The life and times of a bored mechanic. In space.
Your name is Rayadyah, (it's traditional,) and you're aboard the asteroid mining ship "[[𐀎𐃍|linear b]]", which you still can't pronounce properly even after hanging with these douchebags for five [[solar standard year]]s now. You don't know how you got involved with these douchebags; it just kind of happened and you became increasingly okay with them.\n\nThe ship, in a shocking event that came completely by surprise, has been hit by an asteroid. You spend all your time in asteroid fields; it's really an inevitability. The newer crew members get really excited about it, mostly because they think they're all going to die.\n\nIn their defense, the ship does look like the kind of scrapheap that would explode violently the second anything at all goes wrong.\n\nWhat will you do?\n\n* [[Fix the fucking ship|fix]]
You don't have any particular fondness for Ursula K. Le Guin, but you do enjoy how she predicted the ansible so precisely that the name stuck when it was discovered eighty years after her [[death]].\n\nScience fiction is the same old tired genre cliches, even now that we're far into the glorious future. People didn't really seem prepared for the utter //lack// of systemic change technology would have on society. Asteroid mining is just mining, in space. The relative scarcities of metals are different now, but the economic model is still the same.
Sleep is nice. You probably won't have nightmares, and if you do you usually don't remember them. Tomorrow -- well, you have no clue when midnight is, technically -- you'll have to talk to the captain about engineering supplies and work out a cost estimate, which is not going to be pleasant for you or, in fact, anyone else who takes an interest in the commune financial stores. It's not great. But it's another day, and you've lived through one thousand seven hundred of them since you came aboard. You'll live.\n\n''THE END''
The thing about serving with aliens is that color-based signals really don't work well.\n\nThere's a lot of UV involved in asteroid mining. Certain crystal ores fluoresce in UV, which is -- vaguely -- part of the reason the asteroid miner demographic is slanted heavily towards species that predominately see into at least shortwave UV, and, consequently that so much hardware for the asteroid market is designed around ease of use for any of the common UV-seeing alien types.\n\nThere are a handful of gecko-like cave aliens on the crew, with immense iridescent bulbous eyes, and they see deeply into the UV spectrum. It's easy to think of violet as being so screamingly red to them it's even visible to humans stuck in shortwave.\n\nIt matters less for the two crew stuck in infrared; they're already extremely used to everyone and everything glowing. The point is, the colored tells for the [[airlock]] aren't that useful, and they're heavily shifted towards the far end of the visible spectrum. Mostly it's taught you how to perfectly discriminate between purple and violet.
You'd say it's the horror of the endless void, but you get just as uncomfortable when you go planetside. The guy's quarters is small, cozy. All the walls are within an arm's reach. The ceiling too, if you stand up and stretch. But you don't, because you're lying down, half-curled around his body. The warmth is nice. You're probably going to fall [[asleep|sleep]].
People tend to be under a misapprehension about asteroid mining, and perhaps space ships in general. They're complicated things: they involve a ludicrous amount of systems that all have to work in concert to keep everyone on board from dying in agony. They require an //ecosystem//. There's this idyllic fantasy of a lone pilot (or two) living on the fringes of civilization and surviving on scrap and raw-mined minerals. Ship parts are //complex//; you can't just manufacture them from pure grit.\n\nWe swing by stations for parts every few months; after that asteroid hit we'll be paying out a huge chunk of our savings to make sure we have the parts we'll need to do it again next time. Everyone here is //poor//, and for the most part they're there because society doesn't want them or they desperately don't want society. It's little refuge.\n\nThe total crew count is 53 people, and that's counting the two tons of synthflesh and wires that the [[machine intelligence]] thinks in as "one". The more important thing is that a ship this size is usually staffed with 150 people. There's a lot more space per person than expected for a pressurized bullet in deep space.
She's a seven-foot half-ton bat-ogre, covered in blue fur; she has a certain commanding presence that you, as a rather short scrawny human, completely lack. You've been colleagues since you washed up on this wreck, surly and considerably more antisocial than you are now.\n\nShe goes through a heat every few years; if there were others of her species on the ship her cycle might be more regular and less extreme. As it is, last time, a year ago, she asked for your help and you came out of it with a lot of interesting bruises and a pulled muscle or two. It was a little too heavy for you; as much fun as it is to be held down, she could literally rip your limbs off if she felt like it or let her control slip just a little, and you don't really trust anyone that much. That's not what you [[talk]] about, though, since that's still a bit of a sore subject.
Death happens to people, sometimes.\n\n<<display 'universe'>>
He's wearing a proper uniform, or at least clothes that are more reputable than your dingy faux-overalls. It's kind of hot. Tufts of silky fur erupt from the sleeves and neck of his shirt, a smaller fringe at his ankle where the skin turns into scales. The fur is in stripes over leathery skin; you like the contrast. By the time he's properly off his shift, your hand is down his pants, two fingers knuckle deep in his cloaca. He's rutting against you in short thrusts, making very little attempt at keeping quiet, which ought to be a care since as you've mentioned you're in a //niche// and his shift partner is //in the room//. Maybe it was rude of you to start things like that.\n\nYou stumble through the corridors, making a scene, and then he slams you back against his door and you stumble into the tiny quarters. He's already come all over your hand once, on the way there, and his beak digs into your neck as he rolls his hips over your hand, his cloaca blood green and inflamed hot around your fingers.\n\nYou fuck. It's pretty good. Afterwards, you lie on his bed and doze fitfully. You really need a shower. You think you're still a little freaked out from walking around in [[outer space]].
