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Mann Ramblings

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  1. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    must be a discrepancy in word counting rules between formats. My count in Scrivener says 999. I refuse to admit there's a word needing to be deleted.
  2. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    I can't imagine why.
  3. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    OMG I actually thought about this at one point. LOL
  4. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    Arad's allure is only good for Torrins. And maybe Franc, but there's no guarantee for the rest of the crew.
  5. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    I'm so glad I have your undivided attention. This was one of those stories I wasn't sure if I had something good or not. The idea came as part of a publishing submission call I didn't enter because I didn't actually write the story. You and the rest of the readers/commenters have convinced me I'm doing all right. Thanks!
  6. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    I'd like to think it takes a certain amount of savvy to successfully survive on the street. Especially someone in Arad's situation. Even so, he's missing a lot of information. I am curious about the hail too. See you next week.
  7. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    The moment Arad stepped onto the bridge all conversation stopped. Soft chimes from the instrument panels were the only sounds in the uncomfortable silence. Franc, Torrins, and Daiko sat in their respective seats. As he stepped across the threshold, three sets of eyes followed him. And he thought walking in the hallway was noisy. The short trek felt downright deafening as he found his place next to Torrins. It wasn’t the first time his appearance had quieted the room, but he refused to give them the satisfaction of knowing how unnerving it could be. “Are we going somewhere?” Daiko swiveled his chair to face front without answering. The usual cool reception. As Serene’s other half, one would expect drama from the dark eyed man as opposed to the calm disdain he normally exuded at Arad. Apparently opposites did attract in the real world. “We have some business to attend to.” Torrins snaked his arm around Arad’s waist and brought him closer, snugging him against the captain’s side. He resisted the urge to pull away. After two months, Arad should have been used to Torrins’s public demonstrations—half affection, half possession—but he still found himself off guard with crew members who questioned his role on the ship. Which was pretty much all of them. Franc cleared his throat. “Should Arad be in here for this?” “Just set coordinates, Franc. I’ll deal with it.” With a disapproving look, Franc turned back to his console and tapped at the control screen. When they’d first met, Arad thought he might have a comrade in the dark skinned helmsman, but like the others on board, he ran standoffish one minute and Arad’s best friend the next. Usually if he wanted something. Such as a night with the cabin boy with the captain’s permission. It was difficult to know if Franc’s mood swings were simply an attempt to keep in the crew’s good graces, but all it told Arad was that he couldn’t be trusted any more than the corporate mercs dismantling the shanties back in the Grey District. Arad tilted his head to get a better look at Torrins. “So… I need to be dealt with?” “Poor choice of words, my boy. What brings you up here?” “I did the maintenance and cleaned up.” Torrins leaned in and sniffed a blatant line up Arad’s stomach and chest. “Mmm yes. You are smelling awfully fresh.” A shiver born of equal parts arousal and embarrassment prompted Arad to playfully push Torrins’s head away. “Stop that. I didn’t have anything else to do, so I came looking for you.” A brilliant, yet lusty smile lit up Torrins’s face. “That’s what I like to hear.” “I didn’t mean to interrupt. Should I go?” “No. I like you where you are right now.” Flexing his arm, he gave Arad a gentle squeeze. The move was as much a distraction as foreplay. If things were different and their ranks not cabin boy and captain, Arad might have taken a proper shine to the man. But things were not different, and instead he found himself growing more and more suspicious. Arad may have been flying high after challenging Serene earlier, but dealing with Torrins required another tactic. Demands were rarely met with success. The captain responded better to subtler methods. “Did I hear right earlier? You’re charging up for a space fold?” “We are.” Arad frowned, almost pouting. “Do we really need to? Can’t we just ride straight through?” There was no joy in bending space for instant travel. It wasn’t done often because it was a wrenching ordeal Arad could live without. He’d puked and passed out for hours after his first experience. The crew found it hysterical. “We don’t have that kind of time, and sometimes it’s better to get right to business.” Torrins patted Arad’s behind. Flexing his bottom under Torrins’s hand, Arad reached up and toyed with the small hair at the captain’s nape. Arad knew how to play this game. “Where are we going?” “No place in particular.” “Will you warn me before we jump this time?” “I’ll consider the request.” “I really hate throwing up.” “Duly noted.” No matter how flirtatious he was being, short answers were always a sign Torrins was hiding something. The man liked to hear himself speak, but now he avoided the topic of the fold which meant he was steering the conversation away from their destination. On top of that, even though both men were facing front, there was no doubt Franc and Daiko were listening with full intent. What could require so much secrecy? Arad knew the ship’s dealings weren’t one hundred precent legitimate. Torrins had all but admitted that the night they met. What was happening here was far more than the typical reaction he’d received on the ship. Curiosity could be damning. Arad had seen more than one slug vanish for asking too many questions in the past. Even so, the tension floating in the manufactured air left him craving information. Arad searched for parts of the conversation he’d accidentally overheard. “You said you already lost Go? What’s Go? Should I know what—” Torrins interrupted him with a finger pressed to Arad’s lips. “Shh. Everything’s fine. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” Arad wondered how long Torrins would indulge him. There were limits to the man’s patience and he was edging around them. Time to be penitent instead of inquisitive. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be asking. I’d just like to help if I can. That’s what I’m here for.” Arad dipped his head to peer through his brow like an apologetic urchin, keeping silent, short of begging. Two months by his side gave Arad as much insight as Torrins was capable of gleaning when he tried. Torrins paused, calculating. The captain’s eyes softened, almost as if he might bring Arad into his confidence for the first time when Franc broke in, his voice lacking his normally collected tenor. “Torrins. We’re getting a hail.”
  8. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 9

