Before the Interviews
Arnett was sitting at a loan desk inside a warehouse when Cyndelle Nosilla walked in. The desk had some papers strewn out in front of it, a mug with some liquid inside of it, a candle, unlit, a box half empty of cigarettes and some matches next to it. On a perch an owl swiveled its head to get a look at her, but lazily closed one of its eyes when it had lost interest. An empty chair sat across from the desk, waiting to be filled. Arnett sat in his own chair.
He did not look up from his papers as she approached. He was reading something and fiddling with a quill.
“I will be with you in a moment,” said Arnett, “All applicants are to wait outside until called for. The sign was clear enough.”
“Was that your handwriting on that sign? Because that was atrocious,” said Cyndelle, her voice sparking a smile from Arnett who looked up from his papers.
“Well, well, The search is off,” said Arnett, “Can I believe my eyes? I mean, there are other candidates, Cyndi, but I can’t imagine any of them stacking up to you.”
“In your dreams, Lieutenant,” she said, taking a stance behind the empty chair and leaning against it, “I just saw the ad in the paper and couldn’t believe my eyes. An ad? In the papers? Are you out of your mind, Joel?”
“Hey, only the best and brightest can read,” said Arnett, “And I think it is about time. Besides, must’ve been some article to catch a fish like you. Tell me: What brings you down here really?”
“Really? Captain wanted to headhunt your perspective pool of deckhands and see if any diamonds showed up.”
Arnett slammed his hand down on the table, standing to his full height, “That rotten slimeball. I should have-”
“Easy there, hot head. Don’t blow a gasket,” smiled Cyndelle, walking over and petting the owl to calm it down from its startle, “Zhao wouldn’t come to see you fail. I came to see what kind of sorry soul would answer a wanted ad like this?”
“Is it really that bad?” said Arnett, “Can’t be.”
“You’re asking for the type of job that are done by people who truly don’t buy newspapers in the first place. It’s a weird market to be looking in and it shows out there.”
“So interesting sorts?” smiled Arnett.
“There are some sorts…” said Cyndelle.
“Bah, so they are a little off. I’m sure they’ll do,” said Arnett, “I meant, can’t be better than the best mechanic in the Istoki but…”
“But I am not interested,” said Cyndelle, “Flattery will get you nowhere.”
After a brief pause, Arnett continued, “I think I got this, thank you.”
“Fine,” said Cyndelle, throwing her hands in the air, “Good luck with it then. Try not to get anyone killed.”
“No promises,” said Arnett, sitting in the chair, “It is the desert, after all.”
Cyndelle rolled her eyes and headed back for the door, “I just don’t want you killing anymore people!”
“Hey, they were trying to kill me first!” yelled back Arnett, who watched her leave and mumbled under his breath, “For both our sakes, I hope no one else dies because of me.”
Arnett looked at his papers again, letting out a long sigh. After a moment, he stole a peak at Owlexander, peeking down at him from his perch.
“You ready, buddy?” said Arnett, “It’s gonna get weird.”
“That was weird, eh buddy?” said Arnett, returning his eyes to a list of applicants, “But I suppose it could be worse. Now lets see… ah, I know.”
Raising his head and looking towards the door, Arnett shouted, “NEXT!”
“Alright, what can you tell me about yourself,” said Arnett.
“I already did,” said the large man, “I’m big, I’m bad, and I’m here for the job.”
“Yeah, that’s good.and all, I can see you’re big and strong,” said Arnett, “But I want to know more about you.”
“I can do the job,” said the man, “Crush skulls. Lift crates. Kill. What more would you need to know?”
Arnett smiled, his eyes squinting. The man just shrugged and stared on, his eyes lazily looking bored at the table in front of him.
“Alright then,” said Arnett.
She had been talking for a few minutes, now. Arnett watched her, intently, ear cocked to one side. As she rambled on and on she hadn’t taken a single breath. Arnett just nodded along, listening for any sign of an intake.
She was wearing a full dress, bustle skirt and all. Looked more at home on her way to a party or a shopping trip in the Saks district then on a Landship crew. She even wore heels down to this.
Arnett snapped to attention. Was that a breath? He couldn’t tell. She just kept rambling on and on as if nothing happened. Arnett narrowed his eyes, looking deep into hers. What was she rambling on about again? Something about her cousin? Why did she even want a job on a Landship? Arnett couldn’t believe he had gone so long without talking, she just wouldn’t stop.
