It actually only took five days to create the decoy ship, especially with all the help Brogan was getting from Liam and Que. The pilot, for one, knew airships inside and out, so coming up with a design that befit one of a smaller scale became a simple task. He was even able to help figure out how big it would have to be to appear to be flying at the height they wanted. As for Que, she was simply enjoying herself, asking hundreds of questions about how the decoy was being constructed. She also, however, constantly asked about Smoke any time he left without her. Occasionally, he'd take her into town so she could explore (and thankfully they didn't have any more problems with muggers), but any other time... it was like she worried about what could happen when Smoke wasn't in sight.
Brogan thought Que's worry over Smoke was kind of cute, but a little strange. The guy was nice, but... weird. She could understand Que's fascination with him, but it wasn't like he gave her any encouragement. Just attention. Then again, maybe that was all Que needed.
Brogan, however, didn't waste a chance to flirt with Liam. Being in close proximity to the pilot while working on the decoy had been distracting and exhilarating. Oh, she had it bad.
But on the day the decoy was completed there was no sign of Smoke. He had been gone since the previous day and hadn't shown up during the night. Brogan went with Que into town to look for him and for food, but only found the latter. Another night passed without any sign of him.
Brogan woke the next day to find Que standing on deck watching for Smoke. It had been two days since they'd last seen him. It was a chilly morning. She walked up to Que, stood beside her and gave the girl a side hug.
"He'll be back. Don't worry."
"He never takes this long," Que sighed. "What if something happened that he couldn't handle? Brogan, he..."
She got really quiet, but she could feel her cheeks redden. Part of her wanted to tell Brogan about the kiss, but she wasn't sure. Brogan found Smoke strange. Maybe she shouldn't...
On the other hand, why this worried her confused the young woman even more.
Brogan chuckled and rubbed Que's arms.
"Somehow I'm fairly sure it will take a lot to bring down that guy."
She put a hand to Que's face, and brought it to hers.
"He saved you, didn't he? I'm sure he can take care of himself."
She patted Que's cheek.
"He'll be here soon. Don't worry yourself sick."
She stuck her hands in her pockets and headed back downstairs away.
Several minutes later, a figure was headed toward the ship. He held a large bag that had steam rising from it and mixing with his breath. His familiar hat was pulled low on his face.
Que could have jumped over the railing she was so relieved. Thankfully, she opted to run down the ramp instead, almost knocking him over with a hug when she reached him.
Smoke had to move fast to regain his balance and not drop the bag of pastries. His hat fell off. He blinked in surprise, smiled briefly, and put his free arm around her waist.
He pulled back just far enough to look at her face. He arched an eyebrow.
"You all right?"
Que nodded eagerly.
"Yeah, we finished the decoy," she told him with excitement, practically bouncing in place. "I think BOB is jealous, but DeeDee thinks it flies funny. Smoke, why were you gone so long?"
Her initial joy faded with that last question, her brows knotted with worry.
"I thought something had happened. Something bad..."
Smoke shook his head.
"No. I had to help them in order to get what we needed."
He reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a large folded paper.
"We have the floor plans. We have everything we need now."
Que smiled, looking up at him. She giggled as she wrapped her arms around his neck again and gave him another hug.
"I'm just glad you're back. I still think you shouldn't hide your pretty eyes with your hat. I like being able to see them."
Smoke didn't say anything. When he released her and bent down to grab his hat, his cheeks were clearly flushed. He looked at her for a moment once he had straightened, his pale gray eyes warmer than normal. He coughed and then put his hat back on his head.
His cheeks were still a little red.
"Come on," he said and indicated the bag. "Breakfast."
Que giggled again, following behind him with a little skip, happy he had finally returned.
Liam was just stepping out onto the deck to have a cigarette when he saw them.
"At last," he said, striking a match. "If you'd taken any longer, I was gonna go looking for you myself. What'd you get this time around?"
Smoke didn't say anything. He just handed Liam the folded paper and then sat on the floor. He began to distribute the food.
DeeDee whirled up to him.
"You had Miss Quesy all worried, you know."
"Sorry," Smoke muttered under his breath as he handed Que a large cinnamon pastry.
"Oh sweet hell," Brogan said as she got on the deck. "Smoke, pay no attention to Dee. She's got no right reprimandin' anyone."
She eyed him.
"But you did have Que worried. Lord knows why."
She walked over and grabbed a pastry before moving beside Liam to see what he had in his hand.
Smoke glanced over at Que for a moment, his expression questioning.
Her cheeks flushed and she nodded, chewing on her lip.
"I thought something bad might've happened..."
Liam, meanwhile, unfolded the paper to have a look at it. His eyes widened before he turned to Smoke.
"Is this what I think it is? And don't give me some one word answer; elaborate."
Smoke looked away from Que and to Liam.
"Yes. It's the floor plans for City Hall in Sylvora. It wasn't easy to get, but I got it."
Brogan rolled her eyes.
"That isn't much elaboration."
Que sat down on the deck beside Smoke and began working on her pastry. Liam scratched his head, taking a drag of his cigarette as he looked the plans over.
"There isn't much to elaborate on, Brogan. With these, we can figure out a plan of attack, so to speak. We can see where it will be easiest to enter and easiest to exit, not to mention the quickest route to the Hall of Records. This makes matters a whole lot easier."
