The Terra Core

A young man is forced from his home to the stars after a terrible crime (inspired by a dream I had!)

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19. The Captain's Table

~~When I went back into the dorm and Sandro went in to see Miss Wilson, a few people were staring at me, open-mouthed. Some avoided looking at me. I wasn't sure if I was to be a pariah or a messiah.

As it turned out, to most folks I was their hero- I'd saved them from a horrible, horrible fate. One or two though...

Firstly, Miguel. He gave me an angry look. I'd sold his cousin out after all. I did not look forward to bed time.

Secondly, Carla, who had her own issues with Miss Wilson and had probably hoped the Team Leader's authority would be dented by the whole affair. She gave me a dirty look too.

Still, two out of twenty-nine people suddenly hated my guts. All in all, I'd come out reasonably unscathed- for now.

We all wanted to be flies on the wall when Sandro went in for his grilling. I could only wonder what sort of punishment Miss Wilson would have in mind. I prayed Sandro would be honest and make life easier for himself.

Miguel made a point of walking away from me when I went to the kitchen. Russell and Kameyo, Fabin and Helene were all pretty happy, thanking me for sparing them hardships.

Carla was more inclined to seek me out- for a confrontation. She marched up to me as I was talking to Russell.

"Hey, Aidy, what the fuck"? She said, her face picture of attitude. "We're supposed to be a team, and you sold Sandro out."

I was already having enough of her. "Yeah, we're a team, and as a whole team, we'd have all suffered for what Sandro did. No way I'm going on cleaning duty for God knows how long because of him."

"You're a dick Adrian. Miss Wilson deserved what she got. She's a bitch, a heartless bitch." She was looking dayum hot when angry, but I was getting pretty pissed off.

"She's our Team Leader. She's in charge. She knows what she's doing, and we all have to live with he for the next five years. I don't agree with everything she does, but I'm pretty sure if we follow her rules and do as she says we'll all get out of this in one piece and do a good job. If we fuck with her, she'll fuck with us ten times worse."

"Adrian's right." Russell defended me. "Sandro was stupid. He could have gotten us all in the shit. I for one am glad Aidy came forward."

Carla just glowered at him. "We all need to stick together. Sandro's a nice guy and didn't deserve to be squealed on."

"Yeah, he's a nice guy. He's also an idiot, and I'm not getting in trouble to cover his arse." Retorted Russell.

"Me neither." Remarked Fabin.

"Nor me." Added Kameyo.

"Or me." Said Helene meekly.

We all stood there, matching Carla's heated gaze. She was smart enough to know when she was outnumbered, and shot me another dirty look as she walked away. I could breathe again.

"Thanks guys. I had a feeling that was gonna get real ugly." I said.

"No problem mate." Replied Russell. "Not gonna let you take the heat when you saved our bacon! What do you think will happen to Sandro?"

"I've no idea." I shrugged. "Depends on what he says for himself."

"He's such an idiot." Said Fabin in a strong German accent. "He should get thrown off the ship."

"That's a bit marsh mate." Russell said. "He deserves a chance."

"What for? So he can screw up again and land us all in trouble?" Fabin was starting to get on the warpath. "Sooner he goes, the better. If he stays and fucks up again, I'll make sure he feels like shit."

I can't say I liked where Fabin was going. Better to draw a line under the whole affair.

"Look man, he'll learn. He has to. We all have to learn. I'm not gonna hold a grudge." I said.

"Well, I'm prepared to give him another shot, but only one." He said sullenly.

****

When Sandro emerged from Miss Wilson's room he looked like he'd been crying. Miss Wilson's expression was as stoic as ever.

She called us all over and we waited, expectant and nervous.

"As far as I am concerned, this matter is now closed. Sandro has been given a punishment for him to deal with and that is the end of the matter. Tomorrow is our final day of work on New Porto and I expect it to go without a hitch. I want you all to be professional and get on with your jobs. I don't expect any fallout from this, either toward Sandro or Adrian. If I hear of any trouble, those responsible will get penalities of their own. Time for you all to get some sleep. Tomorrow will be a busy day."

We looked at each other- and Miguel shot me another heated look, before heading off to our room. I dreaded going in there.