Arnett looked to Owlexander. His eyes were shut tight and his head turned away from this rambling woman. Arnett wished he could do the same.
“Please, have a seat,” sighed Arnett, his eyes on the letter of recommendation in front of him.
The man sat down carefully. He wore a nice black suit and held a carpet bag next to him. He placed it beside the chair.
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he said, “I am Harold Flower.”
“Flower? Flower?” said Arnett.
“It’s… an older name,” said Flower, “You can just called me Harold.”
“I don’t know, Harry Flower isn’t so bad,” said Arnett.
“What is this, Harold,” asked Arnett, holding up the paper he had been given.
“It’s a letter of recommendation,” said Flower, “For the job. Shows I’m loyal and I always put my mind to things.”
Arnett was quiet for a little while, his eyes skimming over the letter, “Flower. What kind of job do you think this is?”
“I guess I still have some questions,” said Flower, “I have been called to travel. To see the plight of the people. To toil by the sweat of my own brow so I can be better-”
“Called to travel?”
“-Better to understand my purpose.”
Arnett shook his head, “Uh-huh. What exactly you do, Flow…. Wer. I’ll think of something, just need a minute.”
“Uhm… I am a Shepherd for the Gods, but I have no flock,” said Flower, “Which is why I need to work an honest living.”
“You’re a Pastor?” asked Arnett, “So, what? You’re on tour? Like a Bobby.”
“A Missionary, I guess,” said Flower, “A Pastor would work, but I’m not a Pastor just yet.”
“Honest living?” said Arnett, looking him sternly, “I think you’ll do better at a mill or a factory. Have you tried a poor house?”
“Of course I have, but this is Antiford, Mr. Arnett,” said Flower.
“Oh, woah. Lieutenant Arnett, if you would.”
“More and more people are getting into travel, sir,” said Flower, “Shipping, transport, Airships, Landships; It doesn’t matter. They are often the overworked, the rough, sometimes the unwanted of our world.”
“And if I can understand their plight, if I can survive their daily struggle-”
“I’m going to stop you right there, Tulip,” said Arnett, “It’s going to be a hard pass.”
“Yes sir. Thank you for stopping by but no. Do you have any idea of what this will entail?” said Arnett, “There’s hard labor. Truly hard labor.”
“I am no stranger to a hard days labor.”
“Lifting crates and boxes. Mechanical upkeep. Days spent in the hot sun of the desert.”
“I assure you, I can handle it.”
“Can you take a man’s life?”
“What?” the color almost immediately ran from Flower’s face.
“Armored Escort services,” said Arnett, “There’s bad people out there. Pirates. Bandits. Angry fathers. They all have weapons and often times we stand in their way.”
“I need to trust that if it comes to it, you can take a life, or put the hurt on someone in a big way.”
“I don’t see why it’s necessary.”
“It is, and that’s why I am saying ‘No’,” said Arnett, “You don’t look like you can even lift a wrench. I seriously doubt I can count on you when push comes to shove.”
“Is that your only way of dealing with conflict?” said Flower, his head tilting and his hands folding on his lap in front of him, “With a gun? Surely a leader of your acumen can find a way around such bandits. There’s always running.”
“Scorpios II isn’t faster than an Airship,” said Arnett, “But we have tricks up our sleeves. Running, hiding, intimidation, and strategy are all employed to get out of trouble long before it comes our way but that’s no comfort when one out of every three encounters you come across someone faster, sneakier, and smarter then you are and when that happens, you have to fight. It happens all the time.”
“Dangerous line of work.”
“Not for a preacher such as yourself.”
“Maybe I’m just what you need. Maybe so much blood stains your hands you’ve forgotten that a little water can wash it all away.”
Arnett smiled, “Waste of water. Similarly to how hiring you would be a waste of a bunk onboard. Sounds like I’d be doing you a favor and paying a pretty penny for it. I can’t trust you and, frankly, you aren’t worth the Ciam.”
“Then my pay should equal that,” said Flower, “What’s your usual wage?”
“Thirty Percent” lied Arnett.
“Then I’ll do it for ten,” said Flower, “Like you said, you’d be doing me a favor.”
