Rocket-Building For Fun and Profit
From the logbook of the Dark Star.
If there is such a thing as a normal day for the crew of the Dark Star, this day seemed like one. Sinjoh was catching up on repair work, Vamon was captaining, Kinzel was piloting. Jaynestown was making Sinjoh's life miserable. Just another day in the life. Jaynes was hanging upside down from a pipe running along the ceiling in the engine room, as Korbats are prone to do, when Allai walked in. Sin was ensconced in a maintenance hatch in the engine.
"Whatcha doing?" Jaynes asked. Allai guessed it was for the millionth time, because the alien Aisha sighed and growled at the same time in lieu of answering. "Not that I care or nothing," Jaynes added when she didn't answer.
No one took notice of Allai, but that wasn't surprising. The engine room wasn't necessarily the quietest place on the ship. Even though Sin did her best to keep it in repair, it wasn't always possible. Things crashed, banged, and hissed. Coolant pipes rattled and the engine periodically whined at the poor, sleep-deprived mechanic. But she was probably used to that, since everyone on the ship did that.
"Don't you have something useful to do, Crewman?" Allai wondered from the doorway.
Jaynes started so badly he fell from his perch and Sin slammed what sounded like her head inside the compartment before withdrawing from maintenance, rubbing her head and glaring at Allai with a sour look. Then she saw Jaynes heaped on the floor twitching and groaning, and that seemed to cheer her up, at least enough that she didn't seem to be too angry at Allai.
"Geez, would it hurt you to not walk around like a ninja?" Jaynes asked, picking himself up from the floor one limb at a time.
"I was walking like a weapons master and you were hanging around like a stowaway." He glanced at Sin and added, as a joke, "How did he get in here?"
"You've got me. I'm still sore about the achyfi incident. I'll just add it to the list," Sin sighed, still rubbing her head and glaring at him once again. Her hair was so poofy, Allai wondered why it hadn't afforded her head some protection, but then Allai noticed that one of her alien antennae was bent. That had to hurt. "What do you want, Allai?"
"Our weapons stores are running low and I'm sure we all know how dangerous that can be if we meet pirates or worse along the way," Allai said.
"What do you want me to do about it?" Sin wondered, glancing into her tool box and sorting through until she found a wrench almost half her size. "Build you a set of drones or something?"
"Actually, that was the plan..." Allai said, thinking how stupid it sounded now that he heard it out loud and not in his own head. Besides, it wasn't like Sin didn't have other important things to do.
"Can I help!" Jaynes asked, suddenly cured of whatever injuries he might have sustained. He looked from Sin to Allai like a vegetable Chia in the Chocolate Shoppe.
"I think you should go see Zeypherr," Sin said.
"Yeah," Allai agreed. "You might have hit your head a little too hard."
"Not that we'd notice," Sin muttered with a half-grin to Allai. Allai smiled back, and Sin looked at Jaynes. "Weapons-building is a very delicate and serious business. It's very difficult and I'm not even sure we have enough parts to make anything."
"I only thought that since the whole ship is on the verge of exploding on a daily basis, it could be cannibalized into some decent incendiaries," Allai said. He realized too late that he had just badly insulted the precious ship and that was just something you didn't do in front of the engineer.
Fortunately, Sin was too busy paying attention to Jaynes as he looked from one of them to the other, smiling even though he probably didn't know what half the words either of them had said meant. "It's okay; I know how to build rockets. Been building them since I was a kid."
Sin shook her head. "Not that kind of rocket, Jaynes."
"What other kind is there?" Jaynes asked. "Rockets explode. I know how to build exploding rockets."
Sin sighed and, ignoring Jaynes, looked back to Allai. "There are some spare pieces from a derelict we boarded in cargo. I'm sure you could find some worthless bits and make something out of it. Are we really that low?"
"Well, right now, we couldn't defend ourselves against a particularly rude comet."
"I want to help!" Jaynes shouted over them.
"Does the word delicate mean anything at all to you?" Sin asked.
"I can lift heavy stuff," Jaynes said. "And I don't drop it. What else do you want for delicate?"
Allai looked down at his own hands, half the size of the massive Korbat's, and tried to stop his thought before it crossed his mind. But it already had. Only one of them needed to be delicate and, as a non-pirate Xweetok, delicate was considered to be in his blood. Maybe it had to do with his small wrists. Allai would never be considered the brawn of the operation, but Jaynes had that well in-hand.
"I can build it. And it would be nice to have some help..."
"Are you kidding me?" Sin asked.
But it was too late and Jaynes was practically shaking with excitement. "Yesss."
Zeypherr, resident medical professional, tapped Jaynes on the shoulder. That managed to get his attention, but Allai wasn't concerned about his distractibility: that was par for the course for Jaynes. "Concussion. You should be out-of-commission for a little while, at least. Take it easy. Try not to do anything too jarring."
"Building a rocket wouldn't be considered jarring, would it?" Jaynes asked.
At the same time, Allai tried to look sad. "You can help next time, Jaynes. It's okay."
"We ain't exploding rockets or nothing," Jaynes pouted, folding his huge arms over his chest. "Nothing jarring about it, Doc." He paused a moment to bat away Zeypherr's mechanized laboratory assistant trying to draw some of his blood for an unspecified test.