You fix the ship. This involves, in an only vaguely ordered fashion:\n\n- Isolating (and defusing) the broken solar conduit\n- Grounding the electrically charged areas (which, on a space ship, is kind of difficult)\n- Monkey-patching the wires and some careful voltmeter use to make sure they're still sound enough to be used to transmit power\n- Switching power back on and waiting while the actual engineer diagnoses the systems to make sure nothing else is horribly broken\n- Suiting up in the padded stress-compression space suit and heading out onto the hull\n- Finding all the tools you need to manage the above, strewn around the ship in a ludicrously disorganized, puzzle-game style. It ultimately involves talking to at least one person from every station on the ship and proceeding through a lengthy chain of finding solutions to other people's problems so they'll give you your fucking tools. You also end up bribing the captain of security to please please keep the new assistant mechanic out of it, because if he tries to go out onto the hull //he'll// get himself killed. You did not want an assistant, although, arguably you also complained a lot about having to maintain the ship all by your lonesome.\n\nThis is exciting for everyone inside the ship expecting horrible things to happen, but for you it's three hours in the vacuum of space, with a tether and two points of contact at all times, maintaining a radio link with relevant parties and trying to ignore how the rest of the crew is eavesdropping on everything transmitted over the channel.\n\nEventually you get back [[inside|airlock]].
Sometimes you worry that living in relative isolation has turned everyone here into a co-dependent spiral of insanity as your mores drift endlessly away from what's culturally acceptable. But our [[ansible]] is strictly emergency use only, and your life before you started living on a decrepit wreck in the middle of nowhere was bad enough that it made living on a [[decrepit wreck in the middle of nowhere]] look comparatively nice, so you really don't give a shit.
<<display Start>>
You don't want to talk about it.\n\n[[←|assistant]]
It's a nice person. Doesn't talk much. Its avatar looks and moves like a marionette, but it's inhuman enough that it just looks surreal rather than looking like a corpse on wires. It mostly hangs around the bridge, and you're basically never there when the actual command staff are there, so you don't really see it except in [[passing]].
Adventures, in space!
You feel pretty good, you guess. You don't really feel any worse than usual.\n\nYour aimless wandering leads you down to Sensors. You [[seduce]] someone as he's coming off his shift. "Seduce" might be overstating it a bit. Five years on a ship with thirty regulars, you tend to get close enough to know everyone's business. You lean on the doorframe; he notices the movement and looks up, gets a particular smirk on his face. You smirk back, and that's that: his shift is over in five minutes, his replacement is already there; you spend those five minutes making out in a structural niche and engaging in some increasingly heavy petting.
He doesn't know anything at all about machines and his echolocation gives you a headache. You haven't fucked him, but it's more out of the lingering vestiges of respecting a command structure where you don't get involved with your //direct subordinates//, even if you're both just mechanics.\n\nYou pick up and lose crew in an extremely ramshackle fashion, and thankfully "lose" usually means "they got tired of living in the middle of nowhere and the looming threat of death so they had a huge argument with the captain and then left the next time the ship docked anywhere" rather than "screaming and dying while bleeding all over you", which has only happened once and is still something you can't think about without [[crying]].\n\nThe point is, your crew is in flux and someone in charge has realized that you're completely indispensable, and consequently, that if you decide to stop putting up with everyone's bullshit they are //fucked//. Hence, the need for an assistant. But since everyone on a ship does what needs doing, you can't just pull someone who actually //knows// what they're doing away from their job. The newbies are universally clueless at everything, but they're fungible for the same reason.\n\nHe's not at all prepared for going on a //hull walk//, and he'd just get in your way, and you say so. Loudly.\n\nYou proceed to have a loud argument with the captain of security about giving respect to the crew in general and your long-suffering assistant in particular. Half of it is for show, half is because your bribe was a promised [[blowjob]] and part of your disgusting [[meat slurry]] rations, and you both know that was a token payment.
It's a natural part of the universe. More importantly, it's an accepted part of the culture, unless you're one of the mummified liches hooked up to house-sized medical systems, pushing a hundred-fifty and desperately prophecizing the singularity any year [[now]].
It's Linear B. You probably don't have a font with the right glyphs. Anyway, this is [[irrelevant|start]].
