Thursday, August 28, 2014

Flash Fiction #109 -- Trouble Brewing

      Despite the fact that potions bored her to tears and she hated doing them, the simple base mixture her mother set her to make would have been fine if the cat hadn't knocked the jar off the shelf. That's the way bad things often happened, Serena thought as she saw the jar of feathers tip and the contents land in the pot below.
"Buffy!" Serena yelled in frustration, startling her familiar -- the second mistake.
The cat leapt up with tail fluffed and ears back . . . and landed in the potion as well. The cat flailed, the pot tipped over and the potion flew everywhere. Serena threw herself on the floor and began trying to come up with a chant to counter --
Too late. The cat flew over the top of her. Literally flew, with two wide wings spread as she swooped and spun in the air, clearly delighted.
And everything the potion touched grew wings and took to the air as well; the table, the rug, the mice who had been watching from the corner of the room. Startled and worried, Serena stood up to try and gather things --
And began flying. She hit her head on the ceiling before she realized what was happening.
"Really," her familiar said with a shake of her head. "You humans are so helpless."
"Look at this mess, Buffy! Look what you did!"
"You shouldn't have yelled. I was just adding a little -- ack!" The cat dove downward as four mice dive-bombed her.
"We are so in trouble with mom," Serena sighed as she tried to catch a vase heading for the window.
Buffy was probably the worst familiar ever. Maybe she should have chosen the bunny or something that didn't climb up on shelves, like a rock. A rock would have made a better familiar.
She grabbed a couple of the mice who were tormenting the panicked cat and shoved them under an overturned basket amid the flower that dumped out. She got to the window before too many things had escaped, but they were certain to draw attention, circling around the cottage like that. Neighbors would talk. Word would get to mom before she could even think of a way to fix this mess.
If there was a fix. Where had the other two mice gone?
Sernea weighed down everything she could and was sitting on the table when her mother arrived, rushing into the room --
"What in the name of all the Goddesses is going on now?" she demanded, looking more frantic than Serena had expected.
"Potion -- Buffy -- jar of feathers," Serena gasped, pushing down on the table while the cat soared overhead trying to nab the rug.
"No time for this! A small boat was chased by raiders and ran aground on the rocks at the bay. We need something to save them! I don't know what magic --"
"Table!" Serena shouted. "Flying table and rug!"
Her mother stopped, looked at the table with surprise and gave a nod.
"Climb on and hold it down while I get some rope so I can tie the rug in place and lead them," Serena said. "We may have to blow out part of the front of the house, though."
"Do it," her mother said with a nod. "Buffy, come sit with me."
"Yes, ma'am," the cat sighed and landed on the table. No one argued with Serena's mother.
Before long, Serena got the table and rug harnessed, but even so it was getting dark by the time they left through the new big door out of the house and started down the hill towards the distant bay. Her mother held tight to the table and didn't seem to enjoy flying nearly as much as Serena and Buffy did.
Serena led them to the shore where they could see people with torches lighting the waves. The dangerous rocks were at the edges of the bay to the right and left, but it was too dark to see where the craft might be.
So they had to land. That startled people, but they soon realized that a flying table and rug -- and even a flying cat and witch-child -- might be handy.
"They were on the rocks to the right, but we fear the tide came in and moved them somewhat," Mayor Dirk said with a wave of his pudgy arms. "A couple fishermen have gone out, but I don't think they'll have much luck rowing against the tide."
"I can see them," Buffy said. She didn't normally talk around others and they all leapt back. "Cat eyesight is better. Get the rope, Serena. Let's go."
So they went, her mother holding tight to the table as they soared out over the water. Buffy was right; they found the craft without any trouble. Buffy grabbed a couple kittens from the mast, Serena took the mother cat and her mother began loading the sailors onto the table and rug. It took a couple flights to rescue them all, but soon they were gathered up in the Townhall, the sailors grateful to be alive.
"You were very helpful, Buffy," mom said to the cat. "Why? It's not your nature."
"I like the wings," the cat admitted and fluttered them a bit. "I figured if I proved useful, you might let me keep them."
"Hmmm," she said and looked the cat over. "It might be good to have something intelligent that can help guard the bay. The little boat was run to ground by raiders. They are getting more daring."
"We need warning if they are coming," Mayor Dirk added coming up beside them.
Her mother nodded and looked the two over. "I think the wings can stay, as long as you both promise to be careful."