    Survival is Arad's mantra. Given time, I'd like to believe he can wear all of them down. We'll see.
  9. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 9

    What? Serene doesn't give you the warm fuzzies? I must be slipping...
  10. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 9

    Arad wouldn't have survived this long without knowing how to adapt. It's a hard won skill, but it's his for sure.
  11. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 9

    I'm working hard to convey the location inside the size limitations because I feel they're important to the overall vibe and how Arad sees his place in the world.
  12. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 9

    I'm definitely looking forward to where we go from here.
  13. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 9

    I'm not sure I can answer that... it would be cheating.
  14. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 9

    It was an effort to step lightly and not make a commotion. The rattling clang of boots on the metal floors reminded Arad too much of when the corporate mechs dismantled the shanty village on the docks. On occasion he thought of Mareth and the others and what became of them. It wouldn’t be easy, but he told himself they would be fine. They were survivors. The alternative held too much guilt to bear. Shuffling down the hall, he reached out, brushing his fingertips along the cool walls. Scuffs and scratches aged the once pristine surfaces, giving away their age. He skimmed invisible trails over the worn paint until he passed over the hand reader connected to the cargo bay’s door. A defiant chime blared out of the device as faded red text alerted his entry denial. The noise brought him to a halt. Just to see what would happen, Arad placed his hand fully on the palm panel and received another loud rejection. He was about to try another tactic when a hard series of footsteps approached. A hand slammed against the wall, barring him from further attempts. Following the arm—muscles visibly twitched under the thermal sleeve—brought Arad face to face with its owner, the main mechanic, Serene. “What do you think you’re doing?” Bracing and hostile, Serene’s name was ill-fitting. Not once sense he’d arrived had she behaved like her namesake. Serene leaned forward into Arad’s personal space, menacing as ever. The heavy, dark braid which pulled her hair tight to her head accented her sharp features. “Nothing. Just playing around.” It was difficult to sound casual when faced with Serene’s natural ability to unnerve people. “You don’t have permission to be in there.” Arad had learned enough to know the ship’s OS was retired military grade with rank-based access to each area. This had been the first time he’d seen it at work. Up until now, he’d never been denied access to anywhere he’s wanted to go. Granted, he’d never tried to enter the cargo bay before. Usually when confronted with the crew’s cold reception he’d mind his own business, but Serene’s attitude made him feel insubordinate. “That sounds… mysterious. What’s in there?” “It’s private. And none of your concern.” Serene stepped forward, attempting to herd Arad away from the door. For years Arad had dealt with slug squabbles, occasional fights over food and necessities with people who desperately need them. He was hardly going to pushed around by one abrasive crew member, even if she was bigger than him. Arad stood his ground and waved his hands, shooing at her. The gesture forced Serene to lean back to avoid being slapped in the face. “Sorry. I’m just curious. No need to be so salty.” Serene’s snarl deepened. It appeared to be a permanent feature. “Don’t think that just because you’re shagging Torrins, you’re something special. You’re not really part