Day 24. 59 pages, 27,928 words.
EV Rover Assistant Second Grade Varies-Wildly-By-Day, known simply as ‘Wildy’ by friends and shipmates alike, was hands-down the biggest jag-off on board the A-Mod 400. He may have been the biggest damn jag-off in the entire Corps, but that might have required a little effort and dedication. Wildy didn’t roll that way.
He was lazy, and negligent, and he took credit for Zeegon’s work. By all rights, Zeegon should have utterly loathed the man, and yet he didn’t. Actually, they were pretty good friends.
There were a few reasons for this. One was that there was no power imbalance. Wildy had absolutely no authority over Zeegon, and indeed often tended to fall into the position of somehow getting crapped on from above and below simultaneously. He was lazy, yes, but he had absolutely no vital work to do. Grunt stuff was done by the pool of First Graders, more important stuff was done by the Third Graders, and the entire narrow Second Grade field existed – it seemed to Zeegon – just to keep people like Wildy off the streets or, more importantly, out of the Academy.
And, most importantly, the work Zeegon did for which Wildy cheerfully took credit was stuff that Zeegon otherwise would never have been authorised to do, and would therefore have had to do as a highly-expensive hobby, and nobody with half a brain would think for a second that Wildy had had anything to do with it. Wildy got positive grades on his leaderboard, the muckety-mucks clapped him on the shoulder and told him he’d done it again, and everybody in the room knew that the new roll-cage configuration or Planetary Insertion Vehicle engine layout had been Zeegon’s work.
And that was fine, because there was no benefit in an EV Rover Assistant First Grade getting any of that credit. It was more valuable when converted into general higher-up goodwill and skill recognition, and that went into officers’ guts and put his name at the top of unwritten lists. Varies-Wildly-By-Day had no use for unwritten lists. His lifestyle demanded that he be somewhere comfortably high on the written lists, and that way everyone would leave him alone.
It wasn’t even as if either one of the friends were hurting one another’s chances at advancement. “Because you’re never going to get promoted to Second Grade,” Wildy had told Zeegon more than once. “You’ll skip straight to Third. Hell, give it a few years and they’ll probably bump you straight out of here and into whatever’s the next step up. I don’t even know about that. Me, though – I’m never going to leave Second. And that’s fine with me, brother.”
Zeegon had once asked Wildy about the arse-backwards – or “barse-ahkwards“, as Wildy called it in his plummy Grand Boënne accent – ranking system for the EV Rover Assistant group, and indeed techs in general. Because he’d spent the first thirteen seconds of his crew orientation session under the misconception that EV Rover Assistant First Grade was good, and he still had a sore butt from the hard landing in reality circa second fourteen.
“Aah, just one of those old legacy things,” Wildy had said, “like the sourcats getting all bent out of shape about working with shit-dancers, or the deckhand-clones being called ‘ables’. Probably based on the Academy program, and the general proficiency of the knob-polishers at first year, second year, and suchwhat.”
That was Wildy. He called Sally “Boochee” after the popular top-knot-wearing children’s doll. Never to her face, of course, because Wildy was actually sane. He did, however, call the tough-as-nails ex-cop “love” to her face, and he got away with that. Zeegon suspected it was because of the accent. Wildy and Sally were both Mygonites, in their own extremely diverse ways, and both from Gífrheim although Wildy was from Grand Boënnia and Sally was from Gífrheim Minor. Grand Boënnia was the original landing and settlement on Gífrheim, but Gífrheim Minor was the largest, most powerful, and essentially definitive nation on the planet – indeed, it was usually synonymous with the entire place, and vice versa. Nobody cared about the poor old decaying Grand Boënne Dominion, least of all Wildy himself.
It just made for interesting complexities and rivalries, and the contrast between the two Mygonites was purely fascinating.
“Balls,” Wildy said to this. “You know who else is a Mygonite? That smiling creep from Transpersion Logistics with the perfectly spherical head. You know the guy. Contradictory-To-The-End.”
“Whatever. Well, he’s a Þursheimer, and they’re all a bit nuts, but still. He’s a weirdo, you know. Hanging out with the sours all day. You know he does things with them. Molren, I mean. Or they do things with him. He’s some sort of savant, see, and they can’t figure out how he knows all that deep science. It makes them nervous when monkeys know that stuff. I heard he was pretty normal – brilliant at physics, but pretty normal – before they dissected his brain and put it back together. Now they do even weirder stuff, and he’s too blasted daffy to say boo to them. Probing type stuff,” he’d concluded in a dark tone, “shouldn’t be surprised.”
That was Wildy too. He loved a good bit of gossip, the main requirement being that it was too ludicrous to possibly be true … or just on the ragged edge of too ludicrous. Just crazy enough to be harmless, just sane enough to make you wonder.
Zeegon often wondered what Wildy would have made of The Accident, and everything that had happened since. But since EV Rover Assistant Second Grade Varies-Wildly-By-Day had been reduced to greasy mist right in front of Zeegon’s eyes, it was safe to say he was never going to know.