"Oh yes, we will!" Serena promised, amazed at the turn of events.
"Well, it will certainly be safer than having you work with potions," her mother admitted.
Serena nodded agreement. She did not mention the flying mice.

997 words

for more fantastic quick reads

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Preview -- Resurrection: Chance and Change (Science Fiction)

This is a new novel that I hope to have published within the next couple days.

When the captain's gambling finally caught up with him, two crewmembers, an enigmatic passenger and a local Port Rat on the run from trouble come up with a daring plan that may save them all . . . or kill them.  How desperate are they?  

 Preview: Chapter One

     The sun went down in a glory of yellows and reds while a cool breeze off the hinterlands blew away the stink of the city. Dabin scrambled through the shadows by the creek bed and slid down the cement embankment to the low rush of water below. He did fast work of cleaning up, listening for the sound of anyone coming near.
He scrubbed away the dirt and grime, cleaned a spot on his dark shirt, and washed out his hair, before pulling the strands back with the last good tie he had left. He dared not look ragged and homeless. He dared not draw that kind of attention.
Quick work. He'd been five days hiding out and he knew not to waste time anywhere he might be spotted. Dabin scrambled back up the embankment and crawled through the opening he'd cut in the fence before sealing it closed as best he could. He only had a few such secret places left.
Dabin headed for the port, hoping for some work today. He'd been hiding close to the outermost section away from the port tower, the area where ships came in at sunset and left by noon, settling in an area of cracked pads and no hook-ups: anyone who landed here would be as desperate as him.
He only had to avoid the Port Guards, and others who were far worse. He needed the work. If he didn't get enough creds to get out of the area, sooner or later someone was going to happen upon him in his sleep.
And then he'd just as soon be dead.
Looking upward, he thought he'd gotten lucky at last.
The bright flare of a ship traced a path down to the farthest pad, the hum of the engines turning into a loud roar. Dirt and debris filled the air and he turned his back to the unnatural wind, annoyed at having just cleaned up.
The annoyance passed quickly. The ship settled on the very farthest of the pads as twilight hit the edge of the world. They'd be lifting again by noon tomorrow, so they'd need work done fast.
He just had to be bold.
The ship wasn't large. By the outline he recognized a puddle jumper. Not a surprise since the small ships were often running on the edge of their creds. He'd seen more than a few in his life, living in the Rat Maze right beside the port. He'd seen a lot of big, fancy shuttles from ships he could only imagine, too; ships so big they couldn't make the landing and could only send the smaller crafts down to offload passengers or supplies and then load up things before going places he also used to spend a lot of time imagining. Now . . . Now he just watched the puddle jumpers and had begun to think he'd like to go where they went, living there on the edge. He'd never do well in a fancy world. Not his place.
Dabin walked towards the pad, brushing away dirt and pulling loose hair back into the tie. The ship didn't appear to be in bad shape, at least. He thought the left thruster might be running a little hot because he could feel the warmth as he went by, but otherwise, it looked good. He'd seen some small ships come in such sad shape, he had wondered if they would ever lift again and he'd been amazed the crews even trusted them.
This one appeared better than he hoped, which meant there might be some creds to be had. Just a few. He could hoard them with the rest and eventually . . . eventually he could get out of the city and away from the trouble he'd made for himself by being stupid. By being trusting. By . . . he wasn't sure what any more. Too tired to care.
Dabin paused and leaned against the ship for a moment, calling back his calm and burying the desperation. He didn't want to go to the crew looking like a madman. Just stay calm, do the work over night, and disappear again before light. Wait for the next ship.
Damned hard way to live, but better than what he could expect if Ino caught him. The Port Guard might be a little better if he turned info on Ino, but that only meant he'd have to wait longer before his former boss killed him. He even considered going to Miranda De Velera, who was the only other person of real power in the Tempest Rat Maze. Unfortunately, she hated Ino and didn't trust anyone who worked with him. Besides, he wasn't really a rebel, which was her only true cause.
He had no doubt that if he stayed around here, Ino Mythrin would catch up with him. His only hope was to get the creds to buy his way out of town. Go live in some backwater village and farm or something. Anything. Just get out away.
He went past the side of the ship, his step steady as he made his way around the far side. The bay door began sliding upward, the light blinding for a moment. He could see movement inside and hear voices. Unhappy people.
"You gamble away our funds this time and we aren't going up again, Captain," a woman said, her voice a snarl.