of the crew. If it was up to us, you wouldn’t be on board.” Arad crossed his arms over his chest. “I know. You all find a way to remind me every day.” “That’s because we see what Torrins can’t… or won’t. You’re extra weight we don’t need.” “Maybe. But I am here. And as long as I am, I plan to do what I came here for.” “I can handle the ship fine. I don’t need your help.” Arad dropped his arms to his side and slumped his shoulders. His voice softened. “What do expect me to do?” “Exactly what you’re doing. Then on the next dock, no one would think twice if you took your pay and moved on. Don’t worry about Torrins. He’ll just find another boy.” Putting on his best urchin-face—the kind he used when snatching produce from the market—he looked up at her with wide eyes. “You’re probably right. This is quite a mess I’ve gotten myself into. What do you suggest I do? Would it be best if I disappear without saying a word?” “It might be for the best,” Serene said in her best attempt at a motherly tone as she laid her big man-hand on Arad’s shoulder. The delivery was so phony, Arad cringed as he cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. Arad reached up and swept her hand off his shoulder. “Do you think we should we ask Torrins what he thinks of your brilliant plan? I’d be curious to see who he thinks he needs more.” Arad shifted forward into her space. “Are you so sure he’ll choose you?” If such a thing were possible, Serene’s expression became more severe as her hand curled into a fist. Arad waited to see if she’d raise it. She didn’t. “Yeah. I didn’t think so. For your information, I’m here to earn my keep and that’s it. I know Torrins brought me on without asking your permission, but it sounds like he didn’t need it. I’m sorry I set foot in your territory, but stop pissing on my feet already. You don’t even have to talk to me. After this cuddly moment, I’d prefer it. Whatever you guys have going on has nothing to do with me. I don’t care what’s in storage.” Arad turned and walked off, trying not to hyperventilate. There was still a chance she’d slit his throat. That woman was crazy and he’d just shined her on like she was another slug marking her zone. He managed not to start running, and she didn’t follow. One small win. The closer he came to the bridge the easier he breathed. Hard starlight spilled into the hallway through the open port bringing any and all structural flaws to life in shadowed relief. Voices echoed off the metal walls, giving them a tinny, distant quality. “Franc, charge the space fold and enter coordinates.” Torrin’s tenor was unmistakable. “Are you sure they’re still going to be there? We’ve already lost Go.” Space fold? Go? What were they talking about?
  15. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 8

    Let's hope so. I hate when everything goes south...
  16. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 8

    Arad's too seasoned to trust absolutely. Hopefully he knows how to handle it if something changes.
  17. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 8

    You're very welcome. Thanks for reading.
  18. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 8

    There's more to come. Hopefully I can surprise a few of you in the process.
  19. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 8

    I didn't see a point in dragging out Arad's joining. He's too practical to let the only option to make money slip through his fingers. So it made sense to move forward and not bother with a lengthy introspection and decision making since it was clear he was going.
  20. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 8

    Only time will tell and you'll have to wait for Wednesdays like the rest of us.
  21. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 8

