When things finally come to a head, will the passengers and crew be ready...
The Zala’s senior staff met every ship’s morning in the main conference room behind the bridge. The room was dominated by an oblong table that kind of resembled a fat plantain. The senior most of the staff sat around it while their aids and junior lieutenants stood behind them. Screens displayed ships status and viewports on either side showed the void of space in its ebony glory.
"The battle was an astounding success!" announced Gefron Argyle, the captain of the Zala, as he presided over the meeting, "This may lead to a whole new line of entertainments, that will only cost us a few day spa passes."
The captain's crisp white uniform complimented his light grey fur. His long furs had long since encircled his face but still looked youthful, men aged so gracefully, Xedra lamented to herself as she stood up to expand on the announcement.
"Yes, Sir, we are already getting requests for passengers to put on some plays, there is even the possibility of talent show. But Ror... I uhm, mean, I am still concerned about the kind of malfunctions that plagued the battle...”
"Oh, you’re concerned?" questioned Tragit Nolan, the ship's senior engineer, "You think that because you finally found out your true love is a main-tech that you should worry about ship's functions? Here's an idea for you, worry about the passenger moral, AKA your job, let me take care of my job. I have already talked with your boyfriend about this, and it is taken care of."
"He's been on the ship for 10 years, he knows..."
"More than me?" Nolan laughed, "That is a laugh, fixing ACs does not make up for 5 years of intensive ship specific training to learn every nut and bolt of the ship..."
"Quiet, you two." Argyle roared, "Stone, if the Cheng is not concerned about the malfunctions, you shouldn’t be either. Take care of your theater, that will be all, Stone."
Knowing she had just been dismissed from the meeting she worked her jaw as she stood and picked up her things.
"Overworked and underappreciated." She sighed under her breath as the doors shut behind her.
Without realizing it, she had her flipcom out and had dialed it, "Xe? Shouldn't you be in a meeting?" Rorrin's perfect voice queried.
"Holy shit!" she screamed in her head, but aloud, "Ror, I told the captain..."
He didn't moan, didn't complain, just accepted the news, he was so perfect, "Xe, it was a wild theory."
"But you’re so confident, and smart, and competent. This is Nolan's first run..."
"I'm a grunt, we get all the blame and none of the credit,” Rorrin was calm, never accusing, he would listen as long as she needed him to, why had it taken so long for them to meet?
In the lower levels of the ship, Rorrin worked in a hole in the deck, his flipcom on the edge, using the speaker function. He didn't mind Xedra's ranting and raving, he had secretly admired her for the entire time he had been on board. This was just the price of companionship as far as he was concerned.
"...What we have been doing all along, Xe, our jobs." he closed the fan housing, "Yes, I have a let it be philosophy because that is the only thing I know."
"You should at least share your information with your sup." she maintained.
He had done so all along, but he needed to comfort her, "I will, Xe."
"You're great." She returned, her voice like honey over the comm, "I will give you the recognition you deserve. We still on for tonight?"
"Thanks, and absolutely."
As he finished putting the floor back together, he greeted Jesivel as she walked by checking cabin numbers against her ever-present datapad.
"S'up, Banks, no thanks, got it handled," she rounded a corner and looked at the door, "Ah, here it is."
She knocked at the door and moments later a grumpy looking tween opened the door, "What’s a pup like you doing in a place like this at this hour?"
"It's 10 AM ship's time, and I'm looking for a Rorry Snath, it that you, or are you, Calia James?"
"I'm Calia," she growled, "What the hell do you want?"
"Teach is having a lover's spat with her live-in pup of a gold digger, and last night, confessed to the purchase and distribution of illegal narcotics."
"What's that got to do with me?" Rorry called from her bunk.
"I'm having trouble with botany and you’re a xenobotanist, fresh out of the academy."
Rorry put down her new bible, jumped off her rack to push Calia out of the way, "How did you find me, little girl?"
"Passenger manifest," she shrugged waving her datapad and choosing to ignore the little girl comment, "I looked for people with skills matching my requirements."
"You have access to the ship’s manifest?"
"Mom's the IT lady, I have access to everything." Jes resisted the urge to scoff.
"Then, why do you need my help?"
"Knowledge does not make understanding."
"So, you read the entire manifest?"
"Didn't memorize it..."
"Read anything about a Kestra?"
"Kess, oh the Snow Tigress, Bitch tried to convert me about a month ago while printing her bibles and leaflets."
"She's actually quite intelligent..."
"Do I have the right Rory Snath?"
"Tigress got to her pup!" Calia called from her bunk.
"Be that as it may..." Jes shrugged, "I still need help with botany."
"This is supposed to be a vacation for me, what are you willing to put on the table?"
Originally Jesivel was going to offer some cheesy day passes, but she had always been able to think fast on her feet, and she got an idea that would save her some serious hacking.
"How would you like a room next to your savior?"
"You can do that?"
"Temporarily, with teach in the clink, her room is not being used, be easier for me to find you anyway. It'll be at least 3 months."
"Three months?" Rory grimaced, that was a random time scale as far as she was concerned.
"Minimum sentence for drug trafficking on board," Jesivel shrugged, this was going to be easier than she thought.
"Sounds good," Rorry grabbed her key from the shelf by the door, "There is a lounge down hall, got the books?"
Jes held up her pad, "I got them all." She led her new substitute to a lift.