Still, I could hardly avoid it could I? Sooner or later I'd have to go in there and face whatever wrath Miguel had planned.

I walked in, and Miguel just looked at me. He didn't say a word, and instead carried on getting himself ready for bed. I started to do likewise, hating the awkward silence. The tension was thick enough to require a carving knife.

When I got into my own bunk, I looked over at him. He had his back to me as he lay in bed. I felt the need to say something.

"Look, Miguel..."

"Save it bro. Just... save it." Was his curt reply.

"I need..."

"I said save it!" His voice raised a notch. "You sold my cousin out, I have nothing to say to you."

"Well then you can at least listen!" My own voice went up a bit. "I wasn't gonna let everyone else suffer because of Sandro! If I didn't come forward we could all look forward to scrubbing toilets and mucking out kitchens for weeks! Is that fair on everyone else?"

Miguel spun around to face me. "He's blood bro. Family looks out for family. Yeah, it would have sucked to do cleaning duty, but Sandro could have been thrown off the ship! You nearly got him chucked out! I'm supposed to look out for him and you nearly got him thrown out!"

"So he can do something really stupid and he should get away with it and screw everyone else? Is that what you're saying?"

Miguel's face was like thunder. "I'm saying he deserved a chance man, and you didn't give him one. I know Sandro can be stupid, we grew up together! I also know what a rough ride he's had, especially in the past couple of years. He deserved a chance..."

"Yeah well, I'm sorry if what he's been through has been tough..."

"You don't even know. He's had so much shit to deal with..." Miguel started, but I was raging inside now. I knew what a tough year felt like.

"My dad was murdered remember? I do know what it's like." I felt kinda bad for bringing that up. It was a bit of a cheap shot, though it was true.

"Well, remember you're not the only one who's had problems bro. Next time, remember that." Miguel turned back around, seemingly calmer, perhaps feeling admonished by my outburst, but I doubted he'd forgiven me. I settled down, and tried to sleep.

****

The next day, we got up as usual and the trio of Miguel, Sandro and Carla made a point of blanking me. Interestingly, Gasparo was quite friendly toward me, and the look on Carla's face was quite a picture. Maybe she'd assumed the handsome hunk she'd been flirting with would automatically pick her side. I don't think she appreciated it that he didn't.

The work on the surface seemed to fly by. Being the last day of this particular mission, everyone was a bit happier than usual. We also took a lot of pride in seeing our work come to fruition. Homes, built by us, would forever be a testament to our hard work. It was quite a proud moment.

When the transports took us back, we were actually all grinning (well, Sandro, Miguel and Carla weren't). We felt like we'd done a good job. Even the ghost of a smile appeared to cross Miss Wilson's lips.

As we trouped back to the dorm, weary yet feeling like we'd accomplished something, Miss Wilson clapped her hands to get our attention and we froze. Some of us began to wonder what we'd done wrong this time.

"Right, I'll keep this brief as we are all tired and need some sleep. I wanted to tell you all how proud I am of you all. You've worked hard, and achieved a lot during our time on New Porto. You've earned a break and tomorrow you'll get a particularly good treat- dinner, at The Captain's Table! Goodnight all, sleep well."

With that, she spun on her heels and walked off to her room. The rest of us stood there, pretty excited, save for the usual suspects.

"The Captain's Table!" Exclaimed Fabin. "Do you know what this means?"

"No, what?" Asked Kameyo.

"You didn't read the handbook did ya?" Fabin replied. "The Captain's Table is reserved for ship's officers, and invited guests- if we're going, we must have done something to impress the Captain!"

"Oh... oooh!" Kameyo joined the rest of us in our giddy state of delight. "Did we really do that good?"

"We must have, or we wouldn't be going! Well folks, I'm gonna get some sleep- want to look refreshed for the Captain tomorrow!" Fabin sauntered off, and the rest of us grinned, ear to ear.

One by one we all headed off for our beds. No one really had the energy to hover about, despite the good news. Rest was very much the order of the hour. Of course, things never seem to run smoothly for me...

Miguel was still pissed with me. After getting the silent treatment off him all day, he finally chose to say a few words- not that they were pleasant.

