Chip didn't really like thinking badly of people, and other than Rita when she was in a particularly grumpy mood, he'd rarely had to in his life. But the way all the other animals talked about the human crew members... maybe his first decree as shadow captain should be to get them to just be nice. To be fair, people quite liked Justin. And Eloise was alright, just a little suspicious of folk - namely Treego. Rhona was lovely as well.
Trudging his way from his sleeping quarters to the captain's office, Chip was forced to admit that really it was just Barrett people had an issue with. But what did it say about him that Barrett had chosen him to train as captain?
Actually all it meant was that he was a monkey. He remembered Dexi's glare as she tried to tuck her sharp teeth inside her mouth while Barrett gave that speech. It wasn't her fault that she could bite the hand off any human who happened to cross her. They didn't trust her, and it wasn't fair.
Taking a deep breath, he knocked on Captain Barrett's door.
"Ah, Chip!" Barrett called, "Come on in!"
Chip pushed the door slightly inwards, glad that he didn't have too big a frame to try and fit through the small gap that opened before the door hit into the back of a chair. That chair was squeezed tightly into a desk, with Barrett's chair in slightly more space at the other side. There was also some empty floor space to the left and right of the desk, which was where the animals had stood yesterday while Barrett gave them their briefing. Chip would have thought it made sense to put the desk in one of these spaces, rather than right behind the door. However, there was also a bright square panel of light set into the wall directly above Barrett's chair, which he liked to work by.
Chip vaulted over the back of the chair and landed in a squat position on its smooth wooden seat. Then, slipping down into a cross-legged position, he looked up at Barrett.
Barrett scratched the light grey stubble on his chin. "Well, I suppose lesson number one is that you may want to conduct yourself more like a captain, someone in a position of respect."
Chip turned his head quizzically to the side.
Barrett gestured towards the chair Chip was sitting in. "You know, stop jumping around like a little kid all the time. That sort of thing."
Chip did his best to hide a wince at that, and to not let himself think too badly of someone who was clearly still in shock about the whole thing. But that didn't mean he had any intention of behaving less like a monkey.
Softly, he said, "If you'll allow me at some point, sir, I may be able to show you how useful gymnastics and acrobatics can be. Captains need to get around quickly, right?"
Barrett had already started retrieving some papers from the far right corner of the desk. He looked around and said, "Sure... of course."
Chip smiled, but realised it had come out lopsided and sad. "Well, nobody was faster in Tayburn Zoo than the monkeys when we started flying."
Slowly, Barrett slid a couple of sheets of stapled together paper out of the pile he'd been flicking through and straightened it out on the desk in front of him. "Yes, well, quite. Now, Chip, I've got some tasks prepared for you to work through today. Why don't you take this, and let me know if I can help you with anything. I have some preparations for our upcoming... encounter... that I feel you may not be able to help with yet."
Chip's stomach felt a little bubbly at the sight of Barrett's face at the word 'encounter'. He had a sort of tanned, slightly grey face, but it managed to blanche well enough. Barrett was scared.
And that was why people shouldn't have been judging him so harshly.
Chip carefully picked up the sheets of paper by the sides and turned them around to face himself. "Alright, I'll go get started, Captain."
Barrett's face broke into a smile and got some of its colour back. "That's what I like to hear, Captain!"
Chip edged out from between the chair and the desk. He carefully pushed the chair under the desk, just this once, for Barrett, then slipped out the door.
Only then did he look down and see that his first task was to check up on the on-duty pilots: Justin, who was being shadowed by Dexi.
Dexi had to admit, flying a spaceship was pretty fun, even if she was just using the controls on practice mode and it was actually Justin flying the spaceship with his identical controls. He was to her right this time, and every time he made a movement Dexi had to follow it within three seconds or the controls would beep at her.
Justin had programmed this little training module by himself, apparently realising all he had to do was get the console to register when its use was diverging from the theoretical operation of the autopilot. Dexi didn't think she'd ever been so impressed by something, not even Treego's elaborate pulley systems.
"And then that's how you make sure we don't swivel too much," Justin said, as Dexi followed his lead in twisting a small circular disc control around.
"So we stop people from falling over, yeah?" Dexi asked, already watching his fingers to make sure she didn't miss whatever he did next.
"Yup," he said, his voice lingering on the p as he concentrated on flying. He could be like that, Dexi had noticed. Sometimes just forgetting to say something he'd thought of because he was so preoccupied, or in this case forgetting to stop saying something.
A voice came from behind them. "And, uh, we thank you for it!"
Dexi's muscles tensed to look around to see who it was but at the last moment she remembered where she was and glanced up into the mirror. "Hi, Chip."
She watched him sit down on the worktop she'd been lounging on the day before, then stared back at the console.
"Hi, Dexi," he said, "Justin."
"Morning, Chip," Justin said. His voice rose a little as he said Chip's name, and from Chip's silence Dexi reckoned he must have thought more was coming. But nothing came, Justin's train of thought lost to the depths of space that drifted past.
"I'm just here to check in on how it's going," Chip said, after a lengthy pause. "You know, with learning to fly and stuff."
Dexi had to concentrate for a moment to compensate for the fact that Justin had just used both thumbs at once to squeeze some buttons at either side of the wheel. She'd figured out a way to get her pinky claw to behave a little like a reverse thumb, but she had to focus all her willpower on it.
"I'd say it's going well," Justin said, as she made it just in the nick of time.
"Well, um, that's good," Chip said. His voice was so quiet Dexi almost didn't hear him over the clicking noise that something on the back of the wheel made. Captains needed to have better diction than that.
Suddenly there came a much louder noise, a crashing noise in fact. Dexi forced herself to look in the mirror again and gulped as Aurora came bounding down the corridor on all fours, smashing test tubes left and right. She flopped down just at the edge of the cockpit, and pushed herself up into a sitting position against the circular door frame.
"So, how's Phoenix’s comms work going?" Dexi asked. She usually lifted her chin higher to symbolise a raised eye, but because of the diagonal way she was strapped into the chair for flying she couldn't really get it to work.
"Clearly not well," Aurora muttered, "None of you three were answering. I think the signal doesn't do well up here or something."
"What's the matter?" Chip asked. Dexi watched him put a comforting hand on Aurora's shoulder, and reluctantly admitted that there probably were some captain's jobs Chip could do quite well.
"We've been contacted," Aurora explained. "We're finally in range, or they came closer or something. The other ship would like to speak to the captains, Chip."