"Don't you lecture me or --"
"Or what? You'll leave me here? Fine, do it. But you know I'm the only person keeping this ship out of the red as it is. You gamble the ship's credits away again and we're stuck on Tempest, including you. Is this where you want to die?"
A big man went past, snarling words laced with obscenities. He never saw Dabin who held back a moment longer. He didn't want to walk into a fight, and it was obvious the people on the other side of the bay door were not happy.
The Captain walked away and didn't look back.
"Son of a bitch," the woman inside the bay said, her voice loud enough that surely the Captain heard. Oh, not a happy crew at all. "Marci -- Dirk --"
"We got what creds we could," another woman said. She sounded annoyed more than angry. "Dirk and I are heading out. Good luck."
Two more crew went past him without ever looking. Damn. They were so blind he probably could have walked up and took their cred chits and they wouldn't have noticed.
All three headed towards the gate at the port tower, disappearing into the dark. None of them happy people, and if Dabin hadn't been so desperate, he would have gone back around the corner and disappeared.
Be bold. Be brave.
He went around the last corner and looked inside. The woman in the bay was at the comm on the wall. "Captain's gone Shandy. Marci and Dirk, too. I don't think they're going to be coming back."
"Can't say I blame them," a man answered. "We'll have to wait and see. I need to work on that damned thruster, Lyd. I might need something bought from the port yards."
"I'll get what I can get for the cargo and give you what you need before I enter it into the ship's accounts. If we can't keep the ship going, we might as well all walk away."
"Thanks, Lydyn. Good luck. Let me know if there's anything I can do."
Dabin glanced over the bay while she talked. Lots of cargo, neatly handled, which gave him hope once more. The woman shut down the comm and saw him. She was a small woman, with tan skin, short dark hair and a lightning tattoo on the right side of her face below her eye. She glared, but he had the feeling it was not really meant for him.
"What do you want?" she asked and got between him and the cargo. She wore a laser pistol. He kept his distance.
"Came to look-see if you need dock help. Work cheap, work fast," he said, reverting to the rat-work lingo he'd grown up speaking. She made him nervous, the woman with her hand on the laser and obviously mad at the world. "You on low dock time, yes? Want this off-loaded fast?"
"Yes," she agreed. "Hell, everyone else is gone. Ten creds up front." She pulled the five pieces from her pocket and held them out. He had the feeling this came from her own funds, too. "Twenty more when we're done."
Damn lot better than he expected.
He took the offered creds and dropped them into his mostly empty pocket. "Tell me what you want done."
They went straight to work, getting the sled down off the wall to put together. She was strong for her size and knew the work far better than he did, which meant he could learn something here, and everything he learned meant a better future. He even asked her a couple questions about the power source and the adapters. Turned out they were not standard, but something their engineer had worked up. He suspected that made the sled special. They carried the pieces outside the bay and put it together over the next hour or so. The sled looked sleek and powerful. He hadn't seen better from bigger and better ships.
The crew uniform she wore, grey with a blue trim, looked well-kept. There was nothing shabby about this ship, despite where they had put down.
"We're going to load the big crates on first," she said and nodded to several long, narrow crates at the far end of the bay. "You get one and I'll drag the other --"
"Suggestion?" Dabin said, daring to pause and lean against the wall, hoping he looked relaxed and not exhausted already.
"Sure," she said and frowned.
"You take one end, I take another end. Move crates fast, less work for either of us."
She stopped and stared at him, her face going red. He feared he'd overstepped --
"You probably think I'm an idiot," she said.
"No. Think you work alone too much."
"Huh." She walked to the crate. "Good suggestion. Yeah. You take one end."
The work did go easier. Easier on him, especially. Dabin had tried not to think about when he'd last had a meal. He'd found some bread and picked off the mold yesterday. Not much of that, even. Now he had ten creds and another twenty coming, so he could get into the city and buy something cheap. Just get this work done before sunrise so no one saw him on the streets. Slip into the city and buy something like he was just getting done with some rat work overnight and heading back to home to the Maze. No one should think twice about him, there where they didn't know Ino's people very well.
The thought of spending some of the creds on food made him work a little harder. They moved the big crates first, and then placed some smaller ones in around it. After that, they moved a few bags and some smaller packages. He began to wonder what was in some of them. One she tossed to him sounded like rocks when he caught it. He slipped the bag into one of the crevices and let the grav net pull it in. Nice stuff. Better than he had expected from a ship out on the edge of the docks.