"I know we already said the sewers would be the best way to get in. Do the plans show where the plumbing is? Can we get from the sewers into the building? That's the important bit."
She took a bite of her pastry.
Liam skimmed his finger over the floor plans.
"Ah ha! Yes, right here. And here too. There are a couple of places, which should keep us covered, in the event any of them have been blocked off."
"Is there one near the Hall of Records?" Que asked. Liam began searching again.
Brogan looked over the plans and shook her head.
"Everything that leads to the sewers is on the lowest level. According to this, the Hall of Records is on the second floor."
She looked up at Que and Smoke, then to Liam.
"Well, hell. It looks like we're about ready to go."
"Smoke?" Que asked as she finished another bite of her breakfast. "You said you would teach me how to protect myself. Since we're about ready to leave, does that mean you'll teach me soon?"
"Back up Que," Liam said, folding up the floor plan. "We still need to make sure we have everything we need for this flight. Personally, I think we should hold off on leaving until tomorrow morning, just to be sure we have everything we need."
"Do you have a list of what we need?" Smoke asked, glancing up at Liam.
"Gunpowder," Brogan said flatly. "I need gunpowder for the Big Gun."
The pilot raised an eyebrow.
"Do you really need me to write out a list for you, Smoke? The flight will take a couple of days, so we need enough food to last to and back. Gunpowder is a given (Brogan isn't the only one with a gun) and extra ammo of course. Water too. And matches."
Liam popped his neck.
"Come on, you know what we need."
Smoke rolled his eyes.
"A list would give Que something to do," he said flatly.
Brogan instantly knew what he meant. Smoke knew what to get, but Que didn't. She would ask him a million questions and there was no doubt she was going to go with him. A list would give her something to check off and help him with without driving him nutty.
She gave Smoke a wink.
"Sure, hon. I'll write up one for you real quick."
Que finished off her breakfast and looked over at Smoke again.
"I'll have to learn how to use a weapon, won't I?" she asked.
Smoke looked over at her. He nodded slowly.
"It would be better for you, yes."
Brogan scribbled fast and then handed the list to Que.
"Here you go, sugar. Supplies we need for this suicide mission of yours."
She gave Que some money too.
"You are going to go with Smoke to do the shopping right?"
Que nodded eagerly, taking the list to read it over.
"I don't want him to disappear for another two days."
Liam chuckled. She really had been worried about Smoke, hadn't she?
Smoke lowered his head so his face was completely shadowed. Brogan looked at him curiously, wondering if the man was blushing. Then again, that seemed so far out of character for Smoke that she completely brushed it aside.
She shook her head.
"Well, good. Now off with both of you."
She looked over at Liam.
"And what the hell are we going to do? This boat is ready to fly and so is our imaginary bird. Do you have anything else that needs touching up, tuning up, or fixing up on this rig?"
"Oh, I can think of a few things," Liam said absentmindedly, watching as Que and Smoke prepared to leave. "I think I need a cigarette first though."
Que tugged on Smoke's sleeve, excited to go back into town again.
"We can get all this in a snap, right?"
"Yes. It should not take long."
He grabbed four more pastries, two for him and her, and handed her her share as they walked down the ramp and into the shipyard.
Brogan watched them leave with a smile on her face. She shook her head.
"Well, I guess I'll run a checklist while they're gone. Make sure we have enough fuel, water in the boiler, keep everything tuned, and the like."
She waved at the bots as she headed downstairs.
"DeeDee check the boiler pipes and the chimney. Make sure they're sealed tight and the grate is clean. BOB get over to the buggy and bring everything of good quality over. We could always use the spare parts if something busts while we're in the air."
Liam took a drag on his cigarette while he followed her, stopping at the top of the stairs.
"Need anything from me, Mistress Mechanic?" he asked, a smirk dancing across his lips as he blew a smoke ring in the air.
Brogan looked over her shoulder at him. She smirked as she sized him up.
"Well, I could always use a nice pair of biceps, shoulders and thighs just in case. But unless I need something moved, all I'll probably need is for you to double check my checklist. Make sure there's nothing I'm missing. It is your ship after all."
Liam's grin widened as he took another long drag of his cigarette.
"I'll be after you once I finish this," he said. "It's too nice a day not to enjoy this one outside."
She shook her head as she continued down the stairs, sashaying her hips along the way. She stopped by the bunks to grab some parchment and quickly jotted down a checklist. Then she headed to the engine room and began to go through the list, making sure everything was in working order.
A couple minutes later, Liam appeared again, leaning against the door frame of the engine room.
"So," he said, watching as she went over her list. "How long have you been a mechanic? Seems like you and machines is like me and airships."
"For as long as I can remember," Brogan said, smiling and turning to him. "Since I was a kid I was taking things apart and putting them back together. Machines any and all kinds have always been my passion."
"It made me the weirdest girl in my neighborhood."
She stood up on her tiptoes, now looking at some of the pipes. She pulled a valve, heard the whistling sound and nodded.
"What about you, hot shot? Is it just flying? Or do you know everything there is to know about airships? Even the parts I'm better at fixing," she asked and arched an eyebrow.
Liam snorted, nodding as he entered the room to look things over himself.
"You could say this rig is something of a custom build," he said, pointing towards the pipes she'd just checked. "I may not be handy with the actual construction, but I know what will and won't work in a ship. Been flying these things since I was old enough to join the military. My brother and I both, though he quit sooner."
