Aaron stood looking at Mai, the package still gripped tight in his hands. He was silent, a hard look in his eye as he stared at her.
She’s on another job? What was that supposed to mean to him? Why was she here? How had she known to find him in this place of all places?
Aaron couldn’t take his eyes off of her. She stared back at him with an equally hard gaze, a small smile on her face.
She was a woman of her word, that he knew. But her motives were another thing.
“Ahoy, Aaron! You on there mate?”
Aaron broke his gaze and turned to look over the side the ship and down at the dock. The ship had floated up and away just enough to leave a good-sized gap. Standing on the dock with a bundle of thick power-cables tucked under one arm and a tool kit under the other was Keern looking expectantly up at the side of the ship.
Pushing Mai from his mind, he tucked the package into his coat pocket and stepped over to the starboard side of the airship and knelt down to pick up one of the mooring lines that he had untied. Raising it high he tossed it over to the dock, looping the mooring pin on the first try.
“I’m up here, Keern,” he called out, putting one foot on the wooden rail at the side of the ship and hauling on the rope to pull the ship back in.
“Got some difficulties going on?” asked Keern as the side of the ship bumped up against the dock.
Aaron looped the rope around the mooring pin several times and tied it off. “You could say that.”
“Ah, those type of difficulties,” said Keern looking past Aaron to where Mai was still standing on the deck of the ship watching Aaron, her smile still in place and her cat sitting next to her.
Aaron didn’t look back. You don’t know half the story, he thought to himself.
“Well then, I’ll get to work on the FTL and leave ya all to yer business.” Keern stepped onto the ship, dragging the cables with him and smiled at Aaron. He hiked the cables up under his arm and headed for the stairs leading down to the belly of the ship.
Stepping over the power cables snaking across the deck and down into the ship, Aaron worked his way around the starboard side and proceeded to re-secure the rest of the mooring lines. A dark cloud hung over him, dampening his mood. This would have been a nice day like any other if she hadn’t shown up. The first chance he got, he was going to try and get out of here and away from her, but with her standing on the deck of his ship, it was nigh impossible at the moment.
Her heavy, knee-high combat boots clunked loudly on the deck of the ship as she walked over to where he was hauling on a mooring rope and then leaned against the railing next to him.
“If you’re not here for me, get the hell off my ship,” he growled as he tied down the rope, avoiding her gaze.
“I see you’re not using your gifts.”
“Shut-up,” Aaron growled back, turning and making his way over to the bow rope that had held the ship before. He picked it up and hauled on it to reel in the slack.
“All that talent, Aaron, and you’re out here living a quite life? Just an ordinary man. That’s hard to believe with all your talent. The man known as Black-Heart, living as though nothing ever happened.”
Aaron tied off the rope and then slammed his fist down on the wooden rail. “You’re wrong!” he shouted. “I could never live as though nothing ever happened, but I couldn’t live with myself, not like that, not anymore.”
Mai looked thoughtful as she turned her gaze from him to the docks.
Turning his back to her, he headed across the deck and grabbed a bucket and brush. The deck needed cleaning and there were a whole list of other chores that needed to be done. So he set to work, ignoring Mai as best he could, he scrubbed the deck down and attacked the chore list he’d put off for so long with an inhuman vigor.
He finished near the same time as Keern finished with the FTL drive. His friend reappeared from the belly of the ship dragging the cables up and onto the deck.
“S’all finished, Aaron! You’re set to go whenever. FTL’s in tip-top shape and charged up.”
“That’s good. Thank you, Keern. I’ll have to buy you a drink later.”
“Don’t mention it,” Keern replied, tossing the cables back onto the dock. “Just don’t let the drive get into the that bad of shape before you come in for a tune-up. That thing was a might towards letting you fall out of the sky.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” said Aaron coming over to stand by Keern.
Keern tucked his tool-kit under one arm and looked over toward where Mai was sitting by the bow on the railing, relaxing.
“And you’ll have to tell me about that one over that drink,” said Keern waving to her with a grin.
She waved back, giving him an innocent smile.
“Yeah,” said Aaron. “I’ll have to do that.”
Keern turned to him and clapped him on the shoulder before stepping down off of the ship and around the large cat. Aaron had made Mai have Katha get off the ship so he could scrub the decking and the cat had lain down close by on the dock for a nap.
Mai came up beside him as he watched Keern head out.
“He’s quite the nice guy,” she said.
Aaron didn’t respond. Instead he turned and headed to for the mooring lines spaced across the starboard side of the ship. He proceeded to loosen each one. Mai followed him as he made his way around.
“So I’m not the job, then?” he asked, his voice hard. “You’re not after me.”
“No, I’m not. But I am here to convince you to come back. You’re the best of the best.”
“Was, you mean.”
“I’m sure you still are. I have no doubt. We need you.”
Aaron shook his head, not looking at Mai as he reached the last mooring rope tied up near where Katha was taking a nap on the dock. He looked down at the cat.
“Who else? Who else knows I’m here.”
“No one. No one else believed that you could have survived… that you were alive. I was the only one. The only one to come looking for you.”
Aaron whipped around, raising his leg in a sweeping kick aimed for her shoulder. She reacted fast, blocking with her hand and forearm as he made contact with her shoulder. He wasn’t trying to hurt her, but the kick had the desired effect. The force of it was enough to knock her through the gap in the railing that Keern had stepped down onto the dock through.
She landed on Katha who let out a loud yowl and hiss.
Wasting no time, Aaron turned and loosed the last mooring rope, letting it fall away from the ship. Turning behind him, he pulled on the ropes that secured the sail, letting it unfurl, something he should have done last time.
The sail caught the wind and the ship floated away from the dock, steadily rising up, out of reach.
“Aaron Black-Heart! Stop!”
Turning he looked back on the dock where Mai had picked herself up and was standing, her cat there right next to her. She shot him a piercing gaze filled with anger. The ship was too far away for her to jump to this time, with the sails unfurled taking him away from the dock.
He looked back at her, giving her a hard stare of his own, before turning and heading for the the helm.
“Goddamn it! Get back here! You’re not leaving me!”
“Yes, I am,” said Aaron, his voice cold.
“Rrraaa!” she screamed in frustration. Reaching under her jacket, she pulled out a large, thick-barreled gun and aimed at Aaron. “Get back here!”
Aaron reached the helm and spun the wheel, turning the ship to port, away from the dock. “Go ahead and shoot me!” he shouted back, turning to look at her. He knew the kind of devastation that gun could do. One shot could blow a hole larger than himself in the ship. But he knew she wouldn’t shoot.
“Rrrrraaaa!” she screamed again, but didn’t pull the trigger.
He turned from her and looked out to the sky ahead of him. The farther he could run, the better off he would be. It was the only thing he could do to escape the pain, to escape his past.