*Wordcount: 1237 words.
Captain 1st Order Jacob Huntson Maverick sat in his spartan captain’s chair, staring through watery eyes at the great expanse of space that stretched out before him. Or, rather, he was watching monitors hooked up to specialised and incredibly sturdy cameras that stared at the great expanse of space.
Of course, to someone who had never actually looked upon space through the flimsy barrier known as “glass”, he didn’t think much of it. In fact, all he thought about these days was beating the galactic record for drinking the most galactic liquor or getting galactically drunk or… Something like that.
He stirred the purple liquid resting in a gleaming metal container, thinking about how he’d gotten lost somewhere along the way. He had set out to break the record, he thought, though now he wasn’t so sure…
He took a deep swig of the bitter drink, and swiftly drowned those unproductive thoughts.
Down in the engineering decks Janey was playing a hand of galactic poker against a simple robotic arm she’d thrown together this morning. It was good enough to beat her at first, but its glory days (well, hours) were long gone.
She laid down her winning hand triumphantly and flashed a winning smile. The gleam of chrome in her teeth seemed only slightly out-of-place. The robotic hand sagged, as she’d programmed it to do, because if you don’t see the enemy suffer then what’s the point?
Her grin faded all at once when the inter-ship intercom buzzed. No talking, just the buzz. She’d disabled the actual audio feed a while ago; she couldn’t bear that drunken buffoon and his ‘problems’.
He had plenty problems, she thought, but nothing she could help with. She doubted an army of shrinks and the finest rehab facilities in human territory could help him.
She sighed, flicked the robotic arm (which recoiled in fear) and made her way to the bridge.
The sight that greeted her wasn’t pretty. The ‘Captain’ was fumbling around at his improvised mini-bar, and a monitor lay shattered on the floor. One eye out of sixteen, which hopefully won’t be a problem. Janey wasn’t optimistic.
“Janey! How’s it doing?” The Captain slurred.
“What the hell Jacob? You can’t just trash equipment.” Janey said as she walked over to inspect the monitor. The spider-weave of cracks and the dripping of some purple liquid suggested that it was, indeed, the Captain’s doing. Who else could it be, anyway?
The captain visibly sagged, which made Janey feel a little better.
“It just… It kept bleepin’ and bloopin’, and I… You know I can’t handle this tech stuff, Janey.”
She sighed. He’d never been a tech-wizard, that’s true, but his booze-addled mind didn’t help a damn thing.
“Then just call me,” Janey immediately regretted saying it. For the greater good, she thought bitterly. “It’s easier for me to check out what’s wrong than to try and put the pieces back together afterwards.”
Jacob sunk heavily into his chair, a green drink with steaming ice clinking around in its container. There was silence for a few moments while Janey gathered up the broken screen, and Jacob sipped his drink.
“How long can we keep it going, d’you think?”
“As long as we need to.”
“I failed them, I know that. I failed you too.”
Janey stared at him. Sometimes she worried she’d get a contact-drunk from being around him, but this came out of nowhere. Maybe he wasn’t as drunk as he looked (ha) or his tolerance had granted him some rare insight, or, and Janey thought this most likely, he was just babbling the drunk babble.
“You don’t have to say anything.” Jacob sipped his drink, “I miss them, Janey.”
Once Janey was gone, Captain 1st Order Jacob Huntson Maverick sunk back into his brooding stupor. The drinking had been fun at first, then it was habit, and now it felt like it was the only way he could survive.
Still, the haze of his exotic drinks was better than the sharp clarity of sobriety. Without the cushioning, he found, life could cut you deeper. He had the scars to prove it.
Jacob laughed, remembering a joke he’d thought of that morning, and his brooding thoughts skittered away.
At least he still had Janey. She hated him, he knew. But it was better than being alone.
He sighed, staring at his now-vanished drink.
He stood up, and made his stumbling way to his mini-bar.
Janey was back in the comfort of engineering, the whir of the engines calming her down. For a while she had felt sorry for the Captain, but now she couldn’t. She hadn’t answered him earlier, but it was true. He had failed all of them, and she was sure he wasn’t quite done failing either.
Of course, it didn’t matter much. Janey was more worried about making it home, and finding service on a ship under the command of someone competent. And it would be nice to work alongside an actual crew again.
Janey stowed the broken monitor and sat down across from her robotic company. It dealt the cards swiftly and cleanly, and a thought struck her.
She didn’t have to wait the probable months it would take for them to return, not really. If she wanted a crew, she could just put her engineering talents and her sharp mind to work. God knows she had the materials, and the time, and not-quite-enough knowhow but more than enough gumption.
She smiled her chrome grin, and disconnected the arm.
A few days and many, many hours of labour later, and her work was done. Well, a fraction of her work. One robot is hardly enough to crew a ship this size, but she and the Captain had managed this long well enough.
Speaking of the Captain…
“Janey! Where’d you been? I was startin’ to worry you’d gone the way of the crew!” Jacob guffawed at her as she entered. Clearly his gloomy introspection had passed.
He pointed at the crude but functional robot beside her. “Who’s he? A ‘friend’?” The captain made a crude gesture.
“No, actually. Meet C01, my first crewmember.”
Jacob’s eyes widened. “Brilliant! Why didn’t you think of this sooner?” He thought a moment, pausing in the middle of mixing a new drink. “Can it mix a drink?”
Janey chuckled, thinking of what she was about to do. This was a glorious day for engineers everywhere, she thought.
“Not quite, but I promise you you won’t have to mix another drink again.”
Jacob beamed. “I knew you cared Janey! The river of time washes away all bygones under the bridge, my granddad used to say. I think.”
Janey walked up to the Captain, and knocked him upside the head with a baton she’d fashioned for herself.
She grinned as her robot scooped the Captain, or rather, Janey corrected herself, Jacob.
He was vented out the airlock while he was still unconscious, which Janey thought was a decent way to go. She shone her gleaming grin across the bridge, filled to the brim with pride and no small amount of excitement.
With a few new crewmembers she could have this thing running at full capacity, and get home in no time!
A thought tugged in her mind, though, causing her glowing grin to widen even further (a frightening feat). She had always wondered what it would be like to be a pirate…