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Drop Out

This part originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of the downloadable PDF magazine.

Part 9

Doc Billings started to come around; conscious of his bleary surroundings. A group of people whose names he normally knew were standing around him, including Captain Fyyg and Pharmacist’s Mate Fahd, both bent over him. These he knew for certain.

Fahd was in the middle of a sentence, “—should counter the effects of the Xenalnepharmedene. It’s commonly known as Prometheus.

“It’s a military-grade Combat Drug, Captain.”

“And why do you suppose he took it in the first place, Fahd?” Fyyg asked, looking at the sturdy ampoule with the green and white rings around its tip.

“Only Doctor Billings can answer that Captain, and I believe he’s just arrived.” Fahd chuckled. Billings’ eyes focused on Fahd’s dark features.

“Fahd. Report.” the groggy doctor commanded. Fahd gave the doctor a summary of the goings on in the med bay while the doctor was indisposed.

“And I’ll need you to sign off on this,” Fahd said, handing the doctor a clipboard with several sheets of paper attached. “Yes, yes, of course. What is it?” Billings asked as he finished signing.

“Death Certificates. The pirate attack killed five of the Roosters down in the cargo bay.”

“Oh how dreadful….” the doctor said. He didn’t really care, and would have responded similarly if someone lost their keys, mushrooms were inadvertently put on his pizza, or a picnic was rained out. There had been a time when he did care, but that was at some point earlier in his twenty five years in the business.

Handing the clipboard back, the doctor swung his legs off the bed in the med bay and stood up. “Lord Deuce, but I’m hungry!” the doctor said, rubbing his palms together. “Are you gentlemen up for waffles?”

“I could eat.” the Captain agreed.

Within a half hour, all three were seated around one of the scarred tables in the crew lounge. Degrasse was back in the kitchen knocking out the doctor’s second plate of waffles; the Captain and Fahd still working on their first. Captain Fyyg liked his with blueberry syrup, while Fahd liked strawberry (and, when he could get them, real strawberries). Doctor Billings liked ’em plain. Just butter.

As he polished off his second serving of waffles, the doc admitted “Boy, I don’t ever recall being more hungry. It’s like I slept for a hundred years.”

“And now you tell us, Herr Doktor?” the Captain asked.

Looking about nervously, the doctor began, “Me being too old and frail to really assist him, I’d given Isaacs something and ordered him to med bay under his own power.

So there I was amongst all those sedated bodies. Isaacs had said they were a danger to the ship and ought to be clapped in irons.

I wanted to help out, Captain, so I pushed that ampoule of Combat Drug.

Everything seemed like a blur, but it was all crystal clear. If you know what I mean... I grabbed the bodies two at a time—one over each shoulder—and carried them into the empty vehicle bay. Must have taken two, maybe three minutes. I closed them all up, then I felt weak again and remember sitting down. Then I woke up in the med bay with you two standing over me.”

“You did well, Heinz.” The Captain said, using the doctor’s first name and clapping him on the shoulder.

A plate of excellent waffles under his belt, Captain Fyyg felt more well-disposed towards the passengers. Going through the med bay, then the passenger lounge near 0615 Ship Time, the Captain explained the lay of the land, “We’ve experienced a miscalculation with our astrogation, and have come out of Transit four days later than estimated, as Second Officer Freilander informed you earlier.

We are also at the extreme edge of the Nordic System. Traveling Insystem by thrust alone would take almost three months. Precious time we do not have.

So we are to spend some time refueling for Transit, and with any luck we’ll be at Nordic Prime outside of a week, providing God keeps any pirates away.”

With the speech placating the passengers for the moment, the Captain went to his office and, rummaging through a desk drawer, pulled free a large bottle and a set of four shot glasses on a tray and set them on the desktop.

The bottle, a thick, heavy thing, was a thirty-two-year-old bottle of twenty-year-old Newton & McCenna single-malt Scotch that the last Ship’s Master, Furlinda Peel, had willed Fyyg, along with the ship and everything on it.

The Captain poured himself a shot of the smooth brown liquid and, thinking of lost comrades, knocked it back. Then he set the bottle back next to the shot glasses and got on the comm.

Sitting in the med bay at the foot of Quentin’s bed, waiting to get something for a patient who needed nothing, Tam chatted with Isaacs. “So you’re telling me those passengers you shot were all pirates, then?” the brunette concluded.

“Right as rain, Murmisagli. Right as rain. Attacking a Merchant Spacer for possession of a ship? That’s book-proper Piracy.”

“But until they attacked you, they were merely distraught passengers?” Tam asked.

“Yup. They chose to become pirates.”

“And I suppose they’re going to get the chop, then? Soon as we make Port?”

“Well, I don’t know about as soon as we make Port,” Isaacs replied, “but assuming the locals at Nordic Prime are upstanding types, the pirates’ll be bound over to their care until they can be sentenced. At which point, the chop, as you put it.”

“Makes me glad I’m not a pirate, then.” the thick little brunette decided. “Now are you sure I can’t get you anything? Water, Coffee, Donuts, an Eryth Cola? A pillow?”

“No, I’m fine, really Tam. If I could get a decent breath now, that’d be something.” Isaacs grimaced.

Getting up to leave, Tam heard the summons to the Captain’s Quarters. A wave of panicky, prickly, tingly heat suddenly washed over the girl from her tam-covered head to her magnetic- booted feet. “Not a panic attack now!” she reproached herself. “People get called to the Captain’s Quarters all the time.” she whispered under her breath, hoping she wasn’t in some sort of trouble.

Tam tapped on the glazed pane on the door to Captain Fyyg’s office before letting herself in. She hesitated near the door for a second, then took the three steps up to the Captain’s sturdy desk, and gave a proper, double-stomp, military salute.

The Captain returned her salute, saddened to find her the only crewmember aboard who could execute it.

“Tamala.” Fyyg began, “As we are both aware, Mr. Isaacs is currently laid up in the med bay.”

“I need you to take the tray here down to Engineering, then work your way forward to the Bridge. Give each crewman one drink; With the Captain’s Compliments.”

Within a few hours Tam had returned to the Captain’s Office and set the tray back on the desk. “Have you had a drink yet, Miss?” the Captain asked before pulling the cork free with his teeth. Seeing her shake her head no, the Captain poured her a shot glass full. “And one for you.” he gestured.

Tam picked up the glass and slowly sipped it, the alcohol cutting the ball of nervousness that persisted in her belly. “I shall have another…” Fyyg decided, before swigging a shot from the bottle.

Finishing her shot, Tam set the glass down, and ran a couple of fingers over the table, feeling the solid, real wood construction, and imagining herself bent over that tabletop. Flushed, the alcohol making her feel warm all over, Tam asked “Is there anything else I can do for you, Captain?”

Meeting her gaze, the Captain noticed, not for the first time, the deep hazel of her eyes, and realized if given the chance, one could get lost in them. He also knew, or thought he knew, that Tam was crazy.

“No, Miss Murmisagli, thank you.” he replied and they parted company.

A few minutes later, Captain Fyyg contacted Number One via comm. “Mr. Hertzog, we’ll need the purser’s staff on duty for the passengers, but I want the rest of the crew, where possible, to have the rest of the day off. Tomorrow we’ll be moving into the Oort Cloud for refueling, and I want all hands at the top of their games, yes?”