What should our next move be? The captain, and two aliens just threw this dilemma out there for the whole crew to weigh in on. Now we gotta decide to either go planet side for our next raid or stay out in the black.
“You've heard both sides of the argument. It's a lot to take in, so take some time to discuss it amongst yourselves,” the captain announces to the audience. “We'll vote on it in thirty.”
The crowd wastes no time. They get right to discussing. I see them break off into groups. Some groups are made up of friends, acquaintances, the buddy types. Some groups are more or less four or five people gathering around a loud, outspoken type person, trying to hear his case. There's debate. There's discussion. I think I see the captain jump in the mix, too.
Me and Mera are sorta standing in the midst of everything off to ourselves. She hasn't said a word about the issue, yet. I look to her to try and get a read off her, but there's nothing. I don't know what she's thinking, and she's doing a fairly good job hiding it. Or maybe she's not hiding it, and I just don't know what type of expressions lizard-like, duck billed aliens make.
No, that's not right. Body language is universal, and right now, her body language is saying she's uncomfortable. She's out of place. She's by herself because she doesn't know how to be with anyone else in here. That stoicism isn't from being some rough and tough, care-about-nothing, stay-outta-my-way cuz I don't care attitude. That's my thing. Hers—and it's subtle—is about trying to fit in, but not knowing how. She's always looking at other people, studying them, analyzing them, then becoming them. When she sees someone walk by, broad shouldered, hunched over, primed to pounce, she arches her back ever so slightly. She clenches her fist, crinkles her brow, puts on a more menacing face. She does it to fit in, and now that I know she's trying to fit in, it's oh so obvious.
Then I look around this mess hall. All these aliens in the room—just like that—are all the same. Mera's not the only one tryna fit in, they all are. That's why all these groups only have one primary speaker. The people gathered around them aren't all necessarily tryna have a discussion. They're there to listen. Or more accurately, they're there to make it look like they're listening. They know this is a debate that immediately affects their livelihood and well being, but they really don't know what they should do about it. Not all of 'em do. A majority of 'em don't.
Most everyone here is jus followin the flow. This place jus' like high school.
Then I see Carlos. Nah son, that dude sees me, and even after I told him—after I made it abundantly clear—that I didn't want nothin' to do with his punk-tailed self, he completely ignores the notion an' steps right up to me.
“I know you hate me, and that's all well and good,” he says, “but put that aside for just a second and think of the big picture here. They're talking about raiding a planet – a planet. I hope you know what that means.”
And jus as quickly as the dude stepped up, he bounces. He knows what's good for 'im. Don't know what he was tryna get at though, but if he's votin' to go planet-side, I now know I want the exact opposite. Does that make me petty? I'm sure it does, but I don't give a care. I hate that dude.
Soon after, the break draws to a close. A couple of the talking heads try ramming their last few points in, and the captain, along with Kal-Artang, and the holographic Scion take center stage.
“It's time to take it to a vote,” the captain opens up.
“Remember, it doesn't matter how loud you shout or how wild you wave your appendages,” Scion states. “All votes are cast via telepathic receivers. All you need do is think it, and your vote will be counted.”
“Now, all in favor of the ship raids?” the captain asks.
In spite of Scion's declaration, these bums shout as loud and as wild as they can. They're pirates. They won't settle for keeping quiet. Among the obvious supporters, I see Rutra some ways down raise his hand—or feeler, leg thing—as he jumps up and down. I turn to my side and see Mera with her hand up as well. She's not quite as animated and lively as the rest, though, but believe me, the people around her are all hoopin' an' hollerin' like their ain't no tomorrow.
“Alright, settle down,” the captain says. “Now those in favor of the planet raid?”
And immediately, that same energy and excitement that just got through dying down picks right back up. I see Carlos look at me from the other side of the room. I know this is the one he wants me to vote for. I ignore him.
After a short time, the crowd dies down again. Anticipation flows through the room now. Everyone's eagerly awaiting the answer. After Scion checks some device in his hand, he announces,
“The readings are very close, but I notice quite a few of you didn't cast a vote. Remember, this is a very big decision that affects everyone in this fleet. I implore you to give it some thought and let your voice be known.”
“This is the last time you pnokerats! All in favor of going planet-side?”
The crowd roars in response.
Still Carlos is giving me the death stare. He ain't no telepath, but his thoughts is as loud as day. Maybe I'm being stupid. Maybe I'm being stubborn. I'm letting my feelings towards him cloud my judgment. I know that I should be voting along with him. I know that anywhere away from these fools is better than anywhere with 'em, but –
“And all in favor of the ship raids?” The captain asks, and I answer. I know I should be voting for the planet raid, but I'm consciously going against the tide and sticking with these ships. Staak it, I don't care.
The crowd raves just as loud as before. Going by the outcries, it'd be impossible to determine which side won out, and that's just in this room. There're whole other ships out there voting. That telepathy thing of theirs was a good idea. Your votes are private, and they all get counted. I can dig it.
