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Excuses, Excuses

Posted on Fri Jul 15th, 2022 @ 12:48pm by Delaney O'Callaghan & Chief Engineer Michael Burnstein
Edited on on Fri Jul 15th, 2022 @ 12:52pm

Mission: Adrift
Location: Temporary galley
Timeline: MD something, 0700
2916 words - 5.8 OF Standard Post Measure

It took a lot to tempt Delaney to stay in bed, almost as much as it took to coax her into it in the first place, at least for something as mundane as sleeping. The makeshift lodgings didn't add to the appeal, and though her company in the tent at least added to the warmth and comfort, there was nothing Delaney hated more than lying awake staring up at the ceiling. Early morning was when she normally went for a run. Back home, the crispness of foggy mornings constituted the best part of the day, and even on a starship, there was something about a fresh start. Time to gather her thoughts, to set a mental schedule, to plan breakfast...

She'd very nearly climbed back in this morning, however.

It was cold. It had been cold pretty much from the start, which was understandable and not something to complain about considering there was very little to do about it that wasn't already being attempted. The space heaters weren't adequate but they made a start to what the crowd of bodies tried to complete, and finding things to do so that she stayed moving had kept Delaney somewhat in the realms of comfortable. The mornings were hardest, for obvious reasons, but this morning had involved the curl of wispy vapor as her breath hit the air even before she'd thrown back the covers. It had been enough to warrant an extra few minutes burrowed down but, eventually, impatience and the dull throb of a faint headache had rolled her into a sitting position and then the true nature of the drop in temperature had become far more apparent. Rather than wake Leiddem, who wouldn't be far from stirring in any case, Delaney had dragged herself to her feet, wrapped herself in one of their spare blankets, and stepped out into the main area like a disgruntled bride dragging her fuzzy blue train behind.

Over near the coffee machine he'd spent most of the early hours tweaking, Burnie was holding a warm mug. It was by his definition nippy, but having grown up in NYC, he couldn't call it truly cold, especially as there was no wind. So while he was wearing his old leather jacket over a sweater, his only other concessions to increasingly cooler ship spaces were fingerless gloves and a scarf wrapped around his neck.

Spotting someone wrapped in a mass of blankets stumbling out of a tent, he filled a second mug. Keeping all that in place while pouring coffee was a disaster waiting to happen, and he'd had enough disasters for the last few days to try to avoid even minor ones. "Hey, need coffee? I just adjusted the machine. It's nice and strong."

"Have I told you lately that you're my hero?"

The muffle of a slightly-husky Irish lilt made the blanket's inhabitant easy enough to identify, though the strands of ginger hair poking out like a bird's nest trying to burst free was also a strong hint. Delaney liked Burnie. This wasn't much of a revelation, because not only did everyone like Burnie, Delaney seemed to like everyone. Still, he reminded her of her older brother and felt comfortable, in that way that amiable souls often did. A frigid hand emerged from the folds to grasp the coffee and Delaney grappled with the dual burden, eventually not able to keep the blanket from slipping down off her head to pool around her shoulders. "What time is it?"

"Early-ish." He wobbled his free hand emphasizing the 'ish'. Having been up and about for awhile now, it no longer felt early to him, but given that most people were still sleeping it probably was. "Coffee's fresh anyway, so it can't be late."

"Coffee actually resembles coffee, more to the point." Peering down into her mug, Delaney frowned through the haze of semi-consciousness. "What did you do to it?"

"Adjusted the temperature and drip rate," he explained, a bit proudly really since while he was very good at most things engineering, he tended toward disaster where food stuffs were involved. "Took a bit of trial-and-error, but worth it." He flashed a grin as he took a sip from his mug. "Anyway, what has you up and about so early?"

"If it's only early, then I slept in." Delaney managed a return grin over her next sip, though it became more apparent to her as the last vestiges of sleep slipped away that she was marginally less alert than usual. She might have been tempted to blame the lack of proper physical activity over the last few days, though it probably also had something to do with someone's version of Hawaiian punch. "Normally I'd say to squeeze in a run before breakfast and then get to the messhall before some bastard eats all the bacon but..." She squinted around the sedated area. "Not much danger of that, by the looks."

"Not from me anyway," Burnie chuckled. He wasn't particularly religious and would happily rationalize that anything that came out of a replicator didn't count anyway, but he'd never developed a taste for bacon. It smelled good, but strips were just too greasy. Of course, availability of bacon was a moot point lately.

Delaney wouldn't have argued that bacon-in-deep-space held a candle to bacon-cooked-by-her-grandmother but she had been raised not to be a fussy eater, which was honestly turning out to be a godsend currently. Trying to reassemble her blanket so that it stopped slipping, Delaney squinted behind the engineer towards the food preparation area and hunched her shoulders to suppress a shiver. "Any idea what's for breakfast? Nothing with pineapple in it, I hope."

