I am very happy to say that nothing new or exciting has happened this week. No big surprises so far, and no heavy news. The only thing of note is having Teacher's Convention yesterday and today means the kids have an extra long, 4-day weekend, and the kids having an extra long weekend gives me one, too.
Writing is coming along swimmingly. This is a pun just for me due to the short-ish new story I'm working on. You'll laugh later once the story gets posted. How fun this story is to write has provided the proof I needed that asking for prompt words from the Twitter community is something I want to do more often. I guess every time a story ends I'll put up a new tweet and see what interesting and diabolical words I can receive. :D
As for my big manuscript, I've gotten nearly all the edits I wanted to do done. The story hadn't stalled out, but I'd overcomplicated things for myself and made the manuscript less fun to work on (not to mention the pandemic impacts on writing time and life in general over the past year, which are lessening for the moment at least).
“I don’t have a list,” Trevor said. She dropped her head to one side as she considered her answer. “Honestly, my first two serious relationships showed me that someone cute is fine to look at, but often not fine to have a relationship with. My third one confirmed my mom was right when she told me to look for someone I like talking with, not someone I found interesting getting talked at by. My last relationship we were just too much alike and fought all the time. I guess now… I like looking at people I think are cute, but I get attracted to compassion and that excitement that bubbles up when people are interested in learning something or they have a passion they love talking about.”
“So keen minds packaged in above average bodies, supported by souls who thrive on rescuing young animals,” Leo replied, keeping his tone level as he nodded in an attempt to look and sound sarcastically sage. “But, wait, you said you were attracted to me, though?”
“Dockland doesn’t have a huge population. I had to lower my standards,” she said, quickly and completely off-hand.
“Now it makes sense,” he said with a wide grin.
She studied him with serious eyes for a moment and then tilted her head slightly to the side. “Leo, you do realize I only had to lower them a few decimal points off perfect to accommodate you, right?” Her tone was earnest and hit him completely off guard.
“Uh,” Leo said, unable to think of anything as an answer to that. He dropped his stare to look at the screens they were monitoring, cleared his throat, and tried to ignore the blush heating his face. “Well, at least I’m still assured I have room for improvement,” he said, pretending a lot more bravado than he felt as he flashed a quick grin at her.
She just chuckled and shook her head at him, about to say something when suddenly her brows pinched down and she frowned slightly. “Wait, you said before that you didn’t need to deal with Charlotte in person ‘yet’?” She stared over the console screens in front of her to his station. He shrugged and continued compiling the Routing Options Report on one screen while going over Trevor’s antivirus on the other.
“I guess I assumed that liking you this much, and possibly having the attraction reciprocated, means at some point it would be nice to meet your family, too,” he said. “I’m not planning on it; that would be a little much a lot too soon. But it’s a potential goal for some distant, as-yet fuzzy future.”
Trevor didn’t answer right away. She was staring at him, biting her bottom lip, when he looked up to smile over his screens at her. His stomach flipped when she smiled back.
“So that means you, at some point in our future, also might be thinking about giving me a tour of the landside condominium property associated with the mortgage you were bragging earlier in our shift about your parents owning?” she asked.
“You know how it goes with families. You show me yours, I show you mine…”
“You think that only applies to families?” she said, mischief dancing across her lips.
“Hopefully not, but the alternatives it applies to right now I think are better as another potential goal for an unknown, distant and fuzzy future,” he replied, waving his fingers in the air like a children’s magician as he spoke.
“Sounds good to me,” Trevor agreed. “And speaking of right now, have you proofed the antivirus so we can give Captain our report in proper language and not get chewed on at the end of our shift?” she asked, getting back to finishing off the summary of the sixth route so he could include it in the report.
“Sort of,” he said, looking down at his screens.
“I’m rewriting the implementation into an option,” he said.
“Why?” she asked.
“At the start of our shift you said you wanted Captain to see how annoying Hodahvay is being. I figured presenting the Routing Options Report in their gibberish, and then providing the switch to engage the antivirus should do it,” Leo explained.
“And that way Captain still retains access to the gibberish version whenever she needs it. Like for that remote audit in three months she advised us to collect data and proof for because she’s arguing with Senior Coalition that Dockland’s systems are too outdated and susceptible to corruption,” Trevor said, smiling at the idea.
“That’s what I was thinking,” Leo agreed. “Plus, we might be able to stop wasting so much of our time fixing corruptions if Captain decides she wants more evidence for the audit.”
