Reg was giving me that grin again.
“I don’t know why you’re smiling. The Captain’s flipped his lid.” It was obvious Reg either didn’t believe me, or didn’t care. I carried on anyway. “It’s all the stress of the mission. It’s getting to all of us, but he’s cracked.”
A small bag was out on his bed. He stopped shoving things into it just long enough to shoot me a glance. “Come on – what stress? This gig’s a doddle.”
“What stress? Let me see – mission lasting several years. Crew of hundreds of people to manage. Supplies. Stops. Distress beacons. Almost daily explosions. Dangerous aliens. Parallel universes. A huge ship that’s a swine to try and parallel park… Want me to go on? Because I think that baking competition was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
I was practically following him around his quarters now, hoping that the more I talked the more he might be inclined to listen. Someone had to tell the Captain to take it easy – or, better, step down.
The Doctor had tried – and long since given up – trying to tell him anything. I’d asked if we could just tranquillise him or something. Apparently, the sheer number of space-based STDs he was swarming with made him virtually immune to most forms of Earthly medication now. The more the Doctor talked about it, the more it sounded like he could survive just about anything.
“So those alien diseases make him practically invincible, then?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Sure, if it doesn’t all kill him in the next week or so.”
He didn’t care either way, it seemed. At any rate, he seemed very busy reorganising his medicine cabinet, so I left him to it.
I tried the lead Science Officer. Technically, he was still the second in command, but Reg was threatening to jump into those shoes.
The Science Officer also simply didn’t care. He was a broken man, ruined by seeing too much over the years by following the Captain. I’d found him in the bar, drowning his sorrows. I’m reliably informed he’s there most nights, and hungover most days.
The more I looked for someone who’d try and put in a word, the more it was obvious I’d have to talk to Reg. Nobody else was willing to listen.
So here we were.
He was still shoving things into a bag. He was packing light, wherever he was off too. A six pack of beer, three cans of whipped cream and a silk dressing gown was all he seemed certain he needed.
“Look, Reg. This situation will get very bad for all of us very quickly. Do you understand? If the Captain’s cracking up, and none of the seniors on board care, how do you think we’ll get home?”
“Home? Nah – it’s great out here!”
“Reg. Please. It’s bad enough when you cock things up. Now imagine someone with actual power doing the same thing.”
Finally, he stopped packing and met my gaze. “You’re worrying about nothing. He’s scheduled a weekend of R&R for us.”
The news surprised me. No doubt we needed some time off and away from each other, but I didn’t think the Captain noticed it was needed. “A weekend? Is that enough? And who’ll man the ship?”
“No no, not you. Us. Me and him. We’re off on a lads’ trip down to the planet.” He pointed out of the window to the bleak grey marble beyond.
“Yeah. It’ll be great. Really help him unwind. Hang out by the beach, knock back some bevvies… Get knee-deep in…” Reg leaned in close enough that I could smell his fetid breath. I knew what was coming before he said it. “Pussaaayyyy.”
There was something about the way he leered and drew the word out that made me more than a bit nauseous.
“Ok. First, that’s not what knees are for. Second, it’s a planet populated by the dead. So – ew. Third, can’t you see he’s brainwashing you to be just like him?!”
Reg just shrugged and, final check completed, zipped the bag up and started ushering me out the room.
He was a bit of an idiot before, but since he’d fallen in with the Captain he’d just become a terrible human being.
Almost on cue, he popped a sign on his door. Attempts at writing “Gone shagging” and “Gone knobbing” had been misspelt and crossed out, leaving him with “Gone out“. I grimaced.
In that moment, I missed the parallel universe Captain. He’d have sorted all this. I wondered if there was a way I could get him back.
Reg was heading down the corridor, interrupting my train of thought. “Reg, please, listen. He doesn’t want a friend, he wants a clone. You have to speak to him before he goes all Colonel Kurtz and we all get killed.”
“Oh, stop being so jealous,” he fired over his shoulder without interrupting his stride. “This isn’t Apocalypse Now, it’s -” he then disappeared around a corner, chanting “lads on tour” to the tune of Here we go, here we go, here we go.
I stood there, seething. wasn’t being jealous. I had lots of friends.
I wasn’t being jealous. I had lots of friends. Lots of people I could turn to for help.
I noticed how cold, quiet and empty the corridor was.
And how nobody had ever wanted to help me. Nobody made time for me – the Doctor and Science Officer must have thought I was just a meddling busybody or something.
I had flashbacks to whenever anyone had helped me out before. It was always slightly begrudging – as if it was more out of a sense of obligation than anything.
Having friends was probably how Dave from Accounts won that cake contest.
Truth was, Reg was the closest thing to a friend I had out here. And the Captain had stolen him.
Finally, I realised – I was jealous.
Reg was right.