“The answer is ‘no’,” said Arnett, “The last thing I need is to babysit someone in the thick of it all. The Istoki is not a play yard, my friend. I don’t need you on my conscious.”
“Ah, so you have one then?”
Arnett pointed to the door, “Out.”
Flower stood, picking up his suitcase with him as well and looking frustrated, “Fine, Lieutenant Arnett. I suppose I cannot change your mind. I must protest your judgement, however, and ask you reconsider. You can find me nearby-”
“Won’t be,” said Arnett, “Not interested. Have a nice day.”
Flower nodded his head. He hesitated, before walking out with a sigh. Arnett shook his head, closing his eyes in defeat.
Arnett hadn’t blinked in minutes. He stared intently ahead. A small smile on his face. His eyes rolled over her body to her legs and made their way back up to her lean neck and perfect locks of hair.
She didn’t even seem to notice. She continued to talk, legs crossed showing off high stockings under her skirt and a tight corset she strained against with every breath.
“And that’s basically it, oh accept I’ve been working a small workhouse not far from here. Oh and my time at the Badger’s Den, and the Plucked Swan.”
“Of course you have,” said Arnett in a monotonous tone before he shook himself out of his stupor, “Well, I am just blown away, honestly. You are perfect, I think it is safe to say you have the job.”
“Wonderful,” she said smiling, “Now is just the little matter of pay. I would need it to be hourly and if it’s less than my going rate currently I’m unsure it will really be worth my time.”
Arnett snapped out of it, “Y-your time? What is your hourly rate again? For reference.”
“Only a simple 80 Ciam an hour,” said the woman, “I’m looking to upgrade my position though so-”
“Woah, ok. I’m sorry, I’m unsure that is going to work for… anyone. Here. The Gods! I hate me.”
“This all sounds wonderful,” said the man, a large smile across his face, “And what about the engines? You a good mechanic? Take care of it well?”
“Yehp, yehp, runs well, real well,” smiled Arnett, “And it’s ok that you aren’t really a mechanic. Your other experiences and skills are just fantastic.”
“Of course. That’s fantastic,” said the man, “Oh, well I’m more of an idea man anyway. For instance, would you be against some upgrades to the Landship?”
“No, I suppose not.”
“How about some more guns?”
“Never a bad idea,” said Arnett, “If we can fit them.”
“And what about, say, a big ol’ balloon… to make it lighter. Faster.”
“I… uh…. What?”
“Yeah, a good big one. Maybe we can get a better vantage point,” Said the man.
“I… well… I’m unsure that’ll really work on the Landship Scorpios,” said Arnett.
“Hmm… you are right. And the Landship Scorpios can’t exactly carry a much larger load then it does now…”
“You know, you make a good point there, Lieutenant Arnett,” said the man, posing into deep thought, “You know what, I can handle this. I’ll buy us a new ship. I think I know a guy. A good Airship. Then you can be the new mechanic. Of course we would need to reduce your cut to, say, 20% for a little bit. I don’t think-”
“This is going to work? Yeah, I’m feeling the same way,” Arnett mumbled as he rolled his eyes.
“Please, come in, sit down,” said Arnett.
“So, what’s the job?” she said, falling back into the wooden chair.
She was a vibranni. Tall, baggy pants, bare feet, a loose fitting shirt without sleeves, her hair was cut short, with either side of her head shaved clean. Her eyes seemed to dig into Arnett. Arnett could only marvel at her muscle filled red skin.
“Hi, I’m Lieutenant Joel Arnett,” said Arnett without much fanfare, “That’s usually how an introduction works. And you are?”
“Very interested in what the job is before I say a word,” said the Vibranni, her eyes narrowing on him, “If I’m not interested in you, I leave and you never hear my name. We both make the same impact in each others lives.”
“A Landship,” said Arnett, crossing his arms, “The Landship Scorpios II. It’s full of metal and steam and guns. Don’t your people shy away from things with so many moving parts?”
“My people is myself,” she said, “So I guess you could say I don’t have a people. And I ‘ave been on the Airship ‘Jittery Feet’ as well as served on the ‘Baron Basher’. I’ve also been hired for jobs on sea ships and trains from here to Whitehaven to Conwell. Even been on a Kovy Class ship.”
“Impressive,” said Arnett, “The Scorpios II is unlike any of those you have mentioned or experienced, I assure you.”
“A ship’s a ship.”
