ultracosmicrays: (ray/ray just another day)
[personal profile] ultracosmicrays
Cosmic!Rays AU, Part 17

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16




Ray woke to find himself sprawled across Kowalski's supine body, arm encircling Kowalski's chest as Kowalski's encircled Ray's shoulders. He had none of that 'Where am I? Who am I?' disorientation to ease his passage into wakefulness, he was immediately fully alert with complete recall of the previous night. Head resting in the crook of Kowalski's neck, Ray's heart sped up a little at the memory of telling the Zuko tale. He didn't know what reaction he had been expecting but it wasn't the kindness Kowalski had shown. This guy – the hopeless newbie guy Ray had given six weeks – this guy was turning out to be something else.

I should wake him, thought Ray. Kowalski had filled him in on their findings at some point before they had fallen asleep and they needed to get going. He reached up and tugged at Kowalski's hair and found his wrist grasped firmly and his hand returned to its previous position.

"Fi' more mi'u," mumbled Kowalski who was more awake than Ray had assumed.

Ray thought about complying but at some point this would stop being two guys sharing a too small bed who had ended up tangled up together and start becoming two guys sharing a small bed who had ended up tangled up together and that way perdition lay. He rolled back a little, drew up his knees and shoved.

There was a creak and a thud and then Kowalski's outraged face popped up over the side of the bed from his new, floor-based position.

"In what passes for your mind, how did kicking me out of bed become the action of choice?"

Ray stretched and grinned.

"Woke you up, didn't it?"

"Cup of coffee? Breakfast in bed? Gentle music playing in the air? Any of this ring a bell?" Kowalski stood up and brushed himself down. "Jeez, Vecchio, if this is how you treat your dates I'm not surprised you never get any. Where's the class?"

"First off, you're not my date. Second off, how do you know what I get? Third off, I have more class in my pinky than you have in your entire body. I'm just choosy who I spend it on," Ray shot back, climbing out of bed. "Now come on, sugar plum, shake that cute little tush of yours, we've got to get to work."

"Oh, nice," said Kowalski, opening the door. "Very nice. Sexual harassment in the work place. I'm calling a meeting."

"Let me know how that goes. Oh, and here," Ray swept up Kowalski's clothes and shoved them in his arms. "You might want these for your one stride of pride."

"Walk of shame," Kowalski tossed back as he opened his own door.

"You keep telling yourself that, Kowalski. You keep telling yourself that."

Ray closed his door and leaned against it. This day he was not looking forward to, but the gloomy prospect of confronting Zuko failed to kill the buzz he got from sparking against Kowalski. He shook his head and smiled. There would be time enough to think about what that meant.

*

"We should inform local law enforcement," said Kowalski, clipping a magazine into his gun and sighting along it. "They can pick Zuko up for us; you won't have to go near the bastard."

Ray checked the charge level on the power pack for his ionizer pistol. One hundred percent, good to go.

"No. No telling anyone. Zuko will have people everywhere; all you need to buy an LE officer is a nice holiday in Callisto and a note in his locker telling him you know where his kids go to school. We wanna get the drop on him we go in quiet."

Kowalski threw Ray a glance. He shoved another magazine in his inside jacket pocket. They were dressed casual to avoid detection but Ray found it hard to believe Kowalski could walk ten foot from the ship without being noticed. He wore a faded and slightly too tight grey t-shirt under a fitted cloth jacket that was all pockets and a pair of heavy-duty khaki pants that should have been too loose but somehow clung to his ass in a way that was quite ... distracting. Add to that the sunglasses that hung on a rope around his neck, the customary red-blond spikes and a mouth that said 'please', Kowalski was quite the sight for, hell, for anyone with a pulse.

"You're the boss, boss."

Ray grunted and tried to concentrate.

Docking was uneventful. Ian slid them into one of the bays kept open for official business. The necessary clearances were made and then Frannie and Ian stood at the top of the ramp, seeing the Rays off.

"You sure you know what you have to do?" Ray asked his sister, gripping her arms.

She rolled her eyes.

"Yes! We take the poor boys to the Contingency CourtShip and hand them over for Processing."

"They know you're coming, they're expecting you?"

"You know this. Ian called them."

Ray looked at Ian.

"I called them. I swear. On my mother's grave. Only she's not dead so I'd have to swear on her potential grave and then I don't know if that carries as much weight so I'd have to-"

"Ian!"

