“Sorry, kid,” Park said, not unsympathetically. “But there’s no way in all the hells that I’m gonna be the idiot that lets the boss’s pet project keel over from exhaustion. Take five, get some water-” she paused, glancing at where Rinet had doubled over, resting her elbows on her knees to avoid collapsing, “-and yeah, catch your breath, kid.”
“Pet- project?” Rinet panted, as indignantly as she could manage while feeling like she’d just run a marathon.
Park shrugged. “Hey, just calling it as I see it.”
“You couldn’t- call it a little more- diplomatically?”
“Teacher’s pet?” Park suggested with a smirk.
“That’s worse. I know- you know that’s worse.”
The gymnasium aboard the CNS Middleground wasn’t a large room – space being at something of a premium aboard an airship. It was about the size of three standards bunkrooms, with mats on the floors and equipment lined up along the walls. Thankfully, it also had excellent ventilation, as the cool breeze running across the back of Rin’s neck could testify. When she’d initially come aboard, she’d heard others referring to “the icebox”, and had been very confused as to why such a modern ship would have something so outdated until she’d visited the gym for the first time and made the connection.
As for why she was there, well…
Rin looked up from her notes, startled to find Dr. Khoura standingng in front of her.
“A-ah,” she stammered hastily, coming to attention. “Ma’am. I didn’t see you there.”
“Mm.” The commander had a way of smiling without smiling, something she did with her eyes. “I imagine you didn’t. Nothing to worry about, though. How have you been finding things?”
“Er…” Rin mulled her next words carefully, trying to find the right balance between courtesy and her actual thoughts. “Not stressful, certainly.”
That earned a proper smile, albeit a tiny one. “No need to prevaricate, I promise.”
“Bored,” Rin said instantly. “Bored and extraneous, which is related.” She’d spent most of the previous week shadowing Dr. Khoura through a bunch of meetings full of terminology she didn’t understand.
“I’d assumed as much. My apologies for that. When you spend enough time in an organisation like this, ‘hurry up and wait’ gets entirely too normalised.”
Rin took a breath. “Ma’am, permission to speak freely.”
“Granted,” Khoura said immediately. “And, for the record, you’re not technically my subordinate, so you don’t actually need to ask.”
“Sure,” Rin said dryly, “and everyone salutes you because they want to. With all due respect, ma’am… why am I here?”
“Is that ‘why am I here?’, or ‘why am I here?'”
“Maybe it’s ‘why am I here?’,” Rin countered dryly. “Ma’am, if you can’t say, I’d prefer you just said so.”
Khoura chuckled. “Fair enough. Then, right now, you’re here because you may prove useful, and if such a situation occurs, I want you on-hand.”
Rin processed that. “So… hurry up and wait?”
“Hurry up and wait. To be honest, I meant shadowing me to be a consolation of sorts; these are privileged meetings you’re sitting in on. In hindsight, though, I can see that I misjudged the situation.”