I was in the midst of throwing down another big swallow of delicious booze when the young man in front of us started winding up his spiel. If I didn’t fill my mouth with something, I was going to scream at the little bastard.
I’d rather stab myself in the eye than go through another one of these.
My eyes slid around the control room, trying to catch the captain’s eye. He was focused on the newest applicant with a mixed expression of shock and disbelief.
I’d started drinking at least three applicants ago, I think. I had to distract myself from the relentless stupidity. What a pity that instead of merely being distracted, I was now galloping straight past annoyance into full blown malice.
If he doesn’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to jump in and wrestle the little fucker to the ground. Then I’ll tie him in knots with his own tongue just to stop the flood of fucking nonsense.
My fingers tightened a little on the bottle. I’d like to throw it at him, but that would have been a waste of perfectly good booze.
How did every single pilot on this base wind up an imbecile? I thought, completely mystified. Surely pilots were highly trained, professional individuals. So far, it looked more like we were advertising for a court jester.
Not because they are deliberately trying to be funny, but because they just randomly amuse me by being themselves.
I was far from being amused. For the first few applicants, it was funny. Then it was worrisome. Now, it was downright fucking terrifying to be considering the possibility that there really wasn’t anyone on this base that could properly pilot the ship.
“How long would it take to get a rookie from Lunar Flight Academy?” When I heard my own voice bursting out in frustration, I was actually surprised. I guess my thoughts just got so loud they refused to stay in my mind.
“There won’t be another class graduation for a month,” Captain Timcur said irritably. “I thought of that, of course.”
“You aren’t considering one of these morons, are you?” I asked in shock.
He shrugged, his face twisting in a scowl. “Something needs to be done. We can’t wait a month, we could get our orders at any time.”
As I let out a sharp gasp, my fingers lost their grip, and I almost dropped the bottle. I recovered quickly and squeezed it tightly enough to threaten the glass.
“I am the captain, Thelkor,” he said. “You’re a gunner. You’ll have to abide by my decision.”
Olath gave me a sidelong glance and I took a deep breath, ready to impose my will upon the room by force. I took a good hard gulp of booze and suddenly getting up didn’t seem like such a good idea.
Maybe I’ll finish the bottle first.
“Do we have many more to see?” I asked. Before anyone could answer me, the ship’s comm crackled, and a message came through.
“We have intercepted data regarding the location of Zarklac. He is travelling on a long-haul ferry from Vyrlis to the Demeter Cluster. If the Golden Meridian leaves now, she can slingshot around Mars and intercept at Baker VII. Over and out.”
There was a moment of deep silence. None of us moved for a good thirty seconds. The tension rose in the room, a palpable weight built by the urgency in every man here.
“We have to go,” my voice came out in a roar. “Now!”
“We need to choose a fucking pilot!” Olath roared back at me. “Grab one of those fucking jokers from out there and let’s go!”
“Are you serious?” I stood up, holding the bottle in one hand. “Just pick one. Anyone? Are you out of your mind?”
“Mission priority,” Captain Timcur snapped. “We have to move. It doesn’t matter who we pick, so long as we move out now.”
“If our pilot can’t fucking fly to the right location or gets us blown up, it won’t matter when we move out, because we won’t be catching up to him!”
“Are you going to fucking fly, then?” Olath frowned at me, crossing his arms over his chest. I held the bottle loosely in two fingers and took a step closer. My blood was on fire from the frustration and the booze. I needed to hit something.
This is not the time for a fucking brawl, but then again, it beats choosing a fucking pilot out of these deadbeats.
“Thelkor,” Timcur said, in a warning tone. “Get your shit together.”
“Me?” I turned on him, fury rising like the wind in a storm.
His face became a mask of calm as he took a step towards me.
This is it. Fists up, impact in one minute.
For a second, everyone simply bounced their eyes around at everyone else, as if waiting for a solution to magically appear. I mean, I was drunk. I had a great excuse for appearing confused. The others had none.
The arguments began again. I added my voice to the fight, but I didn’t get far. The sound of the transporter activating silenced me. The others shut their mouths, too. Could it be possible the solution would just magically appear?
On any other day, I’d say ‘no’. I was drunk enough today to believe in just about anything, though. It could just be wishful thinking, but for some reason I believed the answer to all our problems was coming in on that transport pad.