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Breakfast Of Champions

Posted on Fri Dec 20th, 2019 @ 7:54pm by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Pilot Allegra Jennings & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Passenger Kol Wescott-Fitzgerald & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: A Shadow On Velvet
Location: SS Albatross, free orbit between Earth & Mars
Timeline: Eros Incident +24 Hours, 9AM Ship Time

Mickey clomped through the Albatross crew deck on his mag boots. After a while you just stopped noticing how they were the only thing holding you to anything. You act like you're walking in gravity, and you try to make sure everyone keeps the illusion going. Because right now, that was all they had: the illusion of normality. The ship hummed to itself, air scrubbers and high voltage lines all singing a harmonic tune. Business as usual.

Except the missing CO.
Except for the nightmares, everyone surely had had, but would never speak of.
And after the morning he had had, he needed something to break right.

To that end, he stomped into the galley and assaulted the coffee machine. After it had warned him that adding that many stimulants to an already caffeinated beverage was outside of its legally mandated parameters, and then proceeded to dispense the drug-laced beverage, he pressed a stud on the walls comm panel.

"All hands meeting in the mess hall. Your attendance is not mandatory, but your opinion won't be counted if you don't show. Also, there is coffee," Mickey said into the microphone.

He hadn’t been asleep, so the XO (no Captain - he corrected internally) Mickey’s announcement didn’t wake Wulf. The tech was lying on his bunk, fully dressed, legs dangling to the side with mag boots keeping his feet down. He’d given up trying to grab any sleep, the dreams were worse than letting his brain wander through recent events. Barely, but it was scary how imaginative his mind could get when it had him as a captive unconscious audience.

Dark circles under his eyes, thick hair mussed up and spiky in all the wrong directions, Wulf stood up quickly and shoved his hand terminal in his pocket. He’d been scrolling through old messages, old vids and photographs. Dumb, banal moments shared on the ship over the last two years, memories that suddenly didn’t seem quite so uninteresting, that now meant so much more. Family. The good kind.

He padded clunkily into the mess hall and occupied a chair at the table. Big puppy dog eyes looked up, marred slightly by the utterly dishevelled nature of Wulf’s appearance.

“I don’t want coffee,” Wulf said, moodily.

"Good. It's mostly Amphetamines anyway," Mickey said and pushed the bulb of coffee gently down in front of Wulf, the velcro on its base adhering it to the table.

“Fanks…” murmured the tech. He let the bulb sit there and gently cradled it with his right hand. His left lazily scuffed across his abs, skimming across the belly of the friendly cartoon tiger on his t-shirt. Little comfortable familiarities.

Ken stepped through the door. Where Wulf looked like shit, Ken looked well rested. He was wearing a clean jumpsuit with a fresh Marquiz Propulsion t-shirt underneath. "Mornin'" He greeted before stepping past the rest of crew to the coffee maker and pulled a traditional cup of black human engine fuel into a bulb.

“Morning,” Wulf returned, not looking up, but still seeking visual salvation in the coffee.

Kol arrived not long after looking drained. He'd spent most of the night tossing and turning as what had happened ran through his mind on replay. He couldn't stop thinking about Sully and how the man had met his end. He wouldn't have been there if Kol hadn't have forced it. He'd have been dead either way but at least he'd have gotten to spend the last moments of his life doing what he loved most. Despite saving his life, he couldn't help but feel more alone as he entered the kitchen and witnessed the familiarity shared between the crew. His first impression hadn't been his best. He kind of missed the way the old man pushed his buttons.

"Hello," he said to everybody with a quick smile before he headed towards Ken and the coffee machine. He paused once he reached Mickey, "Thanks for the save, apologies if I got difficult yesterday," he said offering his hand to shake Mickey's.

Looking up as the relative stranger came into the room, Wulf forced a wayward smile in return to Kol’s then studied the man a bit more closely. “You look like crap,” he said, his voice soft.