But then he remembered about the captain and gambling, and he thought the man was probably a fool, if for no other reason than annoying this woman. She worked steadily, arranging and re-arranging things, pausing only occasionally to work with her pocketcomp. He suspected she lined up trade for first thing in the morning. Good at her work. Keeping the ship going, he thought.
They were more than half done when he saw something moving at the far end of the bay and a moment later a man in a powered chair cleared the boxes. That surprised him, but he started to go back to work --
Two creatures came past the moving chair and rushed into the bay, bounding along the floor and then leaping up and climbing on crates and scaffolding. He watched, backing away one step and another as the things came closer: the size of a human baby, but agile, furred with long tails and a shocking fluff of white fur standing up on their heads.
"What the hell --" he whispered.
"Tiki, Tavi! Behave!" the man shouted. "Back!"
The two creatures stopped and began chattering. Their heads drooped and they looked for all the world as though they'd just been told to stop playing and behave. He'd seen the same looks of resignation in his younger cousins. He wasn't certain if he should be amused or more afraid. These animals were not natural, the way they held to wall nets with long, long fingers while their bright eyes stared at him.
"Don't worry. They don't bite," the man said, rolling forward. He had long blond hair, but kept it braided back, and odd tattoos along the side of his face. He also wore the ship's uniform, but there were smudges that looked like oil on the sleeves. "Not unless I tell them to."
The woman laughed this time. "Stop teasing. Don't worry, boy. Tiki and Tavi are owned by our fine engineer here, and they're specially trained to work with him. They're HighIntel tamarins, originally bred on Earth."
"Earth," Dabin said, a little more fascinated. "Is that why they seem so . . . human-like?"
"Good call," the engineer replied. He gave a couple claps of his hands, and the two creatures hurried back to him. "And true. They're primates, which is the same general family as humans."
The two scrambled into a basket on the side of the chair, curling up with each other and watching Dabin with just as much interest as he showed in them. He wondered what kind of work they did.
"Don't get any ideas, boy," the woman said, tapping him on the arm. "Don't even consider what they might be worth."
"Wouldn't," he said, and hadn't considered such a thing until she mentioned it. "Nowhere to sell on Tempest, not for me."
But maybe Ino would like them? He liked odd things. If he could get hold of them, maybe he could buy his way back into Ino's good graces?
Until Ino decided not to trust him again. No. Not worth the price, even thinking he could do it.
"Just came down to see how you're doing, Lydyn. Didn't know you had help. My apologies . . . What's your name?"
"Dabin, sir," he said. Best behavior. The man had a laser pistol as well. This crew, despite being not as unfriendly as some, looked dangerous in an odd way.
"Sorry," the woman said with a pat on his arm.
"Didn't ask your name. Didn't think to. I'm Lydyn."
"Ma'am," he said. He gave her a shrug. "You didn't need to know my name."
"Still, I like to pretend we're civilized. How is the work on the engine going, Shandy?"
"I think I got it," he said with a bright smile. "No need to buy anything. We should be good for a few more jumps, at least."
"I don't know if Marci and Dirk are coming back, though. Think you and I can handle it?" she asked, pulling down another rack and starting to sort through more packages.
"No problem if you let Tiki and Tavi help on the control deck."
She gave an unexpected bark of a laugh. "I'm not that desperate."
"Not yet," Shandy said. "Good luck to both of you."
"To all of us," Lydyn mumbled and glanced out the bay doors towards the city. "Damn Captain Collis."
Shandy headed into the ship and the two of them went back to work. Dabin didn't think Lydyn ever tired and he kept up with her out of sheer stubbornness. At least they'd done the big crates first and most of the work now consisted of things she could toss to him from the edge of the bay doors and he could secure where she instructed.
Dawn caught him by surprise. He looked up to see the thin line of gray along the edge of the port, outlining clouds billowing up and heading their way. Storms hit often, giving the world its name.
"Damn. That doesn't look good," she said.
He turned to tell her the storm would likely be over fast. She might not be used to this world. However, she wasn't looking towards the sky, but back to the port tower instead.
He squinted and saw what she did; a fast moving aircar skimming low across the ground and headed their way. No other ship sat out this far from the tower, so it had to be heading for them. He could see the red of a glowing sign on the roof now, so at least he knew this wasn't the port guards coming to collect him. He wasn't certain what he would have done if they showed up. Run, probably, and hoped he could get to cover. At least he already had the ten creds.
