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First Mate to Madness

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When the Space Agency began actively recruiting Fairys, Marianne had signed right up. In the early days of space exploration, simply getting to space had been a terrible ordeal. Any Fairy, with their delicate frames, would have been killed by the stresses within moments of rocket ignition. Only the sturdier races could survive the trip so only they went into space.

But those days were nearly a hundred years ago, and fae-kind had made great leaps in science. Interialess drives, hyper-sleep, perfect body cocoons, and most recently, the beginnings of intergalactic exploration. And Fairys, with their aerial mobility and slight weight were ideal, and rigorously recruited for these long range missions. It was a thrilling time to be alive and with a taste for adventure.

Even though Marianne had graduated top of her class in the Academy, she had been stunned by her luck when her first comission was as First Mate on one of the early intergalactic science vessels! It was a huge honor, a position far FAR above one usually offered to raw graduates. She stammered her overjoyed thanks, took her orders, and ran like hell to get ensconced in her berth, as soon as possible. She figured, if she was already on board, it would be harder for them to claim they'd made a mistake. She didn't see the amused looks on the faces of her superiors as she tried to pretend she wasn't darting out the door. So, she had absolutely no warning about the situation she was charging so eagerly toward.

Her haste was her first mistake. She did zero research on the Sugar Plum, and so it was not until she first reported to the bridge, two days later, that she discovered she was the only Fairy on-board. Every other officer, crewman, and scientist was a goblin. No Gumps, Phoukas, Piskies, or any of the other races. Just Goblins. And, as far as she could tell, they were all stark raving mad.

The Captain was, perhaps, the maddest of all. He was the one who let all the other madness happen! His idea of keeping ship's discipline was nothing like what she'd been taught at Academy. He would simply ignore his crew, and their… shenanigans as much as possible, and when it wasn't possible, to throw them down hallways, shaken them like rattles, or threaten to throw them out airlocks.

Captain King, indeed. In the depths of her mind Marianne preferred to refer to him by his given name, Bog. She thought it more fitting.

Still, First Mate Marianne discovered that some of that madness bore surprising fruit. With no orders coming from their Captain, the navigational crew played games of chance to determine their heading, leading to several exciting discoveries. The science officers were absolutely fearless, and would try the most random, bizarre, dangerous experiments, “because I had a thought, and just wanted to see.” And the engineers… well, the less Marianne thought about how they were constantly tinkering with the engines, the happier she would be.

But even after she had come to accept the madness, parts of it still rankled on her. The fourth time in a week that she found her bridge station covered in a substance that resembled grape jelly, but smelled like Brutus's socks, something inside her broke. She lost her temper, she lost her training, she temporarily lost her mind.

Roaring wordlessly she darted across the bridge, grabbed the giggling hydroponic mycologist (she knew the stuff was his favorite slime mold), hoisted him by the collar of his uniform, shook him soundly, marched him to the passage just outside the bridge, and kicked him halfway down it with a well placed foot to his backside. She turned back to the bridge, panting, only to see the entire bridge crew staring at her.

Captain Bog raised an eyebrow. “Good,” he said, and went back to motionlessly staring out the viewport, his long chin resting in his long hand. The rest of the crew simultaneously went back to whatever they had been doing, and everyone stayed carefully out of her way as she took over the mycologists clean science station and pulled up her workspaces on his screens.

There was not a repeat of the smelly grape slime mold incident, and she found that the occasional cuff or kick kept the crewmen from enacting the worst of their stupidity, and keeping it all away from her. The ship began to, occasionally, run on a modicum of efficiency. Her posting finally became some flavor of routine.

So she was completely disoriented when her in-berth com went off at 0345. She flailed around, tangled in her wings, until she finally managed to hit the button.

“First Mate Marianne,” she croaked, lifting hair out of her eyes.

“Marianne! Get down to the airlock, yesterday! We have a visitor! A non-fae, non earth visitor! I don't even know how it got in here!” The scowling visage of her Captain filled her small screen. His orders contained more words at once than she thought he had spoken at all in the last seven months.

“What do you mean, a visitor!” she yelped, but the screen was already dark.

She tumbled out of bed, and flung herself into pants and a breastband. No time to go through the arduous process of sliding her wings into a uniform top, and its not like anyone on the ship cared. Most of them went completely naked all the time, anyway. Boots unlaced and flapping around her ankles, she pounded down the corridors to the airlock. The few goblins up at this hour were smart enough to get out of her way. The one who wasn't found himself flying down a different corridor than he had anticipated, at high speed.

Captain King was standing only a few feet from the airlock hatch. By the time Marianne arrived, it was almost through cycling.

“What is it?” Marianne panted, and leaned her hands on her knees to catch her breath.

“I don't know,” he growled. “Something alien. We're light years from the next Fae ship. I don't know how this thing got on my ship, or in the airlock, or what it wants. We need to be prepared for anything.” He crouched into, not quite a fighting stance, but a pose just barely shy of it.

Marianne gulped, but planted one foot behind her and squared her shoulders.

“Remember the mycologist,” the Captain said to her, and to Marianne's complete shock, winked. What a time for him to prove he had a sense of humor!

The light beside the airlock clicked over from orange to green, and the heavy hatch began to shift aside. It slowly rumbled away into the wall to reveal…

...well, Marianne thought, the alien is kind of cute!

It was about a quarter her size, white and fuzzy. It had a long, pointed nose, big ears, a thin tail, and some wickedly looking sharp teeth. But it sat peacefully on the floor of the airlock with its head cocked to one side, as if it were as puzzled by them as they were by it.

“Huh,” Bog said.

The thing in the airlock held up something glowing softly pink, and shook it gently. Its ears perked up, and its tail zipped from side to side. If it were anything like the animals she knew at home, Marianne would have said it was happy to see them.

Then it sprang out of the airlock with surprising speed. Marianne started back, but wasn't nearly fast enough. She was sure the noise it made was a giggle, just before her vision filled with pink sparkles.