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Ford For Thought

Posted on Wed Nov 18th, 2020 @ 3:07am by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Medical Officer Florian McLennan

Mission: The Forgotten Arm
Location: Med Bay
Timeline: Before Point Of No Return.
Tags: qu

Flo awoke to the sound of the med bay's doors opening. He'd become accustomed to its distinct sound. Probably the same kind made by all the other doors within this ship, but he wouldn't know seeing as he'd spent almost all his time hooked up to the auto-doc since his arrival.

He'd been asleep, and the noise caused him to jolt upright. His eyes dashed across the dark room and towards the entrance, vision slightly blurred before clearing to reveal what he recognised was the ship's captain. The one who called the shots.

Flo said nothing and pushed himself further up in his chair, bending his knees in as if to make himself smaller. Anxiety began bubbling within his stomach again.

Some of the AutoDoc's sensors began to ping worriedly as stress indicators began to flash on screens. Mickey took no notice of them, instead, he walked to the screens and flicking the alerts off. Once the noise was done with, he turned and placed a bulb of tea on one of the AutoDoc's swan-necked medical scanners, the flat top of it acting as a tray at Flo's side.

"De-caf," Mickey said as he took his own bulb and took a sip from it. "Don't get me wrong, people drink that stuff for the taste, but I'll be honest it's in your bulb because I don't want the Doc shouting at me for feeding your stimulants."

Flo's eyes glanced back and forth between the drink and Mickey's face, before he took the bulb offered. He sipped on it cautiously, almost as if testing to make sure he wasn't going to be poisoned. Not that taking a test-sip would keep him safe if he really was drinking something toxic.

"Thanks," he said, his lips pressing back down for another taste. It was nice, even if decaffeinated. The crew had been generous - so far. So he had a feeling at some point he'd be asked to pay for it all with something in return.

"No problem," Mickey said as the two fell into a contemplative silence. After a moment, and a sip of his own tea, he set it down on the same medical scanner he'd put Flo's. "So, kid, me and Ken have had a discussion about what to do with you. And the one, well the two things we've grounded on, relate to your continued passage with us. Rhea is not a good place to start a new life unless you're rich enough to live under a dome on Titan and manage the Belters who pay for their air by the minute. Rhea's big industry is water, mined from the ice and filtered for minerals and what have you. It's an industry that really goes through people quickly. Not to mention the ancillary businesses that support that. And you do not strike me as the type to want to work a cliff face for the rest of your life, or work on your back for the same."

He looked to the closed door.

"We're willing to offer you a place on the Tross as an apprentice. Problem is, we don't know what you're good at."

Florian had a feeling that this was what the ship's boss had come to speak to him about, and being offered to stay on board was music to his ears. This would be his safe haven, at least for now. He was quick to blurt out what he'd told Wulf earlier. "I can cook! I've done quite a few jobs at various eateries on Ceres," he said eagerly. "And as part of my time working there I've learned how to get things. Mostly ingredients, bargain my way through prices, but I can procure all sorts. Not just food. Medicines, supplies... I can do inventory work too. And I'm sure your crew will be happy to have another set of hands cleaning the place?"

He paused, before quickly adding, "Not that your ship is... dirty or anything..."

"It grubs up quicker than you think," Mickey said with a smile. "Okay so you can cook. That's a skill not many on the crew have. We mostly have meal packs, bulk buy affairs where you get a discount for not being picky what you get. If you can turn them into something more palatable, that'll do for starters."

"Yes, yes I can!" Flo blurted out, even though he couldn't be absolutely sure he could. He felt confident enough, but at the end of the day it would depend on the suppliers. If he was to work his charm enough, he will certainly get what he asks for. "If you want, I can have a look through your cargo hold? See if there's anything I can sort out in the meantime?" He was about to ask what sort of budget this ship ran on, but thought that'd be too much to ask for someone as new as himself.

"If you're feeling up to it, why don't we go to the galley and I can show you around. Get you used to it," Mickey said, nodding at the door.

Florian was immediately interested. He'd worked in about four or five different eateries/kitchens before - some well-stocked and equipped, whilst others were little more than cramped huts with a wok over a fire. "Yes!" he said, almost standing up, having transiently forgotten he was still strapped to the auto-doc. He looked at the device, then back at Mickey. "Yes, that would be good," he said, suppressing his excitement this time.

Mickey led Florian out of the med bay and across the crew deck to the galley area. A booth seating area, with a small kitchenette with the basics of food preparation. Everything was designed with a null gravity design ethos: no open ranges, a microwave oven, hot and cold water, and inlaid storage cabinets marked with various labels. Meal Packs, Condiments, Spices, Coffee, Juice Mixes.

Mickey popped the meal pack cabinet and spent a second sorting through them.

"Huum... scale from one to ten how do you like spice?" he asked over his shoulder.

Flo wanted to admit to Mickey that their food/ingredient stock could use a bit of work, but best not to upset the man yet. "Umm, me? I'm... probably around five, six? But I'm happy to work with all sorts of spices. More so when I cook East Asian food. How about... yourself?"

"Flavour country," Mickey said and pulled a foil packet from the cabinet. The gaudy packaging showed a cartoon octopus riding a rocket, with big eyes and a smile that was anatomically inaccurate. In two of its trailing tentacles, it held a pair of chopsticks and a ceramic bowl of broth.

