A Mechanic by Trade

Posted: March 20, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction
Tags: , ,

Firefly game

If it’s crazy, but it works, it isn’t crazy. While I’m doing research, I played a few solo rounds of the Firefly board game to give me a handle on what it feels like to be an interstellar merchant. The first thing I discovered is that you work with some interesting characters out in the Black, some that you didn’t know you needed.

Corbin shifted the trader into hyperdrive. The ship lurched, then dropped as it entered the void. The shift tossed everyone who wasn’t sitting down sideways, and those were sitting down fell out of their chairs. All except Corbin. He had belted himself in.

Corbin grimaced as he heard people swearing over the ship’s intercom. Might as well face the music. “Everyone okay out there?”



“That’s a bumpy ride, boss.”

“Sorry about that. I’ll see if the inertial damps need replacing.”

Corbin locked in the autopilot. He pretended to work. The inertial damps were fine. Instead, he ran diagnostics on the ship systems and other busy work that had to be done anyway. He worked on everything but the inertial damps, except for the systems check, which showed, yes, that they were fine. He held his favorite screwdriver while he worked his way down the list.


“Jesus!” Yolanda’s quiet, breathy voice, soft as feathers, made him jump. She stood at the cockpit hatch. She didn’t look bothered that she’d surprised him. She leaned in just enough so that she was inside the cockpit and not the accessway. It set him at ease, which set Corbin on edge. He’d only known her a few days, and so far he’d seen her stop two arguments and warm up to everyone he’d seen her meet. She knew just how to get everyone to like her. It bothered him.

Anyway. Corbin said, “Hi, Yo. You need anything?”

“How’s the ship?”

“It’s what I thought. Starboard dampener. It should just need an adjustment, though, not a full replacement.”

“Good. Great.”

“Yeah.” She didn’t leave. “Anything else?”

“It’s a tough job.”

“What? Being a…” She said she was a personal assistant. He didn’t know what that meant.


Corbin grinned. He put on his best poker face. “Not as much you’d think. When you’ve been around a while… you…”

Yolanda tilted her head as he kept talking. Corbin had to work on his poker face.

“You’ve never flown before, have you?” she asked, her voice soft again.

“I have, as copilot, with much better pilots,” he admitted.

“Ah. Your first ship?”

“I never said it wasn’t.”

She smiled. “And they tell me I’m selective with my words.”

He sat back in the pilot’s chair. Corbin dimpled his palm with the point of his screwdriver. “I’m a mechanic by trade. Nursed Bonanza back to health. She’s purred like a kitten ever since.” He put his hand on the bulkhead. “She’ll keep purring as long as I don’t wreck her.”

“A word of advice… captain.” Yolanda stepped over to him. She took the screwdriver out of his hand. Yolanda held it up for him to see, like teaching a junior grease monkey. “Most pilots don’t wear tool belts every waking moment. If you want to play the part, look the part. And hire a pilot.” She handed it back to him. “I don’t want to be holding my breath every time we transit in and out of jump.”

She started to leave. Corbin frowned. He felt she’d just psychoanalyzed him. “Every time? You’re a passenger, not my crew.”

Yolanda glanced back at him. “Really?”

He stood and met her at the hatch. “So you can read people. What else?”

Yolanda stared straight into his eyes. Soft as velvet, she said, “You’re flying the best-maintained ship I’ve seen in a year. You like engines better than people. You carry a gun that you’ve never fired. You have friends in both high and low places and you don’t trust either of them. You have contraband in the starboard hold. You like to stay clean but you’ll get dirty, and you’ll roll with people and jobs who are… unsavory. You need someone who’s good with people, can shoot, can keep a secret, and who can get dirty and look like a bouquet of roses doing it.” She smiled. “That’s me.”

Corbin didn’t know if she was telling the truth or wrapping him around her finger. The smart part of his brain told him that he had more reason not to trust her. But he smiled, and said, “I don’t like engines more. They’re just easier.”

“Point taken, captain.”

“Corbin’s fine. What’s your cut?”

“Equal share.”

“After expenses. And I decide what the expenses are.”

She smiled sweet as honeysuckle. “Done.”

Yolanda walked out of the cockpit. In the ship’s lounge, he heard one of the passengers ask, “What was it?” and she replied, “Starboard inertial something or other.” Corbin tapped his screwdriver on the heel of his hand. He wondered where Yolanda picked up her unique skill set.

  1. Fredrik Kayser says:

    I enjoyed this quite a bit, good charavter development given the length. Or well, introduction i suppose! Tickles the curiosity. : )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’m surprised this has gotten so many likes! I think you’re right. It’s all about the characters. Corbin’s an appealing guy but he has already has some “warts” or flaws out of the gate. And we don’t even know if we can trust Yolanda yet, though she seems to have a good heart. Probably.

      They’re a lot like the characters I’ve been working on but they’re different in some very specific ways. I don’t know whether to stick with them as they are or massage one set of characters to be more like the other. All things considered, it’s a great problem to have.

      And I think it’s hysterical that I came up with this from playing a board game.

      Liked by 1 person

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