”The Least Of These” - Part 5
Part 5 of a JP/Collab from @Xandrya
, and @sail3695
Quill had set up a station for herself. She provided resources when needed, of course, but that was not the best use of her skillset. Instead, she opted to provide the refugees with something thay maybe had precious few of, if any. Hope. Comfort. Like a therapist, she offered to listen to their problems, their struggles, but also their hopes and dreams. This was different than her usual clientele, of course, but it hit the same veins. People needed to vent. It was all well and good to have a belly full of food and a warm place to sleep, but it meant little if your mind was not free from its hangups also.
Quill was finishing up with one of the refugees, a young woman who has a child and not much else to her name. Quill sympathized with her story. The love can have for a child and the decision to do anything, ANYTHING, to ensure that child had the best possible life. The woman cried a lot and Quill used her skills to provide some comfort to her, through guided meditation and breathing. Soon after, the woman was calmer and left.
Quill glanced around, waiting to see who else would approach her or to see if she could be valuable elsewhere.
Elias had spotted the woman, and seeing she had been chatting everyone she could up he figured that she certainly wouldn’t have anything better to do than helping out his likely difficult request. Approaching her, he repeated the drill of first using his hands to sign “Can you help me?
”, and immediately after pulling out his blackboard and chalk to write down a brief message assuming that just like the rest of the crew, she would not be able to read sign language. Thus he presented the chalk markings on his black square reading “DO YOU HAVE A PAGER OR SOMETHING SIMILAR ON BOARD? IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO COMMUNICATE WITH NONE OF YOU HAVING LEARNED ASL.” He looked up meaningfully, hoping his counterpart would be able to understand his predicament and aid quickly.
Quill watched the man come up to her. Expecting him to say something, it caught her a tad off guard when he started signing to her. She mentally chastised herself for assuming as the man stopped and grabbed a blackboard and wrote on it.
A companion is someone who makes clients feel cared for and relaxed. This often meant that, along with classes on dancing, etiquette, and so on, they were also taught languages. She knew many. ASL was one that some companions scoffed at privately. How many clients would use ASL to speak when it was the action they were after? Sure, some could use it, but they most likely had enough wealth to have technology at their disposal that could communicate if need be.
This man did not strike her as such. So she could imagine his surprise when Quill, doing her best, signed back “I can help you. Please, come sit.
” She did not know a lot. She was definitely more well-versed in other languages, but she knew some. She would not speak as to why (that was her own private story) but at least it would help in this instance. She gestured for the man to follow her into a private room, so they could talk and listen privately.
Truth be told the man was the slightest bit surprised at the response he got, but then raising an eyebrow some realization dawned as he cycled through the other bits of information he had regarding his counterpart. Her talkativeness and paired charm, the instant offer to help, and her undeniably broad knowledge… as he concluded her profession, he couldn’t help but shift a little bit uncomfortably from one leg to the other whilst praising God his facial wrap concealed a rather childish blush.
Yet, to the actual contents of her reply was a slightly different response from the man. He had to suppress an urge to pinch the bridge of his nose; while it was always somewhat annoying to be stereotyped as deaf for his use of sign language, it would also be very stupid to show any degree of ingratitude to his spaceborne saviours.
Instead, he simply signed back: “I am mute, but I can hear you, you can speak. I don’t need privacy, I was just hoping you had a pager or similar on board for text to speech. I’m sure you can by now assume the rest of your crew does not have your skill.
Quill had wrongly assumed the man was deaf and that was on her. “I apologize, my intention may have been good but I still should not have assumed. I am afraid I do not have any such technology on board, but I am sure one of the other crew members here should have something.”
Quill figured that the others wouldn’t know ASL, but surely they had some technological means of communication. Not everyone spoke English or Cantonese. “I am sorry I could not be of help in that matter, but I have been talking to the refugees, listening to their stories and providing what assistance I could. If you would like to share your story, if even for a moment, I would listen. Otherwise, we can see about someone else on the crew having some device for you.”
The galley was full of happy faces as the Captain strode through like a ghost among the living. Each ruddy face was being fed, and Hook was doing his damnedest to make it so–along with the statuesque Imani who looked to be making some of the boys blush. He continued until he found another such vision among the activity: The silent and brutish Anabaptist sat with the beautiful Quill, him making movements with his hands, she comprehending and responding. From a leaning perch, he curiously watched their exchange.
The man waved a hand when the woman apologized, vaguely shorthanding that statement to not bother. When told about talking to listening to stories, he coughed out a suppressed chuckle. All the Anabaptists were glad to tell sob stories it seemed, but Elias? Traveling the stars just like the crew of the China Doll, he certainly didn’t have any to tell. None he’d be happy to, anyway. “Sorry, miss. I’m a bit of an ugly soul, my stories would just ruin your day. Who would have such a bit of electronics, then?
Quill felt saddened at the man’s words (or rather, hand movements). “Everyone has stories, be they good or bad. You would be surprised at what I have heard and helped others get through. Again, the offer is there if you want it, but I will not force you to share.”
