Sunar gave another firm yank on the cord. It cleared whatever had snagged it and jerked in his hand. He had no trouble pulling it the rest of it out of the conduit to be rewarded by the sight of the wire tied to its end. He stood and hit the nearby intercom button. “Ok, I have the wire out on this end. It doesn’t look any the worse for wear.”
The strong, male elven voice of the junior engineer answered him. “Good! I figured that half-dragon brawn would be good for something!” They both chuckled for a moment. “Untie it from the cord, then stow the cord back in the locker you pulled it from. I’ll splice it in after I finish here.”
Sunar looked over the wires with a critical eye and hit the intercom button again. “I think I can get this thing wired in without any trouble: the red goes in the red hole and so on, right?”
The intercom clicked over again. “You sound like you have the right of it, and I’d let you try, but the Captain wants to see you in her Cabin. I didn’t want to put the word over the ship-wide intercom, but there it is. Someone will meet you at the locker to escort you. Now, you don’t want to keep her waiting, so I suggest you undo that cord and hop to it!”
Sunar hit the intercom button on and off to acknowledge and bent to the task. Once he got the cord free and set off toward the locker it seemed that everyone suddenly had duty somewhere on his route. He passed several of the crew, and each turned to give him a somber look. A few even clapped him on the shoulder in what they seemed to intend as a comforting gesture. They act like I am in trouble or something… but I haven’t violated any rules that I’m aware of, and have tried to do my duties well.
Then he heard someone giggle softly when they thought he’d gotten too far away to hear. He grinned to himself, but kept his face smooth. Oh, I get it. Make the Fragging New Guy think he is in trouble. Well, guess there is no harm in playing along. He drew himself up a little straighter and put on a somber expression.
A few minutes later he found the First Mate standing by the Captain’s door and gave him a solemn nod. The troll pushed open the door and motioned for him to go through. Sunar almost had to put effort into keeping a grin off his face, and he made himself hesitate a moment before he stepped through. The First slammed the door behind him with an air of finality. He refused to let himself be startled, and turned a wide smile on the Captain.
She leaned back in her chair and put one foot up on her desk while curling the other beneath her. He felt a little surprised that the desk was built for a normal-sized huminod, though her chair had obviously been designed with Halflings in mind. He sure wouldn’t find the thing comfortable.
She returned his smile and motioned for him to take a seat before she spoke. “Normally I have to spend several minutes making new people comfortable when I do this: the crew knows my habits and like to give ‘em a hard time. I permit it, because it seems to build some camaraderie, but it doesn’t seem to have worked on you.” She turned her head a little and gave him a slightly jaundiced stare, “Is that because you are so full of your own righteous belief in yourself that you don’t believe you could be in trouble?”
She mostly spoiled the effect with a half-grin, but he could feel that the question hadn’t been made entirely in jest.
Sunar quirked up one side of his own grin, shook his head, and made a small wave with his left hand. “They still haven’t figured out that my hearing is better than even most elves, much less the rest of them, and someone couldn’t hold their mirth.”
She turned her face fully toward him and chuckled a little as he finally took the offered seat. She let him get settled before she spoke. “You are full of surprises, indeed. I hope that they continue to be positive ones, but experience tells me that there will be something, at some point, there always is.” She got a far-off look for a moment, then waved her hand dismissively. “No matter, that is hardly the point for this meeting. I like to have a quick chat with new crew after they’ve been on board a few days. Gives me a chance to see how you are feeling about things, let you speak if you are having any issues, and let me give you any feedback I think you need. Also gives us a chance to get to know one another a little bit. So tell me young Sunar, how have you been settling in?”
He smiled and nodded to her, and tried to put a tiny bit of smile into his voice. “Well enough, I think. The work hasn’t been difficult so far, and the crew seems to be trusting me with more and more jobs. The long hours of chores are, honestly, taking a little bit for me to get used to again: I’ve been out of the monastery for some time and appear to have picked up a few bad habits. Still, the work reminds me of home, even if the specific labors are different. The crew has been good: they are reasonably patient when I don’t know a term or understand a duty, though some don’t seem to understand, yet, that I don’t need things to be explained but a dozen times or so before I understand.” He smiled in the hopes that his jest would go over well.
She answered with a smile of her own, and a curt nod. “I have received fairly positive reports from everyone you worked with. Even the quartermaster said you were ‘not a total idiot, and seemed capable of counting to twenty with your shoes still on’. Don’t raise your eyebrow at me like that; I think that is about the third closest to a compliment as I’ve ever heard from him. So, it seems that we don’t need any early correction to get you adjusted to the life and the work. We’ll keep giving you different duties for now and let you learn the way of things. Have you considered joining the spacer’s guild?”
He blinked at the sudden question, then shook his head. She smiled back at him and leaned forward to put her elbows on the desk, one fist in the other hand, and perch her chin atop them before she spoke. “Well, if you want to remain on this ship for more than a few stops you will need to. I like to keep good relations with the Guild: they do a good job of dealing with troublemakers and take care of a number of headaches for me in terms of crew. You have the makings of a descent deck hand, and I don’t mind keeping you on without your Guild creds for a bit, but will expect you to sign up if you want to stay. Talk to my First Mate if you decide to join, and he can write the vouchsafe letter and help you through the paperwork.”