"Sorry."

"And what must you not do, Francesca?"

Frannie's arms came up between Ray's, pushing them off her. She stuck her hands in the pockets of her overalls.

"I must not enter the cabins of the prisoners without my super strong escort here because the poor children are only tied up and could easily overwhelm pathetic, feeble me."

"Correct," said Ray. "I'm only looking out for you, you know."

Frannie's expression softened.

"I know. Be careful, yes?"

Ray nodded.

"Pitter patter," said Kowalski. "Time and some shit wait for no man."

"Okay." Ray clapped Kowalski on the shoulder and started to walk down the ramp. He looked back. "Ian, if anything happens to Frannie you are going to be the sole focus of my blame and that is a place that you don't want to be. Got it?"

"Got it."

Ray turned back again, squinted at the sunlight, reached into his pocket and retrieved a pair of sunglasses. Putting them on, he walked out into the Port.

*

Ray kept close to Kowalski as they dodged through the crowds of people. Sauntering delivery guys; freight unloaders hanging around in groups, picking their noses while they waited for orders; families sundered and remade as passengers hurried to and from their ships; hustlers yelling, bargaining, selling their goods, their mothers, their souls; self-important businessmen thinking they could clear a path by sheer force of being there. This was a port, alright. The air hung heavy with the scent of food so fast it would rush away before you could catch it, the sharp smell of sweat and honest work, the delicate, interwoven odors of a hundred different spices from all over the System brought here to sell at extortionate prices to people that pretended they knew better. The place hummed and throbbed, crawling with life.

The SOL shone steady in the sky and Ray could see it glinting off the silver City-Rides off in the distance. He pulled at Kowalski's elbow.

"This way."

They changed direction and a huge, black man barreled into Kowalski's side, sending him sprawling against Ray who staggered back in turn, hands automatically grabbing Kowalski to steady him. The man reached down, broad hands pulling Kowalski's jacket, setting him back on his feet.

"So sorry, man, so sorry," he grinned, showing perfect, white teeth. He turned away and began to run again, waving and yelling at the top of his lungs.

"Marisa! Marisa!"

Ray watched as a slight woman with her hair in neat corn rows spotted Kowalski's would-be assailant and stopped dead, arms outstretched. In just a second the man had covered the ground between them and had lifted her up in his arms, laughing as she clung around his neck and kissing every available piece of skin that he could reach. Ray felt a momentary stab of envy. It all seemed so simple.

"Vecchio, come on. We don't have time to be perving on strangers."

Kowalski gave him a shove. Ray shook his head to clear it. He was back in the game.

They reached the City-Rides without further incident, if you chose to ignore the peddler who spat on Kowalski's feet when he'd insulted the 'magical sickness bracelets' the guy was selling. Ray chose to ignore it. He tapped on the door button of the vehicle. It slid open with a gentle shush, three steps unfolding in a smooth motion down to ground level.

"After you," said Ray and ushered Kowalski on.

He followed Kowalski up the steps and into the sleek capsule. The front section beyond the door was separated from the rest of the vehicle by a sheet of glass. There was one seat behind it and a window providing a panoramic view beyond that. The rear section had bench seating along both sides and curving around the back wall. The pattern was mirrored by the windows that stretched continuously around the capsule.

"Where's the driver of this thing?" asked Kowalski.

The glass flickered and then, on the seat behind it, Ray could see a woman dressed in a neat black uniform, neat black hair neatly parted.

"Neat," said Ray. "Who are you?"

"My name is Chen, please state your destination."

"Firrenz. Main Street will do."

"May I advise you on another destination, sir?"

"No, you may not. Firrenz. Main Street."

"Oh, but, sir, Nuorlayon holds many delights. We have museums and parks, beautiful architecture and great theatres. Unfortunately none of these delights are in Firrenz."

"We're not paying you to be our travel guide, you, you-" The woman appeared to phase in and out. Kowalski knocked on the glass and she steadied again. "You hologram."

"To be perfectly accurate, sir, you have not as yet completed payment. I am sorry if I have offended you. I am programmed to provide interesting and useful advice to travelers as well as pointing out points of local interest as we pass." Chen gestured woodenly towards her window. "I can turn off the relevant subsection of my programming if you prefer."

"Nah, don't bother on my account," said Kowalski, slouching off and slumping on one of the benches leaving Ray to deal with payment.

"Firrenz, Main Street," he repeated as he pressed his thumb against the screen to the right of the glass.

