Time: Shortly before Beside a Black Tarn
Coffee was brewing. In fifteen minutes, it would be time to send a wakeup call through to Captain Hot Stuff's cabin. He didn't always need one but there'd been some heavy drinking the night before, poor thing. Then there would be the nav calcs as they dropped out of Copernicus space. A ship AI's work was never done.
Ms. Ivana was starting the kitchen equipment on a batch of cinnamon buns when Heckle trotted in and hopped up to sit on the table.
He looked like he was thinking hard as he pulled up his friction socks. "Ms. Ivana?"
"What can I get for you, sweetie?"
"Oh, um. Is there coffee? But I really wanted to ask you something."
"Coffee in just a few little shakes, hon. And not that I care, but your adorable butt should probably come off the table before Captain Big Horns comes in."
Heckle's eyes went wide as he hopped down and reseated himself on the bench, adorable little hooves swinging. "Sorry. Sorry. Um…I wanted to ask you about the chili."
"Now you know that's our cowboy's secret recipe," Ms. Ivana scolded. "I can't tell you what's in it."
The coffeemaker signaled completion of its cycle and Ms. Ivana chose the mug that said Fall in Love with a Gargoyle with the words "a gargoyle" crossed out in red and replaced with "an imp" and sent it down the conveyor for Heckle.
He rewarded her with a delighted little chuckle before he grew serious again. "Not the recipe, Ms. Ivana. But when I ask about how it blew up a ship, everyone says to ask you."
"That's because they haven't a clue, sweetie." She made sure the buns were baking properly before she went one. "You know I think you're the cutest thing since baby bunnies, but I won't tell you exactly how it helped blow up that mean old ship that hurt you so badly either. Especially not with Julian onboard. You never know when that boy is listening."
"Oh." Heckle sipped his coffee, hooves still swinging. "Do we have eggs still? Could I have one, please?"
"We do and of course." She started his egg boiling, since that's how Heckle liked them, and added a second one for good measure to make sure he was eating enough.
"I guess I just wondered how all of us can eat the chili and not blow up."
"Were you worrying about that all night? My poor little imp." Ms. Ivana debated playing a Sousa march over Captain Shax's cabin speaker. It would be just what he deserved. "I don't think that iron stomach of yours would blow up if you ate a grenade. But it wasn't the chili by itself, silly. It was the chili combined with the other chemicals our handsome captain mixed together. The Opalene chilis combine with the acid in the tomatoes and so on and have the potential to produce some really powerful methane. I mean, really, you must've noticed the horrid smell coming from Corny and Verin's cabin the morning after a chili dinner."
Heckle nodded, lips pursed in concentration. "You have…smell sensors?"
"I have everything sensors, cutie," Ms. Ivana purred. "Scent receptors can be helpful in diagnostics and they don't hurt for cooking either. So that potential for methane combined with the captain's other ingredients made a bigger boom than he was counting on."
Heckle snagged the eggs as they came down the conveyor. "Thank you, Ms. Ivana. Your eggs are always perfect."
"Honey, you're always a pleasure to cook for. It helps."
"So something inside us…well, some of us…makes the methane, too. But no one's going to blow up?"
Ms. Ivana nearly choked on a laugh. "Well, sweetie, I can guarantee no one will blow up. But I wouldn't light a match outside our grumpy old pilot's cabin this morning either. Safety first, you know."