Lots of people wanted jobs where they traveled a lot, but it could be hard to find reputable sources of such work.
That’s where spacer agencies came in. People with specialized skills put their names on a registry, hoping to join a crew that needed someone with that particular skill set. Almost every rock with more than one spaceport had an agency.
This one was rather sparsely occupied. It was late afternoon by the local clock. Presumably the locals were having lunch.
“Welcome!” said the way-too-chipper young man sitting behind the window that they approached. “How can we help you today?”
“We’re looking to hire on somebody with medical training,” said Jayna.
“One moment, please!” said Mr. Chipper. He tapped a touchscreen a couple times, and it beeped.
“A list of people registered with our agency seeking employment with those qualifications has been sent to your data-view, uh, miss,” he said. “Have a swell day! Next!”
“That was fast,” said Zane curiously, craning his neck to look at Jayna’s device. Sure enough, there was a list of names and pictures, along with places of current employment.”There’s a lot of hospitals and clinics around here.”
“Yeah. Let’s look at the list and see if there’s anyone that stands out. Remember, we don’t need a neurosurgeon, we just need someone who can duct tape us together.”
“They’ll have only the finest tapes on our ship,” said Zane, thumbing through the directory. “The first place is down that way, let’s go.”
Zane guided them to St. Armand’s Hospital in the lower west quadrant of the city. It was a moderate hospital — unlike the big fancy research hospital on the side of town closer to the airports, this one was mostly visited by the middle class workers who made up the bulk of the economy. Or at least, that’s what the profile of the location said.
Jayna and Zane walked into the reception area, which was refreshingly green, full of plants and warmth.
Jayna went to the information kiosk and rang the little bell. The receptionist looked up, and Zane spared a glance at the agency list.
“Is Walter Laine available?” he asked.
The receptionist shrugged, turning to his console and tapping out a few things. “Um, Mr. Laine is currently off-world helping with Intergalactic Police Corps matters.”
“He got busted funneling painkillers into the black market!” piped up a nurse walking past. The receptionist blushed. Zane and Jayna shared a look.
“Next place on the list?” suggested Zane.
“Uh, yeah,” Jayna said. “There’s a private practice nearby,” she said.
Three stops later, they found themselves at Dillon Urgent Care Center on the outskirts of the city. It was small, and from the outside appeared a little run-down. “Is this next?” Jayna asked looking at the building dubiously.
The previous candidates had been either already hired, no longer working there, and in one case, gave Zane a really bad vibe. Zane did not have a one-to-one relationship with reality on the best of days, but his vibes were usually worth trusting.
“Yeah,” said Zane. “We’re gonna be looking for… Alana Rocha?”
“I’m really not sure about this place,” she said. “Maybe we should just skip to the next one on the list.”
“We’re already here,” said Zane, making his way in.
It was obviously well-cleaned and maintained, but it had seen quite a lot of wear and tear in the past two decades or so it had been opened. There were a few people scattered in the small waiting room, and a woman sitting at the window, messing idly with her nails.
Cautiously, Zane approached the receptionist’s desk, where a rather bored-looking nurse was stationed.
“Excuse me,” he said. “I was wondering if I could-“
“Take a number,” she said, without looking up.
“No, I just wanted to–“
“Take. A number,” she repeated.
Zane sighed, swiping his device. A number popped up on it.
Jayna raised an eyebrow, but took a seat regardless, aware of how loudly the seat complained as she sat down. “I don’t like this place. They’re rude,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest. “And these seats are the worst.”
Zane didn’t comment, looking at the number he had taken as if trying to decipher it, and he just… waited. That was something that infuriated Jayna and Ash at times. Zane seemed to have a genetic inability to be bored.
A door in the back opened, causing Zane to look up toward the sound. A nurse came through, and the pilot’s eye was immediately drawn to her.
She was short, maybe a hair or two over five feet, with features that suggested East Asian heritage, but the thing that attracted his attention the most was her hair; it was dyed a striking shade of deep purple throughout. She slammed a clipboard down onto the receptionist’s desk with a thunk.
“And that’s my shift done for the day,” she said, wiping her brow.
“‘Fraid not,” said the bored nurse. “Amir didn’t come in today so you’ll need to cover his shift.”
The purple-haired nurse’s features fell. “You have got to be shitting me,” she said.
“Them’s the breaks, kid. You’ve got five more patients to see.”
Before she could complain further–and by the look on her face, she was about to do a lot of that–the receptionist looked over the room and shouted out. “Number fifty-three!” she said.
“That’s me,” said Zane, stepping up.
“What is the nature of your medical issue?” said the receptionist.
“I don’t actually have a problem,” said Zane. “I’m just looking for–“
“Number fifty-four!” the receptionist shouted, looking back down. Zane closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Look,” he said. “Will you just listen to me for–“
“Look kid. This is a clinic, you sign in, you get seen, you get your treatment, you go home. It’s not rocket science. Now, if you need a nurse, she’ll see you, otherwise, take it to another clinic.”
“I guess we’ll go in then,” Zane sighed in a huff.
The purple-haired nurse swore under her breath. “Fine, fine, I’ll do it. But I’m not doing it without getting some air first,” she said, and stormed past Jayna and Zane out the door.
