Wednesday, August 5, 2015

34: Finally Settled


Entry 034: Where Felix sends one last missive before settling in to his new life.


                Felix stood in the Persephone's supply hanger, nervously spinning the rectangular envelope in his hands by two opposite corners. A bubble of empty space had sprung up around him, like it had everywhere else the human went on the Hybridian ship. He wasn't sure if the crew would warm up to him in time or if his lack of static would keep them at a distance, but that was hardly his concern. They would do their jobs and Felix would do his. That was all that mattered really.
                But all of that was the last thing on his mind right now. Hybridians, hangers, even the pristine lab waiting for him several decks below; all faded to the peripheral as Felix stared up at the visiting bulky supply ship with a frown and felt the sharp paper corners of the envelope press into the pads of his index fingers.
                He wasn't exactly sure about this, but Cor had said it was the least he could do given how abruptly they'd left and, the more he thought about it, the more he felt the old man was right.
                But that didn't make it easy.
                "Havin' second thoughts there, kid?"
                Felix turned and shook his head, hardly blinking at the bright colors Cor was for some reason wearing. "Not really, no. Like you said, they're our best option, even if they are completely crazy – and from what I've seen they kinda are..."
                "I meant the letter," Cor told him smoothly.
                Felix stopped talking and stared down at the envelope again. He flipped it over so he could double check the address he'd tried to write neatly across the front. He frowned at it, mouth twisting down at the corner. "Still looks like chicken scratch," he thought grimly. "I hope it doesn't get lost out there somewhere."
                That would be well and truly miserable, since he had left no return address and didn't have any way of finding out if the letter would even reach its final recipient. That was the one safety a paper letter offered in this electronic age, according to Au'relia. Transmissions could be scanned, monitored, and tracked back to moving ships, no matter how isolated, almost as soon as they were beamed, but paper? Paper took time to backtrack, and then only if you were able to lay your hands on the right hardcopy in the first place.
                Felix frowned as he stared down at his handwritten scrawl. To make matters worse, Tori didn't have a PO box exactly, since she lived on whatever ship she worked on – and Felix wasn't even certain that was still the Helix 7 at this point – and most of her school work was sent electronically to her student mailbox. He could always send it to her parents' place, he knew, but he didn't want anyone else reading it on accident. Or purpose if her brothers really were as nosy as she said.
                Fortunately Cor had remembered that Tori rented a physical mailbox close to her university for 'just in case' emergencies. The packing and shipping store kept her mail for her and sent it along whenever she sent them word of a destination address. It wasn't easy, since she was never in one place for too long, and there was a good chance it could be weeks or even months before she actually got his message, but it was better than just leaving her in suspense like he had so far.
                That, plus Au'relia's assurances that the Valeeran traders currently unloading supplies twenty feet away from where he stood knew how to ensure the security of the Persephone's location, had made Felix realize he had no excuse not to send Tori another letter.
                "What d'ya tell 'er?" Cor asked even though Felix hadn't answered his first question.
                Felix shrugged, the motion listless. "The expected," he said without looking up. "That we're okay, that we found someplace safe for now, so she doesn't have to worry anymore. And that Kla's in jail. I figured she'd like that part."
                "But?" Cor prompted.
                Felix nodded slightly. There was always a 'but' nowadays. "But it's still too dangerous to tell her where we are or who we're with. And that I- we will only put her at risk if we do."
                Cor waited, eyes pinned on him expectantly. Though what he was waiting for, Felix couldn't fathom.
                The old mechanic finally raised a gray-peppered eyebrow. "Anythin' else?" he prodded.
                The paper corners poked into Felix's fingers as he spun it again. "That I wish she was here. How I hope she's doing okay since she's not. That Kla was only in my workroom because she's a belligerent busybody and no other reason. And that if Tor ties in Macmamadonn's observations of the prevalence of the 'shuttle god' in pre-electric societies she'll have one heck of a paper for her advanced technology and isolated indigenous civilizations class."
                But none of that was Cor's business.
                He turned to the Hybridian and frowned. "Yeah, what's with the getup?"
                Cor looked down at his new, brightly colored security uniform, complete with the by-now familiar three spark sigil emblazoned on his breast. "Huh? Oh, yeah, I was gonna tell ya. I finally got m'clearance from Maddox. I'm yer bonifide bodyguard now, kid. Official n'everything."
                Felix made a small noise in the back of his throat. He still didn't see what the big deal was. Cor had looked out for him from practically the nano-sec he'd stepped onto the Helix as their new engineer. He certainly didn't need encouragement, much less permission, from this Commander Magnil to keep doing it, but the man had insisted on making it 'official' anyway. "Like he needs Cor tied into an actual chain of command to keep him here. And me along with him."
