Scraping Stones

“…How do you want to do this?” Kaz asks. The conversation between them has been going for a few minutes already.

As an engineer come navigator she isn’t as well versed in the best ways to break down a rock the size that they have found unlike Eduardo or Janine. The problem is that Eduardo is not one to speak up. He keeps to himself. So it’s unlikely She’ll get a reply from him, which leaves Janine in Kaz’s mind to be the responder.

“We need to get drilling. The quicker we start the quicker we can fill the Gladius’ hold.” Russ declares with little thought. It seems he truly thinks the best way to strip this rock is to use their excavator drills. That will take… Janine doesn’t want to dare think how long. She might have forgotten about what she thought was betrayal by her captain but that doesn’t mean she isn’t going to raise an eyebrow at something he says that is outright stupid. Her eyebrow rises and remains up while she casts a long, hard glance in Russ’ direction. He’s ignorant of it. That might be for the best. Or it would be if Janine didn’t feel compelled to offer after a period of silent consideration, “There’s a much easier way that won’t break our backs or our hands.”

Russ’ brow furrows. He doesn’t like the insinuation Janine is making and so he scowls at her. Janine is aware of the expression on her captains’ face but pays absolutely no mind to it.

“How?” Kaz queries knowing full well that Russ isn’t going to. After all, he’s too busy judging Janine for her statements. Those two are frequently at loggerheads with one another, even if it is silently most of the time.

“We use Gladius to haul the rock out of the belt. Then carve and split it.” Eduardo offers without elaboration as to how.

“And what are we going to use to do any of that?” Russ blurts with a roll of his eyes and a condescending note to his voice.

“We do it by using the power of our ships six engines.” Janine replies flatly. She and Eduardo are on the same page. Not unusual in itself as they often tend to be. However, she is surprised the black haired mountain of a miner decided to chime in. He isn’t often one to do so and generally when he does he is never the first to speak.

“What about carving the rock?” Kaz asks. Russ is silent now. He feels scolded and ganged up on, which means he’ll stay relatively mute until his ego has recovered.

Janine looks to Eduardo. Their eyes meet, lock and somehow they manage to partake in a wordless conversation. It’s concluded with a nod from Janine. Following that Eduardo speaks. “We use the engines in a special configuration to cleave the rock.”

“That’s not going to work. Gladius has no such capabilities.” Russ adds having found his voice for no other reason than because he sees an opening to be a mocking jackass able to show superiority. He can never resist indulging when that’s an option, especially if it involves Eduardo.

Janine shakes her head as if to say Russ understands so little about the capabilities of Gladius. It’s enough to draw the captains’ ire, which is why he quickly exclaims, “Oh go on then Janine, tell me how I’m wrong. Reveal some secret I’m unaware of, even though I’m captain and you’re a simple miner.” Russ is defiant, gloating and to be honest Eduardo would like to punch him, if only to shut him up for a short while.

“I will if you zip it and let someone speak for a bit without one of your snide remarks.” Janine is the only member of the crew who never calls Russ by the title Captain. She should but no one is going to tell her how to behave on what might as well be her starship. After all, Russ might have been named Captain by Inner Ring higher ups but it was Bennett who bequeathed her the vessel. Only she and Russ know that. In her opinion there was no need to make it public knowledge.

Russ goes to say something but catches the flame in Eduardo’s eyes and decides better of it. Plus, the big guy rubbing the gloved knuckles of his one hand with the other acts as an additional incentive that helps to indicate what might happen if he carries on talking.

“Right.” Janine says after a period of time where no one talks.

“Gladius has an engine function that Bennett and I programmed in. Its uses the excess exhaust ejection ports which when activated in a certain pattern and with just the right mixture of plasma injection is capable of cutting through asteroids. It’s not pretty but its effective and the only way we’re going to have any hope of getting that hunk back to our stations for processing without making a number of trips. Or have to try jump back home in hopes of assembling some additional gear and maybe get a few extra hands.” Janine gives just enough detail for the plan to make sense and Kaz has to admit she likes it. Still, she does have one question. Sadly, she erupts into a round of wince inducing coughs. Janine waits. She expects from the severity and duration of the retching that Kaz has maybe another year of being able to serve in space before she might become a liability. Janine doubts anyone has told the brown haired Kaz that but from her experience that would be Janine’s best estimate.

“Will there be enough fuel for…the return home?” Kaz has to stop part way through her query to suck down air. But at the conclusion of it Russ is clearly frustrated that out of all the possible queries which could be asked Kaz felt the need to utter that particular one.

Janine flashes Russ a don’t try and speak look and then returns her focus to Kaz. “We’ve got more than enough. Gladius is heavy on fuel. Always is. It’s how the Dockers fuel all the ships, to the max. Gladius doesn’t need anywhere near that for a voyage like this one, but they insist. You know what orders are like.” Kaz nods but says nothing which could implicate or condemn her. Not that she needs to because Russ isn’t going to do anything, Janine is enough of a disincentive to dissuade him.

“And what about the weight, can we handle it?” Is Kaz’s next question, much to the relief of Russ who can think of no better question that needs to be answered than that one. He expects the answer will be no, Gladius cannot take that amount of weight.

“Any other faction ship, no. But Gladius isn’t like all the other faction miners. It has stronger engines. She’ll take it. Just means we’ll be slower, more like other strip mine ships.” Eduardo announces much to the surprise of everyone. For Janine it is a welcome change. She is often concerned about how solitary Eduardo is and thinks he should interact more, if only with the remainder of the crew he serves with.

“So it’s decided then. Grab your gear and hightail it back to the ship for preparations.” Janine says issuing orders which everyone, bar Russ, agree with.

“Wait, wait, wait. That’s not how this works Janine. I’m Captain. I give the orders.” Russ is boiling with rage. It is barely contained beneath the surface. At the end of the day he has never been as disrespected by anyone as he has been right now. He is sure of that and doesn’t intend to let it slide.

“A pissing contest; is that really what you want right now?” Janine replies feeling exhausted by Russ’ behaviour since Kaz made this discovery.

Silence hangs in the air. During said silence Janine and Russ stare at one another. Neither dares to blink or look away. Then finally Janine shrugs and utters, “Fine, have it your way, Captain.” Janine makes sure to sound extra condescending as the words pass her lips. Following that she continues, “How do you want to do this? What are your orders?” Her queries catch Russ off-guard. He didn’t expect her to ask him. He actually thought she’d double down on her defiance. Janine read him like a book and knew what he was expecting, like she knew he wasn’t ready to be asked for his opinion. He has nothing, no idea, no plan and she’s not only caught but exposed him to the others as well as himself. How humiliating.

The Captain’s top lip quivers, angrily, but ultimately he accepts, “Plan stands. Jump to it. Get back to Gladius on the double.”

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