Life on Songbird with crew of five was not terribly different than it had been with a crew of four. Luisa kept to herself for the most part, hanging around in either her bunk or the engine room.
The first thing that really caused the crew to notice a difference happened at breakfast one day.
“This tastes kind of different,” said Zane, looking down at his reconstituted scrambled eggs.
“Luisa fixed the food rehydrator,” said Jayna, nodding. “It doesn’t make everything taste slightly of cheese anymore.”
“Oooh,” said Zane. “Glad to see she’s making herself useful.”
“For a given value of useful,” said Jayna. “You don’t want to know what she did with the toaster.”
Zane looked up at the large scorch mark running up the wall.
“I’m cool, thanks.”
Luisa came in a few moments later. She was still relatively skittish–she hadn’t left her room for more than a couple hours each day since they’d left the last planet.
“Morning,” said Zane, nodding at her. “Sleep okay?”
Luisa nodded, curling up in one of the chairs. “Yeah. It’s loud on the ship. But it’s kind of soothing too. White noise,” she said.
“You get used to it,” said Mari, coming in herself. “First time I slept planetside after a few months on songbird, I couldn’t relax at all without it.”
She nodded. “They just hired you… right?” she asked, grabbing a mug and moving towards the coffee maker.
“Pretty much,” said Mari. “They found me at kind of a… transitional phase in my life.”
“You wanted to transition from not working in a total shithole,” said Ash, appearing in turn.
Mari blinked. Then she looked over at Ash, who was helping himself to some scrambled eggs. “Hey, these don’t taste like-“
“Cheese, I know,” said Zane, nodding.
“How DID you lot hook up, anyway?” said Mari. “I mean, I know you said you found Zane in a ditch-“
“Which is true,” said Zane.
“But you never really had a chance to elaborate on any of that.”
Jayna shrugged. “We really found him in a ditch.”
Luisa’s eyes widened. “Okay. So? How did he end up as ditch dweller to a part of your crew?” she asked
Ash rolled his eyes. “It’s a really long story,” he said.
“We’ve got three sol-days before we hit our destination,” said Zane. “What else have we got to do? I know for a fact that you and Luisa have Songbird running better than she has been in months.”
Luisa gave a small smile. “The ship runs fantastic, even without my help,” she said. “You love this ship a lot, Ash.”
“Nice of somebody to notice,” said Ash. “Alright, alright. But on on an empty stomach. Everyone come down to the lounge after breakfast.”
“I’ll bring popcorn,” said Zane.
“We don’t have any popcorn,” said Jayna puzzled. Zane just smirked. Ash groaned.
“Zane, what did I tell you about hiding snacks?” he said.
“I’ll stop when you can find them all,” said Zane. “And you won’t find them all.”
After breakfast, the five of them then went to the lounge, and Luisa tucked up in one of the chair with Ash’s datapad.
The four of them spent a little bit of time telling each other’s stories. Luisa raised her hand quite frequently to ask questions. Especially when Zane gave a brief recap of his history.
“I know that all this may be a little much to take in-” started Zane. Luisa shrugged.
“You remember the vampires, right?” she said. “That was a real thing that was happening. I can deal with weird-eyed clone dudes.”
Ash raised an eyebrow. “She took that way better than us.”
“But that still doesn’t tell me how you two met him,” Luisa said, leaning back.
“We’re getting to that!” said Ash. “Kids. No patience at all. Anyway, in order to understand how we got there… you kind of have to know how me and Jayna met. It all ties in.”
“Ooh, I love this story,” said Zane, munching some popcorn.
“This one’s new to me,” said Mari, helping herself to a handful.
Jayna looked at Ash. “Do you wanna…”
“Sure, I’ll take it,” he said, and then grabbed a handful himself.
Ash took a deep breath. “It had been about… I dunno. Maybe a sol-year since I set off for my new life. Had a clean identity. Had my ship. And basically just went from world to world, picking up whatever work I could find. It was… functional, but not sustainable.”
“So he found himself some work on my homeworld–it was during the season, and a lot of families hire out ships to transport them to the various vacation islands in lieu of a boat ride,” Jayna added.
“It was a temporary stopover, and Isocrateria seemed like as a good a place as any to pick up some work,” said Ash. “And, y’know, it was. But there wasn’t anything too special about it to me. I had no idea that this was where my life was about to take a turn for the interesting.”