Felix tossed himself into his new bunk with an extatic chuckle. He was part of a real crew. He had his own room with his own bunk. The kitchen was stocked with Rizzo's. His new captain was about the nicest guy he's ever met, even Ms. Tennyson warmed up to him right away. Hell, MacRedd was even impressed with him. Things were finally starting to turn around. Knocking his foreman out was the best decision Felix had ever made.
He lit up a Cosmic Smoke and puffed on it to calm his jitters. This time tomorrow he'll be on a planet. A real planet! He couldn't wait.
He was almost done with his cigarette when he heard the ship's AI call his name over a speaker somewhere near the ceiling. "Felix, the captain would like to know how often you smoke," the vaguely feminine voice said.
"I dunno? Probably a couple times a day if I can afford it," he replied, not entirely comfortable with the fact that she could definitely see him in his apparently not so private room. Oh well, he shrugged internally. It was still the most privacy he's ever had.
After a minute or so she announced, seemingly across the whole ship judging by the echo, "The captain is going to instate a new rule: all smoking must be done outside the ship." Then speaking just into his room again she said, "You are permitted to finish what you have already lit if you keep it in your room, but only this once."
"Oh. Uh, ok," he nodded despite his confusion at the whole situation.
Later that night, he ran into the captain in the kitchen. "Oh hey, Boss," he said with a lopsided grin.
"Hey, Felix," his captain said, mirroring his grin while doing the dishes.
"Um, why are you doing the dishes?" Felix asked.
"Cause they were dirty, of course," his captain chuckled.
"No, I meant why are you doing them? You're the boss. You could tell someone else to."
"I guess I'm not used to having people working under me," Boss said thoughtfully. "I've only been a captain for about a week and a half," he continued.
"Wait really? What did you do before?"
"Tossball mascot, but that was like a lifetime ago," Boss said wistfully.
"What team?" Felix asked as he looked for a towel to dry the dishes with.
"You wouldn't know it. We were real miner league," his captain said dismissively.
"Oh. Well, I'm sure you were good," Felix deflected. He still kinda wanted to know.
"So good UDL bought us and split us across their sub-sid-i-ary teams," the captain bit. It was a little jarring when he sounded words out like that in the middle of a conversation. It was gonna take some getting used to. "Wanted me for the Chosen. Fuck the Chosen. Fuck UDL. Know what? Fuck the Board," he continued angrily.
"Fuck yeah! Fuck the Board!" Felix repeated. He couldn't believe his luck. His captain hated the Board too. Not only was he a freelancer but also a rebel! This whole thing just kept getting better and better!
He found a towel and started drying the dishes and stacking them to be put away when they were all done. His captain smiled at him. "Thanks," he said brightly.
Felix mirrored that smile right back at him. "Sorry about smoking inside earlier by the way," he said nonchalantly. The boss suddenly froze.
"Yeah, don't do that anymore. I can't stop you from doing it entirely but don't do it on the ship and don't do it around me," he said stiffly.
Felix quirked an eyebrow but nodded anyway. "Why do you have such a problem with it?" he asked, more out of curiosity than anything else really.
"Don't like to talk about it," Boss gritted out, a pained look on his face.
"Sorry, Boss," Felix said softly. "It got anything to do with the burn by your eye?" he asked before he could think better of it. Of course it did. You don't get a cigarette burn on your eyelid without some sort of trauma.
"Yeah, and the other scars, so please just drop it," the captain begged.
"Yeah, ok," Felix said softly with a little nod. He didn't mean to make his captain relive whatever trauma he'd been through. A small part of him wanted to quit cold turkey just seeing how upset it could make his captain. A very small part. Like real small. Tiny even. They worked in silence for a while. "Sorry I pushed, Boss," Felix said to break it.
"Don't worry about it. I just," he said softly, stopping mid-sentence. "I have two rules - well, three now." Felix nodded for him to continue. "Rule number one, when we're not on the ship or when we're in - what's the word, mixed company? Don't talk about my friend Phineas. It's trouble we can't handle."
