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Revenge of the Pirate Lords

Posted on Tue May 17th, 2022 @ 12:53pm by Curtis Vaan & Delaney O'Callaghan

Mission: Adrift
Location: Supply depot
Timeline: MD03 1043
5145 words - 10.3 OF Standard Post Measure

It was amazing what a full night's sleep did for the soul. This was not a new revelation, it was clearly not difficult to understand the benefits of adequate sleep because the clue was embedded very neatly in the title. Adequate was a subjective yet finite term. Delaney, for all her innate capacity for extreme wakefulness, could still appreciate the sensation of properly-recharged batteries and it wasn't because it necessarily gifted her more energy than usual. There was a lot of hard evidence to suggest that, the more tired she got, the more chaotic her energy spikes became. But sleep, that gloriously elusive beast, afforded her a focus and tenacity that made it much, much harder for her to be distracted mid-venture. Not impossible. Life was full of forks in the road. But less likely by a considerable margin.

She had a certain look to her when she was fixated. If static electricity could be generated by willpower alone, her hair would have floated several inches above her back.

"We need to do something." This directive greeted Curtis without so much as a cursory prior attempt to gauge how he was faring. This might have been partially due to Delaney being able to predict that he was disgruntled and soup for breakfast sucked, but there was also the point that she really wasn't looking at him. Her eyes were focused downwards, roaming the floor between them as if searching for something.

"Well hello to you too," he mused, looking up from fiddling with his PADD. As the only source of personal entertainment away from other people, he was trying his best to look busy enough that people wouldn't interrupt him. Of course Laney wouldn't care. "So, what is it now? Did the isolation finally break you or something?"

"No, it's something far smaller and infinitely more frustrating. Do you still have access to a tricorder?" With limited potential to recharge any of their portable devices, most of the battery packs had been allocated already. Delaney, whilst perfectly suited to keep track of them all, had no immediate requirements that warranted allocation. It wasn't fair to say she only wanted Curtis for his tools, but...

"Somewhere." He started to twist and turn and pat himself down as though looking for lost keys. "Not on me. What are you looking for? Buried treasure?"

"Spiders." So, about as far from treasure as was conceivable. "Or at least one spider. There's one loose in the supply depot and, where there's one, I'm predicting ten more. Grab your tricorder," Delaney called, taking several paces backwards to face him as she moved on, "I'm going to see if I can find it."

"You're-" He frowned. "What? Spiders? I didn't think you could get spiders on a starship." He suddenly felt a little shiver. The idea of creepy-crawlies like that wandering around in dark corners wasn't a fun one. "I'll come find you when I've got it."




For obvious reasons, the area they'd sectioned off to store most of their non-food related supplies was mostly 'off limits' to everyone outside of Operations. This wasn't so much an issue with trust or suspicion of theft, though it had to be a consideration as their situation became more dire, but was purely a requirement of decently streamlined processes and procedures. Nollel had all the work Delaney had done on handwriting the stocktake, so now her primary job was to check stock numbers at the start and end of every day and report back. Without an armoury to run, Delaney had become a loosely flapping thread, and most of her department, as well as her adoptive department, tended to view this as a bad idea. Both Operations and Security kept finding her weird things to do.

Right now, she had a self-appointed duty to rid them of an eight-legged menace. On a personal level, it was a way of repaying Leiddem for chasing away her demons, but Delaney could also see the issue with a sudden spider infestation in cramped and crowded conditions. Rampaging hoards of panicked crew didn't sound like something Ford would particularly enjoy, and though he had no idea that the pair of hunters were partially responsible for some of the gossip going around about him, Delaney still felt like she owed the guy.

By the time Curtis arrived, she'd moved several of the larger boxes away from the lower shelves and had found one of the emergency bandages to tie around her head. A second had been used to secure her long curls away from her face and she was crouched, flashlight in hand, to peer under the shelving unit.

"Found it!" he called out loudly. "What by all the rings of Betazed are you wearing?" he asked, almost immediately breaking down into fits of laughter at the bandage looped around her head. "Are you worried about them laying eggs in your hair or something?"