"We ever get out to Hidalgo there's a bar there called Khans. Beer's like piss water with flavouring, but the food... well. Long term spacers know that condiments and spices make life out here something special. At Khans you fill out a flavour profile at the door, and the menu cuts and adds dishes accordingly. At the high end of the spectrum, there are dishes able to give you chemical burns."

As he spoke he upended the foil packet into a bowl. A block of thick noodles fell out, giving off a little pink cloud of dust from the freeze-dried sauce. He placed it under a water spigot, pressed a button and steaming hot water flowed out filled the bowl, hydrating the noodles. A sweet, spicy smell filled the air with hints of fresh ginger, the tang of smoked garlic and... cinnamon?

"Hidalgo's a centaur, a minor planet orbiting between Saturn and Neptune. It's on the inner swing of its journey, so the ride outs not too long. We usually make it a stopover on the Neptune run. Last stop before the big empty and the few research colonies out there."

With a spork from a draw, he plunked it into the bowl.

"There you go. Add some printed pork substrate to that and you have a traditional spacer breakfast." Mickey said, placing the bowl on the table.

Flo had no idea where exactly Hidalgo was, but the man had made it sound like a place worth looking up before proceeding to describe its location.

The boy looked at the bowl, wondering if he was supposed to reach out for it. Was this for him? He began to gingerly bring his arm out, soon his hand cupped the side of the bowl, its heat radiating across his palm.

Was this what Mickey meant by good food from Khans?

"Isn't this... just two-minute noodles?" the kid asked, raising one brow and looking back at bossman.

"Yeah pretty much," Mickey said, placing the bowl in front of Flo. "Our fresh food supplies aren't exactly bursting at the seams, and given we've not had a cook we go with what's easy and tasty. I don't think we've had fresh bread in a long time."

Flo couldn't imagine not having proper bread for anything longer than a week. It would drive him insane. "Well, I reckon I can help you stock up at our next stop," he said, trying the instant noodles offered to him. "I'm good at bartering. Or at least I like to think I am." He paused for a moment. "But... I suppose that means needing to know your budget," he finished quietly.

"Thats something of a sore spot right now, given we're on a budget of sorts. But that's something we can discuss when we make port. Might be the first few times you're out we send you with Wulf or Ken, no slight against you but traders out in the black can be a canny bunch and they'll take you for a ride if you let 'em," Mickey said. "You'll want some milk in a second. The ghost pepper in that broth has a kick."

Flo felt like the crew - well, at least bossman - was starting to warm up to him a little. Even if it was a little, it was better than the fear he'd experienced when they had discovered him as a stowaway. At least he now knew they weren't going to kill him.

"Wulf can come with me," he suddenly said, recalling the long, partly awkward, somewhat friendly interaction he'd had with the comm tech in the med bay earlier in the day. He quickly reached up with a hand in an attempt to keep his mouth shut. "I mean, yes. I'll need... someone to follow me."

"Wulf's a good comm tech, plus it makes sense. We usually send him out for tech supplies we might need. Though his idea of food comes in the snack pack variety," Mickey said with a smile. He turned to the cabinet and took out a can simply labelled 'Macks'. He pulled the tab, the can hissed for a moment as condensation beaded on its surface. He took a swig from the can and smiled at the flavour. "For the time being, yeah you'll be escorted. But that's a short term thing. Crew as small as this, everyone does a few jobs rather than one."

Flo dipped his head low a little. "I'll try not to... let you down," he said, hoping that was reassurance enough. Either it will be, or he'll find himself abandoned in some corner of the solar system, having to find his way back home - wherever 'home' was for him even.

"You made it this far kid," Mickey reached out, and placed a hand on Flo's shoulder. "No reason you can't keep on going. The trick is just to keep the velocity going, swing into the orbit of the right people and not get sucked down the gravity well. You stick it out with us, I'll do my best to get you to a better place."

Flo couldn't help but feel incredibly comforted by the bossman's reassurance. It wasn't long ago when he had the impression that this man and his crew had no empathy and were ready to have him tossed out the airlock. Perhaps that might still be the case if he fails to prove himself, but for now he felt... safe.

"Th-thanks," the kid nodded. He then asked, "Aside from food restocking, resources, cooking, all that... Is there any other way I can, like, make myself useful on your ship? Any jobs you guys need a spare hand on?" he offered.

"Plenty. Air scrubbers need cycling, water system always needs work. But right now simple cleaning. A lot of the day to day tasks on a space ships are a little technical, not to mention dangerous," Mickey smiled. "It's a learning curve. A steep one to be sure, but we'll work it all the same."

The kid quickly realised he had no idea how to clean the interior of a ship like this one. Well, he knew how to clean in general, but knew little about things to watch out for, what he could and could not touch.

"Simple cleaning... I can do," he nodded. "I'll just need someone to point out a space that'll be safe for me to scrub. Who might I speak to about that?"

"Wulf usually gets the cleaning duty, but we share it out. Talk to him, he'll get you knowing what's what and what's not," Mickey said. "Small things today. Before you know it we'll have you out on the hull fixing radiator veins in no time."

Flo nodded. "Right. Wulf," he said, his mind going back to the only member of the crew he'd actually gotten to know a little. Just a little. "Radiator veins... that sounds... complicated. But okay. Thank you, again, for letting me stay on your ship. I'll make sure to do my part."


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