Notes: Back to Cody and Ten! More specifically, back to Ten, who is paranoid. Whatever, it's not paranoia if they're really out to get you.
Title: Reformation: Chapter Fifteen
Not mine, not mine, not mine: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/334251603576650025/
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Ten was a genius. It might be an exaggeration to say that all of hir ideas were good, but when it came to problem solving in a pinch, Ten was second to almost none. Ze would have been a brilliant tactician, hir instructors at the Academy had lamented, if ze was better at taking into account the human cost of things. Ship in a bind? Surrounded on all sides by the enemy, no way out? Ten would blow up the ship. Not only would ze blow it up, but ze’d do it in the biggest and most spectacular way possible, to maximize destruction. Yes, it meant ze died, along with all of hir crew, but that was the point, wasn’t it? Win at any cost? Needless to say, it was an attitude that had permanently sidelined hir from any chance at a command track in the Academy, which was exactly what ze’d meant to happen.
Ten was actually very cognizant of life, when it suited hir to be. Hir life, of course, was paramount when it came to preservation, because otherwise ze couldn’t do a damn thing to look after anyone else, but the lives of hir loved ones came in a close second. In Cody’s case, that second was so close a space as to be practically nonexistent. And here they were, on a Drifter ship that was verging on derelict, puttering through space with a bunch of people who either disliked them because they were outsiders, disliked them because they didn’t fit the mold, or were curious about them but not willing to do anything to help them. Ten didn’t trust Jack as far as ze could throw him, but at least ze knew he’d look after Cody. Jack wasn’t a mechanic, though, and it was inevitable that Ten and Cody would eventually be separated during their work. So, a few safeguards were in order.
Cody’s eyebrows went up the “morning” of their second day on board the ship, when Jack was called to pilot and they were going to get a handle on everything that needed repairs or upgrades. “Are you serious?”
“What?” Ten asked, still holding out hir “keep Cody alive” emergency kit. “It’s not like any of this stuff is super obvious. No one will know that we think they’d a pile of advantage-seeking , scum-sucking—”
“That’s not fair to say, we don’t even know them yet.”
“We don’t need to. We can infer everything we need to know about them.”
“And your inferences have led you to decide they’re…scum-sucking?”
“More like they think we’re scum-sucking lowlifes taking advantage of Jack’s stupid hospitality, but that’s six in one, half a dozen in the other. The point is, a lot of these people aren’t going to like us, and there are a lot of ways that things can go wrong on a ship, especially a ship carrying five hundred people that looks like a floating tumor.” Ze pressed the kit at Cody again. “Take it. Come on.” Cody still looked doubtful. Time to break out the big guns. Ten took two steps forward, plopped down in Cody’s lap and leaned into him, wrapping hir arms around his neck. “For me,” ze whispered, and kissed him.
Bad idea. Oh no. It had been so long since they’d had sex, days, and they hadn’t had a quiet moment together in almost as long as Ten was a lot of things but an exhibitionist wasn’t one of them, especially not with Cody’s creepy dad not two rooms away, and damn it, damn it, ze could grind down on his lap right here and get hirself off in two minutes, ze was sure of it.
They were supposed to be in the engineering section of the ship in ten, and it would be a fast walk as things stood.
“Oh my god, really?” Cody demanded as soon as Ten pulled back. “Now?” He’d sprung up almost instantly, and his expression was pained as he pressed a palm against his groin. “We don’t have time.”
“I hate this.”
“Me too! If you’d just taken my present in the first place, you wouldn’t have had to be reminded about how much you’re missing all of this right now.” Ze indicated hirself with a wave of hir hand as ze stood.
“I don’t need a reminder,” Cody groaned. “I think about you all the time anyway. Shit.” He shut his eyes for a second, then held out a hand. “Give it to me.”
Success! Ten handed the kit over and watched as Cody deftly took the pieces apart, slotting them into place on his body and clothing. Perfect, perfect, perfect. As soon as the booster went over his implant, Ten reached out. Can you hear me now?
“Loud and clear.”
Use your implant.
Yes. Cody winced. “Ugh, I don’t like that.”
“It’s harder without Hermes to help,” Ten agreed. “We should use it in case of emergencies only, but at least it’s a way for us to communicate if they stick us on opposite ends of this crate.”
“It’s not a crate.”
“It’s a flying basket case. It’s the space equivalent of a ship’s graveyard come back to life—it’s a zombie ship. Have you ever heard of zombies before? Because this thing is one of them.”
“They have an average of three leaks a day on this ship. Three! A day! We’re talking hull breaches here, and I don’t care if it’s a little one, when the part of your ship that keeps you from decompressing and freezing in space is malfunctioning, you need to dedicate some time to it, not just keep slapping patches on and calling it good.”
“I know, I—”
“That’s why the kit is important, okay?” Ten stopped pacing and looked at Cody. “I know you think I’m overreacting and that this stuff isn’t necessary, but it is, and not just because someone might do something stupid and malicious. It’s an anti-accident kit too. It could keep you alive, and I’d give you one even if you weren’t a natural. I don’t care about that, you know I don’t.”
“I know.” Cody got up and straightened his clothes. “And I know you’re wearing one too, so it makes me feel a little better. Same gear?”
“I know you don’t like the shocker but that thing has saved my ass several times, and I’m smaller than you. People are going to try to take advantage of that.” They stepped off Jacks’ ship and headed toward the hall that led to engineering.
“It might not be as bad as you think.”
Ten snorted. “You’re the most annoyingly optimistic person I’ve ever met, and keep in mind, I know Grennson. You leave him in the ether, though.”
Cody shrugged. “Why borrow trouble when we’re not going to have any shortage of it ourselves?”
“Hence the need for the kits.”
They made it to engineering with a minute to spare, not that it seemed to matter. The compartment was immense, like an ancient depiction of a hive of bees, full of ladders and corridors and people, each one moving with purpose, some of them accompanied by sparks.
“Fun,” Cody said, looking around.
“Tragic,” Ten corrected. “Fucking tragic, a first year Academy student could organize a workplace better than this.”
“I guess we need to find ourselves something to do.”
Ten’s idleness, at least, was put to an end the second a small, slender woman with dark skin and neon bright hair saw hir standing in the doorway. “Hey, you!” Ten glanced hir way. “Yeah, you! Whatshirname, Tiennan.”
“Right. You know how to weld?”
“Does a baby know how to drink milk and shit?”
The woman rolled her eyes. “Answer the question, smartass.”
“Yes,” Ten said, enunciating clearly. “I can weld. Any idiot can weld.”
“But I need an idiot who can do it in tight quarters, and Corva said we’re to keep you kids working, so!” She clapped Ten on the shoulder, knocking hir forward a step. “My name’s Livia, and you’re coming with me to sanitation. We’ve got a containment issue.”
“Joy,” Ten said sourly. “And Cody?”
“Eh, the little prince will find work for himself soon enough, right?” She glanced disinterestedly at Cody, who just shrugged and smiled at Ten.
“I’ll be fine. You go have fun in sanitation.”
“I hate you.”
It was unfair how Cody’s grin made Ten’s heartrate pick up so reliably. “I know.”
“Enough sweet talking, kid.” The woman pushed an old-fashioned portable arc welder into Ten’s hand, along with an apron and a pair of goggles that had clearly seen better days. “You ready to get down and dirty?”
“I suppose I have to be.”
Ten looked back once as ze followed Livia down the hall. People moved around Cody like they didn’t even see him. He didn’t seem bothered, though.
Cody sent back the mental equivalent of a wink. It would have to be enough.