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Drop Out

This part originally appeared in the January 2012 issue.

Part 12

In the Passenger’s Lounge, the Captain, First Officer Hertzog, and several of the ship’s other officers were busy supping with the passengers; the wait staff in their crisp white uniforms smoothly serving all comers. Even Quentin Isaacs, who’d been given two weeks of Light Duty was there, acting as Waffles’ Wine Sommelier.

As the revelry began to wind down, Captain Fyyg stood; glass like an old-fashioned drinking horn in hand. Everyone in the room (excluding the few children, and a few of the wait staff) was already pretty well lit.

“My dear friends,” the Captain began, inserting the names of some particularly wealthy passengers “an unavoidable mishap has, as you all know, fiddled with our timetable to Nordic Prime. The problem has been fixed, and after our meal together, friends, we will enter Transition Space for a second time, to make the Crossing to Nordic Prime; from where you will all, no doubt, be able to find connecting passage.” Captain Fyyg drained half the horn.

“And, as it would not be fair to charge you in adversity, we of the Chicken and Waffles will not be charging for any of the food or potable you may have consumed while aboard our ship.” Captain Fyyg drained the other half of the horn. “Goodnight, and Good Luck.”

Not too long after the second part of the Captain’s speech. The bar was drunk completely dry.

Down in the Med Bay, Doc Billings and Ilsa Frielander were discussing treatment options. The Doctor sat on a short stool, while Ilsa was propped up with several pillows behind her back; pain killers keeping her unable to feel her shattered leg.

“Now I know a really top notch Orthopedic Surgeon back on Hargrave. But we’re several weeks from that part of town,” he smiled, “and I am a General Practitioner, dear. I just don’t have the expertise to pull off such a tricky operation.

“So what do you think I should do, Doctor?” the dark woman asked.

“I believe our only option is to use metabolic—these so called Slow Drugs. One dose and you feel as if a month has passed, but really its only a single day. I have three doses right over there.” he said, pointing to a packed shelf across from where they were sitting.

“Three doses, three months healing time in three days…As your Physician, that sounds best to me, Ilsa.” the lank-haired Doxctor concluded, his bony hand squeezing hers.

“A-ah-all right then,” she hesitated. “Lets do it, Doctor…”

Breaking out one of the ampoules with the green and white rings at the tip denoting first rate, military grade pharmaceuticals, Doc Billings found a large vein in her arm and pushed the feed. As Ilsa lay there, everything began to move faster and faster until people just disappeared; though most large pieces of equipment might only move now and then.

Lying in what appears to be an empty Med Bay proved to be quite dull, the Second Officer discovered, and she soon fell asleep.

Down in the Engine Room, the black gang got the dual Garabaldi-Singhs throbbing to twenty four hundred megawatts before feeding the energy to the Transition Drive.

As the ship prepared to make the Transition, Gibby told one of the gang, Ensign Bruno, that he’d be in his cabin, but managed only to get some ten meters from the Quarters Deck before blacking out completely as the Transitional wave swept over his Sensitive mind; causing him to fall into the wall, then slam into the deck, face-first, like a marionette puppet with its strings cut.

Some small, tiny part of Gibby’s mind couldn’t remember ever having experienced such an intense Transition, while the rest of him was exposed to snatches of a hundred different scenarios, which sometimes concerned him, sometimes his friends, and sometimes both. At some point Gibby’s mind couldn’t take any more, and it just shut down, leaving a drooling, animal thing lying on the deck, unaware.

The Chicken and Waffles smoothly entered Transition Space, traveling along the path generated for her earlier; a purposeful arrow moving through the whirling mandala of energy that made up T Space.

With the Waffles well on her way, the black gang spent the next several hours going over the drives and power systems, getting all in order before the ship’s eventual drop from Transit back to Normal space.

Gibby woke to glaring, wobbly lights shining in his face, A female voice said “Well looky what the cat dragged in, would ya?” It sounded like Frielander, but that couldn’t be right. She was dead. Hell. Maybe Gibby was too. “I didn’t think they’d have floodlights in the Afterlife.” he said, trying to block the light with his hands.

“They do not. Not that I’m aware of anyways, Gibby.” said Ilsa.

“Are you sure he’s alright, Doctor?” the Captain asked. Gibby could hear him plain enough, but not see him for the lights. “Perhaps that knot on his head?”

“Yes, yes, Captain. Sometime people have seizures and say all sorts of peculiar things.” the Doctor said, tapping an ampoule as if it were a syringe out of habit before pushing it on Gibby.

“A little Mother’s Milk here, and our Gibraltar will wake up fine, sans migraine.

“But I didn’t see him shaking, Herr Doctor.” said Fyyg.

“Not all seizures are like that, Captain. And everyone, please remember that there’s no need to stick anything in someone’s mouth who is having a seizure, alright? No one has ever bitten off their tongue.”

A few seconds later, the bed in Med Bay groaned under Gibby’s weight as he made himself comfortable; snoring loudly and contentedly.

With the ship in Transit, aside from the Captain occasionally glad-handing the passengers, and the galley and purser’s staff serving them, and someone checking on the prisoners, there was really very little for the rest of the crew to do; their duties tied to the operation of a ship which, for the next week, didn’t require them; effectively making them passengers aboard their own ship.

Brodie had been in the Waffles’ brig a time or two; a small cabin that, unlike the standard small cabin, was in fact, really too small for a single person to reside in comfortably. A bed, fresher, and the door replaced by a grate. A hammock could be hung for a second guest. That was Waffles’ brig.

