Entry 06: In which things start to get messy...
White Sails was a pretty uninteresting place as far as port cities went, but it was the best the planet Selenium had to offer. Other ports were bigger, more beautiful, had more interesting people, but they were all somewhere more important so none of that mattered. When you came right down to it, White Sails was exactly where weary travelers needed it to be; an easy distance from nowhere in particular.
Although it did help that there was a nice beach.
"The probably imported all the water from their ocean moon. No way that shoreline sprung up naturally." Felix thought cynically as he slouched down the street with a few of the other beings that crewed the Helix. He could hear the laughter and chatter of the beach-goers in the distance behind him, the higher pitch rising over the more mundane sounds of the small space port where the Helix had docked.
Main Street was...overly pleasant to Felix's oversensitive eyes. The buildings were rectangular and identical with their clean, whitewashed walls, although each had striped cloth overhangs that set them apart. Breezy, pastel-dyed curtains fluttered out of the open windows, brushing the tops of the vibrant flowers where they sat in their window boxes. Most of the street level floors had carved signs hanging above the propped open doors, marking them as shops, while the upper levels looked more like apartments for the owners.
Selenium had no natural inhabitants so there was no pattern to the different races milling about the wide, packed dirt road. Felix thought they were mostly vacationers who couldn't afford the fuel to go anywhere else, given the large amount of children running around and the matching number of frazzled parents running after them, but he and the rest of Torrik's crew allowed on leave weren't the only obvious star-crawlers either. All in the all the place was bright, breezy, and pleasantly cheery, with no one out to ruin anyone else's day with bad news.
Felix was in no mood for 'cheery'. He still hadn't been able to patch things up with Tori, despite the three days since their clash, and the beach – White Sails' only claim to fame – was more of a nuisance than a pleasure. It was too bright, too hot, and Felix couldn't swim anyway so what was the point?
It didn't help that the engineer had no great love of small planets anyway. There just wasn't enough to do if you asked him, and never a decent data net connection to occupy the time. Usually Torrik didn't bring them out this far which suited Felix just fine. Sure, business for a ship as small as theirs wasn't booming, but there was still a pretty steady demand for cargo and passenger haulers in general. And almost always the destination was somewhere people actually wanted to be.
"Which is not here." Felix thought with a look at the whitewashed walls and flower boxes surrounding him.
He had the sneaking suspicion that their visit had something to do with Kla. They'd landed about midmorning and the Moraloran had disembarked before the engine had gone into standby, leaving behind only instructions for her cargo to be shipped to a warehouse address and the vague statement that she would return when her business was complete.
"Whatever that means..." Felix scowled as he slouched forward, face darkening even more. He wasn't exactly happy with the woman that had made his life miserable the past few days. Ever since their talk in his workroom, the woman had been following him like his own shadow trying to get him to change his mind about coming to work for Dowell & Stein. And she was always so round-about on the subject. It was never, "Hey Felix come work for us. You'll be a gazillionaire by next week!" At least then he could have just said no and gone on his merry way.
Instead she danced around the subject, never saying it out right but always hinting that he was wasting his talent on the Helix 7. That keeping such a dynamic idea squirreled away down in his own private shop was a horrendous sin against the rest of the folks living out there in the universe.
Felix didn't buy it. Even as a kid he had sworn up and down that he would never sell out to a company like Dowell & Stein, but try telling Kla that. The last time he'd tried she'd patted his cheek like he was an idiot child and told him she would come back later for a more definitive answer.
Felix fumed just thinking about it. And yesterday! Yesterday had been the worst to date. He'd finally gotten away from Torrik's mad schedule long enough to catch Tori before she started her shift at the helm when who should appear smelling of perfume and wearing another dress that was highly impractical for their little cargo ship? Kla, of course! And did she just saunter down the hall with a semi-flirtatious, "Hello there," and foxy smile in his direction? No! She snuck up on him from behind, threw her arms around him, and kissed his cheek before murmuring, "There you are Mr. Cauldwell. I haven't seen you since our little chat the other night in your workshop. What's a girl got to do to get your attention around here?"
Right in front of Tori.
Felix had been too mortified to speak, and not even Tori had had much to say. She'd stared at him, eyes wide like she'd just been kicked in the stomach, and then turned on her heel without a word.
Felix had tried to go after her, but Kla was still wrapped around his neck weighing him down. By the time he had managed to pry her off and run after Tori, the blonde had disappeared into the cockpit and locked the door behind her. She had avoided him ever since.
The same oily, guilty feeling that had been lurking in his stomach the last few days roiled at the memory. Tori probably thought that- well, that he and Kla- that they'd, um-
Felix shook his head to try and dislodge the idea, face burning red before suddenly stopping dead in the street. Worse – he suddenly realized – worse Tori might have thought they had only talked in his workshop and that he had actually let Kla in!
"Oh no..." he groaned, face stricken. He knew how curious Tori was about his workroom. She had wanted to see what he was up to in there for weeks, but he had never let her in because he never let anybody in.
"Didn't even let Kla in..." he thought grumpily as he continued to sulk down Main Street. But even if he told Tori that he didn't think she would believe him. Not after seeing Kla's little public display of affection like that.
Felix glared at the ground, seeing no way out. He wished this place wasn't so clean. He would have liked having an old can to kick as he walked.
He settled for an over-sized pebble that had fallen out of place and sent it skittering a few feet ahead of him. "Persistent nuisance..." He muttered as it went.
