Gunslingers, Passengers And Gangsters.
By Patrick Misiak
The ship rocked as it hard burned to planet Hermes, it would take another 30 minutes to arrive.
Landon was in his quarters, the largest living quarters on the ship, a bed was stationed in the center of the the far wall from the door with a green flag with two yellow stripes and a star in a triangle placed in the center hung above it and a pad locked chest resting at the end. A nightstand was next to it with a chinese lantern lamp. On the right was, bolted to the floor, a
desk with a few files and books lying around. A single bookshelf stood across from it and a gun
rack next to that, stocked with a beaten down repeater rifle and a assortment of pistols with a
sturdy machine gun. A few shelves were on the walls decorated with photos of Landon wearing a military uniform complete with a dark brown duster alongside other men, a few showed Landon next to a old timer standing together in front of a circus tent with a floating sign that read “The Wild Verse Show”. A few random trinkets were place around a small figure of a cowboy on a horse cases of bullets, tools, playing cards and some cans of beer bottles with a picture of a bull on the side were scattered about. A tv screen hung across from the bed. Landon had took off his poncho and hat and hung it on a rack near the door and put his holster on the desk. Underneath his pancho he wore a grey T-shirt and a dark leather vest with the ship’s name on the back. Landon sat in his chair with his feet on the desk and the tv turned on.
“These brown coats don’t deserve the right to to vote, the war may be over but let me tell you they are far from putting down their guns,” An overweight man in the suit yelled on the screen.
“So you’re saying, you denying them their right to vote, is unlawful and completely fascist,” Another man yelled back.
“What I’m saying is until these browncoat extremists are brought under control and until they finally accept the alliance….”
Landon took the remote and switched the channel to a anime. “What a BUN tyen-shung duh ee-DWAY-RO.” He took a zoned out for a moment reaching inside his shirt taking
out a pair of dog tags that he wore around his neck, he ran his thumb over the burnt and scarred
In the kitchen Ben was walking around making the meal, while Annie and Keith sat at the table playing chinese checkers.
“So what’s on the menu today?” Ken said making a move, with a toothpick in his mouth.
“Dim sum, steak, and miso soup” Ben said showing him on the the Dim sum he was
“Sounds mighty fine.” Annie said making her move in chinese checkers.
“That it does, you know what I could go for?”
“What?” Ben said raising an eyebrow.
“Some Mongolian Beef.”
“I can probably make some if we restock.”
“Think we will take on a few strangers to ferry?” Annie said changing the subject.
“Well I hope they’re better than the last time, that feller with all suitcases”
“Oh god, don’t get me started, he thought I was his man servant what a Ching-wah TSAO duh liou mahng.” Ken said laughing along with Ben.
Annie giggled at she stood up and took out a cup from the cupboards and got herself some water.
“Something funny?” Quinn said walking into mess hall,
“Just, talking about stuck up folks from the Central planets.”
Quinn rolled her eyes, taking a seat at the table, “They’re not all bad,”
“Just most of them.” Ken said making a move in chinese checkers.
“A true browncoat statement.”
“Where’s the captain?” Annie said making her move.
“In his quarters, and also I win” Ken said making one last move.
“Da-shiang bao-tza shr duh lah doo-tze” Annie said looking at the board.
Landon walked in causing everyone’s heads to look at him, he crossed his arms and spoke.
“We’re nearing Hermes, Annie and Ken you’re with me, Ben think you can watch the ship?”
“Not a problem Captain, the food needs some time to get the sources in anyway.” Ben said wiping his hands on a rag.
“Good, Doc and Yukiko will get the supplies and refuel the ship.”
“Alright then you get your orders, everyone meet in the cargo bay once we land.” Landon said exiting the mess hall. As the crew got themselves ready Landon headed into the cockpit again,
“Planet in view” Yukiko said pointing at the orange brown orb through the window, Hermes was a trading planet caught somewhere between the rim and the core worlds a hub of all type of folks friendly or just willing to shoot you because it’s Monday.
“Got the channels open?”
“Yup.” Yukiko said pointing her left onto a monitor embedded into the control panel.
