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Sanity Check

Posted on Sun Oct 11th, 2020 @ 1:23pm by Comm Tech Wulf Edevane & Passenger Florian McLennan

Mission: Ticket To Rhea
Location: Albatross - Med Bay
Timeline: Day After C-Shanty (first week after leaving Mars)

Wulf wasn't happy about the stowaway. Having someone break into your home tended to bring up the kind of feelings that were not exactly conducive to spending long periods of time cooped up in the same space as said stuck person. But... well... the Albatross wasn't that big a ship. And Alex needed some downtime, especially now that their home was becoming way more crowded. Besides, whatever sleep cycle he ended up trying to match, the comm tech had a tendency to be up in the early hours of the morning.

This time, he was babysitting Florian. Wulf had worked for a couple of hours on a old, heavily nuked terminal of his own, a terminal long ago stripped right down to the literal bare bones and removed of any hope whatsoever of having connectivity to any system, comm or local network at all. It was, solely and irrevocably, a pocket book sized viewscreen for gaming at this point. Wulf hooked it up with a pair of earphones, triple and quadruply checked it was clean and safe, and now he was handing it to their recovering uninvited guest.

"I put some films on this for you," Wulf said, as he begrudingly handed over the piece of horrendously basic tech. "And tetris."

Florian had been on his second round of prescribed radiation treatment for the day when the medico, whom he'd only just started feeling somewhat comfortable around with, informed him of his need to depart for other duties on the ship. Duties that were not specified further, left for the kid to wonder if everyone on board were some sort of jacks-of-all-trades. Perhaps he could be like them, albeit with significant training requirements and not much of a skillset to show off at all. Again he thought back to being a cook, then perhaps they won't kick him off the ship at their next stop... But having met, or at least seen, all of the crew and how well-fed they appeared to be, he felt less optimistic. Not that any of them were overweight, but certainly not malnourished. Bad news.

And like how his mind had somehow been read, perhaps the fittest-looking of the crew stepped into the medical bay to take over guard, not long after the potentially-licensed doctor left.

He looked up and stared at whatever was being handed to him for a moment, before stretching his free arm out to take it, his other one still somewhat immobilised by the auto-doc. A small hand terminal, an older, clunkier model, but still functional.

"Thanks," he said, almost as a whisper.

Wulf sighed. He frowned. He fidgeted some and then he turned away, ready to leave this monosyllabic individual to play with the entertainment he'd spent a couple hours sanitising and setting up. He walked back towards the medic-bay's entrance, then stopped. Crap... Alex had asked him to look out for their uninvited guest. He couldn't just head off and leave Florian alone.

"No worries," Wulf said, in a tone that implied that, actually, it had taken up some of his valuable time. Time he could have been re-watching some film or levelling up a character in a one of many games. Wulf then sat down, his back to Florian, and took out his own terminal. One headphone went in, the other dangled down to his shoulder, and the tech busied himself in paying only half his attention to the person attached to the autodoc.

The awkward silence between them was perhaps a little too much for Flo, but the kid's next words may have been even more awkward. He couldn't quite tell where the courage to be so blunt came from, but if his fate was sealed and there was no going back, he rather know now than for it to be an awful surprise later on.

"Are they going to kill me?" he asked, as if the man that now shared the room with him wasn't part of 'them'. The little Shiba had offered some reassurance, but he was starting to come around to the idea that the puppy, as comforting as it had been, was likely just an illusion.

Wulf wandered through a series of images on his terminal, choosing music to go with his intended gaming entertainment for his babysitting duties, and lost himself very briefly in that venture. Florian's question made the tech pause, but it took a few more seconds before Wulf turned around to face the kid.

"Huh?" He asked, a confused frown on his face. "Why would you ask that?"

Flo shrugged. "I... dunno. I just have a feeling your... friends aren't too keen on having a freeloader on board."

Ohhh, thought Wulf. Well, that made sense. "They're not," he agreed. "None of us are. We all work for a living." Wulf paused, unwilling to sugarcoat matters for this stranger. "You being here causes us a ton of problems too. You're using up supplies, costing money and you're illegal." He shrugged. "You being dead causes different problems. I don't think anyone wants you dead."

For some reason the word 'illegal' hit Flo a little harder than any of the other reasons spilled out to him as to why he shouldn't be on this ship. At the same time the man's last sentence brought a deep relief.

He paused, his eyes darting off momentarily towards Wulf, seeing him play with the terminal at hand. He realised it was the model he'd wanted for a while. It was only a few months ago when he'd been planning to save some cash to buy himself a new terminal. But that plan, of course, had gone out the window when the Falselight Cutters had tracked him down, and he'd gotten word that they were about to swoop in for the kill.

"Do you think there's... any way that I can make myself less of a problem?" he asked.

