It was a rough landing for everyone as Sam grounded them to resupply. Mark had no experience foraging and Sam was too busy shouting uselessly at the autopilot, which had planted them in a tree on the way down for no obvious reason. Vortran and Yik elected themselves to go gather food and escaped into the fresh, pine-scented air. The overcast day that greeted them didn’t stop Yik from prancing about a little.
“The mighty hunter calls upon the gods for a good hunt.” Vortran laughed when Yik gave her a confused look, “Sorry, just narrating.”
“Nevermind,” She shook her head at him and he shrugged,sniffing the air, “There should be some water a short hike that way with fish. You much of a fisher?”
“I have not caught fish since I was a small one, but I know how.” Yik started in the direction she pointed and Yik hustled to keep up with his long strides. By the time they reached the lake she was out of breath, and sat down heavily on the shore. Yik rolled up his pant legs and waded out up to his waist, soaking himself anyways.
“If you have to go that far I think I’m disqualified from fishing.” Vortran called out to him.
“We need somewhere to keep fish. Should have brought a bucket.”
“I…” Vortran huffed and got back to her feet, “I’ll go get one.”
She returned with an empty tub almost as big as her and set it down by the shore. Yik waded back to her and dunked the tub in the lake to fill it, setting it back on the shore next to her.
“I throw, you catch.” He made a tossing gesture and Vortran nodded, sitting next to the tub.
They would probably be out there all day and she was already pushing her hibernation back weeks for this trip. It would be worth it to see Sam happy, but…
She heard Yik and looked up just in time to have a fish land squarely in her chest. She yelped and tossed it in the tub before it could flop away. Yik looked rather pleased with himself at the catch and gave her a thumbs up. She returned the gesture, trying to catch her breath again. He dove under the water suddenly and reemerged a moment later, throwing up a spray of water.
This time she was more prepared and Vortran caught the second fish easily, tossing it into the tub with the other. They fell into a steady rhythm quickly and had the tub filled to capacity within an hour. Back at the ship Mark helped them put everything away while Sam made repairs to the hull, and then they were off again, this time with Vortran digging up some wild roots and vegetable to round things out. A third trip netted them some small game and birds and they had enough supplies to make it a couple weeks with rationing.
Sam finished the repairs as the other prepared dinner and by the time the sun had set they were ready to take off again. Yik took the controls as Sam got some rest, leaving Vortran and Mark to their own devices in the kitchen.
“So…” Mark said, trailing off immediately as Vortran sat down.
“Sorry… I was useless again today.”
“You helped put all that stuff away, that’s useful.”
“That’s… literally something anybody could do.” Mark frowned, “A cleverly placed plank on a large rock can put stuff away. I thought I’d be doing more good here.”
“Extra hands are always helpful.”
“I guess.” He sighed stared up at the ceiling.
“Oh Gods, what is it?” Vortran glowered at him.
“You’re being all pensive and moody again. Is it guilt? Concern about your buddy? The sighing and staring into space gets old real fast.”
“Sorry, I’m not trying to.” Mark sat upright, sounding offended.
“No, you want to vent something. You might as well tell me already. Sam’s too dense to be helpful and Yik is… Yik.”
“I don’t want to vent.”
“Yes you do, and I need at least one non-crazy person on this ship so spill and get it over with before it gets to you.” Vortran stood on her chair, leaning on the table as if she was ready to lunge at him.
“You don’t understan-augh!” Mark toppled backward as Vortran pounced. She landed heavily on his chest on the far side of the table and started pinching his arm with her claws. He winced and tried to shrug her off, “Stop! Why?”
“Tell me what’s on your mind or I start getting mean.” She pinched him again and he swore a little.
“You’re ins-fine!” He winced as she moved to pinch him again and she stopped, waiting, “I’m completely useless now because Calvin is the bad guy in all this and worse, if I’d been better at my job maybe this whole mess wouldn’t have happened. I trusted him like he was family and now I can’t even trust my own judgement on people.” Mark exhaled as Vortran climbed off of him, “What kind of security officer can’t even trust his own judgement?”
“There, feel better?”
“No.” Mark sat up and dusted himself off, “And you shed like mad.”
“Look, this isn’t over yet. Don’t go having an identity crisis before you even know the whole story. Maybe it’s not like we think.”
“It seems pretty obvious at this point what happened.”
“Even if it’s exactly like you think, you need to be the guy who makes sure the law is followed. Sam’s as likely to shoot your buddy as have him arrested at this point. Yik is a wildcard and I have too many hangups with Sam to stop him. So be Mr. Policeman and make sure justice gets served, then you can have your little crisis when nobody’s about to get killed.”
“Officer Policeman.” Mark corrected, wincing as Vortran punched him in the arm.
“Gods, men are nothing but trouble. Buncha drama-queens” She threw her hands up in the air dramatically as he gave a half-hearted smile and stomped off to her room for a nap.