Landon walked over and adjusted the frequencies and after a few moments of static a connection was made. An older man wearing a fine suit with his black hair slicked back and grey stripes in the sides was seen on the screen.
“Hello Captain,” the man said in a distinct voice, “I trust you have have my missing shipment.”
“Mr. Chen, we picked up your shipment and are heading over to land.”
The man smiled, “Very good, I will be awaiting for you in my usual meeting place, your payment will be given to you.”
Landon nodded, “See you in hour then?”
“Very well an hour, goodbye Captain” the screen flickered for a moment before turning black again.
“Hope the alliance doesn’t catch us with theses.” Yukiko said steering the ship near the planet.
“Chen gave us all the papers if anyone asks it his property and Chen has a reputation.”
“So no one will question him or us.”
“You got it.”
“Let me get the docking coordinates and I’ll land this bird.”
“Landon nodded before making his way to his room to rearm.
The ship landed in the town of Little Panda, one of the main docking areas for ships and where Chen the leader of the Emerald Serpent Syndicate often operated. The town was crowded with men, women, and children getting on all manner of ships to or from different places. Merchants were scattered about yelling in all manner of different languages known around the verse, selling guns, clothing, ship parts and even shadier stuff under the table. A few alliance officers and security personal walked around in blue body armor and uniforms patrolling the streets for trouble. Exile landed in one of the ship landing spots the hanger door opening up directly into the busy town. Landon walked out with Annie as Ken road the wagon from the ship. Annie had taken the liberty of arming herself with a heavy repeater rifle and some leather gloves to match.
“Remember were not there to piss anyone off, we give him his stuff and we get paid, and keep doing business all nice and friendly like.”
“Ah know” she said checking her rifle, Landon gave her a two finger point,
“I mean it, don’t need you punching out one of his boys again cause he tried to…give you a kiss.”
“So you want me to just let him kiss me?!” she said angrily at Landon.
“No..I uh,” Landon said sighing and putting his hand over his eyes, “Just try not to anything rash alright?” he said a bit flustered.
Annie still looked a bit red and angry before giving a nod and walking to the wagon. Ben
walked over to London.
“That went well.” he said causing Landon to turn to him.”
“Yeah….Listen take are of the ship, and talk to anyone wanting to hitch a ride, you know who like and don’t, the rest is your call.” Landon said taking out one of his revolvers and opened the chamber.
“Dont worry I’ll take care of them, you watch yourself.”
Landon holstered his gun, walking off to the wagon, Annie had hopped onto sitting with the cargo as Landon took shotgun. Driving off disappearing into the crowd. The two other ladies made their way to the ramp, Quinn wearing a quiver of arrows on her back and a compressed bow attached to it. Yukiko had simply changed her shirt to a simple blue one and had a thigh holster with a beat up sawed off shotgun.
“Ready to restock.” She said as she walked over the Quinn
“Right lets go.” She said walking off together, “Take care Ben.”
“Will do.” He said moving one of the crates near the ramp and going off, coming back with a guitar.
“Let’s see who wants a ferry.”
The wagon ride was slow, as the crowd of people parted for the wagon. Ken and Landon talked for a bit while Annie sat quietly leaning the rifle on the side. Landon looked over his shoulder at her.
“Say you’re sorry.” Ken whispered to Landon.
“What?” he whispered back.
“You said something stupid now she’s pissesd, say your sorry and she’ll forgive ya”
“Thats an order, Captain” Ken said giving a cheeky smile.
Landon sighed in defeat and turned around to Annie, “Hey Annie”
“Capt’n?” she said looking up at him.
“Sorry for what I said, it came out wrong and I’m sorry for it,” she looked at him before giving him a light smile.
“It’s alright, but thanks for apologizing and all, real nice of ya.” Landon turned back to face the front, Ken grinning all the way.
“I told you..”
“Shut up, Sundance” Landon said cutting him off.
“Come along Hsu” a woman said walking in front with a man carrying a ridiculous amount of suitcases.
“Coming!” he said rushing to catch up to the young woman.