"You know bro, Sandro won't be coming, because of you." He began. He was quite calm, irritatingly matter-of-fact about it. It would be easier if he was angry.

"Ya know what, I'm not gonna do this again, especially not now. Goodnight." I said, as I got into bed. Miguel got into his but didn't put his light out.

"Our first big reward, and you've fucked it up for him. Hope you're happy."

I didn't bother to reply. I switched my own light off- hopefully that would be signal enough- only it wasn't.

"He gets to stay here and clean this place from top to bottom, whilst you get to eat good food."

I could feel that prickle of hot anger going down my neck and spine, but I gritted my teeth and ignored him.

"It's not right bro. We stand as a team, we fall as a team..."

That did it.

"Yeah, that's right, we do. Sandro forgot that when he played his stupid prank and nearly landed us all on cleaning duty. Stop defending him! You know as well as I what he did was wrong, and you'd have been missing out- as would all of us- on the Captain's Table, because of it!"

I hoped my words would penetrate Miguel's thick skull. Sadly, they didn't.

"That bitch had it comin' bro. You know it, I know it."

I was growing tired of this. "Tell you what, next time, I'll make sure the entire team is pissed at me for not saying a word, and landing us all in shit!"

I rolled over and this time, Miguel kept quiet. I doubted for even a second what I'd said carried any impact, but I could hope...

****

The following day (a Sunday, as it happened) we had the day off. Carla and Miguel ignored me, and Sandro... well, Sandro was working. His first task, according to what Gasparo had heard, was to do an inventory check on the team's cleaning equipment. That would probably take him all day.

Still, the day was pretty good. We played a few games, had a few laughs, and I went off to the Mall with Russell and Gasparo. Carla wore a look like thunder when we went off- it was quite good to see that!

We laughed, we ate, and we were quite happy- and the mood of pretty much everyone else was pretty good too. The entire ship seemed pleased to have finished the mission- a few days to unwind was pretty important, and good for morale.

We got a bit of a surprise- Helene ventured out to see the ship as well. We spotted her with Kameyo- and Francis too. He was laughing with them and had a girl on each arm! We all looked at each other and couldn't help but laugh ourselves. Francis did fancy himself a ladies' man but we hadn't thought he'd actually get any attention!

Upon returning to the dorm, we were greeted with a surprise- tuxedos for the men, all neatly pressed, and elegant long black dresses for the women, were hanging up in the kitchen. Miss Wilson was standing there, a slight smile on her face.

"It's traditional, when dining with the Captain. to look ones' best. To that end, the ship keeps tuxedos and good evening wear to hand. These are rented- you ruin them, you pay for them. Get dressed everyone."

****

I have to say, I didn't know how I'd look in a tux. I made a point of taking a picture via my tablet to send to my mom. I thought I looked quite dapper. I decided to send a picture to Chloe as well- maybe she'd be impressed.

Miguel as usual ignored me, so I ignored him. We got dressed in complete silence, and when we came out of our room, I had the unfortunate situation of being alone with him and Carla.

I noticed Carla was giving me a weird look. Perhaps I looked good in a suit? Her eyes looked conflicted, but if it was because she desired me... well, she should have thought of that before she became a bitch.

The silence was uncomfortable but bearable. Slowly, the room began to fill up with the rest of us.

Kameyo looked mightily uncomfortable. I think she hated wearing dresses- from memory I don't think she'd worn a dress or a skirt the entire time she'd been aboard. Helene too, looked awkward, but that was more about her personality- she actually looked quite pretty, but looked like she wanted to jump out of her own skin and hide.

Miss Wilson looked stunning. Her hair, normally tied back and neat, was now long, flowing down her soldiers, and looked like black silk. From somewhere she'd gotten ear rings, small yet sparkling diamonds from the looks of it, and she looked... well... happy.

"Ok everyone. Remember, the Captain herself is attending this dinner, as are other ship's officers. This is an honour afforded only to teams that have been found to have worked hard and performed well. I expect you all to be on your best behaviour and conduct yourselves with dignity."

She led us from the dorm (Sandro glowered at us as we left) and headed into the bowels of the ship.

We weren't alone. Another team was marching down the corridors, also dressed up. It was clear the Captain's Table was quite the event!