“What exactly do you have experience with on said ships?” asked Arnett, leaning forward, “Mechanic?”
“A small amount. ‘Battle Repairs’ is what we’ve called them. I can keep a thing going a little more, but I am not the best on a complete fix. Mainly I was a general helping hand and support muscle. Guns, knives, weapon systems, I’ve fired almost everything that can be fires and I’ve wielded almost every blade to be wielded.”
“No kidding,” said Arnett, he allowed a smile to spread across his face, “I’m liking the sound of this. Do you have a husband or a special partner?”
“Single,” she said, glaring at Arnett, “No plans to change that. I’m not interested in any funny business.”
“Oh, sure, sure,” said Arnett, “And how are you in cramped spaces? Dark, cramped spaces?”
“Any. Funny. Business,” she carefully repeated, “Or I’ll put you in a hospital.”
“I was being literal,” said Arnett, “The ship goes under the sand and dirt. It gets dark and it feels tighter than you’d expect.”
“I will succeed as I get paid to do,” said the Vibranni, “Those kinds of situations do not bother me.”
“Sounds good so far,” said Arnett, “And I need a name. Can’t just call you ‘Vibranni’ or ‘hey you’ all the time. What about it?”
The Vibranni’s eyes narrowed, before she rolled them and sighed, “It’s Ninatovich. Just ‘Ninatovich’. Nothing more.”
“N-Nina-aaa…. Toe-vitch,” said Arnett, “Nina.”
“I could do Tovich,” said Arnett.
“Do you enjoy having all your teeth, or do you only use a few of them?”
“Ninaytovik. Got it,” Said Arnett, “Change of subject. Can you put this rifle back together?”
Arnett reached behind the desk then lifted out a box with gun parts. He pushed it across the table to Ninatovich. She sighs and takes a look in the box, looking over the parts. Her eyes narrowed.
“There’s no gun barrel to this rifle. That’s a pipe section.”
Arnett looked from her to the box. He scowled into the box. After a moment he frowned and shook his head.
“Damn,” he said, “Explains a lot.”
“Uh… No. Not exactly. Not formally, at least.”
“Yes. A decent amount. Self taught. I read a lot of books.”
“Have you ever traveled to White Haven?”
“Oh, yes, I believe so. Beautiful place.”
“Ok,” said Arnett, leaning back, “So, you’re not terrible, I just am having troubles placing you Mr…”
“Beem,” said the man, “Theodore Beem.”
“We might be able to place you,” said Arnett, “But you’re going to take a lot of work.”
“The job. The job on my Landship,” said Arnett.
“Oh, yeah. Not interested,” smiled Beem.
“Not interested?” frowned Arnett, “Why did you come here and sit through a whole interview for?”
“Oh, it’s funny you should bring that up,” said Beem, retrieving a list from his pocket, “On my travels I got your name through an associate and I realized I recognized your name. You have three overdue books from the Gearford public library.”
Arnett sat straight up, slamming his hands on the table, “Overdue books? Three? Are you out of your mind!”
“No, and I double checked, it was you, Joel Arnett,” Smiled Beem, “Now I’ll like the books back and I can take your fees now.”
“Fees!” exclaimed Arnett.
“If you don’t like the price, don’t see the show,” smiled Beem, “Do…. do you know who said that? Carl Stewart…. The… the writer. One of the books you borrowed?”
“I’ll…. Check the ship,” sighed Arnett, rolling his eyes, “I might’ve lost them in the last raid.”
“That price will be factored in!”
He stood there. Arnett looked him over, but he expertly avoided eye contact and looked around the room. The silence was beginning to thicken to a point of uncomfortable haze. Arnett shifted in his seat.
“So… you ever work an aircraft cannon?”
“No,” was all the response he got.
“Well, I wouldn’t worry about that. But the Scorpios II has a similar set up for one of its guns. You’ll learn it in no time, I’m sure.”
“Acceptable,” said the man.
Another silence fell on the pair. Arnett fidgeted uncomfortably.
“You know any engineering?”
“OK, are you good with an engine?”
“Boilers and burners?”
Arnett shook his head, “How about pipework? Hydraulics?”
The man shook his head.
“Ok… are you more of a clockwork guy?”
Arnett sighed, “Then what part of engineering are you good at?”
The man shrugged again. This caused Arnett’s face to flush red for a moment before he angrily pointed to the door. The man smiled and nodded, getting up and leaving.