“Pretty, educated, kind, and surprisingly devious,” Trevor said with a sigh, fluttering her eyelashes at him. He beamed a smile over the console screens and was rewarded with another laugh from her.
Their plan for getting out of constantly wasting hours fixing corruptions, which it turned out Hodahvay was helping Mollin create, worked perfectly. Captain ordered them to monitor the issues and create the solutions, but they didn’t have to waste time implementing anything because Captain wanted to see every corruption in the before and after states.
Three shift cycles later, sitting in the galley and talking after dinner, Trevor covered Leo’s fingers with her own and smiled while finishing her story about the Analyst she’d been training on TS Decrete before meeting Leo and getting the contract on Dockland. Leo had left her touch lingering for a moment before lacing his fingers between hers. They’d stayed that way for almost an hour, talking and laughing and holding hands.
That week they talked about everything. He told her about growing up landside, happily making the most of what little his lowest-caste parents had for him and his two siblings, and how he’d lucked into a scholarship giving him access to his Academy education and exploration training. She told him about growing up shipside, picking up school where she could and jobs when she needed to, how her transient family made the best of everything and how her experience building and testing ReadScan systems and ship flight simulators had gotten her the opportunity to become an in-situ trainer.
They’d talked political views, personal moments, and jokes that would have gotten them called bolts with anyone else but they each thought were funny. They even laughed about how weird-to-them the reversed naming conventions were between landside and shipside living; what Leo had always considered masculine names, Trevor knew as feminine names, and what Leo considered feminine were all masculine to Trevor.
Five weeks into the exploration, they were walking back to personal quarters after dinner together and discussing their interests and thoughts about if they – in some potential, distant and fuzzy future – wanted to have children. For Leo the answer was an easy yes; he’d never been able to picture his life without having children. Trevor hesitated, though, before confirming the thought had crossed her mind but she hadn’t put a lot of thinking into it.
“Well, that’s not like it’s a decision you need to make right now,” Leo said with a smile. “Distant, fuzzy future,” he intoned, making the magic-fingers gesture and staring down the hallway like there was a horizon at the end of it.
Hello and Happy Friday! My mental health is at a high today, with emotional well-being better than it has been for about 4 years, and I'm suspicious of this being a trick of my hormones but choosing to enjoy the day.
Outside temperatures are decent again, too, so keeping all my fingers crossed that everyone affected by the winter storms in the deep south of the USA will soon also be shaking off the horrible cold and snowstorms. Winter storms without power are no joke here in the northern latitudes and we have well insulated homes and winterized infrastructure. Please stay safe down there!
I've been writing almost every day for a few hours weekday mornings (hmm... this might be to blame for the improved mental health I'm enjoying, as well). The latest idea was supposed to be a short story, but it isn't cooperating and apparently is a long story. I don't think it'll reach a novelette word count, but it has too many words for a short. Editing once it's finished will hopefully cut it down, but I guess it's lucky for me this one is destined for releasing to Wattpad rather than seeking publication. Awkward word counts are hard to sell.
Anyway, in cold temperatures sweat is moisture and wet clothes are cold clothes so make sure you have a dry layer against your skin (swimwear and tight work-out wear that covers skin is awesome for this, a bikini or thong speedo ain't your friend), and wear at least one looser layer of clothes overtop. Shower curtains are small tarps which can be used as indoor sleeping tents to trap body heat closer to you. If you don't have enough blankets to sleep with layers above and below you, use clothes you're not wearing below you. Your mask will help your face stay warm when you need to go outside. Any head covering is better and warmer than no head covering. I hope you're safe and well this weekend!
Trevor cupped Leo’s cheek in one hand, her smile full of silent laughter one of the most perfect things he’d seen since getting assigned to Dockland. Then her fingers traced along his bottom jaw in a way that sent a tingle down the length of his spine. He leaned closer. She covered his face with her hand and shoved him into his chair with a laugh.
“You were a bad idea a week ago when I said you were cute and are a terrible idea right now, making you also a current waste of my time,” she said, picking up her tea and leaning back in her seat again.
“But you still think I’m pretty, right?” he asked.
“You already know the answer to that.”
“Yeah, I know. But it sounds better when you say it.”