The woman looked prim and proper with a gorgeous face and well-conditioned,styled brown hair. She was wearing a dark blue dress with Asian patterns on the bottom combined with a buttoned vest and scarf, her sleeves puffed out midway before tightly holding onto the skin the rest of the way, with a pair low cut boots with a slight heel. The man was young looking and Chinese, he wore a grey suit with a red tie, a flat headed brim hat, and a pair of round sunglasses.
“Isn’t it exciting?” she said looking around at all the people walking around.
“I suppose so, although I wish we could have used the luxury freighters, would have saved me carrying all these bags alone.” He said mumbling the last part.
“But think of the Adventure, the outer rim, the wild frontier.” She said taking off some of her success of Hsu to give him some time to rest.
“Whatever you say Mrs. Stonewall, your father told me you can go running around for a bit as long as you go to your future husband planet after you’re done with your…Holiday.”Hsu piled some of the suitcases and proceeded to sit on them, but stood up once lady stonewall
gave him a look.
“How did you convince your father to let you travel, on a freelance ship anyway, with just me? I would have thought he would at least send a bodyguard or two.”
She huffed at Hsu statement, “I am a grown woman, capable of making my own choices,
and besides I can be quite convincing.” She said smiling at her own statement.
Hsu shook his head, “So which ship do you want to hire with the trust of keeping us alive and making sure we don’t meet our untimely deaths while sleeping?”
“Oh hush, Hsu” she said looking at all the ships and decided it would best to talk to a few of them.
“Hsu sighed picking up the suitcases and letting out a string of fanciful Chinese curses under his breath.
The wagon made its way to the destination, a restaurant called, the White Fox. The wagon was met with more of Chen’s men, leading the three through the back. They dismounted leaving the wagon into the hands of Chen’s men, while one of them handed them the payment for the job.
“Mr. Chen would like to speak to you.” The man exiting from restaurant yelled to them. Landon nodded, and the three walked inside, the restaurant was decorated with fine western
decor mixed in with some Asian designs and objects, tables with red cover spread were all
around. Men stood on every corner with rifles watching the three move with careful
observation. Chen sat at table on the corridor, reading a paper with moving pictures and news
reports, next to him sat his son a handsome young man greatly resembling his father. On his
left was angry looking man with a scar on the side of his neck with his hair frizzled and
“Ah, Captain good to see you.” Chen said looking away from the paper, “Please, sit.” He said pointing at the chair in front of him. “May I offer you some, tea, sake or whisky if you would like something rougher.
“No thanks” Landon responded taking a seat while Annie and Ken stood close behind.
Chen nodded signaling one of his men, one of them walked forward to the table and a stack of
bills was placed on the table closer to Landon.
“An advance for a job I want you to perform.” He said simply.
“And what would that job entail?” Landon said taking the stack and running his hand through it.
“A delivery job. Normally I would ask one of my own, but this one recently came up and I would like for it to get done quickly.”
“I’m always up for work.” Landon said setting the bill down. Chen’s son took out envelope and slided it to Landon.
“We need you to make a dropoff at these coordinates at Iroh space station, a man will pick it up and will give you your payment.”
“What are we shipping?”
The son leaned back into his chair, “A package, it’s contents will remain secret, as part of this agreement.”
Landon nodded, “How much?”
“10,000 credits, 5000 now and the rest later once the drop has been made.”
“Sounds like a fair price. Why aren’t your guys doing this one again?”
Chen gave a thin smile, “Because this was short notice, and you just finished one job making you free. Will you be taking it still remains the question.”
“So this thing will be transporting, any risks.”
“There are always risks, Mr. Landon, question is which ones do we take.”
“Save me the tao philosophies for another day. Is there a risk or not?”
The scowling man growled at landon, “Do you have a problem with us cowboy? Or do you wish to spit in our faces for our generous offer?”
Landon gave him a smirk, “I reckon I have a right to know what I’m getting into, and as for the generous offer, I can decide whether or not its generous or not.”
The man face turned red, he attempted to draw a pistol from his coat pocket, Landon however out drew him, pointing his gun at him causing him stop instantly, Ken and Annie pointed their guns at the man as well, causing Chen’s men to point their guns at the three. Chen looking around signaled for his men to lower his guns, “You would do well, to keep your
head not every insult requires a gun.” The man nodded leaving his gun alone. Landon smiled and holstered his guns along with Ken and Annie.
