After a solidly good sleep, Elisa wakes relatively early the next morning. Not knowing yet if she is expected or permitted to share in the kitchen and its supplies, she feeds herself and Goliath from her own stores, then emerges from her room with the dog at her side. The two enter the cargo area, which, she hopes, will be somewhat quiet for a little while. Because Elisa is a stranger here, not even having met all the crew yet, and also deeply troubled by what has happened to Matt, she copes by defaulting to the things she knows best– her work and her remaining partner. Thus, anyone happening through the area will see Elisa training with Goliath, the pair working together sometimes soundlessly as she takes him through the rigors of obeying hand-signals as well as verbal commands. Elisa is favoring her wounded leg pretty heavily, and her face, which until now has been focused and intent even in her grief, is more openly sad, though her voice and movements remain disciplined and controlled.
Nicolas can be seen digging around in the deep corners of the ship, easier now that there is so much less in it. After about half an hour, he appears in the kitchen with Lucky, who looks pretty spooked. He feeds his bedraggled cat and simply shrugs when Lucky tears off after a bark echoes from down the corridor. Nicolas follows the noise out onto the overhanging catwalk and leans over, watching.
During a lull in the action, when Goliath is being given a reward, he asks, "I bet it takes all sorts of practice to get him to do all that."
Elisa jumps a little, startled, at his voice.
“Good morning, captain. I hope I didn’t wake anyone. It’s not easy to keep him quiet sometimes and I hope you don’t mind my training him in here, but it was a nice open place where it seemed we couldn’t hurt too much. And you’re right – it takes years of practice to get a dog to do anything like this, and even then, if you don’t start with them as a puppy, and if they aren’t already pretty smart, they may not learn much. Here, watch.”
Elisa snaps her fingers once and Goliath’s ears flick back, his whole body tensing. She raises a hand over her head, crooking her fingers into a particular signal. Goliath crouches in response, snarling audibly as he prepares to spring for her throat.
“Goliath is the smartest of the dogs I’ve ever trained,” Elisa says calmly, seemingly unaware of the menacing canine trembling in vicious anticipation mere feet away. “He’s saved my life more than once, and the lives of others, too. And he’s scared the pants off a few bad guys from time to time. I think you can see why.”
All at once, she drops her hand in a cutting motion and Goliath leaps forward, growling. There is a heartbeat where the dog hangs in the air, inches from Elisa, his wicked teeth fully bared. Then he lands, having jumped very slightly to the side of her, and begins attacking a nondescript black rubbery thing on the floor behind her as though it needed to be killed but good. After a few moments, Elisa calls him off and rewards him again. Goliath’s tail thumps happily, and he bumps her leg affectionately with his head as he takes the reward and settles down nearby to enjoy it. Elisa rubs her leg, wincing a little.
“Smart as he is, he can never figure out which of my legs to leave alone. Or maybe he knows and does it anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised. I think sometimes it’s his way of being funny.”
Goliath, gnawing happily on a chunk of something, looks up at last and sees the captain above. His tail thumps once more before he goes back to his treat.
Elisa smiles. It’s a pretty good smile, just a little brittle, but there’s still strain evident in her face.
“Well, captain, I think Goliath likes you. Either that or he’s going to eat you for breakfast.”
"Well, that would probably be a relief to Lucky. He seems to think that Goliath is here to eat him up real good and if he saw him eat me, well, he might be to full to fit Lucky in."
At Elisa's inevitable blank and questioning look, he says, "Oh, he's the cat. Lucky is the luckiest cat alive and we're well, um, lucky to have him on board." He says under his breath, "Too many luckys"
At this point, it becomes apparent to Elisa, someone used to reading people, that the captain is really nervous for some reason. Not the kind of response that you'd see from someone afraid of the dog or wanting to impress a new guest, but something deeper. He hides it well; it looks like he probably always hides it in some form. But something that's going on is bringing to the surface a worry that looks like it has well worn grooves in Nicolas's mind. He smiles after a moment lost in thought, and his expression mirrors Elisa's.