"Taxi," he said hoping the relief didn't show in his voice. He did climb down from the sled, though. No use drawing too much attention to himself.
The aircar came to a slow stop. A single man stepped out and pulled a case from the aircar before he hit the door. The craft closed and left.
He walked towards the ship, looking it over quickly with a nod that appeared to be one of approval. Lydyn had moved to the bay door to meet him and she didn't look very happy.
"And you are?" she asked.
"Kit. I've booked passage to Terra Nova, your next stop."
"Ah." She paused for a moment and then shrugged. "You paid for the passage?"
He gave her a bright, quick grin as he handed over a data chit. Young, Dabin thought. The air of someone used to better. "I won it in a game. Your captain is a very bad gambler. That's going to get him into trouble."
"It always does." She glanced over at Dabin. "Take a break. I'll get him settled in. I'll be back in a minute."
He gladly accepted the rest, sitting down on the edge of the sled. Odd that she trusted him, but she didn't even look back. Such a strange feeling. Ino never let him out of his sight whenever they'd met.
The morning sounds were starting to catch up with them. He kept an eye on the port, but he didn't think anyone had noticed him here so far. He'd come in fast enough at dawn that they might think he was part of the crew and never paid attention.
As long as Ino or any of his people didn't see him, he'd do fine. He had to believe he'd found some good luck finally.
Lydyn came back, mumbling a bit under her breath, but not really as angry as she had been earlier.
"Well, a non-paying guest isn't any worse than none at all, I suppose," she said and looked out at the sky. "And rain coming. Why am I not surprised?"
"Yeah," he agreed as the first sprinkles hit. "Shouldn't last more than an hour, though."
"Good. We'll break for breakfast, come back and get the last of this loaded and I'll hit the port exchange as soon as I can. If you are still around when I come back, there might be more work loading whatever I pick up."
"Good. Thanks." Dabin gave a bow of his head and turned towards the side of the ship. He'd find some place nearby and watch. He wouldn't have to go far --
"Hey, Dabin," Lydyn said and waved him back. "Come on and have breakfast. Free meal. I'm feeling generous, especially since you saved me hours of work."
"I won't say no," he said, shocked and pleased. Food. Any kind of food he didn't have to pay for? Hell yes, he'd agreed.
"Good." She crossed to the comm and hit a button. "Going to make breakfast Shandy, if you and the pests would like to join us. Dabin is going to be there, and I'll round up our passenger."
"I'll be there," he said. "Got this just about done. Then a few hours of sleep, I think. Any word from the others?"
"None at all," she said with a sigh.
"Okay, see you soon."
She keyed the comm off and pulled a block from the wall, setting a shield and scan around the sled and the bay. He was glad to see she didn't intend to trust the stuff just sitting there.
Thunder shook the air and a downpour started immediately. The wind kicked up everything it could and he couldn't see more than a few feet beyond the ship.
"Damn," Lydyn said. "No matter how often I come to Tempest and get hit by one of those storms, they still shock me. I can't believe anyone settled here. I would have sat through one storm and packed up and left. Your ancestors were crazy."
He laughed. He hadn't expected to. Maybe it was the feeling of safety. Ino couldn't get in through that bay door and he was going to have some food. And he had credits. Even if she didn't pay him the rest, he had more than he'd started with. This was turning out to be a damned good day.
Lydyn headed across the bay, past some more crates and to the airlock door into the ship. She keyed the door open and they went through into a short hall. He'd never been this far into a ship before. He could see another door, down the hall from them, open and well lit, sounds coming from there.
"Engine room," she said, seeing his notice. "Never been inside a puddle-jumper before?"
"Never been farther than a bay on any ship," he admitted. They crossed to an open lift and stepped inside. She gave a cord a quick pull and they started upward, smooth and easy. The ship looked clean and well-kept.
She pointed down a hall as it came up even with the lift. "This level above the bay is where we store our supplies and anything we ship that requires special handling." They slid past that level without any pause. The next deck came into view -- an open area he hadn't expected. "And this is the crew's lounge and kitchen."
The lift didn't go any higher. She started off and signaled him towards the big table. He thought he could smell tea brewing. The lounge had sofas, vid screens and he thought even a game or two. How odd. It looked better than anywhere he'd ever lived and even better than Ino's hole in the maze.