“To answer your question, there shouldn’t be any risk, just deliver the package and we will send you the payment.”
Landon nodded, “Deal, Mr. Chen.” He stood up offering his hand.
Chen smiled standing up alongside his son shaking his hand, “Very good, my men will hand you to the package and meeting location before you leave.”
“Much obliged” Landon said standing, taking the money, putting it aside in his poncho and with a tip of his hat turned to leave.
“You know if you’d like you could become an official member of my organization, I could always use good men and women, plus I could give you more well paying jobs as well as other benefits.”
Chen said signaling one of his men once more,”Sorry but I’ll freelance all the same, don’t like being tied down too much.” One of the men came forward with a chinese tea set setting it down at Chen’s table.
“Fair enough but if you ever want to be part of something bigger…”
“Heh, I was part of something bigger once, I think all the same I’ll fly on my own terms.”
Chen begin pouring the tea nodding in agreement, “I can always respect a man who wants to work for himself, my offer still stands if you ever change your mind.”
“Doubt it but thanks, I’ll stay in touch Mr. Chen.”
The three exited the restaurant, and Chen staying true to his word handed the package to
Landon by one of his men before they left. The package was a small box wrapped with a
piece of cloth making it look like a bento box, with a slip of paper of the location in the folding.
Landon held it tightly in his hands walking back to the ship making sure, no pickpocket or thug
tried to make of with it.
“I don’t like it.” Annie said walking past a geisha.
“I know, but Chen gave us a job, and we can’t say we couldn’t use more cash.”
“I’d say, the engine could use some new parts,”
“Maybe if you stopped using it as a still, you wouldn’t have too.” Ken gave a sheepish smile to Landon who just sighed.
“Point is if we want Exile to keep flying we take a good opportunity when we see one.”
“I know Captain, just working with the syndicate makes a pit paranoid is all.” Annie said as the three kept walking.
“I know, but we can handle it, after this job I’ll see about getting something different.”
Annie smiled, “Good to hear, Captain.”
Ben sighed rubbing his eyes, the entire time the crew was gone he had been in charged with getting some passengers. Unfortunately it had been a little harder then he thought.
“Do you expect kids?” A couple with seven children around them asked.
“No” Ben said.
“Do you mind if I work on my science.” A man with a labcoat said holding out vial of unstable chemicals.
“We’re full.” Ben said.
“Do you mind..” A man holding what looked a dead body in a bag said.
“No.” Ben said right before two officers asked for him to come to the station.
Ben wondered how the hell he had gotten all the weirdos wanting to hitch a ride, deciding to keep trying he noticed a young rich looking woman and a man beside her carrying suitcases.
“What about this one Hsu.” The lady said pointing at the Exile.
“It doesn’t look like a normal model, maybe custom?” Hsu said tilting his head examining the vessel.
“Lets go talk to the captain then and gain a feel for it as they say.” She said walking to Ben.
“Anything to prevent me from carrying these cases.” Hsu said grumbling. Ben waited for the young woman to come closer to the ramp, before offering a friendly smile.
“Howdy ma’am, may I help you.”
“Yes my name is Katherine Stonewall and this Hsu.” She said motioning to the the baggage carrying man.
“Pleased to meet you.”
Ben nodded keeping up his smile, “Likewise, what can I help you with?”
Katherine cleared her throat, “I would like to rent a room on your ship if one is available for a few months.”
“May I ask why?”
She smiled, “You see I’m a novelist of sorts hoping to get a taste of the Border planets for my novel, and I think there’s no better way then a freelance vessel.”
“That is true she does get around” Ben said patting the side of the ship.
“So would my demands be agreeable.”
“Well we do have some rooms free, question is could you afford them.”
She nodded, “If I could see the room, perhaps we could negotiate the rest of the details.”
“And is your husband coming as well.” Ben said looking over Katherine’s shoulder.
“Not the husband just the help.” He said setting the suitcases.
“Yes, he will.” She turned her head to him.