Quill pondered a bit. “I’m fairly certain we have an AI onboard, though I have not spoken to it. I am sure the Captain could allow you to, if asked.”
Cal failed to comprehend the man’s signs, but he did catch Quill’s reply. Seemed to him she might be writing a check she couldn’t cash. Though it was surely true that among the China Doll, S.A.M.N.T.H.A. wasn’t exactly a guarded secret, even if the Captain himself wasn’t one-hundred-percent on all the inner workings of the Alliance-born artificial intelligence. Thus far, SAM had proven she could be trusted, and as Quill pulled toward their common goal here, much the same could be said about the Companion.
Again there was a very brief chuckle, the tongueless sound reminiscent of a coughing fit. “Well thank you but I’ll politely decline. There’s already very healthy ways to deal with trauma like drinking or jumping off a skyscraper.
” Elias signed, hoping the bit of gallows humour would be a refusal without insult.
But at the mention of an AI his brow creased. He had served on a pretty damn top of the line boat, and it had nothing of the sort. For a second he considered dismissing it as the woman simply being out of her depth, but given all the things he had seen in the verse he decided to not make the same sort of assumption that lead Quill to believe he was deaf. Looks are deceiving, right?
Instead he simply signed “You mean artificial intelligence? I am something of an Engineer by trade and truth be told I have seen nothing of the sort on most vessels. I’d want to see that, even if just out of professional curiosity.
Quill could appreciate a good joke, even at the expense of herself. But considering where the refugees had come from and what they had faced, but grew more concerned over the man’s words. “Well, the option is there if you want to use it. We don’t even have to talk. There are other ways to process trauma than speaking about it or ‘jumping off a skyscraper’ as you put it.”
The man seemed interested in the A.I. and Quill felt a bit out of her depth. She hadn’t interacted with the thing thus far and, perhaps, she overextended her reach. “I am afraid that would be the Captain’s decision. I am sure he would be willing to show you if you asked.” Quill was curious about the man’s time as an engineer, but felt it best not to probe him. “Shall we go see him together? Provided there is nothing else you wish to ask of me?”
The man frowned the slightest bit behind his mask at the reproach he got. He didn’t want to be a hardass pretending to be emotionless, but he knew for a fact all the prodding about whatever he had faced wasn’t going to make him feel any better. Hoping to end the subject the way with (admittedly proverbial) silence, he simply went on to the more interesting subject.
“Well, if he could afford the time, this would certainly be something to witness.
” He would reply.
The Captain’s mind was made up as he approached Quill and the big fella. Arms crossed, Cal intoned to the Companion, “Can I talk to you a second?” It wasn’t a request, even as his tone did nothing to conceal his ire. He moved a few steps away from Elias as he began his tirade.
“Look, I appreciate what you’re doin’ here for the group, but that don’t change you’re a guest in my house. What and who’s in my house is my business. As I hear ‘discretion’’s one of your buzzwords, I’d prize a mite when a fella I don’t know gets mightily interested in my boat, Dohn luh mah
?” (trans. ‘Are we clear?’)
Quill followed the Captain, leaving Elias alone. Given the Captain’s demeanour, she expected he was not pleased with their interaction. However, Quill had done nothing wrong. At least, not to her. So to be told off like a child didn’t sit well.
“Well Captain, I respect your authority. But I would like to point out a few things. As you said, I am a guest on your ship, which I appreciate. I did pay for passage. You came to everyone on the ship asking for help in this matter, both crew and passenger alike. You came to me, specifically, asking for help with a pass. As far as I can see, we have long since moved past me being a simple guest on your ship. I am here offering services to these poor folks, that man included. There is something dark underlying him, but I can’t get him to open up, so I made a suggestion. I had no intention of letting him run amok and had intended to speak to you before I allowed anything. And if we are speaking about discretion, standing close to where we are talking, listening to our conversation falls way out of discretion. I apologize if I am stepping too far, but you asked me for help and I follow through with promises I give, even if my methods don’t align with yours in all the same ways. We want the same thing, even if you can’t see that just yet.”
Quill folded her own arms and looked directly into the Captain’s eyes. “Hope I made that clear enough for you Captain.”
The Captain watched, his arms still folded, as the Companion said her piece. The fire in this one was hot enough to singe, that much was for certain. She made several good points with her assertions, sure, but Cal sensed a fine line between dressing down and her so-called respect for him. The way a teacher might address a student. Or a doctor levels with a patient. All them smarts in her quiver was enough to make a man wall up.
“If you wanted to apologize, a simple ‘I’m sorry’ does the trick. Apology accepted,” he said, with a pat on her pristine arm. With that good and proper captain-ing sorted and stowed, Cal left her side with a nod to the silent giant beside them.
Having stood exactly where he was left, Elias couldn’t exactly hear much, but he certainly wasn’t stupid to not notice the changes in body language and expression among both the Captain and the companion. He would shake his head, realizing that there was no chance that he’d get what he had asked for and thus simply slunk off to the shadows to check up on the other Anabaptists. Well, at least to pass the time there would be the entertainment of trying to figure out if the Anabaptists had been able to discern what Quill’s profession was. ...TO BE CONTINUED…