“Yes, hello,” said Arnett, standing by some crates.
“Gutenichiwa,” greeted the woman standing before him.
“Hmm? Oh, yes. Guten….shava… something,” said Arnett, “My name is Lieutenant Joel Arnett.”
The woman nodded in understanding, and gestured to herself. She began to speak rather quickly in a language Arnett did not know. As she spoke with harsh consonants and flowing sentences, Arnett looked up at her and began to squint with confusion.
“Yeah, woah,” said Arnett, “I didn’t get any of that. I’m afraid we just speak common here, on the landship,” said Arnett before he put his hands on his hips, “Do… you speak common? Com-mon?”
The woman nodded, her braided hair swinging with the motion, “Ya. Colmin. Ya. Itsy-Bitsy.”
Arnett shook his head, “Itsy…. Bitsy. Well how do you suggest this works?”
The woman shrugged, before returning to her actual tongue. She spoke a few more sentences before stopping, looking at Arnett, who continued to shake his head in disbelief.
“Unbelievable,” he said, “How on Orr am I supposed to communicate with you? I don’t know what you are saying.”
Arnett placed his hands on his hips and nodded towards the crates.
“How am I supposed to direct you to do things?”
The woman looked from Arnett to the crate and back, before understanding appeared on her face. Smiling, she began talking again, rattling off foreign sounds while she stood above the crate in question. Suddenly, she just knelt down, firmly grasping the crate. He arm muscles bulged and stressed against her blouse sleeves as she lift the crate into the air and showed it to Arnett. She said something else in her language, almost as a question.
Arnett blinked before pointing to an opposite stack of crates a small way across the room. She shrugged and walked the crates over, placing it down onto the other stack. Arnett whistled.
“Well, now. What did you say your name was, little lady?”
The woman spoke again but Arnett waved her off, “No, no. Your name. Namuh,” he placed his hand on his chest, “Joel Arnett. Joel Arnett.”
Arnett pointed at the woman, who nodded her head.
“Lydia Black,” she said, before finishing in a sentence Arnett couldn’t understand and she courtseyed.
“Well well, you may just be the breath of fresh air this ship needs,” said Arnett, “Lydia, that test wasn’t a pick things up test. I was going to teach you how to work the dolly. But I see you have amazing talents. How strong are you? Strong?”
Arnett made a shape with his arm as if flexing. The woman smiled, and made a similar one, nodding and saying something foreign.
“Yes, good,” said Arnett, “Big and strong.”
“Yes. Strong,” said the woman, before pointing at the crate and asking a question.
Arnett shrugged it off, “How about fighting? You ever been in a fight?”
Arnett mimed boxing, which the woman promptly shook her head to. Arnett frowned, but reached for his gun and showed her. She shot him a disappointed glance before continuing on in her native language. She seemed upset.
Arnett holstered his pistol again, “Geeze, ok. Maybe not a fighter. But there’s plenty a woman of your strength can do.”
Arnett slapped her shoulder in a friendly gesture, before marveling at the solid mound of muscle his hand collided with under there.
“Geeze, you are built like a brick house,” he said, “But I like you. You have a special charm to you. Can you handle any engineering work?”
She stared at him blankly. And Arnett shook his head.
“You know. Piping? Coal burning? Boiler? Repairs?”
Arnett mimed using a wrench on a pipe and nodded at her. Her face turned quizzical as she watched him mime, and then understanding crossed her face. Instead of an answer, though, he got her blushing a deep red and hiding a smile, before she cleared her throat and began talking in a loud, quick manner that made Arnett jump. She gestured to Arnett and then back to herself while shaking her head and crossing her arms.
Arnett just watched, until he realized she misunderstood him. Rolling his eyes, he sighed, leaning against a crate stack nearby.
“Good gods above. What a day.”
“I can’t really handle the loud noises.”
“And I’m allergic to nuts. There can’t be nuts unboard while I’m unboard.”
“Oh, and Cats. I don’t get along with them.”
“No… Cats,” said Arnett, who gave a wry smile, “Is that all?”
“I don’t do too well in the sun,” he continued, “My skin burns too much. That’s why I mostly stay indoors.”
“The Istoki does have a bit of sun, doesn’t it?” commented Arnett.
“And the sand,” said the man, “Never much liked it.”
