The mood inside the ship Landale in the days following Palma's demise was dismal, and everyone wandered around in a state of disbelief. Not much was said between anyone; there were mostly pitiful looks and heavy sighs. Only Shir seemed to have any spirit left, though it was in her nature to let things roll off her back. She was sad, too, but she was also ready to go to Dezolis and get some answers for a change.
Shir was tired of sitting around the galley and the claustrophobic cabins, so she headed to the bridge to see if Tyler might have something for her to do. At least he might be a better conversationalist than her dreary teammates.
She didn't really know what to make of the space pirate. He was tall and hulking, with flaxen hair and two notable scars on his face. One was over his left eye and the other was on the right side of his face, close to his hair line. Shir knew he was somewhere between youth and middle age, but other than that, it was a mystery. She thought he was probably older than Rudo, but perhaps his hard lifestyle had hastened his aging.
He seemed nice enough. After all, he had rescued Shir and her teammates, and they were currently the most wanted fugitives in Algol. However, his reaction to Palma was even more apathetic than her own. She relished the opportunity to pick his brain, and saw it as her next thrill. She reached the entrance to the bridge and pushed the intercom button next to the door.
Tyler's voice was heard through the speaker. "Yes?"
"Hi!" Shir said. "I'm bored. May I come in?"
"What? Who is this? Hold on." There was a pause, and then a video screen turned on over the door. Tyler's face was on the screen; his frown and creased brow said it all. He focused on Shir and grunted. "Oh, it's you. The green-haired one."
"The name's Shir."
"All right, then, Shir. What do you want?"
She shrugged. "I just wanted to see if I could hang out or help with something."
"I don't really need any help right now, thanks. Why don't you see if your friends-"
"Oh, please?" she begged with her most pitiful voice. "I promise I won't bother you. My friends are all in a funk and I need to be somewhere else right now." She gave him huge puppy-dog eyes and puckered her lips, but she didn't know how much that would work on the worldly Tyler.
He rubbed his forehead and let out a groan. "I'm going to regret this," he said as he reached over and pushed a button. The door swooshed open, and Shir clapped her hands with excitement.
"Thank you!" She skipped into the bridge. Shir looked around the open room and immediately recognized what kind of ship she was on.
"Ah, an A72-484, I see," she said. "It's hard to tell from the galley and cabins; they pretty much look the same on any ship. Lots of modifications to this one, though."
Tyler turned around and looked at her. "That's perceptive for someone who's barely old enough to remember the days of free space travel."
"Well, I should know," said Shir. "I'm a Gold. Do you know how many of these things are rusting on my family's land?"
"You're part of the 'Golden' Empire, huh? I wouldn't have guessed," Tyler said, smirking.
Shir crossed her arms and sat down next to him in the empty lieutenant's seat. "Hey! We're not bad people. At least, I don't think we are."
"Oh, come on, I didn't mean anything by it. I have nothing against your family."
Shir blushed. "I'm sorry. I get defensive sometimes. Truth is, I don't really fit in with my family, anyway."
"Hm, I know that feeling."
He went back to the screen where he had been working and started scanning through images of different galaxies. Shir thought he'd say more, but apparently he was done with their brief conversation. She wasn't ready to end their chat, though, and after a few minutes she piped up again.
"So how old are you?"
Tyler looked at Shir from out of the corner of his eye. "Excuse me?"
"I just wondered how old you are. It's hard to tell."
"Aw, you won't tell me?"
She waited. He had no reply.
"All right," she said, straightening her posture, "I'll tell you my age first."
"I'm dying to hear it," Tyler said, not pausing from his work.
Shir paid no attention to his comment. "I'm 21," she said, hoping Tyler would respond.
Shir was miffed. "Well?" She nudged his chair.
Tyler glared at her. "Ms. Gold, what is it you want from me?"
"I want to know how old you are! Please?" she said, batting her eyelashes.
"I'm old enough to be your father and that's all you need to know."