The new brig, where the prisoners were being kept was, by comparison, almost palatial; covering something like fifty square meters. Each of the seven prisoners had tons of room. The former vehicle bay even had its own fresher, but lacked any sort of other furnishings, so the prisoners had to sleep on the deck.

Brodie had drawn Guard Duty, and was pushing one of the grav carts the pursers normally used to bring foodstuffs (both hot and cold) among the passengers in Steerage. But instead of a load of First Class leftovers and cold drinks, this time the cart was loaded down with Everfresh Sandwiches, cans of Major Strong’s Iron Rations, and bottled water bound for the prisoners. On top of the food sat an unholstered Snub pistol. In a rig under Brodie’s left arm was a heavy laser derringer.

Brodie tapped on the glassteel with a knuckle; the prisoners, still in hand retraints, coming to the window in a group like a bunch of horses that know it must be close to feeding time.

Brodie motioned for them to form a line, then wedged the cart to act as a barracade when the door opened.

Hefting the heavy Snub pistol, the ape activated the door, which slid up into the ceiling.

“Okay people, two items each. I would advise one of them be water!” Brodie said, gruffly.

The first three in line did just what they were supposed to. One even insisted on thanking him.

The fourth in line must have been about 11 years old. What a kid was doing here was anyone’s guess. Brodie thought of the Emperor’s Decree, “Suffer Not a Pirate to Live!“, and made sure the kid got an extra water.

The fifth and sixth in line offered no trouble at all.

The seventh in line was a ’geneered ape. “Brother!” he yelled, “Can you help me out? There’s been an awful mistake…”
Brodie aimed the Snub pistol at the ape, uninterested in hearing any more.

“I don’t have any brothers, pal. Take your shit and get out of my face.” Brodie said, hating Guard Duty.

Sealing the door again, Brodie pushed the grav cart back up to the elevator and rode it up to the Crew Deck, where he left it sitting in the Galley.

Activating his comm, he contacted whoever was on the bridge, telling them “All prisoners present and accounted for, bridge.”

“Roger, ‘All prisoners present and accounted for’ Mr. Le Boucherre.” came the reply from the Second Officer sitting once more in the Big Chair.

In the cargo hold, the First Officer was playing in a three-on-three game of roundball. As he broke for the net and leapt up, ready to shoot the ball, a savage elbow caught Hertzog across the bridge of the nose in a white flash of searing pain. Falling to the deck like a ton of bricks, Milo felt like hot water was flowing from every pore.

The game had slammed to a halt.

“Sorry there, Hertzog.” said Thom Vasquez as he offered a hand up. “You ‘gonna be all right?” he asked as Milo felt liquid smeared on his upper lip. Seeing red on his fingertips, Milo said “Yes”, even though it sounded less than certain.

“Here.” Thom said, reaching into a cooler and extracting two ice cold Whitehalls. You drink the one, then hold the other against your nose until the bleeding stops.”

The other players took the chance to grab a Whitehall for themselves, and drinking , watch to see if Number One’s bleeding was actually going to subside.

“Maybe you aught to go see the Doctor, Milo.” someone suggested.

Brodie pulled a heavily-spiced Dahli Lama Cream Soda from the fridge and sat down at a worn table over near the Galley. Taking a sip of the spiced brew, Brodie watched Chef Degrassi and his assistant. Lil Mary, as they finished with the preperation for tonight’s meal.

Doughy Degrassi, smeared with flour and sporting several flour handprints sat down at the table opposite Brodie, while the diminutive Lil Mary, equally festooned with flour, dug throught the Beer Locker; emerging with a pair of Olde Republics.

“Ha!” she exclamined, before opening the large bottles with her teeth, which made Brodie wince.

“Looks like no one found our hidey-hole, Anton.” the mousy blond said, sitting down besides the big chef and scooting her chair close so she could kiss his floury face.

“Cheers.” the ape said, raising his bottle to the couple. “Cheers!” they repeated, lifting their own bottles in return.

It was good, Brodie thought, to see that someone on this tub was getting laid.

“All this flour, Anton…” Brodie started, “you baking a monster order of Pigs in a Blanket tonights?”

The Chef laughed, hugging Lil Mary to him. “Don’t I wish, brother! That’d be great!” he laughed.

“But no, its just a bunch of biscuits to go with the Red Beans and Rice tonight.” Degrassi explained, getting another kiss from Lil Mary.

The First Class Passengers—the High Passage ticket holders, would probably be surprised, and many of them no doubt dismayed to discover that the same meals they ate were, aside from some differences in plating and garnishes, the same fare given to the ship’s crew.

As the trio talked, a small alarm sounded and Lil Mary broke away to retreive something from one of the smaller ovens. After a little cursing, the woman placed a sheet pan full of cookies on the table.

“Eat up, lover.” the blond said, leaning over and giving Anton a long, deep kiss that began making Brodie a little uncomfortable at its length. Coming up for air, Lil Mary smiled a silly smile and told the ape “You too, Brodie.”

Brodie picked up a couple of the large cookies and popped them whole into his mouth. Chewing, he found them to be mincemeat with macadamea nuts—the selfsame recipe used by Mrs. O’Reily’s Mincemeat Wonder Cookies, but the freshness of these made them phenomenal.

“Fabulous!” Brodie tried saying around the mouthful to no one in particular.

With things heating up at the table between Chef and Apprentice, the big ape grabbed a large handful of cookies and headed off toward a table on the other side of the Crew Lounge, closer to the billiards table, where several people looked to be shooting pool.