Settling In

Jump in 5…4…3…2…1. A moment of sensory deprivation came and passed; absolute blackness and a sort of disembodied feeling barely registered in his mind before reality returned to show Sunar a different arrangement of stars through the window. Jump complete. The voice lacked the metallic twang the vids always gave to intercom systems on freighters. In fact, it seemed to be a downright pleasant – and natural sounding – female voice. Sunar sat in Second Lotus position on the floor of the ship’s galley, because it housed the only window (outside of the pilot’s cockpit) on the ship bigger than a standard porthole.

Jumps felt… different on this ship than on the huge cruise-liner that he’d traveled in his one other trip into space; on that ship you had to be looking out a window or watching the ship’s schedule to even know that they had jumped. Here, he could feel it in his bones. I would think it would be the other way around: that a little ship would cause less spatial displacement and have less noticeable jumps. On the other hand, a cruise ship like that puts the comfort of the passengers above all else, where this ship has more practical concerns. I will have to ask, once I am settled in. Ship-board life is what I expected in broad strokes, but there are a myriad of tiny details that are not what I anticipated. Like the quality of the sound from the intercoms.

A small grin teased at his lips as he contemplated the recorded voice. He’d spent nearly two days listening to that recording, trying to figure out who on the ship it belonged to: it certainly didn’t belong to the male, portly, half-orc navigator who actually plotted and executed their jumps. I find it oddly sentimental – for a crew that seems so hard-nosed and down to earth most of the time – that they use the recording from the previous Captain. Though, from the stories I’ve heard about the woman and her exploits I guess it isn’t surprising. How much truth lies in those tales?

The starfield rotated slightly as the ship made some sort of small correction, and the harsh half-orc voice of the navigator sounded from the intercoms. “Starting position scans complete; estimate six hours for initial position fix, eight more hours for final pinpoint, and then seven hours for jump calculations. The Captain has cleared us to wait for that jump until this time tomorrow, so you bunch of ninnies won’t have to worry about a jump happening while you sleep. Now, it is 0800 ship time; so roll out of yer bunks, get yer grub, then get to work!

Sunar felt a tiny bit of amusement at the announcement. Hector liked to play up the half-orc bruiser stereotype when he addressed the crew, but he was actually a well spoken, even tempered soul. I can’t decide if he plays harsh over the intercom to amuse himself, or as some sort of running joke with the crew. I don’t think I can get away with asking about that yet.

Sunar drew a deep breath and focused on the panoply of stars, and let his mind see each as a memory: He began to process his recent experiences. The handful of days since they’d lifted from the planet had been busy, and he’d barely had time for even basic meditations or katas. Images began to float to his mind, some with accompanying sounds or odors, and he dutifully considered each memory and its lesson for a moment.

Walking through the engine room and being shown the basic emergency procedures there. He’d been shocked at how small the room – and the engine – was. The head engineer had recognized his reaction, laughed slightly, and explained that the SpellDrive did more than allow the navigator to teleport the ship across lightyears: it also provided the artificial gravity within the ship and canceled most of the ship’s mass. The ship’s engine could give them a soft crash if the SpellDrive failed too close to a planet – but it would still be a crash from which the ship would never recover.

Another image-memory, this time of the SpellDrive itself: another thing that wasn’t what he expected. For all that it was one of the most advanced fusions of arcane and computer technology ever managed, it looked like a glorified holo-table… unlike anything shown on the vids. The circular table took up most of the room, and projected an image of the space around them. Sunar took a deep breath and centered as he remembered the odd sight of the navigator’s bulk standing in the middle of that table, the hologram all around him, using input-gloves to draw equations in the air.

I think I enjoyed my chat with him the most on that little tour. Images of the half-orc’s sparkling eyes and large gestures as he launched into an explination of how the star drive worked danced across Sunar’s mind. The lecture had been followed by a tolerant chuckle at his one question as the green-skinned navigator explained that, though the SpellDrive was inherently magical, it didn’t need a spell-caster to use.

It didn’t take long for the rest of the recent memories to filter through his mind, so he turned his attention from the stars to the void between them; allowing the void to enter his mind and mute extraneous thought. With all of the important lessons incorporated into his being, he let all of the babble, the tension, the distraction, the buzzing noise of the mind caused by too much experience too fast flow through him and out into that nothingness, until his mind and body were empty; a clean slate with which to begin a new day.

The lights in the Galley slowly came up, signaling the beginning of another day on the ship. He heard the door open and Jalla – he could already tell his crewmates apart by sound – entered. The odd four-armed woman had cooking duty for breakfast, which basically just meant pulling the food out of the cupboards and setting them out for everyone, then coming along in a few hours to put it away and clean the inevitable – if minimal – mess. He watched her move with sluggish resolve, putting everything out and grumbling quietly under her breath about how the ‘dirt-grubber who hasn’t his space legs yet’ should have been doing such a duty.

He suppressed a smile, and released his focus on the void. I’ve done the duty every morning since lift-off, of course: it was something they knew they could trust the ‘Flipping New Guy’ with. It hardly seemed as arduous as all that. His reflection in the mirror showed a small, self-mocking smile forcing its way onto his face. Certainly better than ‘head cleaning’ duty that they have me on today… though I guess that I should be glad they feel I can be trusted with something more complicated than a milk bottle. Not that a mop, rag and cleaning solutions are much of an upgrade. He chuckled softly to himself. Maybe in a couple of more weeks they will trust me with a wrench.

People started to file into the Galley, and he concentrated on the window while raising his tail in anticipation. It didn’t take long. A ketchup packet sailed through the air, tossed by one of the humans, aimed directly at his head. He tracked the thing’s reflection, and slapped it with his tail to send it right back where it came from. It nailed Kestos in the forehead, to a round of cheers and laughter around the galley.

Kestos looked non-pulsed for a moment, then stared at the packet on the table as Sunar stood and moved to get himself some breakfast. The human looked up at him as he passed. “Wha.. how? I thought I had you that time!”

Sunar smiled and winked. “The void has its mysteries, and the light can reflect intent.”

This brought another small chuckle from the handful of people gathered in the small room. I find I’m enjoying this game of ‘see who can pelt Sunar with something first’. Several crewmen had seen him catch that wrench the Captain had thrown, and somehow a betting pool got started to see who could throw something at him and score a ‘hit’ first. Thankfully someone had the foresight to make sure that ‘something’ meant ‘soft and harmless’, or he’d have had to take offense. As it stood, he felt like it kept him sharp, and felt a bit like the ‘alertness’ exercises from home. Am I enjoying the game more for the practice or a sense of nostalgia?

He pulled some processed beef and fruits onto a plate, and someone pulled a chair to invite him to sit down. One of the others at the table raised an eyebrow at the person who pulled the chair, then smiled and shrugged. I think I have a bit to go before the crew really accepts me as one of their own, but they seem to have taken me in as a provisional member at least.

The thought brought a surprisingly warm glow to his chest.


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