She slanted a look at him and then shook her head. “I liked you more the first two weeks after we met when you were scared of me. I think I even liked you better last week when you couldn’t talk without scrambling the sentence. This confidence thing you’re starting this week with is just…” She held up one hand and made circles in his direction, as if she was washing an invisible window between them. The gesture, combined with the look on her face, clearly indicated that she was trying to find a single-word insult for describing all of him.
“Something you’d like to try getting used to because you find it appealing?” he asked hopefully, before she could come up with something negative. Her hand dropped and she studied him for a moment.
“Not what I was going to say, but okay.” She turned back to the screens, not quite quick enough with her tea to cover the little smile pulling at her lips.
Leo could honestly say he’d met lots of women like Trevor. She had his favorite combination of thick black hair, deep brown eyes, dark brown skin, sarcastic humor and quick comebacks his emotions usually tripped on and fell for. And, at the end of the week in Dock after meeting her, he’d been smitten enough to want to keep talking to her. Then Captain had assigned them to be a scan team and Leo’s wish of talking more to Trevor came true.
Usually smitten was as far as these things got for him because few women he found visually attractive stayed attractive once he learned more about them. Plus, it was impossible for him to stay attracted to anyone who didn’t return the interest. That one time, though, the person he was interested in stayed attractive the more time they spent together, and then she’d smiled the same way Trevor just did at something ridiculous he’d said. That other woman had been Lindsay. She’d left him behind three standard, Central World years ago.
At the end of three standard years being registered, they’d deregistered because (in Lindsay’s words) Leo wasn’t ambitious enough. Two weeks after leaving him, he learned she was moving in with a mutual Academy classmate who Leo had bested in every class except the one that mattered: Leo’s social class was way below the status his classmate’s family enjoyed. No amount of ambition would get Leo into the class Lindsay had decided she needed for passing through life.
The last he’d heard about her had been two standard years ago, right after he’d found out his Academy education would qualify him for explorations, and what he’d heard had only been a relationship registration announcement on a news page he was scrolling over. Her lips had been smiling in the announcement’s still holo, but he knew Lindsay well enough to see little signs in her face and posture showing she wasn’t happy. Likely she had access to enough income now to make up for things like joy and integrity, but based on that photo he doubted it. He’d silently wished her the best and scrolled to the next article.
The first week after meeting Trevor, when they were still in Dock, had been great for Leo. By the end of their first week shipside he absolutely liked her too much, of course, but had been blissfully assured by his low self-esteem that the attraction was one sided. Add in the fact she was mid-caste due to growing up shipside, so at least half the galaxy’s caste system above him, and it meant how attracted he felt was a distraction which would end very soon.
That is to say, he was assured the attraction was one-sided until the last cycle of their first week working together shipside.
In the hallway on the way back to living quarters, after they’d gone to the galley together for dinner, she’d first teased him about his skin being the exact shade of dark beige as their uniforms so it was hard to tell if he was dressed for work or not, and then complimented him as cute. He’d been shocked enough to stammer and ask her if she meant it. She’d laughed in that perfect way of hers and repeated that she thought he was cute, and then asked if he was really such a bolt that he hadn’t noticed she was attracted to him.
After that, he’d messed up every sentence whenever he was trying to talk to her about anything for all of last week. On the walk to the bridge for his shift this cycle, he’d gotten tea for her and then silently practiced what to say for the entire walk from the galley to the bridge. Now, finishing his coffee and chatting easily with Trevor about whether or not they should write an antivirus for Hodahvay’s latest prank, he wondered why he’d taken a week to remember how much he liked talking to Trevor.
This shift gave them eight uninterrupted hours babysitting NavCom for the regulation’s required six routes to the next planet, which would be presented to Captain for selection of what she considered the best course. Their conversation – momentarily disturbed only by recalculation commands and the actual work they were here for – spun off into more about their families and personal interests than any conversation they’d had for the past weeks. For Leo, it was perfect.
“So what kind of people are you usually attracted to?” Trevor asked, point blank, a couple hours into the second half of their shift.
“Usually women, and I like smart, funny, pretty, sarcastic, and mean,” he answered easily, ticking off each point on his fingers.
“Well, I got woman and mean covered pretty well,” she said.
“Smart, funny, pretty and sarcastic, too.”
She blushed just enough for him to notice and a little smile pulled at her lips again. “You keep saying stuff like that and I’m going to be too flustered to be mean,” she muttered.
“You told me last week your brother is mean, too. We could vid him and he can be mean to me on your behalf?” Leo offered. “But only by vid. I don’t need to deal with that in person yet.”