He kept walking, kicking the same pebble every other step as he went. The street crowd was starting to dissipate as people made their way inside for shade and lunch so he didn't have to worry about hitting anyone. Even the rest of the Helix crew had left, though Felix didn't remember them saying anything to him about it.
He shrugged and kept walking, too irritated to sit anywhere right now. Besides, it wasn't like he had really known any of the others. He had just sort of followed them off the ship when Torrik kicked him off saying something about being tired of his sulking about.
Felix kicked the pebble down the emptying street. "Can't even stay on the Helix," he grumbled to himself, "have to come out here where the sun's too bright and everything tastes like salt."
He kicked the rock again, harder than before, and it bounced clear across the street-and disappeared down a drain on the other side with a clatter.
Felix groaned and ran a hand through his hair as his distraction vanished with a slight plink past the metal grate. "Stupid rock..." he grumbled.
It wasn't the rock he was annoyed with, although it had been nice to have something to kick around without having the guy in the next room over telling him to 'mute that wretched noise at this unholy hour'.
For all the trouble Kla had already caused – all the frustration she'd caused him – Felix was starting to wonder if maybe the purple-skinned menace didn't have a point. Maybe trying to interest an official business in his work wasn't just an easier way to go about it, but necessary.
It rankled him to even think it, but that didn't change anything. True, he was doing fine on his own so far, but always having to scrounge for metal and parts was slowing him down when it came to making prototypes. And actually testing them? Ha! Torrik had issued a strict 'my ship is not a firing range' policy after the human's last design had set fire to the hold. Felix was lucky he hadn't been fired on the spot himself.
"Not to mention I have to pay for everything myself." He thought, serious now. "I already owe Torrik a month's worth of work after he forwarded my last paycheck. Not to mention however much I owe Tori and Cor for loans..."
It was a bleak reminder that even though he could write the equation and design the machine alone, actually creating the thing and making sure it would work like it was supposed to without killing anybody in the process was beyond his means. Eventually, he was going to need some help.
"But where?" Felix thought with a slight frown. "And from who?" He scoffed and made a face. "Not Dowell & Stein. I haven't sunk that low, no matter what Kla does. And starting businesses and mom and pop shops just won't have the capital I need. I need somewhere big enough handle all the debt I'm about to put myself into, but not so successful that they've already sold their soul for higher profits..."
Felix frowned, not even sure a place like that existed. "I've heard good things about Red Star." He thought through his options. "And Aviciians are known for their big brains to start with, so they'd probably be able to understand my math. Although Dave just took a job for Stellar Enterprises too. Aunt Stella says they gave him an office with a nice view and everything. He might be able to find me a decent person to talk to..."
He had thought of a few other companies – rivals of D&S mostly – before the sweet smell of Aviciian Aster made him look up. The purple and white flower was hard to miss, even surrounded by the pale red lolas from Felina Four and the more mundane daisies from his own Earth. At first Felix thought it was just another window box put out to add color to the mostly white surroundings, but then he saw the individual potters the plants were set in.
Felix stepped closer to the store and peered through the large, glass window. There were a few people inside, making it kind of hard to see, but the small room was so packed to bursting with plants that it was impossible to mistake the place for anything but a flower shop. Looking up above the open door, Felix saw a sign naming the place as Egoda's Interstellar Blooms.
Felix stepped off the curb, mindful of the flower buckets, and reached into his different pockets, scrounging for change. He counted it all out carefully and breathed a sigh of relief when he realized he had just enough for a small bouquet.
"Right," he mumbled to himself as he squirreled the money away in one pocket this time, "before we go making any life decisions, first things first."
He returned to the Helix 7 later that afternoon, flowers in hand. Little Egoda must have had a personal contact on Aviici because the asters hadn't been as expensive as Felix had first assumed. He'd had enough for three of the tall, cone shaped flowers instead of two and enough change left over to add in a handful of daisies to fill out the bouquet. The little old woman with gray-pink hair that ran the shop had wrapped the stems in ocean blue paper before tying it all together with boat twine. Not Felix's first choice, but it looked nice all put together.
"Hope Tori likes it." He thought nervously as he found the Helix's docking platform and headed for the open boarding ramp.
He'd barely set foot onboard when footsteps came clanging towards him. Felix looked up, somewhat startled, but then relaxed when he saw it was only Cor.
"Oh, hey there," Felix mumbled, attention returning to the flowers in his hand as Cor came to a screeching stop in front of him. He held them up for the older man to see. "What d'you think? I know the asters are Tori's favorite but what about the daisies? You think she'll like 'em all together or should I just take them out?"
Out of breath Cor stood there trying to talk. When he couldn't fast enough he waved his hands wildly in a definite negative.
Felix frowned. "Yeah, I guess you're right. Daisies are boring-hey!”
The flowers landed with a soft sound on the deck plating, but Felix didn't have a chance to pick them up. Out of breath and unable to explain himself, Cor had grabbed his wrist in an iron grip and dragged the human forward, deeper into the shadows of the ship.
"Cor what are you doing?!" Felix shouted as he fought Cor's grip but couldn't break it. The Hybridian was stronger than he looked. "I gotta give those to Tori!"
"Ferget the scrappin' flowers Felix!" Cor hissed at him over his shoulder. "We got bigger problems right now! Like what in the stars ya did to that purple gal to make her wanna kill ya!"
Felix's eyes widened to twice their normal size. "S-someone wants to kill me?!"
Cor looked back at him, mouth set in a grim line, face perfectly serious for once in his life. "Yeah, and we gotta get you outta here. Now!"