The soft humming of fans drones on in the silent office room. The drab grey walls were blank - save for a few informational posters explaining what colored forms are needed for different requests. Behind a squared off stone desk sits a very clean and well groomed man wearing a black uniform sporting a very intricate crest in the shape of a sun. In his hands resting on the desk is a white form covered in a variety of boxes and checklists. He appears to be scanning its contents through exceptionally bored looking eyes. Standing behind the opposite side of the desk is a woman of very large stature, with a presence to fill the room. She stands with her arms crossed and face resting with a determined look and furrowed brow. She’s wearing a brown corduroy jacket and pair of khaki combat pants; the six foot four woman appears even taller in a pair of black boots sporting sizable one inch heels. Along with her striking medium length snow white hair, a characteristic she shares with the rest of her family, she’s easy to pick out of a crowd. The bureaucrat glances upwards for a moment at her and then refocuses his attention to the document in his hands, straightening his gaze. Her amber eyes narrow as her expression gives way to her underlying impatience. The document itself is fully filled out. One field has the name “Jennifer Wyles” scribbled into it with a certain level of extravagant yet sloppy handwriting, beside it are two words that Wyles took quite some time to think of, coming together to form a name that, in her humble opinion, was rather worthy of the silver screen.
“So… the wahn-tawn drifter, huh?” Inquires the neatly dressed bureaucrat.
“It’s uhh, actually its Wanton Drifter,” answers Jenn.
“Yeah, wonton.” A man significantly smaller and less muscular but more limber and athletic looking than Wyles is standing next to her, his prosthetic metal and carbon fiber hands resting from their thumbs tucked into his belt. He begins to speak in a much more mild mannered and patient tone, “No not really like the food, it’s Wanton, like immodest; You know when someone’s sort of sleeping around a lot or something.” The bureaucrat looks back down at the paper for a moment. “Uh huh,” he continues in an almost dismissive way. Satisfied with this answer the bureaucrat returns his eyes to the page and keeps reading. The stiff silence continues as the pair stand before the uniformed government worker in the nearly empty and still room.
“Alright,” the bureaucrat starts, “Everything here seems to be mostly in order.” The paper fades instantly as it’s sort of digitally deconstructed from the worker’s hands. A metal card ejects from a slot in the desk. The Bureaucrat removes it and stands up straight from his office chair. He holds out the card and gestures for Jenn to hold the other half of it. Then in a more sarcastic tone announces, “By the power entrusted with me by the Solar Fleet Alliance, I grant you the title of Captain Jennifer Wyles of the Wanton Drifter. Congratulations.”
Outside of the large government building, Jenn and Ian stroll home together in the dim twilight. Admiring the finish of the heavy silver card. It has roughly the thickness of two coins stuck together and is made of solid stainless steel. On one side it posses the same intricate sun crest of the Solar Fleet that was emblazoned on the bureaucrat’s uniform, etched into the metal. Etched beneath the crest is the name ‘Jennifer Wyles’ and underneath that, ’S.F.S. Wanton Drifter’. On the back of the card is the outline of a circle, a type of code used to read the information it carries.
“Well, I did it, it’s official. Jenn Wyles, Solar Fleet Captain.” Jenn was always proud of the name she gave herself, and seeing it presented in such a way gave her a strong sense of accomplishment.
“I know, right! This is so cool!” Ian interjected, “We’re, like, official.”
There is a brief silence as the two continue walking, still admiring the card.
“What’s next? Now that we have all this squared away, I mean,” Jenn asks.
Ian begins to answer, “Well now we can get official work from all sorts of places, officially-“
A disheveled looking medium sized ship, just shy of 150 feet in length, is floating in the water at its port of call. Its gentle curves and angular features give it a timeless look - a look that just never goes out of style. The ship has an appearance almost reminiscent of a simpler time — one long past. Its black finish has a shine on some parts, catching the light of the setting sun.
A small ramp is already extended from the solid deck of the ship to the lower dock where Jenn and Ian are standing, admiring their home and newly titled space-faring vessel. A stick-thin individual who was sitting outside on the front deck of the ship wearing an antiquated bomber jacket stands up to greet the two newly permit-toting adventurers.