He rubbed the back of his head and shrugged.
"Haven't heard from him in a while, but that can be expected, what with the silent war and all. For all I know, he may have rejoined the military, or he may be in some militia group. Hell, he may even be flying commercial like I have been."
He shrugged again.
"But yeah, to me, an airship is like an extension of myself. I haven't found one yet that I couldn't fly the instant I stepped on board."
Brogan looked up at him.
"That takes a considerable amount of skill and a lot of ability."
She flashed him a grin.
"But watch out for Que. She'll start asking you a million questions once we're in the air with this thing and tell you she wants to know so she can pilot one herself. In case of an emergency."
Liam blinked a couple of times in confusion, but then burst out laughing. He had to catch himself on the wall to keep from buckling over with his laughter.
"Oh, I doubt she could learn to fly this thing in one trip. It isn't like steering a horse with a carrot, you know."
Liam's laughter was infectious, and soon Brogan was laughing with him. She shook her head.
"Oh, I know that," she said. "The same thing with the buggy. Every little vibration, every nuance tells a story, and you have to really know the machine inside and out in order to drive it. One of the reasons it's never been stolen."
"But she's determined, and pretty confident that she can do it if she ever needs to."
She shook her head.
"She's a strange kid. I probably wouldn't peg her as stranger than Smoke, but definitely still strange."
Brogan leaned against the engine, her gaze trailing down his body and then back up to his face.
"What about Smoke? How does a guy who does commercial flights end up being friends with an antisocial ex-militia?"
Liam straightened, his laughter fading into light chuckles now.
"Do you want the long version or the short version?" he asked with a smirk. "I can tell you both start with me buying my daily paper from him."
Brogan rolled her eyes.
"And then he followed you?"
"I wonder if he does that with anyone who catches his interest or could be of use to him. Sell them a paper, follow them around."
She shook her head and turned back to her checklist. She bent down to check the air pumps.
"What's the short version?" she asked, her voice muffled by machinery.
Liam admired the curves of her figure before answering.
"He did me a favor, I did one for him in return."
Air swished through the pumps. Brogan straightened and turned to him.
"And since then you're still friends? Most people do the favor exchange and then part ways."
"See, that's where the long version comes in," Liam explained. "I've only known him for about a year, but in that year, we've been going back and forth to each other for favors ever since that first one. Because of the war, I always need to change my routes, and Smokes been able to get the information I need to plan the safest trips. In return, I'll make... uh... off-the-book flights, if you know what I mean. Works out well for both of us, and things just kind of developed from there."
"I can see how that works."
"Do you mind doing off-the-book flights? I mean... This trip well, you can't get much more dangerous can you? You sure you're okay with taking us?"
She searched his face. Liam smiled and snorted again.
"This ain't no worse than flying into battle back when I was still a military pilot. Besides, these trips are vastly more interesting than my commercial ones (except for maybe that last one), and it's a nice change of pace from my daily work. And Smoke will owe me big time for this."
He grinned from ear to ear, as if he'd just made the greatest joke in the world.
"The company on this flight isn't half bad either."
A slow smile stretched over her lips.
"I'll admit, it was awfully decent of Smoke to follow Que around."
Brogan leaned back against the pipes.
"Lord knows this is probably the safest way to Sylvora, and, I'll agree, the company isn't bad. A competent, good-humored, sexy pilot is not an easy thing to come by."
She grinned at him, and then shook her head, checking off the air pumps on her list.
Liam cocked an eyebrow, and if his grin could have gotten any wider, it did.
"Oh, so you think I'm sexy, do you?" he asked. "If so, I guess that means the feelings are mutual then. And here I thought all the posing you did while you worked was just to tease me..."
Brogan put her hands on her hips and tilted it as she leaned forward a little, looking up at him.
"Teasing would imply that I'm trying to get you to notice, which automatically states my position on the matter. I wouldn't be trying to get you to notice, unless I want you to notice. However, I have been trying to figure out what your feelings are. Though, 'mutual' is probably the best hint I'm going to get, isn't it?"
"Being blunt defeats the purpose of the game, doesn't it?" Liam asked back. "Come on, with those curves? What did you expect me to think?"
"Honestly?" Brogan grinned. "I didn't expect anything."
She lifted her chin and straightened.
"I did my part. I let you look. I teased. And I've said you're sexy."
She poked his chest.
"Now it's your turn, hot stuff."
Liam's grin widened. Without saying anything else, he grabbed Brogan's arm and tugged her toward him. The checklist and pencil fell to the ground as he pressed her up against him. His hand moved to her hip, and the other came up to her face. He lifted her face, and his mouth came down to take hers.
He didn't ask. He took. His tongue parted her lips and delved into her mouth. His hand slid down from her face as he kissed her, pausing to caress a breast and tease her nipple. Brogan always had the scent of something burnt. She tasted like scorched sugar and felt like fire.
Brogan gasped, her hands flying up to cling to his shoulders. Her nipples immediately hardened and heat pooled below her belly. She opened her mouth and her tongue danced with his, demanding just as his demanded. He tasted like tobacco, smoke, sea salt and hot spice. God, he was delicious.
Liam teased her nipple then continued down her body. Both his hands slid from her hips to her thighs. Without any effort, he lifted her. He pressed her back against the wall of the engine room, and rubbed his hips against that hot place between her legs. He wrapped her legs around his waist and pinned her to the wall, leaving his hands free to travel back up to her breasts and massage them as he continued to kiss her.
