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Behind Unlocked Doors

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Beads of sweat coalesce and drip from my nose.

 

“No, Doctor! If you do that…”

 

Ah, he’s worried. Hell, I’d be worried too.


“Don’t worry, Ansel-kun.” 

 

But this isn’t my first rodeo.


He gasps, looking at what I’m holding in my hand. “It won’t fit…”


“Relax, it’s gonna be fine.” More words of reassurance echo in the hot air.

 

My hand glides into position. Between the both of us, the table isn’t going to last.


“But, you’re so far in already!”

 

Idiot. This was his idea.

 

We’re so far in. Couldn’t do this without you,” I rasp, finding myself unexpectedly nervous.

 

“Then, I’ll trust you, Doctor.”

 

Music to my ears.

 


 

Another sunny day aboard Rhodes Island Pharmaceutical’s state-of-the-art Rim Biliton-designed 3 million ton mobile operations center. After a successful soiree in Lungmen, the Doctor has allocated some shore leave for us dutiful Operators to take some time off from life-threatening situations. That means different things for different people; Doc’s bodyguards still hover around him, the Penguin girls started a gang war, and the Lungmen locals are off somewhere doing and solving crimes. That leaves a lot less people aboard Rhodes on days like these. Which means…

 

Ada Church is free to snoop around people’s rooms! Doc and Green Doc are always on my case about me going into the Operators’ living spaces and checking for, ahem , illegal contraband. Disregarding the fact that as Chief Engineer and Procurement Officer it’s not my job to look for smuggled body parts, and definitely ignoring the part where I have no reason besides curiosity. You have no idea the kinds of stuff people leave lying around that give great insight into their personality. Actually, hey, I could use that! “Operator Closure is researching the psychological profiles of Rhodes Island Operators by looking at the state of their personal memorabilia”. Perfect, love it.

 

Anyway, I’m not letting this chance go unexploited. Yesterday I took a looksie at the Silverash siblings’ rooms and man it was juicy. The tensions, the unspoken feelings, the money. You could write a book out of their family. Of course I took a souvenir with me -- a harmless one! -- just like from the other rooms -- also harmless! -- to add to my collection. Apparently these guys shed a lot of fur, so I got a lock. I was thinking today would be the day I paid a visit to the medical department’s rooms. There’s a lot of nerd junk in there; journal snippets, board games no one’s heard of, stuff like that. And as a plus, no automated attack dog robot security (still have to get Mayer back for that one).

 

I tiptoe my way through the dimly-lit metal guts of the rustbucket we call home. Making sure the likes of Green Doc Kal’tsit or Watchdog Dobermann don’t catch sight of me. Not like you’d get in trouble for walking through halls, but they might get suspicious of someone sneaking around like this, so I gotta sneak around them to not get caught. Simple enough. My thoughts keep me occupied as I inch my way into the medical dorms. Immediately, the scent of medicine and, uh, doctor stuff waft into my highly sensitive olfactory detector organ. I creep along the wall, making myself flush with them as I check each door for occupants by listening really closely.

 

Silence’s room sounds silent, but she also has robots. No go.

 

Gavial’s in her room and she can kick my ass, so no.

 

I’m not even gonna go near Hibiscus’ room so soon after Monthly Potluck Night.

 

Ah, Ansel, the surgery intern. Let’s take a listen, shall we?

 

“No, Doctor! If you do that…”

 

Wait wait wait wait wait Doctor? Is he having some kind of fantasy? Hallucination?

 

“Don’t worry, Ansel-kun.”  

 

That’s, well, uh, that’s the Doc’s voice. Ansel- kun ??! Oh lordy lord this is spicier than anything I could hope to find in there myself. I lean into the door, straining to catch more of this glorious bounty. Meanwhile, I fiddle with a micro-microphone wire to record this food.

 

“It won’t fit…”

“Relax, it’s gonna be fine.”

