At twelve thirty we went down to eat lunch. That was the first time I met the cook. His name was John Nevir. He was pessimistic and extremely depressed.
“If you don’t like the food you can just tell me,” he said, sighing. “I won’t make it again.”
“I’m sure whatever you make will be fine,” I said, trying to be cheerful.
“I try. But they keep making me switch ships. Meaning someone complained about something. Watch, I won’t last six months on this ship.”
“Sure you will,” Twitchy said, smiling.
“No. I won’t. You’ll ask for a new cook too.”
What did they do, get all the people no one wanted and stuck them on this ship? Twitchy asked silently. I looked at her. If that were true, everything suddenly made sense. Oh no, she thought, her face turning pale. Rimana was grinning.
“Tell me, Nevir, what do you do for people with allergies and so forth?” Rimana asked.
“I try to please them,” he sighed. “But I always do something wrong. They never eat my food. I can tell. By the amount of food they throw away.”
“Such a waste,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m sure I’ll love your food.”
“Well bring it out, and let me put it to the test,” she dared. He walked away, muttering to himself.
“Thank you,” Carter said. “If I never meet him again it’ll be too soon.”
“I think I’m going to have to make a private call to the admiral after lunch,” I said.
“Why, to get rid of him?” Batnter asked.
“Oh no, we aren’t getting rid of the cook,” I said. “Look, the cook is suicidal, the doctor is nineteen, the engineer is losing it, I’ve got a pirate in my family, and Rimana isn’t human. These are the type of people you wouldn’t recommend be on an important mission. And what mission did we get?”
“Herding moose,” Batnter said.
“You’re saying they stuck all the undesirables on this ship to get rid of them?” Carter asked.
“If that’s so, why are you here?” Rimana asked them. The two men smiled nervously as Nevir put plates in front of us and walked away, muttering.
“Very short attention spans,” Carter said.
“Do you remember, about, oh, four years ago, it was on the news that the academy on Lemarac completely burned down?” Batnter asked.
“Yes, I remember that,” I said.
“Let’s just say Carter and I have met before.”
It took us a moment to realize what he was saying.
“You’re the ones that started the fire?” Twitchy asked, her eyes wide.
“It destroyed like half the city,” Rimana added.
“It was an accident,” Carter said.
“How did you do it?” I asked. There was a pause as they looked blankly at me. “No, seriously, the news said they never figured out how the fire was started. It takes serious effort to burn down half a city, trust me. About half of the people on my brothers’ ship are pyromaniacs; they all admire you.”
“Have you ever heard of Greek fire?” Batnter asked after a moment.
“Of course,” Rimana and I said at the same time.
“We managed to perfect it. We made a substance that, once burning, could not be put out. At all,” Carter told us.
“That’s when they decided we should not be weapons designers,” Batnter said.
“Pity,” Rimana said, smiling. “I would love to see what you would have come up with if you were weapons designers.”
“Just because we aren’t officially with the armory doesn’t mean we haven’t designed anything,” Batnter told her.
“May I see?” Rimana asked, her eyes glowing. Carter shrugged.
“If you insist.”