“Are you sure you want a job on a land ship?” asked Arnett, “In Antiford?”
“I do need a job,” said the man.
“Have you ever considered moving away? Maybe to Paorr?”
“I have, but I get motion sick too easily,” said the man, “I’m be sick the whole journey. It could kill me.”
“Oh… of course,” said Arnett, leaning back in the seat, “Motion sick too…”
“So what makes you want to leave the bouncer business?”
“People like you, actually,” said the man, glaring at Arnett, “I was hoping for a change of scenery with the chance at more money.”
“People like me? Let’s not let that sneak by,” said Arnett.
“Men who believe the world is theirs for the taking,” said the man, looking down at Arnett, “You are very arrogant.”
“Rude,” said Arnett, “I’ve said nothing but nice things about you.”
Owlexander made a whooing noise and turned away from the pair. This prompted the man’s glare to be focused on the burrowing owl, and his glare turned into a look of distaste.
“What’s the deal with the bird?” he said.
“Who, Owlexander?” said Arnett, “He’s our eyes in the skies. He’s sort of like the mascot.”
“Mascot?” asked the man, his eyes jumping from one to the other, “Is he filthy?”
“Not with proper cleaning,” said Arnett.
The man sighed, “I’m not taking care of it, if that’s what you are thinking. In fact, I would like to request he be removed.”
“Well, actually, you see, Owlexander here has been apart of the crew longer then you have,” said Arnett, “I guess that kind of makes him your superior.”
“You can’t be serious.”
The man gave a long sigh, “We’re done here.”
“Kennedy Toller,” said the young man, shaking Arnett’s hand.
Arnett sat down after Toller had and studied him. He was about the same age as Arnett, maybe mere months younger. He seemed in good enough shape. Hair a little long and messy for his liking, maybe, but Arnett was never one to tell someone how to look.
“So, Ken,” said Arnett, “You worked a Landship before?”
“Not on one, no, but I had a job for a few months at the landship yards building Kovies,” said Toller, “I pretty much get their ins and outs.”
“Ah, I was there for a few months myself,” said Arnett, “but I got picked up by a mechanic for airships and spent a great deal of time with him. What about your other work?”
“Oh, I’ve jumped around. Nothing to brag about, really,” said Toller, “Mills, factories, docks, and the odd office job.”
“Office job? You read and write?” asked Arnett.
“Yes, a little,” said Toller, “I’ve tried my best with schoolin’ but I’ve just had to work too much. My brother has gotten more than me.”
“That’s right,” came a voice from behind Toller.
A young boy of about 12 was hanging around behind him, with his flat cap down low over his eyes.
“This your brother then, Kenny?” said Arnett, “He always follow you around.”
“When I can’t afford to put him up somewhere,” said Toller, “But only to keep him out of trouble. His name’s Benjamin, sir.”
“I see,” said Arnett, eyeing the boy wearily, who met his gaze without flinching, “So if you’re Toller is he Shorter?”
The boy puffed out his chest, “You havin’ a laugh, are you?”
“Ben,” hissed Toller, whose eyes went back to Arnett, “Sorry, sir. It’s just to keep him out of trouble.”
“Is he in trouble often?”
“No, I’m never in trouble,” said the boy, stepping around and leaning against the table, “Just when he turns me in is all.”
“Turns you in?” asked Arnett.
“For nicking stuff that ain’t mine.”
“Stealing,” spat Toller, who cringed at Arnett, “He’s not all that bad. I may have had some trouble with him skipping out of school and hanging out with a boys gang. He met them in the mills.”
“Tiny hands, then?” said Arnett.
“Bigger fists,” said the boy, “Watch it with the small jokes.”
“You got a short temper, don’t you?” asked Arnett.
“Oooo, that was clever, where’d you get that?”
“Your mother,” smiled Arnett, “We’d spoke late last night.”
“That’s a real shame,” said the kid, “Surely you could’ve afforded someone better, you don’t strike me as that poor.”
“Ben!” spat Toller, “Honestly!”
“You should get a job, little man,” said Arnett.
“I’ve worked the mills before,” said Ben.
“Uh-huh. Tiny hands? Know much about machines?”
“Enough, probably more then you do,” said the boy.
“I’m sorry, who is here for a job interview?” said Toller.
“How much you paying?” said the boy.