                The young man felt his throat tighten, like he was wearing a tie that was too tight. Pressure on his chest that he'd learned preceded a full-on anxiety attack increased by several uncomfortable increments.
                He focused on Tori's name scrawled across the paper, needing a distraction from his fears. "So do you know who I give this to or what? It looks like they're almost done unloading and I don't want to wait for the next supply run to send this out."
                Cor grunted and squinted at the traders moving about in a well-ordered pattern. "Yeah, erm, hold on a'sec."
                It didn't take them long to find the right being – the captain actually, who, like his crew, had moist, smooth skin and semitransparent fin-like ears, pale orange to match his darker skin tone – and Felix handed over his message with some reluctance. He hadn't let himself think of Tori much over the past few months because he knew if he did, he wouldn't be able to stop. There was so much he wanted to tell her, and even more that he didn't dare, as the little storm of first, second, and seventh tries crumpled up on the floor of his quarters testified to. He hadn't realized how much he had taken her open presence on the Helix 7 for granted...
                "I had hoped there would be some way for her to answer, but it looks like that's not in the cards right now," Felix thought as he and Cor left the smaller hanger that serviced their supply carriers. "I'm no hacker, but maybe some kind of super-secret frequency? That sounds like a real thing..."
                He followed Cor into a lift before finally realizing they weren't headed back to the level dedicated to living quarters.
                "Where we going?" he asked as numbers clicked past on a screen – first white and then blue as they entered the science division's dedicated section of the Persephone.
                Cor shot him a crooked grin. "Yer lab. I haven't seen it fer myself yet and I wanna get a good look at it before ya go'n mess it up."
                Felix frowned at him. "I'm not going to mess anything up," he protested.
                "Please." Cor snorted. "Your place always turns into a sty."
                Felix's dark brows creased together, a small line etching itself between his eyes as the lift door slid open and they stepped out. "Do you think they'll mind?" he asked, suddenly concerned. Cor had a point; his scientific process often left the surrounding area looking like a natural disaster had blown through. Hurricane Felix his mother used to call him, but that was how Felix knew he was finally getting somewhere.
                Cor shrugged and looked away, suddenly very interested in the bold numbers on the wall denoting this as L27 – C3 – SD9, but before he could get out more than a hesitant, "Well..." something exploded out of the door just ahead of them.
                Felix leapt three feet in the air like a startled cat and Cor's field went off like a string of firecrackers. Smoke and the smell of explosives gushed out of the open door and something heavy was thrown out the door and into the wall not two feet away with a meaty WHUMP!
                The projectile peeled itself off the wall, coughing heavily as it tried to unclog smoke-infused lungs. Felix realized it was a man about the time he started waving his arms at the heart of the smoke bomb to try and dispel the smoke now drifting down the corridor. He was wearing an ash-blackened lab coat that, for some reason, was heavily padded, especially the stiff collar wrapping around the back of his neck to protect his secondary skeleton, but other than that he was too covered in gray for Felix to tell anything else about him.
                The man reached up and raised the thick goggles he wore away from his eyes and settled them against his hair now sticking straight up from his head. He squinted into the lab he'd shot out of as he hacked a few times more. He looked more put out than hurt.
                "Roller, you idiot, I said the red bottle not the almost red one!" he rasped as loud as he could before storming in to deal with the unfortunate Roller, a slight limp the only sign of how hard he had impacted the wall. Well, that and the black outline he'd left behind like a bizarre crime scene chalk man.
                The door whooshed shut behind the Hybridian cannonball as fans set near the ceiling and floor finished pulling in the thick, unwanted smoke. In another minute there was no sign of what had just happened except the outline and the sounds of broken glass being violently disposed of on the other side of the door.
                Felix and Cor stood there, stunned. Static electricity crawled through Felix's hair, making it stick up at even stranger angles than usual.
                "You know," Cor finally said as Felix shook the errant electricity out of his black hair, "something tells me they're not gonna notice a few dirty socks lyin' around."
                Felix snorted a laugh as he led Cor to the lab Watts and Au'relia had shown him a few days earlier, feeling a little easier. "Seriously," he agreed. "I mean, did you see the air time that guy got? His feet didn't touch the floor after he left the doorway."
                Cor chuckled. "And with that padded coat a'his, I'd say it's not the first time either." He breathed in deep, enjoying the smell of ozone, oil, and temperamental mechanics before letting the air leave his lungs in a rush. "I think I'm gonna like it here," he confessed.
                A rare feeling of optimism growing in his chest, Felix opened the door to his waiting workspace. "For once, I think you're right."



< Entry 33                                                                                                                                          Entry 35 >

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