Thursday, October 28, 2010


Manual labor was more difficult than Alex remembered. He ached just about everywhere and felt unbelievably filthy from a combination of dried sweat and the fine dust that coated the inside of the engine. Carbon had assured him the dust was not dangerous... and that he smelled. Despite that, he still felt accomplished at having pried all twelve of the plasma locks loose, each one with its tiny reprogrammable control chip intact.

This was good. The chips were used in everything in the engines but while they were durable, they were not meant to take the shock that came from a railgun round. The cache of spares Carbon had kept had been destroyed when a burning chunk of armor plate smashed into the storage locker they were in.

Alex found himself back in the head with a fresh jumpsuit tucked under one arm, staring at the water tank readout. The fresh and gray water tanks were both half full, the filtration systems made to circulate enough for two showers per day. He decided he’d probably want to use it more in the morning than he did right now, opting for an anti-bacterial body wipe instead. It wasn’t perfect, but it was refreshing in a shockingly cold sort of way.

He shoved himself across the passageway and back into the mess. Carbon had been so kind as to prepare dinner, two trays stuck to the table already as she waited for something at her dispenser. She looked at him sideways with a wave, a little disappointment in her eyes. Alex waved back, slipped onto the bench and clipped himself in.

“Hey, pizza. It’s been a long time since I had pizza.” He had been ignoring his hunger, but the prospect of eating changed things significantly. He had just about managed to get the round, cheesy disk into his mouth when he could tell that it smelled wrong. A little too sharp and tart, but he was already committed to taking a bite.

Carbon’s head perked up, clearly confused. “Pizza?”

“Oh, that is not pizza at all.”

“Certainly not.” She tossed him a beverage tube and sat down across from him.

“That’s... Not bad. Tangy.” The crust was springy and moist, what he thought was cheese was some sort of spicy, creamy sauce that had been browned.

“Good.” She nibbled away at her disk of food, “What is pizza?”

“It’s like this...” He set it down and gestured at it. “But different. There’s cheese, tomato sauce and toppings. Well, it’s actually nothing like this. But it is round. Usually.”

“I do not know cheese and tomato sauce are.” She spoke the unfamiliar words carefully, imitating his pronunciation.

His face scrunched in a little, eyebrows and voice pitching up in disbelief. “Really?”

“Yes, really. I would not lie about such things.” She was a little perturbed at that.

He continued to work his way through dinner as he spoke, a little confused. “I’m sorry, I just got used to you knowing a lot about... humanity.”

“I have become very familiar with the technology used in the ship and a few of your customs, but that is almost the full extent of my knowledge. The original manuals were in English and they were very technical.”

“They didn’t translate them?”

“The translations into written Tsla were... abysmal.” She paused to take a pull off her beverage. “I already knew a small amount of English, learning more of it proved to be only somewhat difficult.”

Alex nodded. Despite the plethora of other languages still in use, English was still what pilots and traffic controllers spoke to avoid running everything through translators. It’s usage was very common among engineers as well. “It has come in quite handy.”

She smiled, “yes, it has.”

“So you haven’t experienced any of our culture? Movies, books, theater?”

“I have screened two human movies that were in illicit data stores I confiscated on the Khav, but that was just to determine if there was anything of concern in them like viri or seditious materials.”

“Oh, what were they?”

She hesitated, suddenly uncomfortable. “They... were not complete, just a few long scenes. I do not think I could identify them.”

“Huh.” Alex steered the conversation away from whatever it was she didn’t like. “We should watch a movie or something. They packed a few terabytes of entertainment into the store, lots of classics.”

“You would like to watch something with me?” She contained her excitement poorly, leaning forward with a grin. All those pointy little teeth on display.

“Sure.” He finished off his not-pizza, “they have the series that really got me into wanting to work out here. In space, I mean. The circumstances are way different, but it still set me down this path.”

She leaned back, appraising him. “I am very interested in seeing what helped turn you into what you have become, Alex.”


  1. Heh. Now I really want to know what movies she found.

    I like how excited she is that he wants to spend social time with him. Her gradual mellowing is great to see.

    Her reaction to his disbelief seemed strong. It might just be the word 'lie', but given the rest of the tone it felt like an overreaction.

    And I have a... species question. If her people are covered in fur and have completely different legs and all, would she be disappointed he isn't sporting his shorts?

    I'll be back for the nitpick... for now it's back to work picturing a terribly awkward scene where Alex takes her to the movies and does the fake yawn to put an arm around her shoulder. Though I guess that would actually happen the other way around.

  2. I'm debating if some aspect of the movies won't come up again in the future...

    I see where you're coming from with the lie thing. Probably going to tweak it down a little.

    As for the Tslao and legs... They've got a pretty sizable hangup about the lower appendages and that manifests itself in a variety of ways. All genders find stout ankles to be, uh... appealing. There are other, deeper meanings for unclothed legs to them as well. He should just be glad he was wearing shoes too.

    Hooray, nitpicking! Yeah, Alex isn't that far into their relationship yet... Though the mental image of Carbon doing the yawn-stretch amuses me greatly.

  3. And the nitpick...

    Despite that, he still felt accomplished at having pried all twelve of the plasma locks loose strange phrasing. Maybe 'he felt he had accomplished something'.

    She looked at him sideways with a wave, a little disappointment in her eyes. reads like her look is waving, not her hand. Could cut 'she looked at him sideways' and go straight into the wave and the disappointment.

    He had been ignoring his hunger, but the prospect of eating changed things significantly. this is a little awkward. I know what the prospect of eating changes, but it seems strangely vague. Maybe specify that the smell of the food makes him realize how hungry he is or something like that.

    “Oh, that is not pizza at all.” the description of the food would be effective here, where he first realizes it isn't pizza.

    Alex steered the conversation away from whatever it was she didn’t like. Love that he changes the subject without seeming to realize what kind of files they were.

    I hope the movie thing comes back. I want to know what show put him in space. I'm picturing Trek or BSG.

  4. Mm... Alright, that all makes sense. I was kind of thinking the accomplished thing was a little weird, but I couldn't put my finger on how.

    I like Alex being a little bit clueless in some aspects of his life.

    You won't have to wait very long for the movies to come back. I'm not naming names, but I'm sure it won't be hard to figure out.