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Jetamors ([personal profile] jetamors) wrote2010-11-26 10:33 pm
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Nanowrimo Day 26

Less than 5000 words to go!



"Well, I guess we could do that," Tatiana said. "You know, if you're willing, we can be your official transportation next season. Sign a contract with us, and we'll take you wherever you need to go."

"We'll see how this trip goes," Benjamin said. "Come on, girlie, get in the ship."

Jolee nodded once, quickly. She picked up the bags and went onto the ship. Benjamin followed, leaving the crew outside.

"Will those two be able to find us once we're off-planet?" Tatiana asked Patel.

Patel was obviously still shaken up from their close call. Her eyes were darting everywhere, and her shoulders were hunched. "Maybe. I hope not, but I really don't know. Before, they didn't come looking for me because they thought I was dead. Now that they know I'm alive... I really don't know. I'm the only one who's gotten away for this long."

Tatiana patted her shoulder. "Don't worry, we'll protect you," she said. "Even if it means you have to stay on our ship for a while."

Patel nodded. She was still obviously tense, though.

"Hey, where are you all?" a voice came from inside the ship. "Show us where to put all this crap, would you?"

To shake off their pursuit as quickly as possible, Kid and Qaf set the course for Shakur first. Then they gathered in the back to hash out the living arrangements.

"Well, this is the spare room that nobody's using," Tatiana said, showing it to them. The other three rooms were taken by Tatiana, Kid, and Patel; Qaf didn't sleep, and she spent her downcycles in her cab body.

Benjamin looked inside, and sniffed. "This what you call decent? For what we're paying, well, you could at least give us separate rooms."

"Separate?"

"Yeah! We're the paying customers, why should we be the only ones to share a room."

Tatiana thought quickly, about the revenue they could bring in with a season's worth of fares. On top of which, they'd have the cargo bays free, so they'd be able to do some trading business on the side. Her course of action was clear. "Certainly, sir, you may have these two rooms. Please give us a few moments to clear this one out."

"Tatiana, that's your room!" Kid hissed.

"Let me bunk with you, then!" Tatiana replied. "The customer's always right, and all that jazz."

"I don't like it," Kid said.

"Well, do you have a better idea?"

He didn't, and so Tatiana packed her things up as quickly as she could, and moved them into Kid's room. The rooms were fairly cozy with one occupant; with two, they became positively cramped. Tatiana could see why Benjamin didn't want to live this way.

"Where are you even going to sleep?" Kid asked her as she brought in the last of her things. Jolee was already moving her equipment into the other room.

"I don't know, on the floor? We can pick up a futon or something in Shakur."

"Shakur is three days away!"

"Look, we'll figure something out," Tatiana said. "The point is, we have to make our guests feel more comfortable. If they like this trip, we'll have steady work for the next three months. I don't ever want to get stuck in one place again, even if it means doubling up with you."

Kid scowled, but he let it stand.

@"Come on, it'll be like a slumber party! Or if it's that bad, we can even take turns sleeping. It's not like there's an actual day here."

"Okay," Kid said finally.

"Now come on, let's help Benjamin and Jolee arrange their stuff."

Patel and Qaf were already helping, so Tatiana and Kid didn't have much to do. They hadn't eaten since the morning, several hours earlier, so by mutual consent, the two decided to go to the hydroponics bay to have some lunch.

"Yeech," Tatiana said, in the middle of her protein slurry. "Can't they make this stuff taste any better?"

There was a small, polite cough; when Tatiana and Kid looked up, they saw Jolee standing in the doorway.

"Oh, do you want some?" Tatiana asked, starting to get up.

"No thank you, I have a diet I can't deviate from," Jolee said. "But a lot of it is protein slurries like yours, so I do know some ways to make them taste better. If you'd like to know." Jolee had spoken in a whisper the entire time, and spent most of it looking at her toes, with a few terrified looks up at Tatiana and Kid. But even so, it was the most they had ever heard her say.

Tatiana smiled. "Well, of course!" she said. "That would be great! Thanks for telling us!"

Jolee had flinched at first, but her shoulders slowly lost their tenseness as Tatiana talked. "Okay," she said, her voice just a little louder. "Let me just go back to my room and get some things."

She was back quickly, with an assortment of little pouches that she laid down on the table in front of them. "I can only give you a little of this, because it's for my own food," she explained to them. "But I can tell you their names, so maybe you can buy some when you get to Shakur."

"Hold Steady, make a recording of these," Tatiana instructed.

"Acknowledged," Hold Steady said.