"They'll find far more space between your ears," came the flippant response, somewhat muffled because Delaney had already commenced crawling under the lowest shelf. Had this been the day before, it would have been a risky move, but she was a woman who had achieved the impossible; a full night's sleep! Mishaps and mayhem were a thing of the past. "Make yourself useful and see if you can get that thing to pick up on anything. With all of the decontamination systems offline, our little friends are getting more than ample opportunity to reproduce." Normally, bugs and creepy-crawlies weren't a problem but they occasionally arrived with fresh produce and would typically have been taken care of by the mandatory protocols prior to release from the cool-storage. All it would take was one breeding pair and Leiddem wouldn't sleep for days.

"They must be really scraping the barrel if they think that this is a job that someone needs to do right now..." Curtis muttered, flipping open the ancient tricorder. It made a low whistle noise as it started scanning. "I'm still not sure why we're the ones being tasked with this, though."

"Because I said so." This was duty prioritisation according to Delaney O'Callaghan. "This damn thing made me stab myself in the hand yesterday, and waste a perfectly good tube of toothpaste." That the two were even correlated was baffling. "And honestly, it might not seem like a huge deal, but we have no pest control available to us other than manual sweeping."

Delaney backed out slowly, having found nothing. "Spiders eat insects, and since I don't expect we have many of those, they'll probably get into everything until they've exhausted their potential hunting grounds." She'd given this a lot of thought; revenge required careful planning. "People are tense enough without finding spiders in their beds." Moving across to another shelf, Delaney shone her light in the crack between the wall and several boxes and frowned. "We'd have to scrape Lei' off the ceiling, for one."

"Lei? Leiddem." He had to process it, verbally, to connect the nickname to the person. He wasn't sure why Leiddem mattered to her, but they were colleagues and he assumed there was a reference he didn't get. "Well, I'm reading exactly zero biosigns from anywhere in this corner. Unless this tricorder is broken. Which is technically possible, because it's older than my grandmother."

"Well, it's here somewhere." Stubborn. "Either that, or it's already moved on, in which case I'm not going to get any sleep tonight." Delaney tested the stability of one of the larger crates and then boosted herself up on it, straining to peer along the length of the upper shelf, which was only housing some of the smaller boxes. "Keep trying."

Now face-to-face with Laney's lower half, Curtis found himself staring for a couple of seconds too long before he awkwardly started playing with the tricorder, as though tapping it and turning it over in his hands would make some sort of difference. "Oh, I'm trying..." he muttered. "Is it possible they heard you were coming and fled? Because I know I would."

"If it has any sense of self-preservation, it will have hurled itself out of an available airlock." It would have been nice to say that this level of fixated dedication was a result of their current situation but Delaney had a way of drumming up significance out of the mundane, if she got it into her head that the situation needed rectifying. Dropping back to the ground, she turned to frown at the space and then reached out to turn the tricorder, along with Curtis' hand, around so that she could see for herself. "Damnit." Delaney screwed her face into a plaintive grimace. "Don't tell me we have to check the entire bay." Moving to another shelf, she pulled aside several boxes and leaned in. "Come on, little guy, I just want to talk. Primarily about negotiating neutral territory so I'm not kept awake all night by a screaming Betazoid."

"Screaming...?" Again, Curtis didn't immediately get the reference. "Oh, I see." For a Risian, he realised he was being pretty slow on that front. "You know you could just use him as bait. Maybe they can sense fear. You could lure them out with his...'screams'."

In her defense, Delaney was so far down the track of enacting her very personal revenge that she wasn't paying much attention to the fact that certain disclosures had not been a part of any conversation she'd had outside the rare and fleeting privacy she and Leiddem had secured. It was partially unusual, since the woman wasn't big on secrets, but given the circumstances and the fact that, once anyone else knew, they'd lose the bubble of intimacy that was already pretty fragile, perhaps there was a conscious desire to keep it to herself for now. As with many things, she hadn't adequately communicated that to her subconscious.

