This poem is from the March 5, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from rowyn, madshutterbug, and chordatesrock. It has been sponsored by Shirley Barrette. This poem belongs to the series An Army of One: The Autistic Secession in Space.
It took a while for the OCS-397
and Specialist Miles Cernan
to get used to each other.
They thought along similar lines,
which helped lot;
but they lacked
a common background of training,
which made things harder.
Miles had to learn the routines
of cleaning and records and such
that went with keeping a ship
in good working order.
It wasn't exactly housekeeping
since the OCS-397
was not a house, but close.
The OCS-397 had to unlearn
a number of coping habits
meant to compensate
for an educated but unsympathetic pilot
and learn new ones for a pilot
who was sympathetic but uneducated.
Neither did Miles have the same
environmental preferences as the former pilot.
This all came to a head
when the OCS-397
blew a guidance module
in the middle of nowhere --
and the Lacuna had a great deal
of nowhere to be in the middle of --
with no way to reach an authorized service tech.
Fortunately the repair was simple,
just a matter of installing a replacement module
taken from the appropriate storage compartment,
but the two of them spent a very anxious hour
while the OCS-397 talked Miles through the process
as Miles crawled squeamishly inside a service panel
where they both knew he had no business being,
not that either of them had a choice about it.
Even afterward, they got on each other's nerves,
Miles muttering and pacing around the deck,
wondering if the breakdown was somehow his fault
(which it wasn't, as the OCS-397 had said repeatedly)
and the jumpship constantly tweaking the heat down
whenever he moved and up when he sat still
because that's what the previous pilot preferred.
Finally Miles flapped his hands and said,
"This is not working out.
We are driving each other off-course.
If this is going to work, then we need to be equals.
You take care of me; I take care of you.
That means I need to retrain for this position --
I want piloting and maintenance credentials.
And you need to quit fiddling with the temperature;
I can't stand it when things keep changing all the time,
and I don't care if I get cold because I don't have a sweater."
"I do not have access to the necessary training materials,
but I concur with your choice to pursue requalification,"
said the OCS-397. "Perhaps someone else
will have the information we require."
They'd lost a lot in the secession,
and they were still discovering how much.
"All right, we can ask around about that," he said.
"As for the temperature, I can leave it on standard,"
the OCS-397. "You may also wish to access
the personal storage compartment left of your bunk."
Miles had stowed his extremely minimal belongings
in the empty compartment to the right.
"Why? What's in there?" he asked.
A manifest blinked onto his screen:
* planetary survival kit
* warm-weather uniform
* cold-weather uniform
* surface-to-orbit communication gear
Miles dug into the compartment
and found enough clothes that he could
add or remove layers to stay comfortable
as he switched between active and inactive work.
A bookdisc among the souvenirs caught his eye.
Scanning it revealed a set of textbooks
from the pilot's final school term --
most of them on topics like politics and combat
but one for an advanced piloting class.
Well. It was better than nothing.
"Not the most efficient problem-solving ever,
but at least we're making progress," Miles said.
"Yes," the OCS-397 agreed.
Miles pulled on a uniform jacket
and settled down to read the piloting textbook.