You give him blowjobs all the time, is the point; it's not a payment in any sense except for how it's more concrete than you swinging by his quarters sometime later.\n\nYou're pretty sure your body has trouble digesting the eggs, though. Well. It did to begin with; now you assume your gut flora has gotten used to it and you're busy extracting whatever nutrients unfertilized alien eggs have. When he hasn't gotten off in a while the shell gets tough, though you have the lingering suspicion he gets off on watching you chew.\n\n<<display 'resolution'>>
You finish eating your nutrient goop and stand up. Your engineer friend waves with a lower limb as you bus your bowl and head out.\n\nIt's not [[good]] for you to spend so much time in your own head.
You know, juddering down the corridors in the middle of the night, (it's always night in space,) with all its limbs twitching, that kind of thing[[.]]
You're sweaty and your hair is matted to your head and you've had an itch in the small of your back (from sweating) for the better part of an hour now, so when sound leaches back into the airlock with the hiss of atmosphere venting in, it's hard to wait until the big atmosphere sigil blinks a cool [[violet]] so you can yank the huge plexiglass dome helmet off without getting yelled at later.\n\nThe hissing subsides and you yank off your helmet, ignoring the tinny sounds from the radio. You can dimly sync up the rhythm of the noise up with your CO's lips, (well, [[mandibles]],) visible through the transparent aluminum window in the airlock door. He's probably going to complain about your stunt with your assistant, and surprise surprise you're psychic. In your defense, your assistant is kind of [[terrible|assistant]].
Or as you usually call them, "years". Earth was the first planet in the vicinity to develop a working, efficient warp drive, which meant they stuck their technological talons in all the near-warp cultures. So they're the ones who got to use their preferred notation and call it a "standard", and by the time they and their euphemistic "trade network" blundered into the rest of civilization the terms had stuck, at least in the nearby neighborhood of a few hundred light years. But you've got [[more important|start]] things than terminology to think about right now.
People die sometimes.\n\n<<display 'universe'>>
It freaks you out to think about eating something's muscle so your body can turn it into your muscle. You've been through long-enough stretches of effective starvation to have the concrete understanding that meat is //nutrient dense//; your scrawny torso filled out to a degree you still have trouble understanding and all it took was shredding muscle fiber with your teeth and swallowing it for a few days in a row. And light exercise.\n\nYou prefer the mysterious nutrient goop. Texture in your food makes you uncomfortable.\n\n<<display 'resolution'>>
The cafeteria is loud as fuck. You get a bowl of nutrient paste and sit down in the corner with the low ceiling. Some of the newer crew nervously swing by to thank you for your perceived saving of all their lives, but your general silence and glowering drives them away before long.\n\nHalfway through your meal the [[engineer]] proper drops to the bench beside you. It creaks. Her presence steers away most everyone else. You [[talk]], in short sentences, about the ship. Just the usual, gossip, that kind of thing.
The nearest station around is an asteroid colony full of hippies who float around in zero-g with minimal power. Every few years they break their ventilation and a few people [[die]] before they can get it running again. Their ventilation, rather than their O2 production, because their O2 production is done with huge tubs of blue-green algae and some terrestrial plants. You feel bad for them, because that must be awful, but you can't stand to be around them for more than a hour at a time, and anyway they don't want your help anyway; if they take the price for their lifestyle is a few of their own lives every so often, well, that's a choice they've made, even if it's an entirely unnecessary sacrifice.\n\nThis is why we avoid the nearest station and instead visit the //second//-closest station. Better parts that way, too.
He's a insectoid. We picked him up in deep space around three solar standard years ago. He didn't want to talk about how he came to be in a stasis pod in the middle of an asteroid field, and the captain didn't press him. He was intensely prickly and aloof, and practically demanded you ferry him to some insectoid planet. The going rumor on the ship was that he was a deposed prince, exiled and denied his birthright.\n\nGiven that he, like roughly 60% of that particular species of insectoid, is a sterile female drone, clearly born into the worker caste, and also, that "prince" is not a title that makes any sense for drone-based civilizations, didn't stop any of them.\n\nBy the time our work schedule swung by the insectoid worlds he was a regular fixture in the crew, and it was clear his parting would be a bittersweet thing. He had his secrets, but it was clearly important to him. So, we docked on the local station and he left, and everyone was sad -- he was the best chief of security we'd ever had -- and then on the last (solar standard) day before we left he came back, with a tiny trundle of personal items and what you took to be a sad expression. He's stuck around ever since.\n\nHe's kind of cute. His chitin is a striking red, with yellow fringes. You've fucked a few times. Ovipositors are an acquired taste, but it's one that you've acquired. But anyway, that's probably not going to happen in the [[airlock]]; you got in enough trouble for that //once//.
At any rate, your conversation winds down into affable sarcasm (you promise to lead your assistant through whatever repairs that need to be done on the //inside// of the ship) and you head to the mess hall, since you've been stuck on the outside of the ship for several hours and that makes you //distinctly// agoraphobic, and the mess hall is the most cramped, busy, and loud place on the ship. Also, you're kind of [[hungry]].
The usual. Gossip about people on the ship, idle conversation about co-op payouts from the latest shipment of raw ore. You don't really like talking. Half the reason you ended up on an asteroid mining operation in deep space was just because there are //[[less people]]//.