"Still looking alive, Sunshines? You're listening to 109, still flying high in the sky, with me, Dr. Death-Defying, doing what I do best for 1,000 fun-filled years. It's a beautiful day in the bright-and-shiny trinary Alpha Centauri, and I hope you're all out catching some waves in the big bad dark. Twinkle, twinkle, wherever you are, Tumbleweeds, and if you're smart you'll steer clear of the Gamma Quadrant for the time being. Been a lot of nasty blue bugs buzzing around there, and we all know the Drej like sending even Exterminators and the Dominion crying to their mommies.
"So listen to your old pal, Dr. D, and try to keep yourselves kicking and sassy. I'm still your surgeon, still your proctor. Babies, I'll always be your helicopter! Keep glowing like the solar flares you are, the game's the same as it ever was, my little lumps of stardust and mayhem. The sandbox just got a little bigger, that's all."
Eyes shut and hands behind his head, Forge leaned back and smiled, letting the deep voice from the tiny homemade radio fill the room. It was always comforting, even if he didn't really know who or where it came from. Nobody did. Maybe it wasn't even all one person. But for centuries, since before anyone could even remember, there had been a station 109, and a Dr. Death-Defying, watching out for humanity like some snarky guardian angel, everybody's invisible, imaginary friend. A voice they all learned from childhood, and sometimes the last one they ever heard.
And right now, with the human race scattered across the galaxy, lost and alone and homeless, they needed him more than ever.
"Now I'll just climb off my intergalactic soap box and keep rocking the radio waves the way you all know and love. It's Guilty Pleasure week on 109, and you've just enjoyed a long set of Old Earth 1,000-year vintage with ABBA's very own Dancing Queen, still only seventeen after a millenium. And now let's keep rattling those stars with some siren songs from a late, great lady whose name ain't Baby, it's Janet, Miss Jackson if you're nasty! Killjoys, make some-"
Forge rolled over and slapped at the radio dial as the wheel of the metal door turned and scraped open. The static crackled and fuzzed and he finally shut it off as Mortimer shut the door behind him.
"Oh, Hi, Forge!" Mortimer almost chirped, actually smiling, crooked and vaguely loopy. "I didn't see you there."
"Yeah, just, uh. Just listening for activity..." Forge mumbled, turning away as heat rushed into his cheeks. He settled back into the bottom bunk bed, and gave Mortimer a tired smile. "How you been?"
"Good! Great!" The small green mutant flopped into the only bolted-down chair in the claustrophobic room, pulling his long legs and webbed feet up under himself. "I, uh..." he stopped, grin slipping off his face. "Did you, uh - have any problems with the gravity?"
"You could say that." Forge gingerly rubbed the back of his head, where a nasty goose egg was starting to swell. "It completely cut out while I was taking a look in engineering. It came back in a second, and I didn't find anything else wrong, but still. Not a good sign. Hey," he looked up, realizing something. "You felt it too? That means it was shipwide..."
"Oh, uh, yeah. Actually?" Mortimer's voice got higher as he spoke, and the smile was back, but this one was nervous. "I know what that was. Preed showed me some really cool things, and we kind of put the ship into hyperdrive for a few seconds."
"You - ohh." Forge groaned, and rubbed at his closed eyes - his whole head was starting to hurt. "The afterburn, of course."
"I'm sorry!" Mortimer said quickly, unconsciously curling his long toes in a nervous tic. "I know we should have asked you, it's your ship and I just - he said-"
"It's okay, Mort." Forge opened his eyes. "Just ask me next time, okay? It's not great for the engines, something could blow really bad if we try that too often. Emergencies only."
"Okay." Mort mumbled, not looking at him.
Forge's expression softened. "It was pretty fun, huh?"
Mort looked up, brightening. "Yeah! Oh man - I didn't know you could even do stuff like that! I mean, going that fast, with that much power, and then just - fwoosh! All floating, and weightless, and! It was just so awesome! He's so awesome!"
