The door chimed quietly.
Ferdinand drew deeply on the pipe of his shishe, letting smoke trail lazily from his nostrils as he called for the visitor to enter. Yelejna strode in, brisk but calm. She glanced at him and his smokey, bespectacled muzzle, and her eyes went immediately to the command panel on the far side of the room where Ferdinand had manually shut off the reactive fire safety protocols for the room.
“I see. Mr. Ferdinand, I’d appreciate it if you would give us at least a heads up in the future when you decide to shut off the fire systems in any part of the ship. We were getting the warning on the bridge, but no ship’s response. The Old Lady actually sounded worried for a few minutes there.” The hint of a smile creased her eyes as they examined the pipe he was smoking.
“Forgive me. I didn’t want to alarm anyone by announcing I would be ‘lighting up’ in my quarters.” He grinned and wisps of gray-white seeped through his teeth, and suddenly the rather adorable furred dragonoid looked a bit feral. “But I assure you, it’s perfectly safe. Would you like to try it?” He offered her the slender, cylindrical pipe, attached to a water bowl on the lower half of the shishe by a long flexible tube.
Yelejna stepped back to the door and tapped the comm to ring up the Dowager’s AI. “Everything’s okay here, Old Lady. Mr. Ferdinand decided to have a smoke and shut off the safety protocols for his room.”
“Thank you, Captain,” came the clipped simulated tones of a matronly woman. “If you would, please ask Mr. Ferdinand to refrain from doing so in the future without warning, or I will flood his rooms myself.”
Yelejna stifled a chuckle as she replied, “Nichye. He’s been warned.” That done, she turned back to the dragonoid, lounging on a nest of cushions and pillows on the floor in the center of the room. She walked over and squatted next to him. He still held tthe pipe out to her, smiling contentedly now, his lids half-shut. She took the pipe from him and looked it over. “How does it work? You just pull on it like a normal pipe?”
“One way to find out,” Ferdinand said, shrugging encouragingly.
Yelejna put the pipe to her lips and drew on it carefully. She nearly coughed in surprise at the cool smoke the flowed into her mouth. She gave it another pull and handed the pipe back to him as she drew the entire mouthful down into her lungs slowly, enjoying the unusual sensation of it. “That’s…interesting. Never had anything quite like it before. Is it always cool like that, or did you do something special to it?”
“No, it’s just the nature of the shishe. It could be truly cold, but I prefer something just slightly below room temperature. The smoke can be flavored as well. I enjoy a bit of mint or citrus essence now and then.”
“Mmm. Sounds like as tasty as smoke could be, I suppose. Perhaps you’ll let me join you some time you decide to do so?” She smiled and got to her feet again, reeling just a little as something in the smoke traced a subtle line of static up her spine to the top of her scalp. She cocked a critical eyebrow at him. “That’s not going to impair my ability to captain the ship is it?”
“Nah, you’ve only had a touch. Someone of your physical makeup…” he looked her up and down over the tops of his spectacles, and twitched his nose thoughtfully, “It should wear off by the time you get back to the bridge, I’d think. If you walk slowly and enjoy it.” He leaned his head back on the pillows, smiling to himself.
“And you? What if you’re needed?”
“For a bit of ’emergency engineering’ or sommat?” It was his turn to chuckle, but Yelejna was suddenly not smiling. “I’ll be up to the job if it’s needed. I’ve, eh…had enough of this stuff over the years that I’m a bit desensitized. It would take a good bit more than this to put me out of commission.”
She narrowed her eyes at him for a moment, but the dragonoid’s attention seemed to have waned. He reclined full-bodied and lazy in his nest, eyes closed and smoke drifting slowly from his nostrils as if he was a true dragon perched upon its hoard. Finally, having decided they’d see — or hopefully not, she returned to the bridge, and maybe took her time just a bit down the corridors.
Doing work-ups for NaNoWriMo, which, in an ongoing lapse in sanity, I’ve decided to try again. At least it was enough in advance that I can get some thorough prep in; and I have a partner in crime this year!
I’ve decided to go with a mixture of two themes, since they’re both pretty loose, and ideas that I find interesting, but am not super attached to (“Princess Space Pirate” and “greenpunk” which is a recent development). I’m hoping that’ll make it at least a little less nervewracking to crank out the (possibly really badly written) daily words required to hit the 50k goal.
The above scene was a bit of a character building exercise, though I think it might have missed the mark I was reaching for. We didn’t get to see a lot of the regular working personalities of either of the characters introduced (the Dowager AI, on the other hand was well-represented, if briefly). I think my want to play with Ferdie and his hookah (the shishe) overshadowed the character building aspect. But it was 700+ words, and the bones of their personalities are there, so it bore some fruit, at least.
The personality in the pencil sketch is what I’m aiming for with this guy, though he’ll be a secondary character in the NaNoWriMo story I’ll be doing. He’s smart, inquisitive and good-natured, with a healthy sense of humor. And there’s a quick headshot of Yelejna in the top left there too. I still have yet to her down appearance-wise though.
About 5 weeks to go!