Rrsn’sspri was content, if not a bit bored. The older Jornissian mechanic had finished the first half of his shift, which now consisted of curious younglings asking him a bunch of questions about ‘saving a warm-cuddle’ and ‘going on adventures’, to which he responded in the appropriate half-truths of a father who knew just what to say to fire up little imaginations without causing too much property damage. The other half of his shift comprised of making the rounds and generally being an affable older maintenance worker to patrons and vendors of the station he worked at. The station had, of course, complied fully with the requests of the Senate team and their warm-cuddle leaders (a sentence he never thought he’d think, ever), as had he – but the time spent around the little guys turned him into a bit of a minor celebrity. Management, never wanting to let a good thing go to waste, attempted to get Rrsn’sspri to turn from a middle-management wrench-turner into a planet – or even system – hopping speaker, guest star, and tourist draw.
He had referred them to Mry’brerr-of-Dzrgrin, his Union spokesperson, and although she was sympathetic towards the increased revenue and clout that would bring the local economy, she stood firm. So, here he was in a happy medium; he’d “work” for a good half of the day, and then he’d do his actual job… and since he was so high up in the ranks, Union rules stated that all non-emergency tickets had to be logged almost a half-day early for him to work on them, and even then a majority of those tickets would be handled by juniors on his crew.
Effectively, it meant that for the rest of his career – however long he wanted it to last – he’d get to spend it telling stories, getting free food from his friends, the shop owners – who already gave him free food (but now used it as marketing, the vultures!) – and otherwise coasting. Not that he minded the additional attention or the lack of difficult work, but it did tend to make things a bit same-y. He checked his wrist computer for active work orders; The hydroponic pumps were still getting overheated even after the algae clog removal, which probably pointed towards an insulation or lubrication problem – and the rest of his ticket queue had been cleared.
Rrsn’sspri looked up from his forearm and gave a little wave at his Karnakian friend – Its’iam’I, who ran a baked bread shop. The middle-aged Karnakian waved him over, and with a smile he slithered across the deck to the outside of the small food court.
“[Hey yourself! What’s going on?]” Rrsn’sspri said, looking at the day’s work.
“[Ah, you know – this damn station is falling apart, my oven catches fire, the power goes out at night and I think maintenance is so cheap that they recycle the air!]” Its’iam’I rattled off, laughing with his old friend. “[But, I finished some of those n’dili twists – and they’re right out of the oven, so they’re extra hot-]”
Rrsn’sspri perked up, waving his computer-clad forearm over the payment kiosk. “[I’d really appreciate those right about now-]”
“[I have been giving you free snacks for 200 years, you overgrown insulated tube!]” Its’iam’I chided, canceling the transaction. “[And each time I cancel the transaction-]”
“[And each time I drop it in the tip jar once you turn away.]” Rrsn’sspri said, matter-of-factly. “[Meaning I’ve been winning this argument for 200 years straight.]”
Its’iam’I let out a somewhat rude trill as he turned his back on his friend to tend to the oven near the back of the shop, the two of them settling into a long-running conversation on spices, dietary changes, family additions, problem children and the like. As Rrsn’sspri really didn’t have much responsibility anymore, the conversations tended to linger a bit longer – and that lingering brought in the secondary crowds, who were now curious as to what the hero was snacking on, and … well.
Rrsn’sspri smiled as he waved his goodbye and slithered out of the suddenly-materialized customer line in his old friend’s shop.
= = =
If a wall panel falls and there’s no one around to see it, is a maintenance ticket still made?
Rrsn’sspri rolled his jaw and smirked as he saw the wall panel – the same one that his one-time warm-cuddle friend popped out of – laying flat against the ground. As it was now the wall panel it had gained some infamy within the station, and Rrsn’sspri could no longer tell if it had fallen down due to weak magnetic seals or curious station visitors who hoped to pop off the “magic panel” and find a warm-cuddle of their own – as if the robot maintenance corridor somehow spawned them!
“<5 creds on it being the seals. Surely everyone got it out of their system after the first few days…>” Rrsn’sspri mumbled to himself, pushing his snout into the bag of cooling snacks and pulling out a twisted stick of baked dough and mineral chalk. It slowly disappeared into his mouth as he, in like speed, made his way over to the problem panel. “<I could’ve sworn we were going to either make this a station attraction or drill the damn thing to the wall->”
Rrsn’sspri leaned down with a grunt that belied his age – but hesitated as his hand hovered over the edge of the panel. ‘Surely not.’ He thought, and stayed frozen like that for a moment. As nothing changed, and the hum of the station continued around him, he finally gripped the errant piece of formed plastic and metal, and hefted it up.
“[Ope! Oh hey there bud – that’s not how that goes there, now does it?]”
The voice was higher pitched, had an off-kilter accent, and was oddly put together. Rrsn’sspri furrowed his brow, and turned around, staring with a mix of confusion and awe at yet another warm-cuddle. This one was flanked on both sides by two very alert and very lethal-looking guards – but that fact didn’t seem to dim the smaller alien’s personality at all.