“Charlotte would be way too mean for your delicate, landsider feelings.”
“Even with all the training you’ve given me these past two weeks?”
“I have not even begun to be mean to you yet. These past couple weeks were just me finding out if you can handle someone being minorly mean.”
“My family is lowest caste and I’ve been bullied most of my life. I can handle minorly and majorly mean,” Leo said as if boasting. “I don’t handle it well, of course, but I’ve got Coalition health benefits to cover therapy now so I can handle it,” he added, flashing a grin at her. She had to cover her mouth with a hand to hold in the last mouthful of tea from her lunch, chuckling after swallowing it. “And now you know what kind of people I usually get attracted to, so what are your weaknesses?” he asked.
Happy Friday! Happy Lunar New Year! And, for everyone in Canada celebrating it this Monday, happy Family Day long weekend!
I see lots of things to be happy about this weekend. I hope you get to enjoy at least one or two of them, too.
Writing is going well, and I have zero way of expressing how wonderful it is to say that again. I've been able to enjoy reading again, too, and that's beyond wonderful. Especially with book 3 of Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond arriving yesterday from my preorder placed last year. I'm planning to read The Chaos Curse cover to cover this weekend, let it sit for a few months, and then blitz the entire trilogy. Much like the Percy Jackson books, I'm so glad these novels are on my bookshelves and I can return to the worlds within them whenever I need or want to – and they're here for my kids to discover.
There was a legend from times long ago that our basement floor and living room were actual open spaces and not piled wastelands where children's toys linger and multiply. Seriously, I'd heard the tales. Friends, this week I found the floors. In both rooms! I could even vacuum!
I'd be delusional to assume the house will remain like this for the long weekend which starts after school today, but I'm going to bask in the glow right now. (Plus, the kids pitched in last weekend and did a big clean on their own so there was really only half a mess for me to deal with this week, hence the staircase organizing I was able to get to. Credit where it's due: the kids did a good job picking up.) Hope you're staying safe and well this weekend!
Trevor snorted a chuckle. “How do you figure fate and fortune play into it?” she asked.
“Because I’ve learned more about systems and tech from you in the past two weeks than I did during the last two standard years at Academy,” Leo said, sitting at the work station beside hers. “And now I’m almost certain that means I’ll get promoted before you, because now I’m so educated and so smart.” He smiled at her. “It must be fortune and fate working in my favor.”
“No, apparently you’ve now become delusional,” she said. “Your landside-loving brain officially has space rot.”
“You think so?” he asked, pausing before taking a first sip of what they called coffee on Dockland.
“The evidence is overwhelming.”
“And you’re qualified to diagnose a space-rotted brain because…?” He let the question hang.
“Because I am, and always will be, so much smarter than you,” she said. She picked up the tea he’d brought her and leaned back, stretching out her legs under the console and crossing them at the ankles. “And being smarter than you means I’ll get promoted first.”
She held up her cup and he tapped his lid into hers, as if the poly cups were mugs of ale they could actually clink together. They sipped their beverages in hopes the liquids might be hot, their mouths encountering the disappointment of tepid reality at the same time. After carrying the cups here from the galley, Leo had been holding less hope about the drinks’ temperatures and that knowledge provided him with slightly less disappointment.
“If you’re so smart, my dear Analyst and senior scan team member, why are you sitting at NavCom?” he asked. He decided it was a better idea to drink the so-called coffee while it was still warm and braved a mouthful, swallowing fast so it had less time to be in contact with his tongue.
“Mollin and Hodahvay finished ReadScans for this rock. You and I are babysitting NavCom calculations for our shift.”
“That sounds great!” Leo said brightly as she sipped her tea. His voice was perfect, but he couldn’t get the look on his face to line up and the sarcasm was overly obvious. Trevor only rolled her eyes. He’d been hoping for a chuckle she’d have to try and suppress due to having just taken a drink; even better if she’d been unsuccessful at suppressing the chuckle. Cleaning up the console because he’d made her laugh while her mouth was full would be a nice change. Usually it was the other way around and she was helping him wipe off the controls.
“So where are we going now?” he asked. His worst subject had been Modern Navigation, and this equipment was probably twenty standard years older than the oldest systems he’d trained with at Academy. His best subject had been Technology History, but these systems were still over a hundred standard years newer than anything from those classes.