“Welcome aboard I will show you the rooms and we can talk about the price.” Ben said motioning his hands for them to come inside. The woman nodded walking inside while Ben walked over to Hsu, taking some of the suitcases.
“Thanks,” Hsu said standing upright. “Make sure you aren’t skimpy with expenses,” He whispered.
Ben chuckled, “Sure before walking together into the ship.”
After an hour Annie, Ken and Landon got back to the ship. “Ben” Landon said walking up the ramp.
“Coming, Captain,” the old timer yelled making his way to the Captain.
“Yeah, a woman and a guy renting the free rooms for a few months.” He said handing him a small stack of bills.
“Good work, I’ll talk to them before we lift off.”
“Understood.” Landon gave Ben a brief pat on the shoulder and made his way to his room to deposit the money.
After an hour, Yukiko and Quinn came back with bags of food in their arms, while Ken was in the engine room, making sure it was in good shape. Ben was in the kitchen working on the food and lastly Katherine and Hsu were in the rooms they rented.
“Isn’t this exciting?” she said taking out her belongings on the bed and desk.
“I still think you payed a bit too much.”
“Oh hush he gave us a great deal compared to the other Captains, and plus he seems like a man with experience.”
“Attention crew members and passengers, please meet in the cargo hold.” The intercom went off.
“Oh good, this will give us a chance to meet the crew in person!” she said walking out of her room with Hsu following suit.
The crew gathered around on one side and the passengers on the other, “Alright then folks, these are the passengers.” Landon said signaling to the two. “Which means..”
“Uh excuse me.” Katherine said raising her hand.
“Yes,” Landon said stopping to Katherine’s interruption.
“Why are you giving the orders, shouldn’t it be the Captain.”
“You’re looking at him, darling.” Annie said smirking with the rest of the crew.
“You mean he isn’t the Captain?” she said pointing at Ben.
“No mam, in fact I thought I mentioned it.” Ben said in thought.
“You did, Mrs. Stonewall must have missed it.” Hsu said crossing his arm with a smug look on his face.
“Hsu.” She said in angry tone.
“Hey I thought you knew.”
“So does this mean you’re not sticking with us…” Landon said.
“No, despite the mix up, I see no problem with the current arrangements, sorry for the interruption…Captain.”
Landon nodded, “Anyways, we’re flying to Iroh station about a few days time from here. If you need something feel free to ask me or the crew if we’re not busy with our work, meal time will be an hour, you can walk around the ship but not into any of the other crewmembers’ quarters without permission. Otherwise stay in your rooms, and enjoy your flight, any questions?”
Katherine and Hsu nodded, “No, but thank you Captain, I shall see you at supper time then.” The crew scattered going to their stations, Landon stayed where he was with his arms crossed, while Annie came up next to them.
“Something tells me I’m going to hate her?”
“Huh, I got that same feeling, thought it was just me.” They broke out together in laughter. Exile soon left the planet into space, off to its next destination, Iroh Station. In the cockpit Yukiko was trying to put the ship into full gear, but somehow unable to, she angrily got the hold of the ship intercom and directed it to the engine room.
“Ken what the gos se”
Ken leaned next to the speak in the engine room, a large rotating cylinder with numerous moving parts and sticking out wires all going around.
“Sorry there Yuki, but you keep going full throttle you’re going to burn out some of the coils in the engine.
“So what, you can fix it if that happens and don’t call me Yuki.”
“Yeah, I rather not have to fix the coils if it could be avoided so.”
“You want me to tell the Captain about your new still?” Ken looked to the side, at the parts of his new still he was assembling.
“Fine.” He said walking over with a few adjustments the ship started reaching Yukiko’s wanted speed.
“Thanks Ken.” She said turning off the speaker.
“So much for those coils.” Ken said putting on his goggles and went over to his still.
After a while once the ship reached far enough into space, it was turned onto auto pilot and Ben
called everyone to dinner. The table was set with brown placement mats, chopsticks and Chinese cups, in the center were steamer baskets with dim sum and rice, alongside cut pieces of steak and giant soup bowl filled with miso soup and a ladle sticking out. Condiments were huddled together, soy sauce, barbeque and some sweet and sour with a metal tea pot. The crew all sat alongside each other on the sides while the two passengers sat at the end while the Captain’s seat opposite them remained empty. They begun to eat immediately putting in rice into their own bowls and food on plates eating with conversation on the side.
