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SilasCrane t1_j66mtp6 wrote

"Something wrong, Crewman?" The Lieutenant asked. I straightened, and saluted. He chuckled, and waved it off. "No need for that-- the Soros is a merchant ship. We keep it pretty casual."

"Yes sir," I said, then amended, "Er...L.T.?"

"Either one's fine." he said, smiling, "But you look a little unsettled. Something the matter?"

"Well, to be honest, I was thinking about my uniform, LT." I admitted.

"What about it?"

"What it says on the back, sir."

"The ID number? Do you have a superstition about the number 29 or something, crewman?"

"No, I mean the smaller text above the '29'. The one that says, um...'replaceable crew member'?"

The Lieutenant blinked, then suddenly burst out laughing. " thought..."

"Sir?" I asked.

He shook his head, still chuckling. "Sorry, Crewman -- I see what you're saying." He tapped my shoulder. "This is a replaceable crew member uniform, not a uniform for replaceable crew members! Ha, no wonder you looked so worried!"

"Oh! So...but why do they say that, sir?"

"Eh, I know it's confusing, but what it really means is that you can re-use them. Crewmen we take on in one spaceport may only be with us until they cash out at the next one, so we get the uniform back from them and replace it in storage for the next guy that signs on." he explained. "The numbers are for identification if we have to call you over the open comms channel -- sometimes you might have to wear safety gear for loading and unloading certain hazardous cargo, and from a distance you can't tell who's who under the respirator masks."

I nodded, that made sense. "Heh, I see. Thanks for clearing that up, sir."

"No problem, Crewman." the Lt. said, and clapped me on the back. "Oh! And here's your bunkmate."

Another man in a similar uniform to mine stepped into our small quarters. He nodded to the Lieutenant, who nodded back.

"As you were, Crewman." the LT said, stepping past him and out into the corridor.

I nodded to my bunkmate, and stepped aside as he started unloading his gear on the bottom bunk. I'd already claimed the top. When he bent down, I noticed the back of his uniform.

Replaceable Crew Member #29, read the text on the back.

"Sir?" I called back to the lieutenant.

He turned, "Crewman?"

"My bunkmate and I have the same number. Won't be that be a problem, if they're for visual identification over the comms?"

"Huh," he said, stroking his chin and frowning thoughtfully. "Yeah. Weird. Well, don't worry Crewman. I'll mention it to the Captain. It won't be a problem for long."

My bunkmate said something, but I wasn't listening. I was staring after the LT. He frowned.

"Hey you okay?" my bunkmate said, following my gaze. "It is the uniform thing? It'll be fine -- he said he'd talk to the captain and get one of us a new one, right?"

I swallowed hard, and felt even more uneasy than I had before.

Because that wasn't what the LT had said.