his assets. He also needed some privacy to organise a new identity and a supply of credits.
He consulted the datapad. There was, if the pad was still accurate, a small transient facility nearby. It offered basic level cubicles (nothing more than a bunk and bedding) which could be hired by the hour. Avon frowned, knowing full well what this meant: the place was, in effect, a brothel. However, he needed at least an hour to sort things out and decide how he was going to get back to Liberator. It would have to do.
I strolled into one of the bars in Deschya, and was immediately recognised.
“Dina!” called a loud voice. “What the gorram hell you doin' on this rock?”
I looked over at the speaker. He was a big, burly man, carrying a gun which looked like the bastard child of a grenade launcher and a machine gun, and which was as nasty as her looks.
“Hey, Jayne! What the hey are you doing around this neck of the woods? Where's himself?”
Jayne came over and slapped palms with me. I'd met him years ago, back when I was working the far side of this sector, where it abutted another area of colonies. Startled the crap out of me to find 'em, too – I'd not thought the old stories about the lost colonies were anything more than spacer legend. Instead, I wound up running into Jayne, and his boss, one Mal Reynolds.
“Mal?” Jane asked. “Aw, he's off doin' somethin' about getting some kind of job. Something about salvage, he said.”
“Ah, shit,” I said. Mal Reynolds was the part-owner of a Firefly-class ship called Serenity which was about the only thing I knew of which would be better than the Dutchman at doing a salvage run. For starters, I didn't have the sort of pressure suiting which could cope with doing all the manouvering to get smaller bits on board, whereas Serenity did. His crew were also skilled at EVAs. Not to mention the bastard had a crew, while I was a solo operator. Sucks to be me, yeah.
“What's a nice girl like you usin' language like that for?” came a voice from behind me. It was Mal. Now, don't get me wrong, Mal's a nice enough guy, but I trusted him only slightly more than I trusted Avon – and that was only because he wouldn't swap Serenity for a Fed star cruiser if he had the choice of the best.
“Hey, Mal,” I said, turning around to shake his hand. “You still got that genius mechanic of yours? Or is she shacked up somewhere?”
Jayne rolled his eyes. “Kaylee's groundbound. Doc said she wasn't to go playin' around in engines with another on the way.”
“Another?” I raised an eyebrow. This was news to me. “She been breeding or something?”
“She an' the Doc went and got married,” Mal said. “Why you askin'?”
“Della's having problems. Again,” I said. “I need someone to look over Della, someone to look over the drive, and someone to damn well buy me a drink.”
“Well, Dina, I think I could just about do that last one,” Mal said. “What're you having?”
Avon's suspicion had been right. The hotel was a brothel, disguised in a cloak of respectability almost as thin as the clothes worn by the girls and boys of the house. His request for a private room did not, therefore, go down well.
“No can do,” said the raddled face (gender undeterminable) behind the admissions counter. “Nothing free.”
The glance which accompanied the statement explained with admirable clarity where the emphasis was to be placed in the sentence. Avon hid a sigh, and placed one of the gems down on the counter before the personage.
“I would appreciate privacy rather than company,” Avon said. “I'm willing to pay.”
The face looked at the gem, at Avon, then back at the gem again. A moment's silence, then a decision appeared to have been reached. A key was pushed across the counter.
“Two hours,” the person said. “And that's because I like the look of your face.”
Avon took the key, and made his way to the room. Unless the security systems in this pesthole of a place were far in excess of the general technology level, he would have his business completed within one hour at most. Plugging in his datapad, he set to work.