"Just living on this ship is a little jarring..." Allai mumbled, watching with half-way amusement as Zeypherr saved her mechanized assistant from a loud crash.
"Jaynes! Please, just let it do its job. It won't even take a pint, I promise."
"You already took a pint and a half when I got on this darn ship!" Jaynes answered with a heavy frown. He glanced at Allai as though he was supposed to do something, but Allai just shrugged. Jaynes just quietly eyed the needle from a distance.
"I've just never had the opportunity to study a Korbat altered by growth rays."
"Would you shut up?"
That explained a lot. As far as Allai knew, growth rays made bananas taste sour. Jaynes was sour for sure, but also insufferably stupid and selfish. He had no idea how to tell if a banana tree was stupid and selfish, but it seemed as good an explanation as any.
"I've got a rocket to build." Jaynes slid off the gurney.
"Not with me, you don't," Allai said. "I don't want to be responsible for your death-by-exploding-rocket when you could make such a lovely test subject for everyone's favorite doctor. I'm sure that would just make her mad."
"Which reminds me..." Zeypherr pondered, tapping her chin. "When was the last time you were in for a checkup, Allai? Integrating the Xweetok brain with an artificial intelligence wears on the synapses..."
Jayne happily grinned at Allai, awaiting his answer along with the doctor.
Truth be told, Allai wasn't sure when the last time he was in for a check-up. His integrated-AI, a War Operations- Planning and Response unit, was currently offline, checking for just the sort of thing that Zeypherr was probably worried about. On an ordinary day, Allai would have the sarcastically unhelpful voice bouncing around in his head—but it was sort of child-like and Allai didn't mind that so much. He called him Joshua.
Allai pondered her question seriously for a few moments and then looked at Jaynes. The lesser of two evils? "I'm afraid we don't have time... we have a rocket to build."
Jaynes jumped up and down before halting in his tracks. "Right," he said before Zeypherr could say anything. "Nothing jarring. I got it."
Interesting game, Allai.
"Quiet, Joshua," Allai whispered under his breath.
It had been two days since he and Jaynes started stripping worthless parts in cargo. The first day and been hardly bearable, with Jaynes making comments here and there about who-knew-what. Allai was pretty sure not even the Korbat knew what was going on in his head most of the time.
"This isn't a game," Allai added, reaching for one of Sin's tools that he'd borrowed.
"No one said this was a game," Jaynes answered.
At the same time Joshua commented, Of course, it is. Building a set of rockets in the back of a spaceship is equivalent of getting a box across a room without touching it.
"I don't follow you," Allai said, ignoring Jaynes completely.
The only way to win is to bend the laws of physics.
"Well..." Jaynes pondered. "I ain't going anywhere."
Allai rolled his eyes and connected one wire to another. It wasn't that complicated, he told himself. Not even with that irritating voice inside his head and the possibly even more irritating voice outside. Both personalities had gone haywire a long time ago.
I resent that, Joshua pouted.
Thankfully, everyone in the room stopped talking when Sin walked in. "How's it going?" she asked. She wasn't there to find out how they were coming along with their rockets, though. She went straight for the tool box she'd lent Allai and fished out an enormous wrench.
"Well," Allai answered.
"Want a demonstration?" Jaynes picked up the rocket that Allai had just finished.
"No!" Allai and Sin said together.
"That won't be necessary," Sin said.
"Are you crazy? A demonstration in here?" Allai gestured wildly around the room and all the delicate equipment. Granted, most of it was just pieces and bits broken off another ship that the captain had hoped to make some money on and probably wouldn't. Such was the life of usually none-too-successful pirates.
"Oh, alright," Jaynes mumbled. He set down the rocket.
Or, perhaps he tried to, because it mostly fell out of his arms and smacked the deck nose-first.
There was a terrible horrifying silence.
There was a terrible horrifying noise.
There was a terrible horrifying silence.
And a hiss.
Allai found himself on his back staring at the ceiling, his ears ringing and smoke billowing around the pipes up there. He looked to one side for Sin. She looked alright. Angry, but alright. He forced himself to sit up and see if Jaynes had been blown to bits thanks to his lack of delicacy.
Unfortunately, he was still standing, somehow, covered in soot and looking quite pleased about it. Turned out, they still couldn't defend themselves from a particularly rude comet. He slammed back down to his back and closed his eyes, wishing it all away. Perhaps that hiss was actually the roar of waves on some beach on Mystery Island.
"One of us could have died," Sin whispered, as though if she said it too loudly, their luck would turn back on them.
Allai opened his eyes again and looked at Sin. "I swear I'll never do that again. It was a stupid idea." He sat up and looked at Jaynes and then back at Sin.
The captain came over the PA. "What in Neopia—Allai, what have you done to my ship!?"
Perhaps the only way to win is not to play, Joshua pondered meanwhile.
Jaynes had already bounded across the room and was too busy looking at their rocket design to notice their disapproving glances. "Do you know how much money we could make on this?" he asked, his eyes alight with possibility.
Allai coughed on the smoke still lodged in his lungs and shrugged to Sin. "Yeah—how did he get in here again?"
Many thanks to the creator of the Dark Star and owner of Sinjoh, the_shii. Crazysamehh owns the captain and Zeypherr belongs to dollyfied.