“What do yo mean it’s OK?”, he croaked cautiously. The stars in the viewport hung motionless as the stale air in the spacepod. The pilot’s low, even tone caught the cook off guard, and his face erected a quick sheepish smile to mask his contemplative hesitation.
He chuckled once, “uh, just exactly what I said. It’s OK to drink. It’s safe.”
The pilot smiled humourlessly to himself. “But I didn’t ask if it was safe. I just wanted to know we had enough that I could have this one right now.” Turning away from the control console, he faced the cook directly, ready to fully observe and analyse his response. ”Is there a reason why it wouldn’t be safe?”
”No, no. I just wasn’t sure what you meant. It was a vague question, you know.” He went back to reorganizing the remaining rations, then realized that the rations way out there in the corner might need some organizing too, and so pursued them to that end.
The captain watched the cook’s receding back, analysing the way it was carried, and what that meant about his inner thoughts. ”You can tell a lot about a guy based on the way his muscles hold onto his bones,” he mused quietly to the copilot. ”Incidentally.”
The copilot kept his focus on the temporarily impotent controls. Temporary, that’s the word the tech kept emphasising every time he was asked. Where’s the distinction between temporary and permanent? Ground bases on Venus, they call them permanent but only expect them to last for ten orbs. His own position as copilot, that was supposed to be temporary, but how long has it been? A few more revs of consuming the unrenewables and all their lives would become pretty damn temporary. He kept his eyes on the controls and obligatorily accepted engagement into the conversation. “How do you mean?”
The pilot was ready. “You see they way his muscles are all–I know, it’s hard to see them under the fat–but just look at the way his muscles are all hard and awake, clutching his bones tightly. That’s a sure sign he’s worked up about something. They’re all wrapped around his ribs and tight. Not much room to stretch them. Much more of that and they’ll start to fight back–twitch. That’s the next stage, that’s what they do. Just watch them. Keep an eye on them, that much I’ll say.” The pilot continued to watch them.
The copilot blinked a stolen glance of the pilot, and blinked his eyes back to the controls. “Yeah, this wait is taking its toll on all of us. Are you going to drink the Carrot Essence?”
The pilot forced a scoff. “There’s no need to get antsy, tech says we’ll get moving soon. Everybody’s fine.” He looked at the essence and rubbed his chin. He narrowed his eyes at the essence. He turned his head slightly and clenched his teeth at the essence, then let out a long angry sigh. Dropping his hands to his legs, he said, “I’m not playing his games,” and stood up. From the suddenness, and from uncertainty of the pilot’s next action, the copilot’s heart twinged and beat rapidly. He realized he didn’t actually know the pilot very well.
They’d served together for two orbs on this ship, and were strangers before that. The pilot was a native of Venus, and had that aura of impatience and immediacy all Venusians had. That didn’t bother the copilot; his homedome was on Luna so he was used to all kinds of people. But he’d never before been stuck on a dead ship halfway to the dead edge of the solar system with any of them.
The pilot walked out the room and the copilot’s blood took a moment to fizzle out.