Elisa searches his face for a moment, then tips her head to one side, exactly the way a dog does when it's thinking. Her own face clouds over.
"Captain, you seem a little troubled. I hope Goliath doesn't...well, not everybody takes to large dogs. I hope he doesn't bother you, or anyone on your crew. Or, maybe..." She trails off uncertainly. Then, closing her eyes, Elisa sighs. She begins ascending the steps to meet the captain on his level, but it's a slow climb, so she goes back to talking while pulling herself along. Her face quirks now and again as she puts weight on her bad (and now re-injured) leg.
"Or, well, maybe it's something else. If you can give me a moment, there's something I need to say. Captain, I'm so sorry for what happened last night. If I had known that you and your crew would be in danger because of me, I wouldn't have kept that meeting. I know we couldn't have anticipated what a few hired jerks would do, but still. They were aiming for me, and I'll tell you the truth - if it had been just Matt and Goliath and I, we probably wouldn't have made it out."
Her face closes at the mention of her nephew, and Elisa takes a moment on a step to fiddle with the bandages on her leg. When she resumes climbing and talking, her eyes, once again meeting the captain's, show traces of wetness.
"I owe you all my life, but I can't undo that your doctor got hurt because of me. And I'm sorry. I never meant to endanger any of you. It's just," she shrugs a little, "when you live your life protecting the people who have never harmed a soul, you make a few enemies. I sort of take it for granted that now and again somebody will be less than pleased to see me. But I let my guard down this time, and your people paid for it. And could have paid a lot worse."
Finally reaching the landing where the captain is standing, Elisa pulls herself up to her full height, which is still not too impressive given that she's built somewhat smaller than average.
"So here's what I'm trying to say. If you're reconsidering having me on your ship given what I got your crew into, I won't hold it against you. I can't promise something like this won't happen again, you know. And I don't mean to bring more trouble down on you, but I can't help that it may happen if I stay aboard. If you want to take back the offer to let me fly with you, please just say so and drop me wherever you like. I understand completely if that's what you're wanting to do."
Elisa swallows, a sudden nervousness in her. Goliath, evidently aware of his person's distress, picks up his treat and trots up the steps to sit by her feet. She smiles at him fondly, then looks back at the captain.
"But if you're willing to keep me on, I'd really like to stay."
Nicolas has a pretty inscrutable look on his face while Elisa speaks. When she's finished, he looks a little agape with quizzical astonishment.
"Ma'am, I do believe that you may be the first person I ever had on my ship who apologized for the trouble what followed them on it. If you think that there is anything unusual about a gunfight to welcome a new passenger, you got a lot to learn about this whole spacin' thing." He lets out one bark of laughter and then he looks a little sad. "I feel that it should be me apologizin' to you. Them what chased us out there may have been after you this time, but they're always after someone on this boat. It's only by our luck that we make it back each time." He gestures to his bandaged body, "We didn't get these defendin' you, and even if we did, it wouldn't get me to kick you by the wayside. Ain't how things work on Black Cat."
He goes on a little bit more quietly, "No one's gonna ask you to leave if you want to help us see this through. But I ain't gonna lie. I feel like we ain't seen the worst of it yet and what we seen is worse than every bad thing I ever heard of wrapped up together. I just hope you know what y'all are getting into, cause I wouldn't wish it on no one."
"That's just why I have to be here," Elisa replies firmly. There's a sound in her voice, husky and deep, like caverns deep below the surface. Her eyes are bright and her whole body tenses as she clenches her hands. "I can't stand by and let other people get hurt, not when I could have done something to stop it. I just can't. And maybe I can't stop it either, maybe I can't do anything at all about it. But I have to try."
Elisa takes a breath and leans against the railing.
"There's darkness out there, captain. And people get lost in it. I can't move the Verse, even if I get out and push. But if I can help a few people find their way out of that darkness, then that's something. I've spent a long time doing just that. Being a detective isn't just about catching criminals and tracking down information. It's about finding the lost people, from children who wander too far from a settlement to..."
