Refit Operations; Truesta Space Station – Galaxy u8E
With sails stowed, we drifted slowly to what would be our host for the next two days – a large space station called the Truesta. She was one of the largest stations constructed, taking on dozens of ships across her sides, up to five ships in her interior bays. Thousands of people stayed on these things for years at a time, some a decade or more.
We made a fine spectacle as we approached. The Staff Officers on the quarterdeck, the men lining the rails, the midshipmen staged at points prepared to order the casting of lines. For the past twelve days we had been on mission. While out, we had some contact with scavengers, taking some damage and requiring repairs and refit for the men. We still had another twelve days to go even after we left Truesta. I had always heard about this place, having never been myself. It was incredible, beyond my imagination of what it was really like. Ships were coming and going, large and small, merchant and civilian, private and military.
Closer to the bay entrance, we taxied in by her generated gravitational pull. A crawling speed, we had to be careful not to tip the masts as we entered. The bay was enormous, so large I would have to turn my head to take it all in. Our ship was moderate to small compared to what could be housed here, at any rate. Entering the bay now, the blinding white lights stealing our vision for a moment before regaining our sight. On the quarterdeck we stand, officers in a line, myself and Ensign Maury on the far right. The bell tolls, then the whistle blown for Captains Call, all of us stoic in our positions for the formal reception and show of Ministry dog-and-pony.
Off to the dock below I can see her – in a white uniform of sorts, clasping a cluttered clipboard, her skin as fair as the lights, her hair a velvet red and pinned up tightly. She was watching us arrive along with the dozen or so others on the dock, obviously the reception and maintenance crews that would be receiving us. Not able to turn my attention away, I focus on her as we continue to slowly arrive at our final destination. “Cast – Lines!” the Mate calls, the Midshipmen tossing them to the dock below.
“She’s a Haleptra” Maury quietly says out from the corner of his mouth, a contained smile on his face, not moving his head or posture. I squint a little to him, not understanding. Breaking his stance a little, Maury leans to me. He explains how she’s not from Earth. Though she’s externally physiologically agreeable to the human stature, she’s anatomically disagreeable with humans in the most exclusive of senses. As he continues to quietly explain, the Captain gets impatient with us, making a deep grumbling sound, making us return to our original positions – and silent.
At full stop, the Captain leads us to the deck for reception by the station’s Senior Military Executive Attaché. “Make – Rail!” the Mate shouts. All hands grab onto the ship with one hand. At that time the bay door closes, the station flips the switch, and gravity leaves the room. We hold ourselves firm to the deck while those in the bay do the same. We kill our engines, disabling the artificial gravity. The ship floats there in the bay, tethered to the dock, everyone now flying for themselves. We all make our way out of the bay, the station crews getting to work.
Later that evening, the officers are called to a dinner with a Ministry dignitary who happens to be on station –anticipating the Captain’s arrival. Having finished, we loitered around the lounge, taking to our drinks. I think I was on my third by this time. “Ugh, you’re an angel” a woman says to the bartender as he puts her usual drink down just as she sits – her voice foreign though language not misunderstandable. Her work clothes still about her, velvet hair tied up, that light skin luminous in the dim atmosphere. I exchange a look to Maury who’s giving me an easy smile and not-interested eyes. To Hell I say to him with my expression, I’m going. Taking a seat next to her, she doesn’t protest. When she looked at me I couldn’t tell how long I stared before speaking, but either way I was obvious. Her eyes were velvet red – the same color as her hair against her pale skin, her white smile.
For awhile we talked, cutting the edge off of our stress and unfamiliarity with a few drinks, I having more than her at this point. Her name was Kelsie, the lead engineer for the maintenance team overseeing our ship while we were anchored. She makes fun of our previous misfortunes, telling us to let the enemy know they are supposed to hit the hull – not everything attached to it. Repairs would be complete by tomorrow night regardless, though. We walk together to the large windows overlooking the outskirts of the unnamed galaxy, admiring the blues and greens of celestial clouds, the spurts of light from around the planets, the darkness of the night-sky slipping into our conversation, filling our minds.
The other officers begin to leave for the night, she telling me she’s exhausted and has an early start tomorrow. “Enjoy the station, Clayton” she says, “We’ll have you out of here soon.”
“Clay” I tell her, she nodding her head side to side a little, a light smile. I watch her, those eyes would soon burn into my memory. She sets her empty glass down, looking at me – startled – before I break my gaze and attention to the stars outside.
She chuckles at my expense, a friendly smile, “I’m sorry” she said, “I just –“
“No…” I quickly inject, “I was staring, I’m sorry. It was rude of me. I think better of myself.”