He sat down and shivered at the thought. He hadn't felt so out of place down below, still half out into the ruined end of the port. Here he felt more like a Port Rat than he had in a long time, and the feeling annoyed him. He didn't want to feel like something that crawled in out of the gutter.
"Good thing I stocked up on supplies at our last port," Lydyn mumbled. She began pulling packets from the cupboards and adding water before she shoved everything into the micro. "I'll be right back."
She left him again, right there. Granted, he couldn't have really done anything. He didn't have the code to open the door between ship and bay or to shut off the shield. He might have lifted a few food packets and shoved them away for later, but he had the feeling she wouldn't have even been upset if he had.
He wouldn't though. He sat there and waited while she went down the hall beside the lounge and came back a little later. She waved towards that hall. "Crew's quarters, Captain's suite and guest quarters. And up there is the control deck."
The last area was to a slightly curved and inclined path. He couldn't see the deck from where he sat.
The food already smelled so good it almost made his head swim. He put his hands on the table for fear that they would start to tremble. Lydyn went back to work on the food. She seemed in a better mood now and he thought that might be because he had really helped. The Port Market would open in about two hours and if she could get there early, she'd do well in the trades.
He liked to see people do well. Especially when they fed him. Easy mark, he supposed. They could bribe him with . . .
Pancakes. Syrup. Might even be the real stuff from the scent. She put four plates down and he did his best not to just start devouring the food before him. Sit still. Wait politely. He knew manners, even if he didn't use them often.
The passenger arrived, which helped a bit. There was a fish out of water if he ever saw one. The clothing, though plain, was too well made. He had a couple rings on his fingers, and real gems if Dabin guessed right. His hair had been styled, not cut, and he had the refined, thin look of someone who had lived well.
He took a seat opposite of Dabin and gave him a nod of greeting.
"Kind of you to invite me to food," he said. "Thank you."
"The rest of the crew isn't back. You two might as well get the food then," Lydyn said, as though she had to make so much.
The lift moved, heading downward, which made him think Shandy was coming up too. He hoped soon, because his stomach was going to start growling any moment. He'd be embarrassed.
Lydyn sat the far end of the table and picked up her fork. "Get started. Shandy won't mind. It takes him a bit to get up here."
She began to dig into her own food, obviously hungry, too. Dabin made himself go slow with the first few bites. He wanted to savor this. He wouldn't get another meal like this any time soon. This was a damned nice way to treat a rat just in it for the job.
The lift started up again. He could hear the animals chattering and saw Kit look up, startled. A moment later Shandy, Tiki and Tavi arrived. Dabin was glad he'd already seen the creatures or he might have panicked now and ruined this great breakfast.
Oddly, Kit didn't seem to upset. Intrigued, if anything, as he sat back and watched Shandy in his chair move across to the table.
"Damn that smells good, Lyd. Thanks. I'm Shandy, ship's engineer --"
"Out of Ferris," Kit said, which won a grin from Shandy. Tiki and Tavi were moving off the chair and rushing across the floor to the cupboards, apparently to get their own food.
"Not many people would realize," Shandy said. He looked tired. Dabin realized he'd been working all night, too.
"I recognize the signs: the chair, the HighIntels and the tattoo."
Dabin didn't know what all of those things might mean. He didn't ask. Instead, he found himself far more interested in the two animals who were pulling down a couple bowls, pouring something into them, and sitting on the counter, munching away. They still looked far too much like little kids, even kicking their feet back and forth and jabbering at each other.
"Fascinating, aren't they?" Lydyn asked. "Smartest thing the Captain ever did was take on Shandy and his team. If nothing else, they're great entertainment."
"I'm teaching them that new song and dance routine between reworking the engines," Shandy replied.
Lydyn laughed. Dabin had the feeling she and Shandy got along better than anyone else in the ship, and once again he thought the Captain had to be a fool. It made him mad for their sake. He didn't get that sort of feeling very often.
Lydyn gave them all seconds and brought more tea.
Tiki and Tavi made some noise at the counter. Shandy gave an exaggerated sigh. "Yes, you can share an apple. Bring one here and I'll split it for you."
They were obviously pleased with the answer. One pulled an apple from a cabinet and they both leapt down, rushing to the chair. Shandy reached into a pack on the side of the chair and pulled out a knife --
Dabin wasn't certain anyone else saw Kit's reaction. The man went stone still for a moment and paled, the hand holding the fork trembling. He put the food down and bowed his head, dark hair falling across his face, hiding . . . something.