“Looks like Buccaneer got IL, so we’re on our way to L,” she said.
“What?” Leo stared at her.
She shrugged and gestured to screens in front of her seat. Whatever writing was on them, it made even less sense than a ship getting ill and their new route being to a planet named Ell. All the planets their exploration group were assigned to had been numbered, and no Coalition planets had single syllable names. He leaned over the screens and squinted at both sets of information. The scrolling info was gibberish that had resemblances to the last time NavCom was calculating a route, and the stationary info… wasn’t in a language he could read.
“Here’s our scurvy-filled bucket,” she said, rotating her seat enough to point a finger at the screen of stationary info without having to change her posture. He stared at the line of letters and spaces highlighted by her touch. His brain picked out all the needed letters for their ship’s name in one of the clusters of letters, but that was the only resemblance.
“I don’t get it,” he finally admitted.
Trevor sighed and sat forward. “That skinny, redheaded, walking wall of freckles, Hodahvay, he likes pranks and his pretty, holocinema star-looking partner, Mollin, lets him do them, right? The virus Hodahvay wrote for our shift is harmless because it only affects the screen readout – I already ran the diagnostic check – but I’m sick of dealing with his garbage so I’m leaving the readout like this for Captain’s shift.” She sighed and glared at the readouts a little harder. “At least, I’m leaving it until later when my desire to not get chewed on by Captain is larger than my annoyance with Hodahvay and we write an antivirus,” she said. Trevor set down her cup and pointed at two spots, using one index finger from each hand even though the spots were close enough to have used fingers from one hand. “You can find ship names by the capital letters. All the words are in order, but the letters in each one display in reverse alphabetical order, see? The planet numbers just got translated into some ancient writing that stayed common in backspace sectors.”
“So… o-n-l-k-d-D-c-a is Dockland, and we’re going to ‘L’, and u-r-n-e-e-c-c-B-a is Buccaneer who are going to ‘IL’,” he said, spelling out the lettered order of the ship names she was pointing to. “Making this” –he looped his arm up between hers to point at the potential ship name on the line above Buccaneer’s– “Oscareous?” he asked, turning his head to look at her and close enough he could have rested his chin onto her shoulder. She locked eyes with him, and then looked pointedly at his arm in the middle of hers before staring back into his eyes with her brows peaked in a silent question. “What? You’re nicer to me when I flirt with you,” he said innocently.
“I’m nicer to you when you bring me tea.”
“That’s flirting, too,” he said, shifting his voice into a whisper which wasn’t at all whispering.
“What if I break your arm?” she asked. “You still think its flirting?”
“You asking before breaking it makes me think the right answer might be yes,” he said, the hopeful tone almost making the statement into a question. “And I don’t have a clue what these letters you’re saying are numbers actually are.”
“Stars align, Leo, I should not have told you I thought you were cute if the end result was you getting uppity like this. You’re from the Central Worlds, so it’s not much of a surprise you don’t know uncommon shipside things.”
“Yeah, but you did tell me and all of last week nearly killed me. I know a lot of commonly uncommon shipside things, I just don’t know how to read numbers written as letters.”
“Nearly killed you? So what, did you die between yestercyc and now? I’m not teaching ancient writing to you; just trust me that Dockland is going to planet fifty.”
“I did say last week nearly killed me, so no, I’m not dead, I just realized last night that Coalition regulations really fall off the charts for our situation. And I trust you.” He dropped his hand from the screen, breaking into a smile when she let his palm stay on her knee.
“Regulations still apply completely while we’re on shift, though,” she reprimanded him. “Educated and cute you might be, but you’re still not smart if you think any different.”
“My family’s rich, too.”
“They own both a condominium apartment mortgage and monthly commuter transportation debt. My dad even almost has a job again, so I might soon be able to claim my bi-weekly pay all to myself. Doesn’t that level of opulent prosperity make you inclined to bend regulations?”
I've had an empty house all to myself during days this week. Evenings the house has everyone home, and this weekend we'll be stuck inside due to the expected extremely cold temperatures (around -30C during the day), but next week I'll have an empty house all to myself during the days again.
If you've never enjoyed living alone this probably doesn't mean too much. As an introvert who loved living alone when I was an unwed adult, I have to say this is wonderful. For the first time in a long time I feel like I have a full drawer of emotional energy spoons when I'm around my husband and kids. (I don't actually have a full drawer, let's not get unhinged, I just don't run out before 4pm and go into survival shutdowns every day. Now I run out around 9pm and can veg with my knitting because the rest of my family are – theoretically – in bed and going to sleep. The hubby gets up for work before 6am so he goes to bed early, too.)