“This is what they eat?” Katherine said whispering to Hsu.
He shrugged simply enjoying the meal, “I think its pretty good, beside you wanted a first hand look.”
Katherine gave a forced smile “right” she whispered as she reluctantly began to pile on her plate.
“Where’s the Captain?” she asked noticing he wasn’t at the table.
“Oh he will be around just handling some things.”
“Oh” Katherine said turning her attention back to the food, feeling a bit awkward eating with the crew she hadn’t talked too much yet. Soon enough Landon showed up, without his poncho and sat at the table.
“Captain.” everyone said in different chimes.
“Everybody.” He said taking up his chopsticks.
“Ah, good of you to show up Captain.” Katherine said giving a polite smile.
“Miss Stonewall, everything all right with your quarters.” He said beginning to load up his rice bowl and plate.
“Just fine Captain, you have a very fine ship.”
“It’s mighty nice of you to say that.”
“I have to say your ship, doesn’t look like a normal model. Is it custom made?” Hsu said looking from his food.
Ladon looked at Hsu, swallowing some rice, “Exile? Yeah I guess you could say that, all though more of a prototype that never took off.”
Hsu nodded understanding why the ship looked so different, as Katherine raised her eyebrow, “Exile?”
“An interesting name, any reason for choosing that name?”
“Not really, found the ship and felt like it suited well enough.”
Katherine gave a look of disbelief thinking that there must be some further reason, she kept looking at the Captain. She wondered about his eye and wondering what kind of man was he, after all he didn’t look like the much softer Ben who she first thought was the Captain by mistake. She sighed hoping that she did indeed choose a good ship, overall the crew seemed like decent people and the ship certainly looked sturdy enough.
“So what about you, what brings you out to the rim?” Ken said shaking Kathrine out of her thoughts.
“Well actually hoped to gain some research for my book.”
“You’re a writer then?” Quinn said pouring some sweet and sour sauce over her food.
“Yes or trying be anyway, my father allowed me to hire a vessel for a few months until I have to go to my Fiance.”
“You’re getting married?” Ben said handing Annie one of the steaming baskets.
“Yes, after my little holiday has finished, hopefully I’ll get some wonderful ideas to put in my novel.”
“Sounds quite like a interesting holiday you’ve chosen.”
“So what exactly are you writing about?” Annie asked with a mouth of steak.
Katherine’s eye’s lit up “I want to write about a brave gunslinger who fought for the alliance and roams, righting wrongs and even meeting the love of his life.”
“Sounds..interesting” Yukiko said frowning a bit.
“Do you really think so, I hoping to see all the wonders of the frontier to make my novel all the more special.”
“A hero righting wrongs in the verse, ain’t that just.” Landon scoffed.
“And what’s wrong with that?” Katherine staring down the Captain.
“Sorry to give you a bit of reality check but life out here ain’t so romanticized as in those credit novels and movies.”
“I know that Captain, but I’m sure there’s some truth in the fiction.”
Landon shook his head, “Out here, you carry a gun and you shoot anyone that tries to use one on you, no Heroics.”
The mess hall became silent for a few moments everyone one focusing on their food. Once Landon finished he wiped his mouth with a napkin thanked, Ben and leaving the dining area, making some small talk and conversation to return.
“Is the Captain, always like this?” Katherine said turning her view between the crew.
“Thats just how he’s normally. Don’t take it personally.” Ken said setting down his chopsticks.
“Captain does got a point though,” Annie said moving some rice around in her bowl. “Life ain’t exactly the easiest out here.” The crew nodded in agreement.
“I guess he was being realistic” Hsu said whispering into Katherine’s ear. Katherine remained silent for a moment before straightening herself out, “Well, the Captain’s entitled to his opinion as am I.”
Afterword dinner concluded quietly and everything was cleaned up. The crew returned to their duties and Katherine went to her room with Hsu, While the captain sat at his desk tapping his fingers at the package he was given with his mind in thought.