Elisa stops, and she swallows hard. Then she looks up at the captain, reading him carefully. She seems to make a decision and continues speaking.
"My brother flew in the war. And he never came home. It took me years, but I finally found out what happened to him, which fight he never came back from. I couldn't fix it, couldn't unmake the battle that had killed him, but I did find him. He isn't lost now, even if he's gone. That's what I do, captain."
Although not quite sure she knew she was going to do it, Elisa pushes herself off the railing and faces the captain squarely, placing a hand on his arm.
"People are lost, and people are hurting out there. And nobody even knows about it except us and those who are responsible. I can't take what I know and do nothing. I can't leave those people, innocent people, brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and fathers and mothers in the dark like that." She smiles sadly. "I know the risks. I can see what this has done to you, what it did to Hector, what it already almost did to me. But that's not a good enough reason to stop. Because if it's happening here, it's happening to someone else somewhere who doesn't get to choose whether or not they face it. I don't know what we're getting into, not really. I've seen the pictures, but it isn't the same. I've bled, and I've lost," and her her voice catches and her eyes look away for a moment, "but I still don't know how bad it will get. But it doesn't matter. This was Hector's last case. It may well be mine. I know that."
There's a momentary tremble in the hand that's resting still on the captain's arm, and Elisa pulls it away as if to hide the reaction.
"But it doesn't matter," she repeats. "Because however bad it gets for us, it's probably already been ten times worse for someone else. People were hurt, tortured from what I've seen, and killed. Lives destroyed. If it takes me laying mine beside them to get them some justice and protect the next ones from that fate, then that's what I've got to do. I don't want it, of course, but I know it's possible."
Then she tips her head at the captain again.
"So tell me, captain. If it's so bad, why are you still pursuing it? I know why I am, but what about you? What keeps you from turning around and telling me to find another ship, another crew?"
The Captain appears to think about it. Hard. After a minute or so, he says, "I don't know... for sure. See, this situation we're in, it doesn't really work like the rest we been in. Before, we been in all sorts'a scrapes, but only cause we took a dangerous job what went south, or somebody's past came back to bite them. Ain't nothin' what could be done about it. This Dionysus Project... it's different. Sure, we was gettin' paid for trackin' down info. But we all made a choice this time, not to leave it be. Fact is, everyone we run into said to leave it be. The Alliance got several folk to come down hard on us to make sure we don't follow through. But, we won't let it be. I got reasons, but none what could explain why I'm puttin' this crew through all this. Nothin' that could explain why we're chasin' this hell. 'Cept we just decided that it weren't right. Maybe I 'll get the award for biggest fool captain what ever left port, but damned if I'm gonna let 'em get away with this."
Elisa smiles a little, and there’s something in her face that doesn’t look quite so brittle now.
“We have much the same reasoning, then. But I don’t think that makes you a fool, captain. I think that makes you a very good man.”
Goliath, his treat long gone, wags his tail again. Elisa reaches down, and the huge dog immediately sits up tall enough that her hand can reach his ears. The change in both their faces when she makes contact is obvious. Goliath looks content in that way dogs do when they are completely secure in their pack and their place, wholly satisfied with his person’s affection and safety. But Elisa loses the brittleness almost entirely, and the tension in her eyes melts a little as she unconsciously smiles a bit more widely.
“You are a good man, captain,” she repeats. “Both for choosing this path because you believe it is the right thing to do, and for worrying about your crew as you pursue it. But if what you say is true, how much you’ve gone through for each other so far, then maybe you can take some comfort in that. You and your crew have apparently survived more than a few scrapes already. I’m sure you’ll manage again. I'll even try to help.” She laughs ruefully for a moment.
She pauses looks inquiringly at the captain, then continues, “Is something more on your mind? Forgive me for being bold, but you seem a bit nervous; that's why I asked if you were sorry you took me on. Is it what you might be facing that's worrying you, captain, or something else? Perhaps something I can help with? Seems the least I can do.”