"What have you got against pineapple?" Burnie chuckled. "Personally, I'll take it over oatmeal, which I think is all that's on offer at the moment."

"I love pineapple but someone dumped far too much of it into that punch last night and I think..." She wasn't hungover but she'd definitely felt more sluggish than normal. "Oatmeal is great," she opted to change directions. "But you need the right recipe, which is definitely my grandmother's. Maybe I'll just have coffee." Delaney's capacity to stack away a meal did not align with liquid nourishment. Maybe slightly hungover.

She at least felt a little more alert, having had time to blink back the last vestiges of sleep. A quiet contemplation of the handful of personnel also up and about gave Delaney's mind time to pick up speed also and, after several gear checks, she arrived at a point where she realised she had actually tucked away a reason to talk to the lanky engineer at some point. It hadn't occurred to her that the opportunity would present itself quite so quickly but providence was a capricious beast. "Hey, can I ask you something that might be pushing my luck just a little?" It was an impressive moment of self-reflection if nothing else.

Honestly Burnie wasn't a big fan of oatmeal, but it was food, calories necessary to work and keep warm, so he'd dumped a spoonful of cinnamon on it and downed a bowl. But having more than a little sympathy for anyone not quite awake and rambling, he'd just shrugged a friendly 'suit yourself' gesture on the decision to skip oatmeal for just coffee. He shrugged again at the last question, though in a little more guarded manner. "You can ask," he replied neutrally in tone suggesting that asking and getting an answer were entirely differently things.

"What's the best way to avoid pissing Liha off?"

It was voiced with so much underlying hope that there was an actual answer. Of all the remnants of the previous evening still bouncing around in Laney's head, her somewhat-failed attempt at getting to know the other woman stuck out as something she'd like to fix, or at least take a better stab at next time. With both hands wrapped around her coffee, she offered the engineer a sheepish shrug and elaborated. "I think I made a mess of trying to include her last night."

"Ah, I think I see your problem right there," Burnie chuckled, shaking his head. "Look, Liha is a good friend. She's saved my life more than once. But..." He paused. There were things he understood about why she kept so much about herself to herself but sharing them felt ltoo much like betraying a confidence. "...Well, have you ever tried to befriend an alley cat? Or any cat? The surest way to make them avoid you is to really try to get them to warm to you. Liha's like that. If she wants to be included, you'd have a hard excluding her, but she does social on her own terms. Best way to not piss her off is to respect that."

Delaney squinted, dredging up recollections of the previous evening's attempts to play the role of lion tamer, and eventually bobbed her head to the side in recognition of his point. "Okay, so she kind of said as much herself. That probably shoots in the foot any attempt to get to know her then." The human gave a rueful shrug beneath her blanket. "I don't think I'm her favourite person. There's probably no risk of her choosing to talk to me until I become the last possible option." Which, she supposed, was fine. Despite a strong desire to befriend everyone, Delaney was fast receiving a crash-course in how-the-rest-of-the-galaxy-didn't-operate-like-a-university-dorm. Her expression remained circumspect for a moment, subdued by the need to accept defeat, and then the inevitable glimmer of intrigue dangled tantalizingly too close for her to resist. "How do you know her anyway?"

"Hey, don't give up completely. I'm pretty sure you rank above Kali as last possible option," he joked, though he hoped that wasn't the case forever. At some point when he could set up necessary safeguards, he was going to stage an intervention because two friends who were utterly insanely paranoid about each other was seriously wearing on his nerves. "In my case, we wound up on the same side when things went sideways at a casino." He chuckled at the memory. "She claims she saved me by stopping a Nausicaan from taking my head off - and she did - but I'm the one who rigged the Dabo wheel to blow so we could run. And I may have broken a beer bottle over a Tal'Shiar who more or less started the trouble to be able to grab people in the confusion."

It was hard to mistake the delight in Delaney's slowly-spreading grin. It sounded like something lifted from a holo-novel, which meant naturally that it deserved to be immortalised in one. "An empty one, I hope," she teased. The idea of wasting precious stout on someone else's haircare was sacrilegious. "That sounds like part of a bigger story though."

"Eh, so-so house brew, so no big loss, but I was happier with the sacrifice when I found out who I'd clocked," he chuckled, taking a sip of his coffee. Truthfully, his reaction at the time had involved a number curse words, but it was a fond memory now. "I just saw this shady guy grab a girl and put her in a rough come-along. I happened to have a bottle in hand so..." Burnie shrugged. "Starfleet reaction, I guess. But it was probably why Liha decided to keep the Nausicaan from cracking my skull, so there you go: 'start of a beautiful friendship'."