"Yeah, it is a pretty amazing..." Forge frowned. "Who's awesome?"
"Preed! He knows all this stuff, like about - just how the universe works, and stuff!"
"Oh." Forge folded his arms over his chest, reaching over with his living hand to adjust a tiny moving part on the mechanical one. He wasn't sure what to say to this, but it didn't matter. Mortimer was still talking.
"I mean, he's so experienced, and he knows so much about ships and places we've never been, and how to survive and make money, and - make gravity disappear!" he almost giggled. "And I know there's tons of stuff he hasn't told us, and that's okay but I wish he would! Man, I bet he has some cool stories!"
"Yeah," Forge said slowly. "I wish he would too. We don't really know anything about him, do we?"
"Well..." Mort rested his chin in one hand, looking faraway. "He said he used to hang out with humans, that's where he learned that afterburn trick. But yeah, whenever I ask he just says that 'no questions, no lies' thing. And I get that, I mean... he still thinks you're a normal human, and I'm an alien."
"Good. Let's keep it that way."
"Yeah. But does it really matter? Now he's with us, and everything's gonna be easier. Better."
"Hey, we were doing fine." Forge grumbled. "It wasn't that bad, was it?"
"C'mon, you know what I mean." When Forge didn't answer, Mortimer's smile faded. "You're happy too, right? I mean, you're okay that he's here?"
"Yeah, sure. Whatever. I just... don't rush into trusting him completely, okay? He's a pirate."
"You know what I mean! I just - I don't like the way he looks at - at us," Forge caught himself. "Sometimes he's got this look like there's so much going on in his head that he's not saying, and not all of it's good. I don't like it."
"I've never seen that. Mostly he smiles."
"It's worse when he smiles." Forge suppressed a shudder.
"C'mon, Forge." Mortimer thought this might have been the first time he'd ever tried to reassure his friend, instead of the other way around. He hoped he sounded convincing. "He's not a bad guy! He can be really cool. He talks to me, and listens to me, and teaches me things, and calls me..." Mortimer didn't finish, giving an odd wiggling little shrug and not looking up.
"And I'm good at it, too. Flying," Mort said instead. "Preed said I'm a natural."
"Well, I don't trust him." Forge frowned. "I'm starting to think next time we dock, he should step off."
"Hey, we talked about this! We can't keep running with just the two of us, we need someone who really knows the area, and that's what we got! We decided this together, Forge!"
"I know, and I'm starting to think it wasn't the right call!"
"What? Are you kidding me?"
"No, I - I mean, I just... I don't know!" Forge sat up, narrowly avoiding bumping his head on the metal beam of the bunk bed above. "It's like you said, he's really - experienced, and we're - not! He might be playing us, that's all, did you think about that?"
"No!" Mort folded his arms. "Because I'm not going all - crazy paranoid, and I can actually start to trust people-"
"Yeah, and I'm not sure that's such a-"
"I trusted you!"
Forge shut his mouth, and was silent for a moment. "I know, and-"
"Trusting you was the best thing I ever did, Forge! You got me out of there, and just - showed me this whole cool amazing galaxy, so much stuff I didn't even know existed, or I could ever have! And it's been great. You and me. And that's not gonna change! I just - now that I know it's possible, I'm thinking hey, maybe there are other people who'll give me the time of day, right?"
"There are. You're worth it." Forge said quietly. "I just don't want to see you get hurt. Playing on your feelings, that's just a really good way to get under your skin, and get what you want from someone."
"Well maybe he's not playing us, maybe he actually wants to be my friend because he likes me for me. I mean, you do, right?"
"You know I do-"
"And you know how freakin' rare it is when someone can actually stand me, and likes being in the same room, or even takes the time to teach me things, and gives a crap about me? I mean, God, I just remember working in that bar and-"
"Then you should know that most guys out here are - are only after one thing!" Forge blurted - then snapped his mouth shut, almost clapping a hand over it. There was a long, awful silence while Mortimer stared at him - and his big yellow eyes slowly narrowed into slits.
