Anyway, on a more social note, I've just realised that I haven't mentioned Luke or Al, or even Rutter for that matter, and I should because to be honest, as Jarrod so quaintly put it when she didn't know I was within earshot, we've become as thick as thieves.
Aboard the Drakonia, Rutter used to be one of the 'in-crowd' only ever mixing with the 'pretty' people and usually sporting a doting crewman or ensign hanging off one arm or the other ... or both.
On the Earhart, it's very different. For a start, not only did Al and I decimate his reputation for being a cool dude but there is no 'in-crowd' on the Earhart. He is no longer the happy-go-lucky ensign, all beaming smiles and booming voice. He's much more melancholy and pensive now, but strangely, he seems more relaxed too. I think his former self may have all just been a front.
As it is, many find him sombre and grumpy, but it's a loveable sort of grumpy if you get my drift. He has a very dry, sarcastic sense of humour. Take this morning.
Rutter was taking Al and I through a simulated shuttle landing in the holographic suite. With a constant barrage of system failures and things to go wrong, it was a simulation created to test the most experienced of pilots.
I am not an experienced pilot, but had handled most of the test pretty well, but suddenly, the minor system failures escalated and things started to go horribly wrong on a big scale. As more and more things went awry, I began to panic. Frantically, I stabbed at controls, not sure which ones to activate first. In other words, I was making a right pig's ear of it.
I lurched frenziedly from one panel to another pushing every button that came to hand, getting absolutely nowhere. In the midst of that chaos, Rutter leaned casually back into his chair, crossed his legs and declared, "They say that if you have enough monkeys sat at enough data consoles for enough time, they'll reproduce the entire works of William Shakespeare. I take it you're using the same theory here?"
Al began to giggle.
"If so," he continued, "could I ask that you change your tactics. I have a birthday in nine months and I'd rather like to celebrate it somewhere else other than here."
That was when I lost control completely and crashed the shuttle into the USS Enterprise taking out one of its nacelles. Rutter merely rolled his eyes and shook his head pityingly before he patiently rebooted the simulation and took us through it again. He really is a very good mentor.
He's also entered into the spirit of Games Club and taught us how to play Tugullian Poker.
Similar to Terran Poker, it is played with a deck of sixty-three cards in three suits: ruby, emerald and sapphire. Each suit has twenty-one cards: uno (being the equivalent of the ace) to ten, doubles and dancers. Doubles are basically the same as uno to twenty but with a second icon shadowed behind the first, so the ruby uno has a single ruby on it, double-uno has two rubies on it with one behind the other, but ruby two has two separate rubies on it. It sounds complicated but it's actually very easy to recognise each card that way.
Finally, there is the picture card: the dancer. Each suit has one dancer card which features three dancers in elaborate dress. It is the highest value card in the pack and when played with the other two dancers, is an unbeatable hand. Anyway, somehow we seem to have got into the habit of playing in my quarters once or twice a week. Beastie loves it because she gets to sit on the table, usually beside Luke, pirruping for tickles.
We were playing last night too and chatting away about the shadow and drawing our own conclusions. I was just asking the others if we were anything other than bait as with no way of detecting the anomaly, aren't we just sitting around waiting to be snatched? And if we are taken, then what? But then Rutter laid down a winning hand, pairing up his two dancer cards with one Al had already laid down.
As I stared at the three dancer cards laid on the green baize, something tickled at the edges of my mind. There's something about them that I should know—that I do know, but I just can't quite grasp it!