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Improvised Anger (Management) Therapy

Posted on Tue Mar 9th, 2021 @ 11:34pm by Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: Ring's Of Gold & Palladium
Location: The Ice Vein
Timeline: The night after 'A line under it all'

Space is a vacuum. There's a lot of nothingness between the little balls of something. Even in busy orbital system like Saturn it was mostly empty. That's pretty much how Ken felt. The news he had received a few nights earlier had cracked his proverbial keel. But the fact that his crew was around him, and of course the passengers, meant that he couldn't let the crack break through. The last year had been rough on Ken. The loss of Soto, Allegra departing, the ship taking a pounding, their financial problems, inadvertent human trafficking, and finally the news his parents had both passed.

When they had arrived the only thing Ken wanted to do was crawl into a bottle. To disappear from the radar like sailors are prone to do. But there was work to do still, so another patch of discipline was applied to the crack. He had agreed to have Delphi join the crew, he had even agreed to have Emma join up. He had done his duty as XO, his duty as co-owner of the ship. Now it was time for him to stop remembering his name, to dull the pain with copious amounts of alcohol.

The Ice Vein sat near the heart of Rhea. It was a proper Belter bar. The Coriolis was so bar that one had to pour beside the glass to get anything in it. Ken's inner ear had given up the battle around ten shots ago and simply informed that something was off but to not worry too much on it as long as he stayed seated. So that is what he did, even going as far as leaning on it. As he did the shoulders of his shirt rode up, revealing his UNMC tattoo. He normally tried to keep it under cover when not in an Earther port.

"Keting's wa tumang koyo doing ere wa pelésh lik xidawang?" One of a small posse of hard-looking Belters asked, using his hands to communicate his dislike of the Earther in a very empathic manner. "Wanya fo ge killed, pampaw?" the second asked.

"Just looking to get drunk, so kindly fuck off." Ken replied, answering the Belter patois with thick Irish brogue. Ken turned to his shot, slugging the almost green fungal whiskey. As he did, his entire tattoo showed, revealing the SOF7 crest.

"Pinché maliwala ubicha!" The first tough shouted and swung a suckerpunch at Ken. The former marine didn't see it as he was trying to get another shot. The blow threw Ken off the chair and on the ground. The fall could have been much worse if there wasn't so little gravity. Ken still grunted as his head bounced off the tough industrial carpet. He rose slowly, the alcohol in his blood setting it aflame.

A quick scuffle followed, four against one. Even as drunk as Ken was, he put up a good fight. When the bouncers finally intervened they put Ken in a chokehold and dragged him to the doors. Three of the four Belter toughs were groaning in pain as a fourth called Ken a variety of things under the sun as he spat out broken teeth.

Old fashioned detective work embellished with the always popular bribery and Wulf had followed a trail than he suspected he was going to regret. Maybe, he'd told himself, maybe Ken was fine. Maybe he was meeting some paid lady of the night. Maybe some clandestine drinking session with an old friend. Or maybe his buddy was simply seeking out the crappiest, filthiest, hardest as nails (did that even work?) pub on Wulf's second favourite Saturnian moon. Maybe he didn't want to be found tonight.

Thing was, in the tech's mind there was a nagging doubt. And that doubt was mixed with a healthy dose of guilt, some concern over what might be considered neglect, and then sprinkled with a heavy dose of curiosity. Then everything but genuine concern vanished in a rush when Wulf's last source of the night provided the name of a particular drinking establishment. Hell, the tech had sprinted the last half mile, dropped into his finest Belter Croele and sworn just exactly as much he needed to get this far in one piece.

And there he was, Mickey's gods be cursed and coddled. Ken McTigue, pride of the United Nations Marine Corps. Being hurled out of a bar as softly as Rhea's gravity would allow and left there in a crumpled pile of rags and limbs on the stone-cold ground.

"Ken?" Wulf's voice dripped with worry as he skidded the last few feet to kneel down beside the battered and bloody Marine and check for a pulse. "Dude, you trying to die?!"

"I'm trying to drown." Ken slurred through his broken lips. He slowly crawled up to his knees. "It's not dying until you stop drowning." He half-fell, half slumped on his ass to look up at Wulf. "How you find me?"

"Fuck that," Wulf returned eloquently. "Not tonight," he continued, steeling his tone but unable to entirely lose the slight wobble of concern. The tech scooched around to grab what was left of Ken's shirt and unceremoniously started to try and drag him out of the higher traffic area. "C'mon," Wulf ordered, keeping his voice low and his gaze on the world around them. "You can't drown here. Not safe. Move k. Move out the road and I'll tell ya."

The tugging on his shirt made Ken focus enough to realise Wulf was trying to tell him something. He grunted as he shifted, getting his feet under him unstably. "Nowhere is safe." Ken mumbled, "But fine, I'll just sit over there." Ken half-gestured, half-flailed his arm towards a public bench.

"Sure," agreed the tech simply. Working in tandem with the Tross' engineer's random motion, Wulf ducked from side to side until he could get his arm underneath Ken's in useful support. The drunken weight of his buddy weighing him down as Ken lurched and stumbled was significantly awkward, but Wulf had enough hours racked up in the gym to handle the task well enough. As they both fell backwards onto the plastic moulded bench, he exhaled with relief and took a longer visual appraisal of his friend.