"Thank you, sir. Your payment has been accepted. Please be advised that the journey will be commencing shortly. Passengers are requested to remain seated at all times."

"You're a real snappy talker, Chen. You know that?"

Ray went to sit across the aisle from Kowalski. The door had started to close when a man put his hand out to stop it, holding it open for what Ray assumed was his family. There were three children, all equally tow-headed, decreasing in height, followed by a woman, built for comfort not for speed, who puffed onto the Ride, baby tucked under one arm, bag tucked under another. Last on came the man, an affable looking guy, bearded and balding, bending under the weight of what Ray thought must surely be all their worldly goods.

Kowalski leapt up to help the woman get seated whilst her husband dealt with the baggage and with Chen who appeared delighted to have passengers that wished to partake of Nuorlayon's many delights. One of the tow-headed children came to stand next to Ray, staring up at him in that frank, appraising way that kids always seemed to have. The smallest one clung to his leg.

"Oh, I'm sorry," said the woman, settling herself and the baby who cooed and smiled. The familiar pain twisted in Ray's gut. "Shlomo, stop staring at the nice man. Carta, please leave his leg alone and come over here."

Kowalski dropped onto the seat next to Ray. He looked at Shlomo.

"You know, kid," he jerked his thumb towards Ray. "He could be a nice man like your momma said, or he could not. You wanna take that risk?"

Not taking his eyes off Kowalski, the boy grabbed his little sister and pulled her off Ray's leg.

"Come on, Carta," he said. "Mom wants us." He backed away until he bumped into his mom's legs.

Kowalski grinned. Ray took off his sunglasses and stowed them in his pocket.

"I am a nice man," he said to Kowalski.

"That's what they all say," said Kowalski, winking at Shlomo who buried his face in his mom's skirt.

The City-Ride started to move and Ray watched the family get themselves settled with admonishments to keep all feet off the seats and to sit on your bottoms please you are not heathens. Just like Ma, Ray thought.

They passed through the Port gates and out onto the main route into the city. There wasn't much to look at at first, scrub land and the odd rusted heap of metal, unloved carcasses of machines long past their useful life. Chen was quiet. Ray wondered if this was because the guy had requested she shut off her programming or if she couldn't think of anything interesting to say about this particular part of the journey. He didn't blame her. Ray's insides started to churn. He wished he could blame it on a bumpy ride but the City-Ride wasn't even touching the ground.

Ramshackle dwellings began to appear by the side of the track with faded signs offering fresh food for sale. Lean-tos propped up by the house or vice versa, the odd table and chair outside, a wilted flower in a vase to try to make it look inviting.

"Where are you guys going?" Ray asked the father, trying not to look at the mother who was happily breast-feeding the baby.

"I have a conference in the Central Contingency Offices. I thought I'd bring the family along for a holiday."

Ray felt a nudge from Kowalski. Yeah, he knew. This guy would probably have been blown to smithereens if they hadn't stopped the kids. Could still be if they didn't do their job right. Four kids, no father. That wasn't right.

"I'd skip the conference," he said. "They're all the same. Increase productivity, decrease cost."

The father smiled his agreement.

"Take those gorgeous kids of yours out instead. Much better way to spend your time."

"You know I might just do that." The man ruffled the hair of the middle child who was pressed up against his side. "How about you two? Where are you headed?"

"Firrenz," said Ray.

The man's eyes widened.

"Really?"

"Business," confirmed Kowalski.

The man and his wife exchanged furtive, worried glances that Ray pretended to ignore. He looked out of the window. The houses were multiplying now, the gaps between them shrinking to dark, narrow alleyways. The place had a grubby, uncared for look about it. There were boarded up windows, peeling paint, shutters hanging off at crazy angles. Here and there a property had been given a new lick of paint and they stood out like beacons. There were a few people on the streets, none of them seemed to be going anywhere with any sense of purpose.

"Nice place," said Kowalski.

The City-Ride slowed to a stop. The door opened.

"Firrenz," announced Chen. "We have arrived at Firrenz, Main Street. If you're sure."

Ray stood and scowled. He had no choice. He had to be ready for this. Only he wasn't sure he was.

"Yes, we're sure."

He nodded a goodbye to the family as he made to get out but neither of the parents would meet his eyes, the man wrapping an arm around his wife and pulling her in tighter.

"What's with them?" asked Kowalski as the City-Ride pulled away.

