(Character introduction for an online game I played)
Excerpt of a daily log, by Firgo Hansson, Junior Dockingbay-Manager at SS Archimedes
“I had seen this ship come here often, these past few night-shifts. It was a battered-yet-refitted, newly painted HS-201 Kraken, sporting the name “The Hauler”. The captain was always the first to exit, making sure the passenger-staircase was firmly secured. When he was satisfied he signaled towards the door, and the passengers came filing out. And where normally newly-arrivals had a haggard and nervous look about them, travelers leaving this ship somehow seemed less tense. Less scared of their future.
There was also none of the usual hurrying. They waited patiently in line whilst their young host-for-the-past-trip had a chat with each and every one of them. These talks never lasted very long, but either ended with a laugh, a hug, or a firm grasping of hands. And always, before letting them go, there was the small gift appearing from a bag on the captain’s hip. A brown round disc of some sort.
When the last of the passengers had been greeted and sent on their way to their new future, the agile owner climbed back up the stairs, only to come back down almost immediately without the hip-bag, but with the private packages he had brought along on the trip. With a smile on his face and a spring in his gait he walked towards the postage-officer, handed them over, and went back to his ship to direct the unloading and loading of his cargo.
Today I decided, as it was quiet on the docks, to go down and have a chat with this new face. I told Joba to beep me if she needed me, grabbed my clipboard, and went down in the elevator. ‘What kind of person would he be?’, I wondered. ‘Why hadn’t I heard of him before?’ After all, a Kraken, even one as rickety as his, didn’t come cheap. ‘Was he in the employ of one of the bigger companies?’ ‘Was he on RAM’s paylist?’ ‘What even was his name?’ These questions were swirling through my mind whilst I descended. And a small, far off part of my brain was asking the same question over and over again; ‘Why are you all of a sudden so interested in this bloke?’
It was indeed the very first time in my twenty-odd years of service here that I went down to check out a captain, unless there was something very wrong going on that needed my personal attention. And that was not the case here. He had been nothing but an exemplary guest on our Space Station. I had checked, before going down, and his ship didn’t have any flags in the system. Oh right. Piarou was his name. I had seen that on the records, of course. Hadn’t rung any bells, that. Actually, that could also be the name of the company he worked for, seeing as it had no surname. Or first name. Or, well, whichever is missing.
He spotted me as I came out of the door into the loading-bay, but other than a short nod in my general direction he kept his attention on the goods being handled. As was the case most of the time, his hold had been filled with sacks of grain, alleviating the ever present hunger on this spinning wheel of metal I called home. Walking up towards him, I started to notice more and more details.
Most of his clothes were of a cheap, laborer’s make. But the jacket he wore was unique. It vaguely reminded me of a retro-denim coat I once saw in a very old holo-play. His hair had a weird colour, somewhere between blond and red, with white strands intermixed here and there. And although his eyes were of the most boring brown one could ever see, there was a genuine warmth and joy in them, that I couldn’t help but try to see more of them. And I knew I would be utterly destroyed inside if I ever saw them hurt.
As I was about to come within talking distance he waved his friends to take a brake. For I was certain, now that I had seen his eyes, that his crew-mates were also his friends. He then turned my way and looked me straight in the eyes.
“Greetings, sir. Anything I can do for you? There is nothing wrong, is there?” His voice was a nice tenor, with an accent I could not place.
“No no, there’s nothing wrong. Nothing the matter at all, sir. Piarou, isn’t it?”
“That’s me, yeah. And good. I dislike doing things wrong. But as I was told that Dock-managers only come down when something is off, I was worried a little, I must say.” He hadn’t looked worried at all, but now I saw him relax even more, which made me in turn feel calm and relaxed as well.
“Yeah, we normally are too busy to come down unless it is absolutely necessary, indeed. But it’s a quiet evening, so I have some time to meet the new hero of our hungry citizens.”
He looked quizzical at that. “You want me to take you to my farms at Ceres?” he said, slight bewilderment in his voice? “For that is where the heroes live and work, toiling the soil and harvesting the grain.” At my confused look he smiled a broad smile. “Or did you mean me?” he asked, all bewilderment gone from his voice. “Nah, man, I am just a lucky lad who happens to be able to fly a spaceship, and who managed to make it through basic training in one piece.”
He then told me all about his fast rise through the lower ranks due to a fortuitous stumble, some very helpful families, and the support of his amazing friends. He was open about everything, expressing hope that his experiences would help others in the future. Only when, still unable to place his accent, I asked him where he came from, he got a distant look in his eyes, was silent for a bit, and then shrugged. I decided to never ask that question again, as in that little moment he had something so sad over him I felt it pull at my heart.
As we were talking about which Space Stations he had visited, my beeper made the always annoying sound of being needed. Startled, he looked at the time, then his crew, and then back at me.
“Oh wow, we both really need to get back to work. This is very nice and all, but I want to depart for Apollo within the hour, if at all possible.”
“Yeah, I have to get back up there as well, I guess.” I waved vaguely towards the control-room. “That was my colleague telling me she needs something from me.”
“Well, it was nice talking to you. Come down again when I am here, and we can chat some more. If you have the time, of course.”
“Oh, I will. Have many lucks and no rogue astroids on your path.” I started to walk away, but turned around again. “Oh, and I just HAVE to ask. What are those brown discs you always give your passengers when they disembark?”
He had almost turned around but went full circle whilst he barked a hearty laugh. “Wait here, one second.” He ran into his ship, returning with one of those brown gifts in his hands. “Here, have one yourself.” he said, as he handed it to me. “It is called a stroopwafel, and it is a treat where I come from.” He then turned around, and walked to his crew, already giving new assignments.
When I returned in the control-room I still had the cookie, for that is what it was, in my hand. It smelled delicious. Sweet and yet spicy, just the way I liked it. And, as I now realized, just as he smelled as well.
“What is that?” Joba asked.
I broke it in two equal pieces, gave Joba the smaller one, and took a bite. “It is called a stroopwafel,” I said with my mouth full. “That captain gave it to me, but let’s make my luck OUR luck.” And as the taste washed through my mouth, I felt better than I had felt in a long, long time.