"Your friend Phineas? Wait, no. You can't be serious. Phineas Welles?" Felix sputtered. The captain nodded. "You're friends with Phineas Welles!"
"Yeah, he saved me from the Hope," Boss grinned.
"You mean the Hope's real?" Felix gawked.
"Yeah, everybody's still frozen though. 'Cept me cause Phin thawed me out and shot me planetside and now I gotta help him," the captain faltered and squinted thoughtfully. "Gotta help him do somethin. Can't really remember what though."
"Do you know why he picked you?" Felix asked.
"No, never really thought about it before. He picked me for a reason though," Boss said getting quieter and quieter as the thought on it.
"Maybe it's cause you're so - so what's the word - personable?" Felix suggested.
"I don't know what that means," Boss said softly, shaking his head slightly.
"It's like, um, like easy to get along with," Felix tried to explain. He wasn't used to being on this side of the familiar situation.
"Oh, yeah maybe," his captain grinned. "Thanks, Felix," he said and nudged him with his elbow. He didn't seem to understand just how personable he was.
"Both Ms. Tennyson and Captain MacRedd liked you after talking to you for less than five minutes. Neither of them are easy to impress, Boss. Neither of them," Felix pressed. Boss had a right to know how crazy impressive that was. "You and me are the only people not in MacRedd's crew that he'll let wander around his territory. It took me years to earn that, Boss. You just walked in and started talking to him."
"Well, he was about to threaten me when he noticed you standing next to me. I just piggybacked off your reputation there," Boss shrugged.
"I think you would've gotten on his good side real quick even if I wasn't there," Felix argued. "You got this way about you, Boss. People just can't help but like you."
"I just like talkin to people," Boss shrugged. "Listening to what they like and what's they think. Hearing about everything through their - what's the word - perspective. I don't know a lot, y'know? Like I'm real dumb but other people know stuff. Other people know lots of stuff, y'know? And I got some real smart friends from it too. Like Max and Parvati. They're both crazy smart."
"Max calls you stupid to your face, Boss!" Felix interrupted. That's not what friends do.
"Cause I'm fuckin stupid," Boss laughed. Felix wasn't expecting that response. He blinked, wide eyed with surprise. He wasn't sure if his captain was just really good at deflecting or what. "Don't look at me like that," Boss said flicking soap bubbles at Felix playfully. "It's true! I'm dumb!" he snickered. Felix didn't know what kind of look he was giving his captain, but apparently it still wasn't the right one cause Boss rolled his eyes and sighed. "Felix, look. I don't know shit. I don't get stuff. And I don't understand things," he listed on his soapy fingers. "What part of that sounds like a smart person?"
"You don't have to be smart to not be dumb. You could just be normal," Felix argued. "But that's not what I was trying to say. I wanted to say that friends shouldn't make fun of each other like that."
"That's exactly the way friends should make fun of each other," Boss countered. "He's going after parts of me that I don't already feel bad about. I'm dumb. I'm short. My eyes are a wierd color. I have a real mean temper. I don't care about that stuff. He'd be a dick if he went after my scars or my problems with saying big words or the smoking thing or the beer thing."
"Beer thing?" Felix interrupted.
"Yes! Rule number two is no beer on the ship. For the same reason as rule number three, no smoking on the ship. Those are less important than the first one though. No one's gonna shoot at us for breaking 'em. I'll just probably have a panic attack. Might freak out and accidentally hurt myself," Boss said nonchalantly.
"What?" Felix squawked. Suddenly, he really wanted to quit.
"Yeah, sometimes just seeing cigarettes will set me off. So, y'know, keep those in your room please," Boss said with a nervous grimace.
"Boss," Felix said softly. "I'm sorry." It was all he could think to say and he knew it wasn't enough. He wasn't good at dealing with this kind of thing.
"Don't worry yourself about it. Just don't break rules 2 and 3 and everything'll be fine," the captain said with a reassuring smile. He handed Felix a dish to dry.