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5 Speak and Listen

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The Captain found himself wandering the cargo hold, wherein they had set up cots for those who were just looking for rapid transit. It wasn’t comfortable by any means, and he’d already terrified several passengers with his threats of spacing, so it wasn’t as though he’d expected a warm welcome, but the outright fear in the eyes of those looking on was concerning. Naked fear was omnipresent amongst the passengers here. He’d given that speech before and it had never hit quite so hard as it had here. Something seemed off, though he couldn’t place it.

“Good Day, Captain. May I assist you?” The voice was warm, pleasing to the ears, with the barest hint of a foreign accent. It was soft, forcing the hearer to pay attention. He turned on the speaker.

He was short for a human, his features tanned and careworn with age. His black hair was slicked back, pulled into a neat bun and his eyes shone curiously. He was dressed in the garb of a priest of a forgotten age, his robes high around his neck and falling to his ankles. It was almost sepulchral against the riots of colour common to modern styles.

“Good day…” he stuttered, trying to find a word for the man. “Sorry, I’m not familiar with your beliefs. What can I call you?”

“I am the Speaker.” He said, smiling beatifically. “You may to me as Speaker if you wish, I gave up my name when I became a member of the faith.”

“Right.” The captain said, skeptically and unsure. “What are you doing here? Near as I recall, you had a private berth.”

“Yes, quite so,” He said, his eyes wandering across the crowds, and gesturing with his hand. “I am here to spread the faith, and the gifts of Feh-Tarran.”

“Yeah? I don’t think you’ll find many faithful here, Speaker.” He remarked, “Lot of sinners, but no faithful.”

“There is no sin so great it cannot be absolved. I too was once a sinner, locked up for the world to forget my name. Now I speak truth and hope only for the galaxy to listen.”

“Well, best of luck to you and your truth.” He said, turning to walk away.

“Would you like to stay for one of my sermons?”

“Thanks for the offer, but nah, ain’t my place.” He waved as he made his way back to the stairs leading up to the catwalks.

“If ever you need counsel, please do not hesitate to ask. My role is as the speaker, but to speak the truth, one must first listen.” He sounded almost desperate, like something urged him to speak when he didn’t want to. As the captain left, the speaker took up his position at the bay doors, speaking to an uncaring congregation about the truths of his god. His eyes held on the captain as he walked the catwalks.

The captain passed through the bulkheads towards the engine room, leaving behind the awful stench of the cargo deck. These ships were designed for economy of space, so the passageways were narrow and winding, leading past the slightly nicer living quarters into the guts of his beloved omen.

She purred slightly, the gentle thrum of a beast made of steel and copper, the dull roar of her engines far and distant. Here, in the darkened halls leading towards the innards, she was tight and near silent. It wasn’t until he reached the drive compartment that he began to hear voices. It was quiet at first, with an air of frustration to it. Then, as he neared, it grew louder until it resolved into Vic’s voice.

He stooped over the engine, muttering one thing after another to himself. His hands delved into the sunken recesses of the engine, rather than across the controls which laced the tops. The controls were rife with a mix of green and yellow lights, though some shone red. With each passing moment, his cursing grew more furious. As the captain stepped into the uncomfortably warm room, Vic looked up.

“I don’t get it.” He said, exasperated. “Everything’s green across the board, there’s no way there should have been any psychic feedback.”

“What about that one?” Nikolas asked, gesturing at a red light beaming off an exposed part.

“Well that one’s nothing new, been like that ever since the job out of Votune 3, you know, when the…”

“Yeah, debris, I remember.” He grimaced, bad job that one, almost had to pay as much in repairs as they got in payment. Asteroid belts are unforgiving places.

“I got no explanation, nothing makes sense, and Si is hurt.” Victor grumbled, his voice trailing off into incoherent mutterings.

“Well, if you can’t do anything, then why are you in here. Quit fiddling.”

“I didn’t say that…” he said, aghast for a moment at the captain’s callousness.

“If the Omen is ready to go, stop touching her.”

“She is… Of course she is. I’m just…” His voice trailed off.

“Worrying.”

“Yeah…” Victor looked ashamed, his voice breaking a little. “Sorry.”

“No apologies, we have no idea who the hell did this, and until I know who did it no one’s to blame.” The captain’s voice was tinged with anger.

"You think someone did this?"

"I think Zakhar let us get out from under thumb way too easy. There's things he wasn't saying and I aim to find out what the sweet Void Sucking Hell he did to my ship, accident or not."

"Well, he can't have messed with anything. We'd never let anyone get near enough to the Omen and spacedocks are heavily patrolled."

"Who do you think owns the loyalty of half the dock?"

"Oh, yeah, I guess." Victor shrugged. "I didn't see anyone and he hardly would have had to mess with the ship for her to have an accident."

"I thought we were doing okay."

"Well, yeah, but we're hanging on by a thread Nik." Victor sighed. "Need a good job that doesn't end in more repairs. Last job was enough coin to replace the ion manifold and a few other minor repairs, but we keep going the way we have been we're as liable to get ourselves killed as anything else."

"What do you mean, keep going how we have been?" Vic looked at him with a look of shock.

"Serious Nik?" he asked, "Every other job something breaks, whether it's cause someone puts a hole in something trying to put holes in us, or we get hit by debris doing something best left to salvagers. We need a nice calm job that won't get us shot at or blown up or hit by an asteroid."

"Ain't been shot at yet..."

"Nah! and Si's still out for the count, we got a month on ship and we just lost our navigator. Do you seriously consider this a calm job?"

"All right, all right." He replied, hands up in surrender, "Just make sure nothing else breaks on this one and I promise the next one we'll stay far from the ship on a calm job."

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