“WOULD YOU JUST PULL THE TRIGGER ALREADY?!”
Erin’s voice echoed in the small cargo bay of the Jackdaw as the large vein in her forehead bulged. The Billycrub that held it’s blade to her neck was almost a full foot taller, plenty of space for Brandyjack to take the shot and yet he stood opposite the two of them, his pistol still in his holster and sporting a furrowed brow as if upset.
“Not until I get my answer, ER-IN” Brandyjack said stretching her name out into two playful syllables in an attempt to mirror her uppity tone. Brandyjack oozed confidence with everything he did in life and after their many years together Erin could only guess at how he’d handle any given situation. Typically when a perilous situation arrived he would be the first to save the day, however just recently she saw him walk by a young woman who was clinging to the side of a cliff for dear life after claiming to have a bad feeling about her. The truth about Brandyjack was that for all of his good deeds, he had equally shown himself to be a selfish, troublesome vagabond.
Luckily throughout their sordid past, Erin had never doubted that he cared for her and it was not unlike Brandyjack to wait until the last minute to make his move but as the Billycrub’s blade softly nicked Erin’s neck drawing a bit of blood, she became nervous that he would not act in time.
Erin scowled, the Billycrub’s breath which stunk of putrid fish and salty bile felt warm on the top of her head as she could feel him looking down at her. She turned to the window of the cargo bay for a moment, long enough to see that the autopilot had stayed on and that they were in fact out of orbit before turning back to Brandyjack with glowering eyes. Through pursed lips she said,
“FINE, Jesus Christ Brandyjack – YES, it wasn’t broken, I FORGOT, okay?!”
A warm but coy smile slid over Brandyjack’s face like the drawing of a curtain and after a long beat he took a deep, long breath closing his eyes as he did. He pulled his head back is if bathing in a wealth of satisfaction before dropping his head abruptly and saying, “I know and I forgive you.”
Brandyjack oozed confidence with everything he did and after years of knowing him Erin could only guess his actions to an extent; in peril he would do the right thing she thought
Erin’s eyes short wild and hot anger as she spoke through clenched teeth,
“Lovely, now would you DO something about this,” she said jerking her head slightly to the massive Billycrub holding her against his chest.
“Right!” said Brandyjack, slapping his hands together and rubbing them as he walked towards them. As he stepped forward the Billycrub squeezed Erin tighter and nervously took a half step back. Brandyjack, seeing his step being taken as aggressive, held out a calming palm.
“Hold on there now, I just wanted to talk,” he said with a roguish half-smile.
The large, expressive, frog-like eyes of the Billycrub stared at Brandyjack blankly as its massive tongue wetted its thin blue lips, exposing the beings needle-like teeth for a brief moment.
“As far as I can tell you followed us back onto the ship, took my dear friend Erin here hostage and have yet to let us know what your intentions are… and while we both appreciate you allowing us to iron out our little tiff….” Brandyjack said as Erin nervously nodded along, “…I think we’re all looking for an explanation to your choices here. Yes?” he said as he raised his eyebrows in an inquisitive manner, “Why don’t you let us in on the joke.”
The Billycrub, who up until now had made no discernable noises, launched into a deep and bellow filled string of communication the likes of which neither Brandyjack nor Erin had ever heard before. After a long string of gurgles and belches, the creature brought Erin forward from its chest for only a moment and pounded the thick hide-like chest plate of its armor in what was presumably a show of dominance before returning her to its clutches and placing the dagger once again at her throat. It then cocked its head up and made a shallow gurgling sound before looking back at Brandy.
After a long awkward pause Brandyjack responded,
“Right. Well. Here’s the truth Billy-boy, neither Erin nor myself speak Gylie,” Brandyjack said with a exasperated disinterest, “and I’m assuming by the long wait before your first diatribe I’m guessing you don’t speak English either.”
The Billycrub stood motionless, its blank stare fixated on Brandyjack as he stood with his hands to his sides. Erin looking up from the wet hide of the creature could only see the bottom of its soft chin, she turned back to Brandy with an exasperated groan,
“Just shoot him Brandy!” Erin said again, this time through gritted teeth.
“Well hold on, why!?” Brandyjack said as if a mediating a disagreement, “For all we know he was a slave on Experio and we’ve just helped him escape! Or perhaps he’s here to avenge a wrong that we had performed in another life… or maybe…”
“OR MAYBE HE’S ABOUT TO STICK HIS BLADE INTO MY NECK AND I DON’T WANT TO DIE” Erin screamed at Brandyjack as the Jackdaw continued soaring through the Black Void of Space.
“Well then,” Brandyjack said after a short pause, “I don’t know where this attitude came from but if it’s that important to you…”
Brandyjack drew his flintlock pistol from its holster and before the Billycrub was able lick his lips a final time the small iron pellets of Brandy’s sidearm soared into the soft green flesh of the creatures skull. For a moment the creature stood motionless, before the blade fell from his hand and bounced onto the grated floor of the cargo bay. Erin lurched forward just as the Billycrub released his grasp and fell over dead.
Brandyjack took a step forward joining Erin as the two looked down at the Billycrub’s lifeless body on the floor before them.
“My god I’m a good shot,” Brandy said as he turned his pistol towards his face, closing one eye to look down the barrel, “I didn’t even aim really,” he said absent mindedly before Erin turned to him ramming her fist into his shoulder.