"So what you're saying is, I need to find someone to beat up." Much though she hadn't gone as far as to specify with Liha, Delaney had been raised by a veritable army of men who had taken the time to teach her basic self-defense. Was she particularly practised at it now? She didn't normally have a lot of cause to utilise any of the training but perhaps Burnie's story held a nugget of wisdom in its example. Another thing to add to her list, right after Leiddem taught her how to fire the armory's current stockpile.

Burnie shook his head, a bit of 'heaven help us all' in a brief eyeroll. "Honestly, less find a fight than accidentally pick the right target," he admitted, ducking his head slightly. "If you ever get to know her well enough to get the story from her, Liha will say she stuck with me because anyone so clueless he couldn't recognize an obvious Tal'Shiar enforcer, and had just assaulted one of the same, clearly needed a keeper. Though personally I still think she appreciated how quickly I could improvise a flash-bang and hotwire a hovercar."

Delaney grinned at that. "You're the kind of engineer my mother wouldn't let in the house but my brother would pick your brain clean of ideas. Ever thought of retiring to repair courier shuttles? Don't," she added immediately, grimacing as she shook her head. "It's about as much fun as it sounds." Sure, her family had run Ireland's largest transport company for the past 60-odd years but even saying that sounded dull. For people whose job it was to move things around, her family sure didn't go many places.

"I've worked off passage on a couple of those before. Not exciting, but not so bad," Burnie remarked. "I take it that's your background. Family business?"

"Mhmn," Delaney nodded over her next sip. "Started with one," she held up a finger for emphasis, "shuttle running potatoes back and forth to market." An obvious fallacy, the kind of mythos elderly relatives liked to insist upon every time the grandchildren got impatient about technical upgrades. "Now with offices in five major cities and depots everywhere from Galway to Warrnambool!" Her effort to sound like a commercial was punctuated by a grin. "My grandparents genuinely did start out hauling produce. That side of the business still runs, my uncle deals with it. Dad inherited the courier and passenger portfolios. Flyin' and fixin' things is in the blood, you could say."

"And yet you're doing security here, right?" Burnie took a sip of his coffee, thinking about things he might normally not have noticed if not for the close quarters of the last few days. "Or was that a change to work more closely with Leiddem?"

Though it earned him a deadpan, there was also the unmistakable flush of mostly pleased endearment that was a little hard to disguise on cold-pale cheeks. "Actually, I'm Operations-trained. Went to university and everything." A pair of raised eyebrows made a show of pointed correction, though Delaney grinned immediately afterwards. "Following the herd isn't my strong suit. So yes, I'm in Security. And yes, that turned out to work quite nicely in my favour, but I technically answer to your better half when it's all said and done. They put me in Security because someone had to organise the joint."

Burnie smiled a little at 'better half' - it was the sort of term used for old married couples. They were a long way from that, and Nollel was lightyears out of his league, but recently he'd begun to hope. So it was nice that someone here saw them that way. "That makes sense I guess. I certainly went far afield from my parents too. Both of them are historians."

"Ouch." It wasn't that Delaney didn't like history. Certain elements of it were actually interesting enough to appeal to her creative side, and though she'd never touted herself as being particularly historically accurate with her holo-writing, she at least drew on aspects of mythology and legend to inform her own imaginations. Actively studying it as a career, however, sounded like a lot of sitting still in one place reading things. "Any particular focus?"

"Dad's is history/archaeology with a focus on early industrialization. Mom does art history with a specialty in pre-contact earth media. So, Mom blames Dad for my engineering interest. Dad blames Mom for my other 'eccentric' tendencies since I grew up over-hearing her recording of old earth cartoons and scifi," he chuckled. "Dad may have a better case there since I have a Marvin the Martian 'Where's the KaBoom?'," he imitated to the character voice, "poster in my office."

"Isn't the generally-agreed answer to that 'wherever Burnie is?" Delaney grinned, finishing her coffee in one appreciative gulp before allowing the empty mug to disappear with her hands under the swaddle of blankets. A second, contemplative coffee would eventually accompany her to work but, for now, being able to feel her extremities seemed very inviting.

"Only on good days," he laughed. Shaking his head, he took another swig of coffee. "Honestly, it's funny I have that reputation here. None of you have seen me blow up anything really big."

"Something to look forward to, I guess."

Breakfast could wait. The uncharacteristic decision came as Delaney realised she really didn't have an appetite for once and standing around waiting for one to eventuate was allowing the chill to permeate just a little deeper than was comfortable.

"I should probably go try to be useful," she mused, unravelling all her layers to put her empty mug in for cleaning. "Thanks for the tips," Laney added, her smile tending wry. "I'll start trying to keep an empty bottle handy."

 

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