"Well, beg your pardon, Daddy, but I wasn't trying to hit on you or anything." She slumped back in her chair. Her face turned bright red.
Tyler said nothing more and continued searching through galaxies. Finally he stopped at one and focused on a giant, orange planet. A separate screen popped open and characters from a foreign alphabet scrolled across. Shir watched Tyler as he paused the screen now and again and took notes.
After a few minutes of her silent observation, Shir asked another question.
"What's your family name?"
He rubbed his brow and groaned. "Tyler."
"No, I mean your family name, your surname."
"That is my surname."
"Your name is Tyler Tyler? What kind of a name is that?"
He rolled his eyes. "No. I go by my surname."
"Oh, I see. So what's your full name?"
"Look, I am not in the mood for-"
"Oh, come on. Tell me!" she interrupted, patting her thighs, "It'll be fun!"
Tyler shook his head. "Your idea of fun is my idea of annoying."
Shir grinned. "My full name is Shilka Helene Isadora Rebinia Gold. I have three middle names."
"And my initials spell out my nickname, Shir."
"Interesting. Wouldn't that be Shirg, though?"
Shir snorted. "Well, of course I don't include my last name."
"Are you mocking me?" She scowled.
"Hm. Well, anyway, now that you know my name, what's yours?"
"Come on! I meant the whole thing!"
"It's just Tyler."
"Oh please, there's more to it than that. Everyone has more than one name."
"Do they?" He raised an eyebrow.
Shir stomped. "Yes!"
"Yes you do! If you don't tell me then I'll just guess. Let's see..."
He sighed. "Please don't."
"How about Jeremy? Jeremy Tyler, and your family calls you Jerry. Am I close?"
Tyler mumbled something under his breath.
"No? OK, then. Ulysses. Ulysses Tyler, no, Ulysses Gideon Harun Tyler, and you go by your initials, just like me."
"Who would go by the nickname Ugh?"
"You would, because it fits your personality oh so well."
"If that's not it, then how about Bartholomew Celino Haldor Marco Tyler?"
"All right, this has gone on long enough."
She ignored him. "Pryderi Iolyn Aali Tyler."
"Shir..." His voice began to rise.
"Italo Serafino Tomás Wulfric Tyler."
"Philandros Cristoforo Fearghal Tyler."
"You know, I liked Jeremy. I'm going to call you Jeremy, or maybe Jerry. Yeah, Jer-"
"Mordecai! For the love of Algol, it's Mordecai! Now please, shut up!" He grabbed his hair and pulled it.
Shir jumped at his outburst. She was quite surprised by the outcome of her prodding, but was pleased with herself for being successful.
"Mordecai?" she asked with a twisted grin.
"Yes! Are you done now?"
"But it's a fine name! Why don't you use it? Don't you like it?"
"Not really, and don't you dare call me it, either." He pointed at her threateningly.
"Duly noted." She repeated his name several times in a whisper.
"Please don't do that," he begged her, exhaling deeply.
"I really like it, though. You should use it." She sat up tall and puffed out her chest. In a mocking tone she announced, "Hello, I am Mordecai Tyler, space pirate extraordinaire. Prepare to board the Landale."
"If I referred to myself as 'space pirate extraordinaire' I'd have to retire."
"Well, excuse me. I'm not familiar with your silly pirate lingo."
Tyler shook his head. "Now if you don't mind, I have work to do." He turned his attention back to the code on the screen and moved information from one electronic file to another.
Shir tapped out a rhythm with her feet and hummed a little tune. She was still thinking about his name.
"Aha! I'll call you Mordy!" she declared.
"And I will throw you into a pod and eject you into deep space."
"All right, all right." She giggled. Shir spent the next minute spinning around in her chair like it was an amusement park ride.
"Could you not do that?" asked Tyler. "It's breaking my concentration."
"Sure thing, Mordy," she answered, still giggling.
Tyler groaned. "I knew I'd regret this."