The dining room itself was also 'quite the event'. It took my breath away.

It was decadent. It was obscenely expensive in appearance. Everything was made of real wood, lined with gold. A crystal chandiler hung from the ceiling. Waiters in traditional white uniforms (complete with gloves) stood ready to attend us. The good silver was upon every table. Bottles of wine were upon every table! Oh boy... this looked incredible!

We were sat down at a long table, fifteen either side (well, fourteen on one side, given Sandro's absence). Looks of awe were exchanged and I have to admit, my thoughts turned to food. How good was it going to be? I was betting it would be spectacular.

"Wow. This is all.. so..." Francis couldn't finish his sentence. The big guy looked stunned.

"It's just magical..." Said Helene. "And beautiful."

"I never thought I'd dine in a swanky joint like this!" I said. I was starting to feel pretty enthusiastic about it all.

We sat there for a few minutes, as the hall filled up- there must have been four teams in total- one hundred twenty people, all invited guests of the Captain!

Conversations started and the room filled with the chatter of all those people. I noticed for the first time guards in dress uniforms at the doors- had they been there all the time? The waiters and waitresses stood like statues, looking resplendent and dignified- the whole affair was pretty amazing.

Then, out of the blue, a bosun appeared. She too was in dress uniform, looking fine with gold buttons down her shirt and a dark blue jacket with the Core logo upon it- and she held a whistle. An old-fashioned whistle.

It was quite ear-splitting, that sound. It was certainly a shock to the system, and it drew the eyes of everyone in the room to the bosun.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for Captain Zabat and ship's officers." Her voice was loud.

In marched Captain Zabat and her command staff, toward a separate table upon a slightly raised platform at the head of the room. I can't speak for everyone else, but my nerves went up a notch or two.

Once they were seated, the Captain tapped her wine glass with one of her many spoons and all eyes went to her.

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first Captain's Table event! Depending upon the performance of your team, this may not be your only visit, and I certainly hope to see some of you again!" She paused, smiled, then continued. "Our mission to New Porto has been a resounding success. New homes, shops and offices have taken form. Farms have been developed and soon several follow-up missions will build upon the sturdy foundations you have laid. Take great pride in all you have done here! I know I am certainly proud!"

A waiter came over and started to fill the wine glasses of the ship's officers. Other waiters and waitresses started to do the same at the other tables. When they were all filled, Captain Zabat raised her glass and everyone else followed suit.

"To the success you have already achieved and the success you will achieve!" Her voice boomed across the hall. We all joined her in the toast.

The wine was excellent. Clearly only the very best would do for the officers.

Conversations started up again. We were all a little bit starstruck to be the presence of the ship's officers- Commander Mikel Hanson, looking like a peacock in his dress attire, with steely grey eyes and strong cheek bones, was getting a lot of looks from the females in the room. He seemed to be judging each and every one of us when his eyes scanned the room.

Helmsman George Druro looked so small. A shorter man I think I'd never seen. He was the polar opposite of Hanson- he looked haggard and uncomfortable.

Supervisor Roberto was here! He smiled with pride as the representative of Hotel Shift at the table- we'd done him well.

After a little while the good food started arriving. Prawn cocktails, smoked salmon, soups... all of it impeccably cooked and delicious. My thoughts did wander to Sandro- who was probably eating sandwiches and being bored out of his mind. I felt sorry for him.

I forgot that when the main course came out- twice-cooked pork that was incredibly tender with freshly steamed veg and baby new potatoes- yum!

As we were eating, I noticed Captain Zabat get up and start to walk around the room. She wasn't going to start up conversations with us- was she?

Yup, she was. After visiting a couple of other tables, she drifted over to ours. Great... just great.

"Team Leader Wilson, you must be very proud of your team." She began. Up close, her Greek accent was stronger.

"Yes Ma'am. They have worked hard." Replied our leader.

"So I hear. Every goal met, every task performed well. Do you have a star performer?"

Miss Wilson smiled and looked down the table. "As a matter of fact... I do Ma'am. One young member of my team has shown a lot of endeavour and also made a brave decision relating to a little internal ruckus we had. I'd like to nominate Adrian Adams as our star performer this time around."

Well fuck.

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