Wulf didn't turn around straight away, his attention still on his terminal. Their stowaway was quiet, nervous and shy. Or, the tech considered, that was an act to cultivate sympathy from people who would help the hopeful criminal who'd stolen his ticket off Mars at their expense. "Reverse time?" Wulf suggested as he finished a level on the simple game he'd fired up. Then, as the display paused for the FMV, the tech cast a look in Florian's direction, dark eyes studying the allegedly frightened young man. "I dunno." Wulf shrugged. "Didn't sound like you could do much besides sell drugs and run away?" The words weren't spoken harshly, but they definitely held a certain level of disrespect for such a profession.

Flo frowned, feeling somewhat hurt by the man's assumption, even if it was mostly true. "That's not true," he mumbled quietly, almost inaudibly. "I can cook. Probably a lot better than you can," he added, realising how pathetic he sounded for trying to boast such a skill. For all he knew these people were well-trained engineers, military folk, pilots, scientists. Okay, none of them looked particularly scientific, but he wouldn't rule out the possibility of at least one of them being decently smart.

"Well, I can heat up a pretty mean lasagna," Wulf rallied. He mock frowned as if he had to really think about this. "But since you didn't bring any food with you, I guess we'll still be eating reheated meals from the freezer. Pretty sure we can all do that, Chef Florian." A pause for effect, and he added. "What else you got?"

Flo frowned even more. It was like a frowning match between them.

But the frown was quickly replaced by an expression of worry. He realised he had no other tangible marketable skills. "You're damn right it's Chef Florian!" he raised his voice, almost to a yelp. "I cook real good! I might not have the ingredients right now, but I can help get them."

The kid tried to spin it further. "I can get things. I'm good at procurement. I can get you guys good food, medicines, tech... anything! I'll stock up your inventory nicely at each stop. And I can get it at a good price!" As pathetic as it sounded, Flo was indeed decently skilled at bartering - thanks to a bit of wit and experience learned back on Ceres, but mostly through his charm.

Wulf knew that look. He'd owned it for a while - worry - but now, now he'd been on a crew for just about two years and he felt far safer than he had for a long time. These people knew enough about him to trust him, and his skillset paid his way. He was useful and protected. He hadn't forgotten what the opposite of that was like, but he was definitely loathed to risk what he had. And he knew a liar when he heard one.

"Bollocks," said Wulf. "If you're so awesome at getting all those things how come you ended up in the narcotics business? And failing in that too, apparently." He shook his head in semi-disbelief at this kid's act. "You really think any of us are dumb enough to give you credits to go make purchases on our behalf? Seriously? That's not even a nice try, dude." He was bored though, and curious, so Wulf threw Florian a bone of sorts. "What can you cook, exactly?"

Florian wasn't going to have it with this man's attitude. He had liked the guy earlier, particularly with that generous offer of coffee during the crew meeting, and having gone through lengths to upload a bunch of films into a terminal for his entertainment. But now Wulf was just being a bit of a dick.

The kid harumphed. "Heaps more dishes than your mum's repertoire." He let that sit for a short while before continuing, "Mostly Greek. I learned that from my father... before he turned into an alco. But I can do Italian too. Some Korean, and a bit of Japanese."

With a simple nod, Wulf ignored the mum insult. He could, had he been so inclined, have told this guy that his mum had never cooked a single thing in her entire life, but that would be starting down a way too personal conversational road. As Florian started up talking again, Wulf listened with a little more interest this time. This actually sounded more real.

"Uh-huh," Wulf mused. "So, for real, you can cook then? Seriously?" His expression politely asked Florian not to bullshit him on this one, because food? Food was important.

Florian gave Wulf a weird look. "Yes. I can cook. How many times do I have to say it? Who does the cooking on this ship right now? Can you cook?"

Wulf shrugged off the look with a consumate ease of someone who had zero fear of the man before them. He ignored the first question since he figured he'd already established the reason for asking questions - the lack of trust of anything coming out of Florian's mouth. He answered the third question first. "Of course I can cook," Wulf recoiled briefly back into an expression that suggested this was a dumb thing to ask. "It ain't that hard, and you know how long it takes to get between stops out here? We all have to take turns prepping meals." Granted not extravagant multiple course dinners that would impress the rich and famous, but food nevertheless.

Flo scoffed and was about to reply with an insult of some sort. Perhaps Wulf was a cook, but he doubted the man could cook as well as he could. But then again, his question didn't suggest they were in any sort of competition. It was a simple question, demanding nothing more than a yes or no answer.

"And you're happy the stuff you guys are eating on board so far? If so, and if the rest of your friends are in agreement with you, then maybe I won't be of use to any of you..."

"I'm good, yeah," Wulf said, his tone amicable enough. "And doesn't sound like it," he agreed. "We're a working ship, not a cruise liner, can't afford luxuries like a chef who doesn't do anything but cook." The comm tech considered the battered form before him though, and added, with a much friendlier tone. "That really doesn't mean we'd kill you though."

Flo pretended to wipe a heap of sweat off his forehead. "Well, that's the best news I've heard in a long time," he said, appreciating how this man had become easier to chat with, perhaps even friendly. "Cooking can be my thing on this ship, but I can help out elsewhere too. Wherever you guys need me to be," he added, hoping to not sound like he was begging too hard.