Halfway stuck inside a shelving unit gave Delaney ample pause to realise where she'd taken the conversation, however. It also hid her facial expression, and gave a decent excuse for the slight pause before she responded. "I'd rather avoid phaser holes in the deck plating if at all possible." Backing out, Delaney shone her torch around her feet, flitting between boxes, and then dragged one of the larger ones into the centre of the space. She plonked herself down on it, arms crossed. "New tactic; I'll just sit here until it comes back for another piece of me."

"It's a bold strategy. As interested as I would be to observe how well it works, I'm really not convinced it's the best use of my incredibly valuable time..." he began.

"Your incredibly valuable time that, according to you, involves an endless drudgery of menial tasks that are an insult to your intelligence?" Delaney raised her eyebrows and, beneath her makeshift headband, wore an expression of limited patience. "I could always tell Nollel that you're available for sanitation duty."

"Ooooooor, we can sit down, sing kumbaya, and lure them in with our siren-like singing..." he sighed, manoeuvring himself closer towards where she was sitting. "All this for Leiddem to get a good night's sleep, huh? Where was this when I was covered in starship guts?"

"Are you suddenly mortally terrified of the insides of starships? If that's the case, I have terrible news about your ongoing job prospects." Ever the magnanimous one, Delaney nudged an upturned bucket in his direction for use as a seat. It was a neat curving around the point of his question; Curtis, as always, had picked an annoyingly inconvenient time to suddenly get a clue.

"Harsh, but fair. Then again, a former marine that's afraid of creepy crawlies...I thought you security-types were all supposed to be hard-as-nails certified badasses." He motioned to the bandage around her head. "At least you look the part."

"Technically, I'm a hybrid, abandoned by my Operations family and left to fend for myself amongst the Security buffoons," Delaney pointed out. "And I guess everyone has chinks in their armour."

It felt, (and Delaney couldn't quite account for the uncommon sensation of unease other than being somewhat gun-shy after the previous evening's backlash with Cassie), a little inappropriate to be discussing Leiddem's fear as a source of mockery. Whatever the cause, it wasn't something she was used to worrying about; normally, her mouth was perfectly fine without consulting her brain first. "He's not exactly the stereotype you'd expect," she defended suddenly, and found an excuse to check the ground at her feet for unwelcome stealth attacks rather than look at Curtis.

"Stereotypes come from somewhere," he reasoned. The look in her face, and her body language, told him this was not 'his' typical Laney. She wasn't cracking too many jokes, and in fact was almost being defensive about it. Which suggested she was more serious than Curtis first thought. He wasn't sure how to feel about that. Happy, on the one hand, that she'd found some fulfilment there. And yet, there was a small part of his heart that felt like the rug had been pulled out from under him. Was he jealous of Leiddem in this? He didn't like Laney in that way. Did he? "All right, the point is taken. After all, I can be the plucky comic relief computer nerd as well as being the tough, uncompromising spider-slayer, right?" he grinned.

"That still remains to be seen." In true form, it didn't take the abnormally-pensive woman long to rally. A rakish angle to her head saw Delaney shoot a familiar look of daring over waggled eyebrows. "You're hardly dressed for it. Where's your spider-slaying head scarf?" For emphasis, she flicked the ridiculously long strand of bandage that had snaked over one shoulder backwards. "Godzilla will take one look at you and laugh all eight of his legs off."

"Wait, I thought Godzilla only had four-" he clocked her meaning halfway through his answer. "Weird name for a spider. I guess it's no worse than 'Stan'...and heeeey - I can be macho and badass if I want to be!" He did a bit of a flex, though undeneath the baggy old uniform jacket he was wearing, all it did was stick out his gut a little. "What's the matter, Lady Rambo? Not manly enough for you?"

"Nope." When would he learn not to ask her questions he might not like the answer to? Rising, Delaney marched towards the supplies she'd already ransacked, selected a strip of faded, floral material that had been ripped and boiled for sterilisation, and returned to dangle it in front of Curtis' nose. "Look, it's just your style."

"Camouflage, on a starship?" he retorted, snatching it quickly out of her hand. "Now I know which one of us is the brains of this outfit." He started wrapping it around his head, not wanting to be shamed by the insinuation that he wouldn't be able to pull it off. He probably wouldn't, but it didn't stop him. "Maybe you and the marine really are perfect for each other." He knew as soon as he said it that maybe the joke was a little below the belt, but he was fascinated to see how she reacted to the poking. If anything, it might help him find a way of winding her up as much as she was giving it out.