"Um, okay," Jolee said. "The first one here is garlic. It's an herb from Earth. I've heard that some people don't like the smell, but I like it a lot. You put it into the slurry premix before you heat it up. Now, this one here is essence of sweetberries. They grow out on a planet called Hooks, and they're really rare, so you can hardly ever get the actual berries. The essence is still really good, though. You sprinkle it onto the slurry when you're finished to sweeten it without upsetting the nutrient balance. Over there, this one is..."

Jolee's voice grew in volume and confidence as she talked. She even started gesturing with her hands as she got more into her explanations. Tatiana and Kid listened attentively, asking further questions as needed.

"Now, this is the last one I have here. It's called coconut. You use it in--"

"Jolee! Where are you, girlie?"

A harsh voice broke in onto their conversation, and soon a harsh face looked into the hydroponics bay. It was Jolee's uncle, Benjamin.

"I--I'm here," Jolee faltered. Her voice had shrunk down to a whisper again.

"What are you doing in here? Did you even read your schedule for the day? You ought to be rebalancing your inner ears right now."

Jolee gathered up her little bags of spices and stood up. With her head down, she walked out the door and back to her room. Benjamin followed right behind her.

Tatiana and Kid watched her go with some consternation. "Sheesh, this guy is really abusive," Tatiana said.

"Yeah, it's a bad situation," Kid replied. "Are you sure you want a contract with them?"

"Definitely!" Tatiana said. "Jolee needs some human contact outside this uncle of hers. Maybe if she sees how it is with us, she'll be able to leave him. Nobody ought to have to live that way."

"Or we could just throw him out an airlock," Kid said.

"Yeah, worst comes to worst we'll do that," Tatiana agreed. "Anyway, did you know about any of that stuff she was talking about? We always just got our meals from the replicator, we didn't have to worry about seasoning them."

"My father cooked sometimes, but he was gone before he was old enough to teach me." Kid looked morose for a moment. "He'd probably be happy to know I was learning how, though."

"Definitely! I just wish we had known about this back when we were on Hurston Station. Hold Steady, do you know anything about food seasonings?"

"I do not remember much of my information about food seasoning," Hold Steady said. "However, I have incorporated Jolee's information into my memory."

"Good, good! Oh, and you should keep doing that whenever you learn new things."

"I have been doing that since I was turned on," Hold Steady replied.

"Good, good!"

"Hold Steady has been learning?" Qaf asked. She had just come inside. "That's interesting."

"Why? Isn't she supposed to do that?" Tatiana asked.

"Well, yes, but she started doing it without being asked."

"Does that mean she might... wake up?" Kid asked.

"Well, there are a lot of different measures of artificial sentience, and people even argue about how to classify it, exactly. On most scales, it wouldn't be significantly important by itself," Qaf said. "But it is one sign. Ships like this usually don't gain sentience, but there's always a chance."

"Would it be bad for us if she did?"

Tatiana shrugged. "We'll cross that wormhole when we come to it, right?" She stood up. "Come on, let's go to the bridge and make sure everything is going okay."

While Tatiana, Qaf, and Kid spent the next few days running around the ship, Patel mostly spent them in her room. She even ate there, after warming up her food at odd times in the hydroponics bay, so the others on the ship barely saw her. On the third day, as they were approaching Shakur, Tatiana finally knocked on Patel's door.

"Patel. Patel. We're landing soon. Do you want to come out?"

"Not really," the reply came. Patel's voice through the door sounded rather odd.

"Come on out, Patel, you can't stay in there forever," Tatiana said. "Besides, what if there were a fire or something?"

"I would survive it. I always manage to survive." The door opened, though, and Tatiana's jaw dropped.

The person on the other side of the door was a tall, slender man with a receding hairline and a prominent nose. He looked down that nose at Tatiana. "It's a disguise, you see. Not that it really matters, but if Smith and Nguyen follow me here, I want to throw them off by looking differently than they saw me last."

Tatiana was finding the person in front of her difficult to reconcile. The appearance, the voice, even the posture was completely different than the Patel she had known. And yet there was some strange factor, something in the cadence of the words, that identified her.

Patel smiled a little sheepishly as Tatiana stared. "You can still tell that it's me, can't you? Most people can, once they know what we are. That disappointed them, that we aren't completely untraceable."

"Them?"

Patel looked away. "I would rather not talk about it, to be honest. Hopefully we'll be able to stay far, far away from them." She nodded to Tatiana. "Shall we adjourn to the bridge?"

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