Mickey took the hand, giving it a shake.

"Lucky thing you ran into us when you did," Mickey commented as he took his hand back. "I'm still processing what happened. But Doc Crazy got a little lucid last night. Looks like the MCRN science station on Phoebe, a moon of Saturn found some sort of bug. Alien bug. Stuff likes meat and isn't too picky on white or dark. Protogen co-ran the station, liquidated the staff when there was a containment breach, but not before monitoring what was happening. The Phoebe Bug, or ProtoMolecule as they branded it, seemed to be acting in intelligent ways. Forming structures, reacting. The MCRN science team was 20 strong, and the head of the ProtoGen team pitched the idea that a larger sample size might let them see more understanding in the design the ProtoMolecule was working towards. Ergo Eros."

Mickey rubbed his eyes.

"I am paraphrasing the Doc's words. Her version of lucid comes with flowery imagery, a lot of symbolism. The Sword of Shiva, Taris and the well of souls. Some really nice end of the world collage clippings." the XO and CO sighed. "I have Reggie monitoring her in the sickbay whilst the AutoDoc does it's level best to sandpaper the psychosis away. And speaking of things that ain't gonna go away any time soon..."

Mickey took out his terminal, and flicked a video message from it to the main galley monitor. A pleasant grassy field with a blue sky vanished, replaced by the red and gold shield logo of the Ganymede Credit Union.

"I'll wait for the others to turn up before I hit play. The message is three hours cold, so it'll keep a bit," Mickey grunted.

The mention of coffee was the only reason Allegra made her way into the mess hall. Okay, that and she actually liked her opinion being considered, not that she held any stakes in the ‘Tross. She trudged in, dressed in her usual ship attire complete with the white Albatross jacket and her hair was tossed up into a rather messy ponytail. Allegra was quite sure, as she stepped inside, that she looked about as good as everyone else. Surely she wasn’t the only one affected by what they had gone through, witnessed.

“They did it on purpose,” Wulf stated, his voice heavy with emotions he was still working his way through. Horror. Disgust. Confusion. A crushing sense of being a tiny bit of flotsam on an infinite dark ocean with no control over anything beyond his small sphere of influence.

“They… killed everyone… That guy - Jansen - he wanted to kill us too. And he killed the Captain.” Wulf’s voice edged with anger and sadness as he plucked the coffee bulb from the table and lobbed it towards the far wall. It floated frustratingly in the air. The tech followed Mickey’s gesture to the screen, then turned his head back to Allegra as the pilot entered the mess hall. “Hey. You’re just in time for the end of the world,” he said. “Ringside seats. Game over, man.”

Mickey reached out casually and snagged the cup on the rebound, giving it a light slap to send it towards Allegra.

"Less of that Wulf. As far as I'm concerned Jansen thinks we died on Eros, and I'm happy to let him keep thinking that until we can sidle up to him and bury a mining spike in his kidneys. Everything from now to then is just the story of how we got there," Mickey said and nodded to the screen. "Speaking of which, stories about to get more complicated. Play last message."

The wall screen pinged in response and the logo for the Ganymede Credit Union faded away to reveal a clerk. Mousey brown hair, rounded cheeks, the pale skin tone of a Belter who'd only ever known a sun lamp.

"Mr Serendipity. As to our prior communication, I must again point out the legalities we are constrained by. Following the UN sanction on all ProtoGen holdings, we have been ordered by our Earth legal team to freeze all accounts with connections to that company until its legal status is better defined. To that end, all funds within the accounts held under the Charon Courier Corporation are locked until such time as the United Nations Judge Advocates Office has made its deliberation." The clerk spoke with the accentless English most UN bureaucrats tended to pick up. No doubt in private his voice had the rich twang of Belter patois. No doubt not sounding like a local yokel helped during review season. "I can only offer my condolences. But until such time as the aforementioned ruling I have been advised by my superiors to cease all communication with you."