“Owwwwww,” Brandyjack yelped as Erin pushed him back and continued walking towards him with fire in her eyes.
“Don’t you EVER do that again, if you EVER see me in a situation where my LIFE in in danger you don’t wait, you don’t think, you don’t try to settle a goddamn argument – you SHOOT the thing and you SHOOT it right away, DO YOU HEAR ME?!” Erin screamed, inches from Brandyjack’s calm face.
“Crystal.” Brandy said in a quiet voice, one of his eyebrows raised, as he leaned forward once again. Erin walked back over the body of the Billycrub now dripping deep green blood through the grated floor of the Jackdaw’s cargo bay. Brandyjack adjusted his crotch and joined her again before the fallen creature.
“Poor guy” Brandyjack said absentmindedly.
“Poor guy? Brandy, he was a BAD guy – at the very least a shitty Billycrub, maybe worse than that.” Erin said with an annoyed tone.
“Well I guess we’ll never know.” Brandyjack said as he bent down to look over the body, Erin continued on her train of thought as she stared out the window to the stars in the distance.
“…maybe he was VERY bad, maybe bounty-level bad… Brandy, we could make a bit of serious money here!” Erin said with excitement looking down towards Brandyjack as he pulled a wet piece of paper stained with the creatures green blood out of its chest pocket.
“What do you think Brandy? Think he could have been a wanted Billycrub?” Erin said as she watched Brandy open the piece of paper and read it.
“Unlikely, especially cause it seems like he had escaped from one of the camps on Experio.” Brandyjack said as he held up the handwritten note between two fingers for Erin to take.
Erin snatched the note from Brandy and read it feverishly. The note, seemingly written by an English literate Billycrub also in the prison, explained how the dead creature before carried invaluable information for the Billycrub race and that aiding him in his escape and subsequent return home would mean the survival of their species; it could turn the very tides of their century long battle.
Erin stood motionless, the damp letter in her hands as Brandyjack continued searching the Billycrub. After a beat Brandy held up a small golden trinket and pocketed it happily while whistling a jaunty tune.
“Do you realize what we just did…” Erin said almost in disbelief.
“Not really, no,” Brandyjack said as he continued searching the Billycrub, now removing its makeshift hide armor, searching for more hidden pockets.
“Brandy, we may have doomed an entire race. We may have effectively decided the outcome of a war all because I’m an impulsive bitch who wouldn’t let you do what you do best…”
Brandyjack stood up, dark green blood covering both arms as he turned towards Erin.
“No, no, no,” Brandy said to Erin softly, calming her as tears began welling in her eyes, “Erin…. No…. well, I mean yes.” Brandy said almost flatly, “but in a grander sense no. I think we’ve actually done a good thing!”
Erin, tears welling in her eyes, looked towards Brandy who stood in front of her holding both shoulders at arm’s length.
“How?” She asked with a disheartened sigh.
“Well, we’ve sort of let nature take its course. We’ve allowed whatever would happen, to happen! If the Billycrubs are being steamrolled by their enemies who are we to alter the playing field. It’s like helping a butterfly out of its cocoon…”
“A what?” Erin asked confused as tears stopped welling in her eyes. Brandyjack broke his gaze for a moment,
“A butterfly, it’s like a flying bug sort of thing, they start off as little slugs and as the grow they transform into a beautiful flying bug but during their transformation they need to be protected so they wrap themselves in a cocoon.”
Brandyjack let go of Erin’s shoulders as he stepped behind Erin placing his hands again on her shoulders as he continued on,
“Point is, when they do break out of their cocoons, you can’t help them – you have to let them do it on their own. The minute you help them, they’ll die. Part of their survival is the struggle.” Brandyjack turned Erin softly so that they both faced the dead Billycrub, “This is our butterfly…”
“Wouldn’t this be our Cocoon?” Erin asked with a flat tone, tears still on her face, trying to turn around to Brandy.
“Whatever,” Brandyjack said as he grabbed her face and turned her head back towards the creature before them leaving Green Blood stains on her chin as he did, “Doesn’t matter, point is all we did was keep things as they were destined to be.”
After a long beat Erin sighed, wiping the last tears from her now dry eyes. She turned around and nodded curtly towards Brandy, as if to say thank you before heading to the air lock and opening the door. Brandyjack dragged the creature into the airlock and the two gave a curt salute before firing the creature out of the Cargo Bay airlock and into the cold, dark, abyssal black of space.
Later, as Erin sat back at the controls of the Jackdaw, Brandyjack entered taking a tall drink from his flask as Erin turned to him,
“You know, I was thinking too – who knows if the Billycrubs are even the good guys? Maybe we actually helped the good guys win the war against the evil Billycrubs!” She said with a bit of a spark in her voice.
“Absolutely!” Brandyjack said, “I’ve never met a Billycrub I liked, so it stands to reason!”
With a smile Erin stood up, “I’ve set it on autopilot so it should be good for a bit, I…. I need to use the restroom,” she said with a sort of expectant voice.
“Enjoy,” Brandyjack said without turning his head.
Slowly Erin began to leave the helm before Brandyjack piped up again, “…and this time don’t forget to flush.” Erin rolled her eyes and headed to the lavatory.
Brandyjack smiled as he sat in the co-pilots seat staring at the stars which passed by and took a long, deep swig from his flask, wondering which one of the bright dots was closest to home.