Tynessia walked the passages to clear her head. It was reassuring that there were still younglings thinking in the right direction. She let a hint of a smile cross her snout as the lift doors shut on the little IT girl and her new fling.
“Didn’t even know that younglings knew the truth.” She smiled to herself. “Ugh, and another grease monkey.”
“I’m actually not that greasy, today.” Rorin shrugged, “You don’t seem the type to travel in steerage.”
“I don’t, mechanic.” She hoped the word carried all her loathing of his kind, “But the gardens are down here, aren’t they.”
“You know,” Rorrin started, fed up again with prissy primadonnas, “You wouldn’t be able to breathe, bitch.”
Tynessia stopped short of the door to the promenade. She considered herself reasonable, but this little blue collar had it coming.
“You need to learn how to speak to a lady, twit.”
One of the reasons he had never got along with much of anyone, was that he was brutally honest, especially when he was tired. All the people that knew him, knew to avoid is darker times, but she was not one of them. It was a good thing he was not wearing one of his uniforms with his name.
“Let me guess,” he scoffed, “A man in your life, one that you trusted, took advantage of you, and now you see all of us as asses, well yes, I am, but that’s my job, so fuck off bitch!”
“You are the reason,” Tynessia harrumphed, “That men can’t be trusted.”
“I don’t have the time nor inclination to deal with your delusions, lady.” He sighed, stepping into a maintenance way that was almost invisible if one did not know where to look for it.
The Leopard's Lodge was one of the more highbrow restaurants on the ship. Rorrin felt kind of strange standing at the entrance in a new suit that itched like hell. The concierge was Varesh, he was PR and snooty to boot. They met before, briefly, and knew they wouldn't get along, and so kept to their different circles.
"Banks," he looked him up and down, obviously not impressed with the suit, "Dressed awfully well to fix the sanitizer."
"Resh, if I was on a call I would use the maintenance entrance, still think it would have been better if I did..."
"Better if you didn't come at all, you can't be here to eat, no reservation."
"You didn't even look at your stupid little list..."
"Don't have too, I know this isn't your idea of..."
"He's with me, Varesh," Xedra cut him off, and he immediately stood up straighter.
"Yes, Ma'am, all he had to do was say so..."
Rorrin offered his arm to Xedra, who accepted, and as they walked through he couldn't resist sticking his tongue out at Varesh.
"Why are we here?" Rorrin whispered to Xedra as they entered the wood-paneled dining area.
"We agreed we needed to spend time together, and right now, I have to host the Battle of the Bands' banquet. You didn't have to buy a suit..."
"I never wanted to spend time like this, and yes I did, the only other clothes I have are those ratty coveralls."
"You didn't have to come..." Returned Xedra, feeling the sting of tears.
"If you’re here, I can make it," he smiled, sniffing at her neck teasingly.
"Aww, that's almost sweet," she smiled as they entered the private events area of the lodge, "Did you hear, that Rorry girl managed to convert another passenger?"
"Another one bites the dust, hunh, I guess she isn't as intimidating as the tigress. Why bring that up?"
"I'm nervous and for some reason that’s all I can think about."
"Why are you nervous, you always do great."
"At least someone thinks so."
The tables were set up for the top three bands of the tournament. The Klein Hearts, being arrested couldn't attend, but at their table was Jesivel, extravagantly dressed. They both looked at her as she smiled and waved a claw.
"What are you doing here, Pup?" Asked Xedra quietly after they were close enough to be private.
"I heard that there was free food, and obviously the band ain't gettin it." She returned taking a bite of bread, "Besides, you owe me."
Rorrin and Xedra looked at each other before Rorrin responded, "How do you figure?"
Unperturbed she indicated the both of them, "You two, together, after so long, think that was some happy accident?"
"So you locked down that lift!" Rorrin pounded a fist into his palm in victory, "Told you it was sabotage."
"Everything that happened to both of you that day I planned, you thought it was more of those malfunctions, didn't you?"
"Why?" was all Xedra could get out.
"Well," she fidgeted in her seat, "I was bored, I wanted to see if I could pull something like that off, and, don't tell my mom, please."
Xedra and Rorrin looked at each other a moment before Xedra returned, "We'll let it slide, this time."
Suddenly blue sparks erupted from the lighting fixture and blue fire spread as the false ceiling collapsed on Alexis's drummer. Everyone panicked except Rorrin who ran to the service entrance to secure the power and grab the general fire extinguisher that he knew would be there.
"Xe!" He called as he began to battle the blaze, "Call med bay!"
Xedra fumbled with her flip-com, "Empress Zala Med bay, if this is an emergency, yes Ma'am, I'll take care of it." Answered Kyrin, currently working off some clinic hours that had reduced her fare.
The clinic was sterile white. Medics and doctors milled about as they treated patients and worked on tests. While there were small “branch” clinics around the ship, this was the main one. Any possible problem one could come down with could be diagnosed and treated in a matter of hours, that was the only way to keep this place from filling beyond the brims with patients.
She slammed the phone down, and as she bound to the medical ship-wide address mumbling about ship's crew not knowing protocol, "Medical emergency, Deck 23, section gamma, Leopard's lounge, DC and medical respond."
Even before she was finished the med bays chief resident stormed out of his office, "You don't have the authority..."
"Fire me later, we have multiple casualties inbound." She calmly responded, as more alarms sounded, "Looks like we’re in deep shit, Sir.”