"Doesn't mean we'd keep you on board either," Wulf pointed out, though there was no malice in his tone. "That's not up to me though, I'm just the comm tech. I applied for a job," he added, with a flash of a smile. "And they hired me. That's how this works. Alex - our medic - he applied for a job too. See the pattern here?"

Flo frowned, again. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it..." he said, exasperated. "But from what you've told me, sounds like there's been a job opening for a proper cook for a long time now. I suppose we'll just have to see what your boss says."

"Duuuuude," Wulf said, gently and he rolled his eyes dramatically. "That's not how you get a job. Enjoy the comfy bed and the meds while you can." He nodded towards the hand terminal. "So, whatcha gonna watch first? What sort of films d'ya like?" There had to be a way to get this guy off the chef subject somehow...

Florian shrugged, his lips curling. "Ionno, anything," he said in a half-mumble. "I like sci-fi, I guess. Do you watch old sci-fi? Sometimes I do, and it's weird how they predict what life today will be like, a hundred years ago."

"Anything?" Wulf asked, following his question with a long exhale. "Sci-fi? Not so much." He offered a lopsided smile. "We live on a ship," the tech added as if that explained everything. "I like action films though, sometimes Westerns. And B movie horror," he added with a grin.

"Huh, Westerns," Flo smirked, glancing momentarily away from the terminal Wulf had given him. His eyes darted across to catch a glimpse of the other man, seeing the side of Wulf's face, his hair. He quickly looked away when he thought the other man's line of sight was about to intersect with his.

"Westerns," the kid repeated. "That stuff's old. Like, really old, aren't they? Do you think yourself as a bit of a cowboy? Entering new frontiers, that sorta thing?" he added, almost mockingly, with a dumb chuckle.

Clearly this wasn't the first time Wulf had been mocked for his choice of... well anything and everything really... The tech didn't seem to mind Florian's visual attention, and made no overt reaction to it either way. "Yeah, kinda," Wulf admitted. "But old isn't a bad thing." His face split into a genuine smile as the younger man mocked him, a bright gleam in those dark eyes as he answered. "Dude," Wulf returned, a self-effacing shortened laugh wrapped about his pause. "I've never even seen a real horse, a ghost town or a cactus. I have come across some Stetsons on Mars though, and a lotta people with accents like in those movies."

Flo frowned. "What's... a Stetson?" he asked.

"A cowboy hat, dude," Wulf explained, and showed the other young man a picture on his terminal. "Cool, huh?"

Flo chuckled, a grin widening across his face. The kid leaned a little closer to get a better look. "Maybe you should get one. I reckon it'll look good on you. Finish it off with a Sherpa-collared cowboy jacket and some tall boots. You'll have to learn how to drawl too" He paused, then asked, "Where're you from? You don't sound like... an Inner. I think."

"Maybe," said Wulf, his expression more thoughtful than amused. "But I'm no cowboy," he countered in an attempt at a lazy Texan accent that was passable enough. "One day though, I'd love to give it a go. Ride a horse maybe." A dumb dream, but a dream nonetheless. The tech considered whether to let their unwanted guest a little further into his life and fell quiet for a long couple of minutes before conceding that decision. "Titan," Wulf admitted. "I was born on Titan." He was non-specific as to the details of that upbringing, but if Florian knew anything about the Saturnian moon, he knew that the wealthy were far outnumbered by the workforce who kept the domes operational and comfortable for paying guests.

"It's okay, I've never ridden a horse either. It doesn't look... very safe to me," Flo said. "Hmm, Titan. That's around Saturn, right?" The kid looked up at the wall. "I've never been past the Belt. Haven't been back home, to Earth, for a while now."

He suddenly turned in his chair, shifting his position so he could look at Wulf. "I'm from, uh, Australia. You know where that is, yeah?"

"Safe isn't always the goal," acknowledged the tech. "If you want to have some fun. And yeah, Titan is Saturn's biggest moon." He regarded the younger man for a moment and considered what it would be like to not have been further than the Belt. Maybe, Wulf admitted begrudgingly, more interesting than mostly only being on the other side of it. He let Florian study him, unphased by the shift in the wounded stowaway's attention.

"Somewhere on Earth," Wulf suggested, because he at least remembered continents from his school days. "Right?"

"Yeah, that works," Flo responded, turning back. He picked up the small terminal he'd been given again and tapped on the screen, flicking through the options. None interested him, but of course he wasn't going to admit it to the tech. "Anyway, I should... let you get on with whatever you were watching. Thanks for this, again."

"No problem," Wulf's head was already buried in his own entertainment once more and had been since their stowaway had started studying his own terminal.

Two bowed heads, two faces lit by light from technology, two souls caught in the quiet medbay inside the feisty old ship steadily making progress out away from Mars, through the darkness and burning fuel in the direction of the Saturnian system.



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