“<Uh. How… did you… get here?>” Rrsn’sspri said, a dozen questions forming in his mind.
“[Why I just used the doors there bud. S’ easy as [Cabrewing], but ya don’t got to go to the Party Store first!]” The warm-cuddle wobbled forward, and Rrsn’sspri took a hard look at him as he came closer. This one was older – male, he could tell by the facial hair – but it was all grays with black streaks – or black with gray patches, Rrsn’sspri couldn’t tell. The face also had wrinkles that seemed to exaggerate the warm-cuddles own expressions, and Rrsn’sspri wondered if they used their face so much that it caused wrinkles in their skin.
“[Oh hey you’re with the Union there?]” The warm-cuddle asked, tapping the sheet metal with a gloved hand. “[Bah, these clamps wouldn’t hold up a Doorwall, let alone one o’ these large panels of yours!]”
Rrsn’sspri leaned forward a bit, the potent mixture of curiosity, novelty and someone who finally understood causing him to temporarily forget the armed guards that stood within arm’s reach. “<Exactly! Just because we can make our own magnets by harvesting asteroids and letting them cook near the reactor doesn’t mean they’re going to be good!>”
“[Hah! Seccies using the core?]” The warm-cuddle said, picking at one of the magnetic clamps with his hand. “[Wish we had that – our core was used for secondary heating. No, our seccies had the bright idea to just drag ‘em through high atmo, let the magnetic field of Dirt take care of it for us!]”
Rrsn’sspri laughed. “<And how did that work out for you?>”
“[Oh it worked, it worked far too well. Last I checked, those new REM asteroids were permanently stuck to the station bay doors!]” The warm-cuddle laughed, loudly. The sound started to draw some attention, and out of the corner of Rrsn’sspri’s vision he noticed a few people perk up and try to move forward towards the warm-cuddle… before someone came up from behind and dissuaded them.
Ah. That would… explain a lot.
“<So what brings you to my little corner of the universe?>” Rrsn’sspri asked, hefting the panel under his free arm – in slow, steady movements.
“[Oh don’t you worry about those FIPs]” The warm-cuddle said, waving his hand in their general direction. “[They won’t be a problem, bud. I just wanted to see the man who saved my son!]”
“<Y-Oh.>” Rrsn’sspri said, giving a little bow. “<Well, this really is a treat! But I wouldn’t go so far as to say I saved him – merely, chaperoned for just a few minutes.>”
“[Now don’t be modest – I know warm-cuddle wiggle-nap can be a handfull.]” The older warm-cuddle said, laughing. “[After all, he learned from the best. I’m out on this little adventure for … oh, what is it. Emotional and familial support? Bah, just send some Fudgies down and give ‘em a bumpy cake care package, that’s enough!]” Nate’s father sighed. “[But it’ll be good to see him after these past few years. You know video doesn’t do it justice, right?]”
Rrsn’sspri nodded. “<That’s true, that’s true. I’m lucky enough that I’m only a half-day flight away from home, so->”
“[Oh! You have kids?!]” the warmcuddle interrupted, perking up immediately.
“<I do! And a whole mess of grandkids and a few great-grandchildren on the way->”
“[Well let me see’em, bud! You got a [Deer] Camp for Mushroom Hunting?]”
Rrsn’sspri half-smiled, shaking his head. “<I have no idea what that is, but I do try to get them out as often as I can. It’s good to keep some of the old ways alive, and there’s no better way to do that than to get outside.>”
“[Absolutely!]” The warm-cuddle clapped his hands together in agreement. “[I’m warm-cuddle-union-mandated-break.]” The older human reached out his hand, and the Jornissian took it.
“<Rrsn’sspri. Pleasure to meet you.>”
“[Same! Now bud, I want to hear about your family, but I saw a booth a little while back that makes custom shirts…]”
= = =
Rrsn’sspri had to pinch himself, every so often, as the second half of his shift unfolded. It started off with free snacks – which, hey! That’s always good! – the sudden apparent spontaneous lifelong friendship with his first warm-cuddle’s father, and then the production of matching shirts. The shirts were pure white, made of a synthetic material, and had a somewhat awkward picture of Rrsn’sspri, warm-cuddle union-mandated-break sitting on his lap, and the two of them against the backdrop of the panel – which Rrsn’sspri was starting to believe actually held magical powers of some sort, and would not let out of his sight. After that, they began station-exploring, comparing parenting tips and tricks, and generally getting along swimmingly.
It was a whirlwind 10 hours of conversation, joking, multiple meals, messing with the juniors, and almost starting a diplomatic incident with a bag of hammers and a sack of lightbulbs. In the end, after generating a couple dozen more trouble tickets for maintenance to manage, the two parted on very kind terms.
‘He really did get it from his father.’ Rrsn’sspri mused, and then laughed, as the Senate ship un-docked from his station and slipped between the stars.