“Hey guys! About time you two made it back. How’d it go?”
“Went pretty good, I’d say. Check it out,” Jenn responds bearing a full grin and proudly presenting the immaculate silver card.
“Aw, sick,” Rob, the ships pilot, excitedly projects after grabbing the card and feeling its considerable heft in his hands. “Wow, no wonder they charge so much for these.”
“So what’s the dinner situation, up there?” Jenn asks, broaching a subject she hardly every wastes time getting to.
“What?” Ian cuts in, “We just had lunch.”
“Hold your horses,” Robert said while making a ‘settle down’ gesture with his hands. “Dakota’s up in the kitchen right now working on something for all of us. Said he wanted to whip up somethin’ right special in light of your big day… Captain.”
An almost giddiness comes over the normally stoic Jenn Wyles. Robert gestures for her and Ian to come aboard. The two step up the small ramp on the deck of the ship one at a time as it gently rocks back and forth with the waves.
Inside of the Wanton Drifter’s mess hall, Jenn ducks through the door way into a moderately sized kitchen area with an island in the middle featuring a hard wood butcher block surface. Several raw thick cut steaks are sitting out coated in a hefty amount of salt and pepper. The clanging of various pots and pans can be heard as a stout man of average height wearing casual clothes and a stained white apron is hard at work making preparations for his work. As he rummages through cabinets and shelves he collects different ingredients for whatever it is he’s working on. Jenn’s attention however is immediately drawn to the fresh cuts of meat on the counter. The busy chef puts his armful of ingredients down on the counter as he notices Jennifer.
“Oh! Hey, Jenn, didn’t see you there. How’d it go?” Dakota asks.
“Ohhh man. Where did you even get these?,” Jenn inquires, fully ignoring Dakota’s attempt at small talk.
“Oh, the beef? While you guys were out I took it upon myself to do a little shopping. Figured I’d treat the new Captain Wyles to her favorite.”
“… A-are you… crying?”
“It’s just, this is… And now you’re…”
The now emotional captain is now wiping mist from her eyes with her sleeve, barely able to continue. Dakota tries his best to comfort her with a pat on the back and some reassuring words, “Alright, just, there.” Jennifer begins to hug the much shorter Dakota, who only comes up to just under her shoulders.
“Are you good?” the chef asks her.
“Sniff uh huh.”
Dakota gets himself free from the hug and puts his hands around Jenn’s shoulders to look up at the teary eyed face above him and informs her, “There’s a sandwich left over in the fridge from yesterday if you’re feeling a bit peckish before dinner.”
“Now go get cleaned up. Dinner’s in two hours.”
A faint hum can be heard through the engine room. The clattering and ratcheting sound of different tools echo around the space along with some banter between two individuals locked in discussion. A pair of legs clad in pink hi-top sneakers and slim fitting black jeans can be seen protruding from underneath the ship’s generator. Off sitting up against the wall is a somewhat rugged and unrefined looking android with no distinguishable facial features - other than the front of his head, which protrudes out in a way that some might deem oddly “cute”. He’s wearing a blue tee shirt and linen pants and looks to be somewhat comfortable for someone so inexpressive.
“But, like if you could be on any ship besides this one,” asks the girl from underneath the generator, “I mean the Endeavor; the Lighting; the Cosmic Wind; I mean there are some legendary boats in the fleet.” The android tilts his head in a curious fashion and responds, “Any ship without you on board would be directly inferior.” The mechanic rolls out from underneath the machine to look at the android. “God, you are just too adorable.”
A now more collected and calmed Jennifer enters the engine room, finishing off the last bit of a turkey and cheese sandwich and ducking under the door frame on her way in. “Good evening, Jennifer,” the android addresses her. With a full mouth the captain responds, “Like I said Gary, it’s just Jenn.” “My apologies, Jennifer,” Gary responds in a seemingly innocent tone. Jenn looks at him and with an almost defeated inflection, “…come on, man.”
The mechanic turns her attention to Jenn, “Hey, girl. What’s up.”
“Oh nothing just, this.