    Everything Arad Ansari owned could fit in one half of one drawer. Lifting the flat metal latch he pulled the panel from its seat, flush within the rusted wall. It made a painful screech as it stuck halfway open, but a quick tug forced it the rest of the way. Dull red paint flaked off their cramped quarters’ rusted metal walls everywhere except the sleeping berth large enough for two, and was still a far cry better than the shelter back home. “Use this drawer,” Torrins said. “When you bring the rest of your stuff, we’ll figure out how to squeeze it in.” Arad tugged on the strap crossing his chest. “This is everything.” Torrins’s brow creased. “What do you mean this is everything? One shoulder bag full?” “It’s all I own.” “That won’t even fill half the drawer. How can you own so little?” Arad shrugged as he emptied his satchel. “It’s only safe to keep what you can carry.” “Why?” “Keeps you from being a target.” One by one, Arad stowed away the sum of his life into the deteriorated space. “From who?” “Gangs. They leave you alone if you don’t look like you have anything.” Scraping the bottom of his bag with his fingers told Arad he was finished. A quick study of his work left him with room to spare. Torrins scanned the contents of Arad’s half of the drawer. “You don’t have much of anything.” “See? It works. It’s even easier to keep up the image when you can’t afford anything.” “How long have you lived like this?” The peak in Torrins’s voice bordered on an accusation. Did he think Arad might be lying? It nagged at Arad, making him face the captain with an incredulous stare. “How long? When haven’t I?” The last comment hadn’t been entirely true. Arad hadn’t always been on the street, it only felt like it some days. Besides, Torrins had acted so smug when he’d deduced Arad’s social status bar at the tavern. Now he was disturbed when faced with some of the gritty details? It served him right. Years of destitution had washed out most traces of Arad’s shame. Reality was reality. Arad scrubbed the gritty, disposable towel over his wet skin. The chill began to overtake the leftover warmth of his shower, so he dressed like it was a race. He rubbed the towel through his hair, hoping it wouldn’t disintegrate before he could prevent water from dripping down his spine. The old exploration cruiser comfortably housed a crew of six and was a piece of junk. Arad was only an assistant to the engineer but he knew the ship could run warmer. Little could hold off the absolute cold of outer space seeping through the walls, but the environmentals running at 15°C was Torrins’ doing. Stingy bastard. Regardless, the shower system produced more than sufficient amounts of hot water, so Arad held his tongue, like always. Growing up in poverty made a man know all too well how to appreciate such a luxury. Torrins preferred his men younger but legal—like most of Arad’s clients—and was willing to make space. Arad shouldn’t have been surprised when Torrins announced they could share his quarters. There wasn’t a spare room on board. It wasn’t the worst arrangement, and Arad didn’t have any better options. Do grunt work on the ship, get paid, and play cabin boy. Another kind of grunt work. Arad liked handsome, authoritative men, so he was hardly compromising his standards. At least the captain lacked any alarming kinks for the most part. Torrins liked regular servicing and occasionally to watch as he shared his boy with Franc of all people. Arad hated thinking of himself as the captain’s boy. It was meant to be a act of trade that would elevate above his status as a lowly slug, but he knew such a feat would require more than a simple change of venue. He also couldn’t deny the situation he’d placed himself in. Two months had passed since Arad had joined the crew, but he could remember the day after their meeting like it was yesterday. Once Torrins and Franc had left him in the bar without a viable customer, he’d only spent a few hours deciding, ignoring the clamor of warning in his head. It wasn’t really a choice. Arad had nothing and no prospects. Torrins’ offer, while dubious at the very least, was an opportunity he couldn’t pass by. The internal argument was short-lived. So he found himself at the landing bay far ahead of the deadline with his limited possessions stowed in his trusty messenger bag he never left without. Torrins’s possessions were a different kind of creature. The drawer’s left side was stacked with Torrins’ folded thermals, a few phase pistols, and spare ammo cells. The captain had more weapons than anyone Arad had ever known. Stashes were hidden in every cabinet. Everything from guns to knives and a few items Arad could only guess at and they all still looked lethal. It made him wonder what kind of trouble Torrins was preparing for or if he were simply paranoid. Perhaps a touch of both? It wouldn’t be the first time Arad had known a man who wasn’t completely stable. Look at Davis. At this rate, it wouldn’t be the last either. Arad took a quick glance at the cracked time panel above the door and frowned. It was too early to say the day’s work was done. As captain, Torrins could declare otherwise, but Arad would need to check in first. Could he manage the rest of the day off? Well… he was the cabin boy. A nice smile and a better offer to distract the captain could make his day easier. Smoothing back his damp hair with his fingers, Arad hoped he hadn’t showered for nothing. He straightened his clothes, ignoring the frayed seams, and headed out. Torrins should be on the bridge at this hour.
  22. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 7

    I don't know. The authorities around here seem to be kind of harsh.
  23. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 7

    Of course you picked the raunchy one. Let's hope I can still surprise people as we go along.
  24. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 7

    My last name is Welsh on my dad's side and Dutch on my mother's. Does that count?
  25. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 7

    I wish I could write ahead on this story. With the craziness in my life right now, I'm thankful to be able to do this much. The Wednesday deadline is good for me.
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