In sports news this week: A team with a name involving an impressive animal played against another team named after a mythical demonic entity. It was a very close match/game/waste of fucking time. One of them beat the other one. By scoring more points or goals and having a much harder to detect doping program. The fans were overjoyed and deeply depressed in nearly equal proportions. There were winners and losers, but in the end everybody who took part was a winner, except for all the losers. It's Darwinism at work. They won't be allowed to breed now I should think. There was a lot of other sport as well. Most of it even less interesting. Meanwhile in science news: The periodic table is 150 years old. Having beaten all the other tables to death, with chairs ironically, it was allowed to survive. Next week it's going up against the Twelve Times Table, which is even older. That's why it gets more candles on its birthday cake. I'm putting my money on the winner of the contest. It's sure to be one or other of them. Nobody said this was going to make sense.
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The nerds were safe. Time had done a thing to make itself better and the translation of the Simbri scroll was on schedule. It would only be a matter of time before they knew what they were doing. That was Jake's assessment. He still didn't know how they were navigating these vast distances or what made Zhen's ship move. He was able to accept the rationale that inside the fold space hold technology worked. Outside it depended on where they were in The Never. It was all part and parcel of the crazy he'd wandered into inadvertently. His random, disconnected, thought stream brought up another of those bothersome questions he rarely got an answer to. As Morag turned the lock on the hold door he risked an open question.
"When you thought I was dying, why didn't you bring me down here? The medibot would have worked inside fold space."
Scarlet was the one who replied. When he'd been hoping the ship's engineer would be far more talkative. The Captain not being at her most accommodating with regards to him
"You know. We never even thought of that." She growled sarcastically. "Aren't we stupid. Lucky you turned up to advise us on the blindingly obvious. It wouldn't have worked. Any repair work it did would disappear as soon as you left the hold. Now I'm thinking that it was an opportunity missed. To keep you in there for the rest of your miserable, worthless life. Anymore flaws in our reasoning you'd like to point out?"
"No that's fine. How do you navigate?" That slipped out. It should have tried harder to keep itself bottled up.
"We use Fetu. A lot of ships have Polynesian's on board. Their ancestors sailed the Pacific for a thousand years without the aid of charts. He can tell from the waves where we are and where the nearest land is. We've got you and the Geochronometric Array as well now." Morag provided helpfully. "It can do most of what Fetu does plus provide information on the best angle of approach to negotiate a transitional point."
"Thank you. That was really helpful. I'm sorry to keep bothering you with my tiresome questions."
"Have you got any more?" His Captain asked with a level of hostility he was gradually becoming used to.
"They can wait."
The three of them set off.
"Where are you going? I told you, your only duty is to watch over the nerds. Now get to it Halliday."
That was him told.
After a while pacing up and down lost all of its thrills. Hermes was no company. Too busy trying to find all his missing data. The temptation to check on Norbert and Poppy became overwhelming. Particularly after dark. He knew they were in there. Nobody had left. Jake wasn't entirely sure what his checking on them involved beyond knowing they were safe. There had to be a careful balance. Him entering the hold could disturb the male nerd in his work. Eventually he decided it would be best to have a peek. Poppy might need something. A rest from Norbert came to mind. Taking a look before he knocked off for the night couldn't do that much harm. He entered stealthily. Poppy was welding something. The goggles and the blinding light, gave that way.
"Is everything okay? Do you need anything?"
She placed the torch gadget on the work top and pulled the darkened goggles up onto her head.
"He's the same pain in the ass he's always been. Otherwise things are fine."
"I'm headed for my cabin. So if there's anything you can think of... Look would you like a break from Norbert. Not now. Tomorrow. You can have a good look round. I'm supposed to be training you in combat."
Oh shit. She looked worried. What had he said?
"I don't know if that's advisable."
She glanced at the hut where Norbert was still at work.
"Oh I get it. Just ignore all that stuff the Captain said. I am not going to molest you in any way. There was a thing. Something happened. An itch was scratched. Twice actually. I did some stuff with... a woman. That on reflection I shouldn't have. Don't worry. You are completely safe with me. I'm not going to touch you."
"That's a shame... I mean... I know that stuff wasn't true. I meant about the training. I'm not sure.. I've already shot you once."
"That? Don't worry about that. I'm used to it. We'll take precautions." Careful there Jake, watch the phrasing. "I could take you up on deck now if you like. It's dark I know, but it's a beautiful sight."