Jenn pulls out the silver Solar Fleet title card, holding it above Sasha’s face.
Jenn gets down to sit on the floor with her legs crossed right next to Sasha, who’s still prone on the floor, the gleaming card in her hands. “I know right? I mean now we can do all sorts of stuff. AND get paid for it! Legally!” Jenn’s uncharacteristic enthusiasm brings a noticeable smile to Sasha’s face. “You know I don’t think I’ve seen you this excited since Dakota came aboard with his magical culinary touch. Look at you all worked up, like a little girl again,” she says. “I think you’re just happy you got the Solar brass calling you Captain.”
Jenn looked up for a moment, pausing in the admiration of her achievement. “Well, yeah! This is amazing! I’m not just some idiot with an old shitty boat anymore!” “Yeah now you’re a licensed idiot with a shitty boat,” Sasha laughs. The mechanic sits up and places one of her leather gloved hands on the captain’s leg and looks her in the eye with a smile.
“Hey. I’m happy for you, girl.”
Unable to contain herself, Jenn grabs the slender mechanic with both arms, embracing her with one of her notorious Wyles bear hugs. Sasha lets out a slight whimper as she’s pulled into the suffocating vice of friendship, but remains happy for her friend.
“Whoah there with the sleeper hold. Your monster strength is little much.”
“Yeah whatever, princess.”
Jennifer releases Sasha from her grip and gets back up, then tucks the card into her jacket pocket. “Are you two coming to dinner later? Dakota seems like he’s working on something special for tonight.” Sasha lays back down, ready to get back to work, “Yeah, I heard, can’t wait to see.” The captain nods in approval, “What about you Gary?”
“You know I do not eat, Jenn.”
“And I do not envy you for that, but we love having you at the table, y’know?”
Gary expressed a yes with a joyful slight tilt of his head, ”You are very kind, Jennifer.”
“Always the flatterer,” the captain shot back, “see you both later then.”
A muffled, “Later, girl,” from Sasha comes from under the generator, her upper body hidden from sight again.
Giving a casual over the shoulder wave on her way out the door, she responds, “Later.”
Within the mess hall Robert puts the finishing touches on setting the table, just as other crew members begin to show up to the feast. Sasha and Gary show up, still locked in a deep discussion. As they sit down, Ian makes an entrance through the door on the opposite side, shortly followed by Jenn. The captain takes her usual spot at the solid wooden dinner table, at the end of the table, right next to Sasha and across from Ian. Beside Sasha sits Gary of course, and across from them next to Ian are the empty chairs where Rob and Dakota will sit. It seats ten, but never typically goes without a few empty spots. It was a gift from the admissions manager of the Solar fleet Consulate, a long time friend of Ian Sanford and a substantial part of the why Jenn was even admitted. The gorgeous synthetic wood table’s gloss finish shines underneath lights within the room and is quite possibly the finest piece of furniture to ever grace the interior of the Wanton Drifter.
Amidst the chatter and family dinner table discussion, the Drifter’s crew wait in eager anticipation for the special meal Dakota had been preparing all day. Robert and the chef come out of the kitchen, carefully balancing five full plates between them. They lay the plates out in front of everyone, except Gary who doesn’t eat anything, at the table. Jennifer seems absolutely awestruck by the contents of her plate. A perfectly prepared medium rare ribeye sits atop the white ceramic plate. It’s finished with a perfect seared crust on every side of the cut and cooked just the perfect amount. The juices of the behemothly thick steak spread across the plate and are soaked up by the hearty serving of mashed potatoes with gravy and roasted green beans perfectly complimenting the perfect steak. “All right, Dakota! Thanks for the food!”
Robert and Dakota take their respective seats at the table with the rest of the family. The chef pulls out his chair and begins sitting down, “How’s the beef, Wyles?” With wide eyes and a full mouth she responds, “Perfect”.
“Ha ha!” bellows the chef, “Glad to hear it, lass.”
As the eating and general merriment continues, the pile of rolls at the center of the table begin dwindle until only a single one remains. Ian looks at Robert, who’s already had two and clearly still desires another; but he wasn’t about to have the last roll taken from him. Robert looks to his friend and, aware of the predicament, proposes, “Rock paper scissors for the last one.”