The clerk reached out, his finger filling the screen as he tapped the stop recording button on his screen 10 million klicks away in the orbit of Jupiter.

"We are officially broke," Mickey said with a sigh. "Unofficially we have a few accounts not tied to the ship. But they require a more physical presnce to unlock. Which brings us to our next problem. Allegra? Mind sharing with the class what you told me?"

"I know I'm not really part of the crew as of yet..." Kai said, having not had that particular conversation with the new CO yet. "But it could be a possibility that I may be able to buy out the shares owned by the late captain. The funds could go to the unregistered account or held in escrow myself so nothing is necessarily trackable until we're feeling safer." She pulled her hand terminal out of her pants pocket as she stood and walked it to the XO. She handed it to him it displayed her financial assets... it was good having a powerful, wealthy, martian family even if you only had your "emergency fund" to live off of.

"Huum..." Mickey said thoughtfully. "Little macabre given those shares still retain the body heat of the man who owned them. You want the passcodes to his room as well? Duffle to help you cart away the booty? I mean every disrespect, but the only reason you are here and not on Eros is that you got supremely lucky. A very good man paid a high price to make sure we got to here. So doff your cap, show some respect."

Not that Mickey didn't immediately file away that tidbit of information away for a later date. When folks weren't on edge and ready to snap.

She took the terminal back and shook her head, “I think you need to get a grip on reality. I didn’t know the man I have nothing to respect. You have a problem, I offered a solution.” She said, sticking the terminal back in her pocket and walking toward the hatch.

So unexpected were they, it had taken a few precious moments for the words that were leaving Kai's mouth to truly sink into Wulf's brain. Mickey's response fired off a whole set of neurons that didn't often get to come out and play, and they were followed by a swift motion from chair to entry point. Wulf's body blocked the door, and his hand reached out, palm outward to meet Kai's chest high on the breastplate. "We're not for sale," he said, fire in his dark eyes. "And that was rude. Really rude. Our captain died to save all of us, you included. Respect that at least."

"Grow up," Kai said, looking him dead in the eyes.

Wulf sighed, and rolled his eyes at the Martian medic, but eased down, stepped out of her way and took up a heavy lean against the hatch's side. It had been a seriously long 24 hours and he didn't want to take his grief out on this stranger, not really. She just happened to be the one pushing buttons.

“Reality is so flexible these days, it’s hard to tell who’s disconnected from it and who isn’t. You might even say it’s a pointless distinction," Mickey said philosophically. "Last week reality was the price of a cup of Tex-Gen instant rice. Last week reality was the Keiv Astronauts were never going to make it to the World Series, no matter how much their goalie might have the hands of a god. And two days ago reality did not include a corporate action plan whose key point was genocide via mankind's first interaction with bonafide alien life. A plan, I hasten to add, we all here are tangentially a part of."

He took a breath.

"I appreciate your offer, but for now we are going to abstain from taking it until such time as we have explored other options. Speaking of which, Allegra time for your part of this show and tell," the XO said.

"That's fair, it was an offer," Kai said, turning back to the captain. "There's no reason for anyone to be bent out of shape about it."

"You've said your piece, we all listened. Moving on," Mickey said in a strained tone of voice. "Allegra. Your turn."

Her head rolled back on her shoulders. Now was not the time for any of the fucking nonsense. “Water’s at 30%, reaction mass is much lower than that, and the Port Authority didn’t give us a refill on gas.” Allegra rattled everything off rather matter of factly, “And given our current location, port of call options are slim to none.”

"In point of fact, they are slim to one," Mickey said. With a tap on his terminal, a simplified system map appeared, centred in around the Inner Planets, with a grainy digitized asteroid belt filling in the periphery of the room. "I spent most of last night between calls to Ganymede and Allegra's burning midnight candle going over our flight plan, delta vee, all the fun stuff. And realistically our options come down to one. We don't have the fuel to flip and burn to Ceres Station without coasting for two months between burns, and that's if we all decide to take a shower every other week. Vesta is out of the question. Pallas, Tycho, the Gurman Complex, Luna..."