“For you? 3 percent.”
“3 percent? That’s terrible!”
Arnett chuckled, “It’s fair.”
“What will he get?” asked the kid.
“Thirty Percent,” said Arnett.
“He gets so much more!”
“He’s bigger, besides, it’s fair,” said Arnett.
“So does that mean we have a job?” asked Toller.
“Not right now, not for sure,” said Arnett, “But it’s important to have these ironed out.”
“Is there anything else you need?” asked Toller.
“How are you with a gun?” asked Arnett.
Kennedy Toller’s face went surprised while his brothers face lit up, excited.
“So… you want me to…”
“Let me just write about our adventures,” said Focus, leaning back in his chair, “I’ve done it before and I can handle myself in tough situations.”
“Uh-huh,” said Arnett.
“In return, I’ll write papers about what a life of a landship person is like and you become famous! It’s all the rage in Antiford. People want stories of adventure, of danger, of rugged heroes traveling great distances. It seems every day a newspaper here in antiford has someone’s face splayed on it and a thrilling tale of adventure-”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Pass. No thank you. We’re done here,” said Arnett.
“Wait, wait,” said Focus, “You’re saying no?”
“Publicity, especially overhyped publicity, can get you killed out there,” said Arnett, “I’m armored escort. Over half of my jobs are protecting shipments or convoys or people. I can’t have bandits and pirates or anyone else knowing about that.”
“But you’ll get bigger jobs for more ciam and you’ll be a-”
“No,” said Arnett, “Don’t need it. Hit the sand.”
“You’ll regret this,” said Focus, standing up angrily, “I could’ve made you a star.”
“You would’ve made me dead while you became a star. Piss off,” said Arnett, “Find someone else.”
“So… that’s why they call you scorch, huh?” asked Arnett.
Scorch was staring at a small match she had lit and was gazing deeply into it.
“I just like the burning,” said Scorch, “Fire is so powerful. So Beautiful. And the change that happens to things when they burn…”
“Ah, yes, very beautiful,” said Arnett, his eyes roaming over her burn scars on he face, which had deformed her hairline causing her to shave it on the sides anyway.
“What about anything else? Do you… uhm…. Enjoy music?”
“Music is nice, but the crackle fire is a musical sound unto its own…”
“Uh-huh,” sighed Arnett, “Why a Landship? Not planning on burning that, are you?”
Her eyes blinked, and she looked away from the match, right into Arnett’s eyes, “Does… does that burn too? I mean, can it burn?”
Arnett scowled at her, “Out. Go. Out.”
“Rolland Devore,” said the kid who thrust his hand into Arnett’s eagerly, “And stop your searching, because I’m your man.”
“Are you?” said Arnett, giving him a wary glance.
“That I am,” said Devore, “I’m a fun gentleman to take to parties. I’m loyal backup in a fight. I’ve been apprenticing with a naval mechanic down at the docks, so I’m pretty good around machines.”
“Are you, now,” said Arnett.
“And, between you and me,” said Devore, who leaned in as if to whisper to Arnett, “I am not very bad with the ladies. I’m so good, I might even be able to get a few to hook up with you. Heh? Heh?”
“I’m… uhm… excuse me?” said Arnett.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, I’ll set you up with everything,” said Devore, “So, enough from me. Why don’t you fill me in on my new home, huh? What is the Scorpios II?”
“It’s dangerous,” said Arnett, “A Landship not to be messed with. I need the crew that run such a landship to be the best that they can be.”
“Landship, huh?” said Devore, “Interesting choice.”
“You are not afraid of speaking your mind, are you?” said Arnett.
“One of my better qualities. Honesty and all that. I just have so much wisdom inside of me.”
“Look, Kid, this isn’t a joke,” said Arnett, “I need to be able to trust that you won’t mess around. There’s a good deal at stake.”
“Oh, I can be trusted,” said Devore, “Like a lot. A ton of trust.”
“A whole ton? No kidding,” said Arnett.
“So, when do I start?” said Devore.
“Oh, probably never,” said Arnett, who gave him a big smile, “Go home, kid.”
“What?” said Devore, snapping up straight in his seat, “But, I can do the job.”
“Maybe,” said Arnett, “But chances are your arrogance will get us killed in the heat of the moment.”
“I’m not arrogant. I just know what I’m good at. I’m meant for this job.”