Brogan was on fire. He was hard against her. She could feel, with acute sensitivity, his pants rubbing against her wet underwear and the thick, hard cock beneath his pants begging to find a way inside her. Her hips automatically began to rub back, her legs locked around his waist. She kissed him wildly. One of her hands found the way to his hair. She knocked off his hat, pulled free his ponytail and dug her hand into his hair and clung to the strands. The other hand clung to his shoulders, her short nails digging through his jacket and shirt. Her breasts ached.
Liam groaned and pulled his mouth away from hers. He kissed her jaw, then her neck, as his thumbs rubbed over the hard nipples. His big hands squeezed the full, heavy breasts, and in his mind he was already imagining the sexy mechanic beneath him, naked and screaming. It made him even harder, straining against his pants.
Brogan arched, her head falling to the side with a strangled gasp as he kissed and sucked on her neck. In just moments, he had her hotter than she'd ever been in her life with a man. God, she'd always known chemistry was a powerful thing, but this
She wanted him to take her right there. She moaned his name, tugged his head back up and kissed him. It was wild, carnal and begging him for more.
He knew what she wanted. God knew he wanted it so bad he would fucking burst in a moment if he didn't have her. One of his hands moved away from a breast and slid down to her exposed thigh. His fingers trailed along the inside, already aching to free himself, push aside her underwear and dive into that hot, tight body.
A loud mechanical cough stopped him. Liam froze, his lips still pressed against Brogan's, his body hot, hard and tight against hers. He cursed a blue streak into her mouth and pulled back just far enough to turn his head and glare at BOB.
BOB rolled his eyes.
"Que and Smoke are back. Thought you two would like to know before you both make enough noise to get Miss Curious down here."
Brogan paled then flushed. Her brown eyes, much darker from passion, flickered over to Liam.
Her voice was husky and hoarse with desire. She stared at him as if she would've liked nothing more than to damn all the consequences, strip him and fuck him stupid.
"Rain check?" she offered, her hands stroking down his arms.
Liam must have grumbled every obscenity he knew (which was quite a score of words, given his previous occupation), before taking a deep breath to calm down.
"Yeah, yeah. Guess we have to. Remind me to get a damn lock for the engine room..."
Brogan chuckled and caressed his forearms.
"I will," she said, her voice still husky. She gave his arms a squeeze.
"Maybe you should let me down," she said as BOB rolled away, grumbling something unintelligible.
"Awe," he said, trying to pout but unable to keep a straight face. "But I was comfy like this."
It was no use. Liam began laughing almost as soon as the sentence left his lips, and he let Brogan down. He shook his head.
"You're bot's probably right; better Que not walk in on that, huh?"
Brogan smirked. She kept her body against his. She was still hot. It was going to take her a while to recover.
"Not unless we want to answer a million questions while you bang me on the wall."
Her lips twisted into a wide grin.
"You sure she wouldn't just go into shock? I'm wondering if she even knows what sex is..."
"You're probably right. She didn't understand what those men who tried to mug her and Smoke last week meant."
She looked up at him.
"But after she recovered from shock she'd pummel us with questions."
Brogan took a deep breath, forcing herself to let go of his arms. She really didn't want to stop touching him. She crouched down to the floor and picked up his hat and hair tie.
"Here," she offered, looking at him through her lashes.
Liam took the items and began to fix his hair. Once that was tied back again, and the hat firmly on his head, he took another deep breath.
"Damn, I definitely need a cig now. You?"
"Usually you smoke a cigarette after you've been satisfied."
"God... How long are we going to have to wait until we find a moment alone?" She laughed. Liam shook his head, pulling out his pack of cigarettes.
"Maybe I should call on one of those favors from Smoke. Preferably sometime
He put a cigarette in his mouth before holding out the pack to her.
"We'd best head upstairs before they come looking for us."
Brogan shook her head and pushed the pack back toward him.
"I'll hold out for mine until that rain check."
She smiled up at him. She picked up the checklist and the pencil and then walked away headed toward the door. Her hand slid down his arm all the way to his fingers before she finally let go and went through the door.
Liam snorted. That cigarette was probably the fastest he'd ever smoked; anything to get his mind off of how damn sexy Brogan was when she walked like that.
He was going to need a few cigarettes to calm down after that.
Back up on deck, Que practically tackle Brogan when she saw her, eager to show the mechanic what she'd gotten for the trip.
"Isn't it nice? It's almost like that one we saw back in Croydon!"
Brogan, whose lips were still swollen, cheeks still flushed and hair still mussed up from her encounter with Liam, blinked in surprise as Que practically shoved the gun in her face.
"Oh, sweet lord, Que, don't wave that thing around like that. It's not a toy. If you're not careful you're liable to shoot a friend as soon as an enemy."
Smoke shook his head.
"I tried telling her that too."
Que pouted, lowering the gun away from Brogan.
"It's not loaded..."
She looked back up at the mechanic, tilting her head to one side. Her eyes narrowed slightly in curiosity.
"Why are your cheeks all red?"
Said cheeks became redder.
"It was hot in the engine room while I was double checking everything," Brogan said quickly. She took the gun from Que and gave it a once over.
"It's good quality. And a good weight for someone as itty-bitty as you."