As he spoke highlighted dots began to disappear from the map until one remained. It was a blinking red pixel next to a large conglomeration of pixels labelled Mars.

"By luck, chance, or ill fortune we are locked out of pretty much every dock save the Martian civilian port of High Elysium," Mickey rubbed his chin. "We burn at a 1/4 Gee we could be there inside of 6 days. It gets us to air, water, and options. In the meantime, I can put out some feelers, call in a few IOU's. Drake on Ceres, the Carabella Sisters on Vesta. Well, maybe the Carabella Sister who didn't shoot at Ken last time we were there. Maybe one of them has a sympathy job they can throw us to get the wheel spinning again."

He tapped his terminal again, and the hologram vanished.

"Does anyone here have a problem with us going to an MCRN controlled port? Speak now, or forever hold your peace."

"Home sweet home, huh?" Wulf raised an eyebrow as he asked Kai, but there was no sarcasm in his tone, just the question.

"Given they have citizenship and we fall into the categories of Belters and Earther trash, I'd knock off the Mickey hazing. Might need a good word from them," Mickey pointed out.

Wulf regarded Mickey for a moment, opened his mouth and then abruptly closed it again. He couldn't really dispute anything the XO had just said, so he cut his losses and backed down. "Didn't mean no offence, Kai," the tech said. While he didn't know her situation (or Allegra's for that matter) Wulf did appreciate that sometimes home was complicated. He shrugged, and then added with a soft sigh and a wry expression that seemed almost... amused? "And what do I know, anyways, I'm just Belter trash..."

Kai gave him an unamused look and then shrugged, she was still standing away from the table against the bulkhead by the door.

"Angelica Carabella shot me because she loved me." Ken shrugged with a grin, "I don't think she'll try to kill me anymore." Ken sipped some coffee, "I might also have some people I can reach out to if that helps?"

"You know they call her 'The Angel Of Death' right? That's not just a stage name. And please, feel free to reach out. If one of those job offers comes from Angellica, you get to poke your head out of the hatch when we swap air with Vesta," Mickey sighed and eyed the ceiling air vent. "Anyone remember when we were just couriers? Where the most exciting thing we did was plays Russian Roulette with Wulf's pirates feeds? Good times."

"Drake owes you some Bombay Sapphire, and I could always rustle up some work to do for him..." Wulf mused out loud, then he flinced at the mention of the Angel of Death, gave their engineer a concerned look and shook his head. "Angelica's the cuddly one," the tech complained. "I'm not going out with her sister again, Ken. You promised."

A genuine smile settled on his face though as Mickey brought up the subject of pirate feeds. Those were the days.

"Y'know," Wulf told Kai, his hand reaching up to rest on her shoulder in a comradely fashion. "You'd have liked us way better then. Those were simpler times." He grinned. "Mickey, remember that time I got that Japanese movie to project on that rockhopper ship? And Soto realised it was a way bit... harder core than advertised? Belters were happy though."

Yeahhh. Nope. She couldn't do this. Shoving upwards from her spot at the table, Allegra grabbed the bulb of coffee, "Y'all let me know what's decided. You know where I'll be." She headed for the exit, aiming to make her way to the cockpit.

Head and heart all over the place, Wulf wasn't keyed into everything around him, and to be fair, his emotional radar wasn't the keenest to start with. He did spin and frown as Allegra shoulder bumped him on her way out of the mess hall though. Yes, he'd been taking up space, leaning on the hatch, but, from those slender curves, that had felt deliberate.

"Allegra, wait..." said the tech, and he followed the pilot out, Mickey's words hitting Wulf's ears as he went.

"Meeting adjourned," Mickey said under his breath.


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