A light sound from her, “It’s fine, Clay, I understand.” She adjusts her shirt, checking for the things in her pocket, “Maybe you’ll be around tomorrow then?” she asks, now searching more for my reaction than what she originally intended in her pockets. I agree, we exchange pleasantries, she turns to leave – a hand on my shoulder, down my arm, a light squeeze to my hand. Without looking back – she’s gone, velvet hair and all.
I left my secure communicator in my quarters. That’s it – that’s the lie I told myself and the Captain before I headed toward the bay that afternoon. The bar didn’t open for some time and, to be perfectly honest, why wouldn’t the Leftenant check on how maintenance was going? Turning, I could see her walking down the hallway, heading for the bay as well.
“Kelsie” I said in a I’m-not-excited-to-see-you voice, “I’m glad I caught you” I said, trying to think of some way to explain my bad excuse. She watches me, a curious lip, a raised brow.
“You need on the ship…” she says finally, tiring of my rambling.
“Yes” I replied, stopping my speech short and clearing my throat as if the spring air still lingered on the ship. In space.
We make our way for the bay door and she reaches for the button. “You ready?” I nod to her, sure of myself. The door opens and we enter. Still weightlessness in the bay, I grab onto a shelf, keeping my feet on the floor. No one else was around, the maintenance teams all away. Moving, slightly floating, I grab onto a tow cable and slowly pull myself a little ways toward the ship –coat floating around me. Stopping – I look back. Kelsie is still standing there, watching me curiously. I look at her for an awkward moment, away, then back at her. She has this little smirk on her lips before it turns into a light laugh, watching me floating with my coat all over the place. She puts her lips together as if she noticed she was laughing at me.
“So” I say, trying to reduce my embarrassment a little, “what made you want to become an engineer? Not much less in a weightless environment?”
She stops smirking, still a smile on her face, and she walks across the floor naturally, clipboard in hand. She passes me as I watch in an unsure awe. She removes her gaze from mine as she continues to walk to the ship, finally turning to me from some distance away.
“That’s where you’re going, right?” she says with a lazy hand pointing toward the ship. I nod slowly, an inquisitive look with my eyes locked on her, holding my coat down to my side with one hand, stabilizing myself with the other.
She puts her hands at her side, slowly lifts off the deck, then stills in mid air. Looking to the ship, she floats towards it now, slowly, deliberately. Watching where she goes, she floats to a mast above, fixing a rope in its place, then over the deck and finally landing. I pull myself along the cable toward the ship, my blood flowing until I create enough speed. Letting go, I use the inertia to float, although maybe a little too fast. Making now for the shrouds just above the deck I start to panic. I let out a an incoherent shout and wave my arms a little in a desperate and ungentlemanly maneuver. Feeling a hand grip my coat, she leaps up to grab me, pulling me down to the deck. When we settle she lets out a contained laugh, a deep chuckle of a thing. She was darling. It was impossible not to become addicted to her grace. Her eyes locked onto mine, continuing her humor at my expense. I give her thanks, watching her grin and examine my face.
“I’m a Haleptrarian” she begins to explain, sort of to herself, trying not to be rude. I nod in understanding. She begins to explain that there are…differences…between our kinds, but I kindly and quickly change the subject without allowing her any more time for explanation.
She hangs onto my coat, holding me close to the deck, close to her. She idly explains what work they’ve complete to fix it up, hand on my shoulder to hold me down as she turns and leads me on a tour of my own ship. She takes my hand, a subtle bend in her knees, and we float to the quarterdeck. Landing, she pulls me close to her with both hands, my coat now about her. “Thought I may have lost you there for a moment” she says, her smile turning serious. She looks into my eyes, to my face, to my coat as she fiddles with her grip. Lightly, we begin to float above the deck. It was strange, but I could feel her flowing through me as we continued the slow and steady ascent. She wraps an arm inside the coat and around me. I raise a hand to her face, to her hair. She reaches back and lets her hair loose, the velvet red floating behind her in a wavy mess. Running my hand through it – smooth, as somehow expected – I feel her control of space flow into my body, felt the light touch of her lips. For awhile we stayed there, one of her legs to stabilize us while suspended together.
We hold on for a few moments. “You’ll be leaving” she says, deliberately avoiding eye contact. She floats us back down to the opposite side of the dock. Soon the door opens, the rest of the crew and maintenance team returning together. With her hands on my chest she turns her head to the sound. Returning her gaze to me quickly, she leaves me with one last, light reminder of our moments together. “We’ll be in the Ypres Sector in a month” she says, “come find me.” I agree without words, feel her slip from my arms, watching her float up, above, out, and away from sight.
“Cast – Lines!” the Mate shouts –we slip backwards, lined on the quarterdeck as we were before. I watch as we reverse, she watches we are pulled apart. The Captain notices my deliberate inattentiveness, but doesn’t say anything. Maury has a light smile, shaking his head a little. Kelsie watches the ship pull away, a thin and shallow breath as we slip from view.
…Ypres in a month.