Leo startled out of marvelling at the lines of ships in Dock. He was entering one of the commercial areas, a cavernous room full of cross-traffic passing into and around a central grouping of dome structures housing stores and restaurants. Far above, the entire ceiling was covered with transglass holoscreens showing the view of space outside this section of Dock 12.
He blinked at the woman who’d just spoken to him. “I’m not lost, no. I just –”
“Great. Then move,” she interrupted, nodding her head to indicate her preferred direction for him to be out of the way. She was directing a skid pallet of crates and, by standing at this entrance gawking, he was blocking her from getting through.
“Sorry,” he said quickly. He nearly tripped over his own feet dodging the indicated direction and she was smirking at him in a really cute way when he stopped to turn and look at her. “Sorry,” he repeated.
“Do you always apologize twice for the same thing?” she asked, her deep brown eyes crinkling at the edges and a dimple appearing in just one of her dark brown cheeks. Her hair was black and styled into rows of braids that twisted into a tidy knot at the back of her head, and she was almost the same height he was.
The pause after she’d spoken became uncomfortably long as he realized she was actually waiting for him to reply. “Uh, yes, sometimes” he admitted. “Sorry.”
She snorted a laugh at his expense and he immediately wondered how to keep her talking to him. “Are you on one of the crews?” she asked with a casual gesture at the ships overhead, saving him the trouble of thinking up a conversation topic.
“I am. I’ll be on Dockland,” he answered, looking back toward the holoscreens. “I don’t know which one it is. We leave in a week.”
“Dockland is third from the end on 7C,” she said. “That’s where I’m going right now. Throw your bag on the load. I’ll take you out and you can help me get these supplies stowed on board.”
“Really? I mean, yes, that would be great.” He unshouldered his belongings and shoved them up on top of the crates. “My name’s Leo Deshkarlew. Do you work here in Dock?”
“Trevor Shandlie, and sort of,” she said, shrugging one shoulder while returning to the controls of the skid pallet.
“Sort of?” he asked.
She started walking, the skid pallet following like an obedient pet, and he had to jog a couple of steps to avoid getting bumped by the equipment.
“Right now I’m paid by the hour to move parts and supplies around Dock. Usually I’m a shipside installer, operator, and in-situ trainer for ScanReads. I came in with TS Decrete three weeks ago and volunteered for explorations, but I haven’t gotten any response to know if I was accepted to a ship yet,” she explained.
“With those qualifications I’d be surprised if you didn’t get assigned to a ship.” Leo didn’t bother keeping the fact he was impressed from coloring his tone. She looked about his age – so mid-to-late twenties – but was already a trainer! “I only just graduated from Academy a few months ago,” he said. “Then I volunteered and was assigned to Dockland. The first ship I’ve ever been on was for the six days transporting to Dock.” He couldn’t help looking up as he said it. “I don’t even know which one it was that brought me here,” he added.
Trevor chuckled. “Stars align, Leo, you really are a green-grass landsider, aren’t you? This is all 7,” she said, gesturing up without even glancing. “7 is dedicated to exploration and over distance research ships. Transporters are on 4. Then you’ve got 1 and 9 for personal use ships, and 2, 3, 5 and 8 are corporate and private Coalition ships. This is standard numbering for every Dock,” she instructed, shaking her head at him for not knowing. “You need to read up your regulations so you can at least sound a little bit like you know what you’re doing once you’re shipside.”
“What about 6?” he asked after noticing that was the only number she hadn’t mentioned.
This time she burst out laughing, and then choked to a stop when he only looked at her in confusion. “6 is bad luck,” she said without explaining any further.
He was about to ask why using the number 6 was bad luck, but Trevor’s smart chimed and her attention turned down to her wrist. She touched her smart with a finger, scrolling whatever she was reading as she walked, then smiled and glanced up at the holoscreen ceiling.
“Good news?” Leo asked.
“For me it is. Might not be for you, though.” The lone dimple appeared in her cheek as she smiled and looked sideways at him. “I just got assigned to Dockland for a one standard year exploration contract. We’re going to be working together.”
