Tiger Moth - Chapter Two
Monday, September 20, 2004

Maurice The Cook


Jessamy tapped at the console, listened to the answering beeps. She smiled. She still needed more parts. She'd check the shops and see what she could find here. She stood, stretched, and gazed out the window at the ships lined up in the dusty sun. Hers wasn't the only firefly class, another stood farther down, and she smiled. She did like that design.

She stepped away from the chair, and stepped through the airlock, down the stairs, and over to the door to her cabin. As she dropped to the floor, her eyes were drawn, as they always were, to the wall hanging she'd purchased before leaving home. The large symbol in the middle hung with great meaning, and it filled her with a feeling she liked - hope. The symbol, 'Truth', was what she wanted in her life now. The colors behind it were her favorites, green, purple and blue.

She grabbed her favorite blue boots, one of her first purchases after waking up in the hospital. The color still glowed, but they were worn and comfortable now. She wrapped a blue sash around her waist, and twisted her hair up. She tossed a few things into a small satchel, and slung it across her chest. In a moment, she was back up in the hallway, heading for the lower airlock.

She coded the door shut, hearing the follow up beeps. There wasn't anyone who get through that lock. No one but her. She turned, and headed into town, rubbernecking, she knew, but not caring. She was drawn into a shop full of computer parts.

When she stepped out, she was carrying a small bag, and smiling. They were perfect. She wandered along, gradually adding to her burden. A stop at a clothing store, and a receipt for a delivery from a supply agent, and she wandered into a more chaotic market area, with lines of booths set up. People were selling everything from fruits and vegetables to home made items.

She wasn't sure when she realized the three boys were following her. They looked to be in their late teens, with swarthy complexions and shining black hair. She spotted them only moments before she spotted the large man watching her and the boys. He moved stealthily, and not too long after she noticed all of the them, the boys noticed him.

She felt nervous, but not afraid. She knew now the one purchase she hadn't made yet, that she should have. She needed a gun. One of the boys disappeared on her, and she slowed, standing at a jewelers display. The work wasn't unique, she knew at once she wasn't going to buy any of it. She watched around her, and sure enough, the missing boy appeared from the opposite direction.

She was ready for them, unsure of exactly what they had in mind. She spotted the change in their demeanor as soon as it washed over them. They all looked to one spot, and she followed their eyes, and saw the big man. Her shook his head, and looked down, touching his nose with one finger, and smoothing his mustache. The boys faded into the crowd. When she looked back for the big man, he was gone.

Her next stop was a shop that sold guns and such, and she picked out a shiny pistol, with a fine black holster. She bought ammunition, and then picked out 2 other guns, more utilitarian than the other pistol, and some ammunition for those as well. Wouldn't hurt to stash them around the Oberon, just in case.

She returned to the Oberon, touching the panel, and testing the new system, "Obi, open up, it's me." The airlock door slid open immediately, and the interface made an excited beeping sound.

Jessamy smiled, entered, and the door slid shut behind her. She left most of her things on the table in the common room, but took the bag with the computer components in it with her. Within moments, her sash and over shirt lay piled on her boots by the door to the cockpit, and only her feet, in bright purple socks, and her charcoal-clad legs could be seen under the console. Her feet tapped in time with the music playing while she worked, and talked.

"This little part is a voice modulator. You came with a standard one, but it wasn't what I wanted for you. My main purpose is to let you choose your own voice. Of course, the added benefit is that you will be able to mimic almost any voice, almost perfectly. I hope the timing is right on your tutor. I don't want this vocal thing to interfere with your early years," she said, focused on the circuit board in front of her.

She might bemoan the state of her memory, but she never ceased to be thankful that somehow, skill memories came to her unconsciously. The doctors had told her that these memories were themselves undamaged, but the path for her access to them was. She just seemed to know how to do certain things - the problem was that she didn't know what she could do until she tried to do it.

When she finally climbed out, wisps of hair escaping the two buns on her head, she had dirt on her face. She sat in the pilot's chair, and worked on the computer for a while. Her eyes watched the newest screen, and she hummed along with the music. Finally, she grinned, and hit a switch. The music died down, and she waited. After a few minutes, she frowned.

"Obi? Aren't you going to say anything?" She reached out and touched the screen, finger hovering over one green bar.

There was a sound, like a gasp, then, "Um... Hello. Wow." The voice sounded like a small boy, maybe 8 or 9. A very smart little boy, but still just a child. "Um. Do I call you Jessamy, or Mom?"

Jessamy's eye's widened, "MOM? No.. no, I can't have you calling me that. Call me Captain, Obi. That's what I am, you're captain," she said, her voice gentle, and laughing.

"Captain. That makes sense. Captain... thank you for the voice. I like it better than beeping."

Jessamy smiled, "So do I. Next, we're giving you eyes. You have ears, and you should be able to feel every part of this ship. This is you, Obi. You are the Oberon. I'm just here to help you grow up."

She was so excited. Her program was designed to teach, and to develop and learn. He would grow up, and become something unique.