If there was one constant, especially after the reset of the previous night's unwanted emotional release, it was that Delaney didn't back down from challenges. Now he was fishing, and he wasn't being subtle, and she entirely understood because she probably would have done the same had their positions been reversed. Unluckily for Curtis, something about yesterday's absolutely catastrophic descent into chaos had left Delaney introspective about gossip and its potential harm. Of all the things she'd thought to ask Leiddem, one of them hadn't been whether or not they were at the giving it a name in public stage.

"I will have you know," she dodged adroitly, "that I am perfect in most contexts."

"Don't forget humble, gracious..." he grinned. "Hey - no judgement or anything. If you like that sort of thing, you like that sort of thing. And if you're having fun, that's practically our mantra; O'Calla-Vaan get involved, hijinks ensue." He played it off. No sense in really poking the bear that hard, anyway. She knew the ways of getting back at him, and since she wasn't using them he figured it was best to let it go.

A pair of narrowed eyes contemplated his fortune for a moment before widening suddenly and, already itching for a way to change the subject, Delaney suddenly leapt over the crate she'd been sitting on to make a dash towards the back. "There you are, you bastard!"

It was, all things being said, not a very big spider. Certainly, it wasn't Eden's monstrosity, and didn't really seem distinguished enough to warrant a name at all, least of all one as loaded with expectation as Godzilla. What it lacked in size, netting a leg-span roughly equivalent to the diameter of a toilet roll, it more than made up for in agility. By the time Delaney had mobilised, she was more or less left with the singular option of chasing it under a large box that contained smaller boxes of cleaning supplies. A preliminary tug proved that it was far too heavy for her to move on her own. "Direct your hijinks this way and help me with this."

"Oh, what a horrific, terrifying spectacle..." Curtis drawled, rolling his eyes. He grabbed the other side of the box and heaved. Not being the most athletic specimen, it was a difficult challenge for him to succeed in, even with Delaney pushing from the other side. "You know, if I knew there was going to be actual hard work involved in this...I might not have agreed to come..." he grunted.

The box shifted, he looked down and around for their quarry. "Where'd it go?" he asked out loud.

"This is the problem!" Beyond frustrated, Delaney started pulling out the smaller crate beside the first. "Because there's no decent lighting back here, it's kind of impossible to see where an entirely black spider disappears to, in the entirely black shadows. And if you'd rather go back to sitting around moping, be my guest." There was a point where the complaining became an irritant. Under normal operating parameters, Delaney looked for solutions, whereas Curtis seemed to find the most joy, for lack of a better word, in pointing out the flaws of a situation.

Curtis didn't reply to that comment. Not out loud, anyway. He fell awkwardly silent knowing that she had called him out on his lackadaisical attitude to the whole thing. Spider hunting was, in the grand scheme of where they were at, totally ridiculous. But he hadn't really figured it actually mattered to her in any way.

"Yeah, maybe I should..." he mumbled after a minute of silent looking around. "My jabbering is probably scaring them all away anyhow."

"Curtis."

This was not happening again. After the day she'd had yesterday, in light of everything that kept looming over all their heads, Delaney blatantly refused to fall out of odds with the handful of people she actually considered close enough friends to level with, rather than fist-punch her way through denying the problem was hers. The deep resignation, peppered by ongoing frustration, in the redhead's tone was accompanied by an exaggerated lowering of her head before Delaney turned around to fix the Risian with her best 'come on' expression.

"Look, I know this is stupid. It is, it's stupid. Nobody cares about hunting spiders, even though they might care later on if the damn things start to nest. Literally nobody asked me to do this, just like nobody has asked me for this week's munitions maintenance schedule, or asked me to update the alert patterns for current emergency sequences, or come to me for a service tag renewal, or failed to even look for something in the supply cupboard before coming to ask me where it is." She reeled several more off on her fingers. "There's no crew recertification to issue, no aptitude reports to lodge, no safety checks on the shooting range; even the fire extinguishers got tested and tagged ahead of schedule because we had to anticipate the need for them. You're not the only one whose job just evaporated. You know what I was doing at 7:30 this morning? Changing light bulbs."