Sunar nodded. I hadn’t really considered it, but that sounds like a good idea. There is something appealing to working my way around the Empire and seeing… things. “Thank you, Captain. I will look into Guild membership and consider what I want to do. It certainly sounds like a wise move.”
She leaned back in her chair and nodded, then her face turned hard and she fixed him with a penetrating gaze. “Good. Now, I want you to understand something young man. I do allow a certain amount of messing with the new guy; it is expected and – as long as it doesn’t get out of hand – can provide a source of harmless entertainment. I do not, however, countenance hazing, nor bullying. You have any kind of real trouble with anyone, or everyone, you bring it to the First Mate, and he will set things right. If you don’t feel comfortable with him for some reason, or feel he hasn’t been able to take care of it, come to me. He and I both keep an open door policy, and you can come to us with any issues you have… but you should go to him first.” She gave him a wicked grin, “He listens more patiently than I do, and is more… diplomatic in his solutions.”
The smile disappeared and her face hardened again. “So, knowing that, I ask you, young man: are you having any issues with the crew? Any bad behavior, harsh treatment, threats, anything like that? I like that you are not complaining about the work, and don’t think it hasn’t been noticed that you set to every task given you with a will, so I don’t worry about you complaining. But, I also want you to understand that I will be a bit cross with you if the crew is treating you badly and you just grin and bear it.”
She stared at him and waited. She seems to expect… something? He put on his best ‘pondering’ type expression, considered long enough to let her know he’d given her words some thought, and answered. “No, I can’t think of anything. Some course jokes, a few little pranks at my expense, sending me to the wrong end of the ship a couple of times, but nothing really mean or unpleasant.”
Her face darkened and her chin dropped. “Oh, really? And here I was starting to like you. What are these reports I hear about a game called ‘Pelt the Half Dragon’? That is not something I’ve liked the sound of at all.”
He blinked a few times in surprise, then grinned broadly. “My apologies, Captain, for not bringing that one up… but I both consider it harmless – apparently one of the rules is that the object thrown at me has to be lightweight, soft, and not something that will make a mess – and I have been kind of enjoying it. It reminds me of some of the training we did Back Home.”
Now came the Captain’s turn to blink in surprise. She drew her chin back and thought for a moment, then laughed and shook her head. She looked past him at the door and shouted in an amused voice, “Charles, get in here!”
The door opened and her troll First Mate stepped into the cabin. “Aye, Cap’n?”
“It seems our young noble here doesn’t particularly mind this ‘Pelt the Half Dragon’ game the crew has been playing. What are your thoughts on it?”
The troll ducked his head and then pondered a moment. “I haven’t been told the whole of the rules, but, if the boy truly doesn’t mind…”
She nodded. “Ok, we are making official rules then. Engineering, crew quarters, and the bridge are off limits. Furthermore, Sunar here has been the object of the bet without benefit and – whether he enjoys the game or not – it is hardly fair. So, one-third of the points that have accumulated in their little game are to be assigned to his account immediately. Every attempt to hit him costs ten points, three of which go to our boy here if the attacker fails, the rest goes to the pot.”
The troll nodded and gave a half smile. “The crew is going to grumble about him getting a third of the pot: it has grown fairly large, but that’s fair.” He then turned to Sunar with an amused grin. “You said you don’t gamble when ‘ye started, so I didn’t explain the points to ‘ya, but now you need to know. Gambling is a favored past-time for spacers, but can lead to problems. Different ships handle it various ways, but we use a standard points system: you are allotted points for every day in space, and can redeem those points for various things on the ship; you’ll find the list posted on the ships network. There are also occasional auctions for baubles the Captain picks up for the crew, or for unclaimed cargo or extra shore leave… but never for cash.” The troll’s face grew hard. “Cheating at a gamble forfeits your points for the voyage, and can get you tossed off with black marks sent to the Guild. Gambling for money against your crewmates is also strictly forbidden – on ship and on shore. Aslo, if you wanna gamble with your money off-ship fine, but signing a marker or gambling against yer mates will get you an appointment with the Captain’s Mast. You understand all that?”
Sunar nodded. “Seems simple enough, thank you. I wondered what those points were about, but it seems I can’t spend them?”
The troll nodded and glanced at the Captain. “Generally you have to complete a trip first, but I think we can make an exception when you have so many already. Just let me know if there is something on the list you want.”
“Thank you, I will do so.” He heard paper crinkle and looked back at the Captain just in time to avoid a wad of paper thrown directly at his head.
The Captain laughed and slapped her hand on her desk. “Well, with reflexes like that I can see why the game has gotten so popular. Thank you Charles, get those points transferred, including the points that throw just cost me, and let the crew know the new rules.”
The troll nodded and saw himself out, closing the door behind him.
The Captain leaned back in her chair with a smirk and looked him over. “I have had a monk or two serve on ships with me before, usually pretty handy to have around. Your type always makes me curious, though. I assume you grew up on that monastery? Interesting… tell me about it, and then I’ll give you the short version of how I got to be in this chair…”
Sunar smiled and thought for a moment, then began his tale.