“More caf, sir?”
The engineer’s head snapped up, attention abruptly drawn away from specs and equations scrolling across his datapad. He blinked a moment, the tech’s question taking longer than it should to process. Davil Bullian managed to smile as the answer finally registered. “Please…Tomil, was it?”
The technician, barely as old as he was, nodded. “Yessir. It’ll only be a few minutes, sir.”
Davil nodded in thanks and looked back to the datapad. It was just past 1100 hours and he already felt like someone should be spreading him on a cracker. Not sleeping the night before was going to take its toll sooner rather than later, he suspected, but he didn’t spare much brainsweat over that. There wasn’t much available, what with trying to make sure all these refits had gone according to the specifications appropriate for each vessel.
He blew out a breath between his teeth. R&D had been one thing. This was entirely another. There wasn’t a learning curve for any of the men and women who’d be handling these systems once they left Wayfarer. Some of them wouldn’t be able to handle it. Others…up until a major failure in a system component. Hopefully, none of that would happen before the engineers were comfortable with the modifications made to the ships.
Of course, there was a war on, so there wasn’t any sort of guarantee.
Davil exhaled again and squeezed his eyes shut, rubbing them. They were sore, from lack of sleep and staring at the equations, at the numbers he’d run, the specifications he’d in large part written. Half the equations didn’t even make sense anymore. Of course, once he pressed past the point of exhaustion, they’d start making sense again. After that, he’d have maybe two or three hours before he fell over sideways and slept it off. The alternative was caf, in large quantities, and at the moment, the alternative was failing.
Someone nudged his elbow with a mug and he tried to take it without opening his eyes, mostly failing.
“Trying to spill caf all over my crotch, Dav? I’m not Dad.”
Davil’s eyes snapped open and he stared at his brother, who’d settled next to him on the crates he’d been using as a chair.
“Mikey? What are you doing here?”
His brother shrugged a little. “I’m on leave. Didn’t have anything else to do. Figured it was better than staying in the rain planetside, so I came up to see what was up.” He handed over the second mug of caf in his hand to Davil and leaned back, stretching. “ ‘sides, I had to collect on a sabacc debt. MP from the Legionnaire was short thirty credits by the end of the night and told me I could collect today from his temporary billet up here.”
Davil managed to smile, shaking his head a little. “Somehow, I’m not surprised. How’d you get down here, though? I thought they were cordoning off these bays.”
“When you walk around like you own the place, Dav, you get further.” His younger brother shrugged slightly, taking a long sip of caf. “Flightsuit helps.”
“Right,” Davil smiled wryly, shaking his head and taking a long swallow of caf. “Flightsuit. Who’d you charm, Mikey?”
He smiled sheepishly. “There was this girl watching the lifts one deck down. We’re going for drinks tonight.” The pilot reached up and tousled his brother’s hair. “Not like I’m with anyone back at the fleet, anyhow.”
“That because Dad’s already had most of them?” Davil bit down on his tongue so hard that it drew blood, he could taste it in his mouth. He sighed, closing his eyes, setting aside the datapad and cradling his caf mug. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Probably not,” Mikey agreed. He put his arm around his brother’s shoulders. “I’ll let you in on a secret, though, Dav. I don’t agree with half of what he does, either, but it’s not my call to make. I just try to minimize the casualties.”
Minimize the casualties. And Mom’s the biggest one of all. Davil closed his eyes. “I don’t know how you can stand it, Mikey.”
“Stand what? Stand saving Dad from himself?” He frowned a little. “I don’t know, Dav. It’s…well. I guess it’s only hard when he’s doing stubborn as hell. Most of the time, I guess it’s not so bad. It could be a lot worse, anyway. That’s what I keep telling myself. A lot worse.” He raked his fingers through his hair, taking a long swallow of caf. “At least I’m as stubborn as he is. Lots of him in me.” He nudged Davil. “Lots of him in you, too, though.”
Davil’s expression soured. “Thanks, Mikey. I really needed that.”
He shook his head slowly. “Sorry, Dav. Guess I shouldn’t have brought it up. What’s going on up here, anyway? They don’t cordon off decks often.”
Davil managed a smile, picking up his datapad. “ ‘s classified, Mikey.”
“Who am I going to tell?”
Davil deadpanned, just looking at his brother, who laughed.
“Right. I’ll come check on you in a few hours to make sure you’re alive.”
“No problem, bro.” Mikey pushed himself upright, grinning like their father. “Stay out of trouble.”
“You stay out of trouble first.”
They laughed and then Mikey was gone, wandering back across the decking in the direction he’d come. Davil glanced down into his mug of caf and took a long swallow, shaking his head a little, dark hair falling momentarily into his face.
I need a haircut, he thought, then lifted his head. His brother was disappearing down the corridor, pausing a moment to flirt with a female technician carrying a tray of caf. He shook his head a little, managing to smile. Same old Mikey. He’s got it easy. Davil glanced down at the datapad in his hands and exhaled. We’ve all got our jobs to do. His is as hard as mine, in some ways.
Mikey had turned back to wave. Davil waved back, smiling wryly.
Maybe harder than mine. Maybe harder…