Delaney wore an earnestness, the scorch of fiery desperation in her eyes, as she crossed to stand in front of her friend. "We're into Day 3 of no answers and the bulk of the crew have exhausted whatever relevance they could squeeze out of their usual responsibilities. This is scary," she admitted, her tone softening slightly. "And if stopping a spider takeover helps a few people feel more secure, then that's a hell of a lot more rewarding than folding bed linen and trying not to think about just how cold it's getting in the areas where people aren't congregating." Delaney's brow puckered. "Or what happens when the shields fail entirely and we have no hull integrity left, if that happens before life support goes offline. I know spider hunting is stupid by comparison to what is actually going on but it's the only thing I can do right now."

He looked glumly at her for an awkward minute. For all his chatty, exaggerated bluster, Curtis wasn't really very good at the whole honesty thing either. Probably why they got along so well. And now he felt twice as guilty for threatening to just bail on her like a sulking kid.

"You know if you're trying to make me feel better, you suck," he muttered, a faint dark humour in his tone. "For what it's worth, though...you've left me with so much ammunition for 'how many security officers does it take to change a lightbulb' jokes."

That earned him a snort, that tried very hard not to be laughter, which in turn attempted not to betray a grin that he definitely didn't deserve. Delaney did 'honesty' great, almost to a fault; taking the blame? She was improving. Settling instead for a roll of her eyes, the spider hunter turned back to her latest hunting grounds and placed her hands on her hips. Several seconds of strategising later, Delaney picked up a clear container, emptied it of the several rolls of duct tape it was supposedly storing, and wriggled into the space between the two crates they'd pulled out.

"Got it!"

The triumphant cry a minute or so later followed what had been a lot of grunts and curses from inside the guts of the shelving unit's under-storage. A ghastly scraping sound echoed as Delaney slowly extracted her prey trapped beneath the container, being excruciatingly careful not to accidentally let it escape. She backed out butt-first, slowly spun the spider prison in a slow arc, and then sat down cross-legged with it resting in front of her. Godzilla, looking less like his namesake by the minute, had opted to ride out the interruption to his daily scouting by holding fast to the bottom of the container, now acting as the roof to his Perspex cave.

Now that the thrill of the capture was over, Delaney tilted her head to gaze at her mortal enemy and felt the first twinge of conscience. "You know, maybe this isn't the same one. He looks...kind of small."

"Do you think Leiddem will know that? Wave it in front of him and he won't care." Curtis just shrugged. "I don't imagine anyone would know the difference. Besides, he'll know you put in the effort."

"It's not that."

Delaney's voice trailed off as she got down on her knees and then bent sideways to get a better look at the spider. In the heat of the moment, it had been easier to anticipate the rolled-up-newspaper method of spider nullification, but the cramped confines of the creature's final hiding place had made capture a better option. It left her with an unanticipated ethical quandary.

"He's kind of cute. I mean, I don't want to share my bed with him, but squashing him is..." Delaney pouted. "Cutthroat."

"You're thinking of adopting him?" he asked, surprised. Laney had never seemed particularly inclined to want to keep a pet. Least of all a creepy little spider she'd just caught in the bowels of the ship. "Best of luck convincing the Captain. Especially after what happened with the last adopted spider we had on board."

"I have no idea how Eden ever managed to keep Stan fed, and I don't want to think about it. No, Godzilla here has to go," Delaney said, her tone resigned. Quite aside from anything else, she'd wind up winning the award for shortest relationship attempt ever if she brought home a pet spider. "It's just... We could just leave him under there?" Except that wouldn't work because then she'd have to check every five minutes to make sure he was still there, and Delaney was already pretty sure she sounded crazy enough already without adding Spider Death Watch to her list of new duties. "Or you could do it?" Blue eyes, at their most beguiling, sought Curtis across the space separating them.

