Obsidian Command

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A Capitalist Sendoff

Posted on 29 Feb 2024 @ 8:27pm by Ensign Marcello Wiser & Crewman Recruit Zuzal

Mission: M4 - Falling Out
Location: Sickbay
Timeline: MD 14, morning (Earth's New Years Eve)
3178 words - 6.4 OF Standard Post Measure

"Hey, man." Ensign Marcello Wiser had been trying to get in to see Jup since they'd gotten back to base a few weeks ago. And now that he was finally allowed to see him, he didn't know what to say.

Jup was a practically inanimate form in a medically induced coma. A shimmering foil blanket was pulled up over him, hiding the rest of the damage below the neck and concealing much of what the medical teams had done to patch him up. The plasma burn, so far as it was visible, went down his neck and, seeing the exposed scar, Marcello reflexively remembered the smell of Jup's cooked flesh and winced. 

There was no form in the blanket where Jup's right arm should have been. Marcello dwelled on that for a minute, flexing his own arm and feeling sympathetic. It was a strange, unnerving kind of sight. One he talked himself into not overthinking. The arm was just gone. But modern medicine had good prosthetics, he reassured himself. Where the arm should have attached, there was a boxy bulge forming the right side of the Ferengi's chest, and where Marcello supposed was some artificial structure to replace damaged ribs, if he even still had a working lung to fill them. Although he wouldn't be surprised if it had been artificially replaced. He was tempted to lift the blanket and see if the medical tech Jup had under there was transparent and hyper cool looking. But it just seemed rude to check.

Half of Jup's face was under a temporary prosthetic kind of mask. It had a sort of neutral, indifferent, almost android look to it, not reminiscent of any race, and leaving him weirdly asymmetrical without the other broad Ferengi earlobe to balance him out. His ear was gone, his eye was gone. Who knew (well, besides the doctors, if one had been available to tell him) if Jup had claim to all four of his brain lobes still? He'd been half boiled alive. 

Wiser scrubbed a hand over his own face, trying to take the reality of it all in, tracing the feeding tube snaking under the blanket to Jup's stomach, the lines going in and out of his remaining arm, and the tube into his trachea making a gentle rhythmic hiss.  Maybe he hadn't been ready to see this before. He barely felt ready now.

Marcello swallowed uncomfortably, his adams apple bobbing. "You know, when we said chicks dig scars... You kind of went all in there, buddy."

Marcello knew Jup wasn't going to be answering him back. As he stood over his friend's bed, he tried to just focus on the intact half of Jup's face. The mask half was unnervingly chilling and made Jup seem... alien (that wasn't the right word for it, as much as the right feeling for it). If he had any time to arrange it, Marcello thought it wouldn't be that difficult to get the computer to replicate something that looked more familiar. More Jup-like. But he didn't have more than a day or so to arrange for it. Maybe there was a custom form printer on the Promenade. He'd see what he could do. It wasn't like he had any regular duties, after all. 

How long had he been standing here already, barely forming any words? He didn't really know what to talk about or if Jup could hear him, so Marcello tried to think about what they might be doing today if things weren't this bad.

"So, today is New Year's Day, by the Sol calendar. I know normally I'd make everybody break out the boardgames. It was a family tradition for me. My Mom started it. Well, I mean, she didn't start it, start it. She said her family had played boardgames to ring in the new year. It was one of her traditions. She always liked traditions. Birthdays, holidays. The board game thing on New Years, she was sure it went back a few hundred years. She used to get us all to play together. My dad and my brothers." He reflected on those days when his family had been whole, together. They were good times and he hadn't even known it then. It had been easy to take it for granted, and he wondered if that was just proof of how good they were. 

"Now I'm gonna break tradition. It's the first year since leaving home that I haven't had anyone to play with. But you're.... laid up and Max and Saaba are out on patrol. Kaiki isn't talking to me... Zletze. He's probably a maybe. Maybe a maybe." 

Marcello cleared his throat. Things had really changed in their social knot since their last mission together. They weren't really getting assignments together. Hell, Marcello himself had been benched— put on an enforced mental health leave since they'd gotten back. It was his own new low, being accustomed as he was to being the bull ensign and the senior officers' first pick. He wondered if the band was breaking up... If some of them like Max and Saaba were going to leave the rest of them in their dust with promotions and opportunities they were getting now. He touched the corner of the blanket hanging over Jup's body. It didn't feel right having so much self pity. If anyone was really getting the short end of a short stick in this whole deal it was Jup.

"You know, I never played Tongo before you brought it along last year. Everyone had a really good time with that. I wanted to teach you Monopoly this year but Kaiki told me last year she'd kill me if I made her play. Max is always the best capitalist anyway—" Marcello stopped for a moment, studying the Ferengi, checking for any spikes on his life sign monitors. He couldn't read most any of it, but it was all monotonous. No change. "I know, I know, you'd hate to hear me say that. Ah, I'm just pulling your leg. Max as the best capitalist? Psh. You know I just thought that maybe you'd sit up and tell me I was wrong. Everybody knows you'd corner all the profits and make him mortgage everything."

