This is the second spotlight for the protagonists of Absolute Zeroes: A Space Story, intended to shed a little light on the personalities of each of our haphazard heroes. The first part focused on Ark Carnahan. Today, we’ve got Caesar Anada.
Caesar is basically the straight man of the group. Even-tempered and mostly serious, he’s the brains of the operation. He’s incredibly book-smart, multilingual, and business-oriented, if a tad social awkward. He takes life seriously because he is incredibly goal and career-driven, and oftentimes the only reason he doesn’t leave Ark (who he finds reckless) and Grey (who he finds temperamental) is the sense of familial bond that comes from childhood friendship.
The window stretched fifty feet in either direction and another sixty high. It seemed absurd to him; even in a spaceport, nobody really needed windows that large. When the ships arriving and departing were as massive as they were, it was impossible to miss them. Case in point: the IRSC Gallivant, staring him in the face mockingly. Could a spaceship mock? This one mocked.
Caesar sighed. He should be on that science cruiser. It was sporting a brand new, cutting-edge fuel distribution and recycling system developed from his graduation thesis. On the distributing end, newer shortcuts were devised that allowed the same levels of productivity to be achieved throughout the craft without burning through all of the fuel. Instead, two parts to every ten were portioned out to be recycled and reused later. The only downside was that the process required so much alternative energy to work properly that the battery required to power it could only be found in large science cruisers or military ships.
Even so, the invention could theoretically cut down on traveling times from one location to the next, allow for smaller fuel loads (the benefits of which ranged from cost efficiency to reduced weight to the ability to transport more storage or passengers), or provide for a larger emergency store.
Theoretically, it could also malfunction and blow the whole boat up, but smarter minds had parsed through his proposal and turned it into something truly functional. Caesar assumed the risk was minimal at most. Yet did he get invited to the Hervatyne Science Colegium? Not even on an internship. Was he offered a ride on the Gallivant for the first journey using the system he designed? Nope.
No, his spot went to some rich admiral’s son. That guy’s thesis? Something to do with the mating habits of Direxian raptor cats when exposed to different temperatures. It was truly miraculous what a trust fund could do for a man.
As the science cruiser turned away, so did Caesar, with a snort of disgust. He made his way towards the nearest food court with what he hoped was only the faintest air of dejection. A myriad of different smells floated through the crowd to take residence in his nostrils and his stomach rumbled his approval.
“Was that you?”
The question caught him off guard and he turned to find an attractive woman staring at him, one eyebrow cocked in amusement. She held a tray loaded with food. The sight of it made Caesar’s stomach growl again.
“Uh, yeah,” he said. “I haven’t eaten in a while. Not that I can’t, you know, afford to eat. I’ve just been distracted. Building… stuff.”
“Uh-huh. Sounds like you’re smuggling some kind of animal in there. You should eat something.”
“Yeah, I was planning…. what are you, what did you get?” Smooth, he thought.
“They had some Toltarun melons, but I’m finding them bland. The Orbian water fowl isn’t too bad.”
“The melons need salt.”
The woman crinkled her nose. “Excuse me?”
“I know it sounds weird, but Toltarun melons need salt. It doesn’t matter what kind. Plain works fine, but if you like one of those flavored salts, or a sea salt, or whatever… it draws the flavor out of the melon. It’s a reaction between the, you know what, never mind. Just add some salt. The water fowl looks good, but the trick is to add some citrus while you’re steaming it. The best I’ve found is a Catalascan orange blend. You can find it in most markets for cheap. Really adds a whole new dimension to the dish.”
She looked him over, a new expression on her face. He wasn’t sure what it was; women didn’t typically look at him like that.
“You’re a chef, then?” she asked.
“I cook for fun. I keep the guys happy, it keeps the ship happy.”
“Ah,” she said. “The guys. Too bad.” She smiled and lifted the tray in his direction. “Thanks for the tips, Mister. I’ll give the salt a try.”
“Wait, I didn’t mean-”
But she was already going. She tossed one look back over her shoulder as she walked away. He raised his hand in a feeble farewell.
“No,” he said under his breath. “Wait. Come back. Caesar, what the hell is wrong with you?”
He glanced down at the communicator band he had wrapped around his wrist. The small, rectangular display was alight with green letters informing him Grey Tolliver was requesting a video call.
“No,” he said. He pressed the button that directed the call to his ear piece. “What do you want?”
“Wha- where’s the video? You don’t want to see our smiling faces?”
“Where are you?”
“Watching my dreams literally disappear.”
“That sounds terrible. Look, enough about that. Ark and I were talking and we were thinking maybe you could cook dinner for us. It’s been a while, and-”
“It’s been three days.”
“Caesarrrrr.” He could hear Archimedes whining in the background. “Three daaaaays.”
The food court beckoned to him. It was subpar and probably cost more than he should pay and he didn’t have the ingredients at hand to make it a worthwhile me, but it was filling, and it was there.
“Tell Ark to shut up and I’ll be there in an hour.”
He ended the call before Grey could respond and pinched the bridge of his nose. It was shaping up to be one of those days. Maybe a car would hit him on his way back to the Sol Searcher and he wouldn’t have to cook anything. One could hope.