"Dude," Wulf said, all of him wrapped in sadness from his expression to his tone of voice. "They really did a number on ya. What happened?" He pulled a bottle of water from his jacket pocket and pushed it into Ken's hands. "Here, drink of some of this."

Ken slumped slightly on the bench, getting an approximation of comfortable and accepted the bottle. He promptly drained it of its content before setting it down between the two of them. "They found the fact that I used to be UNMC objectionable, and expressed it rather physically."

Wulf shook his head in educated disbelief, but breathed a sigh of minor relief as the water went down. "I can see that," he noted. "But you were in one of the hardcore Belter bars on purpose, weren't ya?" He'd begun to sense a pattern, over the last two years. "Whatcha atoning for this time?" Wulf asked outright.

"Got no sins on my soul. At least no new ones." Ken grumbled as he eyed the empty bottle and licked his lips. "Just got some bad news I had to work through. Figured drinking where nobody knew me was a better idea."

Another bottle of water materialised from the tech's jacket. "Here," Wulf told his friend. "I'd have brought some painkillers with me if I'd known you were this bad..." He muttered, then picked up on the actual words Ken was speaking. "Bad news?" Wulf's frown darkened considerably, and he turned sideways and shuffled closer along the seating to regard the engineer then risked wrapping an arm behind Ken's shoulders in support. "Why didn't you say? Why'd you want to be on your own, dude?" He sounded a little hurt about that, but definitely more worried about Ken than himself.

As quickly as the water appeared, as quickly Ken made it disappear. Getting his ass kicked always did make Ken thirsty. "Some things you need to process on your own. And some times you need to get away from it all, away from everybody and their expectations. I just wanted to get drunk and wallow in my sorrow."

Wulf nodded. He could understand that. But projecting his guilt for not having realised his friend was in pain was inevitable. And spending more time with a certain Martian Marine only made him feel more keenly aware of the fact that Ken had seen no choice other than to deal with this on his own. "Sorry man," Wulf apologised, despite the fact Ken had twice now admitted he'd wanted some Alone Time. "I shoulda been there for ya." The comm tech mustered up a wry half-grin. "Whether you wanted the company or not," he added. "So... you wanna talk about it now?" Wulf ventured. "Or you want me to buy you a kebab and then tell me?"

"When we got into port, I got some bad news." Ken said after a long silence. He hadn't moved after emptying the second bottle, just looking at the bottle in his hands. "I don't have a lot of family. At least, blood relations." He sighed. "I was an only child. My mother was an only child too, and my father had a sister. As far as I know, she doesn't have children. She sent me a message a few weeks ago, but with all the shit going on the network didn't find me until we were in range of the Rhean network. Both my parents died a few months ago."

Quietly, Wulf waited. He maintained his awkward side-arm half-cuddle and just listened to Ken breathe, and then he listened to Ken talk. He felt the chill creep up his spinal column unbidden as his buddy unveiled some history that had previously been locked so deeply and securely in that human vault that Wulf had often wondered if Ken had any family at all. Untrue, as it turned out. He'd had family. Parents held in limbo until that written missive had finally caught up to the engineer all the way out here.

Silence persisted as Wulf absorbed everything that Ken had just said. Sorry sucked. It didn't mean anything. But honestly, with news like this, no words were going to make it better. That both increased, and removed any pressure on what the tech could say next, so he just spoke from the heart.

"Aw, dude..." he said on an outward sigh. There was a pause, then. "I don't know if you're done wallowing alone in that sorrow," Wulf continued, gifting his friend's shoulder a firm squeeze with that far hand and lightly punching the man's leg with his other. "And I can't fix that and make it better. But... I'd kinda like to hang out with you anyway. That be okay?"

Ken looked at the bar door, and the angry bouncer that still stared at them from a distance. "On the one hand, I kind of want to get back in there and see if I can go for round two." But Ken sighed, "Something tells me that I'll just disappear in some Pinkwater detention cell instead of on my ass again. Might as well get back to the ship then."

Wulf followed Ken's gaze and sighed heavily. He could understand the need to bury sorrow, if not the irretrievable loss of family members, but he also really wanted Ken in one piece and safely back on the Tross at least for morning. "Maybe we head back real slowly," Wulf suggested, suspecting that slow was gonna be Ken's top-speed given the rough state of the engineer. "And I'll buy us that kebab, huh?"

Slowly, deliberately, perhaps a bit painful, Ken rose to his feet. He did not lose his dignity to grunt or groan, but he also didn't have the spring in his step he might have had 10 years ago. "I could use something greasy, yeah." He agreed as Wulf stood next to him.

Whether Ken liked it or not, Wulf helped him with some close - moral mostly rather than actual physical - support. Ken was quite able to get to his feet, which was in Wulf's eyes no mean feat considering how rough he looked or how alcohol-soaked he smelled.

"I know just the place," Wulf promised. He'd spent time on Rhea, of course, back before he'd left the Saturnian system in his teenage wake. And good kebab places didn't die, they just got resurrected by new owners. If they were really good, no one cleaned the pans or changed the spice mix. And they never, ever, skimped on the garlic sauce. "C'mon, we're going to Pasha's."

 

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