Jup was sensitive about the whole profits thing, Marcello remembered distinctly. Apparently he'd done very poorly in his youth on Ferenginar. He was too trusting, too kind, and a terrible liar. He'd been told he'd never amount to much. That he'd be lucky to make ends meet as a common laborer and he'd die horribly in debt. His brothers had all cheated him (not unlike the lack of love Marcello got from his brothers anymore) and his father and uncles had disowned him. Without prospects, and no family to fall back on, he couldn't get anyone to look his way. Unable to build from less than nothing and having no scruples to really cheat anyone, he'd left for the Federation and decided to try for the Academy on the suggestion and assistance of a human acquaintance who suggested he might fare better there.

And look where that had landed him. Marcello felt the steam building in his ears, reverberating with the unnecessarily harsh verbal beratings that Commander Quinn had heaped on Jup in the Ferengi's last conscious moments.

"Really, I think you're the best capitalist I ever met. I mean, if the rest of them were like you, Ferenginar would be a better place. Actually, I was really hoping you'd be around to beat the pants off of Max at Monopoly for me. He's been such an asshat since we got back.  Strutting around, no time for anybody. Well, anybody who isn't Kaiki. Those two..." Marcello blew air through his lips. They were one very hot item right now. Not that Marcello felt jealous at all. Kaiki hated his guts after his performance reviews of her got her bridge qualifications revoked. If anything, Marcello felt like he could take credit for Max and Kaiki suddenly bonding over their mutual gripes with him. "They gave Max a promotion. At least it means we don't share quarters anymore. I guess Max deserves it. I mean... he really did surprise everyone. Including Commander Quinn. That smug gasbag. I wish I had been there to see it in person when—" 

Marcello paused. That stuff was top secret. He looked around him, side to side, to be sure that there was no one that was listening in. But all the staff and patients and visitors were quietly moving about their business, oblivious to him. Still, even if no one was actively looking at him, he had to be careful what he said. "I wasn't really firing on all cylinders though. Not after what happened to you. I've got a therapist now. Told me I should try and get closure by talking to you. Which is rich, considering that's all I wanted to do in the first place." Marcello huffed, knowing there was more to it than that. He knew he'd been unreasonable and self tortured and had a dire lack of sleep at the time. He'd since tried to set that right, but the underlying restlessness still plagued him, nonetheless. He tried to shrug it off. "But whatever. Playing along I guess."

Pausing, Marcello listened a while to the soft, slow hissing of the respirator. He'd never seen Jup sleep so soundly without snoring something awful. He could saw the logs so loud the guys in the next cabin would be banging on the bulkheads telling him to shut the fugh up. Marcello heard a nurse once say Jup had a deviated septum and it would be an easy fix, but when they did the exam Jup had squealed so loud and then declined anything else being stuck up his sizable nostrils. Apparently his were as sensitive as his lobes. So they had all just learned to live with Jup's snoring, either by playing music, or wearing earplugs or just outright learning to tune him out. Now? The machine breathed for him. Marcello found himself missing the obnoxious noise of his friend's deviated septum and regretting all the times he'd been tempted to smother the Ferrengi in his sleep.

"They told me at the nurse's station that they're sending you to your family on Ferenginar. I know you were mad at them, but maybe they can do something more for you there. Maybe." Realistically, from the way Jup talked about the cutthroat business management of his family, Marcello knew it was more likely that they'd do a cost benefit analysis and pull his plug before long. Jup wasn't considered a very able or successful Ferengi, so they wouldn't find him valuable on that account. But maybe his mother loved him. How could anyone's mother not love them? 

Marcello wished his own mother was still around. He imagined that he would call her, tell her everything he'd been going through (minus the redacted stuff of course) and she would tell him he was doing good, and she was so proud of him, and that she loved him and prayed over him— maybe that wasn't all he needed to hear, but it was something, wasn't it? Maybe Jup would go home to his mom. Ferengi mothers had to love their own kids. They even pre chewed food for their adult children. Which, on the one hand was pretty gross, but on the other, it probably was loving in their culture. Not to mention... Jup might need some help chewing for a while. Maybe his mom would look after him until he woke up, and mush up his tube grubs after... Marcello imagined his mom, laying out dinner and calling him and his brothers. He'd always been the first to the table, and she'd always had him set out the plates. Marcello pushed away a tear. 

"Hey now. If I had a shred of pull, you know I'd make sure you could stay here," Marcello choked out. "With me." He thought back to Junior year in the Academy, when due to his stellar record and high scores, he'd been given a team captain status, and how surprised Freshman Jup had looked when, for the first time since probably in his life, he'd not been picked last out of a line up. Marcello hadn't just been pitying him either. He was smart and loyal and in Marcello's opinion, fun. "You've always got a place on my team. You're with me, Jup."