 

Ada Church is going to hell.

 

“But, you’re so far in already!”

 

But she’s taking a pit stop in heaven first. Damn, the doors of this place are impossible to spy through. Who the hell designed these? Not me, right? I don’t think I designed medical. I hope. Please, I beg you, another crumb of dialogue between these two. I reposition to find a spot on the door where the material density gives me a clearer audio quality. It’s resulted in me aggressively leaning against the door and hoping to God no one finds me like this. Oh my god I hear the table squeaking.

 

We’re so far in. Couldn’t do this without you,”

 

“Then, I’ll trust you, Doctor.”

 

Suddenly, I hear a beep from the door, and I find myself falling forward into the room. Ah, my access badge. I got caught up in the sauce that I didn’t catch my all-levels maintenance access badge from hitting the badge reader. That means the door opened, and it’s left me with no door to lean on. I tumble onto the floor, my sudden appearance causing Ansel to let loose with a characteristically feminine yelp. Doc’s not yelping, but he never yelps anyway. The fall left my face shrouded by hair, and for a moment I consider just backing out before they see who I am.

 

“Closure?” Shit. Shit shit shit. Damn his giant brain. Gotta make this quick, Ada. I rise up to my feet and deliberately face away from the two.

 

“Hi! Doc!” I squeak out with all the grace of an eagle, piloting a blimp. “Just, uh! Doing some cleaning around here. And. Kinda. Slipped? I’m so sorry for interrupting, uh, my lips are sealed???”

 

“Closure.” That’s me. I’m in hell. I don’t hear them shuffling around or any clothes rustling so there’s zero percent I’m turning around. Unfortunately, that makes my imagination run wild. I wish Kal’tsit was here.

 

“Closure, you’re looking the wrong way.” Yeah, Doc. Observant.

 

“Uh, um, yeah, I’ll just be on my way, don’t worry,” I stammer out in between mentally wishing for death.

 

“You’re leaving?” Ansel asked, having calmed down. “Why don’t you join us?”

 

I, Ada “Closure” Church, pride myself on not being flustered in embarrassing situations. I can feel the blood rush to my entire face. What the hell did he just ask me to do?

 

“Yeah, Closure, come on. You look like you could use it.” Doc???!!??!

 

“I,” I don’t know what to say. “If you really want me to, Doc. Uh, y- if you’re sure.”

I turn around, eyes closed, preparing myself for the Gehenna that awaits. I wish Kal’tsit was here to kill me. After taking a few deep breaths, I open my eyes, rapidly, like ripping off a bandage.

 

In front of me are the two men, fully clothed. They’re both sitting at opposite ends of a rickety old metal table. Doc’s leaning an elbow on it, making it squeak with every move. Ansel has a worried look on his face as he glances between me and the table. On the table, I see a-- I see-- you’re fucking kidding -- an incomplete jigsaw puzzle. I see an incomplete jigsaw puzzle depicting the lord of Lungmen, Wei Yanwu. Doc’s holding a piece in his hand. I want to die.

 

“Anyway, watch this.” Doc says, completely unaware of the mental Chernobog in my head. I watch as he moves his piece over an obviously incorrect hole.

 

“Doctor, now that I look at it, it definitely doesn’t go there.” So Ansel was talking about a jigsaw puzzle piece. I quietly, discreetly, crush the microphone in my fingers.

 

“Ye of little faith, Ansel-kun.” Ah, so he just talks like that when boasting, huh. Cool. He makes a grandiose motion of slamming the puzzle piece down, all while yelling really loudly.

 

The table creaks, groans, and with the Doc’s slam as the exclamation mark to this litany of shame, it falls apart. Pieces of the puzzle scatter all over the floor and the three of us watch helplessly at the Brownian motion of the many fragments of Wei Yanwu. Doc collapses to his knees, bellowing in despair while Ansel just chuckles at the scene.

 

Me? I’m never fucking snooping again.