"Right. 'Cause that's all I am." Mort hopped off the chair, webbed feet slapping sharply against the metal floor. He reached up into his top bunk and grabbed a pillow and blanket, then turned and slapped at the switch on the wall to open the door.
"Mort - no, I didn't mean - Mort, I'm sorry -!"
"Save it!" Mort whirled around as Forge got up off the bed, dreadlocks swaying and metal tips clinking. "I don't wanna hear it. I know what you think of me. Same thing as everyone else."
"Where are you going?" Forge instantly realized exactly how stupid that question was. It was a tiny ship, and taking a walk outside it wasn't quite an option.
"Out. Good night."
The door automatically slid shut, so Mort couldn't exactly slam it, but it still felt that way to Forge. He took a couple steps toward the door - then stopped. He felt like banging his head against it a few times, but instead fell back into bed, and turned the radio back on.
# # #
"Mortimer? My dear boy, what are you doing up at this hour? And bringing your bed with you, I see?"
"Huh? Oh. Hi." Mort stopped stomping through the cramped corridor to look into the small bridge where Preed still lounged. "I just. I dunno. Figured I'd sleep in the... eating room, mess, whatever - I'm just gonna sleep there tonight."
"Goodness me, why? It can't be particularly comfortable, and there are far less excessive ways of getting a midnight snack."
"Nah, I just." He jabbed his thumb in the general direction of the room he and Forge shared. "We just kinda got into it a little, he... he's just kind of being a dick, that's all."
"Mmm. Well, don't worry, I quite understand how antagonistic and nonsensical humans can be. It's best not to bother trying to understand them." Preed slunk to his feet, crossing the small bridge and leaning against the doorway. "But in any case, we can't have you sleeping in the mess, that's out of the question."
"It's really okay, I can just-"
"Nonsense! Take my room."
"Wh- what?" Mortimer blinked, not quite sure if he'd heard right.
"Oh, it'll be vacant!" Preed laughed. "I'm still manning the conn, keeping us on a straight course and smooth sailing. Shame to let a free bed go to waste, don't you think?"
"I... uh..." Mort almost squeaked, making a pretense of folding up his blanket more neatly.
"It's settled, then!" Somehow, Preed had gotten behind him and placed both hands on his shoulders, propelling him down the hallway. "It seems to me you could use a bit of privacy to, ah, mull everything over. And everything looks better on the sunny end of a good night's sleep!"
"Well yeah, but Forge..." Only after one thing.
"Yes. That did sound like a pleasant little conversation you were having. It must be a human thing, hmm? Always thinking they know everything, trying to decide for themselves what's best for you..."
Mortimer frowned, and stopped, turning around. "Okay." he said, maybe a little more forcefully than necessary. "Thanks. I - really, I mean that."
"Oh, no need for thanks, dear lad. It's the very least I can do for a shipmate in need."
"Okay. Yeah." Mortimer nodded several times, as if trying to convince himself of something. "I'll see you in the morning. Or. Whenever."
"Good night then, Mortimer. Sleep well!"
"Night." Mort shuffled off down the corridor, and turned a tight corner.
Preed sloped back into the bridge with a smug grin creeping across his face, feeling exceedingly proud of himself.
# # #
A/N: Oh my, what evil deeds are he plotting? I'm sure it'll be fun.
That DJ's monologue at the beginning there is a reference to Dr. Death-Defying, from the My Chemical Romance album "Danger Days: True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys." It's now my headcanon that Dr. D is an immortal being, who survived the destruction of Earth, and continues to watch over his army of rebellious, fabulous humans from some hidden location in the galaxy. Possibly this is now your headcanon too. Yay!
Ah, a small note I probably should have added before: This fic takes place AFTER the events of the film Titan: A.E., under the AU assumption that Preed somehow survived. This is also my headcanon, and I can indeed back it up with rambling. I believe this for reasons.