[DioBrando’s post, expanded upon by internetcatchphrase.]
Brando pauses at the doorway and eyes the rookie policecolt they’ve saddled Mithril with. Half-formed plans tumble through his mind, but with an effort of will he banishes them. He always did best when he made things up as he went along. His luck is unreliable, but reliably so. It had been great, now it was horrible, and all he has to do is try and stall things until the next upswing, hopefully before he ends up somewhere no amount of luck can help him escape. Like jail. But Brando knows that luck works best when given more to work with. The wing-cuffs on his back would be especially tricky.
“Hey. Comrade. I left my pipe back at the table.”
Mithril sighs. Brando can feel her magical grip on the chain between the cuffs. “Go get it. Pawning it will probably pay for that table you broke.”
“You’re going to steal from a prisoner?” the rookie said. “But that’s--”
Mithril quells him with a glare. “You make even less than I do, Pick. That table’s coming out of our next month’s pay. Floatwood is expensive. You want to live on hay soup and dried carrots for a few weeks, you go right ahead.”
Pick goes to get the pipe, but he is clearly unhappy.
Brando follows this with interest: despite his wildness earlier, the rookie is a by-the-book fellow. Those were always useful. Brando knows the manual for police conduct better than most of the police. “Mithril, may I have one last smoke on it? To say goodbye. To calm my nerves. You know how I chatter when nervous.” Brando doesn’t look toward Pick, doesn’t bring up certain old secrets. There are rules to their careful dance. Mithril understands.
“I really should just muzzle you.” Mithril said. Pick returns. Mithril sticks the pipe in Brando’s beak, fills it, and ignites it with a flare of her fire magic. Brando tries not to think about puffing on a pipe while wearing a blindfold and leaning against a wall. He fails, but forces his memories to go to the old days, when he had been Mithril’s only friend. Being fireproof, he had been one of the few who had no fear of her clumsy magic. He briefly considers taking her down with him, telling all the secrets that are one of the reasons she had always turned a blind eye to his smuggling. But this isn’t her fault. Zavros wanted to make an example out of someone, Aura needed Zavros's favor.
Brando sighs smoke, wondering how much of the thrust into the table was Mithril's anger towards her superiors and how much at him. She’d fought long and hard to get to her position, and now they just used her as a means to an end, rather than treating her like an officer. He feels the beginning of a plan, though a very long shot. Maybe she finally felt jaded and hard-used enough to switch sides. He has offered before, but before, she had been getting respect as a policemare. She had been sustained by her pride. He studies her face, and is surprised at how guilty he feels at the thought of making her a criminal.
He has always wanted to win her, but…not like this. Not by her breaking. Much as he tries to keep it off his face, he can tell she spots it. But she misunderstands. She thinks he finally feels remorse for his naughty ways. Brando lets it stand, knowing it is another small edge between him and Zavrosi justice. He stops himself in mid-thought and chuckles, shaking his head. ‘This is just getting morose and pathetic, come on Brando, time to think. First the cuffs. New guy probably has duplicate keys right where the manual tells him. Get those if you can, if not, the lockpick hidden in my pipe will have to do. Second, get the jewels out of the Snark.’ Shaking his head again ever so slightly, Brando realizes there isn’t much chance of that. They likely already had his berth surrounded, the Snark chained down. If he got a chance to bolt, he would have to take it. He kept a cache of gold in Neighpon, enough to buy passage across the Eternal Crossing and purchase a new airship. Not much of one, but once he had it, he could work his way back up to prosperity.
Well, he could at least screw around with the newbie. Shake the tree and see what falls out. Maybe get him to make a mistake. But carefully. Mithril wasn’t joking about the muzzle. “So, comrade, what will you buy with your cut?”
“Cut of what?”
Brando weighs the odds of playing innocent to the very end and perversely decides to back the long shot. “There are no gems on my ship, but there are other valuables, owned legally by me. I want to know what your cut will buy you after they mysteriously vanish.”
“I won’t be any part of that.”
Brando takes out his pipe and jabs the stem in Pick’s direction. Replaces it, and lets a long moment pass. Pick’s eyes focus on the pipe and his ears redden. Brando gives him a nod. “Theft is theft, comrade. The only difference is the scale. Why quibble, thief?”
“You shut your beak!” Pick said.
Brando does, outwardly sullen but inwardly poised. ‘Yes,’ he thinks, ‘attack me, comrade. I will not fight back. Instead I will lift your spare keys and make you feel guilty for hitting me. Make Mithril feel guilty too, make her treat me gentler, and maybe give me chances to escape she is not even aware she offers.’
The music cuts off with an amplified scratch of a skidding needle. An amplified shout replaces it, female and outraged. “Hey!” The DJ pegasus yanks off her headset and swoops down to land beside them.
Brando’s mind fills with sulfurous cursing, but at the same time he wonders if this is an opportunity. He might bolt out the door, lose Mithril and Pick in the maze of corridors, pick the manacle locks at his leisure, and vanish. Then they give a jerk, reminding him that Mithril’s magic still has hold of them.
[META: your turn, Red Raider.]