“I seriously doubt it,” said Arnett, “Look, kid. How old are you, even?”
“I’m old enough,” said Devore, “I’m on my own now. I’m man enough for anything you can throw at me. I’ll work hard, and I just might surprise you.”
“You ran away from home, didn’t you?”
“I… what?” Devore blinked rapidly.
“Look, kid, this isn’t going to be a glorious line of work,” said Arnett, “There’s little fame in it. Sure, there’s cool stories, but they come with big scars.”
“Look, Mr, you’re making a big mistake,” said Devore, “A big mistake. I’m a fast learner. I got a talent for working on a ship. How different is a Landship from a Naval Ship anyway?”
“In function or do you want me to list all the literal differences?”
“Look here, sir, I’ll prove myself to you,” said Devore, “What do you want me to do? Fight you?”
“Is that your answer to everything?”
“Well,” Arnett stumbled for a moment, and then shrugged, “Actually, in this line of work. Yeah. That might be pretty obvious. Violence or the threat of violence solves most anything.”
“Come on then, test me,” said Devore, “On the count of three: favorite food. Ready?”
“One. Two,” Devore leaned forward like an eager child, “Three!”
At the same time they said, “Meat Lasagna with spice.”
Arnett perked up, giving the kid a weary glance, “Favorite Color?”
“I… don’t know,” shrugged Devore, “Whichever one-”
“Makes you look the best at the time,” sighed Arnett, “Favorite gun.”
“I… a good revolver I guess?” said Devore, “It’s an all around weapon.”
Arnett lifted up his revolver and slapped it down on the table.
“Woah,” said Devore, before smiling and cocking an eyebrow at Arnett, “Favorite girl at a workhouse?”
“There is no way I’m answering this,” said Arnett, “You must be joking.”
“Daenyastasia,” said Devore, “Hands down.”
Arnett’s face lit up, “Woah, she’s still doing that? Wow, it has been a long time.”
“Yeah, I am particularly fond-”
“Absolutely not,” said Arnett, cutting him off with a hand motion, “There’s such a thing as knowing too much about someone. Geesh. Alright kid, rest easy. Maybe there’s hope for you after all.”
“Bully!” exclaimed Devore, “I’m honestly excited for the opportunity.”
“Just one thing,” said Arnett, “You’re not in trouble with anybody are you? Young, eager gents such as yourself tend to upset people.”
“No one who would dare mess with a big ol’ landship,” smiled Devore, “No, nothing to worry about.”
“No one who would dare?” sighed Arnett, “What does that mean?”
“I’ll get my bag,” said Devore, “See you onboard.”
“This is not a yes,” said Arnett, “By a long shot. I haven’t made a decision.”
“Hahaha, of course not, that’s why I’m here,” said Devore, standing up and heading out, “This is going to be the best.”
“I haven’t chosen you!” shouted Arnett, “Ugh… get out. Out! Maybe we’ll talk!”
Devore headed out and Arnett gave a long sigh, “That kid is… annoying.”
Arnett packed up the last of his papers, throwing the satchel over his back. With a small noise, he caught Owlexander’s attention and got him to make a short jump to his gloved hand. Being careful not to jostle Owlexander too much, Arnett made his way out of the warehouse and out into the brisk Gearford night.
He could still feel the heat rising from the hot ground beneath his feet contrast with the cold air. The city seemed quiet as he made his way down the road to the landship docks.
A woman cleared her throat , making her way up to Arnett.
“Excuse me, sir,” she asked, “Do you know where I can find Lieutenant Arnett of the Scorpios II? I believe he was around here today? I’m trying to catch him.”
Arnett sighed. He really couldn’t handle one more. He was at his end. He turned to the woman, unable to see her under her bonnet, and he put on an accent he had heard today.
“Naw, miss. If you see him, tell ‘em he stood me up too. I think we were too late,” he said, lifting up the owl as if that explained it.
“Oh, that’s alright,” she said, “I’ll find him, eventually.”
“That’s the spirit, miss,” said Arnett, turning and continuing down the street, mumbling under his breath, “You keep at it.”
Owlexander turned his head to watch the figure of the young woman as she strolled down the street. He would’ve seen her stop and look around, sighing. With his owl hearing, he might’ve even caught her own mumbling.
“I’ll find him,” she said, “You can’t hide a Landship forever.”