“You’re on,” Ian declares in response to the invitation. The two battle it out and the two hands fly out. Rob flattens his hand to resemble a sheet of paper while simultaneously Ian clenches his hand into a fist.
Rob excitedly grabs for the last roll only, to his own horror, to reach into a basket devoid of any form of bread whatsoever. His face, painted with an expression of crushing defeat, looks up to see the last roll in the captain’s mouth.
“Wow, taking advantage of emotionally defenseless young men like always, huh Jenn.”
The captain nods her head, showing no remorse for her actions. “Mmhmmm!”
The laughter continues along with the night along with the sun that won’t finish setting for three days. Eventually the fun stops as the crew settle down and grow tired from the large meal. Sasha and Gary say goodnight and head off to their room while Robert begins to help Dakota clean everything up. Ian offers to help but the two assure him they’ve got everything covered. The captain is still at the table trying to recover from the near comatose state she was put into from the amount of food she had eaten.
Across the bow of the Drifter, the distant sun gently graces the horizon, small shimmers of light dancing along the rippling waves. The imposing Saturn takes up half the twilit sky and reflects its soft glow across the world. It holds the capital cityscape in its warm embrace, creating a silhouette of its monumental buildings. A relaxed Ian Sanford sits out on the end of the dock admiring the sight, a small cooler by his side and a bottle in his hand. There’s an air of comfort around him as a he looks out over the water, occasional taking a sip from the beverage.
“Room for one more?”
Ian stretches to look back around behind him to find his captain towering over him. “Of course,” he nods in his usual outgoing way. He reaches into the cooler to grab a bottle and hands it to Jenn. She steps over edge of the dock and lowers herself to take a seat right next Ian, just as she’s handed the drink. A closer inspection of the label shows an obscure language printed in bizarre angular characters. “What’re we drinkin?” Jenn inquires, twisting the cap off.
“I can’t really pronounce it right; Zergen, Sarchon-something?” Ian starts, “Best brew this side of the belt though.”
Jenn, appears a little confused, but trusting of Ian’s judgement. “Huh,” she states, more closely inspecting the label. After putting the bottle to her lips and taking big sip, Jenn let out a refreshed ‘ahh’. “Damn, that is pretty good.”
Jennifer tucks her chin down into the collar of her jacket, hunkering against the chilly air. The two friends sit in silence for bit, gazing out at the gently illuminated water.
“Beautiful, ain’t it?” Ian commented, “Feels like I’ve been everywhere and seen it all — and yet the sights just never get old.”
“I still can’t get over how cold it is here.”
“Ha, we’ve been living here for how long trying to get the old girl fixed? And you’re still complaining about the cold?”
“Shut up,” Jenn laughs as she playfully punches Ian in the shoulder.
“Heh.” Ian grabs his shoulder and lets out a weak laugh trying to disguise real pain. He takes a sip from the cold beverage. “So what’s next? Sasha’s probably gonna finish up her repairs in the next couple days and Dakota’s trying to figure out provisions. I think Rob’s getting a little antsy from being on the ground too long.”
“How about we find a job. And I’m talkin’ a good one. I bet now we could find something better than what we’ve been getting.”
A small moment of silence passes as the two look out over the dark waters of the marina.
Ian places his metallic left hand on Jenn’s shoulder. “Hey. Your folks woulda been proud… to call you their daughter.”
Jenn continues looking out into the gentle waves, and lets out a deep sigh. “I…” she tries to speak but finds no words.
“Tell you what”, Ian starts, I’ll grab Rob after I get some sleep and we’ll go scope out a gig. See what turns up.”
“I can go with you guys if you need-“
“Nah don’t worry about it. We got this. Just hang out, catch up on sleep and just relax,” Ian reassured his friend. He starts to get up to get back to the ship and stretches his arms over his head. “Besides, I think it’s a little unprofessional for the Captain to be handling that sort of business herself. Just hang back and… partake in the local flavor, if you catch my drift. My Wanton Dri-”.