She looked over at Smoke, then back at Que.
"Did Smoke help you pick it out?"
Smoke stared at Brogan for a long moment. Then he moved passed them as they spoke, headed downstairs to find Liam. The pilot had a cloud of smoke around his head.
"What?" Liam asked, waving the cloud away from his face to look over at Smoke. "Heard you got Que a gun."
He finished off the cigarette he was working on, and coughed a little.
"Gonna teach in the air or while we're still docked?"
Smoke stared at him for a long minute.
Liam nodded, though he coughed a couple more times before he answered.
"Yeah, just... agitated, you know? Need to get a lock for the fucking engine room..."
He tucked his cigarettes away and crossed his arms, glancing towards the door.
"Fucking bot... You couldn't have stayed out an hour longer, could you?"
Smoke stared at Liam and then arched an eyebrow.
"You should thank BOB. Que wanted to find Brogan right away. That would've been... hard to explain."
Smoke began to head back up to the deck. He stopped and turned back to Liam.
"After this Sylvora thing... I'll see what I can do to get Que out and about for an entire day."
Then he went back up the stairs.
Again on deck, Que was showing her new weapon to the robots (not that BOB would really care). As soon as Smoke reappeared, however, she jogged over to him.
"So once we're in the air, you're going to teach me how to use it, right?" she asked. That she was getting so excited over a weapon was almost comical.
"Yes, but Que."
Smoke put his hands on her shoulders.
"You're excited to learn, but you realize this is serious. This isn't a game. This is used to kill people, to protect yourself. If you shoot someone with this, they could die. And you will have their blood on your hands. Are you ready for that kind of responsibility?"
Que looked down for a moment, but then looked up at Smoke, giving him the most serious expression she could.
"I know, and I'm ready. I need to be prepared if there is no one else there to protect me, right?"
"That's why I'm teaching you. But as long as you're still safe and protected, don't use it. Only if you have no other choice. Understood?"
Que returned his nod with an emphatic one of her own. She looked at the gun she'd acquired and took a deep breath.
"I don't want to have to use it..."
"Good," Smoke said. "As long as you don't want to use it, then you will know when you have no choice."
He looked over to Brogan.
"Is there anything else we need to do before we leave tomorrow morning?"
"I was going over things to make sure they all work, but other than that, I don't know what else we need. Just organize the supplies you two bought, I think."
"Then I guess we'd better clean up, eat a hearty dinner, and get a good night's rest," he said. "Tomorrow, we venture into Enlightened territory."
Brogan paled visibly at that and her lips flattened into a line. Her shoulders, now tense and stiff, straightened and she nodded. Without a word, she went off to prep her Big Gun. She sure as hell wasn't going into Enlightened territory unprepared.
Now that the excitement had died down a bit, Que retrieved her alchemy book again and sat down to read some more. She was anxious about the upcoming trip for sure; this was the most dangerous thing she'd done since she'd left the house, and far more risky than all of the hitch-hiking she'd done. Reading would help her relax a little. When she saw Brogan's face at the mention of the Enlightened, she at first wondered why she'd had gotten so pale, but rather than bombard the mechanic with questions, she reasoned that she was just nervous. Just like Que was.
And she didn't think Brogan would want to talk about it anyway.
Smoke, however, had noticed. And given what he'd already deduced from Liam earlier, he felt no hesitation in telling the pilot.
"I think Brogan needs to stay on the ship when we get to Sylvora," Smoke told Liam. "She's frightened. More so than she lets on," he said flatly.
The pilot raised his eyebrows and rolled his eyes, shaking his head.
"That's her choice to make when we arrive. I'll need to keep the ship moving, so the company will be more than welcome for me."
Smoke stared at Liam for a long moment, analyzing him, the gray eyes penetrating as if trying to see right into the core of the pilot. Then he turned away without saying anything else and grabbed some of the supplies, taking the food down to the tiny galley Liam had to store.
Once Smoke had left, Liam followed after Brogan. He didn't need the younger man to tell him that she'd looked scared; it was obvious to anyone who had been paying attention. Sometimes, he resented when Smoke said things like that. As if he wasn't observant enough to notice Brogan was frightened.
Once he caught up to her, he stopped a few feet away, arms folded.
"Hey," he called gently. "You sure you're up for this trip? Looked like a ghost back there."
Brogan stiffened. She didn't turn around to face him.
"If I wasn't up for this trip, I wouldn't still be here," she said, her voice low. "But it is dangerous and I've spent..."
She took a deep breath.
"I've spent a lot of time making sure I stayed out of trouble."
"You're doing this for Que," he said plainly, walking up beside her. "It isn't like she's even related to you, and you treat her with the same care as a little sister. I'm sure she would understand if you didn't want to go. You'd have to explain in excruciating detail why, more than likely, but I'm sure she'd understand."
Liam wasn't about to say he'd much rather she go. It was a selfish thought he didn't feel like sharing.
Brogan looked up at him. She was still pale, but she gave him a smile anyway.
"I'm going, Liam. But... in retrospect, I don't think I should be going with Que and Smoke down into the sewers. You may need the back up here, and two will be less noticed than three."
There was another reason, but she didn't say it.
Liam wrapped his arms around her shoulders.
"So," he said, almost at a whisper. "What has you so frightened of the Enlightened? They scare everyone, but that look you got was more than what your average person gets when they hear mention of them. Something happened, didn't it?"