"They don't like where we are."

"And where are we?"

"Here."

"Not helpful."

Ray started walking, fast. Kowalski strode beside him.

"What are we doing?"

"Getting off Main Street."

"Why?"

"I want to work out where we're going without people looking and thinking 'Oh, there's a guy who doesn't know where he's going. Let's mug him.'"

"Let 'em try. We're packing."

"Yes," said Ray, taking Kowalski's elbow and steering him around a corner. "Because that's how we're going to stay inconspicuous, by pulling a gun on an unsuspecting mugger. Good plan."

He stopped and leaned against the wall pulling out a PocketSlab. He keyed in a few details and a map appeared on the screen. Kowalski leaned in next to him to get a good look.

"So we're here." Kowalski pointed to a circle on the map. "And we want to be here." He pointed to a square. "Easy. Left, right, left, left, right. Sing a little song, do a little dance." He shuffled his feet. "We're as good as there. Come on."

He moved off but Ray pulled him back.

"I'm going in on my own."

"No, you are not."

"I'm going in on my own, Kowalski. I can bring him in, I know I can. But I gotta do it on my own. Understand?"

Kowalski twisted away from Ray, took a couple of steps away from him, turned on his heel back again, opened his mouth, closed it, ran his fingers through his hair then kicked the wall.

"Yeah," he said.

Kowalski got it. Ray was grateful. He showed it the only way he knew how.

"Asshole."

Ten minutes later they'd sung Kowalski's little song, danced his little dance and were standing on the edge of a dusty road, across the street from a bar, watching a painted sign of a stylized fox swing in the slight breeze. The bottom dropped out of Ray's stomach. They had arrived.






Part 18

(no subject)

Date: 2007-08-22 12:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slidellra.livejournal.com
This is amazing. You are amazing. Gripping, nice flow, rich detail, great relationship between the Rays, simmering hotness...It's got it all. YAY!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-08-22 10:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ultracosmicrays.livejournal.com
Thank you! It was your all powerful kicking that got the last section written so Yay! for you. I have bruises up my Cosmic!Rays this morning. It hurts to sit down. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2007-08-22 12:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thehousekeeper.livejournal.com
I had to. I should be practicing, but I had to read, and I'm so glad I did. But! Cliffhanger. Not. Cool.

I adore this, and I loved the last section SO much. Aw, Vecchio. *snuggles him*

(no subject)

Date: 2007-08-22 10:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ultracosmicrays.livejournal.com
Oh noes! I made you not practise. What will R think?! /is provocative.

I am so glad you loved the last section - it had me flummoxed for a while there.

And cliffhangers ARE cool, they mean you'll have to skip a bit of practice later to see what happened next. \o/ I am in ur laptop, screwing with ur priorities!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-08-22 06:01 am (UTC)
ext_12745: (Default)
From: [identity profile] lamentables.livejournal.com
I particularly like the port description. And how you've made the descriptive passages fit the style of the banter.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-08-22 10:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ultracosmicrays.livejournal.com
Oh, thank you! I'm so glad. I was really unsure about whether I could pull the description off. I think I spend too much time worrying about how well other people do it instead of just getting on and doing the best I can.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-08-22 10:41 am (UTC)
ext_12745: (Default)
From: [identity profile] lamentables.livejournal.com
I thought you'd set yourself a really tough challenge there. The style of this thing is not lyrical because you've captured the very different music of the Ray-style banter and I think that's very hard to redirect towards description. It would have been easy to end up with two different voices, I think.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-08-22 11:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ultracosmicrays.livejournal.com
Yes! Absolutely. And that's why I was in a major panic over it. I desperately wanted to give the reader some visuals, a real sense of what the Rays were seeing, feeling, smelling etc. but without it seeming like a completely different story. I can't tell you how happy it makes me that you think it all holds together. *beams*

(no subject)

Date: 2007-11-24 10:12 am (UTC)
ext_10634: (xmas | rayk)
From: [identity profile] snoopypez.livejournal.com
I heart the banter in the first scene. And that City-Ride sounds COOL. Heh. Cute family, too. :)

Kowalski got it. Ray was grateful. He showed it the only way he knew how.

"Asshole."


AWWWWWW. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2007-11-24 12:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ultracosmicrays.livejournal.com
Thank you! And wouldn't it be cool to have City-Rides for public transport. I don't think I'd ever get back in my car again.

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