The man did not like knives, Dabin thought. He almost snorted at the idea of some high society boy afraid . . . but no. This had a different feel. Something dark and dangerous. He said nothing and turned his attention to watching Shandy neatly split and core the apple and hand half to each of the little creatures. They were far closer and Dabin could see gray fur on the faces, and longer black, brown and white fur on the rest of the bodies. They sat at Shandy's feet, nibbling at their food and looking content.
Shandy dropped the core on the table and picked out the seeds. He noticed Dabin's interest.
"We keep the seeds to any fruit. You gather enough of them and you can sell the packets on some of the newer worlds, where they're still trying to import things like fruit trees.
"Never thought of that," he said. He'd rarely had fresh fruit, but he would keep that thought in mind. Might be able to sell some seeds to outgoing ships.
Learning more here than he expected. Davin wished they didn't have to leave right away, which was an odd feeling for him. He hadn't wanted to spend time with other people for a long time.
He hated feeling sorry for himself. Better just to take the moment. Enjoy being here.
"Not many people recognize the sign of being from Ferris," Shandy said with a wave of his hand which seemed to take in Tiki, Tavi, the chair and himself.
Kit gave a nod, chewed and swallowed before he spoke. "Yes, I suppose so. But I recognized the tattoo, which I take it means you are a high ranking and registered engineer. I wouldn't have expected to find someone like you on a ship like this. I learned a few things when I visited Ferris Station on business."
"Which was?" Shandy asked.
Kit met his look. "Business."
Lydyn laughed. Shandy bowed his head, accepting the answer with good grace and Kit even gave a little smile as he went back to his food.
They talked a bit about other worlds for a while and sipped tea. The tamarins ate their apple, nice and polite. They disappeared down the hall and came back a little later, and he had the impression they'd gone to use the facilities and clean up. They were fascinating, but still unsettling. Eventually the two climbed up into the basket on the side of the chair and curled up to sleep.
Lydyn checked her pocketcomp and said it was still raining and there was a delay on the market start anyway, so no need to rush. Dabin was glad. The chair felt comfortable and he had to fight against falling asleep. He concentrated on the conversation between Shandy and Kit, which centered on Ferris Station. He'd only heard a little about the place and hadn't realized it was a high tech center. He and Kit talked about the station.
"It's a low gravity site," Kit said with a nod to Dabin. Not condescending, but just letting him know. "Started as an accident a few generations back when the grav field mostly failed. When no one got in to fix it, they got used to it."
"And unfortunately, those born afterwards grew up that way," Shandy said. He patted the chair. "Which makes it hard on those of us who go out to work and see other places. I've gotten used to it though. Been with the ship for two years now."
"Must be interesting, traveling," Dabin said and tried not to sound wistful. He hated that he didn't have the kind of knowledge which would make a ship want to hire him and get him off this damned rock before Ino caught up with him.
He felt anger start to push up through his good sense. He buried the feeling with a sip of the good tea. He wasn't going to be annoyed with these people just because they'd been born somewhere better. Not their fault. Not his fault. Just life.
"Rain is starting to let up," Lydyn said and sounded apologetic.
Dabin didn't mind. He was just as happy to be leaving the table before he got himself in trouble. Do the rest of the work and then head off somewhere to hide. He'd already ate, so he was good for a day, maybe even two if he had to go that long.
Best start preparing for the real world again, he supposed. It had been interesting to sit in a ship like this, though, and watch how things worked, even in something so simple as a meal. His whole life had been claw and scramble and grab what you could, even when it came to food.
Strange. Different.
He stood up just as the comm went off. Lydyn frowned and crossed to the wall, hitting it on with a single jab. "Lydyn here."
"It's Marci." The woman's voice sounded high pitched and fast. He could hear someone else speaking for a moment. "Shut up, Dirk. There's trouble, Lydyn. The Captain got himself into a bad fight in the gambling hall."
"Damn," Shandy said, shaking his head. "We kept telling him he'd get into trouble."
"Did he get picked up? Where do we need to go to get him, Marci?"
A slight pause. "Just letting you know so you can get clear of the ship, Lyd. You and Shandy."
"Where the hell is he? What's he gotten us into this time?" she demanded.
"He's at the morgue, Lyd. He's dead."