Liam rested his head against her shoulder.
"You can tell me."
Brogan, who had been so tense, finally relaxed, leaning against him. She brought a hand up to his and held it.
"It's a long story, Liam," she said softly. "I shouldn't talk about it now. I need to go with you. If we make it out of this all right, ask me again."
She caressed his hand.
"I promise I'll tell you."
He smiled, chuckling a little.
"I'll keep you to that, you know. I'll make sure we all get out of this safely. I wouldn't have earned my rank if I couldn't do that."
Liam kissed her cheek before unwrapping his arms from around her. He looked over at the weapon she'd been working on.
"Need help with that?"
Brogan smirked and lifted the Big Gun to her shoulder. It had a barrel that was eight inches in diameter. It was bulky and the thing looked like it needed to be operated with both hands. One to hold it steady and one to fire it. It had a long scope on the top for aiming. It looked like the average person would have a hard time lifting it. It was plated and heavy. Then she lifted the "bullet." It looked like a miniature missile.
She smiled at Liam.
"This is the Big Gun, or the Boom Gun, depending on my mood. There's enough firepower locked in this giant bullet (a.k.a. mini missile) to blow a building down to the ground. It's a portable cannon. Only the ball explodes."
Her grinned widened.
"I figure since you don't really have any firepower on this rig, you were going to need some just in case."
Liam whistled, impressed not just by the size of the weapon, but Brogan's ability to lift it with ease.
"Now I need to get me one of those," he chuckled. "This used to be fully outfitted, but since I retired, I sold off the excess weight, if you know what I mean. Kinda wish I hadn't, but who could have had this kind of foresight?"
She patted the big gun.
"We'll have plenty of firepower right here. Ideally we won't need to use it, but if we do it's here. Maybe eventually I can fit this rig with some invisible firepower. It wouldn't be hard to do."
She smirked at him.
"Well, in any case, let's get things moving. It's still early; we can launch anytime now, if we're all ready. The sooner the better, and all that."
Brogan nodded. She steeled herself. She just hoped this cockamamie plan worked.
They took off just after dark. Brogan sat cross-legged on the deck, took apart the Big Gun, cleaned it, doubled checked it and then put it back together. BOB rolled around the deck with a nervous edge. DeeDee hovered by Brogan.
Smoke stood by the rail, arms crossed as he stared out into the night in the direction of Sylvora. As Liam was busy steering the vessel, that left Que to her own devices, and having already watched Brogan working on her weapon for some time now, she decided that bothering Smoke would be the most interesting thing to do.
She walked up a bit behind him, at first only watching again. He had that hat covering his face, and the more Que thought about it, the less she liked it. She didn't know why, but she didn't like it.
"Will you teach me yet?" she finally asked.
Smoke stayed silent and still for another moment before he nodded. He turned to her.
"I'll show you how to use it, but you can't shoot it yet. Your gun is powerful. It will make a loud rapport that may draw attention to the skies. This ship flies a lot more quietly than it used to. I thought it would be louder like normal."
"I fixed it," Brogan said without lifting her head.
Que giggled when the other woman spoke, but stopped before she looked back at Smoke.
"How will I know if I'm using it right? Won't it work differently when loaded?"
Smoke's gaze flickered to Brogan for a moment, and in that flash there was amusement. But like usual it was gone within the next second. His attention was back on Que.
"I can show you how to use it and how it works. I can show you what to expect when you make a shot and how to react. For now, that's all."
Que chewed on her lip. It seemed that any time she was disappointed or upset she did this. This was only confirmed by the slight sadness in her voice.
She knew it was a weapon. She new it was dangerous. Nevertheless, she was eager to learn.
Smoke nodded to her gun.
"Let's start with how it works."
He sat on the deck and leaned against the railing. He lifted his hand for her to give him the gun.
Que promptly plopped down in front of him, taking the weapon and handing it over to him. She'd been carrying it with her all day in anticipation of the lesson.
With deft, sure movements, Smoke took apart the gun. He made sure she could see what he did. Then, in simple concise statements he showed her each part, told her its name, and what purpose it served in producing the complete weapon. Then he put it back together and handed it to her.
Que nodded and began repeating his example, dismembering the gun and reiterating what each part did. She only asked once or twice for verification that she'd gotten it right, then reassembled the weapon once more, leaving it whole on the deck space between them. She looked up at Smoke.
"Am I doing alright so far?"
"Excellent. Practice it three more times. Really look at each part and understand how it connects, how they work in unison. Ask if you have questions."
Again she nodded and went to the task. The next few times around she asked a lot more "what if" questions: what if this piece were replaced with something else; what if this could be modified; and other similar inquiries. Que ended up reconstructing the gun five times instead of three, having gotten so caught up in her questioning. When at last it was whole again, Que turned once again to Smoke.
He took the gun and stood up. He offered her his hand.
"Now, I'll show you how to use it."
Que was on her feet instantly, using his hand as a boost. This was what she had been most excited to learn. She was so certain she'd do well, and very eager to prove it too.
Smoke put the gun in her hand. He stepped behind her, and with his arms on either side of her took her hands. He placed her hands on the gun, his hands over hers as he folded them into the correct position. His body pressed up against her back, his head beside hers as he lifted her arms.
"You'll use two hands to hold it. The left covers the base, the right grips it tight. This will help you control the kickback."
