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 Cultural Exchange - Part 4

Lunchtime is the best time of the day. You get to get out of the heat, relax until you feel like eating. Then you snack and maybe drink some lager before a nooner. Naps always help digestion and give you time to ponder what you're gonna do till the next best time of the day; dinnertime. Too bad I had to ruin it for myself by not having much of an appetite.

Friedrich had everything we needed for sandwiches laid out on the galley's counter and sat munching his meal while browsing the daily posts at the table. When I walked in, he tossed a cool bottle to me. He didn't look too happy after checking his posts and I guess the beer was to calm me down a little before he told me the news. After all, he had just seen me go mental a little bit just a couple of hours ago and obviously didn't want a repeat. It wouldn't have mattered; I was too depressed.

After I had popped the top and took a gulp, he tossed a second bottle and gave a quick nod to the side. I held the beer out to my side until I felt it bump into someone's tummy. Our new mascot had finally dragged herself up the ramp and into the crew commons. She certainly wasn't very happy either.

She took the bottle from my hand. I didn't even look at her. I was still ashamed of my insults when I hadn't even really met her yet. I've never gotten along too well with other people and even worse with Vargr. At least Friedrich has learned over the long years to put up with my antics, but she's only had a couple of hours; less than perfect hours at that. If I pretend that she didn't exist, then I can pretend she didn't hear me earlier, right? <sigh> I guess I'll have to apologise eventually. No, really...I mean it this time.

" So what's the problem now? "

I spoke with my back turned to him and was stacking meat onto bread. I tried to be nonchalant so nobody would see me wince when it came. News is almost always bad these days.

" We're behind schedule. We have to get the gear done by noon in two days."

" Bullshit. We have 'til fiveday. That's two struts in four days."

I kept piling meat on my bread. I started pretending it was Scolpino so I could bite his head off. It was getting harder to keep my voice level because I knew this was his doing. Typical butt-weasel tactics to make life harder than it already is. I turned and took a bite as Friedrich continued. The meat from my sandwich squished out of the back of the bread as I bit and made a mess on the deck. Great. I wish I could figure out how my partner stays so calm when crap like this happens. All I could do was scowl at my lunch by my feet.

" They changed the schedule. They figured that with an extra hotshot wrench on board, we can finish in half the time. Guys from the maintainence department will be here at 1300, the day after tommorrow, to put our ship on the ground and take the hull cradle back. Kugi's crying like a tot because he needs it 'just in case there's an emergency'."

I lifted my gaze upwards until it met my partner's. He's got to be making this up.

" This whomps. '..in case of an emergency' my dirty white ass."

" It gets better. I took a quick look at gear number 2 this morning, before we started today, and there's hairline cracks on the upper shock pivot. We need a new one and Kugi don't have Zho parts in stock. "

My eyes went from the pieces of bread in my hands, down to the mess on the floor, and back up to my bread. I felt dazed and tossed them to the counter in disgust. When it pains, it roars..

" You! Roary or whatever the hell your name is...you're junior on this ship, so get a mop and clean this mess up! "

I started to storm out, just to get away and be alone. But as I crossed the hatchway, I thought better of it, returned and grabbed 2 more bottles of beer to cheer me up. I glared and took a big swig from the open one that Friedrich had first tossed me. It was as if I were daring them to stop me. That would've been a mistake.

" Aren't you gonna have lunch? I'll fix you a sandwich and I got a glass for your beer somewhere around here."

The lanky scout got up from the table and started rummaging around in the cabinets. With a smile, he reached in and retrieved an odd oblong glass. He handed it to the young Vargr. As he spoke, he seemed very proud of himself. He then busied himself with the food and prepared her meal, then started to clear the counter as he spoke.

" I bought it and a couple more besides as a welcome gift for you. I figured it'd make you feel more comfortable here. You gotta have something to drink your beer in. So drink up! "

" I'm fear that I need to clean and follow orders Mister James told me, sir. In where is the umm...furkh...how you say it? Mop? "

Rortuvu turned and set her drink and glass on the counter. Her voice was quiet and resigned. She was determined to do well and work hard. There would be no poor reports written by these two pinkies about her.

" Aww...let him clean up his own mess. You've got new orders. I order you to have lunch and relax a bit. Then you're going to unpack some of your things and get settled in. You get one of the staterooms on the lower deck. We put your boxes and stuff in the jump room nearby."

Friedrich spoke as he poured Rortuvu's beer into her glass, doing his best to keep the foam down. Handing it back to her, along with a thick sandwich of spiced meat, he continued with a broad grin on his face.

" My orders takes precedence. You may be the junior man on this ship, my dear, but I am the senior man, by 7 weeks. I signed up before he did, so let Ishmael clean up his own mess. Now eat! "

Rortuvu cocked her head quizzically to one side, unsure of what she should do now. With a shrug of resignation, she first sniffed the drink, then tasted the cool dark brew. As she continued listening to her new commander, she lapped at her drink from the wide-mouthed glass stopping only to take a bite of her food.

" Well, you heard the bad news. At least we'll have two legs done and we'll go as far as we can on the third. I don't know what sort of equipment you've trained with, so I think it'd be a good idea if you spent some time going over the mech drawings and specs for this ship, starting with the landing gear."

" The base's master hull tech, Space Tech Kugishanach, was able to dig up a bunch of data on our ship and give it to our own Mister James. I'll have him give you what he can; a lot of it is printed hardcopy, though. And in Zhodani gibberish, no less. Oh well...its better than nothing."

Rortuvu finished her lunch at the same time as the scout finished cleaning the galley. She thought it odd the he made eveything spotless, yet made it a point to leave the lump of slippery food on the floor. She finished her beer feeling a little light-headed. She wasn't used to drinking alcohol when there was still work to be done. It was saved only for special occasions back home. Well, a little weak wine, perhaps, but not very much. Not after she and Surgazzgh had stolen the ceremonial wine and drank the whole bottle behind the cloisters back at the University.

So much was different than she had expected for this mission. Yes, she was to learn new ways of doing things, but this was almost overwhelmingly strange. It made her feel even more alone. Far from family. Far from home. On a ship that can't even sit on the ground by itself. But can't fly either....stuck in limbo . So much work and without a clear leader it seemed.

" Hey! Cheer up. Beer is proof that god loves us, so things can't be all that bad. "

Mr. Stracker's voice startled her from her thoughts. Feeling sheepish for showing her emotions to this human so freely, she quickly finished her drink. The remnants of the foam clung to her muzzle and tickled.

The tall human laughed and pointed to Rortuvu's jowls.

" Heh,heh...look at that. You're starting to fit in already. "

He winked at her and exited through the hatch aft yelling for Ishmael to clean up his own mess.  

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