“...Is that a potato?” That was the last thing Jun expected to see.
“It’s raw.” Roxie pointed out, a little concerned. As far as Jun could see, the gym had no microwaves. “They’re packed full of antinutrients and maybe poison, especially with the skin on.”
“It won’t be raw for long!” Sparky took some tools out and opened up a panel on the side of the treadmill. Mesmerized and confused, Jun watched as she used her tools to undo some of the wires. She stuck them into the potato.
“Yeeeah! Treadmill cookin’!” Shirley cheered.
“Uhhh, Is that, like, safe?” Jun looked to Roxie, hoping she had some kind of safety tip for this.
“Oh yeah!” answered Shirley. “Sparky rewired one of the treadmills on our ship to do the same thing, and it hasn’t caught on fire or anything, yet. Don’t worry, she’s a whizz with this kinda stuff. Once she puts it back together, it’s good as new!”
Jun shrugged. “Huh, okay.”
Roxie still worried for Sparky. “Shouldn’t you at least arm yourself with gloves?”
“Oh, good call!” Sparky dug into her toolbox and pulled out some rubber gloves to put on. She also donned her goggles. “You guys almost got to see why they call me Sparky.”
Jun had a feeling they could figure it out. Only now did they notice both her and Shirley looked to be in their 30s, at least a few years older than Jun. Age didn’t always guarantee wisdom. They knew that already. Still, it served as a good reminder, especially with how much they worried about the youthfulness of the Celestion-5 crew.
Capability is what they should worry about. The others have been handling themselves well so far. No one’s died yet. Besides, Jun was no stranger to having everyone rely on them. Maybe they should just chill until they’re needed.
“It’s all ready!” Sparky stood up, having finished rigging up her potato-treadmill contraption. “A little jog on the treadmill should be enough to cook it.”
She then began jogging on the treadmill.
“Cool.” Jun decided to busy themself with other things, like exercising. They decided to try a shoulder machine nearby.
In the meantime, Roxie busied herself with a barbell, while Shirley spotted her.
“You’re so strong for someone so small!” the latter gushed. “How are you so gosh-darn tiny?”
“Genetics!” Roxie wasn’t that much shorter than average, but compared to Shirley, she looked pint-sized. “How much can you lift?”
“Me?” Shirley appeared to get flustered. “Awh, it’s not like I really keep track of it or anything.”
“She can lift me above her head!” Sparky shouted over her own footsteps.
“Wow!” Roxie craned her neck up at Shirley. “Can you lift me?”
Shirley laughed. “I don’t see why not!”
She lifted Roxie high into the air as if she weighed nothing at all.
“Weeee!” Roxie spread her arms out. “Look, Junzie, I have ascended, thanks to Shirley!”
“Yeah, that’s impressive.” Jun couldn’t help but admire Shirley’s strength. She could pick up an entire Roxie while they could barely get the shoulder machine working.
Shirley set Roxie down. “Aww, thanks. I don’t normally like showin’ off, but people seem to get a kick out of getting picked up. I can’t refuse.”
“Shirley’s a big softie!” Sparky sounded haggard, jogging so hard.
“Have you ever gotten picked up before?” Roxie asked Shirley.
The taller woman scratched her neck. “Ah, no. I’m too big for that.”
Roxie pounded her chest. “Then it is decided.”
“My new goal.” She pointed at Shirley. “One day, I will be strong enough to pick you up. In fact, I’ll pick up all of my friends! As long as I breathe, I shall let no friend go uncarried!”
“Awww, that’s sweet! Ya don’t have to do all that, though.”
“It has already been decided.” Roxie held up her arms. “These arms will support you physically and emotionally!”
“You can’t stop her.” Jun warned. “She’ll do it.”
Shirley tilted her head. “Well, if that’s the case, the least I can do is help ya out. If ya need any help trainin’, just give me a call. I’ll be glad to!”
“Speaking of help…” Jun began. “I, uh, don’t really know how to use this shoulder thing. Last time I used one of these, it kinda fell apart.”
“Literally!” clarified Roxie.
“Oh, sure thing!” Shirley began walking over. “It’s the least I can do for a hero.”
Roxie continued lifting smaller weights while Shirley helped Jun. She looked at her phone. “Mia and Leon were victorious in the hunt! Emil just texted me to let me know.”
“Cool.” Jun responded while Shirley set up the machine for them. They checked the time. There was still a good amount of time left before the conference started, which reminded them of something Sparky said earlier. “Were you guys also headed to that Celestion conference today?”
“Yeah...!” Sparky wheezed.
“So are we!” Roxie stopped lifting weights. Then she frowned. “Oh no… I just realized I won’t be able to train with Shirley.”
“Which... ship are you guys on?” asked Sparky between breaths.
“Celestion-5.” Jun answered.
Shirley gasped. “That’s perfect! We’re with the Celestion-6! We’ll be right behind ya!””
“You will?” Jun admittedly had no idea what the other ships did. Wasn’t that something only the captains knew at this point?
“Yeah…! Our captain… never shuts up about it.” Fog clouded Sparky’s goggles. The smell of cooked potatoes came from her direction. “I think I’m done now.”
