3.3

Yik sat in the hallway, where he would’ve been underfoot if anyone was leaving their areas. Mark was hidden away in his room, Sam had been at the controls for days, and Vortran was barely staying awake half the day. The Pascal emerged just as he was thinking of checking on her, and wobbled over to the kitchen drowsily.

“You should not be staying awake now, you should be… high-bearing.” Yik followed her to the kitchen and sat at the table as Vortran made more coffee. Vortran stared at him for what felt like an eternity, eyes half shut.

“Hibernating… and I’m fine. I just have to stay wake until we find the kid…” She poured some coffee for herself and offered some to Yik, who shook his head.

“It makes me see colors weird.” He waited till she had taken a long sip before speaking again, “They would understand. You cannot help it.”

“It’s complicated… Sam doesn’t know and I don’t want him to.”

“Doesn’t know what?” Yik’s curiousity was picqued and he scooted his chair closer.

“You ever heard the saying, curiosity killed the cat?” Vortran muttered into her coffee.

Yik scooted away again and sat with his hands in his lap, waiting for Vortran to finish. Mark emerged from his room in the meantime, grabbed something from the fridge and disappeared again without a word.

“We will all go mad at this rate.” Yik said to no one in particular. He had never liked this design of ship, it was so closed off and cluttered.

“We’re all fine, it’s just been a tense trip. Nobody is talking to the walls yet.” Vortran was too grumpy to sound reassuring, but Yik’s eyes flickered in a way that made her nervous and she put her drink down. “What has your whiskers twitching?”

Yik looked out the door into the hallway. Even though there was no way to see it from here, Vortran could tell he was looking for the control room. She sighed, grabbed her mug, and climbed out of the chair to make her way to the control room. Yik followed behind, reluctantly.

Sam was sitting hunched over the controls, staring blankly at the screen. His eyes were half-closed as if he was deep in thought.

“Hey Sam, need a break? It’s gonna be a few more days before we get to the next stop.” Vortran stayed in the doorway, feeling suddenly uneasy.

“M’fine.” He muttered, glancing at them for a brief moment.

“Ya sure, buddy? You look a little tired.”

“I’m fine.” This time he growled his response, reaching for the nearby water bottle. He missed and it fell to the ground, rolling under the desk. Sam stared down at the space it had been for a moment, then reached under the desk, groping awkwardly. He grunted when he found it and set it back on the desk, nearly knocking it over again. Once the bottle was steadied he went back to staring at the screen.

“Okay, let me know when you want me to take over.” Vortran back out of the room and shoved Yik back into the hall, “Okay so fair enough.” She spoke softly, leading the way back into the kitchen, “Last time I saw him that bad he’d been up for four days on a mission. He messed up the landing procedure and ended up embedding a six foot pole into the hull. But he also won’t give up the controls till he passes out.”

“What do we do?”

“We have a few days till we need to do anything. If he hasn’t passed out by then we’ll figure something out. Maybe you and Mark can drag him away so I can drive. He’ll be pissed but we won’t end up dead.” Vortran didn’t look very happy about the plan, and dumped her coffee in the sink, heading back to her room, “Wake me up if he passes out.”

Yik frowned and curled up under the table in the kitchen to think.

***

Of all the unpleasant wake-up calls Calvin had experienced in his lifetime, the terrified screaming of a little girl was definitely one of the least pleasant. He fell out of his chair and dashed into the cell room, but the vagrant was the only one in there, pounding on the wall and looking alarmed. Calvin found Jessie in the kitchen, sobbing and gripping the floor cleaning robot in both hands. Most of her hair was wrapped around it’s brushes and it was making a horrific grinding noise trying to get free. He grabbed a sharp knife from the drawer and cut the tangled hair off of her, turning the robot off before it could burn itself out. There was already a faint odor of burnt hair in the room. Jessie had backed herself into a corner as soon as she was free and sat rubbing her drastically shorter hair and sobbing hysterically.

“Are you hurt?” His heart was still pounding but the adrenaline was starting to wear off, fading into a vague sense of annoyance. The girl shook her head but was still sobbing. Her hair was lopsided now, only a couple inches long on the left side, and about half a foot on the left.

“What’s going on?” Jerret’s voice boomed down the hallway.

“She’s fine! Give me a second!” He called back. He sat down and sighed, looking at the damage. The hair took a few minutes to clear out, and he didn’t notice that Jessie had left the room at first. When he finally cleaned everything up he found her in the bedroom, shrouded in a blanket. “Are you okay?”

“He’s not going to recognize me.” She said solemnly, staring down at her feet.

“What are you talking about? Who won’t recognize you?”

“Even if he does recognize me he’ll think I look horrible and he won’t want me.” She pulled the blanket all the way over her head, muffling the last few words.

“You don’t look horrible… your hair is just shorter… let me look at it.” He winced a little as she pulled the blanket off, “We can fix it. Let me grab some scissors.” He left her for a moment and came back with a pair of kitchen shears, “Sit down in the chair.” He pulled the chair out from the wall and stood behind it. She gave him an incredulous look but sat facing away from him.

“I’ve always had long hair, Granny likes it that way.” She wriggled a little as Calvin started trimming the longer side.

“Try to stay still, I haven’t done this since I left home so I’m a little rusty.” Calvin straightened her head a little.

“Mr. Calvin?” She asked, staring straight ahead.

“Yes?”

“How come you can cut hair?” Another chunk fell to the floor and he straightened her head just a little.

“I used to cut my little brother’s hair after our mom left… he didn’t like how my dad always wanted it super-short.” He moved around to the front and tilted her chin up a little.

“Why’d your mom leave?”

Calvin stopped mid-cut and their eyes met for a moment before he moved her head to the side to check his work again.

“She stopped liking my dad… She never really loved him anyways. They married when she got pregnant.” He could hear the words but it felt like they were coming out of someone else’s mouth. Jessie fell silent and the sound of scissors cutting hair filled the room.

“Why didn’t she take you?”

“Maybe she didn’t love me that much either, I don’t know.” Calvin paused for a second, tilting her head in a few directions from behind. “I don’t really like to think about it.”

“I’m sorry… Misa doesn’t like it when I ask him about a long time ago either. He always says I’d stick my nose in a trap to see if it works and get it cut off.”
“That’s… a rather gruesome saying.” Calvin put the scissors down and brushed some of the hair off the chair as she stood up, “It’s okay. Apparently I’m not good at saying no to uncomfortable conversations lately.”

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