The bridge looked empty when Leo came up the ladder. He still felt like a bolt calling the wide staircase a ladder, but he’d been corrected every time he called it ‘stairs’ for these first two weeks on board.
“Buildings have stairs. Ships have ladders.” The chair at NavCom swivelled to reveal Trevor smirking at him above the stiff collar of her standard Coalition uniform. She’d noted the hitch in his strides and – being the main person correcting his terminology since meeting him three weeks ago – she knew exactly what thought had caused the pause.
Dockland was an old ship, making the bridge spacious because it had been constructed for the needed equipment and controls to be three or four times the size of the consoles now in place. The same illusion of extra room was found around every work station, as well as down in the engineering decks and throughout the maintenance corridors. Coalition ships constructed now were overall larger and needed smaller crews, but the old systems Dockland was constructed with required more people even after multiple upgrades. That meant in spite of constantly looking larger during working shifts, living conditions felt cramped and provided only basic necessities.
Working on the bridge during the shift before Captain’s, however, left roominess to spare and a gorgeous view of the planet they were currently scanning set against a blanket of stars. Leo paused and admired the view. Ship construction designs started using transglass panel holoscreens for viewing outward from the bridge at least fifty standard years ago, allowing command centers to be constructed in structurally safe locations deep inside the ships. For new ships, all images were provided through exterior hull recordings. That three-sixty spherical imaging he’d gotten trained for at the academy paled in comparison to this wide section of transglass windows in Dockland’s hull. Anyone on the bridge could see outside the ship.
“You know, I met you in Dock that day and really liked talking with you those few times during the week before leaving on this exploration,” Leo said, talking over his shoulder while watching the planet’s horizon. “I actually thought I was getting some kind of reward when I was assigned as your partner on our first week working together. For our second week working together, though, I wondered if I was being punished.” He turned and walked to where Trevor was sitting. “Tea for you,” he added, setting the second cup he was carrying on the console beside her elbow. Her smirk widened into a grin that he’d called her a punishment and also because he’d brought her tea. “But now,” he continued, “on the first cycle of my third week being shipside with you, now I think it was fortune and fate.”
How fitting! Today is my final blog post in January, and Part 22 is the final chapter of The Meek Valley Incident. The free ebook downloads are now available! :D
I'd say I planned it for the story to wrap up at the same time as finishing January, meaning I'd have everything set up to have posts throughout the holidays, but I'd be lying. I have zero ability to plan 22 weeks ahead for pretty well anything.
This past week was a good one. For the first time in my adult life I have a stand mixer in my kitchen that I actually want in my kitchen. It was a gift from me to myself. I love baking, but my hands simply can't tolerate hand mixing anymore. I've had stand mixers before, ones that well-meaning people gifted me – one that was even ridiculously expensive – and they've all lived in the dark, obscure corners of my kitchens and then been given away or sold to people who actually want them.
This isn't a schedule I recommend to anyone, especially because I was working full time when writing during those hours and my health and wellness suffered a lot for those years. Next week's uninterrupted time with my computer, though? I'm so excited!! I hope you're staying safe and well this weekend!
They couldn’t see up the mountain when they looked, it was still snowing too hard, but the sky was lighter than it had been yesterday morning. It looked like this storm was going to blow itself out before the end of the day. Justin and John loaded the final supplies and spare parts, and then the trio set off with the wind driving them forward. By nightfall their land-travelling boat was splashing through ruts and puddles back in the middle of the storm. The people they passed called out to them and laughed at the strange, wind-driven cart.
At the end of a week from leaving the barn, they stood at the top of a ridge of cliffs and looked down at the harbor town Tam had brought them to. Justin scanned from the dock to the horizon for familiar sails and saw one Opattan navy ship in the distance, two ships with Korballi-owned company sails at the dock, four ships with the white sails marking them as independent merchants dotting the town’s bay, and the distinct red triangles on white of a couple of Montrade-owned ships. Both Montrade ships were anchored on the northern side of the bay and had skiffs running between them – likely exchanging news, mail, or updated orders. One of the Montrade ships was obviously arriving due to how high it was sitting in the water, and the other was obviously leaving for the opposite reason. Justin wanted to avoid his family’s ships, if possible. He wasn’t currently in appropriate dress – and knew he wasn’t previously travelling under appropriate sails – for dealing with any of those Captains who might recognize him.
