“How’s it going, Wiz?” Jack shouted down the hallway. There was a loud clanging sound, like someone had dropped something heavy, and a muffled curse before Wiz stuck his head out of the engine room.
“I’m a pilot, Johnson, not a mechanic. And she’s blown all to hell. Way beyond my ability to fix, if she’s even fixable.”
Jack winced and reached out to pat the wall. “He doesn’t mean it, baby. I’m sure you’re fixable.”
Wiz gave him a look. “Talking to the ship is not a sign of a healthy mind, Johnson,” he sighed. “Look, I gave it my best shot, but you’re going to need a much better mechanic that I am in order to get her up and flying again. Are you sure you want to do this?”
Jack ignored him in favor of turning down the hall to bang on crew member’s doors. “Calvert! Anisimov! Atkinson! Get out here, I know you’re listening!” He turned back to Wiz and frowned. “Where’s Dubi? I thought he was helping you with the engine.”
Wiz came out into the hallway, wiping his hands on a rag. “Dubi left about an hour ago, said he was just getting in the way and that he had errands to run anyway. You didn’t see him?”
“No, I never saw him - you three,” he said, turning to face Matt, Artie and Cammie. “I need you to go out and ask around, see if there are any good mechanics looking for work. Keep an eye out for Dubi - and has anyone seen Macy?”
Cammie shook her head. “She left about an hour ago, said she had errands to run.”
Jack ran his hands through his hair. “That’s what Dubi said. What kind of errands could either of them have to run? We’re grounded!”
Matt shrugged. “She could be upgrading her guns, I know she was talking about wanting to get them looked at when we got to Persephone- if we ever make it there, that is.”
Jack gave them a warning glance. “That is not the kind of talk I want to hear,” he said sternly. “We will get the Jacket fixed, and we’ll be back flying in no time. Now, go on and ask around about mechanics.”
The three of them nodded, and Artem tossed Jack an ironic salute as he followed Matt and Cammie off the ship. Jack scowled, a little, because no one should be saluting him. He turned back to Wiz. “I’m going to head out and ask around, see if anyone has a job that needs doing,” he said. “D’you mind watching the ship?”
Wiz gave him an ironic look. “Does it matter if I mind? You’re going to do it anyway. No, I don’t mind - I’ll take another look in the engine room to see if there’s anything that I missed the first time.”
“Thanks, Wiz,” Jack said, stepping close and clapping him on the arm. “I really appreciate it.”
Wiz gave him a lopsided smile. “You’re welcome, Captain,” he said. Jack scowled again reflexively. “Oh, come on, Jack, you’re going to have to get used to it at some point.”
“No, I’m not,” Jack said. Even he could hear the petulant note in his voice, and he winced. “Eventually, maybe. But I don’t have to like it.”
“Nobody likes it,” Wiz said. “But you’ve done a good job so far. They’re counting on you, you know,” he said, dropping his voice a little as if to keep the three younger crewmembers from hearing. “They don’t have a lot of experience, it’d be hard for them to get other jobs. Not like Macy, or Dubi, or you or me.”
“I know,” Jack snapped. “D’you think I don’t know? Why else do you think I’ve been trying so hard to get us back in the air?”
Wiz stepped back. “That could also be because you love this heap of junk more than any of the rest of us, and you wouldn’t ever leave it,” he said. “But go on, see if you can scare us up a job. I’ll be here, watching the ship.”
Jack nodded and headed off into the marketplace in search of the right type of seedy bar. He’d never been in charge of finding work before, but Captain Nash had taken him along a couple of times and shown him what to look for.
Jack muttered darkly under his breath about customers with unrealistic expectations as he climbed back aboard his ship. The Blue Jacket was a Series Three Firefly-class vessel, but even the legendary durability of the Firefly had limits. The Blue Jacket had reached hers, barely managing to carry them to Constance before her engines had failed her completely. They had enough money to fix her - probably, Jack admitted privately - if the problem wasn’t too bad, but he wanted a little extra on hand just in case. However, the only jobs that were willing to pay some up front were jobs in which customers had seriously unrealistic expectations about what he and his crew could pull off.
When he climbed aboard, he was met with the sight of his three junior crew members clustered in a loose semicircle about a lanky young man with a round, boyish face. Facing them were Macy, Dubi and Wiz, all wearing identical dubious (heh) expressions.
“What’s going on?” Jack asked, glancing around. Dubi gestured at the junior group.
“Say they’ve found a mechanic,” he said. “Personally, I’m inclined to doubt it.”
Jack looked over at his junior crew members and the newcomer. Cammie, Matt and Artem were making hurt faces at Dubi, but the stranger had a calm expression on his face that said he was used to people having that reaction to him. Jack sized him up. He was tall and lanky, with a round, earnest face. He looked - young, Jack decided was the best word for it. Not that that meant he couldn’t be a good mechanic - Jack’d heard too many stories about the miracles Kaylee Frye had worked on Serenity to doubt that - but good young mechanics were definitely more rare than good older mechanics. He fixed Artem with a reproachful stare.
“He is good, boss, I promise,” Artem said. “I made sure to ask around, his last job was on the Flyer. You know they’re hard on their mechanics for no reason.”
Jack sighed. The crew of the Flyer did have a reputation for going through mechanics at a prodigious rate. Already his protective instincts were starting to kick in, the ones that said, he’s had a rough time, we can take care of him. He fought against them, though, because he was the captain now, and he couldn’t afford to take on every lost soul.
“What’s your name?” he asked. The newcomer smiled at him.
“Sergei Bobrovsky,” he said. “I hear you have engine problem.” His accent was similar to Artem’s, but much thicker. Jack laughed a little.
“I’m Jack Johnson, the captain.” It was never not going to be weird to say that. “That’s James Wisniewski, Brandon Dubinsky, and Macy Letestu. I think you’ve met Artem, Matt and Cammie. Problem is putting it mildly. Why don’t you take a look?” he invited, gesturing towards the hallway to the engine room. “Artem, take him down to the engine room please.” Bobrovsky smiled and bobbed his head at Jack as he followed Artem out. Dubi turned his head to glare at Cammie and Matt.
“Where did you pick up this guy?” he asked them quietly. Matt folded his arms across his chest defensively.
“We went down to the shipyards and asked around,” he said. “Everyone there had different opinions about who was good, but his name and a couple others kept popping up. We went and talked to all of them, he was the only one who was available.”
Cammie piped up, “I don’t think he understands English all that well - he was really happy when Artie spoke Russian.”
“Great,” Macy said, having listened to the whole conversation with an unhappy look on her face. “An ex-Flyer mechanic who mostly speaks Russian. That bodes well.”
“I understand your concern, Macy,” Jack said, jumping in before Cammie and Matt could start arguing with her. “But at this point, we don’t have much of a choice - there aren’t any other qualified mechanics who are available, and we certainly can’t fix it on our own. We’re going to have to give him a shot, at least.”
“And then what?” Macy asked. “What do we do if he can’t fix it?” Cammie and Matt both looked stricken at the very idea, and immediately turned the puppy eyes on Jack, clearly begging him to deny even the possibility.
Jack winced a little but kept his expression stern. “We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it, Macy. For right now, let’s give him a chance. If he can’t fix it, we’ll have that discussion.” He looked at Cammie and Matt. “I will do everything in my power to get this fixed,” he promised them, turning to make sure Dubi, Wiz and Macy knew that he was talking to them as well. “In the meantime, I got us a quick on-planet job. Wiz, I think you’ll need to sit this one out - not really in your skill-set. Could you go watch the mechanic for a while, and send Artie to the dining hall? We need to have a planning session.”