Or at least, that was what her intention was. The door was violently pushed open, knocking her aside, and a gangly man in a patchy coat and a balaclava pushed in, brandishing a long firearm.
“Nobody move or I’ll shoot your fucking ass off!” he bellowed.
Everybody froze except for Zane and Jayna. The two of them shared a look, one that nonverbally communicated, Well, this is going to be a bit inconvenient.
The gunman took a few steps forward, waving the gun around unsteadily.
“Nobody try to be a hero now!” he yelled. “I want all the drugs you have in fifteen minutes! Anyone tries anything stupid and they’ll get a slug right in their fahanghhgh–“
He suddenly started convulsing, then dropped his gun and fell to the floor. Behind him, the purple-haired nurse stood with an annoyed look on her face, grasping the paddles of an emergency defibrillator.
“Third goddamn time this month,” she said. “Somebody get somebody else to take out this trash, I’m going on my fifteen!”
The lobby fell into silence for a good ten seconds as she departed, then suddenly buzzed into activity.
“Her,” said Zane. “I want her.”
“What?” said Jayna, looking at the tablet again. “She wasn’t even on the list.”
“Don’t care. She’s the one.”
“But Zane, what if she doesn’t–Zane!” she watched as he walked out after the nurse. She stooped down to retrieve the gun and emptied it of bullets before walking out after him.
They found the young woman sitting on the bench out front, tapping on a tablet with a long stylus.
Zane plopped down on the opposite end of the bench. She looked at him dubiously.
“I’m a trained nurse,” she said, gesturing with the stylus. “Which means I know exactly where to stick this thing to maximize pain caused.”
“You’re cool,” said Zane, beaming at her. “Wanna go to space with me?”
She narrowed her eyes at him, not saying anything. “Is this the part where you ask me to get into your windowless van?” she said.
A puzzled look crossed Zane’s features. “My spaceship has at least five windows,” he said.
Jayna stepped in and knelt in front of them. “Okay, let’s start over. I’m Jayna, and this is Zane. We’re looking for a medic to join our crew. We were here to talk to Alana about joining, as she’s on the spacer registry, but honestly, we think you would fit in with us. And we want you to join us, if you want.”
The nurse let out a snort. “You wouldn’t have wanted to hire Alana anyway,” she said. “She only put herself in the registry to make her girlfriend think she was more exciting than she is. But as for me…”
She shrugged. “Even if I was looking for a change of careers, and even if we assume further that you’re not just going to harvest my organs, I’m sure you could do way better.”
Jayna gave a look back at the clinic. “So, you like working here at this clinic?” she asked, looking behind her. “With these lunatics?”
The nurse opened her mouth, as if to prepare a snarky retort, but stopped.
“I could have gone to a cushier clinic, you know,” she said. “I thought I’d be able to help people who really needed it. But it didn’t work out that way. Mostly I’m just wrangling tweakers and keeping the interns from walking off with too many office supplies and scrip pads.”
Jayna looked over her for a moment. Then she looked over at Zane. He nodded at her.
”Normally I wouldn’t make an offer like this, but Zane has a good feeling about you,” she said. “How about we try a probationary period? More for us than for you. If you think we’re crazy and you don’t want to fly with us, we’ll put you wherever you want to go. Including some garden planet or a beach resort, or right back here in Raulin.”
The nurse seemed to consider this for a moment.
“Anywhere I want to go? Really?” she said. “I’ve been saving for a ticket off this rock for months.”
“Absolutely,” said Zane, giving her a smile. “On my solemn word as a crazy person!”
She let out a snort of laughter. “Alright then,” she said. “Price is right, I guess. And it’ll be nice not to have to deal with Dr. Kaine staring at my ass.”
“Do you want to give two weeks or something?” said Jayna. “We’ve got something to drop off to one of our contractees, but we can be back and help you move out and stuff.”
She blew out a raspberry. “Fuck ’em,” she said. “Let’s get my stuff and go.”
“That’s fine with us,” Jayna said, and stuck out a hand. “I’m Jayna Kostas, by the way.”
Mari looked up at her, and then rubbed her eyes, as if she had only just noticed the amazonian spacer. “Holy shit,” she said. “What are they feeding you?”
“Entire cows,” said Jayna, with a wink and a flex. “Small ones, though. Need a couch moved? I’m your girl.”
“Especially if I don’t feel like getting off of it,” she said. “I’m Mari Naoki. I’m renting a place just down the street.”
Jayna chuckled. “You’re what? ninety to a hundred pounds? Yeah, I lift more than you to relax. Don’t worry,” Jayna said, and smiled. “Show us the way, Ms. Naoki. Zane, you coming?”
Zane, for his part, seemed to be distracted by something overhead. Jayna gave him a nudge and he snapped back to reality. “Oh, right. Yeah, lead the way.”
“Is he all there?” said Mari, looking at him strangely.
“Very seldom,” said Zane. “But you can count on me being, like, two-thirds there on most days. That’s decent, right?”
“Better than fifty percent,” Jayna affirmed. “You wouldn’t necessarily fail a class,”
Mari sighed. “Let’s go already,” she said. “Before I realize what a terrible idea this is.”