Our tour had cost me an hour, or several years what with Spark Plug’s smoking habit, and ended as we wandered into a communal area. One full of dust, interspersed with furniture which had apparently been stolen from the charity shop of the galaxy. Nothing matched, nothing was new, but it looked undeniably lived-in.
Two-years lived-in, I reminded myself.
Captain Sceptre was playing snooker with the blunt end of a golf club. Angel Demon had returned from their errand, and was reading a book by Dan Brown. Ethereal wasn’t there.
Then she was.
Then she wasn’t.
CS: “Enjoying the tour?”
My tour guide had devolved from the words ‘this way please’. Their ship was every hoarder’s heaven. I’d seen several different breeds of ants.
Sceptre knocked the white ball, which I swore was a snow-globe at full blizzard. Angel Demon turned a page, and laughed at whatever they read.
“Hey, so, who’s the engineer around here?”
SP: “Yo,” said a voice somewhere around my left hip.
“How does this ship of yours move? Anti-matter converter, Obliv-Ion core, black star displacer?” I’d been trying to place the background tremor ever since I’d stood up*.
SP: “Nope, nope, and, nope. I’ll show yer, if yer in’trested.”
“No,” said Ethereal, “Angel will show him.”
AD: “No, I’ll show you.” Angel Demon book-marked their place, put the words aside and got up from a nest of bean bags with impossible grace and agility. Then again, that’s what eight wings will do for you.
Spark Plug lumbered away and grabbed an armful of electrical devices off a shelf; his intentions, unknown.
The multi-winged not-so-celestial passed me, stopped when I hadn’t moved.
Five heads were turned my way, briefly four, back to five.
I pointed at each of them in turn, going around the room. “Captain Sceptre. Angel Demon. Unnamed Owl. Spark Plug. Ethereal.”
SP: “I didn’t say anythink about no tour quiz.”
“Collectively,” I raised my voice, “you are hereby known as CAUSE.”
Nobody spoke; Ethereal momentarily ceased to exist.
“One of you needs to get good at puns, stuff like, ‘let’s cause some damage’ or…’just be, cause’ or…if one of you goes solo, you’d be a subordinate cause. All right, so it can be harder than it looks. But I believe in you. Maybe not you, Cap, you take yourself wayyyy too seriously for someone wearing that.”
The sceptre-wielder glared.
“Spark Plug, personally I think the responsibility should fall to you.”
“You’re welcome,” I added, to a silent room.
And passed Angel Demon on my way out.
* Always learn a ship by its vibrations, not its noises, because being outside a space-ship is mostly a bad and soundless place to be.