He estimated his mother and uncle were still a week up the coast, nearer the city where Justin and the other crewmen had been captured. A week would be too long to wait, he reasoned after having learned first hand the quickness of mountain scouts when catching up to whoever they were hunting. Tam and John were certain nobody from the mine could have followed them at the same pace they were running away, but Justin believed that destroying the mine was a likely cause for retribution and didn’t want to be the only strangers in town when the news arrived.
“Well?” John asked, impatient to get moving again now that it appeared they really would be leaving Opat sooner instead of later.
“We’ll have to tear down the sail-cart,” Justin stated. “We look too rough to have been travelling in what could be viewed as comfort.”
Tam sighed in relief and clicked open the ratchets of the harness holding her in place. She was on the ground before the harness straps had finished their first swing after being dropped. Justin followed her down, chuckling at how eager she was to get rid of their contraption. Tam repacked all the supplies and weapons for carrying while John and Justin tore down and saved anything useful or that they could sell. John paused a moment with his hand on the crowbar. It was the last thing they could take for trading, if they brought it.
His lack of movement caused both Justin and Tam to look up at their newest companion from where they were finishing tying up the packs. “We can bring it,” Justin offered quietly.
John shook his head to the negative. “With us as strangers, looking like this and carrying a mining tool is asking to get arrested once news of what happened reaches the coast.” He climbed down and shoved the empty frame, crowbar still attached, over the cliff.
Tam led them on foot into the town, quickly selling things to people she knew from trading rugs in previous years and gaining clothes for herself and enough chips in exchange to rent a room for a few hours along with baths at the only steam lodge in town. She washed and dressed quickly and then disappeared while Justin and John were still cleaning up, returning after having sold almost everything to purchase food for the next few days and clothing for John and Justin that wasn’t so obviously different. Justin gratefully got rid of the coat the mine’s guard commander had given him, pausing as he was buttoning the new one when he noticed Tam staring at him from where she was sitting on the bed. She’d already dressed in new clothes before delivering the things she’d gotten for them.
“What?” he asked looking down at his clothes and hands for what was so out of place it had caught her eye.
Her gaze shot to where her hands were knotted in her lap, and then she shrugged at some internal thought and looked up to meet his stare. “I wasn’t expecting you to be handsome once you shaved,” she stated.
“Oh,” he replied, the unexpected compliment catching him off guard to the extent that he fumbled the following two attempts at forcing the next button through its hole. She laughed at him, the same way she’d laughed with Tor, and he cracked a grin before attempting to try a third time.
“That’s it?” John asked, coming out from behind the screen without a shirt to look through the rest of Tam had bought for them to wear. “All of those daring escapes from guards and bandits, camping with wolves, nearly drowning, and scouts after you the whole time… but all it takes to fluster you up to the point you can’t finish buttoning your coat is some pretty girl who says you’re handsome?”
“You think I’m pretty?” Tam’s eyelids fluttered up at John as he pulled on a new shirt.
“As the first spring blossom,” he confirmed, tucking in the shirt. Justin left them to their constant banter and finished buttoning his new coat. “Where are you off to, Kony?” John asked as Justin reached for the door.
“To the dock to get us jobs. The next sailing will be with the tide in a couple hours. I saw three ships we could likely find work on in exchange for passage,” Justin replied. “You weren’t expecting we’d buy passenger tickets, were you?” He grinned over his shoulder as he opened the door.
“What would we do for work on a ship?” Tam asked, suddenly worried. Justin paused in closing the door after himself.
“I’m a bosun, John’s a swab,” he stated casually.
“I can do more than clean a deck,” John argued.
“No, you really can’t,” Justin answered.
“Ouch, Kony,” John said. He pulled on his new vest while talking. “That hurt right here.” He pointed at his elbow.
“What can I do, though?” Tam asked. Her voice was still worried.
“You sew, you weave, you cook, and you fight.” Justin grinned at her. “Every crew needs people who can mend sails and nets, and people who can cook. Those people also being able to fight is a valuable bonus. I can find us work either today or tomorrow, but from the look of those three ships we can easily plan leave Opat in the next few hours.”
“And then what?” John asked.
Justin considered that his mother was on her way, but shied away from thinking about what would happen after whatever ship he and his friends were on was intercepted. “And then we’re safely out of Opat,” he said.
“And safely together,” John assured Tam, dropping an arm over her shoulders in a half-hug.
“All right,” she agreed, smiling in relief at both of them. “Go find us jobs, Kony.”
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!