"Kickback..." Que repeated. She felt her face turn red and she shivered a little with him so close. Resisting ever urge to change the subject, she put her focus back on learning to use the gun.
"How powerful of a kickback?" she asked.
"With someone of your size and the size of your gun powerful enough to have the gun slam against your head if you don't control it," he said, his breath soft against her cheek. "Squeeze the trigger, but not hard. It takes very little force. I'll simulate what your arms will do. First you need to learn how to deal with the kickback. Then you will learn to use it, not control it."
Que did as she was instructed, a little nervous. She squeezed the trigger slowly, and even though it wasn't loaded, she wasn't sure what to expect from the gun. As eager as she was, she was still a bit apprehensive.
Part of her wondered if it was because Smoke was so close.
The moment she pulled the trigger, Smoke slapped up her hands so they arched above her head. His body was behind hers, so she didn't fall with the force. He caught her and held her steady.
"That was just the movement. The strength behind the gun will be much more."
He set her up again in the same position as before, his face close to hers. "Again. This time squeeze the trigger with more confidence. You don't have to be slow. Just gentle."
Que tried to swallow her nerves and took a deep breath before trying again. She was still a bit slow on pulling the trigger, but it was better than the last time.
Again Smoke simulated what the kickback would be like, slapping her hands into the air and catching. When he straightened her, he said, "Better. We'll keep doing this until you're sure of yourself. Then we'll work on your control and handling the kickback."
Once more he put them both into position.
"Again," he whispered.
They continued for another hour or so, each time Que growing more confident and comfortable with the weapon. She was just about there when she suddenly stopped responding to Smoke's prompting, standing stark still and not even attempting to pull the trigger.
Smoke blinked. He looked over at her.
Que had fallen asleep.
He shook his head and without effort lifted her into his arms. Smoke headed down to the bunks and placed her in one, leaving her there to rest before going back up to the deck.
When he returned, Liam had taken a break from steering and had the ship on autopilot to keep them steady. He was just lighting his cigarette, and raised an eyebrow as he looked at Smoke.
"What happened there?" he asked. "She seemed so eager before. She alright?"
"She fell asleep."
Liam blinked and raised both eyebrows.
"She fell asleep?" he echoed. "You're kidding! Standing up and everything?"
"She must've been tired."
Brogan looked up at them.
"She did have a long day. And you're pretty intimidating when you teach, Smoke."
Smoke stuffed his hands into his pockets.
Liam chuckled as he took a drag of his cigarette.
"You do come off as a bit eerie sometimes," he agreed with Brogan. "Though I'm still surprised anyone could fall asleep right in the middle of something like that. Que's not narcoleptic, is she?"
"She's probably on a schedule," Smoke said before he walked away.
Brogan watched him go and then turned to Liam. She arched an eyebrow.
"When he's that cryptic I don't know whether I should throttle him for more answers or thank god he isn't telling me something I probably don't want to know."
"Go with the latter," Liam assured her, blowing a few smoke rings. "If it was important enough, he'd tell us. Besides, as long as Smoke isn't worried, I'm not worried."
"That's good motto to have. If Smoke is worried, then we have good reason to be too."
She looked out into the night.
"How long till we get there?"
"About ten hours."
Liam took a drag of his cigarette.
"Assuming we don't meet any opposition along the way," he added. "Like Enlightened, rogue military looking for some target practice... or pirates. This is a down-dressed former military, after all."
Brogan looked back at him.
"Sounds like the skies are just as dangerous as the ground these days."
"Oh, absolutely," the pilot agreed. "Though your escape routes are much better in the air."
He finished his cigarette and snuffed it out before lighting another.
"And I've gotten pretty deft at dodging. You can ask Smoke about that one."
"I believe you. As long as you don't kill us, I'm fine."
She grinned. She stood up finally and stretched, making a small sound as she did. Her body shivered from the stretch. Then she cracked her neck.
"Ten hours, huh? Will you be flying the whole way? It's a long time."
Liam sighed, nodding as he blew smoke out his nose.
"The autopilot will get us most of the way. This thing handles beautifully, and once you set it on a straight course, it won't veer at all unless I want it to."
"Good thing I made sure it wasn't buggy before we took off, right?"
She smirked at him and put her hand on her hip.
"Do you sleep up here despite being in the air?"
"Sure do," he confirmed with a chuckle. "I never leave deck during a flight. Never know what might happen if I leave the wheel completely unattended."
"Don't you get cold?" she asked. Her voice was quiet. She lifted a hand to pull back her bangs. She just held them back.
Liam undid his ponytail as he shook his head, running his finger through his scalp.
"Been doing this too long to notice now. Besides, I've got a coat if it gets too brisk."
He looked over at Brogan, his green eyes locking onto hers.
"Why, you a bit chilly?"
"A little. And it'll get cooler as the night continues. I'm not used to traveling at this high altitude at night."
She looked at his hair and his shoulders, before her gaze met his again. God, the man was handsome. He smiled and gestured for her to come closer.
"We can keep each other warm then. If we need to get a blanket, we can do that too."
Brogan smiled and then laughed. She stepped closer so she was within his reach but no closer than that.
"Oh? I could leave you out here to freeze and stay all warm and cozy below deck," she teased. Liam's smile quickly became a smirk.
"You could, and I certainly wouldn't stop you, but I can assure you I am much warmer than any blanket. You should know that already."