It took me a couple of rounds of drinks before I was able to break away from Mal and Jayne. I'd discovered they weren't doing salvage, which was something of a mercy, and they gave me a tip on a possible buyer for the radwaste. In return, I warned them of known Fed hideaways. I couldn't say for sure, but I suspected that if Serenity was over here in Federation territory, it meant the Alliance were on the lookout for Mal's pilot again. River Tam was a bloody genius pilot (and a bloody genius everything else) despite being completely and utterly cracked, and a telepath to boot. The Alliance had tried to turn her into some kind of super-assassin, and she was still deadly even now. They appeared to be just as capable of taking “hell no” for an answer as the Feds, since they tended to try and come after River every two to three years; I had a suspicion that they'd be in contact with the Feds, too. It was weird – both sides tended to act as if the other didn't exist officially, but unofficially, they swapped information back and forth. That was how I'd met Mal and his crew in the first place – they'd broken me out of an Alliance holding cell where they were waiting for the Feds to show up and collect me. Closest I've ever come to being recaptured since I started up in the business.
My next step was to head up to Broch's office. It was almost time for him and me to start talking turkey about this cargo of metal. Broch was the only person in Deschya who bought metal – the outer walls of his compounds still had a couple of skulls from the last entrepreneurs who thought they'd go into commodity trading bleaching in the sun – so he was the only person who'd buy the contents of hold two from me.
Broch is a small, skinny man who looks like a dried up accountant. His genius lies in employing great big men who can wield great big guns, and who don't get all embarrassed when the screaming starts. That and having an hereditary right to three of the main mines in this sector of the continent. The other mineowners didn't like him, but that didn't bother Broch. He'd foiled at least six different assassination attempts, as well as a forty-person attack on his compound, and he was reputed to have killed at least ninety men himself. Six of those were at a corporate dinner. I trusted Broch to keep his side of a bargain, but I didn't trust him enough to eat or drink near him.
I was greeted by the usual flunky – a boy this time; usually Broch had a lot of pretty girls around him.
“I have an appointment,” I said. “Name's Dina.”
The lad scanned down the list of names on a sheet of foil. The foil was a bit of swank, Broch showing off to impress the lower orders. Plastex would have done just as well; it probably would have been more legible, for a start.
“That one,” I said, pointing out my name on the list. “Cargo of salvage he might be interested in.”
“Oh. Yes.” The lad sounded nervous. New, I suppose. I waited while he put through a call on the intercom. The office was much as I'd seen it previously – some ostentatious touches, like the metal desks, and the metal filing cabinets (Broch kept all his data on computer; the cabinets were antiques he'd picked up somewhere) – but mostly restrained and reasonable. There was a blip from the comm system.
“Mr Broch will see you now,” the boy said, smiling up at me.
I made my way in to see the master of Deschya.
The systems were harder to crack into than Avon had anticipated. It wasn't that they were more sophisticated; rather the reverse. They were primitive enough that they relied more on password entry than on biometric data. It made all his hard work hacking into the biometric data files of the planet a waste of time. Swearing under his breath, he started coding up a quick and dirty password cracking worm.
He was three quarters of the way through when the guards broke down the door. All of a sudden, the comment by the desk-holder about liking his face was understandable. His face, in situations like this, was definitely his fortune – or as in this case, someone else's.
“Dina,” Broch said as I came in, “how good to see you. I understand you have something for me?”
“I think you'll be interested,” I told him. “Scrap, most of it, but I figure you're not going to ask silly questions about where the scrap came from.”
“I'm not a fool, Dina. I'm capable of listening in to Federation transmissions.” Broch's smile hadn't even wavered. “There's a battle going on out there. The casts have been full of it, and every single captain who's made groundfall here in the last three months has been talking about it.”
“So what happened?” I asked. I was curious – I'd not bothered to ask my reluctant passenger when I had him on board, since that would have given the game away. “Della decided to have a breakdown, so I've been out of touch the last few days.”
Broch leaned back in his chair. “You've heard of Blake and his crew, I take it?”
I nodded. “Who hasn't?”
“Just checking. One never knows with spacehounds like yourself. Story coming off the Federation links is that Blake and his bunch were heading out on the edge of the rim. They found an alien fleet coming in to invade.” He took a sip from the metal cup of water resting on the top of his desk. “Now this is where it gets odd. Given Blake's history, you'd think they'd just welcome the aliens in. But from what we can pick up over here, it seems like they sent a message to Federation Central Control or something, and got the whole Federation fleet out there – and they stayed to hold off the aliens.”
