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.”
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!