8.1

The constant twitches of the Mr’kana next to him and the girl’s father smiling ominously into his cards were making Jerret regret agreeing to the game. They’d assured him he could say no to questions that were too personal but still. A bottle of some strong smelling alcohol someone had dug out of the supplies was sitting on the table distracting him as well. The others had glasses of the stuff, while Jerret had stuck to water.

“Faces and Tens!” The Mr’kana showed his hand triumphantly.

“It’s called a royal flush, Yik.”

“It is called winning.” Yik hissed, as everyone returned their cards to be shuffled. He took a taste of the mystery alcohol and Jerret thought for a moment his whiskers had curled from it, “Ages, I want to know.” He put the glass down as Mark shuffled. Sam took a sip himself and breathed out a chuckle.

“Ages?”

“My question, how old you are.” His tail twitched violently.

“That’s not a very interesting question, but thirty five for me.” Mark ignored his glass for the moment, focusing on handing out cards. Sam drank a bit more and picked up his new hand, grinning again.

“Forty…. forty-four I believe… don’t really pay much attention to it.” He replied, that ominous smile creeping back across his face.

Yik looked at Jerret expectantly and he frowned down at his cards, trying to think.

“Don’t tell me your age is too personal.” Sam had finished half his glass at some point and poured himself more.

“No… I’m just not sure. Haven’t exactly got a way to find out when I was born.”

“Fair enough.” Yik seemed satisfied and studied his new hand, tail twitching erratically, “I thought I must be youngest excepting the child.”

“Well how old are you?” Mark asked.

“I am eighteen years old.”

“Geez, and you were in the military?” Mark was the only one who looked surprised.

“When your people only live about thirty years on average things start young. Yik was six when we first met.” Another third of Sam’s glass had disappeared. Mark took a long drink and coughed as it hit him.

“I’ll bet one.”

“One.” Sam grinned at Jerret, who grimaced.

“One.” He said reluctantly. He had two pair, which wasn’t bad.
“One.” Yik took another drink from his glass and made a weird purring noise. Everyone exchanged cards and it was yet again Mark’s turn.

“Raise one.”

“I’ll see that.” Sam took another long drink, watching Jerret over the edge of his glass.

Jerret looked down at his hand again.  Two pair with a jack high didn’t seem good enough for the risk. “Fold.”

Jessie’s father looked a bit disappointed. Yik folded as well and Mark studied Sam carefully.

“Three.” He said finally. Sam grinned cheerfully, pouring a bit more into his glass. The smell of alcohol was starting to get to Jerret.

“Three it is, whatcha got?” Sam tossed down four kings. Mark sighed and showed his full house.

“Thought I had that one.” Mark took a long drink and coughed again, “This is potent stuff.”

“Yeah, it’s not half bad. Okay, group question first. What’s a weird fact about you not many people know?” He eyed Jerret but then turned his attention to Mark.

“Uh… I’ve never learned to drive anything. Any kind of vehicle.” He looked down into his drink and took a gulp, sending himself into a coughing fit.

“Seriously? Why not?”

“I lived in the city with public transport, then lived on campus for training academy, and then I was on big enough ships I didn’t need to be able to drive. Never saw a point since I didn’t need it.”

“But don’t you ever want to be able to just take off?” Sam asked.

“Is this one or two questions?”

“I’ll count it as two if you answer.” Sam drank some more, exhaling heavily as he put his glass down. The smell of liquor made Jerret wrinkle his nose.

“I’m not much for just taking off. I prefer to plan things and know in advance.”

“So this whole little chase must’ve really driven you nuts, huh?”

“Is that your third question?” Mark gave him an annoyed look and finished off his first glass, pouring himself a little more.

“Sure.”

“It hasn’t been all bad, but I would’ve preferred a little more say in what was happening instead of madcap chase across the galaxy.”

“Fair enough, Yik? What’s weird about you besides the obvious?”

Yik stopped drinking and put his glass down, “I make really good baskets. That is how I make money to fund my quest.”

“Is that so? I’d like to see one sometime.”

“Perhaps.” Yik took a long drink and finished his first glass. His tail had stopped twitching finally.

“And what about you?” He looked at Jerret finally.

“I’m mostly colorblind?” He had to hope they would be as surprised by it as Calvin was.

“Mostly?”

“I can see some colors, but not all of them. I couldn’t tell anything apart in the medkit trying to save Calvin when he was bleeding out.”

“I suppose that would count… Alright. Next hand.” Sam downed the rest of his glass and grabbed the cards to shuffle.

***

Vortran stopped outside the open door, she could smell the bottle of alcohol she’d kept hidden oozing out into the night air. Jessie seemed to smell it as well and made a face.

“I hate that smell.” The kid said, pulling her shirt up over her nose.

“Seems like somebody  needed a drink.” Vortran crawled up into the ship and immediately spotted Yik fast asleep in the doorway to the control room. A quick search found Mark asleep on the floor of his room and Sam passed out at the table next to the knocked over empty bottle, “Oh Sam…” Vortran sighed and pulled him down off the chair, hauling him toward the bedroom. He groaned a little as she got him out into the hallway and Jessie grabbed his other arm.

“Misa isn’t supposed to drink that stuff so much anymore, Granny’s gonna get mad.”

“Oh don’t worry kid… He’s gonna regret this in the morning. That stuff is made for Pascals, not humans. Why’d I have to fall in love with such an idiot?” Vortran nearly dropped Sam and glanced over at Jessie, who was grinning at her.

“You like like Misa?”

“I.. uh… don’t tell him.” She sighed with relief as the kid pinched two fingers together and ran them across her lips. Together they managed to get Sam into bed, leaving the others where they had fallen. Vortran cleaned up the bottle and glasses while Jessie stacked the cards neatly. “I guess we should probably sleep over here tonight, it’s a bit late to be walking over to the other one. I think the room I was using is open, Calvin’s in the control room.”

Jessie gave a worried look towards the control room. Calvin was curled up in the corner with his eyes shut.

“Sam has him on fluids and stuff, he’ll be okay till help arrives and we can get him treated.”

“It’s my fault he’s like this. If I hadn’t shifted none of this would’ve happened.”

“Come on, kid, if I let every mistake I made stick to me I’d be as much of a mess as your dad is right now. You just have to try and do better next time.” Vortan patted Jessie on the back and the girl seemed to cheer up a bit, “Now come on, I’ll tell you about the first time I met your grandma before we get to bed.”

Jessie nodded and followed her into the empty bedroom.

 

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