“Hang on – I thought Blake hated the Feds.”
“He did. He must have changed his mind when he was faced with an invasion fleet.”
“So where is he now?” I asked, thinking I might look for Avon around the place, see if I could sell him the information.
“Nobody knows.” Broch leaned forward over his desk. “There's lots of rumours, of course, but nothing concrete. The bounty on their heads trebled overnight. It's getting harder to get information from the Federation links lately. Transmissions are patchy and far between. There was one other story coming out of the Federation links before they went down, though.”
“What's this one?” I asked.
“A new President. The former Supreme Commander – so there's been some kind of coup. Her name's Servalan.” Broch grinned. “More power to her. The Federation has been on the brink of something similar for at least the last ten years. It might account for the comms silence from them, although it doesn't feel right for a military blackout on communications. The last things we heard from some of the Federation worlds were reports of disasters.”
“Sounds like the Feds have had a pretty solid shakeup,” I said. “So what are you planning to do about it?”
“That's for me to know, and you to guess, Dina. You don't think I'll be telling my plans to a scruffy scavenger like you?”
I smiled politely. “Of course not. Now, how much are you willing to offer me for the cargo?”
Broch smiled like a predator scenting his prey, and we commenced dickering. It took me about three quarters of an hour to get Broch to offer a realistic price. I'd done this sort of dickering with him before, and I knew that while he could offer anything, he wasn't likely to pay up unless it was a realistic offer. So I'd declined his offers of half the planet and his annual revenue for three years, and we'd moved on to the serious stuff. I wound up with a combination of things: an introduction to the potential buyer for the radwaste; a team of techs to work on the Dutchman's drive core; a cargo of agrigoods for the next hop; a complete refill on all the tanks and supply systems; and, most importantly, a team of technicians to look over Della and get at least a couple of her quirks fixed up. I'd also been offered the usual handfull of local currency, but I declined it as I always did. Currency exchange was ridiculous over interstellar distances, and I'd long since decided that taking the majority of my fees in kind worked out a lot better for me.
I was wandering about with Broch's majordomo, an elegant woman who was referred to as Swimbo. It was a bit of a nickname, coming from a combination of her effective rank as Broch's second in charge, and her imperious manner: it stood for “She Who Must Be Obeyed”. Her real name was something like Agnes. She and I had a reasonably calm relationship: she didn't trust me, I didn't trust her all that much either, and neither of us could stand each other for longer than absolutely necessary. As a result of this, we arranged the transfers of goods and services at speed. Broch had requested the buyer of the radwaste to present themselves at his office, which meant I could expect to see them fairly soon. Then I'd be back to the Dutchman, and wait on the techs.
The buyer turned out to be a stocky, solid woman name of Teani, who worked the repair shops for the bigger freighters. She said she could use the radwaste for refuels on some of the larger ships around, so we dickered for a bit, and she offered to supply me with the core refuel for the Dutchman, and take the price out of Broch's hide later, along with a small fortune in gems which she happened to have on her.
“Where'd the gems come from?” I asked her. NovyLen II is a small planet, and I knew for a fact it didn't produce much by way of gemstones. Again, it's all about minerals, and this place had all the wrong ones to produce anything of real value.
“Got 'em off some straggler me boys picked up,” she said. I looked at Swimbo, who nodded.
“Teani's boys are doing security for the spaceport these days,” Swimbo told me. “Mops up all the odds and sods who come in off the ships, and if they can't pay their way, she puts 'em into the refuelling crews. Stops a lot of the bad behaviour that used to happen.”
“Yeah,” Teani agreed. “Saves some of the captains a few worries – they know where to pick up their crew at the end of the day.” She gave a coarse laugh. “Better watch yerself, luv, y' might wind up there one day yerself if you ain't careful.”
“I'll take 'em,” I told Teani, pointing at the jewels. “Where's your lockup? I might be interested in doing some recruiting.”