"Don't...don't-" he held up an accusatory finger as she gave him 'the look', slowly advancing on him with the captive spider in her grasp. He was usually powerless when she did that, and she almost certainly knew it. "That's not fair. He's your pet. You deserve the honour of the final kill." It was a weak comeback, and probably wouldn't work if she really did want him to.

"To kill an unarmed quarry, though." Delaney continued to slowly push the container towards him, totally remorseless despite the fact that the resulting squeal of friction was just the right level of high-pitch to really grate. "Have you no desire to defend my honour? I could be cast down to Poseidon's Lament for all of eternity, which is honestly longer than I think I could tolerate it."

Curtis' shoulders sank. "You're a terrible person." He held out his hand, defeated, and took the container. Leaning in closer to it, he addressed the tiny arachnid occupant. "You know what, you're the lucky one. Your fate is going to be far better than mine. Who knows what terrible and humiliating shenanigans I will be exposed to next?"

"He says that like he doesn't volunteer for most of them," Delaney retorted conversationally, relaying her rebuttal through the spider, who quite possibly deserved a little better than being turned into a third wheel in its final moments. "I'd just like to apologise for the fact that you're probably going to suffer extreme limb amputation before he manages to actually stomp you." Her tone lowered to a conspiratorial whisper. "His aim is a little off."

His eyes narrowed as he tilted his head to look at Delaney again. "Hmm. No pointed ears. I could have sworn I was talking to one of the Romulan ladies for a second there..."

"Are you kidding? I aspire to be half as cunning and devious." Peering closer to the container, Delaney took a moment to grimace as the slow gyration of hairy legs as the spider tested the space around it for the source of its current threat, and then she backed off to pull her impromptu headband down over her eyes. "Just tell me when it's over."

Rolling his eyes, Curtis looked at the container again. He didn't have strong views on the life of this tiny little critter. In the hermetically-secure environment of a starship is was usually safe from tiny creatures and insects. The spider itself would probably starve to death anyway, considering its options. Maybe better to put it out of its misery. "All right." He moved a few steps away from her, behind a crate, emptied the container out and brought his boot down on it with a mild crunch. He didn't feel particularly guilty, but for a moment it nagged at him that maybe she hadn't wanted that to be the outcome.

He returned slowly to where she was waiting, blindfolded. She couldn't see him, but he could stare at her a minute, trying to equate what he was feeling. He liked hanging around with Laney, for sure. And he liked seeing her happy, which he figured she would be with Leiddem. That should be that. Except he couldn't shake that feeling of - what was it? Jealousy? It was a tragic thing indeed, he figured, if it was.

"It's done," he said.

Delaney kept her eyes screwed shut, a little unnecessarily beneath her blindfold, and folded her arms across her stomach, suddenly squeamish. "Is there...goop everywhere?" She wasn't normally one to balk at the prospect of mess but somehow, in the muddle of emotions that had been the past few days, this had become personal. A weird sort of attachment to a creature just as out-of-its-luck as the rest of them; accepting that it couldn't stay wasn't quite the same as being responsible for it running out of options.

Delaney sighed, not exactly melancholy but close. Of course, it worked in Curtis' favour and kept the redhead mostly oblivious to his own private conundrum. It might have been conceived as an insult that Delaney hadn't even considered it possible but, then, she'd been partially convinced Leiddem was annoyed with her. Clearly her personal-interest radar was as wonky as his tricorder.

"I mean...define everywhere?" he said, an unimpressed eyebrow raised. "There's a little mark. It'll buff out next cleaning rotation."

At least it was done. Even better, she hadn't been forced to do the squishing. Pushing her blindfold up, Delaney took a moment to surreptitiously check the floor for dark smears and then, circumspect, opted for the bright side instead of wallowing in needless despair. Her features relaxed, warm once more with ever-present good humour, and she pushed upwards from the crate she'd sat herself upon to capture her friend in a brief hug. "My hero."

At typical pace, Delaney swiftly continued past, snatching up one of the stored mops. Rounding, she took several steps backwards, grinning. "Now we get to do it again, but in the galley." A flip of ginger curls, equal in bounce to her step, and Delaney left before her friend had any opportunity to protest.

"In the-" Curtis sighed, unable to object before she carried on. "Why do I bother..."

 

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