= = = = =
The average gym and rec area ceiling height on any given Senate ship was around 25 – 30 feet tall, or between 0.000001km – 10 trillion picometers (for our international friends). This is because, as a rule of thumb, an athletic xenos could easily jump up to twice his own body height – meaning, an 8ft tall alien could leap an additional 8-16ft in the air, and if they had augmentations or were in a suit – well. Their vertical leap game was downright unfair. Jornissians, as always, don’t count because they can just be long whenever they want and everyone else agrees that that’s cheating.
The particular recreation room we are focusing on is Rec Room 12-B on the Joint Task Force “Old Yeller”’s Senate Flagship, “The Last Word”. It was not any better or worse than any other military rec room on any other modern ship; balls, weights, nets, pulleys, chains and the like all had their own cubbies and cases along the wall, and the floors and walls were painted with overlapping lines of various common games; if this was a human rec room, you’d see lines for both football and basketball and soccer on the floor, as an example, with squash, axe-throwing and jai alai lines painted along the walls.
However, none of those lines – human or otherwise – were being used in 12-B. Instead, there was a single, incredibly popular game going on.
“[GET DOWN HERE YOU LITTLE SHIT.]”
“I HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG BUT FOLLOW THE RULES OF NATURE -ohshitthatwasclose”
Tiki landed a bit hard, grunting as she rolled on the laminated floor. P“pacheep looked around nervously before attempting to dart forward – only to be pulled back by one of his new crew members/wardens, a Dorarizin male named “Drongo”. It was good that he did, because Tiki shot the younger Karnakian a look, which roughly translated to “don’t you interfere if you value your life” as she stood back up, shaking the stinging out of her legs.
“[I just want to talk.]” Tiki said, to no one and everyone assembled. The entire gym was packed along the walls with crewmates of The Perfect, crewmates of The Last Word, and various human liaisons who were all engaged in the oldest military sport of all time.
“Five creds says the Dorarizin gets him when he comes back.” A tiny-chomper said, leaning against an idle Jornissian.
“[Ten creds if he doesn’t make it in 5 jumps?]” The Jornissian idly replied, and got a confirmatory pat on his side.
“Well we can talk from here!” Nate crowed, standing on the metallic rafter at the top of the gym ceiling. Ostensibly he was up there to help remove old, abandoned balls and gym equipment for a more “sanitary exercise experience” but once his location got out to his former crew, the real reason why he was camped up there became apparent:
The little shit was hiding.
“[NNNNNGRAH!]” Toko roared as he launched himself from the floor. Arms stretched up, he clawed at the empty air a few feet below Nate, who gave him a sheepish wave as the disgraced priest, lesser sibling, and all-around miffed Karnakian fell back to the ground with a thump, empty-handed. There was a round of cheers, jeers, and taps of tablets-to-phones as credits electronically changed hands, and at least one or two enterprising humans had worked up a snack business by emptying the vending machines and selling the snacks to the assembled group for a low 200% markup.
Drongo patted P“pacheep’s back. “[Sit back, lad. She doesn’t need any help.]”
“[I know, I know, I just… don’t like it when she’s angry.]” P“pacheep said, picking at his forearm feathers in concern. “[I know I’m… not the best at a lot of things, but I’d like to think that I’m helping out, and I’d like to help out here.]”
Drongo sighed. “[You can’t, and you shouldn’t.]”
“[What do you mean?]” P“pacheep asked. “[I’m helpful! Sure, I still need to be tracked, but. I take care of chores around the ship where I can, I help with cooking and some of the more menial tasks-]”
P“pacheep was silenced by Drongo, who rested his hand on the top of P“pacheep’s muzzle in a “please just stop talking” fashion. “[Son. Nate did this all on his own – this is his dishwashing liquid, and he needs to soak in it. Everyone here but you are trained to handle humans; if you step in he could get hurt.]”
Drongo was interrupted by another scream – from both Nate and Tiki – as the two missed each other by a few feet. P“pacheep gave Drongo a look as his court-appointed-guardian-girlfriend landed on the mat with a whump, rolling with the impact along the ground.
“[I know how it looks, but trust me. He’s going to be fine. Mostly. Probably. We have first aid.]” Drongo said, assuring nobody. “[Speaking of, it’s my turn now.]”
Drongo patted P“pacheep on the cheek and rolled his shoulders, walking out onto the open ground underneath Nate. The two looked at each other – one pointing his finger up, the other giving a friendly wave back down.
“[You didn’t let me finish giving you your shots, Nate.]” Drongo said, stretching out the soreness of his muscles from earlier attempts.
“You kept using the same asscheek, you shag carpet!” Nate complained, much to the approval and cheering of his human compatriots. “That right there’s gotta be some form of abuse!”
Drongo smiled as he looked up. “[It’s not my fault you look like a giant, singular ass, Nate.]”
The retort was met with a round of “Oooooos” and a couple more pointed jokes fired off at the out-of-reach human, who responded to his peanut gallery with a couple rude gestures of his own. As Drongo squatted down – ignoring a few cat calls from some thirsty Dorarizin female marines – he prepared himself for another high leap. His legs tensed, his vision narrowed, and unbidden by him the main door opened.
“[Oh hey now what’s all this then there, bud?]”