The day started out to be a boring one. I was tempted to search for entertainment, but the mind-numbing duties on deck yanked my chain. I had my clipboard, paper, and a crayon. Yes, they gave me a green crayon to do the work I was allowed to. I never liked green. My crewmates lacked trust. I’d never sabotage the ship, or harm myself, at least not with a pencil.
I had to tick off a bogus checklist. Shepherd had me check the tanks on board, not just the oxygen and nitrogen tanks, but also the algae tanks, the pressure control, preparation plant tanks, and finally updating the star charts. Dull! Duller, dullest. I could try to program all screens to broadcast one of my favorite songs from Earth simultaneously. The Surfin’ Bird was destined for greatness!
Bird WAS the word. Anyone saying otherwise was an ignorant liar. I have proven this at least one noteworthy occasion, when I accidentally fried all vital relays for life support and the engines, in the middle of an ice field, with bird-people porn. Well, it didn’t go as planned, and I had to go for a very long walk outside, on Aymon’s hull, and whack all incoming debris with a big shovel. They told me I fried the shield, which was a blatant lie. Why they had been keeping any shovels on board was beyond me. Emergency burials? Digging up treasures? Playing hockey? Back scratches? Mother Goose insisted I underscored each hit with some yelling: “I’m not gonna short out life support for porn!” Or this gem: “In space, only your crewmates hear you scream.” Which implied some kind of threat, I was sure, but decided not to worry about it.
Cricket had been going through my memories with MG and Shepherd. She was interested in Pomona’s race and tried to look into her medical data. “Access denied.” Mother had been thorough and blocked all interfaces if I was the one doing a deep dig. Cricket nodded in approval. Huh. She liked Mother.
Lunch had been a blast. I got accused of being and not being myself at the same time. Poe was so annoyed at my appetite for Mannovian steaks that she threatened to pulverize me, and I quote, ‘your freaky monster eye.’ She was upset about the mass killing of Mannovian wilder-beasts, her favorite animals, and me, who wouldn’t shut up about the wonderful taste and the juiciest cuts. I never even tasted that meat. I did it only to poke the bear. Poe held back I could see that. The way she went dark pink then normal, made me all warm and fuzzy inside. I was proud of her pulling herself together.
Lately, I sported an eyepatch, and Shepherd pulled her full repertoire on pirate and parrot jokes she could think of. I enjoyed the show and dug in. Anyways, since Mother was our chief, teller of tall tales in general and the one coming up with the most livable solutions for the problems we managed to acquire for ourselves. He called in a family-meeting to plan how to proceed with the stolen sample, how to turn it into heat, food, and fuel for more than a year.
We started the brainstorming session, like always: pizza, booze, a handful of Sharpies, and the face of whoever passed out first.
We didn’t have pizza.
“Three points. Fool-proof plan.” Why did everybody stare at me? “Stay free, sell sample, live happily ever after,” I offered.
“Yes, roughly.” Mother nodded at my comment.”For everybody else, without your optimism, I will get into details. We need a fixer, somebody obscure, somebody – probably like us. Any suggestions?” Shepherd had some ideas.
The fixer, Mother and she agreed on, was a shady guy named Tampo. Shepherd knew him from eons ago when she had been a meat-sickle. She showed the Xmas card recording he sent her, and I was flabbergasted. That man looked like he traded in his sense of fashion for the body shape of a fat man, hiding another fat man inside his stomach. He was clad in a flamingo boa, a mink fur coat, and nothing else underneath. He danced suggestively, a mixture of wiggles and rhythmic pelvic thrusting moves. I stared dumbfounded at the rolls that kept jiggling through his dance moves. Fascinating!
Wow, that painted a whole new picture of Shepherd and her preferences. I didn’t know she was this kinky, I mean a cyborg, who was into bird-people… YES! We had so much in common! And looking at the undulating pale mass with pink feathers, I WAS a step-up! No wonder she was so shy to flirt with a hunk like me. I must get me some feathers!
It took us several hours to agree on a plan with all the bells and whistles. We broke out Mother’s whiskey stash to calm the nerves. Pomona got hammered first and twitted Shepherd with her suspected sexual relationship with Tampo. A few drinks later my crush on Shepherd was top joke, then we were back at pirates and parrots. Cricket chuckled, I scream-laughed, and Mother wheeze-laughed. Poe rolled on the floor, crying with laughter. Shepherd took it like a man. She played a recording of a chimpanzee screaming. Poe got pissed at her and turned an arm huge, hairy, red, and bulging with muscles. She hit Shepherd, who ignored her completely. Next thing, the tranquilizer gun came out, and Poe was cold out.
“I go first,” I shot up, uncapped Sharpie in hand. The chair behind me toppled over. I had a wide range of perfected dick drawings and some choice words for Poe and her short fuse I wanted to draw all over her face. Before I knew it, Shepherd turned on me and fired. She got me with the next dart. The mess tilted. All I could do was to giggle stupidly. “Dick move, Shep. Dick move.” I mumbled.
Most of us had a hangover, except Cricket and Shepherd. The first was an imaginary person, the latter a combat cyborg. Poe was holding her head in both hands, growling at anyone who attempted to breathe loudly. Mother and I nursed our morning drinks instead of breakfast. My second prairie oyster eyed me suspiciously. Mother downed his and stood up to do some planning.
He said something about going solo, so Shepherd and I had a good excuse to persuade him that I was a bad idea. We didn’t let him leave. We might have overdone it a bit, but we didn’t tie him up very effectively. He could have freed himself anytime he wanted to. It was clear to us, he wouldn’t be safe without his back-up and fuck-up. Which inspired Shepherd, Pomona, and Mother to the weird string of events we were proud of attracting.
A day later, the plan, as far as any of us remembered, was set in motion. The obscene drawings have faded under the extensive scrubbing and washing solutions from Poe’s, Mother’s and my face. Shepherd had made contact with the fixer and arranged a meeting.
Transportation was tricky, since that kinky recording hid the coordinates to an abandoned mining satellite in the middle of a debris field, beyond Mira, in the Taurus Dark Cloud. That was Tampo’s hideout or the entrance to it. Reaching the range of fire meant nothing. The readings were vague and inconsistent. Pinpointing the exact area and scanning for an ambush was impossible. Mother fired off some drones that helped with triangulation and served as “eyestalks”. It didn’t help much, we still had to fly by VFR. “Doesn’t it remind you of something unpleasant?” Mother threw me a meaningful look, most likely a trap. “Not fancy at first sight.” We found what we were searching for.
The coordinates had to be approached by glider due to the object density and changing magnetic readings in the area. Bayard’s blade wings were small enough to maneuver between the floating debris, the ancient mines. She was able to land on the transporter-sized scrap metal ball. Not fancy at second sight. Mother and Shepherd agreed to proceed with the operation Mutiny Shuffle.