“Ah, a much better turnout.” Scion states. “Well again, it was close, but the winner is clear. Tallying all the votes together from each ship in the fleet, the outcome is 362 to 263. We're going planet-side.”
Well so much for my act of defiance. Probably for the best anyway.
Back in the room, I do what I need to do to prepare for what's coming next.
Trust me, it's got a purpose. I don't do nothing out of laziness. Laziness might factor into it. I'm not gonna deny that I'm a lazy person at heart, but when I do nothing—me doing nothing—it's like I'm recovering. After being engaged in something big, like dealing with all the hustle and bustle of life, putting up with the world and all the people in it, or pretty much any sort of strenuous activity, I need my time to recover. Doing nothing sets my mind right. It allows me to think. I like thinking. I really like thinking.
So nothing is what I do.
Until I can't do it anymore.
Doesn't take but three or four minutes, an' Carlos is already at my door. One of these days, I'mma have to figure out how to lock it.
First thing he does when he comes in is start talking. I don't even care that I'm mad at him right now, I'm just upset that I can't sleep. But I'm too exhausted to do anything about it, so I let him say his piece.
“Look Darius, forget how you feel about me right now. This planet raid's the best thing we got goin' for us. If we can hit land, all we gotta do is cut tail, abandon ship, and put this whole thing behind us. No more pirates, no more running. You wanted a second chance? This is as good as it gets. Tell me you're in.”
Like I said before, I'm exhausted. I'd like to forget about Carlos, forget about pirates, forget about space, and forget about life.
But maybe it's me being this tired, but in some sorta way, it sounds like Carlos is making sense. Out of everything goin' on right now, my only concern is in getting home. I can't think of any situation how running around, drifting aimlessly with staaking pirates of all things would get me there.
“I'm in.” I say.
And that's all I say. Carlos goes on about something else, but I completely tune him out. I assume he gets the hint and leaves. Honestly, I couldn't tell you when, because the next thing I know: I'm waking up from a nap.
Seriously, I done dozed off. From the looks of it, I'd say about two hours've past. At least, that's what it feels like. It's getting harder and harder to think of time like it was back on Earth, but I'm sticking with it. I'm waking up from a two hour nap.
My mind's fresh. My body—think I gotta pee—will soon be right. Carlos's gone. Raid's gonna happen soon.
Y'know, I'm kinda excited. After today, I'll be done with this. I don't know what'll happen after I'm done, but I'll be done with this, and that's alright with me. There's just the matter of actually getting there.
How're we gonna sneak off? When're we gonna sneak off? I'm sure most of the pirates'll be occupied with the raid. It's not like they really do head-counts, anyway. Is it gonna be as simple as me jus' walkin' off? How's the raid gonna go in general? They mentioned sending only one ship. How do I make sure, I'm on that ship?
Oh that's right! Carlos can teleport. If he sticks to his word—which, given his history, isn't all too reliable—he should come get me when the time's right, and we be out. But can I—should I—trust that?
I gotta pee.
I gotta pee, so I'mma leave this thought on hold an' get to a bathroom.
My walk through the hall takes me past some interesting conversations. Everyone's gearin' up for the raid. They're excited, they're worried, they're upset, they're concerned. Basically everything that's been on my mind is reflected on the freaks and geeks on board. That's cool.
As I step into the bathroom—this small, quaint, and smelly locker room type area with four distinct holes in the ground and a cloth doing a poor job separating each stall—I even manage to hear talk of people abandoning ship. I can't make out who's exactly saying what, but they're definitely aliens, and they're definitely plotting. They do their best to keep their voices down, and when they feel like someone passes by, they quickly change the subject.
I don't know if they're purposefully ignoring me or don't realize I'm here. No, they gotta realize I'm here. Not doin' much to hide it. Especially with the sound of me relieving myself. They might not care who's actually listening. Or they just don't care about me. Either way.
It's actually hard to make out what they're saying word for word. From the bits and pieces I can gather. They seem to have info on how the raid's gonna go down. One ship goes in. The planet they're going after is Phelenix. It's not too populated. Mostly looked at as a commute post. People go there to get some place else. The ship that goes in'll have all the pirates they need front and center. The captain'll lead them in, along with his most trusted crew. They mention that the key into getting on that team is to make friends with the captain's trusted peeps.
After I'm done peeing, I head over to the sink. They quiet down a bit, look at me wash my hands, then resume their conversation. I head to the door and leave them to the rest of it. The last bits that I overheard was about how they'll pretty much just stay to the back most of the time.
Suppose the big take away was how me and Carlos aren't the only ones who ain't cool with this. When you think about it, it kinda makes sense. Looking back on how we were “recruited,” I can only imagine that didn't go over well with most people. “Join or die.” I guess it's effective in getting numbers, but actually keeping them? Then again, the captain does seem to treat his crew well. The fact that he brought everyone in on the big plan shows that there's some form of trust.
I make it back to my room, and not two seconds later, I'm greeted by—oh come on—not her again.
Mera Ven Roew? Think that's her name.