A phone rang.
“Speaking of him, that’s him now! Sorry, I gotta take this.” Shirley answered the phone.
In the meantime, Jun and Roxie watched in awe as Sparky unplugged a fully-cooked potato from the treadmill. She then reconnected the wires as they were pre-potato.
“Just to make sure everything’s working as intended--” Sparky turned the treadmill back on. It looked to be running normally.
Despite her visible exhaustion, she started running on it again.
“Do you guys… smell anything burning?”
“Nope!” Roxie shook her head. “I only smell a freshly cooked potato.”
Jun bobbed their head in agreement, mildly surprised that the treadmill didn’t burst into flames. Sparky obviously knew what she was doing, resulting in the fruits--or potato--of her labor. She even did the courtesy of checking that her tampering wouldn’t backfire on the next person. Jun gained some respect for her.
“Good…” Sparky stopped the treadmill again and took off her gloves and goggles. “Gotta make sure the circuitry won’t short out.”
Shirley came back from her phone call, looking a little bummed out. “It’s been nice meetin’ ya, but me and Sparky’s gotta run an errand.”
“An errand? What errand?”
“It’s kind of a hush-hush deal.” She shifted her eyes from side to side, half covering her mouth. “I’ll tell ya on the way out.”
“Welp! Hopefully we’ll be seeing you at the conference.” Sparky waved.
“See ya.” Jun lifted a finger.
Roxie waved for both of them. “Bye-bye!”
“See ya later!” Shirley flashed a crooked smile. She then turned to Sparky. “Mind if I have that potato now?”
“Sure thing!” Sparky stooped down...
...and picked up the potato with her bare hands.
“Ahhhh! Hothothothot--!” She tossed it to Shirley.
“Yowza!!” In a panic, Shirley tossed it to Roxie.
“Owowowowow!” Poor Roxie nearly dropped the potato.
Jun caught it. “Notmybestdecision--!”
A literal game of hot potato ensued, with the burning lump haphazardly passing between the four of them. The fact that they all managed to keep it from touching the ground would’ve been impressive if not so painful.
In the midst of it all, Roxie took off her uniform coat.
“Quick, throw it here!” Having enough sense for all of them, she made a makeshift hammock with her jacket.
Shirley tossed it right into place. Score.
Jun ran over to a nearby fountain and pressed it with their hip. “Over here!”
The other three rushed to run their hands under the cool water as Jun did the same. They noticed red marks on their palms.
“Agh, burns!” Sparky continued waving her hands. “We need to go to the clinic.”
“But we’ll never be able to do our errand in time!” Shirley then went back to blowing on her hands.
Roxie looked around frantically before something clicked in her head.
“I’ve got it!” She ran back over to the potato bundled up in her coat. “Jun, do you still have that honey from earlier?”
Jun took out the bear-shaped container from their pocket and tossed it to Roxie. They immediately regretted it upon hearing Roxie yelp after catching it in her hands, but she caught it.
“I used to study under the clinic here.” She opened the honey bottle. “When we were learning how to treat minor burns, we went over some home remedies.” She ripped strips of the potato peel off and rushed to the water fountain to wash off the excess flesh. The potato’s, not her own.
“My potato!” Shirley reached out for it.
Roxie darted back to her coat and the bottle of honey. She smeared a thin layer of honey on a peel and held it up, chanting as if she were reciting some arcane spell.
“The potato may harm, but the potato! Can! Heal!”
Roxie did the same thing to the other potato peels. Then, she carried them two at a time to the others to place them over their burns.
“I’d still get those hands checked out by a doctor,” Roxie resumed giving medical advice as she placed the honeyed potato strips onto her own hands, “but that should hold you over until after the conference. Don’t take them off!”
“You’re a real lifesaver! Thanks for the tip!” Sparky awkwardly tried to pick up her toolbox.
“Yeah, you got it, boss!” Shirley gave something resembling a thumbs-up. “Can I have my potato now?”
The potato was apparently cool enough to handle. Roxie gave it to Shirley, who took a bite out of it.
“Mmm!” Shirley surveyed the potato. “The bits of honey from my hand give it a nice flavor. Anyway, see ya later!”
Shirley and Sparky left the gym, leaving behind only the scent of potatoes and honey. Or maybe that smell came from Jun’s own hands. The world may never know.
The world should know, however, about Roxie’s coolness. Jun decided to make that happen, starting with Roxie herself.
“That was, like, real sick, Rox.” Though their words lacked enthusiasm, they hoped it could be carried through with a fist bump. In actuality, it was a knuckle bump, since neither could close their hands. “You saved our skin. Literally.”
“Of course!” Roxie posed heroically. “But without your contributions, it would’ve all been for naught. ...So, what do we do now?”
“I guess we head up to the conference room.”
“Okay~” Roxie began walking with Jun. “I can’t wait to run into Shirley and Sparky again!”
Jun and Roxie exited the gym. They didn’t accomplish any of what they set out to do, but they made new friends in the process. Wasn’t that worth enough?