The Colonel led Miles to the waiting ship. He had never had much of an interest in spacecraft like some of his old school friends but he could appreciate what he saw. The Relentless was painted onto the sleek fuselage in bold white lettering and the hull gleamed in the glow of the dock lighting rigs.
Mile’s attention focused from the ship back to the man in front of him, enjoying the features framed in the tight uniform pants. Haverson was well into his mid-forties but if not for the grey hair and laughter lines, he could have passed for a good deal younger. Miles had to mentally remind himself not to stare, first at the impressive bulge barely contained by the Initiative uniform and then the shapely, athletic rear as the older man walked in front of him.
He sighed. Whilst he had never been above a bit of shameless flirting his attempted compliment in the elevator had been completely misjudged. He had been truthful in what he had said, the Colonel was a distractingly rugged and handsome man in person but he was also Miles’s superior. While Miles wasn’t quite bound by the Naval hierarchy he still had to show respect to the person in charge. Instead he had made a clumsy attempt that reflected badly on him. The one saving grace, he supposed, was that the Colonel had so easily brushed off any possible offence.
The trio were met by a man waiting at the top of the ramp. He was dressed in an black t-shirt with the Initiative logo over the left breast while his boots and pants matched the attire worn by John and Zara "Whose the stray?" he asked nodding to Miles. His smile was friendly and his tone was warm.
"Docter Wexler," said John, "Meet Myn Othic. Sharpshooter, explosives expert, armourer, judo black belt,veteran drinker...Have I missed anything?"
"Think you covered the most vital bits of intel, Sir." he replied. Othic appeared to be in his late twenties. He was of a similar height to Miles but while he was slim and athletic, Othic was stout with broad shoulders and muscled arms. His dark blonde hair was showing the first signs of receding at the front. He wore a few days worth of a trimmed beard that didn't quite hide the long scar that ran parallel to his left jawline. Miles wondered if an impressive scar was a prerequisite to joining the Pathfinders.
John clapped Othic on the back. "Tell Sunny we're ready for take-off. See if she can't bump us up the queue." Othic nodded and moved over to a comms unit attached to the wall at the far end of the cargo bay. Aside from a few crates stacked neatly against a wall, the only other thing of note in the bay was a six-wheeled exploration vehicle. Like the Relentless itself, the vehicle was in immaculate condition although Miles couldn’t help but notice the large machine gun turret built on to the top of the machine.
“I need to get a report out to HQ,” the Colonel said to Zara. “Think you and Myn can show Doctor Wexler the rest of the ship without losing him?”
“I’m sure we can cope, Sir,” Zara replied with mock seriousness.
“Thank you, Colonel. I would prefer if you just called me Miles, however. Formality has never been my strong suit.”
John smiled and Miles was certain he felt his cheeks flush. “Alright then, Miles. Get yourself settled in and don’t let these two,” he pointed to Zara and a returning Othic, “Fill your head with too much nonsense.” With that the Colonel turned on his heel and left the three in the cargo bay.
“Sorry to disappoint but before you ask, there’s no communal showering on the ship.”
“Huh?” Miles had been watching the Colonel leave and hadn’t quite caught the mischievous undertone in Zara’s voice.
“What’s this now?” Othic asked, immediately recognising the build up to what Miles knew was an inevitable ribbing.
“Let’s just say our new doctor is not the subtle type.”
Miles tried to laugh off the jibe knowing there was little he could do other than to accept it. “Too strong, you think?” he asked with a shrug. First impressions counted and while Miles wasn’t happy with his performance so far, the fact that Zara was willing to bust his balls about it was a good sign.
“Probably could have just left it at the gushing over the Star of Terra bit. You know, build it up slowly.”
Othic threw and arm around Miles’s shoulder, steering him toward a steep flight of stairs at the far end of the cargo bay. “Don’t listen to her, Doc. These former Marine types got no manners. Stick with me, I won’t laugh at a crew mate’s misfortune, even if it sounds like he absolutely deserves it.”
“Thanks, Myn,” Miles replied, chuckling ruefully.
The flight of stairs led to the ships common room. "We call it the Den," Myn explained as he showed Miles around. The room had most modern conveniences at hand. Two soft couches and a number of other comfortable seats for the crew to lounge on were arrayed around the room. The carpet underfoot was soft and a large entertainment and gaming system, plugged into the network, was attached to the far wall. "The Initiative does have its perks."
“Yeah,” said Zara. “Probably explains why we get so many volunteers from ground and pounders like yourself.”
Myn ignored her as he pointed to a staircase at the far side of the den. "Commanding Officer's quarters. Leadership has its perks too.” He turned to Miles. “The promised land,” he said with a playful smirk.
“Seriously? You’re going to join in too?”
“Hey,” Othic said, holding up his hands. “You need to make your own entertainment out in the void. I can’t help it if you just serve it up so willingly.”
“Don’t worry, Doc,” Zara said. “You just need to wait for someone else to do something humiliating and we’ll let this go.”
“Maybe,” Myn added.
The galley, connected to the den through an arched doorway was a plainer affair. The table was long, with ample space to fit the small crew for sit down meals, a ritual they observed every night, according to Zara. “Colonel’s tradition,” she explained. “He’s big on having a tight team .”
Othic nodded his agreement. “Give him your loyalty and he’ll back you to the hilt. Seen it myself.”
The pair led Miles to a long corridor that joined the galley to the staircase up to the bridge. There were four doors on either side of the corridor. "Crew quarters," Zara said, stopping at the nearest one. "This is yours."
To anyone unfamiliar with space travel, most would have labelled the cabin as cramped, but to anyone who had spent time in the Navy, the room was almost palatial. Each had space for a large bed, a desk with a personal terminal and chair and a couple of cabinets for storage. Along the back wall was a sliding door that opened up to a small bathroom, complete with sink, toilet and shower. Mile’s personal effects and luggage had arrived before him and waited on the bed.
"This is where you can call home," Othic said, leaning against the door frame. "Any questions?"
“When do we get started?” Miles asked, his smile wide.