Her face immediately heated, and her cheeks turned a bright crimson. Brogan could feel her heart pounding hard in her chest. Still flushed, she put her hands on her hips and smirked back.
"Ah, that's true. But then you should know already that I'm warmer than any silly coat."
"Did I ever suggest otherwise?" he chuckled. "I usually go on solo flights. I'd certainly welcome something warmer..."
She crossed her arms.
"Would you now? That's nice. How are you planning on getting warmer? I haven't heard please yet."
"Well, aren't you sassy!" Liam snorted, sticking his tongue out at her. "You were the one complaining about being cold, as I recall."
He crossed his arms, turning himself to face her with his whole body.
"Seems like you should be the one asking me."
"Oh, I'm a hell of a lot more than sassy."
Her hands moved back to her hips, and she quirked it to the side.
"So are you going to be gentleman and give me your coat?"
She tilted her head.
Liam rolled his eyes, slipping out of his coat and holding it out to Brogan.
"Pre-warmed. Just for you."
"Aw, how sweet," she said with teasing extra sugar to her tone. "Thank you."
Brogan smiled and grabbed the coat.
As soon as her hand was on the coat, however, Liam reached up with his free arm and grabbed her, tugging her down into his lap. As soon as she was there, he wrapped both arms around her, chuckling the whole time.
"Ha! My bait worked!"
Brogan blushed again, surprised, but grinned. She rolled her eyes.
"That was sneaky of you."
She chuckled, and put her arms around his wide shoulders casually.
"So did you get what you wanted, big guy?"
Liam made a point to nuzzle his head right between her breasts.
Heat soared through her, and Brogan's breath caught. She looked at Liam, smiled and put a hand to his loose hair.
"That feels quite nice actually," she said, her words whispery with shaky breath. He had to be able to hear her heart pounding.
He chuckled and looked up at her, wrinkling his nose as he smirked.
"Well, it got you warmed up, didn't it?"
"Well, yeah. Yeah, it did."
Her brown gaze searched his face.
"I wish this was already over so we could have that rain check," she said breathlessly.
"Not the best thing to attempt while flying, unfortunately," Liam growled, repositioning his head on one of her breasts. "I guess this will have to do for now."
Her heart continued to hammer against her ribcage. God, the man was too hot for his own good. Her nipples were already hard. She licked her lips, her breath shallow. Then she rolled her eyes. She was acting like a girl. True, she hadn't met a guy she found so attractive or wanted so much in ages, but that didn't mean she had to be so silly about it.
Brogan lowered her head until her lips brushed his ear.
"Is Smoke watching?" she asked, her voice a whisper.
Liam lifted his head just a bit to look around for the other man.
"Not that I can see," he whispered in return. "But that doesn't mean anything."
She smiled and kissed his ear for a second before lifting her head. Her sultry whisper in his ear apparently didn't have much affect on him.
"Do you think he's hiding and watching? Or does that mean you don't care if he is?"
Liam's gaze drifted back to hers, that devilish smirk of his plastered across his face.
"Oh, I could care less. He's a grown man. But if you're worried about an audience..."
Brogan matched his smirk.
"Not at all. As long as you're not worried and Que is asleep."
She grinned. Then without warning, she lowered her head to kiss him. It was tentative, wondering if he would kiss back. It had been pretty intense in the engine room earlier, but was that because he was randy or because he really did want her?
Liam answered her unasked question rather clearly by pulling her deeper into the kiss, wrapping one arm around her waist to keep her balanced in his lap while his free hand reached up into her hair, massaging her scalp.
Brogan relaxed and sighed into his mouth with pleasure. She let him undo her ponytail, bringing down the red-brown waves. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pressed her body closer, tilting her head and returning the kiss. Her lips parted and a small moan escaped from the back of her throat.
It was an open invitation for Liam, and he slipped his tongue inside her mouth, coaxing her tongue into his. God, she tasted even more delicious than she had earlier! Maybe it was the cold weather, but damn... Brogan was hotter than Hell without even trying.
Brogan's hand found its way into his hair and clutched at the strands as her tongue followed the lure of his. The kiss became carnal as she rubbed her tongue against his. The man was downright intoxicating. God, if she hadn't followed along with Que and then Smoke she never would've met Liam.
What a loss that would've been.
A cough interrupted them. Again.
Brogan pulled away, but not because she wanted to. She looked up at Smoke who was staring at them with an eyebrow arched. She mimicked his expression. His didn't even flicker.
"What?" she asked.
"You should probably save that for later. We need to sleep if we're going to do this."
She looked over at Liam.
"I hate it when he's right."
The pilot snarled, in full agreement with her as he reluctantly helped her off his lap. Up until then, he hadn't even realized how tired he was, and he yawned as he flipped Smoke the bird, saying nothing else on the subject. Liam couldn't wait for this mission to be over...
Brogan saw the interaction between the two and chuckled. She tugged on Liam's coat which she still had.
"I'll go get you a blanket," she said to him, and then with a soft shove pushed Smoke in the direction of the bunks below deck.
"Off to bed with you too."
Smoke willingly went, and Brogan came back up with some thick blankets for Liam.
"Night," she said quietly to him before turning to head back down to sleep herself. She still kept his coat, and used it as a blanket. She fell asleep dreaming erotic dreams with the scent of Liam around her. It was enough for now.