Out of seemingly nowhere, a petite green hand appeared and folded down one corner of the bed sheet, exposing Jup's one arm. Marcello startled and looked up. There was a very young nurse going about her business, taking vitals and making some log entries from her observations on the monitors. Marcello thought she looked a little teary eyed, and realized she might have been looking on and hearing his one-sided discussion with Jup, although for how long he wasn't sure. The girl was silent and small, and he felt snuck up on.

"Sorry," she said, as if she could read his mind. But she was probably just reading his face and knew she was interrupting something personal. "I don't mean to interrupt your visit, sir. I just—" She pointed to the monitor bank with a stylus. "Have to take readout snapshots every few hours. It makes the at-a-glance reports for the Doctors on their rotations much faster." 

Her gentle voice reminded Marcello of birdsong and he got a fluttery light-headed feeling. "Hey, no, that's. It's your job right? Don't let me get in the way."

Transfixed, he watched her go through the motions until his eyes caught the flicker on her collar. She was a crewman recruit. The lowest rank you could have and still have a rank at all. Unless you were a grade schooler on a class tour sporting a visitor sticker. She was basically promising to be enlisted, but not technically enlisted yet. Which, accounting for the looks of her, made her probably 'barely legal', if that. Marcello felt a little uncomfortable with his flush of initial feelings now.

"I like games," she said softly as she worked.

Marcello felt caught, afraid that the orion teen was making a pass at him, and suddenly unable to find words. "Huh?"

"Games," she whispered low. "I like to play games. If you want to keep your tradition going. I'd like to learn this Mono Poli game with you—"

"Oh, I..."

"—and with Ensign Jup. He's leaving the day after tomorrow. I think you should fit in a game with him. Tradition is very important. It sounds like he wouldn't want to be left out. I'll get permission. We can play it right here if we're not too disruptive. It's not a loud game is it?"

Marcello smiled at that. "Only if someone gets mad and throws the board."

"Oh," She bit her lip. "Is that in the rules?"

"It ought to be enshrined in them." Marcello joked, but to placate her before she got concerned he showed both of his palms in a hands up gesture. "But I promise to play quietly." He gave her a three fingered salute. "Scouts honor."

"Good. You have a reputation around here of... being loud. I don't want to get into any trouble."

"No, Miss." Marcello felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment over the incident. "That was an aberration. A one time thing," he characterized the outburst she was likely referring to when he'd tried to get past the nurses station without permission. His therapist was suggesting Marcello might have an anger issue, but Marcello thought he was kind of off base. So what? He got mad sometimes. He wasn't mad all the time. And he was never mad without a reason. If his therapist knew his old man, he'd know what an anger issue really looked like. "You'll get no trouble from me. Uh, can I bring a friend?"

She kept taking her monitor readings and looked up at him intermittently. She had a tight pixie hair cut, dimples, and the biggest, darkest... kindest eyes. "How many people can play Mono Poli?"

"Like up to eight people, if they don't all want to be the scotty dog. But I don't think I have that many friends available. I'm lucky if I still have that many friends, period."

"Scotty dog?" Her interest was piqued. There were no dogs on her homeworld and she was enamored whenever she saw one on the station. But she became concerned if there were animals involved in this playing of a game. "There are no animals permitted in this area of sickbay."

"Oh, no, no real dogs. Just a token representing a dog." Marcello mimed moving a piece around a board.

"I see. As long as all of your friends are also quiet. What time will you be back with the game?"

Marcello ran a hand through his hair. "Let's say eight o'clock?"

"I thought the idea was to play at midnight? To ring in your New Year?" She quested, again showing that she'd probably been listening in right from the start, and paying attention closely at that. Marcello had thought he had looked everywhere for eavesdroppers, but she must have been standing right behind him, patiently waiting to take her readings.

"Yeah. I mean, four hours is a short game of Monopoly."

The girl stared at him, her mouth twisting at the corner into a quirky little smile. "Humans have very strange rituals. Alright. I'll get permission to begin at eight. We might have to move Ensign Jup to his own room though, if you want to have as many as five more players of Mono Poli." 

Assuming the conversation was over, she started to slip away and Marcello found himself grabbing her arm out of reflex. "Wait!"

She stared up at him— he stared down at her, both of them surprised.

"If I come back," he whispered self consciously, letting go of her arm, "and he's not here, who do I ask for?" 

Taking back her arm, she blinked, obviously not understanding that Ensign Wiser was asking her name. 

"Ensign Jup, of course," she said, breaking their long awkward pause and looking flustered as she turned away with her padd continuing on her mission to the next station to take more readings for someone else.

Marcello worked his jaw side to side, unsure if he was being played or if the little Orion nurse's assistant was just that naive and clueless. He looked down at Jup as if he might have an answer, and then chuckled. 

"Yeah, I don't know either. Well. It sounds like there's a game on. It's at your place this year. Eight O' Clock." Marcello fixed the corner of the blanket that the nurse had folded down to check the lines in his arm. Not because she replaced it wrong, so much as to feel like he was doing something. He touched Jup on his good shoulder.

"I'll save you the top hat."


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