"No. It's his bedtime soon. If I'm not here he could be up all night. When Norbert gets over tired and cranky, he can be an even worse nightmare to deal with. Tomorrow would be better. If you haven't got anything better to do."
"It's a date then... In the sense of... You know what I mean. I'll see you early tomorrow."
Duty fulfilled, Jake headed up on deck. It was late. The manned kite, flying from the Crystal Dragon, blinked some kind of message. Nothing much else was happening. He headed below. Entering his cabin he headed to bed. The swaying of the ship rocked him off to sleep. Something woke him from a very erotic dream. It might have been the hand working his joystick. If this was Pengelly he was going to kill him at the very least. Remaining still was next to impossible right now.
"I'm awake." He stated.
That sounded feminine.
"Is this a trap? Because if it's you Morag, I'm already in enough trouble. Finish up what you're doing and leave."
"Shut up Halliday."
It sounded like Scarlet. He needed more proof.
"I don't care who you are. You must leave. I'm in love with this evil witch you see." There was some cupping. Very firm, one could even say robust, cupping. "Aaaagggghhhh... That's not helping matters. You could be anybody. There are at least half a dozen women on this ship who would gladly crush my nuts to dust."
His testicles were released. The bed cover raised. A chilled body placed itself beside him.
"This means nothing." Ah those three little words whispered into his ear.
"I know. You're scratching an itch. It could be a rash. Have you thought of that? Ow, ow, ow."
His ears were being pinched and twisted. While his mouth was being kissed.
"That's fine Halliday. Keep wading deeper and deeper into the shit."
It was definitely Scarlet then.
Morning arrived, hours after she departed. Things were complicated right now. There were pluses and minuses. They kind of balanced out. The sex part was all good. He couldn't fault it. Scarlet could. He was sure she was giving him marks out of ten. Must try harder, would appear on his report card at some point no doubt. Thinking about the situation was exactly what Scarlet wanted. He wasn't going to play into her hands. He'd continue being just as thoughtless as he'd always been. It was the only language she'd understand. No point stooping to her level. For now that made sense. All he had to do was avoid examining the flimsy structure he'd created. Giving Poppy the full tour would take his mind off of things. Full body armor. Giving the female nerd potentially lethal weapons, although less hazardous than annoying Scarlet, had potential dangers. Stepping out into the passageway he spotted her instantly. Chatting to one of the crew. Her name began with a letter. T leaped to mind.
"You're looking tired Tamsin." Scarlet observed.
He'd got it. With hardly any effort he'd remembered her name began with a T.
"Yes Captain. I was up half the night I'm afraid."
Did she just wink at him? She did it again. That was definitely a wink. Why would she wink at him like that? He hardly knew her.
"Too much bed and not enough sleep no doubt." The Captain sympathized jokingly.
"That's right." Tamsin winked again.
Same height. Same build. They could have been twins. If you ignored hair color and facial features.
"Can I help you?" Scarlet queried. He shook his head. "Carry on Tamsin. You must tell me all about it later. I'm dying to know every dirty detail."
No it couldn't be.
"I know your little game." Jake blustered. "You're just messing with my head. We both know what happened last night. Don't give me that puzzled innocent look either. I'm turning the lights on next time."
"What are you on about?"
"You know. I know." He pointed between them. "I've got my eye on you now. You'll see. I'm not going to take this lying down. What's for breakfast anyway?"
It turned out to be something that looked like chicken, but tasted like bacon. He wasn't going to ask. Jake already had far too much going on right now, to worry about the provenance of his food. The nerve of that woman. This was psychological warfare. Two could play at that game. He wasn't one of them unfortunately. His talents lay in a different direction. When he found out which direction that was, he'd go in search of them. Oh God. There was no end to this. He was being deliberately provoked. Tamsin was eating some kind of sausage in a very suggestive way. There was absolutely no need for that.
"Looks like you're really enjoying that sausage." Pengelly observed as he sat beside Jake.
"I love a good sausage boatswain." Tamsin held it up and smiled.
"Me to." Pengelly responded.
He was in on it to then.
"I'm off." Jake picked up some bread and slapped the remains of his breakfast on it. "Tired of your silly bloody games. If you need me I'll be with Poppy."
"That's a big if." The boatswain retorted to general laughter. "Before you go, is it alright if I have your sausage?"
"Ha, ha. Feel free. Be my guest."