That was a difficult night. All night, he woke her with questions. It took a half hour long talk to make him understand just why it was so important that he let the Captain sleep, and save the questions for question time. Jessamy promised to set aside a length of time each day to answer all the questions Obi couldn't find by accessing the coretex. Once he had access to it. More parts to go on her list.

In the morning, he quietly asked her questions, mostly about himself. She found it interesting the path he took through his thinking. He was rough yet. Her mind ran through possible improvement methods as she made herself a sandwich around mid-day. She was expecting some deliveries soon, and she carried her sandwich to the lower airlock, opening it to the warm noon air.

She stood at the top of the ramp leading to the cargo bay, one hand shading her eyes, the other clenching a sandwich. She raised the sandwich, took a bite, and started to chew. When the large man stepped out of the crowd, up to the base of the ramp, she froze, mid-chew. It was the guy from the marketplace.

He was huge, in the vertical neighborhood of 6'8", and he must have weighed in at 350 pounds, if not more. One chestnut eyebrow arched, and she was glad of her most recent purchase - the shiny new gun adorning her hip. The man's dusky complexion and dark hair gave him a sinister look, but the large mustache somehow tamed that into something more friendly.

She swallowed the sandwich, licked her lips, and greeted him, "Can I help you?"

He half-nodded, half-shrugged, "Could be you might. Could be I might help you." He gazed at her steadily. His deep voice rolled with a heavy accent, one that sounded as dark and mysterious as he looked.

She gazed right back, "I saw you, yesterday. I saw you tell those boys to leave me alone. Kind of you. Want to say thank you," She watched him, wondering what he would say next, wondering why she hadn't told him to get lost yet.

He nodded, "I vaited for you, here. I believe you need protection. You one woman, alone. Also, I cook very vell." He broke out in a wide grin, and she couldn't help it. She grinned back.

"Happens I'll be needing some one to carry some stuff around, Happens I could use someone to cook. Suppose you'll do," she said. "Come on up." She turned, stepping inside the cargo bay. She paused at the inside interface, and said quietly, "Obi, bizui, till I say otherwise." There was a quiet beeping, then silence.


She gave Maurice one of the crew cabins. She offered him the other large one, but he declined. Didn't need much space, he said. He helped with the delivery, uncomplaining and untiring. He seemed naturally organized, sorting everything into easy stacks.

She tried to protest when he took over the kitchen, but she couldn't argue with his insistent "I am cook. I decide." She finally retreated, sitting at the table and watching him rearrange and write down items he didn't find. As she watched him, she got an idea, too.

The next morning, Maurice went out to buy the missing supplies. While he was gone, she got out the supplies, and went to work. By the time he returned, he found her adding trim color to his new, dark red kitchen. It was highlighted with a creamy honey yellow trim, a color combination she'd liked, but hadn't decided yet where to apply - until she saw Maurice in the kitchen. He set the bags he carried on the table, and turned to survey her work. He couldn't hide the appreciation, "Now that's a proper kitchen. Might feel right at home there."

She rubbed at the paint on her nose, grinning, "Glad you like it!" He began putting his supplies away, while she finished a bit of trim. When it was done, she cleaned up her supplies, and put things away. As she closed the crate, she could smell the beginning of dinner wafting through the ship. It might be real nice, after all, to have Maurice on board.

Over dinner, Jessamy asked Maurice about the boys who had been following her, that had disappeared at his command. He smiled fondly, "Zhose are my couzin Zhara's boys. Good lads. They vould have robbed you blind, but zhey vouldn't have hurt you. In fact, Rufio would have tried to bed you, the scamp."

Jessamy's eyes widened, and she gave him an incredulous look, "What?!"

Maurice laughed, "They are rogues, as many of the young men in our family are. It is a phase, for some. My family is very old, my Grandmother, she says she can trace our blood back to Earth-that-was and farther. I went to that marketplace, brought my family here, because Grandmother said I was needed here. She still follows the old beliefs, and her cards told her," he said, his face very serious. She watched him, listening, fascinated to imagine the life he described.

"Normally, I would say that Grandmother's cards do not tell me what to do. Then, I dreamed.. I dreamed of this place, that square. I saw the boys, closing in on a blue tiger... " he trailed off, and then grinned, "The tiger's stripes were the same red as your hair. When I saw your boots, even before the boys showed me for sure it was you, I knew you were the reason I was there. The boys, they know nothing of what went on. I let them go, and watched. Grandmother told me I would protect you, that you needed my help. So I came. My family will go on, in our family ship, and I will see them again. I have no wife, no children of my own, so I am here."

He stopped talking, and began eating. Jessamy followed suit, thinking about what he had said. His family were gypsies, real gypsies, like she never imagined would be real. Superstitious, wandering, she wished she'd had a chance to meet his family. She wondered what Maurice would say if she showed him her back.

"Are they still here? Your family, I mean?" she asked, looking up at him.

"No," he answered. He tore a piece of bread off the loaf, and dipped it in the stew. She nodded, "Oh."



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